Productivity

Hack Your Wii for Homebrew Apps and DVD Playback


Despite the fact that it ships with a DVD drive, for whatever godforsaken reason, the Nintendo Wii doesn’t support DVD playback—until last week, that is, when a homebrew hacker released a tool that enables DVD playback on your Wii. The best part? You don’t have to crack open your Wii or disturb your hardware in any way to install it. Let’s take a detailed look at how to softmod your Wii with the Twilight hack to run homebrew apps. Then I’ll show you how to install the Wii port of the open source media player, mplayer, to turn your Wii into a DVD (or should I say WiiVD?) player.



What You’ll Need

Since we’re going to be doing a softmod of your Wii (i.e., we’re not modifying any hardware), you don’t really need much to accomplish this hack.

twilight-princess.png

  • Nintendo Wii
  • An FAT16-Formatted SD Memory Card (more on this below)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • The Wii Brew SD Installer (Windows)
  • A Windows PC with an SD card reader

NOTE: I’m doing this all on a Windows PC, but you can manually install the Twilight Hack if you don’t have access to a Windows PC.

The secret sauce lies in the Twilight Princess game. Essentially, we’re going to load a fake game into Twilight Princess that exploits a buffer overflow and allows you install homebrew software on your Wii.

Sound complicated? Figuring it out may have been, but the excellent Wii hackers have made exploiting the Twilight hack is a cinch.

Hacking Your Wii for Homebrew

00-format-disk.pngTo get started, plug your SD card into your computer. It needs to be formatted as a FAT16 filesystem, so find the SD card in My Computer and format it by right-clicking, selecting Format, and setting FAT as your file system. (If you have trouble formatting your SD card this way, try out the SD Card Formatter.)


Now it’s time to prepare the SD card with the Twilight Hack. If you haven’t already, download the Wii Brew SD Installer. When you’ve got it, make sure your SD card is plugged in and run the installer. The installer is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll walk you through it.

Choose Your Install Location


This should match the location of the SD card you just formatted above.

Select the Homebrew Features and Twilight Hack

Now you need to select the packages you want to install on your SD card (and, eventually, your Wii). I’d suggest selecting the Homebrew Channel (in fact, you need to if you want this to work), the Homebrew Browser, and DVDX (you’ll need this last one for DVD playback). Make sure to select the Twilight Hack that matches your region. Hit Next and the Wii SD Installer will copy all the necessary files to your SD card.

Take Note of Your Twilight Princess Disc


If you’re in the U.S., your copy of Twilight Princess is one of three different versions. One of the versions of the disc requires that you use a different save slot when we load the game later on, so just take note of the text on the inner circle of the bottom of the Twilight Princess game disc. (I needed TwilightHack2, for example.)

Perform the Twilight Hack on Your Wii

sd-card-in.pngBy this point, your SD card is officially prepared for your Wii. Unplug it from your computer and move over to your Wii. Plug it in and power up your Wii. At this point, you’ll need to erase your current Twilight Princess saved game, copy the Twilight hack to your Wii, and execute it in Twilight Princess. (If you haven’t played the game and created a save slot, you should do that before proceeding.) The video below from the WiiBrew folks details exactly how to do this.

NOTE: If the installation froze after you loaded the saved game and talked to the man, chances are you need to use the other saved game.


You’ll need to accept a disclaimer and go through a few other screens to finish the installation (just use the 1 button on your Wiimote to accept). When it completes, head back to the Wii menu. The glorious new Wii Homebrew Channel awaits.

Turn Your Wii into a DVD Player


Now that you’ve got the Homebrew Channel installed, setting up DVD support is a breeze. Fire up your the Homebrew Channel from the main Wii menu and you should see the DVDx installer and Homebrew Browser. Click on the DVDx installer and run through the prompt. Hit A to select Normal install unless you’ve installed a modchip in your Wii. (If you’re following this guide, chances are you don’t have a modchip.) You’ve finished the first step.

Now you need to shut off your Wii and plug the SD card back into your computer, because it’s time to install mplayer, the app that will play back DVDs on your Wii. You can download it from the HackMii web site at the bottom of this post. (Mplayer appears to be available in the Homebrew Browser, but it’s not the version that supports DVD playback, so make sure you download it manually.)

After you’ve downloaded it, copy the entire mplayer folder to the apps folder on your SD card. Now just take the SD card back to your Wii, plug it in, and run the Homebrew Channel again. This time you should see mplayer next to your other installed apps, like below.


To play back a DVD, just fire up mplayer, insert a DVD, and select the Play DVD option in the mplayer menu. You’ll notice two Play DVD menu items, the second of which reads Play DVD (libdvdnav). The libdvdnav attempts to use the built-in DVD menu, while the other just plays the first title. Unfortunately libdvdnav doesn’t really work correctly with the Wiimote yet, but it looks to be on its way.

It takes a few seconds for mplayer to start playing the DVD, but once it does it plays without a hitch (or at least it has in all my experience). Thanks to YouTube, here’s what it looks like:

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The Wiimote/Gamecube controller playback shortcuts work as follows:

A – Pause
B – OSD
1/X – Toggle on screen menu
RIGHT – Seek 10s forward
LEFT – Seek 10s backward
UP – Seek 60s forward
DOWN – Seek 60s backward
+/R – Seek to the next chapter
-/L – Seek to the previous chapter
HOME/Z – Quit

What Else?

Once you’ve got your Wii opened up to homebrew apps, you’ve unlocked all kinds of potential, including emulators for old-school gaming consoles, different media players, and other utilities. If you’ve already got the Homebrew channel running on your Wii, let’s hear what homebrew apps you’ve been using and loving in the comments. If the very idea of hacking your Wii sends shivers down your spine but you’d still like to squeeze out more functionality, check out how to use your Wii as a media center.

Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker whose multitasking Wii has cemented its spot next to his TV. His special feature Hack Attack appears every week on Lifehacker.