What exactly are we making here?

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Aura
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Aura » Mon Aug 09, 2010 5:50 pm

Well in a way I agree that certain elements combined with a VN-like narrative definitely can and will define the product as a non-VN to me too, just like Hive. Gadget Trial does not register as a VN to me at all for example. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the recent developments and trends in the OELVN scene that basically ignited this whole thing, but the discussion can also be reversed to ask the question: if you bolt additional crap onto a VN, at what point does it stop being a VN? (from this it's perhaps easier to see why we wanted to define a "visual novel")
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Juno » Mon Aug 09, 2010 6:26 pm

Maybe when the substantial bulk of the experience is focused towards anything but reading a story. :?:

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Buzz » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:32 pm

I've only ever seen that people PLAYED Katawa Shoujo ; I've never seen any article, blog or forum post that stated that someone READ KS.

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by G3n0c1de » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:38 pm

Buzz wrote:I've only ever seen that people PLAYED Katawa Shoujo ; I've never seen any article, blog or forum post that stated that someone READ KS.
True, with "KS" and "the game" being used interchangeably by most of us on the forums.
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Bara » Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:46 pm

G3n0c1de wrote:
Buzz wrote:I've only ever seen that people PLAYED Katawa Shoujo ; I've never seen any article, blog or forum post that stated that someone READ KS.
True, with "KS" and "the game" being used interchangeably by most of us on the forums.
Actually, no I consider KS to be a reading experience. I've made plenty of posts in the past voicing my opinion that without the foundation of good writing all the artwork and music will be much less effective. I prefer to say storytelling to avoid confusing people with flashbacks of having been forced to read Moby Dick and The Red Bage of Courage (pick whatever "Great works of Lit-ah-rah-ture" your local school board decided to force down uninterested kids throats.).
At core, I consider novelists entertainers. If their stuff doesn't entertain me I don't throw any coins their way; those who do entertain me I hunt down their publishing schedules for upcoming work.

Either "play' or "read" is fine by me to use. How it is described in casual speech doesn't change my enjoyment of KS.

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by WetCrate » Mon Aug 09, 2010 11:05 pm

A lot of "But I view xxxxxxx..." going on here, and I don't think that's very useful. I could say that I view KS as a crossword puzzle, but it doesn't mean anything. Similarly, "I hear KS called a fish," means little.

Really, what (I think) people are trying to figure out is: what exactly IS a VN, and (perhaps in an unrelated question) what is KS? Not "what are people calling KS?" and not "How have VNs failed to live up to your expectations?" Some have hit on the fact that a VN is a new form of entertainment, not entirely related to its nomenclature. It is "visual" in the way that anything is visual, in that you use your eyes. It is a "novel" in that it tells some sort of a story.

Focusing too much on the name is pointless, because it's just a name. An RPG (as the term is used by the majority of the video game industry) is not truly a Role-Playing Game. You don't get to create your own character, you don't get to choose how to act in any given situation, you don't get to affect the story in any significant way. Sure, there are aberrations there -- I am specifically thinking of games with multiple endings, or games that allow character customization to a degree -- but by and large "RPGs" focus on linear and cliched plots, pre-defined characters and cute mascot characters for some reason. You're not playing a role; you're advancing the story and leveling up to 99. RPGs are, in a sense, more like "visual novels" than some of the VNs being discussed.

So forget the name. It's just a name. VNs could be called Rocks.

So what are VNs? Not "what do you think they should be?" but "what are the games called VNs, by and large?" Aura and others have touched on how personal views can affect classification. I mentioned that calling an X a fish doesn't mean anything. We can't rely solely on how people view something. Views can change, and indeed do -- quite frequently, as it turns out. Not to mention that it doesn't really matter how many people call my left foot a tuna fish sandwich; it's not delicious, and has nothing to do with sea life. There has to be some sort of concrete definition, independent of how people view a thing.

So who gets to decide that? Well, the first people that make something seem to get to name it. One time, a guy made some furniture and called it a chair. So "a wooden object consisting of a flat portion, suspended off the ground no more than two feet by four wooden stakes, and a curved back portion also made of wood" became "chair." Then other people came along and made other furniture. They weren't "chairs" as defined. Would they get their own names? Of course not. It's ridiculous to have a name for every single different thing in the entire universe; regardless of convenience, it's simply impossible to give everything its own name. The different permutations of letters (in English) would quickly reach unwieldy lengths. So "chair" became something along the lines of "a piece of furniture intended primarily for sitting."

Without subjecting you to my absurd and roundabout thought process, it seems that definitions have two parts, and two functions: a definition is
A.) how people view a thing (A chair is something used by people to sit); and
B.) how a thing's creator expects it to be used (A chair is a piece of furniture built explicitly for sitting).
You can use a table for sitting, and you can build a chair-shaped shelf. There has to be some agreement between the two parts for a thing to be called a "chair."
Definitions also serve as descriptors to viewers and creators. They
C.) inform a person about an object without having to view it ("Chair" =/= "Hideous, beaked monstrosity which hungers for blood"); and
D.) guide crafters in creating objects (If I call something a "chair," people are going to expect to be able to sit).

So. Now that I've cemented my place as a pretentious asshole: what are VNs?

Regardless of how you view True Love, or KS, or whateverelse you're thinking of, most "VNs" have been crafted as story-delivery devices with the following characteristics:
  • semi-linear plot
  • well-defined characters
  • limited interaction with characters
  • limited ability to affect the plot
  • one (or more) "success" paths
  • one (or more) "failure" paths
  • interaction that takes the form of choosing words for the main character, actions for the main character, or both
  • art
  • music
Additionally, when people think of "VNs", they (according to what I've read in this forum and in other places) expect:
  • (the above points)
  • nude ladies and/or gentlemen
So I don't see what the problem here is. You're agreeing with one another, and then starting a new conversation about (as Aura put it) "if you bolt additional crap onto a VN, at what point does it stop being a VN?"

I would love to see VNs go a more complex route: let people have much more control about who the Main Character is, by crafting (to a certain degree, through pre-determined questions and metrics) him/her; give several different interchangeable plots, so that users can have a greater degree of freedom; hold people responsible for the characters they create by punishing deviations from that character's personality; create a world in which users can immerse themselves, instead of picking a high school and throwing in some ancillary characters. I want to see a VN that lets the user really play, where 100% completion is a damn huge ordeal, where problems are solved and new ones created, and the user is affected as if he/she were actually in the game world. In short, I want VNs to be role-playing experiences.

Would these be VNs? Yes, in the same way a square is a rectangle; it would be a VN, but more. That's fine. It can do that. Definitions can change and expand, and new genres can be created.

Man whatever. I forgot what I was even talking about.

Is it a game? Sure. It has a set of rules, an objective scoring rubric, and victory conditions. Is it a novel? Sure. It has exposition, rising action, climax, and denouement. It can be both.

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by EternalLurker » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:47 am

Without personally getting too much into this discussion that is growing increasingly meta and thus increasingly less useful, I should just remind people that many VNs don't have choices at all. An example with which many people in this forum are familiar is Narcissu. This invalidates some of the VN-defining criteria that have been suggested thus far. More relevantly, it invalidates many of the comparisons to games which people have been making for the genre. Most relevantly, I do believe (after an admittedly brief skim) that it kinda kills the bottom half of the above post.

Actually, history question here: were choices more or less common when the VN genre was young? They'd be a good example of, as mentioned previously, "tacking on new things to VNs and still calling them VNs" if the latter is the case.

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Aura » Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:16 am

VNs have evolved from dating sims, choices seem to have been the norm probably since the beginning. Not to say that a choiceless VN ever was some revolutionary idea (though VA/KEY almost managed to market them as one), rather that they've always been in the minority.
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Goldilurks » Tue Aug 10, 2010 4:08 am

I'd be curious as to the dev's thoughts on stuff like Coma. It's not a VN, I understand, but it hits like half of the list WetCrate just gave and could have easily hit more with a little expansion. Do you think "analog" VNs (say, Hard Rain) and/or immersion games (which I'd use to refer to Coma) will ever compete with text-based, "digital" VNs over the same genres and stories? Or do you suspect there's not enough overlap?

I for one would play the hell out of KS with a Hard Rain engine. (Now I'm wondering if you could do a VN in Source...)
("Chair" =/= "Hideous, beaked monstrosity which hungers for blood")
Depends, I've seen some shitty models coming out of Home Depot.
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by valderman » Tue Aug 10, 2010 4:53 am

I'm not sure how familiar you are with the recent developments and trends in the OELVN scene that basically ignited this whole thing, but the discussion can also be reversed to ask the question: if you bolt additional crap onto a VN, at what point does it stop being a VN? (from this it's perhaps easier to see why we wanted to define a "visual novel")
Not familiar at all, but I think Juno and WetCrate nailed it.
WetCrate wrote:<lots of interesting commentary snipped for brevity>

Would these be VNs? Yes, in the same way a square is a rectangle; it would be a VN, but more. That's fine. It can do that. Definitions can change and expand, and new genres can be created.

Man whatever. I forgot what I was even talking about.

Is it a game? Sure. It has a set of rules, an objective scoring rubric, and victory conditions. Is it a novel? Sure. It has exposition, rising action, climax, and denouement. It can be both.
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Identikal » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:25 pm

Buzz wrote:I've only ever seen that people PLAYED Katawa Shoujo ; I've never seen any article, blog or forum post that stated that someone READ KS.
You obviously need to look harder, because hundreds of people have used the word "read" to describe their experience with KS.

If we're going to quibble about semantics, this bears mention: Just because someone used the word "played" does not make something a game. Let's turn to Planetarian as an example, shall we?

A number of people have used the word "played" to describe their experience with Planetarian.(People also use the present and present-progressive forms of the word as well. However, Planetarian is not a game by the traditional metric of the word: Planetarian has no branching paths, and the player (ooh, there's that word again) does not interact with the story at all. In fact, the only way in which the player interacts with Planetarian is by clicking to view the next page of text, and this level of interactivity does not make Planetarian a game any more than War and Peace is a game by virtue of the fact that the reader gets to decide when to turn the page and begin reading the next page of text.

Just because hundreds of people on the internet use the word "play" to describe their experience with a work does not mean that it is a game.

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by TheHivemind » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:59 pm

Jesus, I'm out of it for a little while and the discussion runs away for me. Too much stuff to respond to (and a lot of it has already been responded to), so I'll just cherrypick a few points that are floating about and seeming like they're still worth poking at.
valderman wrote:Fair enough, let's reword it: if someone were to define a VN as "an electronic story told using text, images and sound, requiring non-trivial user interaction," it would still be as valid as Hivemind's definition for the reasons previously outlined. Now, I wouldn't agree with that definition as I indeed think that non-trivial user interaction is not necessary for a VN, but if someone were to espouse that opinion it would be no less valid than Hivemind's.
Okay, now we're talking! You've got a good definition here, apart from the non-trivial user interaction part. In fact, if we go all the way back to my own definition, you've pretty much said exactly what I did--'A standalone form of electronic literature (that is, not requiring the internet), characterized by a combination of text and sprites, photographs, or animation to tell stories (i.e. a visual element combined with text to tell a story)'.

I left out music though and made it clear that you don't necessarily need the internet, because I wanted to allow for the possibility of VNs without music which aren't hosted online (although there are some being hosted online as I pointed out in a previous post). The best way to keep a format from being muddied is to ensure that it's pretty broadly defined in the first place. The definition gives anyone approaching a VN plenty of stuff to work with, but I will continue to say that you create something new by adding more game elements to it! I guess I should also make it clear that this isn't a bad thing, nor does the new format 'kill' the old format--this isn't like replacing your VHS with DVD, after all. Computers make it difficult to talk about things like formats when so many of them can exist simultaneously (there are still text-based adventure games being made, after all). A theoretical 'new' format that takes bits of VNs and bits of games and throws them in a blender would probably wind up being a lot more like a game than a VN though, because a general rule for game design is that plot is gameplay's bitch. Once you say that you are making a game you have to be sure that the rules all make sense and the mechanics are not lousy, and if you bog things down with too much exposition it won't flow nicely enough and your players will get frustrated and leave. It is certainly the reason I've never bothered to complete Metal Gear Solid Four!

If an author/designer/whatever makes a VN, that means he doesn't have to worry about people saying 'I would have liked to be able to drive through the countryside or maybe customize my character so he wasn't such a pansy' when he was trying to tell a story about a young pansy finding his courage and rescuing a princess or whatever-the-fuck. There's a larger amount of authorial control in this format that a different format (say an open RPG like Fallout or Planescape: Torment) that lets you either be a coward and sneak around to move the plot or savagely kill those who stand in your way, or maybe just be nice to everyone in the hopes that they will become your friends! Writing for a game means you have to account for a lot more freedom on the user's end, whereas if we want Hisao to always be kind of depressed about his disability we can do that. The reader of KS can't make Hisao suddenly not worried about his heart disease, nor can they make him become a great artist--because we didn't write a story where Hisao is totally okay with having heart disease and also the second coming of Van Gogh.

But a new format is a cool thing that might wind up to be more effective in telling certain kinds of stories better than VNs! It still wouldn't 'kill' or even replace VNs though, because that format is still available to anyone who doesn't need whatever extra bits that the theoretical new format might have. The whole point of defining and naming a format is so that your potential audience can carry a set of expectations to what they're going to get. If I say 'I am making a film' and then when my audience comes into the cinema I have a bunch of actors on stage with a screen playing a film in the background, I'm not giving them a film, I'm giving them a hybrid between live theater and cinema! They may like it but they may also just be pissed off that there are a bunch of assholes on stage instead of just a film on screen.

And a few things from earlier, with quicker answers:
Now you're just splitting hairs. If we're going to go down that road, I could just argue that a computer game is not a game at all, but merely a collection of instructions for processing a set of inputs (keystrokes, mouse movement, etc.) into a set of outputs (sounds and images.) Now we can create a game on top of this which consists of running said instructions, but the "game" itself is not a game; it's just software.
But the difference is that a computer game is there to respond to those sets of inputs and follow those rules specifically to execute the game 'on top of this,' whereas using a book to have a knowledge-finding race (nerdiest thing ever? Nerdiest thing ever) is using the book for a purpose that goes beyond what was originally intended--like telling a story, or educating you about frogs. A computer analogue would be to have a race to see who could scroll to 1,000 cells the quickest in Excel--it's not what the program was originally designed for, but you've made a game out of button mashing.
Does farming fit into the RPG format? Does real-time, first-person combat and minigames based on chance and dexterity? If not, Neither Harvest Moon nor Oblivion are RPGs and as I recall, both were marketed as RPGs and pretty successful at that. Warcraft 3 is a strategy game, yet encompasses a lot of RPG elements. There is no such thing as a fixed format; the format evolves by smart people trying to add new ideas to it, or deprecate old ones. Naturally, you're going to have to do a lot of thinking about which ideas work well together and which don't, but no good game was ever created by blindly following The Format, also known as "those old clichés."
Point the first: What definition are you using that doesn't involve combat and skill challenges based on chance and dexterity? If you get a better sword with higher statistics, does that mean you kill things faster? Then you're using the rules of an RPG! On the farming side of things, I though Harvest Moon was marketed as a simulation rather than an RPG, but if it is an RPG I assume it uses the ability to customize your character and plant your own garden or whatever the fuck it is you do in Harvest Moon. Complete quests for rewards? That's pretty RPG-like. Of course, RPG as a term has been so abused that it barely means anything anymore, kind of like slapping 'metal' on to the end of another musical adjective.

Point the second: Fallout 2 would like to have a word with you. So would the Half Life series, which despite how beloved it is by all still follows the same conventions of every FPS ever. You can be pretty fucking creative while working within a given set of rules for a format--I doubt that many people would call Half Life anything but innovative, but it wasn't reinventing the wheel, it was just taking all the stuff that makes an FPS and refining it, as well as playing around with how the story was presented to the player during the game. (Braid and Limbo would also probably like to have a word with you too)
By that reasoning, any game where there is no objectively best ending (or even any game with a focus on story) is not a game.
This is exactly what some academic say! They're probably wrong though.

As for my area of study, I thought that would be pretty obvious by this point, but it's electronic literature with a sprinkling of media-specific analysis thrown in for good measure. It means I sit on my ass and play games and read webcomics all day, then argue about what makes them unique and why they can't work in the same way without their electronic components (a print collection of a webcomic is not the same thing as the webcomic because it is now being presented in a book instead of on a screen, for example. That matters, for reasons which I could go into but it seems both a little off topic and seriously this is a long fucking response anyway).
Goldilurks wrote:I'd be curious as to the dev's thoughts on stuff like Coma. It's not a VN, I understand, but it hits like half of the list WetCrate just gave and could have easily hit more with a little expansion. Do you think "analog" VNs (say, Hard Rain) and/or immersion games (which I'd use to refer to Coma) will ever compete with text-based, "digital" VNs over the same genres and stories? Or do you suspect there's not enough overlap?
A game like Coma (which I quite enjoyed my time with) is pretty fascinating! That's about all I can say on the matter, really. When you start talking about its story however you have to use slightly different language in order to account for the gameplay mechanics that are present. I'd give specifics but honestly I would rather not spoil the game for anyone who hasn't played it--suffice it to say that some of the environments and puzzles are pretty obviously put there for symbolic reasons. It tells a story, sure, but not in the same way a VN tells a story. I'm not really sure what else to say on the matter.

As for your second question, I'm not sure that there needs to be a competition over genres and stories at all. I guess Hard Rain tried to step in on the porn bit with its ridiculous bra removing minigame, but seriously it's not about the kind of story you're telling, it's how you go about telling it!

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Aura » Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:13 pm

TheHivemind wrote:knowledge-finding race (nerdiest thing ever? Nerdiest thing ever)
A bit of a tangent - there actually was a TV show with this format. Contestants had to use the internet search engins to find answers to VERY arbitrary and difficult questions posed by the host. Fastest won. Also I liked the insight into a high decree of creator control - definitely true.
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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by valderman » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:44 pm

Okay, now we're talking! You've got a good definition here, apart from the non-trivial user interaction part. In fact, if we go all the way back to my own definition, you've pretty much said exactly what I did--'A standalone form of electronic literature (that is, not requiring the internet), characterized by a combination of text and sprites, photographs, or animation to tell stories (i.e. a visual element combined with text to tell a story)'.
I know; I'm not saying "fuck you, your definition is stupid" (I'm just resistant to the "NO GAME PERIOD"-part) but just that a definition of VN, especially one that by definition make many self-proclaimed VNs non-VNs (or, make many self-proclaimed games non-games) can't be taken as fact or even be given more weight with just a simple proof by authority argument.
Writing for a game means you have to account for a lot more freedom on the user's end, whereas if we want Hisao to always be kind of depressed about his disability we can do that.
No. See every single FPS for proof to the contrary.
The reader of KS can't make Hisao suddenly not worried about his heart disease, nor can they make him become a great artist--because we didn't write a story where Hisao is totally okay with having heart disease and also the second coming of Van Gogh.
The player of Final Fantasy X can't make Tidus less of an annoying, angsty asshat either; does that disqualify it from game status?
But a new format is a cool thing that might wind up to be more effective in telling certain kinds of stories better than VNs! It still wouldn't 'kill' or even replace VNs though, because that format is still available to anyone who doesn't need whatever extra bits that the theoretical new format might have. The whole point of defining and naming a format is so that your potential audience can carry a set of expectations to what they're going to get.
Pretty much every work that strictly sticks to the expected format tends to receive criticism for it. There still are several such works that get good reviews, but none would say that going outside the cliches makes a work something entirely different.
But the difference is that a computer game is there to respond to those sets of inputs and follow those rules specifically to execute the game 'on top of this,' whereas using a book to have a knowledge-finding race (nerdiest thing ever? Nerdiest thing ever) is using the book for a purpose that goes beyond what was originally intended--like telling a story, or educating you about frogs.
I actually do have a book created with the purpose of holding games/competitions/races where information gathering skills are paramount. Does that make it a non-book? Of course not. Similarly, a VN doesn't stop being a VN just because it also happens to be a game.
Point the first: What definition are you using that doesn't involve combat and skill challenges based on chance and dexterity? If you get a better sword with higher statistics, does that mean you kill things faster? Then you're using the rules of an RPG!
...and I also added my own. Which, by your definition, would mean that this is no longer an RPG. How can an RPG have added features and still remain an RPG, while a VN couldn't?
Of course, RPG as a term has been so abused that it barely means anything anymore, kind of like slapping 'metal' on to the end of another musical adjective.
Oh come on, now you're basically saying "if I think a definition is too loose, it's invalid" which is clearly not true.
So would the Half Life series, which despite how beloved it is by all still follows the same conventions of every FPS ever.
Uh, Half Life adds a bunch of elements to the previous notion of what constitutes an FPS. If you were consequent here, you'd either not recognize it as an FPS (unless you reserve the right to determine what's "within the format" of any given format?) or you'd also recognize a VN with game elements as still being a VN.
As for my area of study, I thought that would be pretty obvious by this point
Yeah, the specifics are abundantly clear; I was more wondering what sort of label and/or degree gets slapped on that. Useless as overly broad labels are, it'd still be an interesting thing to know.
Also I liked the insight into a high decree of creator control - definitely true.
Of course, because you define it as such. There is nothing inherent in a VN that allows for more control and nothing inherent in an RPG that allows for less control, unless you define VN and RPG respectively as such. Which is what I disagree with as an excercise that is, for the purpose of creating a new work, a completely useless pandering to the author's human desire for generalizing and categorizing things that ought to be neither.

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Re: What exactly are we making here?

Post by Smoku » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:07 pm

Do you know what an RPG is?

I can tell what it is not. an RPG is not statistics, levels and shit.
It is taking up a role. cRPGs (computer rpgs) have almost nothing to do with real RPGs. I mean, sure, Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment. These were good attempts of making an RPG on the screen. But there just a few among many games labeled "RPG". Played Diablo? If that's an RPG then you can just as well call an RPG about ANY other game. Cause you take up a role in every game. This makes, I dunno, Pacman an RPG. Or even Tetris (look, man. I'm a brick. No, a shitload of bricks).

Real RPGs are without using a computer. You can have an RPG without totally anything.
So we have two understandings ofRPG here: a narrow one and the wide one. The wide one makes RPG just about anything that's a game. In this sense KS is an RPG (So is Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Tekken bla bla bla). in the narrow sense tough, it is not.

I don't think using the word"RPG" anywhere near KS is a good idea.

It's just my opinion, please don't point me as a dude that's forcing some kind of TRUTH to you.

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