Today, we have a very special guest interview from the homebrew world. We’ll talk with Cimmerian Iter, the founder and one of the organizers of the KyûHEN Development Contest. It’s a fascinating dive into the history of the event, how partnerships were forged, and how the contest rose out of the ashes of a very unfortunate series of events. Enjoy!
1. Can you tell us a bit about how the contest got started?
Personally, after the complete mess that happened with vita game jam, we mentioned the idea of creating a real homebrew contest back in 2019, but it was just an idea, and nobody really have thought it that seriously. It’s only after the whole GTA release and the huge attractivity that the Vita had + the numerous improvements with the SDK and Gamemaker games being ported. There was such a hype around the PSVita that people thought it was time to begin to do a Homebrew Contest. The spark actually begins in twitter with this tweet:
There may be a way to create a Crowdfunding for a possible VitaJam if the number of interested people were enough, a symbolic value around 100 $ just for incentive…
— WIDEGCG (@miller_morais) December 27, 2020
I originally planned to just contribute to the discussion and give insights to how to make a homebrew contest, then later 2Old4Gaming had decided to make a draft of a homebrew contest asking the community their thought about it, changes and etc to launch it. I saw a lot of potential especially since 2Old4Gaming was someone who had experience in organizing PSVita related content. So, I decided to jump on the train and change the draft into what you know today as KyuHEN.
2. How has the contest changed since it started?
It has changed radically, 2Old4Gaming idea was a game contest, this is the first draft:
Ok, I’m quite excited about this. Decided to work on the webpage and rules already! I’d love to hear feedback and if I’ve missed anything. I have some other ideas for promotion but I’ll figure them out first. #VitaIsland #PSVita https://t.co/M9b04LtaUv pic.twitter.com/wVx0AavPz0
— 2 Old 4 Gaming ❤️ #PSVita (@2_Old_4_Gaming) January 20, 2021
So it as just a game contest where any tool was mixed in it with prizes for winner only.
I wanted the homebrew contest to be like GekiHEN. Since it was my first time organizing such an event (and generally it was the first time i was organizing something as I was just a 19yo student), following GekiHEN organization was the safest choice. I also wanted it to be modern to make it feels like it’s a 2021 thing, so a lot of work has gone into designing the graphic design of the contest.
Lastly, I wanted to involve major hacking website such as Wololo or PSXPlace. For me it was an essential piece for the contest because that’s how it was for PSP genesis and GekiHEN, and feels more like a community event. My position as Custom Protocol moderator and as a trusted member of the vita scene and beyond allowed me to get people help very easily, the website concept was made by a friend of mine (Dave) who is in the iOS jailbreaking scene, the website wallpaper and logo was made by Custom Protocol designer Windvern and getting feedback from multiple people and devs from the vita scene such as Rinnegatamante, Joel, sarcastic_cat and more in order to do the rules and organization. I also heard how GekiHEN was painful to organize which warned me about the difficulties of organizing such an event and getting the help of the 4 hacking website was definitely valuable for the contest creation.
3. What difficulties do you face when organizing an event like this?
There is 3 major difficulties, 1 is doing an organization and rules that suits everyone, as well as prize sharing. Especially rules as I had to change a rule like 5 min after the contest was created because people weren’t ok with it.
The second one is the unknown. The money was an huge issue, to attract developers we needed decent prize system. But that resolves in getting the money, and I wasn’t sure how much we could get. So we had to bet on it. Originally, we had planned to do a tier system. Based on how much we earn gradually, the prize system change, but that was not ideal because it confuse more people and it’s not going to reassure devs because they don’t know what they are running for. Fortunately, juliosueiras had promised us to give us a huge amount of money which allowed us to start doing the contest based on % of the prize pool. I think it was around 900$ from him. 2Old4Gaming partnership with a PSVita game publisher that offered us PSN code for games also allowed us to guarantee every participant that they would win something by joining the contest.
The third one is the website. As I said I wanted it to be modern, so it was kind of ambitious. Problem being the web dev I first got was very unreliable. Making progress then going afk without getting any response from him, then getting new progress, then no updates. It was very stressing actually and the reason why the contest was delayed.
Another thing was that I was in a prep school (intensive math and physics class in order to prepare for a national contest that will be the selection process to attend to college through the country. So, it was one of the biggest turning points of my life and not something i could sacrifice) and the national contest was coming in like 1-2 month and delaying the contest start just made thing worse for me. I had already a huge workload of study work to do, basically 2 years of study program to practice in order to be ready for the national contest which involves in around 48 chapters of math and 37 Physics chapter (as well as chemicals, science of engineer, French and a personal project we made through the year, and we had to finish). The workload had already stressed me enough and I was exhausted of doing 8-23h of full math, physics, chemical etc a day the contest timing made things worse. So I was barely sleeping because of the stress and workload and it’s something I will never do again. But I couldn’t really wait for the exam to end to launch the Kyuhen contest since the start window was very important for the success of the contest. We had to launch it while the PSVita was in the spotlight. To make things worse, 3 days before the start of the contest the unreliable web dev just quietly left. Fortunately, I saw that quickly, and so I searched urgently someone who could help me with finishing the website.
Fortunately, Custom Protocol admin Wirus, great friend came to save the day and in the 3 days left we put everything to redo completely the website to launch it at time. The only thing we couldn’t do was the submission system, so we had to replace it as a google form. Then there was the problem of the open sourcing rule that needed to be changed quickly after the start and the small grammar errors that were present on the website I had to fix. The #KyuHEN channel in the vita nuova server shows well the struggle of the contest creation and sometime how critical the situation was. Fortunately, I just never dropped that and still endured the whole situation study + KyuHEN and I’m very happy that I managed to pull it off without sacrificing my studies.
The only regret I have was the jury. Having all major website voting as well as our special guest from the publishing game company went to the toilet after the PS Store closure which made the guest not able to participate anymore, and Covid taking a lot of time from the hacking website admin. So we were only 4 in the end.
4. How do you go about gathering the funds for Kyuhen?
The vita game jam scam was actually a problem. Because of it, people would be much cautious about another homebrew contest launching, so for that the strategy was to have trusted members abord, like the hacking website and the participation of frangarcj so that the contest looks serious. The boot splash mini contest we did was also a way for use to have like the PSP genesis and GekiHEN a boot splash and showing that we were serious and the money was real. The website design and the fact that we were backed by the devs and hacking website allowed us to have a certain spotlight that made things easier to earn donation. 2Old4Gaming connection with a Game publishing company also got us game codes. So in the end we had earned a total of 2000$ which was beyond my expectation actually. And the biggest prize pool of all PSVita contest. I am very happy that we managed to pull that off.
5. What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen developed for Vita homebrew during Kyuhen?
Submission was another unknown that stressed me out, I wasn’t sure if category 2 would have enough participant nor if the time allowed for participating was the correct one to have great submissions, in the end I’m amazed by the quantity and the quality of submission we received. There is actually 3 homebrew that impressed me, Treasure chasers, a full-blown game made entirely with VitaSDK, and Crashlands probably the most impressive port that came out of the contest given how we had many doubts it would run on the PSVita correctly.
6. Outside of Kyuhen, what’s a project that you find exciting in the Vita homebrew space?
The most exciting things for me personally is unlocking new boundaries, I made an article about the vita hacking history on Wololo as well as the SD2Vita history article, and the progression of a full locked device into an open platform with lot of customization options and new features that makes the use of a PSVita way more fun and useful. But the most exciting thing was the GTA3 port. GTA on Sony handheld was actually a dream, and we all wanted to play GTA 3 VC and SA on our PSP. Then it actually came on the PSVita which lacked a GTA title, and I actually got the chance to contribute a little which also made me learn a lot about the process of porting a game with the behind-the-scenes discussion. Too bad that T2 woke up and decided to close the whole re3 project.
7. Do you see Kyuhen ever moving beyond Vita to include perhaps the PSP?
PSP has a small community, but they also do homebrew contest, it’s certainly not at the scale of KyuHEN but it’s already a great effort for them. But it’s not going to work, making another KyuHEN will be very hard (in order for it to be successful) the hacking community slowly fades away as time goes by, we lost a big part of the community since 2016 after people moved on with their lives and it’s getting difficult to attract new devs when computers and phone are getting more interesting. Hacking a console is much more difficult and not that hyped as it was before. It’s just that the hacking era is becoming something of the past and we can’t really do anything against it.
8. What, in your opinion, makes Vita fans so passionate?
PSVita always had a loyal fan base, after Sony dropped the PSVita, the player base continued to support it, mostly known as vita island. It’s also one of the reasons why games were still being released to the vita. And the potential ruined by Sony is getting closer and closer to be fully unlocked and that’s what motivate people in the scene. Unlocking our console, doing the work that Sony didn’t.
9. Where do you see the Vita homebrew community in 5-10 years?
At best, it would be a small community still active with some releases there and there, at worst it’ll slowly die. The only thing that won’t die though is the security research that some groups of people are doing on it since the PSVita security system is fascinating and interest a lot of people. A lot of work is being done behind the scenes in order to break new boundaries and gain full control of the PSVita system. That won’t die for sure.
10. When will the next contest take place, and who can participate?
11. Is Kyuhen an event for specialized people, or is there an aspect of it that’s more beginner-friendly?
We allowed the use of Unity and Gamemaker so that any beginners could participate, making a game with unity or GameMaker is very easy. Then VitaSDK and the port section was more for advanced developers. The organization was done so that everyone could participate and won’t be left out.