Game design theory (from Proposed Spell List in Suggestions)

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Game design theory (from Proposed Spell List in Suggestions)

Post by Aacheron » Tue Apr 05, 2005 10:46 am

From Proposed Spell List in Suggestions/Feedback.
Kyokai wrote:I agree that we shouldn't promote negligence toward familiars, but come on, if I accidentally stumble into a high level monster who chops my familiar up in one hit, there goes a 5 hour+ quest? Nobody likes those kind of restrictions. Perhaps if we allow the familiar to respawn every 30 minutes or so, and give the player a weakness to all magic damage during that time, we could better enforce it. A player can understand being punished awhile for his irresponsibility, but he will quickly lose patience and go do something else if he loses more than 15 minutes worth of work permanently.

Basically: Losing progress sucks. Never make players do the same thing twice. Never create a penalty they can't recover from. Let's try to think within these guidelines for our familiar system. Otherwise it just won't be that much fun.
Aacheron wrote:For once, Kyokai, I'd have to say I don't agree with anything in your last post. Penalties have a reason for being there; if familiars respawn, players won't care as much. Losing progress is not something that's supposed to happen to you, it's a punishment for being reckless - or just for having bad luck. Games are like that; bad luck can hurt, and good luck can really bless.

I'd really like to keep a certain "negative" feeling to some things (really making the player feel like he lost something), in order to keep the relative difference between the "grave sink" points and the "peak" points big enough. People will in the end get bored with getting the +7 vorpal greatsword of turbonium dragon slaying, but if there are things like permanent penalties and really damaging losses, they'll be on their toes and actually appreciate their super-zany sword of bloody slaughter, even when they're level too-high-to-count...
Kyokai wrote:I don't know if you keep up with MMORPGs much, but I recently tried the beta to a new one called Guild Wars. (http://www.guildwars.com) If you're not familiar with this game, it's basically WoW with all the boring stuff taken out. You respawn with a minimum death penalty, which going into any town erases immediately, if you want to travel, you can travel instantly to any town you have been to from the field without walking, etc.
Anyway, all that to say that Guild Wars is the most fun MMORPG I have ever played, because it's continuous action and team play with all the tedious and unhappy parts taken out (even finding party members is incredibly easy).
Perhaps it is more realistic to punish people more for making mistakes, and perhaps it adds some extra prestige to those that do have things (at least for the moment). For me and the majority of gamers out there though, when we hit a "grave sink" more than once, we don't feel like trying again, we feel like throwing our computers out the window and going to play some better-designed game.
Anyhow, I know I suggested that we follow principles like not take away things permanently from the player because of a mistake or a loss, but what I really meant was that in any design department that I am in charge of (which is TMW's) we are going to follow those principles, because it's just good game design. I'll repeat them again for those reading:
* Never make players do the same thing twice.
* Never create a penalty they can't recover from.

If you really don't agree with this, Aacheron, we can start a game design theory thread in general talk and discuss it, but if you really think about it, you'll see how much sense it makes to have restrictions like this on our game.
I would have to say this Guild Wars sounds like the most boring game I have heard of in a little while, actually. Where is the sense of actually playing a role? It seems like Diablo II in MMORPG form to me... Hack, slash and warping around killing enemies. No sense of actually being in a dangerous world where distances are huge and finding your way from one town to the next is a big and harrowing part of the adventure; where even returning to town when wounded from a fight presents an adrenaline rush in itself. What if a sneaky monster notices you? You could die from even a weaker-level monster due to being wounded and out of energy and what not. You have to sneakily stalk around, and use your wits to play the game all the way home.

I would really have to condense my approach to MMORPGs (and games in general, except for Theme- and Sim- games): adrenaline! People might not solely play games for this, and TMW should not be some rush-filled fragheap, but - and this is a big but - it should have moments of tension where the difference between defeat and victory can be Kraken-sized (read: huge)... Where is the sense of adventure when you courageously brave vile monsters in order to complete a quest of great magnitude, when all that "death" brings is a respawn and a rerun? Speaking of which, how do you plan on handling death? I mean, you've imposed ridiculous restrictions to dying with those two rules of yours; not having the player traipse all the way back to wherever s/he died will lead either to really macabre results, or to some insta-wakeup after so-and-so long a time delay... But I digress.


If you want TMW to be a sandbox for people to prance around in, I see why you advocate the approach you do. But if you want to entwine some action and adrenaline amidst your drama and daring heroism (not to mention the sense of satisfaction from huge rewards actually worth something...), please reconsider your approach. I would really not want to be involved in a game whose purpose is to be playable for all ages and take no skill or risk at all...


This post has been against the general approach of not allowing for permanent punishment. I really don't like making players respawn-and-repeat that much (i.e. doing the same thing over and over and over and... etc, but punishing players for carelessness (or just plain bad luck) does lead to tension of some sort. Yes, throwing the player back too far in progress can make him/her lose interest in the game altogether, but we need to find a golden middle path between nothing and everything, nicht wahr?


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Post by ElvenProgrammer » Tue Apr 05, 2005 11:12 am

Aacheron wrote:This post has been against the general approach of not allowing for permanent punishment. I really don't like making players respawn-and-repeat that much (i.e. doing the same thing over and over and over and... etc, but punishing players for carelessness (or just plain bad luck) does lead to tension of some sort. Yes, throwing the player back too far in progress can make him/her lose interest in the game altogether, but we need to find a golden middle path between nothing and everything
I'm with you, nothing to say about it :arrow:
Aacheron wrote:nicht wahr?
What? :roll:
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Post by Kyokai » Tue Apr 05, 2005 3:00 pm

Of course death will require a penalty like having to start a dungeon over again, or something like that, but what I really mean in all this is that a player should not be forced to repeat more than 15 minutes of gameplay again. If he has accomplished a long and arduous quest for a creature like a familiar or an item like the +7 vorpal greatsword of whatever, he deserves to keep it until he chooses to get rid of it.

Almost any RPG you play, and ask players what they hate the most: "it's losing EXP when I die." Oh sure, it makes people more careful about what they fight. Who wants to have to hesitate in battle though? You have to fight the valiant fight without regard for the consequences, and worrying about losses takes away that.

I can understand that you're worried about the difficulty of the game, but what's difficulty if it's no fun? A game that doesn't impose huge penalties allows the player more freedom to explore and test limits. When he makes a mistake, he learns from it.

This familiar thing isn't the first discussion we've had on topics like this though, and I'll tell you about a few previous ones:

In the name of realism, someone proposed a character degeneration system, by which unused skills begin to decline at a certain rate. For sure, this is nice and realistic, but no one wants it. We like our characters and don't want to have to worry about them falling apart while we are gone.

Another one was aging, where characters grow old and eventually die, erasing all your hard work at the end. I'm sure I don't even need to explain why we aren't going to implement this.

One person proposed that whenever you die, you lose important progress that you've made, like finding familars and powerful weapons, then you have to go on the same quests again to reclaim them. (This was you, aacheron) Do you see how it fits in with the other two? It may add some realism or difficulty to the game, but no one wants it to happen to them.

I think losing your place in the dungeon and a temporary stat penalty are enough to teach players to be more careful next time around, without plunging them into enough despair that they quit the game.
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Post by ElvenProgrammer » Tue Apr 05, 2005 3:19 pm

Kyokai wrote:but what's difficulty if it's no fun?
It depends on how you define "fun". Personally I like difficulty, and I hate games where you can get 10 levels by killing the easiest monster in the game.

Obiouvsly there are some exceptions. I don't know about items, in UO you usually loose them if you die, but you have the chance to go and get them back or have a friend keep them for you. I was very angry when I lost my sword (I spent 2 weeks to get it), but it was also amusing having to find another one.
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Post by Talaroc » Wed Apr 06, 2005 3:03 am

No sense of actually being in a dangerous world where distances are huge and finding your way from one town to the next is a big and harrowing part of the adventure; where even returning to town when wounded from a fight presents an adrenaline rush in itself. What if a sneaky monster notices you? You could die from even a weaker-level monster due to being wounded and out of energy and what not. You have to sneakily stalk around, and use your wits to play the game all the way home.
Just want to say here that while I agree with what you're saying, making travelling around too much of the game leads to irritation as well; see WoW for more on that. But yes, things should be challenging even after you've finished the quest and are returning for the reward, or to get healed up.
Where is the sense of adventure when you courageously brave vile monsters in order to complete a quest of great magnitude, when all that "death" brings is a respawn and a rerun?
Bravo! Yeah, death should incur a decent penalty. No exp loss, though--players hate that, and it will drive them off.
I mean, you've imposed ridiculous restrictions to dying with those two rules of yours
Though I don't agree with the first rule (never making anyone do the same thing twice), I actually do support the second (no penalties that can't be recovered). Just because penalties can always be recovered from, doesn't mean that doing so has to be easy. There should be heavy penalties for some things, and the true heaviness of a penalty isn't how immediately irritating it is, but how difficult it is to recover from.
Of course death will require a penalty like having to start a dungeon over again, or something like that, but what I really mean in all this is that a player should not be forced to repeat more than 15 minutes of gameplay again.
First off, do bear in mind that a lot of dying is going to be going on outside of dungeons, so penalties can't be based on the assumption that someone's in a dungeon. Adventure happens everywhere. Second off, serious gamers (of the type that will likely be dying more often as they push limits) will probably not mind repeating 15 minutes now and then. Hell, the gamers I hang out with will sit in one good leveling spot for hours on end. If people do stupid things in-game, they should have to pay for it, there's no consequence otherwise.
Who wants to have to hesitate in battle though? You have to fight the valiant fight without regard for the consequences, and worrying about losses takes away that.
Go ahead and fight without regard for consequences. The player's attitude isn't the issue here. The issue is whether or not there are going to be consequences.
It depends on how you define "fun". Personally I like difficulty, and I hate games where you can get 10 levels by killing the easiest monster in the game.
Yeah, no kidding. Another thing to think about: combat strategy. If there's no real penalties for death, who's going to bother trying to be anything other than a tank? With no regard for death, players tend to just charge in without considering their own strengths and weaknesses. With a real penalty imposed upon death, players have to actually formulate combat strategies based around their stats in order to make sure they stay alive. This holds particularly true for mage-type characters with familiars; they should have to get creative with strategy to make up for their physical weaknesses in combat, and they should be punished if they ignore that and act like idiots.
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Post by Aacheron » Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:23 am

Kyokai wrote:Of course death will require a penalty like having to start a dungeon over again, or something like that, but what I really mean in all this is that a player should not be forced to repeat more than 15 minutes of gameplay again. If he has accomplished a long and arduous quest for a creature like a familiar or an item like the +7 vorpal greatsword of whatever, he deserves to keep it until he chooses to get rid of it.
Eh... No, he doesn't. Just because someone's gotten something or somewhere, perchance by a fluke of luck, doesn't mean he or she is worthy of keeping it.
Kyokai wrote:Almost any RPG you play, and ask players what they hate the most: "it's losing EXP when I die."
Yes, and we bow down and give the players everything they want. Or? Games are made to please the subconscious, not to worship the conscious mind. The latter would get boring, while the former (when mixed with the right degree of conscious fun) makes for exciting games that you get hooked to, even though the game might not give the player everything he wants instantly.

Make him work for what he wants... Actually make it feel like the player has achieved something, not just been handed everything on a silver platter.
Kyokai wrote:Oh sure, it makes people more careful about what they fight. Who wants to have to hesitate in battle though? You have to fight the valiant fight without regard for the consequences, and worrying about losses takes away that.
Err, no. It adds to that. If all you risk while fighting is a respawn-and-rerun with a temporary stat-penalty, why not hand it over to a macro? Seriously - I would. If a game is just boring hack-hack-chop-slash-hack-slash^2-smash with nothing to lose but time, then who the fuck would play it? Think about it - combat without that much of a loss isn't fun, because if you win, you win. If you die, you just end up running back and doing it all again.
Kyokai wrote:I can understand that you're worried about the difficulty of the game, but what's difficulty if it's no fun? A game that doesn't impose huge penalties allows the player more freedom to explore and test limits. When he makes a mistake, he learns from it.
What limits?!

Also, fun with no difficulty is no fun at all. Really, it's fun until you get bored of it. You don't get bored of it if every moment is a challenge... Well, not every single moment, but you get the idea.
Kyokai wrote:In the name of realism, someone proposed a character degeneration system, by which unused skills begin to decline at a certain rate. For sure, this is nice and realistic, but no one wants it. We like our characters and don't want to have to worry about them falling apart while we are gone.
And what about having the degeneration running only when the character was active? Then the character would have to work to keep ?ber-skilled characters ?ber-skilled all over. It would raise the threshold for higher levels quite a bit, which I think is nice - you actually have to do something for your high levels. Oh, and simple loop-macros would boost one skill, but thrashing the rest... Variation in training of skills is the only thing that would help.

Of course, I see why the degeneration would have to be very slow and very gradual...
Kyokai wrote:Another one was aging, where characters grow old and eventually die, erasing all your hard work at the end. I'm sure I don't even need to explain why we aren't going to implement this.
How about making the characters a bit like the shades of dead HC-characters in Diablo II? Of course, more so in the sense that they could be viewable, and you could brag with them by showing their stats and items and what not, but they would only be that - viewable and not playable. A bit like a trophy at a museum or something...
Kyokai wrote:One person proposed that whenever you die, you lose important progress that you've made, like finding familars and powerful weapons, then you have to go on the same quests again to reclaim them. (This was you, aacheron) Do you see how it fits in with the other two? It may add some realism or difficulty to the game, but no one wants it to happen to them.
No, I proposed that whenever your familiar dies, you lose some constitution or something. Being overly susceptible to magic damage for a while does also sound nice to me... But point being, you might've read me wrong.
Kyokai wrote:I think losing your place in the dungeon and a temporary stat penalty are enough to teach players to be more careful next time around, without plunging them into enough despair that they quit the game.
So you're saying people cannot raise their stats? As long as a stat can be raised, no stat penalty is truly permanent. It is only permanent in the sense that sitting on your silky arse and crying about it won't bring it back - only hard work and more training will.

If people are dumb enough to blunder away something that took them long hours and litres of perspiration (figuratively...) to get, such as the familiar, why in Bob's name should they not be punished? It is their own fault for not appreciating it enough. Let them go get it again if they couldn't look after it properly the first time around.

Hehe, that last sentence makes me think of a really wacky, Tamagotchi-like mini-game about the familiar. Hehehee... No, too corny. But I digress...


Personally, I don't want to even co-write NPCs for a game that's built for people who can't play the game, but have to have proverbial crutches for everything. I mean, really; who are you making the game for - those who can play and appreciate a challenge, or those who'll cry at first permanent stat loss and dash off?
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Post by Kyokai » Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:39 pm

I think you have my position a bit misinterpreted. I'm not planning on having TMW's difficulty comparable to something like animal crossing or the Sims, where there is no chance of failure. Of course, I don't want it to be like Mario Brothers either, where you die five times and have to restart the whole game.

The difficulty needs to be considered based on the target audience and the style of game being created. TMW is an MMORPG, and the main ideas behind games like these are
* individualism - create a signature avatar that is unique and interesting
* non-linear gameflow - devise your own path from humble origins to glory
* team play - meet and adventure with other players from around the world
* exploration - enter a vast and novel world, with endless boundaries

Our target audience is a wide range. We want a game attractive to the average gamer, one who wants to do the things above in his spare time, and who is looking primarily for a diversion from the lonlier console RPGs.

The point is to find a happy medium between a game that is easy, and one that is difficult. One important thing I think we need to point out here is that death penalties do not necessarily make a game more difficult. There is a point of course where death penalties are necessary (and I'll get to it in a moment), but for the large part, an RPG game is not meant to have the difficulty of something like Mario Brothers.

It is meant to be a game where players can enjoy and experience everything by the simple act of playing the game, and where the world gets bigger and more interesting each time it is played. The penalties against the player for mistakes and failures should slow him down a bit, but they should not largely detract from his ability to do any of the 4 primary things listed above. In effect, a player who fails any number of times should never have his ability to explore, party, individualize, or make decisions impeded.

In TMW, the gameflow for adventuring (quests that actually involve a chance of failure) will usually follow this pattern:
1- Player gets a quest
2- Player goes to X location
3- Player kills the boss, talks to people, etc. to obtain his objective
4- Player returns with the goods
5- Player collects his reward

Each quest can be described as such an individual unit. The chance of failure exists only during steps 2 and 3 of this process. Therefore, when the player fails to accomplish his given quest, he should be punished in terms of that quest, (by having to repeat steps 2 and 3). Once a player has completed the third step, his progress is secured, and he does not have to worry about re-accomplishing any past feats.

In the more general gameflow, the charcter has a chance of failure (by dying) at any time. This is present seperately and regardless of his status in any particular quest. Therefore it should not be punished in terms of any particular quest.

So the real question here is: how do we punish general death without removing the players ability to do the 4 things mentioned above, and without significantly hampering his progress in doing them?

The main problem with taking away his items and stats is that it reduces his individuality as a player, and may even alter the effects of some quests. Since we have already showed that altering the players progress in a quest is not suitable punishment (since it is out of scope), we can also derive that removing the explicit rewards of any quest (ie: specializations, unique items, or spells) this approach is out of the question.

Another alternative is to take away part of his exp, which he gains through the game. In TMW's system, EXP would be skill experience (since the system is skill-based). The problem with removing exp is that it not only reduces the player's individuality and strips away specializations, but it impedes his ability to push the world's boundaries and explore.

In alternative to these two models, I would suggest a temporary stat dock, perhaps 15%, which would last for 15 minutes, in addition to returning him to the nearest town/hospital. The merits of such a penalty are that it still frustrates the player enough to make him careful, yet it does not discourage him from pushing the limits of the game the next time he plays.

Again, I would point out that high death penalties do not necessarily make a game more difficult, they only serve to give the player a reason not to die. Once the given reason is sufficient to make players careful, going beyond that amount serves only to frustrate them.

I also note that in order to make TMW difficult, the further boundaries are pushed, and the further characters explore in the world, stronger and smarter enemies will appear to daunt the player, and newer, more potent treasures will lie beyond each horizon. It is these things--challenges and rewards--that will motivate players to continue to play TMW.
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Post by Talaroc » Wed Apr 06, 2005 11:31 pm

Yes, and we bow down and give the players everything they want.
No, but you do have to keep from annoying them so much they stop playing. A lot of people won't play a game in which you lose EXP when you die; that particular penalty really is that annoying.
And what about having the degeneration running only when the character was active? Then the character would have to work to keep ?ber-skilled characters ?ber-skilled all over. It would raise the threshold for higher levels quite a bit, which I think is nice - you actually have to do something for your high levels. Oh, and simple loop-macros would boost one skill, but thrashing the rest... Variation in training of skills is the only thing that would help.

Of course, I see why the degeneration would have to be very slow and very gradual...
I actually agree with disallowing degeneration. I don't think we want to make the players spend all their time training...
No, I proposed that whenever your familiar dies, you lose some constitution or something. Being overly susceptible to magic damage for a while does also sound nice to me... But point being, you might've read me wrong.
I don't think there should be much of a penalty to losing a familiar, excepting in having to go back and get a new one. This is one area in which I do think temporary penalties are sufficient; drop the player's constitution and make them more succeptible to magic damage, but only for, say, 15 minutes. Then make them work for it again to get a new familiar.
One important thing I think we need to point out here is that death penalties do not necessarily make a game more difficult. There is a point of course where death penalties are necessary (and I'll get to it in a moment), but for the large part, an RPG game is not meant to have the difficulty of something like Mario Brothers.
I have to say, I think you're patently wrong on this. Death penalties, by forcing a player to add a new dimension to his thought process in game (that being the consideration of strategy, the weighing of risk and reward), do in fact make a game more difficult. I would also remind you of the fact that Mario Bros kicked off the most popular game series in history, so obviously it wasn't hard enough to scare many people off.
but it impedes his ability to push the world's boundaries and explore.
So does any punishment you inflict upon a character; else it isn't a punishment. The question is how much do you impede it, not whether or not to.
In alternative to these two models, I would suggest a temporary stat dock, perhaps 15%, which would last for 15 minutes, in addition to returning him to the nearest town/hospital. The merits of such a penalty are that it still frustrates the player enough to make him careful, yet it does not discourage him from pushing the limits of the game the next time he plays.
You're joking, right? You know what players will do when they die under this system? Take a 15-minute stretching/food/bathroom/personal hygene break. I sure as hell would. A punishment that a player doesn't have to work to overcome isn't a punishment.
Once the given reason is sufficient to make players careful, going beyond that amount serves only to frustrate them.
Yes, but what you don't seem to realize is that you haven't reached that point yet. You're being way too soft on the players.
I also note that in order to make TMW difficult, the further boundaries are pushed, and the further characters explore in the world, stronger and smarter enemies will appear to daunt the player, and newer, more potent treasures will lie beyond each horizon. It is these things--challenges and rewards--that will motivate players to continue to play TMW.
Yes, but a stronger enemy doesn't really matter if you aren't at least somewhat motivated to keep fron dying.
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Post by ElvenProgrammer » Thu Apr 07, 2005 8:27 am

About the familiar problem I think we could have it strictly linked to you once you accomplished the quest. You can't loose it, but when it dies you have to go to a nearby town and have to find the curch devoted to your familiar and pay a lot of money or maybe spend some time before your famiiar comes back to life (to our dimension ?!?).

Or maybe familiars cannot die, they only loose the power to manifest themselves in a concrete way. They will rejoin you gradually, very very slowly. Once it got back to concreteness, it's very weak and you should protect it.

Mario bros. was difficult? :shock: Do you really think so? Then TMW is not for you :twisted:
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Post by Talaroc » Thu Apr 07, 2005 8:39 am

Elven Programmer wrote:About the familiar problem I think we could have it strictly linked to you once you accomplished the quest. You can't loose it, but when it dies you have to go to a nearby town and have to find the curch devoted to your familiar and pay a lot of money or maybe spend some time before your famiiar comes back to life (to our dimension ?!?).

Or maybe familiars cannot die, they only loose the power to manifest themselves in a concrete way. They will rejoin you gradually, very very slowly. Once it got back to concreteness, it's very weak and you should protect it.
I think I would be willing to go with either of these. I just want to make sure it's kind of a pain in the ass to get your familiar back, to give people an incentive to take care of it.
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Post by Bjørn » Thu Apr 07, 2005 10:36 am

In Saga of Ryzom and also I think WoW, dying doesn't actually make you lose experience, but it adds an experience penalty that you have to overcome before being able to gain any permanent experience again. While in essense this is the same, it has two important differences. Firstly there is no problem with specialization, one doesn't have to figure out from which skills to substract the experience. Second this penalty feels a lot better for the player, because suddenly it's not a degradation of his character, but a temporary burden that he'll see decreasing as he is gaining experience again.
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Post by Kyokai » Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:41 pm

Bjørn wrote:In Saga of Ryzom and also I think WoW, dying doesn't actually make you lose experience, but it adds an experience penalty that you have to overcome before being able to gain any permanent experience again. While in essense this is the same, it has two important differences. Firstly there is no problem with specialization, one doesn't have to figure out from which skills to substract the experience. Second this penalty feels a lot better for the player, because suddenly it's not a degradation of his character, but a temporary burden that he'll see decreasing as he is gaining experience again.
That's a really good point, I think we could go with that. I also liked Elven's idea of paying to have the familiar restored at a local temple, that makes alot more sense than repeating a quest for it, but still makes players careful about it dying.

So with Bjorn's death penalty, how much of an EXP gap does the player have to make up (in terms of killing monsters relative to his own level), and how high can it stack?

I also still point out that we need to teleport the player back to the nearest town/hospital when he dies too, therefore making him lose his progress in a dungeon or on the field.
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