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Posts Tagged ‘Sony’

Xbox One Reveal Post-mortem: Microsoft reveals expensive PVR which under limited circumstances can play games

May 28, 2013 2 comments

I’ve waited for a few days after Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal on May 21st 2013 to gather up the trickle of additional information that has been leaking out of the press in the aftermath of what has widely been considered one of the most disastrous console reveals of all time. While fanboys and media alike were quick to criticise the new machine, here I am going to present just the facts as we know them so far, and a dose of reality that some readers may find startling. Read more…

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PlayStation 4 Reveal Post-mortem: The end of gaming as we know it?

February 21, 2013 2 comments

Logo of the PlayStation Network

Let’s not pull any punches: while the PlayStation 3 has been successful as a games console, its development and lifecycle management has more or less been a catalogue of errors by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE). We have seen a hardware architecture that nobody knew how to use, backed up by poor quality development tools; hardware reliability for the first years was extremely poor with a 33% return rate due to the ‘yellow light of death’ syndrome; management of the PlayStation Network (PSN) has been extremely shoddy, with one security breach leading to over a month of downtime, regular large maintenance windows which often stretch to 12 hours or more, and pricing/availability errors with each new store update every week. Regionalized versions of the PSN store (something the Xbox 360 doesn’t have) have created almost a kind of class divide between Europeans and Americans, with each complaining that the other gets better service and offers. Each region uses its own certification and QA processes, leading to non-uniform release dates for digital titles that are sometimes staggered by months. In the meanwhile, the platform has become infested with day 1 DLC, online passes, in-game micro-transactions and other ploys to milk the gamers of their hard-earned cash in as many ways as possible. Consumer confidence in PlayStation among hardcore gamers is at an all-time low. In the meanwhile, Sony as a global brand have failed to turn a profit for the last 4 years running due to poor TV sales, lack of interest in 3D (mercifully), the earthquake in Japan and unfavourable exchange rates against the Yen.

It was with a healthy dose of trepidation, therefore, that I tuned into the PlayStation 4 Reveal which took place at midnight CET on the morning of 21st February 2013. Read more…

The State of the PlayStation Mobile SDK with regards to PlayStation Vita development

September 23, 2012 2 comments

It has now been several months since PlayStation Mobile (formerly PlayStation Suite) was unleashed onto developers in beta form. On 20th September 2012, Sony announced that store deployment will be made available from October 3rd, with a final version of the SDK to be released in November.

So far, I am sorry to report that, in my opinion, the PSM SDK is not in a fit state for production use, particularly for PlayStation Vita development. Far from it. Before I look at the key issues, I want to make it clear that I do understand that PSM is designed as a portable platform to work on all PS Certified devices (which currently includes a range of Xperia Play, Sony Tablet and HTC One devices as well as the Vita), and as such developers wishing to max out the Vita’s hardware potential should ideally be using the official full-blown Vita SDK for games specific to that platform. And that brings me to the core political problem:

Read more…

The Gaming Rant 8

May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Contains strong language, sexual references and politically incorrect commentary that some readers may find offensive. This article is satire and does not reflect the views of TheSixthAxis or myself. This article has not been endorsed or approved by the Third Reich. This disclaimer may be false, but it probably isn’t.

Last week my best friend told me that my rant didn’t have enough anger in it. Well, trust me my little bunch of anti-social loser gaming imbeciles, this week has no such anger shortage, I am literally oozing visceral at the moment. I’m so adjective I’m verbing nouns right now, for 3 excellent reasons.

Hard disk upgrade

Sub-ordinate 1: *pointing at map of Germany on the table* “Game Data and PSN games have sprung up in several locations. We have tried to slow their progress but they are using too much of our resources. At the current rate, we estimate full disk space consumption within 2 weeks.”

Me: *waving finger in the air* “Not a problem, a hard disk upgrade will solve that.”

*long pause*

Sub-ordinate 1: *sweating* “Mein Führer… The restore utility…”

Sub-ordinate 2: “The restore utility does not work properly. You will have to re-download and re-install everything, and lose all your game saves.”

Me: *takes off glasses, my hand shaking* “All of you who have successfully upgraded your PS3 hard disks, please leave the room.”

Yes, the week got off to a good gaming start as I got stuck in to Lost Planet 2’s online co-op. Then a man appeared at the front door with a new hard disk. My 250GB PS3 is rammed with data to the point where I had deleted all my demos, videos, FirstPlay episodes (no real loss there though) and had to resort to deleting Game Data files, and still had no space left. So I whipped out my cheque book and splashed out on a 640GB drive.

Remember the Indonesian tsunami of 2004? The Indonesians were running around on TV saying “God will protect us”. Some of us might think, orly? Who do you think sent the tsunami in the first place, asshole? That loss of 250,000 lives, however, was nothing compared to the shit God pulled on me this week*. What part of his Grand F*cking Plan says that I have to piss around for three whole days trying to get my stupid PS3 to backup and restore properly. Is this a character building exercise? Are you trying to make me a stronger person? Or are you just bored and trying to piss me off, in which case it’s working admirably.

So the little divine gremlins in my PS3 decided to test me like Job. Backups not working. Restores not working. Firmware refusing to install. Freezes. Crashes. Copyright validation errors. Activation errors. I won’t bore you with all the sordid details suffice to say on day 3 I got bored of it being hung at 70% restored and rebooted. The hard disk was blank, I took it out, put the old one in, deleted all my Game Data as advised on the forums (apparently some Game Data makes the restore fail, God knows why – but conveniently, the little bastard isn’t telling *shakes fist in air*), backed up, put the new hard disk back in, booted up and lo and behold approximately 70% of my games and Game Data were present. What the…. IT WAS BLANK FIVE MINUTES AGO! How annoyed was I.

This presented a dilemma. Do I keep my botched restore and re-install the remaining 30% but lose 30% of my game saves, or do I restore again and have all my game saves intact but have to re-download all the DLC? These game saves represent thousands of hours of hard labour on my part. Needless to say I’d callously deleted the old backup thinking it was broken and was suitably annoyed. Again.

Well, to cut a long story short I eventually got everything sorted out with no loss of any data. But, seriously, what the f*ck?! HOW HARD IS IT to make a simple backup utility:

  1. Compress and encrypt the files
  2. Copy to storage device

Restore:

  1. Copy to PS3
  2. Decrypt and decompress

So why does it freeze for 2 hours at a time at arbitrary percentages on the restore progress bar? Why does an estimate of 4 hours to restore suddenly turn into 12? And why is it so biblically slow (ah – God again, that explains everything, he just loves to screw with a winning formula). It is so slow that if I was Hitler, I could take over Europe in less time; and while I’d be pleased with my impressive victory in England, I’d be very unhappy when I got back and found the rest of the Gestapo was still screwing around waiting for the PS3. I’d be so unhappy I’d probably have to post a rant on YouTube about it, same as when I got banned from Xbox Live and when the iPad came out. And tell that Sony employee bitch in the corridor to stop crying.

The restore utility is an absolute sham. I had to delete and re-install / re-download 66GB of Game Data. My patience was tested to the limit, I had missed my Lost Planet 2 meets, the SingStar Beta night and the week’s PSN update. I have no TV except via my PS3 either, this was a recipe for absolute boredom.

Screw you Sony. And screw you God as well. Go Hitler, er I mean, Go Me!

Modern Warfare 2

Lost Planet 2: no idiots.

Battlefield Bad Company 2: no idiots.

MAG: no idiots (I’m lying I have no idea, never played it since the beta, but I was running out of options)

Modern Warfare 2: Penile-Challenged Knob-Face Monkey Twat Central.

I’m seriously considering trading in Modern Warfare 2 after my experience a couple of nights ago, where I realised I can no longer get any fun out of the online play on this tepid excuse for a shooter. I’ve completed the campaign twice so that leaves little left to enjoy.

It seems like every time I put this bloody game in I have to report someone. This latest episode was no exception as a “your shit” email appeared in my PSN mailbox. Really? Well f*cking done Einstein, I know I’m shit, I’m actually just here to socialise with my friends and have a laugh. Would you like a medal? Not a grammar medal obviously, though I did resist the urge to use the classic “it’s spelled you’re” response. Instead I took the mature approach: “FYI I work for Sony, keeping your mouth shut is advised”. It’s a good job he wasn’t messaging Hitler, you don’t want to rub that guy up the wrong way. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of his briefing on YouTube about the Gran Turismo 5 release date. That was some nasty shit.

The response was “haha fuk u gimp”. Good job I wasn’t a real Sony employee eh? Ps3reporting.com was quickly engaged. If you’d like to share your opinion feel free to drop a pm to crazycracked, I’m sure it will be met with a suitably whimsical grammatically incorrect response.

I wondered if the child would say that to my face in a bar, where he would promptly get his faced smashed in by my fist. Evidently his parents don’t mind him playing an 18-rated game – seems to be a running theme this – so he should obviously be able to go get drunk in bars as well and see how his Class A1 Wanker comments go down in a room full of burly drunk adults. Die in a fire crazycracked.

Anyway, I get this kind of abuse every single time I play MW2. It was the first time I’d played online for a while and it reminded me why I never go online with it. It is truly saddening, but, I also realised that the rest of us actually need MW2 because it’s a nice honeypot that attracts all the adolescent low-life scum and sort of keeps them segregated in one place so that the proper gaming community doesn’t have to concern themselves with being bothered by them. It’s like, we’re the superior race and MW2 is like Auschwitz. The only problem is, the gamers on MW2 don’t die from gas poisoning afterwards. There’s safety in numbers it seems; but as Jimmy Carr once said, try telling that to 6 million Jews.

Have you noticed the nicks of the people who play MW2? I proclaimed on my headset that “the list of nicks in the lobby really speaks volumes about the kind of people who play Call of Duty”. A slight sweeping stereotype I admit, but you’ve got to concede: SuperKilla87, Megal33t, Ikillj00_pwned354783. There’s a pattern there, no? If you missed it: they are all nicknames made by toss-pots.

Screw Modern Warfare 2. Long live World At War – although I don’t like the way the Germans are portrayed. They were just doing what I told them.

Chatting up girls

Oh my God.

Oh my F*CKING God.

A couple of weeks ago my gaydar went off in GameStop as a clearly geek gamer girl bought a ton of PS3 games and was asking astute questions to the staff – clearly she knew as much about release dates and gaming as any member of the TSA staff. Man I’m digging sweeping generalizations today! She’s a girl, she wins by default, shut up.

I was too shy to talk to her of course and kicked myself on the way home for it.

Today I was in a different game store (Platekompaniet), and as I perused the PS3 section looking for ModNation Racers I noticed two rather beautiful girls next to me discussing the merits of Oblivion. I was somewhat impressed they would be into long, drawn-out, slow, complex RPGs, but far be it from me to stifle the enthusiasm of newly-formed girl gamers.

After I’d paid there was one customer in the queue behind me before the girls. So I took the plunge and braced for impact.

“Are you gonna buy Oblivion?”

“Yeah”

I tried to be as helpful and non-patronising as possible, fearful they may not be happy with their purchase:

“You know it’s a really complicated, slow, old-style RPG game right?”

“Yeah”

The conversation shifted from Norwegian to English and they obviously loved my classic British accent.

“Have you played Fallout 3?”

“Yep, I heard this is the same but with less shooting”

“That’s exactly right.”

“Hm ok – well then you know what you’re getting into. Have fun!”

The reason I remember the conversation line by line so vividly is because, much like Gregory House who I aspire to be like, actual human contact with females is sort of a once-in-a-year occurrence, so any sort of interaction gets immediately committed to memory and over-analyzed for months.

I left the store feeling absolutely devastated and grumbled all the way home and for some time afterwards. We all know how awkward it is to strike up a conversation with a random stranger in a store, and I’m sure we’ve all had those moments where we see a nice-looking boy or girl and wish we had the stomach to approach them.

I was pleased I had the guts to even say anything, it took me a few minutes of silent procrastination next to them before I managed it, but why oh why oh why did I not just say “Listen I don’t mean to be rude but do you wanna play sometime?” Games, obviously. I got the feeling they would definitely have agreed and yet I still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Is it part of God’s plan to make me a pussy, rather than give me pussy? What’s your point God?

All I had to lose was two minutes of dignity, tops. *bangs head on desk*

So I thought to myself, What Would Hitler Do? I video conferenced with him on YouTube, and it turns out he would’ve first asked the bitch out, then forced her if she didn’t comply. So I think I’m gonna do that next time.

Screw dignity. Long live German efficiency.

Conclusions

Never upgrade your PS3 unless you want a burst blood vessel. Delete Modern Warfare 2, put the disk in the microwave, then shred it up with a chainsaw and frisbee it out of your window – sharp end first – at any passer-by who looks like they might be a MW2 player. Always sacrifice your dignity when the opportunity of a potential shag arises. I have learned these lessons the hard way so you don’t have to. Also, on reflection, I should probably stop watching so many Downfall parody videos.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just picked up a copy of my secret new project. I can’t tell you what it is, but, let’s just say it rhymes with Castration Razors.

Tschüss!

* I made a substantial donation to the Indonesia relief effort.

OtherOS: From The Mind of A Hacker

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

I am a software developer. I got my first computer in 1982 (I was 2 years old) – a VIC-20 with 3.5k of RAM. In those days, computers came with manuals which tought you how to program in BASIC. The systems were not locked down and anyone could learn to program without any extra purchase or licensing. Most of the machines also let you program in assembler, and as 1990 rolled around, C compilers became freely available as 16-bit machines came into force.

In those days, people often wrote games for fun. One person could stretch the ability of the machine to the limit, and no modelling or complex graphics or sound was required. The very important point is, many if not all of today’s best programmers taught themselves at home on their 8-bit computers. They did not come from Universities.

If those machines hadn’t existed in an open architecture, we would not have the games we have today. I strongly believe that. We would also not have an internet that is mature as it is, or many other programs and devices we now take for granted. Ask almost any game developer how he or she got started, and they will most likely say, in the 1980s, on their home computer.

For hobbyists, and people who want to tinker in this day and age, setting up is complicated and expensive. Programming is a lot more tricky than it used to be, and the development tools are insanely complex for a beginner. Unlike in the old days, it is also extremely difficult to do anything unless you are programming for a popular platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) because everything is locked down.

Some of you may remember when PS1 was released, you could buy a home development kit called Net Yaroze. It wasn’t a full-blown product to let you develop commercial games – it was for homebrew hobbyists. It did not have a significant impact on the level of pirated PlayStation 1 games and was available throughout the lifetime of the console.

If you want to get your foot in the door of something other than writing Windows applications and you have a healthy interest in proprietary platforms, the PS3 was a very compelling purchase. You could do something completely different: learn to program basic assembler using the Cell architecture. IBM published a free SDK (software development kit) especially for PS3 users wanting to experiment with this, and have a large collection of tutorials on their web site. For me, that is an excellent precedent to set to young programmers in this era of encrypted filesystems, locked down custom application install and DRM craziness.

There is no doubt in my mind that PS3 has already been reverse-engineered plenty of times by bright minds. GeoHot made a stupid mistake by going public.

While GeoHot was naïve to post his work on his blog, I have to take issue with the people telling him he’s an asshole and that he should be sued. It’s very important to realise that genuine hackers (not the people who steal Warcraft accounts) are the backbone that created much of this industry in the first place, including the internet, and the PS3’s security.

In order to improve the security of a device, it has to be tested and pushed. Smart companies always hire the hackers – which is what Sony should do at this point – and I have proof.

My time at News Corporation

Not a lot of people know this, but in 1997 I reverse engineered the current Sky card of the time and let the code leak out via other pirates. I’m very familiar with piracy, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. It was the first dual-processor smartcard ever manufactured and I was 17. It took me about 8 months to crack it. As with the GeoHot farce, this led to months of cat-and-mouse between myself and Sky as they issued updates to the genuine smartcards over the satellite and I had to produce countermeasures to keep the pirate cards working. And as with the GeoHot farce, it was in the newspapers and led to a flood of worshipping fans; however I remained anonymous and used tons of pseudo-aliases.

I did it, not for the fame, or for money, or for free TV, or to please my fans. Indeed, several pirate card companies took the designs and software I had published, copied them and sold them for hundreds of pounds a pop. They made millions of pounds from my work. On my part, that was completely expected. If I had been out for the money, I could have done that myself. But I didn’t, because I did it for the challenge of proving it could be done. There is nothing like a company claiming a product is unbreakable to give inquisitive minds the momentum to break it.

What happened as a result of that? I gained an exquisite knowledge of cryptography, security, set top box and smart card design. I learned several new programming languages, new techniques and new algorithms which can be applied in every day work.

One day, NDS (a branch of News Corporation) – the designers of Sky cards – caught up with me. They tested me on my knowledge to make sure I was the real hacker, and then hired me to provide information. The next card released was the result of a £21 million redesign and redistribution. This was already well underway by the time they talked to me, but I was given the opportunity to stand in front of some engineers and highlight what was wrong with the existing card. The replacement was never reverse-engineered publicly. I privately reported several vulnerabilities in the new card including how to dump 1k of memory which contained the addresses of all the main over-the-air data processing routines, and they were patched via satellite before anyone else figured out how to take advantage.

Among other things, the new cards also had the two processors glued together top-to-bottom, so you could no longer melt the card in acid and extract the two processors and probe them separately. Separating the processors in the new card destroys them both. I raise this point because it demonstrates that to be a successful security expert, you need knowledge of both software and hardware exploits, and the best way to gain that knowledge is to hone your skills by hacking something that hasn’t been publicly hacked before. This is exactly what GeoHot has accomplished with the iPhone and PS3.

A real hacker will never bother to get into someone’s Facebook account. It is boring and there is no challenge in it, and it’s been done over and over already. These are not the people I am talking about. They are parasites to the industry. The real hackers are future assets and should be treated as such.

Did all of my mischief make me a bad person? No, actually it put me at the top of my field. It was a well paid job, Google wanted to hire me without interview but I said no because I didn’t want to move to California. I would not have the skills I have now if I hadn’t been allowed to carry out that hacking exercise, and because it had never been done before, it is the sort of thing that earns you a lot of respect among your peers. Sky also saved a lot of money on piracy in the long run into the bargain.

What did NDS actually employ me to do? Sit in my University dorm and hack their products. A few weeks after SkyDigital was launched (1st October 1998) I presented them with the first firmware dump of the set-top box. That was quite the vulnerability for them, not least because the box could record upto 25 PPV purchases before phoning home, among other reasons. Future set-top boxes were modified to make it harder to dump the firmware. If someone else had got there first, they could have made a complete farce of the pay-per-view system – which ultimately, as the bankruptcy of other European satellite networks due to piracy such as FilmNet shows, will affect the quality of programming legitimate customers receive eventually. Satellite networks facing massive piracy turned to NDS and became their customers, because they had ultimately designed the most secure system – and a high proportion of the developers were former hackers. The result? We now have a better satellite TV delivery network.

There is nothing wrong with hacking for the sake of hacking. People need to understand that it leads to the output of some of the most skilled people in our industry. Don’t knock it. Hacking requires skill and dedication, and most hackers stop hacking when they get out of school and learn that the real world places too many demands on their time. I have seen this over and over again. Then they get good jobs and produce products that benefit and entertain you and me.

Why saying “it will blow over” is bad for you

Turning political, consider this argument which I have seen on TSA several times: “why the fuss? This will all blow over, Sony will release some cool upgrades and everyone will forget about it, it’s only a tiny minority of users affected,”. That kind of thinking is a microcosm of why you don’t live in a free society anymore. According to the National Autistic Society about half a million people in the UK suffer from autism. That’s less than 1% of the population, so, maybe we should just not give them the facilities they need? Which is exactly what happens. What excuse does the government give for why the NHS is so shoddy at dealing with minority disorders? Cost-cutting. A certain ring of familiarity, no?

Is one of the cool content upgrades Sony will release something that lets me tinker around with the Cell processor again? No it isn’t. Will cross-game chat and 100 free Blurays make this problem go away for me? No it won’t. Is it fair that I should be able to stand up for my rights and keep what I paid for? Yes it is, so stop bitching that I’m in a minority, therefore I don’t matter.

An apology from Sony doesn’t cut it. That is the corporate way of fobbing off the consumer.

Over in the free world

I live in Norway. When the iPod was released, the Norwegian Supreme Court declared it to be an illegal device. The reason? Norwegian law states that you should be able to export purchased media from any device to any other device. Videos, music and photos. The iPod was temporarily banned while it was modified to comply with local laws, and the public were in favour of the ban, because they believed they had a right to control their own media and pushed for their rights. They could have let Apple get away with it, but they didn’t. The result? A fairer, less DRM-riddled marketplace.

Sony audio CDs with certain copy protection on them were also banned here as a result of consumer protests, and were re-released without copy protection.

In other, less related examples, the FBI tried to prosecute Norwegian cellphone network provider NetCom because they refused to release the contents of SMSs sent by a suspected terrorist. It went to court, and NetCom won the case. Personally, I applaud that decision. It shows that NetCom respects its users’ privacy and gives me more confidence when I use my phone.

Viasat – one of the two main satellite networks here – decided to get rid of MTV from its channel line-up because people basically didn’t like it or want it. MTV Networks drove vans around Oslo with megaphones and loudspeakers in protest, and they were ignored. The general public consensus was that the world was a better place without MTV, and it was the public who got rid of it from our airwaves – not a forced decision by a company. What is the effect of getting rid of MTV? Less children watching immature irresponsible crap on TV.

What does all this mean? It means that in civilised society, the consumer has the final choice, as it rightly should be. But you must stand up and speak out to avoid your rights from being eroded away.

If a group of Scandinavians came together and sued Sony over the OtherOS removal, Sony would get their asses kicked. It is practically beyond doubt. I hope it happens soon.

Top Ten: April Fools Jokes (Previously Unpublished)

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a previous unpublished article originally written for another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt the technical tricks described in this article unless you are sure you know what you are doing. Neither TheSixthAxis nor myself accepts any responsibility for hardware or software you break or brick, whether you followed the instructions properly or not. Some of the items below are quite irresponsible and should be handled with extreme caution.

As we all know, there’s nothing funnier than annoying another person and wasting their time, so here are some quick April Fool’s Day tips for you:

System Failure: The PG Version

Make a file called index.html and upload it to a web server with the following content:

<html><head><title>PlayStation 3 System Failure</title></head><body style=”background-color: red”><div style=”font-size: 72pt; font-weight: bold; color: black”>WARNING: A fatal system error has occurred. Please contact your nearest Sony representative for assistance. Error code 4PR17-F001.</div></body></html>

Open your friend’s PS3 web browser to the site you’ve uploaded to then turn the TV off. Enjoy the look on their face as they come home for some nice gaming and switch on to see the failure message.

System Failure: The Hardcore Unrated Version

Install Linux on your friend’s PS3. Set Firefox or Opera to start by default and set the homepage to the same page as above. Set the OS to auto-login. Remove your friend’s keyboard.

Result: every time he turns on his PS3 he’ll be greeted with the failure message with no way to start any games or other applications. To put the machine back to normal, type “boot-game-os” at the prompt when it is turned on.

Screw up PSN connectivity

Add a entry in your friend’s router or firewall to block “*.playstation.net”. Or you can just go into your friend’s PS3’s network settings and change the static IP to something random. However the first method works best as he will check all his PS3 network settings and be unable to find the problem.

Result: all the other machines on your friend’s LAN will work but his PS3 won’t be able to log in.

The Modern Warfare 2 variant

This is a classic if your friend is a Call of Duty whore. Simply block port 3074 on his router. His PS3 will go online and all the games will work but he won’t be able to find any matches in Modern Warfare 2.

Force firmware update on every boot

Make a series of directories in the root of your web site (usually httpdocs) as follows: /update/ps3/list/eu. Replace ‘eu’ with ‘us’ if you’re in the US. In this folder, make a file called ps3-updatelist.txt (case-sensitive) with the following text:

# EU

Dest=85;CompatibleSystemSoftwareVersion=3.1500-;

Dest=85;ImageVersion=0000948f;SystemSoftwareVersion=13.3370;CDN=http://deu01.ps3.update.playstation.net/update/ps3/image/eu/2009_1210_54ee80e14e479f8351a988eb9a472072/PS3UPDAT.PUP;CDN_Timeout=30;

Replace the number 13.3370 with any number that amuses you.

This file tells the PS3 what the latest firmware version is and where to download it from. Now you need to trick the PS3 into checking this file instead of the official one. For that, install ettercap on a Linux box or use a program like PS3.Proxy.GUI for Windows.

Spoof fus01.ps3.update.playstation.net to point to the IP address of your web site. Tutorial here (just replace ps3news.com’s IP with your own, the rest of the instructions are the same):

http://www.ps3news.com/forums/ps3-guides-tutorials/ps3-firmware-version-check-bypassed-thread-55789.html

Result: every single time your friend turns on his PS3 he’ll be made to download a firmware update (the file above will just cause firmware 3.15 to be re-downloaded) – which will no doubt drive him crazy.

The AV Scrambler

Does your friend have a TV with multiple inputs, or an amp? Re-arrange every video and audio cable arbitrarily. I have 8 inputs on my TV and 11 on my amp, and they’re all used. That would drive me absolutely crazy. For added effect, make sure to mismatch the audio and video cables for different devices so that when he changes input he gets the video for one device and the sound for another. When he detects the ruse, tell him his girlfriend was trying to get the Wiimote to connect.

Parental lock

Set the parental lock to its highest restriction level with a random PIN code. A quick solution to preventing many of his games from working.

Change background

Another easy classic, change your friend’s XMB background to porn or something equally offensive for when he switches it on in front of someone else.

Set system language to Japanese

Speaks for itself.

The Disk Scrambler

My personal favourite. My initial thoughts here were to use the grouping options to completely mess up the location of your friend’s PSN games. But then I had a better idea. It only works if your friend has a lot of Bluray games, say more than 40.

Assuming they are arranged horizontally on the shelf, take each disk out of the Bluray case and place it in the Bluray case 4 items to the left. Put the left-most 4 in the right-most 4 cases. In other words, all of the game boxes should remain in the same place, but all of the disks inside should be rotated left by 4 places.

See how long it takes your friend to figure out the “code”. The best part about this is, if he has as many games as me, it may be months of amusement for you before he bothers to put them all back in order again. Enjoy as he decides to play a game, goes to his shelf and you see his finger count 4 places to the left to find the actual game he wants to play.

Delete the Game Data

Ok first a word of warning. Do not delete the game data for LittleBigPlanet or any music game as it contains user-created level data and downloaded songs. Do not delete the game data for other such games, and definitely do not delete the save data as that is really cruel and not recoverable.

Result: every single game he tries to play will need to re-install and re-patch.

User account chenanigans

Make a new user account with an almost identical nick to your friend’s. Set it to auto-login. When he turns on his PS3, he will think he has lost all his settings, friends list and trophies. It will take him a moment to realise it is not his account. Priceless.

Remove the hard disk

Simple enough. Get a small watch screwdriver, unclip the panel, remove the HDD, hide it somewhere and re-attach the panel. His PS3 will epic fail to start every time. Replacing the HDD will put everything back to normal with no ill consequences. Just be careful not to ruin the heads on the screws as they are very soft.

Happy April 1st!

Gaming Opinion: Gran Turismo 5 Release

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

March 26th 2010. Woof, woof woof, who let the Gran Turismo 5 fanbois out? Oh it was me, sorry about that. So on Friday there was a little bit of a stir regarding my comments on the Gran Turismo 5 release, so I’d like to talk about this seriously for a moment from the point of view of both the developer and the publisher.

I am a Gran Turismo 5 fangirl. I pre-ordered it last summer. Driving games are my favourite genre and GT5P sits proudly on my shelf as the very first PS3 game I played at home. I’m really looking forward to Gran Turismo 5, although I’m now becoming afraid that it is going to be style, realism and feature-bloat over playability and addictiveness.

I won’t pretend to know I have any idea what is going on in the bowels of Sony or Polyphony Digital, but from past work experience I am pretty sure of at least two things: 1. They already know they made a mistake by not releasing sooner, and 2. Sony will be secretly relieved when this thing gets out into retail and it’s over and done with so they’re not bleeding away more money on it.

From the developer’s point of view

A project is never finished. It can always be refined more. New features and improvements can always be added. Perfectionism is paramount. Nobody wants to make a bad game. On my music gaming web site (www.totalmusicgaming.com), we are incrementally adding features and tweaking issues all the time, and it is very rewarding to see it become gradually better and better and more used.

The Gran Turismo 5 team want to make a perfect game and they will ultimately never be 100% satisfied with it, as is the case with all game studios worth their salt. If left to their own devices, development will go on forever.

From the publisher’s point of view

Analogising again to my web site, there comes a point where you have to stop developing and start marketing, otherwise you run out of money and don’t have any users. The web site is very, very far from perfect, there are years worth of extra features and goodies that could be added, I’m not happy with it and would have really wanted to push the envelope on a SingStar add-on a lot further before release – but it is feature-complete, and it’s not economically feasible to do it all before the product is released, and we have to see a return on investment or development cannot continue.

Up to a certain point, each man hour spent on development is worthwhile. Eventually a tipping point of diminishing returns is reached, where the potential market for the product is more or less maximized and additional work is simply a cost with little-to-no benefit. When a game is delayed for 6 months, not because it isn’t finished but because it is being padded with feature bloat, the publisher and gamers lose out in several ways. First the public become frustrated with the delay. Second the publisher loses money while it is shelling out for the development team to continue working when the number of copies sold isn’t likely to increase much as a result of additional features being added in. Thirdly the time spent on that could have been spent developing new games.

There comes a point where you just have to say, it’s good enough, push it out now. Steve Lycett commented on this in his recent TSA interview about Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing:

“We’d love to include more, but then we’d never finish a game!”

This is exactly how I feel about development. If all publishers allowed perfectionist standards, there would be no games to play.

Some may argue that Polyphony Digital is an exception or that it’s important to let the game be developed until its potential is maximized. Of course, it’s important not to set the bar too low, but PD is really not an exception. I don’t think many people would argue that including 3D or Move support is necessary at this point, and that is a considerable time drain. Avatar: The Game was designed for 3D; did that make it a better game? Consider, what are the potential uses of the Move in GT5? A trade-off has to be reached, and in my opinion the appropriate trade-off has not been made for this game by a long stretch.

I am not suggesting for a moment that unfinished games should be released. If a game needs to be delayed to iron out bugs or finish the content, that is one thing. Polyphony Digital have already announced more than once that the game is essentially finished and that “we could release it now”. Gran Turismo 5 has been in development for over 5 years at this point and was meant to be one of the key early adopter titles to drive initial sales of PlayStation 3. Sony have clearly given up on this idea now and Gran Turismo 5 has likely become a monetary sink for them. That cannot possibly benefit us.

My opinion is that the developers at Polyphony Digital have lost sight of what is truly important, and lost their way. By trying to cram in every possible feature, they are neglecting the core of what makes a good game: the gameplay. If it is true that each car takes 1 month to model, then the modelling should have been simpler, or less cars should have been included. Is it necessary to include 1000 cars? There’s no doubt it’s cool – but would it be a worse game if there were 250 cars? Will you play 1000 races? Was Need For Speed Shift a worse game because of its more limited car selection and simpler graphics? If it was, then we are talking very small percentage points.

What is the target audience for Gran Turismo 5? Is it car enthusiasts, or is it gamers? Is it realism or is it fun? Of course it’s not a black-and-white argument and there is room to balance both sets of users’ needs, but I’m extremely concerned that these major issues are being sorely overlooked.

Gamers also need to have realistic expectations. The concept that the longer a game is in development, the better it will be, is false. In the same way there is a diminishing return on revenue with development time, so the quality of a game is also not proportional to the time it takes to develop. Spore is a classic example of this – a game with a 9-year development cycle. While some will argue Spore is great and others will say it is horrible, the point is, either way, it would be hard to argue it was worth 9 years of development. It’s also worth noting that Duke Nukem Forever was canceled after an 11-year development cycle due to lack of funding.

Almost everyone who is going to buy Gran Turismo 5 has probably made their purchasing decision already. In my opinion, it should be released now before the hype backfires, if it has not done so already. Game development is not a hobby, it’s a business – but Polyphony Digital seem to think otherwise, and that’s a dangerous game to play.

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