Massively Overthinking: The best and worst MMO developer quotes of 2017

Think of all the wacky things devs have said in public in front of gamers and journalists this year.

Now imagine what gets said behind closed doors!

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to select the best (and worst) developer quotes from the year and reflect on what we’ve learned from them. Let’s dig in – we’ve got some whoppers.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Prepare for the deluge, as I was told I could pick a few! No surprise, I’ll be quoting Raph Koster. He had a great one that covers maybe an unstated fear for our genre: the threat of non-MMOs continuing to pick up qualities MMOs were known for:

“It’s also very real that games as a service is slowly swallowing single player games too. I’m sure you have seen that too. Games as a service have implications on business models — ongoing support means ongoing revenue channels, means (these days) drift from DLC to microtransactions and thence to lootboxes for those who go down the slippery slope.” While single player and couch co-op used to be a one-and-done deal, now it’s given DLC, microtransaction, updates, a new multiplayer mode… areas the MMO has spent decades trying to refine as part of its basic survival instead.”

When talking about whether Pokemon Go is or isn’t an MMO, Koster said, “Consider an MMO where no one has chat because The Silence has fallen across the world. But everything else you are used to is the same… you’d still call it an MMO, wouldn’t you?”

Koster’s one of the MMO godfathers, and a developer who actually considers ethics and morality as well as development. Our conversation had sparked because Pokemon Go lacks in-game, written and voice communication, among other things. As much as I play non-MMOs, I’d hesitate to call Overwatch, Splatoon, or still (at times) Pokemon Go an MMO in the purest sense of the word. The first two all synchronous multiplayer and in-game communication, but as Koster agreed, an MMO needs a persistent world.

It’s significant because, to me, the MMOs’ persistent worlds are there for community building, and communication is at the center of that. In POGO, I can leave a weak Pokemon in a gym to show that I don’t care about it, or do that repeatedly against another very active player in a low-activity gym to show that I’m willing to share it, but it requires a lot of context and hopes that the other person understands my actions. If I could lay down items, emote, or better yet, talk to other players within the game client, it’d be easier to try to replicate real-world communication.

Our genre tends to put a bit more emphasis on communication than some other genres, especially with the rise of raiding in place of roleplay, but emotes don’t exactly work the same way as real life non-verbal communication because they’re often asynchronous. POGO has the advantage of having a game avatar with real-life movement/presence granting defacto multiplayer presence, but when there are spoofers in Germany at my rural gym, or if I’m trying to raid near a bunch of high-rises in Los Angeles, I can’t exactly turn to nearby players and physically talk to them.

While we may all turn off general ghat from time to time, being able to roleplay a cool scenario or talk about our day is what makes an MMO an MMO for me. Non-verbal language is fine, especially with an emote system, but Koster’s quote almost makes me feel like FarmVille, a game of timers and clicks with multiplayer used only to gain simple benefits, could be an MMO, and that’s hard to swallow.

Bluehole CEO Hyo-Seob Kim’s recent quote on the genre also deserves mention:

“MMORPGs were very new [ten years ago], with World of Warcraft and all the others. But the play style [stayed] very similar as time passed on, so the players got bored with the system. They started looking to other genres of games.”

TERA was the MMORPG I was really into before being region-locked out when I went to Japan. It was big enough to get mainstream recognition, and I’ve met quite a few non-MMOers who gave it a shot. While maybe not the mega-hit Bluehole was hoping for, it was different enough to lure away my former girlfriend, who was a seriously dedicated World of Warcraft player. It even got her to roleplay, which she’d never done before.

And Kim’s right. As much as I loved going back to Asheron’s Call 1&2 earlier this year, it took their shutdown for me to go back. I saw some good stuff, but also how much the genre’s changed. And how much I’ve changed. While I love persistent worlds without instancing and fast travel as a concept, it’s rare for me to get into it these days. I simply don’t have the time or social circles for me to stick with them, and it’s the same for many of my former MMO pals, both the ones I knew before we MMOed together and the ones I picked up along the way.

Combined with Koster’s earlier quote about single-player games branching out and his emphasis on persistent worlds above communication, I feel like developers are really taking note on stagnation. It’s why things like level scaling and shorter, bite-sized raids are becoming more of a norm. It’s why Square-Enix has both Final Fantasy MMOs and the new FFXV multiplayer mode. Titan died and gave rise to Overwatch. The genre sagged under its own weight, but I feel like we’re only going to move forward as our persistent worlds borrow more from the less persistent. I just hope we can keep communication in game instead of turning our virtual worlds into glorified scoreboards.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): This would have to be when the lead developer on EVE Valkyrie said this to me at EVE Vegas:

“If it weren’t making money, then we wouldn’t still be developing it.”

That happened just days before CCP announced that it was pulling out of VR entirely and selling the studio that developed EVE Valkyrie. That quote just screams of the disconnect between CCP’s upper management and the devs on the ground. All of the devs at the event were optimistic about the future, and none seemed to have any idea of the boot hovering over their heads.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I have a few. Here’s Funcom’s CEO Rui Casais back in March.

“There are still many players enjoying [the MMORPG] space and we continue to invest in it as is proven by our relaunch of The Secret World coming this spring. We do see that some players have gotten a bit of fatigue from the very large time commitment that these games tend to require and are moving on to our online social gaming experiences, and we plan to create some of those experiences as well, just like we’re doing with Conan Exiles.”

Fatigue is exactly it; like Andrew, I want this to be a sign that studios understand the problem they’ve created and are working on course-correcting.

Here’s Wargaming Head of Global Competitive Gaming Mohamed Fadl on e-sports betting to a colleague during a roundtable discussion with journalists:

“You’re stupid to say betting is bad. It’s a natural part of sports. […] I believe betting down the road will be one of the major incomes for e-sports or streaming platforms.”

Wargaming’s interviews often highlight a cultural divide between the West and CIS countries, as did this one, particularly in the last year or two as gambling – both skin-gambling and gambleboxes – and competitor Valve has been taken to task over facilitating gambling for criminals and underage gamers.

My final pick is from not a dev but an economist who focuses on virtual worlds, Ramin Shokrizade.

“MMOGs have not been failing commercially from lack of consumer demand. They fail because they are thrown together almost randomly (what I call ‘Frankenstein Style’) without an understanding of the requisite systems for success.”

His whole paper is worth a look, but I think that one line summarizes what a lot of us have seen in our long time playing: We’re all still here. We have the demand for MMORPGs. We have more money than we did as kids 20 years ago too. That demand simply isn’t being met.

OK, OK, one more: the statement issued to us by Gazillion right before the company responsible for Marvel Heroes imploded.

“Gazillion would like to assure everyone that the company is functioning normally. We remain a strong publisher/developer with many talented individuals working hard daily to keep us that way.”

Mhm.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I have lots.

“[The gaming press is] just looking for clicks, man. They’re just looking for ad revenue. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and they’re welcome to print whatever they want – but as far as I’m concerned, they can fuck off.”

Wow, that was really stupid. It isn’t just that Cliff Bleszinski is being needlessly antagonistic; it’s that he’s doing so to basically blame anyone else in the world for the problems that his game is having. The press did not decide how you answered interviews, the press did not choose your marketing materials, and the press did not say “don’t play LawBreakers.” The only thing that outlets like, you know, our own have actually done is present factual reports about player numbers and feedback. If that’s damaging your game, perhaps the problem does not lie with the press, but with the studio. But what do I know? I can fuck off.

“I am fed up of giving someone an estimate – I’d rather say, here’s the data I have, here’s the schedule I see. This is what we are hoping for. Software developers at all levels tend to be optimistic – you have to be to build big things.”

On some level, I understand where Chris Roberts is coming from here; on a big project with lots of moving parts, there will be times when you miss target dates, and that’s normal. It’s frustrating to be treated as if you lied when you were, in fact, making an estimation from the start. But then you contextualize this by remembering that two days earlier we were discussing Star Citizen discussing star pooping (in space), and you realize that the problem is less about “this estimate was wrong” and more about “why are you spending time on pooping when the actual game doesn’t even exist except in tiny fragments?”

The other side of it is that this is, literally, what Star Citizen’s developers signed up for. As part of the perpetual crowdfunding push the game is engaged in, it promised more transparent development. If you want to be more optimistic than I am, you could say that this is the end result of having a game where your investors are also your players. They’re less willing to put up with these ambiguities, and something has to be done on a reliable basis. I have no doubt that Star Citizen has a lot of work going into it to make it playable, but talking about adding exciting new systems to a game that does not yet actually have its base systems in place is… well, putting the cart before the horse to the point where I can no longer even see the horse from the back of the cart.

“We as a team need to discuss the negatives that came from this experience and work to change the workflow and how we check things.”

This isn’t a quote that’s going to light up the airwaves, but it’s a quote that sort of encapsulates why I adore Naoki Yoshida. There is never a problem in Final Fantasy XIV that he doesn’t respond to with an apology and with an effort at understanding. His response to the issues at Stormblood’s launch – issues which, I would hasten to point out, were resolved within a couple of days – was a simple, humble statement that the team needed to understand why this happened and work hard to make sure it did not happen again. Calm, straightforward, and businesslike. It’s a symptom of how the man operates the game and why fans feel a lot of devotion toward him. Which I think is important to highlight in a year when we have so many quotes that are tone-deaf or just plain dumb.

“If we keep adding and adding with every expansion, eventually what we end up with becomes very unwieldy. It’s an issue that we weren’t cognizant enough of early on because we were in uncharted territory, but we are now.”

I don’t know, Ion Hazzikostas, it strikes me as something that you could have been cognizant of a long time ago because of… I don’t know, years of history? And years of people who had developed World of Warcraft who could tell you exactly that? “Why don’t you like Ion Hazzikostas?” It’s because of stuff like this, that’s why.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): It might be the blatantly obvious pick, but the winner really goes to Mr. EA Spokesperson for this masterful piece of PR nonsense over lockbox grinds:

“The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.”

That line needs to be taught in marketing classes as a great example of deflection and dissemination. It’s an outright lie, of course, because the “intent” was to make money on lockboxes, period. It’s also patronizing and condescending to tell players that something they absolutely hate and find annoying is actually something that they should embrace and love. There were many worthy nominations of PR insanity this year, but this has to take the cake, especially since it sparked an all-out revolt among the community and the internet in general.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): There have been a number of quotes that have struck a chord with me during the year. Unfortunately, they don’t always stick in long term memory. Here are two that did, and for very different reasons. The first is a good one, from my conversation with Casey McGeever, CEO of Heroic Games, when we talked at PAX West about Ship of Heroes. He said,

“We’re designing the game with many, many little subtle things to try to bring a more courteous, a more positive community back. We’re willing to be a smaller game to have a more positive community.”

I was really impressed with this line of thinking. More than money, these folks want a positive community. For me, community is a huge part of the game, and when the community is negative or toxic, it isn’t worth playing even if the game is great. This perspective makes me want to play and support the game and company even if it wasn’t really on my radar before.

The not-so-good quote is one that rankled me more than I can express, spoken by Jeremy Stieglitz, co-founder of ARK: Survival Evolved’s Studio Wildcard. His words:

“For me, the thing about video games is this: when you’re a game designer and you have a fun idea, then you feel you have a creative obligation — almost a moral obligation — to give that idea virtual form: to make it happen, to will it into a reality. All other considerations fall by the wayside. In order to make ARK into a reality, I and the other brave folks at Wildcard had to walk through some kinda hellfire. But for ARK to exist, we could do no less.”

I cannot understand how anyone could try to equate breaking a contract (that ultimately cost the company millions and affected development) with moral obligation. I can’t even describe how wrong that is to me. If this is what morals means to a company, if what is right is defined by what a company/person wants, then I fear for how the company would do business and how it would treat customers.

Your turn!

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41 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: The best and worst MMO developer quotes of 2017"

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possum440 .
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possum440 .

No government regulation, no fine enforced oversight, no ISO standards, no consumer protections, results in the garbage we have today.

You cannot let devs and publishers run amok like they have been. It is everyone’s fault in continuing to give them money.

The majority of gamer’s were never really smart, they are just needy. That is still a problem today.

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Alex Willis

“I am fed up of giving someone an estimate – I’d rather say, here’s the data I have, here’s the schedule I see. This is what we are hoping for. Software developers at all levels tend to be optimistic – you have to be to build big things.”

… that this is, literally, what Star Citizen’s developers signed up for. As part of the perpetual crowdfunding push the game is engaged in, it promised more transparent development. If you want to be more optimistic than I am, you could say that this is the end result of having a game where your investors are also your players.

Definitely Eliot’s pick. Still shaking my head over the whininess of Roberts here.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Mike O’Brien’s defensive apology for the mount rng fiasco takes the cake for me. How he could try and defend his actions when ALL the talk in the gaming industry leading up to and even now has been about RNG loot boxes.

He should try honesty for once in his PR.

I guess the Gazillion stuff is even worse, but that game is dead and beating a dead horse does no one any good.

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vinicitur

Still think the best quote of all time is from Smedley and always will be imo. He said this in 2014 (I think) about H1Z1.

SWG PLAYERS – OUR NEXT GAME (not announced yet) IS DEDICATED TO YOU. Once we launch it… you can come home now.”

That to me is so funny. How can someone be so delusional about a game he is making.

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Alex Malone

Thanks for mentioning Ramin Shokrizade, I’d not come across him before but went off and read his work, very interesting stuff.

I definitely love his comments about MMORPGs being designed “Frankinstein style” and it is how I have been feeling for a very long time. With a lot of MMOs you can tell that the creative lead is actually quite one-dimensional – they’ve focused heavily on the story, or the world, or the combat, or dungeons. But, when it comes to the other systems, they appear fairly clueless.

This very often results in an MMO that just doesn’t mesh well – the various systems don’t support one another to create a well integrated world. You might have a great combat system, but nowhere to actually use it. You might have great crafting, but the loot drops in game make it pointless.

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rafael12104

So, the best video game quote, or in this case, clip just happened last night. Anybody that watched the Video Games Awards saw this little aside. A chance at humor, yes, but as Zach Levy repeats “you know it’s true.” He is not a dev, but he gets my vote and as many as I can spam.

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starbuck1771

Yeah another one of the developers of a game being done through EA said F their loot boxes. The guy is French.

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starbuck1771

https://youtu.be/XS-ojEEKrBA that’s the guy Josef Fares :P

cryinglightning39
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cryinglightning39

Yoshi-P is the man. He is much of what I love about Japan and the Japanese. On the other hand we have EA, much of what I hate about the US. EA, their PR, their business practices: nothing but lies and bullshit, just like our culture, our leaders.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

I love Yoshi-P too, but remember that EA is taking leftovers from Asia in general, where gacha is still king.

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Melissa McDonald

Uncalled for and unnecessary slam against the USA. If you think Japanese politicians and government and culture is saintly you’re quite wrong. Politics is power, nothing more.

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Armsbend

It’s the way a lot of people feel about the west right now. It is just manifested frustration.

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Sally Bowls

Lots of cool quotes and sentiments I share. I had not heard and love the CCP comment; it may be my favorite.

If not agree then I don’t dismiss the WG guy: if eSports gets to be large, if it gets to be near the size of NBA/NFL/FIFA/MLB/NHL then it is not unreasonable to assume “adults” are going to be able to make a real bet (not a Black Lion lootbox) on an OverWatch League match in the same locations/bookies as accept bets for NBA/NFL/FIFA/MLB/NHL. Gambling continues to be increasingly popular.

I strongly disagree with “They’re less willing to put up with these ambiguities,” Hell, the SC players put up with, and still fund, far, far, far more than a manager, publisher, stockholder, bank, or rational person would.

“Fatigue is exactly it; like Andrew, I want this to be a sign that studios understand the problem they’ve created and are working on course-correcting.” I want this to be true. My belief is that companies look at this situation and decide the risk/reward does not favor a new Western PC MMO. I think Funcom’s understanding of the problem is part of why we had the April 2nd article “FUNCOM ABDICATES THE MMORPG GENRE”

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Sally Bowls

Wow, the Elliot & Ion thing is getting so emotional, I think the logical answer is a made-for-Netflix buddy movie. Perhaps a remake of Midnight Run with Eliot, as the de Niro character, assigned by Bree to drive Ion from Irvine to PAX East.

I assumed Ion was referring to decisions made long ago, back when they did not have that much experience. Flying and archeology are common examples.

Although it could be a bit of Manager Speak: “My lovable predecessors made some noob mistakes, but fear not, Me The Brilliant is here to save the day.”

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imayb1

From Bree, I love the “Frankenstein style” quote. I really believe that one to be true. Games could take a lesson from TV; all those niche channels have dedicated audiences. One channels can’t mix a little Fox News here and a little LOGO network there, and a dollop of children’s programming and call it good. One conglomerate could run those three channels seperately, though. Similarly, I think games need to take a critical look at their combos and decide who they really want to participate.

From Elliot, the quote about expansions becoming unweildy is a concern I’ve been thinking about in terms of GW2. I enjoy having new things to explore, but the amount of maps is getting to be … a LOT. With daily zone achievement chores, do you have a character parked in each major zone or do you spend a bunch of coin to travel constantly? Of course, you can ignore chores and go have fun doing something else, but there are so many options, it’s tough to decide on a focus.

Finally, Justin’s quote from EA was the one I thought of when I saw this article’s title. I don’t think the “pride and accomplishment” spokesperson should be lauded in any way. That comment, with context, makes me really mad.

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Denice J. Cook

Wow! Great article!

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Sally Bowls

Yeah! did MOP do this last year? Or did all the “special” developers and their comments this year give them the idea?

Steely Bob
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Steely Bob

On the subject of Everquest 1 prog server issues, Holly Longdale said, “Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen…”

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Armsbend

Some good ones in there. Mine was from our analyst buddy Evan Wingren:
“Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.”

It took all of an hour for the internet to find out he was on EA investor calls.

There has to be quite a few more I’m sure. I knew this was gaming’s worst year circa July – but after the past month? It has far, far surpassed all expectations. No one is even arguing with me anymore it has gotten so bad.

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Sally Bowls

It took all of an hour for the internet to find out he was on EA investor calls.

What does the internet think this means??????? He is an employee of an investment firm paid to make estimates of EA earnings and stock. Like thirtyish other analysts doing the same thing for competing firms, he is on the conference call. I suspect many/most of the stock analysts covering EA are on the call, for the publicity if nothing else. He is not paid by EA. He almost certainly can’t own stock in EA. If EA makes an additional $200M, I can’t see how he makes an additional penny. He gets good reviews at his job by guessing/analyzing EA’s future more accurately than the others.

What is the deal here?

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Utakata

“What does the internet think this means??????? “

Why ask the internet? It looks like a “conflict of interest” duck. /quack

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Sally Bowls

How?

How could anyone who understands what a stock analyst and conference call are think that?

And why would people who don’t understand it comment on it?

And of course, it is counterproductive. A game senior exec can read this and go “wow, these kids are clueless” and dismiss their other opinions as well, not all of which are silly.

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Armsbend

You didn’t think it was curious that a man rushed to EA’s defense, in the innocuous guise as a “gamer” himself, give us reasons why EA is taking the smart road only to find his company likely has a position in EA – given their recent public ‘buy’ call – within 24 hours after the news broke?

It was a bad look. Putting out the fire so to speak. I frankly don’t care his intentions though. My pitchfork has been out quite some time but lately a crowd has been forming. I don’t care for the whys and hows. I’ve become petty, irrational and vengeful – at times just for amusement but never out of control – due to the void the gaming industry has left. Hopefully at their personal expense.

“A game senior exec can read this and go “wow, these kids are clueless”

Nary a day goes by where they don’t use this as a mantra in all of their business decisions. Nothing anyone could say would ever change that. Every game senior exec thinks very little of their customers. An adversary nothing more.

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Utakata

When one owns a stake into something that they’re making a favorable analyses for? Yeah, it quacks like one too. o.O

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Utakata

Edit/PS: Since my opponent in this debate is getting /upvoted by someone I usually respect. And post below which is making no sense to me in context this thread is getting /upvoted like it was going out of style….I am going to assume my pigtails took a wrong turn at Albuquerque somewhere down the conversation. And politely remove myself from before I get myself into more trouble. :(

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Bryan Correll

+1 for the wrong turn at Albuquerque.

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David Goodman

The internet loves a witch hunt, but they hate when anyone takes the witch’s side.

The internet is a fascinating place, and I absolutely loathe it. The worst kind of tribalism – not just in gaming, but everywhere.

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Armsbend

It has been a long time coming. It should have happened years ago. Smoldering ash is the only thing that should quench this particular hunt’s thirst. Fortune! The industry keeps stepping on their own dick day after day.

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Utakata

Off the top of my pigtails…

…for the best, it’s usually whatever Mark Jacobs posts here. For the worst, it’s usually whatever Derek Smart posts here. :(

As for Ms. Bree’s Gazillion quote, that should be made to fall under, “famous last words.” /sigh

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Gamers trust Yoshi because he took a turd and made it into to something like this:

comment image

I’ve been on a lot of creative teams over the last 50 years and there’s no doubt that excitement for an idea can outweigh practicalities and business judgment. If your team doesn’t have a leader who can say “no” in a positive way, you end up with poop chutes. And if you are that team leader, you end up hostile because you are overwhelmed.

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Vincent Clark

I think it helps Yoshi that he is first and foremost a gamer. A fan. He isn’t some suited exec with a microphone talking out of his ass trying to sell a product he himself would never play.

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Utakata

/Upvoting this, because those look delicious. <3

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Armsbend

A mildly appetizing but undercooked treat – in a pre-made, microwavable pastry crust. Not something you’d get in the car for, but if someone brought it to you, you’d eat one.

wpDiscuz