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Dust Off The PSP And Update To M33

March1

With the announcement last week of a few big titles coming to the PlayStation Portable over the next 12 month, including Little Big Planet, Motorstorm, Assassins Creed and Rock Band, it will soon be time to dust off the old PSP living at the bottom of your closet. If it’s been there for a while, the firmware may be out of date. Like most PSP owners I know, you’re probably running custom firmware like Dark_AleX’s OE or M33 firmwares. Here is a short tutorial on updating your PSP to the most recent custom firmware release.

  1. Turn on your PSP and navigate to Settings >System Settings > System Information.
  2. If your System Software is 3.52 M33-3 or higher, skip to step 13.
  3. First you have to update your firmware to 3.52 M33. This will allow you to update to any of the later M33 releases.
  4. Download the 1.50 Official Firmware, 3.52 Official Firmware and 3.52 M33.
  5. Rename the 1.50 and 3.52 Official Firmwares to 150.pbp and 3.52.pbp if they aren’t already.
  6. Copy the M33CREATOR directory from the 3.52 M33 zip to the PSP/GAME directory of your Memory Stick.
  7. Put the 2 Official Firmware files onto the M33CREATOR directory on the Memory Stick.
  8. On your PSP navigate to Game > Memory Stick and launch 3.52 M33 CREATOR.
  9. Accept any prompts that appear. Once the program is finished, it will return to the XMB.
  10. Navigate to Game > Memory Stick and launch 3.52 M33 UPDATE.
  11. Accept any prompts that appear. Once the program is finished, it will prompt you to press ‘x’ to shut down PSP.
  12. Start up your PSP.
  13. Download the 3.52 M33-3 update.
  14. Copy the M33Update3 directory from the m33-333.zip to the PSP/GAME directory of your Memory Stick.
  15. On your PSP navigate to Game > Memory Stick and launch 3.52 M33-3 UPDATE.
  16. Go to dark-alex.org and download the latest M33 release. Also download the associated Official Firmware. (As of writing this, the most current M33 release is 5.00 M33-6 so download that along with 5.00 Official Firmware.)
  17. Rename the Official Firmware to <versionnumber>.pbp (eg. 500.pbp) if they aren’t already.
  18. Copy the M33CREATOR directory from the M33 zip to the PSP/GAME directory of your Memory Stick.
  19. Put the Official Firmware file onto the M33CREATOR directory on the Memory Stick.
  20. On your PSP navigate to Game > Memory Stick and launch M33 CREATOR.
  21. Accept any prompts that appear. Once the program is finished, it will return to the XMB.
  22. Navigate to Game > Memory Stick and launch M33 UPDATE.
  23. Accept any prompts that appear. Once the program is finished, it will prompt you to press ‘x’ to shut down PSP.
  24. Start up your PSP.

Now you will have a fully updated, custom firmware PlayStation Portable. Luckily, they have made the updating process in the most recent M33 custom firmware much simpler and can be done from the Network Update menu under Settings so you should have no issues keeping up with new custom firmware now and have no trouble installing it. I hope this helps all my PSP friends with outdated systems who cannot wait for some Little Big Planet PSP action. This is especially for you!

The PSP Display

January19

This morning when i was digging through the internet, I found a link on Digg to a Lifehacker post. The post was about there being a way to turn your PlayStation Portable into a monitor for your Windows PC. They also had a video of this in action. Not only can it mirror your computer onto the PSP, it can also use your computer as a display for your PSP in mirror mode. You may wonder why would would want to do this. Because we can. This was fun to play with but I personally wouldn’t use it on a regular basis but its nice to know I can do it and it gave me something to play with.

The requirements for PSPdisp are a PSP with Custom Firmware which allows it to run homebrew, and a Windows PC. To get this going, you first download an installer from the website. It is very small weighing in at about 700kb. Then it’s as simple as clicking the installer and letting it install all the software and drivers or this. You will also be prompted to plug in your PSP so it can transfer a program which allows you to view the screen. After it’s done, you’re all ready to go. Down in the notification taskbar will be the program icon. This allows you to access the setting for the PSP display.

To launch it, you navigate to the Memory Stick icon under game and launch PSPdisp. You will be greeted with a screen asking you if you want to do it over USB or Wifi. I would recommend USB. If this is the first time launching it, it will install the right drivers but after that it will work pretty much straight away. You will see part of your monitor on the PSP screen. By default the quality is medium but you can adjust it to a higher quality, but this will result in a little bit of lag, but its not too bad. You can also change how much of the screen is viewed, fit to screen will show the whole computer screen on the PSP and 2 follow mouse modes which show the resolution up to 4 times that of the PSP’s native resolution.

I haven’t played with any of the other things and I probably won’t. It is a cool thing to play around with for an hour or so. I had it working in on Windows XP in VMware Fusion and on Windows 7 Beta. Both worked perfectly fine as a monitor. I myself couldn’t think of a useful application to use this in but if you wanted it to be static on a stats screen or something in a game, I could see where this would be useful there. If you have a PSP, you should definitely check this out. It’s really cool.

Spore And Origins

October3

Over the past few years, there has been a whole lot of hype about a game created by Will Wright, the maker of The Sims. This game was Spore. It allows a player to control the evolution of a species from its beginnings as a unicellular organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture. Well that’s what Wikipedia says, and yes, it is about that. As well as the big PC title, there was also a mini version, Spore Origins for mobile devices. This concentrates on just the first stage of the main game as a unicellular organism.

To start off, I played Spore Origins on the iPhone. The controls on this are very basic, using the accelerometer to control your little organism through the level on its objective to eat enough guppy creature things to collect enough DNA to move on. Most of the levels are this, except they start including unique creatures for you to attack or defend against. There are also special levels where you have to traverse a maze-like setting and your goal here is to get to the end without being killed by other creatures. This goes on for most of the 30 levels in the game, except for the 2 boss levels where you have to attack and kill huge creatures. This game is small, a little challenging at times but is worth checking out.

After getting to the end of that, I evolved onto the full PC title, Spore. At the start, it is much like the Spore Origins game, where you eat meat to grow and evolve. There is a fair bit more depth to the unicellular organism stage of Spore compared to its Origins counterpart. From here, you get to the stage where you grow legs and go onto land and either become friendly with another species or kill them. For me, this part of the game was the most interesting. It’s also where you get to customise your creature the most and turn it into your own unique creation.

Unfortunately for me, this is where the game all goes downhill for me. Then comes the Tribal stage where you either form friend a tribe, or again destroy them. Although the difference this time is that it is done in a RTS kinda way. The problem is it is not quite an RTS and is a bit weak. After this is the Civilisation stage. This is where it get completely ridiculous! It’s still the RTS type game but here you create the buildings yourself. that may be fun for some people, but I can’t be bothered with this. I couldn’t find any auto or random button so the game throws some random parts together to whip something up quickly in 5 seconds so I can get back to the actual game. Maybe I am missing something, but it’s still pretty annoying and ridiculous. I endured anyway and through the taking over of cities and silliness of creating building and vechiles.

From here, the game started getting better again, although not as good as the second stage of the game, in my opinion. Here you traverse through space, encountering other civilized planets. There are missions you have to do here to get through the game, and there are even missions to be done so you can form a good relationship with a civilization so you can form an alliance with them. Or you can annoy them and go to war with them, your choice. What you do through this stage, you collect badges for various objectives and such. This is by far the longest part of the game, and the rest of the game has literally been building up to this point.

To get a good feel of the game, you’d have to play it yourself, either by purchasing the game, or acquiring it by other methods. I did enjoy the game, but there was a lot I didn’t like about it. The game felt like a whole bunch of little mediocre games all thrown in a blender and released as some sort of huge game. For example, for anyone who has played a real RTS before, the RTS stages of this game will feel horrible to play and fairly weak. Although they definitely aren’t going for a full experience like you would from an actual game from that genre. This game is probably not going to give much to gamers, but for non-gamers or casual gamers, they might enjoy this a whole lot more because it offers a wide range of different things to do. This game was definitely not for me, but hey, it might just be the game for you.

Xbox LAN Party

April20

Yesterday, my friend Morgan hosted an Xbox LAN party for his birthday. There we had 3 Xboxes, 3 televisions, 3 copies of Halo 2, 3 Ethernet cords, 1 router, 12 controllers and 12 people playing. There were a lot of people there, many experienced Halo 2 players, me on the other hand, was not. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time. But afterwards it got me thinking about myself and gaming, shooters in general.

I got my arse kicked! There are many reasons for it. I have never played Halo, I have never played a FPS, I have never played an Xbox, so it is understandable that I would get owned by everyone there, well maybe not everyone, but most people. It has got me thinking that maybe I should start getting into shooters. Every second game coming out these days involves guns or shooting of some description. I am missing out on an important part of gaming and should get on the bandwagon as soon as possible.

When I get my next generation, or should I be saying current generation now, I shall get some shooters. I am going to need a game to get me into the genre, enough to get me hooked into it and getting me to purchase other titles. This should improve my skills in this area, something that is considered as an important part of gaming. Being able to competently go around killing other players is a skill that anyone who considers themselves a gamer should have, which is something that I currently don’t have. Someone needs to help me become a gamer, and they better do that stat!

PSP Themes, Round 2

March28

With the popularity of my first PSP Themes post (thanks Google) I have decided to go at it again picking 5 more themes I have recently found for the PSP. Again, these themes have been made to a high standard and do look really good on your PSP if you do happen to get tired of the simplicity of the default XMB theme.

The first theme in my collection is on from the newly released triple A title, God of War. This is a great theme and a must have for any GoW fans. The iApple theme is similar to the iPhone themes with the rounded square buttons. The only difference is the icons, which are cunstomised to better represent the menu. With any release of a new operating system, a PSP theme of it is bount to come, in this case, one from the new version of OS X, Leopard. The theme consists of the Leopard style folders with little icons as well as drive icons and the nifty Leopard default wallpaper. On the theme of operating system themes, I have found a better Windows XP theme. This theme, although similar to the other XP theme, is much cleaner than the first one as well as having a few extra icons and icon changes.

Now, for the new theme that I use, the Ubuntu theme. There can never be enough computer operating system themes but out of the many, there are few brilliant ones. This theme is extremely slick with wonderful icons. The orange background is also very warm and inviting and looks great along side the Ubuntu XMB theme. Out of all the themes in my new collection, this is a my must have theme!

Note: Themes posted here are not mine. I take no credit for them. All rights belong to their original owners.

God of War: Chains of Olympus [PSP]

March16

When I heard the first rumors about the possibility of a God of War title coming to the PlayStation Portable, I was pretty excited and would love to see it come over to Sony’s little game machine. As well as being excited, I was a bit worried, thinking that a random company would either make a port or do a really bad job doing a prequel or something of it, spoiling the God of War franchise. When it was announced that Ready At Dawn was doing the game, all my worries were gone because I knew they would do another brilliant game, just like they did with Daxter.

There wasn’t a well defined storyline of the game, you help the Gods by going where the path leads. You start off doing one thing and then you go off on another arc that is unrelated from the first one and then there is another arc that is unrelated from the first and second arcs. The only similarities are you, the main character, and that each story has something to do with the Gods of Olympus. Basically, there is no main storyline.

As in the other games in the series, you are equipped with the blades. At the start, you are limited with what attacks you can do but as you level up the blades and acquire new weapons and skills, there is quite a bit you can do. The attacks do get quite repetitive but using different combination on different enemies, makes it a bit more enjoyable. You tend to use the strongest attacks most which makes them get old quite quickly. There is some magic but I only tended to use it when fighting a boss, when I really needed it.

There are a few unique enemies, all that look really good. They could have put a few more enemies in the game to give you more things to attack and new styles of killing your opponents.  There are also many unique environments that look amazing. They have really done a lot to make this game look stunning. The very few cut-scenes were very interesting to watch and gave you a sense of where the game is going. The mini-games which consist of pushing certain buttons at the right time give the game some unique killing sequences which turn away from the regular button bashing hack and slashing of enemies.

I do have to say, the end of the game was the best part. The last two bosses were so much fun to battle and did take time and strategy. I do have to say, the game difficulty does decrease towards the end as you get the Gauntlet of  Zeus which does a slower but more powerful move that can take out an enemy in a couple of attacks instead of the usual dozen or so with the blades. The end of the game is enough reason to play this game.

One problem I had is if I went into battle with low health, and got killed, I resume at the last checkpoint with the same low health. This made boss battles ten times harder because I would have to attack him but make sure I didn’t get attacked myself. One stage in particular is when you have to push a cart through fog and you get attacked by unreachable archers. It ws really hard to do without getting hit, unless you took ages to get past this part. Then after the archer have taken some of your health, you are put into a battle with a big difficult creature. Its very hard to do with little health and took many many attempts.

Another small problem with the game is the inconsistent save points. You might find 2 save point within 5 minutes of each other and at other times, they are miles apart. I never have liked it how many games only let you save at certain points in the game, generally before going out to battle or after a big boss or before going into new area. I like to be able to save the game so I can quit out of it. The problem is less of a problem because before going into battle with enemies, there was always a checkpoint so if you died you can easily return to just before the battle. Also with the PSP, you can power the system off in a sleep mode and return to where you were when you turn it back on. This is not really a big issue in the game but it could have been nice to ditch the save point and let us save anywhere. I can see they have done it to be consistent with the console games.

If you loved the other God of War titles, you are going to love this one too. It is considerably short, I was able to go through the game in about 6 hours on normal difficulty. In saying that, it does have a lot of replay value allowing you to go through the game again with a higher difficulty. As well as lacking in length, it also lacks in the amount of puzzles. If you enjoyed the puzzles in the console games, you might be a little disappointed that there aren’t many in this title.

Ready at Dawn did an amazing job at this game, just like they did with Daxter. This is definitely the PSP game of 2008, possibly of all time. This is a must have title for the PSP and I can easily see it becoming the best selling PSP title and possibly even surpassing the huge success of Daxter. If you have a PSP and want a great game for it, God of War will not let you down.

Playing Portal

March8

Last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to get hold of the popular title, Portal. Before starting to play this game, I had heard a lot of great things about it. To my memory, I haven’t heard anything bad about it (excluding Yahtzee’s ranting, but even he gave it a positive review.) The main reason for me finally getting my hands on this game was not because of all the talk from last year, but the song at the end. I am not going to go into the story of the game because there is Wikipedia for that.

The idea of this game, going through one door (or portal) and ending up at another door, that is basically what the game is about. Something this simple makes it an amazing game. There is so much you can do with these portals such as getting to unreachable areas, getting from one place to another in a matter of seconds, falling through the sky as well and dropping things through the portals. It may sound like nothing but it is genius idea!

The only issues I had with the game is that is so awesome that I had to finish it. I couldn’t do anything else till I had gotten to the end of the game and got some cake. Another issue I had was that it didn’t work well on my laptop, and it ran a little less sloppy on my sisters laptop (which I used to play Portal because it was the only machine that played it decent.) This did ruin the experience of the game with the dropping of frames and the lag at times when things got busy. It is annoying trying to get through a portal but because the game lags, you turn too far and miss the portal. That was slightly frustrating. I know I can’t blame Portal for that, but it was part of my experience of playing it.

Some people probably think the game is really short. There are only 19 levels and you get through the first five in a couple of minutes which doesn’t seem to pleasing but I do have to say that the length of the levels gets longer as you progress (thank God.) The last two levels were especially long but it made it more enjoyable after going through a whole heap of small and easy levels in the game. I think the game is a perfect length, not too short but not too long either.

But the real incentive for me to play and finish this game was for the song and the end (oh, and the cake is a lie) which is by Jonathan Coulton. After hearing him sing this song on Rock Band with a few web celebrities, I went to find the one that is played at the end of Portal on YouTube and loved the song. After that, I had to get to get the game and get to the end of it to get that song during the ending credit. Still Alive was the only reason I played the game in the first place. It was extremely satisfying getting to the end of the game and getting that song.

To conclude, Portal is the best game I have played in a while and it is definitely on my list of games to play while you are alive. Great level design, great gameplay, great concept, great puzzles, great 5 hours of my life to be honest. If you haven’t already played Portal, you HAVE to get your hands on it, beg, borrow or steal it! You will not regret using half a day to play this game at all.

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