Author Topic: Making players an asset  (Read 1588 times)

Constantine

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Making players an asset
« on: November 21, 2017, 01:21:23 PM »
There has been some talk about roleplay and high player population being important in this game.
This is not true. The game does not incentivise you to interact with other player on a meaningful level or to recruit them for your realm. You can run a realm of any size with just one or two friends.
The main resources in this game is the quantity of owned villages, access to metal and a large roster of characters to field small mobile armies. It is actually better to have less players to run the realm more effectively. Corruption is a non-issue. This leads to a mentality where players are encouraged to be absolutely ruthless to each other in a manner that is only fun for loners and sociopaths. This also leads to smaller realms being irrelevant and increasingly non-existent. The map will soon (if not already) be divided between several huge empires surrounded by some puppet states/protectorates. Eventually there won't be any wars fought ever again.


Conflict in this game would be absolutely different if player characters were an important asset. We'd see much less wars to elimination, much more diplomacy and intrigue if convincing a player to change his allegiance instead of just crushing him was even slightly beneficial.
The one way I see it can be done is making huge swaths of land held by one player unfeasible. No one player should be able to own enough land to run an infinite HI conveyor. If players absolutely needed to attract other players to govern lands and pay them tax, they would respect other players as highly valuable resource. If loyalty becomes an important resource, players would pay more attention to diplomacy, reputation, even roleplay. Politics would become a meaningful pastime.
I don't care how many characters paid accounts can have, but it is clear to me that drastically limiting how many villages any one player can own is absolutely crucial.

De-Legro

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2017, 01:50:30 PM »
There has been some talk about roleplay and high player population being important in this game.
This is not true. The game does not incentivise you to interact with other player on a meaningful level or to recruit them for your realm. You can run a realm of any size with just one or two friends.
The main resources in this game is the quantity of owned villages, access to metal and a large roster of characters to field small mobile armies. It is actually better to have less players to run the realm more effectively. Corruption is a non-issue. This leads to a mentality where players are encouraged to be absolutely ruthless to each other in a manner that is only fun for loners and sociopaths. This also leads to smaller realms being irrelevant and increasingly non-existent. The map will soon (if not already) be divided between several huge empires surrounded by some puppet states/protectorates. Eventually there won't be any wars fought ever again.


Conflict in this game would be absolutely different if player characters were an important asset. We'd see much less wars to elimination, much more diplomacy and intrigue if convincing a player to change his allegiance instead of just crushing him was even slightly beneficial.
The one way I see it can be done is making huge swaths of land held by one player unfeasible. No one player should be able to own enough land to run an infinite HI conveyor. If players absolutely needed to attract other players to govern lands and pay them tax, they would respect other players as highly valuable resource. If loyalty becomes an important resource, players would pay more attention to diplomacy, reputation, even roleplay. Politics would become a meaningful pastime.
I don't care how many characters paid accounts can have, but it is clear to me that drastically limiting how many villages any one player can own is absolutely crucial.


Mechanics wise, sure you can run a realm with 2 people, you can run them with a single person. It is pretty boring though, to keep interest you need interaction of some sort, either within your own realm, or with other realms. Thus higher densities are important. But if you really want to push the point, if you are on Discord ask Andrew how many players are within Hawks. It could be argued we are the single most "effective" realm in the game. Ascalon would I think be the only other realm that could lay claim to the title. I think you will be surprised how many players are within Hawks and how many players make up our war machine. Of course if we had nothing else in life to do, and could stay glued to a screen for 15+ hours a day just to log into a stack of characters and move them around in response to any event, I could possibly do better on my own, but that is not reality for most people.


There are tweaks and things Andrew and I are talking about for settlement ownership and corruption, but to be honest I don't see the point of having to FORCE people to play in a way that is long term viable. If our player base insists when given the choice on playing in a way that is basically a bunch of loners trying to work out why they constantly get bored, well that is the pitfalls of a sandbox.
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Cipheron

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2017, 04:06:22 PM »
Quote
It is pretty boring though
The problem is that some people find that boring while others are more of the solo-wargamer types. If there's some super-effective thing that you can do to dominate the game, but it's "boring" then that doesn't mean people won't do it - it's a two-way street there: if the optimal strategy is boring, then less people will do it, however over time the game will be dominated by the type of people who enjoy that style of play, changing the game culture and crowding other types of personalities out.

I think the argument that the game is perfectly healthy because of the example of Hawks is flawed. Hawks is an outlier, the health of the game as a whole can't be measured by a single realm who's leader specifically encourages diversity of ownership.

One of the related problems is one I've mentioned before - the game needs to telegraph the types of opportunities available to new players. Right now there are almost zero knight's offers and the map looks pretty full. A new player perusing the map without any game-knowledge basically gets the idea that there aren't any real opportunities for them. And while they're not completely wrong, they're not actually far off. The amount of knight's offers on the table is a direct barometer of how many opportunities to get new players in the existing players have identified. However, it's clear that having more players would be good. but the current rules dictate that less players holding more each is optimal.  Only realms where the leadership deliberately limit their own power have the sort of balance that Hawks does.

~~~

One handy way to look at game design is called gameplay loops. Basically, you look at the cycle of actions that  the player needs to take to advance whatever they want in the game. e.g for might and fealty, for a knight, there's a cycle of "visit town, train troops, build buildings, visit next town" etc. That's the normal gameplay loop for current day to day play.


So then, you want to involve another player in that cycle of actions. However, you know that the player who akready has the towns might not want to part with the towns. e.g. if you hand over three towns to a new unknown knight, they'll probably just slumber or wreck them or something. Plus, you lose the information about the towns.


So what does that suggest as a solution? Well one possible thing would be a type of settlement delegation that isn't the same as Grant Control. e.g. you could just use the permission system to allow a knight to operate some towns as if they own them, but hardly anyone does that, they almost always just hand the towns over. If it there was a more formalized option for delegation, that didn't involve fiddly messing around with lists and permissions, then people might use it.

e.g. imagine if players could assign a "steward" for towns they own. The steward would have the towns listed as ones under their stewardship, and it would be a "proxy ownership" type of thing. The lord would still be the true owner, and the settlement would still count as their for corruption purposes (to maintain a trade-off here), so in effect, a free player could exceed 12 towns under their control by agreeing to be a Steward for another player. It would also act as a type of "probationary" vassalage for new knights: you could assign them stewardship only, let them manage the lands for you, then if they slumber, no harm done, while the knights that stick around and prove their worth could control towns of their own a bit later.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 05:51:21 PM by Cipheron »

Constantine

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2017, 05:41:33 PM »
If our player base insists when given the choice on playing in a way that is basically a bunch of loners trying to work out why they constantly get bored, well that is the pitfalls of a sandbox.
This is a highly flawed approach unless you actually don't care about the success of this game.


I think you refuse to hear my point. But it is still true. The fact that the game does not incentivise cooperation, diplomacy, building feudal hierarchies, etc. but instead incentivises village hoarding and optimisation of supply chains objectively makes it a much lesser game than it could potentially become.
The fact that you try to do things differently with Hawks to not get bored is sadly irrelevant to my statement. Because you do in fact play just like everyone else - when some vague threat from without draws your attention you simply wipe it out and go back to trying to not get bored. Hawks use the "diplomacy" of do what we tell you or lose everything you have exactly because there are no gameplay mechanisms faciliating more interesting and complex conflict.


You know well that this game has lost a lot of dedicated players. This happens not because they were pussies and cry babies. And not even because of the toxicity of certain players. But simply because the game does not deliver on promised features. this is how Tom described the game:
Quote
A roleplaying game, a strategy game, a political and negotiations game.A simulation of a medieval / low-fantasy world not in the sense of realistic physics, but in the sense of having humans with human motivations and personal ambitions as the driving forces.
This is what players expect. What they get is a clunky sandbox military boardgame. Every game has rules and rules determine the way players tend to play. And when all you have is a hammer, everyone just looks like a nail. The fealty aspect of the game could use an overhaul and improvement. That's all.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 05:55:49 PM by Constantine »

De-Legro

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2017, 09:50:36 PM »
Yes it does need those things. Given that people including myself have been saying so since back when Tom was actively developing I fail to see why we are brining it up again while adding absolutely nothing new to the discussion. The way to incentivise people is not to reduce the options of the sandbox and force people down a new optimal path, it is to increase the options of the sandbox such that other play styles feel they can "compete". Which really when you get down to it things are mostly perspective base since the incident of actual large conflicts even by the so called war oriented players is so uncommon.

The problem is that some people find that boring while others are more of the solo-wargamer types. If there's some super-effective thing that you can do to dominate the game, but it's "boring" then that doesn't mean people won't do it - it's a two-way street there: if the optimal strategy is boring, then less people will do it, however over time the game will be dominated by the type of people who enjoy that style of play, changing the game culture and crowding other types of personalities out.

I think the argument that the game is perfectly healthy because of the example of Hawks is flawed. Hawks is an outlier, the health of the game as a whole can't be measured by a single realm who's leader specifically encourages diversity of ownership.

One of the related problems is one I've mentioned before - the game needs to telegraph the types of opportunities available to new players. Right now there are almost zero knight's offers and the map looks pretty full. A new player perusing the map without any game-knowledge basically gets the idea that there aren't any real opportunities for them. And while they're not completely wrong, they're not actually far off. The amount of knight's offers on the table is a direct barometer of how many opportunities to get new players in the existing players have identified. However, it's clear that having more players would be good. but the current rules dictate that less players holding more each is optimal.  Only realms where the leadership deliberately limit their own power have the sort of balance that Hawks does.

~~~

One handy way to look at game design is called gameplay loops. Basically, you look at the cycle of actions that  the player needs to take to advance whatever they want in the game. e.g for might and fealty, for a knight, there's a cycle of "visit town, train troops, build buildings, visit next town" etc. That's the normal gameplay loop for current day to day play.


So then, you want to involve another player in that cycle of actions. However, you know that the player who akready has the towns might not want to part with the towns. e.g. if you hand over three towns to a new unknown knight, they'll probably just slumber or wreck them or something. Plus, you lose the information about the towns.


So what does that suggest as a solution? Well one possible thing would be a type of settlement delegation that isn't the same as Grant Control. e.g. you could just use the permission system to allow a knight to operate some towns as if they own them, but hardly anyone does that, they almost always just hand the towns over. If it there was a more formalized option for delegation, that didn't involve fiddly messing around with lists and permissions, then people might use it.

e.g. imagine if players could assign a "steward" for towns they own. The steward would have the towns listed as ones under their stewardship, and it would be a "proxy ownership" type of thing. The lord would still be the true owner, and the settlement would still count as their for corruption purposes (to maintain a trade-off here), so in effect, a free player could exceed 12 towns under their control by agreeing to be a Steward for another player. It would also act as a type of "probationary" vassalage for new knights: you could assign them stewardship only, let them manage the lands for you, then if they slumber, no harm done, while the knights that stick around and prove their worth could control towns of their own a bit later.


And who is this mythical solo war gamer? Rathgar? Except Rathgar was only interesting and active while it had many players with their independent realms. Weaver? While he enjoyed war he spent far more time trying to build a community around his lore. So what single wargamer is or has ever dominated the game? Dominated a region? Maybe.

So I am all for NEW ideas to make co-operative realms work better. But lets be realistic, the idea that single player war realms dominate the world is largely in people's head.
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Cipheron

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 01:46:06 AM »
You just don't understand the concept "single player wargamer". Players in a single-player wargame can still be in alliances. What's different is the lack of vertical hierarchy. e.g. they have the "might" but not the "fealty" part. What the game is trending towards is big blocs run completely by few players, in alliances, and wars are too costly and time-consuming to even bother, which makes the "mega-estate" type players more safe from attack.


A single player mentality is when you structure things so that you don't really need to interact with anyone else. You could still be part of a larger coalition, but the point is that there's no vertical hierarchy in such a system, e.g. several players each owning ~20 towns in a coalition, but they don't bother with knights offers. Then when a few players slumber there's always someone ready to snap those provinces up to add to their growing collection. Having more knights is negatively correlated with power, that's why there are almost zero knight's offers right now.


e.g. 2/3rds+ of a large region such as Falconreach is held by just three players (assuming that those three players don't have any more than the three related named characters in there, and assuming that none of the three families are played by the same person). Basically none of those players need to deal with subordinates and they can arrange all deals by just talking between the 3 of them, and Falconreach gaining a lot of new territory through war didn't in fact increase diversity or encourage new knights to be recruited to hold those lands. Overall, game diversity was decreased by that expansion. Basically, any time towns change hands, then the trend is towards player consolidation. Sure, there are hiccups, but the general trend is towards players who want vast estates which they run in a "back burner" fashion, e.g. centralizing resources so that they don't need to move around to manage towns.


Another example is Suaralis, where there was one player controlling it all, they were encouraged to split it up to many knights, but now it's basically solidified back to a 1-player nation again.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 02:32:51 AM by Cipheron »

De-Legro

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2017, 02:26:01 AM »
I didn't say whole realm with just one player. The single-player mentality is visibly evident in situations where a single character has 20-30 provinces inside a large nation, with only a small number of peripheral others. The guys with 20+ provinces have little reason to get any knights, because it just makes their troop-farming setup less efficient: e.g. set up 15+ provinces as feeder towns for one super-fortress, then those small towns are effectively worthless for anything else, so the Lord of the main town basically sits in their big town and has almost zero reason to ever visit the small ones once they're in "farm" mode. Each town should be a roleplaying opportunity, not nameless feeder towns that have no other real purpose after that.

One example is Suaralis however, where there was one player controlling it all, they were encouraged to split it up to many knights, but now it's basically solidified back to a 1-player nation again. Larger "single player" nations basically consist of alliances of those same types of players. Or situations which e.g. Caspian Flambard did legitimately complain about where one player controls multiple characters across a number of countries, thus ensuring that wars don't happen.

Look, the more I talk with Andrew the more I am convinced that knights and a knights game is attempting too much to follow Battlemasters format for a game that is not supposed to be a sequel. I would much prefer the game to drop the idea of knights entirely, focus on Lords and move more towards grand strategy and politics. Given the amount of dev time available attempting to implement and update two "separate" game modes is realistically beyond any reasonable time frame.

The entire way recruitment works is scheduled to be reworked. Trade of weapons and equipment is definite possibility and one I personally think needs to happen. How we move units around likewise is being reworked. In all likely hood we are going to move away from the Battlemaster concept of noble=troop leader.

Some of these changes are to make the game work better with the projected player population we have. Some are simply to try and focus the scope of the game and make the development feasible. So moving forward single player controlling 15-20 even 30 settlements I don't see as a huge problem. Single players controlling 100 is I think something we want as a exception rather then a rule.

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Constantine

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2017, 12:26:41 PM »
I would much prefer the game to drop the idea of knights entirely, focus on Lords and move more towards grand strategy and politics.
That's reasonable. Knights serve no purpose other than troop leaders.
Although I still don't see where politics comes into the picture here.

Some of these changes are to make the game work better with the projected player population we have. Some are simply to try and focus the scope of the game and make the development feasible. So moving forward single player controlling 15-20 even 30 settlements I don't see as a huge problem. Single players controlling 100 is I think something we want as a exception rather then a rule.
Wow, low expectations indeed.
I think I'd rather see some changes that would make the game open to expansion even if it feels a bit empty at first rather than making it perfectly playable for a handful of established players and absolutely hostile to influx of new players.


Once again, allowing players to own so much land they can single-handedly establish autonomous full-cycle realms to dominate the entire neighbourhood will kill all attempts to create a grand strategy / political simulator. Travian has more incentives for diplomacy and political game than M&F, for crying out loud.

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2017, 12:38:57 PM »
That's reasonable. Knights serve no purpose other than troop leaders.
Although I still don't see where politics comes into the picture here.
Wow, low expectations indeed.
I think I'd rather see some changes that would make the game open to expansion even if it feels a bit empty at first rather than making it perfectly playable for a handful of established players and absolutely hostile to influx of new players.


Once again, allowing players to own so much land they can single-handedly establish autonomous full-cycle realms to dominate the entire neighbourhood will kill all attempts to create a grand strategy / political simulator. Travian has more incentives for diplomacy and political game than M&F, for crying out loud.


But then you are stuck in a loop, you have a world and a system designed around many players, but you don't have those players so the systems don't work properly, which results in a poor experience, which reduces your chance of gaining those needed players. A system that achieves both objectives is insanely difficult to conceive. Better to build the game around what you have, actually ensure the fun of those player who are playing and in some cases paying for the game, and then build out the systems if and when player numbers rise.


I don't understand the request for "politics". Politics is an activity people choose to undertake, either in the sense of managing/governing a realm, or in the sense of politicking to increase ones position and power. These are largely free form actions that rely on players forming structures and interactions. So exactly what mechanics are required to foster that.
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Constantine

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2017, 03:50:59 PM »
But then you are stuck in a loop, you have a world and a system designed around many players, but you don't have those players so the systems don't work properly, which results in a poor experience, which reduces your chance of gaining those needed players. A system that achieves both objectives is insanely difficult to conceive. Better to build the game around what you have, actually ensure the fun of those player who are playing and in some cases paying for the game, and then build out the systems if and when player numbers rise.
I think I get it, but then if the game is not built to foster growth it will eventually wither. I'd personally go for a hybrid solution, where the game adjusts itself according to how many active players are around. But that might be too complicated, admittedly. In any case, I don't think that systems won't work properly. We do have enough players to make them work, they will just have to readjust their playstyles from "Waaagh!" to writing some letters first. There's a reason why Tom was so butthurt about people not even talking before attacking and starting wars. They didn't need to, the implementation of his vision was flawed.
I don't understand the request for "politics". Politics is an activity people choose to undertake, either in the sense of managing/governing a realm, or in the sense of politicking to increase ones position and power. These are largely free form actions that rely on players forming structures and interactions. So exactly what mechanics are required to foster that.
Politics are not exactly free form actions. The way people interact in a game is actually determined by the rules of the game. Battlemaster has a much more interesting political landscape exactly because it relies on player cooperation a lot, has real and serious consequences of diplomacy, intrigue and defection. Basically, you often can not win wars with your armies alone. In M&F you always can. Hence diplomacy can be used if you want to "not get bored" but is not really relevant and everyone knows it. 
I agree that politics is a somewhat broad term though. Let's change it to diplomacy, intrigue and meaningful negotiations.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 03:52:57 PM by Constantine »

De-Legro

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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2017, 09:30:03 PM »
I think I get it, but then if the game is not built to foster growth it will eventually wither. I'd personally go for a hybrid solution, where the game adjusts itself according to how many active players are around. But that might be too complicated, admittedly. In any case, I don't think that systems won't work properly. We do have enough players to make them work, they will just have to readjust their playstyles from "Waaagh!" to writing some letters first. There's a reason why Tom was so butthurt about people not even talking before attacking and starting wars. They didn't need to, the implementation of his vision was flawed.Politics are not exactly free form actions. The way people interact in a game is actually determined by the rules of the game. Battlemaster has a much more interesting political landscape exactly because it relies on player cooperation a lot, has real and serious consequences of diplomacy, intrigue and defection. Basically, you often can not win wars with your armies alone. In M&F you always can. Hence diplomacy can be used if you want to "not get bored" but is not really relevant and everyone knows it. 
I agree that politics is a somewhat broad term though. Let's change it to diplomacy, intrigue and meaningful negotiations.

The problem in M&F is most realms do NOTHING diplomatic until war starts and they realise they are outmatched. They don't engage their neighbours, don't form alliances against aggressive invasions. I recognise one factor here, the message system lacks an easy way to start Ruler to Ruler conversations. Given the importance of the Ruler channel in BM I don't know why we don't have some sort of corresponding system, but currently we don't. We will in the future though. Beyond that BM has the complelety gamey, what troops will fight what other troops due to diplomacy settings. There is absolulety no way I am going to implement something similar. Partly because MONTHS of dev time have gone in to trying to make BM's system actually rational in most circumstances, but it still fails and still can be abused by smart players, and partly because it is a bullshit gamey restriction that I personally think has no place within a sandbox.

The other issue is conflict in general is much more "hidden" in M&F. Unless you are informed by someone in the war, or you are very close to the border you probably would never know a war is on, unless you are one of the players that studies the map constantly. We need something like the large battle notifications in BM, and diplomacy setting change events so that the M&F world is not so isolated. I know that was not Tom's vision, but I can't see how to make Tom's vision in this instance actually work.
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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2017, 10:32:35 AM »
We're not tied down by Tom's vision, you know this right? He very clearly told me that this is the community's game now, and we have creative liberty on what we want to do with it.

Adding a system in the tavern to show what wars have recently started or what large battles have recently happened could be a neat addition. I'd prefer not to clog up people's already expansive list of event logs with more event log things.

And why do I need to talk to start a war? If I want to march 2000 soldiers to someone's city and attack them, why do I need to delcare that I'm attacking them? Just do it. They'll figure out they're under attack pretty quickly I assume.

There are other things knights can do though, it's just not as obvious anymore. At one point someone was trying to handle the lack of a ruler conversation by creating an organization that coordinated contact between people. There have been dungeoneering guilds. Trade companies. Mercenary outfits. Religions. Technically, these are all "knight game", just without mechanics to support them (for the time being).
« Last Edit: November 23, 2017, 10:35:57 AM by Andrew »
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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2017, 12:39:45 PM »
We're not tied down by Tom's vision, you know this right? He very clearly told me that this is the community's game now, and we have creative liberty on what we want to do with it.

Adding a system in the tavern to show what wars have recently started or what large battles have recently happened could be a neat addition. I'd prefer not to clog up people's already expansive list of event logs with more event log things.

And why do I need to talk to start a war? If I want to march 2000 soldiers to someone's city and attack them, why do I need to delcare that I'm attacking them? Just do it. They'll figure out they're under attack pretty quickly I assume.

There are other things knights can do though, it's just not as obvious anymore. At one point someone was trying to handle the lack of a ruler conversation by creating an organization that coordinated contact between people. There have been dungeoneering guilds. Trade companies. Mercenary outfits. Religions. Technically, these are all "knight game", just without mechanics to support them (for the time being).


You want to hob nob with mortals in their drinking Dens, power to you. I shall spend time with beings of worth.
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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2017, 12:48:20 PM »

You want to hob nob with mortals in their drinking Dens, power to you. I shall spend time with beings of worth.
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Re: Making players an asset
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2017, 12:50:59 PM »
I never said hanging out with the Second Ones. I just said we're not tied down by Tom's vision.
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