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Thoughts on Morale

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A coworker and I were discussing some things we''d like to see in strategy games, and he hit on something I hadn''t really considered about morale. He mentioned how some cultures really show a lack of respect for life because of the way they believe. For example, in Islamic and Asian cultures, they can take casualties that would be appalling to Western sensibilities. To them, it''s just how they fight. But what he brought up intrigued me when he was talking about "We Were Soldiers". He said one of the things about the movie was Mel Gibson''s devotion to his troops, and how far he was willing to go to protect them. And it got me to thinking about a story I read of a Officer in the Rangers. This man served 3 tours of duty, and not a single man of his under his command died (approxiametly 100 men). Because his troops knew hor far he was willing to go to save them, they were much more willing to take risks for him as well. So it got me to thinking about the mentality of "cannon fodder". In RTS games, the notion is so pervasive that its not even really considered. Troops are expendable....end of story. Some games may reward you for keeping troops alive by giving them experience, but I don''t think there are any games that penalize you for throwing them away. One advantage that American forces had in Vietnam was our superb Med Evac teams. It boosted morale knowing that A) your wounded buddy had a good chance of getting medical attention and B) if your butt got shot the same applied to you. I''ve heard tales in the Civil War of men clamping their ears so they wouldn''t hear their buddies screaming in agony out in the no man''s land. I can only imgaine what a horrific experience that must be. Ulysees S. Grant was called the Butcher by his forces and they hated him. The US people were on the verge of forcing Lincoln to remove him from his post, but Lincoln wisely knew that Grant was doing what was necessary to win the war...since Grant couldn''t outsmart Lee, he had to wear him down. Grant could replace his troops, Lee could not. I think that depending on the culture of the faction that you play, this could significantly affect the utilization of your forces. Abandoning the "cannon fodder" mentality will be diffucult at first since it''s not a "standard" RTS component, but I think it could add depth to gameplay.

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I think your idea is pretty interesting, but once you think about the big picture, I don''t think it is practical for gameplay balance.

Let''s say you mismanaged your troops in a game and accidentally sent them to die (or use as cannon fodder, they''re basically the same to me). The rest of your troops would get demoralized and their power would decrease. Now, not only you lost the cannon fodder troops, you would need extra troops to replace them because of the demoralization. So when it comes down to it, whoever loses more troops first will be at a much bigger disadvantage than losing just the initial set of troops - that doesn''t sound much fun to me.

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Jim Rome, of sports radio fame, calls that effect a "boat race" in that as soon as one of the yachts gets ahead of the other, it''s usually over. If you look up articles on balance, you will see graphs that discuss that very effect. It''s almost exponential.

Back to Dauntless'' concept. I agree that there should be a departure from the "send wave after wave to die" mentallity in games. Part of the reason that exists is the fact that unit creation pipelines are horribly unrealistic in most RTS. In fact, the very fact that you CAN create units gives them a sense of expendability.

Close Combat did a nice job of punishing you to some extent for losing units. They DID replenish them between battles in the scenario - but not at a rate that would keep you at the same strength level entirely. Also, since units'' skills progressed somewhat throughout the campaign, you were losing veterans in exchange for rookies. Therefore, you had a sense of loss when you sent your troops to do something stupid and they got waxed.

Of course, CC also had a morale/suggestion system wherein you didn''t really control the troops entirely. Most of the time they would find a way to do what you were telling them to. However, based on their morale at the time compared to the difficulty and danger of the task, they might just refuse. If an individual soldier got too freaked out, he would bolt or freeze up and not respond to anything. This was counteracted by such morale boosting factors as the proximity of officers, friendly armor, cover, etc. Often, if some Joe was holed up and cowering, you could roust him by sending an officer over near him to "shake him out of it".

You may want to look up some of the resources on the web where they discuss what was attempted in Close Combat and the challenges they faced. I seem to recall that Ferretman (Steve Woodcock) had a small blurb about it on his site.

Dave Mark
President and Lead Designer
Intrinsic Algorithm Development

"Reducing the world to mathematical equations!"

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Close Combat is an excellent series and probably my favorite RTS of all time. The campaign mode is excellent, as it discourages just throwing away your troops...and in a way that I thought was superb to Homeworld...which also did the same thing. Homeworld''s fault lay in the fact that if too many of your forces died, it became impossible to complete the game. In Close Combat, you could lose the battle, but if you played your cards smart, you could still get enough reinforcements to turn the tide.

Most of my thoughts about morale were about control issues. In other words, would the troops obey your orders. But I think other factors like Esprit de corps, and willingness to fight are just as important. The Marines creedo is that they will not abandon their men, this gives them a psychological advantage that shouldn''t be ignored. Some faiths or cultures also make them incredibly resistant to what other troops would face. In the Korean conflict, the Turks were the only nationality that did not have any of it''s POW''ed brainwashed or forced to sign "apology" papers.

As for the mistake factor, that''s why I don''t want a game with simplistic controls that would allow such a possibility. As Oluseyi pointed as a possibility in his recent thread, and in mine about Unit Control and Leadership, I believe there are ways to remove such a "blooper" from happening.

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Not sure if this would help, but I''m making an RPG with henchpeople and their base ''morale'' is based upon their willpower stat. From there, the leader''s Leadership attribute affects their morale. I would implement some kind of ''success/failure'' scheme for adjusting from there, but in most situations the NPC henchpersons wouldn''t be with the player long enough to have a noticeable effect.

The leader''s Leadership attribute also has a negative impact upon the opposing side''s morale, so that Lee (with his exceptionally high Leadership attribute) would have a demoralizing effect upon his opponents. The effect isn''t so drastic as to outweigh an equally gifted leader''s bonus, but it can definitely force an enemy who isn''t actually losing to flee from the battlefield before they would otherwise.

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I actually think the cannon fodder idea should not be abandoned, but actually be made a bigger part of the gameplay.

Sacrificing units is a HUGE element of warfare. Sure, it''s better to not have to sacrifice any, but if sacrificing the few means keeping the many alive, it most certainly is a smart tactic.

Units can be specifically created (before or during battle) for just this purpose. The player knows these units are weak but come cheap. He knows they are expendable. The units themselves probably even know it. But, in a well-organized army, even those units that know they are going to die will perform their part (otherwise, you really can''t run an army).

Cannon fodder can certainly bring lots of new elements to RTS gameplay. In a game like Shogun, you send out a cheap group of units to take the grunt of the ranged attacks. Another weak group is used to create a diversion and draw some of the enemie''s stronger units into a trap. Some more weak units are used to start close combat, keeping stronger units in reserve, ready to charge the ongoing battle from a flank (or even rear).

Cannon fodder units can be a determining factor in battle. Well-used, they can be a great aid to a general. If not used properly though, they can do more harm than good. If a group of cannon-fodder units cannot reach their destination and turns and runs (they are not the units with high morale) right back to their core army, they might unnerve some of the good soldiers there. And this might bring the morale of the entire army down.

PS I don''t think Western/Islam/Asian cultures differ all that much in their core thinking. The Crusaders took huge losses, but that didn''t seem to stop them from sending more units to their deaths. The Asian way of thinking (just been reading Art of War by Sun Tzu) doesn''t think life is cheap, but it does think that anything needs to be done to ensure a victory. If units have to be sacrificed, so be it. But Sun Tzu''s teachings also show that they preferred to not even do battle at all. According to Sun Tzu it''s more important to keep your own power intact, than to destroy your enemy''s power. It''s more important to keep your own army intact, than to destroy your opponent''s. But, if sending a group of cannon fodder units to a sure death means victory, one should NEVER even wait a second before deciding.

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Silvermyst

I think it depends on the culture of the side you play. In asian and islamic warfare (and other countries...like Slavs for example), there is really no stigma attached to sending human waves to be annihilated. Try doing that with American trrops or European troops and the people are going to be calling for the general''s head.

Some countries SHOULD be allowed this, but others should not. This was what I was trying to point out earlier by saying that it depended on who was fighting. Other than in exceptionally rare circumstances (for example, D-Day or the other amphibious assaults on the pacific islands) should cannon fodder attacks take place.

The problem with strategy games now is that all sides can do this with little to no repercussion. I think it''d be interesting to play a country that has to take care of its troops or suffer morale problems, versus a country that does not have this stigma.

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
Silvermyst

I think it depends on the culture of the side you play. In asian and islamic warfare (and other countries...like Slavs for example), there is really no stigma attached to sending human waves to be annihilated. Try doing that with American trrops or European troops and the people are going to be calling for the general''s head.




Hmm...not sure how accurate this is, Dauntless. At the very least, this is a gross generalization. Much of the Art of War surrounds the concept that the truly great military strategists could win a fight without losing a single man, by outsmarting their opponents. When faced with an obviously superiour force or a clearly losing situation, armies would surrender rather than ''fight to the death''. This is not the case throughougt their history, but in at least certain points of Asian history (and to say Asian rather than specify Japanese, Chinese, Mongol, etc. is a gross generalization as well) there was a huge stigma against loss of life.

As for the Muslims, well, if we look at the history of the Crusades we see that the worst atrocities were those committed by the civilized Europeans (including rape, murder, and cannibalism, to name a few choice examples) so again I don''t think this example holds true.

Conversely, if you read any history of WW2, you soon see that ''civilized'' Western countries have as little regard for human life as any of the worst offenders in the East. There are many instances where the lives of Allied troops were thrown away simply to create a diversion for another invasion force or whatnot.

At the very least, I''d be very careful to refer to any war movie as being even a slightly accurate depiction of what happens in war time. Particularly a star vehicle as ''We Were Soldiers'', which I refer to as part III in the Braveheart trilogy (The Patriot being the second part). Hollywood is notorious for rewriting history to serve their purposes and although I haven''t seen this movie, I''d wager it''s as inaccurate as most of these other films (U571, for example).

Just thought I''d throw that out there, and this is by no means a stab at you personally, Dauntless, so please don''t take it that way.

R.

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quote:
Units can be specifically created (before or during battle) for just this purpose. The player knows these units are weak but come cheap. He knows they are expendable. The units themselves probably even know it. But, in a well-organized army, even those units that know they are going to die will perform their part (otherwise, you really can''t run an army).


This depends on the culture. In WWII Japanese kamikaze pilots knew they were going to die but they believed that their death would bring them reward in the afterlife. Same with the human waves the Iranians used. In WWI British general Arthur Haig was lambasted in the press for the enormous casualties suffered under his command. Same w/ Ulysses S. Grant. In WWI the French army briefly revolted refusing to be used as "human grapeshot" any longer. They remained on the defensive but would not attack. This is the point that Dauntless was trying to make (I think). Some "races" or cultures would allow you to have cannon fodder but others would not.

quote:
Cannon fodder units can be a determining factor in battle. Well-used, they can be a great aid to a general. If not used properly though, they can do more harm than good. If a group of cannon-fodder units cannot reach their destination and turns and runs (they are not the units with high morale) right back to their core army, they might unnerve some of the good soldiers there. And this might bring the morale of the entire army down.


That''s pretty scary that you feel the downside to using cannon fodder is that they might not die and in surviving they could bring down the morale of the "good" units.


quote:
The Asian way of thinking (just been reading Art of War by Sun Tzu) doesn''t think life is cheap, but it does think that anything needs to be done to ensure a victory. If units have to be sacrificed, so be it. But Sun Tzu''s teachings also show that they preferred to not even do battle at all. According to Sun Tzu it''s more important to keep your own power intact, than to destroy your enemy''s power. It''s more important to keep your own army intact, than to destroy your opponent''s. But, if sending a group of cannon fodder units to a sure death means victory, one should NEVER even wait a second before deciding.

The theoretical musings of a Chinese general 2000 years ago are not as relevant as the actions of Japanese kamikaze pilots a mere six decades ago. How about the Chinese justice system where executions take place in sports stadiums and unauthorized pregnancies are terminated by the government at the moment of birth. It is a fact that Asian cultures place a lower value on human life than Western cultures. This is to say nothing of the Middle Eastern cultures where sacrifice is extolled and encouraged to extreme ends.

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quote:
Original post by ewiar


The theoretical musings of a Chinese general 2000 years ago are not as relevant as the actions of Japanese kamikaze pilots a mere six decades ago. How about the Chinese justice system where executions take place in sports stadiums and unauthorized pregnancies are terminated by the government at the moment of birth. It is a fact that Asian cultures place a lower value on human life than Western cultures. This is to say nothing of the Middle Eastern cultures where sacrifice is extolled and encouraged to extreme ends.


Not true. Sun Tzu is alive in well in asian culture, especially in business, which to the asians is another front in which to fight. And now I''m generalizing...

I don''t think you can say it''s a fact that Asian cultures place a lower value on life then Wester cultures. I think it would be more accurate to say that in the case of massively overpopulated Asian countries which do not have many of the economic benefits we in North America and Europe take for granted, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. They have a completely different concept of ''individuality'' which we tend to take for granted in our own society. Analyzing a foreign culture with the critical eye of your own provileged position is the worst form of ignorance and jingoism, in my opinion. It is also a form of colonialism and orientalism, which does nothing to further our understanding or appreciation of other cultures.

/lecture.

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Tacit

Sun Tzu is an idealized template for how strategy should be conducted, but just as European Chivalry demanded that knights should be merciful...they often did not. Look at history in asian warfare or with islamic countries in terms of human wave attacks, and you will see that they really don't mind them. Look at Japanese Banzai attacks, or the Chinese penchant during the Korean conflict for sending literally tens of thousands of troops in a massed attack, armed with very little except for the front ranks.

When Ho Chi Minh was in peace talks with the French during their conflict with them, Ho Chi Minh remarked, "even if you kill ten of us for every one we kill of you, we will still win". Firebase overruns in Vietnam were just that, pure frontal assaults (though sometimes with sapper help).

In the English Colonial War period (late 1800's) the Berbers were known to just rush in with little thought for tactics. During the Iran-Iraq wars, Iranians routinely sent wave after wave of troops to simply overwhelm Iraqi forces...Iran had a much larger population base and could afford to do this.

Sorry Tacit, but history points that asian and Islamic cultures are far more willing to throw away their troops with little remorse. Obviously, in Islamic culture, they have a belief system in place that makes them not fear death (and almost welcome it) and with asian cultures, they have a society which reveres...well, society. Asian cultures tend to place a higher value on the society itself and your superiors in a way that most Europeans would find hard to understand.

So yes, Sun Tzu proclaimed that the greatest victory is the victory in which there wasn't even a battle, but it's an ideal. Just like how Zen and taoism stresses that to find peace one has to look inside and find his own way, and yet society and familial concerns force the individual to doing what his parents, country, or society deems is correct. Cases can be made for European human wave attacks too...WWI being an example, but they quickly learned what an abomination that was with the advent of the water cooled machine gun (not to mention mustard gas and artillery barrages that really haven't been seen since).

I happen to be part asian and I can tell you that asians have a view of life that is very different than western standards. It's not so much that asians don't value ALL life as much as the west, they just don't think that the INDIVIDUAL is as important as the will of the community or of its superiors. Here in the west, the notion is that the individual has a "right" to do as he pleases (with some restrictions of course), but in Eastern cultures, you do what you are told to do by your superiors and you do it even if you hate it. In other words, the group or the whole is more important than any one individual...so if you have to throw a few thousand troops for the greater good of the country, ancestors, or emperor....no big deal. You really have to look at their religious beliefs as well as their culture to understand how and why they think the way they do. And ditto for muslims who also share in many ways similar beliefs.

As for atrocities, I agree Europeans are just as guilty if not more so than asian or muslim civilizations. However, the point was about the value of life in ATTACK, not in killing innocents. You're right, the European knights, who were supposed to be extolling the virtues of pity and mercy killed 10,000 old men women and children in the city of Bath. . The muslims thought Europeans were barbarians that deserved to be destroyed (and is still a lingering source of mistrust). And of course, no one will ever forget the Holocaust. But atrocities against innocent civilians is not the same as sending wave after wave of your own troops against the enemy in battle. I can think of no examples of European "cannon fodder" mentality after WWI, and this was an exception as there are few examples even before then.

It would be nice if no country liked human wave assaults, and all cultures didn't throw troops needlessly, but history has shown otherwise. Sorry Tacit, but I know asian culture intimately, and I'm pretty familiar with Islamic culture (if not religion) as well (my mom comes from Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf have been hiding out and my grandmother was not just a muslim but of royal muslim blood tracing back to Rajah Abu Bakar.....history and tradition runs deep in both my asian and muslim lines).

Not meaning to be "holier than thou" or anything Tacit. I'm just representing what I know about asian and islamic culture. In a perfect world, everyone would follow the Buddhist ideal that all life is sacred, that in Islamic holy law, only the guilty or oppressive can be killed, or that all Christians would turn the other cheek. Unfortunately, it don't happen Of course we wouldn't have wargames....but I'd give up that hobby in a heartbeat for peace

[edited by - Dauntless on March 18, 2002 6:42:42 PM]

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How about having men as a resource? A resource you don''t have to mine for or grow in any traditional sense. Instead the pool of raw recruits could be increased at the end of every mission or after certain intervals if its a more C&C style play. New units would be trained from these recruits, so instead of 50 food and 60 gold per unit it would be 1 recruit + training costs etc. per foot unit you train or perhaps 2(3? 4?) recruits for a tank (plus the other resources needed for building a tank -parts etc.)

If you have a high casulty rate you get less of an increase, keep sending waves and waves of cannon fodder and you might lose these raw recruits from your available pool, or it might take longer to train them. These recruits know they''re training to die, so they''ll naturally be a little unenthusiastic about training. However on the other side of the coin, more successful missions mean a bigger increase and faster training, troops may perform better on the battlefield knowing their commander cares for them, and if your troops are taking a constant pounding from the enemy how about a visit from the president to cheer them up?

- DarkIce

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Dauntless, in this case I will respectfully defer to your judgment on the matter, as my knowledge of Asian culture and history is not as well-rounded as yours. I reacted to what I interpreted (probably mistakenly) as a negative generalization of Eastern cultures and a kind of jingoism for the West, but I think we agree that the West is just as capable of atrocity as the East, only that historically we''ve ended up with more control over our individual lives then many Asian peoples.

I am not Asian, nor do I have any Asian ancestry. My knowlegde (such as it is) of Asian culture comes primarily of the Chinese philosophical works I''ve read (such as the Analects of Confucious, or the Tao te Ching) and things like Myamoto Musashi''s ''The Book of Five Rings''. I also discuss these things with Asian friends, but other than that most of my source material isn''t what you''d call recent.

I still think that given enough time I could find, tit for tat, examples of Western countries discarding the lives of their troops, but it wouldn''t really help this discussion. One that comes to mind at the moment is Dieppe, where thousands of Canadian soldiers were sent to their deaths in what amounted to being basically a suicide mission because their commanders, who were British, needed a diversion.

Anyways...interesting conversation and I apologize to the original poster if I''ve driven this off on a tangent...

R.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Side note: a much higher percentage of Allied POW''s died in
the Pacific theater in WWII than in the European theater.
I''m just mentioning it cause there has been mention of both the
civilian casualties and battlefield casualties and no mention
of prisoners.

When taken to an extreme I have to wonder how useful a norm such
collectivism is on a regular day-to-day business. Perhaps it
does work when a society needs to switch to extreme
collectivism, anyway...
No matter what culture it seems that humans will do whatever is
necessary. In the west, or at least America, I think people
start with a couple of different notions. One, all cultures
believe the group will be more important than the individual,
perhaps it doesn''t translate into everyone''s personal opinion
but rather is handled systematically because of the need.
Two, perhaps it is the way groups are looked at. Ultimately,
a group is made of individuals, and without some individuals
there can be no group, maybe Asian culture has an underlying
view where the group is a more concrete concept. To throw in a
little language theory, uh forgot which one it is, anyway,
it''s basically that language defines your view, not that the
world defines your language. Is there a character that is
similar to or can be roughly translated as ''group will''?

Anyway, my problem with collectivism is that ultimately groups
are made of individuals. What happens when all the bees of an
entire hive sting?

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Yeah, I like Canadians, in fact, if anyone has Alanis
Morrisette''s number...
Also, I met a Canadian family on vacation one time, I forgot
the surname but they had a blond daughter named Julie and a
brunette son named David, she was studying gymnastics,
if anybody knows her number...
Also, Dave Foley(News Radio, The Kids In The Hall, and recently
did a guest appearance on Just Shoot Me) is funny.

Canadian numbers I don''t want: Shania Twain, Celine Deion.

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eh, i just say things like that because of that south park movie...
deep down inside i''m glad, canada does produce some damn funny comedians (john candy, dave foley, etc)...

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Tacit

No offense taken at all. You brought up good points and they were well taken

Anonymous

The notion of POW''s brings up another issue. Some of the PAcific campaigns were so vicious because of psychological factors involved. The treatment of POW''s was well known thanks to some of the American troops that were rescued by filipino resistance fighters in the march to Bataan (aka "March to Hell" among others), as well as escaped British POW''s from Malasyia and Bhurma.

I think if you were fighting an opponent that took no quarter and did not take prisoners, troops would fight differently against them against one that was known to be merciful (would you surrender to an Alien?).

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
I still think that given enough time I could find, tit for tat, examples of Western countries discarding the lives of their troops, but it wouldn''t really help this discussion. One that comes to mind at the moment is Dieppe, where thousands of Canadian soldiers were sent to their deaths in what amounted to being basically a suicide mission because their commanders, who were British, needed a diversion.


Not quite. This is not at all equivalent to the human waves of Iran or the mass Chinese attacks. First of all less than 1000 men died in that raid, a tragedy but not on the same level as the hundreds of thousands the Chinese and Iranians were willing to sacrifice. Second the reasons behind the Dieppe raid were complex but not one of them was to create a diversion. The raid on Dieppe was launched
A) as a microcosm of the large scale assault that they would have to do later (Normandy) that they could use to test tactics and such.
B)because Canadians were anxious for their troops to get involved in the war..
C) So Churchill could show the Germans that they weren''t invincible on Fortress Europe.

The raid was far from a suicide mission. In fact it might have succeeded if a German patrol boat had not discovered them before the landing and alerted the forces on the landing ground.

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quote:
Original post by DarkIce
If you have a high casulty rate you get less of an increase, keep sending waves and waves of cannon fodder and you might lose these raw recruits from your available pool, or it might take longer to train them.
- DarkIce


Depending on the timespan the use of cannon fodder can greatly affect the number of troops you''re able to raise. Putting aside the moral (and morale) concerns for strictly biological ones cannon fodder still has a huge detrimental effect.
At the resumption of hostilities in 1914 France had 750, 000 soldiers in her army. In 1939 only 450, 000 answered the call. The difference was the 300,000 unborn sons of those sacrificied in confilict in WWI.

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Was anyone doing that?

And if so, who dictates what direction a thread goes in? Is it not a living thing that changes as people add to it?

I only ask, because I often notice moderators jumping in when they feel the thread has gone off topic and I don''t understand why...

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