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Opinion

Thoughts On The Vita Homebrew Loader

Vulnerable?

First MotorStorm: Arctic Edge and, yesterday, Everybody’s Tennis.  Two great PSP games that have been unceremoniously removed from the PlayStation Store over their use in triggering a vulnerability that opens up the PS Vita to PSP homebrew.  And, crucially, they’re gone from your download lists, which means that if you bought them, you’d better hang on to them.

Personally, I’m probably pro-homebrew, EULAs and the law aside for a second.  That may surprise you, but as a coder (of sorts) I welcome the ability to be able to code in LUA for the machine, and I made two little PSP games in this way back in the day.  I’m not speaking for everyone else, but it feeds my need to create, even if I barely get time to play games these days, let alone make them.

The situation is simple: with the two above games (and until Sony patch out the issue with new firmware) it’s possible to get something approaching an easy to use homebrew loader on Vita.  It doesn’t open up the Vita itself to homebrew, but it does let the PSP emulator side of things run a fair chunk of apps and games that it couldn’t normally do.


Everybody's Tennis - removed from the Store yesterday.
Let’s be straight – I’m not talking about piracy.  Whilst I’m not ignorant to think that for some it’s a natural progression, for me, personally, I’m happy just firing up an emulator and playing some classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum games on the move.

But Sony has something of a track record here, and nobody can forget about the removal of Linux which – holding my hand up – I misjudged entirely at the time.  Linux wasn’t for me, so I couldn’t understand why everyone was so upset about it disappearing.

And it did disappear, regardless of what anyone said – if you wanted to keep your PS3 updated with the latest firmware, you lost OtherOS.

So, removing the two affected games from the PSN Store might halt people trying to circumvent Sony’s carefully manufactured security layers, but surely it’s only a stop gap?  What’s to say that there aren’t other PSP games that can be tricked into providing an easy way into the homebrew scene for the PS Vita?  Where is this all going, if the games keep vanishing?

Are users entitled to a refund for their games, if they paid for them and can no longer download them?  Possibly, but it might not be easy.  “Please keep in mind that as per our user agreement we don’t generally offer refunds,” says one email to a user with such a request.

“However, our network team will review your situation and make a decision accordingly. If they do offer a refund, it will be offered as a onetime courtesy,” it says.  “We will not be able to offer any additional refunds in the future.”  It’s that last line that really sticks – I’m assuming they mean to that particular individual, and not the wider user base there.

I’m aware that Sony need to do what they can to protect the integrity of their systems – after all, the PSP was rife with piracy towards the end of its life.

I’m also aware that the original developers might not be around to fix any issues or bugs that have caused these problems – especially with MotorStorm, as Sony closed the studio – but either the game stays off the Store for everyone, or it’s patched and put back up.  The former seems incredulous, but entirely possible – but as more games suffer from this, doesn’t this all just get worse?

My brain’s ticking here, but is there a potential future for the Vita where it doesn’t include the PSP emulator software?

This is a personal blog and may not reflect the views of TheSixthAxis.

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46 Comments
  1. Omac_brother
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    I am pro-homebrew, but massively anti-piracy. Unfortunately, they come hand in hand. I firmly believe in allowing somebody the creative freedom to develop their own programs to run on a home console, but lets be honest, 99% of the people who use homebrew are doing it for piracy. the 1% of actual creative minds take one for the team every time and have this avenue taken from them. What frustrates me is that the 99% who use it for piracy always kick up a fuss when the option to use homebrew is taken from them claiming “It was just for my own homebrew games” because they have now had their free games taken from them.
    It would be great to see Sony encourage the homebrew projects in a safe environment for the PS Suite, but its a dangerous arena to enter and one that I cant see Sony stepping into.

    Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 10:44.
  2. Jag
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    If there is a problem with these exploits what I don’t understand is why Sony have to remove the game completely from the store??
    Sure they want to protect the Vita from homebrew apps but this shouldn’t stop people who still have a PSP. Just stop the game from being downloaded or transferred to a Vita but leave it up for the PSP.
    They’re probably going to stop support for the PSP soon anyway, and at least this way people who have legitimately bought the game can still play it!

    Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 12:19.
  3. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    “I’m happy just firing up an emulator and playing some classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum games on the move.”

    Which is piracy.

    Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 13:43.
    • heedbaw
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Not necessarily, there are places you can get sanctioned emulators and ROMs.

      Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 13:59.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      “Which is piracy.”

      Absolutely not.

      Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:04.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Yes it is. Legally, in nearly every way, it’s piracy. Sure, there are Homebrew ROMs but outside of that. It’s piracy.

        Firing up a ZX Spectrum emulator to play some ROMs? Piracy. It’s just down to morals as to whether people do it or not.

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:10.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        So those companies that have given their permission to WoS to offer their games, and Amstrad the hardware ROMs, that means nothing?

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:11.
      • heedbaw
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        I’m with nofi on this one. WoS either get permission from the publisher, or the author if the publisher is no longer in existence.

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:19.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        It means something but it’s still only a percentage of Spectrum games. That doesn’t cover any other platform (although, absolute respect to other devs and publishers that yield copyright over to such situations).

        You talk, on TSA, like emulation is legal and I find it abhorrent when TSA, as a whole, wants to stamp out piracy. I’m not questioning the moral implications of generations gone-by but it smacks of hypocrisy. Sorry, Al.

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:22.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        I don’t talk like emulation is legal, at all, but it’d be hard to really argue that some old, permission granted spectrum games is really going against the TSA line, wouldn’t it? I’m certainly not mentioning any other platforms either.

        No apology needed though, you’re (naturally) welcome to challenge the article and my comments, mate. =)

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:24.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Cheers, fella. I just don’t like the idea of everyone shouting “piracy is awful” when we still see the alleged grey areas of the likes of emulation.

        What I’d prefer to see is a mature stance on it where we realise the harmful affects it can have on the industry but also how some piracy impacts absolutely nothing due to certain situations/circumstances.

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:28.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        I agree. I might also add that this article was pushed live without Peter checking it (he’s away today) and thus, as per the disclaimer, doesn’t reflect TSA’s line in any way.

        I’m certainly anti-piracy, a stance we all take here, don’t worry. Apologies if that part of the blog came across otherwise, the last person I’d want to offend is you dude.

        Feel free to pitch over some ideas on the article, that sounds like one that we’d need a bit of help with… =)

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:31.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        Also perhaps worth pointing out that I was half way through developing a DS game that got halted due to piracy, so I’m well aware of the problems first hand. =)

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:32.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Now idly curious about where it stops when games are a call-back to older classics. That Stunt Car Racer title you reviewed is so close to Geoff Crammond’s original, where does it end? I’d be gutted if someone did that to me (without adding quantitative amounts of their own effort).

        Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 14:44.
  4. skibadee
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    all it does is ruin gaming for people who just want to buy games & enjoy them.

    Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 18:13.
  5. flatspikes
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    Like I’ve said in recent posts it means a bit more work to ensure I have downloaded every PSP game I’ve bought from PSN. A side issue of this is if I want to play a PSP game on Vita I have to download it from that store too as Media Go files are not compatible. Quite a bit of juggling and storage needed.

    I was so hoping the ‘PSN’ cloud could be trusted too…

    Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 19:26.
  6. Bladesteel
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    Am I right in assuming these hacks rely on loading a modified save game?

    Could they not limit how PSP saves are loaded onto the vita instead of removing the games that are used to load them? Either heavily encrypted, proving the were created on that vita, or through a “cloud save” like service, that checks the files for known exploits if you use it to upload your old PSP saves.

    Comment posted on 27/03/2012 at 19:36.

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