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Jason Dyer

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Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
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Gareth Rees (gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk) wrote:
: Jason Dyer <jd...@indirect.com> wrote:
: > One of my favorite non-Infocoms was Crypt. Why? Because absolutely
: > nothing was hidden. Every object was in plain sight, and you didn't
: > have to search every item and peer under every bed and move every
: > painting.
: The best reason for having hidden objects is that it is necessary for
: some objects to be hidden for the plot to be convincing. A murderer
: would hardly leave the murder weapon in plain sight; people don't leave
: their treasures lying around on the floor; and secret doors wouldn't be
: secret if they were plainly visible!

I seem to remember mentioning that once, but erasing it and forgetting to
say it again, but yes, it is true.

: I also feel that some mechanism is needed to slow down the player's
: progress, by forcing them to solve puzzles to gain access to rooms and
: objects. When presented with too many things to do at once, too many
: places to go, I find that I lose interest in a game. Hidden objects are
: a very easy way to do this. But I agree with you that it can sometimes
: be just a lazy way to avoid having to think of interesting puzzles.

This is obviously simply a difference of opinion, I love having lots of
stuff to do and places to go. I get bored when I run out. :)

: Really major "Theatre" spoilers follow:
: Theatre's hidden objects are eminently fair, I think. I'm not quite
: sure which secret door you mean, but all three secret doors are very
: strongly clued:

The one I couldn't figure out the verb for was the one you mentioned as
being slightly harder; it was annoying in that it was blatantly obvious
that secret door was here, but I couldn't hit upon the right verb to find
it. But really, the most unfair secret object I've come across was in
Curses, and I think everyone who has played knows about it. (two,
actually, although for some reason people don't have a
problem with the second one; I thought it was unfair because it was
hidden in an object in the description, and most of the time you couldn't
refer to the objects in the description at all.)
I'm not saying I'm right here, but just keep it in mind.

--
Jason Dyer - jd...@indirect.com

Jim Newland

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Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
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>>The best reason for having hidden objects is that it is necessary for
>>some objects to be hidden for the plot to be convincing.

This is absolutely correct, IMO. In fact, the nature of the story
itself may be such that it is necessary for most or all important
objects to be hidden. In a story set in the "real world," lacking
supernatural agents, magic, etc. and/or where an abundance of secret
doors, jealous animals/monsters guarding their treasure, and so on
would seem ridiculous and contrived, the whole point of the thing may
lie in forcing the player to puzzle out what to look for and then where
the objects might be located. A detective, for instance, given certain
obvious clues to get him/her started, must generally use his/her wits
and intellect to get to the bottom of the crime; it's not usually the
case (at least in the best classical detective mysteries) that most or
even much of the evidence is found sitting in the middle of a room,
crying "Here I am. Take me." Besides, even if one were to argue that
this is the best route to take *for a game*, what you will usually end
up with in the end is a hell of a lot of work being disposed with in 10
minutes by the player, since the evidence must finally point, more or
less clearly, to the culprit, or the whole effort will have been a
failure anyhow. If it's all there for the taking, and there are no
contrived obstructions (or a painfully linear plot) designed to slow
the player down, it will become simply a matter of taking everything,
"adding them up," and solving the crime.

But it should be added that this may be, in the end, also largely a
matter of taste. I am a huge fan of "Spellbreaker" and "Beyond Zork,"
which both were large and complex and capable of being put into an
insoluble state. As a consequence, they are the two "milieus" which I
have the strongest and fondest memories of, since I spent the most time
in them and came to know all of their objects and characters in
intimate detail. Granted, they did not rely much on hidden objects
(an exception: the scroll in the zipper, which was one of the most
satisfying, if aggravating, discoveries I ever made in an i-f game),
but the effect was the same: they made the player sweat. I, for one,
simply prefer that kind of challenge.

Jim Newland
76461...@compuserve.com

Jason Dyer

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Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
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There has been a number of things bothering me lately about interactive
fiction, partly because I think in some ways I think what Whizzard says
in his guides is wrong, and some things I've never seen mentioned at all,
so I'm writing it down here. I haven't done much grammar or spell checking,
but I'm not making this for official purposes or anything.

Section 1: Secrets and Hidden Things

One of my favorite non-Infocoms was Crypt. Why? Because absolutely nothing
was hidden. Every object was in plain sight, and you didn't have to search

every item and peer under every bed and move every painting. Even though I
know this opinion is unusual, I still feel that interactive fiction authors
have the tendancy to overuse the hidden. I'll use Theatre as a case in point.
On one object where I KNEW there was a secret door, I still couldn't find
it after trying about 20 different verbs of every variety. I finally hit
upon the right manipulation, but I would hardly call it fun. Sometimes the
hidden passage or thing is fine, if it is done right; for example, if
it doesn't involve being insanely concerned about checking everything for
hidden levers, but rather, as an example, noticing that the dimensions of
a house on a plan are 5 inches too short in comparison with the actual house.
Curses would be my favorite game except for several annoying
points where something was hidden under or over something and I had to
ask for help just because I wasn't thourough enough in my searching.
The basic rule of thumb is this: if an object is hidden merely for the
sake of making the game harder/longer, don't do it. If it is instead a
rather nice puzzle that requires observation of easily apparent facts
instead of examining every object in the entire game, it is okay.

Section 2: The Fun Factor

Actually, I still like to use the term "text adventure" and only
use the term "interactive fiction" because that seems to be the fashion
these days. It's supposed to be a fun game, not necessarily a deep story
with a plot. If you can have a plot along the way, fine, but the important
thing to remember is to never bore the audience. Always keep them
entertained. If this means stretching reality a bit, go right ahead.
Toss a few random events around to keep things interesting. Make interesting
responses to all sorts of inane inputs, like the many different ways
ZORK simply responds to the command JUMP. "You jump on the spot,
fruitlessly"?
I'm sure all of you can do better than that. I was absolutely delighted
when I did a SCREAM in Sherlock, and, instead of the usual "You can't do
that"
that I expected I got:

>scream
The idea of the primal scream as a technique to relieve anxiety will not be
discovered for eighty years. But if it makes you feel better, go right
ahead.

Always give lots of interesting things to do if you have a particularly
stumping puzzle. Give something to explore, always, even if it isn't
important to the game.

Section 3: Room Descriptions

After reading Whizzard's guide, if you believe it all, you will think that
you must always be as descriptive as possible. One of the most memorable
rooms I ever have come across is:

Round Room
This is a circular room with passages in all directions. Several have
unfortunately been blocked by cave-ins.

Why is this memorable? I'm not sure, but even though the description is
minimal the Round Room is one that I could always picture very well. In
fact, many games have rooms with little description that do fine. The key
here is not necessarily sensory overload, but simply a nice feel. This is
hard to describe, but if you have to work at reading the room description,
it is too overdone. The best room description I've come up with so far,
in a game I am working on at the moment is:

Star Plateau
A flat plain of black sand sprouts dark obelisks reaching to the sky.
The sky itself is a mixture of stars, real and unreal--fractal images
along with glowing dots glow softly together. Two portals, black
voids in the landscape, are to the north and south.

Even though it does take more than a second to read, it doesn't feel, when
actually playing the game, that is is written. The part of the writer feels
overtaken by the description. That's what makes the Round Room stick in
my mind: persistent memory, yet seamless. I'm still working hard myself
on this one, it takes me ten rewrites before a room description of mine
"feels" right.

Section 4: Hints

One of the most interesting, and promising, hint systems of all times was
used only once. It was in the Original Adventure. Few people know about it,
because they play distorted versions of the original with ports of the game
rather than the real thing. It's like if a few lines were dropped off every
play Shakesphere ever wrote: still basically the same, but something missing.
If you do a port, do it right! (sorry, getting sidetracked, now back to
the subject)

If you seemed to be stuck on a certain section, the game would offer help.
As a simple example

IF YOU PREFER SIMPLY TYPE N RATHER THAN NORTH

was displayed if you typed a direction in full a few times. Also, if you
appeared to be stuck on a puzzle, for example, trying to take the bird in
ten different ways and still not getting it, the game would offer help at
a price, without the player ever typing "HINT". Sadly, this sort of thing
never again appeared in a game (at least that I know of) and it would do
wonders in making the entire experience feel seamless.

Also used has be the type of system where you are only displayed the hints
that you need for how far you are into the game. The problem is, I have yet
to see an interactive fiction that does this right; inevetibly, there will
be a question the player has that will not appear in the hint system. If
all the hints are displayed, this is much less a problem.

Another interesting system was in T-Zero, where you were simply asked
"Do you want a hint?" if you typed HINT and if you said yes you got a hint
for whatever room or phase of a puzzle you were in.

Even though these types of hints are all adequate, they all suffer from
the vague hint syndrome. They expect the player who, after trying to rack
his brain on what exactly was meant by the last hint, for the player's brain
to miraculously figure it out. Oftentimes, when you are stuck, YOU ARE STUCK.
Even if it seems very obvious with a certain hint, your mind may run on a
different track than your players'. ALWAYS eventually have a outright plain
as day answer in your hint system, because yes, some people can be stupid
sometimes, including me.

Gareth Rees

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Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
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Jason Dyer <jd...@indirect.com> wrote:
> One of my favorite non-Infocoms was Crypt. Why? Because absolutely
> nothing was hidden. Every object was in plain sight, and you didn't
> have to search every item and peer under every bed and move every
> painting.

The best reason for having hidden objects is that it is necessary for


some objects to be hidden for the plot to be convincing. A murderer
would hardly leave the murder weapon in plain sight; people don't leave
their treasures lying around on the floor; and secret doors wouldn't be
secret if they were plainly visible!

I also feel that some mechanism is needed to slow down the player's


progress, by forcing them to solve puzzles to gain access to rooms and
objects. When presented with too many things to do at once, too many
places to go, I find that I lose interest in a game. Hidden objects are
a very easy way to do this. But I agree with you that it can sometimes
be just a lazy way to avoid having to think of interesting puzzles.

> I'll use Theatre as a case in point. On one object where I KNEW there


> was a secret door, I still couldn't find it after trying about 20
> different verbs of every variety.

Really major "Theatre" spoilers follow:



Theatre's hidden objects are eminently fair, I think. I'm not quite
sure which secret door you mean, but all three secret doors are very
strongly clued:

* The "plastered over southern wall" is explicitly revealed in the plans,
and any of "break wall", "kick wall", "hit wall", "attack wall" worked
for me.

* The coat-hooks are the only object in the cloakroom, so it is natural to
examine them, producing the response "One hook stands out from the
others because it is a lot cleaner, having no cobwebs over it.", after
which the puzzle could not be simpler. It is also clued in the journal
that there is a secret passage in the cloakroom.

* The painting is perhaps the most difficult, but if you guess or
realise that objects in the painting can be examined, you type "examine
door", producing the response "The painted oaken door is
closed. Actually the door is very realistic. It is almost as if you
could reach out and touch it." Then typing "touch door" produces "It
feels very real. It feels as if you could just open it."

--
Gareth Rees

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jul 26, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/26/95
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jd...@indirect.com (Jason Dyer) writes:
> it. But really, the most unfair secret object I've come across was in
> Curses, and I think everyone who has played knows about it.

I don't. I mean, I've finished the game, but which object do you mean?

> (two,
> actually, although for some reason people don't have a
> problem with the second one; I thought it was unfair because it was
> hidden in an object in the description, and most of the time you couldn't
> refer to the objects in the description at all.)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

russ...@wanda.pond.com

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Jul 26, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/26/95
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In article <Ek5a0b200...@andrew.cmu.edu>,

Andrew C. Plotkin <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:
}jd...@indirect.com (Jason Dyer) writes:
}> it. But really, the most unfair secret object I've come across was in
}> Curses, and I think everyone who has played knows about it.
}
}I don't. I mean, I've finished the game, but which object do you mean?

The battery, I suppose. I didn't find it all that unfair -- as soon
as I realized I couldn't search the insulation, I knew where the
battery was :-)

}> (two,
}> actually, although for some reason people don't have a
}> problem with the second one; I thought it was unfair because it was
}> hidden in an object in the description, and most of the time you couldn't
}> refer to the objects in the description at all.)

There's a lot like that throughout Infocom games, as well as Curses.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com russ...@his.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Mark Green

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Jul 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/27/95
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In article <3v37d1$j...@globe.indirect.com>
jd...@indirect.com "Jason Dyer" writes:

> Gareth Rees (gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk) wrote:
> : Jason Dyer <jd...@indirect.com> wrote:

> : > One of my favorite non-Infocoms was Crypt. Why? Because absolutely


> : > nothing was hidden. Every object was in plain sight, and you didn't
> : > have to search every item and peer under every bed and move every
> : > painting.

> problem with the second one; I thought it was unfair because it was
> hidden in an object in the description, and most of the time you couldn't
> refer to the objects in the description at all.)

It does rather annoy me to have to go around just typing a search command
in all possible locations to try and find vital items. The problem is,
that usually this is further an excuse for puzzles that are blindingly
obvious once you have the object that solves them.
Another two pet hates... objects that only appear if you stand around in a
room for a given time, and objects that are only hidden behind the parser.
If you frequently get failure messages, or "that's not something.."s when
looking at objects mentioned in some descriptions, it's not fair to have
one or two objects that are mentioned in descriptions and not explicitly
highlighted which you CAN pick up and refer to straight off.
For the record, I rather liked the secrets in "Theatre", since they
actually took a bit of thought to spot rather than just search commands.
My only major problem was with the very last puzzle; after finally making
a good guess at what had happened in order to get me where I was, I kept
trying various things, and getting some surreal and confusing quotes from
other characters, until I just gave up and started lobbing everything in
sight at Liz until I hit the right object :)

Mg

PS. Mind you, I'm not too overjoyed about the *ultra* secret room in
Theatre.. especially given the somewhat dodgy nature of its contents. :) :)
--

Jason Dyer

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Jul 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/27/95
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Andrew C. Plotkin (erky...@CMU.EDU) wrote:
: jd...@indirect.com (Jason Dyer) writes:
: > it. But really, the most unfair secret object I've come across was in
: > Curses, and I think everyone who has played knows about it.

: I don't. I mean, I've finished the game, but which object do you mean?

spoilers below
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
The trapdoor with the box hidden. I suppose if you have the right frame
of mind you might think of closing the trapdoor to check for hidden
objects, but the thought would never come to me (at least before I
played it) in a hundred years. I mean, who attaches boxes to the
top of trapdoors? Something like a note attached to a regular door
would make sense, but a box? At least it should of said something
when you EXAMINEd the trapdoor when open, like "It seems to be stuck
on something" or something of that sort.

russ...@wanda.pond.com

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Jul 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/28/95
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In article <806859...@antelope.demon.co.uk>,

Mark Green <Ma...@antelope.demon.co.uk> wrote:
} For the record, I rather liked the secrets in "Theatre", since they
}actually took a bit of thought to spot rather than just search commands.
}My only major problem was with the very last puzzle; after finally making
}a good guess at what had happened in order to get me where I was, I kept
}trying various things, and getting some surreal and confusing quotes from
}other characters, until I just gave up and started lobbing everything in
}sight at Liz until I hit the right object :)

I liked the last puzzle-- the one that ticked me off was the extremely
hidden room
Spoiler
backstage, where the old locker was.

Phil Goetz

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Jul 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/28/95
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In article <3v1u13$1...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>,

Dan Shiovitz <scy...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>>Section 1: Secrets and Hidden Things
>>
>One thing under one bed is okay. Something under
>every bed is not.

No, no, no! If even ONE item is hidden, without a clear hint in the game
as to what and where, then the player has to search EVERY OBJECT IN THE
GAME! Argh! I hate that. Sorry.

Phil
go...@cs.buffalo.edu

Greg Ewing

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Jul 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/28/95
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In article <3v276r$n...@agate.berkeley.edu>, whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:

|> >too often, is my view. One thing under one bed is okay. Something under
|> >every bed is not.

Actually, something under every bed wouldn't be bad at all.
What's a pain in the butt is 50 beds with something under
two or three, so that you go nuts typing "look under bed"
every time you meet a bed, for very little reward...

|> <_______________________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Dan Shiovitz

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Jul 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/28/95
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In article <3v9kqn$s...@azure.acsu.buffalo.edu>,

Phil Goetz <go...@cs.buffalo.edu> wrote:
>In article <3v1u13$1...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>,
>Dan Shiovitz <scy...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>>>Section 1: Secrets and Hidden Things
>>>
>>One thing under one bed is okay. Something under
>>every bed is not.
>No, no, no! If even ONE item is hidden, without a clear hint in the game
>as to what and where, then the player has to search EVERY OBJECT IN THE
>GAME! Argh! I hate that. Sorry.
Sorry, looking back I see I wasn't very clear. What I meant to say was that
too many items hidden like this are a pain. Ideally, there shouldn't be
anything hidden without a clue; if you feel the need to stick a dollar bill
under the bed with no hints, don't do it too often.

>Phil
>go...@cs.buffalo.edu
--

------------------------------------------------+--------------
The Grim Reaper ** scy...@u.washington.edu |
Dan Shiovitz ** sh...@cs.washington.edu | Aude
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | Sapere
_Music of the Spheres_ : Coming Nov '95 |
------------------------------------------------+--------------

lbu...@compusmart.ab.ca

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Jul 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/30/95
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SPOILERS!

The hidden objects in curses are definatley frustrating, i would agree.
The one that got me was the gold key. Ok, so you're on the balcony, and
theres nothing here. That "look under" thing is really frustrating. There
should have been a "glint of light" or something.


Gareth Rees

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Jul 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/30/95
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lbu...@compusmart.ab.ca wrote:
> The hidden objects in `Curses' are definitely frustrating.

Something worth bearing in mind with modern adventure games is that
almost every room in a game has some point to it. If you've visited a
room and done nothing there, then that should be a clue in itself that
there might be something you're missing.

I agree, `Curses' is hard, but I don't think it would be so enjoyable if
the solution to everything were handed to the player on a plate.

--
Gareth Rees

Julian Arnold

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Jul 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/30/95
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lbu...@compusmart.ab.ca wrote:

There was no glint of light, but the precise dimensions and positions of the
window sill and the balcony were explicitly given in a paragraph of their
own. This should be sufficient indication that further examination is
required, and once you know where to look `LOOK UNDER SILL' becomes fairly
obvious I think.

--
Jools
jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk

Andrew Clover

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Jul 31, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/31/95
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lbu...@compusmart.ab.ca wrote:


> The hidden objects in curses are definatley frustrating, i would agree.
> The one that got me was the gold key. Ok, so you're on the balcony, and
> theres nothing here. That "look under" thing is really frustrating.
> There should have been a "glint of light" or something.

The key was really a case of adventure gaming convention: as soon as you
got the 'x feet off the ground' message, you immediately 'look under',
despite the fact that you could surely see it from the balcony anyway!
Anyway, there /has/ to be something there, considering the effort needed to
reach the room.

I thought the trapdoor puzzle was a much cleverer and more satisfying
puzzle precisely because it's not the sort of thing adventure gamers
automatically do, and it's reasonably realistic too - there's quite likely
to be something under a trapdoor opened earlier in an attic as untidy as
Curses'. Eminently fair. :-)

No, what got me was the way to wake up from the dream in Alison's room.
Huh. And I didn't know you had to close the coffin to get it to work.

BCNU, AjC

--
Vfa'g ebg-guvegrra er-nyyl tb'bq? fnvq Cthulhu.

London David

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Jul 31, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/31/95
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In article <GDR11.95J...@ouse.cl.cam.ac.uk> gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk
(Gareth Rees) writes:
>lbu...@compusmart.ab.ca wrote:
>> The hidden objects in `Curses' are definitely frustrating.
>
>Something worth bearing in mind with modern adventure games is that
>almost every room in a game has some point to it. If you've visited a
>room and done nothing there, then that should be a clue in itself that
>there might be something you're missing.
>
Amen to that! In fact, one of the problems I have with some of the
"university-based" games is that there are too many rooms. In their efforts to
recreate their university, the authors of some of these games make them boring.
It may be kind of fun for someone who sent to the university to see familiar
places in an adventure game, but for the rest of us, it's just excess baggage.

David London

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