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Nothing like a bizarre subject line to get your interest, eh? RPGs claim to take us to strange, foreign cultures, but they''re really often just our own society in medieval / futuristic dress. How about gameplay that puts our money where our mouth is? How would you respond to gameplay which challenged you to perform culturally correct actions at the right time in order to gain an advantage in a foreign culture? Examples: You''re in an arid asteroid fortress, where water is scarce and the liquids of the dead are recycled to help the living survive. A gesture of "spitting" at someone''s feet is a sign of great respect, because you''re giving up your water. On many other worlds, however, it''s an insult. You''re on the planet Ishido (Rocky Road), settled by 5th generation Japanese traditionalists. Bowing to your betters is a sign of deference and respect, while not bowing is considered rude or even insubordinate. Gameplay Your character has a culture skill and a list of actions they could perform. It''s a large list of maybe 100 or more actions, but the higher your culture skill, the more narrow the list gets. You can bind actions to a key, such as the number keys. Whenver you visit a strange, new culture you''ll encounter Culture Events. A meter pops up when you''re supposed to do one of the actions. It has from one to five marks on it, and a moving carat over the type (this is the golf-swing meter I talked about a few weeks ago for those who remember). So you have to hit the right combo of keys to pull off your culture actions. Success or failure improves or degrades how the NPCs in the area treat you. Success clears the way to better items, missions, contact opportunities with special characters, etc. If you choose to ignore the gameplay, you miss out on these opportunities and certain cultures become more dangerous or hostile to be in. This gameplay would be combined with the need know which items to equip or gift and conversation choices to make. -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Nothing like a bizarre subject line to get your interest, eh?



True, it beats the old "I have the greatest idea ever that will completely revolutionize the gaming industry, oh and its a MMOG, so how do I go about getting a company to buy my idea?"


quote:

How about gameplay that puts our money where our mouth is? How would you respond to gameplay which challenged you to perform culturally correct actions at the right time in order to gain an advantage in a foreign culture?



Yes culture is an interesting angle and something that can be difficult to achive in a game. The most diffuclt aspect is getting the player to learn and remember the customs and then have them use them. Also how do handle clashing cultures? What happens when a race that considers spitting on the ground as a declaration of a duel meets a race that considers spitting on the ground a sign of respect? Especially if neither knows the others customs? What happens when they cause a culturely blunder does it lead to war?


quote:

Gameplay
Your character has a culture skill and a list of actions they could perform. It''s a large list of maybe 100 or more actions, but the higher your culture skill, the more narrow the list gets.

You can bind actions to a key, such as the number keys.

Whenver you visit a strange, new culture you''ll encounter Culture Events. A meter pops up when you''re supposed to do one of the actions. It has from one to five marks on it, and a moving carat over the type (this is the golf-swing meter I talked about a few weeks ago for those who remember). So you have to hit the right combo of keys to pull off your culture actions.

Success or failure improves or degrades how the NPCs in the area treat you. Success clears the way to better items, missions, contact opportunities with special characters, etc.



What happens when the player chooses the wrong action? Can it lead to me being attacked or thrown out of the colony?

In ambitions slave, I also plan on including culture I''m still not sure how it will work, but I was thinking of making it a set of dialog choices. When you talk to someone you can select cultural action which will give a list of known cultural actions the player then selects the action like any normal conversation topic, the npc will then respond approperetly.

For instance if it is cutomary to nod, then bow when greeting a minor noble. The player will be expected to do this at the start of conversation not doing this would be considered an insult and the noble may have the player thrown out of their home.

If you choose to ignore the gameplay, you miss out on these opportunities and certain cultures become more dangerous or hostile to be in. This gameplay would be combined with the need know which items to equip or gift and conversation choices to make.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...




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"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
True, it beats the old "I have the greatest idea ever that will completely revolutionize the gaming industry, oh and its a MMOG, so how do I go about getting a company to buy my idea?"





quote:

The most diffuclt aspect is getting the player to learn and remember the customs and then have them use them.



This is why I want to funnel everything through the culture skill. You''ll have a long list of actions (like you, I think this should be a cousin to the conversation options box). This list will narrow the higher your skill is until it''s only 4-5 choices at the max.

Though, you''re right, there needs to be some sort of hint system that doesn''t give the player the answer, so that when they stop playing for a few weeks and come back they won''t be totally lost.

You could use a journaling system here, maybe. When you succeed, the successful action string and context (meeting a noble, meeting a high priest, etc.) would be recorded. In what I''m thinking, you''d still have a dexterity challenge of pulling off the right action at the right time (using the golf-swing meter).

quote:

Also how do handle clashing cultures? What happens when a race that considers spitting on the ground as a declaration of a duel meets a race that considers spitting on the ground a sign of respect? Especially if neither knows the others customs?
What happens when they cause a culturely blunder does it lead to war?



If it''s you the player, then you start a fight. If its NPCs that are hirelings of yours, then THEY may get into a fight, causing you to think twice about your away mission selection.

quote:

What happens when the player chooses the wrong action? Can it lead to me being attacked or thrown out of the colony?



In the rarer cases, yes. The nominal case is that you lose status, which causes negative reaction adjustments IN THE AREA (rather than entire town, where people didn''t even see you slip up). The worse the mistake, the larger the area (so, technically, if you kill someone it could spread throughout the town).

quote:

In ambitions slave, I also plan on including culture I''m still not sure how it will work, but I was thinking of making it a set of dialog choices. When you talk to someone you can select cultural action which will give a list of known cultural actions the player then selects the action like any normal conversation topic, the npc will then respond approperetly.



Does this mean that you can''t take a cultural action independently of speaking? Say, like bowing before entering a temple?



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Hmmm.. good ideas.

As for the skills: For a more accurate representation, you'd need one general culture skill and secondary skills for each of the cultures. (They can stay invisible to the player if you choose so.)

That way, when a player "fails", (ie: he does not bow down when he should), you should increase the player's skill in the said culture. That way, he could effectively learn from its mistakes.

I would also make sure this is not overused. If I enter a temple 40 times per hour, bowing and rubbing my cheeks everytime could get annoying.

Maybe you could design it so that after a few times the player "gets" a said action right, he does so automagically ?

Edit: my english is horrible

[edited by - xMcBaiNx on May 29, 2004 2:27:06 PM]

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
This is why I want to funnel everything through the culture skill. You''ll have a long list of actions (like you, I think this should be a cousin to the conversation options box). This list will narrow the higher your skill is until it''s only 4-5 choices at the max.



But what about at the low levels? Do you really want the player wading through 50 diffrent choices trying to guess the right one? I doubt that''s what you want. Perhaps it would be best to have say 12 general cultural actions. Then a number of specialized ones the specilized one would only become available after the player has learned about them and would only apply to certain races, in this way you can the list workable at all levels. For instance shaking hands is a general action, while hopping on one foot and clucking like a chicken is a specilized action used only by the Lizardarians after a successful financial deal. It would only be avilable after the player learned it and only with races that they knew used it.


quote:

Though, you''re right, there needs to be some sort of hint system that doesn''t give the player the answer, so that when they stop playing for a few weeks and come back they won''t be totally lost.

You could use a journaling system here, maybe. When you succeed, the successful action string and context (meeting a noble, meeting a high priest, etc.) would be recorded. In what I''m thinking, you''d still have a dexterity challenge of pulling off the right action at the right time (using the golf-swing meter).



Yes that sounds like it would work, Perhaps you could even simplfier one step further an highlight what the character thinks the next action should be? That way you can have the characters learn culture from other sources, after all if you are going to meet the ruler of a new species for the first time it would probably be a good idea to learn the proper customs before hand.

As a side note what do you think a good number of cultural actions is? When do you get in to the realm of to many, is say a total of 14 actions whenever you meet a member of the royal family to many?



quote:

Does this mean that you can''t take a cultural action independently of speaking? Say, like bowing before entering a temple?



That interesting point I hadn''t really thought about it. Perhaps it might make sense to have the player able to perform cultural actions outside of conersation. However a target would still nessary as in use culture on temple and select bow. Then again it could be just as easy and amusing to allow the player to be able use the dialog option on all objects not just npcs, that way if they where upset that the door wont open they could yell at it for a while.


-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by xMcBaiNx
Hmmm.. good ideas.

As for the skills: For a more accurate representation, you''d need one general culture skill and secondary skills for each of the cultures. (They can stay invisible to the player if you choose so.)



Thx for the feedback. Yes, the culture skill can be taken for as many cultures as there are in the game. But if you don''t have one for the culture you''re in, it defaults to the stats Intellect, Perception and Luck. (Doing it this way makes NPC guides and hirelings more important, too).

quote:

That way, when a player "fails", (ie: he does not bow down when he should), you should increase the player''s skill in the said culture. That way, he could effectively learn from its mistakes.



Interesting. Normally you''re only rewarded for your successes, and some games like Morrowind reward you for skill use period. I actually like this, though, because you''ll be trading social status for skill points. If the society is small enough, this wouldn''t work, though, because you''d burn your bridges before you could learn enough to do well. In a big society, though, it could work (with some amusing results).

quote:

I would also make sure this is not overused. If I enter a temple 40 times per hour, bowing and rubbing my cheeks everytime could get annoying.

Maybe you could design it so that after a few times the player "gets" a said action right, he does so automagically ?



I agree that it shouldn''t be repetitive. However, if it''s automatic, then that means that the gameplay goes away after awhile-- which means it shouldn''t have been put in in the first place.

You are not expected in the normal course of gameplay to be staying long in any one culture, but since the game''s open ended, you could and this might be a problem.

The compromise is to turn off the minigame for culture in the options menu. Whenever you choose not to play a minigame, your raw skill is tested against a challenge. By playing a minigame, you get to boost your skill (or lower it if you fail).

Do you think there needs to be a stronger option for this?

quote:

Edit: my english is horrible



Aha, a culture skill (Internet Writing +95)

--------------------
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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
But what about at the low levels? Do you really want the player wading through 50 diffrent choices trying to guess the right one? I doubt that''s what you want. Perhaps it would be best to have say 12 general cultural actions. Then a number of specialized ones the specilized one would only become available after the player has learned about them and would only apply to certain races, in this way you can the list workable at all levels. For instance shaking hands is a general action, while hopping on one foot and clucking like a chicken is a specilized action used only by the Lizardarians after a successful financial deal. It would only be avilable after the player learned it and only with races that they knew used it.



This is inarguably a better choice, but I can''t help thinking that it holds the player''s hand. When you''re fighting in a game that has a good combat system, nobody tells you which weapons to use, or what types of attacks to make. But with options spelled out this way, you give away what the player is supposed to do right off the bat, don''t you?

I was thinking a bit more about this: An icon system might also work here, with the icons taking on different meanings for each culture. So you could have your twelve major actions, with satellite actions in a UI compass like we see in many games (you click and hold the central icon, and 4 or 6 or whatever number icons popup, allowing you to select them). You could have a wide variety of pictographic categories, but the downside of this is that it would vastly increase the user''s learning curve.

Another option would be a simple parser. Rather than selecting from a list, the game would rely on the player typing in the right action word at the right location. I''m only thinking of this because to some extent this is supposed to rely on player''s knowledge. If there are books and library resources in the game, I think it would be kind of neat that the player could actually apply that knowledge via these little culture tests.

quote:

Yes that sounds like it would work, Perhaps you could even simplfier one step further an highlight what the character thinks the next action should be? That way you can have the characters learn culture from other sources, after all if you are going to meet the ruler of a new species for the first time it would probably be a good idea to learn the proper customs before hand.



I think whether or not you give them the answer depends on why you''re putting culture in the game. If at higher skill levels the answer becomes more apparent, then culture is a gate like any other skill requirement-- which is fine. You can give the player a challenge to overcome and different gameplay to experience this way, and open doors for them later on.

I''m going for the old school sci-fi feel, though-- I want there to be strange worlds with different people, and I want these people to impact you in ways other than just having different technology or factions. If the customs are spelled out in library resources and stories the player can take a moment to read, and the game later acknowledges them for performing the customs, doesn''t that give the game''s fiction more gravity and make the world a bit more immersive?

If so, I don''t want it to be a gate, I want it to be a puzzle. This means that I have to make the UI simple without giving the answer away.

quote:

As a side note what do you think a good number of cultural actions is? When do you get in to the realm of to many, is say a total of 14 actions whenever you meet a member of the royal family to many?



I can answer this once I know your purpose. (See above).



quote:

That interesting point I hadn''t really thought about it. Perhaps it might make sense to have the player able to perform cultural actions outside of conersation. However a target would still nessary as in use culture on temple and select bow. Then again it could be just as easy and amusing to allow the player to be able use the dialog option on all objects not just npcs, that way if they where upset that the door wont open they could yell at it for a while.



Yes, I like this with some feedback letting you know whether or not people on the street approve of your action or reveal that you''ve made an ass of yourself. And this should carry over to dealing with the local merchant (who may take pity on you and educate you, or may look down his nose with scorn).

There are alot of other angles here, too. Fitting in with a culture can provide some anonymity. If there are NPCs that can track you down, appearing as a pilgrim who prays in the proper direction at dusk could be vital. On the flipside, noticing that someone your tracking DIDN''T do this might confirm they''re an outsider.

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
This is inarguably a better choice, but I can''t help thinking that it holds the player''s hand. When you''re fighting in a game that has a good combat system, nobody tells you which weapons to use, or what types of attacks to make. But with options spelled out this way, you give away what the player is supposed to do right off the bat, don''t you?



Not really, it merely keeps certain action in cultural context since many actions may be culture specific if the player can select every cultural action they have ever learned during any culture test then things could be overly complicated and confusing making it more likely that they would fail.

quote:

I was thinking a bit more about this: An icon system might also work here, with the icons taking on different meanings for each culture. So you could have your twelve major actions, with satellite actions in a UI compass like we see in many games (you click and hold the central icon, and 4 or 6 or whatever number icons popup, allowing you to select them). You could have a wide variety of pictographic categories, but the downside of this is that it would vastly increase the user''s learning curve.



An icon based system could work the effect is the same as word based system so, I don''t think people find it more difficult to learn some might even prefer a more visual method.

quote:

If so, I don''t want it to be a gate, I want it to be a puzzle. This means that I have to make the UI simple without giving the answer away.



Yes, it depends on how you want to use culture, a puzzle environment suggests limiting the help you give the players, thus you probably don''t want it spelled out for them. So leaving the player to remember the correct actions and their order may be for the best.

Also have you thought about culture in language and conversation? For instance some cultures use different variations of words depending on whether or not the person they are speaking to is of a higher or lower social class.



-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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If culture is a skill and you''re commanding a crew, isn''t it logical to include in your crew maybe one master of protocol just as you would one engineer or pilot?

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There is a potential to cut down on the UI clutter by using a small number of actions & giving the user the ability to govern the "intensity" of an action. For example, in Japanese culture you need to bow, but it is just as important that both your bow and the return bow of the person to whom you are showing respect are of the proper depth. In western culture, a handshake can be a means of meeting (simple handshake), greeting or acceptance(clasp/specialty handshake), or even dominance assertion (knuckle-grinder). The player''s control flow then has two stages - one to pick the proper gesture, and one to choose the right level at which to engage it. Then as their skill gets higher, the ability to zone in on the proper level should increase.

ld

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quote:

This is why I want to funnel everything through the culture skill. You'll have a long list of actions (like you, I think this should be a cousin to the conversation options box). This list will narrow the higher your skill is until it's only 4-5 choices at the max.



What if you want to insult someone. Maybe just leave the complete list but have the best 4-5 choices float to the top of the list followed by the 4-5 most likely to insult the person. Leave the rest on so you can slight/irritate someone if you don't want to outright insult them.

edit: Sorry 'bout the tag


[edited by - kars on June 1, 2004 2:19:44 PM]

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your idea is good, but its sucess will rely on its implementation.

the gem in your idea is another level of immersion in the game setting. it will be important that how the player acts out this level does not break the immersion.

for example, popping up a text balloon may well remove any added immersion benefits. however you implement it, it should add to the immersion instead of being neutralized by a clumsy implementation. otherwise you introduce repetition and offset the advantage you initially sought.

Dredd
________________________________________

"To die with your sword still in its sheath is most regrettable" -- Miyomoto Musashi


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Another note: Try avoiding the situations where the player knows what he should do, but the character doesn''t. "I know I should bow but it is not in the options" situations greatly reduce immersion because the "bond" between the player and its character is broken.

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Also have you thought about culture in language and conversation? For instance some cultures use different variations of words depending on whether or not the person they are speaking to is of a higher or lower social class.



This is good for flavor, especially if you pay attention to world building and sprinkle the words in other areas the player will encounter it (like in a book, or speech, or overheard conversation). If you''re going with the classic RPG approach, maybe your player''s intelligence or perception determines if they pick up such a clue at all.

quote:
Original post by kseh
If culture is a skill and you''re commanding a crew, isn''t it logical to include in your crew maybe one master of protocol just as you would one engineer or pilot?


Yes, guides and experts from uni''s would be a perfect addition to your crew, and give you one more strategic tradeoff for things like your core crewmembers (or senior staff) and away missions (hmmm... more marines or more diplomats?).

Maybe there''s room for an etiquette and protocol droid?


quote:
Original post by Kars
What if you want to insult someone. Maybe just leave the complete list but have the best 4-5 choices float to the top of the list followed by the 4-5 most likely to insult the person. Leave the rest on so you can slight/irritate someone if you don''t want to outright insult them.



Right, this is why I want to keep the options as open as possible without confusing and irritating you. Maybe you insult someone as an opening move to your strategy of actually getting them on your side (example: calling someone a coward in a warrior culture to anger them, which psychs them up; then soothing it over and getting them back on your side).

Of course, being able to pull of something this sophistocated would require a personality model as intricate and well thought out as a combat model.

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quote:
Original post by liquiddark
There is a potential to cut down on the UI clutter by using a small number of actions & giving the user the ability to govern the "intensity" of an action. For example, in Japanese culture you need to bow, but it is just as important that both your bow and the return bow of the person to whom you are showing respect are of the proper depth. In western culture, a handshake can be a means of meeting (simple handshake), greeting or acceptance(clasp/specialty handshake), or even dominance assertion (knuckle-grinder). The player''s control flow then has two stages - one to pick the proper gesture, and one to choose the right level at which to engage it. Then as their skill gets higher, the ability to zone in on the proper level should increase.



This is great, you''ve given me a different take on this: What if the core actions were not the specific things like "bow" or "pray" but more abstract actions like "honor" or "insult?" Now this is bland. But what if under each of these options (maybe like Technogoth says, there are 10 or 15 or whatever) you get the intensities, which are actual spelled out actions.

So you as the player think about what you want to do at the top level (which could even be a set of icons): Greet, Honor, Insult, Dominate (Show Power), Submit (Show Harmlessness), Show Approval, Show Disapproval, etc.

Under each of these are the intensities, which are unlocked based on your culture skill. But to keep the puzzle feel, you won''t automatically be told which intensity to choose (bow, embrace or handshake in this culture?) This way the player still has an incentive to walk around cities, observe people performing cultural actions, and read the in-game encyclopedia galactica references.

And again, this will be for those players who want better prices, more contacts and less obstacles in dealing with a new culture.


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quote:
Original post by Dreddnafious Maelstrom
your idea is good, but its sucess will rely on its implementation.

the gem in your idea is another level of immersion in the game setting. it will be important that how the player acts out this level does not break the immersion.

for example, popping up a text balloon may well remove any added immersion benefits. however you implement it, it should add to the immersion instead of being neutralized by a clumsy implementation. otherwise you introduce repetition and offset the advantage you initially sought.



Very good point. You want all ideas implemented well, but you especially want to take care with new ones like this that violate the genre''s norms.

I think the first step is in seemlessly integrating something like this into the game world so that it''s naturally expected. Something like a universal translator gimmick might help here. I was thinking of an all-in-one mini-computer / implant the player uses, and this sort of thing could roll right into it.

What I see is an icon in the corner of the screen on a "Translator" panel with two icons: One for talking, and one for cultural actions.

When someone wants to speak with you, the game plays some alien jumble of syllables, and the talk icon lights up. When you''re supposed to perform a cultural action (say, when standing within x distance from a figurehead), the culture icon lights up.

As with most RPGs, talking brings up a window with dialog choices. The culture window is similar-- but rather than a dialog box choice, you get a suitably immersive reference snippet from the game''s encyclopedia ("The Elephant Lords of Ishido have a strong need to show their people that they are more powerful than any outsiders.")

The snippet becomes the puzzle. You choose how to respond to it, theoretically in different ways depending on what you want to do (maybe show dominance in this case to insult, or match strength to show you''re an equal, etc.)

The main problem with this idea I see is replayability, which I''m not sure how to really make work in this context. Once you''ve figured out the puzzle, you won''t want to do it again unless the puzzle can somehow change.





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quote:
Original post by xMcBaiNx
Another note: Try avoiding the situations where the player knows what he should do, but the character doesn''t. "I know I should bow but it is not in the options" situations greatly reduce immersion because the "bond" between the player and its character is broken.


Maybe toward this end the options should all be revealed, but their effectiveness should be based on skill?

It defeats some of the exploration of cities and towns if I go this route (if I go with the idea that walking around lets you pick up cultural actions as if they were power ups).

OTOH, what about this weird approach: What if you naturally "unlock" cultural actions by raising your skill, or you can use player knowledge to add them in yourself (by typing).

So, let''s say you have a Culture (Ishido) skill of 1, which means that you suck at understanding the folkways of the people on this planet. You have 10 or 15 iconic options, but no "intensity" suboptions.

However, because you either guess about the culture or have played before, you can add "bow" to the Greet sub-option. This would rely on you both choosing the right word (a famous problem of the old parser systems) and spelling it right.

Of course, the powermaxing player would try to add everything with out paying the skill for it, but maybe he should be rewarded for his entrepreneurial approach?

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I had an idea after reading that last few posts what about this.

Thre are your 12 actions type, greet, insult, etc.. and in each type there is a 5 formality levels from acknowledge to full formal. The player can only perform the least formal of each action at the start, the rest they have to learn. They can read the information from protocol files, or by observing the people of that cultural. Whenever you see someone perform a cultural action you don''t know a test is made based on your general cultural skill or your specific cultural skill which ever is higher. Your specific cultural skill instead of having the player level it up acts as measure of the number of that cultures actions you have learned, so 5 culture(inido) would translate to you knowing about half that cultures actions.


In this way the specific can change from culture to culture and the player only has to concetrate on getting across intent.


-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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