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GDC 18: Hands On With Little Dragon Cafe

Posted on April 11, 2018 by Broken Joysticks

Written By: Victoria Rose

Last month at the Game Developers’ Conference, we at Broken Joysticks got the opportunity to play an in-development demo of Little Dragon Café, the new game headed up by Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada and his new studio, Toybox. The game borrows the relaxing Life Simulation gameplay of its creator’s previous works, but adds several modern twists to the formula to keep things fresh. 

One of the things that sets Life Simulator games apart from other contemporaries in the Simulation or RPG genres is the pacing and tension of the core gameplay loop. Instead of the complex resource management of the former or tense combat systems of the latter, Life Sims tend to gravitate towards a more meditative process of repetition of simple tasks to reach long-term goals. The player is given less to worry about on an immediate basis compared to a full-on Strategy game. Little Dragon Café looks to be leaning more towards this pure Simulation genre than its Harvest Moon predecessors by giving players many more factors to manage, but intends to keep the core mechanics of its Life Simulator roots. 

Swapping out the farming gameplay of Harvest Moon for finance, gathering, and cooking mechanics, Little Dragon Café puts the focus more on managing a business than gardening. Players are expected to keep kitchens stocked, dishes made and on hand, and employees in line to succeed. This leads to a more fluid gameplay loop wherein players will have to make more careful decisions about how they spend each in-game day. Going on expeditions for ingredients with your titular dragon buddy is obligatory, but managing inventory during them brings to mind contemporary game Slime Rancher more than other Harvest Moon games. Players must act quickly and conservatively to maximize output during expeditions, adding that aforementioned tension to the mix. 

Prototype Plush Dragon From The Games’ Special Edition

Of course, this is all in service of the café itself, where the business management aspects come into play. Players must cook all dishes served in the restaurant, look after customers, make sure employees are happy, and be the caretaker for your dragon. Cooking is done by a simple and short rhythm mini-game, and customer interaction is handled in a similar manner as NPC interaction in Harvest Moon. The greater amount of tasks to do in Little Dragon Café adds to the hectic nature, and pushes the game more towards a pure Simulation experience. 

Little Dragon Café has loads of potential and a striking, colored pencil shader aesthetic. Even in its early state, it is clear to see how this game can potentially find its niche between its two source genres while providing something truly different from its predecessors. This is one to keep an eye on. 


Here’s A Look At All of The Elaborate Booths of GDC 2018

Posted on March 28, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

The 2018 edition of the Games Developer Conference has come to a close but there is still a lot more for us to show including gameplay videos, developer interviews and exclusive hands-on with several AAA and indie titles.

In this post I’d like to take a quick jaunt through some of the cooler booths on display at this year’s show. By “cooler” I don’t necessarily mean “elaborate” or “expensive” but visually impressive or booths that offered attendees a unique experience.

Epic Games Booth

A booth with a ride-able Fortnite llama in place of the traditional riding bull is a win in my book. This tough looking llama was a draw for the entire conference, sadly I didn’t get a chance to go for a ride.

Above said conquerable llama was a large screen that showcased the Fortnite live-stream that Epic had going during the entirety of show-floor hour.

Folks check out the PlayStation 4 Pro version of Fortnite Battle Royale.

Not to be left out, the mobile version of Fortnite was fully playable on a large TV.

Day of the Devs

Double Fine’s indie focused Day of the Devs event took place off-site as per usual but this elaborate skull themed display greeted attendees when taking the escalator down from the South Hall. In addition to playable demo stations you could also catch some of the developers behind featured games like Exo One, Minit and Knights & Bikes.

IGF Pavilion

The 2018 Independent Games Festival awards took place alongside the Game Developer Choice Awards on the Wednesday of GDC week. Throughout the show-floor days (Wednesday – Friday) all of the nominees could be played at a single station in this circular configuration. Games like Night in The Woods, Baba is You, Cuphead and Shenzen I/O were playable by attendees. In years past it wasn’t uncommon to actually meet the developers behind these games while playing them at the IGF booth – sadly I didn’t get to meet anyone from the excellent Night In The Woods team this year ☹.

Train Jam 2018 Booth

Over 80 independently created games & experiments were playable over at the Train Jam booth. I was lucky enough to take part in this year’s 52 hour game jam and our game Emotional Support Cat Girl was also playable at this booth as well. Creators from the Train Jam are also GDC Attendees for the most part so it wasn’t uncommon for creators to hang out at the booth and walk folks through their creations.

I didn’t have much time to go  1 on 1 with folks to show them Emotional Support Catgirl in person but I will have an exhaustive blog post outlining our amazing cross-America journey later on in the week.

Microsoft Azure Services Booth

A large Azure Services booth greeted attendees when taking one of the two main elevators down to the expo show-floor. Microsoft had a large floor presence this year aimed squarely at game developers and the cloud based development services that can help devs collaborate, test and deploy their upcoming projects.

Services like Azure Application Monitoring– which gives developers real-time reports on the use of their games and applications, Visual Studio Enterprise – Microsoft’s premium integrated development environment and the Xbox Live Creators program – which allows independent developers to publish on the Xbox One platform – were all on display.

By visiting four of the available demo stations developers were able to score both $2500 USD worth of Azure Credits for virtual machine testing and a free Xbox One controller. Disclosure: as a member of the Microsoft Developer Network and Bizspark Program I was not the intended audience for these workshops, I already have access to all of these services. The free controller will definitely be useful for my development work, however.

Google Booth

Google uses its presence in the mobile space with Android and its real-world presence in Silicon Valley to attract Android developers to GDC.  Not only do they host a keynote focused on the future of their mobile platform but also full day workshops for developers on pre-launch and post-launch support of their mobile games.

Aside from the giant G logo and familiar Google Employees in blue shirts there wasn’t much on display at their booth to speak of. At GDC Google did announce the interesting “instant app” addition to the Play Store which allows customers to download a small 10MB trial version of a game and play it within seconds without needing to install anything on their device. Given the size of some Android Games 10MB could be as small as a 30 second sample of the gameplay, while other smaller games have the chance to offer players a much more feature complete experience within those confines.

PlayStation Booth

Sony always has a huge display at conventions like PAX East, E3 and PAX West but did the development focus of GDC stop them from bringing some of the latest creation on their platform? Of course not!

Playable games at the PlayStation Booth included the recently released Shadow of the Colossus remake, Monster Hunter: World, Gran Turismo Sport and Ni No Kuni: Revenant Kingdom.

Sony also held a number of developer talks and workshops across the five days of GDC focusing on the visual arts achievements that Sony has made on the PlayStation 4, how devs can help fight fraud in an online gaming space and a Final Fantasy Collaboration focused workshop.


Unity has quickly become the darling of indie creators and the engine that powers some of the most notable AAA releases as well.  Upcoming titles like Escape From Tarkov, In the Valley of the Gods, Praey For the Gods and Hollow Knight all use the suite of tools made available for free by Unity Technologies.

While Unity might not offer the complete beginner friendly experience of something like Game Maker or Clickteam Fusion but it does offer a great gateway to full fledged game development. Alongside a whole range of professional grade 3D, 2D and lighting tools – developers also get access to some of the most exhaustive documentation systems around. Also the Unity community has probably answered almost every question asked about the engine at this point.

I’m not trying to come off as a paid Unity shill or that this section of the post is an advertisement – it’s not. But I’ve been personally making games in Unity for the past 2 years as my full time gig and it has been such a rewarding experience. What you lose in easy prototype-ability you gain in coding experience, game making fundamentals and probably the most beneficial to me personally – learning how to properly debug a game from conception through to post launch support.

In terms of what was on offer for newly budding developers and experienced veterans – Unity offered a quiet lounge space for Unity devs to hang out, grab a coke and just relax from the high stress environment. This space wasn’t entirely ultrisitic however – staffers from the engine developer were also on hand to inform visitors about upcoming Unity focused events like their Rendering Bootcamp, Keynote, Work Flow workshop and also to recruit for Unity Europe. Also on the floor of the West Hall (where most GDC panels take place) was a large “Made With Unity 3D” booth which gave folks the chance to check out multiple games made in Unity 5.

Ark: Survival Evolved Mobile

Lastly I’d like to highlight something I spotted at Unreal’s massive booth. Sandwiched in-between all of the Fortnite chaos, live engine demonstrations and AAA games was the mobile version of ARK Survival Evolved that had just been announced days prior. I didn’t get a chance to snag any off-screen video of the game running (tho I wish I had) but I did manage to snag a few interesting stills that I’ll post in the coming days. Suffice to say that the upcoming mobile conversion for ARK looks and plays rather faithful to the original – oh and there’s also the upcoming Nintendo Switch port of ARK, which was not on the show floor.


GDC 2018: ID @ Xbox Showcase Report

Posted on March 26, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

Written By: Victoria Rose

Microsoft’s ID@Xbox team returned to GDC for another year and brought with them some of the most promising new games coming to their console. Last year, I bemoaned the lack of effort towards securing exclusive titles for the Xbox One, as evidenced by their indie showing at GDC. But now Microsoft appears to be on the road to recovery, starting to cherry-pick several PC darlings as console exclusives. Cuphead, Ooblets, and the Ori series were the big Microsoft-allied indies of past years, so let’s take a look and see what software they have brought to the table in 2018. Welcome to GDC – this is ID@Xbox.

Folks gather around various demo stations during GDC’s ID @ Xbox event.

Starting out, we have My Time at Portia, an ambitious game of many hats that recently launched on Steam Early Access and is now being scouted for an Xbox release. Portia features a stylized visual aesthetic inspired by European animation and some captivatingly peaceful environment design. The main problem with the game at this stage, however, seems to be the opposite of its many early access peers. Portia features such a large number of mechanics and gameplay systems, all fighting for the player’s attention, that I am honestly not sure what the focus of the game is meant to be. At some moments, it feels like a crafting game or Harvest Moon-style farming game, while the combat system’s depth and third-person 3D camera angle suggest a more action RPG approach. We will see how this one develops and if it can find its niche over time.

Next up, there is the PC MMORPG Black Desert Online making its way to Microsoft’s console. The push to get more computer MMOs on consoles has been a long one with mixed results, but it certainly illustrates that there is a market for it. Black Desert Online looks to continue this trend and provide a consistent experience across both PC and Xbox. The team in particular noted Xbox One X compatibility as a major factor in them bringing the game to the platform, as the extra power allowed them to manage the game’s systems at a more reasonable framerate. Overall, this port’s presence was not terribly exciting, but at least should allow existing BDO players more options on how they can play.

Virgo Versus the Zodiac was a welcome presence on the show floor – a turn-based JRPG about mythology with some rather pleasant surprises. The battle system is reminiscent of Paper Mario, with timed button press prompts comprising much of the engagement factor in a fight, as well as some delightful Socialist overtones in the story, with the protagonist Virgo looking to overthrow the corporate greed of her peers. Such themes are more apt now than ever, and VVtZ looks to deliver a one-two punch between that and its solid gameplay inspirations. This is one to watch out for.

Finally on our featured games list, we have Trailmakers, a vehicle-building game reminiscent of contemporaries such as Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Beseiged. Trailmakers banks heavily on its aforementioned vehicle-creation system, hoping to make a tool that allows for radical experimentation within the game’s physics and world constraints. Sadly, while the tool’s open-ended construction system allows for a great deal of freedom, it does a poor job of teaching players the basics of making a functional vehicle. A booth representative acted as a tutorial without my request, while I just wanted to explore the game on my own terms. I have high hopes for Trailmakers, but it needs to implement better tutorial systems before it can meet them.

Microsoft’s GDC showing has certainly improved since last year, but they still have a long way to go before making the Xbox One be the go-to platform for independent developers. Courting them with hardware power doesn’t make much sense in the indie scene – a market full of games that lean more on aesthetic than technical overhead, but at least some developers seem to be finding uses for the Xbox One X’s muscle. Here’s hoping Microsoft can continue to make strides in areas of true significance to indies, such as licensing terms, hardware costs, and generous revenue splits.


ARK Survival Evolved Coming To Nintendo Switch This Fall

Posted on March 23, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

Studio Wildcard’s hugely successful futuristic / prehistoric mash-up survival game Ark: Survival Evolved will be coming to the Nintendo Switch in both physical and digital formats this Fall. The impending release of ARK in a few months time will mark the release of one of the first games on Nintendo’s hybrid platform to run on Unreal Engine 4.

Announced during the “State of Unreal Engine” panel at the Games Developer Conference 2018, the Switch port of ARK will be handled by developer Abstraction Games. Switch players will be able to enjoy all of the content from the original version of ARK: Survival Evolved including over 100 prehistoric and fantasy creatures, deep crafting mechanics and of course the unique dinosaur taming mechanic.

Also shown off at GDC was the mobile version of ARK, which I got the chance to see running in person. It pretty much faithfully recreates the PC experience on a smaller scale from the look of things. The mobile version of ARK: Survival Evolved will be coming to iOS and Android later this year and is available for pre-registration now – which you can do here.

If you want to see (briefly) what ARK looks like on Switch, check out a brief minute clip that was shown to crowd at GDC:

Studio Wildcard’s Lead Programmer, Co-Creator of ARK and Lead Designer had this to say about the forthcoming Switch port:

“With this new version, Switch players can go directly from hunting and taming while sitting on the couch, to forming online tribes and searching out new conquests when on the bus, waiting in line, or wherever they happen to be.”


Recipients of GDC 2018’s Ambassador and Lifetime Achievement Awards Announced [Update: Award Pulled]

Posted on January 30, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

Two gaming industry veterans – Double Fine’s Tim Schaefer and Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail – will be bestowed honors by their peers at the 2018 Game Developer’s Choice Awards this coming March. They’ll be receiving the  Lifetime Achievement Award and Ambassador Rewards respectively.

Nolan Bushnell during a Comic Con 2014 panel in San Diego, California.

Nolan Bushnell during a Comic Con 2014 panel in San Diego, California. Photo Credit: Derek Hoffman – Licensed under Creative Commons.

Bushnell’s contributions to the gaming landscape need little introduction – as the founder of Atari, he helped usher in an age of home consoles the likes of which society had never seen before. With the introduction of the Atari 2600 in 1977 popular arcade games like Breakout and Pong without leaving their homes. Kick starting the home console market isn’t all that Bushnell is known for, he’s also the founder of over 20 different technology related companies including the children’s entertainment focused Chuck E Cheese chain of restaurants.

Update 02.1.2019:
GDC officially decided to withdraw the presentation of the Pioneer Award to Bushnell after swift and justified social media backlash over Bushnell as their pick for the award. Published accounts, rumors and even statements made by Bushnell himself have left behind a public record of alleged sexual harassment, degrading comments and sexist behavior towards female Atari employees – beginning back in the 1970s. The documented behavior of Bushnell in 70s ranged from the widely circulated story of the sexist origins behind the codename ‘Darlene’ for the smash hit Pong – codenamed after a female secretary who worked at Atari at the time to holding board meetings for the company in a hot tub and trying to coerce female employees to join the all male board in said tub.

I’d highly recommend Gita Jackson’s lengthy post over on Kotaku for further reading regarding Bushnell’s behavior and why GDC decided to pull the award. Her write-up provides additional background information including statements from professors at Illinois Tech who teach about interactive entertainment.

GDC’s official twitter account released the following statement:

The Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, who vote on the Special Award winners for each show, have made the decision not to give out a Pioneer Award for this year’s event, following additional feedback from the community. They believe their picks should reflect the values of today’s game industry and will dedicate this year’s award to honor the pioneering and unheard of voices of the past.”

Grim Fandango poster next to a promotional bobblehead. One of the many games Tim Schaefer is known for.

Grim Fandango poster next to a promotional bobble head. One of the many games Tim Schaefer is known for.  [Photo Credit: Cydog  – Licensed under Creative Commons]

Grim Fandango, Broken Age, Psychonaughts, Full Throttle – these are just some of the hilarious and thought provoking games that have sprung from the creative mind of Tim Schaefer. Bringing his own uniqueness flavor to his games isn’t all Schaefer is known for – since founding Double Fine he’s worked to promote independent games through collaborations with organizations like Iam8bit and their annual; Day of the Devs events.

Rami Ismail gives a talk during the Game Developer Conference.

Rami Ismail gives a talk during the Game Developer Conference. [Photo Credit: Official GDC – Creative Commons]

Rami Ismail’s impact on game development goes far beyond his work on titles Nuclear Dawn, Super Crate Box or Serious Sam: The Random Encounter. He has worked on accessible development tools like PressKit() that help other indie creators distribute information about their upcoming projects. He has also worked with creators in fostering indie development communities in countries like Eastern Europe, The Middle East, South America and Africa.

These awards will be distributed on March 21st during the Game Developers Choice Awards in San Francisco, California. Staff members from Broken Joysticks will be attending GDC 2018 and may be in attendance for the awards.



Finalists Announced For The 2018 Game Developers Choice Awards

Posted on January 5, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

Some big AAA games share the spotlight with some of 2017’s indie darlings in the list of finalists for the upcoming 2018 Game Developer Choice Awards.  Split across 10 different categories including Best Narrative, Innovation , Best Audio and of course Game of the Year – over 20 titles from the past twelve months will be eligible for honours form the GDCA when the curtains rise on March 21st.

Do games like Nier: Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, Night In The Woods, Persona 5 or Destiny 2 sound familiar? Aside from being some of the best games released this year in their respective genres, they were all featured in our “Best Games We Played 2017” series of articles over the past couple of weeks.

Below is a categorized breakdown of each award as provided by the GDCA organizers. Broken Joysticks staff will once again descend onto San Francisco to cover as much of the GDC chaos as we possibly can.


Cuphead (StudioMDHR)

Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix)

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Honorable Mentions: Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo), Star Wars: Battlefront II (EA DICE / Electronic Arts), Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom), Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision), Persona 5 (P-Studio / Atlus), Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall / Finji)


Team Cherry (Hollow Knight)

Sidebar Games (Golf Story)

StudioMDHR (Cuphead)

Infinite Fall (Night in the Woods)

Jason Roberts / Buried Signal (Gorogoa)

Honorable Mentions: Game Grumps (Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator), Terrible Toybox (Thimbleweed Park), Team Salvato (Doki Doki Literature Club!), Lizardcube(Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap) 


Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corporation)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix)

Honorable Mentions: Cuphead (StudioMDHR), Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive), What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive), Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Larian Studios), Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (Bennett Foddy), Prey (Arkane Studios / Bethesda Softworks)


Reigns: Her Majesty (Nerial / Devolver Digital)

Hidden Folks (Adriaan de Jongh and Sylvain Tegroeg)

Monument Valley 2 (ustwo games)

Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive)

Bury Me, My Love (The Pixel Hunt / Figs / ARTE France / Playdius)

Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo), Fire Emblem Heroes (Intelligent Systems and Nintendo EPD / Nintendo), Old Man’s Journey (Broken Rules), Flipflop Solitaire (Zach Gage), Gnog (KO_OP / Double Fine Productions)


Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)

Everything (David OReilly / Double Fine Productions)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corporation)

Honorable Mentions: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory), Cuphead (StudioMDHR), Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix), Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo), Tacoma (Fullbright), Pyre (Supergiant Games)


Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall / Finji)

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)

What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda Softworks)

Honorable Mentions: Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix), Tacoma (Fullbright), Persona 5 (P-Studio / Atlus), The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo), Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Larian Studios), Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)


Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)

Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Honorable Mentions: Star Wars Battlefront II (EA DICE / Electronic Arts), Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda Softworks), Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix), Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)


Persona 5 (P-Studio / Atlus)

Cuphead (StudioMDHR)

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall / Finji)

Honorable Mentions: Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive), Star Wars Battlefront II (EA DICE / Electronic Arts), Assassin’s Creed Origins (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft), Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision), Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory), Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)


Superhot VR (SUPERHOT Team)

Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Red Storm Entertainment / Ubisoft)

Lone Echo (Ready at Dawn / Oculus Studios)

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks)

Honorable Mentions: Farpoint (Impulse Gear / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality (Owlchemy Labs / Adult Swim Games), Luna(Funomena), Robo Recall (Epic Games), Gnog (KO_OP/ Double Fine Productions), Doom VFR (id Software / Bethesda Softworks)


PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corporation)

Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Honorable Mentions: Cuphead (StudioMDHR), What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive), Persona 5 (P-Studio / Atlus), Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory), Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive), Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Larian Studios), Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall / Finji)


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