Project Lighthouse | March 2022 Dev Log #3

LBP Union and Project Lighthouse are not affiliated with Sony Computer Entertainment or their subsidiaries. Project Lighthouse is a clean room reverse engineering project of now defunct PlayStation 3 and Vita LittleBigPlanet online features. No proprietary code is distributed. Under no circumstances will we endorse or support piracy. You must have your own copy of the game in order to use the custom features once they become available. When using these features, you release Sony Computer Entertainment (Sony) as well as any employees or agents of Sony, from any and all liability, corporate, or personal loss caused to you or others by the use of Lighthouse custom servers for LittleBigPlanet.

Hello again, everyone! I’m jvyden, lead developer of Project Lighthouse. We’ve been very busy with development this past month since the last dev log in February. A lot of great progress has been made in feature enhancements, beta testing, and security. Let’s talk about some of the latest improvements and news with Project Lighthouse custom servers for LittleBigPlanet PS3 and Vita.

Firstly, be sure to go check out the original article about Lighthouse for an overview about how we are building our custom servers for LittleBigPlanet.

Union Space Corps Open Enlistment | Apply for Closed Beta Testing

One of the most important things we have to share with you all is that this month we have been expanding the Union Space Corps Lighthouse beta testing program. Over the course of March we have been bringing on 10 random users who enlisted in the beta testing waitlist, giving them the opportunity to help us test the server. We are hoping to extend this program into April, but we aren’t sure about the exact details yet. You can enlist in the Union Space Corps beta testing waitlist on our Discord server.

The goal of the Union Space Corps is to not only give people the chance to play LittleBigPlanet online again for PS3, RPCS3, and Vita, but also to help identify possible vulnerabilities that may be debilitating for a public instance of Lighthouse. This server will be attacked or abused in the future, and we want to safeguard it as much as we can to keep risk at a minimum. Our philosophy is that we must create software as if someone is actively trying to break it. That way we’ll be prepared when something does go wrong.

Launching with Lighthouse

Union Space Corps cadets that are chosen to beta test are given some instructions on how to modify their PlayStation or set up their emulator. Union Patcher is improving significantly and has been helping cadets patch their games faster than ever with a new version of the software called UnionRemotePatcher by another one of our lead developers, LoganTGT.

This patcher allows you to remotely patch your game via an Internet connection (FTP) with your PS3 so that you don’t need to go through extra steps to decrypt, patch, and re-encrypt your game. This eliminates one of the largest barriers to entry for playing LittleBigPlanet online in 2022.

Research and Development Team Expands

We are very excited to welcome Slendy to the R&D team. Slendy has been immensely helpful with various enhancements with Lighthouse, such as search features on the website, scoreboard enhancements, and more.

Scoreboard Fixes

One troubling issue that was on our backlog was the fact that scoreboards weren’t working right with Lighthouse. Specifically, there would often be an error where the scoreboard would read ‘score upload failed!’ This feature wasn’t working quite right until Slendy came along and fixed it! This issue was exclusively for the player submitting the score. The score would be submitted, but they wouldn’t be able to see it when they completed the level. Now scores on Lighthouse work just fine.

We were struggling with this for some time due to missing packet captures that would give us hints about how the score uploads to the server. However, Slendy was able to use a different XML tag found in the game’s EBOOT that fixed the problem.

Review Fixes

Originally, we weren’t able to get reviews to function correctly on Lighthouse. Our initial workaround was to have an auto-generated review that users would have to edit so that their review would be added to the level. However, Slendy was able to help us fix this so that reviews function just like they do on the official servers.

Grief Reports

Another feature that Slendy helped us add was a grief report page on the admin panel of the website. This isn’t working for all games yet, but it allows us to see grief reports sent by players without them having to report the issue to us on Discord.

Comment Improvements

Slendy was also able to help bring comment functionality to levels and users. You can also submit comments on the website which is a feature that was never available on the official servers. Comment ratings are also available so that you can have fun ratioing your friends.

Comment posting on the website does require some improvements, like the ability to delete comments from the website. Being able to post content and interact with Lighthouse from the website are features we need to be very careful of, as these could be potential gateways toward abuse of the server. These are features we are continuing to improve.

Username Constraints

On the LBP Union testing instance, admins must create accounts for users manually. However, on a public instance, the user would be able to choose their own username. Because of this, we almost missed a troubling issue: there was no limit to the number of characters that a username could be. This means a user could create an account with hundreds or thousands of characters! This could lead to spam, so we managed to fix this issue by adding constraints to usernames. Remember, as of right now, we do not endorse running a public instance of Lighthouse because we can’t guarantee security or stability.

Platform Matching

The Lighthouse website can show you which game a particular level was published in, as seen below.

More importantly, a more debilitating problem that we have been running into is that Dive In will occasionally attempt to connect a player on PlayStation 3 to a user on the RPCS3 emulator. These two platforms are not compatible yet since RPCS3 does not support the multiplayer P2P protocol that PS3 uses. When diving into an RPCS3 player’s pod, the connection will fail for a PS3 user. The RPCS3 user experiences a crash. Not very fun!

To fix this, Dive In on Lighthouse uses platform matching to ensure that users are paired with someone with the same platform and game as them.

Lighthouse Rich Presence

Have you ever wanted to let people know on Discord what you’re up to in LBP? Now you can! I built a mostly-work-in-progress-not-really-i-guess-its-closer-to-a-proof-of-concept-this-is-getting-long Discord Rich Presence tool that lets you display your current activity as what you’re doing in LBP on Lighthouse!

API Enhancements

We have significantly improved the API of Project Lighthouse over the past month or so which is what makes Lighthouse Rich Presence possible. This is a read-only API that allows Discord to see what you’re doing on Lighthouse and display it on by your avatar. This API could be used for further read-only integrations in the future like Discord bots and other kinds of feeds that react to activity on Lighthouse.

LittleBigPlanet Vita Testing Begins

We have begun testing LittleBigPlanet Vita. With this step, we have actually outdone the original servers. The old server required that there be two different servers. One for Vita, and one for PS3/PS4. Lighthouse, however, has combined the functionality and quirks of Vita and PS3 into the same server, allowing for one profile on one server. Levels aren’t compatible of course, but things like photos are mostly compatible.

However, Vita has a rather interesting quirk: the format for user-generated images is PNG, instead of the PS3 games’ TEX format. Vita makes no attempt to differentiate these formats, and so it will try to read TEX data as if it were a PNG, as shown here:

Turecross321 attempting to look at my profile with primarily PS3 content.

It doesn’t go very well.

PS3, however, does differentiate file types, and thus can read TEX and PNG flawlessly.

Admin Panel Redesign

The admin panel for the Lighthouse website has been redesigned. The goal of the admin panel is to provide instance admins with easy access to valuable controls like creating and deleting accounts, password resets, seeing grief reports, and more.

The admin panel also shows an at a glance view of instance analytics like the number of accounts, levels, photos, and reports.

Security Enhancements

One of the most important things we have been concerned with is security for Lighthouse. To help prevent automated ‘brute force’ attacks on user accounts by bots, we implemented a CAPTCHA system. It’s a bit annoying to have to select every seaplane in a list when you log in or some other assortment of objects, but it beats having your account compromised.

It’s important to note that while hCaptcha has accessibility options for visually impaired users, it’s not a perfect system and its accessibility features do not work as well as advertised. We want to make sure using Lighthouse is as accessible as possible, so we are always considering other options for protecting user accounts from automated attacks.

In addition, new users are required to verify their email in order to use the site. This is the first step toward multimodal account security. Our ultimate goal is to incorporate multi-factor authentication for users in the future as an option to improve the security of your account. This will be critical for safeguarding admin accounts.

Moving Forward

As we move forward over the course of the next few months, we are going to focus much more on stress testing the system for vulnerabilities and exploits. This will require expansion of our beta testing program, and we are planning to attempt to break Lighthouse ourselves to discover those vulnerabilities. If you’re interested in lending us a hand, please join our Discord server today and enlist in the Union Space Corps beta testing waitlist.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions about the status of Project Lighthouse please leave a comment down below. Make sure to share our articles with your friends as well to spread the word about the next generation of LittleBigPlanet on PS3 and Vita!

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