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Those of you with the ability to scroll down a few blog posts worth of headers may remember that I have taken Ubisoft to task for their poor handling of Watch_Dogs graphics issues and their outright lies about the nature of those graphics issues on PC.
But holy hell, these past two weeks have made me spew bile in a way that most doctors would agree is not the default setting for said expulsion. Ubisoft has made mistake after mistake, and I feel its time someone categorized and explained them to you if you are curious about why people are currently so pissed off with Ubisoft at the moment. Because all these mistakes are of Ubisofts own doing, and honestly they deserve to be torn to shreds for their behavior. However, let’s start at the beginning of the nightmare that was Assassins creed Unity’s launch, by qualifying its development teams ideas and why these ideas may have been a warning sign from the get go that this game was going to come out of the gate with three broken legs.
30FPS is more cinematic
Alright, first of all let’s just stop this festering sore from erupting right now. If you prefer 30FPS, I am not saying you are wrong but 60FPS is objectively better. Preference is opinion and numerical fact is that 60>30. If you like 30FPS, that’s fine but it’s not based on objective fact. I say this because I want to focus not on that but on the idiotic idea of being cinematic. Our medium is one of interactivity, and therefore comparing it to a medium of non-interactivity is foolish. And more to the point, the argument that its more cinematic is nothing more than a red herring to distract from the real issue, namely that the designers cannot get the game to run at 60FPS (or at 30-but we will come back to that). And that’s ok.
It really is ok.
But lying that you think it’s more cinematic and that it’s not due to a limitation makes you look stupid, and Ubisoft’s looking pretty stupid from the get-go, especially considering that films run at 24FPS due to LIMITATIONS OF THE TECHNOLOGY at the dawn of movies that are kept around for no other reason than stubborn refusal to change. Yes The Hobbit looked weird, but this is the first time anyone tried that level of FPS, and of course it’s not going to be perfect the first time someone tries it. So already this cinematic argument falls apart, as an excuse and a stupid one at that. Had they simply just admitted they needed to make the concession to make sure crowds ran well, that would be ok, but they chose the stupid buzzword approach.
And then? Things got worse.
You may remember that I leveled accusations that Watch_Dogs was graphically downgraded due to incompetence or actual attempts to make it the same as consoles to make them have parity. Why would they do this? It occurs to me that Ubisoft makes poor PC ports, constantly insults PC players as pirates, and forces its Uplay bull on us to play games-even games bought from Steam, a DRM service that unlike Uplay, actually functions well under high stress. So it’s in their best interest to keep console owners happy and buying consoles, because they don’t like PC and don’t want to be stuck with it on a raft for a couple of weeks when they can try and appeal to a little yacht that’s forced to endure them, though it is slowly sinking-but I digress. This is all just speculation on my part, and the second idea is pure speculation.
That first one though? Not so much a speculation now, as Vincent Pontbriand revealed when he told certain game sites that both consoles were locked at the same level to “avoid the debates and stuff”.
Look, let’s not tiptoe around the issue here-what that statement implies is that one of the consoles was not able to handle the same level of graphics as the other. And while it may be unfortunate that the Xbox-One can’t quite get to the same level as power as easily as the PS4 (PC gamer, no investment in console wars so calm down), that is an inherent trade-off that Microsoft made for other benefits of the system aside from graphics.
But tough crap, because people know that and accept it and reducing the parity of one to help the other one hobble along is dishonest and morally repugnant. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s how it is and Xbox-One owners knew that when they picked the console. Reducing, or at the very least not optimizing graphics for the PS4 means delivering an intentionally worse product to make people feel better about their system. This is stupid because people will debate anyway, regardless of petty things like subjective opinion, or facts (look at literally any console war forum for evidence, cause I’ll be tazed with a cattle prod before I even think about diving into that swamp). And of course debate kicked up anyway, because internet, but now most of our ire was reserved for Ubisofts stupid decision that proved they weren’t above reducing the potential of one game to make the other seem similar on a different system, which led to the obvious conclusion that Watch_Dogs was most likely not mere incompetence. It was most likely intentional, though the reasoning behind this stupidity may never be known to us.
50 cc’s of Steam to Uplay, stat!
So while all of this is stupid, it’s only the beginning of this sordid little tale. Next Ubisoft pulled their upcoming big games from Steam in the UK, and then the rest of the world. They have since been returned, although I believe they are still not up in the UK. This is speculation, but I would imagine that since the UK gets treated like crap anyway for gaming, they wanted to test a rollout there and see if switching to Uplay would cause an appreciable drop in sales. The rest of the world, well that was most likely a mistake that was swiftly corrected but evoked the ire of gamers yet again. Irregardless, I believe this signals an attempt by Ubisoft to move us to their Uplay service much as Origin was an attempt to do the same for EA. And much like Origin, I would most likely only touch the service if I needed to. Still, if I was confident in their ability to keep their servers up, I would understand the decision. It’s a stupid decision, to be clear, but from a business perspective I understand it. They did say something vague about reaching a deal with Steam, which means they want a bigger piece of the pie and far be it from me to argue that Steam is perfect. But Uplay is a terrible service that’s just an irritant, offers barely any extra value, crashes when they sell a bunch of games meaning you can almost never play on day one or when a bunch of new players jump on a new sale, and honestly they just treat PC like such crap that I fail to see why I would give them the benefit of the doubt. I predict they will try this again soon though, so keep your eyes out for an announcement of that nature.
An early mornin’ embargo
Now, we approach the hill before the summit, the warning sign that beyond this hill lie something more hideous than Renee Zellweggers new face, apparently. A day one embargo is never a good sign, and while it does not necessarily mean a game will be poor, it’s a worrisome indicator of publisher faith. The embargo released at around 9 in the morning and then…then the gates were thrown open. Yes, some people had access earlier and posted to forums, but most of us were waiting for the reviews.
And before us was laid bare one of the most high profile disasters of a big-budget AAA game we have seen in some time.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations…… of horrible Q&A and testing
Assassins Creed: Unity was widely panned as being a buggy mess of a game, with reviewers noting game breaking bugs, problematic AI and broken animations. Even worse, it was later revealed that Ubisoft had not only added microtransactions, which I have talked about before, but there were chests in the game that could only be unlocked via the companion app on phones. And additionally, reviewers wrote nothing of these horrid microtransactions because the system-with some microtransactions reaching the 100$ mark-wasn’t online until after the review embargo was lifted, which may have been a coincidence but looks awfully suspicious in light of how the company has been acting. There was a day one patch, but it didn’t fix a lot of bugs, including the now infamous broken face image that haunts the souls of men in a way only these animation glitches can. More updates have been rolling out, but they still haven’t quashed all the bugs even this far along. That the game was released in this state is embarrassing, and since companies often don’t seem to care about that, financially damaging. Ubisofts stock dropped around 9% for their blunder, causing such a blow that they vaguely stated they would consider retooling the way they handled Assassins Creed development-though I doubt we’ll see it go back to a realistic cycle anytime soon.
And in the end, all of this damage, embarrassment and insult was incurred in a massive amount that had us calling Ubi the new EA. And for what? Short-term thinking turned this franchise into an annual one, destroying its potential and producing games that are not nearly as good as they could have been with more time. Many gamers, myself included, are burned out on this schedule and haven’t bought one of these games in years. And for what, I ask once more?
A mediocre game. Bugs may have plagued it, but regarding the core of the apple, most reviewers gave it mediocre scores, and it got almost no large praise. 2 years of effort went into building simply the Notre Dame, much effort was made to make the city look good. This should have been a return to the Italian heights of the games past, and yet all it turned out to be was a mediocre game in a line of the same. Maybe Black flag was alright, but Brotherhood was the last one I tried and found some enjoyment in. All of this, Ubisoft brought upon itself with its shortsighted greed and a team of developers who I have less and less faith actually know how to make a game properly. All of this could have been presented with smart budgeting, prevention of franchise exhaustion, and heavy testing. But Ubisoft did none of those things, and reaps the thorns it sowed for itself.
But we aren’t done yet, shockingly enough.
Ubisoft blunderbuss blast!
Ubisoft in the preceding week made it very clear to those observing that they had fired their PR team, because they went on to blame AMD-even though the issues impacted NVidia PC’s as well- for some of the issues. They also brillantly announced there would be no new Blood Dragon game, a game which a lot of people, present company included, absolutely loved, for no reason. It was just an announcement that they weren’t going to make another one. And while Far Cry 4 is getting good reviews, it too has some bugs plaguing it currently and it’s a game that is considered one to avoid till patches make it better. Assassins Creed: Rogue has received almost no attention or press, and reviews say it’s alright as well, an interesting concept wasted on an icy reskin of Black Flag. Ubisoft has with one game become one of the most hated companies in the gaming publishing scene, drawing ire from all corners towards themselves. At this point, people have been calling them the new EA, due to the immensity of their error. And what of EA? I have referenced them here a few times, but what about them? Have they released a game recently? Have they messed up recently?
The king of Idiot Mountain dethroned…..for now?
EA recently released Dragon Age: Inquisition, to universal acclaim. It has a few bugs, but it’s a monstrously large open world game, and that’s to be expected, as was the case with Far Cry 4. It was released in a working state, had the embargo lift a week or two before release and EA has been relatively silent on stupid comments. While that is actually be a bit worrying-silence doesn’t equal reform-it appears to be a hell of a lot better than a company that used to be not nearly so close to the crap pile. And we can only hope Ubisoft starts and EA continues their march from that pile towards something respectable. Because this crown is a hard thing to lose, and can be an easy one to gain if you’re not careful.
Ultimately, this whole saga has been a mess from day one, and no one wins. Preordering becomes more of a impedance than a benefit, punishing loyal customers with a broken unfinished product, we see a franchise some of us used to love further pushed into the ground, and Ubisoft loses financially. PC gamers get screwed over and over on this sort of thing, console gamers got a broken buggy game and an intentionally worse product in some cases.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft Montreal becomes the laughing stock of the Ubisoft stable of devs, messing up on a game that was set in the main company’s HOME COUNTRY and one of the most interesting settings any ASC game has explored in a while, not to mention among other games. It’s been a mess of terrible decision after terrible decision, and we can only hope that this sort of thing gets prevented from happening again. Nobody won here, nobody gained anything but a franchise that has imploded on itself and a mess of a game. And that’s just disappointing all around.
First off, let me put out in the open that I know that by writing this I am indirectly contributing to the admittedly clever douchetastic tactic of marketing the hatred devs have used to promote their game of indeterminate quality. But I feel like it’s time I talked about it, because apparently there’s word of a possible boycott going on via Indies and youtubers, that involves wanting to censor it. And I want to talk about it because of the stupidity of that decision. But allow me to begin at the….beginning.
Hatred is announced
Hatred, for those of you who don’t know is a top-down shooter where you massacre innocent people and police officers because you are an insane man with no name who wants vengeance. I won’t link to the video, or the site because I really have no interest in playing the devs game of promotion via outrage, and that’s not what this blog is about. That description I offered may seem dry, but that’s because while I find the game somewhat repugnant, it’s not out yet and honestly it looks like another Postal game.
Boring, with no hook but the promise of controversy and stepping over the line of societal decency and if it was making a statement on that, ala Spec Ops the Line and military shooters, I will applaud and pay attention. But I doubt it, and honestly that means it’s not worth getting crazy about. I am quite happy to see that a decent amount of sites I frequent only talked about it once or twice, recognizing the tactic for what it was and simply saying “bleh”, and moving on. But some sites were not so smart, and in an attempt to appear as the moral beacon of gaming helped promote this game far beyond whatever marketing budget the devs had in mind could propel it to. Apparently, sites like Polygon, Kotaku (to a lesser degree apparently) and perhaps others beyond my scope published post after post, screaming at the moral indecency and drawing more and more to see and judge the game. All but two of the google results of “polygon hatred” are articles about hatred from polygon, and each is a unique article. That’s quite a few more than my normal 3 gaming sites, and that right there is part of the issue I would like to discuss, anecdotal as that may at first seem. The game is of smaller importance than the reaction to it, and we must examine and think about that before we have the nerve to try and censor/quash something we deem “immoral.”
Also never ever google that word in image search.
Those who fail to learn from history…
I want you to stop and think of a moral panic from the last 20 or so years, and I can guarantee that you can name at least one. Metal invokes devil worship, the Beatles and Elvis…something something sex, D&D encourages suicide and devil worship, Ouija boards are devil worship (pretty common, that one), TV media and movies cause violence, comics cause violence, and the most poignant of all? Video games cause mass murders, including Columbine and every mass murder since then. I haven’t seen people saying such things about Hatred, but the moral outrage part feels all too familiar. We are fans of a medium that is frequently attacked by idiots hungry for ratings, and those who are ignorant of the truth that some people are just broken, and there may not be a root cause or rationale behind their crimes, a rather scary prospect.
And I invoke these mindsets because not liking Hatred is one thing,. Censoring Hatred, or attempting to, that’s what evokes these memories in my mind. Why? Well, what you say when you try to censor something because you don’t like it is “it offends the moral palette, and therefore must be crushed and tossed aside” or perhaps “it will cause some harm to the minds of the innocent”.
This mindset is not new or original, as everything provocative triggers this reaction to some degree but we suffer moral outrage even today, so why would we inflict it on those in our community? It’s ok to not like or be disgusted with Hatred, and while I disapprove writing article after article whining about it is your right to free speech, and making their game is their right and censoring it is foolish and stupid. Art pushes boundaries, and by acting just like those who were morally outraged against our medium and still are, you are just as bad as them. Can you get angry at Hatred?
But should you censor it? Of course not, because only the close-minded who are afraid of new boundaries censor things, and the world is a far less interesting place if you take away people’s right to be different. And for all you know, this could be a statement on our kneejerk reactions or how ridiculous claims of videogame violence are and how will we know if you crush someone’s free speech? We have had our favorite medium attacked again and again for being morally repugnant, yet we are eager as hell to censor and tear apart a game that even looks like it might offend our senses. A game that, as you may or may not be aware, is not out yet! (at time of writing) And that little caveat leads into what these sites who are morally outraged are inadvertently doing.
And now the second issue, one that came up more at the beginning, near the announcement trailer, and has somewhat died down, but will no doubt flare up near release date. And that is acting as a marketing arm of something you despise. While I do not advocate censorship, screaming about the game on and on and on is doing far more good for the thing you dislike than bad. Reviews are not good for sales, but freaking out about the game can only draw more attention to it, which is good for sales. So I want to address the people who keep writing about this game. Do you want to let people know how you feel, without drawing way more attention than necessary and beat the little outrage marketing trick they have going on?
Stop talking obsessively about Hatred, or really, anything else that markets itself solely on shock value.
It’s really that simple. Give a succinct, detailed explanation for why you feel the way you feel and then focus that attention on a game that deserves your attention. Don’t censor, but just ignore the game or just say you think its gross and then be done. If you truly want to not help this game out, censoring it is not the way to go. Let it stand and if it collapses under its own weight, let it fall but don’t keep drawing attention and wasting your readerships time with article after article. Because then this slimy marketing tactic works again and it just shows what a kneejerk reaction you have. And where the next talentless, visionless hack will know to strike first.
I have played games for a decent amount of time, ever since I can remember. I played through some great ones as a kid, and even today I find something that suits my fancy to a good enough degree to declare truly great. We all have a tendency to rate most highly that which we play as children, or at least young adolescence because, in my opinion, this is our moment where something can perfectly define what we are, or do something amazing we never thought could be done. There’s so many different experiences that what caused your favorite game to be there is often up to the right timing, right lifetime frame of reference and perhaps countless other things leading to what that one game is that is just bliss. For most, as mentioned before, this happens as a child. Look at all the fans of Zelda games, or other older childhood games that were made when gaming itself was in its childhood. But irregardless…
Not quite so for me, as you may have ascertained from the title. I have played many games, and had played many before Fallout 3, with Bioshock being in a close span. I had just gotten into gaming websites as a hobby, and read about the game. The box got me, and after doing the research I tried the demo that enthralled me with visions of Rapture (teehee) but then I got another game. This one was a darker looking game as well, and I bought my copy used out of a GameStop with my older brother’s age advantage. The game had an interesting and incredibly detailed little game manual, a little booklet to describe how to survive in the nuclear holocaust. I looked at a back, promising choice and limitless possibility, and the...naughty? Mischievous?...way it said find your father...or not, with a wink made me smile. A game that promised much, and delivered. It trounced the already amazing sequence from that Bioshock demo, and blew me away like so much nuclear ash. And so, Fallout 3 could begin, with a blinding light, the last of many for a new awakening.
Yes, perhaps I was something of a sucker for that dramatic little intro that so effectively introduced, not with word, or cut scene, or anything so physical-but that entrance into the hell of the wasteland. Yes, the sections where they dazzle you with a sudden revelation seem to have suckered me in as a kid, but nothing but that Bioshock scene has struck me in quite the same way. It threw you out into the world, running from bullets and your previous home into this new, destroyed world. There were so many different directions to go, the world was mine to explore. But the game was signposted well enough to let me know that megaton should be my next destination. This game blew me away, the emotions swirled and mixed and I felt shock and awe at what had befallen the world, even knowing what the game was about. It was an amazing moment, and I spent so much of that first bit just exploring the houses, looking at those skeletons and considering what had happened to those poor people.
The game is so littered with interesting set pieces, and there’s more than a few odd things that even as much as I have played this game-and I am willing to guess it goes above 200 hours- I still find new things. The world is so dark and depressing, but full of potential exploration and good memories. I remember killing raiders and then summoning a robot ally from his stasis to fight their support in the Super Duper Mart. I remember running from raiders and swimming away, my prior choice taking the lead belly perk proving to be a wise one. I remember the eeriness and unsettling atmosphere of the Dunwich Building-and the disturbing, unexplained, unexplainable obelisk within its bowels. I remember the nerve-wracking fight through each building filled with howling ghouls screaming in the distance. I remember the raiders who shook me down for the Nuka Cola formula so they could reinstate the great hockey arena battles that time and bombs had worn into a twisted memory of the true past. Some of these moments were unscripted, and they just happened, or at the least weren't tied to quests persay. So many more happen every time I play the game, and the world is so atmospheric, as things crash and explode in the distance as you wander this lonely, desolate shell of a world. It feels like an apocalypse, the world is deep and oddly quiet, with music kicking in but never being obtrusive or noticeable to an irritating degree. There were things that made me chuckle, things that made me laugh, and through all of it the shocking violence,
the horrible meat sacks the mutants carried and left behind…the first centaur encounter out of nowhere…it’s a game made all the more wonderful by its atmosphere, and the grim sadness that pervades everything.
Yet its enthralling, and the true freedom of choice is astounding, with unspeakable acts of violence or heroic acts of kindness-or the cold detachment that more than a few characters seem to have invested their points into…I love the world. The menu is intuitive and build into a wrist mounted computer, which further immerses you in the world, and the side quests are numerous and for the most part interesting, or linked to something interesting. It’s hard to truly put into words, hard to sum up how I feel about this game without writing a book…..but ok to sum up, if I had to try and end this with mere words…..
Ubisoft has made some good games in the past, and perhaps in the future and they have some of the most interesting games out there for a big AAA.
Thank god for that, by the way.
But they do tend to fuck up, a lot.
And sometimes, they're so rock-fuck stupid that it drives me crazy. They mishandle PC ports consistently, especially for Assassins creed, and they bait fans with promises of franchise continuation while knowing they will most likely never make a new iteration, see Beyond Good and Evil 2. And now this. Watch_dogs is having some good financial success, selling around 4 million copies around its launch, and that upsets me because now I cannot get excited for anything they show, because of fears that they are lying their asses off to us. But I digress, let me build my case, and show you why I feel this way, should you not be sure why I am upset.
Get it, get it? Cause building with legos, and....also because its a really cool legos....
Colonial Marines, Dark Souls 2, Watch_Dogs, that one Killzone 2 trailer-what do they have in common?
Well the fact that they lied in initial trailers as to the games graphical fidelity. All these games showed game-play at their respective E3 conferences, yet they later turned out to be lying. And yes, while Watch_Dogs and Dark Souls 2 look pretty good, as well as Killzone 2 but less so because not PC, they don't look nearly as good as advertised. They promised more than they could deliver, and if it had been only on console I could've understood, but as someone who bought Dark Souls 2 for PC can tell you, this is not the case.
It's not a secret that most if not all companies use high end PC's to show graphics off, even for system exclusives. It is simply a more powerful machine, and I am willing to admit that I can see why they do this. Even if it is for console, you want it to look the best it can and the only way to do that is to get it on a steroid cooled PC. But that's not my issue. You see, they get away with that because the human mind is a fickle thing, and won't remember that compared to the game on their system. Hell, even with the dramatic difference some people can't see the change in Watch_Dogs and Dark souls 2 without comparison. Colonial marines looked like shit and it was mainly a press show off thing so it was less in the public eye. But I understand, as anyone who plays a game from even a few years ago, like Infamous, looks better in our minds eye than in reality, sadly. So I'm going to link to a video, and if you think the graphics thing is not a big deal, watch the video and I guarantee you'll see the problem.
That's not the issue, the glaring problem with Watch_Dogs is that it was lied about, not that it looks bad. Had they not lied, I think it would have been less reviled for said deception, but a lot of people looked to this game as representative of the next gen, and looking at all those amazing graphics, with wind, rain, trash, wet coats, even as a PC gamer, perhaps somewhat foolishly, I was excited. But then all this crap happened, and it killed what excitement I had. The meh response it's been getting has killed the rest of the excitement. But then something happened. Something amazing. Something Rock-fucking-stupid amazing.
The Killer is in the house!
Again, this was understandable on consoles, but how could they think not even a really powerful PC could handle those graphics? It was assumed to be a lie, then, a vertical slice, a demo created to lie to us solely.
But it wasn't, as this man can eloquently tell you and better yet, show you with almost that level of graphics in his retail copy.
Others have said this as well, but the games final graphical state is not bad.
The files for that E3 trailer level of graphics were in the files. No mod was needed to be created, just some files to be teased out. It's not at the same level yet, but the person who discovered this is still working entirely within the files that came with the PC game.
And really, what more do I need to say? They lied about the game, were too incompetent or malicious to activate them on PC, perhaps to try and say the fact that consoles can't do that yet isn't so bad. We just don't know yet, but what we do know is that they crippled the PC versions graphical potential intentionally, and whatever the reason I am disgusted. They were too lazy to remove said files during the crippling of the PC version, and whatever the reason the game could have been that much better, the promise could have been meet, and they could've avoided the hate.
I don't buy that Sony and/or Microsoft paid them to cripple it. Lots of games come out and look a lot better on PC, and I don't think these two would ever cooperate on a venture like this. Singularly, I don't buy it either, because it seems too much a risk to convince gamers that their systems are the same power as the best PC's. Console gamers in the vast majority are not stupid, and they know their system can't compete with the most powerful PC's in the land, but there's a lot of reasons they don't buy PC. Very few expected better than PC, but they did expect better than the previous generation and for the most part they are getting that. So that's out. So why?
As of right now, I don't know. It seems that something rotten is going on, and I will update here as needed, but whatever the case Ubisofts stunning incompetence in removing said files or implementing them is clearly on display, and I advise you stay away from Watch_Dogs until this gets figured out. Let them know with your cash what you think of lying and then intentionally crippling one of the major gaming systems, and buy it for cheap on a steam sale in a couple of months or pirate it, as they seem to be so afraid you will do. They have continuously shown a lack of regard for PC, and therefore a decent chunk of their consumers and now that their little batch of lies has sold 4 million, they will see no reason to stop, I can guarantee. So watch carefully, because why not do this again, if the reward is 4 million games? Everything they show is subject to scrutiny, and if you trust it look at this and wait for their games to come out. Because they may just lie again, and they don't deserve your preorders. Or your money, for that matter, until they prove they deserve it.
The mod, for your perusal.
And now we get a look behind the gears, and we see the rot. I had suspicions that something sketchy was going on, but now we have proof that they are not only not above lowering the parity on a better system, but that its also a matter of course. Honestly, this seems to be out of stupidity and laziness, and I think it was the same for Watch_Dogs. In case you didn't read that post, basically they kept the parity on both consoles the exact same because one (Xbox one) couldn't run as well as the other. Not for money, not for promotional deals. But to avoid the debate, and stuff. This is just brilliantly stupid, and though Ubisoft has released a PR bullshit comment, please take this for what it is. This is a company that supports a culture of laziness and stupidity and is more than willing to force an inferior product on consumers if its easier to do so. The irony of this gentlemens statements are that it is causing fierce discussion, and most of it isn't too peachy for Ubisoft. This company doesnt not deserve your support unless it earns it and hard. Wait for reviews, and if the reviews aren't perfect, wait til the price drops. Let Ubisoft know how you feel about being sold something that is not nearly as good as it could be becasue someone else bought something that is not nearly as good as your thing, and we don't want you to debate about it!