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Once again, this status update comes later than I had hoped for but as Joram surmised in another thread, yes, its been busy. Were going to be announcing one of our new games, project D, at GamesCom in Cologone, this August, and so the pressure right now is to make sure that we have something to show, as well as figuring out how were going to show it. Turns out we have very little experience with the latter as in the past these things were always done by a publisher. But now that were self-funding all of our games, we have to take care of that part too, and it clearly requires a different set of skills, skills we dont necessarily have in-house, though were working on that.

Our main task at GameCom will be that for the next games we dont want any more WOW, how come thi game doesn't get more attention? threads, even if we are flattered by all the things you all write in there. I spent quite some time speaking to people in-the-know over the past couple of months about how to profile ourselves and our games better, and in the process had to take quite some flak about how weve been presenting ourselves to our audiences in the past, but I guess they do have a point. Summarized it boils down to your website is a mess, youre not using the social thing like you should, your messaging is a wreck and what the #### is up with your logo ? It looks like washing powder. Oh, and btw, do you call that a presentation ? My Italian designer label toilet paper looks better than that !

Many were the times during these conversations that I had to resist taking one of the swords and daggers I received from people back when div was still called Divinity: The Sword of Lies, and I often had to say to myself Shut up and listen. You have Wow, how come this game doesnt get more attention threads on your forum, this despite your meta-critic being in the top for RPGs in 2010. So I listen and learn, and in the process curse silently and envision exactly how Im going to have my new mentors integrated in one of our next games.

This helps a bit, but not too much as I then realize that I wont be able to do exactly the thing I envisioned because Ill get in all kinds of trouble with the rating boards. After which I imagine what Im going to do with the rating boards and well cough. <rant> Has anybody actually ever wondered how much money goes into the rating boards and where all that money goes ? How many games are there being rated ? Now multiply that with whats being charged and wonder how come that thats a pretty big number for organizations with few employees. Where does all that money go ? And yeah, I know, its better like this with self-control from the industry being preferred over state control yadidadidee, but seriously, I need to remove the option to <censored> or risk being banned from certain stores ? Seen a 12 year old recently that doesnt know Happy Tree Friends ?<end rant>

So were wondering about what well do with our stand at GamesCom (which is in the business hall, so its not publicly accessible), were wondering what press releases well send out to the world, what screenshots/movies well show, what beer well serve to tired journalists & biz devs (Dragon Beer obviously), which particular gorgeously attractive model we want to be at the entrance to our booth, which of our rooms well forcibly have to share with that model as all hotels are fully booked, how well present the game, what parts of the game well have to fake because the real system wont be ready, if were going to run the footage on the fastest PC money can buy and pretend its running from a GameCube, how were going to make sure journalists notice us amidst the PR/Marketing blitz the big boys are going to throw at them, and how eventually we can become one of the big boys, only to realize rapidly after that that we dont really want to become one of the big boys, because the big boys, well, they act so much like big boys, not much fun in that. Some of my former game development heroes talk so funny nowadays that its not funny anymore and the worst part is that I find myself trying to talk like them whenever I notice that its what the audience is expecting from me, not that I really want to be one of the big boys wink

I just did an interview with a financial magazine, just because I occasionally have to do one of these, and the first question I got was Whats your strategy ?. Figuring she didnt want to hear about a zerg-rush, I proceeded with babbling about narrowing the gap between our studio and the consumer via optimal utilization of the opportunities presented to us from etc etc.. etcNext thing I know I get a call from a financial TV channel that wants me to do the same thing again on TV because they thought the article was quite interesting., and they wanted to hear more about my new strategy. Then, Im sitting at a kind of roundtable where our government is telling me about how creative industries are important to them, and what theyre planning on doing for us so we can pay more taxes. Im surrounded by plenty of I-guarantee-you-more-creative-people-than-me whove done wonderful things in the past, and I notice that theyre all babbling like me during that roundtable, just because they know thats the language that needs to be spoken, whereas actually, all of us just want to say dude, we want to do cool stuff, without having to worry about the cash. Instead they say how theyre optimizing their business processes and work flow so that yadadadiyadadiyadadi and we definitely arent looking for money but we yadadadiyadadiyadadi. Blah.

Back to topic. The GamesCom preparation, which tbh Ive been trying to postpone as long as possible, an effort prevented by our fantastic & diligent producer Benoit (who literally as I type this just sent me a mail with all kinds of decisions to be taken about furniture), and our not to be mentioned by name publishing mentors, has as much to do with game development as tooth paste has to do with molecular orbital theory (actually come to think of it, thats quite a lot wink ). But it does have one benefit. It forces me to think about publishers we worked with in the past, and how they handled things during affairs like this.

One of the things I mentioned in the interview with the financial journalist was how looking back at everything Larian did in the past, one could clearly observe a tendency to get out of the death-grip of the advance versus royalty model, and how some publishers rationalized this death-grip model not only by whining about all the risk they were taking (in which case they just shouldnt sign) but also about how much services they were offering.

The services obviously also include things like organizing booths at game shows where they present your baby. <rant>I always liked it when they mentioned the your baby part and I often thought about it when I saw royalty reports in which those shows were classified as a fully deductible cost, especially when I saw that for the amount of that fully deductible cost you could buy at the very least a few fancy sports cars, which sounds quite expensive for a computer pod with your demo running on it amidst twenty other games and the publishers logo the only logo you can spot from more than 50 centimeters away, knowing that on top of that, they got a subsidy from their export offices they didnt mention in their royalty report, because thats no business of the developer and did you know btw that such a pod costs about 400 euros if you buy it and 200 euros if you rent it... <end rant>

So figuring that the price we paid in royalties lost for these services gives us the right to copy their processes for these shows, I told myself that it should be an easy thing to organize, but as you can probably guess by now, I came to the realization that I actually have have no clue. None. And this despite me going to these kinds of exhibitions for over 14 years, participating in plenty of them. I just never paid attention to what was going on around me. Somebody just told me stand there and you have interviews/presentations at these times, the red bull is there, arrive sober and dont party too much, and I just executed tlike a robot, except for the last two parts of course (on occasion wink ).

But this time, as we have to present our babies ourselves, and have 48m to do it in (which doesnt sound like a lot but when in reality is actually quite large), we need to figure out not only what the presentation will be like, but also what all the stuff around its going to be, and all the presumed experience in these matters just isnt there ! The horror ! And this is going to be the start of the big announcement for Project D ! Panic strikes !

Well, not really of course, but it does have me slightly worried. Im having visions of a huge empty booth, with the hardware crashed, the furniture stuck somewhere in some strike and nobody interested in what we have to show, which in the particular scenario that theres no furniture and no hardware would actually be a bonus. But I guess well rise to the occasion, have plenty of people come to taste our wonderful Dragon Beer and walk away in awe as they see the brilliancy of project D, which Im sure will be visible to all, even if at this very moment it a) still just looks as a collection of flat shaded stub models floating around (admittedly with some already very good looking terrain and a bunch of hot-but-not-yet-integrated assets wink ), b) is the project in which were taking the most risk gameplay-wise.

I need to go so Ill close with that, but if anybody has some seriously good ideas about how we can announce our next game in such an original way that everybody is going to take note, please let me know. Oh, and while Im at it, good ideas for the revamp of the Larian site & forums are more than welcome too !

Cheers !







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Always a pleasure to read these updates!

Can't wait for the announcement! Good luck!

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Well...it would be totally awesome if you could make holographic dragons appear over every major city, but I think we're a few decades away from that, sadly. I don't know, but I shall think on it. wink

Really, really great post! Thank you so much. One thing that stuck out for me like a little glimpse of heaven was that you're now self funding. I've seen too many franchises ruined by trying to appease publishers not to find that joyous.

I'm guessing things seem a little tense right now, but you guys have the quality to back up what you do so...deep breath and full speed ahead! smile

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Thanks for the update, project D is the one I'm looking forward to and as Dracone put it now that you are self funded you don't have any publishers to please. You will be able to set your own deadlines and not having to cut content etc to meet them. As for ideas I'm no expert in this either but if I think of anything Ill mention it.

I wonder who will get to share their hotel room with the hot model then!? evil

Edit: actually a small prehaps insignificant idea; what about upgrading the forum software to the latest version which might stop spammers and add new features?

Last edited by Arokh; 09/06/11 08:22 PM.

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What a fantastically honest status update, really refreshing hehe

You guys should get in touch with CDProjekt, they have become pretty adept at these things. Their live conference before E3 was a great fun, and their E3 showing seems pretty successful too.

You and CDP are my two favourite RPG companies, I wish you would somehow join forces...sigh hehe.

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This was quite an interesting look at the issues a smaller game studio like Larian faces! I can definitely understand a lot of your concerns, both over the recognition of games, and other aspects of participating in the industry itself.

For what it's worth, good luck with the presentation! It would be awesome if Larian's games became more widely known. You don't necessarily have to be one of the "big boys" to enjoy a the benefits of an expanded audience for and awareness of your games. Obviously that's easier said than done, of course, but it's nonetheless a Grail more than worthy of aiming for.

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Dragon Beer, how taste this beer? wink

Maybe some help can be :
1) present a "praline" of delicious Belgium Chocolate ! It's well know that chocolate, especially "fondant", have the properties to make people "Happy" in mind delight ...
2) together with the taste of the chocolate you can (if it is possible to do that?) ask Kirill Prokovsky to make a song that suits the taste of that praline at best ... (and maybe another soundtrack of the new project D ? )
3) I think it give the most result to use as much as possible "senses" so people not only remember Larian from looking at pictures/movies showed or soundtracks heared, but also taste Dragon Beer, Belgium chocolate or something else(?), feel the structure of wood/glas/coton/a piece of paper with for example relief into it (like for the braille for blind people is maked) or whatever, make something people can take to read (for example some of the comments forummembers wrote about the Larian games or ...) , ... etc ...

But try to hold it "basic" ... or how must I say that ... think

Good luck ! I hope you can find the required Skills for making a real nice presentation without being a "big boy" wink





On 7th of february 2015 : I start a new adventure in the Divinity world of Original Sin,
it's a Fantastic Freaking Fabulous Funny ... it's my All Time Favorite One !
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I work at Game Mania, a pretty well known gamestore at Belgium and the Netherlands.
Being a big fan of your latest game, I really tried to sell it to a lot of customers looking for a good RPG. With succes! But the people walking into the store and picking up Div2 just because they already heard from it before I started talking about it, weren't that much at all.

After a while I couldn't order the x360 version anymore! I contacted headquarters about it. Their answer -unfortunately- made sense. It's a very good game, but other RPG's like Dragon Age 2, Fable 3 (as far as that's to be called an RPG..) just walked right over it, despite a lot of people know the quality of those games didn't get close to Div2. There just weren't enough people who knew about the quality of your game.
Problem is, those games have some huge publishers, well-known names, gamesites reviewing those games and usually rating it a 9+..mostly because of the well-known name.

Then, the Witcher 2 came! Part 1 was not THAT well-known, but more well-known than Div2. Cd-project also started pretty small, although their advantage probably also has to do with that the games are based on a fantasy book series.
At Game Mania we received a lot of promotional magazines for the Witcher 2. About 18 pages in length, with screenshots, art and a lot of information. I happily distributed those among customers, which also really boosted pre-orders. I was as enthousiastic about Witcher 2 as I was about Divinity 2, I hope you don't mind;) hehe.

Anyway! I started looking around on the net. CD-project was really doing their best to hype their new game as much as possible. There were a lot of development journals in the form of short videos. About the gameplay, music, battle system, world design, storytelling. It made me want the game even more!
Also, I also noticed they really did their best to come into contact with a lot of gamestore companies. At our website, for over 2 months we had a banner about the Witcher 2 for pre-ordering, other companies also had special pre-order bonuses in Europe and America. I have to admit, I noticed the Witcher 2 from out own website..^^ In the end we had about 15 pre-orders for the normal edition and about 4 for the special edition! Let me tell you that's a lot in our store for a pc game on day one, that doesn't happen too often. Not counting some WoW expansion or basically any other game developed by Blizzard:p

All this made me think about your game. I really think it's a shame Divinity 2 didn't get as much attention, it would've sold a lot more. I understand that making deals with all kinds of gamestores might cost a lot, printing small magazines a few months before release too, but the influence of those media are pretty huge. Also, before release, I think it's great to make some developer videos once in a while, makes fans even more eager to get it on day one;) Youtube, gametrailers, other independent gamesites from all over the world..you name it. I also noticed you're using Facebook, nice! Just keep doing that and try to get as much followers as you can..by linking to it when there's a video to be found, things like that.

I really don't have a clue about how much these kinds of advertising might cost, but it's clear advertising is needed to let the potential buyer know of the existence of you and your games. I'm sure it will make a huge difference, since the problem doesn't lie with the quality of your games, especially after your remastered version of Div2!

I'd be happy to help you as much as I can, if you plan on doing anything with advertising using gamestores;)

One small edit:
I got to know about your game when I incidentally stumbled across a (very positive) review of your game on a gamesite, I don't remember which site it was.Getting into contact with as much gamesites as you can will also make a huge difference. I know it's not always wise to 'judge' a game by the ratings it gets from reviews, but you know a lot of people do just that. And I have to admit..when a costumer asks me about a game I haven't heard about before and I don't have that much time to do research, I look for ratings and basic info:p
You'll have to excuse me if I take my ideas a few steps too much ahead, because you didn't even announce the game. I also have no clue about the costs of all those kinds of advertising. But I've seen too many good games not sell well because almost nobody knew about them.

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I bougth my Ego Draconis, and later on my DKS (both on Xbox), in a Game Mania store in Antwerp (Wilrijk). I told the man of the store how great this game is and yes, he confirmed my words.

I know one of the most important publicity for a (new) game are satified gamers (mouth to mounth talk), but the real problem is that a new game is still UNplayed by gamers !!

So maybe also a tip for Larian:
make as fast as possible a nice "demo" so the mounth-to-mounth-publicity-flow can start ? Or is this impossible because of time and/or money ?

Maybe then :
Try to find as much as possible "playtesters" ? (very early on in the process of the "making of ..."?)
Extra pro here are all the nice & critical comments, above all the critical comments I suppose? I'm sure the Larian Team know how to make a great RPG, but if they know how to progress their learning curve by reading all the comments of the playtesters etc & working very close together with many playtesters I think all benefit from it and the next RPG's will be a "Dream that come Reality" !




On 7th of february 2015 : I start a new adventure in the Divinity world of Original Sin,
it's a Fantastic Freaking Fabulous Funny ... it's my All Time Favorite One !
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Hey Lar,

if you had been doing that (presenting your games, that is) at the last RPC in Cologne, you - imho would have had a little bit more training - in a much, much smaller scale.

Because the RPC is very much dedicated towards role-playing people, but still very, very much smaller and silent - compared to the Games Com.

So my advice is : If you can, try to do some training on smaller Con's and fairs !

If there are role playing conventions or so in Belgium - why not place a fact sheet about your games there ? - The majority might not look at it (because some pen & paper plyers just despice C-RPGs), but at least you'll show up yourself and a few people might notice ...

dtp, for example, actually had a booth at the German Feen Con, one of the largest pen & paper conventions here in Germany. But on the other hand that was in 2007 I think - I haven't been there in the recent years anymore.

Another example would be in October the "Spiel International" fair in Essen, Germany, always in October. dtp has had a booth there as well in the recent years. This fair has 3-4 mai pillars : Board games (the prime pillar), role-playing (pen 6 paper, mostly), comics, second-hand markets (of all 3 other pillars). You could get at least *some* attention there as well.

And you could do so at other conventions and fais as well, I think.

But it's also a risk. Depending on the convention, you might attract the attention of only 40 % of the people or even less - but no attention at all would be worse, I fear.

Try to look at where ... not the big boys, but rather the middle-tier companies go to.

And a last word : You are very much *authentic* and *honest* in what you write in these status updates here - and that's imho THE difference between you and the marketing-blabla of the "big boys" !


Edit : Dru write some interestzing points : CD Projekt did several things right. How about looking at them, analysing what they did ? What about "using" them for distribution in east european countries ?

Last edited by AlrikFassbauer; 10/06/11 01:26 PM.

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I was thinking, could you make some status update in video, to put on youtube or whatever ?
It might get more people to watch it (with videos or screens from project D, once it is announced officially ?), instead of coming and seeing a huge wall of text, that only fans will read.

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I attend SXSW at Austin regularly and the stands that receive the most attention are the ones with free stuff. People (me included lol) go crazy over free stuff and playing a game. This could be a bunch of pencils or (be prepared for a stampede) free t-shirts. Something to play always attracts people but that's not feasible now, if I understood correctly, so it's something to keep in mind.

Alpha and beta testing is pretty awesome, though usually they are closed or reserved for mmo games.

Like Dru said, advertising is really important. Youtube videos and advertisements are really good ways to send a message across (you know those annoying 15 second ones you can't skip before a popular video). Also, having a small 2 minute status update vid with some music (i.e. - L.A. Noire style; in which describing what is new in Project D and giving a clip or a couple of pics to whet the fanbase's appetites), like melianos said, would be awesome. I could link it to friends and whatnot. Also, if you guys release a patch or something where you guys could link the videos with pc games, like during the loading screens where it would say 'Check out our newest video at ###.com'. But once more, it probably would be more effective if the game is in production or post-production.

Also, I hear about most of the games that are coming out by going to IGN.com, despite their reviews being, for lack of better word, crap. It would be a great site to hype up your game. Also, the magazine Game Informer is also great. Though both options could be quite expensive. Another tactic you might try is unload advertisements on game sites and magazines that attract some traffic but are cheaper than advertising on either IGN or Game Informer. So the message still gets across and bigger sites, like IGN, will then have to take notice, id est a one-on-one interview with the head designer, project director, etc.

In terms of your website (like divinity2.com or flamesofvengeance.com), make them simpler. For example, in the divinity2 site, just have to top part with the dragon knight breathing and the dragon in the background with the fire, and have the links. Or perhaps you could have a short trailer of the video with some sort of inspiring, BA music in the background. After the video is over then the links could pop up. Basically, I feel like the site gives a sort of overload of information as soon as the person enters the site. It might be more effective, imho, if you entrap the viewer or prospective buyer or whatnot and get him interested, with as simple of a start as possible, but also as cool as possible, so he/she is almost forced in wanting more information.

I'm no publicist, so I don't know if any of these options are viable, but I hope they help! Moreover, I wish you guys all the luck I have to give. It isn't often that I feel strongly about a dev's success as I do with you guys.

As a side note, this sort of transparency is absolutely awesome. As the video gaming sector becomes larger, older, and more profitable, I have become used to the Activision (why Blizzard?) and EA Games (why Bioware?) style of money grubbing. I mean I understand that money runs the world (and Rivellon) but, as long as Larian, even as a big boy, is sincere and forthright with their fanbase, I can assure you the fanbase will not leave Larian. At the very least, I won't.


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Well, thank for the quite interesting article. I see some of my thoughts regarding the subj were correct :P

P.S. forum really needs some engine upgrade or may be migration even.

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The bottom line is this :

Not quality decides what people will buy,
but marketing does.

The biggest money companies have for marketing, the more they'll sell - regardless of quality.

"Million flies cannot go wrong." aka "This is the new shit." (Marketing campaign for Dragon Age)






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Yes, good marketing strategy is half the success.

Ps: Did you know that there is page about divinity 2 on TVtropes?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Divinity2


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Don't go the big route, go the small, more efficient and more profitable route. While I love big, epic games like The Dragon Knight Saga, I also love the 2D isometric games like Divine Divinity. My proposition is that your studio goes the digital route. Make an isometric Divinity sequel, some new role-playing game intellectual properties, throw them up on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and Steam for $15, then profit. The big packaged products are getting harder and harder to sell to publishers these days. With all of the risks involved, they're just not willing to take a shot, so the best you can do is a smaller publisher, which means hardly any advertising and thus people likely won't know about your game. However, if you were to go the digital route, there's much less risk and potentially greater reward. Just my two cents.


My Favorite RPGs: Divinity franchise, Gothic franchise (including Arcania, so I think I'm alone...), Venetica, Risen, Two Worlds II, The Witcher, Sacred franchise, Fallout franchise, Mass Effect 1, Alpha Protocol, Planescape: Torment, Drakensang, KOTOR 1 & 2, etc.
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It's a matter of personal preference but I prefer big epic games although I enjoyed games like dungeon seige.

It seems Larian are making two games; a big epic game (project D) and an isometric game (project E) and I think you are correct about the digital distribution. It will keep the costs down as the biggest cost is by far advertising / marketing and distribution. I wouldn't be surprised if these costs equal or be greater than the development costs. Project E would have to be relativley small and I'd put it on XBL, PSN (if lairan have a PS3 dev kit) and Steam. The epic game will be as a digital only download for PC via Steam, Larian Vault & any other major digital download service. As for the Xbox, that will have to be a DVD release for a game this size. As someone else suggested it might be worth asking CDProjekt what they did.

A free copy of the games to all major gaming mags is a good idea too. Also get interviews etc with the big gaming sites e.g. IGN etc.

Last edited by Arokh; 12/06/11 03:03 PM.

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No thanks. If the isometric game is continuing the Divinity saga, I'd want to buy it from a shop and not download it. I'd easily pay 40 for any Divinity game.

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I prefer boxed copies but digital distribution is on the increase and it will be cheaper especially if the developer is publishing the game themselves. However if Larian do decide to sell boxed copies of the PC version then I'd buy it otherwise a digial version would have to be OK.


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Originally Posted by Arokh
I prefer boxed copies but digital distribution is on the increase and it will be cheaper especially if the developer is publishing the game themselves. However if Larian do decide to sell boxed copies of the PC version then I'd buy it otherwise a digial version would have to be OK.


Bingo.

I'd prefer a boxed retail copy, of course; however, you must take Larian's business into consideration when talking about which route they decide to take in the future, because would you rather Larian risk it all through a boxed retail release, potentially suffer the risks financially and never get another Divinity title? In this day and age, the industry is changing, you're either a AAA experience, most likely a first-person shooter, or you're doomed to be forgotten. While you and I would be there day one with our money to support Larian, that surely isn't enough to remain a successful and profitable operation.

Larian could do very well through digital distribution. The games don't have a massive budget, don't take as long to develop, the share that the digital distribution partner gets shouldn't even come close to what a retail partner gets, they can publish it on their own through the Larian Vault and then team up with someone for an Xbox Live Arcade release, they don't have to worry about the cost involved with packaged products, etc.

I'd rather see an incredibly healthy Larian if it meant digital distribution was the only way. I'm not saying that Larian is in a unhealthy state, but merely saying that I don't want it to happen in the future and possibly this is one way to avoid that.


My Favorite RPGs: Divinity franchise, Gothic franchise (including Arcania, so I think I'm alone...), Venetica, Risen, Two Worlds II, The Witcher, Sacred franchise, Fallout franchise, Mass Effect 1, Alpha Protocol, Planescape: Torment, Drakensang, KOTOR 1 & 2, etc.
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