How Metal Gear Online Was Revived By Professional Hackers

Back in 2012 Konami had shutdown Metal Gear Online. The game had run its course, played out its excitement and managed to mark its time in history as a niche title that many loved – but it wasn't something that was sustainable beyond the four years in which it was operation... until now.

The Guardian has a very interesting story about hackers and gaming. What's interesting isn't that hackers used their skills to revive Metal Gear Online, but that the story actually does a fine job of not throwing hackers or gamers under the bus while talking about using unlicensed methods to revive a product that's been abandoned by the publisher.

The name of the group is called SaveMGO, and they set out to reverse engineer the networking code and allow gamers with modded consoles get to enjoy and play the game once more.

The group hangs out over on the SaveMGO forum and is headed up by a Joseph Tartaro from security consultancy firm IOActive (and it's always good to have someone with this kind of knowledge providing security advice on how to protect yourself from hackers, right?). Tartaro detailed how the team utilized their efforts and techniques to reverse engineer an MMO that had been shutdown and left to die by the publisher, at the Brucon Security Conference. In a speech called “Cyber Necromancy”, the description reads...

“Reverse engineering is not all binaries and byte-code. The black art also extends to networks and unobtainable game servers. In this talk we go into the gruesome details of how we dug through the graveyards of console binaries and mausoleums of forgotten network protocols in order to stitch together the pieces necessary to bring our favorite game Metal Gear Online back to life.”

This isn't just all geek-talk and programming jargon being tossed around for fluff purposes. When the SaveMGO crew stated that they have the game up and running on the PS2 and PS3, they actually mean it. In fact, here's some of the footage from one of the more recent builds. Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTuber ZeroBox Gaming

In the interview with The Guardian, Tartaro stated that...

“We broke the encryption for the network protocol, as well as the file encryption, but the network protocol was the only one necessary to get it back online,” … [regarding soft-modding] “There’s no easy security bypass or vulnerability that I’ve found so far,”

The upside for gamers is that it means that Metal Gear Online is back up and running. The bad part for gamers is that you can't use a standard retail unit to play the title; you will need to mod your PS2 or PS3 to play the game. On the upside, you can use a device like Code Breaker or a similar unit that lets you modify the debug code on the PS2 to access the game. For PS3 owners, you will have to either purchase a modded console or a mod-chip device to enable the SaveMGO rendition of Metal Gear Online.

So far, Konami hasn't issued any cease and desist letters, but the SaveMGO crew did notify the publisher about their efforts. So who's going to bet that they get a C&D over a thumbs up?

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.