Experienced Points: Pokemon Coding and DRM

By Shamus
on Nov 2, 2015
Filed under:
Column

This is the 245th column I’ve done for the Escapist, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve ever discussed Pokemon.

Also we talk about DRM and how my thoughts on DRM remain unchanged, even when I’m putting out a game.

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202020202There are now 82 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the Archives:

  1. Your first Escapist column was in 2010?! Holy poop. THAT WAS FIVE YEARS AGO. I HAVE BEEN READING YOUR BLOG FOR AT LEAST FIVE YEARS.

    Holy poop.

  2. Theminimanx says:

    Not sure if you read the blog comments or the Escapist comments more often, but I found some answers to your Spinda questions on Bulbapedia.

  3. shiroax says:

    ” I can – without further context – know that nonsense words like Snorlax, Zapdos, Spinda, Charizard, and Gengar are Pokemon while other made-up words like (say) Protoss, Vortigaunt, Sangheili, and Prothean aren’t.”

    I call shenanigans. I only played generation 3, and from that I find the middle two are plausible pokenames.

    Loatheb
    Kyogre
    Shedinja
    Shadron

    Which?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      As someone who has only played Gens 1-2, I have zero idea which of those are Pokemon. If I had to guess I’d pick Shedinja and Shadron entirely because the other two look like unpronounceable nonsense words. After writing that I Googled it: my guess is wrong.

      I’m pretty sure the effect Shamus is describing is based on the fact that certain Pokemon have simply seeped into the cultural consciousness. Note that all of the Pokemon he names except Spinda are powerful and popular Gen 1s, exactly the sort of Pokemon you’re likely to hear by name via cultural osmosis, the same way I know that “BFG” and “Needler” are guns despite never having played their respective games.

      • guy says:

        I think your guess somewhat bears out my suggestion in the next comment; Shedinja and Shadron seem like plausible pokemon names because they both sound like they’re from English words. Kyogre’s etymology is Japanese.

    • guy says:

      I think pokemon names are easily recognizable because they tend to be closely related to real (often english) words. Snorlax = snore+relax, zapdos = zap+dos(spanish 2, second in the set with arctic+uno and molten+tres), spinda=spin+panda, charizard = char+lizard, gengar is related to doppleganger after switching writing systems twice.

      As for this case, Loatheb isn’t a pokemon. I think the english spelling of Kyogre is meant to reference ogre; apparently in Japanese it’s kaiorga, most likely sea+orca(japanese has many homophones). Shedinja is shed+ninja. Shadron isn’t a pokemon, but sounds like a plausible one to me as a dark+steel type from shadow+iron.

    • Shamus says:

      Without googling, Kyogre and Shadron jump out at me as Pokemon-esque.

      Note that I wasn’t claiming to have some magical poke-powers. I just find there’s a playfulness to the names that makes them stand out.

      • shiroax says:

        Well, I cheated by picking two of the most pokemony WoW bosses and 2 of the least Pokemony Pokemon… which kind of proves you right now that I think about it lol.

        I maintain that Sangheili could be Roselia’s cousin and that Vortigaunt jumped me in Mt. Pyre.

    • Mechaninja says:

      Loatheb is the end boss for the Plague Quarter of Naxxramas, for those who are not World of Warcraft nerds and yet might care, which is a set which I assume very closely approaches zero, but I think I will not be able to sleep if I do not add this note.

      Shadron is one of the lesser twilight drakes in the Obsidian Sanctum.

      • Damn it, now you’ve got me trying to remember the Loatheb fight. I remember the dog (and kiting adds), the knights, the guy where you could only heal at certain times, a spider, and Heigen (no one forgets the dance).

        Oh, he’s the only heal at certain times guy. Thanks, internet, that would have bugged me else. And yup, that’s kinda how I remember raids, either by strategy I was supposed to be doing or a visual if it’s more recent. Naxx was my first raid way back when, and I rarely went back, so memory’s fuzzy (unlike Ulduar which I went back to a lot because I wanted the tier for transmog and I liked the raid).

      • Bubble181 says:

        Thank you.

  4. shiroax says:

    Don’t forget Humble. I’ve been prefering them over Steam lately, and I think they also do drm free.

  5. Eric says:

    Just a small note Shamus, you do not have to use Steam DRM when you’re on Steam. In fact, you can even use most of the Steamworks features without using the DRM as well. So no, being on Steam doesn’t automatically mean you’re using DRM (though, some players may feel that way – but that’s why GOG exists).

    • Ninety-Three says:

      When people say that Steam is DRM, I thought they were referring to the fact that you can’t play your Steam games unless you’re logged in (and yes you can play in offline mode, but you can’t just boot into offline mode, you still have to log in and authenticate against the Steam servers first). As far as I know, there’s no way to opt out of that (I’ve tried).

      It’s hardly SecuROM, but isn’t Steam still DRM because of that?

      • Cerapa says:

        You can run quite a few game by just running them through the executable and they don’t try to call Steam for permission.

      • Steve C says:

        It is possible to boot up Steam without logging into it. You have to disable your internet first. You are presented with a login as normal. Just put in any password and it will note that it can’t connect and allow access to offline mode.

        There is a caveat though. If Steam has ever made note that the game requires an update, it *requires* that update. It won’t run without it. Even offline. So logging into Steam properly for just a second may bug out your entire library offline until Steam decides it’s ok.

  6. Wide And Nerdy says:

    For the record (and I told him to leave this part out so that’s why its not in the article):

    I didn’t mean this as a gotcha. I know that if everything is in Shamus’s control, he’ll do what he’s always said should be done. I just wondered about the possibility because he’s working with a studio that might think differently and is publishing to platforms that might have their own rules or maybe there’s a legal thing I don’t know about.

    So yeah. This wasn’t a case of “you say that but what happens when its time for you to do it?” Shamus is too emphatic in his positions on this stuff for me to believe he isn’t making every effort to be consistent with what he’s said.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      I appreciated the question. Not all of Shamus’ Escapist readers have necessarily been keeping up with his updates here, or even religiously followed his columns there for years, so why not give him the opportunity to reiterate his principles? Even new insights like this make it worthwhile:

      “No. I’ve always said that DRM was a waste of resources, and if anything game development has made this clearer than ever. When you’re on a small team and you just barely have enough time and money to get the thing done, why would you spend any of it on DRM?”

      • mewse says:

        No small studio is likely ever going to implement their *own* DRM scheme. As Shamus says, that would be an enormous and absurd waste of time and money.

        But to my reading, the question was really more about whether they’re going to click the checkbox that turns on Steam’s DRM (which is apparently entirely optional, and easy for the developer to enable if they want to use it, or disable if they don’t). It’s presumably not much of a time investment at all, so I’m not really sure the “it’s a waste of time and money” answer is relevant, since turning Steam’s DRM on doesn’t actually appear to take any notable amount of time or money. Personally, I find arguments based on (lack of) efficacy, and ones based on ethics to be far more compelling than this economics-based one.

        Shamus’s comment about Steam being “candy-coated DRM” makes it sound like Good Robot *will* have Steam’s DRM turned on (Most, though not all games on Steam do, even if they’re available DRM-free through other vendors). But maybe that was an offhand comment that I’m misinterpreting.

        • Shamus says:

          For clarity: I have no idea how that end of it works. Arvind is handling Steam integration.

          As long as we make it onto GoG, I don’t particularly care about the state of the Steam DRM. (Although obviously off is better.)

          • Mephane says:

            FYI, Kerbal Space Program is DRM free even when bought on Steam. :)

          • Shamus could you tell/poke Arvind to do it in such a way that the game looks for steam_api.dll (so if it’s not found in the game folder the game will act just like the GOG version?)

            Or alternatively just detect if steam launched the game (that way the user could just create a shortcut to the game executable and launch directly).

            Another way is to simply provide a Offline or No-Steam option in the games menu so if it’s enabled the game can be started directly next time.

            One benefit of having a single executable for GOG and Steam etc. is that the same patch would work on either installation, no need to maintain two code branches.
            (I assume there will be steam achievements, these will need extra code added to the game)

            • Wide And Nerdy™ says:

              Or if you want to do the reverse. I bought Witcher 3 through GOG but launch it with Steam to take screenshots. GOG still doesn’t offer that.

              • Apparently (quick websearch) windowed border lets you use PrtScrn and copy the window contents to the clipboard.

                FRAPS lets you take screenshots too (i.e. use the F12 key etc)

                And have you check for mods for witcher 3 that hide the HUD?

                Also note that it’s not GOG’s fault that Witcher 3 does not come with screenshot functionality.
                That little mistake falls on the developers (CD Projekt RED).

                It’s cool that steam lets you take screenshots from any game, but that is no excuse not to add it to the game itself initially. And you can’t blame GOG for it.

                Also note that steam does the same as FRAPS and hooks into the game’s rendering pipeline (the steam overlay requires that), as far as I know GOG does not do anything like that.

                • guy says:

                  The printscrn thing works, but it’s a tremendous pain, and I am incredibly fond of Steam’s approach.

                  • Wide And Nerdy™ says:

                    Agreed. You want a screenshot with Steam?
                    1) Hit F12
                    2) Keep playing.

                    The Print Screen method is as follows
                    1) Hit print screen.
                    2) Alt Tab out of the game*
                    3) Paste into an image editor**
                    4) Hit Save As.
                    5) Name the file.***
                    6) Hit Save.
                    7) Alt Tab back to the game and unpause.

                    Steam takes care of all of that for you with a single tap. And all it requires is running a piece of software I usually run anyway. I’m curious Roger why the argument on this? I was actually trying to support your point of letting the game be flexible, but it sounds like you were less concerned with flexibility and more with just breaking the Steam shackles.

                    I’m not playing a blame game here. GOG will need time to match Steam’s feature set. I do not begrudge it. But GOG is not for everybody. Some of us function just fine with Steam and it has uses.

                    *With a possible additional step of pausing the game if the game isn’t set to autopause when you alt tab out.
                    **With a possible additional step of launching the image editor if you forgot to do that or closed it after last time.
                    ***With a possible additional step of navigating to where you want the images saved if this is your first time saving to that directory or you happen to have saved files elsewhere recently.

                    Also, I appreciate your suggestions about mods to remove the HUDs. I wouldn’t use such mods unless it was a simple toggle (like a hotkey that flips off the HUD long enough to take the shot then flip it back on because I like getting info from HUDs.)

                    • The argument is that steam can be integrated using a single source code branch.
                      Two different branches means having to juggle two branches, a change in one source has to be reflected in the other.

                      So single executable that take advantage of steam if the user wish (and has steam) if not then it behaves like a non-steam version.

                      GOG does not have overlays/hack into the rendering (like steam), nor does GOG have cloud saves.
                      GOG does not have achievements either.
                      Also the GOG downloader/launcher/updater is optional.

                      Maybe cloudsaves and overlays will be supported with GOG Galaxy (that’s the name right?)
                      But it will always be optional.

                      It seems you are against giving extra choice/options for steam users which is kinda odd in my opinion, wouldn’t you want more?

                      Also regarding breaking the shackles, that’s in the other comment, this one was just about taking screenshots, you replied to the wrong comment (you should have replied to the parent).

                      Also I said I thought CD Projekt RED messed up by not adding a HUDless screenshot feature (ideally they should have a screenshot/hud option where you can autotoggle display of hud when taking screenshots, a few games do have that).

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Arent there a bunch of screenshot management programs you can be running in the background that turn the print screen button into you just pushing it and it automatically saves the screenshot wherever you told it earlier to save?

                    • Wide And Nerdy™ says:

                      I think we must be talking about different things. The Galaxy client does achievements. Are you using the original GOG Downloader?

                      I wasn’t originally arguing with you. I was trying to make a point that greater flexibility, in addition to having the benefits you were stating, might work the other way as well, allowing people who purchase through GOG to launch with Steam if they want to (then I listed a reason why one might do so.) (Although now that I think about it, I don’t think GOG ever stops you from launching with Steam so really I should withdraw my point making this entire discussion pointless).

                      Then you told me to use print screen for some reason and I responded with why I prefer Steam screenshot to print screen. I wrote the steps out so that anyone could see at a glance that PrintScreen is considerably more involved than Steam screenshots by default.

                      As for Daemian, I usually buy through Steam because I mostly play more recent games and Steam has a greater variety of those. Since I already have Steam, the path of least resistance is to launch my games with that and use its quick convenient screenshot feature that also organizes my shots into separate folders automatically.

                      I could download and configure a new application but I don’t see a compelling reason to do so. And I imagine thats the case with a lot of PC Gamers unless they have a specific beef with Steam that would motivate them to seek alternatives on principle. No such application can compete for sheer convenience with the one that was installed for us by Steam just plain works.

                    • Seems to have hit the comment depth limit here.

                      Anyway, just looked at https://www.gog.com/galaxy

                      I stand corrected (as per your comment further below).

                      Seems like achievements is indeed supported now, and they are working on overlay as well.
                      And they allow GOG Galaxy users to play online with with Steam users even.

                      Been a while since I looked at their client, seems to have really begun to mature now (and very quickly catching up to Steam).

                    • evileeyore says:

                      Yes Daemian there are a bunch. My preference is FRAPs which also lets you make a video of your gameplay.

                • PhoenixUltima says:

                  Also note that it’s not GOG’s fault that Witcher 3 does not come with screenshot functionality.
                  That little mistake falls on the developers (CD Projekt RED).

                  CD Projekt RED are actually the people behind GOG.com, though, so in a certain sense it is GOG’s fault.

                  • Wide And Nerdy says:

                    Though if you ever contact GOG support, they act like CD Project Red is a different group of people. I wanted a refund for the first DLC but since my issue was with the shitty asshat characters at the beginning of the story, not something technical, they said I had to contact the developer.

                    • Ringwraith says:

                      They internally refer to the side which deals with GoG as CD Projekt Blue if I recall.
                      Mostly run as separate entities under the same roof, though of course they can collaborate easily when required.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      I mean, yeah, makes sense. Figured it was something like that.

        • WWWebb says:

          Implementing your own DRM scheme may be a waste of time and money, but it’s not an “enormous and absurd” waste unless you’re trying to make something unbeatable. My business software company’s DRM scheme was implemented at the request of our customers.

          When a big company is the customer, they are highly motivated to ensure that one of their employees cannot violate a license agreement and expose them to a lawsuit.

  7. Spacewreck says:

    Every time this subject comes up I think of the one time I “pirated” a game…because of DRM on a legally-purchased copy.

    I bought The Matrix: Path of Neo, which turned out to have some dipshit DRM that would lock you out from starting the game if you had a CD-RW disk drive in your computer. For some reason the DRM automatically assumed that if you had a computer with the ability to burn a disk at all that you were a filthy pirate.

    The solution offered by the software company was to download and install an extra program in addition to their DRM and then uninstall Windows Service Pack 2. I wasn’t about to undo a major operating system security update for their shitty game, so I said to hell with it and quickly found a no-CD cracked.exe that let me play the game without the DRM cockblocking me. IIRC, it even took me less time to find the crack than it did to find the ridiculous official fix.

    I’m not sure which irony amused me more: that the company spent thousands of dollars setting up security that hurt legitimate users while being easily outdone by a 32kb program some pirate dude or lady bopped out on a lazy afternoon, or that instead of hindering piracy their DRM pushed legitimate buyers into piracy in order to use their legally-purchased product.

    • Ingvar says:

      That (needing to get a cracked version, because the DRM is hurtful) seems to be a common trend. See also all DRM schemes that are based on “talk to the game company’s server”.

      In a slightly less annoying (but still annoying) vein, games that have run-times that assume too much about the state of computers. I have an original game, on original CD-ROM, at home that I cannot play, because I can’t find a computer with little-enough RAM that it will run (it won’t run on a machine with more than about 2 MB of RAM, finding one of those in this day and age is… unpleasant). I guess I could go the VM route, or step through the binary and try to find where the check is done and patch it out (or force-insert a smaller number), but chances are also that it won’t run in anything later than Windows $Year (the game was released in 1997, but I now see there’s a re-release on Steam, harking back to 2006).

      Hm. Maaaayyybeee…

    • wswordsmen says:

      I bought Star Wars: Empire At War and lost the booklet with the CD key. I had to download a ken-gen program to install the game from my legally purchased disk.

      That is my story of DRM screwing me over.

    • MichaelGC says:

      uninstall Windows Service Pack 2

      BAAAAAHaaahaaaaa. Hah-haa. Ha. Yeah no.

  8. RCN says:

    So… is this the first time you honest-to-god indirectly plugged Good Robot on The Escapist?

    Congrats. Was there any pressure from The Escapist for you to actually do so eventually? (I mean, it has to be some kind of indirect marketing to them: Good Robot, from the long-time Columnist of The Escapist)

    • Trix2000 says:

      That assumes they knew about it, and regardless of how popular Shamus is here the game’s still a small indie title.

      But who knows, maybe it’ll be a big hit. I’m certainly looking forward to it and hope it does well.

      • RCN says:

        Regardless of it being a small indie title or not, it’d just make marketing sense to The Escapist. It is a symbiotic relationship. If the exposure from the site makes the game more popular, then by proxy the game will make the site more popular, even if just a little.

        • Supahewok says:

          The Escapist lets anyone who’s not Yahtzee put a blurb at the end of their video or article about their product when they’re close to releasing something. Yahtzee is the only one I’ve seen where they’ll write a whole news post about it.

          There’s no marketing in it for the Escapist if Good Robot doesn’t link Shamus to them. No where on the Steam page mentions even Shamus, much less the Escapist. If he doesn’t have “Escapist Columnist” among his titles in the credits (and why would he?), the only people who would know that Shamus is connected to the Escapist are those who already know of the connection.

  9. Primogenitor says:

    You might want to let the Escapist know the post title is currently “mailbag placeholder” :p

    EDIT: that’s the title of the HTML page and the URL, not the one actually written on the page. Which come to think of it, they never change do they – so are you stuck with that forever?

  10. Galad says:

    “Giving your audience freedom isn’t just the moral thing to do, it’s also the only sensible business decision.”

    I feel like this should be better known.

    • RCN says:

      Which implies large companies are concerned with what works.

      Which they don’t. Most of the time, the only thing they care is “what will please our investors?” And investors in general seem to be really ignorant of what they’re investing in, just following accepted guidelines. Mostly… because I believe very few people invest in person in anything. They use third party professionals who are trained in the guidelines, not to know the company they’re investing in.

  11. Jack V says:

    Oh, _actual_ pokemon programming. That’s interesting.

    I’d assumed it was going to be about http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?PokemonExceptionHandling :)

  12. thomas says:

    I cannot access Escapistmagazine.com. I have not been able to for weeks.

    http://www.isitdownrightnow.com claims (for me) that it’s been down as well.

    I don’t know why.

  13. Not exactly on topic as this is not about DRM, but I just wanted to vent a little. (and hopefully it’s of interest to the regulars here.)
    I just looked up some info about a game on google, I went to a review link that was among the results.

    Instead of seeing the article I got a overlayed box asking me to please turn off adblock. (I use uBlock Origin though)
    So I thought I’d be nice and I did so. I turned off adblocking then reloaded the page/link.
    Only to be presented with a fullpage ad and a link saying “press here to continue to the article”.
    I turned adblock on and reloaded the page instead, screw that shit.

    I try to be nice but when they do stupid things like that then screw being nice.
    I try to be nice with youtube too, I do not use adblock there.
    But whenever I get nonskipable preroll ads I just hit refresh on the video over and over until I either get a skipable add (with one of those Skip Ad buttons) or until youtube gives up and shows a textbox ad or no ad at all.

    Over the last decade or so I can not recall ever buying something based on an ad I’ve seen.
    So for me an ad is wasted bandwidth and for the advertiser wasted money as the advertiser spends money each time a ad is viewed.

    If a ad is entertaining I may look through it the first time or even a second time.
    Sometimes ads have loud obnoxious music or volume levels so I skip them because they are uncomfortable to listen to.

    A week or so I surfed around and went to a website to read an article and guess what, they had one of those annoying video ads playing in the (usually) top right side of the website instead of a normal banner/box.
    And it autoplayed with some loud annoying music and stuff, and then a second or two later it sounded like it was repeating over itself.
    For a moment I thought the browser was bugging out, but it turned out they had a second video ad a little further down that also autoplayed.
    So I was (not) enjoying the same video ad autoplayed twice with annoying music and slightly timeshifted.

    Not only did I turn on adblocking again for that site, but I avoid that site like the plague now.

    If ad publishers (youtube/websites/etc) and advertisers do not want people to use adblockers then they must make sure that their ads are not annoying or doing stupid shit to force people to see them (full page ads with continue links, unskippable ads, multiple videoads playing at once, autoplaying video ads).

    Also, I have no interest in female hygiene products.
    Why isn’t there a way for me to check a few boxes in my browser settings someplace so that I can let my browser tell a website (if it asks) for my ad profile rules?
    Example: g=male, age=27, t=games&technology&science, autoplay=no, videoads=no, skipable=yes, fullpage=no
    That way a site could (anonymously) ensure I do not get female targeted products but ensure I get game related ads for example.

    I’d happily fill out an ad profile in Firefox and Chrome and Opera and Edge if it meant I’d get less annoying and more targeted/interesting ads.
    I may not end up buying stuff (money doesn’t magically appear in my wallet after all), but I’ll at least not get pissed off at the ads and the way they are shown.

    • shiroax says:

      I don’t get why internet adds are a thing AT ALL. Even if by some wonder they hit and show you an add you might be interested in, does anybody click them? I mean, when after 83 billion herbal viagras, ladies from exotic area of the day want your d, lose weight fast, and some bullshit with a rotten banana (I have no idea what that is about) ads I see an ad for a mmorpg with anime graphics that seems kind of interesting there’s no way I’m going anywhere near it.

      How do internet ads make anybody any money?

      • “How do internet ads make anybody any money?”

        Simple answer:
        Those who display the ads (the website/ad publisher, i.e google or youtube) the advertisers loose money.

        Longer answer:
        I doubt they (advertisers) get the proper return (i.e. clicks. I think it’s called ROI or Return of Investment)
        So it’s probably more for brand or product recognition. So next time you poke around on ebay/amazon/local supermarket or see new stuff on steam or GOG then you’ll have a moment of recognition.
        It’s about attention. It’s the old saying “any press is good press even bad press” I call bullshit on that as we’ve seen horrible PR trainwrecks over the last few years in gaming. The advertising guys does not seem to get it yet (nor will they ever), everybody “think” they know how to do marketing, but few truly does.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      I’d happily fill out an ad profile in Firefox and Chrome and Opera and Edge if it meant I’d get less annoying and more targeted/interesting ads.

      Mostly because it’d never fly with the usual public that listen more to the drumbeats of the anti-profiling bloggers that think trying to make a name for themselves in “IT Security” is somehow going to be easier than writing code. (Not really; that’s an extreme exaggeration but seriously the marketing un-savvy won’t deal with it. If they see the browser fetch anything from doubleclick, they set their computer on fire. Not really, but it seems like it with the level “DON’T TRACK ME YOU DICKS” rhetoric that ramps up now and then, even though tracking you is how you get that nice experience, the relevant ads, the web searches that return the results you’d like on page 1 instead of page 3, etc.)

      You can get PRETTY CLOSE to that by cozying up to Google, keeping your G+ profile current and making sure you’re signed into the account with Chrome and then MOST of the ads that filter through Google’s engine will be a mix of stuff tailored to the page and to your preferences.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Although personally any ads aren’t going to be interesting to me as they’re trying to sell me something of one sort or another, and I’m not interested.
        If there’s something I do want, I’ll find it myself, and much more successfully.

  14. =David says:

    “Even though I’ve never played, I can – without further context – know that nonsense words like Snorlax, Zapdos, Spinda, Charizard, and Gengar are Pokemon while other made-up words like (say) Protoss, Vortigaunt, Sangheili, and Prothean aren’t.”

    …Yet.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    “Maybe I just connect with an unusually high number of Pokefans on social media. (Unlikely, given my age.)”

    Oh, Shamus, you’re being naive here. Pokemon fans exist for all ages. And I mean all. There are far older people than you who are fans. The games hold an amazingly wide spread of appeal: there’s the people who like the story, those who like the turn-based combat, those who like cute animals, those who like experimentation with variables, those who like number-crunchy stuff, those who like the ever-increasing array of different characters, those who like the competition options, those who like the creepy (and sometimes terrifying) undertones of the lore, etc.

    There really is something for everyone, except perhaps for the people who only play games when they have the latest in realistic graphics.

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