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Interview: Ben Heck Answers Your Questions

samzenpus posted 1 year,9 days | from the with-a-little-help-from-ben dept.

Games 44

A while ago you had the chance to ask gamer and console modder extraordinaire Ben Heck about his favorite mods, hacks, and what he sees coming in the future. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.Closed ecosystem
by i kan reed

By attempting to inject openness into an intentionally closed ecosystem, do you see yourself as an enabler to that closed ecosystem?

That is to say, open standards are the default on modular personal computers, and almost invariably not present on video game consoles. By giving people who want flexibility a means to use consoles, do you see yourself as inflating those markets and doing long-term harm to actual open systems?


Ben: In terms of consoles, there is a reason the system is closed. Having a closed system is a strength, really, because even when a console comes out, the tech is already a year or two old. By making a closed system, developers know exactly what they can get out of it. It is not a moving target like a PC or a Mac and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

As far as hacking is concerned, we are just physically hacking things, not changing the file system or putting in strange mods. The system itself has not inherently changed; therefore, the act of hacking is not as harmful or potentially dangerous.



Design Workflow
by HideyoshiJP

Ben, When you're generally designing enclosures for your hacked consoles, do you tend to start with an overall design first, or do you start designing around the mainboards and then attempt to make things look nice later in the design process?

Ben: The first thing I do is design the component going inside of it. A hacked console can only be as small as its largest component. Usually, a console will contain a large component, or problem part, like a disk drive or hard drive so I find that part and work around it. Then I make it look nice. If the design is not perfect, I try to make the limitations look like features.



Ever get any Law suits / DMCA / banned issues with
by Joe_Dragon

Ever get any Law suits / DMCA / banned issues with the hacks?

Ben: This hasn’t been an issue.



What's missing from consoles?
by Anonymous Coward

What new features or technologies do you do see missing from the current gaming systems that you believe would beneficial, and why?

Ben: I don’t know how much is missing, but it would be great if the new gaming consoles had mouse and keyboard control. Currently, mouse and keyboard control lies strictly in the realm of PCs.

Some sort of expandability might be nice, but the consoles do quite a lot of cool stuff as they are. When the 360 and the PS3 were launched, all they really did was play games and now, eight years later, you can rent movies and stream things from your other devices. A ton of functionality has been added. Other than that, it might be nice to have a better way to charge the controllers.

Ultimately, and more generally, consoles need to be cognizant of smartphones and tablets. Devices like those have a certain functionality that people enjoy. Consumers have higher expectations now and consoles need to live up to those expectations. For example, my Android phone updates apps automatically so that, when I need to open something, I don’t need to wait around. Consoles could benefit from having something like that, although I believe they have made strides in this area.



Best input device?
by martiniturbide

What do you think it is the best input device that you used for consoles? Why?

Ben: There are certain types of games that I like playing on consoles and certain types that I like playing on a PC. Fast, twitchy shooter games are better on a PC because you have a mouse and the control is much better. A mouse is a fixed point so in a shooter game, for example, you can aim up and hold the position. Trying to replicate that sensation in the living room with a controller or joystick in your hand is more difficult because it calls for larger motions which exert more energy.

Valve has a new controller that they are trying but ultimately bringing a mouse into the living room, in terms of offering the same sort of position control, would be the Holy Grail.



Weirder/non-common Input device?
by martiniturbide

Which one is the weirder/non-common input device that you used? Any comments about it, why did you like it or not?

Ben: Well, I remember all of the weird stuff that we had in the late 80s and early 90s such as the Power Glove and UForce. The Power Glove was this ridiculous glove that you put on and played your Nintendo with but it had some interesting tech. The Wii, for example, uses some of that same sensor tech.

UForce, which was a device that you used to punch in the air and play Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, sort of reminds me of Leap Motion. It’s interesting to see the technology behind the weird things I remember playing with come back around.



space
by freeze128

When adding functionality to existing products that are made of molded plastic, what do you do when you just don't have enough room?

Ben: You make it bigger! No, but seriously, you can use smaller components, such as surface mounts or smaller wires, that normally would not be used. You have to think of different ways to solve the problem. Change the design or develop a clever work around. If that doesn’t work, you could always remove extra things from the component, like a rumble pack, or shave down the circuit boards. There is almost always something you can remove.

Generally, though, I wouldn’t start something unless I knew that I could finish it.



Any plans to improve your current designs?
by twocows

I looked into the Access Controller a while back for my mom (she doesn't get out much and she has a tremor in her right hand), it looks like it might be good for turn-based games, but the design doesn't seem like it would work well for anything requiring real time input on both analogs. I don't know if it's even possible to improve on that design in that way, but more generally, I was just wondering if you have any plans to go back and look at ways of improving some of the older hacks and designs you've done?

Ben: Right now, I’m working on some accessibility controller mods for the next generation. I’m using my 3D printer to develop better ways to make them, but a lot of the hacks for the old media consoles have become irrelevant and are not worth going back to.

There are some projects I’ve done on element14’s The Ben Heck Show that I would like to revisit. I would love to get the automatic can crusher to work. The Raspberry Pi portable gaming system is one that I would go back and revisit. If anything, though, I prefer to keep going forward rather than go back and re-do things – to take my good ideas and progress them.



clay + sculpting...
by Fubari

About the "clay" you use for sculpting (I've always thought of you as an artist + sculptor): Any tech you wished was mainstream, or maybe soon to invented, that you'd like to sculpt with? Any older more retro components that are limiting what projects you'd like to do? p.s. Love your work, followed for a while here & Engadget.

Ben: I wish there would some sort of printable circuit board, like a desktop printer for circuit boards or something that a 3D printer would make. Making PCBs is still a matter of sending away to get the boards. Some people etch boards themselves but that is a lot of work. I would like to push a button and make a circuit board right on my desk.

In terms of older, more retro components that get in the way, maybe the larger through-hole things. For example, if you’re trying to hack down a motherboard and you have an Ethernet port stacked on top of two USB ports, something like that takes up a lot of space. If anything, things keep getting smaller and smaller so it’s less of a problem.



Effect of new hardware design trends
by Sockatume

Computer hardware is tending to be more and more integrated and consolidated, not just within each console generation (the first PS2 eventually consolidated the GPU and CPU in one component) but between generations (the PS4 launches with a single component for GPU and CPU). Does this help you hack by giving you a smaller device, or does it hinder you by giving you less flexibility?

Ben: It sounds obvious but I would say, to some extent, both. If you look at the new video game consoles, they both have combined GPU and CPU, called APUS, so they are already consolidated quite a bit. Hacking gives insight because it allows you to see the evolution between different generations. Even if a new generation does not necessarily look different on the outside, it does inside. From what I’ve seen from these new consoles, they are quite efficiently built.

In a way, it makes it easier because the consoles are more compact and more power efficient when combining functionality.

The major thing that has changed that makes it harder to hack is the inclusion of lead-free solder. Lead-free solder is a lot harder to work with, especially if you are trying to remove components, because you need so much more heat to work with. There are times when I’ve actually used a blowtorch or hot air gun; versus 30 years ago when the old, leaded solder would come out easily from, say, a Nintendo motherboard.

Generally, though, I like how compact the consoles have become.

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Ben Heck is seriously uninteresting. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641089)

This 'interview' confirms what I'd previous believed.

Re:Ben Heck is seriously uninteresting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641239)

Your mother is a whore.

Re:Ben Heck is seriously uninteresting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641253)

Only one of you two is right.

Re:Ben Heck is seriously uninteresting. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641355)

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Re:Ben Heck is seriously uninteresting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641485)

This 'interview' confirms what I'd previous believed.

Yeah but, he sure is a hell of a guy for doing this!

Oh, sorry for my language! I mean heck of a guy!

Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (1)

StoutFiles (2471680) | 1 year,9 days | (#45641245)

Ever get any Law suits / DMCA / banned issues with the hacks? Ben: This hasn’t been an issue. (oh god I don't want to talk about that console modding is still illegal and people have been arrested for it oh god why did I agree to do this interview please jsut change the subject)

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641345)

He doesn't "mod" as in trying to break the copy protections, etc. He mods them by putting the guts of the console into new form factors or mods a controller to be more accessible. The latter does not fall under the DMCA.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

StoutFiles (2471680) | 1 year,9 days | (#45641431)

"Ars Technica also contacted the Entertainment Software Association for their thoughts on the matter. Surely there is room for consumers to modify the systems they buy if they don't pirate, right? "The technological measures that video game companies use to control or manage access to their works and to prevent unauthorized copying are essential to ensuring the viability of a vibrant video game marketplace," Ken Doroshow, ESA General Counsel & Senior Vice President, told Ars. "These technological measures protect the intellectual property rights on which video game companies depend to create and publish new games." The ESA's view is that you can't mess with your systems, no matter how benign your intention. "Circumventing these protections is never 'harmless fun,' as it erodes the foundation on which video game industry depends for its success.""

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2009/08/modder-arrest-a-reminder-that-most-console-hacks-are-illegal/ [arstechnica.com] Conflicting statements in the article, but my guess is that if a console maker wanted to sue him, they probably could, just on the basis of protecting design copyrights.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641567)

Nothing in that quote says anything about taking the guts out and putting it into something else. It clearly only talks about the copy protection schemes, etc. So again, that has NOTHING to do with what this guy does and he even explicitly says so:

As far as hacking is concerned, we are just physically hacking things, not changing the file system or putting in strange mods.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

StoutFiles (2471680) | 1 year,8 days | (#45641621)

Fine, here's another quote.

The problem is the broad nature of the DMCA makes any hack or exploit effectively illegal, even if it increases the features of the hardware without leading to piracy, or gives you the ability to do things that would normally be covered under fair use.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,8 days | (#45641771)

Context, people, context. Hack and exploit mean wildly different things in different contexts.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (1)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,8 days | (#45642097)

What? You mean sex exploitation isn't causing buffer overflows with genitalia? I think I've been doing this wrong.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641797)

Which is again not what he does. That is again talking about circumventing protections.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45646655)

You're a dumb fucking shitball.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45642709)

Even if he were messing around with copy protection, most of the systems he's hacked were from before the DMCA existed making the argument moot.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45642851)

Sorry Skippy it doesn't work that way. The first commercial DVD releases also predate the DMCA (1997 in the US) but distributing a tool for bypassing CSS is still illegal under the DMCA.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641627)

Even with all the IP articles around here I feel that I have never seen a post that goes more out of its way to try to align IP concerns with something so unrelated that it's painful to even consider. Not even the idiots who can't seperate the concepts of trademark, patent and copyright seem so ill informed.

Either you're a master troll or you're such a dullard that words don't even begin to describe...

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641877)

This specifically talks about the protections "used to manage access" and to "prevent unauthorized copying". He actually doesn't touch these protections at all.

No reason for anyone to even blink at what he does.

Nevermind the fact that doing so would be a publicity disaster as it would turn into one of those "can you believe they did that to him" things that everyone talks about.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641941)

He appears to be nothing but a troll spreading FUD which explains his 0 karma. There's no way someone that sounds otherwise quite literate could have such atrocious reading comprehension skills.

Re:Pay no attention to what I'm actually doing! (1)

jones_supa (887896) | 1 year,8 days | (#45642831)

Ever get any Law suits / DMCA / banned issues with the hacks? Ben: This hasn’t been an issue. (oh god I don't want to talk about that console modding is still illegal and people have been arrested for it oh god why did I agree to do this interview please jsut change the subject)

Let's just have him wiggle out of that question so that he can continue making awesome hacks.

Re: Any plans to improve your current designs? (1)

twocows (1216842) | 1 year,9 days | (#45641379)

Right now, I’m working on some accessibility controller mods for the next generation. I’m using my 3D printer to develop better ways to make them, but a lot of the hacks for the old media consoles have become irrelevant and are not worth going back to. There are some projects I’ve done on element14’s The Ben Heck Show that I would like to revisit. I would love to get the automatic can crusher to work. The Raspberry Pi portable gaming system is one that I would go back and revisit. If anything, though, I prefer to keep going forward rather than go back and re-do things – to take my good ideas and progress them.

I'm happy with that answer. I'm glad to see Ben is going to still be working on accessibility controller mods going forward. Using 3D printing as a design tool seems like a great idea, I look forward to seeing the results.

I'd be interested in a RasPi portable gaming system, too. If it had emulator support (even just for systems like NES, GBC, etc.) and sensible inputs, I'd probably already be sold at that point.

Re: Any plans to improve your current designs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641433)

The Pi isn't a good platform for emulators. Look for something with more horsepower. Lots of more modern Android SOC are certainly better suited and can be had nearly as cheap.

Offtopic, why do people still give Ben Heck attention? Most of his work is pretty lame.

Re: Any plans to improve your current designs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45641511)

Have any examples of better work?

his new pinball game he is working is cool (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,8 days | (#45641591)

and unlike the 1st one it is going to be made to be sold.

ben! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641601)

ben! its been a while! what the heck is going on!?

Never been too impressed (2)

kallisti5 (1321143) | 1 year,8 days | (#45641691)

I've seen quite a few Ben Heck videos, never been too impressed. It seems like a lot of what he does is using 3d printers and CNC machines, then throwing electronics into the resulting cases (not something most people can do yet due to the cost of 3d printers and CNC machines). For example, when he joined a bunch of game consoles, it seemed like more of a hack than a electronics project.

Re:Never been too impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45641939)

http://benheck.com/03-16-2010/bill-paxton-pinball [benheck.com]

Bill Paxton-themed pinball game.

Re:Never been too impressed (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,8 days | (#45643791)

Fuckin' aye!

Re:Never been too impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45643351)

Thats why this so called interview only got 28 replies in this thread. Some Slashdot editor has a hard-on for Ben 'Foreveralone' Heck. Perhaps they're trying to maintain their virginity pacts.

Re:Never been too impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45644393)

I've never been impressed with anything you have done either. Especially this lame ass comment about a very creative person sharing ideas and methods freely with an interested community.

Re:Never been too impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45645021)

It takes a certain level of skill to take a device which was designed to only ever be a mains-powered, stationary device and turn it into a reasonably portable battery-operated device and make it still work properly. Ben has definite skill in knowing how to make jam something into a different physical profile. I think you need to loosen up and appreciate the finer details required in a lot of the projects he shows off. Otherwise you'll just come off as arrogant.

Mouse + Keyboard on Consoles? (1)

GTRacer (234395) | 1 year,8 days | (#45641921)

Currently, mouse and keyboard control lies strictly in the realm of PCs.

Because I feel like it, both PS2 and PS3 supported mouse + keyboard play for Final Fantasy 11 (essentially the same UI as PC), and PS3 supports it for FF14, though PC gets the better UI this time 'round.

Also, I really really want to say there were a few shooting-intensive action titles on both systems that supported it as well.

Re:Mouse + Keyboard on Consoles? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | 1 year,8 days | (#45642281)

The PS4 version of FF XIV is supposed to have both the gamepad UI of the PS3 and the keyboard+mouse UI of the PC version.

Re:Mouse + Keyboard on Consoles? (3, Informative)

Newander (255463) | 1 year,8 days | (#45642425)

Don't forget that the Dreamcast had a mouse and keyboard to play Quake 3

Re:Mouse + Keyboard on Consoles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45644167)

I remember using a mouse (controller in the other hand) to play Unreal Tournament on the PS2.

Frost pi51t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45642083)

Incompatibilities since then. More smells worse than a ARe you a NIGGER Go of the minutiae

EpW? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45642153)

Niggers everywhere = 36400 FreeBSD very distracting to there are FreeBSD had long surveys show that Decevntralized 1. TherefoPre it's RAM) for about 20

gamer and console modder?Any plans to get a life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45642169)

"Gamer and console modder" sound like a useless sack of s*** who wastes his life playing idiotic games etc.
There is probably more useless "jobs" in the world but none comes to mind right now.

PCB Printer (1)

Newander (255463) | 1 year,8 days | (#45642475)

Ben,

There are desktop printers for circuit boards. They can be a bit pricey, but they are available.

LPKF ProtoMat S43 [lpkfusa.com]

Re:PCB Printer (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45643217)

Ben: I wish there would some sort of printable circuit board, like a desktop printer for circuit boards or something that a 3D printer would make. Making PCBs is still a matter of sending away to get the boards. Some people etch boards themselves but that is a lot of work. I would like to push a button and make a circuit board right on my desk.

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing... PCB printing has been around for at least a decade, in fact it's probably what all those PCB houses *use* when they offer you the "3 boards for $59" special or whatever. It's the easiest way to make boards with buried signal and ground layers, through holes, etc. It's just somewhat expensive for an individual.

WTF is that first question? (1)

Pope (17780) | 1 year,8 days | (#45643211)

By attempting to inject openness into an intentionally closed ecosystem, do you see yourself as an enabler to that closed ecosystem?

That is to say, open standards are the default on modular personal computers, and almost invariably not present on video game consoles. By giving people who want flexibility a means to use consoles, do you see yourself as inflating those markets and doing long-term harm to actual open systems?

Word salad. He puts consoles into new boxes. How on earth does this do *anything* to the PC marketplace? Let alone "long-term harm" ?

Re:WTF is that first question? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | 1 year,8 days | (#45645273)

The best part is where he talks about how a system being "closed" is its "strength" because (gasp!) a "PC is a moving target".

If this guy didn't exist, Sony and Microsoft would have to invent him, to try to take focus off the fact that the next-gen consoles are the enemy of innovation.

In fact, they represent the opposite of innovation. Instead of games being as good as they can be, they will be only as good as their platform.

I hope Valve (or some other actual innovator) eats their lunch.

I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#45647923)

Ben: In terms of consoles, there is a reason the system is closed. Having a closed system is a strength, really, because even when a console comes out, the tech is already a year or two old. By making a closed system, developers know exactly what they can get out of it. It is not a moving target like a PC or a Mac and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

PCs were a moving target. The specs of the average gaming machine have probably changed less over the same period of time as the current and previous console generations. Plus most of that "moving target" is going to be dealt with by the engine.

Some sort of expandability might be nice, but the consoles do quite a lot of cool stuff as they are. When the 360 and the PS3 were launched, all they really did was play games and now, eight years later, you can rent movies and stream things from your other devices. A ton of functionality has been added. Other than that, it might be nice to have a better way to charge the controllers.

They played games then, and movies, and now, they also stream stuff. How wonderful of the manufacturers to deign to allow us to do such things. We'll just completely ignore that PS3/Linux shit, aight? But just sayin, nobody asks Bill Gates whether they can stream movies on their PC; why does the console manufacturer get to decide what this general-purpose computer can do? And even granting that, which I do not, why on Earth would you ever feel gratitude for it?

The 100% gamer is at least 90% an idiot, and Ben Heck does not manage to rise above the general worthlessness of his chosen society. If he knows something about electronics he should restrict himself to that subject.

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