Mass Effect Andromeda: Before the Patch

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At the time of writing, version 1.05 of BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda is sitting on an Xbox One, daring me to quit my productive university work and install it. Issues such as lifeless eyes, a transgender faux-pas, and the now infamous “noot noot” mouth animations are slated to be fixed, alongside some minor balancing tweaks and bug fixes. As a result, now feels like a good time to discuss some of the issues, and the surrounding criticism that has circled the otherwise perfectly enjoyable game since its release.

Before I start, I should probably preface this with a disclaimer- I am a Mass Effect fanboy; Andromeda could be an unplayable mess where nothing works and you have to manually brush your teeth on the Tempest every morning and I would still find myself at least somewhat compelled to defend the game. However, despite the claims of trolls and wildly overreacting members of the gaming community, Andromeda is no such travesty. It has issues, certainly, mostly regarding animation and the occasionally frustrating bug, but overall it is a very solid game, with BioWare delivering on its strongest suits once again, with good, three-dimensional characters, an engaging storyline and a universe that feels like it could be real.

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Unfortunately, while I could talk all day about the nuances of Jaal’s character, or just how ridiculously awesome the Memory Triggers quest was, the fanfare currently surrounding the game is regarding those aforementioned faults, and as such needs to be addressed. I think the upcoming patch is necessary for the game to achieve its true potential, which is sad. On the other hand, in an age of No Man’s Sky and that god-awful Batman game, these issues are, in my opinion, trivial. While it’s unfortunate that more and more developers are relying on post-Day One content to “fix” the problems with their games, context is required- Andromeda is still an excellent game even without the patch, and the willingness of BioWare to release this patch so quickly while dealing with all of the issues fans had with the game, shows that they genuinely care about the quality of their games.

To address the issues directly, I would now like to talk about the animations in the game. Problems with the Pathfinder’s “zig-zag” walk and whatever Foster “Pingu” Addison’s deal was are undoubtedly annoying and immersion breaking, and should not have been in the game at this point in development. Addison, especially, with her expressionless face and make-up that looked like it was applied by a child in the dark, was at times so poorly done that it made me laugh. At some other times as well, with mouth movements in particular, I felt like I was being taken out of the moment by some ropey animations. On the other hand, there are some truly excellent sequences within the game- I have yet to see any grossly unnatural body movements within the gameplay sections, for example, and Cora’s romance scene is flawlessly executed, if surprisingly explicit. And finally, while the default Sara Ryder has come in for criticism by some, I personally have no complaints regarding her animation or appearance.

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Another criticism levelled is regarding the eyes of some human and asari characters, as well as the identical model used for almost every asari within the game (Peebee being the only one with a different face). The default Scott at times looks like he is falling asleep, and the texturing makes some characters aimlessly stare into the middle-distance with lifeless eyes (cue Jaws quote). On the other hand, the more alien species have incredible detail placed on these areas, in particular the Angara and Krogan, who at times look genuinely lifelike. While this inconsistency is annoying, this is another problem fixed in the patch (and from the few screenshots I’ve seen, it makes a huge difference).

Finally, there has been minor controversy with Dr. Hainly Abrams, a relatively insignificant NPC at the Prodromos outpost on Eos. Through dialogue, she reveals that she used to be called “Stephan” and left the Milky Way for a new start. As such, this pretty strongly suggests that Hainly is transgendered (although it would not be unforgivable to not know Stephan isn’t also a girl’s name in the future, as some players assumed), making her the only such character in the game. The problem, to my understanding, is not with her inclusion (assuming you live in the real world), but with her off-handedly “deadnaming” herself- which is not something that people in that situation do, especially to complete strangers. Therefore, some members of the LGBT community were offended by this, and pointed out the mistake. Speaking as someone with little knowledge on the subject, this was not something I was aware of, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have not known this before. In the same vein, I don’t think it is outlandish to assume that Andromeda’s writers, who probably included the detail in the name of inclusivity, also did not know this, and meant no offense. Therefore, considering that Dr. Abrams’ dialogue is listed in the patch notes as a change, they have admitted to their mistake, and corrected it at the first opportunity- again proving that they care about their audience’s enjoyment of the game.

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Overall, while I can accept that I perhaps view the game with Element Zero-tinted glasses, and what I look for in the game is not necessarily universal, I refuse to accept that Andromeda is an objectively bad game. For every wooden animation there is a stunning backdrop; for every doll-eyed stare there is a heartwarming character moment, and for every irritating bug there’s a boatload of great gaming experiences. So, for anyone who thinks the game is “literally unplayable” or any other unnecessary hyperbole, I suggest you put down your pitchfork and take the game at face value. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy yourself.

 

The views expressed in this article are purely my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Minimum Effort, who are probably sick and tired of Pete playing Mass Effect for the 5th time in 18 months.

The Minimum Effort Podcast Ep.2: Ghost in the Shell and Obi-Wan?

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Ben and Lewis finally get around to recording the second exciting episode of the new-canon podcast, and boy is it packed with content!

Join them as they talk about movie news, The Walking Dead, Ghost in the Shell, Star Wars Rebels, and the strong rumours about an Obi-Wan movie that have dredged up just a little bitterness…

Return of the Podcast- Ep.1: ‘Logan!’

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Hello all, I have some mildly exciting news to share today- the podcast is back!

We’ve decided to reboot the whole thing, which is why this is episode 1 and not episode 14 or whatever the old one got up to. We felt it needed a fresh start, and this time around, for now anyway, we’ll only be doing the podcast in audio form; it lightens the workload and therefore makes us more inclined to actually do it.

So yeah, here’s the first episode for your enjoyment.

Today Ben and Lewis are talking about feelings and stuff as they review Logan, and picking apart the best and worst trailers last week had to offer.

 

Do you have something to say about Logan? Or want to furiously defend Fast and Furious: The Fate of the Furious? Then leave a comment below!

And if you think we’re worthy then please like and/or follow us…

Doctor Who – Insert Clickbait Here…

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So it was announced last week, although from what I remember rumours have been circulating for a while, that Peter Capaldi will be hanging up his TARDIS key at the end of the year, meaning the search for his replacement is on. But, before we jump into that, I want to take a look back at his time in the TARDIS…

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On the 4th of August Capaldi was announced as the 12th Doctor and I, for one, was pretty pleased with that. We were promised a more old school Doctor, not as unlikable as Colin Baker’s 6th, rather, more like the Grandfatherly figure of William Hartnell’s 1st doctor with a fashion choice to match. This is what I wanted. I wasn’t a fan of Matt Smith at the time (I’m still not, but I watch his last season more fondly now) and I saw Capaldi as a step in the right direction, getting away from the touchy-feely 10th and 11th Doctors (Hey, you leave David Tenant out of this- Lewis).

However, on the whole, I was pretty disappointed by Capaldi; in his first episode we saw some glimpses of the Doctor he wanted to be, but that was lost in the following campy -episodes and mopey characters. His character traits were often spoken about; an incredible over use of – “I don’t do hugs” – (which was often ignored) for example. It was clear that the writers were trying to tell us that this Doctor was an older, more distant man rather than try to show us, but that simply robbed this new trait of its impact. You see, you wouldn’t dream of hugging the older Doctors, which was exactly what I wanted to see in Capaldi’s episodes, and I honestly think that he wanted this characterisation too, but the writers were just too attached to the previous incarnations of the Doctor.  I can count the number of standout episodes from the Capaldi years on one hand- The Time Heist and the two-parter episode Under the lake/Before the Flood. Beyond that, the cast weren’t given much room at all to grow as Steven Moffat pleasured himself with the idea of sonic-fucking-sunglasses (Jesus, thank God he is leaving).

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Anticippointment (Anticipation followed by disappointment) summarises how I feel about Peter Capaldi’s time in the Tardis. I had high hopes for a different Doctor, but I think the show was let down by some really poor writing- what is new there? I would have really liked Capaldi to stick around for a few more seasons to see what he could do with a new writing team, but it just wasn’t to be. An issue may have been that I wanted to see a Malcolm Tucker- esque Doctor, which is obviously not ok for a broadcast shown at 7 O’clock on BBC one… so yeah, that has led to my anticippointment.

It’s strange though, because, looking at the numbers, the two Capaldi series have been the most successful yet in terms of viewing figures and critical reviews, which baffles me because most people I know have stopped watching the show rather than started it.

Anyway, it’s speculation time.

The precedent has been set with the Master so I honestly wouldn’t rule out a female iteration of the Doctor. Provided it isn’t as irritating as ‘Missy’ (another concept I’m sure Moffat tugs off to) I am open to a female Time Lord in the TARDIS, but who would I want behind the wheel? Well, looking through the current favourites, here are some options:

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Ben Whishaw 5/1 – An interesting choice, he was up there last time round. He would probably be a Doctor more akin to Matt Smith’s iteration. Whishaw made a very good Q in the last two Bond films, and he could make a very good Doctor.

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Richard Ayoade 6/1 – This would be bloody hysterical for two or three episodes, but after that I’m not too sure.

 

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Rory Kinnear 7/1 – Another Bond man, I like this choice- he’s more of a dad than a grandad, and not the type to be another ‘boyfriend’ Doctor. This is one of my preferred choices on this list.

 

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Miranda Hart 8/1 – No. Just No.

 

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Jason Flemyng 9/1 – Much like Kinnear, a Flemyng Doctor would be an intermediate between Capaldi and Smith, and to my knowledge he isn’t up to much which makes him free for long filming sessions.

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David Harewood 10/1 – I am game for this one as well, however he is involved in Supergirl which could interfere with filming commitments.

 

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Helena Bonham Carter 10/1 – So we would basically have two ‘Missys’ in the universe- I would find it pretty unwatchable.

 

 

Olivia Coleman’s name has also been mentioned, and she definitely has the comic ability/acting chops that would make her a very good Doctor, and considering the new show-runner wrote Broadchurch I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coleman at least get offered the role. Idris Elba is also on the list but with the upcoming Dark Tower film it looks like his Hollywood career is really starting to get going (Unless it’s, regrettably, a flop- Lewis), besides, I would much rather he be the next Bond than the next Doctor. Another element to consider when picking the next Doctor is the show’s new popularity in the US, which means the show runners are more likely to give the role to a bigger name rather than taking a punt on an unknown.

So that about wraps it up, a few of my opinions about the Capaldi years and a brief run through of some of the favourites to replace him. But what do you think? Who do you want to be the next Time Lord?

Please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

The Last Jedi- Who? What? Why?

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So the title for Star Wars episode eight was released yesterday, and the internet, unsurprisingly, went wild with speculation and anticipation for what already sounds like a very brooding chapter of the new Star Wars trilogy.

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‘The Last Jedi’… What does it mean? Who is the last Jedi? Why are they the last? All these incredibly obvious questions have been asked and answered all over the inter-web, and many, many people have come forward with their ideas. But here’s mine, for what it’s worth.

We learned in The Force Awakens that, after the defeat of the Empire, and his final battle with Vader and the Emperor, Luke attempted to create a new Jedi Order. We don’t yet know much about what this Order was like, whether it was as blindly stupid/arrogant as the old Jedi Order, or whether this was a new-age of the Jedi with new teachings and new beliefs. However, something obviously wasn’t all too right with the way things were going, because Kylo Ren decided he should slaughter everyone and everything. Great right? Imagine you’re Luke Skywalker; you’ve restored peace to the galaxy, and you’ve brought “balance” to the force, and now your bratty little padawan-nephew decides that “balance” is overrated and that black leather is a really cool look.

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I imagine you’d be pretty gutted after seeing everything you’ve rebuilt destroyed, and all your pupils slaughtered, just because you went wrong somewhere with Ben Solo. And so Luke’s self-exile does seem fairly reasonable when you consider the carnage that his nephew caused.

This blame that Luke’s placed upon himself, and the similarity between Kylo-Ren and Anakin Skywalker’s turns to the darkside, makes me think that Luke tried to rebuild the old Jedi order we saw in the prequels. This was the order that taught its members to swallow their emotions and discouraged romantic attachments, which was precisely what pushed Anakin over to the darkside; the users of which are consumed by their emotions rather than controlling them. I think Luke believed that this was the way the Jedi order was supposed to be, probably thanks to the knowledge provided to him by Lor San Tekka (You know… the old guy at the start of TFA), but obviously he made a mistake and history ended up repeating itself in Kylo Ren’s betrayal.

So he gave it all up and retreated to the first Jedi Temple, which is where Rey finds him at the end of The Force Awakens.

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Now, after all that preamble I can explain where I think the title “The Last Jedi” comes into it.

Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi. Yes I’m aware that it might mean Rey, and that Jedi can be used as a plural, but in my theory Luke is the referred-to Jedi.

At this point he’s had enough of everything, and he’s spent the last 6 years trying to figure out what went wrong, what he can do, and what is going to happen now. When Rey finds him, I think he’s going to be very reluctant to train her, and to begin with I think he’s going to flat-out refuse, but eventually something will change his mind. Maybe learning about the death of Han will be the trigger, or maybe he might be visited by his old mentors Obi-Wan and Yoda in the form of Force Ghosts? Perhaps we may even see the return of Qui-Gon Jinn? Anyway, whatever convinces him to train her, he won’t train her in the traditional philosophies of the Jedi, and I think that together they’ll learn what balance truly means when it comes to the force.

An example of this is the journey that the character of Kanan is currently on in Star Wars Rebels– he is realising that to follow the light and dark sides of the force exclusively brings unbalance, and that to be truly in tune with the force you have to walk the line between the two.

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This isn’t a new concept, in the old expanded universe there was a group known as the Grey Jedi, who did essentially the same thing, but this appears to be the direction that the writers are taking when it comes to force-wielding characters in the canon.

So Luke won’t train Rey to be a Jedi (they’re overrated anyway), he’ll train her to be the first in a new order of force users; an order that focuses less on the clinical approach to the force that the old Jedi had, and instead a more spiritual connection, like Maz Kanata (hint-hint) and The Bendu (Star Wars Rebels). It will be this balance that will allow Rey and Luke to overcome Kylo and the Knights of Ren (great band name), because while Ben Solo is passionately dedicated to the dark-side now that he’s committed patricide, Rey will be able to tap into her emotions but not let them consume her. Luke did the same thing at the end of Return of the Jedi, allowing him to defeat the evil in his father and destroy the Emperor.

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So anyway that’s my two cents, take it or leave it, but I really do hope that this is the direction they’re headed in, because it addresses a lot of the Jedi Order’s flaws, explains why Luke allowed another fall of the Jedi, and also prevents history from repeating itself… again.

(On a side note, I now really want The Bendu to make an appearance as Luke’s new mentor, just to have more Tom Baker and that fantastic character)

But what do you think? Am I right? Is the meaning of the title either so simple it doesn’t need explaining or so obtuse that mere mortals couldn’t deduce its true symbolism? Have I thought about this too much?
(Yes, you have. I like it and it would be interesting to see, but I think you have over-thought it. The two of them will be the “Last Jedi”…. at least for a while- Ben)

Please let us know!

Star Wars Rebels Mid-Season Trailer Review

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Lewis: Alright, so a trailer for the second-half of Rebels season three dropped out of nowhere this week…

Ben: It was a surprise considering it is starting again on Saturday, but what a trailer.

Lewis: I know right? I don’t think it was as good as the trailer for the first half, but this gave us so much information and stuff that it’s a little difficult to sift through it all.

Ben: There was a lot going on- so many different action sequences that have been thrown together.

Lewis: A ton of characters both new and old as well, and a lot of references. But the action sequences looked absolutely fantastic, especially the scene with the Ghost flying through Star Destroyers.

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Ben: Is it me or does it seem a bit more backs against the wall now? I feel like the tone is beginning to match the grittier Rogue One rather than the kids’ show we had before.

Lewis: For sure, it looks like they’re on the back foot for most of this half-season. Like you said, it does seem to match Rogue One in its tone, which makes sense since the show is getting closer and closer to the film timeline. But then again, trailers don’t always match the final product…

Ben: Yes that is true, but I would really like it to follow the Rogue One pattern and get a bit grittier. At the end of the day it is a kids’ show but it’s going to have to change a bit to match the rest of the canon.

Lewis: I’m sure it will, it’s already been moving in that direction, and since Dave Filoni has said we might be seeing the Battle of Scarif in season four I think it’s going to keep building in terms of grittiness.

Ben: I think we are going to see quite a big leap in time- from memory season 1 of Rebels was set about 4 years before A New Hope and Rogue one ends about 10 minutes before it.

Lewis: I think it was five years but tomato/tomato. As for where it is now, I think it’s 2 years away, but there’s a time jump of at least 1 year between each season, so it’s feasible that we could see Scarif in season 4.

Ben: That’s fair, the second half of this series looks like the rebels are beginning to band together, but as long as they don’t just group together by magic I am fine with it. Rebels does have a tendency to make things just happen.

Lewis: I think Thrawn will attack Chopper base and force the rest of the Rebellion to save the Ghost crew’s cell, or they’ll have to evacuate to Yavin or something.

Ben: I think it will be a while before Thrawn attacks a Rebel Base; he is still waiting and analysing. But what you have said makes sense to me.

Lewis: Shall we talk about some of the reveals?

Ben: That is the next step- which one first? Saw Gerrera?

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Lewis: I think we should start with Saw, considering his importance at the moment

Ben: So we see a Robot leg-less Saw in the trailer with the voice of Forest Whitaker, which is a nice touch for continuity.

Lewis: Forest Whitaker is back, baby. I’m excited to see his relationship with the rest of the Rebellion, and we might get to see what drove him into madness/isolation. It looks like he’ll be around for more than one episode.

Ben: I expect we will see the disagreements he has with the rest of the Rebel leaders, since that would give his Rogue One appearance a bit of context. We get to see a Hologram of Mon Mothma, but you know who I want back- Wedge. It makes sense for him to come back now.

Lewis: Well we get to see Mon Mothma on the bridge of the Ghost too, along with another new guy and someone in a flightsuit who I think is Sato’s nephew. As for Wedge, there’s a short clip of him standing with Hera under a bombardment. I think Saw will definitely be one of the more interesting parts of these episodes.

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Ben: I thought I saw Wedge in the trailer, but I’d forgotten about that kid- didn’t even see him. As for Saw, it might even be the disorganised nature of the Rebellion and their disagreements that give Thrawn his opening.

Lewis: Our friend Pete thinks Kallus will end up giving up the location of the base somehow. Whether it’s deliberately or by accident, I think that’s a pretty safe theory, since Thrawn was keen to exploit the spy rather than silence them.

Ben: That is a pretty solid shout, I’m not sure he would do it accidentally- he is too smart for that, but I think Thrawn could trick him by giving him a false lead or torture it out of him… Torture might be a bit dark for a kids show though.

Lewis: I think Thrawn could definitely out-smart Kallus like you said, but I think his confidence in his abilities will be what eventually leads to his defeat. Unless of course the Rebels have someone who is even more capable (which is unlikely). Anyway, so we’ve seen the return of Saw Gerrera, Wedge Antilles, Mon Mothma, Tarkin, and a few other minor characters, I suppose apart from Sabine’s story arc with the Darksaber, there’s just one more thing to discuss…

Ben: Indeed, shall we start with the Darksaber stuff first though?

Lewis: We can, I mean there isn’t too much to be said. Looks like Sabine is being trained in swordsmanship by Kanan, and they’re trying to get Mandalore to join the Rebellion under Sabine’s rule?

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Ben: Looks like she is going to have to sort her Mum out along the way, but it could make for an interesting side story that supports the Thrawn and Maul stories.

Lewis: Indeed, nice bit of characterisation. I’m gonna throw a theory out here- Maul kills Sabine, and Ezra kills Maul.

Ben: Do you think so? I am not sure, but it does make sense because we don’t see any Mandalorians in episodes 4, 5 or 6 (excluding Boba Fett).

Lewis: Exactly, and I think the loss of Sabine would a) give Ezra a boot over to the Darkside-ish, b) cause the Mandalorians to distance themselves from the rebellion, c) provide a really interesting conclusion to Maul and Ezra’s story. I think it’ll all go down on Tatooine, and she’ll be fighting Maul with the Darksaber and it won’t go well. But yeah, that’s my prediction for the day.

Ben: I buy into that, you have convinced me, well done sir. Speaking of Tatooine, we get one more character reveal- Obi Wan/Ben Kenobi is back. This isn’t exactly a shock because it has been hinted at a few times, but what do you think about the old Ben?

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Lewis: Hell yeah he is! “You’re in the wrong place…” What a guy.
He looks frickin’ sweet to be honest, the voice is great, he looks a bit old and worn down, but he can still do the pose. I’m very excited for his appearance.

Ben: I got goosebumps a few times during this trailer, but Ben coming back was the major one. And because of the position in terms of the timeline we still have room for the Obi-Wan solo film.

Lewis: I think it’s what the fans have been waiting for. Everybody loves Obi-Wan, and if the rumours about his appearance in episode 8 are true, then this and that could be an attempt on Disney’s part to gauge interest in a solo film before officially announcing it, as well as giving some of the newer fans a refresher on his character.

Ben: Exciting times ahead- I am really looking forward to the next half of this series.

Lewis: It does look like it’s going to be a good one, I wonder if we’ll see Luke at all? Maybe in the distance?

Ben: I think by this point Ben has had to distance himself, perhaps we will see the domed roof and the twin suns, but that might be a bit too contrived.

Lewis: I’m sure we’ll get a glimpse of him one way or another. Well, apart from saying how awesome this all looked, again, I don’t think there’s much else to talk about? (Apart from Thrawn kicking some butt)

Ben: It looks a training scene with him kicking the crap out of some droids. Speaking of droids we do see a fair few old Clone Wars clankers.

Lewis: We do, looks like there is going to be a lot of Easter eggs and fan service in these next few episodes.

Ben: I will no doubt like pretty much all of it.

Lewis: Shall we wrap up there?

Ben: I think we have covered everything, it basically looks like the Rebels get a kicking at the hands of Thrawn, the Darksaber is used, Mandalore hangs in the balance and Obi-Wan is back.

Lewis: I think that’s a decent summary, and I’m sure there are tales of daring-do in between all this as usual.

Ben: I look forward to it.