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ErikH2000
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icon The Portal Formerly Known As... (+3)  
Several months ago, I'm sitting in a cafe in Eugene, Oregon and having a really hard time remembering to eat the grilled tuna sandwich I ordered. My mouth is opening more often to ask questions than to put food in it.

"So this thing sounds kinda like... uh... GameTap?" I say.

Jeff Tunnel quickly disagrees. It is nothing like GameTap. At another point in the conversation, he grudgingly grants that I could refer to it as a "portal", but that's like calling the Mona Lisa an accumulation of dried paint. It's safest to just call the damned thing "InstantAction", and Jeff wants Caravel to give him a game to put on InstantAction.

We leave my cold, half-eaten sandwich and head over to GarageGames world headquarters, which, true to their name, does have something like a garage in it--a cement-floored, high-ceilinged chamber which probably served as a loading bay for the last tenants. I get a quick tour of the place, and count lots of college-age hipsters bustling around. There are people working on games and people working on websites and people working on marketing and accounting and ordering up rolls of toilet paper to stock the restrooms. You can't quite think of these guys as "indie", especially now that they've been bought up by IAC, which also owns businesses like Ticketmaster and Match.com. The scene looks like a proper company diligently going about its business with enough money to avoid cutting corners. As it should be.

I set up my laptop to pitch a few game ideas. First, I launch DROD RPG, which is Mike's baby, a resource management puzzler inspired by the unexpectedly wonderful Tower of the Sorcerer. And Mike's not here, so I feel extra-obligated to show DROD RPG in the best possible light. I explain that even though they are seeing a lot of familiar elements on the screen that look like an almost-too-ordinary RPG, the real genius to the game is in the unique play mechanics. They are underwhelmed. I feel like they don't understand the game, but the valid point is made that someone playing a demo of the game is going to suffer from the same short attention span and lack of understanding. If I can't grab their interest in a 5-minute explanation-accompanied demonstration, then why should I expect the game to fare any better in the harsh marketplace?

Fine, fine, let's just move on to the next game, which I call "Mister Slam". I show them a prototype I built up in Torque Game Builder for Mister Slam. It's a bit like DROD, with the same stepping controls. But your main character has no sword. He attacks enemies by slamming into them, which sends them hurtling across the room in a satisfying way. If you can remember the scene in Matrix Reloaded where Neo fights hundreds of Agent Smiths, you get an idea of what the game is like. Little men swarm around you. You knock them away. They stand right back up and march towards you again.

The GG guys kinda like Mister Slam, but honestly, what they really want is DROD. That was what they brought me here for.

So we talk about DROD, and a few months later, with more conversations, what came out of it is a game called "Frogs and Mice".

Frogs and Mice

Remember how I said in that arrogant, elitist way that DROD: The City Beneath is not really for new DROD players? Well, Frogs and Mice goes the other way. It is not a game for existing DROD players. I'm not saying you won't enjoy it when you play it, but we aren't going to make any compromises to make you happy. This game is all about bringing in the newbies.

Frogs and Mice is not set in the Eighth, and it is not technically a "DROD" game. But it's got a dude with a sword, killing enemies and solving puzzles in exactly the same way Beethro does. The game will be rethemed to follow the ancient fable of The Battle of Frogs and Mice. Most of the changes you see will be graphical. Your main character will be a mouse. An evil eye becomes a sleeping rabbit. A brain becomes a frog captain.

There will also be some new game elements. For example, some levels will have an interesting "stealth" style of play. Cosmetically, the game will have some nice improvements like fully animated sprites.

Frogs and Mice will be released exclusively with GarageGames. It won't appear on our website--at least not initially. Now at first glance that sounds kind of sucky, but here's the whole story:

* Purposefully, I rethemed the game so it didn't have the DROD name or story in it. The home for DROD isn't going anyplace. I had no interest in exclusively releasing a DROD game anyplace other than caravelgames.com.

* The source code for Frogs and Mice is the same source code for DROD. We are basically building version 3.5 of the DROD engine with this project. Upcoming Smitemaster's Selections will feature new game elements developed for Frogs and Mice. A little further down the road, I can see us beefing up the graphics inside of DROD with fully-animated sprites for Beethro, his friends, and his enemies.

* Frogs and Mice players are going to finish that game and look around for something similar to try. DROD and CaravelNet will be waiting for them. So this will be a great way to gain new DROD players.

* I won't go into details of our agreement with Garage Games, but one thing is certain: we will make money. In fact, we are getting dangerously close to putting Mike or I on full-time Caravel work. (Shhh! Don't tell my day job boss.) If we can reach that point it will mean even more Caravel games getting made, like DROD RPG, Mister Slam, and many others from the beautiful heap of unstarted projects Mike and I have piled up.

If the Eighth Had a Newspaper

"The Eighth" is what we call the world of DROD. Its where Beethro lives, and probably where some people on the Caravel Forum would like to live, but as far as I can tell, noboby's found their way there yet. Suppose you were in charge of a newspaper distributed across the Eighth--what would it look like? This is a great contest for the creative types out there. And if you win, you get a prize. Which prize? There's a whole fracking pile of stuff to choose from, actually--books, computer games, mousepads. So swing by and check the contest out!

Contest info

Smitemaster's Selections Revitalized

Just because you do not see us talking about Smitemaster's Selections doesn't mean stuff isn't happening with them. Oh, ye of little faith. Okay, we haven't mentioned them for a long time, and some people maybe don't even know what they are at this point.

Smitemaster's Selections are level collections (holds) created by authors inside the DROD community but produced by Caravel. We notice that someone in the civilian population makes a really great hold. Then we invite that person to work on it with Caravel to add canonical DROD story and voice acting. After the hold goes through our process, the result is a high-quality puzzle-solving experience for everyone to enjoy. We stamp "Smitemaster's Selection" on the thing, and sell it like an expansion pack for DROD.

One of the interesting aspects of Smitemaster's Selections is that we get to deputize somebody from the player community. So in theory, you, the reader could be working with Caravel, combining your creativity with ours to release something really cool.

The Smitemaster's Selection process has been revamped a little. Now every hold that is submitted for publishing on our site that meets the minimum requirements for a Smitemaster's Selection will be put under review. If there is something really good out there, we won't overlook it. In fact, we have two Smitemaster's Selection nominees under review now. I'll post more about them later.

Would you like to know more about how to become a Smitemaster's Selection author? I wrote up (probably) everything you need to know at the URL below:

Smitemaster's Selection FAQ

Tim's Topic Picks

Tim would feel very bad if you did not know about these recent posts on the Caravel Forum. Very, very bad.

Latest patches of TCB
Warning: read the instructions and backup all files first before patching!
(Windows, 3.1.0.54 Official patch)
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=15530
(Linux, 3.1.0.54 RC patch)
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=17837
(OS/X, 3.1.0 demo - testers needed)
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=6184&page=4#214480

The Infested Castle, The Goblin, A Slayers Weakness, Maze Nineteen,
Below Witherwood

These are the holds released since the last Illumination list.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewboard.php?BoardID=11

Missing DROD Monster Reference
Interested to complete the Monster Reference? We are looking for you!
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=18504

The Fourth Annual People's Choice Awards
You have until November 15th to submit nominations for the "Deadlies"!
(Info) http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=18249
(Nominations) http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=18269

Wonderquest Subforum: French translation of Wonderquest
A French version of Wonderquest is available here.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=18326

DROD Halloween 2007
Our great friend Clayton has created another great DROD art for Halloween.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=18482

Remember to keep your swords sheathed in mixed company, my friends.

-Erik

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[Last edited by mrimer at 05-18-2008 05:27 AM]
11-12-2007 at 12:27 AM
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Ezlo
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That is some fantastic good news! :thumbsup I hope you guys make LOTS of money with this!
11-12-2007 at 01:04 AM
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NiroZ
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hmmm, Mister Slam wouldn't actually be too bad as a monster in DROD. Provided that monsters it slammed towards Beethro well, stretched a little.

This frog & mice thing does look promising, if only as a way to be able to sample features in another game.

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11-12-2007 at 01:31 AM
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zex20913
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Looks like the Basement is annexing a Garage.

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11-12-2007 at 01:54 AM
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ErikH2000
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I forgot to post this. There are some early examples of for Frogs and Mice graphics at...

http://brettboyette.com/

See gallery and animations sections. Brett is the artist that is working with me in Seattle.

-Erik

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11-12-2007 at 02:13 AM
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coppro
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Cool! I'd love to see these new elements, though I don't know think I'll actually end up buying. I can't wait for the additions to reciprocate into DROD! Hopefully, we'll get to see this soon.

Also, just out of curiosity, will the newly improved engine be released under the MPL at some point prior to the release of the SMS that implements the new features? Doing so would mean that an SMS designer could know what element was coming, and possibly build around it (perhaps in F&M itself?). Lack of graphics would not be a concern (to me, anyway).

Also, I got exactly 1 email.
11-12-2007 at 02:40 AM
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calamarain
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The changes to the SmS process are interesting. It means that the creation of SmS holds will be a lot more streamlined, as we'll have a group of talented architects looking over every single hold, and picking out the cream of the crop.

The only downside is really good holds that already have a story/voice acting/graphics are less likely to become SmSes. Mainly because if person X has spent a very long time getting the story and custom content sorted out, they're probably going to want to use it.

But in general, it's a great idea :)

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11-12-2007 at 02:53 AM
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Rabscuttle
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I'm wondering if the frogs are amphibious, because that would be cool. (especially considering there's a frog with a sword in the sample graphics)

I'm all for arrogant elitism, so although I'll look at Frogs and Mice, I'll be waiting for DROD: Batrachomyomachia


[Last edited by Rabscuttle at 11-12-2007 05:03 AM]
11-12-2007 at 03:08 AM
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techant
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quote:
Frogs and Mice
Sounds exciting and fun. Now just a comment from a female user. As you build this new game don't forget the great untapped resourse female players out there. I am glad the frogs and mice don't look like guys at this point.

Gal's tend to like female avatars or animals and they really get into stories. We like puzzle games too and the lack of or limit on violence in these games is actually a real draw for women. The Nancy Drew series is an example of tapping into the other 50% of potential gamers out there. It hardly gets coverage but it has a really big following and gals love it.

A puzzle game with a story line sound familar. That is the idea behind The Nancy Drew series and puzzle pirates adds relationship building to the mix.

These are just some ideas. Rooting for the female players out there!

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11-12-2007 at 03:38 AM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
coppro wrote:
Also, just out of curiosity, will the newly improved engine be released under the MPL at some point prior to the release of the SMS that implements the new features?

We will release the source code for the DROD Engine 3.5 very near the time Frogs and Mice is released. The timing relative to other releases and whether it benefits SmS authors... I don't know. We'll figure it out when we get there.

-Erik

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11-12-2007 at 06:19 AM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
calamarain wrote:
The only downside is really good holds that already have a story/voice acting/graphics are less likely to become SmSes.

If someone is making a conscious decision to go down the SmS track, they can develop an SmS-ready hold, promote it for publishing, and contact the hold administrators to ask them to NOT publish the hold in the event it isn't nominated for an SmS.

So if the hold isn't nominated, they can snatch it back and finish it up with polished story, voiceovers, and whatnots for a non-SmS release.

-Erik

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11-12-2007 at 06:23 AM
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Tuttle
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So the tunnels now come in blue and orange, and the mouse goes around eating cyan, purple, orange and yellow slices of cake?

Oh, wait, wrong Portal.

Sounds like a great idea though. I'll have to have another crack at converting the workmates who somehow resisted JtRH. :)


Edit: In other news, this appears to be the 100th thread of DROD news. Now that is reason for cake.

[Last edited by Tuttle at 11-12-2007 11:38 AM]
11-12-2007 at 06:44 AM
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larrymurk
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Sounds like great new Erik et al. Hopefully this will be a step forward for you guys professionally and for DROD. Cheers!
11-12-2007 at 01:00 PM
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BDR
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:) Can't wait to see this stuff happen. Though I really should think about trying to finish at least *one* of your games sometime. -_- They're kind of piling up now, after all..
11-12-2007 at 02:59 PM
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Blondbeard
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Heh! There's lots of stuff here that sounds insanely good, so I really have no right to complain, but...

Where's the "don't ask award"? :lol As CuriousShyRabit said last month there are lots of persons who deserves it (and no, I don't think they have disquallified themselves by PMing you and asking for it).

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[Last edited by Blondbeard at 11-12-2007 03:53 PM]
11-12-2007 at 03:52 PM
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ErikH2000
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I just ran out of time for the Don't Ask award. That's the default reason for anything not happening around here.

-Erik

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11-12-2007 at 05:42 PM
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Blondbeard
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Yea... I figured that was the case :) I just wanted to say that I like the idea.

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11-12-2007 at 06:01 PM
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BeefontheBone
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quote:
techant wrote:
quote:
Frogs and Mice
Sounds exciting and fun. Now just a comment from a female user. As you build this new game don't forget the great untapped resourse female players out there. I am glad the frogs and mice don't look like guys at this point.

Gal's tend to like female avatars or animals and they really get into stories. We like puzzle games too and the lack of or limit on violence in these games is actually a real draw for women. The Nancy Drew series is an example of tapping into the other 50% of potential gamers out there. It hardly gets coverage but it has a really big following and gals love it.

A puzzle game with a story line sound familar. That is the idea behind The Nancy Drew series and puzzle pirates adds relationship building to the mix.

These are just some ideas. Rooting for the female players out there!


Not disagreeing with you here, but it's worth noting that Nancy Drew probalby isn't a great example - I can't imagine it has much appeal at all for the other 50% of people, and women are a lot less than 50% of gamers. That said, casual gamers are much more likely to be female than hardcore gamers - pick-up-and-play, casual puzzlers can definitely benefit from a less 'masculine' (if I may be allowed to indulge in a bit of gender stereotyping) feel; a category Frogs and Mice may well be able to slot into, whereas DROD probably requires a bit too much investment (or certainly appears to at first glance) for casual gamers. Popcap, as I believe Erik has previously mentioned, are a great model for selling casual games to a broad spectrum of people. And if Caravel can draw more casual-ish gamers to DROD, it certainly can't hurt - DROD can be played casually, and indeed for free - it's just a bit tricky to pick the right holds.

Perhaps the Bureaucracy could come up with a handful of decent holds which can be played casually as a pack of some sort?

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11-12-2007 at 06:33 PM
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Chaco
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I think Holds Al Dente was an attempt to make "casual" holds work, and I believe doing it again sometime with DROD 3.0 elements would be interesting.

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11-12-2007 at 06:44 PM
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Jeff_Ray...
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As I once asked when the announcement of a new game came out:
'Will there be any level editor for Frogs And Mice?'
;)

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11-12-2007 at 11:12 PM
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coppro
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Seeing as it's the exact same engine, I cannot see why not.
11-12-2007 at 11:48 PM
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I went and signed up for the closed beta for the portal Frogs and Mice will be on... Heh... Just go to Garage Games' website... :P
I haven't been picked yet, though...

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[Last edited by Sillyman at 11-13-2007 12:04 AM]
11-13-2007 at 12:02 AM
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Jatopian
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Aha, very clever with that Smitemaster's Selection selection process change. :thumbsup I approve. Clearly this sort of craftiness is why they pay Erik the big bucks. Or, y'know, why he pays himself the big bucks. Or something. :|
quote:
Tuttle wrote:
So the tunnels now come in blue and orange, and the mouse goes around eating cyan, purple, orange and yellow slices of cake?

Oh, wait, wrong Portal.
So the cake is a lie then?

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11-13-2007 at 12:10 AM
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The inevitable question that has to come up every time a game is announced...

Will Frogs and Mice be available for non-Windows platforms?

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11-13-2007 at 01:51 AM
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ErikH2000
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Hikari wrote:
The inevitable question that has to come up every time a game is announced...

Will Frogs and Mice be available for non-Windows platforms?

I can't really answer that without talking about privileged information and making reckless predictions, but I think the answer is probably "eventually, but not at first" or "yes, with a bit of extra trouble". We'll see.

-Erik

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11-13-2007 at 02:24 AM
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halyavin
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May be it is worth to decrease the room's size and increase the tiles for "Frogs and Mice". Most rooms doesn't need so big space to show their ideas.
11-13-2007 at 10:33 AM
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Jatopian
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halyavin wrote:
May be it is worth to decrease the room's size and increase the tiles for "Frogs and Mice". Most rooms doesn't need so big space to show their ideas.
...I don't think that works with the "same engine" part. I could be wrong, though.

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11-13-2007 at 11:09 PM
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larrymurk
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halyavin wrote:
May be it is worth to decrease the room's size and increase the tiles for "Frogs and Mice". Most rooms doesn't need so big space to show their ideas.


A great idea. I'm sure this has been considered.
11-13-2007 at 11:19 PM
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Briareos
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quote:
Jatopian wrote:
quote:
halyavin wrote:
May be it is worth to decrease the room's size and increase the tiles for "Frogs and Mice". Most rooms doesn't need so big space to show their ideas.
...I don't think that works with the "same engine" part. I could be wrong, though.

I dunno, but I find it hard to imagine that the tile and room size wouldn't be a variable, or at least a compile-time constant. After all, most of the engine isn't exactly concerned with tile size, but only with updating the internal representation of the playfield.

Things like tile size are mostly part of the interface, which probably would need an overhaul for a different game anyhow...

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11-13-2007 at 11:38 PM
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zex20913
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icon Re: The Portal Formerly Known As... (+1)  
I like how the game that Erik codenamed "Frogs and Mice" in the General board is actually called "Frogs and Mice".

It's like if the Wii had stuck with Revolution.

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11-14-2007 at 01:04 AM
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