An Open Letter to Blizzard

Dear Blizzard;

I’ve been enjoying your game for quite some time now — nearly six years in fact. That’s an awfully long time for a video game to hold my interest, so congratulations on producing a game that is engaging enough to do so. Hooray! But you know, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about this silly thing you’ve implemented called Real ID. I’m sure you’ve been getting a lot of feedback on it already, but seriously, stick around. This is worth reading, this right here.

I understand the Real ID system in game, I even tested it on the PTR servers and it was kind of neat. Not for me, but kind of neat regardless — however, while I consider my guildmates my friends, I don’t really feel close enough to them to share all my personal information, and I do enjoy my private time on random alts here and there. Since you’ve neglected to include an “invisible” option on the system, I’ve decided not to use it. It really is quite a nifty tool though, and I’m sure there are plenty of people that enjoy it.

I’ve been posting on your forums for a long time now, (I did mention I’ve been playing the game since the beginning, right? Right.) offering feedback, writing stories, writing RP guides, helping out those that needed items crafted, reporting the odd bug or two that I come across, asking for help on the Customer Service or Technical Support forums if I needed it, and generally having a good time with things. Sure there are trolls, but they are easily ignored for the large part. But yesterday I learned that if I wanted to continue posting on your forums, providing feedback, stories, guides, crafting or getting any kind of support come Cataclysm, I am going to have to post using my real first and last name.

Don’t get me wrong here — my name is public already, as I now write for a high-profile website regarding your game. But there is something intrinsically wrong with requiring people to use their real name when posting on your forums, and I’m going to try to lay this out as clearly as possible, so hang in there with me.

I don’t play your game to engage in social networking. If I want to engage in social networking, I use a social networking site like Facebook, or Twitter.

There is one reason I play your game, and it’s a reason that a lot of players share:

Internet dragons.

I enjoy killing dragons. On the internet. This has nothing to do with my real first and last name. This has nothing to do with social awareness. This has everything to do with those amazing internet dragons you have created.

This internet dragon was really hard to kill and took forty people. FORTY FUCKIN PEOPLE GUYS THIS IS ONE BADASS INTERNET DRAGON LET ME TELL YOU

I SEE HOW YOU ARE TRICKY BLIZZARD WITH YOUR FRIENDLY INTERNET DRAGON STRATEGIES

BUT WE KILLED THIS DRAGON AND SKINNED HIS CORPSE BECAUSE HE INSULTED OUR MOTHERS

THIS DRAGON IS BADASS BECAUSE SHE’S GOT FUCKING EARRINGS ON HER HORNS I MEAN WHO DOES THAT SHIT FOR REAL SHE ROCKS

KILLING INTERNET DRAGONS IS SO EXCITING EVEN THE GROUND WANTS TO DO IT

GOD DAMN WE WILL KILL THAT DRAGON WE WILL KILL IT WITH FIRE UNLESS IT IS FIRE RESISTANT THEN WE WILL KILL IT WITH FROST

Not only do I enjoy killing internet dragons, I like killing internet orcs, too. And humans. And bug things that live in the ground, and demons from another dimension, and undead kings that raise other undead kings and stuff them in swords and aliens that don’t have bodies and live in bandages and goblins and ogres and you know what else I like, I like exploring all over the landscape, scenic mountains and grassy plains and dear god we just went through a portal to another fucking realm and THERE ARE PLANETS IN THE AIR OH MY GOD ARE THOSE ISLANDS IN THE SKY I WANT TO GO TO THE ISLANDS IN THE SKY TELL ME I CAN GO THERE HOLY SHIT I CAN YOU KNOW WHY

BECAUSE NOW I CAN FLY ON MY OWN INTERNET DRAGON HOW COOL IS THIS SHIT

FUCKING HELL I LOVE THIS GAME SO SO SO MUCH MAN ALL I WANT TO DO IS ADDRESS THIS INTERNET DRAGON PROBLEM

…okay. Sorry. Little carried away. But that’s it, you get it? That’s why I play. That’s why my friends play. Because we like to come home from a long day of being John Smith or Jane Doe and get on the computer and MURDER SOME REALLY AWESOME INTERNET DRAGONS.

We don’t want to be John Smith.

We don’t want to be Jane Doe.

We don’t want our friends to just be John Smith, or Jane Doe. That’s not the point. That’s not the point of what you’ve given us. What you have given us is an awesome, amazing, awe-inspiring game where we don’t have to be ourselves. Where we can pretend we are Kronk, gruff and oft-misunderstood orc warrior with an odd penchant for interior design. Where we can pretend we are Gisella, noble paladin of the Light and kidnapper of baby wolvar . Where we can forget about the real world, the real world’s problems and issues, the real world’s pressures and annoyances and just settle back and kill some internet dragons.

We don’t want Facebook. If we want Facebook, we’ll go to Facebook.

We don’t want Twitter. If we want Twitter, we’ll go to Twitter.

We don’t want people knowing our real names or our real lives. That’s not the point. It’s a fantasy. You gave us a fantasy, and now bit by bit you are trying to take that fantasy away and convince us that it is “cool”.

We love the fantasy you gave us. It is beautiful, it is not perfect but you are working hard every day to keep it as perfect as possible, and we love it. That’s why we’re all still playing after all of these years.

You talk about “concentrated coolness,” you talk about how everything should feel “overpowered and epic,” yet bit by bit you are taking this away. You cry that posting on the forums is optional, but for those of us that have been posting for years, giving you feedback, asking for help, providing help — now we can’t. Not if we want to stay in our fantasy. Now if we want to offer feedback to you, we have to be John Smith. Or Jane Doe.

We loved the fantasy, we loved putting our words out there for you to hear, but now we can’t do it unless we want to expose our real first and last names to the world. Sure, it may help your internet troll problem — but in doing so you are silencing the voices of thousands of players who just want to offer the player base help, advice and creativity. Some people may be okay with putting their real names out there for all to see. Some people, however — many of my friends even — aren’t.

You’ve heard from parents expressing concern that their child’s name would be exposed. You’ve heard from women that live in constant wariness of predators that could easily track them down if they had that first and last name. You’ve heard from military personnel that are concerned with the safety of both themselves and their families should their real names be somewhere easily found. You’ve heard from members of the GLBT population who are still in the closet out there in the real world, but free to express themselves under the blanket of anonymous fantasy that you’ve provided.

“It’s optional,” you say. “Optional to post on the forums.”

What you have created is a community. A beautiful community full of amazing people and yes, jerks here and there. These people have grown to know each other under that safe blanket of anonymity, where they can simply be whoever they want to be without having to worry about whether or not their next door neighbor will find out anything unsavory about them. Where they aren’t judged on how they look, how they dress, how they speak, what they drive, what they wear. Where they are just voices sharing thoughts and ideas, and ears hearing thoughts and ideas in return.

And you are taking that community away.

“It’s optional,” you say. “Optional to post on the forums.”

You gave us a playground that over 11.5 million people love to play in. We felt comfortable and safe there. We aren’t feeling so safe anymore. You’re not only killing the voices of trolls, you’re killing the voices of thousands of players who simply don’t feel comfortable sharing their names.

You’re losing feedback. You’re losing the creativity. You’re losing the community that made this game so amazing in the first place. In return, you’re gaining nothing but a sharp increase in technical and customer support calls because people are far more likely to call in with a problem than post their real name someplace so public that anyone could retrieve their information in a matter of minutes.

Do you have the staff to handle that influx? Because that’s what’s going to happen. That, and you’re going to get a lot of people canceling their accounts. Why?

Because they played this game for what it was — a fantasy. And now it’s looking like you want to take that fantasy away.

Without the fantasy, there’s no reason for them to stick around.

Even with a thread that is at this moment 1,755 pages long and growing, you’ve been largely silent on this issue. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re actually going to do something about it.

I’ve already said goodbye to Kronk, and Gisella, and countless others — friends, all of them — who have decided to cancel their accounts. Logging on isn’t fun right now. It’s a litany of “how could they do this” and other similar opinions. I’m tired of seeing “friend not found.” Please at least let us know what you are thinking. What’s going on out there in Blizzard HQ, and whether you are going to do something about this, or continue to ignore the people that have been enjoying your game for so long.

I’d just like to kill the internet dragons, please.

Sincerely,

Shade

Edit: And, two days later we have our answer — they listened to us. NOW WE CAN GET BACK TO THOSE INTERNET DRAGONS HELL YES WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT INTERNET DRAGONS

THANK YOU INTERNET DRAGON WE APPRECIATE YOUR CONTRIBUTION AND WILL BE AROUND TO BEAT YOU LIKE A SCALY PINATA LATER

SHIT MAN CHECK OUT THAT AWESOME INTERNET DRAGON IT’S GOT BLUE CRYSTAL SPARK SHIT EMBEDDED IN ITS HIDE HOW AWESOME IS THAT

Aw. Will do, Ysera. Will do.

Cataclysm, or Catalyst? Speculation on the Future of Azeroth

Well hello again readers! It’s been awhile, for which I have to apologize – holidays, family, and other commitments have kept me away from the blog. There will be a return to the history segments soon, but for now, it’s time for a little old fashioned speculation. As I’ve been playing World of Warcraft, and as I’ve been reading about the impending Cataclysm, I started picking up on a few clues here and there on possible future directions for Warcraft lore that may have some stunning implications. While the folks over at Blizzard back none of this, I thought it’d be fun to take you all down the oft times confusing, but terribly fun road of lore speculation. So let’s take a break from the history, sit back, put on our tinfoil hats and take a really good look at the events presented so far in the game, and where they may lead.

The Old Gods

One of the largest players to date in World of Warcraft lore are these mysterious figures called the Old Gods. If you are a raider, chances are you’ve met and killed a couple of them in your raiding lifetime – C’thun, down in Ahn’Qiraj, and Yogg Saron, up north in Ulduar. But where did these Old Gods come from, and why are they here?

The Old Gods are, simply put, pure evil. These are malevolent deities that were said to have ruled Azeroth in the past – long before the Well of Eternity, long before the introduction of the night elves. While the nature of the Old Gods is well known, what is sketchy at best is the timeline in which these events took place. Some Warcraft lore suggests that the Old Gods were present when Azeroth was created, and their activities were responsible for drawing the Titans to the planet in the first place. Other lore, generated from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, suggests that the Titans created the world, took off for parts unknown, and were called back because the alarms were being raised due to these nasty critters. As the lore currently presented in Northrend is the most current, this is the timeline I am going with.

The Titans are creatures of order and organization, of creation. The Old Gods are the exact opposite, creatures that seek nothing more to bring about chaos and destruction. In Wrath of the Lich King, it is revealed that the ‘Curse of the Flesh’, a disease that was created specifically to break down and assimilate the Titan’s creations, was placed upon Azeroth’s creations by the Old Gods. News of the Curse soon reached the Titans, and they returned to find the little world of order and perfection that they’d created in absolute chaos. The Old Gods ran rampant, their lieutenants, the Elemental Lords, assisting them in razing the world. A great war ensued, and the Titans were triumphant – but there was a catch. The Titans discovered that the Old Gods and the Curse that they placed on the planet could not be removed without destroying Azeroth itself.

Making planets is pretty hard work, and it’d be a shame to throw all that hard work away. So the Old Gods were imprisoned, deep below the earth where nobody could get to them, and left to rot for eternity. The Titans then put in a few safety measures and precautions, and created The Forge of Wills to re-create the seed races that had been weakened by the Curse.

Unfortunately for Azeroth, Old Gods are not so easily taken care of, and this has resulted in a small series of events that is, if my theories and speculations are correct, about to avalanche into something a heck of a lot messier than races up and turning fleshy.

Depending on the source, there are three, four, or five Old Gods imprisoned. Other sources imply that there were more, but for now…well, let’s just look at what I’ve dug up.


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Tirisfal Glades

While there is nothing said via quests regarding this location, it is referenced in a book that does exist in game, The Founding of Quel’Thalas . In the book, the following is stated:

“Forging inland, the high elves founded a settlement within the tranquil Tirisfal Glades. After a few years, many of them began to go mad. It was theorized that something evil slept beneath that particular part of the world, but the rumors were never proven to be true. The high elves packed up their encampment and moved northward towards another land rich with ley energies.”

While it is not directly stated, it can be assumed that the evil that slept beneath the earth was one of the Old Gods. Interestingly, if one pieces together the Azeroth map into one continent as it was pre-Sundering, this location is just under or near the original location of the Well of Eternity. Given the fact that Azshara made a pact with an Old God when she and her city were submerged, a pact that introduced the naga as a race, it can be assumed that this Old God is the one that yammered at Azshara and made her a not so little mermaid.


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The Master’s Glaive – Darkshore

This is a location that has either been overlooked or ignored by the majority of the Warcraft player base. Located in Darkshore, it’s a little out of the way for anyone that isn’t leveling a night elf or a draenei – most horde players wouldn’t even see this location unless they were out getting the Explorer achievement. In the Master’s Glaive, there is a monument, or the remains of a battle – a giant glaive impales the skull of some strange creature with tentacles. The night elves consider it a sacred area, and believe that a Titan killed an Old God at this location, as the glaive is too large for anything other than a Titan to wield.

In game, the area is now under the control of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult often known for consorting with Old Gods. They believe the statue, or skull, or monument, or whatever it is, is actually the corpse of an Old God. Whether or not this is true has yet to be addressed, but the evidence is stacked to suggest that there was an Old God here, but it met its end at the end of a Titan weapon.


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Ahn’Qiraj – Silithus

This is the moment that people really started noticing the Old Gods. Rather than being some mysterious, unknown force that was vaguely referenced by lore, suddenly players found themselves confronted with direct and unequivocal evidence that the Old Gods existed. The War of the Shifting Sands was incorporated into existing Warcraft lore, and involved the night elves extensively – notably one of their leaders, Arch Druid Fandral Staghelm who had up until that point no particular reason for being nasty to players other than being a big old jerk. It was revealed that Staghelm sought the help of the Bronze Dragonflight to solve the problems presented by the Old God C’thun, and while these efforts worked for a short time, C’thun had risen again to cultivate chaos and destruction.


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Ulduar – Northrend

Are you seeing a pattern on that map yet? This was the point where the dots started connecting for me. Ulduar, high up in Northrend was the host and home to yet another Old God – Yogg Saron, imprisoned in the Titan stronghold of Ulduar. Players once again got to fight and defeat one of these creations.

These map points were proving terribly interesting to me, and I found it necessary to plug in that last and final point.


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Duskwood?

While Hakkar, the vengeful boss at the end of the Zul’Gurub instance is often called an old god, he is not an Old God. More powerful than an elemental lord, but slightly less than a god, Hakkar was worshipped by the trolls. So why is there a mark on the map here?

Karazhan, the mystical home of Medivh is often referenced as having been constructed on some powerful ley lines that attribute to the strong magical energy that surrounds the tower. It is possible that parts of the peculiar properties of Karazhan are because of an Old God as yet discovered. There is, however, something else that makes a lot more sense.

Duskwood, that creepy zone that low level Alliance love and fear, has a rich history of people going mad. The Scythe of Elune is mentioned, the Black Riders of Deadwind Pass, worgen and undead, and humans that have completely lost their minds. But the most peculiar and as yet unexplained part of Duskwood is the portion nestled directly in the center of the otherwise unsettling zone – The Twilight Grove. This crater is supposedly the remains of a volcano, and carries an oddly night elf feel to it. The logical leap to make is that Duskwood itself, the corruption, the darkness, and everything that has befallen the area is the direct result of an Old God buried somewhere below.

Why did I make that fifth connection? Take a closer look at the map. I have clumsily connected the dots, line tool style:


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Oh Blizzard. You are fond of putting pentagrams in strange places , but this is far too interesting to be coincidental.  Notice that the center of my messy pentagram is none other that the Maelstrom, that nasty swirling bit of chaos and tidal fury that all ships make a strong point to avoid when sailing about Azeroth.

Is your mind boggled yet? It gets better. So much better. Read on, and prepare to start making cardboard ‘The End Is Near’ signs to wave about your nearest street corner.

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Draenei History: Space Goats, Windchimes and Demonic Corruption

Some view the introduction of the draenei as the biggest mistake that Blizzard could have made from a lore standpoint. Sci-fi? In our Warcraft? Spaceships and technology? Well…yes, actually. The thing that most people seem to forget when playing a game like this is that it’s an ongoing story. If WoW’s story remained the same, static and unchanging, it would hardly be the sort of game that captured the attention of so many people for so long. From a pure story standpoint, WoW is ongoing, and changing – and it’s up to the storywriters to decide in what way that story will evolve. While some view the science fiction elements of Burning Crusade as far-fetched, I don’t think it’s that major of a stepping-stone – we’ve already had some elements introduced, portals and dual worlds, Titans and engineering – science very much has a place in the WoW universe. What the storywriters have done is create a natural blend of science fiction and magic that for some reason works.

The mysterious race known as the draenei have been referenced in Warcraft lore prior to Burning Crusade, however the draenei we were presented with were very different from the playable race. Little guys that look largely like potato sacks with legs, it was difficult for players to imagine how anyone could ever want to play them as a character in game. But the draenei’s origins are a startling departure from the magic-wielding elves, the savage orcs, and the other playable races available. The draenei were covered briefly in Orc History – you can go back and read parts One and Two here, or simply read ahead, as I’ll be recapping the events presented in the orc history segment.

The Eredar, the Naaru, and the Birth of the Burning Legion

The draenei originated as a race known as the Eredar – a group of supremely talented magic users who originated on the planet Argus, millions of years prior to Azeroth’s creation. These creatures were led by three of the strongest magic users – Archimonde, Kil’jaeden, and Velen. Sargeras, the dark titan intent on destroying worlds and devouring magic, was in the middle of building a vast army to carry out his dark purposes – and the inherent power of the Eredar quickly drew his attention. He approached the three leaders, offering them both vast powers and immortality in exchange for their allegiance.

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Gnomish History Part One: I Solemnly Swear To Try Really Hard To Avoid Gnome-Related Puns

Last week, we focused on the history of the Tauren, the largest of the Horde’s races, and speculated on their possibly titanic origins. This week we’re going to look at the smallest of the Alliance races – the Gnomes – and speculate on their titantic origins, and what those origins mean for the race. Gnomes are the oft-misaligned hated race of the alliance, endless streams of short jokes and threats of gnome punting littering the net. Nobody likes the gnomes, it seems – unless of course you are a gnome player, and if you’re a gnome player, then you’re weird. At the original release of World of Warcraft very little was known about this odd, tiny, frenetic little race of tinkers and mechanics, but the release of Wrath of the Lich King cleared up a lot of the mystery of where the gnomes came from, and why they are here.

Not all of it, but a lot of it. This week, expect small amounts of speculation that are clearly labeled, and a whole lot of Warcraft history. Please be patient with me, as the timeline involving the Titans arrival, the Old Gods arrival, and everything that happened in between is currently in flux – game lore is contradicting existing lore, and it makes everything…iffy.

WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING:  Wrath of the Lich King,  and events that take place in the raid zone of Ulduar. If you don’t wish to be spoiled on any of the above material, I would not recommend clicking to read further!

If, however, you’re interested in the little frenetic tinkering gnomes, READ ON!

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History of the Tauren, A Summary

The history and early origins of the tauren are still largely a mystery – but there is enough information available out there to answer a few basic questions surrounding the quiet and peaceful race.

1. Aren’t the night elves the ones that are supposed to be the first druids?

Yes and no. The Night Elves are the first recorded students of Cenarius, but I like to think that’s in a large part due to the fact that the night elves are much, much better at record keeping. The tauren race is old, older than the night elves by a very large period of time, and it’s possible that the time period in which Cenarius trained the tauren in druidism took place before the night elves even existed. In which case, of course the night elves would say they were the first students – Cenarius never taught the tauren in any of the night elf history because he did so before night elf history even began.

2. So the tauren are pretty much good guys, right?

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Character Focus: Garrosh Hellscream

I’ve decided to do a new feature, once a week covering one character in Warcraft, their history, back story, motives and where they are today. Some weeks you’ll see the big names – major players in the story of WoW, and others you’ll see NPCs that I thought were particularly interesting. To kick it all off, I’ve decided to start with one of the mostly hotly debated characters in Warcraft at the moment – Garrosh Hellscream, son of Grom.

WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and possibly Cataclysm. Also included are the Warcraft comics and novels. If you don’t wish to be spoiled on any of the above material, I would not recommend clicking to read further!

Son of Hellscream, Son of Draenor, Son of Nagrand

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Azeroth, Pre-Sundering – A Visual Guide

You know, I’ve looked and I’ve looked online just about everywhere, but I have yet to find a map of pre-Sundering Azeroth – what the continents looked like before the Sundering that split them into the continents of Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms, and Northrend that we know today.

I can talk till I’m blue in the face about how Azeroth used to be nothing BUT Kalimdor, but it’s easier to show what it looked like – please note, the following is a VERY rough map, and not officially sanctioned by Blizzard. It is more than likely that the land mass was larger than what I’ve depicted here, and the territorial borders were placed there in the interests of speculation and theory more than anything.


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What you can see from this is that #1 – Zin-Azshari? Was HUGE. It covered a VERY large portion of Kalimdor. Think of New York City, and then triple or quadruple it. The Highborne concentrated closer to the Well of Eternity (the blue portion in the center), and Suramar bordered it on the far side. I’ll go more into Suramar and what exactly you could find there in the next Night Elf History post – but for now, think of it as the religious capital of the kaldorei.

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History of the Night Elves – Well Well Well…

This week’s lore history focus is on one of the most complex races in Warcraft History – the Night Elves. The night elves are allied with the Alliance, all that is good and noble and pure in the land of Azeroth. But a deeper look into night elf history uncovers far less good intentions and noble behavior than one would be led to believe…

The history of the night elves is long, complicated, and spans over sixteen thousand years. That’s a whole lot of history to cover, so for today I’m going to focus on one of the more irritating points of contention in night elf history.  Where exactly did the night elves come from in the first place?

To answer this we have to go back to the beginning of Azeroth, when the world contained only one continent – Kalimdor.

The Well of Eternity

Once Upon A Time, there was a planet called Azeroth. And on this planet was a continent – a single one, named Kalimdor. Kalimdor was home to several races of beings, but the one we’re going to focus on for the moment is the troll.

The troll? Wait – wasn’t this supposed to be an article about the origins of night elves?

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Orc History, A Summary

There are many Warcraft players out there that claim that orcs are evil, terrible creatures and that the Horde are obviously the Bad Guys of WoW. But in looking at this brief repost of orcish history, is this really the case? Let’s look a little more closely at some of the more common refrains sung by players with this idealogy in mind:

1. The orcs killed all the draenei!

They did. Absolutely, without a doubt, they senselessly murdered and attempted to hunt an entire race to extinction. But they were under the influence of one of the most powerful demon lords in history, and under the influence of the Blood of Mannoroth. This doesn’t absolve them of their sins, but it does shed some light into why they chose to do what they did – the original lead in this play, Ner’zhul, was convinced that the draenei were out to get them. And he’d been told so by a vision of his dead wife – who was he to know that this vision was nothing more than a lie?

2. The orcs knew what they were doing when they drank that blood! They did it on purpose!

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