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Subject: The Rise of Combinatorial Hybrids rss

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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
Personally, I can't see any further afield than Othello, and even then the starting arrangement puts it that one crucial podium step below Hex.

Othello to me behaves like an organism trapped in a poorly fitting exoskeleton. I've mentioned Io a couple of times as a better alternative. You can play it with Othello equipment if you don't mind the occasional draw that is possible on even grid sizes. It's less rigid, more fluid.
Just to be clear: I wasn't praising Othello/Reversi, which I regard as probably the dreariest abstract game with any sort of claim to classic status. All I meant was that, if I'm trying to think of games which get close to the Hex standard of 'take otherwise undifferentiated pieces of two colours, have them placed alternately on a board of natural format with a single rule to guide them, and off you go', Othello may be the one that, after Hex itself, comes most naturally to mind. I shouldn't be at all surprised to find Io a better game - indeed, I can hardly imagine finding otherwise - but, for the little this is worth, it isn't quite as elemental a conception.

I fully understood your view of Othello and I'm happy to argue that there's more to the distinction than the 'single rule' characteristic. But it's nothing that I haven't argued before and I can't quite fit it into a discussion about the rise of combinatorial hybrids.
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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mocko wrote:
nhjelmberg wrote:
mocko wrote:
nhjelmberg wrote:
mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
[Shakes head sadly.] Sometimes one knoweth not what to think.

Actually I never know what to think. I usually think first and then look what it is that I thought.
Ah! This explains a lot - notably the illusion of having discovered games rather than invented them

But some great games really look like they were discovered rather than invented.
I agree that the category of games giving this impression is not entirely void, but add the dual requirements of plurality and greatness and I think we struggle a bit. Hex is everyone's go-to instance (and in that light the famous parallel authorship should perhaps not astonish), but beyond Hex ... what? Even a game as spartan as Draughts carries a faint odour of the lamp, and on the other hand surely something like Noughts and Crosses only qualifies if one has a sentimental/historical view of greatness. Personally, I can't see any further afield than Othello, and even then the starting arrangement puts it that one crucial podium step below Hex.


Actually, I thought Bug got quite close in terms of elegance. However, I'm not in a position to assess its depth yet.
Me neither. But what do you mean by elegance?

Touché! I guess I should have a prepared answer to that question but I still struggle to find a good definition of what I feel is elegant. Games with few components, intuitive rules and a gameplay that pleases the mind in the way artwork does typically fall into that category. However, such a vague definition isn't very useful I'm afraid.
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Russ Williams
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Another less well-known but extremely simple Hex-like (in the minimalist "discovered not invented" sense) one which comes to mind is Spangles. Certainly not as deep as Hex, but still fun and interesting, and impressively minimalist. No movement or flipping, just take turns placing triangles until you make a triangle of four triangles, with your colors on the 3 vertices and either color in the center.
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christian freeling
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Come to think of it, Flume is pretty minimalist, as is Dots & Boxes.
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
Personally, I can't see any further afield than Othello, and even then the starting arrangement puts it that one crucial podium step below Hex.

Othello to me behaves like an organism trapped in a poorly fitting exoskeleton. I've mentioned Io a couple of times as a better alternative. You can play it with Othello equipment if you don't mind the occasional draw that is possible on even grid sizes. It's less rigid, more fluid.
Just to be clear: I wasn't praising Othello/Reversi, which I regard as probably the dreariest abstract game with any sort of claim to classic status. All I meant was that, if I'm trying to think of games which get close to the Hex standard of 'take otherwise undifferentiated pieces of two colours, have them placed alternately on a board of natural format with a single rule to guide them, and off you go', Othello may be the one that, after Hex itself, comes most naturally to mind. I shouldn't be at all surprised to find Io a better game - indeed, I can hardly imagine finding otherwise - but, for the little this is worth, it isn't quite as elemental a conception.

I fully understood your view of Othello and I'm happy to argue that there's more to the distinction than the 'single rule' characteristic. But it's nothing that I haven't argued before and I can't quite fit it into a discussion about the rise of combinatorial hybrids.
You're right, of course. It doesn't really fit at all.

But the way it arose is typical of internet conversation, where people pick up on a single fragment (often not the main focus) of someone else's communication and thus initiate a chain of sideways topic shifts which very rapidly loses all relevance to the original.

So here, after I connected (relevantly, I would argue) to a post by Russ, you made a (presumably) flippant remark to which I rejoined in equally flippant mode, and soon we were away on exchanges (by now also involving a third person) of the hoary old discovery v invention debate.

I'm not objecting to any of this, by the way - just stating that it's what happened. I would repeat, however, that there's nothing about Othello which seems to me quite as man-made as the 'one bound one free' idea.

Footnote: when you first unveiled that protocol, I assumed it was a reference to those cliff-hanger situations in early C20 adventure comics, where this week's episode would end with Our Hero securely tied to the railway tracks or whatever, and next week's would begin with the cliché "With one bound, Jack was free!"
 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
I'm not objecting to any of this, by the way - just stating that it's what happened. I would repeat, however, that there's nothing about Othello which seems to me quite as man-made as the 'one bound one free' idea.
Except the almost unavoidable initial position.

mocko wrote:
Footnote: when you first unveiled that protocol, I assumed it was a reference to those cliff-hanger situations in early C20 adventure comics, where this week's episode would end with Our Hero securely tied to the railway tracks or whatever, and next week's would begin with the cliché "With one bound, Jack was free!"
No, actually I first coined it one-sticking-one-free but the someone, off the top of my hat I don't remember who, came up with 'bound' and I liked it better.
 
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
I'm not objecting to any of this, by the way - just stating that it's what happened. I would repeat, however, that there's nothing about Othello which seems to me quite as man-made as the 'one bound one free' idea.
Except the almost unavoidable initial position.
Certainly I agree that that's the most artificial part of Othello, but it's fairly small and neat, after all, and it's over once it's over.

I'm quite prepared to believe that Io has the drop on Othello in every other particular, but I don't think one can sensibly argue that it's more elemental.

(And why, if it really is better, should we care about that in any case?)
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Richard Moxham
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russ wrote:
Another less well-known but extremely simple Hex-like (in the minimalist "discovered not invented" sense) one which comes to mind is Spangles. Certainly not as deep as Hex, but still fun and interesting, and impressively minimalist. No movement or flipping, just take turns placing triangles until you make a triangle of four triangles, with your colors on the 3 vertices and either color in the center.
Yes. Definitely a very good example.
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russ wrote:
christianF wrote:
mlvanbie wrote:
Perhaps meeting new board positions won't be as distressing. When you are playing games, mastery of something new produces endorphins. On the road to mastery of a fixed game that effect diminishes over time as you refine skills rather than learn new ones. In a game with variable powers there will be new 'Aha!' moments for each power and even combinations of powers.
I understand that refining one's skills is inherently dull. Aha!
Not that it's "dull"; it's just different and it gets continually more difficult.

Refining one's skill in e.g. Go is very much a matter of diminishing returns; everyone's progress slows down significantly over time, and many people hit plateaus and perhaps never progress more. Some people are fine with accepting that (I still love playing Go even though I've been stuck in a plateau for years, I suppose making barely measurable progress), while other people feel stupid and frustrated by their slowed-down rate of learning.

In contrast, there's no diminishing returns with e.g. trying different pairs of gods in Santorini; each time you play with a new combo, you see and learn new rule interactions.

So for people who want those "easy regularly acquired endorphins" from continually learning new stuff about how the pieces and rules interact, the type of game for them is one with never-ending new combinations of pieces, not one with emergent complexity from the same rules and same setup every time.

Visa-versa: Abstract Combinatorial games can be "heavy crunching" and so people have a lower tolerance threashold atst as without focusing enough making a small but critical mistake. People with a higher ability to focus and calculate can often easily overwhelm other players and most players feel crushed by the game consequently.

But then playing these games and developing that skill can be very rewarding, if hard work!

Personally I think the OP's premise has some merit. To have some underlying combinatorial structure with a more gentle gameplay layer above and also multiplayer for that human social group gameplay element as well.
 
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christian freeling
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DeepFishTaluva wrote:
Visa-versa: Abstract Combinatorial games can be "heavy crunching" and so people have a lower tolerance threashold atst as without focusing enough making a small but critical mistake. People with a higher ability to focus and calculate can often easily overwhelm other players and most players feel crushed by the game consequently.
It comes with the territory. If an abstract is 'lighter', has some clear tactics and allows beginners to form some initial ideas about how to reach its goal, then its appeal will be broader. At the same time it is more likely to fail the 'lifetime dedication' test and thus bypass the needs of players who like to improve indefinitely. Chess, Go, Shogi, they all give a guarantee. New games can only seldom do that. Grand Chess and Dameo would arguably comply. Hex already has, but it's still a niche game (because of its goal I think, but that's another matter).
 
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christianF wrote:
DeepFishTaluva wrote:
Visa-versa: Abstract Combinatorial games can be "heavy crunching" and so people have a lower tolerance threashold atst as without focusing enough making a small but critical mistake. People with a higher ability to focus and calculate can often easily overwhelm other players and most players feel crushed by the game consequently.
It comes with the territory. If an abstract is 'lighter', has some clear tactics and allows beginners to form some initial ideas about how to reach its goal, then its appeal will be broader. At the same time it is more likely to fail the 'lifetime dedication' test and thus bypass the needs of players who like to improve indefinitely. Chess, Go, Shogi, they all give a guarantee. New games can only seldom do that. Grand Chess and Dameo would arguably comply. Hex already has, but it's still a niche game (because of its goal I think, but that's another matter).

Taking an example, all I have to do, is select a more "powerful" bot or human player to play against in Go, to immediately feel stupid, small and crushed and somewhat pathetic!

Whereas feeling elated and possibly "powerful", myself, only moments ago when I last played at my current level. Harvesting "how much better I now am!"

Psychologically it's easy to feel as if one has immediately slipped into the "slough of despair" with all the attendant stages of recovery to that (recognition, 'deflation', resignation, acceptance, recovery, re-learning...!).

On the other hand it's amazing how such a small thing can make you realize that humility is ALWAYS needed in this big, big world. Keep seeing things with fresh eyes, so to speak. Keep learning.


But for most people these are "severe" reactions and "once is enough" I suspect when they are here for entertainment, less stoic lessons in life!


One defense against this harshness, is groups. When people are together they can enjoy the context of the players that it is "fun interaction" not "maechavelli/chimpanzee politics" cycnical interactions and thus everyone is liberated and can express themselves more successfully.


I'd like to see hybrids take this and add it to what abstracts do so well when they're good: The abstract game expresses itself, too.




 
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christian freeling
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I feel symphatetic towards all that and towards all players who like playing recreational and socialise in the process. But my goal was to make games for a small group that actually doesn't need them because they have Chess, Go, Shogi, Draughts and the like. There's a tiny crack in that Wall because Chess and Draughts players only think they don't need them.
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David Buckley
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mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
Interestingly, I often read descriptions (which could be complaints or praise, depending on who's saying it) that many modern "mainstream" euros do NOT have much player interaction. Everyone is busy optimizing their own player board, oblivious to the other players, and all that (thus goes the cliche). And the people who like that kind of "multiplayer solitaire" complain about the "direct conflict" in typical abstract games (e.g. capturing opponent's pieces in Chess, Go, etc).
Interesting indeed. In one of the rating comments on a game of mine, a person whom from all other available evidence I had taken to be an aficionado of abstracts remarked: "I don’t much like staring at the board for a long period of time just trying to figure out what my opponent may be thinking". But (newsflash!) that's precisely what the whole genre consists of. It's pretty much the definition of combinatorial play.

[Shakes head sadly.] Sometimes one knoweth not what to think.


Your post comes across as rather elitist to me. I wasn't the originator of the comment about Morelli that you quoted but I agree with the sentiment. I realise that in a strict literal interpretation of the English language you might be correct that it is pretty much the definition of combinatorial play* but there is a qualitative difference, albeit a partly subjective one between Morelli and most other abstract games.

The most succint way of expressing it is that Morelli has low visual clarity. This is not to say that Morelli is a bad game. In some ways I think it is an excellent game but the low visual clarity is a distinct negative for me. I hope you didn't mean to imply that thinking like this makes me any less of an abstract aficionado.

* I would dispute the long period of time part.
 
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Pablo Schulman
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Answering the OP (since a lot of replies were tangential to the question):

The people that enjoy AbStrat games seems to be peculiar. I don't know if they are triggered by childhood memories, if they see as pure, elegant or if they see a mathematical beauty that other people doesn't see.

In a sense, the hybrid can introduce the idea of combinatorial games in a more palatable way to the masses while still being of (if not slight) interest to aficionados.

Quote:
I admit I sometimes think the rise of hybrids are diluting abstracts. That maybe combinatorials will slowly fade. That players are missing out on the "real thing"... However, I think that reasoning is wrong. The rise of a new category could just add diversity and new thinking. Different players like different things. The hybrids might even draw attention to abstracts in general.

For sure we can learn a few tricks by thinking outside of the box. Think of Metropolys, which is an old design that has spatial reasoning while being an auction game (alas, it has hidden info). Think of Wind River, which is a fully combinatorial hybrid with (neutral) resources (something not that much explored in abstract games, I know only of Robotory).
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On the mastery point, I just came across a helpful Thoughtful-Gamer podcast, which distinguishes two types of mastery/skill. I'll call them:

(1) Mastery of Deterministic Puzzles

(2) Mastery of Statistical Distributions

https://thethoughtfulgamer.podbean.com/e/ep-38-randomness-an...

Yes, increasing randomness does decrease the probability of the more skilled player winning... but the amount of that decrease varies greatly by game. If the influence of randomness on outcome in (2) is really low... then we're really just testing different skills (i.e., (1) vs. (2)).

I will still suggest that non-random abstracts generally better encourage people to seek mastery more than games with randomness. The ability to enjoy other elements, such as artwork, theme, story, random outcomes... can offer a non-skill objective.

However, I do note that medium-weight combinatorial games are an interesting exception. For example, Bosk seems purely combinatorial, but I doubt it will encourage mastery to the same level as games like LYNGK or Blooms. More on that discussion here: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2175611/bosk-it-possible-me...

Side note: Randomness in a physical way doesn't actually exist. Consider how Statistical Mechanics defines entropy...
 
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Kunkasaurus wrote:
Side note: Randomness in a physical way doesn't actually exist. Consider how Statistical Mechanics defines entropy...
Or on the contrary, consider various experiments in quantum physics which seem to show that randomness in a physical way does exist...

But either way, it's a moot "angels on a pinhead" issue. If a (perhaps "merely" pseudorandom) process is literally indistinguishable from a "truly" random process by all known statistical tests and cannot be demonstrated to be not really random, then in practice for boardgamers it really doesn't really matter whether theoretically it's "truly" random or not.
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russ wrote:
Kunkasaurus wrote:
Side note: Randomness in a physical way doesn't actually exist. Consider how Statistical Mechanics defines entropy...
Or on the contrary, consider various experiments in quantum physics which seem to show that randomness in a physical way does exist...

But either way, it's a moot "angels on a pinhead" issue. If a (perhaps "merely" pseudorandom) process is literally indistinguishable from a "truly" random process by all known statistical tests and cannot be demonstrated to be not really random, then in practice for boardgamers it really doesn't really matter whether theoretically it's "truly" random or not.
As someone who works in Nanophysics, there's alot of fun stuff to discuss about quantum physics...

I think common language betrays a clear understanding about quantum physics. Essentially, quantum physics seeks to model things that are really hard to model, so we use statistics. Statistics is really the core of this science.

For example, we get the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle, which greatly limits our ability to measure a single particle. However, we are much more confident about measuring an average property, like spatial distribution of electronic density. These ideas are analogous to typical statistics (e.g., difficulty of predicting the grade of a single student vs. ease of predicting the mean grade of the class).

Speaking of the density, consider the wavefunction, which has no physical meaning but can be processed to predict a physical property within some uncertainty. When we measure the physical thing though, we commonly say that the wavefunction "collapses" to that single value... no variability. People also commonly say that this measurenent has now affected the physics so that observing the event noninteractively changes the event. But what's really changing is not the physical event but the statistical distribution used to describe it. It's as if I flipped a coin and predicted the outcome. I'd say 50-50 heads/tails. But if I saw the coin land heads, I would say 100% heads for that toss. The coin was always going to be heads that time, but my prediction had uncertainty until measurement. Which brings us to Schrodinger's Cat. Same concept.

Anyways, my point is that I see no reason to believe any physics is nondeterministic. Our ability to predict, however, is limited by incomplete information. I suppose you could call that ignorance uncertainty (as in statistics), randomness (as in computer science), or entropy (as in Statistical Mechancics).

Back to board games: We introduce that uncertainty in many ways of hidden information. The uncertainty could be shared (as with a deck shuffle or dice roll), one-sided (e.g., Stratego), or complicated (e.g., team deduction games or Clue). Regardless, we often call certain types of uncertainty randomness... often helpfully so. I'm particularly interested in, for example, excessive analysis paralysis that leads to unpredictable behavior. Essentially, I think we want the puzzle to just barely be within reach of one player and just barely out of reach for the other to suggest a difference in skill.

Hence I agree that effective randomness (I prefer "uncertainty") is the big takeaway.
 
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Kunkasaurus wrote:
Anyways, my point is that I see no reason to believe any physics is nondeterministic.
But in the same way, isn't there no reason to believe all physics must be deterministic? As I understand it, there's currently no empirical way to distinguish between the different interpretations of quantum theory.
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
Kunkasaurus wrote:
Anyways, my point is that I see no reason to believe any physics is nondeterministic.
But in the same way, isn't there no reason to believe all physics must be deterministic? As I understand it, there's currently no empirical way to distinguish between the different interpretations of quantum theory.
Yes, it's difficult to prove something is always true. Just as it is difficult to prove that something doesn't exist. Likewise, it's difficult to have 100% certainty... think The Matrix.

Still, these challenges are not equivalent. We have far more confidence in and "proof" for deterministic physics than nondeterministic physics. I suppose it could go two ways:

(1) The seemingly nondeterministic will just be revealed to be deterministic. Consider the classical example of the inverted pendulum. The idea is that right at the top is a point of unsteady equilibrium. You don't know which way the pendulum will go. However, if you knew the exact physics... down to the atomic resolution of every effect... you would know the outcome. Hence, I suppose you could call this case highly uncertain... even chaotic... but not nondeterministic.

(2) The deterministic could be a special case of nondeterministic... just as classical mechanics is a special case of Modern Physics / General Relativity. The logic of this idea seems dubious though.

As for Quantum, I agree that we don't have convincing proof for any theory. I definitely lean De Broglie - Bohm (Pilot Wave) over Copenhagen. Still, I don't think we should use unproven theories to prove the existence of true randomness.
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Kunkasaurus wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Kunkasaurus wrote:
Anyways, my point is that I see no reason to believe any physics is nondeterministic.
But in the same way, isn't there no reason to believe all physics must be deterministic? As I understand it, there's currently no empirical way to distinguish between the different interpretations of quantum theory.
Yes, it's difficult to prove something is always true. Just as it is difficult to prove that something doesn't exist. Likewise, it's difficult to have 100% certainty... think The Matrix.

Still, these challenges are not equivalent. We have far more confidence in and "proof" for deterministic physics than nondeterministic physics. I suppose it could go two ways:

(1) The seemingly nondeterministic will just be revealed to be deterministic. Consider the classical example of the inverted pendulum. The idea is that right at the top is a point of unsteady equilibrium. You don't know which way the pendulum will go. However, if you knew the exact physics... down to the atomic resolution of every effect... you would know the outcome. Hence, I suppose you could call this case highly uncertain... even chaotic... but not nondeterministic.

(2) The deterministic could be a special case of nondeterministic... just as classical mechanics is a special case of Modern Physics / General Relativity. The logic of this idea seems dubious though.

As for Quantum, I agree that we don't have convincing proof for any theory. I definitely lean De Broglie - Bohm (Pilot Wave) over Copenhagen. Still, I don't think we should use unproven theories to prove the existence of true randomness.

I'm not very knowledgeable at all about quantum physics, apart from one college physics class in the 1980s that covered both special relativity and quantum mechanics in a single term. But from that I have vague recollections (maybe mistaken!) that Bell's Theorem proved there were "no hidden variables" operating behind the scenes to produce seemingly random quantum phenomena, with the lesson drawn that therefore the phenomena are truly random. Not so?
 
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cdunc123 wrote:
Bell's Theorem proved there were "no hidden variables" operating behind the scenes to produce seemingly random quantum phenomena, with the lesson drawn that therefore the phenomena are truly random. Not so?
Either there are no hidden variables, OR the particles have an instantaneous (FTL) connection.
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Kunkasaurus wrote:
We have far more confidence in and "proof" for deterministic physics than nondeterministic physics.
Quantum mechanics exists to explain various phenomena which classical physics cannot explain, i.e. we KNOW classical physics is wrong (though still useful). Early 20th century examples where classical physics breaks down: the photoelectric effect and black body radiation.

Quantum mechanics means non-deterministic, even with hidden variables:
https://arxiv.org/abs/1005.5173
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