You Gotta Fight; For Your Right

Say what you want about Brad Wardell, but there may be no one of relevance in the industry right now who is doing a better job of finding a balance between running a business and respecting his customers.

As President and CEO of Stardock, a company that exists somewhere between independent and mainstream as both a developer and publisher, Wardell has built surprising success on the increasingly unlikely foundation of a marriage between quality games and consumer friendly ideologies. Some might describe him as the exception to prove the rule and others as the champion of a strong future of PC gaming, but right now every one knows him as the author of the Gaming Bill of Rights.

This Bill of Rights is an audacious, many might argue naïve, document that is probably part manifesto and part marketing ploy, though not necessarily an overt or inappropriate one. I’m entirely comfortable on companies using their customer service excellence as a selling point, particularly when backed up by action. Whatever the source of its motivation, the Gamers Bill of Rights is the industry equivalent of Kennedy’s call for a moonshot, a demand for a complete and fundamental reversal of industry standards from development, to publishing, to retail.

Among its clarion calls: the right to return games that don’t work; the right to expect games to be launched in a finished state; the right to expect realistic minimum requirements; the right to not have to have a CD or DVD in the drive while playing.

And, the response from the industry at large has been both predictable and disappointing, a comprehensive and meaningful silence. A growing star in the PC gaming space has thrown down the gauntlet, and now we get to be completely unsurprised by the mainstream industry’s total lack of motivation to change.

Which begs the question: now what?

Smart money says that nothing happens. That Stardock continues to eek out a living making superior games for a niche market while PC gaming continues to creep methodically along having paralyzing fights with gamers and hemorrhaging talent. As destructive as the current courses of action seem to be for both sides, with developers becoming increasingly combative and gamers clearly demonstrating their commitment and sympathies toward piracy, neither side seems ready to stop being the victim and make productive changes.

If I were a betting man, then I’d say that Wardell is the guy in the middle of a riot shouting for everyone to return to their senses. It’s probably just a matter of time until someone throws a brick at his head. Either way, the end result will still be the slow burn that finally eats away at the fuel of the status quo until either change is forced on the industry or it becomes virtually irrelevant.

That said, I like idealists. I want Wardell to be more than right, but successful. He and his company are both improbable things, finding critical success by creating games that harken back to PC gaming’s best traditions and some degree of commercial success despite adhering to tenets that are widely seen as digital suicide. In an environment where developers get into public spats with entire communities and games have to “phone home” every few days, the Gamers Bill of Rights might seem egregiously subversive if it weren’t so firmly entrenched in the history of PC games.

But, revolutions of one rarely have any impact. The tenets that Wardell offers are not a call to the industry to change, but those on the periphery to force change inward. There is, I assure you, zero chance that Electronic Arts, Activision, Take Two, Ubisoft or any of their peers are going to smile kindly on having Wardell’s theses nailed to their front door. Neither would I wait for organizations like the ESA, struggling in its own flat-spin, to suddenly find newfound respect for the people on whose behalf they claim to advocate. If this is to be a cause, then someone must take it up.

A industry leader can only lead when others follow.

I find myself left wanting here. Left wanting to say that gamers need to unify. Left wanting to make a call for games journalists to leave no interview complete without demanding comment on Wardell’s claims. Left wanting to encourage other developer/publishers like Valve to meaningfully support the mandates listed. Left wanting to describe a path that might make even a handful of these edicts a reality. Left wanting for faith.

Call it cynicism or defeatism, but the state of the industry is only such because we have ceded respect at every turn and I fear we are past the point of no return. While PC gamers have held true to promises not to buy games, the industry has chosen, and not without cause, its scapegoat and seems content to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Not only do PC developers and publishers lack a reason to change, I doubt seriously that one can be formulated that will convince them.

And, perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Should big business publishers finally throw up their hands in frustration, and the slow burn complete its inexorable cycle, maybe this document will inform the equally inexorable next generation of PC publishers and developers. It may take some time, and a less than even course, but I suspect eventually consumer rights will take hold again. I just wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Comments

You're kind of a downer.

I completely agree, but still.

Stardock are a bit naive. I think they've done a bunch of things right with Sins of a Solar Empire that has lead to success despite piracy.

Consider this

- The audience for the game
- The nature of the product: Does not force DRMs on their loyal customer
- The price point
- The rave reviews

I think it's fair to say that at 39.99$, a game appealing to strategy gamer has far more chances of selling (especially considering its critical success).

I think those elements were all very important in the commercial success of their game and that it could not be reproduced by just anybody. They happened to do the right game for the right audience at the right price and it resulted in sales.

That doesn't give them a right to tell anybody they should follow in their footsteps. If they can make a First Person Shooter and have the same results maybe they'll have proven something but I seriously doubt it.

I started to feel strongly about this kind of thing when it was announced that BF2142 would feature in-game advertisement, at a time when BF2 was completely broken (servers crashed all the time) and the game long-time support was really subpar. My excitement and anticipation of BF2142 instantly vanished. I felt like these companies' greed was pushing them to sabotage their own games.

I wish that game reviewers would step in and take a harsher stance against DRM, unfinished games, and basically enforce this kind of bill of right. That If we have to have those silly review scores, at least we could use them to penalize games and publishers.

But I find difficult to discuss these issues without feeling like I'm beating the dead(?) horses of DRM and game journalism.

Meanwhile, Stardock is making money by being customer-friendly, imagine that! :rolleyes:

It was my honor to do a podcast for about a year with Brad. I stepped in on Poweruser.tv after Tom Chick bailed, and I'll tell you there isn't a guy who is more passionate about his products or his customers (even though he promised me a free copy of Political machine 2008 and forgot! Had to buy my own copy...jerk...)

Brad simply believes in not treating his customers like criminals and rewarding them with top notch gaming and great reasons to keep coming back. In my mind, there isn't a better software house in all of gaming. I'm a bit biased because of my history with Stardock, but I think they trump all other developers, yes even Blizzard.

Botswana wrote:

Stardock has been accused of being naive but I think the Bill of Rights is actually pretty spot on and there isn't any real reason why a company can't follow it other than they are too entrenched in their current business model.

I agree. Stardock has it right. What is never acknowledged is the reality that software piracy will continue as long as software developers continue to up the challenge. Pirates are not motivated by profit. The late nights spent de-compiling a software title are invested by geeks thirsty for the competition...the glory of being the first to break that particular DRM. This will continue as long as the gauntlet is thrown down.

By removing the challenge. By appealing to the practical side of the consumer who just wants a well-built, hassle free experience, Stardock and any other developers with the wisdom to follow suit will reap the harvest of happy and enthusiastic customers. Customers not in the slightest inclined to play the russian-roulette game of virus and malware evasion associated with Piracy and Crack sites.

There will always be piracy. It can be minimized by removing this incentive.

Well done Stardock!

Everyone uses intended audience as justification for why Sins doesn't get pirated, except that I'm fairly sure it does get pirated.

For as long as I've been gaming PC games have been pirated and all games have been pirated. There is not a genre, publisher, niche, or title that is somehow immune to this effect. There is not one part of the game community that is somehow inherently more honest and if anyone thinks so then I'll tell you who is naive. Instead, the rationalizations for why Sins is successful in the face of piracy sounds like a bunch of sour grapes, an excuse to cover up what so many have begun to believe about piracy and PC gaming.

I don't buy their excuses anymore than pirates buy their software.

Stardock has been accused of being naive but I think the Bill of Rights is actually pretty spot on and there isn't any real reason why a company can't follow it other than they are too entrenched in their current business model. Or as Chiggie might say, they're so far up their own buttholes they don't see how pissed off their customers are.

Until game publishers change their business practices though they will continue to see PC game sales lag. This reminds me so much of dealing with the airlines, where everyone understands what the problem are except for the executives making the decision. Wardell's manifesto reads like a hit list of top complaints of PC gamers. His ideas aren't radical nor difficult to find reflected in the everyday discussions of gamers everywhere. If the big dogs are still sitting around scratching their heads as to why they are losing business no matter how restrictive they make their software despite having this spelled out for them then I really don't care if they continue to lose money.

Some of the gaming bill of rights i can get behind - no CD in the drive, bug free games, etc. Some of it is impossible - returning games that don't work is an impossibility - developers can't PROMISE this for games sold at retail, and there is no guarantee that the person didn't buy the game, beat it, and then pretend it didn't work.

Most of it, though, is directed squarely at piracy. I can appreciate that a lot, and I do think that gamers have the right not to be treated like criminals, which is what most of the gaming bill of rights boils down to. In response, though, couldn't the industry point to the "Developers and Publisher's Bill of Rights" which would read

1) Developers and Publishers have the right to not have their games pirated.

In the absence of strong political international will to shut down torrent hosting sites like pirate bay (note - not shut down the distribution software itself), no one can enforce the "Developers and Publisher's Bill of Rights" but themselves. And that comes directly in conflict with the "Gamers Bill of Rights". So who's Bill of Rights is more important?

Ok, i'm being a bit facetious and I'm sure that there are tons of holes in my argument that I haven't considered. I just among those that think that the GBOR is a bit Naive on stardock's part - they're a developer in a very unique position and what works for them probably won't work for the rest of the industry.

I completly agree with this "bill of rights". However as it has been already said they have no reason to listen as long as the console cash cow continues to deliever.

Should that stream of income have similar issues then we might see them come to reason.

Dysplastic wrote:

1) Developers and Publishers have the right to not have their games pirated.

Actually, speaking as a software developer I am a huge believer in this myself. However, having the right to not have your games stolen does not directly translate into the right to treat your customers as criminals. Time and again we've seen how copy protection schemes and DRM hurts paying consumers while piracy persists. Indeed, I love the reports that pirated software running better because it has stripped out all that crap. I don't know if it's true but certainly believable considering some of the measures publishers have taken.

Pissing off customers while doing nothing to stop pirates seems like a bad business plan.

"...and gamers clearly demonstrating their commitment and sympathies toward piracy"
The last time a friend of mine told me he pirated a computer game I chewed him out until he went and bought it. Although, admittedly, my feelings on piracy are mixed, which makes me a hypocrite. Hell, my feelings on intellectual property in general are mixed, mostly because I believe there are such things as bad ideas that aren't worth protecting or encouraging.

I wouldn't mind if someone pirated an awful game, hell, they'd be doing the developer a favor because at least SOMEONE would be playing it. Maybe he'll like it, and spread the word that it's not so bad, and people will buy it.

I'm also ok with pirating anything that doesn't respect Fair Use rights. If they're not going to respect my rights, then why should I respect theirs?

Finally:if the company does not release a playable demo of a game, I'd be fine with pirating it to play it like a demo, and if I like it, I buy it. This is largely because if you don't like a game, once you open the package, you can't return it. And for anything in which all sales are final, I believe you should be able to try before you buy. You can read a few pages of a book in a bookstores, you can test drive a car, you can sample the ice cream at Baskin Robins, you should also be allowed to demo a game before purchasing it. That's $60, which for some of us is a week's worth of groceries, for something you can't return.

Mercifully, that last one isn't as much of an issue given the current generation of consoles. Which I really enjoy. Thinking of buying a game? Download the demo free from home.

Botswana wrote:

Pissing off customers while doing nothing to stop pirates seems like a bad business plan.

Seconded.

Clearly piracy is a problem, but I'm not certain that the current heavy handed approach to fighting it is the right one. Whatever way they find to tackle piracy they'll have to be smart about it. I think that going at the torrent sites would be just like cutting an hydra's head, while the most efficient tool in the publishers' arsenal - (lobbying for) more liberticide legislation - has quite worrying side effects. Anyway you put it, the war may be lost from the start, as I doubt that more than a minuscule amount of pirates would actually buy the games if they couldn't pirate them any more.
In my opinion, providing long term support (patches, some small free extra content) to legitimate customers, in other words, lasting value, is a good way to give people an incentive not to rent/pirate the game.

Lastly, my other rant that nobody is going to read.
I had an economics professor once who told a story about a friend of his who works for Oscar Mayer. How one day, this guy was sitting in a board room, arguing over a new product. Nobody wanted to begin making it, because they make lunch meat, and there was a whole lot of stuff in it that wasn't lunch meat. So this guy stands up, and says "Gentlemen, we don't make lunch meat. We make products and services."

And so the Lunchable was born, charging people $3 for a couple of ounces of lunch meat and half a dozen crackers. Product with the highest profit margin in the history of the company.

I'm not sure if that story was true or not. But it brings up a good point. Game companies are stuck on making games. Someone needs to take them aside and say "You don't make games, you make products and services." They need to do the whole meatspace thing.

For instance, let's say there's a game you like, but you're not sure if you want it. Then you hear that the developer is going to come to a local retailer the week of release, do a product signing, sell some merchandise, give a talk, and take some questions. You know, like a book signing, only for games. I'd pay good money for a signed copy of any of this Fall's blockbuster games. I'd really like half an hour in which I get to watch Peter Molyneux in person. They wouldn't have to do this everywhere, but they can hit 20 or so places by the end of that week.

Or they could, say, include something you actually want in with the collector's edition. Like, something other than a crappy bonus soundtrack. I enjoy the ones that come with posters, concept art books, bonus in-game content, lunch boxes, just to name a few. Could do the same with pre-ordered copies, anything that guarantees a sell.

Also, they could come through on their so far empty promises of expanded in-game content. You can have a few guys concurrently producing downloadable content, release it a week after launch for sale, and charge an extra $30 in $5 bundles for bonus stuff. Do the same with the expansion.

Most of this has the added benefit of not being transferable in a used copy. Killing two birds with a little extra of something called value.

Is it ever going to happen? No, it probably won't. Because games studios are too good to make products and services. They just make games. Hell, what do I know, I'm just the customer, and these shelves full of products mean I must be wrong.

doomcryer wrote:

Could do the same with pre-ordered copies, anything that guarantees a sell.

You know I think if games came with a bunch of stuff that is the same price for pre-orders that you only get when you've pre-ordered, stuff like you just mentionned, I think games would sell more

Nothing pisses me off more than paying 60$ for a cd in a plastic case. I like to have some extras. metal case, artbooks, soundtracks, DLC... stuff that makes it more valuable to ME because I went out and purchased it full price rather than wait 2 or 3 months for it to sell for 30$

It is very insulting (to me anyways) to see a game I paid a premium for and that somebody else waits a bit and gets exactly the same experience for half the price or even less.

bonifying early adopters would certainly be a way for developers to make more sales and pre-orders.

There is no doubt that Stardock's games get pirated. What people are overlooking is one of the rights in Brad's manifesto: "3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game's release." By doing so, Stardock ensures that those who have pirated the game either need to go find a new pirated copy with the updated content or pay for a copy on Impulse (formerly Stardock Central). GalCiv2 had four major updates before Dark Avatar came out, and DA had two major updates before Twilight of the Arnor. A lot of those updates had some major increases in content that other companies would have charged for *cough*horse armor*/cough*.

interstate78 wrote:
doomcryer wrote:

Could do the same with pre-ordered copies, anything that guarantees a sell.

It is very insulting (to me anyways) to see a game I paid a premium for and that somebody else waits a bit and gets exactly the same experience for half the price or even less.

bonifying early adopters would certainly be a way for developers to make more sales and pre-orders.

Couldn't agree with that more. It really urked me when they announced that the FOrza 2 Platinum hits was announced to have all the current downloadable content included, not only free, but at a cheaper retail price for the original product. All this tells me is that rather then pre-order, I would have been better off just waiting till the game hit the bargain bin. If my pre-order included something tangible (Like a racing wheel cover or something) that the late comers would not get, I wouldn't feel so bad, knowing that my early adoption was rewarded.

interstate78 wrote:

It is very insulting (to me anyways) to see a game I paid a premium for and that somebody else waits a bit and gets exactly the same experience for half the price or even less.

That is exactly what motivates me to buy a game a long time after its release. The idea that a little more self restraint then the "suckers" who have to buy it at release earns me 30 bucks keeps me waiting.

Well except for Oblivion. I really wanted that brass Septim so I paid a 10$ premium for the collectors edition. So it seems to me that the market is going the other way, special will have to pay extra.

Botswana wrote:
Dysplastic wrote:

1) Developers and Publishers have the right to not have their games pirated.

Pissing off customers while doing nothing to stop pirates seems like a bad business plan.

I agree with you that most of the time DRM does nothing to stop pirates, which is a problem. That being said, I know for a fact that Bioshock's copy protection scheme (I actually forget what it was) delayed a pirated release by almost exactly 1 week. From what I understand, and this is probably purely conjecture, stopping week 1 piracy is a big deal and encourages casual pirates to just go out and buy the game since everyone is talking about it, etc. Actual monetary results are unclear, but if the devs think it's effective....I guess the theoretical question is - if we had DRM that actually WORKED, would it be more tolerable?

Here's a random thought - have a draconian DRM scheme for exactly 1 month, then drop it altogether through a patch. If it can stop piracy for 1 month, and still let people who hate DRM play the game DRM-free eventually, would that be an acceptable compromise?

Just throwing ideas out there.

Dysplastic wrote:

Here's a random thought - have a draconian DRM scheme for exactly 1 month, then drop it altogether through a patch. If it can stop piracy for 1 month, and still let people who hate DRM play the game DRM-free eventually, would that be an acceptable compromise?

Just throwing ideas out there.

So help me god, if that became a standard, I would never buy another PC game for so long as I shall live.

From what I understand, and this is probably purely conjecture, stopping week 1 piracy is a big deal and encourages casual pirates to just go out and buy the game since everyone is talking about it, etc.

I've pointed this out before. Pirates steal far more than they can buy. I keep hearing publishers talking about converting pirates to buying customers but again, more naivete. I don't know if people steal because of the thrill, because of weak rationalizations, because they're cheap, or because they actually believe they're somehow "sticking it to the man".

Who was the person that said it, was it Wardell, who said we have to quit worrying about stopping pirates and start worrying about selling games? We keep trying to stop pirates and convert them into paying customers while the paying customers are continually punished for the actions of pirates. The point is to SELL GAMES not STOP PIRATES. Why is this distinction continuing to escape publishers?

doomcryer wrote:
Dysplastic wrote:

..

So help me god, if that became a standard, I would never buy another PC game for so long as I shall live.

Yeah talk about a way to scare off your early adopters.
On the other hand, if a game survives its first month that way, it MUST be good.

I'm more inclined to go with the whole adding content through patches thing. Not that they'd have to resort to adding half the game's supposed content later just because they're paranoid, but somehow it feels less of an insult when your client is verifying if it's a legal copy against a patching server, as opposed to it doing that the moment you install it.
I have the PC version of Alone in the Dark here and I felt strangely insulted when it said it needed to check online before it could run.
I'm like 'And what if I installed this on my laptop?'.. suddenly it's not 'legal' anymore? What? I got a more powerful laptop for just that kinda thing and now you're doing that to me?

I also think it's still true what one of the Stardock guys said before - they're making games they like, for people that want to play them.
it seems to me that while every business is just that - business, I like to compare game development to food - good restaurants usually have chefs that like making the food that they make - they're really into their business because they LOVE whatever they make.

I doubt Jack McJob-Person is really into his hamburgers that much though, and you can taste it. No matter how hard the company tries to enforce their policy and standards, a hamburger or sandwich made by some local place where the guy behind the counter knows and likes his stuff will taste so much better than mass-fabricated produce #3.104.541.235.435...

I think the same often goes for games. Mass produced Madden 2000-whatever may be fun enough for the enthusiast, and just as some people gorge themselves on hamburgers there may be the odd fanatic that thinks it's the best thing since Madden 2000-whatever(-1), but I have a hard time believing it will ever be as good as the experience people get from playing something that has been worked on with love, blood sweat and tears from its creators, be that Bioshock, Sins of a Solar Empire or even something older like Diablo2. I tend to think there's something in those games that feels like it's got substance and I think people will pay more for those than whatever is mass produced by Corporation McBigCo. for the sake of getting us to pay haute cuisine prices for hamburgers, if we knew that it was going to the right people.

Will that solve the piracy issue? No... but I know it would make me feel a lot more guilty about considering it than when I'd know the publisher was treating both ends like dirt...
(yes I know that's old now, but the thought still lingers)

Dysplastic wrote:

I agree with you that most of the time DRM does nothing to stop pirates, which is a problem. That being said, I know for a fact that Bioshock's copy protection scheme (I actually forget what it was) delayed a pirated release by almost exactly 1 week. From what I understand, and this is probably purely conjecture, stopping week 1 piracy is a big deal and encourages casual pirates to just go out and buy the game since everyone is talking about it, etc. Actual monetary results are unclear, but if the devs think it's effective....I guess the theoretical question is - if we had DRM that actually WORKED, would it be more tolerable?

Ok, so the theory is that a pirate, who is intending to steal a product, will say, 'Oh I can't wait a week for a cracked game, so I will go pay $50 to play it now.'

I'm sorry, but someone is living out where the buses don't run.

Botswana wrote:

I've pointed this out before. Pirates steal far more than they can buy. I keep hearing publishers talking about converting pirates to buying customers but again, more naivete. I don't know if people steal because of the thrill, because of weak rationalizations, because they're cheap, or because they actually believe they're somehow "sticking it to the man".

Who was the person that said it, was it Wardell, who said we have to quit worrying about stopping pirates and start worrying about selling games? We keep trying to stop pirates and convert them into paying customers while the paying customers are continually punished for the actions of pirates. The point is to SELL GAMES not STOP PIRATES. Why is this distinction continuing to escape publishers?

I'm pretty sure it was Wardell, a pirated copy =/= a lost sale. A pirate is a pirate, a customer is a customer.

I'm all for DRM as long as it doesn't inconvenience me, a paying customer. And it would be easier to swallow if it worked for it's intended purpose.

ClericalApathy wrote:

I wouldn't feel so bad, knowing that my early adoption was rewarded.

Rewarded? You do realise the whole point of pre-orders and special editions is to milk as much money out of the early adopters as possible, right? It's called market segmentation.

I would love for it to work itself out. When we come down to it though if people have a way of getting something for free (stealing it), and the generally know that they will get away with it (pirating) they will do it. Whatever they tell themselves to sleep, "I'm not paying for that game its too expensive and I hate that company!" is BS and a crutch for their guilt.

Burton wrote:

I would love for it to work itself out. When we come down to it though if people have a way of getting something for free (stealing it), and the generally know that they will get away with it (pirating) they will do it. Whatever they tell themselves to sleep, "I'm not paying for that game its too expensive and I hate that company!" is BS and a crutch for their guilt.

What you say maybe true.

But it does not change the fact that a pirated copy is NOT a lost sale.

Companies should concentrate on selling games not stopping pirates.

Ok, so the theory is that a pirate, who is intending to steal a product, will say, 'Oh I can't wait a week for a cracked game, so I will go pay $50 to play it now.'
I'm sorry, but someone is living out where the buses don't run.

I am loathe to encourage yet another thread on piracy, but yes. I'd say this is one of the fundamental points of disagreement. It comes down to how much you believe that piracy is a crime of convenience - where someone says I want X game, how can I get it? There's evidence to support both sides of that argument, and very little of it is concrete.

That said, here's my real point. Keep the snide finishing comments to yourself.

But it does not change the fact that a pirated copy is NOT a lost sale.

Here's a good example of the basic problem with the debate. If not X then Y. I'd be with you if you said that a pirated copy is not always a lost sale. But the statement above seems out of touch, and is symptomatic of exactly the kind of paralyzing division I was talking about that is crippling PC gaming.

In a surprising way, this thread is becoming the very evidence of the unresolvable problem I was describing.

Kier wrote:

What you say maybe true.

But it does not change the fact that a pirated copy is NOT a lost sale.

Companies should concentrate on selling games not stopping pirates.

I've posted this here before, but a pirated copy is most likely a lost sale for someone. Unless game pirates completely give up gaming as a hobby when denied the ability to pirate, they're going to play something.

Maybe not a full-price copy of the latest blockbuster, but if the pirates were completely denied the ability to steal games would they not be much more likely to buy cheap older/second hand games? If price really is such an issue for them, perhaps it would boost the market for free-to-play ad-supported games as well.

Personally, I'm very happy with Steam-style DRM. It's cheap, unobtrusive, allows redownloads and multiple installs on different computers.

Elysium wrote:

That said, here's my real point. Keep the snide finishing comments to yourself.

Sincere apologies, snideness wasn't my intent, I was just trying to make light of it.

Given human nature the idea is a real stretch, that someone would rather pay for something than wait 4-7 days to be able to get said something for free.

Anyway, I'm not going to get further involved in another merry-go-round piracy debate. I'll just pitch my banner on Wardell's side of the line.

Sincere apologies, snideness wasn't my intent, I was just trying to make light of it.

I understand, but I have to be careful in threads like this. I've seen them get out of hand quickly.

Sorry about the whole piracy thing - but to be fair, the Bill of Rights is inexorably tied to the piracy debate, at least the points that I feel are up for argument.