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How to cover very simplistic games?

Posted at 17:45 on December 8th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I'm seriously out of ideas about this. Think games like Advanced Lawnmower Simulator. Or even basically every Atari 2600 game out there. Most of those are single screen games using gameplay ideas which are so well-known these days that they defy all attempts to write a 300 word review (300 words is the, admittedly arbitrary, lower bound for review length at TGOD).

Also, it's completely impossible to rate such games on the same scale as the other games on the site. As much as the admission hurts, game quality isn't completely independent of age. Sure, there's always the exception of the rule, but if we go back to 1980, games were a lot simpler back then. There were still good and bad games, but the standards were different.

So, suggestions, please. How to get the Atari 2600 (and so on) on the site?
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Posted at 04:00 on December 9th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Ooooh, im having to hold myself back here.

'game quality isnt completely independant of age'... 'standards were different'... is that really you talking Mr C? :o

Now, now, fair enough, Computer Space and the Magnovox Oddysee might be a bit lacking by todays standards, but I see no reason why 2600 titles (good or bad) cannot be rated and regarded in the same manner as all those that came after it. You should crank up Activision's Space Shuttle or Solaris by Atari before referring to 2nd generation games as simplistic.

I could help here as my 2600 library is quite large, but before we were to move forward on this you would have to apologise for referring to the best console ever as simplistic :P

Ive not written a game review before so Im not sure how well they would come out, or how much time I could devote to such a task, but I have done quite a bit of other 2600 related stuff in the past which was fun.

I am very busy with work at the moment though so dont expect too much!
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Edited by fretz at 06:39 on December 9th, 2007
Posted at 13:21 on December 9th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete | Delete Attachment
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Why do you think I brought this up in the very moment you re-appeared? This ring a bell? No hurry :P

Anyway, keep two things in mind:

1. I'm not just talking about age, but about simplicity in general. See how my first example is a game from (if I'm not mistaken) the late 80s. I consider those the 'golden age' of computer games (see my highly scientific graph of average game quality versus year attached ;)). Giving it a rating is one thing (it would probably be a '1' in that case, but I'm more and more convinced ratings don't mean shit anyway), but what does this game offer which warrants for 300 words of description and evaluation? Sure, I can always pad things out and push it above that mark, but who'd want to read it then?

2. I already said there are many exceptions, but let me give you an opposite example instead: Atlantis. I consider this a very good Atari 2600 game. Gameplay is fun and the graphics are excellent. I even wrote a review about it some months ago:
Quote:
Alien Invaders, the Gorgons, are running their final assault on the city of Atlantis. The last line of defense are three guns, two positioned at the sides of the screen and one in its centre. Their lines of fire are fixed: the middle one shoots straight up, the ones on the sides fire diagonally towards the centre of the screen. The player can select which gun to shoot with by moving the controller to the left and right.

The Gorgon ships are flying over the city, and you have to shoot them. Some are even dropping bombs, and by that, they not only destroy the homes of innocent families, but also reduce your firepower if one of the guns is hit and destroyed. The only way to get the guns or the other structures back is by shooting enough ships (no matter whether they're shooting or not).

Atlantis is a good-looking and flashy Missile Command clone. In the end, it's a little frustrating that the player's whole effort is doomed to fail. No matter how good you are, the Gorgon fleet has apparantely endless supplies and the game will not end until all of Atlantis is reduced to rubble. However, even after such an apocalypse, there's still some hope: one small escape pod manages to get away...


That's 217 words, so it can't be put on the site. If I were to pad it, it'd have one third completely useless 'stuffing' in it. Yet, I think I've already covered the game quite verbosely there.

Quality-wise, as I said, it's quite fun, but it's still a single-screen game. If I had the choice, I'd pick Blasteroids over it any day (I'm intentionally comparing it to a game which I didn't even rate too highly here). Simply because there's 'more' in it. Even if it's still a very simple game (blast everything), it keeps me occupied way longer. I'm advancing through different levels there while Atlantis always stays on this one screen.

Taking this to even higher extremes, what Crackpots or this Fishing game? Atari Boxing? The latter is the best boxing game I've ever played, but comparing it to Speedball?

If you think you can do it, fine - go ahead any try. Maybe you can inspire me. Oh, and no need for me to apologize, because I never called the console simplistic, but just the average game released for it :P And this statement stems from the concern that an Atari 2600 section shouldn't just consist of the games which are exceptionally long and complex, but also ones of typical complexity.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 15:33 on December 9th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Ive added some more words to your review, they are about the game rather than the gameplay though.



Alien Invaders, the Gorgons, are running their final assault on the city of Atlantis. The last line of defense are three guns, two positioned at the sides of the screen and one in its centre. Their lines of fire are fixed: the middle one shoots straight up, the ones on the sides fire diagonally towards the centre of the screen. The player can select which gun to shoot with by moving the controller to the left and right.

The Gorgon ships are flying over the city, and you have to shoot them. Some are even dropping bombs, and by that, they not only destroy the homes of innocent families, but also reduce your firepower if one of the guns is hit and destroyed. The only way to get the guns or the other structures back is by shooting enough ships (no matter whether they're shooting or not).

Atlantis is a good-looking and flashy Missile Command clone. In the end, it's a little frustrating that the player's whole effort is doomed to fail. No matter how good you are, the Gorgon fleet has apparantely endless supplies and the game will not end until all of Atlantis is reduced to rubble. However, even after such an apocalypse, there's still some hope: one small escape pod manages to get away...

A competition version of Atlantis was made by Imagic which was the same as Atlantis in every way except the game was much faster and the score rewards reduced, therefore making the game much more difficult. This version of the game, called Atlantis II, was used during a competition to find the worlds best Atlantis player. At the time of writing only 13 Atlantis II competition carts are known to exist and on the rare occasions that one comes up for sale these command a hefty price tag. The exact number of copies produced is not known.
Posted at 17:33 on December 9th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Which makes it one usable review (thanks to your excellent addition) so far.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 03:49 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I reckon I could write 300 words on the amount of take away Pizza needed to push the 2600 to the speeds in the attached zip... :D Not sure if it would qualify for a review though, unless you start a pizza section.

Im not sure how best to describe it, but the combination of the learning curve/difficulty increase with score and the kind of natural and fluid (yet simplistic :P ) movement in Frostbite combines to make one of the most elegant, fantastic feeling, 'in the zone' games ive ever played.

If you havent played it, its worthy a few hours to get into it. Dont judge it until you are scoring above 100K, around about the time you get the magic fish, thats rouind about when the sweet spot in the movement/speed ratio starts to begin.

http://s113156749.websitehome.co.uk/img/frostbite_1000000.zip


EDIT - the attach file function on the board doesnt seem to work properly.
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Edited by fretz at 03:54 on December 11th, 2007
Posted at 09:28 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete | Delete Attachment
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I'm not quite sure what you're trying to tell me, since that video only shows green (or black in another player).

Quote:
the attach file function on the board doesnt seem to work properly

It's working (as you can see), but your file exceeds the allowed file size. It should throw a warning at least, of course.

Edit: In any case, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but it's not really solving the original problem. Patching things here and there won't enable me to create a really noteworthy Atari 2600 section (let alone cover all the other games adressed in the original post). Such a section being created without my active participation is something which just won't happen. Oh, I wouldn't mind, of course, but look at the site as it is: No system section (apart from SNES maybe) has grown to decent size without me taking on the largest chunk of the work. That is not to put the contributions of others down. Especially Wandrell does an amazing job, but it seems there's nothing he has to say about this topic (which he has read already). So, again, it's just not happening unless I know there'll be a chance of such a section actually being maintained. I still don't see that. All I see so far is one usable review which wasn't even written by one person alone (so the logical assumption is that none of us two have the ability to do it alone). The problem described in the original post remains, I still haven't seen a solution even suggested. Sorry if this sounds bleak, but it's just frustrating to see how apparantely almost nobody cares at all.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 10:13 on December 11th, 2007
Posted at 18:08 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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lol, chill out! Small acorns...mighty oaks :D

The point was that by talking about strategies/finer points of defeating these games, getting 300 words will be a lot easier. The strategies employed are often quite complex.
Posted at 18:18 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Yes, I can see that:
Quote:
To mow the lawn, you have to tap a button. One press of the button moves you forward one space, leaving the space behind you fully mown. Once you reach the left border of the screen, another press of the button will teleport you to the right hand side of the screen again, only one row higher up.

There are many different strategies to achieve a good mowing score. For once, you can just tap the button as fast as possible, and thus break all speed records. You can tap the button rhythmically, to make the lawn look especially clean cut. [...]


Are you for real? That first paragraph is completely ridiculous, the second one is all made up. And it's still nowhere near 300 words. Maybe I'm just burned out, but then again, maybe you just have too much confidence in my abilities.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 18:36 on December 11th, 2007
Posted at 19:37 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Your picking an extreme example. If you want to do every game then your best bet is to surf some crap like Moby. But for every extreme example like you come up with there are dozens of worthwhile examples.
Posted at 19:58 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Your picking an extreme example.

Of course, because that's the kind of example I started the thread for ;)
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 20:34 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I've already had problems choosing games sometimes because I can't find what to say about such simple games. Also, Atari 2600 isn't my field.

I think it was an Atari 5200 what I had as a kid, and it's games where pretty simple or confused me. What was that game of three chess boards about, and the one of superman had any point?

And the ones I still remember better, such as frogger, the other game of frogs eating flies or that smurfs one are hard to describe in more than one paragraph.

Maybe the best that can be done is looking in more detail at what can be put in a review:
- The story quickly explained (if it has any)
- The control scheme (jumping around or avoiding what falls? Moves over a board or is just pressing in the correct moment?)
- Graphic style (I'm not sure somebody would be much interested in colour blocks if he hasn't played those games as a kid, but there should be games that do something great with what they have)
- Sounds and music
- Game style (to a certain extent, related to the control scheme, but deeper. For what do you jump, what falls and how often?)
- Background (there can be interesting things related to the game)
- Influence (old games don't have little)

There should be more things that can be added to the list, or parts that can be divided in more points. They still will be hard to review, but getting a bit of many things it would be possible to write 300 words.

I'll look for a game to try to find something, but I fear reviews of these games would quickly become monotonous and simple.
Posted at 21:08 on December 11th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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After considering your points, I guess the key lies in background information about the game, not the description of the gameplay itself. In fact, I'd rather not write much about graphics and sound for very old games, because repeating the point that blocky graphics were just normal in 1980 over and over again is tiring. I'd only mention them if they're above the norm, like I did with Atlantis.

In some cases, it might not even be completely wrong to make some little story up in the style I used in the mock-up about the lawnmower game. As long as it leads to some point later (and if it's written entertainingly), why not?

Re-thinking this all, I'm reluctant to drop or change this minimum review length, even if it might look like a pure obstacle in this case. The lure to declare a game 'extremely simple' in order to justify a short review is just too big. I'd probably write only such short reviews in no time. Sometimes, a little force for oneself just is needed.

I currently have a few other games for review in the pipeline (four to be exact), and I also have to wrap up the comics series I've started to cover, but after that, I'll give the Atari 2600 another go. Until then, fretz, could you probably take a photo of the 'typical' 2600 model (yes, we had the discussion what's 'typical' already; you choose) which I can use as category icon? Also, we need an introductory text about the system, in the style of what can be found on the index pages of the system subcategories (those vary in quality a lot, yes). A job for you, too, fretz?

In the end, this doesn't have to become the largest section of the site. Covering a good, basic number (larger than 10, smaller than 100) is already better than nothing, and then, it'll probably not be as bad reading the reviews.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 21:10 on December 11th, 2007
Posted at 00:30 on December 12th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Quote:
I'd rather not write much about graphics and sound for very old games


Unless you are referring to Pitfall 2, which has music that alters in character from sombre to upbeat dependant on player action, using a bankswitching technique to get more than 4K on the cart.

Thats 34 words towards the Pitfall 2 review :P :)


Getting 10 games will be easy. Here are a few suggestions for starters for their more complex gameplay and/or interesting stories...

Adventure (first ever video game Easter Egg, first ever action adventure)
Pitfall 2 (the best sound on the system by a long way(not counting modern homebrews))
Pacman (the worlds worst ever arcade conversion)
ET (the game that made the company crash)
Quadrun (one of only 2 examples of speech in a video game on the 2600)

Should get by on gameplay alone...

Solaris (easily complex enough to write a review about gameplay alone, 3 different games in one with a strategic layer, a space shmup and a planet rescue mission)
Thrust (modern homebrew by one of your kin - a guy called Thomas Jentsch(sp?), a very good conversion, plays better than the spectrum version! Gameplay should be sufficient on this one as well)
H.E.R.O.
Secret Quest
Posted at 10:18 on December 12th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Quote:
Quote:
I'd rather not write much about graphics and sound for very old games


Unless you are referring to Pitfall 2, which has music that alters in character from sombre to upbeat dependant on player action, using a bankswitching technique to get more than 4K on the cart.


You somehow have the habit of pointing out the obvious. Here's what I actually posted before:
Quote:
I'd rather not write much about graphics and sound for very old games [...] I'd only mention them if they're above the norm


Context :P
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 14:22 on December 15th, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I repeat:

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 21:08 on December 11th, 2007:
fretz, could you probably take a photo of the 'typical' 2600 model (yes, we had the discussion what's 'typical'; already; you choose) which I can use as category icon? Also, we need an introductory text about the system, in the style of what can be found on the index pages of the system subcategories (those vary in quality a lot, yes). A job for you, too, fretz?
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 20:54 on December 19th, 2007
Posted at 00:18 on December 21st, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I think the answer is pretty straight forward, lower your standards (for review length, not game quality).
The fact is that most atari 2600 era games -can't- be reviewed in 300 words or more (not unless you include anecdotes or something). Hell, I don't think most of the manuals which came with the games contained 300 words.
I think what you need to do is make an exception to your 300 word rule, something like "all game reviews must be at least 300 words long, except for atari 2600 reviews, which must be at least 150 words".

As far as rating them, I think you have to rate them from the perspective of when they were high-tech. Rating them against modern games (even as "modern" as 8-bit nintendo) would give all of them a rating of only about 1 out of 10. The 2600 was great for it's time, but just can't begin to compare with anything newer. Normally the low quality graphic in an old game can be overlooked in favor of good, in-depth gameplay, but the 2600 just wasn't capable of anything remotely in-depth. The most in-depth game it had was pitfall, and that was the most boring game on the entire system. At least with the other games there was a sense of progression (kill 50 enemies, move to level 2 with 50 new enemies, kill them & move to level 3), but pitfall just went on & on & on.

Many nintendo-era games can be rated directly against more modern games because what they lacked in graphics they made up for in gameplay, but the 2600 games just didn't -have- anything in the realm of gameplay. They were lots of fun at the time, and I still enjoy playing them once in a while as a "coffe break game" kind of thing, but never spend more than about 20mins playing any one game (compared to often spending hours on a single game when playing newer games, or even 8-bit nintendo games).


If you want a couple of really good games from the 2600, try Space Caverns and Warlords.
Space caverns was the most complex atari game I've ever seen, with a manual 3x as thick as any other 2600 game. There were countless different difficulty levels you could choose from when starting a game, selecting from options such as whether to have 2 or 4 enemies above you, whether or not to have any enemies from the sides, whether the enemies above were large (easy targets) or small, and whether the enemies above shot straight or diagonally. All of these options were independant of one another, so you could mix & match. In all of the variations, you stood on the ground & shot up at the enemies above you, while trying to avoid their falling bullets. If you chose to have the side enemies as well, then you also had to watch out for creatures coming out of the caverns to either side of you (which is where the game got it's name). Fortunately the cave monsters didn't shoot at you, they killed you by making contact. Strangely, in order to shoot right or left, you had to move the joystick up or down (the button fired upwards, while moving the stick right & left moved your character right or left).

Warlords was very basic in gameplay, but was fun & fast action, and also allowed for a certain level of strategy. In warlords, you had 4 players (always 4. If you had less than 4 human players, the rest would be computer controlled), and each players had a warlord, a castle, and a shield. This game used the paddles instead of the joysticks. What you had to do was use your sheild to deflect the ball away from your castle & warlord, while simultaneously trying to direct it -at- your opponents' castles & warlords. The castles were a secondary line of defense, and you could lose them without losing the game. However, if your warlord was hit, you lost. Period. The castles sat in the corners of the screen, and the shields slid back & forth in front of them. One difficulty option was whether you could catch the ball by holding the button when it came in contact with your shield (then trying to launch it at one of the other players) or if you could only deflect the ball. The castles completely protected the warlords at the beginning of the game, but broke when struck by the ball. The shields were indestructible, but only protected one small area at a time.
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Posted at 00:59 on December 21st, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Here's some pics of my 2600 system:
http://allspark.net/cypherswipe/2600-a.jpg
http://allspark.net/cypherswipe/2600-b.jpg
http://allspark.net/cypherswipe/2600-c.jpg


Here's an interesting piece of trivia you can add to the 2600's description: The joysticks use the same connector as the sega genesis/megadrive. You can take a controller from the sega genesis/megadrive, insert it into the 2600, and have it work just fine. It's even wired consistantly, the control pad works perfectly & one of the 3 buttons (I forget which, I haven't used my atari in nearly a decade) functions as the joystick button. (The other 2 buttons (5 in the case of a 6 button controller) & the start/mode buttons do nothing.) This is good news for those out there whose atari joysticks are getting worn out.
Strangely though, the atari joystick does NOT work ina a genesis/megadrive. It will connect physically, but is completely non-functional.
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At the end of the day, you're left with a bent fork & a pissed off rhino.
Posted at 06:55 on December 21st, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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The original post makes me sad. The correct question to be asking is:

"How can we keep the Atari 2600 reviews from quadrupling bandwidth costs?"

And honestly, I wouldn't know.
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Posted at 10:35 on December 21st, 2007 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 00:18 on December 21st, 2007:
something like "all game reviews must be at least 300 words long, except for atari 2600 reviews, which must be at least 150 words".

While I agree with almost everything you said, this won't solve the general problem. If I were to review the Advanced Lawnmower Simulator, I'd like to cover the great Spectrum version of it. Again, this is just to say again that there are simplicistic games on any system, and making a rule exception based on system alone, this'll help that specific system alone. As for doing a more general rule exception, there's the 'lure' I talked about before...

Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 00:18 on December 21st, 2007:
[points about simple gameplay in relation to rating]

Yes, you pretty much put the fuzzy feeling I had when I started the thread into words. This is a point which (not worded as extremely in order not to piss off the fans too much ;)) would fit in the introductory text of the section as well.

Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 00:18 on December 21st, 2007:
If you want a couple of really good games from the 2600, try Space Caverns and Warlords. [...]

Those are already reviews half-done :D Interested in expanding them a little bit and transforming them into present tense in order to take full author credit? ;)

Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 00:59 on December 21st, 2007:
Here's some pics of my 2600 system:

Great, I'll use those!

Originally posted by Tuss at 06:55 on December 21st, 2007:
"How can we keep the Atari 2600 reviews from quadrupling bandwidth costs?"

You mean like this one? Oh, wait, that's just 239 words as well. Damn. Seriously, though: It always amazes me how popular old consoles (and their games, to be more exact) are these days, especially compared to their home computer counterparts of the same time. However, bandwidth consumption will hardly be a problem, because the eternal rule 'file size' ~ 'number of downloads' still applies.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 10:41 on December 21st, 2007
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