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of homebrew and “trusted computing” / antipiracy

May 15th, 2010 by bushing · 52 Comments

Matthew Braga’s article article prompted our good friend Nate to post some thoughts about how homebrew developers might be able to foil piracy on our favorite platforms. I had a few things to say on this subject — some of which I’ve gone over here in the past and a little bit of which I haven’t bothered to mention. It got to be pretty long and Nate suggested that I post it here instead of as a comment on his blog, so here we go.

(tl;dr version: We tried to avoid helping pirates on the Wii, we had varying degrees of success. In the end, it doesn’t really seem to have mattered and with the way that Nintendo has treated us, I don’t have a lot of interest in trying anymore.)

So, go read the root labs post before reading the rest of this one, or else it won’t make much sense.

Putting a software exploit in a modchip is difficult to do, depending on the actual nature of the exploit — on the Wii, it made sense to use a device to bypass the drive authentication because you really were attacking a specific chip on the drive; in all cases, the exploits there involve injecting commands and code into one of a couple different serial ports on the drive’s MN102 controller chip, optionally with some clock glitching.

We did what we could to limit the usefulness of the work we did on the Wii to pirates; as for “why”, I guess I’d say it was some combination of wanting to not contribute to the piracy problem that already existed a vain hope that Nintendo would see a difference between the homebrew work we did and what modchip makers were doing, and the desire to simply set a good example.

Our original release was the Twilight Hack, which was just a savegame exploit in Zelda. The Wii’s architecture is somewhat unique — leaving aside the processor in the drive, you have a PowerPC chip used to actually run the games, and an ARM core that actually implements security policy (encryption, authentication, etc). Our exploit merely let you run code on the PowerPC — this was enough to allow you to run whatever you want on the PowerPC (simple homebrew games, Linux, etc). It would have been difficult to use this to play pirated games, due to the fact that you would have had to reinitialize the ARM security context to get it to look “normal” for a retail game. We did not release the ARM exploit (strncmp bug) we had discovered at the time, but it was eventually independently rediscovered.

We eventually used that ARM exploit to develop a channel you could install without booting Zelda each time — the Homebrew Channel. For a while, we had plans of making some sort of “App Store” to go with it — much like the one present with Installer.app on the iPhone at the time — but those never made it off the ground. One thing that would go along with that would have been signature verification — one thing we could have done would have been to set up our own PKI and start signing “good” apps, but that would put us into the position of being a gatekeeper and deciding what was good and what wasn’t, and that wasn’t something I ever really wanted to be responsible for. (It was slightly amusing when, a year later, someone put up a troll blog and claimed we were going to do this.) Part of the problem there would have been deciding what we want to allow — sure, 100% homebrew games would have been pretty easy to allow and ISOloaders would have been easy to reject, but what of all of the things in between? There’s a whole gray area out there of software — emulators, WAD extraction / installation utilities, system file patchers, updaters — we have a hard enough time agreeing on what software we like, much less deciding what everyone else “should” be using. (It also goes a bit against the spirit of the whole thing.)

The strncmp() bug we used for installing our channel was eventually patched, and we eventually had to go and find new exploits to use to install our channel — this put us into the position where we would be the only ones able to install channels, and people would not be able to install pirated WiiWare content; this was just fine with us! We obfuscated our installer, partially to frustrate attempts by Nintendo to find our exploit and partially to prevent people from using our code to install arbitrary pirated content. As far as I know, only one person ever reversed it (The STM Release Exploit), and we believe Nintendo only found it using a hardware debugger. We eventually moved on to other exploits, and we continue to obfuscate them; pirates have had to make do with mix-and-match attacks by selectively upgrading their systems and some of them find different exploits to use.

Not much we do seems to really deter pirates, and Nintendo has generally moved to fix the exploits we use more quickly than anything else — trying to keep the moral high ground hasn’t really done us much good. It’s made our work harder, it’s cut down on the amount of code we might release (only to have others release their own versions…) and Nintendo never seemed to appreciate it. They’ve pretty much burned through all the good will they’ll ever get on my part, at least.

Tags: Wii

52 responses so far ↓

  • 1 warll // May 15, 2010 at 12:39 am

    “and we believe Nintendo only found it using a hardware debugger.”
    Those cheaters.

  • 2 tech3475 // May 15, 2010 at 2:02 am

    The problem with the Wii in particular is the way in which it works makes pirating relatively easy because as soon as you have a CIOS installed or the drive chip pirating is almost too easy.

    A console with a hypervisor on the other hand could prevent piracy with a special version strictly for unsigned content (like Other OS)….but then again a hacked system will eventually be cracked for piracy.

    Ultimately, piracy will always be derived from homebrew in some way or form…..the only true solution is to allow it from the beginning in an official, semi-controlled, environment.

    Except, this time work with the hackers to ensure that it is implemented properly/securely unlike Other OS which had an exploit released eventually or make it so limited that there is little use for it.

  • 3 Speggy // May 15, 2010 at 2:44 am

    As said by tech3475.
    the only way to prevent piracy but still allow homebrew is through Nativly allowing home made content.
    wii “tried” to prevent piracy through homebrew by the Wii shop channel. but with their stricter quality control, 1-day made fun and forget games couldn’t be created… -stops drivveling on-

    seems all we can do is hope devs release a way to allow homebrew without all the piracy. such as letting use code in C++ but blocking any commands to read the disc drive ect.

  • 4 nitro2k01 // May 15, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t think openness is where we’re headed. The console makers in general don’t like homebrew. The more time you spend on not playing commercial games, the more money they lose, or so they’re reasoning.

    Xbox360 did it “right” from that perspective. Strict W^X, a hypervisor that confirms the signature before allowing a segment to be X’d and page tables and other important stuff in encrypted or in-CPU memory, making it virtually uncrackable. (The King Kong exploit, although it works is not practically useful.)

    That’s unfortunately what I see coming the next few years. The X360 did it as mentioned. The PS3 is, as far as I can gather, “secure” when OtherOS has been disabled. The DS was ripped wide open whereas DSi so far only has a pretty lame DSi mode exploit. (I hope loopy and WMute will prove me wrong though.) The PSP was also ripped wide open, whereas PSP Go seems pretty impossible so far. (You can get a savegame exploit – if you bought the right game in advance.)
    I’m sure the same will happen Wii2 when it comes out.

  • 5 marcan // May 15, 2010 at 4:27 am

    The funny thing is that, for about 7 or so months, we succeded. Softmod piracy was impossible on the Wii using our exploits from about the October 23rd update to the release of BootMii (which broke all security, period).

    Unfortunately, the idiots at Nintendo were too busy patching our homebrew-only exploits to care about the hacky, ugly, crappy exploit that the piracy scene was using. Sadly, to this date, this exploit remains unpatched. It truly seems like they’re too stupid to care about what piracy actually depends on. They just keep trying to Stop the Evil Homebrew Channel.

    They had a chance at 7 extra months of a soft-piracy-free console (possibly more if they’d bothered to establish an amicable relationship with us, instead of harassing bushing). They didn’t take it.

    Now, the Sony situation is just wrong. Sony have shot themselves in the foot in the worst possible way, not only by encouraging cracking their system by removing Other OS, but by actively pissing off former homebrew/OtherOS users. If there’s something that guarantees that homebrew developers won’t give a damn about whether they enable piracy or not, it’s illegally depriving them of the features they paid for.

  • 6 Tweets that mention of homebrew and “trusted computing” / antipiracy -- Topsy.com // May 15, 2010 at 6:50 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fabio Vertamatti, HackMii. HackMii said: New Blog Post on HackMii you can find it here http://hackmii.com/2010/05/of_homebrew_and_antipiracy/ […]

  • 7 raindog469.livejournal.com/ // May 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

    The problem is that to Nintendo, there really is no difference between you guys and the pirates. The pirates let users get enjoyment out of their consoles without paying for games; you guys let users get enjoyment out of their consoles without paying for games. They believe they’re entitled to fees for every bit of code that runs on the device they made.

    Of course, by preventing users from running whatever they want on the consoles they’ve bought, they’re putting their own imagined property rights over their customers’ physical property rights, but thanks to WIPO, they’re allowed to do that. To Nintendo, you guys are simply the most organized and technically adept pirates, whether you try to be nice to them or not.

    From a pragmatic perspective, I think something like Other OS is the best way to prevent hackers from helping pirates out — whether Sony meant it to be that way or not; I don’t think that was even part of their strategy — but in the end, that’s just not going to be palatable to them because of imagined lost revenue.

  • 8 Maat // May 15, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Maybe the guy who help’s Nintendo with their security problems in Wii now found a better job at Sony…

  • 9 Hypershell // May 15, 2010 at 11:25 am

    The “grey area” of software is one of the big stumbling blocks here, I’d say. There’s a wealth of people who enjoy, for example, derivative works based on commercial games. Brawl patches, Mario Kart DS course hacks, un-dubs, that kind of thing. In such instances you’re working with commercial games in the first place, so separating compatibility with a hack from compatibility with the original is probably not going to happen.

    I don’t honestly expect any big console manufacturer to differentiate between homebrew and piracy. The age-old region lock is perhaps the best litmus test of this; closing the door on a more open but perfectly legitimate use of the console, just because they can. It’s not about piracy, that’s only their rallying cry. It’s about control. They don’t want to permit ANY use of their hardware that doesn’t go directly through them.

  • 10 davr.myopenid.com/ // May 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    What I find interesting is that Nintendo actually tried to talked to you, but you refused to. I was always under the impression that they never responded, but the article says they actually left messages on your voicemail but you never responded.

  • 11 Arikado // May 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    @davr
    You fail hard on that one :/ If you bothered to finish reading what you begin you would know that there was indeed back and forth communication between bushing and Nintendo. In fact, bushing began the communications. Its really too bad that Nintendo chose to treat bushing in a highly inappropriate manner that can actually be called harassment.

    Nintendo isn’t interested in concentrating on stopping piracy, they want to stop all unauthorized homebrew activities. Unfortunately for Nintendo, this makes all of us (pirates and non-pirates) their enemies. An old adage says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This corresponds with the overarching point of this article being that companies such as Nintendo need to adapt to cooperate with the honest people who just want to run their own code or run Linux. If not, piracy will almost inevitably ensue and the honest hackers aren’t going to care to try to help stop it.

  • 12 bushing // May 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    @davr: See updated blog post.

  • 13 davr.myopenid.com/ // May 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    @arikado: I’m too lazy to go back and read now, but like I said, from what I remember, there were blog posts to the effect of trying to get in contact with Nintendo, but they never got a response out. Maybe I’m just misremembering, it’s been a while.

  • 14 wowfunhappy // May 16, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Thanks a lot for the updated blog post; very, very interesting.

    When all this was happening a few years back, I was very, very interested in your attempts to contact Nintendo, and I’m glad that I’ve finally been able to work out the details.

    It does seem as though Nintendo acted in a bad way. I have to wonder what their intention had been in looking up your office phone number and attempting to call you on it. What good had she thought it would do?

    And was the reason she wanted to contact you via phone because she wanted to cover up a paper trail? I don’t understand why that would have been important to her; what would she have been trying to hide?

    Very strange…

  • 15 davr.myopenid.com/ // May 16, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Negotiating in person or by phone is standard operating procedure for large corporations. It’s not unusual, it doesn’t mean they are doing something illegal or have something to hide. They just don’t want anything in writing until it’s the very final deal that everyone is signing off on, because anything in writing is something that could come back to haunt them later. I know someone who works at a large bank, dealing with corporate loans, have talked about this a lot.

  • 16 Nate // May 16, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for posting this blog entry. I’d like to discuss the original question (“what is the best strategy to only enable homebrew while discouraging piracy as much as possible?”) The other discussion about a particular timeline is too close to the full disclosure debate and not as technically interesting.

    marcan said: “The funny thing is that, for about 7 or so months, we succeded. Softmod piracy was impossible on the Wii using our exploits from about the October 23rd update to the release of BootMii (which broke all security, period).”

    That is pretty amazing and may be evidence to support my point that there are technical measures hackers can apply so that homebrew and piracy can be separated. Kudos to your team for trying this — I wasn’t aware that anyone had made such an effort before.

    My personal goal is I would like to see vendors realizing that they can do things like Sony first did with the PS3 to discourage piracy. I’d also like those hackers that claim piracy is unavoidable and so they don’t have anything they can do about it be given good examples how they could be friendlier to vendors. It seems like you attempted this at least.

    It’s something like the full disclosure debate turned on its head. You *want* homebrew hackers to release an exploit with no details, but obfuscate and protect their research better. :)

    My post was mostly a brainstorm, but I wonder if more can be done in addition to software obfuscation. For example, in addition to using a microcontroller with locked firmware, obfuscate the exploit method itself.

    Add extra wires that must be connected to other parts of the bus, send bogus commands that have nothing to do with hacking it, change the device state with one command and undo it with another, read the state of bus lines at specific clocks and hash it, etc. It’s a lot of work, but as an observer with only access to the external lines, it’s hard to figure out what is going on inside your modchip. This could really slow down the pirates.

    This all only addresses the case of pirates copying your methods. At some point, they have to do independent work and give up copying you. What point is that though? It sounds like even after 7 months, they didn’t have the skills to create competing work, at least on the Wii.

    In the DVD/Blu-ray world, it’s different. The for-pay hackers have the skills and the open-source world trails behind. So hackers that might not want to contribute to piracy (as much as they actually exist) don’t have leverage to drive the market. The same thing happened in the satellite TV hacking community of the late 9o’s — they eventually were overtaken by the for-pay vendors, sometimes by getting hired.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to see that someone already attempted this experiment. I wouldn’t say it’s a failure. You did prevent piracy for 7 months, which is admirable. I’d be interested in seeing more homebrew groups take this approach to see how far it can go.

  • 17 Nate // May 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Regarding the PS3, I’m surprised that the same hypervisor runs in OtherOS mode as in GameOS and that it appears the SPU image with decryption keys is still active there. I would have used a much simpler HV and loaded a blank image into the SPU that blocked out any access until reset, all before booting OtherOS.

    Removing OtherOS support was not a good idea. The hackers can just keep patching future OS updates to reenable it (and already have), so only legitimate Linux users are blocked out.

  • 18 DCX2 // May 16, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I wouldn’t want to talk to a lawyer over a phone number I didn’t give them, either. Miscommunication or not, that was extremely rude.

  • 19 bushing // May 16, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    @wowfunhappy: If I were giving Nintendo the benefit of the doubt, I would say that they were just trying to find some way of talking to me that could not come back and bite them in the ass later. I don’t know if they have anything in particular they were trying to hide; it may just be that a lawyer’s instinct is to keep things off-the-record whenever possible. It also explains why the two emails I ever received from them were one line each.

    However, I think it’s more likely that it was a calculated move to intimidate me and make me feel small — the implicit threat was “We know who you are and where you work, we could get you fired, so don’t fuck with us.” (It would have been a lot more scary for me if I hadn’t knowingly made it easy for them; if I had thought they had hired a private investigator to find me or something, THAT could have been creepy.)

    I suppose that directly interacting with hackers is something that most companies aren’t very comfortable doing — companies like Microsoft have had to learn how to deal with security researchers and have come up with appropriate guidelines for how things will go (like the Responsible Disclosure document I linked to) and know what to expect.

    I’m not sure Sony would do much better — they have a wide product line and sell computers, but don’t really write much desktop software. On one hand, they did support Linux for a long time — so they have some open-sourceish people there — but the way they handled the OtherOS debacle couldn’t have been much worse.

  • 20 HyperHacker // May 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Personally my approach has always been just ignore the pirates and let the company deal with them. When you start trying to fight them, you’re basically defeating the “evil DRM” that prevents homebrew, and using it to implement another DRM that prevents some nice things like translated/hacked games and (dare I say it) legitimate backups. I always prefer to give the user total control and let them run wild.
    Of course piracy can be a big problem (as PSP has shown), but that’s really the fault of the console’s design; ultimately pirates will find those exploits regardless.

    I think Nintendo actively wants to stop homebrew, since it bypasses licensing and quality control. It’s the same reason they put lockout chips in all the older consoles – they want to stop both piracy and crappy games like Custer’s Revenge and Big Rigs. While current homebrew exploits don’t let you just stick in an unofficial disc and run (though the strncmp bug did), someone could potentially find a bug that does, or just sell homebrew games on SD card with a Bannerbomb-style loader, and then there’s risk of another flood of terrible unlicensed games just as with the older consoles.

    If a company did want to prevent piracy while allowing homebrew, my favourite method has always been requiring/disabling some resource that pirates and/or official games would need. Say, selling a homebrew launcher disc, and setting a register (which resets only on power off) that will physically reboot the console if the disc is ever removed. It’s not a perfect solution (HDD loaders would work, for example), but it’s along the right lines. PS3 tried this by preventing access to the GPU, but that also hurts a lot of homebrew applications. Ultimately the only thing that will completely prevent piracy is a completely secure system, which really isn’t possible – but you can get pretty close.

  • 21 marcan // May 17, 2010 at 4:26 am

    @Nate:
    It’s worth noting that we did not prevent piracy for 7 months. We gave Nintendo the option of doing so – all they’d have to do is close the exploit that was at the time used for piracy, which we had never used for our tools – but they didn’t take it (and still haven’t: the most popular way of getting piracy on the Wii still uses this exploit, which they still haven’t patched). This deeply saddens me. By refusing to close this silly hole, they guarantee that any way of running PowerPC code on the Wii is a gateway to piracy, forever.

    We have actively been obfuscating our exploits (better than the original Xbox Linux savegame thing, even). In fact, our very first IOS exploit (the STM one) is the only one that has been reverse engineered, and that happened recently, a long time after it was patched by Nintendo. That particular exploit used some of the techniques that you mention, including sending bogus commands that do nothing, using a highly obfuscated codebase, encrypting some things (but not necessarily the important things), and hiding the real exploit inside apparently harmless functions. This allowed us to be the only ones who could use this exploit to install HBC and thus enable homebrew, without directly enabling the patching of system software (IOS) which piracy depends on.

    Current releases of our code are automatically obfuscated using a custom executable packer/encryption tool. I’m not aware of anyone having reverse engineered that either.

    @HyperHacker

    It doesn’t have to be disabling a hardware resource. The easiest way to enable homebrew on the Wii while locking out piracy is to release a “Homebrew IOS” that enables PPC access to EHCI, OHCI, the extra MEM2 RAM, etc. (but not DI, NAND, OTP, or the SEEPROM GPIOs). They can do that right now – the Wii hardware enables this sort of selective control. Then they just disable ARM IRQs and put it into an in-cache tight loop waiting for one – bingo, no chance of getting the ARM out of it without resetting the system. In order to exploit such a “homebrew mode” for piracy, you’d have to reimplement all the important parts of IOS in the PowerPC, and make it integrate with games, plus make it load the game data from USB. Good luck doing that. On the other hand, such a mode would be ideal for Wii Linux and for a hypothetical new lib to replace the crummy libogc.

  • 22 Nate // May 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    @marcan:

    I see. Well, it sounds like you are doing everything you can right now. If Nintendo did choose to shut down the flaws the pirates are using, it will be interesting to see if you have to go further to prevent them from copying your exploit methods. Again, kudos for trying this experiment. It’s too bad the vendor didn’t play ball; otherwise, this would be a perfect case study.

    It would be interesting if this “Wii-Linux” mode had been available. It might have prevented piracy as long as the PS3’s Linux option did (2 years+).

  • 23 nitro2k01 // May 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Nate: Hardly. With the overall level of security that Wii turned out to have it would likely have been exploited even faster. For an “OtherOS” mode to work, you need a decent hypervisor or other mechanism.

  • 24 senorclean // May 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    ‘Jodi’ now makes a whole lot more sense to me ;) love it.

  • 25 Sven // May 18, 2010 at 11:11 am

    nitro2k01: That “wii-linux” mode he is talking about is actually more secure than a hypervisor.
    I think it would have taken some more time since there wouldn’t be too many people interested in exploiting the wii (basically only the pirates).

  • 26 baines // May 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Speaking of Nintendo targeting Homebrew Channel more than pirates themselves, Nintendo probably isn’t the only one.

    High Voltage Software was annoyed when The Conduit’s online gameplay was hacked, and probably weren’t happy with it being pirated either. On a GameFAQs board, one of the HVS employees said that “Conduit 2″ would react to the presence of Homebrew Channel. Since it has been a while, I can’t remember if he implied that there would be a “nasty surprise” for people with HBC, and the thread has probably expired as it doesn’t show up on searches.

    But I do recall that he was talking about Homebrew Channel specifically, as if it were the source of all methods of piracy and hacking (and the linchpin for all), while seemingly missing how HBC isn’t necessary for either.

  • 27 Mike // May 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I am sorry, but this mentality is just full of hypocrisy, and I certainly hope people can think about this rationally rather than ignoring or banning me for not going along with the crowd.

    This is basically advocating breaking Nintendo’s DRM because you don’t want to use the hardware on their terms…… just to install your OWN DRM and force others to use it on YOUR terms. Even worse, they feel that because Nintendo can’t see eye-to-eye with them, it is perfectly fine for them to dictate how their DRM will work and what can and can not be allowed purely because they feel they know better than Nintendo. While it is true that Nintendo has been rather stupid throughout their anti-piracy measures, expecting them to give a free pass to one group of hackers while blocking out the others is just being blind. This is basically the mentality that the homebrew community should go vigilante against the pirates, going vigilante does more harm than good.

    On top of that, obfuscating code harms the entire community, not just pirates, especially with said person calls it quits and we are stuck between choosing outdated system files or actually using the system with anything legit made after new protection schemes have rendered the old methods useless. Also, this is making the rather egotistical impression that the homebrew community and only the homebrew community are the ones who find all the methods to run homebrew and pirates only steal these for piracy purposes, that pirates would be nowhere without the homebrew community, it is rather heavily biased with the idea of thinking that only the homebrew community ever figures these things out.

    But what really wants to make me bang my face on the desk is the mentality that Nintendo would actually support them in their efforts. Nintendo wants their system to remain closed and ONLY run code they approve, this includes homebrew, pirates or legit homebrew users, these are the same to Nintendo, was well as Sony and Microsoft. You will never convince them otherwise, and if you don’t understand why then you have no understanding of the business of the console industry, its not just control, they don’t WANT homebrew to run on their consoles, approved code or not, legit purposes or not. They will stop homebrew methods just as they will stop piracy methods. To them, running anything they did not approve costs them money, especially in the beginning of a console’s life.

    A console getting hacked is an inevitability, a console getting pirated is an inevitability. No, I am not saying just give up and enable piracy and release iso loaders, of course not, I am saying this is not the homebrew scene’s fight, they are basically being hypocrites by breaking one person’s locks just to install their own, yet they act as if they have the moral high ground and some actually believe that the producers of said consoles will support them with an official “homebrew mode” on their own terms instead of seeing them as being no better than pirates.

    Adding anti-piracy measures just simply harms the community by making homebrew enabling hacks difficult if not impossible to maintain, especially once the original creator has left, but said measures can start to actually cause problems, many “easter eggs” have been turned around and used for exploits or just plain caused system instability. Finally, there is a reason being a vigilante is illegal, not all people have the same mentality of how far one should go, there have been examples of people who willingly put code that could cause harm or even bricks if somebody messed with it, some feel this is justified “to stop piracy” or just to protect their hack from being dissected, many others would see this as going too far, its no different than somebody slashing the tires of someone who parked across two handicap spots, report it, but its not your fight nor your right to do something about it, especially something destructive. Not to mention if this little payload ever went off by accident…

    Many people hate DRM in all forms, the whole purpose of homebrew is to run your own legit code (and as mentioned, different people have different idea of what can be considered legit) which at this point is done by bypassing essentially what is the DRM… and you want to advocate adding your own after bypassing this DRM just because you are baffled that Nintendo dosen’t WANT you to run homebrew and act as if you have a moral high ground to decide better what should and should not be allowed. Do you not think people will then want this DRM to be broken as well? It will eventually limit other purposes besides piracy, to think you can make a homebrew mode that will make everybody happy but disallow piracy is ludicrus, there will eventually be something one cannot do with this, and then the race to break the new DRM begins, meanwhile Nintendo is fighting you both. Imagine two gangs fighting against each other, one attempting to kill the other to stop them from causing harm (with different ideas of what constitutes “harm”), and Nintendo are the cops, that is basically the scenario you are suggesting.

    And finally, and yes I realize a lot of people will think I am ignorant for claiming this, but there ARE people who legitimately used backups as well without pirating anything, the Wii homebrew community seems to have a black and white “backup=piracy, NO EXCEPTIONS!!!” mentality.

    I remember a publisher who refused to add copy protections to their game, of course the game was pirated, but not nearly as much as other games, and the community was rather strongly against said pirates, by not treating their customers as crooks for not having to deal with restrictive protection schemes people were far far more supportive of them than the standard publisher/developer, not instantly treating everyone like a crook and not taking the law into your own hands says a lot for gaining support or your cause. I remember when I once was having trouble with a homebrew game I got from the homebrew browser and asked in the chat channel for help, because I did not want to upgrade from 4.1 to 4.2 due to worries about the buggy boot2 reflasher causing possible bricks, I was instantly labeled a pirate with no proof simply because I refused to update.

    The finger-pointing, entitled attitude, and vigilante-like mentality causing everybody to jump anytime somebody’s sneeze sounds like they might have said “piracy” is seriously harming the Wii homebrew community.

  • 28 Hypershell // May 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

    *read the expanded timeline*
    Well, Bushing, whether you missed a few phone messages or not I don’t see how it changed much. I could buy using your real name from a previous email just being Nintendo’s idea of “civilized” conversation, but Jodi tracking down your work phone number for a time and medium you had clearly declined is hard to read as anything but an uncooperative attempt at intimidation. Heck, if it were me, I’d have considered believing that they had ignored me and then finding out that they haven’t followed up on their macho stunt in the past month to be a blessing in disguise.

  • 29 OuahOuah // May 25, 2010 at 6:59 am

    I don’t think you understand Nintendo’s opinions.
    They sell a game console.
    They want you to use it to play games.
    ALL other things you could do with it do not give them money AND could be against them (piracy…).
    They take no risk.
    They want you to stop.
    Even if of course your’re right : you didn’t want to help piracy.
    But they’re in their world : who is not with us is against us.
    Is was always like this, and it will always be like this…
    Have never hearr of a game / console maker who did ask help from hacker / warez maker…
    And they will never. You’re a threat, they’re afraid of waht you can do (even if you swear you will not)…
    By the way, Law is on their side so…

  • 30 SyPE // May 25, 2010 at 7:44 am

    i’ve been reading hackmii topics here for a while
    this is my first reply ever here.

    but what about you (marcan, bushing and others)
    releasing an “homebrew ios” as in post #21

    so that wii-linux can use it and other non-piracy homebrew use it… also be able to put the wii in full “media server” or “file server” or any thing you want from it

    after that.. (if i would be nintendo) erase all ios numbers that are not theirs and ios that do not match their “hashes” (patched ones) and redownload theirs

    ok, that would be in an perfect world (lol)

    (up to now, this as been one of my favorite hackmii topic ever)
    thanks
    SyPE

  • 31 shuffle2 // May 25, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    OuahOuah: perhaps you should take a look at ps3 and x360 security, if you want examples of companies dealing with hackers in respectable ways.

  • 32 Phredreeke // May 26, 2010 at 8:43 am

    shuffle2: You mean like Sony removing Linux support from the PS3, a feature which we paid for? Or MS charging $99 a year just for the benefit of programming a system which you paid for?

  • 33 shuffle2 // May 26, 2010 at 9:19 am

    No, I mean like working with bunnie/tmbinc for x360 security flaws, or the research which went into Cell security (can find papers on this anywhere).

    p.s. That charge is MS charging for their C# API. They allow you to program for the device, but on their terms (they exist to make money, after all).

    Sony removing OtherOS is a different matter which has already been beaten to death, though.

  • 34 shuffle2 // May 26, 2010 at 9:21 am

    +/Michael Steil(mist), of course

  • 35 anv // May 28, 2010 at 6:17 am

    If they want to stop piracy, the only way is lowering the prices of the games.

    There always will be people copying games but for most people, if a game costs $5 they will buy it instead of risking to void the warranty.

    See the case of XBox360 Live bans. Many people buyed 2 consoles, one fot Live and one for pirated games. Why? Because a new console costs like 3 games. If a new console’s cost where 50 or 100 games, nobody would risk it and they would sell 10 or 100 times the games they are selling now.

  • 36 tech3475 // May 28, 2010 at 7:43 am

    @anv.

    If a 360 cost 50 games it would be £1999.50 assuming its £39.99 for new games.

    The console wouldn’t need to worry about piracy, since no one would own the thing to pirate them.

    Though I do agree a low price helps, I remember Gabe Newell saying that a Steam half price sale of L4D1 resulted in a double in sales.

  • 37 Bret Kuhns // Jun 4, 2010 at 7:10 am

    @tech3475 You clearly didn’t understand anv’s point. He wasn’t implying making the console cost more, he was saying that the games should cost less. With the console fixed at it’s current price, making games cheaper so that the console is worth 10-100 times the cost of one game would make people more likely to buy games than another console to play free copies.

    I’ve always believed in this model and am completely baffled that Valve is about the only company who seems to agree. ESPECIALLY when it comes to digital distribution, sell the thing for dirt cheap and make up for it in shear quantities. I can understand having a certain overhead for games on physical media like DVDs/Bluray, but downloadable games (like Wiiware) should be dirt cheap these days. Why the hell does a N64 VC game cost $12? That’s 1/5 the cost of the game from 13+ years ago. Sell them for a quarter the current price and I bet you’ll sell at LEAST four times as many units. Valve has “proven” this method works, companies need to pay attention.

  • 38 wfeltmate // Jun 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    tech3475, he meant is a game was only $5 or $10. 50 x $5 is $250.

  • 39 anv // Jun 8, 2010 at 5:56 am

    @tech3475 if the games costed $5, nobody would pirate it.

    The solution is not incressing the cost of the console but decressing the cost of the games.

    If the price of the hardware is as lower as 3 times as a game’s one, something is wrong anywhere, and I think the problem is not the price of the wardware but the software’s one.

    Then, in my opinion, the piracy problem is e problem of then, caused by their avarice. If homebrew applications is used for piracy, it is because people thinks it is better to hack their consoles rinking the guaranty, and follow complicated (ans sometimes risky) procedures in order to get free games.

    With $5 or less games, it alwais will be some people wanting to play it for free but most people not interesetd on homebrew will pay for the games and the problem of piracy will disappear.

  • 40 res2216firestar.blogspot.com/ // Jun 8, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Mike, about the backups = piracy mentality, my personal position is that a game is a game no matter where you got it, and the homebrew community is trying not to be the techs for the pirates, since there is no way of telling a legal image from a downloaded one. This is partly in a futile attempt to be nice to nintendo.

    While an instaban for saying “cIOS” in #wiihelp seems hypocritical with their support of emulators, when we all know you can only get downloaded ROMs for those, I understand and respect their position on the community they want to be. I use backups in what I consider to be an ethical manner (ripping the games I own), but that doesn’t mean the Wiibrew people have to know. Well, I guess they do now. Oh well.

  • 41 tech3475 // Jun 9, 2010 at 5:14 am

    @anv, it was YOU who said the console should costs the price of 50 games.

    Here’s the quote:
    “See the case of XBox360 Live bans. Many people buyed 2 consoles, one fot Live and one for pirated games. Why? Because a new console costs like 3 games. If a new console’s cost where 50 or 100 games, nobody would risk it and they would sell 10 or 100 times the games they are selling now.”

    While I do agree though that cheaper games mean more sales, just look at something like the app store or Steam where games can go dirt cheap and how high the sales can be.

  • 42 bshep.myopenid.com/ // Jun 9, 2010 at 9:57 am

    @tech3475, you are mis-quoting anv.

    The first sentence in his post is: “If they want to stop piracy, the only way is lowering the prices of the games. ”

    The quote you posted can be interpreted either way but his first sentence makes it un-ambiguous.

    He meant: make the “games price” = (“console price”)/50, thefore the console would be worth 50x the price of a game.

  • 43 anv // Jun 14, 2010 at 4:51 am

    @tech3475, ok, ok, bat it was you who supposed that games should cost $50 then the console would cost $2500.

    What I tried to mean, the games sould cost no more than $5. Then nobody would risk the waranty by patching the software, bans like 360’s, or braking the hardware soldering chips only for running copies.

    The piracy problem was caused by their avarice and they know what is the only way to stop it: lower the software prices because the hardware prices cannot be incresed if they want to continue selling consoles.

  • 44 Phredreeke // Jun 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    ermm… how do you propose developers make a game like Uncharted 2 with a pricepoint of $5?

    I would like cheaper games as much as the next person, but you can’t expect developers to create a game out of thin air.

  • 45 anv // Jun 15, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Phredreeke: I propose developers not to contract famous actors for recording the voices for the games, and not to make a Hollywood’s superproduction for every game.

    Therefore, even wasting so many money, reducing the game’s cost will virtually elliminate the piracy.

    With games of $50 or more, I (personally) think, check, and double check until buying 1 or 2 games a year. Really, I preferred to rent the games for the weekends instead of buying them. If the games costed $5 I would not have hesitated on buying one a month or at least one new one as soon I ended one.

    But… I must agree that Gaming is not a priority for me. I am sure that there are many boys out there willing to pay for $50 games, and the developers knows this. Then they think: with soo many boys willing to pay $50, why to lower the prices? It is better to spend millions on creating a better anti piracy software or buying some laws like spanish’s one that says that having a debugger is a crime because it is a tool for removing copy protections. Copying for backup purposes is allowed but to bypass or remove a copy protection is a crime, then strictly you can’t copy even for preventing the child to scratch a disk that costed so much.

  • 46 snyda // Jun 15, 2010 at 9:24 am

    @anv, The cost of hiring famous actors is a drop in the bucket compared to all the time/money spent coding, testing, designing the graphics, licensing the engine etc. that goes into developing a new game. The game companies have marketing departments that know exactly the right amount to charge for a game to maximize profits. The “Hollywood superproductions” you talk about are simply marketing hype designed to get the “boys who are willing to pay $50″ to get out any buy the game. While charging $5 for the same game might cause sales to go up, I’d bet they wouldn’t go up 10x. They know this. They also know that charging $100 for that game will make sales drop by more than 50%. It’s all about finding the right balance, and they have been doing this for a long time.

    As far as anti-piracy software/laws, its a bit like gun laws. They only effect the people doing things legally.

    As far as homebrew and anti-piracy, I really don’t think the companies care. They know full well that some of their games will be pirated, it comes with the territory. They also know that there is a userbase that is interested in developing for their console in a homebrew environment. Instead of spending time trying to separate the two, it’s easier (cheaper) to just deal with them all the same way.

  • 47 Robbert // Jun 18, 2010 at 10:19 am

    @anv: I can’t agree more. I bought more games on Steam during deals in the last 6 months than I ever bought for my PS3.

  • 48 Macka // Jun 23, 2010 at 6:30 am

    The game prices might be bad in the US, but I can guarantee they are worse in Australia.

    I forget which game but it was in the last 6 months.
    US price: $60
    US price for xbox version: $65
    AU price: AU$170 (~US$150)
    AU price for xbox: AU$170 (~US$150)

    So I can understand people wanting to pirate games over here. It is for this reason that modchips to break regions are legal over here, which is no good in the case of the Wii cause you could get a software brick :S

    I don’t advocate piracy for any console, but I do understand it.

    Personally, I am not particularly interested in games, so the console companies don’t loose money from me running HB, cause they wouldn’t be making it any way. In fact, they *could* make money from my interest in HB that they would not otherwise make if I had no interest in HB either.

    What I am trying to say is I’m not going to buy the console for the games, so if I can’t run HB I’m not going to buy the console period. The only reason I even have a Wii is because my parents bought it.

    I use more HB on it then games because I don’t enjoy games very much and they are way overpriced and i can’t be bothered pirating them.

  • 49 Mush Man // Jun 23, 2010 at 6:54 am

    You hold yourself up in too high a regard, or so I gather from your tone and quotes like “they just wanted me to stop calling them out publicly”. Of course, there’s little credibility in me saying that, as it is the internet.

    It was worthy pursuing them about your findings, but I absolutely do not see the worth in getting butt-hurt or to start going against Nintendo for how they “treated” you. Sure, their actions fell below expectation, but it still would have been, or may still be, worth continuing pursuing them for what’s right, while doing what’s right. That virtue is rare, so even if you failed and were imprisoned, which I gather was one of your fears when reading…

    “…someone who is a lawyer and who already seems like she is trying to intimidate me is now trying to get me on the phone so that she can avoid leaving a paper trail…”

    …people would know your state. They might even form a more tangible backlash farther than “Nintendo released an update whose only purpose is to block homebrew! Those bastards!”.

    I realise I’m starting to tread on the ‘Don’t tell me how to do my job’ territory, but that’s how criticism works, right? I imagine that you’ll backlash against me for writing this, and I can only hope that I am wrong in that regard. Criticism should not be taken as personal insult. Besides, I was told that the gaming industry had no interest in egotistical entities, though it may be counter-productive in me saying that as I may end looking like one with ego issues.

    I suppose this kind of research into Wii comes under the philosophy at the start of the movie Colt .45:

    “A gun, like any other source of power, is a force for either good or evil, being neither in itself, but dependent upon those who possess it.”

    It is obvious you led your project by the former.

    It would be better to lead your project in virtue and without martyrdom. It will certainly influence your more immediate community.

    And, don’t worry. I won’t lament if you don’t reply to this message! ;)

  • 50 bushing // Jun 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    @Mush Man:

    I’m happy to get (and respond to) polite, constructive criticism.

    For a variety of reasons, I hesitated to post the whole drama of my attempt to hold a discussion with Nintendo, but I didn’t see any way of explaining the discrepancies someone called me on without going into the whole timeline of events. The statement “they just wanted me to stop calling them out publicly” was not out of hubris, but rather followed directly from what happened — I emailed them over the course of a month, and only got a response to my earlier email when I publicly posted a letter to them. The fact that the email was a reply to my message from earlier (as indicated by email headers) came as a shock to me — I had honestly believed that all of my mails had gone into the bit bucket without ever reaching human eyes.

    I’ve never feared jail time; all of the accusations that could conceivably be leveled against me would be civil cases, not criminal cases. Still, there’s a big financial threat there, and a thread to my job. I never set out to be a crusader; I just started doing this because it was fun, and things like that make this decidedly less fun.

    The goal of talking to them was not some self-righteous anti-piracy campaign; it was to try to get them to shift their focus from blocking the superficial exploits we had been using (like savegame hacks) to more fundamental flaws in the design of the system that made piracy easier (IOS permissions bugs, etc). Sure, there’s some overlap, but if we could shift their focus, it would work both to our benefit and to theirs — it was not an altruistic strategy. The fact that I got vaguely-implied threats from them, as well as all sorts of less-polite criticism from various (Internet) angles just soured the deal even further.

    At this point, other people have written and released most of the tools we refused to write, so it’s not even clear how much difference our attempts at “doing what’s right” actually made. One could argue that our releasing tools that supported piracy would have actually helped Nintendo’s anti-piracy efforts, since they seem to patch all of our bugs before anyone else’s. :)

  • 51 copb.phoenix // Aug 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I’d hesitate to argue with most of what is in the article… I’d say that you should have, somewhere on this side of them only responding to a public message, been either a bit more public or else a bit more pressing. That is not a call for you to move to do anything you wouldn’t do; they clearly want, as in the past and even now with several projects, to always have an upper hand, even in cases where one shouldn’t necessarily be had by anyone at all. Or everyone.

    Confusing brain is confusing. You’d have to know me; I apologize.

    Beyond all that, I don’t believe, according to what I know of you, that you did anything wrong. Most of us do homebrew as a past time hobby, as something to get the boredom out of our lives. I’m not any exception to that rule – I de-“engrish” localizations for a hobby. I find the phrase “All your base are belong to us” to be both amusing in small doses, and unneeded in the context it originally appeared in.

    I don’t believe that it should be wrong to say “Oh, well, here is a device with several half decent processors, and capable of more than it is used for, so why can’t we use it for that?” It is not a novel feature to put something like NetFlix on the Wii when the device is technically capable of playing normal rental DVDs. Artificial limitations should never exist beyond protecting commercial interests; what I mean is: There is a severe lack of balance between consumer interests and commercial interests right now.

    However, that leaves me with a point of contention: There are a few things that have at least appeared successful at taking the fun out of piracy, from what I’ve seen. Riivolution, if at times troublesome, is still pretty neat. Why this can’t be done on a wider basis puzzles me. I’m working on my degree, but the more I look, the more puzzled I get. The greater fault lies with Nintendo for all of this – not for creating a device capable of being hacked, but for picking at the people working on age old questions and age old systems. If the plan is to push that creativity towards WiiWare or something like that, they clearly missed the point of all this.

    But, really, I do appreciate all you guys have done. I don’t have much, but one thing I do have is a file server and a way to play almost anything I own on demand anywhere in the apartment – something that I should be able to do without such nonsense, anyway.

    Actually, thank you for putting the features that should have been there in the first place into our systems. Don’t be ashamed of your work; be ashamed of the people who want to mislabel it as a threat before it becomes one.

    Rambles on. As I say, Sorry. Even my English is struggling right now.

  • 52 Daemon4232 // Oct 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Love the article, and to it I say this: ” I would like to praize you for your commitment, I knock only once before I kick down doors.. Meaning basicly I tell whatever ‘higher power’ I have an issue, I wait it out a bit and then if nothing I let my bullets fly gunz blazeing… That’s just how I work I guess. I’ve made alot of people look bad doing it too… Can’t say I regret it though, if they can’t work with me I won’t “bend” to work with them I’m John Doe down the street they are working for a company… I try to help em out but when that fails.. we’ll now it’s really their problem” I’m going to end this off with I play the wii, don’t love it and I’m not major into homebrew… ok maybe I could get attached to my wii if it wasn’t a cash cow trying to get you to update, buy this new attachment, not to mention the batteries for the controllers, EXPENSIVE GAMES *cough cough* … problems like such… even so Sony has the Playstation move out and Wii has lost alot of rep in my eyes… if Nintendo dies, they did it to themselves IMO

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