Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

General discussions about the tennis games Tennis Elbow
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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 07 Sep 2021, 16:03

Back to normal ?

So it took longer than expected (™ ':D ).

1st, the last month was kinda ok work-wise, not too great, but with most workers on holidays after the 1st week of August, the house has been quieter.

And now, almost all construction work is done; there are something like 3 or 4 days left of work to do, and it should be done for good.

Plus my older kid got back to school last week, so I finally have some decent time to work, or at least when the small one doesn't come to jump on me... :blackeye:

Anyway, I had to work on a big update during the beginning of August, to tune a bunch of gameplay elements and fix a series of annoying bugs, so I switched back to the controller icons later than expected.

And there I realized that Unity (the engine I'm using) although it pimps itself as being multiplatform & everything, didn't do anything about the consistency of the controls over the different platforms ; eg: the axis & button order of the XBox controller wasn't the same on Windows & Mac. Bummer... :sweat:

So I made the jump : I bought and integrated Rewired. I had planned to do that for a while, because Unity doesn't handle well some exotic controllers, have some little bugs, and can't handle decently controller hot-plugging ; actually the newest Unity's Input library may be able to do all that, but I preferred to go the Rewired way as it looked a lot more battled-tested and polyvalent than the new Unity Input system.

So it was relatively easy to integrate it once I understood how to use Rewired as a platform-agnostic low-level input system (which is not really designed for, at least not in the documentation, as its goal is very high-level), and thus the controller icons followed shortly after, as you can see on this screenshot :
2021-09 - TE4 - XBox Controller Setup.jpg

I also took the occasion to improve the menu navigation so it's somewhat decent to use a controller with them. I think the result is ok, but I'm really not sure Microsoft & Sony will agree and let me release TE4 with the menus in that state. So if you notice anything weird, please let me know..! :yes:

After that, I finally added the possibility to tune the World Tour player AI using the real-time coaching system created for TEM2. The trick has been that I also needed to handle that setting in the Training Club, so exporting the players to the Training Club wouldn't change their strategy, else it'd have been disappointed not to play against the real Federer or Nadal behavior when you just want to do a simple match.

So I ended up adding a couple of buttons to assign & clear the AI strategy in the Training Club.

Now, there's left the issue of having different strategies depending on the surface speed. I'll see if it's really needed to add the support for this or not.


Looking ahead

So now, I'm left with the outfit Modding that I hoped to finish at end of July... :sweat:

I did a good check and I have likely a big week of work to do all that is required to make it possible to install the outift Mods without touching any existing .ini file and to have several different outfit Mods fitting together without doing anything special. (so the end-users will have an easier time to install Mods)

But I might get delayed : this morning, checking a Bug Report, I stumbled upon a big issue that could create desync, both online and when replaying the whole match. So of course, I had to fix that right away..!

And now, I have to build & upload all the new versions (ManaGames.com & Steam, Windows & Mac, TE4 & TEM2, demo for TE4) ; doing only the full version of TE4 already takes a big hour ; TEM2 is ~30 minutes more ; and ~30 more minutes for the TE4 demo. It's mostly waiting, but when the game is being built, I can't work, so I have to do that very early in the morning or in the evening, so it doesn't eat up my little available work time where I can attack the big things... :blackeye:

After the Modding outfit, I'm not sure what I'll be doing, which will be the 1st time for a long long while. I think I'm going to tackle a bit with the Motion Matching plugin I bought last year to see if it could help to give more natural moving animations to our tennis players. I have some doubt it'll work well, because the tennis movements are really not like in other games, so I'm not sure I'll get the settings to tune it to reach a good result.

I'm also hesitating a bit to give the commentaries some work, so they'd sound less random, but it feels like a titanic task, and maybe I should do other things 1st... :thinking:

Anyway, see you next time to see all of this goes ! :wave:

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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 13 Oct 2021, 17:01

End of cycle !

So I finally released the Modding & Outfit Modding SDKs for TE4 almost 2 weeks ago : topic29-33540.php .

2021-10 - TE4 - Outfit Customization.jpg

This concludes the end of a cycle : rushing & rushing to complete the feature list missing from TE2013. Now, it still misses a few things for the Modding, but all the important ones and some more are there. For the animation & outfit, the drag'n drop installation is already done. It still misses for the sounds & courts, but these systems will be reworked for the game engine before I'll work on simplifying their Modding.

So after that, I wanted to take a little 1-week break, still working but at a cool pace. It was a "good" idea, because that previous week has been filled with surprise chores & obligations on the personal side, and Modding requests on the TE4 front... ':D

It's now almost done, and thus I can look at the future a bit far ahead for the 1st time in a very long time, and thus without pressing crushing matters clouding my view..!

So now I see 2 important axes :
- a not too long to do but important thing : I should fix the CPU out of sync animation, when he's late to hit the ball ; this is likely the biggest visual issue now when playing offline ; it's possibly a big headache waiting for me, so I'll need to have a good energy level to tackle this one. Hopefully, it'll be close enough to what I did for the human player, even though it's not exactly the same philosophy.
- On the other side, I really need to test the Matching Motion system I bought, and start to draw conclusions on the final production of the animations, and start to see how and where I'll spend my budget to improve them ; I already spent all TE4 budget except the part for the animations, because I really lack visibility of what is the best path to follow... :fear:

Still on that 2nd axis, I should probably check how to add a stretching animation at end of the run, as its consequences will be important gameplay-wise and possibly for the animation production as well.

Also, I'd really like to put all the stadiums in the game, but this task is huge and gameplay-wise it has no consequences, it'd just be nice for the atmosphere... :thinking:

So it's kinda exciting time with many possibilities, and many things a bit more interesting than what I have been (slowly :sweat: ) doing these past months..! :)

So see you again in a few weeks to see what path I'll have taken and for what results ! :jap:

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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 27 Nov 2021, 10:17

Super Sick !

Pffffff, this time I outdone myself, or at least I thought so. I just re-read several posts of this mini-blog, and found out I get sick quite often, and constantly get sh*t on my doorstep... ':D

So anyway, at end of October, I got badly sick again, while having personal issues (the latter likely helped the former to come :fear: ).

Image

So as I have very few things to tell on the development side, I'll detail a bit what happened to me. Feel free to come back in a few weeks if you just want to read about dev updates... :blackeye: (it'll have a couple of dev related things, though, but more on a global scale than directly about TE4)

It turns out this mini-blog is a good way to remember what happens to me, so once again, I'll write for myself 1st, but I'll try to make this at least slightly entertaining for you... :blackeye:

So, as you may already know if you follow this mini-blog, I added a 2nd floor to my home these past months. The contractor decided to not finish the work (it only misses a handrail in the stairs, to fix a little something, and then to clean their mess) while significantly raising his final bill. We had a heated conversation about this, and we greatly disagreed about everything, which of course stressed me a lot for a while. When you stress, your immune system works less well, and thus you're easier to get sick : this is what happened to me a few days later. I got bronchitis (my new specialty :sweat: ), and as I had to go out almost every day, it got worse. I even got otitis, which was a first for me since I was 12..! :shock:

The pain from the otitis woke me at night, making me cannot sleep, and thus the next day my body shut down : I spent 16 hours almost straight sleeping. I even fell asleep on my desk for the 1st time in my life ! (and I did my part of sleepless nights playing Civilization :whistle: )

One little "funny" thing on the side : so I started to sleep in the afternoon, and my wife went outside for a couple of minutes, on the terrasse of our house. It's the time my baby decided to close all the shutters of the house (there's a dedicated button for that), so my wife got locked outside, in the cold..! :banghead:

She banged the shutters for 2 hours. I heard the noise and in normal time I'd have got up quite quickly, but there I couldn't move. That's called the Murphy Law, and I guess it's the kind of thing that happens when you buy a house built on an Indian cemetery. (I'm kidding, am I ? :whistle: )

Image
[Spoiler] End of the Poltergeist movie, in which I learned I shouldn't buy a house built on an Indian cemetery [/Spoiler]

It really feels we're cursed... :fear:

So anyway, after that, I lost my appetite for days and thus several kilograms as well, while being stuck in bed for the best part of the day.

After 3 weeks of being sick, my health finally started to get better, but 2 weeks & a half after (ie: right now), I'm still a bit tired, although I'm nearly ok (coz I'm always tired anyway :blackeye: ).

However, I got a big scare : after a few days when I started to get better, I couldn't focus as usual. When developing video games, it's important to be able to focus a lot to think about a multitude of little things, as when you touch something in the code, it's always related to other things, which in turn are also related to other things and so on. So if you can't reach a focus level where you have all of this in your mind more or less at once (or at least can skip from one to another quickly), then you're doomed, it's not possible to work anymore. And it's what it felt like for me for a few days, and I was very concerned it would last a long time, or even forever. Fortunately, I got better and it passed, so this last week I was able to do some debugging on the dynamic animation system (which is especially demanding as all of this is quite complex :fear: ), but I guess it might be how I will end to work, one day. Hopefully, it'll be in a long time, when I'm in my sixties, and not before... :thinking:

The positive of my lower focusing ability was that it gave me time to spend on my personal issues, which was to prepare all the stuff to go to see the judge and get that problem with the contractor solved. Hopefully, the judge will agree with me and not with him. We'll know in a few weeks, I guess.

That's about all for this time. I hope to get closer to full speed on dev next week, but I still have some stuff to prepare for the judge (and meet my lawyer), so I'm not sure how it'll go. It'd feel surely good to get some stuff done on TE4, coz seeing 1 month passing by and getting nothing except some bug fixes is not very satisfying...

Cu in a few weeks to see if luck will finally come back a bit on my side..!


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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 18 Jan 2022, 16:28

Back on track !

Ouch, this has been nearly 2 months since the last post in this mini-blog..! :shock:

This is because I like to do a post once I did some sensible update, and I just released the v0.48 which features the sliding, a feature that has been regularly requested for likely more than a decade..!

It works pretty well, and required a good amount of work in the past month. There are 6 new animations : 1H & 2H normal strikes, and the slice, for both the forehand & the backhand. All blends naturally in-game and provide a bit of extra reach. Gameplay-wise, they trigger automatically when you run fast enough and are at the correct distance of the ball, but they'll come a tiny bit late if you don't press a strike button, so skills will matter to get the most out of them.

They'll be more frequent on clay & grass than on other surfaces.

2022-01 - TE4 - Sliding.jpg

Before creating the sliding, I thought it would be mainly a way to stretch to reach unreachable balls otherwise. And actually, after having studied a lot of Djokovic slides, I realized that sliding is firstly meant to be a way to stop quickly to run, in a manner to recover as fast as possible and run in the opposite direction, as well as avoid hitting the ball on the run (and losing time stopping to run after the strike). This came a bit as a shock to me, but then it made sense. You still get a bit of extra reach, but most of the time, running at full speed is the way to reach that current far ball, but if sliding is possible, then it's better to reach the next ball on the other side..! :blackeye:

Anyway, I took the occasion to polish a bit the existing double-handed forehand and create a 2nd one, more smooth. It's a pretty rare strike, but having a choice is (almost) always good and the new one looks better. :)

A bit of personal life

Before working on the slide, right after that last post, I spent 1 week preparing stuff for the judge, which was longer than expected. There's no progress except that on the process to go to the judge, and I'm not sure how long the whole thing will take. But once I was finished preparing my big file with a ton of explanations & documents, I was relieved and didn't lose too much time thinking about all that anymore. According to the law & my lawyer, I'm super right, but the whole thing could get a bit costly, so maybe it'll come back worrying me in the future, depending on how things evolve... :fear:

After that, I needed a big week to get back all my work rhythm & energy, and then it was X-mas holidays, so I spent some time with the kids, although I managed to still work decently.

I also found out a 2 or 3-year old bug in the saving/loading of the World Tour, that was preventing adding players without losing your saved game (a novelty of the TEM2-TE4 engine). As it had pretty complicated intrications, it took me several updates to fix all the cases (or at least I hope they are all fixed now :unsure: ). Hopefully, you'll appreciate this feature (now that it's working :P ), as it'll let you add players to your current saved game which can be nice if you want to incorporate a new famous player (or not so famous !).

I also updated the Hall-of-Fame and career score shown at the end of your career in the World Tour. I hadn't done that for a while, for a simple reason : Djokovic is now #1, and put Federer at #2, which is kinda heartbreaking for me. :love9:
I know that Djoko is great and the best by overall numbers, but for the quality & beauty of the game, Federer will likely forever be my personal GOAT.
Funnily, when I created that scoring system for the Hall of Fame at 1st, for Tennis Elbow Manager 1 back in ~2007, I skewed the category weights (for weeks being number 1, Grand Slam titles, etc.), so Sampras would keep his #1 for as long as possible against Federer, and now he's gone... :sad: (at least Nadal is still #3 :alien: )

What's next ?

So my next goal is to finally try that motion matching system to see if it'll improve the animations of the players when moving & running around.

However, before doing that, I'd like to work a bit on the sound system. Indeed, I got Paulie & Bob Madden who provided for TE4 their recorded score announcements, so I took the occasion to create a special filter to make them sound like an umpire in a big stadium, and it's working pretty well, so I'd like everybody to enjoy these new announcements (I'll redo mine as well, so you'll still get that umpire with his sweet French accent, if you wish so :aureola: ). After a bit of checking, it means I should put the new sound selection system in place. The current one is based on numbers, because its roots are nearly 30 years old : I had created it for the 1st Tennis Elbow, in 1994. So the new version will use text instead, which is much easier to Mod, as well as sub-folders to easily add selectable sounds by the user (eg: the Grunts & the Umpire announcements).

So normally, expect an update with all that by the end of the week... (except bad surprises, as usually :fear: )

That's all for today. :)

I wish all of you a Happy New Year 2022, and I surely hope it'll be better for all of us than 2021..! :blackeye:

And cu sooner next time ! (for real this time ? ':D )

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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 23 Feb 2022, 10:15

Milestone

I just released the v0.50 of TE4 yesterday..!

This is kinda a milestone, even if there wasn't a really special content associated with that number : the increment was due to adding the high & low volley animations, which are a nice addition (hopefully :blackeye: ).

This is the occasion to clarify what this versioning is based on : it's about the content enjoyable by the end-user, and not the work involved to put it into the game. So actually, already more than 50% of my work is done to reach the v1.0 of TE4, but many contents need to be added ; let's try to list them :
- 10 stadiums => +0.10
- Commentaries => +0.05
- Gameplay tuning, balancing & enhancing => +0.15
- Single tournament mode, service training, ball-thrower mode => +0.05
- Animation improvements => +0.05 (more improvements might come after the v1.0, though)
- Other many little things => +0.10

The next step will be to try to add stretching animations into the game, and then I'll be done with the animations that influence the gameplay, which means I could start thinking how to balance the service (if it's still needed) and stuff like that.

Although I might jump on adding the Stadiums before doing gameplay stuff.

Motion Matching Test

So I did the Motion Matching test.

The good news is that it produces some very nice result, and it's great to see the player moving with motion captured animations :


The bad news is that the animation set provided with that system doesn't include sidesteps. This is not really surprising as it's something very specific, but I was still hoping to see some... :blackeye:

And overall, the running animations aren't best for a tennis game as well, and the racket holding is incorrect.

So all in all, it means it's necessary to produce by myself a complete animation set with a good tennis player. And then make all these animations game-ready (eg: clean the misorientation of the feet that often happen with motion capture, and stuff like that). This is a very big task. I won't do it before the v1.0 of TE4. I'll very likely need to pay an animator artist to do the animation cleaning and it might get costly. But hopefully, we'll get there someday. :)

Anyway, this shows great promise and it's a system I have been dreaming of for nearly 20 years : you just have to tell the Motion Matching system where the player goes and then it'll find the best matching motion by itself.

To completely validate the system, I should create my own movement script. In that video, I just used the demo bundled with the package, and it feels a bit unresponsive, but it might be because the running acceleration is a bit low, and the inertia is a bit too high. I didn't test more because I won't be able to get the correct animations before a while, so it doesn't make sense to invest more time in it right now.

Tiring Times

On a more personal side, I'm kinda tired these last few days : after a few nice weeks around January, trouble found its way again. Mostly this has been my kids getting badly sick, and thus needing extra care & attention. They're alright now, but there's always a little something coming here or there.
I'm starting to be quite impatient that the 2nd one goes to school next September, but on the other hand, he's quite an adorable baby when he doesn't destroy our house, so it's tearing coz I'm not that hurry to not see him like this anymore... :love9: :blackeye:


That's all for today, cu again in a few weeks.

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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 11 Mar 2022, 14:04

Another Milestone :mrgreen:

So this milestone is less symbolic than the last one : the v0.52 was just released, with the next stretch animations for the forehand & backhand rally strikes, which means I'm done with adding animations to the game (or at least for a long while). They might require a bit of debugging and/or tuning, though.

After, I'm going to move to add the remaining stadiums, and 1st I'm going to create a menu to select comfortably the Stadium & the surface, which will be even more needed for Mods packed with 2D courts. For these, the game will add them to the selection menu without the need to touch the menu scripts, and their listing will be name based instead of num based, like other new modding parts (eg: the outfits), so it'll be easier to combine many courts into your Mods folder.

2022-03 - TE4 - FH Stretching Anim right after hit.jpg

On the personal side, my sons are sick, so it has been quite a tiring week, so hopefully they'll be fully healed within a couple of days... :fear:


"Money, that's what I want"

Reminder : you probably already aware of it, but I'm not into Indie Game business for the money (if you think it's a good way to get rich, it's not ':D ), but paying the bills & affording a decent life to my family & myself is important too... :)

So let's settle a tradition and look at how much each game contributed in 2021 to my total earning.

I did it for the 1st time with my 2020 income here : viewtopic.php?p=274236#p274236 .

So let's compare the evolution with the release of TE4 in 2021.

But before that, let's point out something : a couple of months after the official final release of TEM2 on Steam last May, its sales totally plummeted. It got ridiculously low now.

I think there are 3 reasons for that :
1) The main one is likely the release of a concurrent tennis manager game on Steam, the 1st one ever ; so far, TEM never got any noticeable concurrence :sad3:
2) Actually, it seems that a bunch of people were buying TEM2 because it was the latest Elbow game in the series ; now these people buy TE4 instead
3) Despite being flagged as Early Access, TEM2 was more or less done since 2 years before its final release, so it already has done most of its normal sale ; seeing the sale rate (actually guessing it by checking its review number growth), it seems the concurrent game follows a kinda similar cycle

Once again it covers the period from December 2020 to November 2021, as I get paid 1 month later by Steam, it's what counts for the money coming into my bank account for the 2021 year.
TE4 : 47% (up from 13% in 2020)
TEM2 : 27% (down from 43% in 2020)
TE2013 : 14% (down from 30% in 2020)
Dungeon Guardians : 11% (down from 13% in 2020)
TEM1 : 1%

Unfortunately, despite the final release of TEM2 and the Early Access release of TE4 on Steam, the total income of 2021 isn't that much above the one of 2020. It's still quite decent but it looks like I won't be able to buy a tropical island right away... :blackeye:

But the main lesson here is that TE4 sales account for nearly half of my total income, which means if I hadn't released it in Early Access, I would have been in a quite difficult financial position, so it was a good decision, even if the game felt a bit too unpolished to be released at that time (it's much better now, I hope most of you will agree :aureola: )

It does that despite somewhat disappointed sales : it's in par with TEM2 sale, while I was expecting the doubles at least. TEM1 sold very little compared to TE2013 ; I knew the ratio would lower between TEM2 & TE4, but being equal is quite the surprise. I hope in the long term TE4 will get significantly above TEM2 (even if it may need to wait for the console releases), else financially it won't be great.

There's another important thing, but these numbers don't show it : the trend of 2022 will likely be something like 75% for TE4 (or more if its sales finally pick up), which means my income will be highly dependent on only 1 game, which hadn't happened since the release of Dungeon Guardians in 2015 (TE2013 got released in 2015 on Steam as well). It's not too bad, but it's always more comfortable to not have all one's eggs in the same basket... :P

Cu soon for more dev news !

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PS: Woohohho, a new mini-blog post less than 1 month after the previous one..! :woohoo:
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Re: Tennis Elbow 4 mini Dev Blog

Postby manutoo » 02 May 2022, 18:17

Pfffff (™)

Almost 2 months since the last post in this mini-blog !

Spoiler Alter : jump to the next title to avoid not-much-work-related personal stuff... :whistle:

This means 2 thing :
- tough personal time (again)
- working hard on the game

For the personal side, my elder boy stayed more or less sick 1 more week, which was the start of 2 weeks of illness for me : like my whole family, a kind of bad cold with a sore throat that got me so tired I couldn't work... :sweat:

Once again, a few days before getting sick, I was getting quite tired already and thought I should take a break, but I wanted to finish the previous big update 1st and some fixes and other little stuff afterward, and once again, I got sick before I could finish everything... It makes me think I should really change a bit of work rhythm, by either taking 1 (near) full rest day per week, or by taking holidays sometimes instead of waiting to get sick before doing so...

Anyway, it's not going to happen right now because my wife is doing training for a couple of months on one side, and another side, my mum is quite tired and thus I take care often of our baby. This is kinda nice coz so far I didn't spend that much time with him (unlike my 1st born son), and in September he'll go to school so it's my last chance to enjoy my baby, but on the other end, it doesn't help to focus on TE4... :blackeye:

So I had to jungle with all that, but all in all, it wasn't too bad work-wise because I wasn't that far from a normal work rhythm (the dad-work-rhythm, not the single-life-forever-work-rhythm from my long-gone past ':D ).

This was even more true as we are just out of the 2-week easter holiday of my elder, where I took care of him more than usual, or even the 2 boys at the same time. (working is quite resting compared to that..! ;) )

And TE4 in all that ?!?

So I released the v0.57 of TE4 a couple days ago, with 3 new stadiums, and the v0.54 a couple weeks ago with 1 new stadium : so I can confirm I can do 2 stadiums per week when I'm not taken by other things. I still hope to do the 7 remaining stadiums by end of May, but with the busy family life, it's going to be quite a challenge..!

In the last version, I also fixed a big animation bug that was giving some weird hips movement when the ball was far ; I feel that now in the common stretching case, it looks quite nice ; however, there are still some jerkiness when running slightly backward to catch a ball.

Before integrating the new stadiums, I worked on a new menu to select the stadium to play with in the Training Club. It took me longer than expected because I wanted to be sure that modding-wise this would stand the test of time, to avoid future incompatibility or need to redo many things for the Modders. I think the result is clean & efficient : the surfaces & the stadiums are now completely separate entities and thus it's easier to handle overall while removing a bunch of grunt work when the same surface is used amongst different stadiums.

This required some changes in the World Tour engine and lead to a series of annoying little bugs in TEM2 that cost me a couple of headaches to solve... :fear:

2022-05 - TE4 - Monte-Carlo Stadium.jpg


TE4 FTW !

Yesterday, on Sunday May the 1st, for the 1st time ever, the tennis game on Steam with the highest peak players was... TE4..! :dance:

It came out a bit as a surprise to me, even if the game is more and more played. The main concurrent of TE4 is AO2 (TE2013 is still number 1 overall :P ), and now counting the managames.com version, TE4 is more played than AO2. Hopefully, it'll go on like that.

2022-05 - TE4 - Top Peak Players !.jpg

BTW, this is a good occasion to send a big thanks to the whole XK Team that is creating a quite nice Mod which is shaping very well : topic15-33852.php . The 1st version has been released in mid-march which matches a noticeable bump in the TE4 played rate.

Yesterday's feat would have surely not been accomplished without their help..! :jap:

That's all for this time. Hopefully cu end of this month for the release of the version with all the 3D stadiums. That'd be a big milestone passed as well. :fear:

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== Mana Games ==

>> I don't answer Private Message, except if it's really a _Private_ topic <<
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manutoo
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Gaming Since: 24 Jan 2004, 15:38
Location: France

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