Tagged: computer games

Game Show a Go Go: Outburst

I mentioned this in the past, but there’s two things I have an unhealthy infatuation with: video games (natch) and game shows. Naturally since I like both of them, I’ve amassed a bunch of game show video games over the years. So I thought, “let’s talk about game show video games.” Because what better thing there is to write about than the 20 different versions of Jeopardy! that I own.

Though, this won’t exclusively cover video game adaptions of game shows, no sir. Naturally there are video games that try to simulate the feel and entertainment of a game show, and I’ll cover those as well. Such as our inaugural entry….

I always wondered what those circles meant…

Let’s jump back to 1995. Hasbro, wanting to get in on the burgeoning video game market, formed Hasbro Interactive that year. Most of their output was games based on their various properties, including Monopoly and Scrabble. Oh, and taking over the Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! games when GameTek went bankrupt. The company basically stayed on this path until Hasbro Interactive was bought by Infogrames in 2000, though Hasbro would eventually buy back the rights to make video games based on their various franchises.

Fun Fact: This version of Monopoly was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, Command & Conquer Westwood Studios.

Fun Fact: This version of Monopoly was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, Command & Conquer Westwood Studios.

Cut to 1998. This was around the time when Jellyvision’s (now Jackbox Games) You Don’t Know Jack was immensely popular, and naturally any Tom, Dick and Harry game publisher wanted to cash in by making You Don’t Know Jack-likes for the PC market. Either they tried to make a trivia game styled like Jack, such as TRL Trivia and Austin Powers in Operation Trivia, or they tried to copy the goofy “adult humor” and make their own game show-like game. Enter Outburst.

Remember Outburst? It’s that one board game where you shout out as many answers to a category as you can. It’s not a classic, but it’s one of those party games that gets thrown in along with Taboo and Catchphrase. Hasbro enlisted the development of Outburst by a small games company known as CyberDice. Not to be confused with the company that pumps out Battlefield games every two years, CyberDice was a development studio that only made a handful of party games. From the brief research I did, they worked on this game and Super Scattergories. I’m going to hazard a guess the developer folded shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.

outburst-sampleround

A sample round of play. Clearly I wasn’t thinking like the writers of this game were.

Outburst the computer game is stylized much like a TV game show. You can play by your lonesome or with other players, online or off. The game has multiple rounds of play, all based on the general theme of giving as many answers as they can within the time limit. After some rounds, you can earn bonus points by having the randomizer hit an answer you gave (Shown above). The team with the most points wins after seven rounds wins.

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A dedication to Red Book CD audio.

Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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Experiencing PC gaming with Intel Integrated Graphics.

Back in December 2013, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven at the time. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stopgap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.

But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.

Intel inside. I remember when that was considered amazing. Man, I’m old.

For the past month I’ve been playing other games, mostly on console. Stuff like binging the 2010 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something.

All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip inside them. The most hardcore of PC gamers won’t go this route, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers for it, I tried a bunch of games on the HD4600, Intel’s integrated graphics chip and screenshotted the results.

Boy, I was surprised at what worked and how it ran. Pretty much every game I threw at it worked mostly fine with little problems, albeit with considerably lower graphical fidelity. For several of the games, I had to kick the resolution down to 1280×720 and lowering the graphics settings as far as they could, but most of them ran perfectly fine. Here are a few examples I decided to try:

Grand Theft Auto IV

Niko looks surprised at how ugly Liberty City looks.

One of the few times “This looks like a PS2 game” is right in this case.

I never thought this could run GTA IV. The game was notorious at the time for its ridiculous hardware requirements, though we’ve made significant advances in technology since its PC release five years ago. It ran pretty well even with the HD5770, so I was totally not expecting this to work with the Intel graphics. Yet, I could run this, with everything on low, at about 15-20 frames per second. There’s a lot of model and texture pop-in, so it’s not the most ideal way to experience Liberty City, but it’s playable.

Surprisingly from what little I played, I enjoyed it. Then again, I was never into the goofy antics that plagued the earlier GTA games like San Andreas, so maybe this game is perfect for me.

Saints Row IV

Look at that view of fake Steelport. Zinyak has quite the eye for detail.

Jumping off a building, to the tune of Stan Bush’s The Touch. Only in Saints Row.

I remember slogging through Saints Row: The Third on that junky old PC. Everything on low quality at 640×480, with framerates well into the teens. Some very dark times.

When I upgraded to the new PC, being able to run that as well as Saints Row IV here on high settings with a solid framerate was a godsend. Even with the integrated graphics shown here, I can still run and jump through cyber Steelport with little problems. Drastically better than what I suffered on the old PC.

I need to get back to this game sometime, this game is pure dumb fun.

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True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered.

Remember True Crime: Streets of LA? It was a decent Grand Theft Auto clone developed by Luxoflux (RIP) and published by Activision in 2003. While it didn’t reinvent the wheel, it was a decent shooter, driving game and beat-em up. While I was doing my Game Fuel hunt a few weeks back, I had stumbled upon this mysterious gem in the DVD section at a Goodwill.

This is True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered. A promo DVD for the game, presumably given to GameStop employees or people who pre-ordered the game. For $3, I couldn’t pass this up.

This promo DVD is chock full of interesting videos that highlight the game’s mechanics, a few behind the scenes features, even a video advertising the (now-defunct) truecrimela.com. There’s even a trailer for the original Xbox version of the game, which looked somewhat better than the other versions of True Crime.

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Mods and Maps: They Hunger for Half-Life, A rather famous zombie mod.

Half-Life is my most favorite game of all time. How I got to experience it for the first time is a story for another time, but one thing that really caught my eye was the mod scene for Half-Life. Much like Quake and Doom before it, people were messing around in WorldCraft making maps for the internet masses. Some were interesting, others were bizarre, then there’s the classics. The mods that did really interesting stuff for Half-Life, and end up being the must-play mods for the game. Such as today’s entry. Since Halloween is around the corner, let’s look at the zombified single player mod They Hunger.

They Hunger was originally released in 1999 as a PC Gamer demo disc freebie, followed by two additional episodes in 2000 and 2001. Neil Manke, who had made the Half-Life mod USS Darkstar for PC Gamer earlier in 1999, was already familiar with game modding for promotional purposes such as Coconut Monkey Adventures for Quake II and Soldier of Fortune for Quake. (Not to be confused with Soldier of Fortune by Raven Software, this SOF was based off a TV show.) Naturally, They Hunger looked to do something most Half-Life mods didn’t do at the time, and it definitely succeeded.

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I Bought Stuff! 2013 Edition (So Far)

Man, when’s the last time I did a game finds video? Back in January, to be exact. Well, after several months in the making, I finally got around to making the damn video a few days ago.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHFniAUSbSo]

Boy oh boy, there’s a lot of stuff in there. A bunch of PlayStation games, cheap magazines, games from across the ocean, and undeniably my biggest game find yet. Give it a look and see what you guys think. Expect something more substantial later this week, maybe about that soundtrack I mentioned in the video.

One more thing: I will be at PAX Prime again this year. I might do a blog entry or two after the event, since I won’t be able to bring a computer with me to liveblog anything. It’ll be more fun this year since it’ll be four days long.

(If you’re viewing this from a place where you can’t watch videos, or you like handy dandy lists instead, there’s a list of everything I got under the “Read More” link below.)
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Mods and Maps: Sonic Doom II: ‘Bots on Mobius.

I love Doom. The fast-paced action, the creative levels, the large variety of weapons and enemies. It’s no wonder it’s held up as a classic in the first-person shooter genre. In recent times, people have made Doom last longer by way of modding – changing Doom‘s weapons, levels, even adding stuff never before seen on the Doom engine.

Some of these mods, like Alien Vendetta and Doom the Way Id Did, take an existing spin on the tried-and-true formula, while others like Brutal Doom change the game drastically. Those mods are famous and well-known among the Doom community for their good quality. I wish I could say the same thing about the mod I’m talking about, featuring a certain blue hedgehog.

It’s like I’ve hopped back into 1998! and not in a good way!

Sonic Doom II: ‘Bots on Mobius is the work of one SSNTails, a Sonic the Hedgehog and Project GeeKer fan. It’s okay if you had to Google search that last one, I don’t remember the show either. Back then, mashing existing franchises with Doom was pretty common – there was the Aliens TC for Doom, as well as Batman Doom, made by the guys who would later go on to make Zeno Clash. Naturally, SSNTails decided to mix the speed and fun of Sonic with the run and gun tactics of Doom and see if he could make something truly amazing in the Sonic fan games realm. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed in that.

You get to play as either Sonic, Tails, Knuckles or Metal Sonic. The only differences between each is stuff like firing speed. You choose the character of your choice and hop in, shooting a bunch of reskins of existing Doom enemies in retextured Doom levels based on levels in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Grounder replaces Zombiemen, Shotgun Guys and Chaingunners; Coconuts are your imp replacements, and various new badniks replace the Demons, Spectres and Barons. You grab emeralds to unlock doors and eventually find the exit. It’s typical Doom fare. That’s all the good I can say about it. Because everything after it is much worse, especially for Doom mods.

Seriously, this Shotgun reskin makes it look like Sonic’s holding something rather phallic.

Do you like running through large, square rooms with nothing to make it stand out besides a prop or two? Do you like areas where you have to move quickly through the area, otherwise you get stuck and are forced to slowly lose health and die? Do you like fighting reskins of Revenants and Arachnotrons that are ripped straight from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, looking terrible as a result? Do you like terrible-looking gun reskins, even for 1998? If you said yes to any of these, you’ll have a blast with Sonic Doom II.

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Chaser: The Total Recall game we should’ve got.

One thing I’ve been trying to do this year is to tackle my long, burgeoning backlog. I’m limiting this to mostly current generation stuff like the 360, PS3, PC and Wii. But only because I wasn’t really up to digging out my Xbox to play Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and or play through the gauntlet that is Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. If I tried to finish everything I owned, I’d be left with a task that would be impossible to finish in my lifetime.

I’ve been making a slight dent at that backlog in recent months, tackling Borderlands and all its DLC, Saints Row: The Third (which is good timing considering Saints Row IV hits later this year), F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Lots of shootybangs, basically.

BADASS SPACE MARINE COVER

So it makes sense my most recent completion was this little-known budget FPS called Chaser. A first-person shooter that was developed by Slovakian developer Cauldron and published by JoWood Productions in 2004. I had heard of the game in the past thanks to owning a PC Gamer demo disc that had a demo of the game’s multiplayer. While the demo wasn’t amazing by any stretch, it did seem like an interesting shooter that I might play someday.

Fast forward to 2012, when I see the game on a Steam daily deal for $2.50, which got reduced even further to $1.24. I have a soft spot for bargains, and when a game hits that “$2 or less” threshold, it’s an instant impulse purchase. Then it sat on my Steam backlog until very recently, when I had decided to try it shortly after beating Redneck Rampage, wanting an “old-school” FPS fix of a different kind.

Douglas Quaid John Chaser in an unusual predicament.

You play as John Chaser, an amnesiac stuck on a spaceship being hunted down, with no memories of what happened prior. You eventually make it to Earth and become acquaintances with members of “The Family,” as you try to do missions to find out who you are and what happened. Eventually you find the truth, befriend a few people along the way, and find out you were doing a mission on Mars. So you get your ass to Mars, go to the Hilton and flash the Brubaker ID at the desk.

Obligatory sewer level screenshot.

Okay, I know a Total Recall reference sounds dumb here, but Cauldron clearly was looking at the Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic for inspiration: From the amnesiac main character, to befriending people who would later be enemies, being chased through a spaceport, even having to go through murky Mars caves to find the truth. This is the closest we’ll get to a “Total Recall: The Video Game” that isn’t that terrible NES game from many years ago.

Let’s be honest here, shooting a bunch of dudes is better than punching similar-looking monsters and dodging glory holes.

The game is not perfect, though. Being made by a game studio where English is not their primary language, there’s that weird case of “eurojank” to Chaser‘s design. Voice acting is a very mixed bag, leading to awkward line deliveries and unusual word usage. Subtitles don’t always match what’s spoken. Jumping physics seemed a bit off, where I was more likely to miss a platform than land on it. There are many points where it wasn’t clear where I needed to go next, which lead me to walking around a lot and frequently backtracking, among other problems that are common to unpolished shooters.

Cauldron’s CloakNT Engine makes for large, expansive levels. Impressive for a game released in 2004, however it makes later stages like the last few levels drag on considerably.

Chaser is not just a rough unpolished game, it’s also very difficult. On Normal difficulty, it didn’t take much for the bad guys to whittle my full health and armor down to zero pretty quick. Enemies occasionally drop medkits and armor, but I ended up losing that as quickly as I got it. This even applies to fall damage — later stages have you dropping down on pipes, taking off small bits of your health as you descend, making it pretty easy to miss a jump and easily crater, forcing you to quick save repeatedly.

This is cruel irony.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid playing games on harder difficulties, but Chaser was incredibly difficult to play on Normal, leaving me to go through the remaining 2/3s of the game on Easy just to get through it. Even on Easy difficulty, some of the later stages still kicked my ass, with enemies having grenade launchers that one shot me even with near-full health and armor. The quick save key became my best friend.

Even the game’s ending is especially bleak. I won’t spoil it, but I was honestly expecting a much different outcome, and playing a shooter with a downer ending, especially the long journey it took me to get there, is disappointing. I would preferred a choice, like in Singularity, another game I played fairly recently.

That isn’t to say this game is bad per se, it’s just difficult because it was clearly made in a different mindset than most first-person shooters today. Chaser hearkens back to the late ’90s-early 2000s era of first-person shooter design: reflexes, speed, exploration, backtracking, rationing items, and quick saving often to make progress. The average player today would likely have a very difficult time playing through Chaser if they’re used to the Call of Duty style of game play.

Despite that challenge, I enjoyed the varied level design — from space stations, to cities, to the Russian tundra, even the redness of Mars looked pretty neat. The soundtrack was good, reminding of MOD tracker music that was popular in Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex. There’s a bit of charm to Chaser that I had a soft spot for, despite it’s ridiculous length and punishing difficulty.

It’s on Steam at an affordable price of $5, though it does go on sale occasionally. It’s worth checking out if you want some early 2000s eurojank in your life. Just remember that it’s gonna kick your ass, but stick with it. Despite that eurojank, it’s not a bad shooter. I’ve played worse shooters out there. Much worse.

Some screenshots taken from the Steam store page and Mobygames.

(Update 8/20/2019: Updated the post with a few changes here and there.)

Plunder & Pillage: A pirate mod with a seedy past.

I have a very stream-of-conscious sort of thinking. I’ll be in the middle of something like watching a video, listening to music, playing a game, then suddenly think about something related to what I’m doing right now, like information on a movie or song. It happens to me very often, leading to me going on weird tangents about silly stuff. In some cases, it can lead me down a rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting, such as how a jingoistic military FPS lead me down to a pirate mod.

I wonder where he got the background from.

Plunder & Pillage is a standalone modification for the Build engine where, naturally, you play as a pirate sailing the high seas. From creator Jesse Petrilla, he seemed to be a bit interested in modifying the old Build engine long after engines like Unreal Engine and id Tech 3 were available.

I could give you the plot summary, but I’ll just quote the modification’s readme file:

You are Capt. Jess Murdock, a renegade pirate who has lost everything in a shipwreck on the high seas. You wash up on the shore of an island inhabited by pirates of other gangs, you must fight your way through the island, and plunder and pillage all that you can in an attempt to regain what was lost and make a name for yourself as the most feared pirate on the high seas.

This isn't Blood caliber level design, but it's probably better than most fanmade levels.

This isn’t Blood caliber level design, but it’s probably better than most fanmade levels.

Yeah, it’s a simple game, this isn’t Secret of Monkey Island levels of story complexity, it’s a by-the-numbers first person shooter. There isn’t anything wrong with that.

After I downloaded Plunder & Pillage and gave it the proper tweaks for it to work in DOSBox — as of this writing, no Build engine source port supports this abandonware — I stepped into the boots of Jess Murdock, “arrrrrr”ing like the rest of them.

The “quick kick” function from Duke Nukem 3D is also here, which in this mod is his cutlass sword. Thus you can pretend you’re the kraken and have multiple arms.

Plunder & Pillage shows three episodes, but in reality there’s only one episode with three short, quick levels. In the first level, Murdock kills some pirates to get a new ship. The second level involves him going through Parrot Island and… plundering the place? I guess that does fall right into the game’s title.

Unfortunately this has all the hallmarks of a Duke Nukem 3D total conversion, and not done very well. Enemies will do devastating damage even at range, and a lot of the items and weapons are just identical to the base game. Murdock starts out with a flintlock pistol and can get more weapons like a blunderbuss that works like a shotgun, and an explosive crossbow, which acts like the game’s rocket launcher.  Even the setup menu references stuff like the Holoduke and Jetpack, something our Cap’n doesn’t get the opportunity to use.

I’m pretty sure that villager sprite is stolen straight from Strife. How unprofessional.

At one point, finishing the second “episode” lead to a cutscene from Duke Nukem 3D plays, the one where Duke Nukem kills the Overlord boss. I’m genuinely surprised 3DRealms didn’t get on his ass. Guess they were too busy “developing” Duke Nukem Forever to care.

Plunder & Pillage is surprisingly short. There’s only three playable levels, and as far as I know the only version available is this three level demo. It would’ve been nice to see some more levels with interesting designs, but I think Jesse Petrilla should’ve gotten some level designers, because all three levels here are unremarkable and rather straightforward.

You think that would be the end of this saga, which would make for a fairly short article. But now here comes the twist, and it’s gonna go in a way that you don’t expect.

After the tragic events on September 11, 2001, Plunder & Pillage designer Jesse Petrilla completely switched gears and was hard at work on a new game. Sticking with the aging Build engine, he changed the premise: going from fighting pirates to fighting… the War on Terror.

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I Bought Stuff! January 2013: Video Edition?

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog entry on game finds. I found a bunch of stuff, and decided to get with the times and actually make a video out of it.

I decided to get back into the groove of making YouTube videos. I used to make videos from around 2007-2010, but lost interest for reasons I can’t explain. Realizing that YouTube is a thing I shouldn’t ignore in 2013, I started a new YouTube channel dedicated to this blog. I’ll likely be making videos from time to time, including making the game finds entries more video-focused.

For those who can’t view YouTube,

(2019 edit: Oh hey. Around this time, I had the wise idea to do video blogs about the stuff I did. However, lack of motivation and frustration around making consistent video content caused me to give up on this plan a few months later.

I’m a much different person now than I was then, and I’m not really proud of myself in these videos. Thus to minimize my own embarrassment, the video’s gone. The YouTube channel’s still there, just “cleaned up” with some videos removed. I’m not gonna remove this post, though. Instead, I’m replacing this with a picture taken in 2019.)

Here’s a quick summary of what I got over the course of January:

  • Largo Winch.// Commando SAR (PS1)

  • Wipeout XL/2097 soundtrack

  • Sonic Mega Collection Plus (Xbox)

  • DJ Hero 2 (360)

  • American McGee’s Alice (PC) with Prima strategy guide

Largo Winch is a budget title by Ubisoft based on a French TV series, which in itself is based on a Belgian comic book. They’d keep up this trend by later taking the French XIII comic and making a mediocre cel-shaded first-person shooter that had some baffling design decisions. Such as casting Adam West in a serious role after he’s been Mayor West on Family Guy for years at that point.

Anyway. We never got Largo Winch in any form here in the States, so I figure this was a cheapo release in the same vein as VIP where they got the license for cheap and made the game for peanuts to be shoved in the bargain bins at Wal-Mart. I tried playing this, and it was a frustrating stealth-action game made before Splinter Cell, a more well-known and popular franchise by the same publisher.

Ubisoft would go to make one more Largo Winch game, though I bet it was exclusive to Europe as I’ve never seen it here. If there’s anything that needs to make a comeback, it’s Ubisoft making games based on obscure properties no one’s heard of outside of France.

Wipeout XL (known as Wipeout 2097 outside the US) got a soundtrack featuring some of the artists who contributed tracks to the game, with a bunch of other electronic artists thrown in for good measure. There’s some pretty decent cuts in here: Pre-Homework Daft Punk, some Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy in there for good measure. A fair share of this stuff seems to be more like a Big Beat/Techno sampler more than a soundtrack. Makes sense, considering Wipeout XL/2097 is one of the few games that supports Red Book CD Audio.

When I finished the video originally, I stupidly dropped the CD, shattering parts of the case. CD still works fine, though. I need to find a plastic jewel case to replace it.

Sonic Mega Collection Plus is More Sonic Mega Collection. A simple compilation that added a few games not in the original. Better than the original Mega Collection since you don’t need to play Sonic 3 500 times to unlock Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Kinda redundant now considering I own the original games on the Genesis as well as this appearing in a litany of other re-releases over the years, but it’s a nice novelty.

Continuing the past trend of finding fairly recent games like Singularity and Blur at a Goodwill, I snagged DJ Hero 2, also in the shrinkwrap. When I grabbed this, there were dozens of copies in one Goodwill. Clearly these were being cleared out from a Target or some other store. While I was more into the drums and guitar of the music game boom, DJ Hero was still pretty cool, and I heard the sequel’s much better. I should give it a try sometime.

Finally, American McGee’s Alice. This one was found at a different Goodwill, the one with those infamous junk bins. Thankfully, this was locked away in a case, so I didn’t contaminate my hands with whatever strange gunk that might be left in the bins. The game was not preserved well though: the box is mostly crushed, as somehow the cardboard liner that usually keeps the boxes firm was straight up gone.

There are some other cool things about this in spite of the crushed box. It’s the first pressing where Alice is holding a knife — later pressings would have her hold cards or an ice sword instead. Somebody paid $50 at launch at a Fry’s Electronics at launch, which is pretty neat to track where this game was bought originally. Finally, and I didn’t know this: It comes with the Prima Strategy Guide. I’ve been using that to keep the box from being completely crushed as a result, and it works pretty well.

I’ll likely be making more video content in the coming weeks. I forgot how fun it is to make videos sometimes.

(One more note from 2019 me: Yeah, on second thought, let’s not.)