3DS Homebrew is Now Live! – Requires an obscure game though…

UPDATE: The latest 2 system updates from Nintendo partially blocks Ninjax. If you are interested in getting 3DS homebrew, DO NOT UPDATE. Stick with firmware 4.0x – 9.2.0-x. The 9.3.0-21 Update patches an exploit used in Ninjax!

Yesterday marked the momentus occasion that proper 3DS Homebrew came to the 3DS. Like, for real. It has taken three years for hackers like Smea to crack the near-flawless 3DS. Took you long enough…

The reason why Nintendo made the 3DS hard to crack was because of the abysmally low Pirate- reduction technologies inside the DS or the DS Lite. In fairness, the DSi does come with (and, so far as I know, still ongoing) updateable firmware, which blocks flash carts, the main way to booting up pirated roms. Understandably, Nintendo wised up and made the 3DS the gaming equivalant of Fort Knox when It came to hacking the system. Many-a browser exploit has been squashed and DS-Mode exploits have all been patched, all because they work on the 3DS’s firmware with no game in the system. This exploit, aptly called “NinjHax” uses a certain game called “Cubic Ninja” to bypass the firmware, much like the Wii Exploit; “Smash Stack”. Both sharing the ways on how they work, both self-explanatory as to what game is needed to run them.

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Those lucky to pick up a copy, or already have the game required to run homebrew on the 3DS, can go HERE to download the exploit and whatnot. The game in question is by publisher Ubisoft, and since the Exploits release to the outside nether-regions of the Internet, sales of Cubic Ninja have made it into as close as #28 of Amazons “Best-selling Games” list. As a result, finding a copy, especially in the UK, is hard to come by. CEX is charging an astonishing £60 (roughly $90) for a Used copy, and Ebay isn’t much better. Amazon has all but sold out of the rather obscure game, and for good reason. The studio who created the game no longer exists…

If you’re thinking that there’s little homebrew to run on the 3DS at the moment, then you’d be partly right. While homebrew on the 3DS was near-impossible on the latest firmware, there exists a 3DS emulator, compiled by developers fore debugging and creating homebrew applications. And before you ask, no, It can’t play ROMS. Currently, there are a few emulators, like NES, Game Boy Color and even a Work-In-Progress Virtual Boy Emulator!

Still no GBA emulator though =(

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Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS Review

Super Smash Bros. is a rare game for Fans of the franchise, in that the franchise doesn’t have a fixed schedule on when to release new games. For those living under a rock, Super Smash Bros. is the Brainchild of Masahiro Sakurai [Mass-a-hero Sack-oo-rye], in which it was conceived to be the biggest fan service to Nintendo fans the world over. The premise of the game is to basically pummell the living daylights out of your favourite Nintendo-Console-Based Characters, while in turn trying to NOT get knocked out (or KO’d) off of the stage yourself.

Dog Attack!

I hate that damn dog.

Brief History Time!: Smash Bros. originally premiered on the N64, back in 1999, and was one of the best-selling games for that system.  2 years later (3 years for Europe!) Smash Bros. Melee was made for the Gamecube, which improved the graphics significantly, the fighting style was improved upon and had more characters, 14 more to be precise. A Full SEVEN Years later, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released for the Wii, and, as well as the usual graphical updates, it improved on the character (and stage) roster once more, adding Snake and Sonic The Hedgehog, among others.

Whoa, Watch it!

Whoa, Watch it!

Then something interesting happens. Due to the nature of the game being fast paced and graphically intense, the game was never released for Handhelds, and so was never released for the GBA and the DS for those reasons. That changed in Late 2013, when an E3 trailer showed the game being made available for the Wii U, which we were all expecting, and…the Nintendo 3DS. Not only is it the first Handheld to house Smash as a platform, but the first to allow you to play smash on the move, and in 3D, a dream for many-a-Nintendo Fan.

Ok, You’re all caught up now. So, as you’re now aware, Smash Games don’t hit the shelves very often. It’s like the gaming series equivalent of a One night Special, which only resides on February 30th, and so there is a Hype train following Suit.

The fear for most fans of the Smash Bros. Franchise would be that the 3DS version wouldn’t look very good, given it’s on a Nintendo Handheld, reputable for not having very good graphics. I can confirm however, that this is not the case. Astonishingly, it plays smoothly and there are no lag spikes in-game. This does come at a cost however; You can’t use Miiverse and you can’t browse the internet while it’s “paused” on the Home screen. The reason for this is the same reason why Titanfall for the Xbox 360 says “Optimising HD Content” at the start. It’s a RAM hog, which basically means the game is squeezing the graphical juices out of the 3DS, for the best performance and quality. Hence no lag spikes or blurred gameplay.

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Smash 3DS, like every smash game before it, improves on the Character Roster, adding more well-known faces from other franchises, like Pac-Man, Shulk, Dr. Mario (yes, really!) and Duck Hunt Duo. While I recognise that most of these characters are welcome to the franchise, I dislike some of the choices. For one thing, the aforementioned Dr. Mario is essentially a reskin of the regular Mario. The same goes for Pit and Dark Pit, which the latter is just Pit, only with darker clothing and a different Final Smash.

HNI_0019Unlike Brawl, There are only 34 stages in the 3DS version, compared to 41 in Brawl, 28 in Melee, and 15 in the original Smash Bros. .That being said, Nintendo have teased that DLC could come to the 3DS version of the game, there’s even a “Mewtwo Confirmed for Smash Bros.” DLC coming in 2015 for both the 3DS and Wii U. So watch this space…

The 3DS, unlike it’s console counterparts, has support for Auto-Stereoscopic 3D. That means it can display 3D visuals without the need for fancy 3D glasses. This game uses the 3D on a level that I’ve never seen before. The game adds visual depth to the stages, while also allowing for characters to be KO’s and splatted onto the same 3D screen at the same time, proving, for once in 3D’s Life, 3D gaming is nowhere near dead for the 3DS, and It’s well worth the £40 pricetag for that experience.

Popcorn Anyone?

Popcorn Anyone?

The Online and Local play is a blast to have a go at. If you have a solid internet connection, then the Nintendo Network functionality is…er..functional. If you don’t have the best internet connection in the world, then get ready for Brawl’s Online Play all over again… Lag filled matches and slowdowns are a real possibility still. Local play doesn’t suffer much Lag, so long as you have your phone using WiFi, not 3G or 4G, as that can cause the odd- side effect.

Final Verdict

The 3DS is not the most powerful handheld on the Market, that accolade goes to the PS Vita, but it doesn’t mean it can’t have a game that has graphical fidelity the same as, if not better, than Smash Bros Melee. In itself, the fact that Smash 3DS is on the 3DS is mind-blowing for me. And I hope to waste away the hours for many years to come when it comes to this game…

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The Wii WFC Alternatives

The Nintendo WFC, or WiFi Connection, for the Wii has been offline since May 30th 2014. Since then, us Wii Homebrew developers have worked around the clock to get Custom servers to work. And we did it. It’s entirely possible to play the most popular games for the Wii on custom WFC servers. As of writing, there are 2 base camps for WFC servers. The first being AltWFC, in which it’s developers started the idea of aggregating WFC data before it shut down, in order to learn about how the WFC works,. And therefore copy it’s actions and protocols. It’s also the only one of the Two servers to officially support DS games.

The other server is called Wiimmfi [Wii-emm-eff-ee], a custom server designed to replace mainly the Wii’s WFC, but can be used for DS gameplay too, but it’s not supported outside of the testing phase. This second server is much more developed, and better supported by the community. If you happen to have Mario Kart Wii, then you can install a piece of Homebrew software called the “CTGP Channel”, which is a Custom Track distribution, that allows players to play Custom Tracks, and Normal Tracks, Online. It also does away with the Battle mode on the CT side of things, and is replaced with Countdown Races.

As of typing, any other Wii game requires a Patcher program, such as Brainslug or the the WFC patcher (based on Brainslug), both are homebrew programs for the Wii. You have to do this for games like Mario Strikers Charged Football, Animal Crossing City Folk/ Let’s Go To The City and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

So how good are the servers? They are modest replacements, and both servers work very well. The games, even unofficially supported ones, work well on both servers. Mario Kart Wii obviously works the best, but no games currently has stats or extra features. Smash Bros. Brawl also poses some problems. The PAL version doesn’t seem to connect to anyone online, but you CAN play against your friends online…. which is odd.

If you’re willing to unlock you Wii from Nintendo’s Wii-chain, and dabble in basic homebrew, then it’s certainly worth using. 01010000 01100101 01100001 01100011 01100101

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Linux Livestreaming

Before now, if you wanted to Livestream to Twitch, Justintv or any other streaming service using Linux,  you’d have to use the outdated, terminal based FFMPEG solution. While it’s not difficult to use, even if you are new to linux and it’s Terminal, it doesn’t give you much in the way of options. As gaming has moved onto Linux distributions however, there has now been a need to livestream gaming content, from Linux, efficiently and with ease. So far as I know, there are two programs that have answered many Linux-Gamers’ prayers.

SimpleScreenRecorder:                                                                                             Ironically named “Simple-Screen-Recorder” is anything but, for the streaming part anyway. Like with other screen capture programs that have existed on Linux for ages, you can record the desktop, select microphones etc. But what makes this different is the Unique abiliScreenshot from 2014-10-20 11:36:29ty to Livestream to Twitch. Like with OBS, you can actually select a running (or about to run) process to stream. It’s both less advanced and more advanced than OBS too, in the sense that it’s more complex to get going, but simpler in the feature department. On OBS, you can stream more than one thing at a time, whereas on SSR, it’s a game, desktop or nothing.

You can download Simple-Screen-Recorder from Maarten Baert’s website here: LINKIE, as well instructions for Livestreaming to services HERE.

OBS (Open Broadcaster Software):                                                                             Believe it or not, OBS now supports Linux, or, to be more specific, it’s Alpha Testing a Linux version of it’s Windows Counterpart. Though you can’t get it from OBS’s own site (for good reason, it’s alpha-quality software after all!), you can sign up to get the PPA and the package. What OBS does is rather remarkable. It still uses FFMPEG as the means of streaming to Twitch, but it doesn’t need a terminal session to do so. Instead, you get a User Interface very similar to the older versions of OBS, and you can select what to stream. Like with Windows, You can pick Scenes, and there are plenty of sources to choose from.

You can do basic screen recording, select an image to stream from your hard drive, Select an already-running OpenGL window, or even capture OpenGL games directly in fullscreen mode, plus your basic sound and mic requirements. Quite astonishingly, there’s even support for Video capture devices too, which can detect everything from Webcams, to my own Easycap recorder I use for games, the latter in which Linux doesn’t even natively support, which would probably explain why I can’t stream with sound in this modeScreenshot from 2014-10-17 09:48:39.

You can find the PPA for the Linux version here: [LINKIE] (instructions are near the bottom, and requires Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and FFMPEG to use)

To use both these applications however, I would recommend you use a beefy system, as my own PC just barely manages to stream games on Linux, which is why I use Windows for this sort of thing for the time being. I’ll blog about all my results later, 01010011 01110100 01100001 01111001 00100000 01100110 01110010 01101111 01110011 01110100 01111001 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110100 01100011 01101000 00100000 01000111 01110010 01100001 01110110 01101001 01110100 01111001 00100000 01000110 01100001 01101100 01101100 01110011 00100001 😉

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Steam On Linux: Two Years On…

If you’ve followed my Twitter these past couple of months, some of you may have noticed I’ve been messing around with Valve-Produced software, namely Team Fortress 2, Source Filmmaker and Portal 2. Two of these runs on it’s Linux-based client (TF2 and Portal 2) and one does not (take a guess…), and while I enjoy Team Fortress 2 on my Windows 7 Partition, I want to get games running under my Ubuntu side of my PC.

Unfortunately for me, I run an AMD Graphics Card, the Radeon HD 5450 for those curious, and AMD has been known for essentially being very not-very-linux-friendly. To be fair, they have changed their stance, and they do try to make Linux Driver updates that actually does stuff, which is what Nvidia have done for ages. That being said, I’ve gotten a few recent games to work. Portal 2 runs fantastic on Linux, and, after a bit of tinkering, so does TF2.

...Whereas the Windows one has some jagged edges on the Engineers dungarees.

 The Windows one has some jagged edges on the Engineers dungarees.

The LInux one looks more shaded in, with smoother models

Whereas The Linux one looks more shaded in, with smoother models

To help me run Team Fortress 2 at a windows-equivalent level, I had to download a Daemon script called “Preload*”. This allows you to cache information on programs that are going to run, so when you run them, it gets a performance boost, and it does so without causing a fuss. and it runs silently in the background. I initially tested it for Team Fortress 2, and it sped up my game loading times from 3 minutes of initial loading to about half that. The loading of maps was reduced as well, with the Payload Beta Maps loading in just under 2 minutes. It also (somehow) improved my Internet Ping in-game, so games ran better too.

Out of the box, I didn’t need to mess around with Portal 2. It just worked. This game, unlike it’s predecessor and TF2, don’t share assets, meanihng better quality anyway.  The assets are remade for the HD gaming era. That means If you run modern games, such as Portal 2, on either Mac or Linux, it also looks alot better on Linux/ Mac than on windows.

This is because Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 & 8.1 use DirectX, with DirectX 7 being used for low performance games >2008 and DirectX 8 being used for High Performance games. As of 2014, This is the same scenario for DirectX 9 ,10 and 11.  DirectX is the default video renderer to use for Steam (and various other applications), as it’s easy to develop for. What Mac and Linux use is a software renderer called OpenGL. This is ,sadly, more C++ based, rather than GUI-It-Yourself. That means that, until quite recently, you had to have coding knowledge. The upside is, is that if you can port games to Mac, you can do it for Linux, albeit with a few changes to the code.

DirectX uses Software Levels, 70,80,90,95 and 98, to determine the rendering quality of the game, with 70 being the Lowest quality, and 98 being the highest. OpenGl doesn’t use this methodology. Without going into too much detail, It renders everything in High Quality, and then questions whether your computer can handle, say, Ultra High graphics. If yes, it sets it to Ultra High. If not, then it lowers it to High, or Medium. You can easily override this via the Game settings, and the settings will stick. What this also means, is that it can render even Low Performance games to look good, with smoother models and High Quality texture mapping, rendering the aforementioned graphic settings useless. Think of it this way: Low settings = High quality, but more jagged models, with less lighting effects, Medium settings = Higher Quality, with slightly less jaggedy models, and more lighting effects, and so on and so forth.

It’s helped by the fact Mac and Linux use OpenGL for all applications, and that it can reach the very deepest parts of your PC Pipeline, which basically means it can use your processor and graphics card more efficiently, as it can communicate with these parts in the same language (C++, HTML etc.), therefore meaning better graphical quality output.

Let’s get away from OpenGl, and onto a little hack I found, which also improved performance. So long as you have a login screen on your Linux OS, there exists a Steam Big Picture Login Launcher, which cleverly only loads resources that Steam needs to run (OpenGL, Python, etc), while Bypassing the OS almost entirely, again, only loading Steam. This significantly improves performance, as Ubuntu doesn’t load RAM-hogging utilities like Unity, and the desktop icons, and even the desktop itself, which causes slowdowns. You can also run FSGamer, which places a game you launch from it’s GUI to another, seperate, Xserver (another screen session). Like with the Login hack, it bypasses the OS almost entirely and loads only the things you selected. It currently i in Alpha stages, so it won’t work very well on Ubuntu 13.10+, which proves annoying for me, as I’m on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

Unlike Windows or Mac, Linux supports crude Controller support on the OS itself, which is more of curse than a blessing sometimes. If you disable it to NOT work as a mouse, then it’ll run perfectly under Big Picture, and other games with Controller support.

That’s all I have to blog about for now, but be sure to let me know Via Twitter (or below) to any other performance “hacks” that’ll improve Steam performance. Dribbles Out!

*If you cannot get Preload via the Ubuntu Software Centre launcher link inserted above, then download Preload directly Here: 32-bit+64-Bit: Download! 

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The 3DS’s Graphical Quality Not quite a Gamecube…but close.

The 3DS is known for having a plethora of games for the platform. It’s also known for having games that look very, very good. Not PS Vita good, I admit, but still pretty darn good. Games Like Luigi’s Mansion 2* , Animal Crossing: New Leaf , and Mario And Luigi: Dream Team Bros.* all look pretty decent. Seriously, look below:

Luigi and Toad are best Buds

Nintendo Knows What’s Up

 

See? They are nice to look at. Now any respecting game reviewer/ writer will likely tell you that the 3DS has lots of graphical similarities to the Gamecube. Heck, from what I can see, even the models look quite smooth . Luigi’s Mansion 2* pokes fun at the 3DS’s own limitations, and the assets used were deliberately tacky. The red coins in-game had 8 sides. Actually, anything that’s round has prominent sides added to it. Don’t go thinking that Luigi in this game is either. He isn’t. He really does look like as if he was ported directly from Mario Kart Wii to the 3DS itself.

It’s generally agreed within the Nintendo community that the console in question has the hardware rendering skills that are slightly below what the Gamecube can do, but much better than the N64’s capabilities. It’s also in that weird situation that plagues Handheld games. Some games look better than others. Speedx 3D looks better than Steel Diver Sub Wars, Luigi’s Mansion 2* looks better than Super Mario 3D Land, and Starfox 64 3D looks better than Doodle Jump.

Rather weirdly (and annoyingly for me) ,Nintendo didn’t release a Super Mario platformer for the gamecube, so I cannot compare New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS) to whatever the gamecube would’ve had, because such a gamecube game doesn’t, and never did, exist. I can however, lucky for me, compare another Nintendo series that started on the gamecube (well, here in the west anyway), and that series would be that of Animal Crossing, the game that inspired Facebook games, and the game that had it’s own Virtual Console, in a sense…

If you look at Animal Crossing and Animal Crossing: New Leaf (henceforth shortened to AC and ACNL respectively, for the sakes of me not getting RSI via the Keyboard.), you can immediately tell that the game looks aesthetically, and almost graphically, the same.  The only difference being is that, the model of the villager/ mayor has less polygons (IE, more jagged edges) in AC. In ACNL, the newer technology of the 3DS essentially removes most of that on the small** screen, with the lack of polygons only showing up on certain villagers, and, more notably, K.K Slider/ DJ K.K. The game’s sky has gone for a more realistic approach, with the clouds being a bit fluffier on ACNL, than on AC.

The fire in ACNL looks like fire, much like the Starfox 64 3D port has rocks that look like rocks. You have to remember though, while it FEELS like a gamecube, it isn’t. To be worthy of such a title, it’d have to look good*** on a much bigger screen. To be fair though, I’ve seen 3DS capture board footage, and the result is, is that the models have rough detailing around and inside, the models.

You could argue that the 3DS has newer, more reliable, technology, and that’s true. But it’s that newer tech which makes it look, and feel like a Gamecube in your pocket.

That’s it really. Dribbles out!

 

 

*Ahem…UK based, remember?

**well, small-ish on the 3DSXL, and the soon-to-be-released New 3DS XL.

***or as good as the Gamecube will ever look

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Wii Hacking Project: True 480p Mario Kart Wii.

What do you mean by “True 480p”?. Well, let me explain….

The Wii’s maximum resolution is 480p. However, unlike most other consoles, the textures, models and such other stuff do not change that much when you select this mode. All the Wii does is change the framerate from 30-40fps to 60fps. Mario Kart Wii, however is a bit different even by this rule. The Kart and character models are 360p, like it or not, but the tracks are very High Quality, given it’s on hardware that’s a beefed up Gamecube, essentially. This gives me an idea. If the Wii can do High quality tracks, then why not make the tracks even more higher quality. Though not all tracks will be affected:

Mushroom Cup
Luigi Circuit – Not much can be changed here…if at all.
Moo Moo Meadows – The cows you see wandering on the track will be wandering on the track and the fields on the sides. The cows will also have a bit of a HQ model upgrade too. The tree’s in the field will be replaced with 3D models of said trees.
Mushroom Gorge – Gonna make it as close to the 3DS Remake as possible.
Toads Factory – Surprisingly, there’s not much I can do here but animate the cogs at the start of the track. Failing that, I’ll make the item boxes a bit better…

Flower Cup
Mario Circuit – Asides from the passer-by watchers models being revamped, I don’t see much I can do…
Coconut Mall – Minor texture changes, that’s all.
DK’s Snowboard Cross – Nothing to change here!
Wario’s Gold Mine – Change the pipes to an actual circle, not a screw circle. I’ll make the cave much more like a Cave by texturing the cave to have a much more realistic cave feel. And crystals and gold holes…

Star Cup
Daisy Circuit – Make a High Quality Daisy Cruiser model. That’s it really =/
Koopa Cape – Like Mushroom Gorge, I’ll follow the improvements made in the 3DS Version. Which is basically textures and model improvement…
Maple Treeway – Make the first round of the OOB (Out Of Bounds) Tree’s into models instead of blatantly flat images…. I’ll also improve the Mesh jumpy wind thing’s texture. Because it’s horrible!
Grumble Volcano – Gonna make the Volcano spew Lava out, much like the Wii U Version…

Special Cup
Dry Dry Ruins – Not gonna change anything. I hate desert tracks.
Moonview Highway – To be fair, the tree’s in the OOB area near the 5th corner are low quality for a reason…. But i’m replacing that with a few tree models. Like, maybe three or 4…
Bowser’s Castle – Nothing to change but the outside background (which is rarely visible anyway!)
Rainbow Road – …Not much to change.

Note how I’m copying changes from the 3DS Version. The reason? Well, It turns out the 3DS has similar specs to a GameCube, in terms of Graphical capabilities. I’ll be looking at that soon, by the way.

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