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Title: Emergent narratives
Posted: November 18, 2010 (10:05 AM)
"Tell Your Own Damn Stories! Games, Overreading and Emergent Narrative"

http://futurismic.com/2010/11/10/tell-your-own-damn-stories-games-overreading-and-emergent-narrative/

It's an article about how to tell stories - focusing on the inevitable amount of narrative that people put into the events they see in front of them.

I don't agree with what the guy says of games or film in terms of emergent narratives - there's always a combination of setting and narrative devices that create a good story in the minds of the audience.

So suggesting that meaningless events following one after the other is actually a stroke of genius - that's the kind of thing best left for advertisement and politics, probably.. But he does make a few very good points about how narratives work. So go read.
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Title: Down in a hole
Posted: November 13, 2010 (11:39 PM)


Bury me softly in this womb
I give this part of me for you
Sand rains down and here I sit
Holding rare flowers
In a tomb...in bloom

Down in a hole and I don't know if I can be saved
See my heart I decorate it like a grave
You don't understand who they
Thought I was supp-osed to be
Look at me now, a man
Who wont let himself be

Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, losing my soul
Id like to fly,
But my wings have been so denied

Down in a hole and they've put all
The stones in their place
Ive eaten the sun so my tongue
Has been burned of the taste

I have been guilty
Of kicking myself in the teeth
I will speak no more
Of my feelings beneath

Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, losing my soul
Id like to fly but my
Wings have been so denied

Bury me softly in this womb
(Oh I want to be inside of you)
I give this part of me for you
(Oh I want to be inside of you)
Sand rains down and here I sit
Holding rare flowers (oh I want to be inside of you)
In a tomb...in bloom
(Oh I want to be inside...)

Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, losing my soul
Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, out of control
Id like to fly but my
Wings have been so denied
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Title: KZ3 preview...
Posted: November 05, 2010 (01:33 PM)
..ok. This is perhaps the single most depressing thing I've seen in a long while. The game's broken. Half of the abilities clearly don't work as intended, the game doesn't handle lag at all. The framerate is shot when you have just four-five players on the screen. The contols - while nice and smooth - has nothing good going for them in this game.

Obviously, being a Sony game, the LMG is woefully overpowered to the point it's just laughable. And there's also the mandatory auto-aim to compensate for the warping. Note that the warping actually is there in a bot only match as well. I kid you not - the transitions between the animation states are that bad.

The animation quality has gone down - they've focused on more different skins, and nicer static animations, instead of keeping the animations from KZ2.

They've also decided to continue with the "detached first person view" from the KZ2 patch-nightmare. So that any instability and recoil you have is independent of your actual movement.

It's terrible. And yet - if you've been following the KZ2 horror, you'll know that every single one of the things they've done with KZ3 has actually been asked and pined for by the "community". That is, the ones that are still left playing the game..

..anyway.. so: question. Should I write a serious preview of this? I can be accurate and specific, pointing out the rules of the game, and how it's a beta. Don't have to go overboard here, or anything..

But.. why even do it, you know? It's been done 100 thousand times before. Identically.. For every other shooter game made before. You could do like joystiq, and just substitute Halo 3 with Killzone 3 - and write the same preview.

Christ this is depressing.

Title: Linux - the easy and functional way.
Posted: November 02, 2010 (11:34 AM)
So here's a small capture of linux w/compiz fusion running on my Eee.

http://www.youtube.com/...

It's a basic Linux Mint 9 distro with a gnome desktop environment.

The menu-bar with the icons, similar to what you get in the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, was done by adding the "maximus" window-manager to start at boot. As well as adding the "window-picker-applet" to the gnome panel.

Presto, result is an efficient and good-looking desktop.

And none of this requires you to do anything magical, and all of it is available through the package manager or a graphical front-end.

(In the example, I'm running Openoffice. Opening an Office 2007 document, then exporting it to a pdf. Opera runs back there. Spotify (the windows-version) is running in the background through wine. And I'm using smplayer to play Gintama. The left top corner brings up the wall. The right corner picks up all the active and open windows - minimized windows only exist on the bar with the icons. But you can change that to what you want. Note that the capture is in 15fps, and running the encode (along with the rest) made the 3d effects take a hit.

I just managed to get Silent Storm running in 3d at about 4 frames per second.. that's what the icon is doing on the desktop :/ This is a problem when gaming on linux - graphics drivers for embedded graphics cards won't work well with direct addressing, or typical solutions that are reasonably quick in a windows-environment. In the same way, I can make h.264 codecs work fairly well in linux, but not nearly as well as they would "hardware-accelerated" under windows. This does depend on the particular graphics card, though, and how far the development of the graphics drivers is).

Anyway, see the bottom of the post for directions on how to install a live-image if you would want to do that.


------


So a while ago, I bought an Eee PC with an ssd disk. I bought it to write on. A laptop in the backpack sounds light, but even a MacBook weighs a ton if you're lugging it around all day. Besides, the battery life per performance isn't much better until you buy something in the 1000 class. Nvidia's and AMD's integrated bus solutions are not turning up any time soon either, thanks to how the industry works - so this was and unfortunately still is, the best solution for a lightweight "netbook".

Anyway. So I paid my Windows tax, and booted the thing up. Nice. Runs some games, and a psx-emulator.

While the Windows on it worked, it ate up my hard-drive. I don't know why. It tended to hang. It wanted updates, that I installed - which broke programs I used. Eventually it started to grate on my nerves to think about booting it up. Not a success.

Alternatives? Buy Leopard? Maybe - MacBooks use the same integrated chipset as the later Eee's, so why not..? ..but then on second thought...

So. Linux. I had a gentoo build on my other computer. But that's not really very useful for a laptop, since you compile source, and need some more processing power (and battery) if you want to install programs. I could compile on my other computer and set up my own repository, but... no, this is too much work.

So I started looking around for a linux-build. First attempt was elive. It's the e17 window manager running with compiz fusion (3d effects, and so on) - which is based on debian.

(Explanation at this point: Debian is the package repository channel for several large distributions, such as Suse, Ubuntu, and so on. They're well maintained, and active. The distribution, in this case "elive", then consists of a configuration of packages from debian, along with a desktop environment - e17 - running beside a composite window manager called compiz fusion. All of these parts exist in the debian package well. The windows equivalent would be to call the menu-navigation and the maximize, minimize window scheme the window manager. The desktop environment with the buttons on the desktop, the integrated file-presentation, etc, would be the desktop environment. And the operating system would be the functions underneath that you don't see. Windows does not have a package repository - instead you install separate programs that may or may not adhere to platform standard).

Elive was an interesting experiment, and I learned a bit from that, such as how dumb it is to create a new branch with specific implementations to get the build to work. This breaks against updated packages, and makes sure that the distro is useless if you update it later.

The second attempt was Fedora 10. This was supposed to have the Moblin core included (an ibm-developed concept that demonstrated a 10 second boot on an sse2 compatible system - very interesting use of parallel processing schemes, and... right). It actually did work - but Fedora never maintained their builds for stability - and absolutely not while thinking about using their build on netbooks.

There was an extra branch of kernels for use with netbooks of different kinds, that did support the wifi driver and graphics card. But since the package repository would be invalidated very quickly, and often impossible to actually build for the old kernels because of requirements in the new builds - this just became too much work.

I wondered about making something out of the Gentoo build I had - preconfigure the most useful programs, and then compile new programs overnight. That, too, would be overkill, though. No need to compile programs for a kernel that isn't actually patched specifically for my netbook anyway.

Ok. So what about ubuntu? I've never liked the Ubuntu folks. They're advertising for their build very effectively, I guess. And enforcing "open source" at the cost of functionality for some reason. Until it's just open source for the sake of open source.

Open Source never was about that - it was about maintaining a good platform with open standards. Forcing people to watch and listen to ogg (and preventing people from watching divx) won't do that.

It also is a horrible mess of bloat upon bloat. Like someone said, wistfully: if Ubuntu was called Windows, it would be exactly as popular.

But let's not be close-minded, and try it out - and it turns out that Ubuntu had made some strides ahead since last time. In fact, if you download a "live-image" (it's just a build you can run without installing it on the disc), and insert it in windows - you'll get instructions on how to take a look at their new netbook specific frontend, and things of that sort. Many useful things - some not so useful. But not bad.

I spent about a week trying to pare down the install, until I broke some resource the boot-manager was based on. Sad, sad. Still, it does work, and contains what you need after an install.

Last attempt was Linux Mint. http://www.linuxmint.com/

Turns out that someone else had had the exact same impressions as me before, and made a pared down build of the Ubuntu package.

So that's that. A very light and specific build, suited for a laptop. With a desktop environment of your choice (kde, gnome, fluxbox), with enough pre-installed packages that you don't need to download masses of packages to get started.

It is served, in other words.

-----

Recipe for installing a linux live-image:

You need:
1. USB-stick, 1-2GB (will be formatted),
(or a cd/dvd + burner)
2. Computer.
3. 30 minutes.

The process is reasonably simple. Go to, say:
http://www.linuxmint.com/

Download the live-image of your choice.

If you're in windows, or linux, you can for example download a program called "Unetbootin"(search for it on the net). This program places a live-image on an usb-stick, and then making it bootable. Useful for netbooks. The process is: pick the image locally, choose the usb-stick, complete.

Or simply burn the live-image to a cd with your cd-authoring tool of choice.

Once you're done, boot the computer and hit "esc" during the firs bios-prompt. Most computers will then let you choose the available media you wish to boot from. If not, you need to open the bios configuration (f1 at boot or something), and then pick the cd-rom or the usb-port as the first boot-partition. (But don't forget to turn it back later).

You can then boot up the build, have a look around, and see what it's like. If nothing scared you too badly at this point, installing it on your hard-drive shouldn't give you any trouble either.
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Title: Want an EA Store discount code..? :/
Posted: October 28, 2010 (05:52 AM)
..uh. Yeah.. *cough*

So I've been raging a lot at EA support lately, because of two things:

1. Three days after I posted my Bad Company 2 review, they patched the servers to have a load-balancing scheme that allows you to connect to any server from anywhere on the planet, with any kind of connection.

This is done so EA will save money on server space, being able to use overseas server space for load-balancing during peak-times. This lowers the number of slots they need to maintain at all times.

The drawback is that the game will always lag - either because you are on a server far away. Or because someone else in on a server far away while you're not.

It also invites cheaters. Lag-switching isn't very effective in this game - but it's certainly possible to exploit the warps from a solid cut-off. And the way the hit-detection is upset with a high packet loss at strategic times.

2. I'm a sad, sad person. Who are also really, really pissed off when publishers crash their games - after release - with the justification of earning more money.

But obviously EA isn't going to earn more money when their game doesn't play as it did on the demo. They're going to get a reputation for falsely advertising their online games, and using shitty server space in Mongolia!

..sorry. Where was I..

Right. So of course support can't really do anything for me. Even if they really are the only ones I actually can contact.

But - they have these discount codes for their store. Which would be great, if I WANTED ANOTHER EA GAME with lag! What's 20% off /nothing/, you damned... god..

..So if anyone is planning on buying something off the EA store anyway. There's Mirror's Edge, or NFS: Underground ..? Any of their horrible sports-games, I guess.. Then drop me a message in this thread - where you debase yourself terribly, and beg in a very convincing manner. Then I will give it some thought, and send you one of the two discount codes support had to spare.

There's one for 15% and one for 20%. I don't think they're keyed to my account, and they have no expiration date.

..seriously, though. First ones to ask gets them.
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Title: Strategic space sim review suggestions..?
Posted: October 11, 2010 (07:27 AM)
So, after reading Willthegreat's Flotilla review, I started thinking..

There are a few games similar to this. That all are kind of interesting. From Star Control, to O.R.B, Homeworld 1&2, to Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. The Star Trek game with the ship to ship battles. ..can we count E.V.E. Online in here? Masters of Orion..?

And we're ranging from more or less arcade combat to strategic resource and empire-building, and to the more narrative-driven large ship combat in Nexus, all the way to the combined scenario-driven Homeworld.

But there's two themes here. Space exploration and strategic ship combat.

Anyone want to do a theme-thing, and post the reviews at about the same time? A strategic space-sim theme for a particular week, something like that..?

If anyone's interested.. maybe pick a game on the list, or something else that fits, and I'll take the remaining one :)
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Title: The uncreative process... (Katamari edition).
Posted: October 08, 2010 (12:09 PM)
..I've thought about doing something like this for each review before - for the sake of looking at ways to think about the process for myself (and to lie about it until the writing process seems wonderful and magical) - but never got around to it. Then I never got to scan the crazy notes, or the scraps of paper in my backpack, so it wasn't really very fun to post either.

But I'll do one this time for the Katamari review.

First problem - what's the pitch?

Review it as an arcade game? Roll the levels, complete and let the King score your performance? ..maybe?

edit: Found some more notes. It's the usual flow-chart that reads: (1. "Plot" -> 2. Rolling Mechanic -> 3. Excuse for Game-mechanic -> 1.). Or, it's a good excuse for a game-mechanic.

As a story? I don't think I can say more than I did in the review about the plot before people start to think I'm doing drugs.

As a casual game for children of all ages? ..that's kind of what the game is. But how interested are people really in hearing me ramble on about how much my nieces picked up on the plot almost instantly?

But could use that to go meta, and describe the elements more directly about the royal family - and the small but primary main characters, the Prince and his cousins, of all shapes, sizes and colours..? I.e., that it's the children that saves the day, although the universe revolves around the King and the Queen?

Certainly that's a strong and compelling context in the game, just as the Katamari mechanic - growing from small beginnings, until packing up large monster that gobbles up the stars.

Keita Takahashi definitively did that on purpose with this game, letting the player muse on that while playing. Which makes the game unique in more ways than one, being not about destroying your enemies, or defeating the bad-guys - but instead giving you a metaphor for growing up. From small beginnings to doing great things - destructive or otherwise. All the while from seeing the small perspective at first, and never quite forgetting it.

So whether you're already grown up, you could relive the awe and magnificence of looking up to the bigger fry. Or if from the other side, scout ahead at the larger opportunities waiting for you in the future.

It's a mind-f* ..trip, and a good game is, after all, a way to translate the creator's vision of the world to be experienced by others.

..I settled on using the wrapper Takahashi's studio folks used for introducing the game, though.

This was the first draft, put down on my phone during my day-job:

"One day, the King of the Universe is out in the Nebulae playing with his son, the Prince. The Prince can jump pretty far, but he's no match for the King just yet. In fact, the King can jump as high as he likes, and he does, just to show the Prince how it's done - and disaster strikes! And he's hit in the head by a meteor.

The King falls over, severely, into a hammock. And he can't wake up, no matter how hard he tries.

Crisis! The King of the Universe is indisposed! All the King's family scurry around looking for a solution to this terrible problem.

Eventually one is found: one will create a new King, a Robot King - and who will know the difference anyway.

So now the game starts - you're given the task of inserting the core into the Robo King, to awaken him. If you are new to the Katamari games, this serves as a tutorial level."

..I have a full keyboard on it, no big deal. Had to rewrite it a couple of times.

So that's the structure of the review: Narrative context lifted from the game, and copied the build-up in the game until the tutorial mission. Basically using that build-up the game-designers used to introduce you to the game. And fitted the game-mechanics into this part.

Then we're coming to more about the plot, using that to present the game-modes. I thought the game-modes need very little introduction specifically. Maybe should have written more specifically about what new modes were in the game, though..

At this point, I probably was so hung up in the metaphor that I couldn't leave it alone.

So in the end that became the end to the review as well - hints to the narrative in the game, with an "avoidance of completeness" (read: lie) about what the player will see when booting up the disc. With the justification that it would say more about the game-experience than being more specific.

..I don't know. I'm pretty happy with it, even if the short paragraphs are still there (from when typing at a 320x200 screen).
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Title: "Luke Plunkett has destarred you"
Posted: October 08, 2010 (03:29 AM)
..*shrug*? ..and no link.

Why, though? ..I promoted someone wondering where the content was in their new "review" style. That was actually all that day.. A bit sore, are we?

Luke:
"If you're who I remember you were - I spent most of last night on commenting stuff - I de-starred you for using that star power to promote lame comments, which is a big no-no.

Remember you were de-starred. Not banned. Stars go around and come around, so the next time one comes around, try and remember that with that power comes responsibility ;)"

Which is funny. Because Luke can't write a review that doesn't contain the words "iPad", "Apple", and "I love it!". Luke also thinks I'm five years old, and likes his attention. How sweet.

Brian Crescente pitches in:
"Go back and look at your comments and let me know if you think that a bulk of your recent comments are insightful talking points that move the conversation forward."

Like this thought-provoking piece of autheurship, fresh off the mainpage?

"Watch Obama Bring The Rain In NBA Jam

US President Barack Obama is in the new NBA Jam, alongside a bunch of other prominent past and current politicians. Sounds like it's worth a chuckle when you read it, but man, you have to see it. More "

..Yes. Thought-provoking stuff, Mr. Crescente.

Seriously, when did Kotaku turn into /only/ crap? I used to have good talks about games there, and feel somewhat confident the owners of the blog wouldn't disapprove of comments about their editorial decisions. Then they started starring people for fart-jokes, and banning folks who came up with suggestions as well as good reasoning behind them (deanb, for example). And they've really turned it into something from the gawker advertisment catalogue. As well as started sanitizing messages that has to do with the following subjects: war, republicans, politics, the US army.

Any original coverage has also started to become so lame that it's lost all it's punch. It used to be clever undertones in the Activision/Kotick interviews. Or pictures of burnt EA checks sent together with the review copy of Dante's Inferno. And then... ban anyone and anything that isn't baby-mush. Steven Totilo doing occlusion testing on the Move. AT SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, IN DIFFERENT LIGHTING CONDITIONS IN MANY OF THEM! Hard-hitting journalism!

All the while, of course, proclaiming that Kotaku has the highest possible standard for content. And enjoys thought-provoking commentary that "brings the discussion forward".

...Unless you're not randomly dissed by staff for some reason they can't actually tell you honestly.

Brian again:
"Take care."

Sure, Brian. I just hope I actually get the scoop on what the fuck happened to you one day.
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Title: Vanquish devs talk tech on their blog (kinda)
Posted: September 25, 2010 (11:03 AM)
Not exactly in depth, obviously, but entertaining and informative.

http://platinumgames.com/blog/
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Title: Java Jive
Posted: September 12, 2010 (04:29 AM)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxRLk7voXfc

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the jivin' and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup'..

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops - Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!

Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
And I cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
A slice of onion and a raw one, draw one.
Waiter, waiter, percolator..

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the jivin' and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!

Boston bean, soy bean
Lima bean, string bean.
You know that I'm not keen for a bean
Unless it is a cheery coffee bean.

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the jivin' and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops! Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!

Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
And I cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
Drop me a nickel in my pot, Joe, Takin' it slow.
Waiter, waiter, percolator!

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the jivin' and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup'..
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Title: Congrats to the Greens
Posted: August 24, 2010 (10:37 AM)
So, congratulations to the Greens and Adam Bandt with the seat in Melbourne - the first representative for the Greens in the Senate.

As well as with the respectable result in the general election. Speculations about the government eventually to be formed aside, it is certain that there will be no majority rule. Which means the presence of the smaller parties will be important. Not simply until a new election, but perhaps in terms of whether the sitting government will be successful with a minority rule - the first one in Oz since the second world war.

Best of luck to you down under. :)
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Title: Yakuza review Yakuza 3
Posted: August 10, 2010 (10:07 AM)
http://kotaku.com/5609111/yakuza-review-yakuza-3

After I explain to him what Sega cut from the US version, he said: アメリカ版を買った奴がかわいそうだ。セガUSAが最低だね.(Translation: I feel sorry for the people who bought the American version. SEGA USA sucks.)
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Title: Let me take you down..
Posted: August 10, 2010 (07:54 AM)
No one I think is in my tree - I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in, but it's all right.
That is I think it's not too bad.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real
-and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out.
It doesn't matter much to me.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always know sometimes think it's me, but you know I know and it's a dream.
I think I know of thee, ah yes, but it's all wrong.
That is I think I disagree.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
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Title: Good bye, playstation community.
Posted: August 05, 2010 (06:00 AM)
So I got banned. Again. And threatened with a permanent ban if I ever return.

Want to know what I was banned for? In a thread called "Influence MAG: part II" - where the moderators and devs descend to allow the community to input on another completely pointless feature - I explained why the beta-members failed to ask the right questions during the beta of MAG - and described how they didn't support those of us that actually did ask the right questions.

This was deleted, because it didn't follow Yaster's "advice" about being chill and friendly.

Then I apologised for misunderstanding his "advice", and apologised for wasting everyone's time in the suggestion thread where the community would be allowed to field some input.

So I was banned. For trolling.

So there you have it. If you ever wonder why Playstation games and functions have these ridiculous features no one wants. And why the powers that be only ever manage to produce talk, if at all that, about getting the things that actually make sense into the package - now you know.

Because the truth is that the beta-testers they have are used as focus-groups and initial customer reaction, not as testers for faults and bugs. While the community is used for advertisement for already decided on projects, rather than a source for input and ideas.

But no worries. At least it's official now that we aren't really allowed to make suggestions.
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Title: Alpha Protocol: the Bond Ending
Posted: July 12, 2010 (05:18 AM)
Ok, so that's the first playthrough done, with a few extra replays of the last mission. In the end, I saved the world and sailed into the sunset with the double agent clinging to my back.

But the first time, I sailed off alone after killing all my enemies and any links I didn't trust. That, too, made complete sense.

Then I attempted caving at the last minute to Leiland - and there was another ending based on my choices so far.

The thing is that during the missions, the conversations are tailored to what happened earlier. And that really makes it work - not just look like it works - to give you an impact on the world without being presented with too many cartoonish black and white choices.

This ranges from enemies commenting on your style and approach (you do have a villain like that in the game), and to who will seek to ally themselves with you. Which you can then turn down, because you want to seek other alliances.

You will also be able to betray everyone if you want at at least two points - but it's not completely certain that you will be able to, the way it is presented.

That you are also tested afterwards on the choices is a nice touch - because it's used to make the plot flow, not to narrow down the ambiguity.

(you can read the other posts on AP on my blog :) )
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