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Wii Hardware Hacking

Wii Hacked for Better Homebrew Games 196

arbourp writes to mention that hackers Michael Steil and Felix Domke have demonstrated a way to hack the Wii that makes running homebrew code much easier. "The hack advances the possibility of running homebrew code with access to full system resources on the device, not just programs that Nintendo has sanctioned. Such games might be developed to run from a DVD drive, at least in theory. No such games are available as yet and Nintendo may respond by attempting to revoke compromised encryption keys. However history shows such countermeasures are likely to ultimately prove futile."
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Wii Hacked for Better Homebrew Games

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  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:19PM (#21868740) Homepage Journal
    Just to point out they use Star wars as an entry point, however on its own the game is wicked and you can use your wii-mote as god intended :)
  • hint hint (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:19PM (#21868750) Homepage
    Wii Hacked for Better Homebrew Games

    And the majority of these homebrew games look like retail games, except they're free.
    • Re:hint hint (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tetsujin ( 103070 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:26PM (#21868832) Homepage Journal

      Wii Hacked for Better Homebrew Games

      And the majority of these homebrew games look like retail games, except they're free.
      It's true that homebrew stuff invariably winds up getting used for software piracy... Even when it's not native software for the console, a popular use of a cracked console is for emulation - that is, playing games Nintendo would rather you buy through the Shop Channel instead of playing via the ROMs we've all had on our computers for the last ten years...

      Still, some people really are interested in real homebrew... Either learning to write it, or just using it...
      • Re:hint hint (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:31PM (#21868888) Homepage
        I would love to be able to use my Wii as a media server. If they would just add support to the photo channel to play H.264 videos, and support a usb hard drive or smb share, then I would be set. I don't really need a fancy interface. I just want to be able to play videos on my wii. Even without a hard disc, I would accept only using SD cards for watching videos from, if only I could play h.264 encoded videos.
        • Re:hint hint (Score:5, Informative)

          by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:49PM (#21869072) Homepage Journal
          I'm sure you're aware but I would recommend buying an Xbox and install Xbox Media Center on it. It can do everything you want plus more (hard drive built in opens many opportunities), and they're really cheap right now. I run an Xbox at home and use it as my media center, great stuff.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Joe Tie. ( 567096 )
            I love the XBMC, but for H.264 I really wouldn't recommend it. It can play it in theory, but in practice most encodes are going to give pretty choppy, or totally lagged, playback.
            • Yeah, I would agree with you on that. But that really makes me wonder if the Wii could handle h.264 if the original Xbox can not reliably? Don't want to start any kind of console war with this question, more just curious. I guess time will tell.
              • If my iPod Nano can handle h.264, then why not the Wii? I don't see why the XBox would have a problem with either for that matter.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by MBCook ( 132727 )

                  The Nano has a chip that accelerates (or, more probably, completely does) decoding of H.264. I don't know if the Wii has a chip to do that or not. If the Wii has the requisite chip, then as long as you stay within the chip's specs it would have no problem. If it doesn't or your video doesn't fit the specs (bitrate too high, for example) it's be on the CPU. My guess is that the CPU couldn't play full screen video (My PowerBook G4 1.67 had trouble playing back anything above 640x480 H.264, so I wouldn't think

                • by karnal ( 22275 )
                  Your ipod nano is most certainly not playing a 1080p stream. Smaller encodes (320x240??? not sure of the nano screen) would probably work, which is why you have the option.
                  • The Wii only supports 480p anyway, so why would you want to play higher resolution videos? Playing anything higher is just wasting processor cycles, electricity and disk space.
                • by Mike89 ( 1006497 )

                  If my iPod Nano can handle h.264, then why not the Wii? I don't see why the XBox would have a problem with either for that matter.
                  Doesn't iTunes convert everything for it?
                • Unfortunately the PIII & RAM are just barely not enough juice to render it all that well. I get frame skips @ 704x480 48khz stereo audio... it usually averages about 12-16fps.

                  From []

                  Again with its hardware, the Xbox does not have enough resources to play MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) encoded videos with CABAC and deblocking if the video-resolution is higher than 352x288 pixels. If videos are encoded without CABAC and deblocking then the Xbox hardware can handle up to 720x576 pixels video-resolution. It is generally better to encode videos to MPEG-4 (like DivX or XviD) instead. Then the video's native-resolution can be anything up to 960x540 pixels (also known as HRHD resolution).

            • The Wii wouldn't do much if any better. If you want to play HD H.264 on a console, get a 360. Or I think the PS3 should work as well.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by meatspray ( 59961 )
                PS3 + TVersity ( makes a fantastic media server.
                • That's excellent news. Now when it gets some games that are worth more than two squirts of piss, I might be interested. Oh and maybe some online play that isn't wretched.
            • Re:hint hint (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Calmiche ( 531074 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @04:55PM (#21869698)
              Which is why the XBMC Team is porting the software to Linux. It's actually quite a good ways along now. It doesn't have a final release scheduled for anytime in the near future, but the beta versions are VERY impressive. I know several people who are using it as a stable home media server and are using 1080p videos (Albeit with multi-core Intel systems with hardcore hardware.)

              It's being designed with Ubuntu in mind and already has very good hardware support.

              They are working on a direct port right now and as soon as they have that stable, they are going to start adding features like time shifting, video recording, etc...
              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Calmiche ( 531074 )
                Woops. Sorry... Forgot what I was going to originally post.

                The Wii isn't much more powerful than an original Xbox, and in some ways is less powerful. There is no chance that it will be able to play high definition any better than an Apple TV can. (Meaning it CAN, but it's not pretty or fast. Anything with lots of colors or moving objects will bring the system to it's knees.)

                Nah, a nice Linux box with good hardware is the wave of the future, as far as high definition personal home media distribution ser
                • Nah, a nice Linux box with good hardware is the wave of the future, as far as high definition personal home media distribution servers are concerned. (Don't get me started on the joke of Windows Vista's media center PC's.)
                  Care to explain how these are any different than a ordinary server?

                  You're not actually putting all of your decoding hardware in one box in your basement, are you?
                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by Calmiche ( 531074 )
                    Sorry. I think I mixed up some words there. Maybe it would help if I described what I'm using.

                    What I have right now are a couple of low end server machines running Linux Ubuntu, with RAID 1 redundancy. (I'm up to 4+ terabytes.) They each have a gigabit Ethernet card, running through my network router. I've got a wireless router, but it isn't really fast enough for multiple media players, so I have wired connections to three media PC's. The first is a Xbox with XBMC. The second is an XBMC Linux Machin
                    • If you could go into a little detail on your system setup that would be great. At home I just run XBMC off my Xbox and stream from my computer, but I'm thinking about something a little more dedicated for the future. Like what are the specs of your Linux XBMC machine, are you running Ubuntu on it, can you recommend any forums or sites to check out. Thanks.
        • I'd like it if you could play streaming audio on the Wii.

          It would be great to pull up or and listen to that on your home stereo.
          • I was working on Wii Media Server of sorts that would use the browser and flash plugin to let you play mp3 files hosted from an apache server on your Wii. I was originally working on it for the purpose of streaming video to the Wii, but it also supported Audio. It ended up working quite well from what I remember. The reason I stopped working on it was because the video quality was quite terrible.
          • You can. I wrote custom web-based software to stream MP3s from my machine downstairs to my Wii using a simple little Flash player. Specifically, the one from the Audio Player plugin for Wordpress. You can do the same with FLV videos, too.
        • You can already use the Wii as a frontend to a media server. Tversity [] can convert any video to FLV and stream it to the Wii. It has a nice flash interface, and you can also use it to display pictures and play mp3s located on your PC (via the Opera web browser). It's also free, which is good, as it has its limitations:

          - Configuration options are a bit limited (no choice of framerate, for example).

          - My Wii is connected by 801.11b, which limits quality of the videos (from what I can tell). I have the video
          • "- I was watching a 90 minute video yesterday and the Opera browser gave me an "Out of memory" message about 85 minutes into the show. I'm not sure if higher resolutions or bitrates would fill the memory faster."

            This is an off-the-cuff guess, but I imagine what's going on is FLV files get cached as they're downloaded so you can seek through them. If I'm right, you're probably stuck unless there is a way to get Opera to cache to an SD card or USB drive. (Given the nature of the console, that doesn't strike
          • by gatzke ( 2977 )
            Orb is another system that turns the wii into a nice media center frontend. Problem is, all your video, pics, and music have to go through the orb servers, so no tinfoil hats allowed.

            Slick interface, but the video is a bit limited.

            I am dreaming of a Wii 1080p DVD+bluray+HDDVD box... The wii "OS" interface is about the only thing slicker than the Tivo IMHO.
        • Look at Tversity. Transcodes on the fly to multiple destinations (both hardware and software). Full support for the Wii web browser is on it's list. I've done some tests with the h.264 videos on my machine and exporting them to my Wii. It worked as advertised.
      • "It's true that homebrew stuff invariably winds up getting used for software piracy."

        Yeah like Nintendo needs to worry about software piracy, since they only have the top selling console for the past year, having outsold both PS3 and Xbox360 consoles by factors of 2:1 [], and they're the only console maker that actually makes a profit from the consoles [], $49 for every console sold in the US.

        So no matter how much software someone pirated Nintendo still made $49 off that Wii bought in the US.
      • Who do you think you are really "proclaiming" the majority use of a system.
        You sound just like those congressmen who proclaim "p2p and the internet are just dens of piracy, we should shut them down and replace them with tv 2.0", then introduce monstrosities like the "induce act" and the DMCA

        ever heard of XBMC?

        Everyone I know used it on their moded xbox

        It makes the token piece of #$@ they put into the 360 look like it was coded by lemurs.

        I can't wait for at least one of these consoles to be fully opened to x
        • Who do you think you are really "proclaiming" the majority use of a system.

          Just a regular guy who's not too stubborn or pragmatic to accept the obvious?

          I'm saying piracy is common, not that everybody, or even the majority, does it. And I'm saying that the hardware manufacturers who make piracy easy (people who make things like R4DS, etc.) mostly stand on the shoulders of the homebrew community - and everybody therefore takes it for granted that homebrew = piracy - despite the fact that the homebrew folks generally want nothing to do with it. And so (news flash!) I told people n

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pilot1 ( 610480 )

      And the majority of these homebrew games look like retail games, except they're free.

      Actually, the Wii has been hacked to allow pirated games for about a year (it was presented at the previous CCC). This new hack will eventually allow people to run unsigned code, whereas the previous hack did not. Basically all the old hack did was provide a way to trick the Wii into thinking that burned DVDs were originals (current modchips sit between the DVD drive and the motherboard to intercept the "is this DVD real?" signal), but the content on the DVD still needed to be digitally signed by Nintendo.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      All I want is the thing to ignore the region on the disc so import games work.
  • Considering how many of the games on this console are minigames, there is the very real possibility that some of the homebrew stuff could end up being as good as the regular games. Bad news for Nintendo, good news for Wii gamers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe not bad news for Nintendo.

      Game consoles have never interested me, but I'd get one if it was hackable enough to run my own programs with full access to all the interesting bits of the hardware.

      I suppose once I owned a game console, then I'd probably end up with a game or two. So maybe not bad news for Nintendo.
      • Then get yourself a Nintendo DS (140) and R4DS(50). That how God's intended portable gaming should be: you can download and play rips of official games - including ones not released in your region; you can download and play homebrew games; you can play MP3s and DPGs (DS's version of MPEG1 video).

        More games, cheaper than Wii, easy to buy (compared to Wii in US) and best of all - it's portable ^_^

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
      I don't really think it's that bad for Nintendo. Since they actually make money from the console, and this would just add an extra selling point, it would just mean more profit for Nintendo.
      • That's a good point. Sony and Microsoft lose money on consoles that are never used to play purchased games.
      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
        Yeah, but they would also stand to lose a helluva lot in game licensing too. Selling a few more consoles at this point really doesn't mean much to them (since they're already selling them as fast as they can make them). But having small developers suddenly able to bypass their licensing fees could cost them real $.
        • But most homebrew are for areas that Nintendo either has no or very little interest in developing such as emulators (sure the VC is great, except games are released at a snails pace and only 4 import games yet) and media such as DVD playback along with more media support or even running Linux on it. Most homebrew titles also (for the DS) don't have the quality of retail games, nor enough replay value to pay $20-50 for.
    • by pembo13 ( 770295 )
      how exactly is this bad news for Nintendo?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by acidrain69 ( 632468 )
      I don't really see it as bad for Nintendo. The PS1 was easily hackable, and it did extremely well. The PS2, not quite as hackable early on, but with the release of HDAdvance and the Mr Brown code exploit, it became easier to hack than the PS1. Don't forget about swap magic. The PS2 has done so well that Sony is continuing to sell and support them. The XBox was another relatively easily hacked machines, with early plugin chips, later solder chips and soft-modding. It also has done extremely well (although Mi
      • The wii has had modchips for a ages. Nintendo has though basically squashed it for the time being, because they made it so hard to mod that few will bother (d2ckey requires to you solder about 20 lines directly onto surface mounted chips - not something I'd recommend anyone without a hell of a lot of experience to attempt).
      • by Mike89 ( 1006497 )
        Since when didn't the N64 do well? Wikipedia says it sold 'Worldwide: 32.93 million' (units).. I'd consider that a success (It's currently 3x more than the Wii has shipped)
        • by edwdig ( 47888 )
          The N64 had two problems:

          1) It bombed horribly in Japan. At that point in time, the Japanese market had a much bigger influence on gaming than it does now (EA & Ubisoft were much smaller than the are now, for starters, and MS wasn't in the market). Also, with Nintendo being a Japanese company, they generally care more about doing well in Japan than they do about the rest of the world.

          2) It sold great for about 3 years, then sales slowed to a crawl. Lots of games were released for it early on, but develo
  • Smart Thinking (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:25PM (#21868816) Homepage

    I love the way they did, it shows good ingenuity. If you watch the video, they explain that they can get into GameCube compatibility mode (what is used for GC style home brew) but that the ATI chip acts as a gateway to the extended RAM and other new neat stuff (SD card slot, BlueTooth, etc.).

    By physically tying address lines on the memory chips, they could circumvent the address lock and read areas of memory they shouldn't be able to. Through this, they dumped the RAM though the controller ports (using them as serial ports) and were able to pick through it and start decoding it to find things like the signature that let them break out.

    Very neat. I love reading about this kind of stuff.

    It will be very interesting to see what people do with this. I never really heard about any interesting XBox homebrew, just running Linux and XBMC type stuff. Ditto with the 'cube. But the Wii should prove interesting.

    • Emulators remain very popular Xbox homebrew applications. It is usually nicer than playing on a PC since the game is shown on a television and controlled with a real controller. Even though the Xbox controller isn't identical to whatever system you're trying to emulate, it beats the pants off using a PC keyboard.
    • by noz ( 253073 )

      I never really heard about any interesting XBox homebrew ...
      Mate at the very least you'd be interested in Super Mario War []. Like most homebrew games: not the sexiest graphics, but suprisingly good, and fun.
    • Buy "Hacking the Xbox" by Andrew Huang. It is a very good read.
      It was very interesting how they got homebrew running on the original xbox.
      He narrowed down which chip the key might be stored on and knew where it needed to go.
      He built a device which read the traffic on the bus while the xbox was booting up.
      The key was stored in there.
      He knew what kind of key it was because he got a ROM reader and disassembled the code.
      After that he used a sliding window attack on the captured data and found what they needed.
  • Doesn't this mean someone can produce a pressed disk that the Wii thinks is the real deal and all the disk does is unlock the system so we can "possibly" run software off memory sticks, external disk, or swap the disk itself?

    I understand they can revoke the encryption key with an update but if certain games only had one key, wouldn't revoking the key break the older games? And couldn't they just dump the memory again to find the new key?

    From what Ive read so far on this hack. It seems it can be as eas
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sangui ( 1128165 )
      They can't revoke the encryption key because it's a hardware thing. And no, you still need a Drive chip like a Wiikey or a D2Ckey before you can run this, unless they end up doing something like Swap Magic. The Dreamcast was pretty much shipped with Debug mode on, which is why you could just burn a cd and it would run. If you chip your Wii, which you'll need to do anyway, you can just use the one for the GC. It's got every game for the SNES, NES, and a few other old systems. Gotta use the GC controller t
      • The Dreamcast didn't ship in Debug mode. That would have been very easy to fix. The Dreamcast was busted open because of a function that let people put DC content on otherwise normal music CDs. Once someone figured out how to replicate the code, the Dreamcast was cracked.
  • USB. (Score:5, Funny)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @03:33PM (#21868908)
    The most useful thing that could be done with this is to allow emulation of discs from a USB harddrive. That way I could put my originals away for protection. Yeah, that's it.
  • Botnet? (Score:2, Informative)

    Ah, so you'll be able to run unsigned code on your Wii, which is connected to the internet 24 hours a day.

    I can't wait for my Wii to get compromised. Awesome.

    (Yes, I have a firewall, which - statistically speaking - is better than yours.)
  • All I want is a wired LAN adapter that works. I accidentally bought one of the third-party adapters (curse you Best Buy- stocking a knockoff clone in trademark-infringing packaging immediately adjacent to the real Nintendo gear), which worked pretty well for the ten minutes it took to download the update that killed my online access. :-(
  • Not Steil and Domke (Score:4, Informative)

    by kju ( 327 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @04:06PM (#21869226)
    The hack was NOT presented by Steil and Domke. It was only presented at the end of their talk about xbox360 security at the CCC Congress. But the actual hack was presented by another person which name i don't know.
    • by makomk ( 752139 )
      The hack is actually by bushing and some other guys. There's an interview at [].
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bushing ( 20804 )
      Steil and Domke (tmbinc) were nice enough to lend me a few minutes part of their Xbox360 presentation -- it served as a footnote to their discussion of the importance of memory protection.

      I am the one talking for about five minutes in the YouTube video; although I wrote the software that actually modified the disc image to run unsigned code, I had a considerable amount of help over the past several months from tmbinc, Sii, Costis, and adhs. (tmbinc was the only other one who attended the conference, and h
  • GC HomeBrew Already works. []

    The breakthrough here is giving the GameCube HomeBrew Scene access to the Wii's unique features (Motion Sensitive Controllers shown in video)

  • It's just like the PSP situation all over again. People pretend they're using the hack for "homebrew" when the vast majority are using it to play pirate software. If it's a software only hack Nintendo is screwed.
  • Gamecube Homebrew has been on the Wii for ages using the SD Media Launcher. the list of homebrew thats works on Gamecube and Wii is an impressive one. Heres the full list from the Gamecube Emulation Site [] Arcade Midway Space Invadors Emulator XMame (GC Linux) Atari 2600 StellaGC Chip 8 Chip 8 Emulator Dotriem Dotriem Emulator GBC Gameboy Emulator GnuBoyGX GBA GBAEmuPlus VBA Genesis Genesis Plus Master System SMS Plus Neo CD NeoCD Redux Neo Geo Pocket Neopop Nes FCE Ultra
    • Unfortunately the first think Nintendo did with their firmware updates after the SD launcher came out was to push out a new firmware which rendered it useless.
      Btw. Nintendo still has not added scalers to their emus, so that the Virtual console is basically useless on many modern lcd tvs with older games.
      The emus launched via SD launcher had them in.

      According to rumors on the net there is a new version out which works again, but before I drop down any more money into Datels mouth I am going to wait how stabl

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