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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:43 am 
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(In three parts, but not too long, I hope.)

Usually when I start a thread, I stand up here on the fountain and pontificate for two or three pages. Then everybody says "mmhmm" or "right on" or "I dunno" or "bah" and that's about it for that thread.

This time I want to get some discussion started, which means I will be asking questions. But first, just a *little* pontification.

I see a strong sentiment in the forums that more story would be great. (Some of this is "Grr, Cyan needs to get us more Uru story", and some is "Be patient and more story will come along." But those two strains of discussion are agreeing that story matters are slow right now.)

None of us have much idea what we can *do* about this. The options seem to be (1) wait, and (2) the infamous sit-in model. (1) is frustrating, and (2) is not much of a meal. (Gatherings are fun and Cyan certainly pays attention to them, but nobody wants that to be the *only* kind of meaningful player activity in Uru. Right?)

At the same time, we have a vibrant model of player involvement: the forum and web site world. If you have an idea, you set up a site or start a discussion. Doesn't take a big crowd; doesn't take permission from Cyan. (But Cyan can, if it chooses, pick out your idea and weave it into the game. Greeters and Great Tree are the obvious examples, but there are also event announcements on mystonline.com, the "spotlight" page, etc. And even smaller-scale recognition, such as stickied threads on the forums.)

Obviously, not all such sites and discussions are *successful*, but we don't take that as a reason not to try them. The unsuccessful ideas just don't make it. The good stuff stays viable and grows.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:43 am 
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Is it possible for player-generated story to operate in this "ferment and let the good stuff float" mode? I am hoping that it is.

There seems to be a common assumption that players can't invent any story element without Cyan's blessing. As I said in another thread: If I post that the Hall of Kings has collapsed in an earthquake, it won't go anywhere, because nobody will *believe* me. You can go look in the game, and you won't see any rubble.

So there's a sense that consistency with the game world is paramount. But the "Cyan as game master" attitude goes beyond this. If I say that Yeesha appeared in my Relto (just briefly!) you can't prove it didn't happen. You weren't there. But I feel safe in saying that nearly all of you would *still* disbelieve me. Any story I try to create that starts that way will fall flat.

I've seen this labelled "hostility to player-created story", but that's too negative. We have a strong desire to leave Cyan free to write its own story. If I start ascribing actions or goals to Yeesha, Cyan will (sooner or later, probably sooner) have to either contradict me or adapt their own ideas to accomodate mine. And there's no way they can accomodate *everybody*. So -- we imagine -- if we all start creating story, all the unsuccessful ideas will get ruthlessly stomped. And so we don't try.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:44 am 
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I would like to come up with loopholes in this logic. What kind of story presentation has these characteristics:

- One person can do it.
- A bunch of people together can do a bigger one.
- If Cyan decides it's cool, and starts weaving it into official content, it gains credibility and visibility.
- If Cyan ignores it, it *doesn't lose* credibility. (I presume that Cyan will ignore most player activity; they only have so much free time.)
- Aside from general community principles (no porn please), Cyan should not have any motivation to police player stuff. That is, they should not feel threatened by inconsistencies or bad quality. (If they do, the whole system will fail, because -- again -- Cyan doesn't have time to play editor for everybody.)

I can imagine a bunch of ways to reach these goals. A few possibilities:

- Separate, fan-run forum. (mystonline.com forums are OOC, drcsite is too obviously in the DRC's face. Maybe some alternative?)
- Talk about private Ages. (I can't write story about Ercana, but I can invent an Age. Could we agree to overlook the question of where I got that Book, and why I can't invite you to it?)
- Talk about private instances. (Instancing is a ready-made way to have a private world -- it doesn't affect the DRC or anybody else. Could we have a community agreement that you "own" certain kinds of Age instances? Again, not ones that anybody else can visit in-game, but...)
- Pick a story structure and go with it. ("A lost group of D'ni survivors..." It'll bug us less if we're all doing it.)
- Just do it. (Let the complainers complain; once more people are doing it, they'll get used to it... I have a certain Coyote fondness for this idea.)

This is where I throw open the floor for discussion. In a sense, all these ideas are excuses -- ways to bypass the "nuh-uh" reflex. None of them are perfect. What would work for you? What will let you suspend your disbelief?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:22 am 
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Excellent posts belford!

belford wrote:
What will let you suspend your disbelief?

For me that's the key question. The general answer is, if it's an event that explorers could not have made happen (e.g. the Guild Hall explosion and smoke) or an appearance by a character who clearly is not an explorer in costume (an NPC). What works for me are Cyan-seeded incidents which explorers can then take and run, casting themselves as participant-actors in a believable story thread.

Explorers who show up and claim to be D'ni survivors or Yeesha-channelers don't interest me, no matter how well crafted their performance. I'm just not into amateur street performers, mimes at malls, door-to-door religious salespeople and the like; they're what I'm reminded of when explorer actors, individually or in troupes, pop in unbidden and begin doing their thing. They're of course free to do whatever they wish, and I'll treat them politely -- but will remove myself as soon as possible. :)


Last edited by tkwiggins on Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:23 am 
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As someone who was discussing the downsides of fanfic in the thread that seems to have spawned this, lemme just chime in here with a few of my thoughts on fic in general...

I really don't have any problem with fanfic. I've even written some myself. The challenge with Uru fanfic, I think, is trying to work it into a story and game world that is continually evolving. In the past, this hasn't been a problem, because the Myst games were self-contained, and the story started and stopped at specific points in the timeline, leaving the events before and after largely up to our own imagination, which is where a great deal of past fic has come from.

Uru, however, makes writing fic considerably more difficult, because you're kind of aiming at a moving target; what you write today could easily be invalidated tomorrow. Coming up with story and plot that ties in with Cyan's characters and story in a meaningful way is difficult (not to say impossible, just really hard) without it possibly being mistaken for an actual chronicling of in-game events (which, again, is what I was taking issue with in the Er'cana thread... not that someone was writing fic, but that it wasn't being treated as fic by the author).

I definitely think that the best way to get "around" this sort of issue is to tell stories that are incidental to Uru itself, but still involved in its game world (so the DRC and currently-accessible locations can be referenced, but developing them beyond what the game provides may not be wise). Belford's suggestion to carry out new stories in Ages inaccessible in Live (through means we'll ignore for now... D'ni's a big place, and people could easily find all manner of things in locked drawers ;)) is one that was regularly encouraged during the days of Until Uru's fan-led effort to build their own Ages into the game world. It's something that I've toyed with myself, and I think it's a good avenue for storytelling that doesn't damage Cyan's ability to tell their own tale.

In the future (to use Rand's favorite phrase from this Mysterium's Q&A), I think it may be possible for more Cyan-fan collaboration on story to a certain extent, in a manner similar to what we used to do in my old D&D group... doing things outside the set campaign and adventures that grow the worldspace without affecting the story. For now, though, I think fic is better served by being more incidental and not trying to push something into the game's story.

There are also several forums already in existence with fanfic sections... MYSTcommunity.com and DPWR.net for starters (yes, I do like plugging my website, thank you for asking ;)). It's pretty much a given that things posted in those forums are entirely fictional, and so I think there would be less backlash against people creating scenarios involving the DRC and company in that format. Posting in a general discussion forum takes the fictional edge off of such creative works, though, and people start confusing them for actual in-game events. It's sort of the difference between posting about a date you had with Brad Pitt versus writing a story about going on a date with Brad Pitt ;).

Okay, enough rambling from me... gotta get to work. Toodles for now :).

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:39 am 
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I am a veteran LARPer and a veteran plot committee member for several LARPS. I am going to look at this from a LARP perspective.

When people put a huge amoount of effort into building a storyline they tend to expect that the players should love it and be thankful. There is often a tedency to be extremely defensive about what has been turned out. Sometimes you think something will be rivetting for a very long time, but the players go and beat your plotline in half an hour and you're left with nothing to throw at them.

Players often feel that they are paying to be entertained and should not have to make their own fun unless they want to do so. If a particular puzzle is too difficult the players will become angry and frustrated and blame the writers. If a puzzle is too easy and beaten too quickly, the players will become angry and blame the writers. If a puzzle does not fit the players idea of what the puzzle should be, they will blame the writers. The players often discover a certain power over the writers (ie. the "Yeesha" syndrome) and will exploit this power to get what they want.

The players cannot ever be expected to behave any differently because they are simply acting on human nature. This being the case, the writers are thereby forced to listen to the demands of the players.

This game is different from other games in many ways, one of which is the fact that the NPCs are actually run by people instead of being programmed. This makes the game more of a LARP than a MMORPG. This also puts the writers at a distinct disadvantage in that they must interact with the players who get to vie to get what they want.

It has been my experience that it is very difficult to remain objective in such situations. The game must evolve in order to survive and PC input is key to that evolution. The big question is; to whom does one listen?

The key is NEVER allow the PCs to call the shots. This is a dangerous thing to allow because the PCs will soon base their IC happiness upon the ability to manipulate the story and the writers. When the demands become too specific to a certain group or PC, or too detrimental to the storyline, the PCs will only care whether or not their demands are met.

What the writers can and should do is take all the ideas and weed them through. Then take the viable ideas and develop them. Make sure the players know that they have influenced the plotline in this way, but never make it about acquiescing to their demands and never make knee-jerk decisions.

Visits from NPCs as a result of PC pro-activeness is a dangerous. Likewise, rushing a storyline due to PC demands is something that should never be done lightly. In the end it will feel contrived. If the players are bored, something certainly needs to be done before they start wandering off, but giving in to their demands or rushing the story are not the answer.

Competitions have cropped up from time-to-time, but are too specifically targetted to involve everyone. I have made several suggestions, as have others, and I am content to wait and see if things start to pick up. Mind you I'll be doing other things, not actually playing Uru, but I will be checking the boards from time-to-time to be sure I don't miss anything.

Anyway, that was longer than I had intended and I digressed more than I planned. Bottom line is that while the PCs should be able to influence the game, they should not be able to do so by bullying or whining. Making constructive, objective suggestions and letting the writers do their jobs is key. I understand how people feel; I am not completely immersed in this game, it fails to keep me engaged. I simply wander off and check back once in a while because I adore the game when it does manage to engage me. I don't want to push the story, though I do wish to further the story.

The writers will give you opportunities to further the plotline when it makes sense to do so. Until then, we must find a way to keep busy, maybe make our own story; seperate from, but involved with Uru.

The ending is not yet written.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:58 am 
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silmefea wrote:
I am a veteran LARPer and a veteran plot committee member for several LARPS. I am going to look at this from a LARP perspective.

[LARP tirade]


That's soooo true here in Europe, too. :) "Hey I've paid 30 bucks for this weekend! Gimme fun, entertain me, gimme food! Bring the plot right to my tent!" They go to a court LARP without reading the brochure and expect to slay some Orcs instead of learning medieval dancing and character play.

By the way if you are confused by the abbreviation PC in silmefea's posting: It means player character and not personal computer.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:14 am 
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Tiran wrote:
silmefea wrote:
I am a veteran LARPer and a veteran plot committee member for several LARPS. I am going to look at this from a LARP perspective.

[LARP tirade]


That's soooo true here in Europe, too. :) "Hey I've paid 30 bucks for this weekend! Gimme fun, entertain me, gimme food! Bring the plot right to my tent!" They go to a court LARP without reading the brochure and expect to slay some Orcs instead of learning medieval dancing and character play.

By the way if you are confused by the abbreviation PC in silmefea's posting: It means player character and not personal computer.


LOL, hadn't occured to me that folks might not know what PC meant in that context.

I actually heard a PC in one of our games say (and I quote), "I'm never playing at this chapter again! I sat on my porch for six hours and nothing came by for me to kill!" Not the least bit of ambition at all. I was at the same event and spent the weekend scouring the woods, nearly getting myself killed, but I had fun.

And that is exactly the point that needs to be made here; PCs will expect what you give them to be given constantly. The player who wants spoon-fed plot is used to getting spoon-fed plot and will settle for nothing less. Give it to them at your own peril, for it will create high-maintainance PCs and a horrible lack of balance in the game.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:23 am 
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We are not writing stories. We are the story.

What we do ingame is what happens. If you said the Hall of Kings blew up, that's what you said. Odds are you were not telling the truth; in that case, you were telling a lie, which is within your power to do.


The point is not necessarily to come up with some elaborate plotline that's difficult to falsify and just say it happened. The point is to interact with what there is: Other explorers and uncertainties.

Few have bothered to give any thought to what the latest Journeys mean; they sit around and try to call Yeesha and wait for her to explain it to them. I choose to assume that they have meaning and it is up to me to locate it. There's an opportunity for roleplaying right there. It requires no Cyan intervention whatsoever and in no way interferes with anything Cyan might be doing, yet it is directly relevant to the storyline.


The ending has not yet been written, folks. Think about what you/your character wants to do and then go try to do it.

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Last edited by Kolian on Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:25 am 
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Ok, this is the kind of thing I was talking about. People are now demanding the presence of Cyan employees and NPC s. This was caused by a Cyan employee responding to a post in all caps demanding the reply of a cyan employee ( http://www.mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7726 ) and the arrival of Yeesha at a sit in designed to force her attendance ( http://www.mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6818 ).

Here is the inevitable result of those actions:

http://www.mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7785

http://www.mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7814

I foresee this becoming a serious trend if the plot committe continues to respond in positive ways to these demands. Human nature dictates that people will use whatever methods work and this method obviously does.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:44 am 
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Designed to force Yeesha's attendance? As the person who organized that event, I can say that in no way was there intention to force some kind of response. Most of the people who attended, myself included, weren't even expecting anything of the kind! The most I personally was expecting was MAYBE a DRC member showing up to laugh at us or something. It was designed for fun and mainly as a reaction against the forum broo-ha-ha at the time the event was concieved, when there was a lot of negativity going around. I wanted to create a positive event that didn't have anything to do with the DRC and the politics that were at that time getting pretty intense on the forums. *shrug*

Just to clear that up. :)

I'm somewhat puzzled at how one could force story response anyway, short of going to Cyan and taking hostages. I do agree with the gist of your post though, that a lot of times explorers seem to feel they're entitled to a reaction, or that the formula is a guaranteed 'press button recieve plot' type action. When, well, it's just NOT.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:56 am 
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I appologize for my assumption. It did seem that way, though. The problem now is that, although you never intended it that way, PCs now see it that way. Hopefully it will not become a big problem with PCs demanding presence.

The frustrating part is that I have seen several games go belly-up because of crap like this, it's called PC entitlement syndrome and it can easily kill a game.

Sosiqui wrote:
Designed to force Yeesha's attendance? As the person who organized that event, I can say that in no way was there intention to force some kind of response. Most of the people who attended, myself included, weren't even expecting anything of the kind! The most I personally was expecting was MAYBE a DRC member showing up to laugh at us or something. It was designed for fun and mainly as a reaction against the forum broo-ha-ha at the time the event was concieved, when there was a lot of negativity going around. I wanted to create a positive event that didn't have anything to do with the DRC and the politics that were at that time getting pretty intense on the forums. *shrug*

Just to clear that up. :)

I'm somewhat puzzled at how one could force story response anyway, short of going to Cyan and taking hostages. I do agree with the gist of your post though, that a lot of times explorers seem to feel they're entitled to a reaction, or that the formula is a guaranteed 'press button recieve plot' type action. When, well, it's just NOT.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:03 am 
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The "lets see what happens when a bunch of us get together with the positive intention of meeting Yeesha" gathering was an innovative idea, with supprising results.

The "lets sit together in the city to talk with Cate about our concerns" was a thoughtful idea derailed by rude people. The results there were less than positive.

As explorer actions, though, they were perfectly valid.

The *ONLY* drawback to either of those happenings, is that there is a rash of copycats (Not including the Sharper Summoning, which was *satire*), without real purpose.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:17 am 
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Coming off of a year-and-a-half subscription to Matrix Online, another story-centric MMO, it's really interesting to see how the systems used to develop the stories compares and contrasts.
I cancelled my MxO account for MO:UL. :)

Prior to Sony's takeover of Matrix Online, the story was developed similarly to this one, although it was much more structured. Every few weeks, an "event" was set up and announced that would last anywhere between a weekend to a month. During this time, characters would come in and out of the game to drop clues, give objectives, and cause scenes. Once in a while, an emergency meeting was announced, and everyone of a certain group would gather. For the most part though, there was no predicted schedule. You would often wake up in the morning, only to hear that while you slept, your organization got a new objective. It was a very effective system.

After the rights were bought though, things started taking a turn for the worse. With the entire event team fired, a single person was in charge of running the events. Although he received story outlines from higher-ups (Paul Chadwick), he was responsible for creating all missions, story content, dialogue, etc. Now it also seems that he is writing the story as well. Although this makes the story extremely consistent, it led to an increased dependency on players to help create events (I was privileged to be a part of this group before I was kicked out. That's another story, and it's a pretty unfair one...). Instead of having a massive all-server event every few weeks, a single group on one server received a one-hour event during business hours. It was up to the selected few players to organize the events, promote their existance, and create most of the dynamic story content. Favoritism was about, and subscriptions to the game began dropping like flies.

In the case of the non-Sony era (as well as some of Sony's tenure), there was little the players could do to influence the story. Plotholes were purposely created to help move the story in the direction the event team wanted. Some players were notably upset about this forced direction, but giving individual players credit for furthering the goals the development team wants to occur still satisfied the community. Once dependency on the script was reduced and players were given more roles, events sometimes were influenced by the actions of players more. Soon, specific players who weren't in on the events entered the limelight. This led to so many accusations of bias and corruption it wasn't even funny. Perhaps it seemed that too much emphasis on the individuals of the player was given. Everyone loves to influence the story, except when they aren't the ones changing it.

And yes, at times, the one-man event team did give into demands for appearance. The Architect, for example, vowed to make contact with the humans only once, but did so multiple times and in person, which completely went against his characters. Through the liaison characters, anyone could organize a meeting with a plot-important figure as long as they had some kind of purpose to it. The value of the story soon diminished, and the game quickly degenerated into a series of photo ops and meetings. Some overbearing plot arcs were even lost.

The good thing about the overabundance of important characters was the proliferation of rumors. Anyone could say "Hey, Agent Gray told me to eat fried chicken", and there's no way to prove if they were right or not until the next time the players could get in contact with that event character. Of course, the mysterious nature of the Matrix storyline helped this too, but rumors were able to genuinely spread throughout the game. The special event group was partially in charge of spreading some rumors, and although they caught on, some of the most major ones (such as Morpheus's potential revival) appear to be entirely player generated. Most players, however, had trouble telling the difference between pre-constructed rumors and naturally-occurring ones.

The meetings also present an interesting aspect. Most questions asked at large meetings with event characters were either intrusive or obnoxious. One meeting consisted almost entirely of asking the Architect about Colonel Sanders. One player even managed to extort in-game currency from an event character because he "felt sorry for her". Eventually, ways were found to limit participation in meetings so intruders would be unable to crash the proceedings. More of the development team's goals were accomplished in small, contained meetings than in large meetings where everyone was free to participate.

So what can I actually draw from my experience with Matrix Online that can be applied to the game? (these are just my observations that may or may not hold true to MO)

    *A story that develops at its own pace over a period of time is better than a rigidly scheduled structure. Players enjoy discovering and uncovering future events rather than being told them.
    *A single person can, in fact, run a plot. This leads to a strain on the developer, however, and might increase dependency on the trust the developer established with the player in maintaining the integrity of the story.
    *Giving players control of an event in its fullest is a destructive idea that can lead to accusations of favoritism and massive community dissent.
    *If the development team hopes to drive the story in a specific direction, limiting involvement or creating the illusion of involvement gives players the same feeling of accomplishment, but avoids the risks created by giving them total control.
    *Getting the players accustomed to hearing information second-hand helps spread rumors.
    *Limiting player involvement at times may actually help flesh out the story more, similarly to how teaching a small class is more effective than learning in a lecture hall.


Again, since there's a totally different structure to Uru Live, these may not hold up, but they're worth pointing out since there's few MMOs that take the plot-oriented path. It might be worth learning from the mistakes that made Matrix Online collapse.

...wow, that was long. XD


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:37 am 
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Yikes! Bunch of comments already. I will get to this more tomorrow, but one thing now:

I do see a difference between fanfic and what I was describing in my original post. Fanfic is written with the presumption (even the hope) that the canonical authors aren't looking and won't react. There's no urge for consistency for its own sake. (Consistency for artistic effect, sure -- but just as often, fanfic indulges in *in*consistency for artistic effect. Alternate universes, alternate visions.)

I'd like to see community efforts which *are* trying to create a greater whole. Where Cyan *might* be looking; where they can react to what's being written, or not, without introducing a sudden consistency headache.

Clearly this is a challenge; but we have story structures (Ages, instances) where events can occur independently except when we want them to intersect.

(I also don't think it has to be about *whether* Cyan reacts. If your event winds up on the "Events" page, that's great, but it's not the ultimate justification for running it. Right?)

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