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I can't use a joystick anymore ...


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#1 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:34 AM

... such as the Atari CX40. Well I can, but I don't like it at all in comparison to a good gamepad (e.g. NES, SNES, PS). A gamepad is far more ergonomic and precise than a handheld joystick. If the joystick and button(s) are securely mounted (such as on an arcade machine or an "arcade stick" assembly) then that is a different story, but using one hand to both secure the base and work the button(s) while the other hand works the joystick is not an ideal arrangement.

My first console when I was a kid was an Atari 2600 which of course came with CX40 joysticks. This was before the NES and Sega Master System existed in the US. I didn't have any problems with the joystick back then, but I'd never used anything else. When I first tried a NES controller in '86 I thought it was ridiculous; a joke; and even after using it I wasn't convinced. I wanted a real joystick like I was used to. Over time the gamepads grew on me and I forgot all about handheld joysticks.

Recently I reacquired an Atari 2600 and I was looking forward to using a CX40 again for the first time since I was a kid; since I still had fond memories of it. It was horrible. I tried it for a few minutes and then went back to my converted NES gamepad (which I originally converted for use with my 7800 because I've never liked Pro-Line joysticks). I can only imagine how horrendous it would be to use a ColecoVision controller, since even as a kid I liked those even less than Pro-Lines.

#2 SlowCoder OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:17 AM

Then you'll be happy to know you can plug your Sega controller into a 2600 and it'll work perfectly.

I haven't met a controller yet that I couldn't use after getting used to it. In fact, after playing PlayStation games for years, I had no problem reacquainting myself with 2600 and ColecoVision controllers after 25 years. The only controller that's really given me pause was the IntelliVision controller, but I'm getting good at it too.

#3 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:51 AM

Then you'll be happy to know you can plug your Sega controller into a 2600 and it'll work perfectly.


I know; I like the rewired NES controller better though. The Sega Genesis' D-pad has too much throw combined with not enough resistance, and its buttons have too much travel along with a prominent hitch / breaking point in the travel that I don't care for. The only gamepads that I've ever really liked are NES, SNES, and Playstation.

#4 Kripto OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:04 AM

From the title I expected this thread to be some horribly depressing tale about how arthritis or MS had ravaged your body to the point that you could no longer play 2600 Pac Man.

#5 BydoEmpire OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:32 AM

I prefer one or the other depending on the type of game and the system, but I can use either. Since I'm playing mostly pre-crash stuff these days, I like the stick. Playing those types of arcade games with a pad doesn't feel right, and is often a lot harder for me than a stick. I usually use the NES Advantage on my NES, and an arcade stick on the Genny. I use the stock SMS pads on my Master System, though. Whatever floats your boat.

One type of game I definitely prefer a dpad on is classic 2D fighters. I never played them much in the arcade, but played a TON of SF2, MK2 and others on consoles so that's what I got used to. I find it much easier and ergonomic than an arcade stick w/ six buttons. Probably in the minority here, but it works for me.

Edited by BydoEmpire, Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:34 AM.


#6 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:49 AM

One type of game I definitely prefer a dpad on is classic 2D fighters. I never played them much in the arcade, but played a TON of SF2, MK2 and others on consoles so that's what I got used to. I find it much easier and ergonomic than an arcade stick w/ six buttons. Probably in the minority here, but it works for me.


My preference is for the original arcade controls for Street Fighter II (Happ Competition joystick and Happ buttons). This is how I first played the game in the arcade in '91 and it is the way that I still prefer (I now own an SFII:WW arcade machine with all new Happ controls). When SFII came out on the SNES in the early '90s, I had no trouble playing it with the SNES pad. Even though I like the Playstation controller for most games, I don't like it for SFII; for some reason I have trouble consistently hitting diagonals and doing special moves with it.

The biggest limitation of a gamepad is that when used normally, you work the button with your thumb (the same applies to handheld joysticks though), and for games that require fast button tapping, nothing beats a panel-mounted arcade button.

#7 Jibbajaba OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:50 PM

They make a pill for that...

#8 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:05 PM

I don't know what happened but I can't friggin' stand "d-pads" anymore. I thought they were great when I originally had NES, Genesis, Gameboy, Lynx, etc. but when I was playing my sister's GBA a while back on a long car ride, I was enjoying the games but had to stop playing because of the d-pad.

I'm not as crazy about the CX40 as I was back in the 80's but, how do I put this.... I'd much rather play an Atari game with a CX40 than a NES game with a d-pad, if that makes sense.

I love arcade-style joysticks. I know they don't work for everything (especially console platformers, etc.) but they work for the types of games I like to play.

As far as hand-held controllers go, I think the Playstation dual-shock is the best controller ever made bar none, even though I have little use for modern gaming.

#9 Austin OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:30 PM

Atari CX40 sticks are a bit awkward, but they are still fun to use. Maybe part of that is nostalgia talking with me, who knows.

#10 Ransom OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:58 PM

I'm not a huge fan of the CX-40s and really never was once I found something better back when. At the time, that was the Wico Bat, and that's what I still prefer for playing 2600 and A8 systems. I also like the "arcade" controllers made for the Sega Genesis. I modified some of them to have two-button functionality with the CV and 7800 a year or two ago. They work really well and are reasonably comfortable.


As far as hand-held controllers go, I think the Playstation dual-shock is the best controller ever made bar none, even though I have little use for modern gaming.


I agree completely.

#11 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:35 PM

As far as hand-held controllers go, I think the Playstation dual-shock is the best controller ever made bar none, even though I have little use for modern gaming.


For me it would be the perfect controller if I could graft an SNES D-pad onto it.

#12 save2600 ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:17 PM

From the title I expected this thread to be some horribly depressing tale about how arthritis or MS had ravaged your body to the point that you could no longer play 2600 Pac Man.


Yeah, I was duped too! Was going to recommend getting a footpedal if that was the case. lol

Those 2600 footpedals can still be had NIB on eBay for about $20 still.

#13 AtariLeaf OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:10 PM

Yeah, I was duped too! Was going to recommend getting a footpedal if that was the case. lol


Why not, Rick Allen did it :D

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#14 fiddlepaddle OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:47 PM

I pretty much just adapt to whatever controller I'm given. I do prefer a joystick (like a genesis stick that sits on the table, or even better, one mounted to the table like an arcade cabinet), but pads are OK. Also, some games seem to require certain types of controllers; I don't think I could play Pong with a PS2 analog joystick even if it was coded correctly to allow instant positioning. Hyperchase couldn't be played well with a PS2/Gamecube/N64 thumbstick and needs something like the Vectrex joystick with it's longer-throw movement.

I also remember being flummoxed when I first had to go from one style of keyboard to another: manual typerwriter to electric typewriter to IBM keypunch and TSO, to Commodore Pet, TRS-80, C64, PDP11/Vax, Macintosh, IBM PC. It helped a bit when keyboards kind of coalesced around the PC keyboard as something of a standard. After much switching, I finally just learned to deal with it. I still get irritated sometimes just switching from desktop/mouse to laptop/touchpad, but it's transitory.

#15 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:18 AM

Also, some games seem to require certain types of controllers;


Definitely. A good example is all of the classic arcade games that used a physically restricted panel-mounted 4-way joystick (e.g. Pac-Man). They of course can be played with any type of gamepad or joystick, but it is not nearly as good.

I don't think I could play Pong with a PS2 analog joystick even if it was coded correctly to allow instant positioning.


Pong needs a paddle. By the way, I hate analog thumb sticks; I won't use them for anything. If I ever encountered a game that required the use of them, I'd simply not play. I haven't run into that problem yet, since I've never played a game on a console more modern than a Sega Dreamcast (aside from briefly testing a Playstation 2 console that I got for free years ago; using a random game borrowed from my nephew). None of my Dreamcast games require the use of the analog thumb stick, though I think it may be optional in some of them.

#16 onlysublime OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:29 AM

to use the old Atari to indict all joysticks is just crazy. That's like the VirtualBoy means all Nintendo products are bad.

There are plenty of joysticks that are superior than D-pad controllers for the Atari. There's the Epyx 500XJ. There's the Suncom SlikStik. There's the Mindscape PowerPlayer. Lots of amazing joysticks. The CX-40 was a POS. I got blisters all over the place with that thing (I held the joystick at the V between the thumb and index finger).

The D-pad is quickly becoming a relic. You have twin sticks on the Xbox controller. On the Playstation controller. You have joysticks for fighters and SHMUPs. Who uses the D-pad controller anymore anyway? The D-pad is for weapon selection and menu selection these days.

#17 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:03 AM

to use the old Atari to indict all joysticks is just crazy. That's like the VirtualBoy means all Nintendo products are bad.


Yeah, except, that's not what I did. I used the following to "indict all [handheld] joysticks":

"but using one hand to both secure the base and work the button(s) while the other hand works the joystick is not an ideal arrangement."

There are plenty of joysticks that are superior than D-pad controllers for the Atari. There's the Epyx 500XJ. There's the Suncom SlikStik.


The Suncom SlikStik is junk. I have two of them here collecting dust that came with an Atari 7800 that I got for free 7 or 8 years ago. But I have a longer history with them than that. When I was a kid I bought one new at the same time that I bought my Atari 2600 (because I bought the cheapest set that only came with 1 CX40 and no pack-in game). The button on it worked maybe 90% of the time, and I didn't like the extremely short, square-restricted throw. I always pawned it off onto the second player (I did have one friend that actually preferred it for some reason). Eventually I went to KB Toy & Hobby and bought an Atari CX40 for seven someodd dollars so I'd have a decent second-player joystick.

And before you suggest that I got a lemon, the pair of them I have now collecting dust have the exact same characteristics, including that wonderful works-most-of-the-time button.

But regardless of the individual characteristics of different handheld joysticks, they all have the same fundamental problem (see above). The gamepad is a superior arrangement for a handheld controller, because the base is inherently well supported as use of a D-pad affords no significant leverage against it.

The D-pad is quickly becoming a relic.


That's fine, given that the only games I care about playing are also relics, and they work very well with a D-pad. I've found nothing better in the realm of handheld controllers.

You have twin sticks on the Xbox controller. On the Playstation controller.


See my previous post for my opinion of analog thumb sticks.

You have joysticks for fighters and SHMUPs.


I've already addressed "arcade sticks". They are not handheld controllers; they fall into the same category as a control panel on an arcade machine (though not quite as good unless they are bolted down or otherwise prevented from shifting around).

Who uses the D-pad controller anymore anyway?


I do, as do plenty of others who play old video games.

The D-pad is for weapon selection and menu selection these days.


I can't seem to find the "weapon selection and menu selection" on my copy of Missile Command for the Atari 2600.

Edited by MaximRecoil, Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:05 AM.


#18 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:35 AM

The D-pad is for weapon selection and menu selection these days.


Haha, I was thinking the exact same thing. That's certainly all I ever use them for, anyway.

For modern games (on the rare occasion I play them), I dig the analog sticks on the Playstation controllers. I think with the immersive and often 3D environments and smoothness of animation/motion that is possible on modern hardware, the analog stick is a better fit. A simple 8-way on/off d-pad just doesn't feel natural to me in that setting, because it makes things too jerky.

Admittedly there is a whole generation of games for which I would choose a d-pad first if I absolutely had to play them, but conveniently, I have no desire whatsoever to play those games anymore. I'm referring to the glut of jump/shoot/climb 2D platform type games, mostly from the NES era (everything from Metroid to Castlevania to Super Mario Bros. to Ninja Gaiden). For me, those games had a "wow factor" at the time, because they were a departure from the single-screen maze and shooter games that saturated the Atari VCS era. But looking back now and viewing those games in the mix of everything that came before and everything that has come about since, they're kind of in a sterile no-man's land on the timeline. Why do I say that? Well, they often eschewed score in favor of an emphasis on "finishing the game", meaning there is little incentive to "work" at the game and improve your performance. On the other hand, if you happen to enjoy "finish me" type games, it seems to me there are so many more interesting developments in that area that came on later platforms, with more advanced audiovisuals, stories, and play mechanics. So that's why, when I look back at those NES games, all I see is excruciatingly dull gameplay and flickering graphics.

By comparison, if I fire up my 2600, the gameplay and graphics may be ridiculously basic, but at least I can enjoy some simple and addictive gameplay while chasing new high scores on games like Kaboom! and Frostbite. This is noteworthy because, 30 years on, it means my motivation to dust those games off from time to time goes above and beyond a simple desire to pretend I'm 9 years old again. Nostalgia is part of it, sure, but the fact is they're great instruments of entertainment by any standard, created in the original vision of the videogame, where the backstory makes no fuckin' sense, and skill is everything.

Edited by Cynicaster, Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:44 AM.


#19 MagitekAngel OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:57 AM

I was born with all the joystick I will ever need.

#20 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:59 AM


The D-pad is for weapon selection and menu selection these days.


Haha, I was thinking the exact same thing. That's certainly all I ever use them for, anyway.


You two know that a D-pad is electrically/functionally identical to any joystick that can be used on a VCS, Coleco, etc., right? The only difference is in the area of ergonomics. To declare a D-pad obsolete for gameplay while defending a handheld digital joystick at the same time is silly.

A gamepad has superior ergonomics to a handheld joystick because you support the base with two hands rather than one, and operating a D-pad doesn't apply any significant leverage against the base like operating the lever of a joystick does.

#21 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:17 AM



The D-pad is for weapon selection and menu selection these days.


Haha, I was thinking the exact same thing. That's certainly all I ever use them for, anyway.


You two know that a D-pad is electrically/functionally identical to any joystick that can be used on a VCS, Coleco, etc., right? The only difference is in the area of ergonomics. To declare a D-pad obsolete for gameplay while defending a handheld digital joystick at the same time is silly.

A gamepad has superior ergonomics to a handheld joystick because you support the base with two hands rather than one, and operating a D-pad doesn't apply any significant leverage against the base like operating the lever of a joystick does.



Of course I understand the two are more or less electrically equivalent, but that’s irrelevant here.

I’m not saying d-pads are obsolete—by all means, go with whatever yanks yer crank—I’m simply saying that I personally would quit gaming altogether if d-pads were my only option for control (thankfully, they’re not).

You’re trying to apply strict logic to “game controller ergonomics”, which is a fallacy as far as I’m concerned. If a controller feels right, it is right—"leverage effects” be damned.

#22 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:32 AM

For whatever it's worth, here's how I usually explain my preference for joysticks over gamepads, at least for classic games that were originally designed for joysticks:

I find gamepads to be poorly-suited for the kinds of games that were made for early consoles like the 2600. I forget who first said it, but someone pointed out once that the transition from joysticks to gamepads was a result of a paradigm shift in game design that occurred with the NES. Early systems like the 2600 were sprite-driven designs, which lent themselves naturally to games that primarily involved moving objects around on the screen (games like Pac-Man, for example). Since movement "commands" were the primary input from the player, the directional controls were designed to be used by the right hand (the dominant and best-coordinated hand for most players), while the more intermittent action button was given to the left hand.

From the NES forward, the situation was reversed. The primary emphasis became rapid action button combinations, so those were moved to the right hand, while the lesser-used directional pad was moved to the left. One example of this are games like Super Mario Brothers and most NES platformers, where the directional pad is mostly held in one direction for extended periods (during walking, etc) and the players spend most of their effort jumping/shooting with the action buttons.

Perhaps other players (such as those who grew up on gamepads) feel differently, but I think this is the reason I've found myself less coordinated and more easily fatigued whenever I try to play 2600/7800 games with a gamepad: it just doesn't give me the level of control and comfort that I can get with the joystick, since most of those classic games rely heavily on the directionals.



#23 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:47 AM

Of course I understand the two are more or less electrically equivalent, but that’s irrelevant here.


There is no "more or less" about it; they are electrically identical; and they are also functionally identical. They have 4 circuits that are open or closed depending on the state of 4 switches, which provides the 4 cardinal directions. Closing 2 adjacent circuits simultaneously allows for the 4 ordinal directions, which gives 8-way control. The lever or the pad is simply a mechanical means of opening and closing the circuits via the switches.

It is not irrelevant because the person you replied to said [in so many words] that D-pads are obsolete for gameplay, while singing the praises of the Slik Stik and other digital joysticks in the same post.

You’re trying to apply strict logic to “game controller ergonomics”, which is a fallacy as far as I’m concerned. If a controller feels right, it is right—"leverage effects” be damned.


I'm saying that a gamepad has superior ergonomics to a handheld joystick; otherwise they are the same thing. Joysticks were originally designed to be securely mounted, and they were later kludged into handheld controllers; while gamepads were designed from the ground up to be handheld controllers.

#24 MaximRecoil OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:10 PM

For whatever it's worth, here's how I usually explain my preference for joysticks over gamepads, at least for classic games that were originally designed for joysticks:

I find gamepads to be poorly-suited for the kinds of games that were made for early consoles like the 2600. I forget who first said it, but someone pointed out once that the transition from joysticks to gamepads was a result of a paradigm shift in game design that occurred with the NES. Early systems like the 2600 were sprite-driven designs, which lent themselves naturally to games that primarily involved moving objects around on the screen (games like Pac-Man, for example). Since movement "commands" were the primary input from the player, the directional controls were designed to be used by the right hand (the dominant and best-coordinated hand for most players), while the more intermittent action button was given to the left hand.

From the NES forward, the situation was reversed. The primary emphasis became rapid action button combinations, so those were moved to the right hand, while the lesser-used directional pad was moved to the left. One example of this are games like Super Mario Brothers and most NES platformers, where the directional pad is mostly held in one direction for extended periods (during walking, etc) and the players spend most of their effort jumping/shooting with the action buttons.

Perhaps other players (such as those who grew up on gamepads) feel differently, but I think this is the reason I've found myself less coordinated and more easily fatigued whenever I try to play 2600/7800 games with a gamepad: it just doesn't give me the level of control and comfort that I can get with the joystick, since most of those classic games rely heavily on the directionals.


Joysticks were usually on the left with arcade games (or in the middle with buttonless games such as Pac-Man), long before the NES came along. Space Invaders (1978) was probably the first huge arcade game to use a joystick, and its joystick was on the left. As far as I know, all other major arcade games that used a joystick since then have had them on the left as well (or in the middle as mentioned above).

I played arcade games long before I ever owned a console, and even when I got a console I considered arcade games to be the real thing, and console games to be "better than nothing" for when I couldn't play arcade games.

Also, you seem to have it backwards. Early games were often shooters (e.g. Asteroids, Defender); i.e., lots of rapid button tapping. Later games such as for the NES were often platformers (e.g. Super Mario Bros.), which have a strong emphasis on joystick/D-pad use, else you'll fall into a pit or not land on a small block or whatever.

Edited by MaximRecoil, Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:17 PM.


#25 onlysublime OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:23 PM


Of course I understand the two are more or less electrically equivalent, but that’s irrelevant here.


There is no "more or less" about it; they are electrically identical; and they are also functionally identical. They have 4 circuits that are open or closed depending on the state of 4 switches, which provides the 4 cardinal directions. Closing 2 adjacent circuits simultaneously allows for the 4 ordinal directions, which gives 8-way control. The lever or the pad is simply a mechanical means of opening and closing the circuits via the switches.

It is not irrelevant because the person you replied to said [in so many words] that D-pads are obsolete for gameplay, while singing the praises of the Slik Stik and other digital joysticks in the same post.

You’re trying to apply strict logic to “game controller ergonomics”, which is a fallacy as far as I’m concerned. If a controller feels right, it is right—"leverage effects” be damned.


I'm saying that a gamepad has superior ergonomics to a handheld joystick; otherwise they are the same thing. Joysticks were originally designed to be securely mounted, and they were later kludged into handheld controllers; while gamepads were designed from the ground up to be handheld controllers.


They are not equivalent. If you're going to play with semantics like you are by saying "functionally" equivalent, then an analog stick is the same as the digital stick because functionally, up is still up and down is still down.

The ergonomics between a D-Pad and a joystick are different. By having a stick, you are lengthening the throw and increasing the torque which improves movement. I'll argue that d-pad controllers came into vogue because they're cheaper and less prone to breakage. Gamers adapt. So if Nintendo makes great games and wants people to use a d-pad, gamers will have to use a d-pad. And gamers that grew up on Nintendo and Sega grew up on d-pad controllers.

And who determines superior ergonomics? I put forth this devil's advocate to show the fallacy in your arguments. Many gamers will say (and it's hard to argue) that a keyboard and mouse provides the most accuracy and the most flexibility of all game controllers. And you're probably gasping at the idea that KBM is the best option. So really, the best option cannot be objectively determined. It's what the individual gamer determines as the best based on his subjective criteria.

That's all I have to say on the subject. I think you're just pushing this thread to keep a conversation going.




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