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Author Topic: A new look at the death penalty, "life bonus".  (Read 6699 times)
damijin
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on: March 28, 2009, 11:55:38 PM

Players have a serious love/hate relationship with the death penalty. We don't want to feel like shit for getting killed and lose hours of time, a la early L2. At the same time, we want death to feel significant, we don't want it to be meaningless, because that makes the world feel that much more meaningless.

I propose that its been thought about backward this whole time. We do not need to penalize death with a penalty, we merely need to add incentive to living as long as possible.

I propose the "Life Bonus" model. A practical life bonus model can be applied both to PvE and PvP in just about any game.

The idea system functions as such:

You have 0 kills. You die. You are the same. Seemingly no death penalty.

You kill 5 mobs, you are told that you "gain a feeling of experienced combat." you now gain xp at an increased rate of +.05%

You kill 50 mobs, you get the same thing, now it's an increased rate of .5%.

Etc and so forth. The more mobs you kill, up until a cap of about 10% exp bonus, the more xp you get. When you die, this is lost, but there is no other death penalty aside from losing your kill streak.

When applied to PvP, the same thing happens except you gain stat bonuses.

If you are a melee charatcer, you gain small bonuses to melee stats up to a certain cap.

If you are a magic user, you gain small bonuses to those stats for each kill. When you die, these are reset to 0.

I truly believe this is the ideal solution to death penalty management in almost all games. Devs who have the capacity to implement it, please feel free to use it. I wont be making any MMOs for a while, and even if I do, it'll be a small indie thing and no one will look to it for features anyhow. But it will definitely contain this. Telling the folks at your company that bad-ass web game developer damijin came up with it would be appreciated though.

What do you guys think?
tazelbain
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Reply #1 on: March 29, 2009, 12:09:46 AM

Ya, but the game will have to balance to take into account the bonus.  That makes it the new normal and losing the bonus a penalty.

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Trippy
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Reply #2 on: March 29, 2009, 12:10:39 AM

Semantics.

Plus you penalize those that kill more slowly than the min/maxers and you penalize the casual player unless you save the kill streak between logins.
damijin
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Reply #3 on: March 29, 2009, 12:35:54 AM

Kill streak is preserved when you log out and log back in.

It's not semantics. Perception and obfuscation is the HEART of mmo design.

Which is less annoying to you, and don't answer this after analyzing it like a fucking mathematician:

Microtransactions allow a player to purchase a level.
Microtransactions allow a player to purchase an EXP amulet that gives them a level worth of XP.
Microtransactions allow a player to puchase a potion that increases a players stats, making earning a level of XP into a nearly negligible amount of time.


The third method is, yes, a little less immediate, and more appealing to us as non-buyers for that reason. But you must admit, that if the amulet took the same amount of time to give you your XP as the potions took you to earn it, the potions would still be much more appealing because they are not implying direct bonus to xp. They're stat bonuses, but they enable XP gains. The obfuscation makes this so much more appealing to the palette of players who would get pissed at the other two for being "cheap" or "cheating". If you don't agree with that, you're in the minority as an armchair designer who looks too closely at systems, and you will not see the appeal of the life bonus either. For the vast majority of players though, they definitely are highly effected by perception and obfuscation.

It's never just semantics when you're talking about bonus versus penalty. It's a very real perception change that drastically effects the psychology of the event in the majority of players.

Even if players realize that receiving a penalty and having a bonus taken away are essentially the same thing, the psychology is *still* very different. Presentation is always everything.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 12:46:45 AM by damijin »
Trippy
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Reply #4 on: March 29, 2009, 12:56:03 AM

Even if players realize that receiving a penalty and having a bonus taken away are essentially the same thing, the psychology is *still* very different. Presentation is always everything.
Except that players aren't that stupid (well, most aren't). Dying is still a penalty.

damijin
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Reply #5 on: March 29, 2009, 01:24:54 AM

You are oh, so very wrong :)

Dying never feels good, but this is a serious way to incentivize living, while taking the sting out of death penalties.

Edit: It's important to note. I'm not saying to treat your players as though they are idiots overtly. Quite the contrary. Design systems that successfully work to manipulate idiots, but do it while pretending they're the smartest kid in class. The real smart kids wont be affected by it, and the dumb kids will love it, so I don't see how anyone can really argue against a system that is win/win like that. Very few super smart rip-everything-apart, and know who damijin is, and don't approve of his ego and design philosophy armchair designers will be turned off by it, but I think they're in the minority of the millions of potential customers out there. That's a perfectly valid position too, but I'm still so very right about this design philosophy and how it would be interpreted more positively than a death penalty while achieving the same goal of making players want to avoid dying.

Anyhow, I'll back off for a bit since Im clearly on an ego trip tonight. Hence why I wrote a long ass post about how great Pyro is while fluffing my own nuts on how great my design (that I stole) is. I'll channel this energy into my new project! I respect your point Trippy, and as an educated player, I agree that there is virtually no difference in the interpretation, but as a money-minded developer, I know this shit is cash.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 01:34:01 AM by damijin »
Wasted
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Reply #6 on: March 29, 2009, 01:59:10 AM

Quote
Etc and so forth. The more mobs you kill, up until a cap of about 10% exp bonus, the more xp you get. When you die, this is lost, but there is no other death penalty aside from losing your kill streak.

Unless you have a half second animation of falling to the ground again and then getting up full health with the fight still in progress then there are always additional death penalties.  Just the time spent getting back to where you where, regenerating health/mana, reclearing respawns and momentum lost are all 'penalties'.
damijin
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Reply #7 on: March 29, 2009, 03:13:16 AM

Im not saying that death penalties can or should be removed. They've been made really really weak from the days of corpse runs or the 4% exp loss from L2 that I'm used to.

This has caused a divide amongst players. People want harsh penalties to make the game feel meaningful, but at the same time hate feeling like they've been kicked in the nuts every time they die.

I propose that you keep the weak penalties of modern games like WoW, but further incentivize staying alive by putting in a life bonus, which makes dying unacceptable for players trying to play as efficiently as possible, but still doesnt feel that bad since you can just start building your life bonus back up, and you're still entirely effective without it.
Sheepherder
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Reply #8 on: March 29, 2009, 05:32:52 AM

This has caused a divide amongst players. People want harsh penalties to make the game feel meaningful, but at the same time hate feeling like they've been kicked in the nuts every time they die.

I propose that you keep the weak penalties of modern games like WoW.

Even WoW has a swift kick to the fucking nuts.  If I die on my warrior in that game I'm losing ~6 gold in a repair bill and ~1 min. of game time, effectively half a daily quest, which is roughly 3-5 minutes worth of play down the fucking drain.  If there are heavy respawns/horde asshats I can die again, for an additional  3-5 lost minutes.  Compared to the "press quick load key, do it again with less suck" you can expect out of all modern RPG's and shooters that's pretty fucking punitive.
Hindenburg
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Itto


Reply #9 on: March 29, 2009, 06:41:03 AM

This has caused a divide amongst players. People say they want harsh penalties to make the game feel meaningful, but at the same time hate feeling like they've been kicked in the nuts every time they die.

Yet to meet someone that quit a mmo solely because it's death penalty was insignificant.

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Tarami
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Reply #10 on: March 29, 2009, 07:24:38 AM

You're avoiding the reason a few people want harsh death penalities. E-peen. They want to see others punished, not themselves.

Ripping the players of a bonus will not appear as "meaningful" to them. It'll just appear as further suck. This is anecdotal, but I can't remember the last time I entered combat with the mindset of making it with as small margin as possible. Usually when I die, I get curbstomped by adds and spawns, which I rarely have any control over. I don't see how penalizing me for making a non-obvious mistake will make it seem more "meaningful".

Nobody wants to die even in a game, regardless of how lenient the penalty is, simply because dying means more trouble to the player than staying alive does. (If it doesn't, well, then you do have a problem.)

Edit: Grammar snake.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 07:27:15 AM by Tarami »

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Wasted
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Reply #11 on: March 29, 2009, 08:57:32 AM

The Death Penalty isn't a 'problem' to be solved unilaterally.  Its a variable to be tuned to suit the type of game made and target audience.

Increasing the death penalty places extra burden on your technical and design systems (deaths to lag and bugs and poor design will be less tolerated) as well as requiring greater social tools/systems (as players will be less willing to group randomly if it means exposing more risk to death).

The 'divide amongst players' is normally a small group of masochistic loudmouths trying to get everyone to accept as big a kick to the pants per death as they think they can get away with whilst still maintaining some small hope of commercial appeal for the game.
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Reply #12 on: March 29, 2009, 10:40:08 AM

Demon's Souls.
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Reply #13 on: March 30, 2009, 03:30:27 AM

That's how I'm doing the death penalty in my game. Because it's an FPS, giving players a penalty isn't really appropriate so we have a killstreak that increases the longer you stay alive and resets on death. That way there's a real negative to dying but you aren't any weaker.

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schild
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Reply #14 on: March 30, 2009, 03:42:01 AM

That's how I'm doing the death penalty in my game. Because it's an FPS, giving players a penalty isn't really appropriate so we have a killstreak that increases the longer you stay alive and resets on death. That way there's a real negative to dying but you aren't any weaker.
You might be overestimating the size of the population of people that give a shit about killstreaks. In fact, I'm not sure anyone has outside of UT (KILLING SPREE!), TF2 (You're dominated, Knucklehead!), and professional gaming.
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Reply #15 on: March 30, 2009, 07:04:07 AM

That's how I'm doing the death penalty in my game. Because it's an FPS, giving players a penalty isn't really appropriate so we have a killstreak that increases the longer you stay alive and resets on death. That way there's a real negative to dying but you aren't any weaker.
You might be overestimating the size of the population of people that give a shit about killstreaks. In fact, I'm not sure anyone has outside of UT (KILLING SPREE!), TF2 (You're dominated, Knucklehead!), and professional gaming.
Your reward for killing people increases with your killstreak (up to a cap). When you're on a roll, you are raking in the cash; if you die then you need to start building back up again.

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K9
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Reply #16 on: April 06, 2009, 10:47:36 AM

I find kill streaks more satisfying than I probably should really. If you were to implement this in a game you would have to likelihood of dying to compensate though.

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bhodi
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Reply #17 on: April 06, 2009, 10:55:51 AM

Even if players realize that receiving a penalty and having a bonus taken away are essentially the same thing, the psychology is *still* very different. Presentation is always everything.
Except that players aren't that stupid (well, most aren't). Dying is still a penalty.
People are stupid.

Example: City Of Heroes "debt meter" which penalizes future experience gain. Exactly the same hit as a death penalty only people bitched about it 500% less. I can't figure out why, but even friends who play don't think of it in 'that way'.
pxib
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Reply #18 on: April 06, 2009, 03:42:02 PM

It's not mere stupidity, it's an instinctual trait so deeply ingrained that psychologists have a term for it: Loss aversion:
Quote
Imagine that your country is preparing for an outbreak of a disease which is expected to kill 600 people. Given the choice between two vaccination schedules, Program A which will save 200 and Program B which will save all 600 with probability 1/3, most will choose Program A.
[...]
Imagine that your country is preparing for an outbreak of a disease which is expected to kill 600 people. Given the choice between two vaccination schedules, Program C which will allow 400 people to die and Program D which will let no one die with probability 1/3 and all 600 will die with probability 2/3, most people will choose option D.
The bonus, a "buff", is perceived as something gained rather than something lost, so when it disappears it's disappointing but not debilitating. Getting a "debuff" after dying just feels like insult-to-injury. CoH's experience debt works the same way: you still continue to "gain" you just gain less, as opposed to "losing" the experience in a chunk right off the bat.

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Salamok
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Reply #19 on: April 06, 2009, 04:03:40 PM

In EQ when it came to the odd death here and there while grinding losing my buffs was more of a PITA than losing a few exp with a death.  The only time the death penalty mattered at all was if you had a string of many deaths or got your corpse stuck in a risky situation.  I actually think the endgame death penalty in WoW is harsher than the end game death penalty in EQ, but to be honest I quit playing WoW right as they introduced the dailies($$) so that may no longer be true.
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Reply #20 on: April 06, 2009, 05:44:12 PM

Even if players realize that receiving a penalty and having a bonus taken away are essentially the same thing, the psychology is *still* very different. Presentation is always everything.
Except that players aren't that stupid (well, most aren't). Dying is still a penalty.
People are stupid.
Example: City Of Heroes "debt meter" which penalizes future experience gain. Exactly the same hit as a death penalty only people bitched about it 500% less. I can't figure out why, but even friends who play don't think of it in 'that way'.
They still see dying as a penalty though.
eldaec
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Reply #21 on: April 06, 2009, 06:07:38 PM

Even if players realize that receiving a penalty and having a bonus taken away are essentially the same thing, the psychology is *still* very different. Presentation is always everything.
Except that players aren't that stupid (well, most aren't). Dying is still a penalty.
People are stupid.

Example: City Of Heroes "debt meter" which penalizes future experience gain. Exactly the same hit as a death penalty only people bitched about it 500% less. I can't figure out why, but even friends who play don't think of it in 'that way'.

A fair number of people were coming from EQ and potential for level loss remember.

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damijin
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Reply #22 on: April 07, 2009, 05:33:32 AM

Aha, I guess folks get it now :)
AutomaticZen
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Reply #23 on: April 07, 2009, 06:40:47 PM

The last time I saw something like this was Star Ocean: Till the End Of Time on PS2.   There it was called the "Bonus Battle Gauge".  It was slightly more annoying in that it filled on hit, and a significant hit to your party would empty the gauge, but the basic idea was the same.  Bigger kill streak, more experience, more gold.

The only problem is that it de-incentivizes any sort of risk, and actually makes mindless, low-level grinding the most efficient way to play.  You get less experience on that LVL 10 Rabbit than the LVL 15 Wolf, but you're reasonably sure that the Rabbit won't kill you.  Players won't move to the Wolf until it's an easy kill.  Which makes the entire game seem easy.  Unless you have some magic AI that makes ever encounter something you have to pay attention to.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2009, 09:57:59 PM by AutomaticZen »
Sheepherder
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Reply #24 on: April 07, 2009, 09:34:47 PM

The only problem is that it de-incentivizes any sort of risk, and actually makes mindless, low-level grinding the most efficient way to play.

This.

If you want your players to feel heroic whenever they're challenged, you use "hardcore" mode rules.  If you want players to actually go out of their way to do heroic shit, you remove the cockpunch when they fail.  Lastly, if you want your players to universally feel like they're not getting punched in the cock, you stop punching them in the cock.  Everything else is a way to slide a punch past their guard straight into the scrotum, even if most people don't consciously see the obfuscation for what it is.
damijin
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Reply #25 on: April 26, 2009, 01:30:17 PM

Good last two posts, really points out a flaw I hadn't seen as far as PvE goes. I'm a PvPer, and I looked at it really from a PvP perspective, so lets re-arrange it.

The bonus takes place from not dying in PvP, not dying to PvE makes no difference, or makes a significantly smaller drop in your bonus instead of wiping it out completely.

Stormwaltz
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Reply #26 on: April 26, 2009, 03:35:33 PM

Example: City Of Heroes "debt meter" which penalizes future experience gain. Exactly the same hit as a death penalty only people bitched about it 500% less. I can't figure out why, but even friends who play don't think of it in 'that way'.

The nice thing about xp debt is that it doesn't discourage you from playing the game. Your current power level is unaffected - you can rush back and hit the same content.

LotRO's Dread system, perhaps unintentionally, encourages the player to surf the web for ten minutes instead of playing. AC1's Vitae was even worse, since it didn't burn off over time. You were to grind lower-level mobs until you got your stats back up.

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pxib
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Reply #27 on: April 26, 2009, 04:06:32 PM

The nice thing about xp debt is that it doesn't discourage you from playing the game. Your current power level is unaffected - you can rush back and hit the same content.
Plus, City of Heroes lets you burn off your debt by being an "Exemplar" and playing with lowbies.
The bonus takes place from not dying in PvP, not dying to PvE makes no difference, or makes a significantly smaller drop in your bonus instead of wiping it out completely.
It de-incentivizes risk in PVP just as well. Join a zerg with a lot of healers and avoid the other zerg while flattening small groups of stragglers. This works especially well since the other group is avoiding you too. Either that or imagine the lone rogue out killing people while they fight monsters. Over and over again.

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bhodi
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Reply #28 on: April 26, 2009, 10:15:11 PM

The nice thing about xp debt is that it doesn't discourage you from playing the game. Your current power level is unaffected - you can rush back and hit the same content.
I could, yes; it wasn't a FFXI kick-in-the-crotch "Congratulations, you've just deleveled!". However in terms of advancement, I perceive it as nearly as damaging. Due to the large debt balance you could accrue in 15 minutes of unlucky attempts, the system was the major reason I stopped playing the first time.

If you're working with a party and you wipe a few times, all of a sudden you're in massive level debt. In the mid ranges, this can mean an additional two or even three hours to burn it off (back when all this was introduced, the leveling time has since been sped up considerably). That extra time rolls it over to probably not advancing any during that play session, or possibly the one after, or even, in extreme cases, a full two additional play sessions until you get your "ding! gratz."

I ended up with half a level in level debt, solidly into the late 20s/early 30s where leveling had already become a chore. I decided that I had had enough, unsubbed that very day, and happily filled out the form explaining that advancement was too slow. It took them another two years and god knows how many subs before they even addressed the issue. They STILL haven't bumped up experience to the point where getting alts up into the 30s is fun. They made one of the most interesting and innovative parts of their game into an absolute chore.

I don't mean to derail this thread, but I'm trying to illustrate a point - you can obfuscate the additional time investment all you want, but people will still fall back on the "This sucks, I'm making lousy progress, this game is boring, I'm going to go watch some TV instead". If people are already somewhat on the edge, a system like that can catapult them over the line.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2009, 10:22:40 PM by bhodi »
apocrypha
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Reply #29 on: April 27, 2009, 01:00:38 AM

The nice thing about xp debt is that it doesn't discourage you from playing the game. Your current power level is unaffected - you can rush back and hit the same content.

Ack, no! You've just hammered the word "GRIND" into the levelling system in 10 metre tall letters of fire. Play though all that content again, with no gain of any kind? Running to stand still? yeah minus 10 million Fun Points.

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Reply #30 on: April 27, 2009, 01:16:32 AM

Um, most video games make you start over when you die. Most video games get away with this because the act of playing the game is itself fun and rewarding, even if, god forbid, you have to kill a monster you've killed before. The fact that MMOs are not fun is not a flaw of their death penalties.
Fordel
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Reply #31 on: April 27, 2009, 01:36:32 AM

You started over when you died because of technological limitations and because they wanted to pump your ass for quarters. Most modern games let you save where ever the fuck you want and auto save every 10 feet.

and the gate is like I TOO AM CAPABLE OF SPEECH
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Reply #32 on: April 27, 2009, 02:00:19 AM

Even so, you don't call replaying a level in Mario "grind" just because you've seen some of the content before. The point I was trying to make, and didn't because I'm tired, is that apocrypha was implying that players should progress through content even while dying.
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Reply #33 on: April 27, 2009, 02:47:43 AM

It de-incentivizes risk in PVP just as well. Join a zerg with a lot of healers and avoid the other zerg while flattening small groups of stragglers. This works especially well since the other group is avoiding you too. Either that or imagine the lone rogue out killing people while they fight monsters. Over and over again.

So you stack all the losses on the strategic plate rather than the tactical one. Nobody personally loses anything for fighting but your side (however that is defined) suffers losses if the battle goes badly. Encourages fighting as there are little/no personal losses for players while making the battle itself important.

If killing guys is the best way to advance then players will look for most efficient way to do that with the lowest personal impact - skirmishing, zerg surfing etc. That's fine if you just want your players to run around in a fishbowl and shiv each other up but it tends to make any deeper and more strategic elements you might have put into your game less attractive to players.

I'd like to see a system that gets away from the D&D paradigm of 'kill stuff for XP'. Stabbing wolves in the head doesn't make you a better warrior, it makes you better at killing wolves. Advancement based on personal development rather than hunting down anthropomorphic loot bags with an XP award attached.

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Fordel
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Reply #34 on: April 27, 2009, 05:58:31 PM

Even so, you don't call replaying a level in Mario "grind" just because you've seen some of the content before. The point I was trying to make, and didn't because I'm tired, is that apocrypha was implying that players should progress through content even while dying.


I'd argue the water stages were very much a 'grind'  Ohhhhh, I see.

and the gate is like I TOO AM CAPABLE OF SPEECH
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