Giant Bomb News

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Worth Reading: 06/27/2014

It might be the first week of summer, but there's still plenty of time to sit around with a pot of coffee and read, right?

I considered saying something regarding the state of journalism, but I think the countless tweets from the last few days has more than taken care of that for me. There was something in the air this week, apparently.

Instead, let's grab this question from Tumblr that suddenly seems relevant.

"Do you take your own skill level at gaming into account when analyzing a game? Not just reviews, but any writing you do... do you weigh your own proficiency against other factors? I've been thinking about game difficulty and my own skills a lot ever since I passed 40 and realized story, setting, and accessibility have become more important than challenge to me. As someone who clearly enjoys games that have significant challenge, I was wondering if you think about this as well."

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Though I guess, truthfully, it's a little muddier than that. Giant Bomb doesn't have an official "rule" that we play every game on the "normal" difficulty, but that's usually what happens, since that's what we suspect most people will do (and what we play). This usually provides as close to a typical gameplay experience as possible, even if it's ultimately impossible to actually simulate that. I started thinking about this question, however, as I perused through the comments section on my Shovel Knight review.

I really enjoyed Shovel Knight and recommend playing it--yes, even if the thought of yet another retro platformer makes you want to gag. That said, towards the end, I mused about how the game wasn't very difficult. If there's any kind of game I consider myself pretty okay at, it's games like Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight didn't take much effort on my part to finish, which felt worth noting. I wouldn't say the game was knocked a star because of that (we don't score games with such an arbitrary system, it gets too weird too fast--scores are a gut feeling), but it was an honest reaction I had to the game. In that sense, my own skill played into how I felt about Shovel Knight.

So the real answer to this question yes and no, and hopefully we're able to articulate why it does or doesn't factor into a particular review when it seems relevant to our reaction to it.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

It's hard to imagine a time when Electronic Arts might have considered cancelling The Sims, but Simon Parkin's story on how The Sims accidentally (and not accidentally) ended up with homosexual relationships paints Will Wright's groundbreaking game as one that almost never came out. This story comes not long after Nintendo's Tomodachi Life, a game that found the in a debate over what is and isn't a political statement regarding the inclusion of different sexualities. Though this story comes from 1999, it feels very relevant in 2014.

"On the first day of the show, the game’s producers, Kana Ryan and Chris Trottier, watched in disbelief as two of the female Sims attending the virtual wedding leaned in and began to passionately kiss. They had, during the live simulation, fallen in love. Moreover, they had chosen this moment to express their affection, in front of a live audience of assorted press. Following the kiss, talk of The Sims dominated E3. 'You might say that they stole the show,' Barrett said. 'I guess straight guys that make sports games loved the idea of controlling two lesbians.'"

It's easy to dislike PewDiePie. But Maddy Myers nails why he gets under our skin: he's popular and we don't understand why. There's a bit of old man syndrome at play here, a distaste for the trendy because it's not aimed at us. If we believe video games are truly the medium of our time, that means the audience for them is potentially limitless. It's hard to imagine they're all coming to places like Giant Bomb or IGN, though. Instead, they're going to PewDiePie, Tumblr, and other atypical sources. It may not be for us, but who cares? It's for them.

"As a result of all of this, Kjellberg appeals to The Tumblr Audience, particularly teen girls who probably see little “for” them from other Let’s Players, and I predict that’s the secret ingredient that’s made his pageviews max out over other YouTube gaming stars. Kjellberg may do little more than scream into a microphone, but it’s what he doesn’t do that counts. He doesn’t actively alienate female viewers; if anything, he’s done his best to keep them by toning down misogynistic humor. Girls are playing and enjoying videogames already. They’re just not going to “mainstream” gaming sites, because there’s nothing for them there. But, apparently,they are watching Kjellberg."

If You Click It, It Will Play

These Crowdfunding Projects Look Pretty Cool

  • Together is a co-op experience designed for two players from the ground up.
  • Jeremy Parish wants to keep archiving the history of games, and needs your help.
  • Jenn Frank is one of gaming's best writers, so please consider supporting her.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
98 Comments
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Posted by GunsAreDrawn

I hope it isn't insulting when I say the Tweets part of this feature is my favorite part

Posted by WeaponBoy

In reference to the Maddy Myers piece, General Ironicus wrote a pretty good article about PewDiePie a few years ago that has a pretty good explanation of why he's so popular nestled inside (it's not what the whole article is about, mind you):

The fact remains that millions of people dig this stuff, and after a bit of reflection I think I have an idea why. His childish persona is the secret. His fans are admitted kids, just entering the period where they first face responsibility and consequences for their actions. That’s a pretty rough time in life. Meanwhile the little box in the corner shows a guy who can do whatever the fuck he wants and nothing happens. He screeches like a banshee with its balls in a vise but mom never tells him to turn the racket down. He can tell people something’s a joke even when it isn’t and they still laugh anyway.

Posted by Qblivion

Man, that Leigh Alexander piece made me real depressed about the lack of those kinds of games these days.

Posted by snide

Seeing Greg and Richard Garriot together is pretty awesome.

Posted by Video_Game_King

'I guess straight guys that make sports games loved the idea of controlling two lesbians.'

Now I want a buddy cop game starring a lesbian couple. Get to it, EA.

Posted by SomberOwl

Just wondering why you added the Mila Kunis interview?

Edited by Darek006

I'm really conflicted with my feelings on that Samantha Allen piece. None of her examples seem particularly...good? Are the names Destiny and Dishonored *really* indicative of a male-only mentality? But the overall discussion may have some merit? I don't know.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@darek006 said:

I'm really conflicted with my feelings on that Samantha Allen piece. None of her examples seem particularly...strong? Or even good?

That was one of my major problems with it. Why is Journey an evocative title, but Grand Theft Auto lacks connotation? Or Gears of War? She feels too willing to fit things into preconceived categories, and to apply broader trends based on limited data (I noticed a distinct lack of Japanese titles).

Posted by RobotMafia

What at that Dan Stapleton quote? Yeah, mods are great, they are also generally free or really cheap. Not $60. C'mon Patrick.

Posted by Yummylee

@darek006 said:

I'm really conflicted with my feelings on that Samantha Allen piece. None of her examples seem particularly...good? Are the names Destiny and Dishonored *really* indicative of a male-only mentality? But the overall discussion may have some merit? I don't know.

She also claimed Red Dead Redemption was a story centred around the ''tragic rumination on the hollowness of revenge'', which... that's not how I saw that game at all. The epilogue deals with the act of taking revenge of course, but the repercussions of Jack's actions weren't ever explored; that's more of GTA IV's territory anywhoo I'd say. Unrelated, but... it stood out to me.

Though like you said it's a potentially interesting topic, but her overall article seems a bit hit & miss. Truth be told I don't really pay too much attention to game titles unless it's especially bad or at least generic (Lords of the Fal-zzzzzzzz) anyway. And the ones I do like just tend to quickly fall into habit and I stop thinking about it. Bloodborne is a good example of a recent game title I thought sounded really cool, but I'm already so accustomed to it that it now basically exists purely as ''the title of this Souls game successor''.

Edited by Shivoa

The Patrick J. Barrett III comments in that The Sims piece seemed very much to be rewriting the history of PC games.

No other game had facilitated same-sex relationships before...

That's a weird way to talk about a game from after the big 2000 party or even to talk about an E3 '99 showing. Here's a quote (source) from Tim Caine about the big 1998 release, Fallout 2:

We kind of liked pushing boundaries a bit. Not always with violence. We wanted a game which is full of social commentary. So [same-sex marriage] was just another thing we were doing. I don’t even think anybody in the team really argued over it. We didn’t think ‘Oh my god, this an amazing thing.’ It was just ‘We’re going to cover every possible base here.’ And then we moved on.

And then we've got the testimonials from people like Patricia Hernandez, who explained her relationship with Fallout 2 here.

But according to the interview reported by Parkin, 2 years later was when maturely handled same sex relationships came to computer games. Not to say that EA were the ones to suggest a piece about The Sims history as part of their PR offensive for the new sequel, coming soon, but it does seem like this piece could do with more research (hey, at least the piece got corrected to no longer claim The Sims came out in late 1999). It's nice to have behind-the-scenes dives into games, but I'd much rather a piece that didn't pay for that exclusive access by removing the critical eye and fact checking.

Edited by Darek006

Just read that Mila Kunis thing as well, and I don't see the point of it. They seemed amicable towards each other by the end. What am I supposed to take away from that? And to be fair to Mila, the interviewer was asking questions we knew the answers to literally a decade ago.

Edited by Cerberus3Dog
@darek006 said:

I'm really conflicted with my feelings on that Samantha Allen piece. None of her examples seem particularly...good? Are the names Destiny and Dishonored *really* indicative of a male-only mentality? But the overall discussion may have some merit? I don't know.

I agree with you. I don't think she makes strong examples. Only that titles are probably marketed to the largest target audience, formerly being men ages 18-35. I am profiling her here because of a flimsy argument she made about the Tomodachi Life same sex debacle. But a comment on Polygon made her article seem subjective and baseless:

"The examples she gives for ‘good’ titles deal with titles and memes that women prefer, labeling them as examples of maturity. She rags on game titles with memes typically associated with men, labeling them immature. Institutionalized misandry is very much the basis."

I did get the gist that favoritism to men is the basis of her argument here, and that most video game titles are bad because of it.

Posted by Aetheldod

Nathan´s article is terrible ... heck he doesnt even know who Lelianna is , when are these dumb journalist actually pay attention to the games they are covering and know the essentials before spouitng mostly nonsense? (because the sex scenes in origins are indeed bad in execution) The game hasnt come out but now we must hate it? Sweet Jebus stop it gaming media... just fucking stop!!!!

Edited by Sergio

Oh, another opinion piece by Samantha Allen...

Yep, that's something she wrote.

Edited by Walreese55

Is Richie Shoemaker related to Brad?

Posted by NecroNeko

I think Samantha Allen is hitting on something which could be potentially interesting, but I feel her approach was a little wrong.

A lot of game titles can be ridiculously generic (The Sniper Elite argument makes sense.) but then how much of that is just how we consume media? If I see a game called Sniper Elite I know it's going to be about a sniper, if the game was called something like 'Enemy at the Gates' I might turn around and go "Oh well, that sounds like a horde mode based FPS, maybe a TD game.". I guess I'm generalising a little here, but easily digested titles that get the game across whilst still at least trying to be original seem to be held as the 'best' ones.

All game devs could start naming their games like Hollywood movies, but would we really want that? Or would that start game journalists going "What the hell is up with this name?". I think it's very easy to turn around and accuse people of having simple titles and then in two weeks time think to ourselves "Why on earth did they call it that?" when we encounter something odd.

Maybe we should just look at our steam games lists, or our bookshelves full of boxes and think about why a game is titled the way it is. Most seem to be an explanation of the core themes of the game, or at the very least describe a portion of it's setting.

(Plus when she mentioned masculine titles I think she meant machismo titles, and yeah the manlyguyhardstuff from the 90s did get a bit silly, but then I think that was very indicative of the games themselves, being overthetop gore-fests where big muscled guys with big weapons killed things. In those cases maybe they should have machismo names, since the games themselves are all about that.)

Edited by Achaemenid

I think we understand perfectly well why PewDiePie is popular, it's not a mystery or a case of old man syndrome: he screams and makes funny noises and dirty jokes, and kids have eaten that stuff up since forever. There isn't a generational gap except in the sense that eventually people get more mature and look for more mature entertainment.

He's basically just a clown, for children. That's not the worst thing in the world either.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I just realized something: a lot of Samantha's issues apply to classic literature just as well. For example:

  • Last of the Mohicans: A story about the Last of the Mohicans.
  • Moby Dick: There's a whale called Moby Dick.
  • Metamorphoses: A bunch of people turn into shit.
  • Journey to the West: It's right there in the title.
  • Any Sherlock Holmes story: At this point, I'm stretching the definition of "classical", but I think I made my point.

I don't know if I said this before, but her essay is needlessly reductive, at least in the "functional" part of it.

Edited by smcn

I brought up the Liara relationship from Mass Effect 3, how it was less of a starry eyed space opera love affair and more of, well, a relationship. As in, with ups and downs and people being kind of passive-aggressive and shitty to each other sometimes. Lee said we should expect to encounter even more variety along those lines in Inquisition.

I thought I couldn't get any more excited about Inquisition.

Posted by paulunga

Hmm... the content presented here feels kinda weak. At least the stuff I decided to read or watch (the two main articles, the Hatsune Miku/Justin Bieber thing and the 9000 spin).

This is tangential, but how come gaming websites are jumping on the Hatsune Miku thing NOW? This is like, 5 years too late. Fuck, I sound like a hipster and I don't even think vocaloid music is any better than that autotune shit.

Posted by Hailinel

I just realized something: a lot of Samantha's issues apply to classic literature just as well. For example:

  • Last of the Mohicans: A story about the Last of the Mohicans.
  • Moby Dick: There's a whale called Moby Dick.
  • Metamorphoses: A bunch of people turn into shit.
  • Journey to the West: It's right there in the title.
  • Any Sherlock Holmes story: At this point, I'm stretching the definition of "classical", but I think I made my point.

I don't know if I said this before, but her essay is needlessly reductive, at least in the "functional" part of it.

Maybe she should have given it the title "Oversimplistic, Underresearched Essay".

Online
Posted by ArbitraryWater

@snide said:

Seeing Greg and Richard Garriot together is pretty awesome.

Yeah, I fully recommend that people watch that entire video.

Posted by BuddyleeR
Posted by MarkWahlberg

@qblivion said:

Man, that Leigh Alexander piece made me real depressed about the lack of those kinds of games these days.

Even going beyond nostalgia - I never played FFX - it kinda makes you wonder about how, somewhere between games still being considered 'for kids' in a lot of ways, and the push for more 'maturity' in games and such, there's a gap where gaming's YA Lit equivalent would be - which is inarguably a massive demographic, but not one that anyone seems to think worth capitalizing on at the moment, for whatever reason.

Posted by Sergio

I just realized something: a lot of Samantha's issues apply to classic literature just as well. For example:

  • Last of the Mohicans: A story about the Last of the Mohicans.
  • Moby Dick: There's a whale called Moby Dick.
  • Metamorphoses: A bunch of people turn into shit.
  • Journey to the West: It's right there in the title.
  • Any Sherlock Holmes story: At this point, I'm stretching the definition of "classical", but I think I made my point.

I don't know if I said this before, but her essay is needlessly reductive, at least in the "functional" part of it.

Not just literature, but also movies and music.

She tries to back up her argument, but some of the examples she gives don't fit. Others seem to be based solely on the type of game it is, because I don't see how one could have a problem with Destiny and not Journey - both are just fine. In the end, it just felt like she was trying hard to hammer out an opinion piece loosely based on an idea but with no real substance.

Edited by Brodehouse

Samantha Allen; walk home. 'Dishonored as a title suggests masculinity'. Not only does it not suggest anything like that, but where the fuck does she come off telling people how masculine they should be. Samantha Allen is a concern-trolling hypocrite.

And she backs it up by claiming those titles which intentionally lean into adolescence (Broforce) are not themselves safe reflections back on adolescent id and joy but only revealing how terrible and stupid and lame and gross and smelly those awful, awful boys are.

Posted by joshwent

After all, a rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, but only a very limited audience would stop to smell a rose called Bonestorm.

So... isn't that the point? Appealing to that 'limited audience' is the entire reason those titles are what they are. And, I understand that she just inherently dislikes these "macho" sounding titles on principal (how dare they target games at... boys!), but names like Bulletstorm communicate exactly what that game is to their target demographic. "Thomas Was Alone" is wonderfully evocative, but "Splatterhouse" also paints an pretty damn vivid picture in my mind.

She even shortly addresses this flaw in her own argument...

Adolescent titles often accurately reflect the content in the game itself: Splatterhouse isn’t exactly a game that deserves an arthouse title like Being Rick. In these cases, video game titles do serve as an indicator of the maturity of the medium.

...and neatly resolves it by completely dismissing all those well-titled games as immature.

great

Edited by MormonWarrior

@patrickklepek said:

'I guess straight guys that make sports games loved the idea of controlling two lesbians.'

Now I want a buddy cop game starring a lesbian couple. Get to it, EA.

...does this count?

Posted by selbie

Good to see Greg back in his old job again :D

Posted by audioBusting

Two tim rogers links in one Worth Reading. I love it.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that same sex relationships in The Sims wasn't intentional at first, but interesting.

Posted by KDR_11k

I just realized something: a lot of Samantha's issues apply to classic literature just as well. For example:

  • Last of the Mohicans: A story about the Last of the Mohicans.
  • Moby Dick: There's a whale called Moby Dick.
  • Metamorphoses: A bunch of people turn into shit.
  • Journey to the West: It's right there in the title.
  • Any Sherlock Holmes story: At this point, I'm stretching the definition of "classical", but I think I made my point.

I don't know if I said this before, but her essay is needlessly reductive, at least in the "functional" part of it.

"The Bible": Yep, it's a book.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@kdr_11k:

Open that book up, and it becomes a lot more functional. Genesis describes the beginning, Exodus describes Moses getting the hell out of Egypt, there are a billion books named after some guy that go on to describe that guy's story (Joshua, Job, Jonah, etc.).

Edited by LikeaSsur

If there was ever something that would never get complained about, it was video game titles. And yet, Samantha Allen does just that. She even cherry picks to support herself and then completely misses the point of why Spec Ops: The Line even has that subtitle in it. Brilliant way to pull the rug out from under yourself, Samantha.

And for the record, if a game called Bonestorm came out and you played a Lich who wanted to kill all the humans in the world, I'd be all for it.

Posted by medacris

@joshwent @brodehouse: I think it depends on the woman. I've never been turned off by action movie-type titles in gaming or film, and I don't know any guys who are turned off by artsy indie game titles. But I tend to have a lot of female friends who are tomboys, and a lot of male friends who aren't afraid to peruse quiet, artsy games, so I realize my perspective is limited. I can see why they might feel alienating to others, though.

@shivoa: I think a bunch of games that have really been inclusive somehow get sort of overlooked, and I can't really explain why. Take Guacamelee, for example. All the characters are Mexican. There is not a single white person in the game. Xtabay, who is female, is playable. Yet a lot of my friends who had been looking for more games that are inclusive to non-white and female players had never even heard of it, which is a shame.

Posted by BigD145

What the f is soccer? "Soccer" isn't a real word. You made that up.

Posted by Memu

@snide said:

Seeing Greg and Richard Garriot together is pretty awesome.

Yeah, I fully recommend that people watch that entire video.

The Richard Garriott interview is brilliant! I learned stuff.

The first RPG I ever played was Ultima IV. Fond memories.

Edited by SomberOwl

@darek006 said:

Just read that Mila Kunis thing as well, and I don't see the point of it. They seemed amicable towards each other by the end. What am I supposed to take away from that? And to be fair to Mila, the interviewer was asking questions we knew the answers to literally a decade ago.

Yeah I'm curious as to why @patrickklepek added this article.

Posted by Cranzor

Samantha Allen explores an interesting topic in her piece, but I don't think she did so very effectively. It seems like she is trying to make something more complicated than it really is. The predisposition of writers (and people in general) to group things together or make lists is often unnecessary. Sometimes things really should be taken at face value. For the topic of titles, I think they're either good or they're bad. There's not much to it.

Plus, the rules for the groups she established are vague. She sets up "functional titles" as a bad group of titles that just tell the content of the game. Later, she cites Journey and Gone Home as good titles. How do these titles not fit into that group? (I like these titles, by the way.)

Journey: You go on a journey.

Gone Home: You go home.

I commend her for writing the piece though. I think the topic should be explored further. But this is something that is not exclusive to games. Perhaps a broader approach in respect to many mediums, using that as a base, would allow for a better analysis of game titles.

Edited by Shortbreadtom

Man, I usually don't mind Samantha Allen's writing but that article was awful

Posted by ZZoMBiE13

Man, I usually don't mind Samantha Allen's writing but that article was awful

Agreed. Many of the comments at the bottom shared the same sentiment.

Posted by probablytuna

It was really weird seeing Felicia Day crash the interview between Greg and Richard Garriot but then find out they've actually been friends for twenty years, that's kinda nuts. Also having them share a chair was a nice touch haha.

Edited by xbob42

I still don't get why you guys always play games on normal to "simulate" a "typical" experience.

1. Your audience isn't "typical" gamers. Stop trying to cater to people that aren't here.

2. Don't try to simulate my experience, have your own and tell me about it. If you thought Child of Light, for example, was super dumb easy, but never bothered to crank up the difficulty, then I think there's something wrong with you, not the game.

The normal setting on most games is designed for people who aren't very good at games. Quit trying to make some sort of absurd statement about that and just choose a proper difficulty if the game is too easy. There's little about gaming I find more annoying than someone complaining about something they can fix by toggling a single option.

And don't start in on that "Well raising some health values doesn't fix the problem!" guff, because for some games that's all it is -- the initial values are simply ludicrously low. If the difficulty option ALSO sucks, then tell us about it! You are actually being less useful to your readers by not exploring the difficulty levels!

Posted by TimesHero

@xbob42: Perhaps they should relabel "Hard Mode" in all games to "Normal" just to satisfy your needs.

Edited by xbob42

@timeshero said:

@xbob42: Perhaps they should relabel "Hard Mode" in all games to "Normal" just to satisfy your needs.

I've reread your post like 5 times and I still can't see how it makes any sense at all in the context of what I was saying, which was a problem with Giant Bomb "faking a typical playthrough" rather than the actual difficulty of the game itself.

Even if they did that, having GB play a bit of each difficulty to see how they feel is useful information. Some games are better on easy, like Spec Ops: The Line. Some are better on hard, like Child of Light. A good chunk are decent on Normal, but Normal is becoming easier and easier so that's why they should toy around rather than trying to convince us that they're playing everything on normal "for us."

Posted by KentonClay

@xbob42 said:

I still don't get why you guys always play games on normal to "simulate" a "typical" experience.

1. Your audience isn't "typical" gamers. Stop trying to cater to people that aren't here.

2. Don't try to simulate my experience, have your own and tell me about it. If you thought Child of Light, for example, was super dumb easy, but never bothered to crank up the difficulty, then I think there's something wrong with you, not the game.

The normal setting on most games is designed for people who aren't very good at games. Quit trying to make some sort of absurd statement about that and just choose a proper difficulty if the game is too easy. There's little about gaming I find more annoying than someone complaining about something they can fix by toggling a single option.

And don't start in on that "Well raising some health values doesn't fix the problem!" guff, because for some games that's all it is -- the initial values are simply ludicrously low. If the difficulty option ALSO sucks, then tell us about it! You are actually being less useful to your readers by not exploring the difficulty levels!

Theoretically, "Normal" should be the difficulty setting best tuned to fit the mechanics and level design of the game, and should thus be the optimal playing experience. In Shovel Knight, for example, you can tell that the number of hits enemies take to kill is very specifically chosen. Artificially cranking up the enemy HP values would completely ruin the flow of the action. If the optimal playing experience isn't "Normal" and the game fails to properly convey that before you jump in, then that's on the game.

Very few games pull a Ninja Gaiden Black and go above and beyond to actually alter anything more than some variables on different difficulty settings. Usually, games feel grindy and slow on higher difficulties.

Edited by Itwastuesday

that Keita Takahashi interview is great, he's such an interesting guy. he kind of reminds me of the King of All Cosmos when he's putting down everyone else in the industry

Posted by 2kings

@xbob42 said:

I still don't get why you guys always play games on normal to "simulate" a "typical" experience.

1. Your audience isn't "typical" gamers. Stop trying to cater to people that aren't here.

2. Don't try to simulate my experience, have your own and tell me about it. If you thought Child of Light, for example, was super dumb easy, but never bothered to crank up the difficulty, then I think there's something wrong with you, not the game.

The normal setting on most games is designed for people who aren't very good at games. Quit trying to make some sort of absurd statement about that and just choose a proper difficulty if the game is too easy. There's little about gaming I find more annoying than someone complaining about something they can fix by toggling a single option.

And don't start in on that "Well raising some health values doesn't fix the problem!" guff, because for some games that's all it is -- the initial values are simply ludicrously low. If the difficulty option ALSO sucks, then tell us about it! You are actually being less useful to your readers by not exploring the difficulty levels!

You raise some very good points. I've often wondered about difficulty as it relates to experience. Sometimes I do want to know what the other tiers do or don't. Nice post, duder.

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