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What a revival should do to avoid SBE's mistakes
Matthias

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Interesting discussion.  Wish I had time to address more points, but let me just add this:

At some point, I think we need to ask whether the F2P model might not be inherently broken for a game like this.  In order to entice people to pay, they have to feel like they are getting some value (typically this is access to powerful cards).  And, when they do get access to powerful cards, players without them (F2P or otherwise) feel like they are at a disadvantage.  It is a fundamental conflict.  Tweaking the cards doesn't fix this inherent conflict.  It's just impossible to make one group feel like it was worth buying, without the other group feeling like it was an advantage.

There are other pricing models out there.  A game like Star Realms, for example, lets you play against others with access to the same cards for a flat app price.  Alternately, a "subscription" model might work.  I'm not convinced the math on either of these would work out from a revenue standpoint.  But, the failings of the F2P model have become glaringly obvious.

zjhomrighaus

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Matthias said
Interesting discussion.  Wish I had time to address more points, but let me just add this:

At some point, I think we need to ask whether the F2P model might not be inherently broken for a game like this.  In order to entice people to pay, they have to feel like they are getting some value (typically this is access to powerful cards).  And, when they do get access to powerful cards, players without them (F2P or otherwise) feel like they are at a disadvantage.  It is a fundamental conflict.  Tweaking the cards doesn't fix this inherent conflict.  It's just impossible to make one group feel like it was worth buying, without the other group feeling like it was an advantage.

There are other pricing models out there.  A game like Star Realms, for example, lets you play against others with access to the same cards for a flat app price.  Alternately, a "subscription" model might work.  I'm not convinced the math on either of these would work out from a revenue standpoint.  But, the failings of the F2P model have become glaringly obvious.

Yeah, I'm no scholar of video game economies, but I think you are right.  Decoupling the game's mechanics from F2P might be the best option.  In many successful games, the F2P model really just saves you time.  Buying a bunch of coins (or whatever currency) allows you to play right now or to not have to wait for ads or other things.  It doesn't necessarily give you better tech.  In theory, SF is F2P in this way… If you grind away as a free player, you can technically get every card in the game… just not on the same day those cards are available.  In practice, though, it feels P2W because paying players immediately have access to better cards and therefore should have an advantage over F2P players.

I would love a subscription model.  Just let me play Draft as often as I want for $10 per month.  Or let me borrow every card in the game and enter the ladder for $10 per month… maybe my rewards are different if I'm a subscriber vs. a non-subscriber.

I actually like the Ascension model quite a bit.  You get a base game for a small amount of money.  That is a fully formed, fully balanced experience with online play support (if we're talking about mobile).  Then the team can release an expansion that is itself fully formed and balanced for a different price.  You can play them separate or together.  So there is an incentive to pay for the new set since it is new and exciting and lets you deck build differently… but it doesn't need to just be straight better than the last set.  If you choose to sit out a set, you can… just don't enter matches where those cards are available.

This involves different queues, etc. but I think it would offer a better experience for non-whales… plus if you are enjoying the game you paid $1.99 or $4.99 for, why wouldn't you pitch in another $2.99 for an expansion?  It's a small amount to increase the breadth of the gameplay and it's a fixed cost.  I think most players would spring for it vs. very few who decided to buy CotD or Legendary Chests.  Lots of small transactions could equal or exceed a few big transactions.

Arrii

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Voctor said

johanah said
Whoa. It was just too free? The hardcores are delusional. The top complaint in the sea of negativity on user reviews is how pay to win it was for a free to play game. In hearthstone you don't need 20 legends to play unranked – you didn't use to need any before the latest expansion. You don't (or used to not) get immediately facerolled by obviously expensive cards when you start your first game as a new player, like in solforge. Most people won't create alternate accounts or want to draft for 2 months to make a netdeck before seeing if it's fun.

Now it might have simultaneously been too free for the whales like op said, but the above is what killed the game. F2p games are meant for a large audience, and the master plan is to offer a cheap and easy thrill, get them hooked, THEN milk them and not up front. Else, with solforge's level of balance between rarities they would have been better off just charging an up front price to get some legendaries, to avoid all the complaints.

It's a 2 part problem, the rewards were indeed too generous but the ramp up to become competitive was too steep.  This meant that once you had a robust collection you could stay there easily without putting in more money, so whales had little reason to continue spending.  That said, the decks were so legendary focused that getting there in the first place took a lot of time and/or money and that was what made the game seem pay 2 win to new players.

When your economy makes new players feel like they'd need to spend a ton of money to compete while enfranchised players feel like there's nothing to buy even if they wanted to that's a pretty bad place to be.

As a f2p player that agrees that the game is pay to win, I don't think the issue is rewards or rebalance but perhaps those are part of it too. The problem I ran into was the percentage of games where I was matched with an opponent "at my level". I have no expectation to ever be competitive with the tier 1/titanium crowd as I know I'm not that good at these game.  But I also don't expect to be matched against them in most of my games. As another poster said it's really not that much fun for either of us. I took advantage of new player resources and watched a lot of the f2p videos showing how quickly you could become competitive. Maybe for a tier 1 player that works. As an average Jane it did not work out that way. Basically felt like unless you were tier 1, winning a game was a rarity. Changing the daily rewards to include games played was a huge help. 

Solforge is a great game though and I do hope reforge is a success. 

DraftKing

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My advice to SBE:

Go to a subscription model from 1 February 2017.  

If that fails, then very little is lost.

If it succeeds, then great result!

Also, bear in mind that it will be easier to find a buyer for this game if there is continuity.  It will be MUCH harder to sell the game to another developer if all accounts are closed on 31 January, and all the Solforge players go off and get hooked on other games.

MSTRONG73

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My POV as a nobody:

I played Solforge on the toilet with the old client. Mobile only, mostly against the AI

I enjoyed the mechanics, I enjoyed deck building with fin cards and seeing what I could pull together. As I banked silver I either bought packs or saved up for legionaries I wanted. I bought some gold, I bought some legendary chests, I bought some cards of the day etc, not much but likely $10-15 per month. Sometimes I would venture into the unranked queue and play against live people, sometimes I would play drafts. I had no desire to eve play in the competitive environment.

The new client made it 100% clear that SBE didn't want or need me as a player.

I did finally install it on steam solely so I could build decks again. 

I've been grinding it out since the new client more out of habit than enjoyment. The overwhelming amount of top tier decks in unranked meant I frequently had to grind through 10-12 games to get my rewards and many of my wins were just from other people timing out or resigning to go from 4-8 games played. Completely unsatisfying. I went as far as I felt comfortable with to build some "competitive" decks but I never went all in on copying the latest and greatest decks form the tournament reports, even though I was capable of doing so with my library and silver hoard, it just wasn't what I wanted as a game and wasn't what I wanted to do.

I loved the mechanics, I loved some of the interesting cards and combinations. I hated having my play style dictated to me rather than allowing me to enjoy the game in a way I found valuable. I know I wasn't alone.  

Have fun all.

Matt

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As a strictly F2P, I have a different perspective. 

I've played since Alpha and I don't have all the cards, but I have the ones I need for the decks I'm playing. It was definitely generous and got more so over time. 

I will really miss this game. 

My main point:

I don't typically spend money on games; well, not much anyway. I was burned way back in the late 90's when buying random packs of Decipher's Star Wars CCG. That pushed me away from spending money on random. Solforge will never get me to buy random. 

That said, I autobuy each expansion of Ascension when it releases. And Ticket to Ride, Star Realms and a few others. I'm not unwilling to spend money, but I won't on Subscriptions or Random packs.

I don't object to games that have voluntary ads for in game currency or bonuses (think idle gaming). I'll click the ads and support the developers. As long as the ads are voluntary instead of springing up into your face aggressively, I'm good. 

I also think that having SolForge start free is good. Then for each expansion, if you have to buy to unlock access to those cards, it would create a periodic purchase point. So, $1.99 to have access to set 7 wouldn't give me all the cards, it would though enable me to purchase them through the store and they would start appearing in my packs. If I didn't purchase that, I could continue to acquire cards from earlier sets and I just wouldn't have access to the new shinies. 

Secondary point: Matchmaking is/was an issue. While it felt nice to beat someone ranked waaaaay ahead of me, it also was irritating to get crushed by them. Of course to fix matchmaking, you have to have clients to match….

 

Anyhow, lots of good comments in here. I think paying to unlock the new set and then still grinding through packs is a good balance.

Holyghost5514

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Ok So I mostly agree with all of Kaelari original points but I'll add my 2 cents on a couple things:

#1 Having a stable smooth running client, bug free and all cards working should probably be the top Priority.

#2 You cannot have a Card economy in a digital game built around a traditional TCG economy without trading or a secondary market. So either:

  a. leave prices where they are but make all card acquired through real money tradeable (trade for cards, gold, silver packs whatever the other person want to offer) I would personally like to see all cards in the game available for direct purchase at all times, as well as forging. (minus AA of coarse)

  b. drastically reduce currents prices if cards are forever account bound and there is no secondary market, and get rid of sharing. Again I would personally like to see all cards in the game available for direct purchase at all times, as well as forging.

#3 fix the new player experience ( give them something to do to keep them hooked)

  a. make a real campaign, with a map to follow and missions and stuff, and give rewards that help ramp up their deck. Maybe even have a campaign for each faction or something. Be much longer and actually tell a compelling story.

  b. have a beginner Q where they can play equal opponents for new player appropriate rewards.

  c. have daily's that a new player can hope to achieve, other than just wining games. Like every other game out there, I.E. deal 50 damage with nekrium cards.

  d. make it impossible for bronze level players to have to play titanium ranked players.

  e. Make an advanced tutorial highlighting concepts not found in other games, like lane placement, leveling priorities, deck potency, and underdrops in deck construction.

#4 card acquisition is a problem, make it easier to acquire certain cards for the deck you want to build:

a. would be alot better if legendaries were what wizards of the Coast said Mythics were supposed to be in the beginning, very unique flashy cards, not constructed tier 1 playable cards. Decks in the game should all be comprized of 95% heroic or lower cards. So alot of the current legendaries should be down graded to heroics, and in he future only super flashy things printed at legendary.

b. Player to player trading would be the best way to help with card acquisition, but also having cards for sale in the store would be another way, also forging of coarse.

#5 reducing variance

a. get rid of stupid random triggers and have things always resolve the same way.

b. Revisit things like the bound cycle and consistent, as these were the best options they came up with but were poorly executed.

c. get rid of cards like othra, who's RNG can make a back and forth game end on the spot. Its ok for RNG to influence cool things, but not when it's a miserable game ending experience for a player on the other end.

#6 probably the most important thing since clearly it wasn't working , making $$$.

a. have side missions for the campaign where you can pay and go do something really fun and get most of the entry price back in cards or decks or whatever think like 4.99$

b. AA skins. 1 purchase gets you that skin to AA all the copies of that card you want, including in drafts. 1.99$

c. UI skins to make the playfield look cooler ( like the old UI that were very well done) 1.99$

d. AA card backs for the back of your decks .99$

e. A monthly subscription of some sort to get X free drafts or constructed Q's for the month 6.99$

f. An outlet for competitive players, think once every three months a large scale tourney in client PTQ to qualify for end of the year worlds championship 9.99$

g. New avatars other than standard 4 that come free .49$

h. animated cards say 2.99$ same as AA skins

I. give players the ability to run their own 8-man tourneys in client, take a % of entry's off the top. (Cube draft anyone?)

J. of coarse making new sets to release new packs and cards to buy. Would like to see larger sets and cards not released so often, as to give them more excitement, players a chance to keep up, and for new cards to play out through the current environment more before new cards come along to shake everything up.

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I always thought that what was missing from SolForge was official "limited" formats. Kaeleri's ladder has a version of this: ladders disallowing Legendaries, or Legendaries and Heroics. Many games also have set-limited ladders, so that only the latest sets can be used. 'Nerfing' all of the existing Legendaries, as many of you have suggested is way too expensive and difficult (on the development side; I've worked in the video game industry). Having a few official limited format ladders would somewhat reduce the Legendary-heavy decks that keep new players away.

Ludomancer

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Matthias said
Interesting discussion.  Wish I had time to address more points, but let me just add this:

At some point, I think we need to ask whether the F2P model might not be inherently broken for a game like this.  In order to entice people to pay, they have to feel like they are getting some value (typically this is access to powerful cards).  And, when they do get access to powerful cards, players without them (F2P or otherwise) feel like they are at a disadvantage.  It is a fundamental conflict.  Tweaking the cards doesn't fix this inherent conflict.  It's just impossible to make one group feel like it was worth buying, without the other group feeling like it was an advantage.

There are other pricing models out there.  A game like Star Realms, for example, lets you play against others with access to the same cards for a flat app price.  Alternately, a "subscription" model might work.  I'm not convinced the math on either of these would work out from a revenue standpoint.  But, the failings of the F2P model have become glaringly obvious.

Objectively incorrect. Hearthstone is a f2p ccg that is mega-successful. Literally makes millions. No secondary market in that game either.

You just have to not be greedy as f*** and actually give newbies a chance before they pay you. Promos not being desperate cash grabs helps too.

Like, you don't even have to not be greedy. HS milks its whales for $ hundreds. Just don't be so obvious, don't make expensive cards obviously more powerful than anything else, don't make players feel like you're just trying to make a quick buck, even though you obviously are as a for profit company.

F2P is an extremely workable and proven business model, if you do it right. These guys didn't.

Ps. I'm still mad you instantly removed old precons from the in-game shop, and made new cost more, that one time you gave people exactly the amount of virtual money to buy a precon as an "apology". It's like you think your cards had inherent value as opposed to perceived and network effect value, like people will want to play with your cards anyway so you can just hoard them and people will buy, right? Well guess what, they didn't. Ha ha.

Voctor

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johanah said

Matthias said
Interesting discussion.  Wish I had time to address more points, but let me just add this:

At some point, I think we need to ask whether the F2P model might not be inherently broken for a game like this.  In order to entice people to pay, they have to feel like they are getting some value (typically this is access to powerful cards).  And, when they do get access to powerful cards, players without them (F2P or otherwise) feel like they are at a disadvantage.  It is a fundamental conflict.  Tweaking the cards doesn't fix this inherent conflict.  It's just impossible to make one group feel like it was worth buying, without the other group feeling like it was an advantage.

There are other pricing models out there.  A game like Star Realms, for example, lets you play against others with access to the same cards for a flat app price.  Alternately, a "subscription" model might work.  I'm not convinced the math on either of these would work out from a revenue standpoint.  But, the failings of the F2P model have become glaringly obvious.

Objectively incorrect. Hearthstone is a f2p ccg that is mega-successful. Literally makes millions. No secondary market in that game either.

You just have to not be greedy as f*** and actually give newbies a chance before they pay you. Promos not being desperate cash grabs helps too.

Like, you don't even have to not be greedy. HS milks its whales for $ hundreds. Just don't be so obvious, don't make expensive cards obviously more powerful than anything else, don't make players feel like you're just trying to make a quick buck, even though you obviously are as a for profit company.

F2P is an extremely workable and proven business model, if you do it right. These guys didn't.

Ps. I'm still mad you instantly removed old precons from the in-game shop, and made new cost more, that one time you gave people exactly the amount of virtual money to buy a precon as an "apology". It's like you think your cards had inherent value as opposed to perceived and network effect value, like people will want to play with your cards anyway so you can just hoard them and people will buy, right? Well guess what, they didn't. Ha ha.

Oh yeah, I forgot all about that incident.  Precons are the perfect purchase to get newer players more invested, so giving out just enough gold to make them still out of reach was a terrible idea.  Adding in that they did it by increasing the price of precons was an extra slap in the face.  There were so many ways to handle that better, but somehow they found one of the only ways to turn their apology gesture into an actual turn-off.  

While I doubt that one thing played a larger roll than some of the others that have been mentioned here, it's another example of SBE fundamentally misunderstanding their game's economy.  

johanah

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Voctor said

johanah said

Matthias said
Interesting discussion.  Wish I had time to address more points, but let me just add this:

At some point, I think we need to ask whether the F2P model might not be inherently broken for a game like this.  In order to entice people to pay, they have to feel like they are getting some value (typically this is access to powerful cards).  And, when they do get access to powerful cards, players without them (F2P or otherwise) feel like they are at a disadvantage.  It is a fundamental conflict.  Tweaking the cards doesn't fix this inherent conflict.  It's just impossible to make one group feel like it was worth buying, without the other group feeling like it was an advantage.

There are other pricing models out there.  A game like Star Realms, for example, lets you play against others with access to the same cards for a flat app price.  Alternately, a "subscription" model might work.  I'm not convinced the math on either of these would work out from a revenue standpoint.  But, the failings of the F2P model have become glaringly obvious.

Objectively incorrect. Hearthstone is a f2p ccg that is mega-successful. Literally makes millions. No secondary market in that game either.

You just have to not be greedy as f*** and actually give newbies a chance before they pay you. Promos not being desperate cash grabs helps too.

Like, you don't even have to not be greedy. HS milks its whales for $ hundreds. Just don't be so obvious, don't make expensive cards obviously more powerful than anything else, don't make players feel like you're just trying to make a quick buck, even though you obviously are as a for profit company.

F2P is an extremely workable and proven business model, if you do it right. These guys didn't.

Ps. I'm still mad you instantly removed old precons from the in-game shop, and made new cost more, that one time you gave people exactly the amount of virtual money to buy a precon as an "apology". It's like you think your cards had inherent value as opposed to perceived and network effect value, like people will want to play with your cards anyway so you can just hoard them and people will buy, right? Well guess what, they didn't. Ha ha.

Oh yeah, I forgot all about that incident.  Precons are the perfect purchase to get newer players more invested, so giving out just enough gold to make them still out of reach was a terrible idea.  Adding in that they did it by increasing the price of precons was an extra slap in the face.  There were so many ways to handle that better, but somehow they found one of the only ways to turn their apology gesture into an actual turn-off.  

While I doubt that one thing played a larger roll than some of the others that have been mentioned here, it's another example of SBE fundamentally misunderstanding their game's economy.  

 

Yeah, here's the crux of the matter: your cards are worth any money only exactly when people are willing to spend money to buy them. They have zero inherent value, zero printing costs; they are completely virtual*. Unless you get people to want to buy your cards, they are literally worthless.

So: you should spend as much time trying to pitch this game to as many people as possible, right? This is how the F2P model is born. It's also what they adopted**. This increases the value of the cards by increasing the playerbase, because it's so much easier to find somebody to play with your virtual cards. You are dependent on finding new players who want to buy cards.

You know what people won't want to buy? Cards that are part of an obviously imbalanced card game where the dude who has spent the most money will win***. Cards that are part of a game nobody plays.

So what you should do is, you should have a balanced card game, that a lot of people can play, where people who just started can have a chance. Then make your more expensive cards INTERESTING, not objectively better. Or if they have to be objectively better make them increase your win rate 1%, don't make having 3 of them a condition to winning. This increases the value of your cards, not decreases them. When people feel like your card game is worth their time then people will also want to buy some of those interesting cards because not everybody likes grinding. 

OTOH if they immediately get crushed they buy nothing. If you give them bad service and appear dishonest they buy nothing.

But whenever I talked about this here or on Reddit I got shouted down and downvoted by opinions basically saying, you gotta print legendary cards that are really strong, so you can make money. Well that's just not how it works. No matter how good the card is in-game it's virtual trash that can be erased with a click, unless people want to play with it and buy it. It can only be valuable if it exists in a balanced game.

I guess it's hard to understand unless you have a degree or something. That doesn't excuse it for Mr. Gary.

 

 

* some people are confused here, because they took resources to make, but let's put it like this: if I spend 50 hours programming something and drawing some art for it that doesn't mean it's worth anything to you, certainly not in the sense that you should feel obliged to buy it.

** a great decision. Solforge economy was obviously modeled on Hearthstone, later altered to even more closely resemble it, and Hearthstone is immensely successful. The pricing model is extremely similar.

*** even if this is not true, that is how it felt to new players

trikster1983

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Great topic… took a while to read! 

Agree with a lot of points – just wanted to throw an interesting decks buildinging thing into the equation…

 

coming from an mtg background – there was no way to play or have restrictions of deck construction i.e. – singleton.

I say this because my problem with legendary cards is that they were not 'legendary' if you could play 3! And this was leading to all legendary decks… (I played since kick starter Have extensive collection)

So I would restructure "playsets"

a serious but fun thought around what is a playset is for deck construction to balance how decks are built would be that any deck could play 4/3/2/1 copies of each rarity.

4 common

3 rare

2 heroic

1 legendary

this would make the higher power cards feel more special and show up less often therefore becoming less obusive!

it would also mean new players could feel balance doing and excited to build decks.

it would've also reward experienced players to better build using a wider card pool as they are not just filling decks with the best 3x legendaries.

Home brews are the winners choice!
JHW527

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The loss of asynchronous games when the new client came out was the main reason a lot of people I recruited into the game quit playing.  That aspect helped set it apart from the other digital card games out there…..you didn't have to play a live game.  Each person could log in, send a move as their schedule allowed, and then wait to get a move back.  Time permitting, we would play live instead……but most were back and forth with a move or two per day.

The other main reason was the complete inability for people with less cards to even be able to compete with others.  I understand there should be an advantage to having more cards, but getting slaughtered every game for them was too disheartening.  I'd suggest rotating cards in a standard format so new players don't feel so overwhelmed to collect SO many cards to catch up.  Players with large collections would also have to acquire newer cards as they couldn't solely rely on their established decks as cards in them would get phased out.  This also helps create new metas AND reduces or eliminates power creep with the newer cards.

EvilAaron

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JHW527 said
The loss of asynchronous games when the new client came out was the main reason a lot of people I recruited into the game quit playing.  That aspect helped set it apart from the other digital card games out there…..you didn't have to play a live game.  Each person could log in, send a move as their schedule allowed, and then wait to get a move back.  Time permitting, we would play live instead……but most were back and forth with a move or two per day.

 

This was exactly what caused my group of friends to stop / greatly slow down playing. Loved a game I could play with friends around the world / time zones and play 15 minute to sometimes 15 day long games. When the new client arrived one could eventually setup untimed friend matches. But without the ability to stack a few game invites was hard to queue up matches with multiple players in anything even close to resembling an efficient manner. 

I started playing at the time of Humble Bundle, I also bought some cards, not regretting spending money but sad for the loss of my collection, was hoping to use for years to come. Makes one wary of investing in F2P collection games…

Without ability to trade all cards I'm not a huge fan of F2P and buying packs. Much rather model where one can buy each play set / expansion as others mentioned above or if cards are account bound / untradable make the value way less. Not sure that "Sharing" was ever the best solution, I would rather real economy or lower the value of building play set.

I sure hope Solforge can live on somehow. If the servers go dead I am way less likely to return to any official branded sequel or offshoot than if they had kept it alive. SBE is better off making some deal to keep the spirit alive and not finishing with an utter and complete alienation of their fan base.

I would love to support a reforged project if some agreement can be struck :)

neasdf

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Could anyone who's working on the rivival plan tell us the progress or what could we help?

vandergus

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neasdf said
Could anyone who's working on the rivival plan tell us the progress or what could we help?

The day-to-day discussion is happening on Discord.

https://discord.gg/33Cdt

Weekly updates are being given on reddit.

https://www.reddit.com/r/SolForge/

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