Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

How to recover a half-flashed DS with an R4DS or M3 Simply

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

First off, neither Matt or myself condone piracy. Not a single commercial DS game has gone anywhere near the microSD that I use with my R4. I’ve even gone to the extent of banning Google ads from advertisers who have advertised such products with phrases such as “Download Nintendo games for free!” (when I’ve been able to determine the domain without clicking on the ad, that is). My R4 and EZ-Flash 3-in-1 are used solely for DS and GBA homebrew (such as the oh-so-addictive tetattds and luminesweeper), but the details of that are deserving of a whole different article.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the core of this post: recovering semi-bricked DSs. If you’ve come to this post from a search engine, then you probably already know what FlashMe is. For those who don’t, it’s a replacement firmware for the DS (or DS Lite) that does a number of things like let you boot DS code directly from the front slot (normally you’d need a slot 1 device such as a PassMe or NoPass, as well as a slot 2 cart), boot unsigned code via the Download and Play option, strip out the health and safety screen, and add a failsafe recovery mode. Obviously installing this completely and utterly voids your warranty.

Flashing a DS is normally a fairly painless process. With DS Lites it’s a bit harder, due to being more compact, but still fairly simple. Unfortunately, if your DS chooses to turn off during the flashing process (like mine did), you can’t boot. Thankfully, FlashMe writes a failsafe bootloader that’s just able to boot DS code from slot 1 or 2 (accessed by holding start and select at poweron), so as long as this was successfully written, you can at least use your DS for more than just a paperweight. Unfortunately, trying to run FlashMe (or, in fact, any .nds files) from an R4DS (or M3 Simply, since they’re the same hardware) when in this recovery mode results in the following:

R4 fails to load any files :(

Oh dear. Not good. Thankfully, chishm, a well-known developer in the DS homebrew community, recently reverse engineered the R4’s encryption system, producing the r4crypt tool. Now, you know the _DS_MENU.DAT files you get in the R4 updates? They’re just encrypted NDS files. Can you see where this is going? Yup, you guessed it, encrypt flashme.nds, and save it as _DS_MENU.DAT in the root of your microSD card.

To make it easier for those who just want the instructions, here’s a step-by-step guide (obviously I accept NO responsibility for anyone damaging their DS further):

  • Download r4crypt.
  • Encrypt your FlashMe file, with r4crypt -e flashme.nds _DS_MENU.DAT.
  • Copy _DS_MENU.DAT to the root of your microSD card.
  • Power on with start and select held.
  • Follow the FlashMe instructions as before (note: be sure to plug your DS in, for security.)
  • Enjoy your un-bricked DS!

You will, of course, have to put the R4/M3 Simply _DS_MENU.DAT back on to be able to use it properly again.

I hope this information will be of use to some people, and I would like to thank chishm so very much for both writing r4crypt, and for telling me how to do this on IRC.

Three Red Lights of Fail

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

With all the talk on the interwebs of Xbox 360 failures (not that you should believe anything you read online…), I suppose it was inevitable really that my near-launch machine would ultimately fail. And it did so on Easter Sunday.

Tried booting up, and switching to the 360 input on my monitor, but it wasn’t happening. I rebooted the console, and got an output this time – only I got a lot of crackle on the display (which was showing the Dashboard), and a loud whining through the speakers. Another reboot gave the same issue. A further reboot after a few mins to cool down gave the famous ‘three red lights of death‘ – something I now get on every boot, even after leaving it disconnected for half a day.

The particularly interesting point is that it failed while playing Resistance: Fall of Man on the PlayStation 3, which has been sitting next to the 360, with the MS machine being booted up to demonstrate both Gears of War, and what it looked like in HD. Still, I guess sitting the rival consoles next to each other wasn’t the best of ideas… conspiracy theory, anyone?

Like Christmas, Easter isn’t a good time for things to fail, as bank holidays prevail, so I decided to pop off an e-mail to Microsoft that evening so they could reply as soon as possible. They have done, but other than directing me to that same webpage about the lights, they have given me numbers to call “for more help”. Thankfully I can call an 0800 number, and hopefully I’ll soon be sending my machine off for repair… just a pity it’s over 2 months out of warranty (so it’s going to cost me).

Stay tuned to this blog for exciting further progress!

The Free Ryzom Campaign

Friday, December 15th, 2006

You may know of the Saga of Ryzom MMORPG. If not, feel free to read our Saga of Ryzom review, and our preview of its expansion, Ryzom Ring. Alas, it didn’t end up doing too well in the marketplace, and so now Nevrax (the developer) is going into receivership, with one of the assets to be liquidated being Ryzom. As such, Ryzom is at serious risk of being shut down for ever.

This is where the Free Ryzom Campaign steps in. The Free Ryzom Campaign aims to raise enough in donations to purchase the rights to the game, and release it as Free software (note the capital F – if you don’t get the distinction, read the linked document) under the GPL, whilst maintaining a central server (which would be subscription-based) for people to use. Of course, in order to be able to do this, they need you. As I write this, €144,478 has been pledged, and their current goal is €200,000.

This isn’t the first time that a group of people have raised money to get some software open sourced. Blender is a 3D modeling tool that started off life as a shareware application. After a few years, the authors went bankrupt, and €100,000 was raised in order to get it released under the GPL. Now it is actively maintained, has greatly improved, and has a community around it who have created works such as the impressive Elephants Dream.

Hopefully The Free Ryzom Campaign will win the bid to get the rights to Ryzom, and it will become improved as has Blender. Either way, it will certainly be an interesting project to watch in the years to come.

Synergy is great

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

No, I’ve not suddenly started a marketing course, I’m referring to the application called Synergy. The concept is simple, yet so very useful – it lets you share a single keyboard and mouse pair between two networked PCs (note: I consider Macs and various other systems to be Personal Computers – I don’t mean “x86 machine running Windows” here), without requiring the use of any specialist hardware like a KVM. Essentially, it makes the two machines appear to be just one machine with two displays; to give the keyboard and mouse to the other PC, you just move the pointer offscreen in the direction of the other PC’s screen, and as if by magic it moves on to there.

I’m currently using Synergy to play GalCiv 2 on my laptop (booted into Windows), using my desktop’s (booted into Linux, as always) keyboard and mouse, with the audio output from my laptop connected up to my desktop’s sound card’s input. Fun times. Now to see what other games play nicely with Synergy…

Saint’s Row mobile fun

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

We’re not known for our mobile games reviews (notice our tally of 0 in our reviews database), but we thought we’d start to expand into this increasingly popular platform by taking up an offer to review the Saint’s Row mobile game. After all, it could tie-in to our (currently non-existant, and not planned) coverage of the Xbox 360 title…

Anyway, upon loading the game, a major issue has arisen: I can’t get past the main menu. My 6680 is listed as a compatible device, yet memory issues seem to be hampering my ability to actually get into the game. This is a phone that can do all manner of multi-tasking smartphone stuff, including playing Lumines Mobile while checking text messages, etc. However, Saint’s Row will just not run on it, no matter how many times I reboot the device.

So, any ideas, or will our plans for dominance of the mobile games review sector have to be put on ice?

E3 No More?

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

It’s too early for a proper news post; blogs are the place of rumours, even if they come as large as this. The word is that E3 – the big games event we make a big song and dance about every year – is no more. It seems the event has possibly got too big for itself, with publishers finding the millions they spend on the show just aren’t worth the money, particularly in the amount of press coverage. This is, of course, despite the fact that no other event all year gets any more coverage from us folks, but it would seem the big boys want a bit more self attention, rather than competing for column inches (or pixels…) with their rivals at the same time. This means we could see more smaller events throughout the year. Anyway, hopefully we’ll get a confirmation one way or another this week, and I’ll get a proper news article up about it. For now, it is still just a rumour…

Geometry Wars High Score

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

It seems someone has broken the Geometry Wars high score. “BigDaddy21” was the person behind the amazing score of 108,578,860. It certainly puts my score of 285,375 to shame, even though I’m top amongst my friendslist (and at #56766 in the world at time of writing). So, what’s your Geometry Wars high score, and would you be prepared to spend 10+ hours (what is required in gameplay time) in order to beat that top score?

Xbox 360 Dashboard Update on the way

Monday, June 5th, 2006

It’s making big news on the internet, but for those not in the know I thought I’d inform you off the ‘Spring update’ that’s coming soon for the Xbox 360 dashboard over Xbox Live. That post over at Joystiq will explain what it’s all about, but we still don’t know when it’s going to arrive. It was expected last week, but as Major Nelson – Director of Programming at Xbox Live – said in his podcast last night, unforseen technical issues have pushed it back a bit. He also said he hopes to get some more details today, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Mmm, product placement

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Today an e-mail from EA landed in my inbox, announcing a partnership between themselves and Jeep in the forthcoming title Medal of Honor Airborne. Now, I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of excessive product placement, especially when it’s blindingly out of place, but what never ceases to amaze/amuse me (delete as appropriate) is the way in which press releases spin it. Some choice quotes from the press release:

“Authentic to their use in WWII, the Willys Jeep will be able to access more areas than the other drivable vehicles featured in Medal of Honor Airborne, because of Jeep vehicle’s superior four-wheel drive off-road capabilities.”

No, it’ll be able to access more areas because they have a partnership with Jeep, thus replacing the generic vehicle which would’ve been in place before.

“By teaming with Electronic Arts and Medal of Honor Airborne, Jeep is celebrating its history while helping to take this medium to its next level.”

Apparently a sponsorship deal now counts as taking video games to the next level. Who knew?

“This is the first time in any Medal of Honor game that a player will have the ability to drive a Willys Jeep, and we’re very excited to see this new addition increase the fun and intensity of the gameplay.”

Well, I certainly know that I find driving a branded vehicle in-game as a plot element to be far more intense and fun than driving a generic one.

Still, at least I suppose this particular piece of branding fits in with the game itself.

Wii will never know

Friday, April 28th, 2006

You may have seen Dave’s news post about it by now, and no, it certainly isn’t an April Fools’ joke; Nintendo’s next console is indeed called the Wii (pronounced “We”). Who really thought that would be good? We may never know.

Of course, such pronounciation brings something else to mind here in Blighty, but the name is universal. There will be plenty of jokes about this in time to come (many of them piss-poor *ahem*), so for now I’ll just post the full unedited press release from Nintendo. It might give you a, er, ‘insight’ into why they chose the name. Or you’ll just laugh at the marketing talk. Whatever.

Introducing… Wii.

As in “we.”
While the code-name “Revolution” expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer.
Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else.
Wii will put people more in touch with their games … and each other. But you’re probably asking: What does the name mean?
Wii sounds like “we,” which emphasizes this console is for everyone.
Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.
Wii has a distinctive “ii” spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play.
And Wii, as a name and a console, brings something revolutionary to the world of video games that sets it apart from the crowd.
So that’s Wii. But now Nintendo needs you.
Because, it’s really not about you or me.
It’s about Wii.
And together, Wii will change everything.

Of course, eventually we’ll have our own Wii section on – oh joy.

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