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I'm starting to work through some ideas for my MUD's classes, and I'm finding it a surprisingly daunting task. It's fun, but difficult. Are there any resources for creating character classes at a generic level? Right now, I'm just looking at other games and seeing which elements can be translated to my own game (and then making them my own, of course). For example, I'm considering having talent trees, like in WoW/Diablo, so last night I sat down with a friend and talked about what one such tree might look at for a class we both thought sounded interesting. We cam up with some good ideas, but we found they were largely combat offense/defense based, so I've determined that I need to work on class abilities, first. This process is surprisingly complex. Classes are another discussion. I'm not looking to go far from the beaten path on this. I'm thinking I'm going to have the four basic class types (warrior, thief, wizard, priest), and allow a small amount of branching off of that (like D&D prestige classes), to allow for some character customization at a higher level than talents. This, too, makes things a little difficult, as if I allow two branch classes per main class, that's 12 total classes (which is a lot). Anyway, everything is still up in the air, so I'm not quite ready to sit down and talk specifics. I'd rather start looking at the process, and was hoping to find some resources, like a "So you're about to build character development" document, or maybe a good post-mortem for an RPG that discusses this very (or some similar) thing. Or even a good piece of advice (e.g. one that I would give is to keep it simple, as far too many games out there offer way too many race/class options to be balanced and/or look good).

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Hmm, if you're going for the usual fantasy game, you have two choices. The first one is just to stick to the generic class set up, you have your tank warrior class, your buffing/healing priest class, rogue class, etcetera. Or you can really try for something new. Sticking to the beaten path will keep your game design in the safe zone, you won't be striking out, doing anything risky that might unbalance the game, but on the other hand, there will be nothing special for all the other MMOs and MUDs there are.

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If you are finding your talent trees are too based on combat with offensive and defensive abilities, maybe you should ask why, or even if, you need non-combat abilities. Many games involve a lot of non-combat interaction, but lots do just great focusing on the fighting. If you are making a diablo style game, you dont really need to muck it up with lock picking and other non-combat stuff. Give it a think as to what the game play is about so you know what you need to support with your talent trees and class abilities.

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I know how your feeling with this process. It *is* very daunting.

One of the things that I tried that I thought worked reasonably well was coming up with a list of abilities. I may or may not have had an idea in mind for classes, but I just wrote down any interesting spells, abilities, etc that came to mind that sounded even mildly interesting.

After I had a rather large list I started organizing them in ways that related to the classes I had in mind. Sometimes they confirmed to already established ideas of classes that I had, and other times new ones evolved based on the abilities that I had come up with.

I found that if I came up with classes before hand and tried designing abilities specific to those, it limited me in a way, as my conception of that class was restricted by previous games I had played. By combining those preconceived notions with new organic processes of coming up with abilities and add to and creating classes, it allowed for a more diverse/interesting class list, a class list with interesting and fun/unique abilities.

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Original post by themime
I know how your feeling with this process. It *is* very daunting.

One of the things that I tried that I thought worked reasonably well was coming up with a list of abilities. I may or may not have had an idea in mind for classes, but I just wrote down any interesting spells, abilities, etc that came to mind that sounded even mildly interesting.

After I had a rather large list I started organizing them in ways that related to the classes I had in mind. Sometimes they confirmed to already established ideas of classes that I had, and other times new ones evolved based on the abilities that I had come up with.

I found that if I came up with classes before hand and tried designing abilities specific to those, it limited me in a way, as my conception of that class was restricted by previous games I had played. By combining those preconceived notions with new organic processes of coming up with abilities and add to and creating classes, it allowed for a more diverse/interesting class list, a class list with interesting and fun/unique abilities.


That's a great suggestion. Thanks! I've pretty much resolved to do that very thing, create the abilities first, and before I do that, I think I'm going to get just about everything else done, first. I have NPCs and the basics of combat in place, but I'm thinking I'll get to the point where classes (and level advancement) are about the only thing left. It'll help me get some more perspective on what all should be possible. I feel I have a good grasp of that now that I have combat, but I'm sure I'll learn something along the way.

Incidentally, what project was this for? Your Rogue like game? I'd love to see what you came up with.

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I would start with listing everything that players (regardless of any class definitions) will be doing in the game.

Then group them into "themes" and try to get them evenly spread out between the different themes. It is also possible to have tasks in several themes, but this should only be given to the most commonly used tasks, and then have some classes better at them (eg: Healing. A Priest might have the better healing, but a paladin might also have healing although at a lower ability in case the main healer goes down, or themselves needs healing).

Also, try to make sure that the frequency of the uses of these tasks in these lists are roughly equal between them (eg: so that one theme does not have all the most used tasks).

This will give a spread of tasks that player will be doing in that game between these themes (which will becomes your classes) making sure that each class will have something to do and contribute, and that no class is non-essential.

Also, as you have this list, you can use it to design your missions by including tasks from each class into the level design. So if you have a task of lock picking, then this can be included in your quest for a rogue to do. However, avoid using too many tasks from one class, and don't use all tasks from all classes.

It makes it easy to design the classes needed (as you have a set of themed task lists), the quests (as you have a list of tasks to choose form) and to make the game fair to each class (as you can select tasks to do from each class list).

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I know this is a bit off what you are asking for, but have you ever considered not having any classes at all?

Let the player gain skills based on how they train and learn. If they spend all their time focusing on magic, that is their path. However, they may spend their time fighting and learning a handful of specific spells.

You would definately have balance with this type of situation as everyone starts the game as equals. Where they go is dependent entirely on what they learn and experience in the game. Kind of like real life.

Just a thought.

John

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In my opinion there're only 3 basic classes:
warrior(combat),thief(stealth),spellcaster(magic).

In gamedesign priests are really only a special spellcasting sub classes of spellcaster. The background of priests is, that they gain their magic power from gods, but eventually they are just casting spells. Well, is a druid or shaman a spell caster or a priest ?

I would remove the priest branch, because a priest branch doesn't support any specific gameplay (other than the restriction to certain spells). This will reduce your classes by 25%. Instead of priest classes use some healing oriented spellcaster classes like druids or shamans.

--
Ashaman

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I personally quite like the D&D 3th edition system. I don't really know why it has a bad reputation among computer rpg players. (a not-so-good adaptation in neverwinter nights maybe?)

You have a set of skills that is the same for everyone, and some skills are cheaper to increase depending on your class.

Class also start with different stats and may have additional bonus talents, some of which may be gained only at a specific level in that class.

Of course, you can multiclass.

As I understand, the main critic of that system is that there are some quite lethal builds so people who use better combinations are at an advantage. That's actually something I like.

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Original post by loufoque
As I understand, the main critic of that system is that there are some quite lethal builds so people who use better combinations are at an advantage. That's actually something I like.

Oh yes there are certainly some really lethal builds. I had a Druid that could out damage a Rouge (2 * 1D10 damage each round) and out tank a fighter (the healing spells). Admittedly I did try to tweak it a bit, but it was mostly by accident.

In the first combat encounter the DM gave us, the fighter was dropped on then first round, the rogue didn't hit the creature, and I dropped it first hit (also if it wasn't undead, I would have done death from massive damage anyway).

My character was only level 1.

The trick with 3rd ed D&D Druids is to make liberal use of the Spell "Shillelagh" and use a Quaterstaff. It makes it the equivalent of a great sword in damage for each attack, the to hit bonus puts you up there with a fighter and you can get two attacks a round!

This is an example of where synergies between abilities can make other class' abilities obsolete.

It is also why I suggested listing the actions that the players are going to perform in your game as it give you the ability to see where you ahve doubled up on abilities, and where you want to have similar degrees of abilities between classes.

I used this when I am GMing pnpRPGs. I list all the abilities that the characters have, then I use these to design the adventures so that each character has something to do in the adventure. I also try to list the skills that the players themselves have and then present things that gives each player, as a player not as their character, time to shine. E: one of my players was quite knowledgeable about real estate (he was a real estate agent), so I introduced an NPC that was trying to sele them a house and gave the party some interaction with him. The player used their knowledge to role play that interaction better by becoming more immersed in the events that were unfolding.

This is the problem with a lot of cRPGs that I ahve played. The games give you all these different abilities and skills, but you never really need to use them. Take Neverwinter Nights as an example:

You are given skills like bluff, diplomacy, etc, but you almost never use them, and when you ahve situations that you do use them for, it does not really impact the story much. Either you can retry the check again and again until you achieve it, or it just gives a slightly different dialogue that ends up achieving exactly the same as if you failed or succeeded the check.

And that is all it comes down to as well, it is just a simple check. One roll and you either succeed or fail. It is not interesting and not very interactive.

Rolling dice to see which branch of a conversation tree is displayed to you is not role playing. It is not even really gameplay.

This is why you need to know, before you decide what skills or abilities each class has, what you are wanting your players to do in the game. A "Craft Delicious Banana Sunday" might be a really interesting idea for an ability to give a certain class, but if the player is not going to even need to Craft Delicious a Banana Sunday, then it is absolutely pointless to include in the game. And if the game is set in a hard core fantasy world, it will seem forced and break the immersion of the world to force the player to Craft Delicious a Banana Sunday just so you can justify the inclusion of such a skill.

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I approach very similar to Edtharan. Think very hard on what the gameplay activities are and what your game is about. When you've done that you can start to create classes accordingly.

The thing people shouldn't do is to start by saying "My game should have 15 classes! Let's figure out which!" That's starting in the wrong end.


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Quote:
Original post by Kekko
I approach very similar to Edtharan. Think very hard on what the gameplay activities are and what your game is about. When you've done that you can start to create classes accordingly.

The thing people shouldn't do is to start by saying "My game should have 15 classes! Let's figure out which!" That's starting in the wrong end.


Sounds like what Age of Conan did. 24 classes. How many were in the final rendition? Less than 12 I think. And its a good thing they cut them out too.

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Haven't played MUD's in ages, but I used to be hugely into them. I even convinced my High School computer science teacher to let me work on one for my senior year, but I digress.

Completely different style but I always started with the lore of the world I was attempting to create. Building back-stories, history, layouts for social organizations, interactions between NPC's, that kind of stuff was always my favorite and also when I used to play a lot of D&D in the day. From there I would build on the character types coming from the perspective of "How do I want the characters to interact" rather than how are Fighters or Spellcasters going to behave. Class balance is one of the hardest things to achieve in RPGs but you don't always have to base character balance on combat effectiveness(even though that seems to be the most common thing to do these days). On my favorite MUD of all time my character was a thief. In a straight up One-on-One fight with a fighter or spell caster I was toast in no time, but what made the character so fun was the non-combat stuff. I remember being with friends while we would spy and creep around while looting stuff off of higher level players and the rush we felt when we knew we got caught and had to hide for hours because death actually carried a stiff penalty.

Just throwing it out there.


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Another thing you should think about is how you want players to group up, if at all. Is this going to be options for single player? If so you will need to have each class able to survive on their own fairly well. If it's all multiplayer I suppose you can force players to work together when they need to take on bigger and badder challenges.

Just my $0.02

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I have the same idea 'bout there are only 3 class, but diffirent at: melee, range and spellcaster.
And I also create and collect musch ability as possible. The quality of ability are : useful, clear and unique.
There is no limit to such things called classes like fighter, combatant, ranger, scout, priest or wizard.
Each character is a combine of various skill that player could acquire, of cause, there must be some requirement for them not to learn all.
Each player can create a new class, they may learn advantage and disadvantage from their play times. No formular, player must keep learning, the way to use skill the way to take advance on enemies and etc...
And I have a feeling that a time after, some really weird classes will appear, how about Great Red Alien classes, absolutely weird, espcially in a fairy RPG. But that what player create, they want it and they have fun.

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Original post by Dwiff
From there I would build on the character types coming from the perspective of "How do I want the characters to interact" rather than how are Fighters or Spellcasters going to behave.


This is a pitfall I fell into several times in the past, and I completely agree with Dwiff on this one. Too many people are stuck in the dark ages - and by the dark ages I mean Dungeons and Dragons. If you flip through an old classic D&D book, the original classes were figher, cleric, and magic-user (thief was added eventually as well) to form these common 4 stereotypes. The majority of games nowadays feature these classes in elaboration or combination.

Now, I'm not saying this is necessarily a terrible thing. These four classes represent definite tactical positions. However, my issue with them is using them how I did when first trying to come up with ideas for skill sets or classes in games of my own...as templates. I think that a lot of people, especially us gamers, are so used to seeing the sames things over and over again that our minds become narrowed so that everything has a strong essence of past games imprinted on our ideas and concepts. This doesn't happen all the time, but I think it happens a great deal of the time.

If you don't believe me, ask a girlfriend, your parents (stereotyping here, heh), someone who doesn't hardcore game. I was amazed at every time I asked my ex to give me some input about something, it was like pulling teeth, "oh, I'm not as familiar, I wouldn't know how to help, blah blah" and when she finally started giving me ideas, while there were some that weren't on the right level, the stuff that was was original and fresh because she wasn't biased by all the mmo's and rpgs that I had played.

My point is this: we are biased by the games we play heavily. As Dwiff suggested, if you start outside of the classes and look at the genre, the feeling, the essence of your game, think about it, think about who is fighting, who they hate, who they love, how they trained, what their childhood was like, the landscape they grew up in, etc, this fantasy world filled with all types of characters will evolve, and you will end up with the weapons, skills, and classes you want for your game. Even if you don't write any of it down, or if its not important to your game (mine never have story, they're mostly just exercises in game mechanics, combat development, and coding), thinking about it helps a great deal.

If you want to see some of my early fail, check out "Basic Elements of an RPG System" post several years back to see what I mean (damn, 2005?). Last year - three years later - I realized what it was I really wanted/needed; a breakdown of real world combat in a logical sense outlined and described in a way that is applicable to combat forms in all types in gaming (specifically RPGs). I still have my notes on all my thoughts on that, maybe I'll make another post some day on it.

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Original post by WindFlower
I have the same idea 'bout there are only 3 class, but diffirent at: melee, range and spellcaster.
And I also create and collect musch ability as possible. The quality of ability are : useful, clear and unique.
There is no limit to such things called classes like fighter, combatant, ranger, scout, priest or wizard.
Each character is a combine of various skill that player could acquire, of cause, there must be some requirement for them not to learn all.
Each player can create a new class, they may learn advantage and disadvantage from their play times. No formular, player must keep learning, the way to use skill the way to take advance on enemies and etc...
And I have a feeling that a time after, some really weird classes will appear, how about Great Red Alien classes, absolutely weird, espcially in a fairy RPG. But that what player create, they want it and they have fun.

The problem with starting with "classes" is that you don't know if the game really needs all those classes, then as you add in the levels and such, you have to add in stuff for all the classes to do. But sometimes this is not a good idea.

For example, if the game centered around sneak into castles cand cause mischief, then inserting combat scenes just to give the fighter character something to do will seem out of place (if you are sneaking in, why are you engaging in melee combat which makes a lot of noise and give guards time to call out to nearby allies?)

If you had known, before you put in all the effort for the fighter class, that there would be very little direct combat, then you would know that there was no need to put in a fighter class.

Which would you rather do:

1) Spend a little bit of time now and know what classes you need

or

2) Create a lot of classes and spend a lot of effort now only to chuck it out later


Personally, I like to make sure that effort (and if you are being paid - or paying someone to do it) is not wasted.

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I know you've stated there will be combat with NPC's etc but...

Do you intend to include PvP.... as that will greatly influence class balance... AND.... as we've all seen over and over...it's realllllllly hard to balance a game for both PvE and PvP.

Personally I would stick to PvE initially as it will save you a lot of headaches.

As for classes... well, I suppose it's partially dependent on your skill level at programming too etc.... Why not start out with 1 or 2 classes.... flesh them out get the game going and then add as your go along. If the game is strictly PvE then there will always be NPC's that the "fighter" handles faster or takes less damage from...and NPC's that the caster will handle faster or take less damage from.

Also, as someone else mentioned/asked.... will there be an option to "group" with other players? Something else that will influence balance...although if the game creates encounters on the fly... IE the game checks to see if you're in a group...if so it creates an NPC better suited to the groups abilities VS creating an NPC suited for just one player...

As for dropping a class like the "Priest" you could initially leave healing up to "Potions" that could be used during combat or after...and food that could be used before or after combat etc. These are both things you would most likely have in the game anyway and it frees you up from developing another class right away...especially because Healing classes are always a pain to balance for SOLO play etc.

anyway, just some random thoughts...

basically I'd start out SMALL... 1 or 2 classes with limited abilities BUT leave yourself the options to add classes and abilities as you progress in the games development/testing etc.

I look forward to seeing where you go with this and how you progress.

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projectkmo, you post remined me of the thought processes that have gone into the new D&D 4th edition classes.

In 4th ed, classes are now categorised by a sort of "Meta class", or what they call a Role. You have Controllers that are good at dealing with masses of weak enemies, Defenders that are good at tying up individuals and preventing enemies form moving around, Leaders which are good at protecting and buffing their allies (and de-buffing enemies) and Strikers which are good ant moving around the battle field and doing large amounts of damage to individuals (but are not so good against large mobs of enemies).

Then the individual classes are just variations on each of these Meta Classes. So a Rogue (Striker) is good at sneaking past enemies, avoiding being hit and can backstab enemies for massive amounts of damage. However, the Warlock (striker) can use their abilities to teleport around the battlefield and weaken enemies against their own attacks.

So the two classes are the same in the meta class, but the application of their abilities and tactics they use of the battle field to achieve the same effects are different.

Also, these meta classes are just like, the lists that I am talking about. They have certain tasks that a character that belongs to that meta class can do, even if the actual class implements them different from another class that shares the same meta class.

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The thought "process" that went into the D&D 4th edition rules was probably something like "Hey, look at that famous MMO game. Boy, they have many players. We should base our combat mechanics around the roles of a tank, dps et al, and call them differently." It's really hard to imagine how else they could possibly have thought of the role idea (and many others) for a genuine pen and paper roleplaying game.

Of course, in computer RPGs there is a different set of rules to follow when creating RPG mechanics, as you cannot possibly implement the kind of fine detail rules with multiple exceptions that a pen and paper game does (or that D&D did before the 4e).

However, I still dislike being condemned to a single, heavily specialized role within a group, with only a limited set of abilities and very limited space for improvisation and strategy.

I often like to mention Starcraft as the game which managed to achieve fundamental uniqueness and diversity between the playable races, without limiting the player to a very narrow, finite set of actions he is expected to perform playing each race. Of course, Starcraft is an RTS, but the philosophy remains the same regardless of genre.

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Quote:
Original post by Talin
The thought "process" that went into the D&D 4th edition rules was probably something like "Hey, look at that famous MMO game. Boy, they have many players. We should base our combat mechanics around the roles of a tank, dps et al, and call them differently." It's really hard to imagine how else they could possibly have thought of the role idea (and many others) for a genuine pen and paper roleplaying game.


Haha, I remember my friend showing my 4e and I thinking a similar thing. Also note how the ability system is very MMO like. [i]very]i] mmo like. There is a certain uniformity among the way the classes go about performing their various things in the world that is very related to cRPGs.

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Original post by Talin
The thought "process" that went into the D&D 4th edition rules was probably something like "Hey, look at that famous MMO game. Boy, they have many players. We should base our combat mechanics around the roles of a tank, dps et al, and call them differently." It's really hard to imagine how else they could possibly have thought of the role idea (and many others) for a genuine pen and paper roleplaying game.

Well one way is by looking at what players do with the characters. Fighters, even back in 2nd edition, took the role of a front line unit. Rogues always have been characters that try to get past the enemy "fighters" and strike the vulnerable back line units with massive damage (backstab) attacks. Clerics have always been healers (in fact they became so stereotypical healers, they didn't get used for much else), Magic-Users have always had area effect attacks (fireball is the clichéd one) that could take out lost of weak enemies quickly.

So, at most, you could say that D&D just used the formalised reference that has developed with MMOs, and remember, these MMO character classes are loosely based on D&D in the first place.

Formalised reference Yes. Class concepts, No.


Quote:
However, I still dislike being condemned to a single, heavily specialized role within a group, with only a limited set of abilities and very limited space for improvisation and strategy.

I have been playing 4th ed (as both GM and PC) since it came out and I can say this assessment of it is incorrect. First of all, each role is not a highly specialised role. It can be, but this does not mean that it has to be.

Quote:
Of course, in computer RPGs there is a different set of rules to follow when creating RPG mechanics, as you cannot possibly implement the kind of fine detail rules with multiple exceptions that a pen and paper game does (or that D&D did before the 4e).

Actually, what occurs in cRPGs to prevent them from being able to create all these subtleties is that they try to create social interactions and other aspects of role play by using combat mechanics.

They try to model the interactions between two character as a fight! This is why they fail. If you are trying to subtly get information out of a bartender about various village elders (who might be in the bar as well) would you model this as if you were trying to beat the bartender's head in?

No.

This is why the subtlety of social interactions in cRPGs fail: They are treating it as a combat.

It can be modelled in different ways, it has been done and it has been done for decades, it is just not used in cRPGs.

A really good way to look at these situations is with Game Theory (it is actually a branch of economic theory and not exactly to do with computer games). In game theory, it tries to model how and why people make certain kinds of decisions. In the early days of Game theory, they assumed that each entity was a perfect decision maker and behaved absolutely logically all the time. They now know this assumption is very wrong (and also now have the tools by which to work out how they actually behave).

But this is off topic now. However, I do recomend doing a bit of reading on game theory and the application of human psychology to it. you will quickly see why current cRPGs fail in their attempt at social interactions, and how you can design mechanics to do it well.

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The obvious solution to not play a very specialized role is to actually play a party of people that are all specialized in different fields.
That also means you don't necessarily have to socialize with random Internet people to be able to interact with the game world in the case of an MMO.

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Quote:
Original post by loufoque
The obvious solution to not play a very specialized role is to actually play a party of people that are all specialized in different fields.
That also means you don't necessarily have to socialize with random Internet people to be able to interact with the game world in the case of an MMO.


I would much rather play a single character with a unique twist on a blend of roles than a group that has the same thing. If you have a class that has a unique twist that has the appearance of a role, but in reality they are a bit more diverse than that (an example maybe being priests in WoW being able to do shadow spec for damage) then its the same thing as playing as a group. The end result is a single player having the capabilities of doing multiple roles. Why complicate it with more players, especially in an MMO?

I actually solo 90% of the time while playing MMOs, but I don't think a game company would go for minimizing socializing, as that is what keeps a lot of players. Why would you raid for gear you already have in order to help your guildies unless you had a strong sense of community? Not all guilds know each other in real life. I suspect that a great majority met through other people or from random groups that worked well.

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