computer games

The Ottoman Empire in the reign of sultan Huseyn 2

The Ottoman Empire in the reign of sultan Huseyn 2

Our Sultan could not have known that those first few strides up the blood-slicked steps of his liege’s throne were the steps that would take our Ottoman Empire into history. Some might argue that he had wit and vision to see the future, but there is nothing in the family life or writings of Sultan Bayezid to make us think his vision was anything but that of the moment. He was a man of small visions and simple goals, I think, and he saw nothing more than a chance to head off brutal events that would lead to the destruction of our unique culture. So he took the moment, and the knife, and before anyone could stop him he made a future for us all. Now I am charged with writing the account of those heady  years, when our Sultans turned our fate around from slavery and subjection to conquest and greatness.

Our first Sultan, Bayezid I, has by now faded into history – he ascended the throne on the first day of the new year of 1389, and though our Empire has learnt to preserve its records better than any of its neighbours, still it cannot be said that much was written of him or his talents. Though our storytellers sing his praises during our many festivals, I think he was perhaps a man of few great traits – a man unsuited to leadership, but blessed with a sense of good timing and incredible bravery. It was only by the grace of those two instincts that he saved us from ruin, for when he ascended the throne we were beset by troubles.

In 1389 our Empire was yet a fragile and nascent thing, stretching from the mountains of Georgia in the east to the edge of Bosnia and Serbia in the west. We were as a minnow in a muddy river near the end of summer, flitting between great and predatory pikes: to our north and east lay the vast and fathomless expanse of land held by the Golden Horde, and to the southeast was the Timurid empire, a dynasty said to have been built on a foundation of numberless corpses. Our sultan Bayezid’s predecessor was ignorant and vain, and as well as squandering the great wealth of our lush lands, he had embroiled us in a war with both the Timurid empire and our two nearest Muslim neighbours, Kandar and Dulkadir. Lest something were done, all of the Ottoman lands east of Thrace[1] would have been divided up between the carnivorous Timurids and their jackal allies.

So it was that Bayezid slew our aging and vainglorious ruler, and ascended the blood-slicked steps to the throne, from there to guide our empire out of those dark times and into the bright light of eternal rule. Standing now at the window of my study in modern Dalmatia, looking over the gentle waves of the Aegean sea and listening to the call to prayer from a thousand sun-washed minarets in this great and peaceful city, I like to imagine that Bayezid’s throne was a beautiful monument to his glory, set in a great marble-pillared room, gleaming bands of sunlight from lead-light windows transforming the whole into a glowing space just one step from the ineffable heaven to which we all must one day return; but I know more likely it was a small and squalid chamber, the floor covered in dirty rushes and the throne little better than an animal-hide coated stool, perhaps set two steps up on a rough stone platform. Or perhaps the throne was behind a screen, to protect the sultan from his many enemies. Such were the times, and such were the men who risked our entire culture with their dissolute antics in the palace of our rulers.

So it was that Bayezid I began his great works. First, noticing that the Timurid empire was always warring with itself, and realizing that the Ottoman Empire was in no position to defeat such a voracious and barbaric culture, our Sultan by cunning diplomacy convinced them to accept a temporary peace, that they might focus on their own troubles. By the grace of Allah the Granter of Security, the Timurids miraculously relented in their threats of war, and called their puppet nations to heel. In the following 15 years until his death, Bayezid used this time to restore peace and stability to the core of our empire: from Serbia and Bosnia on the edge of Europe to the edge of Georgia in Asia, he restored dignity and nobility to our land. During this time trade, art and culture flourished, and the government grew in strength and sophistication. But Bayezid I knew that trouble lay in our future, and that the colonial powers of Europe and Asia could not long resist the temptation to pluck the ripe fruit of the Ottoman Empire. Such is the fate that awaits a nation straddling two great cultures, and realizing this Bayezid focused his preparations in peacetime for the coming war. He focused on building the size of our army, and developing the nation to support it as one in times of war; and near the end of his reign he annexed the Dalmatian coast, giving our glorious troops a chance to test their arms against European armies and eliminating the threat from the many upstart city-states along that beautiful stretch of sea. During this time too, all of the region once known as Bulgaria embraced the teachings of the Prophet (may peace be upon him), and turned to the one true faith.

Sadly, Bayezid I did not live to see the full fruit of his dreams, and he was replaced in 1404 by Musa I. Musa was a war-like and active leader, and for 9 years of his 29 year reign our empire was at war. First the armies of the Ottomans looked east, to secure our eastern borders against the Golden Horde, and in a brief but bloody two year war were able to capture the whole of Georgia and much of the Crimea. With the modern-day port of Kaffa in our grasp, Crimea our vassal and Georgia conquered, Musa I gained near-complete control of the Black Sea, with only Poland and the rump of the Byzantine Empire sharing access. Our glorious armies also conquered Trebizond, putting the coup-de-grace on the last province of a once-great empire, and then turned west, to conquer most of Greece as far as Athens. This was a time of war but also of peaceful expansion, with our kingdom learning much about foreign nations, and sending ambassadors and traders as far afield as distant Paris and remote Novgorod.

Musa I died peacefully in 1433, and was replaced by Abdullah I, who ruled only for 7 years that were spent consolidating the Ottoman culture in Georgia and Greece. He died young, and a regency council ruled in the place of his successor, Suleyman I. Under a regency council little can be done abroad or at war, and the 5 years of the regency council as well as the 8 year reign of Suleyman I were times of little note; during this period our Empire did not grow, though it flourished, and Suleyman I – though he styled himself “the Magnificent” – was in truth too much a drunkard and a layabout to enact great plans of state. However, despite being raised by a wine-soaked fool, Jem I succeeded Suleyman  in 1453 to achieve great things. In three years of brutal battle while still a young man, Jem I managed to conquer all of Eastern Hungary and parts of Wallachia, reducing the once-proud kingdom of Wallachia to a humble vassal and extending our empire so that finally the tide of the one true faith washed up against Europe. All of christendom looked on in shock as the One True Faith spread its influence as far as borders of Hungary and Poland.

Jem I’s vision of uniting Hungary, Bulgaria, Transylvania, and all the Slavic states with Ottoman under the banner of the One True Faith was not completed before he died, though, and internal unrest prevented his successor Huseyn I from continuing this mission; for 25 years the Ottoman Empire lived at peace with its neighbours under his reign. By now the Timurid Empire, which 100 years ago we so feared, had collapsed under the weight of greed and corruption that its leaders were so famed for, and its last provinces sat on our borders warring only with themselves. Those nations that this degenerate gang of barbarians once held on such a tight leash had now fled to new owners, as the lowly gutter dogs that they are, and where once we were threatened by vassals of Timurid we were now flanked by the Golden Horde’s two chained lions, Candar and Dulkadir. Nonetheless, Huseyn I skilfully built relations with the Golden Horde, somehow finding common ground with their filthy, fur-clad leaders, and our Empire bided its time as we waited for an empire built on greed and bloodlust to begin consuming itself. While we waited, though, that last principality of the Timurids gave up its fight with itself; its leaders came on their knees to us and begged to be allowed to join the Ottoman Empire, that they might share in its grace and peace. Truly, God is Great.

After Huseyn’s death in 1509 our current glorious emperor, Huseyn II, ascended the throne. His plans of completing the conquest of Hungary were delayed, however, by the western powers. In 1510 the distant kingdom of Castille noticed our expansion – perhaps word of the beauty and munificence of our Imperial lands reached the Castillian King in his dismal narrow-windowed castle, sparking his jealousy – and a warning was issued. Our people barely new of these great and distant powers of France, Castille and Britain, and we thought our affairs and theirs completely disconnected, but this was to prove far from the case. Because the people of christendom follow a religion based on idolatry and cannibalism, they must always be jealous and frightened in the face of the Prophet (may peace be upon him); though we had no conflicting interests and our Caliphate has only ever sought peace, the infidels of Castille sought to chastise us from their distant cities. For seven years they sent ships full of pale-skinned minions to harry our shipping lanes and blockade our ports, and in one dismal year they even landed their sweaty and ill-prepared troops on the western shores of our Greek conquests. But here, too, we showed them the teachings of the One True Faith: our fleets sank and destroyed their fleets, and when they had the temerity to land men on our hallowed shores we defeated them, drove them back into the sea, and tossed the survivors from the cliffs of Montenegro. After 7 years a mealy-mouthed, pale-skinned wretch came to us begging peace, and though in truth our glorious armies were preparing to launch an invasion of Castille, Huseyn II showed his famous mercy, and brokered a peace that until this day has been unsullied.

With this peace, Huseyn II gained the chance to focus on his grand plan, and within just the last few years it has been completed: after war with Austria, Bohemia and Hungary our glorious empire has captured the remains of Hungary and all of the outlying territories of Bohemia. Behold the map! Our Empire is now so vast that as an ambassador in Georgia sits down to dine on dates and flat bread with one of the Khans of the Horde, here on the Dalmatian coast an artist will be just setting up his easel to paint a picture of court ladies taking a light lunch of olives and pastries; or North in the Mountains of Carpathia a shepherd might be settling down to a morning break of nuts and dried mutton. Truly, our Empire has grown beyond the dreams of humble Bayezid as he grabbed the reins of power, intent only on guiding us out of the darkness. Now, we have become the Empire of the Sun, its territories so far-flung that they hold the whole of a day in their grip. And even now, as I sit here in my study contemplating this great sweep of history, I hear our ruler looks in the same direction as me, across this tranquil Aegean sea to the coast of Northern Italy, whose universities and libraries hold the secrets of a thousand years of learning. Were our Janissaries to take those hallowed halls, then surely an Islamic Reformation could begin, in which the whole world looked to the crescent sun of the Ottomans for knowledge, as well as the wisdom of the One True Faith. Is this the future of the Ottomans, to teach Europe of Asia, and Asia of Europe … and all of them to learn the One True Faith, that is greater than all that has come before it in all of time …?

Yes, I think this is our future … let us see where it will take us …

fn1: Istanbul

Today, doing a little task in R, I had cause to look up the following “warning” that appeared after compiling a script:

Warning message:
In readLines(file) : incomplete final line found

I couldn’t figure out what this warning meant, because the script ran fine, so I did a web search and I came across this exemplary example of why working with R really sucks: the help files are completely useless, the warning messages are cryptic and meaningless, the inbuilt editor is broken, there is no standardization of externally-developed editors, and the people who provide help online are some of the rudest people you will ever meet in computer science. This simple warning shows it all at once. I’ve complained about the dangers of R’s cryptic and meaningless warning messages again, but this example should really serve to show how they also cry wolf in a really unhelpful way.

The linked page is a message board of some kind (I think a reproduction of the “official” R boards on a another site) where a person called Xiaobo.Gu has posted up a request for help in decoding the above warning message. The request is polite enough though not voluminous, asking “Can you help with this?” but the first response (from someone with 7328 posts on this board!) consists entirely of the following:

Help with what? You got a warning. And it had information that should
tell you how to edit the file if the warning bothers you.

What is the point of a reply this rude and dismissive? This person actually took the time to reply to a post, in order simply to say “I won’t help you.” On a message board explicitly intended to help resolve problems with R. In addition to being rude it’s arrogant: there is no information abou thow to edit the file, just a pointer to the final line. We will shortly see the cause of the error, and it should be clear that no one in their right mind would consider the warning to have provided “information” of any form.

The next reply admonishes the original poster for failing to follow the posting rules (though doesn’t say how they were breached – so is essentially another contentless reply!) and then includes a little sneering aside about the way Windows encodes ASCII text that makes me think the developers of R have an elitist refusal to engage with Windows’s flaws. It then reveals that the warning is harmless and only appears in R version 2.14.0 (unpatched).

Why bother putting such a warning into a program? Whose idea was it to put a harmless warning in a single version of R, and why and how can a warning be a warning and also be harmless? Either something risky is going on, or it’s not. If it’s not, don’t waste my time with red text.

Finally another person comes along to sneeringly answer the question and provide actual information:

A warning message such as this could not be clearer.
It means that the last line of the file does not end with a <newline> sequence ==> the final line of the file is incomplete.

In an editor go to the end of that line and press <Enter> or <Return>
And save.

Alternatively configure your editor to always terminate the last line of a file with  a <newline> sequence.

This is a sparkling gem of passive-aggressive “help.” I can see a simple way in which the warning could be “clearer:” It could say “you did not press enter or return.” Then, it would be clearer. As it is, there is no information about what is missing in the final line: it just says it is “incomplete.” How can anyone claim that a warning such as this could not be clearer?

But then, just to top it off, this commenter has suggested that the poster configure their editor to “always terminate the last line of a file with a <newline> sequence.” This might seem to be reasonable advice, except that I get this warning in every script I write and I am using the built-in editor! This means that some muppet at C-RAN shipped a version of R with an editor configured to write scripts in such a way that they would trigger a warning. By default. Then, the very first patch they released got rid of the warning. wtf!? Is this what passes for quality control at C-RAN?

This is why wherever possible I use Stata for my work. I need software I can trust to produce the same results every time I run it, that isn’t going to waste my time with meaningless warnings and threats in glaring red, that isn’t configured to do things wrong by default, and that performs all calculations correctly. In order to trust that my stats software will perform all calculations correctly, I really need to know that the designers have some degree of basic quality control. When I see stuff like this – simple programmatic failings in things like the default settings of the script editor – I find it really hard to believe that the correct attention has been paid to, say, the way that the program performs adaptive Gaussian quadrature.

I also expect that the people who design this stuff will be polite when answering questions. I don’t need some passive-aggressive guy on the internet telling me off for failing to understand an extremely vague warning message that is only troubling me because C-RAN don’t have adequate quality control. The replies on that thread should have been polite requests for more information followed by an apology and a promise to fix this problem – or, if these people aren’t directly involved in C-RAN (and we know one of them is … one of R’s designers is on that thread) then a suggestion about how to alert the developers to the problem. Sneering and bullying – no thanks. I don’t get that when I contact Mathworks for help with Matlab, no matter how stupid my request.

This is why when I teach my students about stats packages I tell them a) you can’t trust R and b) it has a nasty community. I teach them its value for automation and experimental stats, and warn them away from using it for anything that has to be published in serious journals.

I think R is just another example of how dangerous it is to run your business on open source software, though I’m sure there are times when it’s safe. And I think it would be fascinating to see a detailed textual analysis comparing the message boards of an open source community (linux, R, latex) with a proprietary product like Stata, because in my experience there’s a world of difference between the two communities. Why  that difference exists would not only be a fascinating anthropological study, but would no doubt be of relevance to the scientific study of neckbeard behavior, because I have a strong suspicion that neckbeards are the dominant species in the open source world. Will an anthropologist somewhere take on the task?


… have been in the media recently. This is a fine example of how to debunk “research” showing that computer games make children angry …

This week my work started the process of buying me a PowerMac – a 12 core, 24Gb RAM monster that will replace my 8 core, 16Gb RAM windows machine. I also received a new macbook, and my colleagues are also going to or planning to buy macs in their next round of upgrades. This means that unless something catastrophic happens with funding in the next week, I will have completely abandoned Windows in my work life. I have long since abandoned it at home, but workplaces have tended to be more conservative about the change, but it’s finally going to happen.

I have noticed over the past few years that a lot of people working at the crunchy end of science are using macs, not Windows machines. This has included people working in computer graphics research, nuclear physics, veterinary epidemiology, medicine and epidemiology. It appears that if you need to do numerical computation, Mac OS X is increasingly the platform that you do it on. I guess this is because Mac OS has been much easier to develop for since it switched to a unix-based system, and so now many of the key tools of numerical computation are available on it: Matlab, Stata, LateX and R are all implemented very well on Apple machines. Indeed, in my experience these packages tend to be easier and more pleasant to use on Apple – LateX editors are much more pleasant and more readily available, R’s script-writing tools are much better, and there is not really any difference that I can see between matlab and R on the two platforms.

I think this means the end of the dominance Windows had in this area since it forced Unix out. This would make the scientific computing market a rare (I guess) example of a company with essentially complete market dominance losing its monopoly place purely on quality-related issues. I’m not a fascist about any one computer system (except Linux – I try to avoid Linux) but I do find Mac OS much nicer to work with, and not just because the machines are pretty. Something about the way it works is just less sticky than Windows, and it seems to trouble me less with extraneous stuff. I think it’s probably something to do with the attitude to design, and also with the greater degree of sympathy between hardware and software (which comes, I guess, from Steve Jobs’s obsession with keeping everything in the one company). I think it might also have something to do with the extra money one pays for the machines.

As far as money goes, the common complaint that you can get the same performance at half the price with a Windows machine is, in my experience, sadly misguided. The very worst thing you can do with Windows is buy a cheap machine that has good stats on paper – or worse still, build your own. You’ll be paying in time and Insanity Points for the rest of the 2 years you use it before you throw it away.  I don’t know what it is about computers, but their performance is like a symphony orchestra, and if you scrimp on any part of the process the whole thing leaves you feeling bad. You’re better off getting an Apple that is, on paper, inferior for the same price, than assuming that the extra 0.2GHz in that PC chip are going to work as they should for half the price.

Of course, this is all classic flamewar material, but my observation is that the scientific computing world is moving away from Windows and taking Apple seriously as a computational tool. This is particularly striking given that just 10 or so years ago Mac was seen as exclusively the tool of inner-city designers with black clothes and slanty hair, or girly magazine writers who value a cute case over a decent OS. Well, perhaps those girly magazine writers were right all along …

As an aside, and to give all those reading this a common enemy, I recently downloaded the cute 2D dungeon crawler Dungeons of Dredmor. I can’t say it’s holding my attention, but it is cute. On their blog, the developers talk about the work they’re doing to port the game to iPad (an excellent idea!), and they have a few things to say about the commercial and technical problems involved in porting it to Android. In the process they also reveal some interesting issues about Linux. In answer to the question “Will the game be available for Android?” they say:

This… is an interesting question. While SDL 1.3 supports Android, at least partly, there are two reasons why we might not go ahead and do this. The first is insufficient demand – my personal experience with Android on previous products have been that Android sales are a very small fraction of iPad sales (in fact, less than the ratio of Linux sales to Windows sales.) Consequently, it’s not entirely clear that this is something that we will actually make money on – especially on the tablet market, where Android tablets are still somewhat of an unknown factor and where the iPad still occupies 75% of the market share.

The second reason why we might not support Android is because the infrastructure for Android is so, so, hideously broken. Again, it’s *worse* than the Linux situation, which is kind of amazing. In order for us to ship on Android, we have to be convinced (more specifically, as the Technical Director for the studio *I* have to be convinced) that we can actually ship an Android version of Dredmor and have it work. Given that there are a number of horror stories floating around about people who test their software on 300 Android devices and get everything working, only to release and have everything explode on Day 1… I’m just not confident that we can do this. It is possible that we might put together an Android release for a *very* limited selection of devices (Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab, ASUS EEE Pad Transformer) where we have some hope of having things run in a fashion that we’re happy with. That said, we’re still looking into this, and the iPad port (by virtue of the market share we mentioned above) is still the top priority.

There are phrases in there that are genuine music to the ears of someone with a strong anti-linux fetish. “Worse than linux … which is kind of amazing.” ha! Also note the disturbing information about the ratio of iPad to other tablet sales. I wonder if Apple are going to become the windows of the smartphone and tablet marketplace, completely dominating all other products and stifling development on anything else? And if this market dominance is built, in the short term at least, on higher quality product, what are the chances of a rival OS surviving? The “I hate apple” niche market is probably going to get smaller and smaller as the virtues of Apple products become better known (as has happened in the scientific computing world).

I guess we’ll have to just learn to love our new slanty-fringed overlords …


In most social democratic countries (that is, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, troll-infested Scandinavia and much of Europe), the government provides some state support to the arts and sport, either directly through grants and training or indirectly through subsidies for community participation and activity. Let’s consider a few examples of these from around the world that I know.

The UK

Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics the UK invested heavily in amateur sports that would be represented in the Olympics, and in that year for the first time in a long time its sportspeople performed at a level that one would expect for a country of its size: this was preparation for the UK Olympics of 2012, where it’s expected they’ll do even better and, in a remarkable turnaround, will repeat the 2008 performance of beating Australia in sports we’re usually good at (I think they beat us at swimming in 2008). The UK also famously maintains free access to its public museums, which is a great thing (though my god they are crowded).


Australia has a long-standing practice of funding sports at many levels, including a cricket academy and soccer academy. State and local governments also maintain a very large number of public sports grounds that see heavy use: this community participation is the main reason Australia has four healthy football codes, one more than the UK and three more than the US. Women’s soccer in Australia is also booming and in fact the main break on its growth was the limited availability of grounds, which put women’s soccer into competition for resources with men’s soccer. Given the nature of a soccer ground, this kind of problem is often only resolved through public funding (to make more park space available). Australia also maintains a very well-organized system of political support for sport, which is manifested through e.g. the martial arts accreditation scheme and state-sponsored inquiries into the management of elite soccer. This sort of stuff is necessary to maintain momentum in the growth of new sports. Australia also maintains a system of grants for artists (the Australia Council) which fund any kind of new art through a supposedly competitive process. In addition to separate funding for the major elite arts (like opera and orchestras), Australia’s most famous landmark building, the Sydney Opera House, was built from public funds. So the arts at many levels are funded well by the state, through our taxes.


Japan maintains a network of public halls, kominkan, which are available for use for any cultural pursuit: flower-arranging, book groups, role-playing groups, you name it. The Japanese prefectures and city offices also maintain special martial arts buildings (budokan) for the practice of all forms of combat sport – you can book rooms in these halls to practice your own. Sumo is supported through public funding to some extent, I think (a source of much dissatisfaction to many Japanese when they see match-fixing and gambling scandals, and notice that the best-behaved sumo wrestlers are the foreigners!) Japan’s public schools and universities also maintain a heavy level of sports participation through clubs. I’m sure there’s other types of arts and cultural funding over here too, if I care to look.

Of course before the modern state this type of subsidy also existed, in the form of noble or religious patronage, but this subsidy came with the rather sad downside of requiring its recipients to either directly sing the praises of their patrons, or to at least look the other way from their worst flaws. So subsidy is not new, even if it is more systematized and conducted under more complex institutional arrangements in the modern world.

Since the mid-70s, however, the developed world has seen a flowering of cultural activities that were almost exclusively developed in the private sphere and/or through private sector initiative, without a skerrick of direct state subsidy. As a few examples: plane- and train-watching; martial arts; various forms of collecting; computer gaming[1]; lego and meccano; wargaming; and, of course, role-playing[2]. These cultural activities have developed over a long period of entirely private investment and support, in the sense that there was no government support for them as cultural activities either on the corporate side (in setting up companies to sell the activity); the individual side (in turns of subsidization or support for involvement); or the community side (in, e.g. special halls or facilities for them). Indeed, famously, after 9/11 the state intervened actively (though not deliberately) to make plane-spotting a good deal harder than it was.

Would the government have saved us from 4e?

One obvious question that this raises is whether these activities would have been more or less successful, or even different at all, if they had received state support as burgeoning cultural activities. Looking at the history of TSR, for example, it appears to have folded or near-folded several times, and gone through all sorts of weird product-redesign and marketing strategies to save itself (plus there was all that internal nastiness). Would the company’s history, and thus the game’s development trajectory, have been different if in the period from, say, 1972 to 1985 it had been able to receive some small quantity of government support as a cultural activity? One argument would be that with “handouts” supporting it the game would have disappeared up its own arsehole, becoming some post-modern weirdness disconnected from its market of gamers; the other is that with a bit of basic financial support the designers would have been freed up to focus on quality product rather than chasing the next bonanza, or at least able to spend a few years producing a coherent game system without worrying about matching their production activities to whatever marketing scheme they thought would save the company. I guess this argument comes down to one about industrial policy (should your government pick winners like Japan and the USA do, or should it foster competitiveness like Australia and New Zealand do). But I think we can boil this issue down to one simple question: would TSR have needed to make 4th Edition if they were receiving a government subsidy[3]?

What sort of subsidies would be appropriate?

Taking as read that social democratic societies will continue this practice of funding cultural and sporting activities, what sorts of things would be suited to RPGs if they were included under the rubric of “cultural activity”? Here are a few things I’ve thought of that I think actually would help to make gaming more widespread, more enjoyable, and perhaps more diverse:

  • Sponsorship of conventions: this would enable the conventions to be held in better locations, to have budgeted conference dinners, prizes, and possibly pay for attendance by renowned designers or GMs. It would also enable the game to spread outside of its heartland areas a little.
  • Recognition of some games as cultural icons, and their preservation either in print or digitally for common use: for example, the UK government might declare Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2 an iconic game and provide funds to maintain it in print or in an online archive, thus ensuring that it didn’t disappear. Some games that I think this would be a really good idea for include ICE’s Middle Earth Role-Playing, some form of OD&D, WFRP2, and the original Shadowrun. This wouldn’t preclude the companies from making new versions of these games, but it would mean that games of cultural significance were retained. Look at the effort the OSR puts into producing variants of OD&D as an example of the benefits of retaining these games in print or online.
  • Funding and research support for those elements of, eg, the OSR that are trying to piece together the history of the game, for example through funds to travel and do interviews, support in archiving and organization, and specialist research tasks (including translation)
  • Greater support for academic study of gaming, for example through research grants
  • Support for copyright issues: no gaming company can afford the rights to Harry Potter, I suspect, but a Harry Potter game would really help to spread RPGs around. If the government fronted up the money for the rights, then maybe this could happen – even a flawed Potter game would be a huge benefit to the gaming community, I think. More generally, access to the rights for game settings and art connected to them could help the industry a lot
  • Support for culture-specific games: e.g. the Australian government could hold a contest for development of a game setting that was uniquely Australian in feel, or the US govt could give out grants for the development of culturally-sensitive Native American game supplements
  • Technical support: development of online platforms, more research into the complex probability models used in some games, better editing and book-binding or just provision of support to overcome barriers to entry into new media would be really useful for diversifying the style and types of game and gaming methods
  • Establishment of an independent, high-quality magazine: most gaming magazines are owned by the publishing houses and have been for a long time. A genuinely independent magazine with high production values and an industry- and community-wide remit will never flourish in such a small culture industry, at least not in print, but I think with government subsidies it could and it would be interesting
  • Support for the online community: Prizes for bloggers, financial support for annual physical meet-ups, perhaps technical support in the form of grants to expand the use of the internet for gaming collaboration. Also, money for me.

None of these ideas seem to fundamentally change the basic modern business model of gaming, but I think many of them would help start-up gaming companies with both the cultural background of their activities, and access to some of the technical matters that can help a game work out. Other funding ideas here are largely about supporting the community that the gaming industry is built from, because as a cooperative activity role-playing needs more than just our private money. The RPG hobby only flourishes when individuals have the space, time, money and inclination to come together to make games happen, and it’s (rightly) difficult for private companies like TSR to build this by themselves. It’s easy for us as individuals to put in the basics – our money, our time and our living rooms – but when it comes to the deeper, more complex aspects of maintaining the hobby, perhaps we could do with the same support that recognized cultural activities obtain. Communities may not require support to maintain but it certainly helps, and governments are ideally placed to provide that support.

What do you think?

fn1: I include computer gaming in this list because although in some times and places the computer game companies have received state support as start-ups (e.g. in Australia), this state support is through industry development funds, as a pure business enterprise, not as a cultural activity per se. i.e. you can approach the government of a social democratic nation (in some times and places) and say “I want to start a business selling X” and they’ll fund it even though it’s a kooky hobby; but the same funds don’t seem to have been available for “X” as a cultural activity.

fn2: My reading of the early history of role-playing in the UK suggests a lot of the early games did actually happen in public facilities, like community halls. But a lot of these were church- or school-run, and when I was gaming in London these halls didn’t seem to exist, so I think this aspect of state subsidization of community art in the UK has died off in the past 20 years. I guess this is because public halls have been defunded, and since certain religious issues arose in connection with D&D it’s hard to ask to rent a church hall for an RPG convention.

fn3: And the related question: if you were a benevolent dictator subsidizing TSR, would you have let them?

Manifest Destiny

Returning to Hearts of Iron 2 after a long hiatus, I finally struck the motherlode and annexed the USA after months of trans-atlantic hide-and-seek. The forces of imperialism and racism refused to surrender, showing much more bravery and persistence than my top social researchers had credited them with, and after I captured all of mainland USA they moved their capital to their offshore imperial holdings: first some godforsaken place on the Atlantic coast of latin America, which of course I liberated; then Greenland, which is easy to invade because there is nowhere for US soldiers to hide; then their colonial possessions in Iceland. Getting to Iceland required that I declare war on Portugal and capture the Azores, sinking the Portuguese Atlantic fleet in the process. This was unfortunate, but ultimately my continental European campaign will be made easier by the availability of a second front – I am after all at war with Republican Spain, and a second leaping-off point for the invasion of Britain will be handy.

Once I had overrun Iceland the USA continued its flight, like Gaddafi or Hussein; they moved their capital step by step across the Aleutians and the Manchukuo 8th Division followed them, in concert with one of my more hardened units of marines; after the Aleutians had been entirely occupied they disappeared for a month or two, but I finally discovered them cowering on a slip of land in the Pacific called Tinian Island – right under my nose, in fact, because the neighbouring islands were garrisoned by my home guard. So, in went Manchukuo’s famous 8th, once again, and the final battle was joined. This was a battle of bureaucrats as much as anything else, because the US lacked soldiers, industry or equipment, and was hiding in what was essentially a coral atoll. The president himself, his family and the few retainers and functionaries of the surviving government of the USA were all that remained and, I’m sad to say, they fought to the last family member. Or so the grizzled veterans of the Manchukuo 8th told me. Only the most barbaric of peoples would force even primary-school aged children to fight! Such a shame they all had to die … though I hear there was rejoicing on the streets of America (or what’s left of them, in most cases) after 6 years of war were finally brought to an end.

So now I find myself facing off against China, who declared war on me 2 years ago and in the first heady stages of that war managed to seize huge amounts of territory from me – all of India, Burma, Nepal and Tibet, in fact. I hold them in a line from the border of Burma through Guangzhou and up to Qingdao, and also the northern areas around Beijing, but it’s been a desperate slog for both sides, as huge numbers of my soldiers have been tied up in the USA and getting them back can take months of reorganization. I’ve now started landing forces around Qingdao and western Thailand ready for the big counter-attack: my aim is to cut off huge chunks of the Chinese army at Tianjin in the North and Sittang in the south, and then destroy them, before pushing into the inland from Beijing and Guilin and working an encirclement the size of a continent.

In many ways China have been harder than the US, because they US focused its industry on naval and airforce units, and when I finally landed on the mainland they had very little infantry for me to roll up – in fact a good 3-6 month period of the war on the west coast was taken up with defeating a large Canadian land army. But the Chinese have an enormous land army, that is fielded in great clots of men – 100,000 here, 200,000 there, maybe a million in total camped around Beijing and Tianjin and constantly trying to break through that poor beleaguered city. Every victory is followed by a defeat, and battlezones like the plains south of Beijing or the karst landscapes of Guilin have seen our armies crossing and re-crossing the killing zones for months. The nature of the Chinese campaign, with so many soldiers, makes it very hard to conduct encirclement operations, because they have so many soldiers that they have an excellent defense in depth. I have to wait for them to push a salient towards the sea, then snap it off in counter-attacks that are costly in time and men. So far I think I’ve captured about 100,000 men (10-12 divisions) at the loss of 20,000 of mine, and I have the enemy teetering on the brink of collapse. I regularly devastate their industrial centres, and their capital is a smoking, radioactive hole – Chengdu and Chongqing have both been nuked, and thrice hit with conventional missile attacks, as have many of their industrial centres. I’ve captured Nanjing, Guangzhou and some of the mountain approaches to the South, and hope soon to overrun Guilin. I know that they’re unable to maintain reinforcements for their army, feed their populace and keep dissent under control without abandoning all other industrial tasks. I think soon they will lose the ability even to control dissent and reinforce their troops.

In anticipation of this, I’m now reorganizing my naval forces to start starving the British, with a naval blockade of Britain itself and a submarine force set to prowl the Caribbean. China is going to take another year to beat, and I’m going to need to leave a huge force there in readiness for any aggression by the Soviets, but I think in a year’s time I’ll be in a position to start attacking Western Europe. I hold the Azores and Iceland, so a simultaneous attack on Portugal and the UK is a distinct possibility. But first I’m going to clean up the UK’s Caribbean territories, to ensure there is no way they can stage counter-attacks on the US.

The big problem I’m having with this game is that the computer never surrenders. Even when I have reduced it to a rump of two provinces, with no military or industry, it still refuses to surrender. This drives me crazy, because it means I waste months trying to find and capture every single territory the enemy possesses, even coral atolls like Tinian. I even once tried starting the game from a saved game as my enemy, and suing for peace with myself, but the computer wouldn’t accept my generous offer. This makes the endgame of every war unrealistic and is going to be a particular pain in the arse with Britain – conquering Africa is sooooo tedious.

Other than that, though, I’m having  a great time. The main question I have to put to my readers: what shall I call America? It’s clearly no longer the USA, so what should I call it?

On the same day it considers banning facebook for children, the Australian Federal Government has agreed a deal to implement an “R18+” category for computer games. This category brings computer games into line with videos, and has long been sought by the game industry – the alternative method used by the censorship board in Australia has been to refuse very violent games a rating (as happened with, I think, Grand Theft Auto) or to get the company to reduce their content to M15+ level. The game industry has long seen this as a commercial problem, since it introduces considerable uncertainty into Australian business models.

Australia doesn’t have a censorship policy that’s particularly friendly to “creative” industries, in my opinion – the government can be quite ferocious in its censorship if it sees community concern (or a chance at votes) connected to an issue, and particularly where children are involved the censorship rules can be ridiculous. The most famous example of this is the Bill Henson furore. The sometimes political nature of government actions can be seen in the way this deal is reported: the federal government has stitched up a deal with all the states except New South Wales (NSW), which has a long-standing fringe-right religious party and movement that has strong views on censorship, and which the (quite new) Liberal party[1] probably wants to court support from. Also, the NSW state Liberal party has a bit of a history of extreme-right christian shenanigans, and probably doesn’t want to upset that particular apple cart. In any case, the deal is going ahead without the agreement of the country’s most populous[3] state, which may lead to the ludicrous situation in which R18+ games can be bought in any part of Australia except … Sydney! Brilliant.

Still, it’s an advance on the current situation, where game companies have to second guess the whims of the censorship board because there is no category beyond M15+ that they can put their games into. This isn’t to say they won’t still be denied a rating (this has happened to a few movies in history, and famously a pair of movie critics were almost gaoled for playing one of those movies, I seem to recall). But It’s a lot easier to release a game in Australia that was designed for an overseas market if you have an R18+ category than if you don’t. Hopefully this will lead to more diversity of computer games – and more violence!

Incidentally, I should add that I’m not opposed at all to this type of censorship system, though I don’t like the part where some movies are refused a rating – there should be a new category of “Don’t watch this” for such movies, and people view them at own risk. But censorship-as-labeling seems a fundamentally sensible idea and, Metal Militias’ historical rage against Tipper-stickers aside, I think it helps rather than harms the ability of the community to judge what it wants to watch and indeed, gives some ability to identify what our own standards are. There is, of course, a bigger debate on free speech between Australians (or antipodeans generally) and Brits on the one side (who generally seem to see all “freedoms” as contingent to some extent) and Americans on the other (who seem to have elevated “freedom” to the level of a false Idol). I of course find the antipodean approach best, but I think that sometimes Australian governments of all political stripes can be too conservative and restrictive when it comes to free speech, and could do with a few drops of American medicine. So this is a good step forward, in my view.

fn1: As Australians never tire of observing, our “conservative” party is called the “Liberal Party,” because we’re in the Southern Hemisphere and we’re backwards[2]

fn2: Which isn’t to say there isn’t some value to this nomenclature; a great many US “liberals” would probably be considered too conservative for the Australian Liberal Party.

fn3: And possibly most politically corrupt, to boot[4]

fn4: Though I’ve never lived in Queensland, so I could be wrong about this.

The Guardian today has an article on gold-farming in China about gold farming in Chinese labour camps, which claims that prisoners in labour camps in China were (are?) forced to play computer games at night after they had spent the day at hard physical labour. The prison then sold the products of their labour to free[1] computer gamers, but of course the camp workers saw none of the profits. If they failed to produce sufficient gold, or slacked off in their virtual world, they were beaten and punished in other ways. The article presents some interesting information about the way gold farming is conducted in labour camps and also in IT sweatshops. The latter represent “voluntary” labour and those doing it seem to think it pays better than factory work (it’s probably safer too), while the former are involuntary work.

These gold farmers in labour camps are being essentially forced to go and work in another world for 7 to 10 hours a day, and beaten if they don’t produce the goods they’re sent there to get. Not only is this process surreal (literally!) but it’s a model of human trafficking, enacted virtually. Are we witnessing the development of an industry based on trafficking in virtual people?

fn1: if you can define WoW players as “free” by the standard definition of the term…

Bye Bye Hollywood!

The hardest battle of my war so far has been the occupation of Pearl Harbour, which took just over a year and was bitterly fought on both sides. Final victory came after a year of fruitless land battles, a near-successful starvation campaign on my part, the death of probably 30000 merchant seamen, the near total destruction of the US surface fleet, and ultimately the complete annihilation of Los Angeles and San Francisco. By February 1948 I had lost about 6 divisions of soldiers, 6 submarine flotillas, 6 transport flotillas, a single aircraft carrier, perhaps 50 or so convoy ships and a couple of light cruisers. The US had lost about 30 divisions of soldiers (including advanced marines, motorized divisions and heavy armour), about 10-12 carriers, 5 or so battleships, its entire complement of troop transports[1], all supply convoys operating in the Pacific and their cruiser escorts, probably 40-50 destroyers, and its entire complement of mid-sized ships. By the end of the Pearl Harbour campaign, with its supply lines disrupted by nuclear attack and dissent, a force of 3 advanced carriers would be so weak that in one instance it was annihilated by a group of interwar heavy cruisers escorting my transport ships. I estimate the total human cost of this for the USA to be quite staggering – 300,000+ soldiers, 30,000+ merchant sailors, possibly upwards of 30,000 sailors, and the entire populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A long campaign proceeds from a very simple mistake

The campaign dragged out for so long because I lacked sufficient transports to safely invade two Hawaiian islands simultaneously. Concentrating on the key island (Pearl Harbour), I managed to win a brutal amphibious assault, but I didn’t realize that the soldiers on that island could island hop without ships, so they skipped over to the neighbouring island without losing any significant numbers. My own forces, exhausted and worn down after an amphibious assault that took several days, could do nothing to pursue the enemy while it was in tatters, and I hadn’t organized a second set of reserves to bring in to the fray quickly. I had, in essence, failed to prepare for the invasion properly, fielding a force of only 8 divisions of marines and having nothing in reserve for a second attack. By the time I got my act together, the US had consolidated some 15 Divisions on the neighbouring island, and was attempting to land more. It’s just not possible to attack a force of 15 Divisions when you have to cross a narrow channel to do it, and worse than that, US soldiers are excellent fighters. When they’re well supplied you’re lucky if you can beat one division of well dug-in modern soldiers with all 8 Divisions of your marines. Dug into mountainous Kauai, with more troops landing on nearby Niihau, there was no chance I was going to complete the conquest of Hawaii. There followed a short period of stalemate before I was able to capitalize on a tactical error to capture all the more eastern isles (Hawaii and Maui), but the problem remained. America was facing its own Iwo Jima here, and any assault on it would be disastrous for all involved, but probably unsuccessful for me. A different approach was me.

A campaign of starvation

The main method for defeating overwhelming forces is to cut them off and starve them into a condition of weakness, so I decided that, with my navy in command of most of the high seas and only one significant carrier group still functioning on the US side, I could probably attempt to shut down the US army on Kauai by a blockade. I set my main carrier group (a force of 15 carriers plus screen ships) to work in the northeast Pacific, and set other smaller fleets to work immediately around Hawaii. I also redeployed ballistic missiles to Hawaii, in anticipation of the development of my first atomic bomb. During this campaign I also starved out the smaller US forces on the Line Islands and, eventually Wake Island – the latter was proving a considerable problem, since its naval bombers were disrupting my naval activities, and its capture in late 1947 left the US with nowhere left to base aircraft anywhere in the Pacific.

This starvation policy worked well in some respects. I quickly reduced the US to a very small number of convoy ships, reproducing results like the Disaster of PQ17 very regularly. This means that the US would be unable to supply other forces, to import materials from distant outposts, or to trade properly. However, somehow the convoys continued to get through my cordon, and the soldiers never properly starved. The US also introduced a similar scheme on me, operating from Diego Garcia in the Indian ocean to reduce my Indian Ocean convoys.This had the same effect on me – diverting supply ships away from Pearl Harbour. In late August 1947 my Samoan expeditionary force was disbanded due to lack of supplies, and I suddenly realized a huge problem. Troops in Hawaii were now out of food for large periods of time, and I couldn’t supply my ballistic missile squad, so I couldn’t operate my planned nuclear attack. I had to act fast to divert production to convoys, but it wasn’t until December 1947 that I finally restored regular supply to Pearl Harbour. This was potentially disastrous – had the US attacked at that time I probably would have lost the defense. Perhaps they didn’t attack for the same reason as me – lack of reliable supply. But I think they didn’t know my situation, and saw the numbers of troops on Pearl Harbour as too difficult to break. In fact these numbers were part of the problem – I had so many troops and ships in the area that I couldn’t supply them fast enough with my available convoys (or even when I doubled my convoy force!) This is a big problem for Japan in the Pacific, because holding all these scattered islands and possessions (in my case, from Oman to New Zealand) requires huge reserves of convoys that are very vulnerable to attack.

So, I redistributed some of my troops to other islands (Midway, Wake, Kwajalein) and rebalanced supply by December. I then decided to strike the final blow in my policy of starvation before shifting to the attack – a nuclear strike.

Nuclear apocalypse comes to America

At this point I discovered that I’d misunderstood the game interface, and had probably been in possession of a bomb since May some time – my next bomb would be ready in December. So I had one to play with in November, and another coming a month later. My first attack was on the highest value target on the West Coast, Los Angeles. I reduced the entire city to ash, setting all its productive, industrial and infrastructure capacity to 0. A month later I followed up with San Francisco, and also a conventional missile attack on San Diego and Portland. By January dissent in the US was running at 10%, which is a huge drain on their fighting ability, supply effectiveness and industrial capacity. After this attack I think the masterminds of the US war effort decided to redouble their efforts to supply Hawaii and recapture Pearl Harbour, because my carrier fleet in the East Pacific intercepted several larger fleets, all of which met a similar fate to the rest of the ill-fated US navy. The remains of the US’s carrier fleet went to the bottom of the sea, and I now possess the largest, most powerful navy in the world, in control of the largest empire. But, the US still controlled half of Hawaii, and remained a threat to my installations there. I began reshuffling my forces to strike the final blow, beginning with the naval capture of Niihau. Still lacking sufficient transports, I was again reduced to shuffling forces one at a time, but due to the supply restrictions I was now basing my marines in Midway Island.

The final battle: grasping the chance of a desperate error

While I was shuffling my forces around the US launched a desperate attack from Kauai against Niihau to try and recapture it. Were this to work, I would lose some 12 Divisions of troops to the US aggressor, and given their supply situation I doubt the survivors of that battle would be treated according to the laws of war. I had to launch a desperate counter-attack, which I did first of all by flank-attacking them from the neighbouring island of Pearl Harbour. Even throwing 12 more Divisions into the battle didn’t turn the tide though, just slowed down the inevitable destruction. But I had a force of semi-battle ready marines in Midway, which I sent in to attack the island on which the US was based – an enveloping attack that, in my past experience, was still not a very reliable tactic against a large and dug-in US force. I also dispatched my central carrier group to bombard the island, and threw more soldiers from Pearl Harbour into the battle to prevent the US from achieving a preliminary victory in Niihau. The extra troops delayed the inevitable just long enough for my marines to hit the beaches, and this turned the tide. The defenders in Niihau repulsed the US attack, and then my marines slaughtered them on the beaches. Some 12 infantry and 3 armoured divisions were cleaned up in that final, desperate battle, and all of Hawaii had fallen into Japanese hands.

The aftermath

First I want to make it clear that Japanese forces won’t treat our prisoners with the same callous disregard that the US were willing to show in those final twilit hours of their illegal occupation of Hawaii. They will be treated with honour as prisoners of war, and given the situation in their homeland now I suspect they’ll be glad of the rest and recuperation that time in a Japanese prison camp has to offer them. I now control all of Asia from Oman to Hawaii, Korea to New Zealand, with the exception of Nationalist China and Australia (which is in any case a puppet of mine after its earlier conquest). For now I’m leaving Nationalist China while I finish off the US, because capturing China opens a huge border with Russia. I will have another nuclear weapon ready in May, and I’m confident that by then I will also have several ICBMs built. My plan is to strike New York, which will probably throw the US into such disarray that they will suffer a coup or collapse to barbarism (partisans). I will then invade through Seattle.

Some lessons learned:

  • Dissent is a powerful tool: Not only does it weaken armies, but it reduces industrial capacity (10% dissent in the US equates to 40 points of IC – I only have 230). Reduced IC can only be recovered by increasing the amount of money produced[2], but liberal democracies[3] require a lot of consumption to reduce dissent. This means that the US not only loses IC from dissent, but then has to devote more IC to quelling it. Once my third strike pushes dissent up higher, I aim to destroy other industrial centres, and capture the remaining West Coast centres in Seattle. Then it will be virtually impossible for the US to stifle its dissent and thus to continue to fight the war
  • Starvation is difficult: Even with complete control of the seas it’s very hard to blockade an island like Hawaii that sits at the juncture of several ocean regions. This, I suppose, is why it’s strategically important
  • Nuclear weapons turn the tide: There was a noticeable degradation of combat ability after I nuked the US. Dissent, loss of supply capacity all worked to prevent effective combat
  • Watch your convoys and supply load: As your territories expand – especially across many scattered islands – your supply convoy load increases dramatically. If you cluster too many troops on one island they will inevitably lose supply, and you open the risk of the entire lot of them being wiped out in one mistimed battle. As your empire grows, your convoys need to grow in accordance. Convoys don’t develop, so are perfect beneficiaries of gearing. Set a train of 9 or 10 running when you start expanding, and you’ll be fine. And if you see lots of little messages saying they’re being sunk, send one of your navies out to deal with it. And if you aren’t tough enough to protect your convoys, give up – you’re done for.

From here on I just have to work out how to capture the whole USA without marching across it, which will take forever. I’m thinking of a strategy of spies and launching a coup, but I really don’t fancy my chances. In the meantime I need to capture Diego Garcia to prevent attacks on my flank; and then I need to decide whether to head into Europe through the Suez canal, or deal with the last part of Asia that isn’t already mine – China.

With nuclear weapons at my disposal, these decisions are a lot easier than they were before. Unless someone else gets them too … and there’s only one way to make sure that doesn’t happen…

fn1: which, if they were sunk while carrying troops, means that the US may have lost an additional countless number of soldiers. I don’t know how many transports I sank, but if they were all populated with troops in movement, I may have killed another 200-400,000 soldiers by this means.

fn2: Hearts of Iron 2 uses the George W. Bush approach to controlling dissent during war – higher consumption!

fn3: Ha! It is the twilight of their age. From here on the world will see only Shogunates.

They used to belong to the Dutch, but at some point all empires must fall (except mine). Perhaps they should be renamed to the “Japanese South Ryukyus,” but I’m saving that name for the Phillipines (which, sadly, will involve killing a lot of Americans, which is why I’m enhancing my fleet). I’ve found an excellent series of posts by some chap (I suspect an Australian) who successfully took over the world as Japan; I’m thinking of asking him how he managed to get such a huge industrial capacity by 1941, since I was lied to and have nowhere near as much benefit from China as I was expecting. The result of this is that I need a few provinces with oil, and who better to take it from than the perfidious Dutch? Tall, waffle-ated bigots the lot of them. Even their fascists are gay. They don’t deserve colonial possessions. Especially colonial possessions that offer excellent views of Australia, a launching point for rapid assaults on both French Indochina and the Phillipines, and a lot of oil and rare materials.

It’s not like the Dutch have anything to fear, anyway; Germany is about to be annexed by the Soviet Union and no amount of colonial resource flows is going to save Holland from the red tide that’s about to roll over them. Maybe I’ll offer the survivors a squalid village in Lombok where they can swelter and labour under the whip of their Sumatran overlords.

The Netherlands will fall fast, basically as fast as I’m willing to do amphibious assaults, and they are fairly resource rich. After that, unless I turn on Siam (who seem to be allied with too many people) my next step is America. In September 1943 the Pearl Harbour event will be triggered, but I’m expecting that before then the USA will go to war with the USSR, in which case I will avoid the Pearl Harbour event and build up my fleet for another year before I do anything; I suspect that the Pearl Harbour event triggers a massive frenzy of carrier construction by the US, which they won’t do if I just quietly invade their western seaboard after I destroy their Pacific fleet. I need them to be deeply embroiled in an unwinnable war with the Russians for this to be achievable, though.

Last time I fought America I managed to capture chunks of the Western seaboard (California, etc.) but ran out of manpower. This time I have invested early in manpower improvements; I just need to ensure my fleet survives to protect my transports. Then I need to get nukes early, but I’ve delayed building my powerplant for a year while I try to build up a decent industrial capacity, a tactic that hasn’t really worked because Chinese partisans are stopping me at every turn. So… to the Netherlands…

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