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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsAgainst The Mountain - 1st Person Exploration/Platformer
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baftis
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« on: August 15, 2021, 03:06:29 PM »

Hello, all. First time posting here. I am a game designer/level designer and I've wanted to do my own game by myself for quite awhile. I've tried multiple times, but every time I've started a project, I got too ambitious and along the way I've abandoned all projects because of sheer scope.  But no more. This project I am determined to finish.

DAY 1

Today I present you Against The Mountain: a first person adventure/platformer. Or keeping it real, a walking simulator with a platformer component...and maybe a dungeon.

You start the game in a valley and your goal is to reach the mountain top. While traversing the valley and climbing the mountain, you will encounter various obstacle courses ("areas") that puts your orientation skills and your timing skills to the test.

Since I've just started the project, I do not have very "interesting" stuff to show, but I do have some screenshots. Here is one.



"See that big object in the distance? That's where you need to go": The Game

Do not be fooled by the perspective of the above screenshot, it is a long way to the mountain. An early test showed that from the spawn point to the base of the mountain will take you about 10min:30sec.

As said before, you start the game in a valley, roughly from where this screenshot has been taken. The valley, as you can see, is a straight line. Along this straight line, the player encounters distinct areas of increasing difficulty. And these areas are definitely not straight lines. And also, they're definitely not few.

There are 16 planned areas for the game:

- 14 in the valley,
- 1 from the base of the mountain to about halfway
- 1 inside the mountain (this is where the aforementioned dungeon will be)

Speaking of areas, I do have a screenshot of one area. It's very, very work-in-progress, so bear with me.



This is the very first area the player will encounter. It will also serve as the tutorial for the game. As you can see, it's nothing fancy at all: a simple short maze, designed to teach the player the controls and a few mechanics of the game.

By the way, that little red dot on the light gray square? That's the player character capsule.

Here's an extra screenshot from the first area:



That's all I have for today. See you guys tomorrow.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2021, 03:54:14 PM by baftis » Logged
baftis
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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2021, 02:29:36 PM »

DAY 2

So today was a slow day. Productive nonetheless, but slow. I started working on the project by testing what was done last night and wasn't pleased with the result. It did not make any sense to have that kind of maze at the beginning. Because I did not test last night, I've come to the realization that the trees were scaled far too much and the player could very well waltz through the maze, avoiding the intended path.

It was immediately clear that a different design is needed there; a simpler, more familiar and less complicated one. And so a different design reared it's head quite fast.



In place of the trees, now this section contains two small interconnected patches of land (that's the best way I can put it, English is not my native language). The "below" levels will be filled with water and buildings on the patches of land. For the building *style*, an Ancient Greek or Ancient Roman style of building would be cool.

And the choice of these buildings might have decided what the Art direction would be for this project. I was torn between having a stylized look versus realistic look with post process effects. I'm leaning more and more towards a "dream-like state" art direction: deep colors, oil painting post process but with realistic looking assets.

Since it doesn't realistically make sense to have Ancient Greek or Ancient Roman buildings in this manner (isolated, smack dab in the middle of the road, so to speak) it would make sense to have them there as a metaphor for "ancient knowledge". Like "in order to reach the top of the mountain, first you must have this ancient knowledge into possession" kind of thing. 

Officially I've spent more time writing this than I did working on the project, so I'll stop for now. Will be back tomorrow, with more progress, hopefully.
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baftis
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2021, 02:27:03 PM »

DAY 3

So yesterday I had some vague inspiration about having some Ancient Greek or Ancient Roman buildings in the first level area of the game. So I went out for a hunt on 3d models that would serve as a placeholder. Lo and behold, I did stumble across something that I can use and that also is thematically aligned with what I want.



Works nice, if I do say so myself. Had to make some modifications to the collisions first, though. While it looks really nice, the model's collisions were nonsensical. The columns, for example were all under 3 separate block-like collisions. While OK for the purpose of blocking the level out and using these as reference until I make some final models, when using a third party model (this one came from kitbash3d.com) you do run the risk of having to do some of the work yourself. Luckily it was only a matter of removing the original collision and applying one from inside UE4, so it was merely a small inconvenience.

So I know two of these buildings are going to be used and I also know that I need a water plane. So I added them. And the result:



The area is coming along quite nicely. I'll bring back the trees, since I want to decorate the area like an Ancient Roman villa, with bushes and thin but long trees. This is to create an idyllic sort of area that the player would feel a sense of awe and serenity during what is essentially the game's tutorial section. Pretty fitting, don't you think? 

The bad thing about this is that it looks really rough, even for block-out standards. But since I really don't have much time to work on it like I've wanted, this will have to do for now. At this stage I'm not concerned with the area "looking" good. I'm concerned strictly about the gameplay, the logic and player navigation. And since I'm going to iterate a lot, it doesn't make much sense to spend more time than needed to make this area "look" good now. Iterate until I find the fun. Form always follows function, as the Elder Gaming Gods always say.

Speaking of logic, this would be the next thing to implement. Since I do have basically all I need to have in this area to make it functional, it's time to get to the nitty gritty of creating the logic. This would mean the puzzle, the doors, triggers for text and dialogue inspired by What Remains of Edith Finch and maybe some in-game events unrelated to the puzzle logic.   

That's about it for today. Tomorrow, I'll take a crack at doing the puzzle. I have the doors working from other projects, so that's a time saver.

See ya tomorrow. Bye.
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baftis
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2021, 03:17:43 PM »

DAY 4
I was really tired today. Overslept and missed 2 hours of work (yikes!).  I wanted to do the entire logic for the first area today, but only managed to make the logic for the buttons. It took longer than expected, with testing and bug fixing. But I did manage to make the buttons, so at least there's that.

​Had some ideas about placing an outline on the buttons when the player puts the mouse cursor/crosshair but don't know how to make that one yet. I'll document myself about how I will do that.

A button looks like this:




​Again, placeholder content, but it does the job: press the button, the button lowers. And when you are near the pillar/support, a text render appears above the support. So far everything works as intended, but I'm not satisfied with the speed at which the button lowers: it just teleports instead of moving smoothly, but I'll fix it. Some bugs occurred with the text render, but I managed to fix them.

After the button was done, I managed to swap out the Roman building model with another, more sleek and "utilitarian" one (at least for the purpose of the area):



Simple, sleek, does the job. What more can one ask?

Again, had to rework the collisions because as it was, the player could not enter the building. Using complex collision as simple on all parts minus the brazier. That would've killed performance in the long run, so instead I used an Auto Convex collision. Tweaked around until I got a nice, hollow cylinder shape collision that allowed players to enter and that encompasses the entire model without killing performance. Sweet.
So that's all I've got for today. See ya tomorrow.
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baftis
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« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2021, 03:47:24 PM »

DAY 5

Did not have much time for myself today, had to make preparations for a much needed get-away. I did manage to continue where I left off the other night for a bit.

So I had to rework some logic for the button switch in order to make hooking up future doors (or puzzles) easier for my future self. More specifically, I made the blueprint to automatically change the materials on the button when it is in an active state and an inactive state.  Previously, I did not call the material change (it had only one material). More importantly, I made the active/inactive component public, so I can tick and untick in the editor as default when needed. This also means making the logic for future puzzles easier (hopefully) ​just by calling a Boolean function from that particular instance of the blueprint instead of copy-pasting some things in the Level Blueprint. Makes for a cleaner, lighter implementation, I think. I'm not a programmer, I have no idea how much some functions cost in the long run. 
 I did not fix the "button teleports" instead of moving smoothly along a spline because for now it works just as it is.​ There is no functional issue, only a visual one, so there is no real urgency. After everything else is set up and working properly, I'll fix this issue as well.

​I do have three more features/functionalities I'd like to add to the button, because why not:

1) once you hover over it with the crosshair while it is in an inactive state, the button will have a bright outline.

2) Also while hovering over it, the info needed for the player to interact with it will appear above the button in the game world.

3) And while it transitions from inactive to active, the material will transition smoothly from red to green.
No screenshots today. I'll be off until Monday and will come back then. See ya.
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2021, 08:46:21 AM »

i'm such a sucker for games about climbing mountains. celeste, a short hike, that mini game in the beginner's guide... it's a great basis. interested to see where your game is headed. good luck on development!
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baftis
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2021, 10:48:48 AM »

Thank you very much, q1. Yes, it is a great basis, especially if one knows what to do with it and use it properly.
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baftis
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2021, 03:09:01 PM »

DAY 6

OK, fun over, time to get back to the project.

I got side-tracked from the nice-to-have tasks that I've talked about earlier and started working on a stylized water shader. Hey, it's not like the concept of "being organized" has been invented or anything, right?

So the shader came out...well, it did not exactly came out what I wanted, but it's a start.



Kind of like the stylized lines. But they're buggy: on landscapes meshes, they tend to skip a polygon or two. Why? Not sure yet.



What I do not like is the water itself. It looks cheap and not interesting at all. Thought I had it nailed down but results speak for themselves.



Overall, there's something I can work with here, but most likely I'll have to re-work the water shader, if not re-do it entirely. I ended up spending a lot of time on it (about 2 hours or so) and wanted to bridge a stylized version with a realistic version of water, but did not get anywhere with it. You live and you learn. I'll try 2 different versions: a completely realistic one and a completely stylized one and see who wins out. Hoping the stylized wins, since that's what I'm going for.

Also tried my hand at sketching some levels on paper. Sketched 2 levels, but went blank at the third one.

Tomorrow I'll migrate some old assets from previously unfinished (as of yet) projects that have to do with platforming. That will most definitely kick me into gear about the progress with the game.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll also finish the doors and switches thing (and fix bugs).

That is all for now, see ya tomorrow. Bye.
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baftis
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2021, 04:48:49 PM »

DAY 7

Today's work was a hodge-podge of things that I've set out to do. Got distracted and started making some stylized rocks in Blender and trying to make them prettier in ZBrush, but I forgot how perversely complicated ZBrush's UI is. Had a hard time getting back into it and, of course, spent an enormous amount of time. Not very smart, eh? But I made some rocks, didn't I? Not final, but it's getting there.

Managed to import the assets from previous unfinished projects, but hoo boy, what a can of worms I've opened up. Of course each and every one of them did not work at all, so had to also spend time adapting it for this project. After adjusting them to this project, I came to the realization that I only actually need 3 or so of those mechanics out of...I dunno, 10-15? Fun times indeed.   

The opening doors blueprint gave me headaches. And a laugh: one door swung rapidly, continuously and completely out of control. Managed to fix that particular issue, but am still left with making the opening doors work as intended, meaning swinging wide open to the sides. I'll try a different approach tomorrow.

On the button switch blueprint, I still have issues where the material on the pressed button does not update and remains red instead of turning green, ergo the button remains inactive and cannot open the above-mentioned door. I know what the issue is, so this shouldn't be a problem.

But I did manage to actually fix the visual bug where the button teleports instead of moving slowly downwards, so there's a small win.

On the design part of things, I'm kind of in the dark at the moment. q1, a member on this forum mentioned some games that are similar to my concept (climbing a mountain, sort of). Had a quick look at them and realized it made much more sense to spend the time reaching the top of the mountain from the actual foot of the mountain instead of spending 80% of the time reaching it. And the levels would be spread on the mountain from bottom to top in a twirly-wirly, spiral-y way. This change alone in the design department shifted the whole story on it's head.

What I'm in the dark now is about the setting and the context of the story. Why would the player character be there in the first place? Why would he climb that mountain? To save someone? For selfish reasons? To get away from something? He's doing it just to prove a point?

No screenshots today, surely tomorrow. That's all, guys. See ya.
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baftis
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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2021, 04:06:19 PM »

DAY 8

Finally fixed the buttons, the materials and the doors. Everything is working properly. Now I'm investigating a simple way to put them all together. I'm thinking the AND node, but cannot find proper documentation on what it does.

Started working on level design for the first level. It will be Firewatch-y in nature, but more in-game. With lots of nature around guiding the player: trees, cliffs and the first puzzle of the game (the one in the roman architecture, which I'm pretty convinced they will go away). Speaking of trees, I've spent a stupid amount of time fixing a scaling issue with the placeholder trees I have. They were 100 times smaller than intended. Even for placeholder standards, working with someone else's assets is a lottery, in the sense that you never know which ones work properly. Pivots all over the place, unusable sizes, that kind of thing. But I did reach out to the marketplace to find something suitable and I did.

I'll post screenshots tomorrow, I'm dead tired. See ya. 
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« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2021, 07:25:10 PM »

ayy congrats, are you going to be modeling your own assets in the end or nah?
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baftis
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« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2021, 03:14:38 AM »

Thank you, q1. Yes, the plan is to make my own assets where I can. I do have a background in 3D modelling, so that helps.

Right now, I try to focus on the gameplay and make the entire game in prototype form from start to finish. Only after the prototype is completely playable with placeholder assets will I do the modelling and set dress. Right now, I'll use free stuff from the marketplace and from around the interwebs. First the skeleton, then the meat.

There is a risk of the models not being of high quality though, so I do have to have a plan B and a plan C in place.

Plan B would be to purchase 3D models outright and plan C would be to outsource 3D modelling to someone more talented than me and with experience in stylized art.

Plan B would cost me some, and would take some time to find exactly what I'm looking for. But this will eventually save me a lot of time, since I only have to possibly make adjustments. This would be a medium-risk plan.

I have no idea how much plan C would cost, but that would take modelling off my hands and I would be there only for some input and review. This is a low-risk plan.

Plan A would still be plan A, though. Even if it's the riskiest, this is the de facto approach.
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baftis
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« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2021, 03:46:38 AM »

As promised, here are the screenshots from yesterday's work









Back to work, now.
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baftis
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« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2021, 03:00:03 PM »

DAY 9

Nothing much happened today. I did manage to expand on the level I'm currently working on, which would be the very beginning of the game. Only sculpted the landscape for it, so I have nothing really interesting to show. But here it is anyway.



Had some ideas about what's going to happen in the game mechanic-wise. Text pop-ups, letter reading, audio logs, that kind of stuff. But nothing really original or hook-y. And I keep thinking about something original story-wise or premise-wise that I can also do, just one gameplay thing.

Tinkered around with some post process effects, but settled on having a cartoon-ish outline in the game world. I like how assets have that "pop" to them now.



That is all for today. See ya tomorrow.  
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2021, 12:56:43 AM »

Looks pretty cool already. For some reasons I don't even mind the checkerboard ground. Haven't understood, yet, what this game is going to be, though. A walking sim? Puzzles? Fighting stuff?
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baftis
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« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2021, 03:56:00 AM »

Hey, Schrompf. Thank you very much, your words are very encouraging. I don't blame you for not understanding what the game is about, since it's a hodge-podge of info that was in my head a week ago and very rapidly evolved into something else.

So yeah, it's a walking sim with puzzle and platformer elements. No fighting.

This reminds me to edit the first post for better readability.
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baftis
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« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2021, 03:23:14 PM »

DAY 10

Took a break from development, but back at it again.

Spent some time to iron out the gameplay loop and the core pillars of the game. While having a general, if not vague idea, the game design itself lacked a proper direction. For an exploration game, one might think that there isn't too much to work on, right?

Turns out that, as simple as it may seem, (good) games like this are understatedly specific in their inner workings. Exploration should be fun and rewarding. How do you make exploration fun and rewarding?

- Beautiful sights contribute to the fun (arguably greatly), but it's not the be-all-end-all of the exploration pillar.
- Having collectibles alongside beautiful sights makes exploration rewarding, but is this enough? Only for a short while and only if done right (i.e. having different types of collectibles carefully placed around the game world).
- Giving enough of a challenge for the player to navigate around the beautiful areas and getting to collectibles? Ok, now this is going somewhere.
- Build a gripping story around the game world? OK, keep going...
- Having enough variety in the levels to mix things up? Almost there..
- Having a new twist on an old mechanic or some novel mechanic that is also interesting for the player to use? That's it!


All these ingredients make for an interesting experience for the player, I believe.Hopefully I did not miss anything before it's too late.


Today I've spent some time on the level design as well.








That's all I've got for today. See ya.
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baftis
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« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2021, 11:17:28 AM »

DAY 11

After two days in which I have not worked on the project, today was a slightly more productive day.

I've implemented a new interactive object in the form of Audio Logs. These are in the game mainly to convey lore and backstory, with the occasional level hints where and if needed. They are present in the form of an old "portable" magnetic tape player. When the player is in it's range, he/she can press the interact button and when the button is pressed, the tape player plays an audio log.



It was a lot easier than I had anticipated functionality wise, but will be pretty difficult to model the final version. it did pose three issues I did not expect to happen.

For one, the are 2 tape reels (2 different static meshes) on the tape machine and both reels need to rotate around their Z-axis in the same direction. The problem is that the reels begin to spin ridiculously fast and stop just as the audio starts to play. While the intended functionality is for the reels to start rotating, the audio plays and as it finishes playing, the tapes stop rotating. This I did not manage to fix today, but hopefully tomorrow.

I do have and idea on how to fix it, but it requires placing the rotating meshes in the level blueprint (which I absolutely do not want to do), not in the object blueprint itself (which I absolutely do want to do).

Luckily, the other two issues are fixed and tested.

Mainly the first 0.2 seconds of the audio log played repeatedly 4 times. After that, it proceeded to play the audio file properly. This was caused by a delay node in the blueprint of the Audio Log. Of course, the delay node was removed. The other issue was that the audio started playing right as I started the game. Which I knew fully that this wasn't supposed to happen under any circumstance. And had absolutely zero idea what caused it... UNTIL I looked in the audio component of the blueprint. And, lo and behold, Auto Activation was ticked true. Of course, this was fixed and now it works as intended.

On the game design part, I'm in the process of fleshing out the lore and collectible/interactable items. On the functional side of the lore, it will be delivered via the Audio logs above and by handwritten letters. At least for now. I might add some other types of lore-delivering mechanics.

Regarding lore content, this is still very much up in the air. I do however know 2 things: 1) the player must find a particular individual who has gone missing for a very long time. 2) the dream-like direction that was hinted at in the first few posts will most likely go away. True, it was hinted at as an art direction thing, but in my mind it crossed over the storytelling and gameplay aspects.  This dream-like direction will be replaced by a more grounded direction.

That's kind of it for today. See ya tomorrow, bye.

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« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2021, 02:29:17 PM »

DAY 12

Had a breakthrough in the story department today. So here's the premise of the game:

After decades of research, a group of five scientists specializing in superconductors have discovered a way in which antigravity can be harnessed. This discovery, the scientists reckoned, will lead to a new era for mankind, a paradigm shift as big if not bigger than the industrial revolution. Of course, such a discovery attracts both supporters and detractors alike. But it also attracts government interest.

The five physicists were approached by the government with the desire to gain exclusive use of the discovery with the intention to weaponize it. The group of scientists, led by a man named Adam DeVata, straight up refused the government proposal.  They firmly believed that "this discovery should be made available for the general populace to make their lives better, not only for government. And especially not to use it as a weapon." Shortly after this statement was made, all five scientists went missing.

The scientists' supporters believe that the tech was suppressed by the government and that the scientists were either kidnapped or assassinated. Detractors believe that this tech wouldn't be possible and that the whole thing was a scam made strictly for the scientists' personal gain. The truth is that, years down the line after that statement was made, nobody knew anything about the missing scientists. That is until you, the player, stumbled upon some..."interesting" evidence.

You were hiking near Mount Timor, a mountain infamous for it's dangerous ascent, minding your vacation. During the hike, you stumble upon an old portable reel tape recorder barely hidden in the bushes. Out of sheer curiosity, you play the tape and hear an Audio Log of Adam DeVata himself made the day before. In that recording, he alluded to being hidden somewhere at the peak of Mount Timor. Knowing about DeVata and the whole story, you set out to find him.


So that's it for today, no screenshots. See ya.
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baftis
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« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2021, 03:03:10 PM »

DAY 13

Somehow, out of nowhere, inspiration struck today level design wise. Managed to create a platforming section for the first level.









What's peculiar is that this was not really planned to come out like this. In fact it's nothing like planned. What was planned to be there was a down-sized version of the area with the Ancient Roman buildings. This down-sized version is still in the books to be in this first level, but for the moment I don't know where.

Why is this peculiar? Because I usually have a layout for sections to work with or at the very least a rough idea. Instead this section was built just by going with the flow. It was a little liberating and quite breezy to work on. Tested this section so that it does not have any sequence skips and fixed where that happened (whoops, scratch that, found one more, will fix after I finish writing this).

What I do not like is that I used the same placeholder rock asset all over the place and that kind of leaves the impression that the section is same-y. Gameplay-wise, it does not feel same-y, but it feels slightly tiresome. And this is a problem. Why?

One thing I know about testing games is this: when you test a game (especially one particular section) over and over and over again, the good mechanics tend to not stand out as "good" anymore and the bad mechanics tend to stand out like a sore thumb. In other words, they "degrade" over time: what's good becomes meh, but what is already meh from the get-go becomes frustrating or annoying.

This is why what I said before about the section feeling slightly tiresome is a problem.

That's all for today, see ya tomorrow. Bye     
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