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For the term "Shadowbane".


There was a bit of dialogue between Warden of Wolfpack Studios and myself on the Shadowbane Devboard regarding the One, Holy and Apostolic ORPG, and specifically how it would deal with issues such as random grief PKing that have become “issues”, as Calandryll would term them, in other games. (Don’t worry, Cal, I found your theme song.)

..just out of random curiosity, why is your natural assumption that we *haven’t* considered this?

I mean, we went to all the bother of quitting our jobs, raising the money, hiring a staff, starting a company — and yet it never occurred to us, in all of our planning, to make sure that the game system we are designing actually matches our target market?

I think asking what you consider to be your target market is a valid question, and one you didn’t answer.

No one actually asked. I would define out target market as “Those who purchased Diablo and love it.” Simple and straightforward, that’s my kind of marketing.

(Okay, okay, a quick disclaimer. I know this statement won’t stand up under scrunity. Diablo was never created as a massively multiplayer game. Questions like “what about battle.net?” and all the other multiplayer issues that the Diablo team didn’t address make this point a lot less valid — but if you take it as a goal at a *very* high level, i.e. “I want a massively multiplayer Diablo that *works*, you should get a feeling for what we’re trying to build..)

Shadowbane is going to have an exceptionally deep social system — much moreso than any other game that has been released (or, to our knowledge, conceived of) to date. This system should cater to all types of game players — even those who don’t necessarily want to engage in PvP.

…except merchants? “I don’t play these games to bake bread, I play them to crush.” How will you create a world in depth without an economy? Everquest is a good example of what happens when you just rely on in-game drops to drive item acquisition.

Sure — provided of course that you make the best items in the game clearly better than the next tier, load them in a predictable place and interval, and in very short supply.

Pretty soon everyone has everything and is handing it off to their newbies. UO, for all its faults, at least has merchant classes that work (smiths, alchemists, etc).

You are correct — we do scratch merchants off the list. Shadowbane is a game about warfare and political intrigue, not a bakery or a fishing simulation. Sorry, but we know our limitations — we’ve got one game that we really, really want to build and a limited time to do it. This is one area we felt could be crossed off the list.

To argue your point, by the way (that merchant skills are necessary for a viable economy,) the example that you give, the game with “working” merchants, really only has one or two classes that are (over time) viable professions — blacksmithing and alchemy. Fishing, Baking, Carpentry.. the overall effect these skills have on “the economy” is actually quite negligible. When was the last time a UO player ‘fished’ himself into a Castle? The economy of UO is *actually* fueled by playerkilling, not their craft skills. Player killing (and, until recent changes, player thieving) is the clear and undisputed easiest way to amass wealth in that game.

In Shadowbane, our economy will actually be fueled at two levels — at the micro level, by adventuring (and yes, sometimes by PvP combat, though our item bonding rules should balance that out dramatically) and at the macro level by the Guilds (and sadly, I can’t say much more about that at this point.)

At it’s heart, Shadowbane is a game about interaction, being a part of a group, and dealing with other groups — PvP combat is just one small piece of the equation (and one that can be avoided, if you choose to do so.)

…but one that’s been highlighted, in your publicity and by your fans. What does Shadowbane offer to the PvP-? What protection does Shadowbane offer from random PKing? I’ll assume for purposes of discussion that random PKing is even considered undesirable.

I think (or at least, I hope) we’ve been very clear about the clear difference we see between ‘random playerkilling’ and ‘PvP combat.’ Shadowbane will offer an entire spectrum of great gameplay for those who don’t want to engage in PvP combat — in fact, we’ve designed a whole host of activities beyond the ones you’ve all grown to expect (roleplaying, character development, adventuring in parties) that should round out the game quite nicely — things like our feature character system, our vivid background story, our roleplaying and acting system (we’ve got more socials than any other game to date.)

I think the reason that our PvP system has received so much attention to date is, in large part, due to two factors : first, that we’ve taken a stance against a +pvp flag, opting instead for allowing safety through guild territories and reducing the pain of death; second, that the other games have treated the PvP system as an afterthought, or as a necessary evil of their system.

[Regarding PvP play styles,] I think the key, for us, is to build a game that is well rounded in all areas, and has a system that is flexible enough to handle a large variety of playing styles. I’m not suprised that we’ve received so much attention in this particular area (since the other games have done such a poor job of implementation on this particular point) but I think you’ll find, eventually, that we’re a better game in a LOT of different areas — roleplaying, character advancement, and political intrigue, you name it. Don’t let one little fear dissuade you from what might otherwise be an incredible gaming experience.

I guess my whole point is, “Try it.” Before you condemn any game as being “too dangerous” or “too deadly,” why don’t we see how beta goes? We’ve tried to do a good job of attracting some of the best roleplayers, and most rotten playerkillers, alike. Lets see how the game runs.


“WHAT’S A VIRTUE?” [Author: lum]

And maybe, just maybe, if someone at a first-rate company with a first-rate budget could create a RPG that gave you rewards for doing something other than killing and stealing, we’d see the birth of a whole new type of online game. Nah, never happen.

This article set me to thinking (always a dangerous process, even in the best of times).

We’ve seen now the first generation of ORPGs. (Well, really, the 3rd or 4th if you count MUDs, which most developers do.) It’s time to start thinking about what will go into the next generation.

I think we’ll start seeing some serious balkanization, as ORPGs quit trying to be everything to everyone and concentrate on what they do best. For example, there’s really no reason for Everquest to have a PvP system, since everyone, even the designers, admit that the PvP system in EQ is broken. What EQ does well is level-based monster bashing and linear character development. UO’s strengths lie in its persistent world simulation and its ability to handle large-scale PvP. UO does not do monster bashing well at all; its monsters are few, stupid, and easily defeated by AI exploitation. Yet UO continues to offer monster bashing, and EQ continues to offer PvP. Go figure. 

The next generation, which we’re beginning to see glimpses of in products like Shadowbane and UO2, seem somewhat more focused, at least in the case of Shadowbane. (Not much is known of UO2 save that it will probably offer AI-dead monsters and rampaging PKs in a shiny new 3D engine. Everything else is just scurrilous unproven rumor and EA has the lawyers to prove it.) Shadowbane’s developers know that their game will offer PvP, and they plan to concentrate on that – no persistent world, no flashy monsters, just "I want to Crush". It’s not a bad concept, and for a game that has only a few screenshots to show for it, it’s already attracted a loyal fan base. Lots of folks just want to Crush.

Let’s examine the other side of that coin for a second – the people who would be turned off by Shadowbane’s concept. What sort of game would you design for them?

Richard Garriott’s been thinking about it. There’s been more than one interview lately about X, his newest project. From what he describes, X will be a multiplayer game shell wrapped around smaller, micro-adventures. Sort of like the Neverwinter Nights concept, actually, although I assume Origin won’t force people to write their own. He’s also been asking around, in more than one venue, how to design a game to attract two previously somewhat untapped markets, women and adults. (The two are not always one and the same, despite what my wife may tell you.)

Refer back to the quote I posted to begin this article. One sure way to attract the people turned off by previous attempts at an online world would be, oh, I don’t know, a different sort of online world. One which wasn’t Fragfest Online.

Now for some specifics. I know this is probably heresy, but consider for a moment a virtuous Ultima – one that actually rewards moral behavior. (I know, paradigm shattering. Work with me here.) We’ll use a theoretical reworking of UO as our model. Call it UO 1.5.

Now, UO has tried to model measurements of moral behavior – fame, karma, reputation, et cetera. They’ve all failed. They’ve all failed badly. One of my first glimpses of Ultima Online was watching a friend set up EZ-Macro to laboriously feed a beggar that he had trapped in his house one fish steak at a time, to goose his "Karma". Frankly, keeping prisoners in your home and force feeding them fish is not my personal idea of something we want to encourage.

The reason they’ve failed, of course, is that the game depended on easily manipulated program code to try to measure moral behavior. UO’s server couldn’t tell the difference between someone committing a random act of kindness to a beggar on Britain’s docks, and some sadistic gimp who kept small children in his home, forcing fish steaks into them hour after hour. All it knew was NPCGivenSmallWorthlessItem ++. 

I don’t think the answer here lies in better code – there will always be ways to exploit program code, and five minutes later they will be posted on the net. Call it TwisTer’s Law. 

I believe the answer here lies in that often maligned (hell often maligned by me) Volunteer Program.

Volunteers may be many things, but they are all human beings. By being human beings, even the most craven, idiotic wastes of otherwise perfectly good chemicals that can somehow feign the ability to turn on a PC unassisted are in simple cognitive ability worlds past any program code that can ever be written. This can be leveraged, if done wisely.

Think of the "I Honor Thee" karma grant. It’s a reasonably good idea, unless you’re trying to make Dread Lord. Now, picture that concept reworked as a system of positive reinforcement.

Assume that we have a working political system in UO. (I know, another hysterical conjecture. Remember, this is UO 1.5.) The player’s natural desire to progress in "rank" in his or her world would, ideally, be channeled to work within this structure. (Picture for example Joshua Rowan’s nobility proposal, used not only as a money sink but as a measure of online achievement. Or some variant of Asheron’s Call’s excellent allegiance system.) The point being, there is a structure behind the game, that players can both interact with, and, if they devote enough time and effort to, become a part of. Sort of like the Counselor program, but actually in game, and as part of the game’s story.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. This is Ultima Online, right? Those of you struggling through Ultima 9 are going through a crash course in Garriott Codes The Virtues right now. While imperfect, the Virtue system is heads above any previous attempt to add a moral code to gaming. Hell, no one else tries to add morality to gaming; most game designers are young males, barely out of college/high school, and the last thing they want is for someone to lecture them on morality. But remember, they are not our target audience. We’re looking for the adults here, those who aren’t overdosed on testosterone and anxiety. So, while imperfect, the Virtue system is a good point at which to start.

But, as we’ve already seen, you can’t code the Virtues. Even Ultima 4 was a joke in its supposed measurement of moral behavior (it was revolutionary not because it succeeded, but because it actually dared to try). However… we have human beings. The Volunteer program.

Picture Counselors and Seers, empowered not to punish macroers and rescue the clueless, but empowered to reward goodness. Tacky as that sounds. If, say, one witnessed an act of Sacrifice — a healer that gave his or her life to keep the rest of the party alive, to take a rather mundane example — that could be rewarded with a Sacrifice point. These points would be rare – there are only so many Volunteers, after all – but they would be in the system. And once in the system, they could be coded around. Picture quests available only to the honorable, or to the humble.

This could have repercussions beyond the original intent. Imagine someone trying to powergame this system. They would have to be virtuous. Um. This is what we want. The system worked.

Points could be lost, as well, possibly replacing the reputation system now in place. For example, looting someone else’s corpse is a somewhat unvirtuous act. While not penalized in other game mechanics, that person would have
ess and less claim to being a virtuous person. And they wouldn’t be eligible to be part of the unfolding political/quest system; further marginalized from where the actual game takes place.

Now, this system would be easily exploited — as easy as one corrupt person with the power to grant points. Of course, every system has this weakness. Any GM could, right now, make you 7X GM should they so choose. Oversight prevents that. Some oversight would need to be in place here as well.

Or, you could crush. Choose your game… and choose your audience.


Big news on the Shadowbane front today. Wolfpack went public with a large part of what they plan to do with Shadowbane – and it looks sweet.

In a market populated by less than a handful of titles, Wolfpack Studios, Inc. is touting a new style of game play, created through the coupling of two distinct game concepts – Roleplaying and Large-Scale Strategy games – into one cohesive whole.

Roleplaying games, a staple of the gaming industry for years, typically focus around a single character or small group of characters exploring the world in search of treasure and adventure. Strategy games, on the other hand, center on commanding troops and acquiring territories, and players take on the roles of generals and nobles to make decisions that impact the entire world.

This design adds a large-scale warfare system on top of the fully functional Roleplaying game – allowing the more strategic-minded players to bind together and vie for control of territories within the online world. In a massively multi-user setting, this twist gives rise to a whole new realm of game play – guild politics and siege warfare.

Go here for the full article.

I like this. I like this a LOT. This has the potential of a whole new gaming experience; the primary problem with ORPG PvP up to this point is that it is, on the whole, nothing more than pointless gang warfare. The strategy layer tries to break this paradigm – finally, something to fight over besides “we r0x j00”.

For more information, check a very special episode of Diff’rent Strokes, where Kimberly explains to a hurting Willis that sometimes, no really does mean no.

TWISTED POST MORTEM [Author: wirehead]

Some post-TwisTerTour 2000 analysis for you.

It’s been fun hating Dr. Twister. Many think that the current crop of rant sites basically started for no other reason than to say mean things about the poor Doctor. With a few exceptions, that’s not quite true.

It’s not TwisTer most of us despise — but the community he represents. And that community is a large part of ORPGs, and one that cannot be ignored. It’s the folks (not all kids, despite public opinion) that want to cut the corners, take the most direct route, and roll over whomever it takes to get to… well, to win.

Here’s some quotes from that community, from the kTalk page on the last story:

Oh dear, you people are so silly… Ive been exploiting bugs since beta, you guys think drtwister is the reason people exploit? You’re kidding yourself…our clique knew about the bugs posted on his site months and months before he even posted them. You people have no fucking clue…he held SO MANY BUGS BACK so many bugs that could have really, really fucked up this game beyond repair. Bugs i still know that arent fixed ^^ You people are so retarded scapegoating him just because he ran a webpage.

i loved getting some great bugs from him and it highten my play 10 fold. Dr twister is a very important person in UO. He isn’t the one you should be made at, it should be the people that allowed this to happen. The ones that don’t act apon them like they should. I can only abuse teh bug, not correct it. Besides in a game that is more, who screwed whom more, harder and faster than the next guy, it adds another level of play that only UO can bring to the table.

This is the community from which Twister came — he was an active poster on xsploitz.com’s forums before opening his site, and his UO manifesto posted when he opened the site states, quite clearly, that his most fervent hope is that said community wins — uses every bug and exploit at their disposal to screw their opposition over. Some pertinent quotes from that document:

When something happens to you, the typical response is, “sorry, it’s part of the game.” SO, the bugs were written in as part of the game, we can use them to our advantage. If they don’t want them their anymore, they can fix them. They can’t hold us responsible, “it’s part of the game” after all.

So, will bugs, exploits, hacks and cheats ever stop in games? NO! Is this sad, does it ruin the game for everyone? I guess, but they will still always be there.

OSI encourages us to role play. The more we role play, the better the world will be for everyone. GREAT! From now on, I will be role playing a cheater and exploiter. After all, I don’t cheat and exploit others in real life.

As long as people play games, the more popular a game becomes, the more likely someone will write a trainer, or cheat for it. My advice, you can’t beat them, might as well join them. For all of you out there, debating on whether or not to use a 3rd party program or not, my advice is YES! Use them. Chose between UO Plugin, or UO Extreme. Don’t use UO Assist, you have to pay for it.

Screw OSI, because they have screwed us. We are all in this together, and we are all looking for that next big bug. Simply, to make the game more enjoyable. If you have a bug, keep it to yourself. Exploit it, have fun with it, use it as a party trick. Next, share it with a friend, someone who can help you define it and perfect it. Share it with me.

Share your bugs, so we can all enjoy them, that’s what we are all here for.

That was posted in December of 1998. It’s a long road from there to here…

The Dr.TwisTer Network is not going anywhere and I will continue to bring the truth about games to those who play them.

My commentary and philosophies have been criticized and praised. Everything that happened was indeed an experience. I’m glad I was able to be here for those who needed it, and help out whenever I could. It’s your decision if I helped make this game better, and it’s your thoughts how you would like to remember me in UO.

What a long, strange road it’s been, indeed. It’s been very interesting indeed, watching Dr. Twister grow up. His two currently active sites, for Asheron’s Call and Shadowbane, are actually positive influences for the community that they serve. And so far we haven’t seen any AC exploits. A few items that tiptoe right up to the line (such as line of sight exploits vs. monsters) but no outright lusty screwing of thy neighbor as we’ve seen so often on his UO site.

Why is that? Well, two reasons, really. One, as I mentioned before, I think the good Doctor has actually matured somewhat in his outlook — he isn’t openly out to destroy the games he covers now. And second is the nature of UO itself.

Ultima Online is unique among current ORPGs in that you can screw thy neighbor, in a multitude of quite irritating ways. And there are many, many people who are looking for every possible edge in order to do exactly that. To kill you, to take everything you own, to suck every last possession out of your house, and to stand over your dead corpse while your ghost watches him type : OWNS you, motherfucker!.

In that kind of hostile environment, where the game is literally a free-fire zone, it is a very small step to use a bug in the game to gain an advantage, especially over that punk who just OWNED you. And it’s oh, so easy to blame Origin for introducing that bug into the game in the first place. It’s all their fault, you think, because after all, since it’s in the game, everyone but me is already doing it. I’m just catching up.

The question you really should be asking yourself, is how do you win in such an environment? What does it mean to win? At what point does it leave “the game” and become the player itself? And this question remains, whether or not TwisTer is updating his web site.

*steadfastly refuses to comment on OSI/EA’s incredibly braindead, community chilling and morally void legal blackmailing of the UO2 affair*


…that must be how the UO dev team must feel right now — in the aftermath of Calandryll’s latest infoburst the UO community is going “uh… what?” in unison.

For the PvP inclined among you, the removal of pre-casting is THE topic. Most PvPers are deadset against it. I’m not. Then again, I never use it, so I’m biased. However, most folks say that allowing mages to pre-cast are the only way that duels can be fought… otherwise dex monkeys will chew up the mages. Of course this is a symptom of the larger problem, namely that combat is limited to two archetypes (dex monkey and mage) and is about to be limited to one (dex monkey) among the hardcore PvP mavens.

I’m personally convinced that a fireteam with well-defined roles (healers, nukers and tanks) SHOULD be able to defeat anyone. That’s how it worked in our glory days on GL, dammit. However in practice combat almost always devolves to who gets there the fustest with the mostest. Then again you can pretty much say the same thing about war in general.

Pretty much the only real answer to the problem is to make a completely revamped combat system with so many interlocking skills that there is no one true way to mastery. Of course that may as well be a seperate game.

Turning from PvP to, um, not PvP, another change announced was item decay on boats. In other words, items will decay on boats. Buh-bye, mining barges. Which I suspect is the point. I mean, if you mine, you should be at risk from h0 dA pIMpSlaSHER killing you. Happened all the time in Medieval Europe, right? And the best part of Ultima 9 was when you got to run down the Minoc coastline laying waste to all the miners. That just ruled.


You’ll notice that I haven’t said much about the Green Robed Freaks, aka the Interest Program (so named because, I suppose, it’s supposed to make the game interesting). Some of the more conspiracy-minded among you have conjectured that it’s because I’m closely linked to a few people within the program. This actually is true and I try to avoid conflicting my interests whenever possible, but that’s not why I haven’t “gone off on them with a glock” yet.

The truth is that, in my widdle heart of hearts, I believe that the only thing that can save UO is the Interest/Seer program. Here’s why.

What interests me about UO, what causes it to appear more often then any other game in the stories on this site, are the communities that have formed within them. We have, within UO, several mutually exclusive communites at war with one another. And they have nothing to do with the plotline; but instead, in a much more compelling way, these people are at war with one another because they genuinely dislike, no, make that HATE one another.

I’m speaking, of course, of Roleplayers and PvPers. They play different games. But, and here is the kicker that no one ever seems to get, they don’t need to.

Except Azile. Bless her sweet psychotic heart, she got it today. Here’s an excerpt, for those of you whose browsers her site PKs…

As I am doing a lot of reading about Shadowbane and dreaming of its release, I am finding more things to say about this game that are A+. Their guilding/housing system sounds great and will add to the whole “warfare” aspect in MMORPG. Something that AC should be paying attention to is how to incorporate guilds and housing into the game. I would much rather to see guilds getting buildings/castles/keeps and yes even small hamlets and towns placed into the landscape rather than massive urban sprawl. Of course this would require a lot of in-game participation from Turbine and the GMs. Then again, from the sounds of it, Turbine plans to be involved.

Same is seen with the attitude of Wolfpack for their game Shadowbane. Something that is really needed in MMORPGs is that “involvement”. We, as players, need to feel CHANGE. And I am not talkin about new stuff. Take a little involvement in the world you created and shape a grand scheme. Make something happen. Most players could care less if Carpenters get more craftables. But evolve a plot where Trinsic rebels from British rule, is now harboring all murderers and the guards go all evil complete with functional catapults, would be a pretty intense little plot to throw us all on our asses for a few months. Can you deliver this kind of stuff? UO can’t. EQ does not seem to want too. AC *claims* they can. And Shadowbane seems to promise that this shit will be a focal point of the game.

Now here’s where I go postal on the seer program. Strap yourself in, boys, we’re going into some chop. (I’ll do an inventory on ICQ later to see how many friends I still have.)

Why the HELL are we not seeing these kinds of things happen in UO? Why in the HELL are we not seeing armies of darkness invading Britain, or Trinsic, or even Buc’s Den? UO’s strengths lie in personal interaction – combat and noncombat. Everyone knows this. So WHY THE FUCK AREN’T WE GETTING THESE KINDS OF EVENTS?

You think maybe it’s because the Roleplayers don’t want them?

You think… and maybe I’m treading on dangerous ground here… it’s because the Seers think the Roleplayers play the game the “right” way?

You think… and these are probably dangerous thoughts, but what the hell… maybe they’ve taken sides in the Roleplayer-PvP war?

You think… and hell, you don’t have to think this one, we *know*… that PKers aren’t welcome in the “events” OSI runs?

I want to know why no one in the Seer community is reaching out to the PvPers. I want to hear, from someone who actually gives a shit, why an entire part of UO is effectively locked out of the game having any meaning.

And I want to hear from you, the PvPer. Let me know what sort of events would attract you. What would cause the game to become immersive to the point where yes, you might actually buy into the ingame fiction. What would make UO a roleplaying game for YOU.

Because right now you are getting half a game. And I don’t know about you, but that pisses the HELL out of me. And you know, maybe if we scream loudly enough about it, it might reach up to some ivory towers.


Here’s an interesting take I was emailed on the Twister story. Certainly something to think about. Sure, it’s fun calling him “St. Twister” or “Hero of the Stupid” but as always, there are people behind those funny looking pixels.

Just thought of something. OSI’s been waiting for Twister to screw up, and now they’re going to bring the Fires of Heaven down upon his head.

Post maps? OK. Post stories? Sure. Those things just spark interest (or kindle hate… I’m one of those “Ultima Purists”). However, he really went too far with posting those internal timelines. That’s a no-no. As Capt. Hook would say, “bad form.”

Why did he do it? I mean, its obvious that OSI knows who he is. If rumors are true, the guy was a Counselor once upon a time (of course, if other rumors are true, he works for OSI, is Lord British, Lady MOI, Designer Dragon, or all of them at the same time). In any case, whether or not they knew his secret identity before, they do now. Lawyers have a way of getting things done. Twister had to have known this. I mean, he isn’t as brain dead as he may seem to some people. So again, why did he do it?

Well, I think that he panicked. Think about it. Here he is, finally getting the respect that he thinks he deserves. All these new multiplayer games are going straight to Twister to spread their gospel, or are at least encouraging him and his cohorts (Atriarch and Shadowbane, for example). As visions of TwisterVault.com dance in his head, he gets this UO2 information.

Yes, I have no doubt that it was real UO2 information. Of course, that doesn’t mean too terribly much. I mean, once upon a time Ultima IX was going to have a dual scale map, a party, and it would fly on a Pentium 100 with 32mb of RAM. So, he posts it. He is very careful in what he posts too. He knows what is dangerous and what isn’t, and stays well inside the safety zone. All is good. On some level, OSI is pleased. They’re getting customer feedback.

However, things went wrong. People mocked and ridiculed Twister. “What,” they said, “do you expect us to believe this line of bull?” Of course, I doubt they said bull, but you get the idea. Twister was crushed. His dreams of credibility were slowly drifting into the gutter. He might have acceptance from the exploiters and the anti-social player killers, but what he really wanted was respect from the average joe – the person who has never seen an animated lava tile on a vendor or a looting ‘shroom. Above all else, Twister just wanted to be loved…

So, in a last ditch effort to prove that he wasn’t lying, Twister published those internal timelines. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway. He had to. He rationalized it by editing out some of the juicier parts. Perhaps, he thought, if he left out some of the specifics, OSI would show mercy. That wasn’t his primary concern though. He had to prove to the world that he was a real journalist. He had to prove that he really cared, and was a viable and important part of the UO community. Unfortunately, his plan failed.

Instead of opening their eyes to the possibly outdated but nonetheless authentic bits of UO information, the people laughed as OSI descended on Twister with the Wrath of the Gods. Was it for real? Is it just another joke? I think the general consensus is that he got what was coming to him – not what he wanted, which was just a little bit of love.