While working on first-person shooter Alien Resurrection (2000) for the PlayStation, the folks at Argonaut Games — widely known as the ground-breaking studio behind Star Fox for the Super Nintendo — left in a bit of code that allowed for the booting of backup discs without needing to make any hardware or software modifications to the console.
“I figured it was so long ago that I didn’t want to get old and die without letting go of these kind of secrets,” Piper explained in the video’s comments.
But how does it work? Well, according to the information relayed by Modern Vintage Gamer, the process of unlocking Alien Resurrection’s hidden functionality involves a few simple cheat codes. Using three series of button presses, you first unlock a known cheat menu, expand that cheat menu to include a level select feature, and finally prime the system for loading a backup disc.
After that, all it takes is removing Alien Resurrection from the PlayStation and replacing it with your burnt CD, taking care to keep something wedged in the tray eject sensor to prevent the console from performing its “wobble groove” anti-piracy check. I don’t have a PlayStation to try this on myself, but using an emulator, I was able to reach the black screen indicating that it was time to swap discs.
Piper told Modern Vintage Gamer the exploit was included in Alien Resurrection because it was originally planned to be a multi-disc game. The code was apparently part of a development test to research disc-swapping; the developers just never took it out and failed to tell Sony about it.
Funnily enough, this isn’t the first time a member of the Alien Resurrection team has provided in-depth details about its development way after the fact. Two years ago, a former Argonaut employee known only as PositronicBrain uploaded 30 pre-release builds of the game, including prototypes from when it was a third-person shooter and a demo from E3 1999.
I’m not sure how many people are clamoring for a new way to run pirated discs on a real-deal PlayStation, but it’s always fun to be let in on cool development secrets, especially when they’ve been tucked away for the last 23 years.