But in a PSP not a kettle. Umm.
Stage 1: Ignorance.
When I first met the PSP, I couldn't give a stuff about homebrew.
Which is odd, really, because my love-affair with my Xbox, whilst blazing bright flame over a few games, really came into its adulthood with the advent of a mate with a soldering iron, a negotiation involving a few pints of Guinness, and a swag of emulators such as Vice, UAE and MAME.
A few pints of homebrew?
So, when PSP Goodness dawned upon me in April (evil naughty Early Adopter that I am) all I particularly cared about was how insanely great WipeOut Pure was, and the shiny scrumminess of these unbelievably good games in my sweaty little hand. You can, by the way, officially and forever blame Koworld for getting me into the PSP in the first place. To see one is to desire one, and he was wearing that hat with the leopard skin band and stuff.
Stage 2: Denial.
Of course, this couldn't last. I became dimly aware of the emulation scene on the PSP, found www.pspupdates.com and only realised that my jaw was hanging open when I had a large puddle of drool making my bollocks clammy. For real? VICE? MAME? Fucking UAE on my ubersexy new handheld? This cannot be!
He’s seen the Handheld Amiga.
But it was. Emulating a '64 or a 20-year-old arcade cab is one thing, but a handheld Amiga 500?
Go on. Say the words. I dare you to say the words. “Handheld Amiga 500”.
You've just started salivating. If you haven't, substitute the words “ Atari ST”.
Yeah, that got ya.
Stage 3: Emuphoria.
Came the Swaggening. The frenzied downloading of PSPUAE_v0.000001alpha_explosively_unstable_do_not_use.zip and PSPMAME_we_disavow_all_knowledge.rar from various sites which looked half-hearted enough to actually be thrown hastily up by people who are actually busy writing emulators for this yummy new device. Digging out all my ADF files that I'd laboriously created with an old ammo box of Amiga floppies and some arcane interface largely constructed of exotic matter, banana peels and hen's blood. Scrounging 'round Usenet Replayer for ancient and archaic MAME ROMs, as PSP MAME (or MAMEPSP, or MAME-X-PSP or PSMAPEVX_wortwortwort_NWIP ad nauseam) seemed to require ROM versions from previous geological epochs, or parallel universes, or both. Or more hen's blood.
Stage 4: Anger. Frustration, and Anger. Betrayal, Frustration, Anger, and Petulance.
UAE. What a sodding heartbreak. First off, the early versions didn't even have a keyboard - so that's pretty much every damn game I've got out of use. If it doesn't require Shell input, then it's got copy protection that requires the in-typing of something. Or it's got an intro that needs a slap on the space-bar to get past. MAME? Hah... some people got Bubble Bobble working, I hear, but shortly thereafter, Nastaroth consumed their souls and the souls of their first-born in part-exchange for getting it working. Then a new firmware version came out, and the Homebrew scene came to a halt with a noise akin to an 18-wheeler Kenworth truck with a full load of live pigs locking up the breaks at 80 miles per hour.
Oh, and if you'd upgraded your firmware – nothing would work. Not a god-damned thing.
Ever get the feeling things just aren’t going your way?
Then came waves of firmware 1.50 homebrew loaders, and then 2.0 to 1.5 down-graders, and deary me isn't this starting to look like a lot of work?
See, I emulate because I'm lazy and I'm desperately short on house-space. When I'm rich, I'll have a room with 64s, Amiga 500s, 1200s and 4000s all with their own monitors and my own sit-down Star Wars cab. Then I'll hire someone to wire the fuckers up and keep 'em working. I want to play old games, but I want it to be easy. I want to play Paradroid on VICE, and Cannon Fodder on UAE. I do not want to re-write them from scratch.
I put the PSP down carefully, in its slip case, and went into my back garden to throw bricks at the old Elonex 486 I keep out there for when I get Tech Stress.
Suffice it to say, the Homebrew on PSP thing was not going well.
Stage 5: Acceptance.
Homebrew on the PSP is, the way things are going, a mug's game. Unless you're an avid NES fan, 'cause apparently the emu for that works a treat – I didn't have one, so I'm not qualified to judge, but for the stuff I wanted to play, it was a complete bust. I've got PSPUpdates.com open on t'other monitor, and it's showing a new version of UAE for PSP. Frankly, I can't be arsed to go downstairs and fetch up the PSP to install it, and I seriously considered trying to saw an A500 in half and re-wire the PCB tracks to make a laptop with one. I'm that sick of it. VICE, which came out after UAE (go figure) comes in two versions: The one with sound, and the one with frame rate. Neither has collision detection good enough to play Paradroid or even Raid Over Bungeling Bay for goodness' sake.
So, for now, I shan't bother - the Homebrew scene has been the subject (subjectively speaking) of Sony's wrath since Day 1. Every new OS Update has done it's best to squish Homebrew. Why, gentle reader, do you think this is?
It can be done, but can you really be bothered.
Stage 6: Jolly Roger.
The one bit of homebrew code that has worked flawlessly, I tried just for this article. I shan't mention its name, or where to get it, because it seems to have only one use.
I have a large memory stick. I put a UMD of a game into the PSP, ran this program, and copied the UMD's contents into a .ISO file on my Memory Stick.
Then I copied the .ISO onto my PC.
And ejected the UMD.
And ran the game. Which worked fine.
Oh, bollocks. Frankly, the one bit of homebrew that works fine on the PSP is the one which Sony really can't want to: The game-copier and game-image loader/executor. To be honest, games load a shit load faster off memory stick than they do off UMD. Memory Sticks are a lot less prone to scratching, or indeed breaking on concrete floors. If you drop them in your pint, they're fine after being dabbed dry with a bit of loo-roll.
So, while Sony has been stomping the bits of homebrew that I do want to use – and admittedly, a PSP running Cannon Fodder is a lot less sexy for a non-owner and non-retrohead to look at than one running, e.g. WipeOut Pure – the one I'm not particularly keen on is forging ahead apparently unimpeded.
A lot of my drinking buddies are game designers and developers, so I have a ‘Thing’ about game piracy, and I think it's a bad thing. Not in the sense given by ad campaigns, but in the sense of not wishing to nick my mate's wallet. So I think it's kinda sad that the main reason Sony could have for stunting the development of homebrew on this lovely little device has had the effect that only that application is achieving its true potential.
'Cause all I want to do is play a bit of Cannon Fodder or Paradroid when I'm too tired to play anything energetic.