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Old 03-21-2005, 05:31 PM   #1
the_logos
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A week and a half ago at the GDC (Game Developer's Conference), a panel of games industry people + one crazy lady) (Warren Spector, Greg Costikyan, Chris Hecker, Jason Della Rocca, and the crazy lady, Brenda Laurel) ranted about how they hate the games industry. I had issues with what Warren, Greg, and Brenda had to say, so wrote a response that Terranova published here:
Burn baby Burn

Just thought some of you might be interested. It's been making the rounds, including front page of Slashdot. For those who may not be familiar, Warren Spector is a long-time developer who has worked for Steve Jackson Games, TSR, Origin, Looking Glass, Ion Storm, etc. Greg Costikyan hasn't worked on anything like the high profile titles Warren has, but is still a respected indie-style thinker. I have no idea who Brenda Laurel is, and don't care.

Indie power, bitch.

--matt
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Old 03-22-2005, 12:24 AM   #2
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No offense Logos, but I'm assuming they're referring largely to the issues with EA games and the like, not MUDs. Great way to plug your games though

Though I agree they worry too much about raising the graphical bar. Lots of games simply reuse the same graphical engines, so wouldn't most of that work and time only be spent on the first game to use the engine? Not that I'm an expert programmer or anything.

Maybe some day people will learn that MUDs are superior. Around when they learn that reading is superior to the movies, probably
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Old 03-22-2005, 12:44 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (tehScarecrow @ Mar. 22 2005,00:24)
No offense Logos, but I'm assuming they're referring largely to the issues with EA games and the like, not MUDs. Great way to plug your games though  
Games are games, man. I had a meeting with Seamus Blackley (co-creator of the Xbox and now the head games agent at CAA, the largest full-service talent agency) the other day and he had no problem taking what we do seriously. If he can, I'm sure you can too. Don't write off text MUDs just because they don't have graphics and are very niche pursuits. They are no less valid a form of game than Halo 2 or WoW. The latter games are just more popular.

And don't you see that that's the issue? The implicit message behind what they're saying, particularly in Greg's case (who, in a bit I didn't quote, asked the audience how many of them were in games for a paycheck as opposed to making great games), is that they want to make innovative games. That doesn't really jibe with wanting to make games with $25 million budgets. Few of those games are innovative compared to, frankly, a lot of text MUDs or smaller graphical games like A Tale in the Desert or the upcoming single-player Darwinia by Introversion (http://www.darwinia.co.uk/)

In one breath they complain about how the graphics bar has risen so high that the only way to make graphically competitive games is to tie yourself to investment money (which just wants a return on investment and doesn't really care about the games themselves), but then they turn around and ignore the fact that you don't need a $25 million budget to make interesting games, and you don't need a $25 million budget to make a good living making interesting games.

--matt
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Old 03-22-2005, 06:33 PM   #4
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I agree with you Matt.  The game industry proper (ie, graphical games) is rather bereft of quality because of their emphasis on graphics over creative gameplay.  They're more interested in graphics yet ignore non-graphical games like MUDs (which quite accurately are still games) which provide far more quality, creativity, and depth to them.

Sadly, the limitations of the gaming industry are tied to and always will be tied to their emphasis on graphics.  Graphics require less creative thought and design than making thoughful, interestingly unique games, but they take up a lot of time and money creating those graphics.  But graphics are just graphics, and there's a lot more to a great game than that. If they spent only a fraction of that time and money on designing a decent game with blocky graphics or just plain text (like MUDs), they'd have something.

Maybe that's why the games (besides MUDs) that I play are all games which came out years (or even decades) ago.  They were creative and interesting then and they still are.  But Rome: Total War, which I received for Christmas, went back to the store within a week and I didn't even bother with looking at Halo 2.  Great graphics, but nothing else innovative enough to make me choose that over anything I've been playing for years already.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 03-22-2005, 06:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
I agree with you Matt. The game industry proper (ie, graphical games) is rather bereft of quality because of their emphasis on graphics over creative gameplay. They're more interested in graphics yet ignore non-graphical games like MUDs (which quite accurately are still games) which provide far more quality, creativity, and depth to them.
Weeeelll....that's not quite what I was saying. I mean, I enjoy many graphical games, including ones put out by the big boys. Something doesn't have to be innovative to be fun to play. Just this afternoon I installed Irrational's "Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich." I understand it's basically unchanged in terms of core mechanics from the first Freedom Force, but that's ok. I really enjoyed that game and am sure I'll enjoy this one. It's not just that they ignore non-graphical games either. They ignore all games that aren't at the AAA level.


Quote:
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They were creative and interesting then and they still are. But Rome: Total War, which I received for Christmas, went back to the store within a week and I didn't even bother with looking at Halo 2. Great graphics, but nothing else innovative enough to make me choose that over anything I've been playing for years already.
I actually greatly enjoy Halo 2's Xbox Live multiplayer component. No, it's not revolutionary, but it is highly evolutionary and is just a really well-designed experience. It's so nice to have a rankings system that means something, for instance. I also really enjoy getting together online with friends or the people I work with to chat and shoot other people up. Halo 2 makes that a very seamless experience.

This is something that thread on furniture seemed to really miss: Innovation is often not at the core of enjoyable experiences. In fact, it's usually not. It's absolutely necessary overall in the long run, of course, but individual products can be quite enjoyable without being innovative. I really like my new motorcycle for instance, but there's nothing innovative about it. It's just a well-done motorcycle.

That, in fact, is why World of Warcraft is doing so incredibly well. It doesn't innovate at all as far as I've seen. It just evolves the DIKU/Everquest model and polishes the #### out of it.

My point, in summary, wasn't about what kind of game is better. It's about the fact that if you want to make innovative games as opposed to evolutionary games, then you better either be Will Wright or be willing to make games with budgets a lot less than $25 million. The opportunity is there. These guys just don't want to take it, because for whatever reason the idea of working on games won't get them on the cover of PC Gamer or whatever doesn't appeal.

--matt
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Old 03-23-2005, 01:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Mar. 22 2005,18:51)
My point, in summary, wasn't about what kind of game is better. It's about the fact that if you want to make innovative games as opposed to evolutionary games, then you better either be Will Wright or be willing to make games with budgets a lot less than $25 million. The opportunity is there. These guys just don't want to take it, because for whatever reason the idea of working on games won't get them on the cover of PC Gamer or whatever doesn't appeal.

--matt
Getting on the cover of PC Gamer is added publicity for their game. Added publicity can translate into added profits. They put making money over making quality. Not much different than many other fields of creative endeavor.

Well, that's my point about MUDs. Doesn't just apply to making money, but to appeal. No offense, but the most innovative MUDs I've seen have been free MUDs, built by people who wanted to create a great MUD, had the talent, and put the effort into them, and weren't concerned with making the most popular MUD of all time but rather a quality one. Commercialism and trying to appeal to a broad audience often leads to lesser risk-taking and fewer attempts at creative quality over proven results in an attempt to appease the masses.

Take care,

Jason

P.S.--Above post not intended as a flame (since cries of "flame" seem to flow freely upon any observation made on these boards) and there are examples of non-MUDs and MUDs which managed to appeal to the masses while being innovative. They're just rare.
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Old 03-23-2005, 02:36 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
Getting on the cover of PC Gamer is added publicity for their game.  Added publicity can translate into added profits.  They put making money over making quality.  Not much different than many other fields of creative endeavor.
Getting on the cover of PC Gamer is added publicity, which translates into added revenue for the project. To get there though, you have to spend more money. There's no formula to make profits in the games industry, including getting media coverage. 80% of games lose money, including many games that get a lot of press attention.

And it's not that these guys don't make quality games. Warren Spector has made some extremely quality games (System Shock, Thief, etc). There's a reason games like GTA or Halo sell really really well: They are built by some of the most talented developers in the industry and built with a great attention to detail. They aren't innovative (well, GTA isn't anymore. It was once.), but innovation and quality have little to do with each other most of the time. Warren is, flat-out, one of the best developers in the history of computer games.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Well, that's my point about MUDs.  Doesn't just apply to making money, but to appeal.  No offense, but the most innovative MUDs I've seen have been free MUDs, built by people who wanted to create a great MUD, had the talent, and put the effort into them, and weren't concerned with making the most popular MUD of all time but rather a quality one.
Well, I'll just say again that I think you're confusing quality and innovation. If I eat a really great steak, I'm enjoying a quality experience, regardless of the fact that a steak is about as far away from innovative as you can get. Similarly, I could cook up an innovative dish composed of peanut butter, tuna, Tabasco, white truffles, and durian fruit, but it would be a horrible thing to eat and a total offence to taste.

--matt
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Old 03-23-2005, 08:25 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Mar. 23 2005,02:36)
I could cook up an innovative dish composed of peanut butter, tuna, Tabasco, white truffles, and durian fruit, but it would be a horrible thing to eat and a total offence to taste.
And smell...... especially thanks to the durian.
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Old 03-23-2005, 12:04 PM   #9
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Threshold wrote on Mar. 23 2005,08:25
Quote:
Originally Posted by
Quote (the_logos @ Mar. 23 2005,02:36)
I could cook up an innovative dish composed of peanut butter, tuna, Tabasco, white truffles, and durian fruit, but it would be a horrible thing to eat and a total offence to taste.

And smell...... especially thanks to the durian.
I suppose the conclusion you'd like people to draw from this brilliant argumentation is, that everything innovative stinks, and that only outdated 3-year old dishes are worth savouring?

If so, that's a bit pathetic, really.
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Old 03-23-2005, 05:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Molly O'Hara @ Mar. 23 2005,12:04)
I suppose the conclusion you'd like people to draw from this brilliant argumentation is, that everything innovative stinks, and that only outdated 3-year old dishes are worth savouring?

If so, that's a bit pathetic, really.
I imagine it is a lot easier to just attack a straw man than to actually read what someone said and respond to it, eh?
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Old 03-23-2005, 05:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Molly O'Hara @ Mar. 23 2005,11:04)
Threshold wrote on Mar. 23 2005,08:25
Quote:
Originally Posted by
Quote (the_logos @ Mar. 23 2005,02:36)
I could cook up an innovative dish composed of peanut butter, tuna, Tabasco, white truffles, and durian fruit, but it would be a horrible thing to eat and a total offence to taste.

And smell...... especially thanks to the durian.
I suppose the conclusion you'd like people to draw from this brilliant argumentation is, that everything innovative stinks, and that only outdated 3-year old dishes are worth savouring?

If so, that's a bit pathetic, really.
Molly O'Hara writes
Quote:
Originally Posted by
I suppose the conclusion you'd like people to draw from this brilliant argumentation is, that everything innovative stinks, and that only outdated 3-year old dishes are worth savouring?
Put in a similar language and argumentation, a valid answer yo you, Molly, would be:

I suppose you'd like people to think, from your brilliant post, is that you are very mind-limited person, that you cannot read more than one paragraph at a time and that anything you write in response to anything having to do to with the_logos comes from a mis-quote or is just part of your inherent stupidity?

If so, that's a bit strange, really, that you'd have us thinking you're all that.

Take care, read the whole thing again, maybe visit the links given for you to follow and then post again. Or ....

Dismiss all posted, quote this:
I think Achaea's name is too short and make a thread about how the choice of said name has driven IRE to bankrupcy and all people involved with that company to ... perhaps your paragraph quota has been filled and you are no longer able to follow the idea anyway.

With immense respect for you,

Me.
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Old 03-23-2005, 06:44 PM   #12
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Thumbs up

I now understand why Threshold's avatar is a loyal hound, doing a trick for its master.  We might as well set up a filter that replaces all of Threshold's posts with "I agree with everything the_logos said.  Anyone who has disagreed is a worthless moron."

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Prof1515: Well, that's my point about MUDs.  Doesn't just apply to making money, but to appeal.  No offense, but the most innovative MUDs I've seen have been free MUDs, built by people who wanted to create a great MUD, had the talent, and put the effort into them, and weren't concerned with making the most popular MUD of all time but rather a quality one.  Commercialism and trying to appeal to a broad audience often leads to lesser risk-taking and fewer attempts at creative quality over proven results in an attempt to appease the masses.
Excellent point, Prof1515.

The analogy I often use for discussing the difference between MMORPGs and niche MUDs (like Carrion Fields!  Yay, Plug! is the restaurant industry.  If you want to max out the number of customers your restaurant serves (at the expense of other goals), make your product as inoffensive as possible.  Refine and tweak according to surveys and polls, staying with the majority opinion.  Stick with things that have already been proven.  Let innovators take the risks, and copy them years after they've been proven correct.

Everquest/etc. are the McDonald's of this industry- lowest common denominator fare designed to maximize quantity of product delivered.  Commercial MUDs cater to a more specific audience, but still need to support salaries, and the market forces that drive them keep them risk-averse.  Think of them as your TGIFs and Chi-Chis.

Smaller games can afford to experiment.  Some don't- a lot of them are variants on a stock theme, tweaked to the preferences of the 'local' crowd.  Think of them as your local diner.  Their menu is probably all stuff you've seen before, and they don't have great ambitions, but they're easy to pop into and get the product you expect.  You're unlikely to get an amazing meal, but you're also unlikely to get an unpleasant surprise.

However, some smaller games take great advantage of the freedom that comes with their niche.  As has been pointed out in recent chair-related threads, many of the "inventions" of commercial games are ten or more years old, rooted in games that had dozens of players at the most.  In our parallel restaurant discussion, these are the single-location restuarants where a chef doesn't know what a focus group is, but tries out a new special or two each week, walking around the restaurant and asking the customers what they think.

Personally, I think that's a more exciting dining experience.  I may occasionally get a meal I'm not thrilled about, but once I find some chefs whose judgement I trust, I'm seeing all kinds of unique experiences.  

Quote:
Originally Posted by
the_logos: I could cook up an innovative dish composed of peanut butter, tuna, Tabasco, white truffles, and durian fruit, but it would be a horrible thing to eat and a total offence to taste.
If you've eaten reasonably authentic Southeast Asian food, you'd know the first three could potentially work well together.  Fish, peanut product, chili product.  (I've never cooked with white truffles, and have only limited dining experience with them, so I can't speak on what I would or wouldn't mix them with.)  It's likely durian fruit would ruin it, but I'd bet if it was Iron Chef: Durian Fruit, you'd see equally strange combinations whipped up, and they'd be amazing.  The first attempt from a less accomplished chef would very likely be awful, but that's not to say with sufficient effort or skill one couldn't make something innovative and tasty.

But I'd never try to sell it at TGIF.  Best to stick with nachos.  Lots of people like nachos.  Just look at this here 15-year nacho sales chart!

Further example: Last time I was at Laboratorio del Galileo in DC, one of the menu items was Chick Pea Soup with Bread and Speck Timbale, Crispy Onions, Chives, Pancetta, and Duck Testicle.  What if Duck Testicle is really tasty?  Who is to say that in the year 2025, it won't be seen on chain restaurant menus?  It sounds as crazy as McDonald's selling bottled water, Cobb salads, and yogurt!  (Well, it sounded crazy in 1985.)

But would you see that menu item at TGIF?  Would you categorize Laboratorio del Galileo as a failure because it  has a dozen or two tables, whereas McDonald's can seat literally millions of people simultaneously?  Given unlimited resources, where would I eat each day?

(Back to MUDs: While I don't have unlimited resources, compared to online gaming budgets I could play wherever I wanted.  I don't spend my MUD time on a free MUD because I can't foot the bills, but rather because I like the niche it's carved out.)

This analogy works in any number of industries- cutting-edge stuff generally gets done by startups, think tanks, and independents, and co-opted later by larger, more conservative entities.  If you want the latest/greatest, you have to look around a little.
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Old 03-24-2005, 05:06 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Valg @ Mar. 23 2005,18:44)
I now understand why Threshold's avatar is a loyal hound, doing a trick for its master. We might as well set up a filter that replaces all of Threshold's posts with "I agree with everything the_logos said. Anyone who has disagreed is a worthless moron."
Or perhaps I am a thinking human being not blinded by jealousy who is able to express his own opinion honestly.

You should try thinking. It is a lot more productive than your incessant, knee jerk trolling.
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Old 03-24-2005, 10:19 AM   #14
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ThresholdOr perhaps I am a thinking human being not blinded by jealousy who is able to express his own opinion honestly. You should try thinking. It is a lot more productive than your incessant, knee jerk trolling. [/b]
Actually, I've already added substance to this thread. While my opinion is independent of the one posted by the_logos, it's at least partially concordant. However, it's worth pointing out that while a AAA-type game can be constrained by large-scale market forces (such as pleasing Wal-Mart, etc.), commercial games like IRE runs are also subject to their own set of market forces which change their content in the same direction, to a different magnitude. As I pointed out, it's still very much to their advantage to not take chances, which is why much of their content is, in my opinion, derivative. This doesn't inhibit their success any more than it inhibits the success of TGIF. But it does make them a different beast than a lot of the games discussed on TMS.

After all, why else is the_logos bringing his original post to TMS, if not to discuss it with the broader MUD community? (I know the answer, but humor me.) If he brings such content here, don't be surprised when that community joins the discussion.

In contrast, you've continued with your usual- three 1-2 line posts attacking posters who disagree with him for any reason. All it has done for me is to harden your reputation as his yes-man. Please don't occupy your time any further with my "knee jerk" "trolling" of "jealousy" then- the_logos is capable of discussing his own opinions, and I'm sure you have boot polish to buy.
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Old 03-24-2005, 10:24 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Threshold @ Mar. 24 2005,05:06)
Or perhaps I am a thinking human being not blinded by jealousy who is able to express his own opinion honestly.
I thought about that possibility, but, no, I'm pretty sure it was the first thing.

I disagree with a fair bit of what the_logos posts, but on his better days the man definitely has some interesting ideas. I remember a time when that was true of you, too, but lately it's just one big leg-hump fest.
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Old 03-24-2005, 10:35 AM   #16
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the_disciple: I disagree with a fair bit of what the_logos posts, but on his better days the man definitely has some interesting ideas.
I don't think that's been in question. He brings a lot of content (like the original post to this thread). I often disagree with his interpretation (and/or manipulation) of said content, but I don't think I've listed 'garden-variety stupid' among his flaws.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
the_disciple: I remember a time when that was true of {Threshold}, too, but lately it's just one big leg-hump fest.
Points for being more concise than I was. Brevity not being the soul of my virtues, unfortunately.
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Old 03-24-2005, 11:27 AM   #17
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I must say I'm not entirely sure what they were ranting about on Burning Down the House... yes, if you want to make games with a huge budget that will sell massive amounts of copies and make vast sums of money, you have to bend to the publishers, marketers and masses a certain amount. If you want to have more freedom, you can cut out external marketers, possibly even publishers if you want lots of freedom, and work on a smaller budget and sell less copies.

I don't see a problem with either of these methods, it depends on who you are, and what your priorities when it comes to game design are. It's really not that difficult to downsize your operations and cut out parts of your development cycle (much easier than it is to build them up) if you want more freedom.

I also found both Brenda Laurel's parts in the rant and Matt's comments on Brenda Laurel's parts in the rant in his response truly hilarious, and it really cheered me up after dealing with some difficult players.
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Old 03-24-2005, 02:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Valg @ Mar. 24 2005,10:19)
Please don't occupy your time any further with my "knee jerk" "trolling" of "jealousy" then
Then how about you stop the jealousy inducted, knee jerk trolling in the first place?

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you've continued with your usual- three 1-2 line posts
Honestly, no more than 1-2 lines are needed to squish green eyed miscreants like yourself.
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Old 03-24-2005, 02:28 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (The_Disciple @ Mar. 24 2005,10:24)
I remember a time when that was true of you, too, but lately it's just one big leg-hump fest.
Translation: When you disagree with the_logos, you're interesting. If you agree with him, you are leg humping.

Pretty open mind you have there........ not.
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Old 03-24-2005, 03:53 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Threshold @ Mar. 24 2005,14:28)
Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Disciple,Mar. 24 2005,10:24
I remember a time when that was true of you, too, but lately it's just one big leg-hump fest.
Translation: When you disagree with the_logos, you're interesting. If you agree with him, you are leg humping.

Pretty open mind you have there........ not.
No, Threshold.  If you'll notice, I said I agreed with Matt (and disagreed a bit with his interpretation, but who agrees/disagrees on very point...ah, I'll get to that) but I disagree with your entering of the conversation just to attack people.  You have been accusing everyone else of "knee-jerk trolling" but that really applies equally, if not more so, to your responses.  In both this discussion and the furniture one, your posts have been devoid of any real thought.  Instead, they're unsupported by reasoning as to why you say what you do.  In the other, you over-hyped the ordinary feature of furniture as something it was not.  Here, you began attacking anyone that didn't agree 100% with Matt's post, leveling charges of "jealousy" against all the "trolls" while failing to notice that you're just as black as the kettle, if not blacker.

A person can be just as close-minded by agreeing completely as they can be by disagreeing.  Instead of blind agreement, put some substance into your posts, citing the reasons why you agree/disagree with someone instead of relying on exagerration and accusations of jealousy and trolling and maybe you won't be labeled a kiss-ass.

Disagreement is a natural part of life.  As Ruth Graham said, when "two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary."  You're coming across as unnecessary.

Just something to consider.

Take care,

Jason
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