Posted 31 January
PSone Classics: Where We All Stand
Hello everyone. Today I’m here to talk to you a little bit about PSone Classics – what it takes to get a PSone game from disc to the Store, the problems we face in doing so and what we’re doing to get more games to you guys.
The journey from PSone disc to PSone emulation can be a long one – here’s the short version.
We make sure we’ve got a good copy of the original disc (or discs if there are localised versions), then the game is cleared for publish by our legal department. They check there are no issues with any of the content in the game being under an expired license, or any confusion over ownership of the publishing rights. Then we make a record for the game as it will appear on the Store, including the image and all the description text in the eight Store languages. Next, the game disc is sent to SCEI (Sony Computer Entertainment International) to be turned into a digital version, where they run some initial bug tests before the package is sent to our software testing house in Liverpool. The game is played extensively to make sure that there are no serious issues and that the game works from start to finish. At that point, if no problems are found either on PS3 or PSP, we can publish it.
The whole process can sometimes take several months, depending on the ease of the emulation, the length of the game and how many issues are found in each round of testing.
There are two major stumbling blocks between submitting a game for emulation and us being able to publish it: not getting legal clearance and failing quality assurance (QA).
First, the legal – without naming specific games, some contain brand-name products (such as character clothing) that are no longer under license from the brand owner. In the same way, some games have characters in them that are borrowed from other game series and the publisher no longer has the rights to use them, or music that has been licensed for a game and again, those licenses have expired. In cases like these, permission has to be sought to publish the game or a license has to be renewed and this can take large amounts of time and/or money, or might simply just not be possible. Sadly, when these licenses were originally secured, they were for the life of the original product and plans were not put in place for these games to be launched again on another platform, years later. In some cases, the publisher of a game may no longer exist, so it must be determined who holds the permissions to republish a game before it can be emulated for the Store.
The other problem is failing QA because of serious bugs, and when I say bugs, I mean giant cockroach sized uber-bugs. I have seen a lot of PSone QA reports with some weird and wonderful errors – menu screens with upside down text, explosions that kill your character at random after watching a cut scene, games that continue to slow down the longer you play them, or music that sounds like it’s coming from the bottom of a well… the list goes on.
If a bug makes the game completely unplayable or otherwise ruins your experience then that’s a fail and the game cannot be published.
If a game fails QA, there are some things that can be done to fix them but, unlike with a PSN title, they can’t simply go back to the developer for another round of fixes, so it can get complicated.
SCE are also constantly improving the emulator that powers the PSone Classics both on PS3 and PSP, so often serious bugs that prevent games from loading at all are fixed with new versions of the emulator.
Why are some games available on the US Store but not available on the EU Stores?
The million dollar question…
This usually comes down to either publishing rights or bugs that occur within the emulated PAL version that did not occur within the NTSC emulated version. There are several PAL titles that don’t play well with the emulator because of a PAL-only copy protection system that was used in several key releases, and sometimes other bugs occur at random.
In some cases the original publisher of the game in the US is not the same publisher as in Europe, so publishing rights need to be secured – once again, a lengthy process and one that some publishers choose not to undertake because of the costs and time involved.
And in the case of specifically licensed content, such as music, when it’s renewed for use in the US, it doesn’t automatically mean it can also be renewed for all the territories we publish in across Europe and the rest of the world.
What are we doing about it?
We are still dedicated to bringing you as many PSone games as we possibly can. How dedicated?
There are some PSone titles that we have been seeking legal clearance to publish from as far back as 2007, some of which are still on going and some (such as the six mystery titles I mentioned recently… here’s a freebie… one of them is Wild Arms) have only just been legally cleared.
There are titles which previously failed QA that are bug tested again with every new version of the emulator and they come your way as soon as we can release them.
We’ve just sent another round of first-party titles for clearance and emulation to fill in the gaps in the catalogue (yes, one of them is Tombi so stop asking!) and with the list of games you’ve been asking for, we will be going back to publishers and specifically pushing for the most requested and popular titles.
That’s all for now, I hope you’ve learned some things about the PSone process. We’re not finished on this subject though – I’ll be back next week with more, including your list of requests on the blog, where we’ll take steps to find your most ‘must-have’, missing PSone Classics and see what we can do to make them happen. In the meantime, please keep making your requests in the comments.
Oh, and we’re re-releasing Crash Bandicoot 2 on Wednesday. Yay!