Tags: game design, is story the new black?, star wars the old republic, The Secret World
I finished Mass Effect the other day. It was a moment of joy, as this means another game finished (there aren’t that many that I’ve managed to complete, really) and it means I can now concentrate on one of the other single player games I’ve had for ages, but just don’t have the time to finish.
But, as with all things Bioware related at the moment, it made me think about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Bioware have stated that they want to make the story experience a focus of their game, and they do have a very good track record when it comes to putting a good, involving story into their games. And that, of course, leads me into thoughts of MMO gaming in general.
Yes, this is another ramble about using story and plot in online gaming. Sorry.
Of course, not all stories are equal.
Single player games are easily able to have grand, sweeping stories, because there’s only one person who is the hero; you, the player. They don’t have to worry about pleasing more than that one person, and they can tell a story from a more understandable, traditional standpoint. Not only that, but the game world can revolve around the heroic character, and therefore the player.
MMOs are different. Suddenly the world doesn’t revolve around one person. It revolves around that Massively Multiplayer number of players. And that means it’s much harder for the world to progress. In single player games, it’s easy. But all too often, MMOs exist as a snapshot in time. Things exist, but never change. If anything, all they do is reset when someone changes something.
But things in the real world change, and now Bioware are telling us that story is the new black.
Of course, this has prompted fears that all Bioware will do is create a single player experience in a massively multiplayer space, but I think that’s a little unfair seeing as MMO gamers are notorious for demanding innovation at every turn. Maybe if we were a little more welcoming of someone willing to stick their neck out, we’d actually get more of that oft-demanded innovation.
I’m hoping for good story. I’m hoping for innovation. I’m hoping for immersion.
How immersive can games be? Ultimately, they’re about as immersive as anything could be when viewed through a monitor or television, whilst holding a controller of some kind and mashing buttons when the appropriate colour lights up on screen. So they’re… not very immersive.
Immersion occurs when we decide to give up and go with the flow of the game. When we decide to get involved enough in our chosen game that we decide to allow it to add in the missing bits; to turn it into the “Movie In My Head”. Tipa at West Karana has been talking about wanting to play a game she can immerse herself in, and I can understand that. Immersion makes the game more resonant.
And of course, it helps if there are one or more hooks to grab us, and engage us. From engagement comes immersion.
Character is one of those hooks. In creating a character, the hope is that we can all have a character that we can identify with, or at the least are willing to follow the adventures of. Storyline should enhance that engagement. It’s all well and good to create Thorg the Mighty, but if all Thorg gets to do is make toast and go to the laundry then it’s hardly surprising if Thorg gets abandoned to his toasty fate…
So, story. Are there any stories that can work for an MMO, where everyone likes to think they’re the hero, and where our actions might have more meaning than just causing a respawn subroutine to run?
Well, World of Warcraft tried it, with their phased zoning. Lord of the Rings Online has similar. It’s popular, and I’ve not seen anyone complain about the concept. It brings a feel of time passing, and because it’s tied to the player/character, it’s a direct reaction to the deeds of that player or character. No mere toast-manufacture for Thorg!
Add in the great Silithus scavenger hunt, to enable the opening of the doors of An’Qiraj, and there have been moments of grand story, which can and did involve anyone who wanted to be.
Okay, so some of the execution could have been done better, but the story was there. It made randomly collecting 37 meeeeeeellion pieces of assorted leather much more interesting than just doing it for the shits and giggles.
I’d love to see more of an effort put into creating a storylines that mean something within the game world. And if that means more of a single-player experience? Well, a large chunk of my MMO gaming nowadays is solo play; the best part of Age of Conan for me was the single player fun. Factor in a busy family and social life, and suddenly a game which has a strong single player element as well as a strong multiplayer element sounds just about perfect.
Of course, that’s the kicker; having a combination of both single- and multi-player content. Start off a game with too much solo content, and players tend to forget how to group. Communities don’t gel, and suddenly you’re looking at a Massively Multi-player Single-player game. That was my experience of Age of Conan; I can’t help thinking that without the need to group up, players won’t.
And that’s another thing. If there are two truths I’ve discovered in all my involvement in gaming in its various forms, they are:
- If you give a player the opportunity to have a shit time, they will take it with both hands.
- If you allow a player to choose, they will always choose the path of least resistance.
And yes, I have fallen foul of those two truths. I’m pretty sure that all the times I’ve burned out on MMOs, I’ve been grasping one of those shit times and refused to let go. Gosh, when I get all grindy, boy can I grind. Until the snap point, that is.
And yes, give me a golden opportunity for loads of fun, and an easier route that has much less fun, and I seriously have to think about whether or not to go for the high fun, but more difficult route. Because it’s difficult. Why not go the easy route; that’s what they’re for?
That’s why, when given the option to read all that quest text, or just follow the bullet points, we go for the bullet points. Reading is haaaaaard. And takes up valuable time that could be spent earning xp and trez.
It also means that we can complain about there being no story. No plot. Nothing that ties us to the world. It’s there, we’re just choosing to ignore it, to stop it adding colour to our gaming, so we can choose the sh1t time of grinding quests one bullet point at a time.
It also means that we’re less likely to seek out fellow players to group with, when we can just solo our way through a game.
With luck, the right story will help stop that. Give us a good enough incentive; storylines that can help create war-stories, fun anecdotes, the sort of memories that will confuse our grand-children when we’re old and senile.
Those stories don’t even have to be all that new, or original. The classic tales are exactly that because they have a timeless quality. They speak to us, regardless of time or place.
Take Glee. Amongst its many layers is a classic sports tale, set out over the 13 or so episodes that have already aired. And it does follow the virtually set-in-stone requirements for it to be a fully paid up member of the sports film genre: a team of misfits, a coach who sees in them something more, a nemesis, and going from underdog to champion status.
It’s hardly original, but it doesn’t need to be; it’s often not the story itself but the way it’s told that’s important. Glee might well be a thinly disguised sports film, but it’s also up-lifting, satirical, and wonderfully subversive. It’s the way it’s told that makes the story good.
And so we come, finally, full circle. Back to Mass Effect.
Sometimes I wondered whether I was pretending to be a member of the Spectres or a Jedi Knight. And that Council just needed a Samuel L Jackson and Yoda to finish it off. Even some of the abilities were suspiciously similar. Were they Biotics, or was it actually a case of “Use the Force, Luke”?
And seeing as Bioware had created Knights of the Old Republic, it was hardly surprising. Bioware’s strengths aren’t necessarily the originality of their stories, but in the rather splendid way they tell them. I hope this is also true of Tha Seekrit Wurld; in many ways, I hope that story really is the new black. Because if dark days are coming, I really, really hope that they bring with them a rather good set of stories, well told.
Tags: bad hawley, choice, MMO community
Sticks and stones may break my bones… Remember that one? The one that continues:
But names will never hurt me.
Language is a strange beast. Not only is it constantly evolving (much to the anger of those who feel that every change is obviously for the worst, and feel that language should be immutable and ever-unchanging) but so many words are invested with meanings beyond the sum of their parts, dependant on their context.
Society throws up new words all the time. Some words are fashionable. Some are timeless. Some will change between seasons.
Syp put up a list of terms that he hated to see in MMO gaming, and whilst I feel he has a point, I also think that we allow these words to have power over us, to hurt us, *only if we let them*.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… I used to have people accuse me of being a geek. It was usually said by people who were not geeks, and said in that sort of sneering, accusatory way that meant they looked down on me.
And then, one day, I had an epiphany. I *am* a geek. Virtually every hobby I had was geeky. I think geek. I probably bleed geek. And that there was absolutely nothing wrong with being a geek. So from that day to this, when people accuse me of being a geek, I state, proudly and with no dissemination, no excuses and no shame; “Yes, I am a geek”.
Strangely enough, that shuts them up. I realised that they wanted me to deny it, to try and point out how normal I am. When I refuse to, it ruins their fun. And when I point out how much enjoyment I get from being a geek, they usually have nothing they can say about it.
But people being people, even Geek society isn’t one coherent group of likeminded, supportive souls; there’s always someone to insult. There’s always a section of the communities we form that is less cool than ourselves.
MMO gamers are no different to everyone else. We’ve even created our own terms, and now we use them against anyone and everyone that isn’t in our social grouping, as a way of putting them down.
I’m Njub, and proud. Spell it how you want: Newb, Newbie, Noob, N00b, Nub, Nubbin, Njub. It’s a term that probably comes from “New Player”, but has gone through so many different forms and meanings that for a long time now it’s been an insult.
Personally, I use the term so that people know I’m new here. I don’t know everything, and don’t profess to know everything. And that means I’m willing to learn. That I’m human.
And I quite like the spelling. It’s funny.
Whilst I’m about it, I should probably l2p. I don’t have the reactions of a startled mongoose to get me out of trouble when playing, so I’ll just learn to play the game, quite probably in the spirit of playing, rather than to the letter of the rules. Call me weird and old-fashioned, but I believe in games being fun for all the participants, not just me. Besides, I have the sort of mind that enjoys solving puzzles, so couple that with the wisdom and experience I’ve gained through living longer than most of my peers, and I’ll be fine. Remember; “Age and Treachery will always beat Youth and Skill”. I’ll sit down, figure out how to improve my healing, my dps, or my tanking, and apply it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try something else out. How can that be wrong? Yes, I’ll mess up occasionally. Sometimes a lot. That’s all part of learning too, and how can I be ashamed of learning? Heck, we have entire buildings devoted to learning in the real world!
Oh, and most of the time I’m a Carebear. I remember being forced to watch the Care Bears (younger sister, with me just at the wrong age to absolutely hate anything that’s pastel-coloured, but babysitting causes pain in the teenaged), and hey, those guys have a mean stare. Which is, admittedly, quite cool.
You see, PvE mobs are easier to take out than players. They’re designed to be, as they’re about creating a fun gaming experience. Well, that’s the intention, anyway. Besides, I’ve read enough Sun Tzu to know how he’d deal with PvP; Anyone who recommends going into battle with a *minimum* of 10 to 1 odds in your favour was born to Zerg.
And if Sun Tzu recommends the Zerg, how can it be a bad thing? He’s, like, a genius or something.
It’s just a way of playing the game. Focus on “game”. Not sport, not job, but game.
It is always nice to have the respect of one’s peers. The people we group with often, our guild-mates, the members of our raid team. We choose to associate with them, so they should be the ones we care about, but most often it’s the accusations of strangers, of players we’ll most likely never encounter again, that sting us most.
It’s probably all strange and arcane psychomentalology stuff to do with taking rejection far more personally than anything else, but a simple insult delivered in txt spk over a chat channel has the capacity to really ruin someone’s day.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Words can be reclaimed, and repurposed. They only have the power that *I* choose to give them, when they’re thrown in my direction. Insults from MMO players? I laugh. In the grand scheme of things, being insulted by someone whose sole interaction with myself is a bunch of pixels and a text chat channel is less than nothing.
We, as players, need to reclaim these terms. We need to stop using them as insults, stop taking them as insults, and just accept them. Then move on.
I’m Geek, and proud. I’m Njub, and proud.
Tags: eve online, healing, learning a new MMO
Finally, I got a taste of what it is like to be a logistics capsuleer in Eve Online.
I had scuttled… Hmm. Maybe “scuttle” is the wrong term to use when talking about capital ships, but it’s the best way to describe my frenzied movement from gate to gate… Scuttle it is.
I had scuttled from jump gate to jump gate with an Osprey and a hold full of expensive junk, from where the Osprey had been parked in HiSec all the way into NullSec. The fear of losing the ship, and the huge amount of cash sunk into it (well, for me it was a huge amount of cash) is a surprisingly effective death penalty, so even though I didn’t see a single aggressive soul on my way through 31 jumps, it was with a sigh of relief that I finally docked at my destination in Nullsec.
From there, I set about trying to fit the good ship Urine Sample with the equipment necessary to turn it into something approximating a fleet support vessel. As this was a first experiment, I had based it heavily on a basilisk fit that used lots of Tech 2 gear.
Suffice to say, I have neither the skills nor the ISK to be able to be playing around with Basilisks and Tech 2 gear. So it was much stripped down, into what I could both use and afford.
The business end was two shield transporters, and two remote armour repairers. Supporting those were four capacitor rechargers. And a very short time after announcing to the world that I finally had a ship ready, I was invited into a fleet.
The fleet was a corp carebear fleet that was taking out havens for fun and profit. It was an ideal opportunity to check out my ship, it’s loadout, and to learn the very basics of logistics, as to be perfectly honest I was surplus to requirements. I was flying with the big boys, and the big boys were probably capable of surviving by themselves.
However, I was able to learn the following:
It’s healing, Jim, but not as we know it. Well, as I know it. Rather than flinging a spell which has a casting time and then an effect, it’s a cyclic-tick trigger. Thingy. I switch it on and off, and it keeps healing until out of capacitor power, or I switch it off. It’s a quite important distinction, and feels a lot more like a Heal Over Time than a direct heal spell.
Suddenly my Cap is my Mana. When did that happen? I’m mainly used to my Cap just… being there. It sits there, runs out very occasionally, and is a pretty yellowy-orangey thing on my User Interface. But now, it’s everything. I can eat through it in a few seconds if I fire up everything, or most of a minute if I just fire some of it up. Either way, sometimes I’m just sat there doing nothing, letting it build up again.
Pimping my ride could become an obsession. And I’m not talking about painting it metallic purple, and putting 38 speakers and a dvd player in it. I am, unfortunately, talking about tweaking and upgrading until I’ve got a ship that can do the job I want and need it to do, but also is affordable enough to lose in PvP.
It’s different, it’s fresh, and it’s new. It’s a different environment and a new role in a game I had realised I didn’t know that well, but at least felt comfortable in. But that doesn’t mean there’s no fun.
I’m very much looking forward to my next session in Eve Online.
Tags: eve online, learning a new MMO, scary PvP
For the last couple of Wednesdays, I have been dipping my toe into the waters of Nullsec.
I’ve not managed to get caught up in any *actual* pvp yet, but one thing that has really, really been hammered home is how much I *didn’t* know about life in New Eden.
It’s as if I’ve been forced to throw everything I thought I knew away, and start again from scratch. The only thing I’ve been able to keep is the basics of how the User Interface works. Yes, I can just about fly the big spaceship in a straight line, still. Just.
So when I say; “waters of Nullsec”, I should really be using the terms “inky black”, “infested”, “terrifying”, “shark!” and “doom-laden” alongside it. And when I say; “dipping my toe”, I should actually be saying; “smearing lovely meat paste all over myself, and then jumping into”.
At least, that’s the way I feel.
The daft thing is that I’m not even a stranger to PvP.
Now, quite rightly Eve Online has been accused of having a steep learning curve. At times I’ve thought of it like being a spider, and looking at the side of the bath. Slippery, steep, and probably going to be flooded very, very soon.
And just like the spider, it really helps if there’s a friendly person willing to scoop you up and put you out the back door, rather than turn on the taps and cackle maniacally.
I would love to be able to stand here and say that it’s not that scary, but right now it is. Most of it is paranoia; I’m sure there’s a fleet behind every planet, every station, every asteroid that just wants to gank me. In my face.
But having said all that, I suppose it’s like anytime we go into a new place; what is strange brings terror, and once we know what the rules of conduct (spoken and unspoken) are in any given place, much of the fear is gone. Sometimes it’s replaced with a wary readiness, but that’s still not the frenzied scuttling that marks my initial forays around Nullsec, as I try and put a ship together.
It’s a fun (if scary) learning process. Next goal; actually get out there and be involved in the shooting of something.
Tags: game design, Hawley loves Star Wars, use of intellectual property
Last night I was lucky enough to be able to hear and see Star Wars In Concert, in the fabulous position of the third row from the front, and directly opposite the conductor.
Now I’m not a big (in Sam the Eagle stylee) CULTURE! fan, as I’m too much of a geek. And whilst my musical tastes can be eclectic, I’m not the sort to follow classical music enough to pay horrendous amounts of cash to wear a suit for fun, and sit with posh people whilst they comment on how the chap at the front held his stick thingy (conductors always make me think of Bez. Orchestra dancer, that sort of thing. Makes me giggle).
Star Wars is pretty much the limit of my going to listen to philharmonic orchestras in the flesh, and there’s no surprise really. It *is* about the music, and I love the music of the films. To use more technical terminology, the Intellectual Property of Star Wars is enough of a draw to get me out of the house and into a concert hall for a couple of hours, in a way that the usual high culture operatic/symphonic attractions never will.
But we all know that a strong Intellectual Property is a good draw. It’s a super-duper foot-in-the-door, allowing the salesman to walk on in. This is not my point.
My point is that this was the *second* time I’ve heard the music of Star Wars live. The first time was at the premiere of Episode 3 in the park opposite the Odeon in Leicester Square, in a free gig. And that too was a fantastic couple of hours.
The fact that the first time was such a memorable musical evening meant that there was no question of refusing the offer of a ticket to see the gig last night. Despite the fact that this was a pay gig rather than free, I didn’t need to worry that I’d be wasting money on a bad night out.
For me, it’s not enough to have a strong Intellectual Property. To make that Intellectual Property work properly, there *must* be a strong product making use of that property.
MMOs would do well to take heed. No, this isn’t *just* another dig at Star Trek Online, it’s a dig at quite a number of MMO developers who have taken someone else’s Intellectual Property, and used it purely as a marketing tool.
Make a product strong enough to match the original source, rather than using it to generate pre-release hype, a honey-trap for box purchases, and an easy way of deciding what art to use to skin the game.
In board gaming circles, gags are made about “themes” being glued on to a particular game mechanic. You might be pretending to build a Spanish palace, but that’s just there to help you get to grips with dealing with some mechanics that would otherwise be very dull, dry and probably confusing.
I worry that MMO gaming will head in a similar direction. The same old quest/kill/instance/raid grind, dressed up in your favourite skin. How long will it be before someone creates a Universal MMO, where you fire it up, and then load your favourite skin on top? You can shoot at stormtroopers with your blaster, whilst the tank sees everyone chopping up orcs, and on the healer’s monitor is a battle between superheroes and villainous mooks. Everyone in the same group, everyone with their own graphical skin allowing them to play the game they want to play.
Only it isn’t. It’s a homogenised experience, a game designed to please as many as possible, but lacking the personalisation that would make the game Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or Fantastic 4/Justice League/Insert Superhero Franchise Here.
I’d like games developers to continue making their games individual. To create games that work within and around their chosen Intellectual Properties, ones that stand up as examples not only of good games, but good entries in the canon. To have enough stones to hold out against the money-persons, and create a strong product, one that could stand up in its own right, yet one that uses and becomes part of an Intellectual Property, and that is released when it’s ready.
I can dream.
Tags: game design, Hawley loves his inverted y-axis
Allods Online still hasn’t decided to code in an option to invert the camera into the game. I’m amazed, because I thought that this was the sort of standard feature that appeared in games, in the same sort of “standard feature” set that includes such things as graphics, and clicking on stuff to make stuff happen, and elves..
You know, the absolute basics.
So there is a part of me that’s amazed that it’s not been included. And I’ve searched the whole of the settings menus, and I even (thankyou, Unwize) searched the cash shop, just in case.
I have two theories.
The first is that out of the entire development team, the only person who plays with the camera inverted is a ginger kid with bad personal habits whom no-one likes. This is bad-smelling-ginger-kid’s punishment, and by extension, all other inverted-camera gamers.
The second is because they hate me. That *I am* their ginger kid with bad personal habits, and they *just don’t like me*.
It’s annoying, because if I want (hypothetically) to game with a mate who doesn’t have enough gaming time to make a subscription worthwhile, Allods Online is off the list because I’m not going to play a game that makes me want to hurl after 10 minutes.
Tags: a to b, crafting, fallen earth, game design, lord of the rings online, resource gathering, World of Warcraft
When it comes to travelling in MMOs, I’ve known people who’ve loved journeying from one place to another because of the chances for accidental exploration. Others have enjoyed the feeling of the size of the game world. Still others have hated every single second of it as an evil time-sink.
My own personal experience is that travelling from one place to another is an opportunity to farm nodes. I’m just the sort of magpie that hates leaving a farmable node alone, and filled to the brim with farmable goodness.
In most games, there’s not that much of a problem. World of Warcraft would see a slight detour every so often. Lord of the Rings Online has got worse, in that later zones have much more spawn points, depending on what you’re after. Eregion is pebble-dashed with ore and wood nodes, for example. At times it seems similar to a nature-themed Jackson Pollack.
Fallen Earth, however, is the king of the farming node. Being the afore-mentioned magpie, coupled with doing my utmost to craft anything and everything, the only times I’ve been leaving nodes are when I’m being chased by nasty-looking mobs, or when poor overloaded Hawley can’t carry any more.
The number and frequency of farmable nodes has a surprising effect on my enjoyment level within a game. I’ve all but given up on crafting in many games, because they just seem to be a time and money-sink, for no appreciable gain. Becoming a master craftsman is a box to tick, rather than being a viable gameplay option.
Usually, this is because standard nodes are quite few and far between, and specialised nodes are rare. It’s a game design choice; is crafting a focus activity, or a secondary activity?
And as a gamer, I like to have crafting as a focus activity. I want to be able to partake in crafting as much as I play the levelling game, the monsty-killing game, and the instancing game.
As a swift aside, I can imagine the screams of nerd-rage we’d hear if a game launched with monster spawns as rare as ore nodes in most games; so why is it that nodes have to be so few and far between?
It seems that crafting must hurt. Really hurt. Either as a time sink (gathering raw materials and then crafting with them), or financially (by buying everything on the auction house). But why? What is the design purpose for causing annoyance and frustration?
I like the way that Fallen Earth handles it. If I want to, I can go prospecting for all sorts of tat, and go and craft with it. And if I can’t find it anywhere? Well, a short check at various NPCs will find it, for a cost. Neither resource gathering nor crafting are a chore; they’re a fun way to pass time. Or have pass, whilst doing something else. The pain of the whole procedure has been removed.
Of course, it doesn’t help me get somewhere in a hurry…
Tags: choice, game design, lord of the rings online, mmorpgs
A distinct lack of real-life activities left me with nothing obvious to do just yesterday. It being a Sunday, that’s a nice change from the usual, so I decided to make the most by spending some time gaming. Little was I to know that the stars were right, and I’d run the gamut of gaming goodness…
Let me explain. I started with some Mass Effect, because until I finish it, I shall not even think of Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect 2. See me stand by my decisions! Anyway, I’m close(ish) to the end, and a couple of hours of single-player adventure gaming flew by.
After a short tea break, I decided to log on to Lord of the Rings Online to run a solo skirmish or two with my hunter and evil captain, as that would get them both to level 38. As I logged on, our kinship message of the day advised that an extra healer was needed to run Dar Nabugud.
“Hmm”, thinks I. Never had the opportunity to go, thanks to the evil that is radiance gating. My radiance was at 45, and 65 is the bare minimum requirement. Having said that, I was 4 medallions away from getting the +25 radiance minstrel hat (that looks like it should be worn by a 70’s minstrel-pimp from the ghetto. I hate that hat design)…
So, whilst running a solo skirmish with my hunter, I inform the kin officer in charge of the run that with help to run a couple of Sword Halls of Dol Guldur instances, I could be that required minstrel.
Cue a short delay, a rounding up of two hunters, and I’m healing whilst one hunter tanks the Sword Halls. Surprisingly smooth run, and one that shows that a hunter set up specifically to tank a 3-person instance can. Nicely, as well.
Part way through, I’m asked if I fancy running Sammath Gul. “More medallions”, thinks I. “More tea”, I continue to think.
A short break to get a brew, and I’m sipping my way through a lovely cup of tea whilst healing a commando raid through a 6-person instance. But for some reason, we couldn’t prevail, and after a few attempts at Mr Indecisive Himself (Ooh! I’m being confronted with nice people that want to kill me lots. What should I do, Mr Sauron? What, kill them first? Ok, Mr Sauron, if that’s what you think I should do…) we called it off.
That was ok for me; by that time I had more than enough medallions for that fugly hat, and it was far enough into the afternoon for me to get ready to go a-raiding.
And that’s where the evening ended. Minstrel Hawley, in his first multiple-boss 12-person raid since the halcyon days of The Rift.
Fun. Maybe not the same challenge as The Rift was, seeing as most of the raid were at level 65, and the content was developed for level 60 Moria players, but I’ll not complain as it was still nice to just go and see the place, and it’s not like doing content 5 levels lower in other games, in that it’s still a challenge.
And because I went in with no expectations, there was no stress or worry. It was just nice to see a part of the game I’d not seen previously, and kill stuff. And two bosses later, it ended with a number of people who’d not seen the place getting a taster of what it was like, and much fun had by all.
I suppose what struck me about the day wasn’t just the amount of gaming, but the scaling. Single-player game to MMO raid, and every stage in between. A rare day, for that, but one where the variety meant that it was never stale.