June 06, 2005
Gaming Steve Episode 14 - 06.06.2005
Here it is, part two of my interview with gaming legend Will Wright where we talk more about Spore. In addition to the interview I also cover:
- Sony ships 90 milllllllllion PS2s.
- Microsoft just loves losing money on the Xbox.
- Anti-game bill nearly law.
- Nintendogs causes DS sales to soar.
- Blizzard keeps on banning.
- GameTalk: How to get a job in the game industry.
- SporeTalk: Part two of my interview with Will Wright (Warning: This is pretty hard to understand, but the complete interview transcript is listed as well).
- In-depth review of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones for the GameBoy Advance.
- RetroReview: Conker's Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64.
- “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week and a new clip.
- Plus some more random thoughts on the future of PC gaming.
Get the podcast from this page (87 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 14
You can also subscribe to the weekly podcast
To view the transcript of my interview with Will Wright select "continue reading" below.
Here is the transcript of part two of my interview with Will Wright as well the members of the Spore development team.
So you showed like black holes, quasars, things like that?
Are those there just for fun? How do those affect the game? Or are you not sure yet?
Well, I’m not sure how far we’ve gone down this path but we have already prototyped models for all these things. I can show you the prototypes here … we have a huge numbers of prototypes.
I mean it was cool even when you just “went over them.” [with the mouse-cursor and they animated]
Oh yeah. This is our prototype of a black hole and stuff. This is basically our general gravitational simulator. This is also how we would simulate the formation of new stars and planets. So basically I have this little world where … let’s see … there is actually space-time warpage here, that’s the grid showing. I can actually go in here and sculpt/drag space-time. Notice as I drag my cursor here I am actually gravitational tracking across time to form larger and larger maps and I can actually create a star in here. This is also how we might simulate a black hole. We can actually generate entire planetary systems from these tools right here.
Chris Trottier [Spore Designer]:
Yeah, we probably shouldn’t dive into this too much. This is also how we would build a nebula. So if I was interacting with nebula and wanted to initiate a gravitational collapse… But again this is stuff we prototyped, but we want a good simulation though. Now how much is actually going to be entered into the game, we’re not sure yet. You know, because there are other areas which have higher priority than this. But I do want these things to be a toy -- you want to grab hold of something. But I’m not sure if it’s going to quite that deep or not.
So how many worlds are there per galaxy? Hundreds? A hundred thousand?
Yes, per galaxy.
Oh, well, there will be probably well over a hundred thousand. I mean, far more than a player could ever visit. Which is why there is no point to having another galaxy. If there are going to be thousands of stars in a galaxy there is no way that one person in their lifetime could ever visit them all.
I just wanted to know if you could, like, conquer the galaxy…
Now consider like The Sims/The Sims 2 web site. How many houses or families are uploaded to The Sims 2?
Caryl Shaw [Producer]:
Or just total. How many do we have total?
Uploaded or downloaded?
Uploaded? I mean, how many to be totally have?
We probably have around 70,000 Sims right now.
Okay, so now those are Sims that people went and uploaded from the game. They said “I’m going to upload this”. This game is going to automatically be uploading stuff. The player isn’t going to have to be deciding to do this.
So how is that going to work? A lot of people have been worried about that…
That is an opt-in thing too. You can turn that off.
People are worried that if they don’t have Internet connectivity how is it going to work?
We can manage that, we do that in The Sims now. So that shouldn’t be that difficult to manage.
So are you just going to have a massive library or will the computer going to be start enough that the AI can create new creatures, planets, so that you can keep playing…
Well keep in mind that the content is extremely compressible. One of these creatures compresses down to around 1K. So since these things compress down to like 1K that means on your CD within one megabyte we can store thousands and thousands of creatures even if you’re not connected to the Internet. So we’re going to have a local database solution to everything. So if you have no Net connection you can still play the entire game, it’s just using the local database of content rather than getting off the Web. So it’s not network required.
So that’s a big “no”… So how do you find out about, in other words, if you look at “Okay I know this guy, I’m playing with my friend and I want to see all of ‘Dave’s’ creatures,” is there a way for me to take my friend’s creatures and see his and vice versa?
That’s a Caryl question.
We are interested in being able to offer that, we think that people will really get into pride of ownership of creation and there is a certain amount of notoriety that comes along with participating … so that the good creators keep creating.
Lucy Bradshaw [Executive Producer]:
That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, you see my octopus?
So the UFO…
So that is creatable too?
Yes. It’s in the vehicle editor.
Wait, just so that I can write this down once and for all. You can make the creatures?
You can make the buildings?
You can make the vehicles?
You can make the UFO?
Yeah. You can make the cities.
You can make the cities.
You can make the plants.
A lot of people ask about that.
That’s something that will be unlocked later. When you get to the UFO level one of the things you can research is genetic engineering. Once you get that you…
Yeah, people are asking about that, they want to be able to take people and mutate them and change them.
Yeah. Once you research genetic engineering you get the creature editor for free, you can build whatever you want, like this. You can also start engineering the plants, design whatever weird plants you want. One of the advantages of our editor is that is we can take whatever you design and take parametric variations of it So you design one tree and then it will do all the different varieties of that same tree – tall, short, curves…
I was wondering about that because when you were building the cities, the different sections of the cities, it was working real well when you were adding to them.
Diplomacy, how will diplomacy work?
[Will displays a document diagramming the diplomacy matrix] This is still kind of a fairly rough design … basically, depending upon your culture and their culture there is a matrix based upon these sliders… There is a three-dimensional matrix of how emotional or imperialistic social creatures might interact with these separate beings. And between that matrix it will basically come out that they are very arrogant towards you or they are very fearful of you and in fact you’ll need to build in this general region in order to have a stable relationship. You do actions with them before you actually even talk to them by giving them things or just doing things on their planet, but they might interpret these things as hostile. So I might give them a gift to make them less hostile depending upon their culture, I won’t know what these sliders are until I start interacting with them. Then once I establish communication then there is a very kind of bad translation where I get rough sense of what they’re saying that gets better over time.
Oh, so you can’t even understand the language at first?
Until I play the “Close Encounters” game with them successfully, then I invent a basis for a shared language. At that point they can start giving us missions or offering us things or offering us alliances and stuff.
So in the single-player is there actually going to be a point? Is it going to be like … well, I saw what you did in The Sims and then The Sims 2 there were goals and all you did was unhide them in The Sims 2.
Are you going to do something similar in Spore?
Well we are going to have several meta-goals at the space level that you know, depending upon how you play the game it’s going to actually attempt to steer your towards the powers that your earn. So if I play very altruistically I will find it that much easier to at the space game to conquer the galaxy. If I play very diplomatically at the space game it will be much easier for me to go around meeting new races, establishing relationships and alliances. I might build a federation like “Star Trek”. Or I might go play the “Uplift” game which is where I go to wild planet, drop a monolith, and bring a creature to intelligence and go back and see what they built. I might want to play the “X-Files” game where I abduct alien creatures and collect them and cross-breed them or whatever. I might want to play “War of the Worlds” where I just go around and blow people up for the hell of it.
Yeah, it seems that a lot of people want to play that one.
Well that is why we basically want to keep it a single-player game, or a massively single-player, but because it’s single-player the player can still be the hero … can be the god and blow up things if they want without ruining anybody else’s experience. So we’re trying to get the best of both worlds.
So the city types … you showed a really cool organic city and then there was the technology city, is there an “archetype” for the cities?
We actually have this guy, Christian, who did a huge number of conceptual drawings for us and we are actually deconstructing these and basing the parts that we give the player – these are some world pictures – these are the type of worlds we want the players to be able to make in the editor.
A bunch of them are hanging up on the walls too so you can see…
Yeah, so if you take a look at some of these, these are conceptual drawings of the type of planets that we want players to be able to make.
Like that one over there…
Yeah, that one was the conceptual drawing for the organic city. Over here these are sort of like creatures, plants, and so … we are actually dealing with these things sort of at first conceptually and then deconstructing them and figuring out what kind of parts to give the player to able to build a world like this.
So there is going to be “archetypes” or you’re not sure if there are going to be “archetypes”?
Well, I’m not sure what you mean by “archetypes”.
Well in other words are there going to be like ten “base-types” like maybe a technology, or an old technology, or an organic…
No, we have in the building editor about a hundred blocks that you can mold, stretch out, and then combine in whatever format, you can mix and match them, they’ll adapt.
So it’s freeform?
It’s whatever you want it to be?
But the collaborative filtering works like Amazon, so it looks at everything you ever bought or built and it says “what are some things that match your style?” So now it now offers those in the shopping catalog. So even when back at the creature level, once you’re building a creature, and you get to the city level, it will try to pick building with match the style of your creature based upon what other people put together. So in some sense the computer is learning to understand the player and customizing the game specifically for the player.
So can you fly?
Yes. You can build a flying creature but have to have…
But can you have a flying society?
Could you? Could you have cities in the sky?
No, the cities … flying creatures still build on the ground. They just fly to move around.
Did you give him a meteorite?
No I didn’t.
Oh is that the surprise?
Here have a meteorite.
I heard there is a surprise.
Meteorite fragments from Arizona.
[Will hands me a small meteorite fragment] Ooh. Very cool. So what about the resource types? What the heck are those little things up there?
Oh those are just stand-ins.
Oh no, on the top [pointing to the various bars on the upper left corner of the Spore screen].
Oh like here?
Those are just stand-ins, but that’s about what the complexity of the interface is going to be. At every level we’re going to like three things that really matter. Like at the creature level it’s going to be your hunger, your energy, and your health. And that’s all the sliders you’ll really need. At the tribal level it will be population and food. So at every level we want to have just a very clear primary feedback which will be three sliders. How we looking at time?
We’re getting there…
So does it work … you become sentient, you have a tribe…
And then are you competing against other creatures that are different species…
Or is your species the dominant species?
Yeah, when you bring a species to intelligence it is now the intelligent species. You are now competing against other cultures of your species. But at that point they start being culturally very diverse, so your guys might be peaceful and they’re warlike and you’re economic and they’re cultural…
Alright, everyone asked it … you don’t have to give me an “official launch date”. Is it coming out this year?
Fall. Fall '06. Thanks for coming by Steve. Sorry it was so rushed.
Yeah, thanks again, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you at GDC as well as other places.
Yeah. We’ll be reading your site.
Thanks again to Will Wright and the entire Spore development team for inviting me to their behind-the-scenes preview of Spore!
Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:45 PM
| Comments (55)
| Posted to Interview
Haha, Steve, you are so awesome!!!
Wicked nice work as usual, Steve.
Awesome! Time to set autodownload to 'begin'!
its much easier to listen to the interview if you plug headphones in and set the volume control to the lowest
Great job, looking forward to the transcript.
Isn't it pronounced Nin-Ten-Dogs?
--typed as I listened--
Your reaction to your "maybe they should call it XBox 375" gag was hilarious.
I did hear about the XBox losing money but I thought the guy who told me was BSing, as he doesn't like Microsoft.
I'll tell you now, I'm not into the XBox 360, because I got an XBox for Fable and it blew. The only other game I have for the XBox is Samurai Warriors, and I could have gotten that for the PS2 (I think). The XBox was a total waste of money to me.
I'm still not seeing any news about stuff I want for this new XBox, though I do see Metal Gear Solid heading to PS3. Gotta follow that. Addicted.
You said "Nintendo's PSP" (at about 08:52) by the way. But I know what you meant.
That Nintendogs game looks pretty interesting, but if it's not much more than playing with different virtual dogs, I'm probably not going to get it. I just like to spend my money on stuff I'm very sure I'll enjoy for more than a few minutes.
Looks cool though.
Wow, the game industry sounds kind of depressing.
But then you hear about people who have friends on the Spore team (some people on the forums mentioned things like that).
I still want to make my own game, but I'll wait until I hit the lottery or something. I'll hire who I need to make it, and distribute my story.
Gotta hell of a story to tell too. No philosophical BS and playing down the romance factor a few thousand notches (god, I'm so sick of that watered down melodramatic garbage.)
I oughta write up some more storyline sometime... I miss it.
Had to cut my talking short. I'm so damn tired...
And hey, I got the "Name that game" right. Yippee.
I was downloading an n64emulator to play Conker's Bad Fur Day and ran across this MP3 of Conker's Great Mighty Poo song that you mentioned, visit this link to listen: (PRETTY FUNNY, hope I can play that part)
Sweeeeeeeeet! Been waiting for this.
By the way, Conker's was one of the best games EVER!
Too bad Rare was eaten by M$...
You said only Microsoft loses money making consoles - that's not even close to true - every console maker loses money on the consoles they sell, and they make it back from license fees.
From 2001 about the PS2:
"Although the company estimates that Sony loses between $125 and $175 on each PlayStation 2"
You said Microsoft has "money to burn" because of their huge cash reserve, admit you haven't been watching their stock. Microsoft started paying dividends this past year, and has payed out $60 *billion* to their stock holders.
In addition, it's common for companies to make money from their cash holdings. Before the iPod took off, Apple's profits exclusively came from their cash holdings. That's the whole point of having cash.
And finally you said "Everybody you know is getting a PS3 for sure, but *might* get an XBOX 360" - you're reporting this as if it's fact, when it's not. We still don't know what the PS3 will look like, what features it will have, how much it will cost, or if it will be better or have better games than the XBOX 360. Sony admitted that what they showed at E3 was just a concept prototype to build interest and isn't the final design. Sure, many people are brand-loyal, but we were all Atari and/or Nintendo brand loyal at one time, and now we all have Playstations and XBOXes.
I still enjoy your blogcast and blog, and will continue to link to your site and tell my friends about it because everything else was great.
Your PS2 article is from 2001 when the PS2 first came out. That is old news, Sony is no longer losing money from the PS2, check their latest public financial statements. They were losing money when it was first released, that is true, but not anymore. Granted they don't make that much, if anything, from the consoles, but they aren't losing money. Also Nintendo doesn't lose money from their consoles or their GameBoy, they make a nice profit in fact.
According to their latest financial statements Microsoft currently has $60,592,000 in cash and short term investments (which can be converted to cash in less than 90 days). Including their long-term investments and other assets Microsoft actually has $92,389,000 put away. And no long term debt of any sort.
Oh yes, Microsoft makes a ton off their cash holdings. But if look around very few companies have nearly as much in cash as MS. Most companies use their cash to pay out dividends (which MS finally started to do), invest in their employees, buy other companies, and so on. MS has always hoarded cash and just let it sit and earn interest, much more than other public companies.
As for the "everyone I know is planning on getting a PS3 and might get an Xbox 360", that is a fact . Perhaps all of your friends are going to get an Xbox 360? Perhaps they will get the Revolution? I'm not sure, but of the people that I know they want to get a PS3 and aren't sure about the Xbox 360 just yet. The main reason is that a lot of people I know already have an Xbox and they don't have that many games for it. Plus, many of them just bought the Xbox with the past year or so and don't feel the need to purchase a new system right away.
I get everything, so it doesn't matter to me. As will other hardcore gamers, we will buy everything when it comes out the day it comes out. Personally I think the Xbox 360 will do very well and there is room for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360, but Microsoft is trying to make the Xbox 360 an "event" like Halo 2, where you need to purchase the Xbox 360 the day it comes out no matter what. My friends just aren't buying into that and will wait and see what games are coming out before buying it.
The key will be for the Xbox 360 to have some killer games when it launches, like they did with the original Halo and the original Xbox. Otherwise people will wait for the killer game/price to come down, like many people I know are doing with the PSP.
And do not underestimate brand loyalty, especially overseas, and especially for electronic components. Back in the 80s an excellent study (that I studied in college) was done based on the “Pepsi Challenge” where Pepsi went around giving blind taste tests to see if people really preferred Coke or Pepsi. Before the test people were asked if they preferred Coke or Pepsi and the wide majority said that they liked Coke more. However, once the test was given almost 2/3 of the people who said they preferred Coke actually selected Pepsi as the better tasting soda in the blind taste test. After they were told that they actually selected Pepsi rather than Coke the same people said of themselves “that they were wrong and actually preferred Coke”. So even though people were shown that they really liked Pepsi they would ignore their own results and still stay loyal to Coke. That is the power of brand loyalty, people will go against their own tastes to stay loyal to a brand.
Hurray! Nice one Gaming Steve. I'm loving this place allready! :D
Isn't firaxis in new york?
Oh ok I just thought I saw that some place.
Nice podcast. Very interesting things said in the interveiw (of what I could make out with this crappy sound system). Can't wait till the transcript...Like...Now...Maybe even...I don't know...posting access! >:)
I thought it was funny how there was thunder when you said death of the pc industry.
I think you said hours were very long and sometimes you would work from 7 to 3 pm. i am guessing you ment 3 am. Also Rockstar is in NYC right? Great podcast Steve.
Just heard the show and enjoyed it. But for another perspective on the game industry situtation. I have been in the biz for many years and worked on all sorts of titles on almost every platform.
While it is true that jobs can tough to get. Particularly of the "game designer" "producer" or "I have these great game ideas" type. Those are the most difficult to get into jobs because they rely on experience and track record.
But for programmers and technical artists with the skills we need, there are way more jobs than we can fill. Most companies have to hire from around the world (often >25% visa employees) to fill them because there is not enough talent at home in the US. If you learn the skills in demand, making a lifetime career in games is definitely doable.
I have begun reaching out to high school students to show them why these skills can lead to great, well paying jobs in the industry. A recent talk is on my website at
An other thing I would point out for the game industry is this:
No... not servers, databases and how they interact with a client software but this social skill called networking.
Get to know people through your local IGDA. You don't know what the IGDA is? Well do some research. Find those local devs in the area that work there and meet them talk to them and get to know them.
Make fansites for game, get to know the people who do the games. This is how you can get in community relations positions if you play your cards right.
Networking is an asset not to be underestimated. I think it's the most important skill to tell your the truth.
I won Name That Game! Life is good. Thanks Steve!
(By the way, you pronounced it right the second time.)
it's nintendogs NOT nintendo dogs
have you ever been on the EA Spore site?
Theres a hidden screenshot from Will Wright.
To see that, press after the Flash several times the
Tab-Button (is it Tab in USA too? i mean the button left
to the Q)
When a yellow box with nothing inside appears click on it.
Great find Uli!
It's the lightbulb pic!
Yes, I meant to say that I was working from 9am to 3am seven days a week. A mistake which has been pointed out to be by countless people. Sorry about that one.
About the "PC games are dying" thing....
I don't think they're going to die unless consoles get user-created mods, and, to a lesser extent, independent games. AFAIK, they don't (and can't, in some ways) have this at all. And for that matter, until they get something to rival a mouse (you sorta mentioned this a bit in the podcast), my main gaming machine will be a PC. If the EA's of the world switch to consoles only, that would be fine with me. PC gaming would - in a way - go back to the way it used to be - a fun niche hobby. It would get rid of the mass-market garbage games.
I think as long as PCs have compilers, there will be PC games. Just maybe fewer games based on movies. :)
PS - Is it just me or does the preview not show line breaks? I guess I'll see if they show up when posting...
To pick nits, no (US) company makes money from its cash. US companies are not allowed to hold cash in interest bearing accounts. The have to put their money into short term holdings such as commercial paper or t-bills if they want to make any interest off of it.
Thanks for the detailed reply.
I meant to imply that console makers lose money when their consoles first come out, then as time goes by, components get cheaper to make and eventually they make a profit on the console sales.
Cash, I was implying not interest bearing accounts, but investments that make money such as spending loads on research, hardware, or investing in small companies that could earn MS money down the road.
And you're right, none of my friends are planning on getting a PS3. Granted I'm almost 30 and most of my friends stopped buying consoles a long time ago, but those that still play games are too tied to their PC games or Halo 2 to care what Sony or Microsoft has in store for them this early in the game. There was nothing shown at E3 that made them stand up and say "I need that!"
Well, except for Spore... I've forced many of friends (and finally Major Nelson) to watch the GDC video. I would have ignored it too ("not another sim game!") if it wasn't for your great coverage.
Great podcast. You make work enjoyable.
Flying creatures may not be able to build hovering flying cities, but they may be able to build cities in hard to reach places. Such as the tops of mountains, plateaus, etc.
Amazingly fantastic interview, Steve. I noticed that Will seemed to kind of be in his own little world through most of it though. >.<
"Microsoft currently has $60,592,000 in cash and short term investments" - that should be $60,592,000,000 I think.
Wow, free meteorite, eh? Those things are rather valuable. Sell it on eBay! Official Will Wright Meteorite!
Anyway, did you see anything about sexual dimorphism?
Great podcast ! I am a new subscriber and I enjoyed every minute. Please keep up the great work !!
When are you going to get the transcript up xP
Hey, Steven I'm hard of hearing, so I would like to read this interview with Will Wright part 2 transcript so when transcript come up, it's been since June right?
ok, never mind, I dont know why it not there till I post this one
You should probably copy the transcript to the "Interview Part 2" section under Spore.
"we will be watching your site"
does the include the forums??
Oh my god this game sounds worthy of god himself. Amazing. I saw the video and I was blown away, keep it up Maxis.
wat happens if your tribe/city dies out...
and plese anser this 1....
This game seems pretty amazing! Once it comes out I can see it being a top seller for sure. I hope you can make a fleet of battle ships for interstellar war cause that would kick @ss! The creator of this game deserves a Nobel prize award or something.
I get goosebumps whenever I find new info on Spore. Every word out of Will Wright's mouth is music. (Minus several "ums", hehe)
Just throwing ideas out there, but here are a few things I'm hoping they might add in Spore:
- In regards to city-level combat, one thing I noticed about the GDC movie was that the tanks firing at the city ended with very bland explosions and results. Since the game uses morphable shapes; would it be possible to have the weapons cause visual impact damage? (e.g. craters, buildings breaking appart, etc) It could be as simple as making a small indentation in the model with a certain texture that looks like a burn mark and perhaps a small flame. (Or what about destructable terrain like on Worms4:Mayhem?)
-Weapons/armor editor? Instead of just vehicular combat, what about pitching armies against one another? I'm picturing a Predator-like creature, with a shoulder-mounted laser, taking on an army of Aliens :)
-As for sentience and tech advancement, I was thinking of the possibility for a tech tree. (like AoE3, Civ4, D2, WoW) which would allow certain creatures to specialize in certain technological advances. That way, each intelligent species might be able to have different foci on certain fields of intelligence and technology. Perhaps one group could develop lasers, but another group is only capable of nukes or explosives or defensive devices. etc...
-Lastly. Meteors? Will they be able to impact planets and damage creatures? I think there should be an option to allow world-devastating or natural disasters and see how far you get your creature until he is wiped out (or you get the tech to prevent a meteor from making it to the surface). There should also be the option of letting the computer be able to create UFOs and possibly destroy your planet. Just for added fun. I enjoy a challenge.
do all are creature start in the sam solar system?
you can build fleets of ships
anyone know when this is coming out
I read somewhere that it was coming out q1 2007...not sure tho ><
yeah is spore really comming out fall 2006 cause i heard Q1 2007 too
I really hope it comes out this year or early next year. Will Wright better be sure of that last statement or else.
I wonder... super species. Hive animals that depend on humungous queens for their reproduction. That would be sweet.
I heard that it will come out late 2007 from the latest interview with Will Wright. He says it is because E3 and the European demo put everybody behind a couple months.
i think it comes out in jan 1st 07 in the uk cause if you go there and search spore it says item ships jan 1st and says preorder now. so what im doin is im pre ordering to the us
awww man thats soooo kewl! i love it!
shame its not out yet! dec 07 it looks like. ill wait!
i have been very intrested in this ever since its press releace... it got me thinking though... if WW wanted to do more... its totally possable... heres some thoughts that gathered in my mind.
1 space dock's, colonies that can be built around a planets orbit.
2 creature armor/wepons... though it may seem inpossable... i believe it would be actually pritty easy...
3 inverse planets... not all planets are grounded... i think ww should progress this idea by makeing some planets possably inverse instead of life from the serface, the organisem lives within the planet. or a planet within its prime element...
4 with the element of string theory, you can quickly see a possability of elementals... elementals derive there source of life from that which it was created... it would be strange to have such a strange possability and would defenatley prove once and for all, not all is inpossable
5 lastly, i would like to se not such a stable obit of solersystems... some orbit styles are extremely violent... its proven in our own universe that in many orbitational rotations, they are far from a circular motion but instead have a violent, almost jagged oliptical rotational motion... these can bee seen spinning around there main axis much faster and much more quickly....
these are just some thoughts i have come up with... some i have actually worked on and have put a pritty good sketched out idea of how they would work...
all im trying to prove is what WW began out to set in the first place, think big... you never know what your ideas may lead to.
my email adress firstname.lastname@example.org
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