Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: August 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

PSP Firmware Downgrade?

The PSP is finally set to go on sale across Europe and Australasia this Thursday September 1st. Sony are shipping the unit with the version 2.0 firmware, which means no homebrew shenanigans. Or does it?

To say the Aus & Euro PSP's ship with 2.0 isn't quite accurate. They are actually going on sale with the version 1.52 firmware onboard, and the 2.0 update is on the bundled Sampler UMD ready to install when you first run it. Those of you who have been keeping up with PSP news will know that you can't run homebrew on v1.52 anyway, so it would seem there's no advantage in not updating to version 2.0 immediately.

Hold that thought. Before you run that Sampler UMD and irreversably upgrade your PSP to the version 2.0 firmware, ask yourself: "Do I want to run homebrew?" Maybe you don't, and maybe you can't wait to use 2.0's wireless web-browser. Good for you. If, on the other hand, you have some interest in PSP homebrew then you probably shouldn't run that Sampler disc just yet. Apparently there is in fact a method to downgrade a version 1.52 PSP to the homebrew friendly 1.50. This has been rumoured for some time, but always seemed unlikely, as commonsense suggested that to run a downgrader on a 1.52 PSP, you'd need an exploit to run unsigned code on it in the first place, which would make the purpose of the exercise rather redundant.

While the actual method hasn't been revealed yet, well-known PSP coder and notorious WAB team member, Yoshihiro, has confirmed that he has found a way, and is expected to go public with the process on September 1. As rumour has it, the method involves wirelessly sending a firmware downgrader to the 1.52 PSP via the Game Share function. The catch? You'll need a PSP capable of running homebrew to send it in the first place. If you don't know anyone with a version 1.00 or 1.50 PSP, then you're out of luck.

Of course, this is all unconfirmed at this stage, but Yoshihiro is unlikely to be bluffing. No doubt future PSP games will require the version 2.0 firmware anyway, but if you're a new PSP owner who's keen to dabble in the world of PSP homebrew, you may still have a chance. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Aus/Euro games do not play well with others & 2.0 uncracked.

So, it's official. You can't establish ad hoc multiplayer games between import and local PSP games (at least not with the current crop of games). It was already known that this couldn't be done between US and Japanese games (which isn't that surprising given the language difference), but after yesterday's tests I can now confirm that it can't be done between Euro/Australasian games and US titles either, regardless of who hosts and who tries to join. Despite not being region locked, the Euro/Australasian PSP games have indeed been changed from the US releases. While the inability to connect to import games for ad hoc multiplayer is disappointing, the upside is that some games will be released here with extra features not found in the US versions.

I'm pleased to report that the local release of WipEout Pure has an extra option on the main menu that isn't in the US or Japanese releases: "Teasers", which gives access to playable demos of Fired Up and Medievil: Resurrection. As an aside, there may aso be some reason to believe that the Euro/Australasian WipEout Pure could feature true online (infrastructure mode) multiplayer. I can't confirm this unfortunately (as no wireless router was available during testing), but the "Download" option on the US release's main menu reads "Online" in the local version. This could just be an insignificant wording change, but here's hoping there's more to it.
(You can read my WipEout Pure review here.)

In other PSP news, several websites have been reporting that an exploit has been found in the latest version 2.00 PSP firmware. (example: Tom's Hardware Guide article) Let's set the record straight. 2.00 has not been cracked. The 'method' described (and shown in the now widely-circulated video) isn't an exploit at all, it's there by design. One of the common features of every version of the PSP firmware is it's willingness to attempt to boot firmware update programs. Put an EBOOT.PBP file (with a correctly formed header) in a folder called UPDATE, and the PSP will attempt to run it, after checking that the version number in the header is greater than the version of firmware currently installed. That's been known for some time.

The thing is, once the PSP checks the header and confirms the version number of the update is greater than the existing firmware, it won't boot the program that follows unless it's a genuine, unmodified, encrypted update file from Sony. So the trademark "ding" sound and PSP logo screen displayed after selecting the icon for the "hacked" update file prove nothing other than the fact that some idiot can use a hex editor to change "2.00" to "2.10". The program itself doesn't run after that, because it's not properly encrypted. Hackers cannot correctly encrypt their programs. The 128-bit private key encryption is for all practical purposes uncrackable.

You can't so much as edit a single byte of the update program beyond the header without rendering it useless. What the video that's causing all this fuss shows is not "hacking" 2.0. It's not even a step in that direction. It's the PSP doing exactly what it should do - checking the header, displaying the boot animation and then refusing to run the program, because it's not genuine. This is a guy hitting a brick wall and thinking he's a 1337 H@X0R. Certain news sites need to do their homework.

Finally, to change the subject from PSP for a brief moment (hard to believe I know), I've written a couple of articles for Game Power Australia over the last few months. Here are some links if you're interested:
Tekken 5 Review (PS2)
Full Spectrum Warrior Review (PS2)
PS3 Hardware Feature
XBox360 Hardware Feature

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Aus PSP release schedule

The Australian PSP launch is rapidly approaching, and internally Sony Australia staff already have the Australian PSPs and software ready for September 1. I met briefly with a Sony tech support guy this morning, who borrowed my US WipEout Pure and Japanese Ridge Racers UMDs to test whether you can actually initiate ad hoc wi-fi multiplayer between import games and Australian PSP games (with both UMDs running on Australian PSPs). I doubt that it will work, but it's certainly worth a shot. The tech support staff have a rather short timeframe to familiarize themselves with all the technicalities before the deluge begins next month. Good luck guys.

The PSP will ship in Australia with the version 1.52 firmware onboard, though the bundled sampler disc will install the latest version (2.00). The line up for the Australian launch is very impressive, with plenty of games available from the get go. There'll also be 18 UMD movies (some not yet released on DVD) on shelves for launch, with plenty more to follow in the months ahead (including Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in October).

Here then is the official Australian PSP game release schedule:

September 1st:
Ape Academy
Everybody's Golf
Fired Up
MediEvil: Resurrection
Ridge Racer
WipEout Pure
World Tour Soccer Challenge Edition
Formula One Grand Prix
NBA Street Showdown
Need for Speed: Underground Rivals
NFL Street 2: Unleashed
Tiger Woods PGA Tour
Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower
Dynasty Warriors
Virtua Tennis: World Tour
World Snooker Challenge 2005
Colin McRae Rally 2005
Metal Gear Acid
V8 Supercars 2
Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade
Tony Hawk's Underground 2: REMIX
Spider-Man 2
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
Archer Maclean's Mercury

25 games. Not bad for day one.

On the horizon:
Burnout Legends - September 26
Pursuit Force - October TBC
WRC - October TBC
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories - October TBC
X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse - October TBC
Coded Arms - October TBC
Rengoku: Tower of Purgatory - October TBC
Namco Museum: Battle Collection - October 15
Madden NFL 06 - October 24
Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects - October 24
World Poker Tour - November TBC
Frogger: Helmet Chaos - November TBC
Star Wars Battlefront II - November 7
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - November 14
Need for Speed: Most Wanted - November 20
The Sims 2 - November 21
Death, Jnr. - November 25
Crash Tag Team Racing - December 1
Peter Jackson's King Kong - 2005
Ys: The Ark of Napishtim - 2005
Smart Bomb - 2005
Free Running - 2005
Top Spin 2 - 2006