Thoughts On The Vita Homebrew Loader

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.

[drop2]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. Someone explain to me what homebrew is or does?

    Also i mean if these games have loops in them that means its the developers fault for leaving an open door to breach security on the system right?

    • Not really, no. Technically, I guess, but if someone wants to find a way in, they will, regardless.

    • Homebrew are the unlicensed custom programs made by homeusers to run on such consoles.
      Some of them might have been cool additions to the console, if it wasn’t for the fact that 98,7% of the people who use them, used them for Piracy.
      The Homebrew industry pretty much ruined the PSP and Sony is trying to avoid Vita having the same fate at all costs.

      I was into PSP homebrew in the past, and at first I though it was very cool to have all those neet programs. Until one day I realised that it was pretty much a joke, and whith the excetion of a few excited programers, the only thing homebrew users care was to piraty games, while pretentiously justifing Homebrew for the few non-piracy related programs that they didn’t care about.

      • Homebrew ruined the PSP?? Homebrew MADE the PSP. It was the poor game selection that ‘ruined’ it. Piracy doesn’t ruin anything. Look at iOS and Android, two of the easiest platforms to enable pirated games – and yet the new Angry Birds sold 10 million in 3 days.

      • Of course Angry Birds wouldn’t be as affected by piracy as a €40 game.
        Most versions of it are 69p or free!
        Why on Earth would you pirate a free game?

        And the poor game selection came about because of piracy, which came from homebrew. And can you name one homebrew program that MADE PSP?
        Thought not.

  2. Doesn’t matter about being nice to fire up some emulators for people that can code. That is a tiny percentage of Vita owners and if it opens up the Vita to any form of piracy then of course Sony are going to do everything they possibly can to close that door.

    Sadly for the rest of us, it means games are disappearing and the last thing I want is for this to spiral. I enjoy my Vita and I pay money to play on it. I would rather like for this to disappear please.

  3. its making cider in your garage…..
    sorry wrong homebrew.
    Homebrew is a term frequently applied to video games or other software produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms (usually with hardware restrictions) not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods. This can include games developed with official development kits, such as Net Yaroze, Linux for PlayStation 2 or Microsoft XNA.[1]

  4. To permanently take away a product that a customer has paid for without an apology or refund is totally unacceptable. Unless its in the Ts and Cs that they can… I wonder if it is?

    • What’s to say it is permanent…..?

      • What’s to say it isn’t? The Arctic Edge studio has been closed down and there hasn’t been a statement from Sony giving us any hope that the game will ever come back.

      • Your right Tom nothing’s confirmed that it’s permanent, but at the same time Sony havent said it isn’t. The lack of information is a bad sign in my opinion, I sent customer services an email about whether or not ill be able to download it again at some point and had no response. I’ve since bought the UMD on eBay to save myself grief.

    • The PS3s T&Cs state that once you have purchased something from the store it is your responsibility to have continued access to it. I’d imagine the PSP one is similar to that.

  5. i just wish sony would start something like the indie program ms have or even he net yaroze thing they had for ps1, so anybody could create content for the ps3 and/or vita.
    that would mean those who just want to create software wouldn’t need to resort to finding hacks like these.
    sure there will still be people looking for hacks solely for the sake piracy, but with fewer people trying it should happen less.

    maybe then we can also get some minecraft type games on ps3. ^_^

    but sony’s attitude regarding the refund.

    a “one time courtesy”?

    bunch of dicks.
    once again they think their “agreement” is above the law.
    as i’ve pointed out before, the law still applies to online purchases.

    • I agree. If there was a nice controlled dev environment, Sony would get a lot more public support as the only reason for exploits would be piracy.
      Their reaction always seems to be panicked lockdown which often doesn’t really ease up much afterwards. Locking out OtherOS was a prime example of this (and I wrote a detailed piece on my thoughts for this very site at the time).

      Sony seem to take the Apple approach of trying to keep everything very strictly controlled. I suppose it does work for them both but if you look at Android which is much more open, you find countless brilliant pieces of software being developed which need root access yet piracy is really not a big problem.

    • totally with you on all of that, it seems to me like Sony have no idea how to work with small indie teams and the homebrew scene which is a massive shame as they are the true hotbeds of game creativity these days.

      (incidentally, Minecraft Vita? System seller for me :D )

      as for customer service…well…. is the Facepalm meme all used up yet? because i did it IRL.

      • facepalm?
        i think i went beyond the facepalm wat some of the responses i got from customer services when i was trying to get the refund for those pick and mix minis.

    • PlayStation Suite should provide the solution to this. Yes, it does cost $99 for a year (and with Sony’s currency converters that could translate to anything up to £/€99) but it will provide a valid, legal, Sony-supported, way to develop for the Vita. (There’s even a free beta next month I believe).

      The only downside for homebrewers (aside from the price, which isn’t /that/ bad) is that if you want to distribute your stuff to other Vita users without submitting it to Sony’s store, then you may have to make it open-source and distribute the code itself for others (with the Suite SDK themselves) to compile, but i don’t know if this has been confirmed.

      • i forgot about the Playstation suite.
        that seems like a good idea, i’d like to see something similar for the ps3 though.

        it’d be better if they made the whole dev kit, or whatever they’re gonna call it, free, that would encourage people who might not give it a try if they have to pay.
        i assume that any software that goes up on their store, they get a cut of any sales.
        i can’t see the dev kit being a big earner, there aren’t going to be millions of people buying it.
        the software developed with it could be though.

  6. Homebrew was the only good thing about the PSP. I know a few people who are waiting for a proper Vita homebrew to surface before they buy the new hardware.

  7. Again a problem with digital distribution. At least with physical media, no one is gonna come round your house and take it away!

    • Didn’t stop my mum when she found out I got an xmas pressie early one year :( :P

  8. So should Sony create a homebrew sandbox for people to play in with the added warning that if it gets compromised they will need to pull it.

  9. The Xbox 360 has an indie section and while there’s some crap on it there are also some gems.
    But coding for the 360 is supposed to be far easier than the PS3. Sony need to sort this out and let people make some magic.

    As for refunds… lol I’d like to see if Sony could argue their policies in court.

  10. Won’t the playstation suite enable homebrew of a sort? Hopefully that will provide a fertile and legitimate platform for the bedroom coders.

    • ^^ this
      reading through the comments i was stating to think everyone had forgotten about PSS.
      it will open open up the system to anyone who wants to make programs for it and offers a platform for people to distrubute them.
      i’m sure the “relatively” low annual license fee is much more attractive then having to glitch your way in…….

      • Apps and games will need to be approved by Sony with PSS. No emulators.

      • Yes, but you aren’t you able to test the software on your own Vita before you even submit it to Sony? If that is possible then you could just distribute the source code and everyone with an SDK could implement the code in their environment and push the code to their Vita. Not sure how these things work, though. I can’t imagine that dev model Vitas are required and a PC emulator to test software wouldn’t be the best choice either because it would require a fairly powerful PC to emulate the full potential of the Vita.

      • PSS might still have restrictions on local file loading, for example, which would mean Speccy snapshots and TAPs (to keep the same train of thought) won’t load though.

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