Sony Hasn't Always Hated Homebrew Development

Sony's recent run of legal and now technical issues with hackers can be traced back to a single decision: that of removing the ability to run the Linux operating system on the PlayStation 3. While Sony cut Linux out of piracy fears, fans were upset that it brought to an end over a decade of custom and homebrew development on PlayStation consoles.

All of which, it should be pointed out, was not just supported by Sony, but sold and endorsed by the company as well.

In 1997, Sony released a package called Net Yaroze. As amazing as this seems given the company's stance today, Net Yaroze was a homebrew development kit for the PS1, which let the man on the street (via mail order) get hold of a debug PlayStation console and all the necessary software they'd need to write their own PlayStation games.

The Net Yaroze bundle cost $US750, and included not just a badass black matte console, but two controllers, software and all kinds of professional documentation bedroom coders would need to make their own games. The console was even region-free! About the only thing the package didn't include was the computer you needed to actually write the code on.

The Net Yaroze development kit for the PS1

Sounds awesome, right? Well, there were catches. It wasn't a fully-fledged development suite, with serious limitations on the size of games that could be developed, meaning most home-baked games came out looking more like bad PC titles from the late '80s than quality PS1 games. It also came about too soon for the age of the internet, meaning actually sharing the games you'd created was almost impossible.

Because of this, the Net Yaroze only lasted a few years. While there was never a Net Yaroze 2, in 2002 Sony went one better and released Linux for PlayStation 2.

As the program's title implies, this was a Linux development kit for the PlayStation 2, which not only allowed users to create their own software but, being a fully-fledged operating system, could turn their console into a computer. While this led to a spate of emulators popping up for the PS2, running everything from old NES games to...old SNES games, people did take the time to create homebrew PS2 games, which by virtue of its later release meant that, unlike Net Yaroze, these games could be distributed online. It could also run operating systems like X Window.

The X Window operating system running on a PS2

Linux for PlayStation 2 still suffered from other problems it shared with Net Yaroze, however, like size restrictions and an inability to code games which made use of the console's DVD drive. Another problem was that in order to play games made using Linux for PlayStation 2, another user had to have Linux for PlayStation 2 installed on their own console, which given the level of technical experience required and scarcity of copies available (the program was only around for a couple of years) meant barely anybody would get the chance to check the games out.

On the bright side? It came with a pretty cool PS2-branded keyboard and mouse.

So as you can see, when Sony ended support for Linux on the PlayStation 3 in 2010, it was bringing to an end 13 years of support for users doing cool, custom things with their PlayStation consoles. While this doesn't excuse the militant actions of hackers that have brought about the current PSN downtime, this at least gives you an idea of why that particular community was so upset at the loss of Linux from the PS3.

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    I remember the Net Yaroze.

    Every Official PlayStation Magazine came with a demo disc that had 2 or 3 Net Yaroze games on it.

    Oh man, there was this sweet one where you were a snail that had to get through mazes and you could turn back time to make it through obstacles. Thing was your time clones were all "We're Deadly" and like, full killed you if you touched them...

      I looked for that snail game for years, I had it on a demo disc but lost it.

        Check back here tomorrow! I'll see if I still have the demo disc!

      I totally still have that disc in a box somewhere.

        i dont have that one but i definitely have a disc with like 12~ net yaroze games, i think one was a trippy tunnel racer , and one was shifting bricks and gems

    Any other console makers supported homebrew like this?

    Only other thing I know of is MS plans to release an actual SDK for kinect.

      MS has XNA on the Xbox360. The only drawback is that everything has to be written in C# and you can't link to any C++ libraries. Once you have your project finished you can submit it for peer review for it to go up on the indie channel, which is not available here in Australia.

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