BIOSHOCK INFINITE: First Impressions

I started playing BioShock Infinite this week. I recently reached Battleship Bay, which is the fifth of sixteen levels. Overall, I’m enjoying it. Amazing visuals, great music, intriguing airship city. I loved entering Columbia and exploring the fair. I spent two hours just ooh-ing and aww-ing.

But I do have a number of questions, observations, and, yes, criticisms. Some will, no doubt, be addressed with further gameplay. We’ll see!

Watch BioShock: The Collection on my YouTube channel

At first, I thought the carnival booths were a clever way to offer a tutorial while not really feeling like a tutorial. But, when shit got real and I actually had to fight, I felt woefully overwhelmed and ill-prepared, fumbling and frustrated. Instructions flashed briefly onscreen and I didn’t have time to read them because, you know, I was busy trying not to die.

Unlike previous BioShock games, there’s no map, no way to carry health kits or salts (the equivalent of EVE hypos), and no weapon wheel, so I can only carry two weapons at a time. A vigor called “possession” replaces hacking, while doubling as a way to turn enemies against each other, but it’s unpredictable. Some turrets I possess remain friendly to me forever, others switch back to unfriendly within seconds. So, no, not really like the hacking mechanic in previous games.

Why are there “vigors” at all? In BioShock, the plasmids were invented by scientists who moved to Rapture to be free and unfettered in their wild pursuit of technology, thanks to the libertarian ethos of the city’s founder, Andrew Ryan. In BioShock Infinite, having weird powers doesn’t seem to fit the apple pie, Americana, right-wing religious ethos of Columbia. One of the citizens on the beach of Battleship Bay talked about Darwin and was told to keep his voice down. Yet, they embrace science when it comes to mechanical horses and vigors? Is a half-naked she-demon bottle of Devil’s Kiss meant to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the society, or is it just sloppy storytelling?

I’m not sure how I feel about the voiced protagonist, which is new for the BioShock franchise. There’s something about being inside someone’s head, especially when they have an interesting personality and their observations are integral to the plot. For example, I loved Daud in Knife of Dunwall and Billie Lurk in Death of the Outsider. I also liked Garrett in Thief. But, so far, I don’t feel like Booker’s “holy shits” and game prompts (“I should use that skyline to reach monument island”) are terribly interesting, insightful or necessary.

I’m super frustrated with the stealth mechanic, or lack thereof. My attempts to sneak were dismal failures. Crouching seems to be designed for ducking behind cover when bullets are flying, not for sneaking up on enemies. There no indicator to tell you if you are hidden or not, other than the game constantly flashing a reminder to “press O to stand up.”

Not loving the save system. The game automatically saves at random, but not very frequently. It may be possible to reload “chapters” and play a level again, but if I have to quit in the middle of a level and the game hasn’t saved in awhile, I’m required to replay a chunk of the game next time. I’d appreciate being treated like a Big Girl and allowed to choose my own saves, please.

And utterly ridiculous is the tendency for enemies to shout out that they’re reloading during a gunfight. As if to say, “Please run up and shoot me in the face right now!”

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT

I’ve got a LOT of issues with the rescue of Elizabeth from Monument Island, aka Indiana Jones saves Disney princess from the KKK.

1) I shot a shit-ton of cops in town, and Comstock set fire to his own zeppelin to stop me, but then told his army to “stand down.” Why? I met no resistance at all, entering and moving through the tower. WTF?

2) Too many cutscenes, before and during my arrival on Monument Island, entering the tower, eventually finding Elizabeth and then getting out again. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d watch a movie.

3) How does Elizabeth know where to go, during the escape? She’s surprised to discover that she’s being watched, so she’s never been through those tunnels before, yet she’s saying “this way” like she knows what’s what?

4) How is it helpful to have a ginormous mechanical bird who looses its shit and rips the place apart when it’s supposed to be protecting her? Did the bird wreck the Columbia statue, the bridge and other parts of the town, too? Why?

5) Why didn’t my bullets harm the bird’s glass eye, but being underwater made it crack?

6) Why didn’t Booker break his neck when he hit the water?

7) I spent hours trying to locate Elizabeth, only to have her disappear and be told to find her AGAIN. Really? Yeah, yeah, I get it, she’s innocent and free-spirited, caged bird and all that. Whatever. I really don’t like plots that revolve around dumb young women. I swear, if she says the phrase, “I can take care of myself,” at any point, I’m going to leave a flaming bag of poo on Ken Levine’s doorstep.

8) Elizabeth’s dress and hairstyle reminded me of Belle, and the semblance is reinforced by finding her in the library, which was an important location in Beauty and the Beast. Even the way she dances and sings is reminiscent of a Disney princess. Is that intentional or unintentional? Homage or satire? Either way, it’s the tired old “damsel in distress” trope that I find irritating rather than endearing.

In BioShock 2, the story revolved around rescuing Eleanor (who was also called a “lamb” and was an unwilling object of a religious cult — why did they recycle this same plot?). But BioShock 2 did a great job of subverting that “damsel in distress” trope. Eleanor rescues her rescuer and kicks ass. And Subject Sigma’s survival was tied very literally to hers, because of their pair bond, and emotionally because he was her “daddy.” Booker has no tie to Elizabeth. She’s a job, nothing more. At least, far as I can tell — if he knew more about her, wouldn’t he say so, since, y’know, he’s a voiced protagonist?

Based on the brilliance of BioShock, BioShock 2, and Minerva’s Den, I’m still eager to play BioShock Infinite. Though I have a bad feeling I might end up with a verdict similar to Thief — really wanting to like it, but not being able to look past its glaring problems. I hope I’m wrong.

~ J.L. Hilton

BioShock Infinite: Final Thoughts

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Try-It Tuesday: KNACK

I tried KNACK this week because it’s free for Playstation Plus members during the month of February 2018.

KNACK is a button-combo beat-em-up platformer, released in November 2013 for the PS4, with a sequel, Knack II, released in 2017. “Knack” is also the protagonist, a sentient golem powered by mysterious relics in an alternate reality where goblins attack humanity with tanks and Knack may be our only hope.

Based on the first few levels, it plays pretty much like a Lego game – smash everything in the environment, collect bits, watch cutscenes.

With two-player co-op, it would be a good game for family fun or a child’s sleepover. KNACK is rated “E10+” for “Everyone 10 and up” and seems geared toward young (or young at heart) players.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: CHILD OF LIGHT

One of my Patreon patrons asked me to play CHILD OF LIGHT on Try-It Tuesday, so I downloaded the free demo for PS4 this week and dedicated the livestream to them (thanks, Counterserum!).

I don’t know much about the storyline, since the demo dropped me into chapter four, “The Deep Dark Well,” but apparently the protagonist is a girl with wings named Aurora, and she is searching the land of Lemuria for the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars.

Aurora’s blue flame friend Igniculus can be controlled by a single player or is available as a multiplayer option. Other characters join her party and participate in battles against giant spiders, flaming hounds, and boar men. Combat is turn-based.

CHILD OF LIGHT is a 2D side-scroller with beautiful, watercolor-style artwork inspired by Studio Ghibli and Yoshitaka Amano. The dialog is written as a sort of nursery rhyme or poem, in keeping with its fairy tale theme.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, this game is available for PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Wii U. Rated “E 10+” for Everyone age 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE FORSAKEN BRIDE

Time for another Artifex Mundi adventure! This week, I wanted something with a love story, for Valentine’s Day, so I played GRIM LEGENDS: THE FORSAKEN BRIDE, a point-and-click puzzle-solving story about a sister who attends her twin sister’s wedding, only to have the bride kidnapped by a bear!

The game seems to be set in an alternate 18th-century, with magic, broken hearts, puzzles, ancient forests, legends, dark secrets, puzzles, hidden objects, charms, a cute little kitten, and did I mention puzzles?

GRIM LEGENDS: THE FORSAKEN BRIDE is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Rated T for Teens.

I lost power and internet, so the livestream is broken up into two videos on my YouTube archive.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: TERRARIA

My husband and kids played a lot of TERRARIA on PS3 about five or six years ago, but I guess I was too busy playing Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas or maybe Dishonored back then, so I never got into it. I found the game on sale for only $2.99 for PS4, so I added it to my Try-It Tuesday lineup.

TERRARIA is a 2D action-adventure sandbox video game developed by Re-Logic, available for PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, PS4, Xbox One, OS X, Linux, Nintendo 3DS, Wii  and Nintendo Switch. By February 2017, the game had sold over 20 million copies across all platforms.

At a glance, it seems simple. A side-scrolling 2D version of Minecraft with lots of mining and crafting, cutesy graphics and happy music. But, scratch the surface, and it’s much more complicated — and dark — than one might think. I spent two hours just doing the tutorial and was torn to pieces by an Eater of Souls, snapped in half by a Devourer, and slain by Jungle Slime.

Creative players can build houses, castles, villages, temples, gardens and more. Adventurous players can explore jungles, dungeons, deserts, forests, oceans, and even a space realm of floating islands and harpies, or delve into the depths of the Underworld to fight demons, hellbats and the Wall of Flesh, whose defeat unlocks a whole new realm of unicorns, pixies and rainbow slime called the Hallow.

There are single-player and multi-player options. A recent update added Martian Madness, Celestial pillars, a Moonlord, Sky Lakes, and over 800 new items.

TERRARIA is rated “T” for teens, for Blood and Gore, Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol. Learn more at TERRARIA.org.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ROLLERS OF THE REALM

I bought ROLLERS OF THE REALM on sale for $2.99 because the artwork reminded me a little of fantasy artist James C. Christensen, and the idea of a “pinball role-playing game” intrigued me.

“Persevere through the hands of tyranny; use your brains, your reflexes, and your balls…” says the Playstation game overview. By “balls” they mean pinballs, which represent the various members of your party. You start out with the Rogue and eventually manage a group of up to ten, along with bonus balls for falcons and a dog.

Created by Canadian indie developer Phantom Compass on a reported $700K budget and published by Atlus USA, this 2014 game is available on PS4, PS Vita and PC. It’s currently $9.99 on Steam, where it has a “very positive” rating.

I thought ROLLERS OF THE REALM was a lot of fun. Some online reviewers knocked it for bad voice acting and lack of story depth. Well, no, it’s not Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but it’s cute and clever. I enjoyed the characters, from the sassy Rogue who says “yoink!” when she pickpockets villagers, to the drunken Knight trying to retain a shred of honor, to (my favorite) the Huntsman who declares a “dirt nap” when his green, leafy ball is lost.

I do indeed intend to “persevere” and continue this adventure, which I will livestream in future. Subscribe to me on YouTube or check my Patreon schedule for updates.

Rated “T” for teens, for fantasy violence and alcohol use.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Fallout 4 fanfiction: “MacCready Meets the Mayor”

This is part of a series of stories based on my first playthrough of Fallout 4. Each may be read alone or out of order, it doesn’t matter. My Fallout 4 fanfiction series does not include the entire story of the Sole Survivor but is intended to fill in the gaps between the quests and storylines experienced within the game. In other words, it’s “headcanon.”

Fallout fiction is rated M, just like the video game, for language, violence, drugs and sexual references. However, not all chapters contain romance or sexuality, and chapters containing smut are tagged Wanton Wasteland.

“MacCready Meets the Mayor” is my take on how MacCready arrived in Goodneighbor and met Hancock for the first time.

Language and violence.

1,400 words

* * *

Part 1: MacCready’s Lucky Cap – MacCready meets Daisy & leaves the Gunners.
Part 2: A Home No More – Fiona adjusts to life in the Commonwealth wasteland.
Part 3: MacCready Meets the Mayor – MacCready arrives in Goodneighbor.
Part 8: MacCready’s Wooden Soldier – MacCready & Fiona share a moment.
Part 9: Wanton Wasteland – Hangman’s Alley – Adults only! In a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Boston, the ghoulified mayor of Goodneighbor indulges in whiskey and voyeurism.
Part 10: Happy Birthday, Fiona – Hancock deals with unrequited lust that just might be love.
Part 12: The Eve of Destruction – Hancock helps Fiona deal with the stresses of leadership.

* * *

MacCready Meets the Mayor

Little wonder Daisy wanted another gun with her on the road to Goodneighbor. She and MacCready killed three raiders, five molerats, two super mutants and a mutant hound, before reaching the most notorious town in the Commonwealth. They also found a sleeping yao gui who, thankfully, stayed asleep while they backed away slowly and took another route through the ruins.

His teeth hurt from biting his lucky Blue Quantum bottlecap.

A couple of drifters weren’t so fortunate. Their pungent corpses rotted beside an “All are welcome” sign splattered with fresh blood.

She led him down a narrow alley without guards, spotlights or gun turrets, lit by a neon “Goodneighbor” sign. He held his rifle ready, one finger nervously tapping the trigger guard. When they reached a wall of tires and scavenged boards, MacCready scanned the windows of the Old World buildings that boxed them in. A few snipers and they’d be fish in a barrel.

Daisy tucked her 10mm pistol into her belt and adjusted her coat. “Play it cool, kid, stick close, and let me do the talking.”

He had a hard time reading her noseless face. Now they were far from the Gunners, he wondered if she’d try to weasel out of the 200 caps she promised, maybe offer him a trade. Chems, booze, flesh. Or pay someone 50 caps to stab him in the back. Killing was a popular solution to life’s problems, and one MacCready understood all too well. Daisy was a ghoul, which meant she’d been around awhile, and no one survived that long without being ruthless.

He pushed the bottlecap into his cheek. “Don’t worry. I’m not letting you out of my sight ’til I get paid.”

“And here I thought you were with me for my good looks.”

She opened a single, narrow door in the barricade and MacCready followed her through. Two hours before dawn and people slept on the pavement next to piles of garbage while others shuffled between streetlights, crying, arguing, drinking.

He heard the unmistakable voice of an assaultron and raised his rifle. Daisy caught the barrel in her hand and pushed it down. “I said, let me do the talking.”

“You’re gonna talk to an assaultron?”

“That’s not just any assaultron, honey. That’s Kleo.”

As if giving it a name made it okay. He’d rather go up against a deathclaw. At least a deathclaw didn’t shoot lasers from its eyes.

“Hey, you new in Goodneighbor?” A bald bruiser in road leather approached them. His face had seen a lot of abuse and his sneer made MacCready want to abuse it even more.

Daisy applied her usual charm. “Me and the mayor go way back. All the way to Diamond City.”

“That so? Well, if you wanna spend any time in this town, you’re gonna need insurance.”

“I brought my own, thanks.” She let go of MacCready’s rifle, just in case he needed to do some “talking.”

“That’s your insurance? Where’d you find him? In the bargain bin? Half-off?” The big asshole laughed at his own joke.

Assaultrons might bother him, but mungos MacCready had dealt with all his life. “Sounds like you found your brain in the bargain bin.”

“What did you say to me?”

“Clean the tatos outta your ears and maybe you’d hear me.”

“Daisy! What brings you to Goodneighbor?”

A ghoul in a fedora, toting a submachine gun with an air of authority, interrupted MacCready’s fun. The asshole oozed back into whatever hole he’d crawled out of. Loser.

“Fallen on hard times, Lloyd. Is the mayor in?”

“Sorry to hear that. Yeah, he’s up the stairs in the Old State House.” He gestured to the nearby brick building. “Go on in.”

MacCready tucked his lucky cap into his pocket. He counted five more guards inside. Two on the ground floor, two at the top of the stairs, all with the same hats and guns, and a redhead with a raider haircut and a face like thunder, who watched MacCready like a hawk from the corner of the mayor’s office.

The mayor himself sprawled on a couch surrounded by more alcohol, chems, caps and food than MacCready had ever seen in one room. Hancock wore a ruffled shirt, red coat and a tricorn hat, like the undead pirate king in Grognak issue 46, Curse of the Mummy Marauder.

MacCready decided then and there that he needed a cool coat. Something that would hide his Gunner fatigues and make him look like a swashbuckling renegade mercenary. Then he’d be rolling in caps.

“Well, I’ll be damned, Daisy, what brings you to Goodneighbor?” The mayor offered her a seat beside him and poured her a drink. “Vodka, right?”

“John, you are a sight for sore eyes.” She accepted the drink, emptied the glass in one gulp, and he poured her another. “What’s with the thug at the gate? Tried to make me pay a toll. Didn’t think that was your style.”

“It’s not. Must be an independent operator. I’ll look into it. Who’s your friend?” Hancock’s black-eyes fixed on MacCready.

“Robert Joseph MacCready. Or RJ. Or just MacCready. MacCready,’s fine. Sir.” He hated being forced to use titles in the Gunners, but if anyone deserved respect, it was the mayor of Goodneighbor.

“Fuck that ‘sir’ shit, we aren’t like that around here. Mayor or Hancock. Or Mayor Hancock will do just fine. I start wanting to be called ‘sir,’ you put a bullet in me. You feel me?”

“Hell, yeah, I feel you.”

“He got me here on a promise of 200 caps. I had to cut out quick and leave my stash behind.” Daisy swigged the second drink and without missing a beat, Hancock poured her a third.

“Say no more. I got you covered, sister.” Hancock gestured to the redhead, who paid MacCready without a word.

Daisy’s voice got all warm and motherly, like the way Lucy used to talk to Duncan. “Thanks, Johnny. You’re a real doll. I’ll make it up to you.”

“I know you will. You need anything else?”

“I was hoping you’d have work for me and my friend.”

Daisy promised to put in a good word for him, and here she was doing it. MacCready wasn’t used to people doing exactly what they said they’d do, especially when it was something nice. There had to be a catch.

Hancock lit a cigarette from one of the many packs scattered across the table and MacCready took a deep, envious inhale of the secondhand smoke. He hadn’t lit up in three days.

“As a matter of fact, we need a new trader.”

“What happened to Jerky?”

“Sold a stale box of Dandy Boy Apples to the wrong guy, I guess. Earned himself the six-finger gut punch. One of his customers found him. So now I got an empty store and no where to buy knickknacks. You can set up shop, if you don’t mind the blood stains.”

“Sounds like a match made in heaven.”

Bursts of gunfire cut the conversation short.

Hancock grabbed a sawed-off shotgun from the table. “That ain’t the sound of a friendly tussle. All hands on deck!”

Someone yelled, “Mayor, it’s mutants!” from downstairs, and the mayor said all the words MacCready promised his son he wouldn’t say.

“Farenheit, you stand right here and shoot anything green that comes through the door. MacCready, with me.”

MacCready followed the mayor into a room with a huge bed and an obscene amount of Rad Away.

“This happen often?”

“They been eying us ever since they moved into Faneuil Hall.”

“Daisy and I may have taken out one of their scout patrols on the way in.”

“Super mutants generally don’t have a ‘live and let live’ philosophy, which forces us to defend ours.” Hancock opened a door on a balcony overlooking the town square. “Welcome to Goodneighbor, assholes! Kill ’em all!”

He punctuated his shouts with bullets as guards and citizens dealt with the hounds and mutants funneling into the streets.

Through the storm of gunfire, MacCready heard the assaultron in the distance and was glad they were on the same side. Then the sickening electric beep of a wired suicider hit his ears.

Thought became instinct as he zeroed in on a hulking mutant strapped with a mini-nuke, running their direction. He fired. The mutant fell, head in pieces, nuclear device intact. MacCready put down three more mutants before the fight ended.

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” He’d read that in a Grognak comic and it seemed like the badass thing to say, so he said it.

Hancock surveyed the courtyard. “Not bad. What’s it gonna take to keep you around awhile, MacCready? Jet? Blackjack and hookers? Or… uh… a cram sandwich?”

“Caps,” MacCready replied. “Cold, hard caps.”

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

There are tons of scary, horror, creepy, supernatural and monster games to play for Halloween, but it’s not as easy to find games to play during Christmas. I tried Overcooked: The Festive Seasoning in December and figured, why not Lego? Legos are toys, toys are part of Christmas, right?

But then the holidays got really busy, so my Try-It Tuesday date with the 2016 LEGO MARVEL’S AVENGERS video game got postponed to the new year.

Lego games, in my experience, are simple and easy to play, with lots of bashing, looting and clever cutscenes. This PS4 demo was no different, though I did struggle to progress while switching back and forth between Hawkeye, Black Widow, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America. There’s a big focus on puzzles and cooperative actions. Single-player is possible but I recommend enjoying LEGO MARVEL’S AVENGERS with a friend or family member.

It’s rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and older. Though the demo is limited, I’ve read that there are potentially 100 playable characters to unlock and scenes from Marvel’s The Avengers, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 

Avengers assemble! Hulk smash!

~ J.L. Hilton

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Illogicon schedule Jan 12-14, 2018

ILLOGICON is a community based convention dedicated to Science Fiction & Fantasy in TV, movies, animation, comics, visual arts, pod casts, and video games. This year, I’ll be a participant in the following panels:

The Art and Music in Science Fiction – FRIDAY – 3PM – Spaceships are cool, but so are costumes that reflect a culture, in-universe cantina music, and sprawling space-murals that tell the story of a people. But in space. Join out panel talk about those human details that make a world a home, even when it’s alien. Moderator: Michael G. Williams. Panelists: Darin Kennedy, Andrew Greeson, J.L. Hilton.

Sex in Other Worlds (18+) – FRIDAY – 11PM – How do aliens… do it? Moderator: J.L. Hilton. Panelists: Julie Steinbacher, Natania Barron, James Maxey, Jim McDonald.

Fanfiction: Fun and Fundamentals – SATURDAY – 5PM – Fanfic! What it is, why we love it, where to find it, how to do it. Moderator: J.L. Hilton. Panelists: Stacey Lantagne (GoH), Alyssa Wong (GoH), Tracy Walker, Gerty McHenry.

Living the Dream and Getting Paid – SUNDAY – 2PM – So you’re ready to turn that hobby into a career (or a least a decent side hustle)? We gotta talk shop on financial planning and the business side of creativity. Moderator: Ian Malone. Panelists: Jim McDonald, Ada Milenkovic Brown, Fraser Sherman, J.L. Hilton.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: NIER:AUTOMATA

I played NIER:AUTOMATA for three reasons:

1) There’s a free demo for PS4

2) Viewers requested it

3) Jim Sterling included the game in his “Game of the Year Awards 2017” video

The music and gameplay gave me a warm fuzzy flashback to Kingdom Hearts on PS2. And while I enjoyed Kingdom Hearts many years ago, third-person button-combo games aren’t really my thing any more.

NIER:AUTOMATA constantly shifted between over-the-shoulder, side-scroller and top-down camera angles, which might be really cool for someone who liked those sorts of games, but it’s not for me.

I’m not into anime, and I’m not a fan of the anime tropes such as teenage characters (or characters that look like teens, even if they’re old and/or androids), soft-spoken emo dudes who have to discuss their feels in the first three minutes you meet them, and fighting giant machines while wearing stiletto hip boots and flashing your panties at everyone.

But that’s what Try-It Tuesday is all about — having new experiences and trying games I wouldn’t usually play.

~ J.L. Hilton

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