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On the wings of death, by the hands of doom;
By the darkest light from the darkest moon;
On the wings of life, by the hands of hope;
By the brightest light from the brightest sun.

And vice versa.

I'm ShadeOfLight.
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
Smash Bros.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Muramasa - The Demon Blade
Wario Land: Shake it!
Sonic Colors
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
Darksiders II
Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Pikmin 3
Super Mario 3D World
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Mario Kart 8

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
Cave Story
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!
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Steam ID:http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198005145371/
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Dear members of the Destructoid community.
As you may or may not recall, about one year ago you purchased your very own ShadeOfLight. The introductory blog dated from the 21st of January 2011, but the ShadeOfLight had already been active for several weeks before that. It had escaped our custody just a while before you actually bought it, and we apologize for any damage it may have caused during this time.
We of SoLcorp believe, based on our continued surveillance of the creature, that you have taken the suggestions we gave back then to heart. It seems that you have done very well in raising it and that it has found it's place here on the site. The ShadeOfLight itself also seems more than content to be here, and since we always have it's best interest in mind, we could not be happier to hear this.
We hope that the feeling is at least partially mutual.
We would like to remind you that the one year warranty is over, so SoLcorp can no longer be held accountable for anything the ShadeOfLight does anyway. It's your problem now, suckers!

But before we go and leave the creature to you permanently, it seems that the ShadeOfLight itself also has some things to say, and we will let it speak below.


So then, enough of that sillyness (that you will only understand if you've read my introduction all the way back in January, and probably not even then).

It seems that just about a year ago, I started visiting this wonderful little site of ours. It doesn't feel as long, that's for sure. I still remember how I came here in the first place. I used to go to IGN to get my gaming news, but they were slowly but surely getting worse. My favorite Nintendo editors left, only to be replaced by people who were just not quite as good. At one point though, IGN decided that I was no longer allowed to visit the US website. It immediately linked me to the UK version (based on my location in Europe, I'd wager), which....sucked. It just sucked. It hardly ever updated, the podcasts were scarce and simply not as good and all in all it just didn't give me the gaming news that I wanted. Surely I shifted sites. I wandered around for a bit, until I noticed at one point that I was increasingly often being linked to Destructoid. I had known for a while that this site existed, but never quite tried to get into it. That was bound to change. I favorited the 'Toid after some time, and quickly came to the conclusion that this site told me everything that I wanted to know. Moreover, it had pretty good original content, a blog section, and a very solid community too boot!
The rest is history. (which is an odd phrase, because everything else I just mentioned is history too....)

Looking back after one year, it is really astounding how much I benefited from becoming a regular toider, in both the material and immaterial sense.

Let's look at the material first. After I had been on the site for just about a month, the Steam Holiday Sale went up. "Wait, what does this have to do with Destructoid?", you ask? Hush, ye impatient one, and let me tell you!
I must admit, I never had any real interest in Steam, so I had previously skipped all news relating to it. I never wanted to take the time to get into it, because I just didn't think it was worth the effort. But here on Destructoid, I saw the error of my ways. When a news article went up showing all of the incredible Holiday deals, I couldn't resist. Super Meat Boy for three bucks, you say? Count me in!
I was an instant convert.
We are now a year later (I'm already psyched for next week), and I now have a Steam account filled with over 50 games (mostly indie ones), all of which I love. I also dragged a friend of mine with me, and we had a tons and tons of fun playing Magicka and Portal 2 together. Seriously though, Steam kicks ass, and I've got the 'Toid to thank for showing me that.

Related to that: Since coming to this site, I've been much better able to keep track of all sorts of interesting games that I wouldn't even have known existed otherwise. This netted me some really cool stuff over time. Again, especially indie games. Let's just take a couple of examples here.
Just last week we saw content related to Dustforce, which seems like a game that was made specifically with me in mind. Nice art, fast platforming gameplay, cute little concept? Done.
The same goes for Owlboy; I'm still keeping track of that too.
Finally, this is a game that I also saw just a little while ago: Of Orcs and Men. I don't know who you are, person who came up with this game, or how you've managed to get into my mind, but I want you to know that I love you. Best concept for a game I've seen in a long time, and I probably would never have heard about it if it wasn't for Destructoid.
And how else but through Destructoid would I have known that there was an RPG out there starring Cthulhu? And that it was coming to Steam (see above) for practically free?

Speaking of free, I can't talk about everything I've gained from Destructoid without mentioning bbain's awesome batches of freeware indie games, can I? From Octodad, which was surprisingly fun(ny), to suteF, which is just all-round amazing, and everything in between, I've downloaded a lot of cool stuff over the past year thanks to that blog series, not to mention those of others.

"Game face" is appropriate in more ways than one

But all of that are just material gains. Ridiculously awesome material gains, but still. I feel that there are other benefits too, which certainly warrant a mention.
I feel like I've become part of a community that, for the most part, is just like I am. Nowhere else have I found a place where the people have such similar interests to mine. For example, when I mention the Baten Kaitos games in any other place, I get blank stares. If I do it here, I'll find at least a couple of people who know and love it too. The same goes for many other titles. I still remember the news story that finally confirmed that I was going to be able to play Xenoblade, just as I remember all the times before it where I couldn't stop mentioning it anywhere I went (and as you can see, I still do).
It's just very nice to be able to be a part of that. Now, I realize that I don't have the name recognition of people like Elsa or Occam's, but that was never the goal. I've earned at least some semblance of a sort of a place among this site and that's just great.
Finding an editor (even though he's not even aware that I exist, story of my life :P) who is both the most likable person ever and often seems to think pretty similar to me (I claim no connection between the two), was a strange thing, but also very welcome.
Holmes is kind of like Kirby; nobody in their right mind could possible hate either one.

I mean, just look at the little guys :D

The community blogs were also a great addition and I frankly didn't really expect that when I first joined the site. There's simply a lot of people here who have interesting stuff to say. And while I don't always agree with everyone, they certainly provide some food for thought. As a law student, my studies encourage me to always form opinions on issues, but only after assessing all of the facts and really thinking carefully about it.Giving your gut feelings is one thing, but really forming your opinion on a matter is quite something else.
That is something that I've often found myself doing while browsing through the blogs, partially to my own surprise. I would sometimes just sit down and say to myself: "Well, what do I think about this?" This could range from simple things like whether or not the FPS is too prevalent nowadays, to much more complex issues like female characterization in games.
I could sit for a long time, staring into nothingness, trying to from my opinion as best I could.
Spoilers: the results of this were mixed. :P

But there are two sides to the Cblogs, the reading part and the writing part. Now, I haven't written all that many blogs here, mostly due to time reasons, but it was nice to see that people seemed to like them when I did write one. They never went frontpage, but I would like to think that that is not the standard by which these things are judged.
What was nice is that several of my blog got topsauced (even the very first one, before I even knew what a 'topsauce' was), and while not the biggest achievement it was nice to see people appreciating what I wrote. It was particularly unexpected that a sappy story about an old strategy guide would resonate with multiple people. Finally, what was very nice was that one of my blogs caught the attention of a 'toider who had just started his own gaming website. He asked me to write original articles (/shameless plug) for his, admittedly new and relatively unknown, site and I've been enjoying that as well.

All in all though, it's amazing what can happen in one year if you find the right place to go, and it seems like Destructoid really is the right place for me. Between a new-found love for Steam, better game-coverage than I ever had and a pretty nice community to boot, 2011 has been pretty alright for me here.
That leaves only this left to say:
Good job and thank you, Destructoid, and I'll be happy to be here for another year (that is, if you'll have me :P).




Photo Photo Photo

For this week's musing, I would like to look beyond a single villain that I liked. Why? Simply because there are too many good ones to name. So instead, I will do things a little different, I'm looking at a certain kind of villain. The Traitor, the one that everybody loves to hate. This blog will obviously contain spoilers, but they are mostly from older games and I will try to warn in advance. Don't worry, I won't stab you in the back on this.

So, mr. Evil McKillington, you have decided to become a villain in a video game. Even though you will most definitely lose in the end, that is a good choice. The villains are usually some of the most memorable characters in the game, and you will surely be remembered fondly. Now then, what type of villain would you like to become? Big Bad? Right hand man of the big bad? Incompetent comic relief underling? Take your pick.
Ah, so you would like to become The Traitor, do you? Interesting.
The Traitor is the character who seems to be helping the heroes throughout most of the game, only to stab them in the back later on. The fact that you build up trust first will ensure that you will be remembered for times to come. Players will hate the Traitor from the depths of their hearts, and they will love doing so. And that is exactly what's so great about this type of villain. Well, mr. McKillington, you have made a wise decision. Become a good Traitor, and your status as a classic villain will be guaranteed.

However, you have to keep in mind that being an effective Traitor is not easy. Slip up once, and the impact may be quickly destroyed. If you don't do it right, you might not be taken seriously, and we wouldn't want that. Fear not though, because as a player of many a story-based game, I can tell you exactly what to do, so that you may be the best Traitor gamers have ever seen.
Here are some guidelines to help you on your way.


1) Shock and awe (and foreshadow)
This is the most basic rule of becoming a memorable Traitor. When it finally turns out that you were evil all along, you want the players to be stunned by the revelation. I know this sounds straightforward, but you would be surprised by how many characters forget this rule. Some characters make it so obviously clear that they are actually evil, that no one will be shocked by it anymore. For example, many characters still believe that they can be a Chancellor or an advisor to the king, and expect it to be a shock when they turn out to be evil. However, gamers have long since realized that there is no such thing as a "good" advisor. It just doesn't work.
But then, look at Chancellor Cole, from The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks:

Yeah, he's not fooling anyone

Clearly, that is a guy who could use a healthy dose of subtlety.

However, there is one thing you should remember. Before you bust out your "I'm a friend to all living creatures" T-shirt, you should know that you can in fact be too subtle. How is that?
Quite simple really: if you become too nice and too helpful throughout the entire game, people simple will not believe you anymore when you turn out to be evil. They will feel that this plottwist is conveluted and makes no sense, and that your betrayal simply isn't credible. This will be a major strike against any Traitor, so make sure that you don't fall into this trap. An example of a game that clearly did fall into this trap is Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn. In this game there was a character who was quite literally the nicest guy in the game. He was a monk, and therefore inherently peaceful, and he went out of his way to help you in any way he could. In short, there was no way on earth that he could be evil. So when it turned out that he was, it just fell flat. His betrayal wasn't credible at all. He was just.too.nice.

To avoid this, you should use foreshadowing. In the correct dosage, foreshadowing can greatly help your cause, and it is advised that you invest in this vital aspect of your character.
Mysteriously mutter to yourself and respond "Oh, it's nothing" when your fellow travelers ask you what's up. Disappear without a trace every once in a while (but make sure to come back with useful information for the heroes, to keep their trust up). Have certain clear character flaws. There are many things that you can use, as long as you're creative enough.
Just make sure that your betrayal is believable in any way you can.
Basically, what you want is that it "all falls into place" for the players at the end. Everything just has to make sense all of a sudden. When they replay your game, make sure that they can catch the subtle hints that they missed the first time. That is the mark of a great Traitor.

In short, what you should remember is this: Make sure that your betrayal is credible, but have the shock be incredible.
This is a difficult balance, but if you manage to do it right, you're well on your way to greatness.

2) "Just brainwashed" is a no-go
This will be a brief one, and it ties in to #1. If you're going to be evil, just be evil. The "just brainwashed" cliché is already well known, and it just takes away the impact from your acts. Don't worry, you can still become good again after a while, if you want. Just become good again because you have seen the error of your ways Make it matter! The brainwashing is just an excuse to make you do evil things without the consequences. You don't want that, you want everything you do to have meaning. Only then will you become a memorable Traitor.
I'm looking at you, Kain.

Remember kids: Winners don't use brainwashing!

3) Make it personal
A more or less random person can make a good traitor. But what really makes a betrayal work, is if the Traitor in question is able to make it personal. Are you the best friend of the main character? Have you raised one of the heroes from birth? Or did you simply save the life of the hero's love interest? If so, you are in a fantastic position. Not only will you be one of the last people that gamers will suspect of being evil (see #1), changing sides ensures that you'll really hurt the heroes on an emotional level. They thought that they could trust you, that you would never do something like that, but they were horribly mistaken. Taunt the heroes a bit for good measure, really rub your evilness in their faces.

Evil as you are, you will love the look on their faces once they realize you're not kidding, trust me.

Clearly the work of a true master

But obviously, you're doing all of this to leave a lasting impression on the gamers. Still, this remains a vital piece of advice. The reason is clear.
If the game you're in is any good, then the players should be completely immersed in the story. They will be relating to the heroes very strongly. This can be exploited.
If you hurt the heroes, chances are that the gamers will feel it too. You will instantly become "the guy to kill" to anyone who cares about the game's story, and this is exactly what you want.
If the gamers want you dead beyond all else, you have made it as the Traitor. You have cemented your position in the game, and these people will remember you for years to come. They will hate you, yes, but they will love doing so. That, right there, is exactly what you should be going for. And if you really do it right, even the main antagonist will have to bow before your treacherous ways.
Look at Tales of Symphonia. Who was the best villain in that game? It certainly wasn't the Big Bad, and you know it!

4) Go from great asset to even greater threat
In a way, rule #4 ties into to the previous one. When you become the Traitor, everything is about hurting the player as much as you can. This is the best way to be a memorable villain. Look at Sephiroth, one of the most famous villains ever. How did he become so big? Why, he killed Aeris, off course, and gamers hated him for it. He hurt them on a whole new level.
You, as the Traitor of the game, have this opportunity as well, and there is only one thing that you have to do.

Be an asset to the team while you're still 'good'.
If you are one of the best fighters in the hero party, it will physically hurt to see you go. Not only are the heroes now robbed of one of their most valued people, they have gained a powerful enemy as well. You will deal two strikes at once. If the player thinks "My god, I wish this guy was back on my team" when he's finally fighting you, you have done incredibly well. In contrast, if you were not of any use while you were still good, then the player most likely will not care when you leave. He or she knows that there are much better fighters still on the side of good, and (s)he know that you are going to be incredibly easy to kill. Memorable, this is not.
You can still save it, a little bit, by giving some vital piece of information to the Big Bad, but that will only get you so far. Let's look at someone, a guy from Final Fantasy VII, who made this mistake.

Look at the little guy. Could you ever see him as a credible threat? He's a little cat doll riding a somewhat larger Moogle doll, for crying out loud!
Hardly anyone ever used Cait Sith in their main party, because he was simply outclassed. Even if you desperately wanted a cat in your party, you could always go for Red XIII, who was a lion with a flaming tail, and therefore awesome. So, this guy usually stood on the sidelines during most of the game. It turns out, as should be obvious by now, that he betrays you. But did anyone really care? Not really, because what was Cait Sith going to do? Throw furballs at us? Seymour also failed hilariously in Final Fantasy X, where he would keep coming back over and over again, only to be beaten instantly. Besides that, he barely had more subtlety than Chancellor Cole.

No, you don't want this to happen to you. When you leave, you want both the heroes and player to physically feel it. So buff up, learn magic and just allround kick butt wherever you can. And when the player finally feels like he has a great party with you in it, leave. Just like that, leave the party and watch the player try to fill up that tremendous void that you left. After that, watch them try to fight you and fail hilariously.
They will hate you for this, and again, that is exactly what you want.

And last but not least: 5) Die well
What you do need to understand, however, is that you will not survive. You can't. You want to become the villain in a video game, and that means that inevitably you will die. It might be in this game, or you may get lucky and come back in the sequel. At any rate, at one point you are going to die for real. Yet, this is not a moment for sadness. It is actually quite the opposite, your death is your chance to really hit it home. If you pull off a good death scene, nothing will get the gamer's minds off you for a very long time. If you want gamers to remember your name in 10 years, your death may be vital.

There are a couple of ways to go about this, but first and foremost:
Try to get killed by the one you hurt the most. Were you the main character's best friend? Make sure that it is him who kills you. Did you kill the boyfriend of a sidecharacter? Have her do it. You can come up with many other scenarios yourself. A karmic death can really work wonders.

She may be just a computer, but she betrayed me and she.is.going.DOWN!

You want this because it provides a great deal of closure for everyone involved. Again, if the player is engaged in the story, nothing will feel better than to end you once and for all with the character that has the most reason to do so. All that hatred that you build up towards you over the course of the game, will instantly turn into a sense of victory and satisfaction. Of course, you shouldn't die just like that, you have to die after you provide an epic bossfight. Get yourself a cool location and an incredible boss-theme, and you're ready to go. No one will remember you if you unceremoniously die for no reason, because that is nowhere near as satisfying. So do it right and craft your death carefully.

What you could also do is to turn good again at the very last minute. Although this may be a bit harder to pull off, the rewards for success are more than worth it.
Just before you die, monologue about how blind you have been, about how the heroes were always in the right. Then, at the very last moment, save the heroes by sacrificing yourself. Stay behind to disarm a bomb, tackle the Big Bad into the lava, just be creative about this in any way you can.
The added benefit to this approach is that you will keep the players guessing.
"Was he really that evil?" will be the title of many a topic on the fanforums. Players will be discussing your character long after you have passed, and this is a great way to go. If you really pull this approach off well, people may even start to sympathize with you. They will wonder whether you may have had a good reason to betray them, if you maybe had a point somewhere. You will have both the villain creds, and the hero's. That really is the best that you could ask for. Just be sure that you explain yourself well, and don't turn good again for no reason (remember #2). Your transition has to make sense, just like it did when you turned evil in the first place.

Done well, any death scene can keep you memorable for a long time. So by all means, go all out. You have nothing left to lose, so have your death be the greatest that it can possibly be!


And that's it. These are the most important guidelines that I can give you if you want to become an effective and memorable Traitor. Who wants to be the main antagonist anyway, when your deception can net you just as many fans? Do it well, and you will be the talk of the internet.
You have made an excellent choice, and I wish you all the best. I hope I will be able to love to hate you in whatever game you decide to appear.
You are now ready to join the real world of Traitors. Go out there, and make us proud.

what are you doing with that knife?...

Photo Photo Photo

There are lots of games out there that make you feel like the star of an action movie. In fact, let's not beat around the bush, most games nowadays attempt to make you feel like that. From Uncharted to Modern Warfare to Gears of War, the list is practically endless. All of these games have one thing in common: you are cast as the hero of this actionmovie-like plot.
But what about the action movie underdogs, the guys on the sidelines who make all the heroics possible? Don't they deserve some love too?
Who, you may ask? I am referring, off course, to the hackers. The lovable geeky guys sitting at their computers, disabling security systems, stealing money and just all-round being wizards of technology. What would an action star be without his trusty 'wizzkid' sidekick? Still awesome, yes, but probably much less effective.
I hope that you're asking yourself right now why there isn't a game that puts you in role of one of these amazing people. Because I can answer that right away: there is.

It is called Hacker Evolution, but it seems to be a very niche little game; I've never seen it mentioned on Destructoid, and that's saying something. It's quite good though, if you open up to it.

Like I said, Hacker Evolution (and it's sequels, subtitled Untold and Duality) is a game in which you play an action movie hacker, and I do emphasize the 'action movie' part. This game probably doesn't have anything to do with real life hacking, but more with the hollywood type. Think Swordfish, not Geohotz.
You could also think Ed, but then you'd be way off.

Pictured: hacking

This is also an independent game, made by just a couple of people, so it can come across as a bit of a basic experience. But what it does, it does really well.
At its core, Hacker is a puzzle game, with a hint of strategy. When you start a level you're given several missions that you have to complete in order to progress. These missions range from "retrieve the stolen file", to "find the person who hacked into our system", and you'll even see things like "hack into the core server and disable the security". Before you can do all of this, however, you have to find the right servers. It would be kind of hard to retrieve a file if you don't know which server hosts it. To find out where the servers are that you need, you have to hack into the ones you can already see. Once you've done that, you can look through all the files hosted their to find clues towards your next location.

Let me give a short example. Let's say that someone stole the file 'jimsterling.ai' (because we all know that there is no way that that guy is a real person) from the dtoid.com server. You don't know who has it yet.
So first, you'll have to hack into dtoid.com, either through a password, an exploit program, or by good old-fashioned crack. Once in, you find a activity.log file, which shows who was given access on the day of theft. Sure enough, you find that an incoming connection request was granted just before the file was stolen, and you can see that it came from the dastardly people at the server kotaku.com. Now that you know who stole the file, there is only one thing left to do: you scan for the server in question and you hack the crap out of it!

I find that the basic gameplay in Hacker was original and well done. It's supposedly a bit slower-paced than the more well-known Uplink, but I think the 'detective' elements in this game really have their charm. Progression isn't always as logical as the above example (you'll find some files on servers that have no reason to have them at all), but all in all it was well done. There is a bit of a story, but that really doesn't play a large role and the ending comes absolutely out of nowhere and makes no sense at all. But things like that are quickly forgiven.

It's much more fun than it looks, trust me.

Because what Hacker really does incredibly well, is presentation and immersion. Everything is this game was tailor-made to give you that authentic hollywood hacker feeling. This is something that is really difficult to explain in text, you should really feel this for yourself. The game can be completely controlled by typing everything you need in the command console. "crack", "exec", "scan": these are all commands that you will use a bunch throughout the game. I find that this really helps to get you immersed in what you are doing. Never in any game have you been this close to the game. You're not controlling anyone, you're not clicking on stuff to cause it to move; you're hacking. You, personally, are doing everything throughout the entire game. I've never experienced anything quite like it, and Hacker deserves huge credit for this. You could even be forgiven for forgetting, if just for a moment, that you're playing a game in the first place.
If you can type quickly, it gets even better, because you will instantly feel like the guys you see in the movies.
Take it from me, sitting at your pc and typing "exec shade.exploit dtoid.com 199" feels surprisingly good and completely "legit". Again, if you want to feel what it's like to be the hacker sidekick in any action movie, give this game a spin.

Besides the basic controls, there are many other things that contribute to the great presentation.
- First of all, every time you try to hack something, people will try to trace you. You're given both a timer that shows you how long until your hack is finished, as well as a visual representation of the tracing. It can be very nervewracking as you're watching both of these counters race for the 0.00. Often, your hacks will be complete literally just a fraction of a second before you can be traced, and I've let out more than a few audible sighs because of that fact. It really makes a game which is usually quite slow paced incredibly intense for a little while.
- Secondly, you also have to manage your pc setup in the game. Transferring money from the servers you hack into can buy you some nice equipment. Pimping your setup with extra CPU or a better firewall can make things a lot easier, although money is scarce, so you'll have to make educated choices.
- Finally, the music is exactly like something you'd imagine a hacker to have on while conducting his business. The upbeat electronic music, performed by a guy named DJ Velocity, really sucks you in from the get go, and the fact that there is an in-game mediaplayer which cycles the OST songs just gives it that extra bit authenticity. Again, this is your pc, and you're doing everything in this game personally.

Long story short, Hacker is not at all like this crap.

Unfortunately, it's easy to see why Hacker never really took off. It's just an incredibly hard sell. This is not an actionpacked game and if you just look at screens and videos, it will look like the most boring stuff ever. It's only when you start playing for yourself that you start to see its charm. And charm it has.

I personally got immediately sucked in when I played the demo (oh, yes, there is a demo by the way). The incredibly direct interface, the hollywood hacker feel, playing detective by searching for clues in uncovered files, everything together made it a really memorable experience for me. Obviously, I bought it not long after (in fact, I bought the Hacker Evolution + Hacker Evolution Untold pack for double the hacking goodness). Both games feature extra content in the form of free DLC, and they include mod editors, so you can download levels made by other fans or make your own if you're so inclined.

However, the puzzle elements and the slow pace, i.e. thinking every step through, might turn some people off, while others might be put off by the concept from the very start. If you never wanted a hacking simulator, then this game is obviously not for you. You won't be shooting stuff, let that be clear. But if we take all of the above people out of the equation, how many are left? Not a lot, I fear.
It's clear that this game fills a niche, one that is admittedly not very large. But if you, like me, do belong in that niche, then you would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking this unique but under-appreciated game out.

In this level you hack street lights to turn red while you're speeding away. Other games feature the car chase, this one offers the other perspective.
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(This is a blog to combine two things: my love for indie games and my love for video game soundtracks. Expect to find more than a few examples of both below. Also, I would like to state in advance that I'm in no way an expert on music, as you can probably tell from my selections. I don't know all that much about music, I simply know what I like. Every entry will contain examples from each OST, and I will finish each by listing my personal favorite song, so that you can tell me that I have horrible taste :P)

It is no secret that I love me some video game soundtracks, and I think I'm not alone. Luckily, it's never difficult to find some nice earcandy, since the majority of big-budget AAA-games nowadays feature some really good music. No one will be surprised if I say that Super Mario Galaxy had good music. Or Final Fantasy XIII. Or Mass Effect 2. Or...well, you can go on forever.
That's why I have decided to give some credit to a couple of OSTs you wouldn't normally expect to see in a Top 5 list. With all of the games below, I found myself saying something along the lines of: "Wait....I didn't know the music in this game was this good". In a sense, these soundtracks are just too good for the games that feature them. Now, I don't mean that these games are bad in any way, far from it. What I mean is that most of the OSTs would fit very well in a major full-price release, yet are featured in a much smaller and less mainstream game. They are simply much better than you would expect when you first boot up the game. They make you wonder where the developers found the money to hire these composers. But off course, we're all glad that they did. I hope you will agree with me when you are done with the list.

5) Breath of Death VII / Cthulhu Saves the World - Gordon McNeil (and others for BoD)

We start with a recent (well, sortof) addition. Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World come in a pack, with BoD being a 'bonus' game to the main attraction that is CStW. This also shows in the music. While Breath of Death has some pretty decent music overall (the Battle theme is pretty cool), the music in Cthulhu is just much more polished, varied and, well...better. You will likely never hear the Menu Theme in full, but it's worth a listen. Besides that, there are some great dungeon themes as well. The music for the Factory Dungeon manages to be new and interesting while also paying tribute to that other factory-themed dungeon. One of the towns you visit later in the game sports a really cool jazzy track, and who can forget "Hey there, Cthulhu" from the trailer?
It's really a shame that you'll rarely hear any of the themes in full while playing the game. When you get into a battle, the normal music stops in favor of the battle theme, and when the fight is over the dungeon theme will start over from the beginning. Overall though, a good OST that captures that 16-bit RPG feel quite well. And since Cthulhu Saves the World is a parody RPG of "only" around 10 hours, that's saying something. Considering that both of these games were made by just about two people, you have to wonder why they didn't go for something simpler to save time and money. Instead, we got a soundtrack that an RPG can be proud of.
Oh, and did I mention you can get it for free from the creators' website? Because you totally can.

Shade's favorite track:
Conquer the Fire - Fire Dungeon theme

4) Shatter - Jeramiah Ross AKA Module

This is not the first time I've mentioned the soundtrack of Shatter, nor will it be the last. This OST is about as far removed from the above entry as possible, but I still enjoyed it a lot. Shatter features an electronic rock, almost Chiptune-esque, soundtrack of almost 1,5 hours. The tracks are pretty long, over 6 minutes of original music for every one, unlooped, and there is one for every level. But first and foremost, these songs are just incredibly catchy. Play the game for half an hour, have the songs stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Luckily, they are all enjoyable in their own right. The trailer featured Neon Mines, which in itself influenced me to buy this game. Other than that, basically every song is good in its own special way. Amethyst Caverns, for example is just...weird, but still oddly enjoyable. Kinetic Harvest will have your head bobbing like never before, and the credits are easy to sit through when Homelands is playing.
But the main reason I would describe this OST as too good for its game? Shatter is a Break-out game. Sure, it's one of the most pimped out versions you will ever see, but at the core it's still Break-out. And in this relatively simple game, you are treated to the electronic goodness that is the Shatter OST.

Shade's favorite track:
Krypton Garden

3) Magicka - Johan Lindgren

If you're a cynic, you could describe Magicka's OST as "generically epic". Many tracks are heavy on the chanting, and all the songs simply sound "big". If you're not a cynic, you will find this soundtrack very enjoyable, especially for such a decidedly silly game. In fact, when I was playing co-op with a friend, we had to interrupt our goblin-slaughtering throughout multiple levels to send each other a quick message; "kick-ass theme!". Magicka starts off calm enough, with the cleverly titled menu theme Idle Browsing. It clearly picks up towards the end, possibly as a prelude to the epicness that is yet to come. A couple of levels in, you will come to understand exactly where this game is headed: while riding an airship (and fireballing everything that moves) you are treated to Airship Ride. But after that, they really turn up the epic. Songs like Battle of the Wizards and The King in Yellow tell you in no uncertain terms that what you're doing is huge. And again, this for a parody game made by a small studio.
Finally, while most of the tracks are going the "epic" route, the developers are not above some humor in their songs. Even though it isn't in the game itself, the official song The Gamer and Magicka is a funny selfaware stab at some of the responses to the game. The developers released it at the same time as the spell "Crash to Desktop", which was free DLC to make up for the bugs and crashes in the early builds.
Overall, it may be too standard for some, but I enjoyed this OST a lot.
Oh, and did I mention you can get it for free from the creators' website? Because you totally can.

Shade's favorite track:
At World's End

2) Super Meat Boy - Danny Baranowsky

You know this one. Off course you do. It's been almost impossible to miss Super Meat Boy during the past year, and it's one of the best platformers in a while. Notoriously difficult but rarely unfair, this simple game of run, jump and don't die is something the two developers can be proud of. But you knew all that. Did you also know its soundtrack is actually really good as well?
The main attraction here is that every world as its own distinct theme. Actually though, it goes beyond that. Every world does not just have a unique song, each world has three. One version of the song will play during the "Light" stages, a darker song will play during "Dark" stages and an 8-bit version will play during special retro-themed Warp levels.
For example, compare Forest Funk (light) with Ballad of the Burning Squirrel (dark) with Forest Funk RETRO (warp).
Apart from the level themes, from which I would still like to mention Rocket Rider (world 3, dark), all of the boss themes are well worth a listen. Like Magicka, this OST knows where to find its epic. Carmeaty Burana, the final boss theme, has it in spades. (If you hadn't noticed by now, I'm a sucker for that)
Finally, in a really clever move, all of the level themes are combined in the Credits Theme. I found this to be a great way to create a credits theme, as it subtly reminds you of everything you've been through to get there.
For a game consisting of what I'd almost call "microlevels", about a blob of meat running and jumping to save his girlfriend, this soundtrack goes way beyond the call of duty to deliver us players something memorable. Conclusion? It succeeded.

Shade's favorite track:
The Battle of Lil' Slugger

1) Anything by Ari Pulkkinen - Ari Pulkkinen, obviously

Will you believe me if I say that Ari Pulkkinen is actually one of the single most listened to composers in video games? He is, really. Do you know what he made? He made the OST of Angry Birds.
But that is not what I wanted to talk about, because he has done much more and better work. (although honestly the Angry Birds Halloween Theme is not half bad)
No, Pulkkinen has worked on several other games as well, almost all of them smaller downloadable titles. His most notable work was with Frozenbyte Studios, where he made the soundtracks to Shadowgrounds and Trine.

Shadowgrounds as a game is just about as simple as it gets. Aliens are trying to kill you, but you have a gun. It's an overhead shooter with a few hooks here and there, and certainly fun, but otherwise straightforward. One thing that does stand out, off course, is it's music. The Main Theme, first of all, would not be out of place in a major science fiction movie. For a small part, the OST consists of some atmospheric tunes. But it is only when you enter a major battle that the music really starts to flare up. The volume cranks up, guitars kick in and the whole thing just makes you want to kick some alien butt. Mech the Destroyer is a great example. As is the appropriately titles I Need a Minigun. Even though the quieter stuff is pretty good, tracks like these were the highlight for me.
Fun fact: the guitar parts of these songs were actually performed by Amen, the guitarist of the Finnish heavy metal monster band Lordi. Lordi happens to be one of my favorite bands, so perhaps it's not surprising that I liked the Shadowgrounds soundtrack as much as I did. How such a small dev team, especially back when this game released, managed to score both such a good composer and a famous (well, at least in Finland) guitarist boggles the mind, but it clearly paid off.

However, Trine is the game that you are likely to be more familiar with and is the polar opposite of Shadowgrounds. In stark contrast to that game, the music in Trine is actually quite subtle. It's almost hard to believe that they were made by the same person, and Pulkkinen deserves more than a little credit for that.
While I titled this blog "soundtracks too good for their games", I am hesitant to apply this to Trine, because the music just fits the game so incredibly well. However, I never expected that this entire OST would end up in my list of favorites along the likes of Mario Galaxy and Brawl, so I believe it's justified.
This game was made to give the player that special feeling of wonder, that "wow"-factor of staring at something gorgeous, and you can tell that the music was made to enhance this. The tracks are all quite soothing and blend with the game's environments beautifully. That alone is a great achievement.
But personally, I think these tracks are also very nice to listen to on their own. Special mention goes to Academy Hallways, which is actually one of the first levels you visit. Interestingly, one of the most minimalistic songs from the soundtrack is also one of the most beautiful: Crystal Caverns. Finally, Tower of Sarek stands out from the rest, because it's the only one that is a little faster. In that level you are being chased, and the music reflects that while somehow still keeping that sense of awe.
Overall, the music in Trine can be subtle, even hard to notice while playing the game, but it is definitely worthwhile to take the time to just sit there and listen.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to play the other games Ari Pulkkinen has worked on, such as Super Stardust HD and Outland. However, if tracks such as this and this one are anything to go by, he has not lost his touch, nor his variety. Things are certainly looking good for the upcoming Trine 2 with this man in charge of the OST.

Shade's favorite track:
Final Round (Shadowgrounds)
Main Theme (Trine)
(but honestly? The entirety of the Trine OST)

And I hereby swear that none of the blogs I will ever write from here on out will contain this many links. I just love to share the things I like, is all. :D
I hope you clicked some of them and found something you could enjoy. If I have inspired anyone to look up these soundtracks, bonus points to me. I'm here to pay tribute to those guys who may be overshadowed by big-budget titles. I was pleasantly surprised by all of their work, and I wish to hear more from them in the future.

It's going to be worth it.
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(It's been much too long since I posted something here: I've been busy with my studies for a while now. And it turns out that trying to study while E3 is going on is really darn difficult. Who would've thought? :P Fortunately, I'm done for a bit, hence a new Cblog. This is a topic I wanted to write about for a while, since in a way it is 'where it all started'.)

Strategy Guides are really interesting things, and gamers seem to have many different opinions of them. Some people feel that using a strategy guide is almost an insult to their intelligence, while others follow a guide step by step because they simply don't like to get stuck. Finally, there are those who consider guides nice pieces of swag and little more. Personally, I tend to avoid them. I want to do as much as I can on my own, and I'll only use them if I'm completely out of ideas. Even then, I'm not likely to buy a guide, since I can find all the information I need on the internet. There was one exception though; there is a particular guide I owe a lot to.
(This will not be a sappy blog about how games have made me a better person, or anything like that. I'm not even sure whether or not that is the case, although I guess it might be. I'm sorry if that was what you were expecting)

Back when I was still a little ShadeOfLight, I wasn't much of a gamer. Some kids are practically born with controllers in their hands, but I simply wasn't. We didn't have a SNES, (or later, N64) and I hardly even knew what those things were. A friend later got an N64, but that didn't get much use either.
When I was about 7 or 8, I did receive a Game Boy (the original), and I played some licensed games on it. We got internet around this time as well, but since we paid per minute, my time was very limited. I could play some flash games (again, based on licensed crap), but that was it.
Yet, I can call myself a gamer nowadays, so something must have happened. And it did.

What happened was Pokémon Red.

The left one, which is blatantly better than Blue anyway

Like all kids at the time, I loved the Pokémon 'cartoon'. I watched it when it first aired (luckily, it got translated into Dutch), and was quickly hooked. I never missed an episode during the first couple of seasons. You can image my excitement when I heard that there would also be Pokémon games. Despite (and maybe even because of) the fact that I didn't know that the show was based on the games instead of the other way around, I really wanted to give it a shot. I already had a Game Boy, so it fit perfectly.
I received Pokémon Red as a present not too long after that. Interestingly enough, my parents had actually come across a special deal: buy the game, get the strategy guide for free.
Looking back, that was one hell of a lucky deal.

The Pokémon games are often seen as 'kiddy' experiences, as great games for children. But think of it this way: an 8-year-old kid who has never played a 'real' game, let alone an RPG, and doesn't even speak English, somehow has to figure out how these games work. I probably could've handled it if it had been a platformer, but RPGs really can be quite complicated. That even includes the Pokémon games.
I knew some of the core concepts from the show, but trying to figure out how to play the game can be quite difficult, especially if there is no one around to help. You have to figure out what you're supposed to be doing in the first place, how fights work, which attacks actually do something, how to catch Pokémon, how to use HMs on the overworld, how to not get slaughtered by gym leaders, etc. etc. etc. Sure, the game tries to teach you these things, but how much of a help is that when you can't read English and the game isn't translated?

This is where the Strategy Guide saved the day. The guide actually was translated, and it included basically everything I needed to know. It had maps of all the areas in the game and the routes I had to take, ensuring that I could never get lost and frustrated. It also had a incredibly handy table, which showed which types were effective against which Pokémon. This allowed me to actually stand a chance against the many trainers I would have to face. It had a list of Pokémon and it showed you where to catch them. (A nice touch: it also had a sticker of every Pokémon. There was room for a sticker next to every Pokémon on the list, so you could mark the ones you already owned)
Finally, a list of gym leaders really aided me with one of life's most important choices: "Which starter should I choose?" Bulbasaur would work well against the first 3 or 4 gyms, so that seemed like the smartest pick. Bulba/Ivy/Venusaur are still among my favorites.

You may have started as simply the practical choice, Bulbasaur, but you grew on me more than you know
(Get it? 'Grew'? What plants do?)

After faithfully naming my main character 'Ash' and the rival 'Gary', I went on my way with Bulbasaur and the guide by my side. It worked like a charm. I always knew what to do and how to do it.
Gym leaders fell one by one, Legendary Pokémon were caught (Zapdos was awesome), and the Elite Four was conquered. Mewtwo was added to the team by using the Master Ball, after the guide helpfully suggested that I save it for him. Finally, after many, many hours, it was done. 'All' 150 Pokémon were in my possession. At this point the Strategy Guide was literally falling apart because it had been used so much. But it was more than worth it. Safe to say, I loved the game throughout.

I really think that this guide was very important. Without it, there is a very good chance that I would not have been able to finish this game back then. I probably would've become too frustrated from not knowing what to do, that I would have given up by the time I got to the second town. I know this because I've seen kids around me trying to play Pokémon Black/White, without success. But with the guide, I was able to play through the entire game, loving it all the way. After that, I bought Pokémon Gold when it came out, and I became interested in many other sorts of games. At least now I had a notion of what such games wanted from me and how to play them. The fact that my English improved throughout the years (in fact, it improved even while I was playing Red) meant that I wasn't dependent on a guide anymore.

And in 2011, I'm a gamer telling the story of the Pokémon Red Strategy Guide on Destructoid. So in many ways, the Strategy Guide was what got me into gaming in the first place. When people ask me what my first game was, I answer Pokémon Red, because the others simply "don't count". Therefore, I think I can safely say that the guide changed my life, in a sense. And since I still love being a gamer, this is not something would like to change anytime soon.

Off course, I still have the guide in my possession. Here it is, in its current state:

This is the effectiveness table. It became outdated with the second generation of the series, but it was invaluable for the first

More or less a random page, it show how to get to Mewtwo and how to catch him, as well as some other stuff

Carry on being awesome, you three. Carry on
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Piracy has been a very hot topic these past few days, and I realize that I'm late to the party. However, that doesn't necessarily make my (counter)arguments any less valid. No, my illogical points and untrustworthy facts will do that just fine.

In all seriousness though, I am a bit bothered by the fact that piracy is often considered to be theft. And I mean not even 'similar to theft' but actual oldfashioned real 'theft'. Not only Jim Sterling has made this point on several occasions, pretty much every anti-piracy ad ever has included the line 'Pirating [X] is stealing!'
Below: the weirdest one I could find.

The irony in this? There's most likely a copyright on this ad as well. Uploading this on youtube is therefore also copyright infringement

However, the notion that piracy is theft is simply a false one. I fully understand why some people may feel this way, feel that it's the exact same thing, but that doesn't change the fact that it is untrue. This may be the law student in me speaking, but I also think that it's important to make that distinction. Piracy is not theft and therefore can't (and shouldn't) be treated in the same way.

Don't take this the wrong way though, I am not in any way saying that piracy is justified, for any reason, I'm only saying that it's not theft. And I'll tell you why I think this is important.

My reason is actually very simple. Accusing someone of something (s)he didn't do is simply not very effective. Imagine this situation, which may very well be the worst comparison you've ever seen (you're welcome): a 'stranger' walks up to a child and offers him an apple, the child takes it and the stranger simply walks away. You, the parent, see this happening. Now I ask you, what would happen if you went up to your kid and accuse him of stealing the apple? That's very easy, the child would simply say that he didn't steal anything and therefore did nothing wrong.
However, that was not the point. What the child did wrong was taking the apple from a stranger, since most will agree that you shouldn't take something from strangers just like that. This is where it goes wrong, because the next time a situation like this arises the child will have no problems with taking the apple again, since it still isn't stealing.
It would obviously be much more effective to tell the child that (while he didn't steal anything) he is not allowed to take something from strangers, and/or punish him for that. So, punishing him for something he did do wrong.

A similar thing is going on with piracy. Accuse pirates of stealing and they will respond with a simple justification: 'we're not stealing anything!' and continue on pirating. And they'd be right, more or less. In contrast, what we should do is condemn piracy...because it's piracy.

I hope you will agree with me that "You're pirating and pirating is wrong!" is a much stronger message than "By pirating you're actually stealing, even though you're not really!"

Still, I feel that I should give a short explanation on the difference between piracy and stealing, even though most of you have probably read about that by now.
The Criminal Code in my country defines theft as follows (translated): "the taking away of any goods which belong, as a whole or in part, to someone else, with the intention of obtaining these goods for oneself contrary to law."
While this is obviously not a universal definition, I think it sort of represents what we all understand to be stealing. So let's examine it for a while.
Two important parts of this definition are the word 'goods' and the phrase 'taking away'. Can data and information be considered a 'good'? Well, you could argue about that, but the court actually decided (in a case where an employee was taking company secrets by cutting/pasting them to an USB) that yes, yes it can.

More important is the phrase 'taking away'. You see, taking something is not inherently bad. If I obtain a new car, nobody will care. What makes it bad however, is if I obtain a new car by taking it from someone else. The core of theft is thus not my obtaining of an object, but the losing of it by the victim. Victimless crimes are rare, and theft is not one of them. Piracy is therefore evidently not the same as stealing, since there is no one who actually loses a particular 'good'.
A counterargument I've seen is that you're actually taking away revenue, money. I can fully understand where this idea comes from, as most people who pirate a game will consequently refrain from actually buying it. However, this is still a somewhat weak point, since the calculated lost revenue will be completely fictional. Not every person who pirates a game would've bought it if piracy hadn't been an option. Some people may download a file more than once, as it may not work the first time. There are all sorts of reasons to say that the number of pirates cannot be considered the same as the number of lost buyers of a game. As such, saying that by pirating you are actually stealing money is also highly questionable.

Which still doesn't mean that this doesn't apply

Does this mean that piracy is okay? No, it simply means that piracy should be treated differently than theft.

In this context, I would like to mention that piracy and using illegally downloaded games might actually be 'more illegal' than one would think. Copyright is the exclusive right of the creator of a work to copy and distribute said work (again, based on the definition found in my own legal system). Consequently, sharing the work, a game in our case, is an infringement of copyright since this is a form of distributing. Where it becomes more interesting is with the downloader. Obviously you create a copy when you download a game. Copyright infringement, that much is clear.
Additionally, since games usually require the user to agree with the EULA, the pirate will violate that 'contract' as well. The fact that nobody ever reads the blasted things doesn't mean that they're not binding on the user.

However, I'd like to go one step further. Think about what happens when you boot up the game. Your PC will automatically copy the files of the installation to your computer's memory. Since this could arguably also be considered a form of copying (as meant by the law concerning copyright), this would be a infringement of copyright as well.
Taken to it's logical extreme, this means that a pirate infringes on someones copyright every single time he even boots up the game.
The situation I describe here isn't even that far-fetched either. In fact, the courts in my country specifically decided that the above interpretation is correct. This doesn't mean very much to other countries, but it still shows that this interpretation could indeed be used and it even sets some kind of precedent. It might just be a matter of time before the courts of other countries come up with similar interpretations.

So in conclusion, piracy is bad. Big shocker, right?
However, piracy is not stealing, it's simply not. 'Stealing' implies that someone lost a particular item, which is not true for piracy. Still, piracy can be considered highly illegal. Not only is it illegal to download a game, thus creating a copy to your computer and infringing on the copyright of the creator, it might actually be illegal to even boot up a game obtained through downloading. Subsequently, a downloader may actually break the law an endless amount of times, simply by playing the game.
But while we have established that piracy is bad, calling it stealing might not simply be a question of terminology. By calling piracy something that it's not, we actually give pirates the perfect excuse on a silver platter. In my view, it would be much more effective to call piracy what it is and condemn it for exactly that.
So really, the core of my argument is this: We should not condemn piracy for being stealing, we should condemn piracy for being piracy.
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