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Game Mechanics How to get compelling, turn based mechanics?

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by Zizka, Nov 28, 2019.

  1. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    I've thought up of various combat mechanics for my game but I'm trying to get feedback about the actual designs:
    Design A:
    [​IMG]
    I just did a mockup of what I had in mind. In the example above, two PC are engaged in close combat. The thief is at ranged combat while the wizard is farther away. Players can move on the scale from turn to turn, going closer (towards the skull) or further away from it. I like it as a concept.
    I'm wondering if three locations on both sides is enough however or if it's too limiting. I don't want too have too much for no good reason.

    ------------------------------------
    Design B:
    [​IMG]
    I've tried to simplify things a bit. I'd like to integrate the aesthetics of boardgames (miniatures and dice). Instead of having two sets of terrain (enemies and allies), I mainstreamed things to just 5 tiles.
    In order to hit the selected target (marked with a cross air) the player rolls a virtual die. I've identified the "to hit" target number, 6 if the enemy if the furthest away, 4+ one square closer, 3+ one more tile closer and the hand-to-hand tile.
    The idea is to use risk-reward:
    -The longer they wait to shoot, the more likely they are to hit the target.
    -However, the closer the foe is, the more likely the player will end up being injured by getting into a fight with the foe.
    -Since ammunition would be limited/it would take time to reload, the player needs to choose wisely when to do which action in combat.
    -Once the player gets into close-combat, there should be some kind of price to pay. I'm not sure what that would be. I'm thinking that combat could become a lot harder and the player to deal a lot less damage.
    Questions I have for people who have some game design experience or ideas:
    1-How could I mitigate RNG? I can imagine how it would be frustrating to keep missing a target... This is a big one.
    2-Could I arrange things better to have a more interesting UI? If so, where I could put things?
    3-How could I deal with close combat in order to make it riskier since it doesn't use ammunition. In other words, how can I make sure that close combat becomes a last resort as opposed to a way to kill enemies without spending ammunition?
    4-Any ideas as to how I could make things look better? More coherent?

    ------------------------------------
    Design C:
    [​IMG]
    You'll notice I've changed a few things.
    a. have added a bullet meter. Out of the six bullets, you'll see on bullet has been spent here.
    b. A bullet would be potentially fired each round.
    c. Instead of going for "all or nothing" I've modified the damage system to be less RNG influenced. While 1 or 2 is still a miss, anything higher causes damage, from 3 to 12 on a critical hit.
    d. I've changed the die design as well to make it more elegant.
    e. I've changed the design of the font.
    f. I've modified the pathway to make it more coherent.
    g. I've moved the cross hair under the position tile.
    h. In this concept, I don't take distance into consideration however... which might be problematic as not very realistic. So that's one issue.
    i. Another issue would be reloading. If the enemy advances one tile per round, there would be no point in having a gun clip as he wouldn't have time to empty it anyway.
    Possible approaches:
    a. Disregard distance as part of the battle mechanic when it comes to scoring a hit.
    b. Have more position tiles or have the enemies move half a tile per round. That is to say, to spend one turn to move in between the tiles. Or have the enemy move slower than one tile a turn.
    c. Use QTE to determine a hit:
    [​IMG]
    The idea being that the arrow moves left to right and the player presses a key to determine the outcome with different colors dealing different amount of damage.
    I still have to design:
    a. Close combat.
    b. Should I display enemy health?

    ------------------------------------
    Design D:
    [​IMG]
    I've dramatically reduced the bullet size to make the UI more appealing.
    I've gotten rid of the die. This will give the player agency over the result he is going for. This also allows me to implement distance.
    The further away the target, the more red zones (miss zones) present. The closer the target, the more green and yellow zones.
    If the opponent reaches the player, hand-to-hand is handled this way:
    The HP (100 and 50 here) goes down by their damage factor.
    The player has 5, the monster has 10. Both their HP goes down by the damage factor until one reaches 0 and dies. So it's important to avoid hand to hand at all cost.
    Thoughts on UI design and the combat ideas?
    ------------------------------------

    This is very important to me as I want to have compelling combat like you'd find in Undertale or Paper Mario. It should have principles easy to apply which can lead to complexity if necessary. In other words, there should be room for complexity as the game progresses.
     
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  2. nacho_chicken

    nacho_chicken Member

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    Just a note: some of the image links are broken as of the writing of this post, and I'm finding it extremely hard to understand a few of the concepts behind some of your designs with only text descriptions. I think a lot of the problems you're running in to are a result of trying to mix complex RPG mechanics with the action-based mechanics of simpler RPGs. An entirely turn-based RPG can have extremely compelling gameplay (see: Persona 5), and an RPG with action-based attack mechanics can be boring or even irritating (see: YIIK: A Postmodern RPG).

    A.
    Three rows is definitely enough. This is actually how a lot of RPGs handle rows and attack ranges. You can assign a number to each row and make calculating weapon attack ranges significantly easier. A range of 1 would mean close combat only, a range of 2 would include extended reach weapons such as spears and polearms, and weapons with anything more would likely consist mostly of missile weapons like bows and guns.

    B.
    I don't really like this one. If you're going with a boardgame/tabletop RPG aesthetic, the excessive simplification of movement and combat works against that.

    I'm not going to comment in-depth on C. or D. at the moment, since images are broken. I'll just say that RNG is not a bad word. It doesn't need to be avoided as long as the player has the ability to mitigate it.
     
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  3. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    First of all, thank you for taking some of your time for commenting. It's weird about the links being broken as they are showing up on the computers I've tried.

    I want to have a single protagonist for my game as opposed to a party of characters. I think it would be boring to stick to the basic rpg commands for this reason.

    I think the designer of Undertale was smart in approaching battle with interactive elements for that reason:
    [​IMG]

    The window in the middle is a good example of something which is simple but can be cranked to something much harder.

    This is what I'm striving for. Not the same thing of course but something similarly basically simple which can become more complex.

    Instead of drowning you guys with text here's a simple explanation of something I've mentioned in the original post, I'll try to keep it short:
    [​IMG]

    a. The arrow moves from left to right.
    b. The player decides when to stop the arrow by pressing a key.
    c. Each colored section have a different result in battle. Green could mean a regular hit, red a miss, yellow a critical hit, and purple a critical fumble for example.
    d. The arrow speed depends on the discrepancy between the speed of the player and the enemy. If the player is faster, the arrow moves slower. If the enemy is faster, the arrow moves faster. This makes is easier to hit an enemy if the player has better agility but harder to hit an enemy which is more nimble.

    This is very basic. The problem right now is that there would be no defensive system. I want accurate player input to award better defense (or dodge!) and same thing for attacking.

    What do you think?
    _____________________

    The resident evil nes remake also has an interesting mechanic.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
  4. Llama_Code

    Llama_Code Member

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    Images are broken for me as well ATM so it's hard to see what is going on, maybe they are cached on your end?

    Interactive battle can be fun or annoying, its all in how you approach it. I am actually a fan of how Yokai Watch handles it. If you get overly complex they can become a chore and not so fun, but the right mix can be engaging and fun. Most turn based battle systems rely on some level of RNG, it just needs to be fair and obvious. Squares ATB system is a good early example of this, different characters recharge at different rates that can be affected by buffs and ailments, so while it's still turned based is keeps the action going.

    It gets harder when are looking at a single protagonist vs a party, your right a basic RPG battle would be boring, your example if the second post I like.

    What if you also had an arrow at the bottom that could be used for defense? Something like matching them up would be a dodge, close together would increase the chance of decreasing the damage of the enemy attack? You could also base the bottom arrow speed on speed discrepancy. For example if the enemy is fast the bottom arrow should move faster. It would add some challenge if the arrows move independently at different speeds to both try and match them AND hit the space you want.

    You could also have buffs and ailments that grow or shrink specific sections to make them easier/harder to hit, or use character traits. For example if the enemy has a shield and armor make the hit and critical hit spaces smaller. If the enemy is just in a loin cloth make the critical hit area larger.
     
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  5. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    Thank you for your time and your reply.
    I've re-uploaded to imgur:
    [​IMG]

    Regarding the ATB, I feel like the interaction is still too minimal for what I'm aiming for. I'd like player skillful input to be rewarded. Something like Paper Mario comes to mind:
    [​IMG]

    I think it's probably why Intelligent Systems went for something interactive in the first place.

    I like the idea of having more than one arrow but I don't know how it would be implemented since it's essentially turn-based. Unless you mean that the player has two interactions: one on attack and one on defense, when it's the opponent's turn? If that's the case however, wouldn't one of the two arrows end up superfluous? Unless I misunderstood what you meant.

    I'd like to find ways to influence the state of the "hit bar" yes. For instance I was thinking of things like what you've mentioned here, like having certain enemies have areas where they'll counter attack if you interact there.

    This is very mockupish but should give an idea:
    [​IMG]

    Health in the counter (where it says 05). The knife/arrow symbol to determine where you interact. The color code on the right to tell you what happens if you pick a color or another.

    The skull bar under the enemy is an ATB. It fills up and the enemy attacks when it is full. The idea is for the player not to take too long to interact with the color bar because meanwhile the enemy ATB is filling up.

    The lungs meter is a stamina meter which fills up over time. Every action requires stamina. I thought of this to prevent players to just spam attacks. Think of it as an ATB meter which fills up but which can be partially be depleted as opposed to having to wait to be full before doing a single action.

    I was thinking that defense would also take stamina which means the player would need to time his attacks carefully to make sure he would still have some remaining stamina to dodge or block an incoming attack when it finally comes.
     
  6. nacho_chicken

    nacho_chicken Member

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    If this is the case, I would recommend trying to stay away from straight RPG mechanics and move gameplay more towards action. Single-character-party turn-based combat is extremely difficult to make entertaining for the length of time an RPG lasts. A game with a single controllable character is only as good as its core mechanics. Games with one PC and more standard battle systems like Deep Dungeon and Dragon Quest 1 work so well precisely because they distilled the genre into its most basic form. Undertale replaces RPG mechanics with bullet hell dodging. Paper Mario (OK, you have a partner. Technically 1.5 playable characters) and its action commands work because they're different for nearly every single action. Action RPGs live and die based on how good moving around and attacking feels. If your primary method of interacting with the combat system is through a single meter, it will likely become boring very fast.
     
  7. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    I agree with your take on single/1.5 RPG combat mechanics and I'd really like to pull something off like Undertale or Paper Mario did. Actually, I like Undertale's battle concept, not the actual bullet hell mechanic which is not a genre I'm fond of. I'd like something highly interactive like Undertale but with something which I find more interesting than bullet hell.

    I need a simple framwork which can then become more and more complex as the game progresses. This is the challenge of it all. This is why I suggested the color bar in the first place. I need a mechanic which is easy to understand at first for the player and then I can gradully add more and more elements to the simple foundations to make it more advanced.

    I want a 1st person viewpoint for battle, so I don't think anything Paper Mario-related would be appropriate. Besides, I would need a lot of abilities and a lot of coding to introduce each new ability if I were to try to emulate Paper Mario. This in itself woudl be a chore. I also never really like the actual actions you could do in Paper Mario, I mean they were ok but some of them were too basic.
     
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  8. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    Other: Her Loving Embrace uses platforming hack-n-slash for both basic attacks and dodging, and other styles of minigames for special attacks. It could be worth looking into for inspiration.

    Another off-the-wall idea: during battle, the player is in a mech (or just gets out a lot of weapons and technical equipment out) and you control all of them in first person as in Nauticrawl.
    upload_2019-11-30_15-9-10.png
    The further you progress through the game, the more gadgets you unlock, so you gradually get this UX nightmare with more and more things to keep track of to fight optimally. Some resources would be shared (like your HP and MP) and consumed by basically every action, some gadgets would have their own resources (different guns using different ammo types), and you basically need to prioritize between all the different things you can do to fight at an optimal level. Save up stamina for dodging or use it for melee attacks? Reload your auto-fire machine gun or manually prepare a mortar volley? Type in incantations in your magic terminal window to program a spell? You'll need to deal with all of those systems at once!
     
  9. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    Thank you for sharing your ideas. I looked up Other. Looks like a fun game but the mechanics aren't exactly what I'm looking for. While it's original to have the player switch to 2D to handle the fights, it's not something I personally enjoy myself.

    As for the rest, I need to be careful not too cram too many things. I've given up on older projects before because I was too ambitious so having someone code-in a lot of systems makes me a bit wary.

    Another mechanic I've thought about are cards with each card having a certain stamina cost to execute. I figure I could assimilate both offence and defense that way. For instance, there could be a card which allows the player to dodge the next attack.

    I've made cards before for a different game:
    [​IMG]
    In the upper right, the stamina cost. In the top half, a picture representing the action. Under that, in the little square, a description of what happens.

    It's similar to magic a bit:
    [​IMG]

    ...or hearthstone for that matter:
    [​IMG]

    I think that's a good comprise between NRG and strategy. The reason why I'm hesitating is because the game itself has nothing to do with cards. I mean, it's a not a game about collecting cards or something like that. The cards would only show up as the combat system, it would have nothing with the game narrative itself.

    For some reason a disconnect between the narrative and the actual cards would feel wrong.

    I really like dice as well, which is why I was thinking of implementing some in the first place. My issue with that is NRG. Maybe there could be a resource where the player can re-roll unwanted results? I like dice because it has a nice tabletop feel to it.

    How could I start with a simple dice mechanic and keep it compelling? I was thinking of image-sided dice instead of numerical values. Kind of something like this:
    [​IMG]

    Again, however, the game isn't a board game as I feel like there's once again a disconnect if I take dice.
     
  10. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    You could have pages of a book instead (perhaps one that can rewrite reality itself), and since the book has its own will it will rearrange its pages randomly each time you open it, so you can't decide WHICH pages to read, other than the random ones available to you. Functionally the same as randomly drawn cards, but could fit into basically any story. (And since the book is alive, it could be a support character that offers flavor text, random amusing banter when there's nothing happening story-wise, and tutorials when new game mechanics are introduced)
     
  11. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    Ok but how would you apply this in a battle for example? Just so I'm sure I understand what you're saying.;)
     
  12. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    It's functionally exactly the same as playing cards, they're just presented as pages of a book visually. (Flipping through pages instead of shuffling a deck, looking like pieces of parchment instead of trading cards, having a lot more text on them...)
     
  13. HeWhoShallNotBeNamed

    HeWhoShallNotBeNamed Member

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    I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with using cards. Even if the cards have nothing to do with the narrative, as long as the art style looks like it fits into the game world. Look at how they used tarot cards for character selection in Dragon Age: Inquisition. But if you don't want to use cards, you could try thought bubbles. When the player's turn comes up, thought bubbles could appear above their character's head, as though the character is deciding which ability/attack to use.
     
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  14. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    I like the idea of thought bubbles, it would make more sense and would end up more coherent.

    I've thought of something else though which I think it pretty good:
    Remember when I talked about the colored meter? Well, it'd be extension of this.

    [​IMG]

    a) Picture the meter above with an arrow going back and forth from side to side.
    b) The player needs to press a single key to stop the arrow where he wants it to land.
    c) Each colored section have a different effect: red: failure green: success blue: critical success
    BUT
    d) (and this is where I have extended things from my previous design) another meter is also active at the same time, the enemy meter.

    e) In other words:
    i. The player has a meter.
    ii. The enemy has a meter.
    iii. When the player presses the interaction key, it stops *both* arrows on both meters.

    f) This means that the player needs to time correctly not only to stop on the right result for him but also stop the arrow for the enemy player where it would be disadvantaged.

    g) There's a time limit to make a selection to prevent the player to wait too long and just pick the best outcome every time.

    So attack and defense are effectively taking place at the same time.

    It's pretty clear in my head but let me know if it's not, I'll use illustrations to better explain my idea.
     
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  15. HeWhoShallNotBeNamed

    HeWhoShallNotBeNamed Member

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    I actually really like that idea. You could make it where the arrow on the enemy meter moves faster for stronger enemies so its more difficult to stop it in the "best" spot. Different status effects could also speed up/slow down the arrows or change the lengths of each colored section.
     
  16. sitebender

    sitebender Member

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    If there are a lot of turn based battles, sometimes you don't need each and every battle to be compelling, just quick. Bosses can be compelling.
     
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  17. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    [​IMG]

    Alright! So I just did a second "real" pass at visually conceptualizing the idea.

    The UI is all over the place now but what do you guys think? Should I use different colors for the enemy bar?

    I feel like I'm getting closer to something tangible but it still feels off.

    Also, with such a system, I'm wondering how I would end up using stamina management...
     
  18. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    I want every battle to be some sort of set piece. Battles should happen fairly rarely but should a challenging affair. No flash mobs.
     
  19. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    So I've been thinking and here are some more ideas about the system, more specifically, about how stats will influence gameplay.


    [​IMG]Strength:
    influences how much damage is dealt when hit connect. I'm thinking of Strength being used as a core base which is then modified by a weapon factor. For example, 10 base strength *2 (for baseball bat), *3 (for knife) etc... Could also determine the HP of the player.

    [​IMG] Speed:
    determines the speed movement of the arrow icons (both player and monster). I'd use a difference between the speed stat of both hero and player which would then have a certain consequence.

    If the player has higher speed, the arrows move slower, allowing the player to make good selections for both player and monster.

    [​IMG] Stamina:
    Determines total hit points in combination with strength.

    Stamina is the stat which I'm having the hardest time incorporating at the moment.

    I'm thinking that actions require a certain amount of stamina which refills over time. Every time the arrow comes from one end to the other, some stamina is restored.

    More effective actions would have higher stamina requirement meaning the player has to wait for Stamina to fill up before picking a certain action on the bar. Picking an action with no stamina could mean a less effective action.

    I'm not sure though. It might make things too complicated in the long run.

    [​IMG] Intelligence:
    The strength equivalent for non-attack skills. I'm thinking it would influence the effectiveness of psionic attacks for example and resisting mental attacks.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    So this is a first draft. I'd make my own icons of course (I already have some of them).

    I'm really going out on a limb on this one as it's very useful to get other people's opinion as they might spot something I've missed since I'm so close to the design elements.

    I'd want to make sure to keep the amount of stats low, no more than 4.
     
  20. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    (part 2, I was limited to 10 pictures per post):


    ______________________________________________________________________________________
    More questions about concepts:
    -What should determine the width of each bar color? Should every monster have its own set or should each segment be randomly generated based on some stats?

    -I was thinking of having the bar a total of 100 pixel wide representing 100%. This would allow easier distribution of each segment.

    -Some ideas of status effects:

    [​IMG] Cold:
    Makes every action require more stamina than usual.

    [​IMG] Blind:
    Colors of the segments are hidden, meaning the player doesn't know what he/she is selecting.

    [​IMG] Drunk:
    There's a delay between the player triggering an action and the icon actually stopping on the bar.

    [​IMG] Concussion:
    Green bars (success segment) are narrowed and red bars become wider.

    [​IMG] Poison:
    The player takes a set % damage every time an action is taken.

    [​IMG] Fear:
    The arrow icon moves at constantly changing speed.

    [​IMG] Depression:
    The effectiveness of all actions is reduced.

    [​IMG] Hunger:
    The player cannot recover stamina to its fullest.

    [​IMG] Tired:
    The player does less physical damage from regular attacks.

    [​IMG] Virus:
    A combination of: tired, hunger, poison and cold.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    So what do you guys think? I'm mostly brainstorming here. It's important I get everything down right before getting into coding.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
  21. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    I'm pretty sure anyone suffering from cancer, or anyone that has lost a loved one to it, would be... pretty discontent with your oversimplification. You probably should change the name of the disease to something less sensitive, like "plague".
     
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  22. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    Yeah, I guess you're right, I'll change it.

    EDIT: I've changed it for virus.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
  23. Zizka

    Zizka Member

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    Alright so I felt I got carried away with the stats last time, unnecessarily bloating the game system. Time to simplify things. This process of elimination requires me to get rid of anything superfluous.

    One thing I need for sure is some sort of numerical health meter. So this one, I'll keep for sure.

    I could do without strength. I just need to set a certain amount of possible damage for each weapon in-game.

    I've reworked the interface a bit.
    [​IMG]

    * I've made the hourglass to replace the old clock.
    * The segment in the action bar would be highlighted to make it easier to spot where the arrow is actually pointing.
    * I've dropped the idea of both action bars stopping at the same place. It just wouldn't work in the long run, mostly when it came to time management in battle.
    * I'd go with the enemy attacking when the hourglass is empty. The idea would be that the hourglass would empty faster or slower depending on the enemy speed. I'd make the position of the arrow randomize with every action to make sure it doesn't always give out the same result. This in turn would allow the player to determine what kind of action the enemy is going to pull off by keeping an eye on the enemy action bar.
    * I've also changed the stamina icon for something which looks better.

    So I need the HP stat for sure, there's no avoiding that. I need to find a way where the player can improve and the enemies can vary and become tougher without just boosting the stats of both factions progressively.

    I'd like the stamina/energy meter to increase progressively. The player should be able to act as often as he wants as long as there's enough stamina to carry out the action.

    So the challenge is streamlining this idea of stamina management.

    Any ideas about that could work?
     

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