Diecast #139: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Rainbow Six Siege, The Witness

By Shamus
on Feb 1, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

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Hosts: Josh, Jacob, Shamus, Chris. Episode edited by Rachel.

Show notes:

0:00:50: Defense Grid 2

Protip: You can turn the dialog volume all the way down and play this as a plotless tower defense game. I feel bad about doing so, but damn does that dialog drag on.

0:13:05: Naval Action

0:19:50: Rainbow Six Siege


Link (YouTube)

0:27:05: Rise Of The Tomb Raider

It’s not that the story sucks, it’s that it gets too much focus. These mechanics are really strong, and I think the game should be more confident about leaving us to enjoy them for longer. Also, like I said the other day:

Having played a few more hours now, I’m pretty sure it’s a magical glowstick that turns itself off if there are dudes in the zone. It’s still bananas, but it’s a different kind of bananas than I first assumed.

0:44:18: The Witness

0:54:06: EA is “on a Journey” to Regain PC Gamer Trust

My column this week is also on this topic. But I’m sure you guessed that already.

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202020426 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Phobian says:

    I actually liked the voice in the original defense grid and I quite liked the story in DG2, but I felt like the mechanics didn’t live up to the polish of the first game. The changes they made to income ruined the feel of the game for me

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ubisoft is not the worst,because that title has been grasped by fuckonami.As for the second place,warner brothers has seriously thrown its glove in the game recently,with its batman and mortal kombat krap.

    • Nixitur says:

      AAA Ubisoft is pretty crap, true, but what I find extremely interesting about them is how Ubisoft has expanded beyond the AAA space.
      They make quirky budget titles like Child of Light, Grow Home and Valiant Hearts, all of which are something you’d expect from indie studios. Then, you also have Rayman Oranges and Legumes which were excellent 2D platformers and launched at 20 or 30 bucks.
      Yes, most of Ubisoft’s AAA titles are the same open-world game with different coats of paint, but it’s rather unfair to only consider those humongous games.

  3. Alex says:

    This has nothing to do with the Diecast episode, but I just wanted to bring it up:

    I have been playing Hitman: Blood Money recently and rewatching your Hitman: Absolution series over the same period, and yesterday I discovered the movie The Mechanic. Have you seen it? It’s pretty much the movie Hitman: Absolution wishes it could be.

    • Canthros says:

      Re: “The Mechanic”: the one with Charles Bronson, or the remake with Jason Statham? (I’ve only seen the latter and have never bothered with the Hitman games, but I figure the clarification may be valuable.)

      • Alex says:

        The remake. I wasn’t aware that Charles Bronson had made one previously. Jason Statham’s got a bit more hair than 47, but the intro is right out of Hitman: a carefully planned assassination made to look like an accident, timed to guard patrol routes, with multiple disguises used to infiltrate different layers of security.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Everyone else does crappy stuff is not a defense.

    And ea is not (one of the) worst because they are doing bad stuff with game,but because they are doing evil stuff to people:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2yjo3Q3LnM

  5. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    The whole ‘protect Lara Croft’ thing . . . I’ll admit, that hooked me at least in the last game. I’m not far into this one yet. But in my case, I think if it weren’t for that, if this were a guy in the same situations, I wouldn’t go for this at all. I don’t normally like modern games and characters quite this human.

    Although Lara Croft is still pretty superhuman in her own right. I’ve never seen anybody in real life in mid climb leap six feet vertically to catch the next ledge. Nor climb as long as she does. Between that and her survival sense she’s halfway to being Spiderman.

    But yeah, like Josh said, she’s much more characterized. I like the character they’re showing so far. A little obsessed.

    And I’ve found the way the character and the mechanics are set up that I actually want to play out Lara’s obsession with archaeology. Its clear that she’s the sort who will put consideration of survival and immediate danger aside to look at an archaeological find. Whereas in the last game it felt like she should be focused on saving herself and/or her friends and I skipped a lot of the side content.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    After kingdom rush,I cant play any tower defense games,because they simply lack something that that game has.

  7. boz says:

    Here is what EA has done so far. They acquired Westwood and killed all three C&C franchises. They acquired Bioware and destroyed that brand equity between DA2 and ME3 (to give an example they renamed two of their substudios as Bioware-X and Bioware-Y then promptly named them back to X and Y after ME3). They acquired Pandemic studios (makers of Battlefronts and Mercenaries 2(proto-Just Cause 2)) and shut that studio down. Simcity was close to a franchise killer compared to Cities: Skylines. KOTOR franchise is practically dead (to be fair Disney completely benching EU did help). Dead Space is dead, they wrote themselves into the same corner ME did.

    Practically speaking, EA is the darkspawn taint that’s corrupting and killing anything it touches.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      But its ok!Because there are new madden,fifa and nba games every year!With all updated players,no less!

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      I really don’t see why they couldn’t continue KOTOR and just let it be its own thing. Its far enough in the past anyway. Thats kind of the point of setting it 4000 years ago. There’s really no way they could accidentally blunder into a contradiction.

      Lets say the Force Awakens says “such and such is the strongest Jedi ever” but you know such and such is not as strong as some Jedi from KOTOR. You could just say they lost the records in the last 4000 years.

      Or if the force works differently in KOTOR, maybe something happened in the last 4000 years to change the rules a bit.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I feel like we’re never going to get a KOTOR 3 until the MMO dies. They’re still releasing new content for it, it’s hard to imagine the execs pointing Old Republic development at an entirely new game instead of trying to wring more money out of their MMO. After all, if the can get even half the audience that WOW does, they’re going to be rich!

        • Supah Ewok says:

          Bioware wanted to make an MMO. Securing the capital and support is probably a big reason why they let EA buy them up. And with their experience from the first KotoR and the cash cow that is Star Wars, it makes sense that that’s what EA would point them towards. There isn’t going to be a KotoR3, what we have is exactly what Bioware wanted to do.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Oh yeah, I didn’t mean to imply that the evil money-grubbing EA execs were steering Bioware away from their true dream of making D20-based RPGs, Bioware has execs and money-managers of its own. I meant that from a simple project management standpoint, it’s hard to convince any studio to make a pay-once KOTOR 3 rather than continuing MMO development.

    • Darren says:

      Bioware is struggling under EA, but you can see they’re trying so hard. DA2 had a lot of issues, but they still put their characters front and center and delivered a full experience. Then with Inquisition they didn’t just ignore DA2, but brought in characters from that game and had lots of references to it, even going so far as to allow Hawke to survive in some Trespasser endings (unlike the base game’s “he/she disappeared in Weisshaupt”). Inquisition wasn’t perfect, by any means, but in terms of the kind of game it was offering it was a far cry from the mass appeal franchise that EA has so clearly wanted it to be from day one (unless you think the Dudebros EA courts are really into LGBT characters, long sequences of costume drama at courtly balls, and min-maxing characters to fight dragons who won’t go down without real effort).

    • Starker says:

      “Practically speaking, EA is the darkspawn taint that’s corrupting and killing anything it touches.”

      Yeah, that’s the vibe I’ve been getting from them. They aren’t a moustache twirling cartoon villain like Konami (although Riccitiello’s idea of charging real money for virtual bullets brought them pretty close) and they aren’t making a mess of themselves like Ubisoft who’s like a puppy that brings your favourite sandals all chewed up and expects praise. EA is more of a cosmic horror with a reverse Midas touch.

  8. Dev Null says:

    EA is “on a Journey” to Regain PC Gamer Trust

    Wow. They’re going to have to back up a bit. Last time I remember trusting EA was in 1989, when Populous came out.

    Come to think of it, that may be the last time Peter Molyneux had a good game…

  9. Christopher says:

    I wish people had complained louder about the things that bothered me about Tomb Raider 2011, since they apparently listened to some of the other complaints. I wanted there to be more supernatural stuff, not just Russians and one melee-focused ancient human warriors-enemy. It’s unfair to ask them to be something they are not trying to be, but I think having a bunch of monsters to fight would both make the combat less tedious and lessen complaints that Lara is a mass-murderer. Nobody cares about killing Goombas, besides internet comedians. That Trinity is this excuse to have human mooks everywhere is my worst nightmare, when it would have been more interesting to have different mythologies’ monsters inhabiting different locales.

  10. Aspeon says:

    Maybe the The Witness section needs a spoiler warning? Part of the game is about learning the puzzle mechanics, and Chris does mention a few. (Granted, two of them are ones you’ll probably hit very early on.)

    There is more information about the backstory behind the island, but it’s buried very deep.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The island has a backstory? That’s surprising, the island felt about as artificial and videogamey as Tetris. You start by spawning in a dead end corridor whose only exit door is locked and leads to the island, you have to do solve twelve arbitrary puzzles to open a door to more arbitrary puzzles to turn on one of N lasers, and then there’s those shadow puzzles that only work because this is a videogame where the sun is a fixed point, moving with neither the hour nor the season.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        What I’m finding really weird about the game is the way it mixes obvious artificiality with natural decay. The sun is always shining from the same position in the sky, that’s true, but on the other hand some of the shadow-based puzzles have decayed over time, or been blocked off or bent by fallen trees. I got the weird sensation in the shadow section that the puzzle panels were actually a lot older than everything else around.

  11. John says:

    Are we really mad at EA for killing Origin? (I can’t be sure, but I think it may have been an assisted suicide rather than an out-and-out murder.) What have we really lost with Origin’s passing? Because we haven’t lost Ultima. Or if we did, it’s not EA’s fault. The Ultima brand is pretty much inseparable from Richard Garriot, to the point that no one can make a “real” Ultima game without him. But the last two single-player Ultima games he made were, according to everything that I have ever heard, not so good. So I rather think Richard Garriot killed Ultima. And I don’t think we lost Wing Commander because of EA either. Wing Commander died at about the same time as all the other space-sims. The last Wing Commander game (in this case, an expansion pack for Prophecy) was released in 1998. Freespace 2 was released in 1999, as was X-Wing Alliance.

    And, as Campster said, this all happened a very long time ago. I have a hard time believing that the mob of aggrieved gamers who voted EA America’s worst company twice did so because of EA’s treatment of a studio that released games that now mostly require DOSBox in order to play.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The last two ultima games were crap because of ea,tightening their shedule,forcing them to work on the multiplayer one instead of the half finished single player one(resulting in them having to start that one from scratch),etc.So it is definitely ea who killed ultima.

      Similar things happened with their other games made after the purchase.So they killed origin as well,by mismanaging the studio they bought until it became unprofitable for them to keep it open.

      • John says:

        Okay, so EA meddled. Publishers tend to do that. But did the meddling kill Origin or was Origin in trouble anyway? Because despite the reputation of the middle-ish games in the Ultima series, nothing I’m aware of in the rest of Richard Garriot’s career suggests that he is either a genius designer, a superb project manager, or an astute businessman. That’s my point.

        • boz says:

          But did the meddling kill Origin or was Origin in trouble anyway?

          I would have bought that defense if it were just 3 studios (i.e. coincidence). But between Maxis, Westwood, Bullfrog, Origin, Pandemic, Black Box (NFS guys) and Bioware; it’s kinda obvious that there is something wrong with EA’s meddling.

          • John says:

            I understand why the “EA kills studios” meme exists. You’re right; there’s a whole lot of circumstantial evidence. But consider this. When is a studio most likely to be bought by EA? I suspect it is either when the studio is in financial trouble or when the studio’s founders or owners want out. When is a studio most likely to be meddled with by EA? When the financial return on the studio’s product is doubtful or when the studio is in internal turmoil because, just for example, those responsible for the studio’s success in the past are no longer with the company. So does EA make bad decisions? Yes, sure. All the time, even. But in this particular matter I think their reputation is perhaps worse than they deserve.

            • Supah Ewok says:

              You’re still saying that EA is bad at studio management. Dropping the ball cuz one recently acquired studio was floundering or had its leads leave after the sale is one thing. It happening again and again and again is quite another. If your theory is true, it doesn’t make EA any more competent. You’re basically saying they repeatedly made the same multi-million dollar mistake over a half dozen times.

              Check out EA Spouse, I believe that happened around ’03 in EA’s heyday of corporate nomming. It really isn’t a stretch to say that the behavior toward their employees extended to their treatment of their studios. And there’s all sorts of reasons why a studio would sell out too: they could’ve been bought out through corporate wrangling, they could’ve wanted the financial backing for a certain big scale project (see Bioware and TOR), they could’ve just wanted to make sure they had a steady means of acquiring work. None of those scenarios require financial destitution to be plausible.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          But the games they did on their own were well received both by critics and average audiences.And they did make them enough money early on to squander later.So they went to ea to solve their business side problems.Instead,ea not only did not help their financial situation,they tanked the quality of their games as well.So yes,its the meddling that killed the studio.

    • Supah Ewok says:

      They also killed Westwood Studio and the multiple Command and Conquer lines it had in the mid-2000’s. Granted, RTS’s were on a bit of a down-swing there, but C&C was almost as big a name in RTS as Warcraft or Starcraft; if there was a non-Blizzard RTS that could still have turned a profit in those years and rode the resurgence that started with Starcraft 2, it would’ve been C&C. Edit: Just looked up the history. Westwood closed down in 2003, and EA had other C&C games developed up ’til a 2012 freemium browser game, a rather ignominious death. None of the later releases were as highly regarded as Westwood’s, and none are currently none to be in the works.

      Pandemic Studios were a member of the same holding company as Bioware, and were bought up along with them. Shut down 2 years later. This was 2007-2009.

      EA’s buying up and running studios to the ground is hardly ancient history. They have been an incredibly wasteful publisher propped up by a few meal ticket franchises like their sport games, and devs have paid the price. Granted, many of those studios made the decision to sell to EA, but I still think the greater responsibility lies with EA for dropping the ball on managing those studios once they had them.

    • Bubble181 says:

      Westwood -> C&C games
      Bullfrog -> Dungeon Keeper games
      Maxis -> SimCity games
      Origin -> Ultima games
      Bioware -> Mass Effect, Dragon Age, KOTOR games
      Mythic -> Dark Age of Camelot
      DICE -> Mirror’s Edge, Battlefield games

      For each you can make excuses or invent other reasons. None of them are *exactly* the same. In some cases, they wanted to be bought out. Fine. It’s still a track record of “buy developer with good game (series), run them horribly into the ground by mass producing them, pushing them out too fast, pushing P2W or “mobile” or “freemium” or “multiplayer” mechanics in there that didn’t belong.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        Is Mirror’s Edge dead? I thought a second one just came out.

      • John says:

        I’m not disputing that EA bought and closed a bunch of game studios. What I want to know is the following. Did EA’s actions somehow ruin the studios or were there problems in the studios themselves all along?

        • Taellosse says:

          There’s no way to know that short of talking to people who were in those studios at the times they were sold and later shuttered, and doing so would be difficult to impossible – most of the stuff that goes in inside game studios is either outright under NDAs or the sort of thing that one doesn’t want to talk about publicly for fear of damaging one’s future career.

          That said, when the same kind of thing happens over and over and over again, it is not merely reasonable to presume the one common element (EA as corporate owner) is the cause of the problem – it’s the overwhelmingly likely case. A few times over the course of multiple decades could be chalked up to coincidence, other factors, etc., but when it happens consistently across so many examples (others have enumerated the bigger ones, but EA has also bought other studios, large and small, in their time) – far more often than it does not – it becomes hard to argue coincidence convincingly.

          Perhaps more importantly, as Supah Ewok points out above, even if there were existing problems at EVERY studio EA has bought and later shut down, the fact that they failed to fix those problems in any of those cases still makes them bad at their job – spectacularly so, given the wealth of examples.

  12. Geebs says:

    Has there ever been a game in which the player character gets held up / captured in a cutscene by the actual cameraman? That would be a pretty cool fourth wall break.

  13. falselordzalzabar says:

    So what I’m hearing is that someone needs to just make a World War 1, trench warfare style tower defense game. In an age of warfare when dudes basically ran over empty fields to face an enemy directly that could easily be taken out by the right machine nest placement. Sounds like the tower defense genre would fit right in.
    Also a quick google search didn’t turn up anything.

  14. el_b says:

    the glowstick reminds me of sam fishers glowing goggles and back light, invisible in game but so you can see your character in the pitch blackness. in a game based on platforming its hard to tell where you, the handholds and the enemies are, but there was probably a much better way. she already has some kind of auspex/radar sense doesnt she?

  15. Paul Spooner says:

    So, I beat the puzzle screen part of The Witness, and I can confirm that there’s a strong religious theme running through it. Haven’t finished the… other… part of the game yet. In any case, it feels quite pretentious (which is basically J.Blow’s thing) but it’s well made enough that I’m willing to give a benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it’s actually profound and metaphorically true and all that.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      With most things I label pretentious, there’s a feeling that the thing is “trying to be deep”, instead of simply trying to do X where X happens to be deep. While I remain unconvinced that Blow isn’t full of incomprehensible artsy nonsense, I at least believe that it makes sense to him, which leads me to err on the side of “There’s something there, Blow is just [bad at/uninterested in] communicating it well.”

      I’m not sure what exactly has led me to this conclusion, maybe it’s the approach he took to explaining Braid when people were confused by it, or maybe it’s just the eccentric artist media persona.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        I do actually think that Braid is pretentious, because Blow added “depth” where it was neither necessary nor appropriate. The game does a really, really good job of subverting the “Save the Princess” archetype — World 1 is one of my favourite video game levels ever — but then he added all that nonsense about the atomic bomb? The game’s plot actually makes more sense if you turn it off before the “real” ending and ignore the bomb metaphor entirely.

    • silver Harloe says:

      I haven’t finished The Witness (or, more to the point, found all the audio logs and theater puzzles) but as near as I can tell, there’s no “writing” in the game – it’s all quotes and videos. All the quotes and videos are about god/science/connections, but none of it was originally for this game. So the text was curated rather than written. Dunno if that changes anything, just thought it worth a footnote.

    • Starker says:

      The quotes seem to all be about different kinds of inquiry, whether artistic, intellectual or spiritual. What drives us to find out things, how do we find out things and why does it matter? It looks at these questions from different perspectives and invites the player to contemplate them in an environment that itself requires you to look at things from different perspectives to reveal its secrets.

      Whether Blow succeeds in creating something deep and meaningful is up for debate but the game is honestly trying to reach a higher artistic level (as opposed to just throwing quotes at you in hope of seeming deeper than it is) and I don’t think it’s fair to condemn the game as pretentious simply for trying to do that.

  16. Ringwraith says:

    Counter-Strike rounds are actually two (and a half) minutes long, the actual competitive 5v5 games at least.
    Length-wise, the difference is that a competitive CSGO match is best of 30. Yes, 30. So the games have a maximum time of 90 minutes. They rarely get that far though, because success in prior rounds can give momentum for later ones, obviously either team getting to 16 ends it instantly, and rounds very rarely go to time.

    The only bad things people seem to have to say about Siege though is microtransaction nonsense, the full-game price tag, and the dodgy netcode, specifically the lag compensation.

    • Forty says:

      > So the games have a maximum time of 90 minutes. They rarely get that far though, because success in prior rounds can give momentum for later ones, obviously either team getting to 16 ends it instantly, and rounds very rarely go to time.

      Well, not exactly. First, if both teams win 15 rounds, there is a tie. Usually in competitive play this is resolved with overtime matches. So games can go longer than 90 minutes, but the teams must be very evenly matched.

  17. Hitch says:

    I’m older than Shamus and I remember the good old days of Electronic Arts. When it came to computer games Windows didn’t exist and the PC was not the only (or even the best) game in town. You had to do a lot or research before buying most games. Was it native to your computer or was it a port? With many companies buying a game for your Atari that was originally made for a Commodore was a crap shoot. Maybe it was decent, but most likely it was unsatisfactory junk. But those flat Electronic Arts album packages (as opposed to the boxes or ziplock bags of other companies) were a sign that you could confidently buy it. Because Electronic Arts took the time to make every version they sold as good as the hardware could handle.

    They’ll never earn back that kind of trust.

  18. Ringwraith says:

    Smash to black death screens do crop up, often with sound effects, in other games. The Last of Us has some particularly horrible sound effects if caught by a clicker, and Mirror’s Edge still has one of the most-wince inducing crunches if you fall off a building, during a black screen.
    Still effective in making you react, by mostly by your own imagination, and no-one had to animate it!

  19. Grimwear says:

    My first computer as a child was a Mac since our computer teacher at my elementary school pushed Macs like crazy so that’s what my mom got (this was early 90s). As such one of my first games was SimAnt. Not a terrible game by any means and I may have just been dumb but I could not figure out how to make male ants that could fly so I couldn’t migrate my colony to the house and not get destroyed by the lawn mower. Times like these you really appreciate the internet and all the vast wealth of knowledge it contains. Especially pertaining to ants and having them fly.

  20. Steve C says:

    Hey Diecast, have you heard about Ant Simulator?

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/ant-simulator-canceled-after-team-spends-the-money-on-booze-and-strippers-499697.shtml

    Sooooo Good Robot… everything good? And robot-y? ;-)

  21. Retsam says:

    Creeper World 3 is the only tower defense like game I’ve ever gotten into. It actually manages a fairly plausible explanation, since you’re not fighting waves of enemies, but waves of a liquid-like “creep”.

    The story wasn’t interesting, either, in that one; and it might lean more towards the “puzzle” approach, I’m not entirely sure.

  22. Ninety-Three says:

    I very much disliked The Witness, and hearing you (and everyone else in videogames) talk about it, I think my problem is that I am too much on its wavelength. Which is not to say that I’m a big ol’ genius, just that I happen to think in much the same way as Jonathan Blow. Playing the game I didn’t feel clever, most of the puzzles had the rote dullness of completing a particularly easy Sudoku. In the set of “Puzzles that don’t introduce new mechanics” I think I enjoyed less than five.

    Only a handful of puzzles had the “Aha!” moment where you figure out a new mechanic, and because of the very simple tutorial mode puzzles, it tended to be less “Aha!” and more “Oh, so it’s X? *Checks on next puzzle* Yep, X. Alright then, the black dots mean X.”

    Disclaimer: I played for about 90 minutes and solved 100 puzzles before giving up on the game. Maybe it gets better later but I wasn’t seeing it.

    Did anyone else have this problem, where the tutorial puzzles feel obvious, and the non-tutorial puzzles feel rote?

    • Aspeon says:

      I can see that. It’s the downside of the open-world model, that you can’t have a single difficulty curve but instead have to have a curve that starts from the beginning in each section. And the discrete sections really go from “tutorial” to “medium”, with anything harder hidden in out of the way places or later in the game.

      The hardest panels you can get to right now are on doors that are a little off the beaten path in various areas- there’s one near the exit to the tutorial area. Behind them are small rooms that contain a piece of paper with a path drawn on it.

    • Csirke says:

      I had completely the same feeling during my first ~90 minutes, then I decided to push a bit more into it after dinner… and ended up playing ’till 5AM. I guess I fell in love with the game somewhere in between.

      Yes, with the first few regions I found I could guess the potential twists ahead of time, but then the interesting puzzles became more common, for me at least.

      Now I’m at >500 puzzles done, and it’s starting to slow down a bit again, there’s a few where I’m not sure what I’m missing, and not much to do, but I’ve had a great (Steam says) 27 hours in there :)

  23. Chamomile says:

    I had to alt-tab out of Age of Mythology to write this post and let you know that yes, the Diecast is absolutely background ambiance for my gaming.

    Tangential, but if anyone hasn’t heard, Age of Mythology got a new expansion. Twelve years later. Yes, really.

  24. Galad says:

    45 euros is probably a bit too much for Rise of Tom Braider, but I’m still curious – how good/bad is the story? Is there more of the supernatural element, or more of the “human mooks” element?

  25. Taellosse says:

    I haven’t played the new Tomb Raider (waiting for the PS4 release), but is it possible the glowstick is actually one of those rod flashlights (like this)? I mean, strictly speaking she’d still have to manually turn it off when hiding, and I doubt the animations include such an action, but at least that would be more reasonable than a glowstick (which produce light through a chemical reaction that can’t be stopped once started, until the thing runs out) that can go dark whenever you’re hiding.

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