To the surprise of many PlayStation fans, a surprise system firmware update is being rolled out to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita devices as of May 10th. This update disabled the ability to create PlayStation Network accounts, but there is more to the story. This update has brought the vast majority of our Project Lighthouse LittleBigPlanet custom server beta testing project to a screeching halt. Let's talk about what the update does and where we go from here.
What is a Firmware Update?
Occasionally, computers need to be updated to fix bugs, add new features, and make other changes. It's actually quite interesting that the PlayStation 3 is still receiving software updates after 16 years since its original launch! The PlayStation Vita was released in late 2011, meaning it's still receiving software updates after about 10 or 11 years.
The last time the PlayStation 3 was 11 months ago on June 4th, 2021 with update 4.88 during the midst of the LittleBigPlanet server shutdown crisis.
PS3 4.89 and PS Vita 3.74
On May 10th, 2022, the PlayStation 3 and Vita updates were rolled out. The official update page on their website was also updated. The update only requires about 200 MB of free storage space to complete.
The most notable change of the update is the fact that the PlayStation 3 no longer supports creating PSN accounts and some account management features.
To create a PSN account, users will have to go online to create one. To login to PSN, users will have to generate a 'device password'. This is a one-time-setup key that a user can create while signed into PSN on their computer. This helps keep your account and PSN services more secure. You will only have to do this once.
Bad News for Lighthouse
This software update is bad news for the Union Space Corps (USC). The USC is the LBP Union's Project Lighthouse LittleBigPlanet custom server beta testing team working on testing our instance of the server. This morning at 8:45 AM EDT, USC Starblazer Turecross posted this update informing the team of the update and its effect on our project:
As one of the leaders of the Union Space Corps team, Turecross works weekly to help new Cadets connect to Lighthouse so that they can be promoted to the Scout rank to assist the beta testing effort. I asked Turecross about some of the details to help understand why the new PlayStation 3 and Vita software update affects our work.
"PSN does not let users log in if their PS3 is not on the latest system version," Turecross explains. "Custom or hybrid firmware is required to run games with modified EBOOT.BIN files (like LittleBigPlanet with Lighthouse). Since there are currently no custom/hacked firmware versions for the 4.89 update, there's no way to run those modified files."
Lighthouse Beta Testing Pause
According to USC Starblazer Arcadius, "basically half of the beta testing team just straight up cannot test anymore." In fact, 68% of the Union Space Corps used PlayStation 3 hardware in March 2022.
Toffi, a Cadet and Deputy Peacekeeper on the LBP Union Discord server, described that he felt "Kinda angry. It took me 1 to 2 hours to download hybrid firmware to my PS3. After the team was able to help me finally get to the point where my game was patched correctly, the system update was rolled out and I wasn't able to play."
The good news is that hope isn't lost! The bad news is that there just might be some waiting that needs to be done. According to LBP Union Research & Development team Lead Developer Acidiclight (formerly known as Alklnthndr), "both PS3 and Vita consoles require you to be on the latest firmware to connect to PlayStation Network." He goes on to explain that this is "a security practice that forces you to update in case they've fixed a critical vulnerability."
I also asked USC Starblazer Salamni about this topic as well. Salamni explains that there actually is something that beta testers can do to continue using PlayStation Network to connect to Lighthouse. He explains that a technique called 'spoofing' can be used. However, he explains isn't safe. It's possible that a console can be banned from PSN for spoofing its software version. However, on the PlayStation Vita side of things, Turecross encourages Vita users to spoof their software version.
New Hybrid and Custom Firmware
Based on this insight, it's clear that we'll need to wait for new modified firmware to be released before the majority of the Union Space Corps can continue testing Lighthouse. Salamni explains that the main people responsible for these are the developers behind Homebrew Enabler (HEN) and xXEvilnatXx. In fact, Evilnat has already pledged to work on the update as soon as possible:
Salamni explains that "homebrew developers usually look into this as fast as they can and release a new update from a week to a month or two. HEN is usually quicker with their updates." This means our team likely won't have to wait long to get back online.
What About RPCS3 Players?
The new PS3 and Vita firmware updates have not affected RPCS3 emulators in any way. Acidiclight explains that "RPCN (the emulator's version of PSN) and PSN are separate, and your RPCN account is managed through the emulator itself - rather than the firmware you have installed" he explains. This means that the small percentage of our team that uses RPCS3 are unaffected by the new update.
What Happens Now
Lighthouse development will continue as usual, but beta testing is stalled until a reliable solution can be found. Most of our team utilizes homebrew enabler due to its ease of installation. Once a new version of HEN is developed and found to be safe, we'll be able to get our team updated and back online.
Despite these obstacles, we are committed to testing and developing Lighthouse into a safe, open-source platform for fans of LittleBigPlanet to enjoy online once again on PlayStation 3 and Vita.
Thank you for reading! We appreciate your support and we're excited to bring more beta testers online this year. Please support us by sharing this article with a friend and leaving a comment with your thoughts down below! You can also join our Discord server to stay up to date with our latest announcements and events. You can also follow us on Twitter.