The darkness to every light, the shadow to every shine, the dusk to every dawn, the Luna to every Sol.
And vice versa.
I'm a Dutch law student who loves to play the vidya. I'm a Nintendo-fanboy at heart, but I don't feel that I'm blinded by that, at least not very often. I am also currently on the Cblog Recaps team for Thursdays, so if for some voyeuristic reason you want to know more about me, check out my weekly Shadeisms.
I'm obsessed with the Monolith Soft RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles and the Baten Kaitos series. I will not pass up the opportunity to mention them, ever, and I consider myself Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean's biggest fan. Finally, as is to be expected I'm super excited for the new WiiU "Xeno-" game!
The Wii is one of my favorite systems of all time, and my favorite games on this system include, but are most certainly not limited to;
Xenoblade Chronicles (see also: Baten Kaitos - Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for GC)
Zelda: Twilight Princess / Skyward Sword
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Muramasa - The Demon Blade
Wario Land: Shake it!
and Metroid Prime Trilogy.
I love my WiiU as well, and even though the library still needs expanding, I had tons of fun with:
New Super Mario Bros. U
Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Apart from Nintendo, I'm a huge indie game enthousiast. Give me a game like Trine, VVVVVV, Sequence or Recettear, and you've made me a happy camper for sure. You can keep your shooters to yourself.
Favorite indie game round-up:
Trine (+ Trine 2)
Super Meat Boy
The Binding of Isaac
Dungeons of Dredmor
Thomas Was Alone
Mark of the Ninja
Cthulhu Saves the World
Recettear - An Item Shop's Tale
To The Moon
Orcs Must Die! 2
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
and many, many more!
Besides gaming itself, I like reading up on gaming-related news on my favorite website in the whole wide world: Destructoid. I love all the people here, and I'm glad that I get to be a part of this. Wouldn't know what to do without you!
Thanks to everyone who entered my contest! We had great entries all around, and I hope the developers of The Typing of the Dead took notice of that blog, because the game would become all the more amazing if all of your brilliant words were to make it into the game.
By the way, my own words would have been "hijinks" and "shenanigans" because those are straight-up the best words in the English language. They're completely perfect for what they are.
....yeah, you see why I asked you guys now?
Anyway, enough small talk! Let's get to what we're all here for, the winner!
Well, you know what this means. Time to start sucking up!
In the contest thread Phil announced that he just wanted The Typing of the Dead, but what he does with the rest is completely up to him. I sent him the rest of the list, so who knows, you might get contacted after all. But just between you and me; I hear that Phil likes to get his butt fondled. Who knows, it might help.
By the way, Phil's words were:
Waffle Meat Worm Dingle Testicular Rabbit Chungus Savory Gravy Manly Pickle Choke Fornication Massive Mexicans Bottled Chum Mayonnaise Taco Leaping Pus Frisky Dingo
Truly a worthy winner.
Congratulations again, and have fun typing zombies to death!
Finally, another round of thanks to Wrenchfarm and OpiumHerz for giving most of these games away in the first place.
Thanks to the ever generous Wrenchfarm's awesome contest I found myself with a truckload of great new games to play, because studying is for chumps.
However, the awesomeness of this contest could not be contained by one Steam account alone. Oh no. When my Steam Library saw how many new games were coming its way, it flat-out rejected some of them. The Binding of Isaac? Steam wouldn't take it. Dark Souls? No can do. Pathologic, courtesy of the lovely Opiumherz? Denied.
Of course, the little fact that I already owned these games may have been a relevant factor too, but I still hold that it was probably just the awesomeness.
And that's why I've decided to give the people of Destructoid a second chance to win these great games!
To reiterate, we're talking about:
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, on Steam.
Chances are if you're on Destructoid you know about Dark Souls. Do I really need to tell you more about it? No I don't. It's brilliant and you want it.
The Binding of Isaac, including Wrath of the Lamb, also on Steam.
One of the best and most addicting roguelikes ever. Buckets and buckets of content, ranging from cool new power-ups to new levels and the largest number of "final" bosses ever seen in video games. Also poop.
Pathologic, on GoG.
The first game of Ice-Pick Lodge, who later went on to do the surreal The Void. This game got high praise for its atmosphere, which if you're any kind of fan of horror games you'll know has been missing from most mainstream "horror" titles for a while now. Can the indies do better? You decide!
But I can hear you thinking. Snickering almost. "Oh Shade", you'd say, "isn't that like the lamest thing, like, ever?" I'm not sure when you became a valley girl, but fine. "You're giving away Wrench's games you already had anyway, and you expect us to love you for it?"
We're having none of that nonsense here. In the spirit of Halloween I'm adding two games of my own into the mix! Why? Because I bloody well can, that's why. And because VIDEO GAMES.
The first is an indie game I already had in my inventory for a while, so it's high time to pass it on to someone else. I love this game dearly though, from its brilliant art directions to its gorgeous music. I'm talking about the original Trine! What does Trine have to do with Halloween? ....it has skeletons, I guess? Yeah, let's go with that. So skeletons equals Halloween and therefore we add to the winnings:
Trine, on Steam.
But that's nowhere near the best part, because there's one more game coming the winner's way. Here we have a game that nobody saw coming. It just popped up on Steam a few days ago with an equal mix of "What the fuck?" and "Fuck yeah!"
Quick question: What's the best way to defeat zombies? Shotgun? Axe? Flamethrower? Tallahassee?
All wrong. All so very, very wrong. What do you use to kill off zombies? Keyboards, motherfuckers! Oh yeah, we're going there.
And with that, we add:
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, on Steam!
(note that this game also includes regular The House of the Dead: Overkill)
Now ain't that a lovely batch of games right there? Damn straight it is. And winning them is easy! All you need to do is answer a simple question. So far, the screenshots of Typing of the Dead have given us some great words to kill zombies with. "Ample buxom" is my favorite, but "May I eat you" and "UNICORNS" are top-class zombie-killing words as well. Still, there have to be even better words out there. And that's where you come in!
I want to know from you:
"What words would you type to kill zombies?"
The winner will be picked at random from all the entries. I'll let this contest run for one week, that is until November 8th. After that I'll contact the lucky winner!
Hello, my name is Shade, and I'm a Nintendo fanboy.
- Hi, Shade.
I love Nintendo. I love their games, their handhelds, their overall quirkiness, and yes, even their consoles. I wouldn't be a gamer today if it wasn't for Nintendo, and they made many of my favorite games of all time; I owe them one. More than one, come to think of it.
So while everyone else was out slamming the Xbox One and hyping over Sony's presentation, I was doing other things. Working mostly, because hey, someone's gotta do it. Microsoft consoles have never interested me in the slightest, to the point where my only response to the Xbox One is still to have a good-hearted laugh about the entire mess, and while Sony is already much more interesting to me, it's still not enough to convince me to watch its entire presentation. But I'm still a gamer, and a self-proclaimed Nintendo fanboy at that, so every year I make a point of following Nintendo's conference live. As we all know, this year it was a Nintendo Direct rather than a press conference, but it ultimately came down to the same thing.
So how does someone like me feel about this Nintendo Direct?
It was...decent. Nintendo showed plenty of games, and pretty great ones at that. A new 3D Mario, Donkey Kong Country, the untitled Monolith Soft project, and Smash Bros. were all awesome games that you can bet your ass I'm going to go out of my way to buy. There was a problem, however.
Nintendo's Creativity I have always defended Nintendo's use of its old IPs. I see a lot of people complaining about anotherMario game, anotherZelda, and so on. These people think that Nintendo is unoriginal, that they don't have a grain of creativity left. After all, if they still had cool ideas, why aren't we seeing new characters anymore? Is Pikmin really the best they had? Myself, I have always rejected this notion very strongly. Nintendo actually has more creativity in its right pinkie toe than most developers do in their entire body.
The reasoning is very simple; just because Nintendo decides to put its familiar faces out there doesn't mean they don't have new ideas anymore. Just look at the Mario series, for example. It started as a 2D platformer, which saw several other installments all vastly improving the tech and Mario's abilities. On the Nintendo 64, however, it took a massive leap into the third dimension. Super Mario 64 singlehandedly changed gaming, and the Mario franchise, forever. The next Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine, also changed the formula significantly. Mario was given a new setting to play around in, new goals to fulfill, new enemies to fight, and a boatload of new abilities all combined in FLUDD. Next, of course, came Super Mario Galaxy. While it was the standard fare of Mario running and jumping around trying to save Peach, Galaxy saw a whole slew of new mechanics by virtue of the planetoids he now inhabited. The new physics made Super Mario Galaxy an adventure unlike any seen before.
- Pictured: Creativity
As such, over the course of a couple of games, all starring the familiar plumber completely unchanged, Nintendo showed creativity in gameplay that few other developers can even begin to match. And that's not even taking into account the spin-offs, such as the always awesome Paper Mario series.
The same goes for many other series. Metroid went from a 2D action-adventure to the massive secret-ridden Super Metroid, to the amazing 3D version that was the original Metroid Prime, to an entire new control scheme in Metroid Prime 3. Even Metroid: Other M tried to change up the formula by having a mix of 2D and 3D, and a focus on story. I actually liked Other M more than most, but since it's a controversial game let's just leave it at that.
My final example will be Zelda. The Legend of Zelda was originally a top-down 2D game, then became a side-scroller for its second adventure before returning to top-down again. It too took the jump into 3D, and gloriously at that, with Ocarina of Time. Majora's Mask changed things up by adding time mechanics as well as the ability to change into a bunch of different characters. Wind Waker turned the world into an ocean, making level progression vastly different from the previous games. The DS games both turned the control scheme on its head by making it touch-only. Finally, Skyward Sword (and Twilight Princess to a lesser extent) implemented motion controls to give the player direct control over Link's sword, paving the way for many creative new ways of using it to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
It's true that Nintendo banks on nostalgia a lot. It's also true that many of the games I mentioned just now could have been new IPs. But hey, we all love Nintendo characters, so what's the harm? As long as the gameplay is as unique as it is, by all means slap a familiar face on there. I don't need Prince Fluff when the game can be made equally well with Kirby. Even Kid Icarus: Uprising featured an old character, but they gave him such a massive overhaul that he's barely even recognizable anymore. Isn't that just as good as a new IP? The face is the same, the game is different.
That, right there, is the Nintendo I love. That's the Nintendo that made the world fall in love with its characters. That's the Nintendo I'll fanboy over.
That is my Nintendo.
Unfortunately, it's not 2007 anymore. It's E3 2013 now, and Mario Galaxy has been done. So has Metroid Prime 3 and Skyward Sword. I'm ready for Nintendo to show its stuff again. But after watching the Nintendo Direct, I have to wonder. Where is my Nintendo?
Directly Safe During the Direct, Nintendo showed a number of games from existing franchises. As I've explained above, I don't mind that at all as long as they're unique and interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't get that impression this year. A lot of the stuff they showed seemed like regular continuations of what Nintendo has already been doing. A lot of it seemed simple. Safe. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD looks absolutely fucking fantastic, but it's still just The Wind Waker again. Mario Kart 8 is...well, it's just kind of Mario Kart 8, isn't it? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is another game that looks amazing, but where's the difference with Returns? New enemies and camera angles? Underwater levels? Seems a tad weak, to be honest. And what about Pikmin 3? It's going to be great, but what is it going to do differently?
Even the announcement of the new 3D Mario didn't blow me away like it should have. When it was announced that we were going to see the new WiiU Mario, I was ready for the new step. The game that is to Galaxy what Galaxy was to Sunshine. We didn't get that. Instead, we got Super Mario 3D World. Again, it looks like a fine game that I'll be buying, but at the end of the day it seems like it's going to be pretty much the same as Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS. I actually got confused and thought that it was a 3DS game at first (the title doesn't help).
Besides that, a number of characters remain on the sidelines while Nintendo focuses all of its energy on Mario and Link. Why haven't we heard anything about a Star Fox game for WiiU, for example? When will we get a new Wario platformer again (Shake it was amazing)? How has Metroid been doing since Other M? Come to think of it, how are things progressing with Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei? And most importantly, what happened to Captain Falcon? He could've been great for WiiU, as I've already pointed out last year, but he's nowhere to be found. These are all series that could easily bring something new to the table, or at least something that we haven't seen in a long time. Unfortunately, none were present yesterday.
- The new Smash Bros. was announced, but Captain Falcon hasn't been in a new game since Brawl. That's kinda sad.
The only game they showed in Nintendo Direct that got me excited not just because it's a Nintendo game but because it seems to want to do something new was X, the otherwise untitled Monolith Soft project. This may be the fanboy in me speaking (I'm a Monolith Soft fanboy just as much as a Nintendo one, if not more so), but I thought it looked fantastic. It takes some notes from Xenoblade, always a good sign to me, but it also strives to make a fully seamless open world, has monsters which have far outgrown what Xenoblade was able to show, seems to have a big focus on transforming mechs, and has been hinted to include online multiplayer. Those are things that get me excited enough to think that it may be something more than just a safe sequel. The Wonderful 101 is another game that looks really quirky, fun and unique, but it's not Nintendo's own.
Maybe I'm being too negative over this. After all, Mario Galaxy had Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid Prime had Metroid Prime 2, and Zelda had Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks. All followed an old formula without much innovation, but we still saw cool new things afterwards. Hope is not lost, obviously. Maybe we're just at the point in time where all series simultaneously take a bit of a break before going into full overdrive again. We also have that new WiiU Zelda to look forward to, after all.
A Fitting Hopespot Regardless of how much of a sign Nintendo's showing yesterday was for its game design philosophy from now on, there was one thing that got it exactly right. One thing that shows me that Nintendo's still got its stuff. One thing that shows my Nintendo. And it may not be what you think.
It's the inclusion of the Wii Fit Trainer in the new Super Smash Bros.
At first, this may seem like an odd thing to say. Doesn't the Wii Fit Trainer represent everything we don't want? Doesn't she represent Nintendo's fall into casual bullshit nobody cares about? How could she possibly be the best thing Nintendo's done all week?
Because it's the silliest fucking thing!
At first, I honestly didn't know what to make of her inclusion. I was confused. But the more I thought about it, and the more I saw from her, the more I realized that this is perfect.
Like Sakurai said in his Smash Bros. developer video, nobody saw her coming. This is pretty much undeniable, yeah. Nintendo is showing that it still knows how to dig deep and surprise us. Sure it would be cool to see Shulk make it into the game (I told you didn't I? Monolith fanboy), but what could possibly be cooler than going on www.smashbros.com and seeing a new trailer for a character you never even imagined possible?
But more than that, Nintendo has managed to make a character whose only purpose in her own game was to "show you the moves", if I may quote a certain someone, into a veritable fighter. They even managed to take a whole bunch of yoga moves and tie them to the various abilities we know and love from the Smash Bros. series. She dodges by doing a yoga move, she does a smash attack by doing a yoga move, she poses for a taunt, she twirls hoops around for an Up+B attack. She does all these thing that you wouldn't think could make sense for even a second...and yet they do! She's a normal human, a standard fighter, and yet she looks hella fun to play as right between Bowser, Samus, Kirby and the rest of Nintendo's best and brightest.
The utter strangeness of her inclusion makes her so special to me, paired with the fact that she works so well. Just think about it! At some point during the past year, Nintendo must have had a internal roundtable. They were discussing which characters to include in the next Smash Bros. Mario and the old gang are all in of course, but who should be new? The main character from Animal Crossing would be a good fit. He's already had his own stage in Brawl, after all. Who else? Maybe we could get Mega Man in here, since we had Sonic already? Let's see, more. And right at that moment someone, some amazingly brilliant eccentric gloriousness of a person, stood up and said "You know what we should do? We should get the Wii Fit Trainer in there!"
And they rolled with it.
That's the quirky, silly, creative Nintendo I love. That's the Nintendo that's showing me they can take anything, and make it awesome. The Wii Fit Trainer is my hope that Nintendo will find its creativity again, and that Super Mario 3D World isn't the prime example of Nintendo starting to just play it safe.
Food for thought: the RuneScape theft It is the 6th of September 2007, in a little town in the middle of nowhere. A 13-year-old boy, let's call him Petey McShade for ease-of-use, is alone in his room playing RuneScape. Apparently his friends have failed to smack him upside the head for still playing RuneScape in this day and age. Their judgment will come later, but first there are more important matters to discuss. At about a quarter to three, two classmates of this boy enter his house with ill intent. Under threats of beating him up they demand Petey to log into his RuneScape account and transfer all of his gold and items to their own characters. Afterwards the incident is reported to the police, and both classmates are caught and prosecuted for, among others, assaulting and threating Petey. Justice has been done.
But much like in LOST, pressing questions remain unanswered. Questions such as "What was up with the numbers?", "Why did the Others want Walt so badly?" and "Seriously, who still plays RuneScape?!"
But the most pressing question of all is this: did those two classmates steal Petey's gold and items? But while you think about that, let me discuss some other highly important points on digital property, and I'll come back to this case in a little bit.
Digital Property: The Ages Past Digital property is a very broad thing. It comprises digital video games and their licenses first and foremost, but also virtual items, in-game currency and potentially much more. The question is whether or not we can say we "own" them. This is important because ownership grants a whole slew of important rights: uncompromisable enjoyment of your property, being able to resell it, you name it! You can do a lot more with something you own than with something you have gotten "licensed". From the recent developments I've seen, I think we may soon be seeing important revolutions in the way we look at our digital property rights. The above case is one of them, which I'll come to later. I want to use this case to illustrate a bigger point. The point that maybe...maybe we're about to enter the Third Age of digital property rights.
First things first though. If I'm going to claim that the Third Age is upon us, let me first explain what I believe the previous two ages have been.
The First Age ranges from the very start of video gaming up until not more than 10 years ago. Back then, video game ownership was incredibly simple. There was only one principle: you own what you buy.
Sometimes this came in the form of cartridges, like with the Nintendo and Sega consoles, sometimes the game would be built into the system, as with Pong, and later on most companies went on to use CDs. Sure you had to blow on the cartridge every once in a while to get it to work or your disc would get scratched, but otherwise the enjoyment of your property was completely uncompromised. You bought your game, you played your game until you were done, and all was well in the world. The whole digital thing was new, and publishers and consumers alike didn't really think of the implications, nor were they ever a problem. Technically even then you were buying a copyright license rather than an actual game, but back then that simply didn't worry anyone. The game was yours.
In short, the First Age looked much like this:
The Second Age is where it gets a tad more complicated.
This era only really started a couple of years ago, but it took an enormous flight very quickly. Video game publishers came to realize that they were really only selling a game's copyright license rather than an actual product, and that interesting things could be done with a model like that. This is the model that is still prevalent today.
Owning the CD didn't necessarily mean anymore that you could play the game. Your license could be revoked for cheating or from trying to mod the game. And remember those games you could only install a limited number of times? What does that say about your property rights? Little good, I fear. The same applies to online passes, and the recent events with Diablo 3 and SimCity have also shown quite well that you no longer own what you buy. You own what the publisher let's you own, which isn't a lot as we've seen. This model of selling a restrictive license spread even more quickly in light of digital distribution. Steam, XBLA, PSN, you name it. Every one of them sells you a license instead of a game, and don't ever make the mistake of thinking those companies aren't fully aware of the implications.
For fun and profit, I decided to take a quick look at the license agreement that Steam uses. I came across some neat things which I think very nicely summarize the current state of digital property. In that context, I think the very best one is this:
"Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Software for your personal use in accordance with this Agreement, including the Subscription Terms. The Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software." (emphasis mine)
Remember: as a Steam user you agreed to this. And I don't know about you, but I'd say that quote makes this next screen rather...interesting.
Apparently Valve PR and Valve Legal disagree over whether or not I own my Steam games.
As it stands the implications of this model are quite worrisome indeed. It implies that the distributer can simply revoke your right to access the game for any reason they remember to put in the license agreement. Cheats and hacks are often in there, but we're seeing other things as well. We have even seen cases where legal troubles on the publisher's side led to every single sold license being revoked. Finally, in another of Steam's license agreement provision it says that Valve explicitly does not guarantee access to your games. Firstly, that means that when it comes to non-functioning games, say because of an always-online model, you're simply shit out of luck. But taken to its logical extreme, any reason whatsoever could be grounds for revoking your game. Because hey, it's not like you own those games anyway, right?
I use these points not because I hate Steam (far from it), but simply to illustrate that in the current video game climate there does not exist such a thing as ownership. Even if you hold a physical disc in your hands this model applies: you can own the disc, but never the game. Publishers simply don't want that, they're much too happy selling an easily revokable license to you. I fully suggest that you read the license agreement to any video game or distribution service you have, because I'm sure you'll find similar terminology there, if not worse.
So summing up the Second Age:
Fortunately, however, we may already be on the brink of the Third Age.
Entering the Third Age Nowadays, it seems that increasingly many people understand the big implications behind the current practices of digital ownership. This number is only likely to grow in the future.
First and foremost, the gamers themselves are starting to get fed up with a lot of this. People were very critical of Origin's licensing when that came out, for one. Even now the common consensus seems to be that as long as a game doesn't force you to use Origin, you stay away from it like it's Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. We just don't trust EA with a Steam-like system. Besides that, the idea that one of the next major consoles will be always-online chills us to the bone. When the license agreement prescribes that we need to be online for the game or the console to function, we immediately see that this definitely wasn't what we as gamers signed up for. After all, how will we play the games we bought and own?
We have also seen a rise in services that try to be more consumer-friendly in selling their games. One reason for why the Humble Indie Bundles have become so very popular is that you can simply get an installer if you so desire. No more digital platform with a restrictive license that may prove unreliable in the future: you make a back-up of your installer somewhere, and the game will forever be yours. Singular indie devs often allow you to download an installer from their site as well, as does GOG. Strictly speaking this practice of giving you an installer that you're free to back up does not by definition mean that you "own" all of those games now, but we are already getting to a situation that is quite similar to the First Age. You technically may not own it, but you're getting so close it doesn't really matter anymore. Everything you could do with your NES-cartridges you can also do with those installers, short of tossing them out the window to see if they really are indestructible.
While gamers and some distributers have already learned, non-gamers are starting to wise up as well. They too are starting to realize that selling a software license is a model that is very open to abuse, and that digital ownership needs to become a real thing. Consumer organizations are starting to get worried over some of these practices and some countries that have extensive consumer rights regulation have already put restrictions on the publishers and distributers. By Valve's own admission some parts of Steam's license agreement aren't applicable to the EU, and for good reason: that shit just doesn't fly there. Moreover, just last year the European Court of Justice took a major step in the right direction, when it ruled that a copyright holder cannot prevent you from reselling his license. Think about the implications this may have for digital video game distribution! This judgment could make it possible to set up a market for used Steam games! And you and I both know you've got games on your Steam account you'd be better off selling.
There are some other interesting things to be taken from this particular judgment. For example, at one point the Court explicitly states that downloading a game and concluding a license cannot be seen separately, but must be taken together as a whole. Once again I can't help but see the seeds of a true property right on digital games and software. The Court sees that your Setup.exe is useless if you're not allowed to actually install your game. So doesn't it makes sense to see it as one product? One that you can own? I think so. The license model has already been dealt a hefty blow with this judgment, a blow that not even a binding contract could parry, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that a true property right may yet be on the horizon.
In fact, there is reason to believe that the Third Age may go farther than even the first. Back in the NES days it was almost unfathomable that you could actually own not only your video game, but even your in-game items. I already explained that owning your video games is starting to become a reality. However, with cases like the RuneScape one described above, even ownership of virtual in-game items is becoming a very good possibility.
I was withholding this information from you earlier to get you thinking, but Petey's classmates were actually first and foremost prosecuted for theft. But only if we own our virtual items can they be stolen. So the question before the court was: do we?
There are definitely some strong technical arguments you could bring into this to argue that this isn't the case. You could say that the items never existed, that they were nothing more than "bits and bytes" inherently unsuitable for ownership. Or you could say the items never belonged to Petey in the first place. Don't the items technically belong to the guys running RuneScape? It's their game after all. In that case, nothing was ever stolen, because the items never left their owner.
The court, however said that virtual items are indeed property. Petey was the owner of his items, and the conduct by his classmates amounted to theft. What was at stake was our expectations as gamers as to the ownership of our virtual goods. The court brought the law in line with those expectations, with the reality of the digital world, and I for one applaud the judges for taking a very modern and worldly view on this matter. The court explicitly took into account that the items are felt to have a value to their original owner (in fact, the victim testified that he was "rich" in RuneScape) as well as to the suspects. Moreover, acquiring these riches requires time and effort on the player's part. I think I speak for all of us when I say that this is exactly and entirely correct. Acquiring in-game items does take a heck of a lot of time, and off course these items have a value to us. And if that's the case, why shouldn't we own them?
But let's change the facts of the case a little bit. In actuality, a RuneScape amulet was stolen. It had some sort of worth, but it couldn't have been a whole lot. But now: let's change "RuneScape amulet" to "Second Life house", or to "EVE Online spaceship". After all, if there's any place where there is real money to be found in virtual items, it's there. Without ownership of virtual items, entire virtual houses worth thousands of dollars can be stolen without significant repercussions and without compensation for the victim. You could even simply consider this issue with games featuring micro-transactions, as so many MMO's have nowadays. What if Petey had bought his amulet for two dollars? That's undeniably a worth right there. I can only imagine that the court saw this and judged accordingly. And with that in mind, I couldn't be happier that it took this brave step.
Closing off In short, recent developments in law, as well as the growing awareness among gamers and even many others as to the problems with the current state of digital property, are sending me a clear message. The message that this model will not last forever. This applies both to the license model and the virtual items situation. For both, a turning point is coming; we may yet come to truly own them.
So what about you? What would digital property mean for you? What do you hope owning your games would change? Do you want to go in and mod them? Do you want to be able to resell your games, or do you want protection against loss of your save files? What about virtual items; do you think they should be protected as your property, and does it matter if we're talking about an MMO or a singleplayer game? Should they be shown the same respect as physical items?
In short, where would you want the Third Age to lead us?
I mentioned last week that I still had two blogs that I wanted to write in the near future. Well...this was not one of them. However, something came up a few days ago that I felt warranted this topic being done a tad earlier than planned.
I think everyone about my age can relate: back when you were younger, say high school age, there were a couple of free online games you played which looking back were really pretty bad. Runescape seems to be a major offender for most people. You probably played it at some point, but you wouldn't be caught dead playing it now. Maple Story is another favorite, although I hear that one actually holds up pretty decently even now. I never played Runescape myself, but my friend got me into Maple Story a little bit. I didn't play it for very long, and my friend got way more into it than I ever did.
But there was another game my friend showed me back then. A game I wound up putting tons more hours in than he ever could have imagined when he showed it to me.
This was a little game called Rakion: Chaos Force.
If I have to sum up Rakion, it's basically a F2P class-based PvP melee MMO. Yeah, say that three times fast. But really, you should just think Team Fortress or Monday Night Combat, but replace all the guns with swords, and you'll be pretty close. That right there is more or less what Rakion was like, at least in theory, and I loved the crap out of it. In fact, the very reason I'm writing this blog is because I firmly believe that this concept still has promise.
The main game was more or less divided into three modes. You had your basic Free-for-all, which was pretty fun in and of itself but nothing special. There was Team Deathmatch, in which people were paired up in groups of six or so and scored points by killing the other team. Standard Deathmatch, no complaints; personally I found this mode to be a heck of a lot of fun. Finally, there was Golem Mode, and this worked much like Capture the Flag. Again people would be paired up into two teams, and each team had a large Golem creature in their base. The teams would then try to kill the other team's Golem in order to win the round. The trick is that you couldn't actually hurt the other team's Golem right away. Instead there was a large Golden Golem in the middle of the map. At the start of each match both teams would rush in towards the Golden Golem, which could be killed by regular attacks. The person who scored the final hit would gain a golden aura, and this meant that he or she was now able to damage the Golem at the opponent's base. Off course, this resulted in one team trying their hardest to protect their golden ally, and the other team trying even harder to kill him. This was a pretty neat mode, all in all. Either way, there could have been more variety in gameplay modes (there was a solo PvE-style mode, but fuck that noise), but overall it was fun enough for a free MMO.
Rakion featured five classes when I played it, and looking at the website now that hasn't changed yet. They are pictured below. From top to bottom, there's the Blacksmith, the Archer, the Warrior, the Ninja and the Mage.
Take a second to guess which one I picked. Go on, guess.
Each character had different strengths and weaknesses, as you would expect. There was a little combo system in place, but these combos were only a couple of hits tops. Besides that, each character had a ranged attack, with some being more reliant on it than others. The system was simple, but it worked and it felt right. There was one other special thing about all the characters, but I'll get to that later.
The Warrior was your standard all-round guy. He wielded a sword which actually had a pretty decent reach, but there's not much to say about him. His ranged attack was a knife throw. It was pretty difficult to aim, but you didn't really ever use it anyway. You had to take a second to equip your ranged weapon before you could use it with all the characters, and you had to equip your melee again afterwards, so for most characters ranged was neglected in favor of simply running up to your opponent and sticking a sword in their gut.
The Ninja was the fast one. She had two knives, ran fast and had quick combos but pretty low health. These were always a pain to fight. For ranged she had shurikens: these sucked in PvP but were insanely overpowered against Golems and other creatures. You never saw a match in Golem Mode without a Ninja or two.
The Blacksmith was the big dude. He was slow but could dish out tons of damages with that warhammer he wielded. He was pretty fun to play as, and his design was cool. For his ranged attack he had throwing axes. They did good damage, but much like the Warrior's ultimately weren't worth it. Free players could use three character slots, and a Blacksmith filled one of mine.
The Mage, whilst being so small, was another heavy hitter. His normal attacks had very short range, but he had a heavy attack in which he sent out a row of icicles in front of him. This was slow and left you open, but did huge damage and juggled anyone who got in the way. For ranged he shot homing fireballs, which was another slow but powerful attack. The Mage is another class I really liked the design on, and they were a lot of fun to use all things considered. This was the class I used as my secondary character, only surpassed by off course:
The Archer, my main (did you guess right?) was your go-to ranged gal. She had a short sword, but her combos and reach left much to be desired: slow, low damage, incredibly not worth it. Her ranged attack was obviously her bow, and this thing was her greatest strength. She was fast with this thing as well, and once you got the aiming down you were capable of wrecking people before they could even get close. The physics behind her arrows were very well done, and you really had to learn the aiming system in order for your shot to hit its mark. After a lot of training, you knew exactly how high you had to aim to hit that moving target at the other side of the map, but once you got good you could hit him every time. There was nothing more satisfying than taking your shot, waiting a second, and seeing that asshole Ninja in the distance flinch right before she got a hit off on your teammate.
Her bow was, paradoxically, even very good at close range. You could always tell the good Archers from the bad ones by looking at which of them switched to the sword when enemies came close. Rule #1 of the Rakion Archer: Never, EVER, take your sword out. Bow all day, every day. Even when enemies got right up in your face, your bow was your best friend. The thing is the Archer shot fast. Like, really fast. She could shoot so quickly that it was completely viable to lure your opponents into doing an attack, dodge and fire. Each hit stunned as well, so if you were lucky and quick, you could get off multiple hits at once. This was a fucking blast! There was also the element of learning to predict your opponent's moves which was another incredibly satisfying experience once you saw it pay off. Once you got good with her, the Archer was a beast both close range and long. And considering all the time I spent practicing, I think it's safe to say I got pretty good indeed.
One problem the Archer did have was that she sucked at Golem. Her arrows didn't do enough damage to creatures to be viable, so you were often reliant on the rest of your team. Except for that little fact that Golem Mode didn't have respawns. Once you were dead you stayed dead, and killing all your opponents was an alternate win condition. So while everyone else was hitting the Golden Golem I usually got myself a place with a nice view, so to speak, and kept picking off the enemies. This way they'd get stunned every few seconds so I bought my team time to kill the Golem for me, and on the off chance that an enemy managed to score the last hit he had already taken so much damage that killing him before he reached our base was no trouble at all. There's also that little fact that almost everyone who got the gold aura instinctively ran towards the other team's Golem in a straight line. A word of advice: do not run in straight lines when Archers are on the prowl.
Remember kids, you can't spell "funnel" without "fun"!
Eventually, some people would get so fed up with me picking away at them while they were concentrating on the Golem that they'd come after me instead. Now the Archer was a class that in my opinion was often grossly underestimated. So every once in a while an overconfident Blacksmith who got fed up with me came after me with the idea that he'd just kill me real quick and focus on the important stuff afterwards. Nine times out of ten, he left as a pincushion. That is, if he left at all. Back then, that was the best feeling in the world.
There was also this one time where I was the only one left of my team going up against three or four scattered opponents, and my own team kept urging me to switch to the sword. Because be serious, how is an Archer going to fight close range with just a bow? About ten minutes later, in what admittedly must have been my best Rakion match ever and perhaps my best multiplayer match ever period, they knew exactly how one fights close range with a bow. I won us the round that time, because each of the opponents figured they could easily take me one on one. Had they come together there would've been major problems, but none of them saw the need at that time. I don't think they ever made that mistake again. Perhaps I was wrong earlier. This was the best feeling in the world.
Anyways, the final general thing you need to know about Rakion is the Chaos system. After a certain amount of kills, and sometimes after a certain amount of deaths as a pity prize, your character could go into Chaos Mode. You became a lot bigger, were immune to damage and stun and did fucktons of damage. Basically, you were given the option to for a limited time FUCK.SHIT.UP. See each character's Chaos form below. The Mage's Chaos Form in particular was very cool, but the Ninja became even more of a bitch than she already was anyway. All in all this was a decent system, but it didn't add a whole lot. The game could've done without.
From left to right: Blacksmith, Ninja, Mage, Archer and Warrior.
This was more or less the full game, and I loved it. There were a lot of things that made this game work, but most of all it was being able to play a class-based game like this at melee range with swords and magic. Hopefully you too are able to see what made Rakion this unique little snowflake. Never before or since have I seen a game quite like this, and that's a massive shame. Because unfortunately, there's a reason I refer to Rakion as "crappy" in my title. This game had a slew of problems. While I didn't see those at the time, looking back on it now they really do break the game. I haven't gotten it to run on my Windows 7, but I doubt things have improved much since then.
Firstly, this was one of the first games I ever played where "F2P" reared its ugly head. You could get to level 20 for free, but after that your character stopped getting skill points upon level up unless you paid. Even back then I refused to pay for shit like this, so I was perpetually stuck at level 20. This was more of a skillbased game anyway, so it didn't matter much, but it was still annoying.
Secondly, Golem Mode gave huge XP gains compared to the other modes, so ultimately that was what almost 90% of the people played. Whereas Golem Mode was pretty fun as I discussed before, every once in a while you want something different. I myself loved Team Deathmatch since the Archer was pretty unsuited for Golem matches from the get-go, but those games were rare and yielded only a fraction of the XP and gold.
Thirdly, the balance in this game was whack. I have never seen such strange balancing in a class-based game. If I have to summarize it: every character was overpowered. In groups, that is. Rakion had this very strange thing in that every class was utterly broken if you had an entire team of them. Five Warriors were completely devastating, as were five Mages, as were five Ninjas, et cetera. In other games you want to make sure you have a variety of classes in your team for maximum effectiveness. In Rakion, whenever you saw a team all with the same class, you knew you were screwed, and it didn't even matter which particular class it was. To this day I have no clue how this could've happened, but that's what it was like.
Finally and by far the most painful, the netcode was complete shit. It was very rare to find a game where none of the players had huge ping, and disconnects were frequent. Lag was the rule rather than the exception, and if you could go two matches without the game crashing you were in luck.
Long story short: when this is your game's tagline, you know what time it is.
So all in all, Rakion: Chaos Force was pretty much riddled with problems. But riddle me this: what games are there that did anything like what Rakion tried to achieve? Anything at all?
Rakion had such an amazingly fun concept. You take a class-based MMO and replace the Snipers with Archers, the Heavies with Blacksmiths and the Scouts with Ninja's. You make the players get up close and personal and have them play all sorts of fun modes. They really don't have to be anything special. A simple game of Team Deathmatch or Capture the Flag changes dramatically once you take guns out of the equation. All of a sudden you need to buy your golden teammate some time, because he still has to kill the enemy's Golem and that's going to take a while. All of a sudden you have to wall off your base with Warriors and Blacksmiths, while your Archers and Mages fire away at the gold enemy before he can reach your base. All of a sudden you don't have to worry about getting close to the heavy hitter before he shreds you to bits (with a minigun, say) because he too can only do damage up close. There's all these little things that happen when you make a class-based MMO melee, but the only game I've ever seen do it was Rakion.
Where are my class-based melee MMOs, game industry? No seriously, where are they?
I have heard it said that the Dark Messiah of Might and Magic multiplayer is somewhat similar to this. Unfortunately however, I only managed to play that game relatively recently, and the multiplayer is long dead. Other than that, I'm coming up empty. Some MOBAs seem to go Rakion's direction somewhat, but more often than not MOBAs devolve into "hit the special attack button and hope it dies" whereas Rakion was much more about using your standard combos at the right time and dodging when needed. Still nothing like I was searching for.
But then something happened.
A couple of days ago, an Early Access game went up on Steam called ArcheBlade. I'm pretty sure nobody had ever heard of it. This was its trailer:
I want it said that "Dick the Megaton" is the best character name ever.
It looked...great! I was ecstatic! It has a class system, a focus on melee, simple combos with some special moves, cool characters, Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch. Could this be the game I was waiting for? Could this be Rakion, except not shitty?
Well, kind of.
This game definitely has the right idea, and it reminds me of Rakion in the best possible way. The trailer shows its potential and it definitely looks the closest to Rakion I've ever seen something come. In fact, someone on the Steam forums has already compared the two games as well.
Unfortunately, this seems like another game which doesn't bring out the full potential of the concept. I played it for a while yesterday and was left disappointed. From what I've seen your characters always attack in the direction the camera is facing rather than where the character itself is facing. This isn't much of a problem, except that it takes even the most minute angles into account. You'll be attacking an enemy, but when you turn the camera a little bit to look at who might be approaching, your next attack is going to miss simply because you turned the camera ever so slightly. More than anything this ensures that you'll never stand any chance fighting more than one opponent at a time. Either you can't focus, or you can't see. Moreover, in all the matches I played yesterday, not once did I manage to fight someone one on one. This game has a huge tendency to bundle up all the players in a small area, ultimately ensuring that fights become too chaotic for the system to really show its stuff.
Once again F2P rears its ugly head, even more horribly than Rakion's ever did. ArcheBlade, you see, makes you buy every single character. Yeah. Free to play my ass. You want to try your hand at a defensive class? Pay up. How about ranged? Pay up again. Your quick hitter sucks? Well too bad then, you already paid for it. You can pay about 20 bucks for the starter pack, but all evidence points to this game being one of those F2P titles. You know the ones. Finally, in the games of ArcheBlade I played there was also a good amount of lag present, pointing to another instance of bad netcode. And since ArcheBlade is a bit faster paced than Rakion was it becomes all the more annoying.
You like these characters? That will be 3 bucks each kthxbye.
When I think about it that way and I read the above paragraphs, I could actually see ArcheBlade becoming someone else's Rakion. I imagine right now there's a kid just like me back in high school who is loving the shit out of ArcheBlade, wondering why there are no other major games like this.
...but it looks like we'll have to keep on searching for that one game that will get it right.
So come on, gaming industry: make me that class-based melee game. Make me a Capture the Flag with swords and bows. Make me a 4v4 Deathmatch with ninjas and magic. ArcheBlade is already a step in the right direction. Keep going, keep going.
Make me Rakion again. ....but please...make it good this time.
So I figured that, after raving about how much I want this to become a real thing we do on Destructoid, I should probably do my own version of calling dibs. The very least I can do is complete the trio started by burningsoup and Pixielated. Seriously though; all of you go write these. Do one retro-actively for all I care. Just make it happen. I'll even get Holmes to give you a kiss.
Froakie, you say? Chespin? Come now. We know we can't all have the best starter for Pokémon X and Y, but is that really a reason to give up that easily? You didn't have to delude yourself into thinking that you want Froakie or Chespin; you could've fought for Fennekin, like he deserves. Well too bad, you're too late now.
Now I've got dibs on Fennekin, and there's nothing you can do about it. Why do I have dibs? Oh you ignorant fool, there are so many reasons that Fennekin beats all. But you know what? I'll give you a tiny sample, just to rub it in that you can't have him anymore.
- Fennekin can be both cute and badass. Even at the same time. Don't believe me? Watch!
Take careful note of those other two guys being not-at-all-badass
He is sleeping in a ring of fire. Have you ever seen anything that simultaneously cute and badass? Off course you haven't. Let's see Froakie or Chespin pull that off! So far Froakie has only been able to look like he hasn't got a clue about anything that's going on around him, and Chespin is so happy his parents should seriously consider a sugar-free diet. But Fennekin? Cute. Badass. DONE.
- Animals of the other starters already exist. Fennekin is unique. Completely and utterly unique. Unfortunately, that doesn't hold true for our Grass and Water friends. Let's take a look:
Froakie is, obviously, a frog. But wait, haven't we seen that before? In fact, yes we have. Politoed, Seismitoad, and Toxicroak are all examples of frog-Pokémon, only one of which isn't a Water-type.
Chespin fares a little better. He bears some resemblance to a squirrel, but this position is already taken by Pokémon such as Pachirisu and Emolga. But you know what, fair enough, he probably isn't a squirrel. The other thing he looks like is a mole. Sorry, little guy, but that position is already taken as well, and Drilbur wouldn't like you messing with his game.
And what about Fennekin? Entirely unique. Not once in the entire series of Pokémon have we seen anything resembling a Fennec, or even a fox, let alone a Fire type fox. Except Vulpi None at all.
- Fennekin is legit the best fire-starter since Torchic. Charmander was a great starter. Cyndaquil was noticeably less interesting, but the starters of the second generation were kind of weak as a whole. Torchic was great again; he was an awesome little fire chicken who could kick you square in the face once it grew up. But then came Chimchar and Tepig. Chimchar literally had a flame coming out of his butt, and Tepig was...a pig I guess? I'm sorry, but there's just so little to say about these guys. They're the vanilla of Pokémon, flavorless animals colored reddish to convince us they were Fire types. Besides, what the hell kind of name is "Tepig"? And don't even get me started on their evolutions.
Fennekin, however, has revived my love for the Fire-starter. Besides being cute and badass (see above), he is the first Fire-starter since Torchic to really have an identity of its own. It's based on a relatively niche animal compared to Chimchar and Tepig, and his large ears and tufts of fire-hair give him a charm that's hard not to appreciate. Moreover, Game Freak didn't feel the need to color him orange this time around, instead going with a much nicer yellow. They know he can stand on his own merits, that he isn't "random animal but now FIRE!" like his predecessors. He's a fennec and he's fire, and that makes enough sense as is.
- Nobody uses Internet Explorer anyway. Admit it: the last time you used Internet Explorer it was to download Firefox. Firefox is a good browser, Fennekin is a Fire fox. Quod erat demonstrandum, he said in Julius Caesarese.
Oh, and while we're at it, I've also got dibs on Zapdos.
- Fennekin may be a Psychic type and Psychic kicks ass. If the rumors are to be believed, all of the starters this time around may receive an additional type. So far, Bulbasaur is still the only starter with two types, because he hails from a time where Grass-Pokémon were obligated by law to also be Poison-type. But perhaps that will change in Generation VI. In fact, if the rumors are true, Chespin will be Grass/Dark, Froakie Water/Fighting and Fennekin Fire/Psychic.
You may recognize the Psychic-type as the type that was completely and utterly broken in the first Generation of Pokémon, where it devastated everything in its path. Off course, ever since then the type has been nerfed considerably, but as far as pure power, Special Attack, goes you still can't go wrong with a Psychic-type.
And Fennekin may be one. Apart from scorching its foes to a fine crisp, he may also have the ability to fling you straight into the wall with its mind. In fact, he'll even be able to fling Wailord around with his mind. Think about that. Yoda was able to lift a small spaceship with the Force, Luke could barely move his lightsaber, Fennekin FLINGS FUCKING WHALES WITH HIS MIND.
Chespin's going to fight like a cheating bitch, Froakie thinks he's Kung Fu Panda, Fennekin outclasses Yoda. There's just no contest here, honestly.
But that's not all. If Fennekin turns out to be a Fire/Psychic, there's only one other Pokémon that (consistently) shares his type. The only Fire/Psychic Pokémon currently in existence is Victini, a Legendary Pokémon from Black and White. So not only will Fennekin have a cool typing, he'll only have to share it with a Legendary who is also the Victory Pokémon. Froakie, on the other hand, will share his type with a tadpole, and Chespin will share his with a cactus and a tree. Not quite the same, is it?
- Fennekin will not be a Fighting type because I will personally punch the entirety of Game Freak in the face. 'nuff said.
Alternatively, I will hug this baby fennec... No, that has nothing to do with anything; I just wanted an excuse to hug him.
- Fennekin has hair coming out of its ears that is also fire. Did you know that unicorn earhairs cure every disease known to man and can grant eternal life to penguins? It's true! Point is, ear hairs are awesome, and Fennekin's got them in spades. What's more, his ear hair is fire! He has the best fire-hair this side of LeChuck, and that's gotta count for something.
- Fennekin has the most potential for evolutions. When we first saw Charmander, how many of us could've imagined that he would evolve into the awesome dragon that is Charizard? Torchic is an even better example; how many of us foresaw that tiny chicken turn into a fearsome combination of fire, chicken and Bruce Lee?
The thing is, Fire starters have a history of turning out more awesome than you would think, whereas the others just tend to turn into a bigger version of themselves. I'll grant you Snivy, but otherwise the point more or less stands. At this point, we can only imagine what Fennekin's evolutions are going to look like. Still, it is very clear that we can expect something awesome, whatever it is. I could see him going the route of Amaterasu, and I'd be all over that.
- Red was my first ever video game. Yep, it was. Pokémon Red was the first real game I've ever played, and it was what got me into gaming in the first place. Pokémon Red also had the final evolution of the Fire-starter on the cover. So, in a strange and entirely roundabout way, Fire-Pokémon are what got me into gaming. With that in mind, how could I possibly not love Fennekin?
And last but not least: - There’s a Fennekin plushie. Can’t argue with the plushies.
And that concludes it, you can't possibly need any more evidence than this. As you can clearly see, there is only one real option for a starter in Pokémon X and Y, and that is Fennekin. He's cute, badass, may be Psychic, is entirely unique, has massive potential, and has a plushie. In short, we all want him.
Well, sucks to be you then, because he's already mine!