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Book Review

Gaming Hacks

Reviewed by Justin Vinnedge


Image: Gaming Hacks CoverWhen I first picked up this book, I was skeptical to say the least. I am a hacker and as you may (or may not) know hackers and gamers are pretty much at the other end of the spectrum. I was even more skeptical when I saw that they had code examples and mods. Gamers are not exactly known for their coding skills. So, I was pretty surprised to see that the macro and VB examples were pretty good.

I started in on reading the book. They really cover everything (but it’s O’Reilly so what do you expect?). The first few chapters are specifically for the classic games. All those old Atari 2600 titles that still live on as today’s retro games. They also have ways to play old DOS games on todays sleek modern PC’s. They had ways to port old games to a PC and even discussed Emulators and ROMS (a somewhat touchy subject with the copyright people). They had some really cool Atari 2600 hardware hacks, and lots about homebrewed games (for all systems, not just Atari). They then moved onto portable games. This was a pretty interesting section, but they lost my attention when they devoted a lot of time to the old Gameboy systems (I have never owned a Gameboy and probably never will). Though if you do have a Gameboy you will find lots of interesting tips and really kewl tricks.

They then talked about a kewl little system that I had never heard of, called GP32 that could be interfaced with the Commodore 64 and could be used as a portable computer on which you could program BASIC. They had some more interesting hardware hacks (like installing a Playstation 2 in your car) most of which were over the top, but should really earn you some hardcore points with your buddies. The next section talked about MMORPGs. MMORPGs are Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. They covered the old classics (Ultima Online) and the newer generation (Final Fantasy XI). This section was where most of the macro and VB plugins were to be found. They had some pretty kewl stuff (I could tell someone out there really knew their kungfu), but I still saw some holes that allowed for several, well, shall we say, undesired results. All you INFOSEC people out there know what I’m talking about. I was also surprised to see that most newer MMORPGs had shell like commands (“/ignore” being an example). This seemed strange and kewl to me all at the same time. I don’t really think that gamers know the shell, but I could be wrong.

The next few chapters dealt with topics that I found pretty boring, like placing your speakers correctly, and tuning your TV. The next section though I found to be very interesting. It was about over clocking your PC. The rest of the book was pretty dull, except for the parts where they talked about ROM hacking and disassembling. The next part I found interesting was variable hacking on today’s modern systems. It seems like Sony supports Linux, as they ship their PS2 HD with a no name Linux kernel installed. Looks like you learn something new everyday.

All in all this book did make me go downstairs and play my PS2 for five hours straight, but it didn’t convince me to dust off my old copies of Diablo II and Starcraft. If you are a gamer (or a parent wondering why your kids spend so much time playing video games), then this is a book for you. Otherwise, I would recommend saving your hard earned cash for something better (unless you are curious about video games of course).

Justin is a computer hacker and student at Danbury High School.


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