It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since we launched Shinesparkers as a Metroid fan website. Since we started on the 31st August 2010, Shinesparkers has provided fans with plenty of exclusive features and content while providing fans with up to date Metroid news. It has also been the home to the Harmony of a Hunter album, which celebrated 25 years of the franchise. I wanted to write something to mark the first anniversary of our website, its journey so far and to give mention to the people that helped us get to where we are today.
The splash page to Shinesparkers before launch
Shinesparkers was born as a small podcast group in early 2009 and later turned into a multiplatform gaming website to help cater for the downed community of Nintendo Online. On reflection, this idea was doomed for failure from the very beginning because it was made to suit the needs and demands of a wider target audience and for me, the passion and enthusiasm was just not there. The site closed in late 2009 and was left untouched. Rather than waste the hosting and domain provided to me by my good friend Wavehack, I decided to rebuild the site as a Metroid exclusive website.
Although I had my doubts that I could match up to similar websites out there, I knew that Metroid was a franchise I could support indefinitely. I spoke to Wavehack and Ben about my idea and was pleased that both of them were behind the idea and had a good level of enthusiasm from the beginning. Satisfied that we had a solid idea to move forward with, we got to work on the resurrection of Shinesparkers.
The idea for the website came together pretty quickly, we decided that WordPress was an easy and simple platform for us which offered everything we required to make a nice looking blog. We looked through a few WordPress themes and settled on a design. Wavehack worked his magic to ensure that everything worked correctly and Ben created a stunning background and a multitude of images. On the 10th August 2010 I started to contact all of the larger Metroid and Nintendo websites that I had visited in an attempt to gain several affiliations that would become a key element in the success of Shinesparkers.
The original e-mail I sent to the various websites
The response I received was mixed. Metroid Recon immediately said yes without even viewing our website, Metroid Database on the other hand was skeptical and I could understand their concerns. We were a brand new Metroid website with no content and we had not even launched yet! Why would these huge Metroid websites that I had visited over the years and respected so much even want to bother with me and Shinesparkers? We were unknown. In fact, all I was back then we a member of the Metroid Database forums where I contributed the odd post now and then.
In my eyes, these guys were huge and I was merely an enthusiastic fan compared to webmasters which had years of experience in running the various communities. But I knew deep down that we could match up to the competition if we had the right level of support from the start, I just needed a chance to make it happen. Eventually we gained the support from the various communities and we are happy to be affiliated with some of the largest Metroid fan websites on the internet.
I accepted to take on the role as the graphic designer of Shinesparkers at the time because I had a strong love for Metroid and a long friendship with Darren. It was also one of my biggest challenges ever, to design a site from the ground-up within a month, anda challenge I both longed for and gladly accepted.
The site has had many interviews with famous people all associated with Metroid, but one that stood out for me personally was Tommy Tallarico. I was a fan of his after going to one of his many Video Games Live concerts and found his role in Metroid Prime really interesting, because I didn’t know he had so much involvement in the Metroid Prime series.
Almost a year into Shinesparkers’ life, I had to resign as the main graphics designer because I had a lot of work to deal with from other sites I work on and, at the time, college work. So a step down was necessary for me but I’ll always be there for Shinesparkers if they need me, maybe I’ll fully return one day! Who knows? – Ben Stewart, Graphics Designer
Before we even had a website for Shinesparkers I researched the various Metroid communities to see what made them so appealing, and what fans enjoyed the most about them. During this process I found that Metroid communities lacked good communication with one another and I saw an opportunity for Metroid websites to work together more closely, to help promote a franchise we all had in common. This became a key element in my affiliation process and though my communications with the various webmasters, I suggested that Shinesparkers could accommodate their features and encouraged those websites to do the same. Eventually all websites were sharing news and information with one another.
One step that we took to bring the communities closer together was the End of year feature in 2010 where I asked webmasters from Metroid Database, Metroid Headquarters, Metroid Recon, Metroid 2002 and Wikitroid to contribute questions to a lengthy article which other webmasters could air their thoughts on. I feel it was quite special because it was the first time that Metroid websites had worked together on something together and showed that they were happy and willing to be more open.
I’m in charge of keeping the site and forums up and running. I’ve been a long time friend of Darren, I specialize in websites and web development and I have a love for Metroid since many years, which makes me the ideal technical support guy for Shinesparkers.
In all honestly my interests regarding Metroid have shifted to other topics over the past few years, so I’m not as big as a Metroid fan as I used to be anymore. Nevertheless I love what we’ve achieved so far and we will continue to build on it. – Wavehack, Host and Technical support
The end of year feature was a historic occasion that brought together many Metroid websites for the first time ever
I believe that the continued support of all Metroid websites is important and vital to the continued success of the online community and the Metroid fan base and I am very proud to have been a part of that. By this point Shinesparkers was starting to feel the benefit of a high level of support from the wider Metroid community, however there were a few notable people outside of these communities that were supportive too.
On the 20th August 2010, I contacted Gene Kohler, a character artist who worked on Metroid Prime with Retro Studios. Gene was responsible for modelling and texturing Samus and various other creatures in the game. I explained to him our plans and exceptions for a website and stated that we would be thrilled to speak to him about his work on Metroid Prime and his time at Retro. My hope was that we would have a strong first feature for the website’s launch. When I received a response from Gene confirming that he would be interested in contributing an interview to the website, I was delighted.
Gene Kohler has contributed a lot of support to Shinesparkers and the wider Metroid community, including a tribute video to mark the 25th anniversary of Metroid.
Gene worked with me closely to put out the interview in time for the launch of the website on the 31st August 2010 and gave me a lot of advice and encouragement. The support he gave me prior to launch was invaluable and gave me the confidence and self belief that we could make a great website. Gene has continued to support Shinesparkers over the past year by recommending us to Mike Sneath, who we later interviewed regarding his contributions at Retro Studios. Gene also contributed a tribute video to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Metroid as part of one of our projects.
We went on to feature a varied amount of interviews from voice actors, passionate fans, producers and game developers. It was fantastic to speak to people such as Tommy Tallarico about his work and his contribution to Metroid Prime. What I love about Tommy is that although he is an incredibly busy man with Video Games Live, a concert he is executive producer, host and CEO of, he still found the time to speak to us about his work on Metroid Prime and like Gene Kohler, he also contributed to a 25th anniversary tribute video. I have to thank Tommy for taking the time out to speak to us and for his support for Shinesparkers. He is an incredible guy, a person that I truly admire and respect.
I feel our most important interview to date was with Nate Bihldorff, the localisation manager for Nintendo who localised seven Metroid games. Having the support of Nintendo for Shinesparkers was absolutely vital. From the very beginning, I wanted to work closely with Nintendo and ensure good communication so that our website could progress far and that Nintendo could trust us to be a reliable resource for the promotion of their franchise. I owe many thanks to Kit Ellis and Andrew Kelly from Nintendo for their help in setting up the interview and for the many e-mails we have exchanged between us on a variety of Metroid and Nintendo related subjects.
Having the support of notable people such as Gene Kohler, Mike Sneath, Tommy Tallarico and Nate Bihldorff has been fantastic for Shinesparkers, but the biggest surprise and honour I have had this year has to be with Jessica Martin, the voice of Samus Aran in Metroid: Other M.
When I heard about Jessica’s role as Samus, I passed on a message of support through her agent and asked him to inform Jessica that we planned to open a Metroid website and that it would be great if she could check it out. I didn’t expect to hear anything back so I was more than a little surprised to receive an e-mail from her directly to say that she had visited the website and had received my messages. Although Jessica was unable to give Shinesparkers an interview, Jessica has been a huge asset to the website with several contributions including a special Happy New Year message and to our 25th anniversary tribute video.
Jessica also kindly offered personalised autographs to users via a joint competition with Shinesparkers and Metroid Headquarters. In the time I have known her, Jessica is a lovely, warm and fun person to know. She is extremely passionate about her work and I have nothing but the utmost respect for her and her contribution to Metroid. On a personal note I want to thank her for bringing a soul to a character that I love dearly and for the continued support of Shinesparkers. I hope we will always remain in contact.
When I created Shinesparkers I was aware that the 25th anniversary of Metroid was on the horizon, and I felt that Shinesparkers should be there to help mark that momentous occasion. Our goal was to make a big noise about this historic franchise and create projects to mark the occasion. Although we were realistic about what we could achieve, we wanted to stand out from everything else.
Through determination, passion and enthusiasm with the support of the wider Metroid community, it encouraged me to organise two projects. One was a tribute video featuring Metroid fans wishing the franchise a happy 25th anniversary, and an album of Metroid music covering 25 years of the franchise from the first game to the last game at the time, Other M.
The idea for the tribute video was simple. We requested fans to contribute a short video with an introduction and personal tribute to release on the day of Metroid’s 25thanniversary, the 6th August 2011. I was amazed by how many fans wanted to contribute to the video. It was great to see the Metroid community so passionate about their franchise to want to stand in front of a camera and tell the world about it.
It was also fantastic to get notable people in the gaming industry to contribute their own videos too. I think my favourite was Yosuke Hayashi, the leader of Team Ninja and I can’t help but smile at the Video Game Music Choir’s contribution, it ended the tribute nicely. I too reluctantly made my own contribution to the video and can only apologise enough for the mental scars…
But the biggest thanks I have to give is to Elias Thompson. At a time where he was extremely busy with various things, he put time aside to edit the video tribute together to ensure it would be ready in time for the anniversary. There was a point where we had radio silence from Elias, and I was pulling what little hair I had left out of my head by that point in a panic that it wouldn’t be done in time. I should have had more trust in him because he came back to me with a quality edit. At the time of writing, the video has been watched by almost 19,000 people!
In December 2010 I created a topic on the Overclocked Remix forums, a community dedicated to creating video game music. I contacted my musically talented friends that I had known over the years and discussed my idea with them. Overall the response was positive and I suggested some tracks to be featured on the album. From there, people made suggestions of tracks they would like to hear and musicians suggested tracks they would like to cover. The list of around twenty tracks quickly doubled in size, as did the support for the album overall.
The project was not without its problems, there were points where I felt the album wouldn’t be ready before launch and a few people pulled out. I also had to make some tough decisions along the way. I had never organised anything like this before and it was all new territory to me. I don’t think people quite understand how much goes into putting a project like this together, especially when you’re working with over twenty artists on an individual basis over a period of eight months to ensure everyone is happy.
I always had my doubts that such a project could work, but as the project picked up speed it was clear that something could be achieved. When it became clear that Nintendo was focused on the 25th anniversary of the Zelda franchise and not Metroid, it was the drive I needed to ensure that the project was a success.
Harmony of a Hunter contained 36 tracks of various genres covered by 24 different artists making it the largest and most diverse Metroid album ever.
One of the more difficult choices for me was to drop Aaron Marshall from the project. He had originally taken on the role of mastering the album, but due to a lack of communication between us and my belief that it wouldn’t be completed in time, I had to find an alternative. I am so thankful to my good friend Lee “The Orichalcon” Barber for stepping in at the last moment to take on this album. It was all thrown at him at the last moment and he practically saved the album for us.
If it wasn’t for Lee, the album probably wouldn’t have sounded as good as the end product does. I’m not sure Lee knows exactly how much I appreciate him taking on that very time consuming role, but I truly do and I am sure fans of Harmony of a Hunter appreciate it too.
Nate Horsfall came in to take on the artwork which made an audibly stunning album become visually striking. The amount of love and passion that Nate put into this project was incredible. We must have sent over 200 e-mails between us on the artwork alone and I am very happy with how it turned out. It’s by far the best collection of Metroid artwork I have ever seen and Nate should be very proud of what he has achieved. It was great to see that the artwork was well received by the fans too, I am sure he will appreciate that.
On the 7th August 2011, the album was completed and downloaded with a high level of success, the feedback given for the tracks was very impressive and it seems that the diverse range of music featured in the album was welcome by many. I would like to thank everyone that got involved with the project and made it as successful as it was.
As a further attempt to promote the 25th anniversary, I approached various video game publications to run a feature on the series to mark the historic milestone. At first it was looking unlikely that such a thing could be accomplished. I had approached three other magazines in the United Kingdom and America but sadly they were not interested.
However, one magazine called NGamer, an unofficial Nintendo magazine in the UK picked up our suggestion and created a four page feature titled “Metroid: The forgotten anniversary?”. It featured views and opinions by Metroid webmasters CapCom (Metroid Database) MetroidMaster1914 (Metroid Headquarters) and myself on behalf of Shinesparkers.
We touched on various subjects such as our favourite moments from the series, our feelings towards the controversial Metroid game “Other M” and our hopes and expectations for the future. For me personally, it was quite strange to see my name printed in a magazine and I’m sure it must have been a great feeling for the other webmasters that got involved. It was great to know that we were able to get our message of celebration out there to the many readers of the magazine and a huge thanks to Chris Schilling for putting together such a fantastic article and putting up with me throughout the process.
Harmony of a Hunter featured plenty of stunning artwork by Nate Horsfall and offered a visually stunning experience to compliment the album.
I feel that in one year Shinesparkers has achieved a great deal, much more than I could have expected when I first created the website. After so many features that have made us what we are, where do we go from here? What I can say is that we are already hard at work planning our next big leap forward for Shinesparkers, a brand new website with a brand new look. We’re hoping to expand on our content and bring in new staff to take on various roles to make that happen. We will continue to bring exclusive content in the form of interviews and features and build on our community in the forums and on our social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
I hope there are many more anniversaries to come for Shinesparkers and I am sure with the support of the wider Metroid community, we can make this happen.
© 2011 Darren
This feature was originally published in August 2011. It has been slightly edited since its original publication.