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LittleBigTrouble: Sony kills multiple games’ online service without notice


Cute promotional image for Little Big Planet.
Enlarge / Almost every LittleBigPlanet release just lost its online hub.

After a year marked by targeted hacks and unexplained downtime, the online service for four of Sony’s LittleBigPlanet games—and arguably the heart of their “play.create.share” mantra—is no more. Announced in a tweet on its official Twitter account, online services across LittleBigPlanet Vita and the LittleBigPlanet trilogy for PS3 have been discontinued with no prior warning, citing issues of continued safety for its online fanbase.

For the uninitiated, the original 2008 LittleBigPlanet introduced a massively online concept of level creation and sharing. Series creators Media Molecule included incredibly robust creation tools that let fans transform the side-scrolling game into any number of incredible concepts, and that foundation grew as the series expanded from the PS3 generation to Vita and PS4.

But challenges to that creation toolbox started to spring up in November 2020 when several fans posted on Twitter that LBP.me—the series’ social site that lets players browse or queue up every available user-made level across almost every release—stopped working. Meanwhile, social features in the game’s older entries began experiencing related issues.

LittleBigTrouble

The next year was tough on the LBP community. In March, Sony pulled the original game’s servers—which worked with LBP2 and 3 so users could still play levels made for the original game while simultaneously leaving all three games open to online attacks—offline for “technical issues.” Many members of the community believe it was the result of one angry fan’s repeated DDOS attacks, though to date no individual or group has taken credit for any such incident.

Since then, both the PS3 entries and LittleBigPlanet Vita have been repeatedly attacked, leading to multiple shutdowns that have rendered online services inaccessible through the majority of the year. Today’s statement is the first update from the LittleBigPlanet team on the situation since May.

The official statement from the <em>LittleBigPlanet</em> Twitter account regarding the shutdown of its legacy platform servers.
Enlarge / The official statement from the LittleBigPlanet Twitter account regarding the shutdown of its legacy platform servers.

A lack of transparency

Following the digital paper trail of what’s happened to which LittleBigPlanet and when is a mess. When LBP.me went down in November, the LBP social account tweeted that there were no plans to shut down the games’ servers and that the site was simply offline for maintenance. (Concerned fans would later suspect the site was actually being targeted by the same hacker who instigated the DDOS attack in March, but no one has come forward to claim responsibility for this, either.)

Neither Sony nor the series’ current developer, Sumo Digital, have been very open about what has been happening behind the scenes. LBP‘s Twitter echoed Sony’s statement after the March attack, explaining the team was investigating some technical issues. It issued a follow-up in April, saying security updates had been the cause of recent erratic online availability.

A third tweet on May 21 confirmed the team was aware the LBP servers were once again experiencing problems. A day later, the account announced that the servers would be temporarily taken offline. Around the same time, users on Reddit and Twitter posted screenshots of hacked in-game social pages that included transphobic messages.

“Due to the severity of the recent attacks we have no other option than to temporarily disable the game servers. We do not take these attacks lightly especially when they target our loyal community members,” the statement read. All tweets the series’ social account related to ongoing hacks have since been deleted without further comment until today’s news.

It’s currently unknown whether this DDOS barrage is the work of one person as some community members allege or if multiple parties are behind it. No one has explained either if these attacks were exclusively targeting the original LittleBigPlanet versus LBP2 and 3 or when the Vita game’s servers were first bombarded.

Equally shrouded in mystery is whether the decision to shut down LBP‘s legacy servers came from Sony or Sumo Digital, which most recently developed the cross-gen PS5 LBP spinoff Sackboy: A Big Adventure. IGN even tried looking into the circumstances behind the hacks with its own investigation dating back to April.

As it stands, the campaigns for each of the game’s PS3 and Vita entries can still be played offline, but any access to any social features or the game’s store is now cut off. LBP Twitter has confirmed that the cross-gen LittleBigPlanet 3‘s servers are back online for PS4 players after a new patch, though many members of the community have complained the PS4 netcode for the 2014 release—Sumo’s first after taking over the series from Media Molecule—ruins many of the user-made levels from the older games.

Sony has faced other problems this year dealing with online services on its older platforms. In April, the company halted plans it had announced to sunset access to the PlayStation Network storefronts on Vita and PS3 alongside the PSP store. Sony Interactive Entertainment head Jim Ryan even came out and said, “It’s clear that we made the wrong decision here.”





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