Tag Archives: Homebrew

Makin’ Games

Although I know a lot about games and I’ve certainly played a significant number, making my own has never really crossed my mind. I came in when consoles were in full swing and so missed the days of easily programmable home micros, and a couple of attempts to learn anything more complicated than HTML have come to nothing.

It’s been at the back of my mind, though. Working on Retro Gamer, I frequently read interviews with people who made masterpieces in their bedrooms before they’d even finished school, which I suppose has made an impact, and then I’ve run into something of a perfect storm: Code Year, talk of the recent overhaul of school computing – which, as someone with an A-level in the useless old-style ICT, makes me insanely jealous – and the push behind the homebrew-friendly Raspberry Pi, all mixed in with a bit of a self-improvement bent on which I’ve found myself.

So Code Year’s been teaching me the fundamentals through building basic applications and games in JavaScript, and on the recommendation of some forum buddies I’ve started learning Python as well. I can’t do much beyond play with variables, but within a couple of weeks I know enough to make my computer draw a grid, simulate a dice roll, or move a sprite wherever I tell it. Baby steps, but I can see how these fundamentals build up into something that could legitimately be called a game.

I’m not going to go so far as to drop everything and embark on a career in development – not the most stable area right now – or get ahead of myself by announcing that I’m creating the next Minecraft, but man,┬áit’s a good feeling when you can feel it clicking. It’s a string to my bow and something I want as a hobby so that I’m not strictly a consumer when it comes to computing.

I will make Shenmue III once I’ve worked out how to get lookingForSailors() running on a Dreamcast, though.

 

PSP Themes: My First Attempt

Having shared some of my favourite custom themes for the PSP in the previous post, I now bring you what I have to show for the last couple of days.

I don’t think it’s half bad for a first attempt, although perhaps I could have gone for a bit more consistency with the logos I used to mark options. And it is, of course, yet more proof that I need something more productive to do with my time.

Feedback is welcome.

PSP Theme Showcase

The recent 3.70 PSP firmware (also in the 3.71 M33 custom firmware) added support for custom themes to personalise the XMB. Using this utility it’s possible to make your own, and since the homebrew community has been customising the XMB for months through less legitimate means, it naturally hasn’t taken long for some good, highly professional ones to show up.

I downloaded a rather impressive theme pack and trawled some forums for the best, as well as a couple that are a bit rubbish really but I found funny. Here are some of my favourites, both official and fan-made:

Cookie (official)

Cookie

Doom

Doom

Continue reading PSP Theme Showcase

PSP: Homebrew Paradise?

It may have died a premature death, but the Dreamcast was kept alive for a long time due to its vibrant homebrew development scene, thanks to its ability to boot unofficial code from CD-R (ironic that the ability that played a major role in its downfall was what kept it going for so long after). Now the x86 PC architecture of the Xbox has proven incredibly hackable due to its familiarity to developers and the console is being used far beyond what it was intended for; from Linux servers to media centers. Modchips are finding uses beyond the traditional import and piracy scenes.

What is perhaps the most unusual candidate for a burgeoning homebrew scene is Sony’s PSP. A closed hardware specification with a closed storage format is about as unlikely as it gets, but barely a week since the release in the US we’ve seen enterprising meddlers coming out with web browsers, IRC chat, and various pieces of software to do things from synching it with your iTunes library to using it as an Xbox memory card. It was even possible to tunnel them online within days of the Japanese release.

Obviously their abilities to make it do cool things are limited when they have no way to run code on it, even if the Memory Stick seems to make the finding of an exploit to run code a matter of time, but Sony have a good history of supporting homebrew development with the PS1’s Net Yaroze and the PS2’s official Linux kit. If they release an official homebrew development kit for the PSP we could have an avalanche of software that makes the system essential – how about some PDA applications? A media player that supports more than just MP4 video? Emulators? Ports of open source software? IM clients? The inevitable PSP Linux?

I can’t really see homebrew software being a mainstream selling point in the way that genuine, UMD-based software and built-in abilities will be, but if Sony can see this community and make moves to court it, they could have a huge underground success on their hands. If people see others on the train to work checking email and surfing the web on a PSP they’re going to see it not only as gaming’s answer to the iPod but also as a PDA and an essential component of a busy lifestyle. Sony could certainly come out with this stuff themselves without having to open up development, but having this software appear with no development costs to them is an astute business move. People like free stuff and not only would Sony get software to sell their console on appearing for no investment, but the ability to drop a program onto your Memory Stick and run it for no cost is very appealing to a potential buyer.