Author Topic: Review games on Steam that you love. Results are determined by those who show up  (Read 3246 times)

Offline x4000

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Original: http://arcengames.com/review-games-on-steam-that-you-love-or-hate-results-are-determined-by-those-who-show-up/

SteamDiscoveryUpdateWell, the new steam storefront is very interesting, and I think it's a breath of fresh air.  For a lot of reasons.  It gives a lot more power to recommendations and peers and even news outlets.  This new curators thing is going to be awesome, I've wanted them to add something like this for years.

Still -- it's a brave new world, in other respects.  We've been on Steam for 5 years now, and (as tends to happen pretty much continuously) a lot of our past experience on how to be successful is out the window.  One of the things that I noticed immediately was the new way that user reviews are highlighted in terms of the number of positive and negative ones, basically like rotten tomatoes.  I think that's an awesome thing to do, and way more useful than showing metascores.  Hooray!

I also do think, though, that not showing them weighted by how many people find a given review useful is a bit less helpful, though.  If there are 20 negative reviews that almost nobody finds helpful, and then 40 positive reviews that are found to be generally very helpful, you still come out with a 66% overall user score, which shows up as a mixed reception.  And that's what has happened with The Last Federation, to my surprise.  Interestingly, most of the rest of our games kind of mimic their general reception, although Bionic Dues is higher-scored than I would have expected based on its sales numbers.

Given the sales numbers of TLF, though, and the general really positive reception to it, I find it a bit strange how the game shows up as mixed.  At the moment there are two negative reviews in the top FIVE pages of most-helpful user reviews for the game.

If your curious, this is the listing for Arcen as a publisher on Steam, where you can see the breakdowns for everything.

ArcenOnSteam

And So We Come To The Point
Much as with democratic elections, referendums, and primaries, you now have a voice on Steam.  This is very exciting!  But also as with voting in real elections, the results are determined by those people who show up.

You should never go astroturfing for anyone, and you should never go on a smear campaign against someone, either.  But I think that it's now really important to give reviews, more than ever, to help light the way for those who come after you and wonder if they should spend their money.  Do you like a game?  Review it and give it at least a brief explanation.  Don't like a game?  Review it and hopefully say more than "this is boring" or "this sucks."  A sentence or two of articulation in a negative review (or a positive one, for that matter) really goes a long way.  Not everything has to be a novel.

I really feel like this is getting to be like Amazon.com.  I absolutely rely on the user reviews on Amazon, because they are so helpful -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The point is, for a lot of indies, there are either very few reviews, or no reviews at all.  And yet the games are selling, sometimes really well, and the experiences of those people just aren't being shared at all.  That's a bit of a shame, and I think makes it harder for people to find (and trust) the niche sorts of products that people around here like.  And I'm not just talking about Arcen's products, either.  I know so many indie developers who struggle a lot more than we do -- if anything, we manage to get far more press than the average indie developer, even if we aren't in the upper echelon.

4xGamesWhat This Means For Niche Games In Particular

I think that the more niche a game is, the more the reviews of that audience are important.  When you get a game that is, say, a super-hardcore historical strategy game (a genre that Arcen has never dabbled in, so I'm free to use that as an example), you can wind up with situations where the reviews are skewed.

Some people jump in and try it just because they like strategy games.  But boy, that game is too hardcore and the learning curve is steep and it's not what they are looking for.  Those people SHOULD write negative reviews, with at least a short explanation saying why it was negative for them.  This can warn off other generalized strategy gamers who might make the same mistake.  But it's not going to deter someone who thinks "you didn't like the complexity?   That makes me MORE interested!"

Even so, you wind up with a skew towards the negative -- and we see this on Amazon all the time with all sorts of products -- because generally people with an axe to grind are the ones most likely to do a review.  Which really sucks, particularly if you're a fan of a niche genre and you want to see more games in that genre.  If you DO like super-hardcore historical strategy games, and you want to see more good ones, then you frankly owe it to yourself to write a review.  If you find one you love, write about it.  Find one that is okay, but not stellar, write about that, too.  Find one that is in the genre you like, but that just doesn't pull it off, write about THAT, too.

That way the people who are actually interested in the same sorts of things you are can learn from you -- and if they reciprocate, then you from them.

appleappstoreThis Is Incredibly Better Than The Apple App Store

This whole thing really democratizes the process, and I am so absolutely thrilled to see how this is happening.  Apple curates a few titles, and beyond that it's mostly the top lists for things that are already popular.  That means you get a lot of derivative games, and a lot of games featuring birds because people do a lot of searching for the word bird by now.  Despite the plethora of games on the Apple App Store, far more than on Steam, the variety is incredibly more anemic there.

The awesome thing about the new Steam system is that it doesn't fall prey to any of those problems.  And so I'm hopeful that we'll see more niche games that actually find the audience they were seeking.  Not people who buy it by mistake and then hate it, and not titles that languish in obscurity despite overwhelmingly positive user reviews (ahem, Bionic Dues).

And hey, when the public generally doesn't like a game by a developer (ahem, Shattered Haven), then that's good for the developer to know, too.  And good for players.  We still get people who buy Shattered Haven and love it, but they go in eyes open thanks to user reviews.  They understand that by the market's opinion is that it's a rough gem at best, and something that only will appeal to a certain set of players (of which I am a member, incidentally -- I in no way feel it's a bad game, but I understand why some others do).  I would rather sell 100 copies of Shattered Haven to people who will actually enjoy it rather than 1000 copies to people who never load it up or who get angry when they try it because it's not what they thought.

amazontransformersReviews, reviews, reviews!  You don't have to write long articles, and you don't have to review games you haven't really played enough to form an opinion on.  But if you've played a game and have an opinion -- goodness, certainly if you've put a few dozen hours into it -- you really ought to write a review.  It's good for developers, and it's good for players, and it's what will make the Steam store the sort of environment that we all hope it will become.

I'm really optimistic about this new storefront, and it's something that we've known was coming for quite some time.  I didn't realize it would be today, or anywhere near this soon, but I knew that Valve was planning these changes and I just absolutely could not wait for them.  All change is scary, so I'm a bit nervous about this even though I believe it will be a good thing.  But the only thing that really scares me, honestly, is that people won't take the time to do reviews for niche games.  If nobody does, or if only the people who aren't really into that niche do, then those niches are only going to get smaller.

All right, that's my sermon. ;)  I hope you find lots of new and exciting games with the new Steam store!
« Last Edit: September 22, 2014, 10:27:01 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Misery

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I'm going to be interested to see the overall effects of this on Steam as a whole.

In all honesty, my thoughts on this are rather mixed.  It's no secret that I dont like Metacritic one bit and find it useless, but I'm not so sure of this new system either.  On one hand, yes, it's not Metacritic, and it's not JUST a number.   On the other hand, it has the potential for the same sorts of problems. 

The people writing the reviews, for instance.  There's times when I read those, and I think they must either be high when writing those, or REALLY high when writing those.  Or for some games you'll get "reviews" that arent really reviews at all.  Like, I was looking at some of them for Five Nights at Freddy's, and a whole pile of them are just "I wasnt ready 4 Freddy" or some variation of that line.  Granted that's fitting for the game, but it's not exactly helpful.... though I bought it anyway, because I do that.

And I get the idea that alot of potential buyers still are going to have the same basic approach to this as before.  Maybe they're not JUST looking at the metascore, but they may still take a similar approach with the other bits, avoiding a game if it says "mixed" reviews or whatever, or sliding the page down and seeing how many thumbs-ups there are VS thumbs-down.  Without actually reading any of them.

So wether or not it'll have much effect.... yeah, it'll be interesting to see.   It is at least good to see some changes along that line though.


EDIT:  The new interface, however, can go jump off a cliff.  Ugh.  I had to search just to find the option to see ALL new releases today instead of JUST "popular" ones.   Among other issues. 
« Last Edit: September 22, 2014, 09:20:26 PM by Misery »

Offline Mysterial

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It didn't take long for someone to start bombing it ;)

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/-_____________________________-#

As with most new Steam store features (like tags) it'll probably take a month or two before they iron out the issues and figure out how to keep out most of the griefers, spammers, and trolls.

I like the direction, though, both as consumer and developer. I'm glad that as Valve relaxes their restrictions and makes it easier for developers (particularly indies) to get on they're keeping in mind ways to improve the store and avoid the App Store hellhole.

Offline x4000

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In terms of user reviews, seeing things boiled down to a popularity contest is indeed dangerous.  And I have to say, even as a developer, when I am looking for games to play as a player I pay way too much attention to the damn metascore.  It's just something that fixates in my mind.

I really liked the user reviews system the way it was before here, because it didn't really give overall numbers.  There was the most helpful section, and I would look through the top few pages of those, and see what the overall sentiment was.  If they were overwhelmingly positive or negative, then I'd flip to Only Positive or Only Negative to see what the dissenting opinions were -- if everyone hates this, why do some people like it?  If everyone hates it, why do some people like it?  And then decide from there.

All that flies out the window with an unweighted rollup right on the store listings.  Which is a shame.

As for the new releases only showing popular ones... I think that's somewhat inevitable, given the pace of new releases now.  Frankly it used to be that some of the train simulator stuff would bomb the store with two pages of new-releases DLC, so they added that DLC filter.  But then legitimate expansion packs would get caught up in that filter the same as a new $5 train engine would.  That sucked.

Then there was more recently the problem with some indies only spending a few hours at most on the front page of the new releases, and with new releases being such a prominent thing, that was absolutely devastating to sales.  What I think Valve is trying to get away from -- actually, they've explicitly stated this -- is a reliance on discoverability being driven by the new releases page.  That and steam sales were about the only thing driving discoverability for a long while now; front page or die.  Which incidentally would mean that top sellers would keep being top sellers partly because they were top sellers (not in all cases -- we would get in the top 10 sellers briefly during sales or releases, then fall off within a day or two, and that is something that happened with many other developers, too; but Terrarria and Goat Simulator I think kind of snowballed partly off the Top Sellers list itself).

It's hard to be sure of anything, because it's all so bloody complicated.  I like what they are trying to emphasize, though, and what they are trying to de-emphasize.  How much time do you spend on the home page of Amazon?  Personally, I don't even look at it.  I shop on amazon more than at any other store, digital or otherwise.  The reviews system in general works well, the search and categories and filters work great, and overall I can find what I want really well.  I'm a transformers collector, and it is hard to find specific lines of transformers and compare items and prices within that line, though; but the tags feature in steam might help with that.  And on Amazon, the "people who bought this also bought that" and the "people who looked at this ultimately bought that" also help a lot.

I think Steam doesn't need to just copy Amazon, and they aren't at all.  But I think that the general mindset of what they are trying to do is in the same overall ballpark.  They've got a data cube, and they're letting customers mine it.  Other storefronts have something that feels more like a 2D table, and they just kind of list stuff, with a few separate lists to try to get extra most-common queries handled.  Until today, that's how Steam was, too.  And it's not a horrible way to be, certainly, but it doesn't scale at all.  So once you start hitting scale, you have to shift approach, and I think this overall approach is really smart.

The curators in particular: that lets people essentially have micro-stores that are scaled-back.  Just the stuff that TotalBiscuit recommends.  Just the stuff that is currently on discount promotion out of what he recommends.  Suddenly there are multiple front pages.  There isn't software clogging up his page, and if he puts DLC on there it's because it matters, not because it's a train car that happened to come out with 20 other individual train cars.  So that's pretty awesome.  And on the other hand, if there are train enthusiast sites, then they cover the train car stuff and the aficionado of train cars doesn't have the sort of trouble finding all the cars that I might have trying to find all the kinds of transformers on Amazon.  So that's win-win... so long as I find TotalBiscuit and train guy finds the train curator.  That part remains to be seen.

And of course, that's what all this user review stuff and Netflix-style "we're betting you'll like this because people like you (based on metrics we have on other things you like) liked it."  So that's really useful.  But only if people actually write reviews.  And only so long as the trolls don't get to rule.  Which is where that whole helpful-reviews thing has always been a golden idea that steam executed perfectly... and are currently ignoring.

I'm not ranting at all.  The problem they face is a bloody complicated one, and for their day 1 crack at it, it seems to be going marvelously.  Relative to what would happen with most stores.  Mysterial, I'm afraid, I don't understand what exactly is happening with the bombing that you're referring about there.  I clicked the link, but I still don't follow what is happening. ;)

Anyhow, agreed on the happiness about avoiding becoming an app store hellhole. :)
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Offline Misery

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The bombing bit he refers to is basically that group wandering around and dropping "I do not recommend this game" on completely random titles for no reason.

Actually, just go look at your page for Betrayed Hope.... you'll see it. 

The internet, I swear.... it took, how long for this sort of trolling to start?  Hardly any time at all.  Bloody amazing, sometimes.  It'll get worse before it gets better.

Offline x4000

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Ah, I see.  That makes a lot more sense.  Well, I'm glad it's not my job to sort that out. ;)
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Online TheVampire100

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I'm a huge reviewer and I was very pleased with the Steam review system. It gave me a platform where I am active and can publish my reviews not only to friends but also to the public.
And Steam is not a small plattform it is the most used gaming plattform of the internet and if you have a good score there you can except some more sale numbers.The problem with public reviews however is, people tend to overreact. And people tend to react immature. people also tend to do stuff without thinking twice.
Put all together and you have a lot of negative reviews because peiople played 2 minutes into the game, think they had an actual experience of the game and then give a negative review with two sentences.
In my opinion revies should have at least a certain word/letter count before they are counted into the system. Teh reason is, tweo sentences say absolutly nothing about the game itself. true you can say you like or dislike the game but that's an OPINION not a REVIEW. A review means that you put effort and TIME into it, thinking through waht is good about the game, whats bad, what you like (that's the opinion part of the review), what you dislike. But most of you say what the game is about and list the pros and cons of the game. Either with an actual list or embedded in text (like I do). Maybe people won't read everything from it. people tend also to be lazy. But at least you know that YOU have played the game and have experience from it. You know what you type.
This lazy 0,5 hours reviews are not worth viewing and get from me always a "NOPE!" not dependign if they like or dislike the game.

If you want to check out my reviews (on German though): http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198050705438/recommended/

I've putted real effort in most of it, some need some rework because they are either outdatted, I changed my opinion on the game or were written when the review system was still just a suggstion system for friends.

I've also written a AI War Review and would be happy to write about the other Arcen Games games (ha ha) that I own on Steam.

I'm also writing guides (these in english because they target a bigger audience) but I'm not so good at it like on reviews.

Offline KingIsaacLinksr

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@TheVampire: while I appreciate the sentiment, putting minimum characters on reviews will be pretty easy to get around: just copy/paste more words until you reach the minimum. Additionally, sometimes I publish negative reviews if something about the game is inherently broken. Like multiplayer! I'm not going to sit in a game for 2+ hours if I can't get a game going because the developer shipped a broken multiplayer service. That's just nonsense. But I will write a fairly detailed review about my (unhappy) feelings.

Also, shameless self-promotion, I've got my own curation page now: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/kingisaaclinksr/curation. I'll be working on it as time goes on.
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Offline Misery

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I'm a huge reviewer and I was very pleased with the Steam review system. It gave me a platform where I am active and can publish my reviews not only to friends but also to the public.
And Steam is not a small plattform it is the most used gaming plattform of the internet and if you have a good score there you can except some more sale numbers.The problem with public reviews however is, people tend to overreact. And people tend to react immature. people also tend to do stuff without thinking twice.
Put all together and you have a lot of negative reviews because peiople played 2 minutes into the game, think they had an actual experience of the game and then give a negative review with two sentences.
In my opinion revies should have at least a certain word/letter count before they are counted into the system. Teh reason is, tweo sentences say absolutly nothing about the game itself. true you can say you like or dislike the game but that's an OPINION not a REVIEW. A review means that you put effort and TIME into it, thinking through waht is good about the game, whats bad, what you like (that's the opinion part of the review), what you dislike. But most of you say what the game is about and list the pros and cons of the game. Either with an actual list or embedded in text (like I do). Maybe people won't read everything from it. people tend also to be lazy. But at least you know that YOU have played the game and have experience from it. You know what you type.
This lazy 0,5 hours reviews are not worth viewing and get from me always a "NOPE!" not dependign if they like or dislike the game.

If you want to check out my reviews (on German though): http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198050705438/recommended/

I've putted real effort in most of it, some need some rework because they are either outdatted, I changed my opinion on the game or were written when the review system was still just a suggstion system for friends.

I've also written a AI War Review and would be happy to write about the other Arcen Games games (ha ha) that I own on Steam.

I'm also writing guides (these in english because they target a bigger audience) but I'm not so good at it like on reviews.


I'll agree with this completely.

I haaaaaaaaaaaate seeing reviews, for any game, where the person doing it has like, one hour of time with it.  I know some games are sorta inherantly low attachment time by design, but most arent this way, and it's easy to tell when particular games are really offering LOTS of hours of gameplay, and typically also easy to tell when a game can take awhile to really properly learn.

But they'll post reviews anyway pointing out things they dont like... even if they havent really messed with those things at all.

I personally never put up reviews unless I've spent a good amount of time with the game.  There's been ONE exception, which is Hitogata Happa, but that's only because I'd played the PS3 version alot prior to that.  But other than that singular exception, I never ever put up reviews unless I have quite a lot of hours in a game.  Last Federation, I'm probably going to write up a review for as I dont think I've done so yet, but I *wont* do that with the expansion, as I've only just started a campaign in one of the new modes there, and it'll be awhile before I can get a true feel for how it's all coming together. 

The worst part is when you see a review that very obviously had little effort or is based on very low experience with the game, yet it gets a bazillion thumbs up.  Just... argh.  Bugs me to no end.

Offline eRe4s3r

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Steam does not have reviews, it has recommendations. They do not need to be the length of a book page and should not be regarded as reviews ;) At the core it's a popularity contest over an opinion with either positive or negative up-front connotations, not a review.


Ps.: Steam playtime says nothing about how long someone played the game...... for various (actually extremely varied) reasons.

And sorry Misery, but If I dislike a game after 5 minutes so extremely I find myself writing a negative recommendation then that is how that works and likely far more helpful to someone who hasn't yet wasted 5 minutes but can fully understand my points...... And often these recommendations are more useful than the astroturf recommendations for games exactly for that reason. I'd rather someone tell me their experience, negative or not, than listing what kind of genre a game is or isn't. And when a dev says, pulled support for a game, then I want to read that at the top of the recommendations, and not 5 days later when I accidentally stumble upon the news post on blues....

In the end, you disagree with a recommendation give it a thumbs down.

I actually was tempted to write a very negative recommendation for Pixel Piracy after little more than 30 minutes of suffering, because by god has that an annoying control scheme. I refuse to play that ;/ Or Sword and Soldiers HD, which I hated after exactly 12 minutes so much that I never started it ever again after that. Now I didn't write anything because I was simply lazy.. but if you disregard recommendations with short play-times you are shooting yourself in the foot. Often these are the honest opinions while the rest is community driven astroturfing. Which is completely unhelpful actually (to me).
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Offline Misery

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Steam does not have reviews, it has recommendations. They do not need to be the length of a book page and should not be regarded as reviews ;) At the core it's a popularity contest over an opinion with either positive or negative up-front connotations, not a review.


Ps.: Steam playtime says nothing about how long someone played the game...... for various (actually extremely varied) reasons.

And sorry Misery, but If I dislike a game after 5 minutes so extremely I find myself writing a negative recommendation then that is how that works and likely far more helpful to someone who hasn't yet wasted 5 minutes but can fully understand my points...... And often these recommendations are more useful than the astroturf recommendations for games exactly for that reason. I'd rather someone tell me their experience, negative or not, than listing what kind of genre a game is or isn't. And when a dev says, pulled support for a game, then I want to read that at the top of the recommendations, and not 5 days later when I accidentally stumble upon the news post on blues....

In the end, you disagree with a recommendation give it a thumbs down.

I actually was tempted to write a very negative recommendation for Pixel Piracy after little more than 30 minutes of suffering, because by god has that an annoying control scheme. I refuse to play that ;/ Or Sword and Soldiers HD, which I hated after exactly 12 minutes so much that I never started it ever again after that. Now I didn't write anything because I was simply lazy.. but if you disregard recommendations with short play-times you are shooting yourself in the foot. Often these are the honest opinions while the rest is community driven astroturfing. Which is completely unhelpful actually (to me).


Hmmm, you do have a good point there.

I guess part of the problem is telling them apart... which people really did run into something that's actually THAT nasty, and which ones actually are just getting their complaints due to their own inability to understand something simple, or outright laziness, or similar reasons. 

As it is I had the same issue with Pixel Piracy, though I'll return to it later on I think, if the devs should fix it.

Offline eRe4s3r

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Imo the system only fails when people try to be ironic in the recommendations like they are in Amazon user reviews...., it's about the only things I regularly thumbs down. And it really hurts to see stuff like Alpha Zylon have a 50% "mixed" rating because 4 ..... "things" decided that they should put a thumbs up with "irony" instead of just writing a honest negative .. anti? recommendation and hence push it on page 1 of certain searches... where that "game" should never ever be.

Ps. Sorry that I worded it so cranky but I have an extremely noisy pair of lovely black crows perched in a tree right next to my (currently and not for long) open window.. and they interrupted my thoughts more than once ;P

I am slowly getting steam queue filtered, all F2P and MMO = don't show. And when I am done steam is going to be actually useful again. .. well mostly. I still want a flag that tells steam that I already OWN a game (just not on steam) because Steam is recommending me a lot of games I already have. I mean, that is obviously a good sign, means their system works... but it'd be nice to *not* be offered Anno 2070 when one already owns that etc...

Anyway...
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 09:14:24 AM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline x4000

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A lot of really good discussion in here -- so much so that I don't really feel that I have anything to add.  How odd!  ;D
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Offline Cyborg

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I haven't found anyone that can truly capture my tastes in videogames. Netflix does a horrible job profiling me and so far steam is also.
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Offline x4000

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I haven't found anyone that can truly capture my tastes in videogames. Netflix does a horrible job profiling me and so far steam is also.

Well, okay, I'm the same way with Netflix and so forth.  However, it does give me SOME things that I wouldn't otherwise find on my own, so that's good.  Beyond that, my best source of hearing about awesome and interesting games is the Off Topic section here.  You guys discuss plenty of things that I am not remotely interested in, but then there are a lot of things that make me perk up, too.  Not surprising, given the commonality that we all have of the reason we use these forums at all.  But even that's not a 100% hit rate for me, and I guess nothing ever would be.
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