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What I'm Watching: The Mandalorian

Bored by real life, and all done with ACNH until construction finishes tomorrow morning… so I wanted to watch something stupid. Signed up for Disney+ trial, even tho I loathe Disney. Gotta remember to cancel this in a week, giving them money is evil.

And they still don't have the last movie yet! I'll have to acquire it by other means. So instead I watch The Mandalorian, but I wanted something even dumber than space-trucker-and-green-monkey.

The musical themes are very obviously "Ennio Morricone but crappy Casio synth and plastic didgeridoo". And all the fake sets look like they're copied from Sergio Leone movies, but Sergio filmed in real dusty badlands, real worn-out mountains, and real poor shithole villages. This is all greenscreen cartoons around the actors, and I don't know why they bother doing anything "real". It's instantly obvious whenever scenes are fake, so all CGI cartoon would've at least been consistent. Or alternately they could've shot in real places for 1% of what this show costs. I fucking hate looking at this.

Sound editing is awful. They shoulda put a mic under Nota Fett's ("Mando" isn't a name, it's like calling a Human "Humie", so I gave him a new name!) helmet, because he is really hard to hear. Good thing for subtitles. They could've just redubbed in studio because you can't see his lips move. Sometimes the sets are live miced, maybe, or the foley is good; other times it's very obvious everything was muted and bad foley was added. I've rarely seen B-movies with sound design this bad.

The "shiny Mandalorians are the best" premise conflicts with Boba Fett, greatest of the Mandalorian bounty hunters, who was painted over in sort of camouflage, battle-scarred green armor over tan fatigues. The helmet really didn't make a lot of sense, you can't possibly see much. Here, Nota Fett quickly gets paid in a couple pounds of shiny steel which is apparently all he wants, and his helmet is even more useless than Boba's. It's especially obvious whenever he pulls out the little telescope, he's got no peripheral vision, no sight lines up or down. He glitters wherever he walks. I know Boba Fett also wore a cape, but it's stupid. "NO CAPES, DAHLING!" as another Disney-owned show (well, that narrows it down) says.

That all said, I like the Armorer and the Mandalorian survivor culture they're showing here. This is actually kind of good Star Wars mythology. I just wish the guy'd get a paint job.

Wernor Herzog is always entertaining. His Rick & Morty appearance gave real gravitas to a dick joke. Here, "The Client" (seriously what is Favreau's problem with giving characters names?) is a smarmy ex-Imperial jackass with filthy Stormtroopers (it's so hard to take them seriously after 40 years of fans cosplaying in white armor), and a whipped dog "doctor".

Carl Weathers as the bounty hunter boss is kind of decent. He's not a good actor, and his not-good acting is all on display here, but it's a thin, slightly menacing role which the guy can pull off. He's also the only black man in the Galaxy. Every other face in this except some villagers in E4 are so white, that vanilla yoghurt gets nervous they're gonna race-war it.

The bounty mission is inane, everyone has a "fob" (what? it's a radio receiver but somehow tracks the target without a transmitter?), and a replacement IG-88 shows up. The droids are as usual played for comedy, which is fine, but "Initiating Self-Destruct Sequence!" over and over isn't funny. Once is funny enough. I half expect a laugh track every time the droids come on.

It eventually gets to a long fight scene, and it's… long. There's a lot of blaster fire to little effect, nobody except Nota Fett can aim. Kills that should be violent and bloody just have people fall down or disintegrate, because Disney wants little kiddies watching imitation spaghetti westerns I guess. I loathe this Disneyfied "clean violence" as if murdering a bunch of people is just sterile fun where they vanish when shot.

An entire scene beat is wasted on figuring out that the giant cannon just used to kill everyone can open a door, too; but that's how all the direction and editing on this goes, very slow, dumb, deliberate. It's a master class in how to lose momentum and my interest by pandering to the slowest-witted children in the audience.

Baby Yoda (never actually named, again) is, as we all know, absurdly cute. Well, all baby muppets are cute! They only turn weird and pervy when they get old.

I just realized. John Favreau heard Clint Eastwood's role called "The Man With No Name" and that's why he doesn't name anyone. Except Fakero never watched these films, or he'd know Clint's character just goes by a nickname of "Joe", "Manco", or "Blondie", but everyone else does have a name.

The shitty-ass Jawas field-stripping a starship are great, and the crawler's a great junkpile tank. They deserve disintegration, of course. But then they have a ridiculous quest for Nota Fett to get his parts back, and the stupid CGI rhino, and hairy egg, and first plot reveal of Baby Yoda's amazing powers we never suspected except of course it looks like Yoda so waving his hand at things gives him telekinesis. Yoda needed hundreds of years of Force sensitivity training, but the baby can do it in just 50 years.

Then he turns in the bounty, has the usual double-cross, triple-cross shootouts, and again I'm disappointed in the clean cartoony violence on top of a show premise that's pretty grimdark. Pick one or the other, this is weird and dissonant.

So finally the show's hit the main plot, presumably "Lone Wolf and Cub" crossed with "The Incredible Hulk", a powerful warrior with a baby going town to town solving local problems. E4 goes right into that, with a beloved peasant village being attacked by Space Orc raiders, mercenaries hired all "Seven Samurai" like. Hey, it's "Angrier Rosie O'Donnell" from Deadpool! She also can't act, but she's the best pro wrestler-turned-actor in years.

Except, they cast the raiders as non-Human, so is it morally justifiable to exterminate them all because they're raiders, or because you're committing xenocide against the Space Orcs? The great village battle is incredibly badly staged, just charging masses, no maneuvering, no cool samurai fights (nobody even has swords, just pointy sticks), and then it's over because the Space Orcs are all dead or scared.

Why were the Space Orcs here? What's their deal? Is this their native planet, that these Human assholes "colonized" and took? Nobody bothers to ask, or tell us even a comforting lie. They're just bad because they look different and steal so they can brew skooma or whatever it's called. Just like Native Americans were "redskin savages" in old westerns and it was Good and Right for honkie cowboys & cavalry to mass-murder them when they fought back, or when they didn't fight back.

The AT-ST artillery is slow and kind of useless, extremely vulnerable as always; Star Wars has no wheels, but they do have some tracked vehicles, imagine an AT-ST on tracks, they could call it a Tank and it wouldn't fall over. I do kind of like the grubby, poorly-maintained, "monster eyes" Space Orc owned look of the thing, and the irony of them using xenophobic Imperial gear.

Well. I might watch a few more of these before my trial ends, but I'm not expecting much good from them. They have no fight choreography, no dramatic sense, it's just recycled stories told badly by an idiot, and it's a moral void. Once in a while there's a scene that makes me go "hey, that was all right!", but it's rare.

I have zero problem with "go hunt down bail jumpers, dead, alive, or frozen" as a job. I love crime dramas where people get beaten or killed in lots of interesting ways. What I do object to is showing sterile violence where it's just fun to shoot people and then you never have to worry about it again, there's no conscience, no blood, nobody has families who miss them or swear vengeance. Zap, dead. I really have a problem with the open xenocide being practiced here.

★★☆☆☆

(And yes, I'm aware of my hypocrisy, in that some of my games have sort of cartoony genocidal combat, only a little blood and dialogue sometimes; but few antagonists in them are "people". Umbra had hostile survivors and insane cultists, and even then killing them lowered your sanity, and killing innocent Humans drove you insane. Perilar has Orcs as part of the Harbinger Lord's armies, which may be genocidal but it's a fair war. PortalWorlds openly casts you as the villain/antihero, a thief & murderer.)

What I'm Playing: Animal Crossing New Horizons

After 2 weeks of delay, my Switch Lite finally shipped. I should've got it earlier, I know, but there was nothing else I wanted.

The device is bigger than I expected, not easily pocketable (unless you wear a ScottEVest windbreaker with giant cargo pockets like I do), the screen's nice, the sticks are a little stiff and the D-pad's very stiff, but all those will loosen with use. Good but not best Nintendo quality hardware. Power brick is awkward, I ended up having to put it on an extension cord from my power strip. I haven't stress-tested battery life, but 1 hour of Animal Crossing = 10-15%, which means I need a recharge whenever I'm not using it.

There's no security to the device, AFAICT: I would like it to require a PIN to start, but instead it just makes you tap A three times and then anyone can play with it. At least I have my password on anything in the shop, but do not let anyone have physical access to your Switch!

I'm unpleased with the Switch UI, but that's true of most consoles. Half the time it's easier to tap on the screen than try to use the buttons to do anything. The main UI is fairly annoying: A single bar of games, sorted in order you last played. No way to pin "favorites" at the front. There's plenty of room to have a 2-high grid, but they don't. There's nothing like the Wii Weather & News apps, alas. Nintendo keeps having good ideas then giving up on them.

Note: I'm going to abbreviate all the Animal Crossing games: ACWW (Wild World, on the DS), ACPC (Pocket Camp, the mobile game), ACNH (New Horizons, on the Switch).

I did a digital purchase for ACNH, and it took a while to install but it's a straightforward process. And I got 300 "gold" on the eShop, which I used to buy Tetris, NES, SNES, a jigsaw puzzle, and a mini golf game, just to have something else in my game bar. The only other thing I'm really interested in is the new Clubhouse Games, coming in June. I have the old one on the DS, and it was a great pack of minigames, I'm expecting the new one to be even better.

So finally ACNH finishes downloading.

The avatar is still not a full Mii. I don't understand this; Nintendo has a perfectly nice, universal avatar-creation system. You can use it all over the UI. You can't use it in the damned games, you have to pick from a handful of potato-looking faces on a single head. My aquiline nose is reduced to a flat triangle. No beard. The only long hair either has bangs, or is wavy; so I went with that. It's better than earlier Animal Crossing games which lock you down to male or female, tiny set of very conservative Japanese hairdos, facial features chosen at random, but it's not good. Not every game has to be Second Life or Elder Scrolls with 100 sliders for lip twitch and eyebrow fluffiness, but the Mii editor is RIGHT THERE. LOUDEST DRAMATIC SIGH POSSIBLE.

I pick my island layout, which cuts off the north and east just like my old ACWW island, and name it the same, Yama (technically Naraka is more accurately the Buddhist underworld, but I prefer the shorter name of the lord of the dead; I've done the Kami/Yama thing in my videogame names for 35-40 years now). The downside of my layout is early game I only have 1/3 of the island accessible, until I get a vaulting pole, which hasn't happened on day one/night one. But later, I'll have splendid isolation for my base in the SE peninsula, put all the villagers & services in the noisy SW area, and my groves up in the north.

The buttons are never fully explained, at least not in the digital version:

L stick: Move
R stick: Shift camera up/down, left/right does nothing
A: Action
B: Cancel in menus, Run while moving
X: Inventory
Y: Take Item
D-Up: Unequip
D-Left: Prev Tool
D-Right: Next Tool
D-Down: Unequip
+: Confirm
-: Save & Quit
Left: —
Left Lower (LZ): Nookphone
Right: Chat
Right Lower (RZ): —
O: Camera
Home: Quit

If you were playing ACPC, then once you've linked your account, you can get access to a special store from the Nook terminal of several ACPC items. Linking instructions. I've so far only bought the Campsite sign and Market Square flags, but I might just get everything once I have the bells. ACPC also gets 50 leaf tickets, but I've quit cold turkey a couple weeks ago, it's over. Nintendo sent out a survey which basically asked if you were ever going to play ACPC again, and I said no. This is a little unfair, in that ACPC is a slightly entertaining Animal Crossing-themed game, it's not terrible, but it's not as good as having your own unique island, and all the furniture and clothing you can only get for paid currency leaf tickets in ACPC is annoying.

My starting animal friends are Diva (purple, elegant frog) and Lyman (green koala); Diva's OK, she was a regular in my campsite in ACPC, I don't know Lyman but he's been friendly and not too stupid. I know they've lightened up a lot of the animal personalities from the old games, so I keep expecting cruelty or idiocy and they don't do it. Still, I'm pining for some of my favorites like Bunnie, Fauna, Cherry, Tex, or even dumb jock Jay, I wish we got some choices here.

The Nook shop/Resident Services is your main HQ for a while. You need to turn in fish and bugs to Tom Nook until he calls Blathers over. Then you can sell everything, or stack it up outside your house to wait for the museum…

Timmy Nook buys and sells items; one thing I didn't realize early on was you can hit R on the buy list, and go from some crappy furniture (an oil drum and a water cooler, in my case) to a screen full of tools! Including the slingshot! I saw a balloon with a present first day and couldn't get it because I didn't have the slingshot yet! He also has several recipes, flower seeds, medicine, and such. That should be the front screen of this shop. I'm so mad at this UI now.

The "DIY For Beginners" recipe pack he sells includes Hay Bed, Stone Stool, Old-Fashioned Washtub, Frying Pan, Wooden-Block Toy, and Ocarina. To get into any furniture like the stool, you just walk into them, and can then rotate around with the stick. It takes a little getting used to, but my campsite's coming along; tho I'll have to move it soon.

Tommy Nook is useless so far, he tries to give advice but it's all pretty obvious.

Fishing is much easier than ACWW, not as trivial as ACPC. There's some aiming and luring skill needed, but not much. You can't apparently scare them off easily. Bug catching is about the same as ACWW, but you can't scare the bugs off as easily either; ACPC was savage in that, you'd walk by a bug you wanted and it'd vanish. Catching my first tarantula was a bit of a Most Dangerous Game hunt, but it didn't get me. The damned wasps got me twice on the first day, but then Diva gave me the Medicine recipe, so I won't have to pay for the stuff at least.

Crafting starts out with very limited recipes, nothing like the Minecraft grid where everything is possible if you have the materials. But turn in a few fish & bugs to Nook, talk to the animal friends, find bottles on the coast, or shake trees, and you'll find more.

Getting materials can be a little tricky at first. For instance, trees drop one branch on first shake, then often none for a few shakes, THEN they drop up to 9 more. So I spent one loop around the island getting only one branch per tree…

Inventory management is a serious pain, you can't move items between slots like Wild World, you have to drop items, then pick them up in the order you want. Every time I break a flimsy tool, I'm back to sorting inventory out. You also can't split stacks, except one at a time; if you want to keep 50 weeds but sell the rest, pound sand.

Of course Animal Crossing follows real time. You can lie about your time zone or change hemisphere, or "time travel" by screwing with the Switch's clock, but I'm not going to do that. Today is today. With my night/day schedule, I can see morning daylight when I'm about to hit the sack and do my final play of the day, and my wake-up/grind part of the day will mostly be at night, which works fine. Just make sure I keep a net ready at all times to catch tarantulas, because Animal Crossing tries to kill night owls.

I'll get my friend code tomorrow and post it in the next update, and in my About page.

To get photos off the Switch is kind of a pain in the ass. You can transfer them to microSD, do a hard shutdown (hold down "power" 10 seconds), move the SD to your computer, extract, put it back, power back on. UGH. Or spam them 4 at a time to Twitter or Fuckbook, so my post-syndication-only Twitter is now posting ACNH screenshots irregularly, enjoy.

Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying "System Reference Document"

4 months or more since announcement; for old Chaosium that would have been super fast, for "Moon Design sans Greg Stafford now doing business as the walking corpse of Chaosium" we don't know, they haven't shipped anything on a schedule before.

So, it's 23 pages, with 2 pages of license and an artless cover page. And no interior art except two colors of the conformance logo, which must be plastered on your book. The license isn't too different from the D20 SRD, except the massive list of "prohibited content".

The book is moderately useful mechanically, it's a quickstart version of BRP. They've eliminated characteristic/skill bonuses, and very few skills use characteristic bases. One of the nicer features of most D100 variants is either a skill category bonus from characteristics (say +1% to all Manipulation skills per CHA over 12), or direct characteristic base (Influence starts at CHAx2); in BRP SRD, Persuade starts at 15% whether you're a hideous slime beast or George Clooney.

There's a bunch of professions ranging from Cowboy to Warrior, with no theme or note about culture and era, none of which have magic. Equipment is mentioned, but there's no shopping lists for any period; very generic lists of weapons and armor ("Sword, Broad", "Pistol", "Pistol, Laser", etc; I thought I was terse!) are later given with no costs, and the armor uses the same craptastic fixed-defense mechanic as later-era Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest, rather than the die rolls that made Stormbringer, etc. combat dangerous.

BRP-SRD still has 4 almost totally disconnected task systems: Characteristic rolls, which are score x 5%, pass/fail; Skill Rolls with Critical, Special, Success, Fail, Fumble levels of success (Critical/Special used to be Impale/Critical? Or the other way around?); Skill vs Skill where levels of success are compared; and Resistance Rolls on a big table where characteristics are compared to get a % roll, which boils down to (Attack-Defense+10)x5%, pass/fail. Modern D100 games have simplified that down to just skill rolls and four levels of success, with specific resistance/characteristic test skills.

The classic skill-roll experience system is here, but it barely addresses over-100 skills, and has the classic "golf bag of weapons" flaw: No limit on how many skills can be improved, so everyone is encouraged to try every skill until they succeed once, then never do it again that session. Legend's Improvement Points mechanic somewhat fixes that, and certainly has much more serious over-100 skill rules, as well as paid training, time training, and improving characteristics. This is barely, minimally adequate to play a few sessions in, a campaign will be severely hamstrung.

Combat is minimalistic, with 2 pages of spot rules, heavily whitespace-padded. You don't technically need many rules to run D100 combat, you can make your own spot rules for most things. But there's no off-hand or dual-wield weapon use, for instance, and I like to fight Florentine or with a cloak in any medieval game. Everyone will have their own set of needs and the much longer section from most D100 games standardizes them.

There is no magic system at all, and they've forbidden use of any of the standard BRP systems of the last 45 years. OK, making a new magic system isn't that hard, but if you want it to be like Stormbringer, or Mythic Earth, or Magic World/Big Green Book BRP, you can't. You can't just pick this SRD up and have a usable game for any genre except mundane reality.

There's one animal stat block, and they've forbidden use of essentially any monster ever written because they forbid use of:

All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters, artwork, or trade dress from any of the following: any releases from the product lines of Call of Cthulhu, Dragon Lords of Melniboné, ElfQuest, Elric!, Hawkmoon, HeroQuest, Hero Wars, King Arthur Pendragon, Magic World, Nephilim, Prince Valiant, Ringworld, RuneQuest, 7th Sea, Stormbringer, Superworld, Thieves’ World, Worlds of Wonder, and any related sublines; the world and mythology of Glorantha; all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain; and all works related to Le Morte d’Arthur.

Well, that leaves… subtract nothin' from nothin', uh, nothin'. You could publish a game of normal people, possibly medieval peasants to 19th C, who never encounter any monsters except a Bear. They can't go insane, because that's owned by Call of Cthulhu. They can't fight demons or elementals, because those are owned by Stormbringer. They can't be knights errant because that steps on Pendragon and Prince Valiant. I'm not actually sure "Humans" are allowed by this license. Possibly change them to Care Bears Koala Friends to be safe from "DBA Chaosium"'s vampiric lawyers.

★☆☆☆☆ Too little, a decade too late. Not worth the cover price of "free".

OpenCthulhu (see my comments ), Legend, OpenQuest, Mythras, Delta Green, and other D100-systems are much more open, and provide much more material to start working from.

Ghosts V-VI

WEIRD TIMES INDEED…
AS THE NEWS SEEMS TO TURN EVER MORE GRIM BY THE HOUR, WE’VE FOUND OURSELVES VACILLATING WILDLY BETWEEN FEELING LIKE THERE MAY BE HOPE AT TIMES TO UTTER DESPAIR – OFTEN CHANGING MINUTE TO MINUTE. ALTHOUGH EACH OF US DEFINE OURSELVES AS ANTISOCIAL-TYPES WHO PREFER BEING ON OUR OWN, THIS SITUATION HAS REALLY MADE US APPRECIATE THE POWER AND NEED FOR CONNECTION.
MUSIC – WHETHER LISTENING TO IT, THINKING ABOUT IT OR CREATING IT – HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE THING THAT HELPED US GET THROUGH ANYTHING – GOOD OR BAD. WITH THAT IN MIND, WE DECIDED TO BURN THE MIDNIGHT OIL AND COMPLETE THESE NEW GHOSTS RECORDS AS A MEANS OF STAYING SOMEWHAT SANE.
GHOSTS V: TOGETHER IS FOR WHEN THINGS SEEM LIKE IT MIGHT ALL BE OKAY, AND GHOSTS VI: LOCUSTS… WELL, YOU’LL FIGURE IT OUT.
IT MADE US FEEL BETTER TO MAKE THESE AND IT FEELS GOOD TO SHARE THEM. MUSIC HAS ALWAYS HAD A WAY OF MAKING US FEEL A LITTLE LESS ALONE IN THE WORLD… AND HOPEFULLY IT DOES FOR YOU, TOO. REMEMBER, EVERYONE IS IN THIS THING TOGETHER AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AGAIN SOON.
BE SMART AND SAFE AND TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER.
WITH LOVE,
TRENT & ATTICUS

Serial Experiments: Lain

You know how so much of anime has a naïve teenage protagonist with a lot of school drama, who gets powers, and saves the world? Well, Lain starts there and then veers wildly off, into Internet Protocols, simulationism, UFO/Gaea/psionics conjectures, secret societies, radical home computer upgrades, and not only doesn't save the world but there may never have been a world to save. There's also a lot of really great music; the OST and Cyberia mixes are big parts of my Coding Soundtracks playlist.

Diaspora* (footnote missing)

So I see some "joindiaspora" articles. I'm bored and no longer frequent some techbro-heavy forums like h4xx0r n00z. Sure, let's see how to read it.

The asterisk in the name is going to drive me crazy. It's apparently not a footnote. I constantly look for a footnote when I see* after a word. 👀🗡🗡

joindiaspora.org has no register link, only a "Sign In". Ironically, you can join nothing from "joindiaspora". Going over to the diasporafoundation wiki (oh no), apparently there's "pod" servers? So it's like Fediverse but not connected? All the servers I click on just lead me to their Mastodon servers. I don't need another one. I gave up after 10 minutes.

After someone helpfully linked a more useful tutorial to me, apparently open servers do have a register link, so I searched some more, there are a few servers up and not on the far side of the world, so looks like my choices are FriendsMeet.win and bobspora.com; I feel like "Friends Meet, Win!" is some kind of Amway or EST cult for Windows users, so I pick Bob's Pora (wasn't that an Italian car?). None of these have any useful information on their front page, no "about this instance", no personality, no server policies, just the default frame. Many Mastodon servers are like that, too, but they usually show something of interest on their /about. May regret this. I really dislike giving admins I don't know power over my posting (thus the recent unpleasantness with the wannabe-dragon-fucker).

OK, so now the usual profile setup. There's a fancy hashtag editing interface, that you will never see again. It's not on the profile. The way you add hashtags to follow in the front page is totally different.

There's six feeds chosen on a sidebar (which doesn't stay pinned to top, so it's a total pain in the ass to scroll down, then scroll back up to change):

  1. Stream: "posts made by your contacts; public posts made containing you follow; posts that @mention you; posts from the “Community spotlight,” if your pod has enabled this feature (see Part 7)." which seems entirely to be the pod's sysadmin for me.
  2. My Activity: Narcissus would be proud.
  3. @ Mentions: More me me me.
  4. My Aspects: Checklist of Family, Friends, Work, Acquaintances, which I suppose lets you post more "privately" but not really. Just like Facebook. 100% like Facebook.
  5. # Followed Tags: Something useful, and does show people off the current instance. I've immediately had to go block a bunch of spambots, because I couldn't see the Humans, if any, for all the bots.
  6. Public Activity: The public firehose. Or garden hose on trickle, anyway, I see a couple posts a minute, it's not like mastodon.social's public timeline which is very hard to stop and read.

Very very Facebook-like, really. I dunno what hashtags I need to follow to see more interesting technical or whatever conversations, guess I have to lurk Public until I see one, then add that? Ugh. I'd like it to find my fediverse or old twitter friends, but there's no obvious contact searcher. There's a Twitter connect, but it wants total account permissions in order to crosspost, which is insane.

Editing in it has Markdown, but no custom emoticons, and it's kind of annoying, again very Facebook-like.

Anyway, I'm mdhughes@bobspora.com for now, dunno if I'll hook up a crossposter or what.

PortalWorlds Progress

  • PortalWorlds 0.9 on mysticdungeon.club

  • 2020-03-18:

    • Mob names
    • Boss monsters (only ones with a nametag, and much tougher than the rest of the level)
  • 2020-03-17:
    • Structures: circle tower, box tower, campsite
  • 2020-03-16:
    • All levels are solveable
    • Map indicates map name and row/column of player

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