A look at Sky’s interactive services offered in 2002, back when interactive TV was a thing
Also can’t mention Sky interactive without the Red button dude, who’s sole purpose was to promote Sky interactive services by pressing your red button, even though that only worked on a Sky channel.
Sky’s interactive game service
Sky Gamestar – Cartoon Network
A dedicated section of gamestar with games based on Cartoon Network shows
At one time you could order Pizza through your Sky Digibox
The Classifieds and info section, for local jobs and marketplace
View and book local listings, this only worked with Odeon cinemas, which was useless because there were no Odeon cinemas in my area.
Sky used to advertise their services and competitions whilst interactive screens were loading
A dating service that relied on the internal modem
Before internet banking there was Interactive TV banking, again I only saw HSBC and LLoyds TSB being supported, other banks were not on the service
Exclusive to the Sky Movie channels, shows local cinema listings and to purchase DVD’s, a nice feature of this service was you could see behind the scenes clips from moves.
Download ringtones, logos and custom voicemail, back when ringtones were polyphonic (think Nokia 3210, Ericsson T28s)
Sky Active: Shopping
Home shopping was considered to be a main feature of interactive TV, since customers could see the items themselves. Sky allowed a range of retailers to have presence on interactive, and even had their own storefront, SkyBuy
Some sort of eBay/Gumtree service, customers could buy and sell locally
Sky News Active
Activated by the red button, a very useful service where you can browse news headlines, view ‘Active Channels’ which were small channels dedicated to certain subjects or headline coverage. These could also be tuned in using the Other Channels feature, bypassing the service
Sky Movies Active
This is where you could see the behind the scenes stuff from movies, similar to bonus scenes on DVD’s
Another view of the main Sky Active home screen
Sadly Sky axed most of their interactive services, so here is the interactive menu that you are left with
Does it work? Well…
It seems the only OpenTV interactive TV services available is BBC Red Button and the S4C language changer, none of which use the modem/return path. I’m not sure if the services offered on Sky Q are the same, I believe it’s mostly Netflix/Prime type of applications that are video on demand services.
Last month I looked at the console release of The Sims in depth, mainly studying the game files and the format that they are stored in.
One type of file that took my interest was the ngh files, specifically the story, chall and default.ngh files. I know these had some bearing on how the game stored the default neighborhoods.
The story and chall/challenge files were essentially customized neighborhoods, even to an extent we were able to extract and load them on a standard PC copy of the game, albeit with some workarounds but the lots and to some extent, sims were mostly playable, minus some missing objects that were exclusive to the console version.
I wonder what would happen if we swapped these files around, like if we tricked the game into loading the story neighborhood in play the sims mode, in theory it should allow us to play the story mode sims and their respective lots in a sandbox style mode, along with full customization. What happened if we added the chalange/multiplayer lots into the mix?
To do this we need access to a modified console, since we will be modifying the games data files.
Default files for ‘Get a Life’ mode
Default files for the Bonus multiplayer modes
Default neighborhood for the ‘Play the Sims’ mode
For this I used the Xbox version of the game, purely due to the fact it is running a soft modded dashboard with FTP access, which makes it easier to manipulate the files without having to rebuild iso images. Before we start. Ensure you have backed up your games files, specifically the ngh files that we will be swapping around.
To to this we simply rename the ngh files to the one we want to trick the game to load, so to create a sandbox neighborhood with story lots and sims we simply rename story.ngh to default.ngh. We might have to change the original default.ngh to default2.ngh to prevent file conflicts.
Loading Story lots in Play the Sims mode
Possible – Works well and all story mode sims appear without any issues. The level 4 house does exist and appears in the map screen but cannot be selected since this lot is not accessible directly from the game – the lot appears on 4 Sim Avenue which was disabled by the game quite late in development, im not sure if they’re is a way to access the lot with cheats or debug actions. It does appear for a short second before moving away to the next lot.
Some sims are duplicated (Dudley/Mimi Langrabb) and some test sims exist such as Jane House. In the xbox version there is a sim called DJ Tooter who never appears in the actual game, and seems to be slightly corrupted as is thumbnail uses an image from the Pc version.
All of the above sims and lots can be moved in and played without any restrictions. No issues with saving or loading lots.
Loading Story lots in Challenge mode
Varies a lot, some lots work but you cannot complete any objectives. Some lots don’t load correctly
Loading Challenge lots in Play the sims mode
Possible – outcome is the same as when we imported the files into the PC version, only this time we have access to all objects and sims looks the way they are intended instead of the default face/skins. Interesting is some families have more than 4 sims, in fact one family has 8 sims, yet the game runs fine although switching between them is far from ideal since you have to spawn the button multiple times to cycle though the sims. Normally the game limit’s you to a max of 4 controllable sims per lot. Some sims here are copies of the story mode sims, with some differences with the personality points. There are a lot of unoccupied sims, which serve as the NPC’s for these mode’s.
Not all lots are playable, one lot appears (The Frat House) in the neighborhood view but we cannot access it despite there being a family that is occupied in the lot. They don’t have a telephone so you are unable to call or invite them round but they do attend party’s and will walk by the lot occasionally. Other lots don’t appear on the screen, because there are only space for 6 lots and this mode has 8. We are missing one of the Handyman/maid lots which exists in the game but we cannot make it appear since they are mapped to houses 08 and 09 which do not show up in game, the console neighborhood only holds up to 6 lots.
Loading Challenge lots in Get A Life mode
This one works somewhat, the game tried to load the Dream House at the start of the game, but loads the Maid’s house instead, and we are unable to complete any of the objectives needed to progress through the level the game also ends after a minute and quits back to the main menu screen.
On the Gamecube version though the dolphin emulator, if we use the level skip debug command, we can load the first level, however sadly we hit another road block where we get endless dialogue boxes from MOM. The script gets stuck in an endless loop since the sim in question does not spawn on the lot. Unfortunately we are unable to continue past this point,even with the debug commands.
Loading Sandbox/Play the Sims lots in Challenge mode
Only some lots load, many load a blank lot with no sims. Sadly we are not able to complete any of the challenge mode, and some lots load to a blank lot with the game stuck at 3x Speed, since there are no sims on that lot and the build and buy modes are disabled in this mode.
Loading Sandbox Play the Sims lots in Get A Life mode
Not much luck with this one, game crashes when trying to load the dream mansion lot. Possibly because this hood does not have enough sims to populate, or the lot does not exist.
Xbox Premade Save Files
Works best on a modded xbox with an FTP supported dashboard,
There are two files, one for the Story mode sims and the other for the Challenge mode sims. Both neighborhoods have all playable families and lots with a couple being inaccessible due to limitations with the ‘Play the Sims’ mode of the game
If your Xbox is not modified you need to use software that can write to FATX volumes, along with a supported USB drive and a XBOX to USB cable or Action Replay. You will then need to use the Xbox dashboard to transfer from the memory unit back onto the hard drive.
The NGH files look to be embedded into one of the many arc files, which is a customized format used by the game. We can extract the game files using the same QuickBMS script, however I have yet to come across a NGH file. It’s possible Bustin Out uses its own structure that makes it incompatible with the format that the PC and console versions use.
If you look at the Bustin Out lots, they seem to look similar to the first console release in terms of build mode tools, but some lots have custom backdrops, like Tinsel Bluffs having a city/mountain backdrop and Casa Calente having a seaside backdrop. The original console version however had a standard stone wall surrounded by green grass, in style with the neighborhood theme.
The sims themselves however may be compatible, they both have the same personality system, and the create a sim items are mostly the same in terms of customization.
To be frank with the Sims Bustin out, as much as I liked the game, the free-play mode was disappointing compared to the previous since console installment. With only 3 Freeplay lots there isn’t much room for a proper sandbox style game which limits what you can do. Also EA had designed 5 careers that were exclusive to Free Play mode
I can’t understand why the other Bustin out premade sims were not fully playable, whilst you could control them you they were unable to progress through their careers, or where you able to marry or move them out or switch them to a different career. I understand that those sims are tied to some goals but surly if you have completed all goals you should be able to unlock the ability for proper control of these sims, since they are no longer needed to fulfill your sims goals. Some sims were not controllable at all (Dudley/Mimi Landgrabb, Bella and Charity if your sim was a male) It seems like EA wanted to focus on the story mode of the game rather than the sandbox as to not distract from the PC version of the game, which had it’s seventh expansion pack around the time of Bustin Out’s release, as-well as the upcoming Sims 2.