XMB + OpenSource = Greatness

on September 7, 2009 12:49 PM

The PlayStation 3 can probably be considered one of the most customizable consoles on the market. A lot of this doesn’t apply to the new Slim sku which can’t run any OS’s now. With the ability to upgrade your HDD, use external USB devices, Bluetooth peripherals, install open source operating systems (Linux/Unix) and freely customize your own XMB theme, the PS3 gives users a freedom of choice that was never previously established in console gaming until this generation. Not to say that it’s really “open” in the sense where programmers, like myself, don’t really have the ability to access any hardware acceleration in the RSX because of restrictions by a hypervisor (software systems that run directly on the PS3 as a hardware control and guest operating system monitor) in the available Linux/Unix flavors; this limits any 3D operations that can be done on the PS3 whilst running Linux. But gamers don’t really need to worry about crap like that. That’s reserved more for the bewildered geeks that get a stiffy trying to comprehend the internal workings of any system – let alone the PS3.

But what if Sony took off the shackles currently limiting user control of the PS3? What if Sony decided to give users the ability to fully customize and control their interactivity and interface? To finally change that sonata chime at start-up to something more you (not to say that the start-up chime is bad. It’s pleasing). I’d tell you what would happen – greatness, my friends, would be defined in a whole new way.

http://loot-ninja.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifThe PS3’s XMB is where user’s graphically interact with the console in order to access a variety of categories which, obviously, affects your overall experience (i.e. listen to music, view pictures, videos, settings, launch games, etc). PS3 owners have always dreamt of being given the ability to fully customize their interface – themes aside – to something much more unique or personal. “Can it be done?” is the question that has always perplexed us. Giving open source coders the access to freely hack away at the XMB might not only lighten some load off of Sony’s shoulders, but also provide independent community input and implementation.

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I’m curious to know whether or not the XMB layout can easily be altered by making some changes on a local file. And, if not, if it could be made to do so. From experience, certain menu-based interfaces can sometimes be customized by making changes to a configuration file. If the PS3’s XMB workings are anything near the PSP XMB, then there’s room to work on. But, the big honchos made sure that the PS3 was tamper-proof; at least for the moment, that is.

This is where Sony has room to expand. Programmers can be given the option to utilize and develop openly on the PS3, and a community-based rating system – monitored by Sony – can dictate whether or not the project is worth implementing in a future update or on the fly, via download, on a system resembling the PlayStation Store in the Network section of the XMB (called “PlayStation en Clair” or something).

There are already people out there trying their best to remodel the face of the XMB into something more dynamic or pretty-lookin’. That’s nifty and I would love to be able to fully customize the layout of my XMB. But I would love to be able to do more productive things as well; Like have the ability – without the use of any external resources – to add E-mail support embedded in the XMB (I would love to be able to see email messages arrive while I’m playing my games – of course, that option can be changed if it becomes an annoyance), add a Develop icon in the XMB which allows gamers or enthusiasts (like Microsoft’s XNA) to, again, locally develop applications, or games, using the PS3’s resources and hardware (doesn’t need to be anything accessing the complex Cell processor(s)) on an IDE platform inside that very same category. There’s tons of ideas that can be implemented and thought of that can enhance a user’s experience beyond what we currently have.

Of course, I’m not going to sit my ass here and assume that development on the PlayStation 3 is anything near shit like programming on PC architecture – that’s obvious. But I’m pretty sure, with the amount of open source developers willingly wanting to code on the platform, shit would probably get done much quicker and information on the hardware can flow and be comprehended at faster levels, probably. Imagine that the PS3 was launched giving developers the independence to code whatever the hell they wanted; things like in-game XMB and cross-over voice chat would have probably been here. The sheer number of open source developers shatters the team Sony currently has in place (and I am extremely grateful for their efforts). A couple of thousand people, each putting in their own ideas and touching up code to perfection, undoubtedly, increases the pace that software is released and code stability. That’s what makes open source, undeniably, great.

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The PS3 is due for a system that allows users to really create homebrew games and allow users to share their creations freely, or by price tag, with the PlayStation community. I’m really surprised that, with how much Sony supports open source, some things have yet to be carried out.

Look at the shit done on the PSP. It’s amazing. Not everything is useful, but the fact that you are given options is what makes it, not only versatile, but just awesome. The fact that the PSP lacks in the game department can, by some, be easily disregarded because of having the option of playing emulators on it instead.

The things that the PS3 is capable of is just phenomenal. Some you might think that the idea is just ridiculous, but having the ability to develop on the PS3 without any restrictions, I can guarantee, would throttle the console forward beyond belief. Giving the community the responsibility (with the help of Sony’s professional moderation) and the option of choice would allow for a more stable system, not to mention a fluent release of proposed applications/projects that we can exercise into our gaming niches. This is the chance for Sony to take action and go where no other console has gone before.

 /  Co-Founder
Born and raised in New York City, Yaris is one of three co-founders at DualShockers. Gaming since the inception of Nintendo in the 80's, he has grown to avidly appreciate games of every genre, maturing his preference specifically now to third-person action games, first-person shooters and JRPGs. He's a software engineer, father and husband during the day, and mildly attempts to hold onto his "hardcore gamer" title during the evenings. An attempt that he tends to fail miserably at.