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Friday, May 05, 2006

Lucas Gets Heart ... Plans Unaltered Original Trilogy

Fans can look forward to a September filled with classic Star Wars nostalgia, led by the premiere of LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy video game and the long-awaited DVD release of the original theatrical incarnations of the classic Star Wars trilogy.

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you'll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.
-- This September: Original Unaltered Trilogy on DVD


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Hello Kitty MMO

Other than hundreds of choices for you to build your dream house and lovely player characters, Hello Kitty World players will also be able to raise pets and teach them special tricks and skills. Players will be able to cooperate and interact with other players to overcome a joint quest or challenge other friends to a friendly duel.
You will be able to make new friends through special in-game telepathy as well as interact with other gamers through a variety of community channels and forums. Share the exciting world of Hello Kitty World and spread the message of love with both your old friends and the new ones you have just met in the Hello Kitty World.
-- Hello Kitty Online World (via Jason's Weblog)

Bound to happen. I mean, they have Hello Kitty adult toys ... so the only question is what took so long.

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Pac-Man The Movie

I can't view it right now, but please enjoy. Via Gadget Review.

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Carnival of Gamers: One Year Anniversary

Don't call it a comeback. We've been here a year.

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John Romero Blames Modders For Oblivion Rating

From the brains behind Daikatana:

The ESRB just re-rated Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from Teen to Mature. On the surface the bad news for Bethesda is that fewer units will be sold to an M audience and it's a little bit of a black eye as well because of the "nude content introduced into the game from a third party mod". Sure, it's only for the PC version but the news blurb will affect all SKUs regardless.

Ok, so the story is that there was no nude content in the game's data but some modder added it with a utility. In the case of GTA's Hot Coffee incident there was actually some hidden art assets and animations that were unlocked by modders and thus got that game jacked up by the ESRB as well - and it really affected ALL ratings in the industry past that point. It's now harder to get a lower rating because of these hacks.

What's the point of this all this? That modders are now screwing up the industry they're supposed to be helping. In 1993 we opened up all our data to the industrious and ambitious folks out there who want to see what it's like to be able to make their favorite game a little more like what they'd want.....and get a taste of being a semi-game designer in the process. The most awesome example of what this philosophy has brought is CounterStrike.

Now what's going to happen? You'll probably start seeing game data files becoming encrypted and the open door on assets getting slammed shut just to keep modders from financially screwing the company they should be helping. And the day a game company's file encryption is hacked to add porn and the case goes to the ESRB for review - that's when we'll see how well game companies are protected from these antics and what the courts will rule. Hopefully it'll be on the developer's side.
-- Oblivion Re-Rated = Bad News (digg it)

Wow, that makes me pretty mad. But before I rip into any of that, I should state that I'm reading this as translated from babel since Romero's site is blocked here at the office. I tried to clean it back up, but I may have missed some of the odd captials and such that happened in the process. In short, if there is odd typing in the quote, it's probably not from the original. I don't think he meant to say "drank the news". I'll replace it properly when I get chance, but for now feel free to click through using your non-censored connection to read the real version. (Now updated)

Now, let's see here.

First of all - modders don't owe the industry squat. They don't pay any license fees, they aren't under any contracts outside of the EULA. Modders are consumers. The industry loves to use modders for free labor and assets. The industry has received a great deal of innovation and bonus material from the works of modders ... and 99.99999% of the time the mod community doesn't see a dime or often even a thank you.

The gaming industry owes the mod community. Not the other way around. Yes, mods exist because the industry takes time to create support, tools and extendability. In many ways, the mod community exists at the mercy of the industry. Like playing Capture the Flag, though? Thank the mods.

All CounterStrike is a perfect example of is how to ride on the works of others for as long as possible before simply buying them outright. It's easily done as much harm as good for the industry. Now instead of free innovation, the industry is just looking for others to extend the lifespan of their products.

In other words, these "hacks" are your customers. Expecting your customers to modify games in ways that only serves you as a game developer is arrogant and absurd.

The problem isn't the modders. The problem is the ESRB overstepping it's bounds. And it's doing it because instead of the industry defending itself and it's users ... it attacks developers it doesn't like (say, Rockstar) or attacks the people that use the product (those meddling modders).

How about instead, the industry tell the ESRB to rate content as it ships and not worry about what users do with it afterwards. Inform parents about mods, but don't punish the industry because people are actually using them.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

The ESRB's Line In The Sand

Let's once again consider why the ESRB just upped Oblivion's rating from Teen (13+) to Mature (17+):

The content causing the ESRB to change the rating involves more detailed depictions of blood and gore than were considered in the original rating, as well as the presence of a locked-out art file or “skin” that, if accessed through a third party modification to the PC version of the game, allows the user to play with topless versions of female characters.

That long rambling sentence is proof as to why the ESRB is going crazy in the light of political pressure and inane moral crusaders. First, it admits that the ESRB cannot guarantee the accuracy of their consideration. If the version they are viewing for consideration can be so fundamentally different than the one published, what's the point? Remember, the ESRB doesn't actually play the games they rate. Publishers/developers are required to submit videos indicative of the content.

Second, they are holding a line in the sand which will be impossible to keep drawn. They can continue to say they aren't reviewing modified material and that this, like Hot Coffee, is merely a byproduct of the developer not acknowledging art files never intended for gameplay. Once again, though, I repeat ... that's irrelevant to the ESRB's publically stated goal. If their reason for existence is to inform consumers about the kind of content included within a game ... why should the consumer be concerned with the difference between modified code using new art and modified code using existing art. Is there any difference at all to the consumer?

Of course not. With Hot Coffee, however, the ESRB capitulated to this line in the sand to show that yes, they could be tough on Rockstar. In doing so, they've invited a very dangerous response. If the same political showboaters wanted to make a point about naked skins in Unreal Tournament then the ESRB is going to find that a very difficult argument to keep.

Sure, everyone loves to hate Rockstar. Few in the industry shed a tear watching them get kicked. Since then, though, we had Indigo Prophecy edited for content and supposedly Bethesda is rethinking their mod strategies for future. Maybe now some in the industry will realize that hating Rockstar isn't a good enough to reason to give up this kind of fight.

And now what? Virtually any PC game on the market can be turned to porn in the right hands. And let's be honest and rational here ... so freaking what? You bought the game. It's on your computer. Go download what you like. Just don't go whining that you're amazed nipples somehow magically found their way on your computer.

As for parents ... listen up: If you don't realize that you child can use the Internet to download a file to add porn to their games, you shouldn't be letting your kid on the Internet. You shouldn't need the ESRB to even warn you that "modified game code might cause adult content". Because if they can do that ... they can download something else to get porn a lot easier. Namely ... porn itself.

I mean ... thank god the ESRB is now going to step up to the plate and warn parents that Little Timmy might have been able to download a patch to see topless elves in Oblivion. Now Little Timmy won't have any distractions from googling up hot cheerleader on cheerleading action. Once again, the children are safe.

The ESRB needs to focus on their actual job - reviewing and rating content intended for gameplay. They clearly need a better system to monitor whether the blood and guts shown on a preview video matches what goes gold with the game. Modified content? It's out of the scope of the ESRB's abilities and responsibilities.

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Inform 7 released

A new public beta of Inform, the popular interactive fiction engine, has been released. This sounds like the most complete overhaul of the engine to date and seems to address one of my main concerns with the format ... that being the complexity of producing the narrative itself. Apparently you can now design using plain English instead of complicated object language and there are tools for previewing and testing your story within the engine.

I am, to be honest, not really convinced this would still be an engine I want to work with, but it definately sounds like they've done some very hard and interesting work with this overhaul. Anyone interested in IF should definately check it out.

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Lost: Sex, The Twist, And A Phone Number

Jeez, where to begin?

This last episode seemed like it was going to be mildly interesting at first. There's a lot of the usual fate intertwining (Jack's dad calling Ana "Sarah", for instance ... Jack's wife ... not to mention her dropping him off to eventually meet Sawyer), some mildly tasty tidbits (does Jack have a sister?) and a lot of dramatas about dealing with the past. Fake Henry Gale mentioned Goodwin by (fake) name ... which seems to indicate that they are indeed working together (and lessening the chances of two groups of Others) and Sawyer and Ana had a little loving in the jungle.

But who cares? Michael shot two people. And then freed Henry Gale and shot himself to cover up the escape. Mikey has been acting weird since he got back from the other side of the island ... but this is most strange. Is he working with the Others voluntarily to get Walt back? Is he somehow brainwashed? I'm thinking he was lying about the Others Camp, because Kate didn't seem to be buying it (having seen the fake beard and such).

There's a lot of speculation about the fatality of Michael's shots. We don't actually see Ana's wound. Libby was holding some blanket for protection. OK, it's pretty wild speculation ... but both are valid points. It would work well for the next episode for one of them to be holding onto life to ramp up the tension that Michael might be found out.

The Girl, who creepily called the shots well before they rang out, thinks Michael is brainwashed. I'm thinking "The Man" has a bit of a cult of personality going on. Michael has to know that if he's discovered, he's not coming back to the Lost Camp. I don't think the Others have any intention of freeing Walt, so I doubt this is part of a deal to get him back.

I'm guessing that whatever Michael has seen in the jungle has made him a believer of "The Man" ... and he's voluntarily working for them now. He's not trying to get Walt back anymore. He and Walt have new employers. Maybe Michael was one of the "Good" ones all along ... potential recruits for The Man's new world order. The "Good" bit still gets me. Kids are good. Babies are great. Some people are good. Some aren't.

Right before Gale attacked Ana the first time ... he said something that made me think he could read her mind. Sounds very sci fi ... sure ... but it explains how the Others are such good liars, how they could make quick lists of everyone they meet and maybe how they know bad from good.

Desmond clearly didn't have this ability. Maybe because he had been quarantined? Perhaps the hallucinations everyone keeps getting are manifestations of mental abilities that the Others have already mastered.

And Henry Gale could be The Man. I doubt it, but I wouldn't be too shocked if the writers went Keiser Soze on us.

We did, however, totally miss the fake Hanso commercial. I guess Lost is going more ARG with The Lost Experience and the commercial was part of the kick off. People have already started to track the clues down that particular rabbit hole.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Will Porn Win The Console Wars?

Funny theory:

The amusing second story is that BusinessWeek is suggesting that the next-gen DVD battle could decide the console wars. With PS3 using Blu-Ray and Xbox 360 using HD-DVD, the winner of the two could have a real advantage with consumers.

So doesn't this mean that, if porn decides the format wars and the format wars decide the console wars, porn decides the console wars?

I'm sure Bill Gates and Ken Kuturagi are investigating their options as we speak. Could we see Sony Pictures making a substantial investment in, shall we say, alternative content?
-- Porn will decide the console wars

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Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Goes From Teen To Mature

The ESRB, in a new press release (thanks Jeff), has raised Oblivion's rating to Mature:

NEW YORK – The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating assigned to the game The Elder Scrolls® IV: OblivionTM from T (Teen 13+) to M (Mature 17+). The content causing the ESRB to change the rating involves more detailed depictions of blood and gore than were considered in the original rating, as well as the presence of a locked-out art file or “skin” that, if accessed through a third party modification to the PC version of the game, allows the user to play with topless versions of female characters.
-- The ESRB Officially Changes The Rating For THE ELDER SCROLLS IV: OBLIVION From T (TEEN) to M (MATURE) (PDF)

The release goes on to mention mods specifically ... saying "It is increasingly important for parents to realize that PC games can be altered through the use of downloadable programs created by other players called 'mods' (short for modification), which are broadly available on the Internet and can change the content of a game."

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Cell Phone Monopoly Tycoon ... Win By Not Playing

Monopoly Tycoon for cell phones basically takes Monopoly, lays it out on a grid, lets you develop on properties at any time and auctions properties instead of rolling the dice. I mentioned it earlier today when I was complaining about cell phone games in general.

As mentioned, the problem with the game is that it's insanely easy. How easy? I just won the game in seven turns and I didn't really do anything at all. I didn't build anything. I didn't have to buy anything. I just raised the auction once or twice and let the AI hang itself by blowing all it's money on properties.

Before every game, Monopoly Tycoon likes to remind you that you can win by using a variety of strategies. I'm beginning to think they mean any strategy.

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Oblivion Recalled?

This is total mumblevine crop, but:

This is the case at least according to Circuit City...

Here's the story, at about 6 pm tonite I get an official video game recall notice from corprate telling us to pull and send back all the copies of Oblivion (PC & 360) we have in the store ASAP.

The memo mentions nothing about why the recall is being issued or if the manufactuer is even the ones behind it (which I doubt). Still it's very freakin' weird and the only thing I can remotely think of why they would do this is because of the corrupted game saves some people have recently complained about, but that problem doesn't even seem wide spread, let alone come close to envoking a product recall.

Maybe this was some big news story I missed or something, but a recall of a game this big and one I won makes me nervous so does anyone have any info on why'd they would want to recall the game??
-- Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Recalled ?!?! (via Breaking Windows)

Wha? I find the rumor a bit hard to chew on because like the author I've got no idea why the game would get pulled. It's extremely popular, so no chain would do this unless they had good reason.

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Tim Berners-Lee On Network Neutrality

When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone's permission. [3]. The new application rolled out over the existing Internet without modifying it. I tried then, and many people still work very hard still, to make the Web technology, in turn, a universal, neutral, platform. It must not discriminate against particular hardware, software, underlying network, language, culture, disability, or against particular types of data.

Anyone can build a new application on the Web, without asking me, or Vint Cerf, or their ISP, or their cable company, or their operating system provider, or their government, or their hardware vendor.

It is of the utmost importance that, if I connect to the Internet, and you connect to the Internet, that we can then run any Internet application we want, without discrimination as to who we are or what we are doing. We pay for connection to the Net as though it were a cloud which magically delivers our packets. We may pay for a higher or a lower quality of service. We may pay for a service which has the characteristics of being good for video, or quality audio. But we each pay to connect to the Net, but no one can pay for exclusive access to me.
-- Neutrality of the Net

I'm a little bit of a Berners-Lee fanboy, I'll confess. I do, after all, basically owe the guy my livelihood. More than that, when I hear him talk about the Web or the Internet ... I remember why I got into it in the first. It's this geeky coolness of something really complicated and yet really simple that allows for so much versatility that you can never quite tell what it's going to do next. I remember showing my English prof Mapquest when it first launched and he kinda got that look that you expect people have might have had when we started launching things into space.

And it's also why net neutrality is a big deal to me ... because without it all of that could vanish. You'd have fiefdoms and portals and traffic stops in your way. I'm not sure anyone on this planet could have a better perspective on that than Berners-Lee. I suppose you could read Vint Cerf's opinion on the matter ... because sure he works for Google ... but he also has the distinction of having helped invent the Internet itself.

So take a bit of time today and tell Congress to protect one of the most valuable resources we have today.

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Why Duke Nukem Forever Hasn't Been Finished

Because apparently 3D Realms has nobody to work on it?

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Cell Gaming Rut

The Washington Post has a feature about how cell gaming just ain't all it's cracked up to be. Sales are sluggish, purchasing interfaces suck and it's hard to earn brand recognition. In other words, not enough people are buying and most of them are getting Tetris or Monopoly over webpages that look like your grandma designed them.

I keep hearing about how cell phones are a whole new frontier for gaming, but at the moment I'm just not buying it and those are several good reasons as to why. Most of the games I've tried have been cheap, sure, but that's about the best I can really say about them. For instance, I recently downloaded Monopoly Tycoon ... a sort of remix of the original game ... and found it has one major flaw: you can't lose. I mean, I suppose you could, but you would have to try really, really, really hard. If you just buy properties and randomly build on them, the computer will usually go bankrupt or just mismanage everything. It's way easy to trick the computer in spending all of it's cash on a single property and possible to win the game in just a couple "days" (turns) by getting it to go broke.

And the purchasing portion definately lacks inspiration. Demos are scarce, screenshots misleading and mostly you're just hoping the $3-$5 is cheap enough to justify giving it a try. Not good enough for the iTunes generation, I'm afraid.

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Sega Uses Hitler On Ad

We're unlikely to see it here in the states, methinks, because it sounds like an import title at most ... but Digital World Tokyo reports that for the WWII game "Advanced Dai Sen Ryaku", Hitler will be front and center. Now ... it is a World War II title ... so it's not like it's irrelevant or anything ... but I still prefer shirts that won't get me the beatdown should I ever wander my way to Germany.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Drive Your Racing Sim With Your Car

Nissan has a concept car aimed directly at the gamer crowd. Not only does it sport a 360 in the trunk, you can play that 360 with the steering wheel of the car:

If you drive videogame Porsches and Ferraris all day, your expectations of real-life street racers tend to be top-score high. The Urge, a new concept car from Nissan, is designed to make gamers drool. The roadster evokes the souped-up rigs of racing sims with aggressive bodywork and an earsplitting engine. When the car's parked, the driver can use the steering wheel to navigate races running on an Xbox 360 in the trunk - making the Urge only, like, the most expensive controller ever.
-- This Is Not a Sim

At least someone out there is realizing there are mature gamers with disposable incomes out there. Now if they'd just make something less insane, we'd be golden.

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Master Chief Takes The Mic

Funny. From ayton's photostream. Apparently part of a webcomic, that I can't find.

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More On Wii

I've defended Wii a few times around the blogosphere, when I've had the chance ... but I don't want to give the impression I'm crazy about the name. The negative reaction has a pretty wide range, from rational to funny to ... let's face it ... pure attention whoring. There are times when the online gaming crowd gets into an fever that I really need to learn to just duck out of ... like when Doom 3 or Deus Ex II were released. It's just hits a pitch and there's no real method of discussing it anymore. It doesn't really reflect reality, but people sure have fun venting.

I don't like the name Wii not because people will make wang or pee jokes out of it ... honestly making childish puns out of console games is an inevitable fact of gaming, as owners of the suXbox, LameCube or PrayStation would know by now. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Nintendo haters start making "Pii" banners for their forum sigs.

No, I don't like "Wii" because I think it's a missed opportunity for Nintendo to continue with simple, serious branding which was working very well for them. Nintendo DS sounds like something a thirtysomething might buy. Nintendo Wii sounds like something a thirtysomething would buy for their kid. And that's where it really irks me. The old N has done some great work lately with getting people to take them seriously ... and naming something after a sound you might make at a carnival would not be one of them. That very sound is also why few developers will probably choose to name products in a similar fasion as the DS. "Tetris DS" sounds like a version of Tetris for the DS. "Tetris Wii" sounds like you're trying to speak a foriegn language.

So sure, it's whimsical and unique and it's easy to remember. And branding types will point out that all this recent ferver is nothing short of free advertising. It's not this short term complaining that makes me wish Nintendo would reconsider the name ... it's the long term effect it has with a console I'd like for people to take seriously. In the end, the name isn't nearly as important as the console itself ... but it's still important.

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Chasing Invisible Goblins

This sounds pretty neat:

In this game, goblins are invisible and moving in the cubic game space and only their shadows can be seen on the floor. Their footsteps can be heard from speakers. Players have to estimate their position from the shadows and sounds, catch them. When players succeed in capturing goblins, a player may experience a sense of invisible goblins' existence by vacuuming resistance and increase in weight of vacuum tank on his back.
-- INVISIBLE -The Shadow Chaser-" : players capture invisible monsters in a V.R World (digg it)

Things like this make me wonder if there isn't a whole new generation of arcades waiting for us. Instead of rows of coin eating standups that we would never want in our homes, they'd be more like amusement park style exhibits that you rent for a time. There are plenty of toys involving VR, Augmented Reality and the like which simply aren't suitable for the home ... but damn entertaining fo a while.

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id Making New Cell Phone Game

Apparently DOOM made for a great cell game, but I won't find out until I upgrade it seems. Now the developers are making a fantasy title (digg it) called "Orcs and Elves". Maybe this one will run on my phone because to be honest, most of the cell games I've tried suck something hard.

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Potential Randolph Carter Redesign

My friend Jason drafted up a new design for Randolph Carter, which I think looks pretty darn good. He was also helping out with some of the browser issues which, I believe, are resolved now. I also have the typos Clamatius found fixed, so next I might cobble these design elements into the HTML. I'm also planning on rewriting at least one of the endings and then might work on a few of the bridge chapters. If you're into hyperfiction, try The Case of Randolph Carter for a spell. Once I get a little more work on it, I'll probably forward it along to some of the IF sites out there.

By the by, if anyone needs web development or design work, check out Jason's site and give him a buzz.

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Platial Mapping Your Gaming

Tracy, whom we can only assume from the URL she sends along ... is astonishing ... points to a Platial map where gamers are submitting videos. Platial is a bit like Google Maps and Google Video's wild love child and here it's used to gather machimina and gameplay vids from all around the world. Nifty stuff.

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1986 World Series Recreated In RBI Baseball

I guess this made the rounds a little while ago, but The Cousin forwarded along this video of someone replaying Game Six of the 1986 World Series on Nintendo RBI Baseball, or as he calls it, "the best 21st Century use of a 1980's Nintendo game". Apparently it was made of the YouTube Cybersmack contest. Naturally, I can't see it here at work because all things streamed be evil in the eyes of the proxy.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

My Dad On The Wii

My father is a closet gamer. It's not even a closed closet, really, because it's pretty obvious when you play TimeSplitters 2 until 5AM that hey, you're a gamer. It's not even that he really denies it as much as I don't think he really readily identifies himself as such.

So when we were talking about the potential lifespan of his GameCube, I mentioned Nintendo was going to be releasing a new one:

"It's called the Wii"
"The what?"
"Is it any good?"

And that was about that. I told him about the controller and he got that old man "what will they think of next" look on his face. In his heart of hearts, I think he's always found Nintendo's naming a bit silly ... including Nintendo ... so it's not like a big shock to him.

On a side note, we were down at the homestead all weekend, and my inbox is crammed. I've read most of it, but haven't had any time to respond or barely even process it much.

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