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PC Gamer - Hands on Preview

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Posted

Ubisoft have just announced Ghost Recon Online, a free-to-play multiplayer game in their near-future combat series. I had the chance to play it at their offices in Paris earlier this month, and it’s surprisingly good.

I say ‘surprisingly’ because free-to-play can sometimes mean cheap. Ubisoft have been working on GRO for 2 years, and it feels like a proper shooter – in fact it’s remarkably slick. The visual fidelity is intentionally a notch below stuff like Crysis, to let it run on a wide range of systems, but the movement and shooting are satisfying. It feels to me like the halfway point between Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2: a modern-day military setting, but with classes based around unique and crazy abilities. But unlike either of those games, it’s also cover-based, and stays in third person until you aim down your sights.

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Posted

Sounds dreadful.

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Posted (edited)

its a free to play shooter, probably with the Korean cliché micro transaction system in addition to in game currency, correct me if im wrong but first impressions i see that its like a third person combat arms with current gen graphics, it should be fun and ubi can lay down the law for all the hacking

Edited by CanucksFAN911

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its a free to play shooter, probably with the Korean cliché micro transaction system in addition to in game currency, correct me if im wrong but first impressions i see that its like a third person combat arms with current gen graphics, it should be fun and ubi can law down the law for all the hacking

You got that right! =) Glad you made it to the forums CanucksFAN911

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Posted

thanks lol

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Posted (edited)

GR Online sounds horrible, in my opinion. I'm not sure which made the game sound worse to me, the PCG hands-on, or the Theo Sanders interview. Let me provide a few examples, first from the interview:

We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.

How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.

During our earlier experiments with more open-ended maps, we had a much more run & gun flavor of game play that just didn’t feel right. Part of the problem is the player’s expectation of a moderate amount of safety when they use cover. If you’re consistently getting shot from behind, while in cover, you quickly stop using it.

Someone should be watching your flanks and your rear. That someone should be one of your teammates. With an 8-man team as described by Mr. Sanders, clearly there are enough people to have someone watching your back. 360 security is called 360 security for a reason. If players are that horrible that they can't even coordinate security, then they need to be shot.

To be frank, when we started the GRO development, we weren’t convinced we could get away with third person. However, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted the game to ultimately feel like and, on paper, third person had a lot to offer to achieve that flow. The problem was – it has never been done very well on PC (especially multiplayer).

No, 3rd person hasn't ever been done very well, at least not by UbiSoft. Suddenly, after ten years of destroying Tom Clancy titles left and right, UbiSoft has gotten it right? Yes, and Conan O'Brien's hair no longer looks stupid. Er....

Jumping back to the PC Gamer hands-on:

The cover system is surprisingly good – you see a highlight on the patch of wall you’ll hug, then press the cover key to move to it. If you then hit ‘Aim’, you can peer round bit by bit in first-person, so you only expose as much of yourself as you need to.

Where have I seen this before? Oh, I know! The diarrheal abyss of a title known as Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. UbiSoft did the same thing in that game: They forced you into head-on confrontations with the AI enemies, where you essentially used the cover system and slugged it out with the enemy while trying to figure out how to outflank them. In the process, sometimes you had no choice but to get shot X number of times. The only thing memorable about R6V:2 is how bad it was. I can only surmise that if GR Online plays anything like R6:V2, then it'll be just as forgettable.

Two things really impressed me about the way abilities work in GRO. One, that Assault shield-charge is immediately fun. The previously vicious kill zone becomes a hilarious playground with you as the bully, smacking people down as they try to scramble away from you. If you stop to finish one off, that’s the end of your charge. But if you have a team-mate covering you, you can keep bashing people while your friend finishes them off.

So, the Ghost Recon series has gone from a tactical, thinking-man's shooter, to a futuristic "Oh, look at the pretty lights!" shooter, to a "Rawr! Hulk Smash!" shooter where you take a riot shield and pummel everything you see. Right. Got it. Funny, when I read "tactical combat puzzle" in the interview, I wasn't thinking of charging through enemy lines with a riot shield. Maybe "tactical" means something else at UbiSoft.

You unlock new weapons, upgrades and abilities as you play, but not necessarily for cash. Senior producer Hugues Ricour says “a player that decides to never pay can have the full game and the complete experience. We don’t want a paying user to have a competitive advantage.” You don’t buy weapons earlier than you’d normally earn them, but you can buy consumables like grenades. Ricour says the other stuff you can spend money on includes new uniforms, special ammo, armour boosts and extra inventory space to store this stuff.

Here, we have yet another gem where someone from UbiSoft is saying two things - one out of each side of his mouth. First, he says that they don't want paying users to have a competitive advantage. Then, he says you can buy consumables like grenades. It's good to know that those extra grenades won't give the other guy an advantage over me. Perhaps when they detonate, said grenades will pepper the air with confetti that spells "I used my mommy's credit card to buy this!" instead of peppering my character with shrapnel. Awesome. Also, it's good to know that special ammo and armor boosts won't give the enemy an advantage over me, either. Perhaps the armor boost will just flash a screen message to the wearer proclaiming "You are being shot! Move, you idiot!" that I wouldn't get on my screen, since I haven't shelled out for the awesome armor. It's refreshing to know that the armor boost won't ... you know ... make the guy harder to kill, thus giving him an advantage over me.

I have to admit I was pretty sceptical about a free-to-play Ghost Recon. I was imagining a drearily realistic online shooter with a bare-minimum design philosophy

Drearily realistic sounds much better than some fool with a riot shield shouting Leroy Jenkins as he charges the enemy and I crouch down behind cover and wait for the "I don't know what this class does" specialist to sneak up on us and kill us. Drearily realistic also sounds a lot like Ghost Recon. While it wasn't that "realistic", in many ways, Ghost Recon was - and is - a much better game than anything else to come out of the rectal regions of UbiSoft. I can't see this title being any better than RS:V2, except that this time, we know it's coming. That's more than I can say for some of UbiSoft's other diarrheal encounters.

Edited by Parabellum

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Posted

:rofl:

Brilliant post, Parabellum. Simply brilliant.

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Posted

I agree about Para's post. Inspired :thumbsup:

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Posted

We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.

How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.

I know that you wanted to criticize the awful trend of on-rails shooters, but you have to recognize that the real art of video games is in the selection of means to interact with the environment. Put another way, the environmental designer is tasked with producing a setting that remains interesting even when mediated by a limited set of permissible interactions. Ghost Recon does not provide total freedom of interactions. You are limited to walking around things, shooting at things, or dropping objects next to things. In that sense, their gameplay design is more expansive than your ideal because now you can gain another set of interactions (or more conservatively, you get different versions of the original interactions) while still allowing the original interactions. Honestly, I wish Ghost Recon had a more robust cover system, because it seems a little silly to me that basic cover interactions have to be so error prone. I don't like approaching a corner, pressing the lean key, discovering that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking a little bit farther over, pressing the lean key again, discovering (again) that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking further still, having the enemy spot my shoulder as it comes around the corner although my vision without lean is still blocked by the wall I'm attempting to lean out from, and promptly being shot in the face when I lean out and finally see past the corner.

As for the rest of the post, tactics in the real world typically reduce to finding ways to suppress and outflank your opponents, and Ghost Recon modeled that especially well despite its now-apparent shortcomings in its cover system. Thus, if Ubi observed that most fun part is that cover battle, and made their interaction option choices so as to encourage that, then good for them for finding a way to force the fun sequence in a way that is authentic, rather than implementing some ridiculous, unrealistic system (or as is often the case, writing a two-sentence suggestion in the manual) that forces the player to do so in a way that reminds the player that they are, in fact, playing a game.

I'm still not impressed with the description of the game (seriously, Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2? And its still called Ghost Recon? Ugh!), but I think you're throwing bile without really considering your words first.

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Posted

You're making a good point on cover system vs. lean, petsfed. Both options have their advantages and shortcomings, and the debate about their pros and cons has been going on for some time. In the end it's the implementation that matters, and as has been stated in the Theo Sanders interview, we might be in for a positive surprise here.

What is so disturbing is the way Ubisoft and PC Gamer try to sell some of the design decisions, and that is one aspect Parabellum has criticized quite eloquently. And as you noted yourself in your last paragraph, calling the game Ghost Recon keeps striking a very sensitive nerve with many fans.

As I said before, I think Ubisoft would be wise to reconsider slapping the GR label on everything. If I encountered this game under any other name I would simply view it as an interesting addition to the shooter genre. Trying to carry the heavy weight of the legendary Ghost Recon on its narrow shoulders is what drags it down in my opinion.

But maybe it's time to get used to the idea that the series irreversibly expands into new directions. It would of course be nice to see it find its way back to its roots one day, but in the meantime we should at least welcome the fact that any new Ghost Recon game also introduces new gamers to the series. Who knows, maybe the players of the new games also turn into fans of old-school GR one day, and that wouldn't be a bad development at all.

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Posted

We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.

How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.

I know that you wanted to criticize the awful trend of on-rails shooters, but you have to recognize that the real art of video games is in the selection of means to interact with the environment. Put another way, the environmental designer is tasked with producing a setting that remains interesting even when mediated by a limited set of permissible interactions. Ghost Recon does not provide total freedom of interactions. You are limited to walking around things, shooting at things, or dropping objects next to things. In that sense, their gameplay design is more expansive than your ideal because now you can gain another set of interactions (or more conservatively, you get different versions of the original interactions) while still allowing the original interactions. Honestly, I wish Ghost Recon had a more robust cover system, because it seems a little silly to me that basic cover interactions have to be so error prone. I don't like approaching a corner, pressing the lean key, discovering that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking a little bit farther over, pressing the lean key again, discovering (again) that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking further still, having the enemy spot my shoulder as it comes around the corner although my vision without lean is still blocked by the wall I'm attempting to lean out from, and promptly being shot in the face when I lean out and finally see past the corner.

As for the rest of the post, tactics in the real world typically reduce to finding ways to suppress and outflank your opponents, and Ghost Recon modeled that especially well despite its now-apparent shortcomings in its cover system. Thus, if Ubi observed that most fun part is that cover battle, and made their interaction option choices so as to encourage that, then good for them for finding a way to force the fun sequence in a way that is authentic, rather than implementing some ridiculous, unrealistic system (or as is often the case, writing a two-sentence suggestion in the manual) that forces the player to do so in a way that reminds the player that they are, in fact, playing a game.

I'm still not impressed with the description of the game (seriously, Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2? And its still called Ghost Recon? Ugh!), but I think you're throwing bile without really considering your words first.

We can agree to disagree, my friend. I chose my words carefully. :) UbiSoft has a long history of making crappy, linear, arcade shooters, slapping "Rainbow Six" or "Ghost Recon" on them, and calling them good. GRAW 2, Lockdown, and R6:V2 were some of the worst shooters that I have ever played, for instance. The company is, in my opinion, incapable of making a game that's not a linear, arcade shooter.

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Posted

Another Ghost Recon Title, another title without an injury model. Bleh.

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Personally, I would've hammered on the outright admission of making linear maps (as in the Theo Sanders interview) first, rather than the cover system. I habitually quote the relevant part of people's posts to isolate particular points that I want to reply to, and I think your choice of quote was what misled me.

I think its a dramatic misstep on their part to produce a specifically multiplayer game that, by their own admission, is terribly linear. If every game plays out the same way every time, it gets boring, fast. Its why Rainbow Six and subsequently Ghost Recon did so well: there was a lot of latitude even when doing everything right. I still enjoy crafting the perfect plan for every possible random tango placement in Raven Shield, and I'll bet my perfect plans are considerably different from others. I find, while seeking out the best possible route through a GRAW map, that there isn't as much variation. This "metagame" is what strategy guides exist to explain, and a game designer that fails to consider that metagame under the belief that they are giving the player freedom will find that the most competitive players will always find ways to use the designed in limitations to their advantage. For instance, in GRAW, I would neurotically reload well before empty because there was no real reason not to. When GRAW2 came out and I couldn't nick mags off of dead rebels, I went back to my habits from OGR and RVS, which was reload only when I was actually low and use single-shot a lot more because I didn't have the ammo to waste. Once I noticed that I could pick up ammo in GRAW, my gameplay style changed, drastically. The easier it is to master the metagame, the sooner it will become boring or frustrating.

Sure, a lot of people got to be really good at OGR, but actually mastering the metagame proved nigh-on-impossible, which is the main reason we're all still here.

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Posted

Hey all,

First off I just want to say "thanks". I take the issues you guys are airing to heart, even the really critical ones, and we're humble enough to realize the onus is on us to prove - and not on the community to simply accept - that the game mechanics in conjunction with level design create a tactical, teamplay-oriented game rather than a shoot 'em up.

I won't try and convince anyone otherwise at this point. But will say that, as the beta opens up and people have actually played the game, I'll be listening closely to hear if people still have these same fundamental concerns. I'm not expecting we'll get it perfectly right on the first try, but the whole idea of an online game is that it can evolve with the community's feedback.

What I would like to reflect on, however, is more generally how game mechanics interplay with level design, with each other, and with a hundred other things to culminate in the final flow & feel of a game.

In other words, whether a level is somewhat linear or whether it's an open spaghetti-web design by itself doesn't mean much. In both cases, you could have gameplay that is either very tactical or very arcade-like. The same is true for whether or not gameplay is inherently dynamic or whether almost every game feels repetitive in flow.

What I'm getting at it is very rarely possible to make deterministic decisions about gameplay, flow, and feel from any kind of Recipe-approach to game mechanics. E.g. "I want variety in my game. So, I'll make my maps open. Check & done." I wish it was true, because our lives as developers would be a hell of a lot simpler :) But frankly - development is a highly iterative process. You try, you fail, and you try again until you get it right. The most subtle adjustment to any game mechanic (let's say running speed) will dramatically, and completely change the feel of a game.

What we zoomed in on with GRO is finding a set of mix of all these mechanics and other choices that ultimately achieve a few things we considered core to the franchise: 1) rewarding thinking before acting. 2) rewarding tactical play, 3) an emphasis on the value of Intel, 4) getting away from a run 'n gun style action shooter (of which we think there enough out there already), and 5) having a dynamic game (the person posting about meta-gaming is exactly right).

Not everyone will like every choice of mechanic, but I hope you guys will come around on some of the specific ones after you play. But if not, we’ll be listening.

Thanks,

-- Theo

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Welcome to the forums, Theo!

First of all, you personally facing the storm here at GR.net instantly earns you the title "Ubisoft Developer of the Year" in my book. Before I can begin to address your thoughts on game mechanics etc. I have the fundamental need to express my deepest gratitude for this mere effort alone. You have no idea how many times I wished that someone at the development helm of Ubisoft would finally take it upon himself to face the music like this, and I'm pretty sure that many in the GR fan community feel the same way.

Moreover, that you acknowledge the need for Ubisoft to put their money where their mouth is for once, is an altogether flabbergastingly impressive experience. We've had (more than) our fair share of PR lingo dumped on us in the past, without any facts backing up the claims, so for you to admit to the obligation of convincing us earns you my additional respect.

Kudos, Theo! May the dialogue be a productive one!

Cheers,

Apex

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Thanks Apex, I appreciate that. I'll try to pop in here now and then to post on a few topics, and a little later (once they can come up for air from shipping the beta) will be joined by some of the other developers for more specific topics. But for now, all of us reading are these forums and others frequently. The really interesting conversations between dev & the community will start in earnest once we're in live beta :)

My own take is that, while its healthy for developers and the community to, you know, talk to each other - the real result both sides will be looking for is a better game and service that results from it.

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Posted

I can't believe my prayers have been answered!

Theo, Welcome to our little slice of the net. Please make us a game we can finally rally behind once again.

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I won't try and convince anyone otherwise at this point. But will say that, as the beta opens up and people have actually played the game, I'll be listening closely to hear if people still have these same fundamental concerns. I'm not expecting we'll get it perfectly right on the first try, but the whole idea of an online game is that it can evolve with the community's feedback.

In other words, whether a level is somewhat linear or whether it's an open spaghetti-web design by itself doesn't mean much. In both cases, you could have gameplay that is either very tactical or very arcade-like. The same is true for whether or not gameplay is inherently dynamic or whether almost every game feels repetitive in flow.

-- Theo

Firstly I don't want to be a dick. You as a developer have the right to make a game that you feel fits the criteria set out by the publishers. We as purchasers have no right to demand you and your team limit your creativity in the design of the game. We either spend money on the game or we dont. Just because we loved the original game that the franchise was built doesn't mean we can dictate what each new game in the franchise will be, especially when that new game follows a different financial model.

Saying that, as a avid gamer of many different titles and genres I believe your statement seperating tactical and arcade like gaming is wrong. Plenty of games are very run and gun arcade orientated affairs. A perfect example is HALO. Masterfully tactical open game but very much in the hyper run and gun segment. You might say that I have read your post wrong and that you meant that you were referring primarily to linearity verus openiness and how they relate to gameplay. Even at that I feel ( rightly or wrongly ) that tactical, in the ghost recon sense, essentially relies on choice of movement. Movement of yourself and your team in a set space. The more space the more tactical. The problem alot of developers have had in recent years making Ghost Recon titles is that they have a different view on what tactical actually means.

I had a long running discussion/argument with the Xbox 360 GRAW 1/2 developers on this issue, specifically with relation to the siege gametype. I argued that their approach of putting spawns/bases in easily defended corners of the maps made the game too predictable and repeatitive. I understood their point that their approach made playtesting easier, which they believed made the game better. I still believe that I was right and one of the developers ( semi ) agreed with me. Putting the ( defensive ) bases in the middle of the map and having random offensive spawns in the corners would have prolonged gameplay. Online gameplay is an interactive media. The more randominess in the gameplay, the more interesting and prolonged the experience will be for the user.

Im not haing a go, just giving my opinion. I greatly respect your decision to listen to users and improve the game ( after all iteriation is the basis of all good software) but by using linear maps from the get go I believe you are removing a very important layer that would increase the playability ( and hence profitability ) of the game. A layer that other randomising mechanics might not be able compensate for.

Anyway I appreciate you coming on here and I wish you good luck with the game.

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Posted

Welcome, Theo!

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i suppose, no one will really know how the game is until you try the game in the first place, lets face it, there is no money wasted as it's free, does anyone not agree?

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What I'm getting at it is very rarely possible to make deterministic decisions about gameplay, flow, and feel from any kind of Recipe-approach to game mechanics. E.g. "I want variety in my game. So, I'll make my maps open. Check & done." I wish it was true, because our lives as developers would be a hell of a lot simpler :) But frankly - development is a highly iterative process. You try, you fail, and you try again until you get it right. The most subtle adjustment to any game mechanic (let's say running speed) will dramatically, and completely change the feel of a game.

What we zoomed in on with GRO is finding a set of mix of all these mechanics and other choices that ultimately achieve a few things we considered core to the franchise: 1) rewarding thinking before acting. 2) rewarding tactical play, 3) an emphasis on the value of Intel, 4) getting away from a run 'n gun style action shooter (of which we think there enough out there already), and 5) having a dynamic game (the person posting about meta-gaming is exactly right).

This I understand all too well. On top of a host of other obligations, I'm a route setter at a climbing gym. While it is the case that I can (and often do) bolt the holds to the wall in such a way that there are dozens of possible ways to climb my route, ultimately, such routes are easy and boring. Easy is not necessarily a bad thing, but boring most assuredly is. So in a subtractive fashion, I refine the route until there are fewer possible ways to climb it, and the climber is challenged to decipher the sequence. Fail to do so, and they fail. Note, however, that if I make the sequence too hard, too height dependent, too difficult to decipher, or too exacting, people will never succeed on it, and therefore won't enjoy themselves on it. Part of the challenge of, say, Battletoads was in finding the exact right sequence and doing it perfectly. Unfortunately, that stopped a lot of people cold. This is the challenge of the interactive artist: to make the game hard enough to be interesting, but easy enough and open enough that it doesn't feel like a repetitive job. Sometimes that comes out in playtesting, but you have to include not just testers who share in the design philosophy behind the game, but also testers who couldn't care less about what the designer intended. I run into this all the time as a setter, and for the first day or so after I've set a route, I watch people climb it, see where they struggle, ask their opinion on the difficulty, then I go back and revise the route either to add bits to force a certain sequence, or to encourage a better, more enjoyable sequence that I didn't see. That's beta testing in a nut shell. It takes a lot to train in a new habit, and if vestigial elements of old habits remain, that just makes things harder.

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Welcome to the forums, Theo!

First of all, you personally facing the storm here at GR.net instantly earns you the title "Ubisoft Developer of the Year" in my book. Before I can begin to address your thoughts on game mechanics etc. I have the fundamental need to express my deepest gratitude for this mere effort alone. You have no idea how many times I wished that someone at the development helm of Ubisoft would finally take it upon himself to face the music like this, and I'm pretty sure that many in the GR fan community feel the same way.

Moreover, that you acknowledge the need for Ubisoft to put their money where their mouth is for once, is an altogether flabbergastingly impressive experience. We've had (more than) our fair share of PR lingo dumped on us in the past, without any facts backing up the claims, so for you to admit to the obligation of convincing us earns you my additional respect.

Kudos, Theo! May the dialogue be a productive one!

Cheers,

Apex

Very much agreed, Apex. Welcome to GR.net, Theo.

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Theo- Welcome to GR.net Cant wait for the game Keep us posted

Gleen

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