304: Play It Again

Play It Again

Videogame sequels don't play by the same rules as other forms of entertainment. There is a greater difference between Grand Theft Auto 2 and 3 than there is over the span of twenty Bond films, or thirty Godzillas.

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I think we treat game sequels as something to be optimistic about instead of cautious for(as is the case in films), because in films more of the same can be a bad idea. Also, films, compared to games, take a fraction of the time to make. Games are often rushed out the gate and given limited budgets, this is especially true of new IPs.

If something does well enough to warrant a sequel though, more money and time can be spent to make it a better experience as a whole(in theory) as the suits are more comfortable making the investment.

Loved the article, I do enjoy that games are allowed to reinvent themselves in sequels in a way that just is not possible in movies or books. Having series defined by general mechanics and themes rather than a long form narrative is one way that games are distinctive from many other forms of media, it isn't entirely unique.

Series such as Discworld or Redwall function in very similar ways to The Elder Scrolls. They are an array of different stories, some placed hundreds of years apart, bound together by the common elements of the world itself. The worlds history, lore and magic tie Skyrim to Morrowind in much the same way they tie Guards! Guards! to The Colour of Magic.

To some degree, yes, books and movies have reached a sort of plateau in terms of presentation, while games can still continue to evolve and improve, the fast and loose sequel structure many game series use is not particularly unique to gaming.

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There was a minor thing though that bugged me.. Probably more than it should have; using the updated Portal ending as an example for a Retcon.
It isn't retroactive when there is nothing you are going backwards from. The game ended with you blacking out in a parking lot as debris fell all around you. There was no particular implication that you actually truly escaped. Had Chell gotten up and walked through the gates, and then the ending was changed to have you dragged away, then it would be a retcon. Things would be erased, or changed. But that didn't happen, which is understandable due to Chells escape method, standing next to a massive explosion. The view of the parking lot was always meant as sort of hollow victory, that the act of overcoming your jailer had left you physically incapable of making the final steps to freedom.

However with no further continuity (Past the point of Chell blacking out) you can't really call adding an extra 5 seconds at the very end an example of retroactive continuity. Yes, the addition was retroactive, coming years after the games release, but in terms of the continuity that moment was still the present. There was nothing after that. Any moments taking place in the present continuity are by definition not retroactive.

I think the difference is that video game sequels come more naturally as tech and technique progresses.

Movie and book sequels can get better as they progress: look at Harry Potter (the books not the movies) or the original Star Wars trilogy. When enough care and thought is put into the continuation, the creator can bring about an even more vivid and entertaining experience. I know I'm not the only one who likes Empire more than New Hope.
The thing about games is that the story is not as important to us as the technical aspects like gameplay and appearance. We just want our favorite gameplay elements preserved or evolved from the previous iteration.
Also, with games (but a little les so with movies) a story isn't always conveyed through narrative. The most interesting story elements in Fallout 3 wasn't the main one you're thrust into, they were the little stories you put together from evidence of past events, most of them sad and sometimes very grizzly. But those little scenes of sadness I "discovered" hit me harder than the "overwrought melodrama" of RDR's climax which mostly induced a lot of eye rolling from me.

What could we say? Games are the biggest part of almost any culture's life then most media could predict. Games are in stock all the time, they require to be worked on constantly for numerous of reasons. One of them is that unlike a movie, there is so much depth to think about besides the story line. You got to think on how the character will take a toll on the player, as well as the gameplay itself.

The reason Mario is so successful and a legend to this day is because unlike movies or books, the setting for Mario is always different besides the main objective of saving the princess mostly every time. Think of Dead Space for example.. he goes on a mission to repair the Ishimura (Planet Cracker), but ends up fighting for his life to escape the horrors of the Necromorphs. You think there couldn't be a different game about it because the storyline would not fit well on why he would have to do that again, right? Nope. Ends up in Dead Space 2 where he must survival another round of the same creatures- but this time it's a different case.
This is the reason why the games keep coming, is because we get attached to the characters we play as and recognize the theme to their story. But, now we're in a different situation with more things to look into as well as continuing the adventure. That is what made Zelda successful, that's what made Donkey King a legend within the Gaming Industry.

I remember when I played a games like Silent Hill, spite it being probably the scariest game in existence for reasons well known.. they made over five versions of Silent Hill. I own Silent Hill: Homecoming for my Xbox 360 and besides the fact it isn't as scary as I thought, it's still really chilling because they added the same elements within the game, just added a new main character with an objective to find his little brother instead of a man looking for his wife or daughter (hint that I am referring to the other series of Silent Hill). As long as they are great in quality, fun, and addicting- we'll always want to see an enhanced version of it so that our beloved games don't got to stop there.

This is an interesting aspect to examine now especially with all of these games trying to espouse their cinematic qualities.

I think with more and more big franchises trying to be story-driven and "cinematic," and publishers operating more and more like movie studios, there could be some bad stuff in the works. Especially with many sequels being churned out with factory-like efficiency, they don't take much time for self-reflection.

I think a recent example might be Crysis 2, which to me suffers greatly from Hollywood Sequelitis. Even though the Crysis series has been more about graphics than it's b-movie plot, the fact that they so terribly dislodged the plot and characters in the second game from the first game in what is supposedly a trilogy story just makes the entire experience even more crappy.

Continuity is an interesting topic when it comes to games. Continuity is sometimes overlooked, sometimes adhered to, sometimes destroyed, and sometimes only kind of there.

An example of continuity being overlooked would be the Grand Theft Auto series. The name is the same, and sometimes the city is the same, but for the most part, each game can stand alone without any reference to any other game.

An example of continuity being adhered to would be the Mass Effect series. The fact that the same characters(and some information) are kept together within a series of games is continuity being adhered to.

An example of continuity being destroyed would also be the Mass Effect series. The fact that the way the game plays is changed so much(in particular the guns) shows that not all aspects are similar enough to really matter.

An example of the last one I talk about would be the Fallout series. You don't have to play any of the Fallout games to understand the rest of them. The world is pretty much the same, radiation, raiders, and concepts from the 50's are present, but there is no overall flow between the game series. There was some basic flow between 1 and 2, but after that, the only thing that stays the same is the Wasteland.

Between Fallout and Fallout 2 you play a descendant of the original vault dweller. The original dweller is never given a gender, but if you played the first, you can understand what they did, and is basically used as a plot device to get the second game started.

ANeM:
Series such as Discworld or Redwall function in very similar ways to The Elder Scrolls. They are an array of different stories, some placed hundreds of years apart, bound together by the common elements of the world itself. The worlds history, lore and magic tie Skyrim to Morrowind in much the same way they tie Guards! Guards! to The Colour of Magic.

Yeah, Discworld came to my mind as well as I read this article. One of my favourite things in the series is how the first books were set in the same world, often referring the same things, but from wildly different perspectives. This is kind of a lite version of comic book continuity, which I loved.

The thing with video game sequels is that sequels usually happen to entirely narrative media (I mean, there isn't a Monopoly 2 or a Blue Suede Shoes II: Electric Boogaloo). Because of their nature, the only way to provide a sequel is to continue the story, which may require that tied up endings be unwrapped and tossed aside. This is even worse in movies, since we want the actors to return to their roles and so if a character was happily removed from the story he will be dragged kicked and screaming back to danger. Whereas in games, there is something else to latch on to: gameplay. If a game is Previous Game 2, he may not even include the same people or the same place, he may just include a similar tone and come up with a new narrative backdrop, and people will like it. Of course any other media can do it, but because of their focus it's just not as obvious to do so.

Case in point, Bioshock 2 X Bioshock Infinte. I don't even care abou Bioshock 2 because all I've seen of it feels like a hapless extension. While I'm very excited about Bioshock Infinite, because what it brings seems to be closer to what I loved in Bioshock. Sure, I loved discovering the story of Andrew Ryan and Rapture and Jack's secret past (oooooo) but I don't want to experience that same thing again, I want to experience a first person shooter with non-magic magic powers with crazy people in a closed off place created by anachronistic technology tinged by a respectable political theory taken to its extreme. That is what Bioshock is. Likewise, GTA was never the one dude stealing cars, Silent Hill was never about the one dude lost in the mist, Final Fantasy was never about the one dude fighting demonlike elemental entities. They are about the act of stealing cars, being lost in the mist, fighting demonline elemental entities.

I agree, although the sequels do seem to have been getting worse as of late - Crysis 2 and Dragon Age 2, for example. Not that they're bad by any stretch, but they aren't the same level as their predecessors.

beema:

I think a recent example might be Crysis 2, which to me suffers greatly from Hollywood Sequelitis. Even though the Crysis series has been more about graphics than it's b-movie plot, the fact that they so terribly dislodged the plot and characters in the second game from the first game in what is supposedly a trilogy story just makes the entire experience even more crappy.

I agree. A better move would have been to carry on from the last one, put up with what they'd established, and do some better writing. It knew what it was, and I found the story fairly enjoyable as a bit of a Hollywood blockbuster type thing.

Just do a fucking recap video for the console players, that's what everyone else does if something goes to a new platform, they don't rewrite half of what they've set up and ignore the other half (an unanswered, sequel-baiting cliff hanger is simply criminal).

The book is always better, the adaptation is always worse, and sequels are always rotten ... When it comes to videogames, the first two rules still rule supreme, but the third is nowhere to be found.

Mega Man 8
Mega Man X6
US Super Mario Bros 2 (AKA Doki Doki Panic)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the mandatory green star half of the game before you could get to the final level sucked)
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Majora's Mask
Four Swords Adventures
Phantom Hourglass
Command & Conquer 4
Sonic Adventure 2

I could go on, but I think I made my point. There of plenty of rotten sequels to be found.

mjc0961:

The book is always better, the adaptation is always worse, and sequels are always rotten ... When it comes to videogames, the first two rules still rule supreme, but the third is nowhere to be found.

Mega Man 8
Mega Man X6
US Super Mario Bros 2 (AKA Doki Doki Panic)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the mandatory green star half of the game before you could get to the final level sucked)
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Majora's Mask
Four Swords Adventures
Phantom Hourglass
Command & Conquer 4
Sonic Adventure 2

I could go on, but I think I made my point. There of plenty of rotten sequels to be found.

I like almost half the sequels you just listed. The others I just haven't played.

Dragon Age 2 FTW

I dont think Bioshock 2 is anywhere near the awesomeness or experience that was 1. Having said that, I do expect Bioshock: Infinite to be even bigger than the first Bioshock, so I am counting Infinite as the true sequel to Bioshock...not the '2'...still though, can't think of any other bad game sequels...

The book is always better, the adaptation is always worse, and sequels are always rotten ... When it comes to videogames, the first two rules still rule supreme

Isn't that because the second one is a generalization of the first? I mean, have you ever read book adaptations of films? They're usually crap. The book is better generally because it is the thing being adapted.

The other thing I think was neglected here is the fact there are a lot of games that are sequels in name only. A picture of GTA IV is shown as if to prove that GTA sequels beat their predecessors. This is true. On the other hand, they are sequels in name only. Sure, they take place in basically the same universe, but they have almost no relationship to one another. It's like saying that Casino is the sequel to Goodfellas, because they were both gangster movies made by Scorsese and star DeNiro and Pesci.

Hell, Saints Row 2 is a closer sequel to San Andreas than GTA IV is, but it doesn't have the GTA name and wasn't made by Rockstar.

The problem with sequels in film is that they are often made to cash in on the success of their predecessors. Their predecessors, usually, were made without an eye to a sequel and managed to hit on some magical combination of lucky timing and genuine inspiration. The sequels to these movies are the Bioshock 2s of the film industry. Throw money around in the hopes that you can recreate the magic of the original by doing more of the same. If we only ever made sequels because we felt the art demanded it, movie sequels wouldn't be so bad.

So in conclusion, the *real* problem is that we allow business to influence art. They are already strange (though necessary) bedfellows, but there's a definite track record of business simply *not getting* art.

mjc0961:

The book is always better, the adaptation is always worse, and sequels are always rotten ... When it comes to videogames, the first two rules still rule supreme, but the third is nowhere to be found.

Mega Man 8
Mega Man X6
US Super Mario Bros 2 (AKA Doki Doki Panic)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the mandatory green star half of the game before you could get to the final level sucked)
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Majora's Mask
Four Swords Adventures
Phantom Hourglass
Command & Conquer 4
Sonic Adventure 2

I could go on, but I think I made my point. There of plenty of rotten sequels to be found.

You're right that there are sequels not as good as the first but most of what you mentioned aren't those sequels. Some aren't even really sequels as they're mechanically different from their predecessors or are going for something different.
Also, not too sure about Sonic Adventure 2 because at least it didn't have fishing.

Well after the first two paragraphs I already disagreed with you almost 100%. In all three forms book, movies, and video games there are just as many shitty sequals as good ones. Video games dont defy any more rules then the other two do. It honestly seems like you went out of your way to pick movie series where the first was considered great but the sequals terrible. What you didnt do was look at the equal number of movies where either the opposite is true or where they just get better and better with every installment. Some of the greatest movies of all time are actually sequals.

Yes its true that a lot of movie sequals are crap, but so are alot of game sequals. Also a lot of movie sequals are really amazing, as are a lot of game sequals.

Since you mentioned star wars then I will have to throw that example right back at you because it proves my point so perfectly. Star wars has 5 sequals and 3 really shitty remakes but those are remakes and they always suck. The origional star wars and its first two sequals were considered to be pretty great. Then 20 odd years later they made 3 more sequals that im pretty sure were based off of an idea that was scrapped because it was so bad. Either way that one series has both terrible and good sequals.

The only time your rule applies is when a sequal is made simply because of how much money was made from the current item. But that is simply a case of a company trying to rush an extremely obvious cash in and it doing terrible. I would say spiderman and star wars both fell into this catagory. The first few movies were good and then they ruined it with the later ones.

Video games certainly aren't immune to bad sequels, BUT I think it is substantially more likely for a video game sequel to improve upon its predecessor. That's because unlike a movie or book, it can improve in ways besides the story: namely gameplay. Unless it is a total cash-in, most game sequels try to add new features/gameplay refinements (and very few games REMOVE good gameplay features) which can easily lead to a better game overall, even if the story or characters are somewhat weaker.

mjc0961:

The book is always better, the adaptation is always worse, and sequels are always rotten ... When it comes to videogames, the first two rules still rule supreme, but the third is nowhere to be found.

Mega Man 8
Mega Man X6
US Super Mario Bros 2 (AKA Doki Doki Panic)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the mandatory green star half of the game before you could get to the final level sucked)
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Majora's Mask
Four Swords Adventures
Phantom Hourglass
Command & Conquer 4
Sonic Adventure 2

I could go on, but I think I made my point. There of plenty of rotten sequels to be found.

I'm going to ignore most of that list because I haven't played them personally, but you do realize that quite a few people LOVE Majora's Mask, don't you?

Here's another example for you, though. Given your avatar, I bet you'll see where I'm coming from: Megaman Zero 4.

MaxPowers666:
Well after the first two paragraphs I already disagreed with you almost 100%. In all three forms book, movies, and video games there are just as many shitty sequals as good ones. Video games dont defy any more rules then the other two do. It honestly seems like you went out of your way to pick movie series where the first was considered great but the sequals terrible. What you didnt do was look at the equal number of movies where either the opposite is true or where they just get better and better with every installment. Some of the greatest movies of all time are actually sequals.

Yes its true that a lot of movie sequals are crap, but so are alot of game sequals. Also a lot of movie sequals are really amazing, as are a lot of game sequals.

Since you mentioned star wars then I will have to throw that example right back at you because it proves my point so perfectly. Star wars has 5 sequals and 3 really shitty remakes but those are remakes and they always suck. The origional star wars and its first two sequals were considered to be pretty great. Then 20 odd years later they made 3 more sequals that im pretty sure were based off of an idea that was scrapped because it was so bad. Either way that one series has both terrible and good sequals.

The only time your rule applies is when a sequal is made simply because of how much money was made from the current item. But that is simply a case of a company trying to rush an extremely obvious cash in and it doing terrible. I would say spiderman and star wars both fell into this catagory. The first few movies were good and then they ruined it with the later ones.

You have some good points, but honestly, you aren't adressing what I saw as the main point of this article: namely, that games have 2 forms of continuity- story and mechanical (Bioshock 2 Vs Infinite, etc)- whereas, for the most part, other media have just the story side. There are odd cases, as some have pointed out (Discworld, Cthulhu Mythos, etc), but even then they are all still fundamentally cases of story continuity.

Why mention the other two myths in your opener if they aren't going to be a part of your thesis? I stopped reading halfway through the second paragraph.

Yes at the moment sequels are generally better than the original because the developers have hindsight and better tech to work with, although sequels are rarely more impressive but more refined and better graphically. Assassins 2 was not as impressive as the original but had better graphics and gameplay; along with some tweaks. In 20 years time graphics aren't going to get much better and veteran developers will end up failing with sequels as originally will be more important than refinement; eg look NFS: Hot Pursuit and Medal of Hono(u)r, both good games but not original and criticized for it.

A Curious Fellow:
Why mention the other two myths in your opener if they aren't going to be a part of your thesis? I stopped reading halfway through the second paragraph.

Why argue with some dude who didn't even read the article? I set out to write a thoughtful response, but stopped writing somewhere in the second

Sir Brendan:
or maybe his friend's record goes gold and they all go out for fast food.

I'll have two number 9's, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, a number 7, two number 45's, one with cheese, and a laaaaarge soda.

I have that line memorized; I won't forget it 'til the day I die.

Brendan Main:

A Curious Fellow:
Why mention the other two myths in your opener if they aren't going to be a part of your thesis? I stopped reading halfway through the second paragraph.

Why argue with some dude who didn't even read the article? I set out to write a thoughtful response, but stopped writing somewhere in the second

Well played sir, touche. I stand impressed.

I'm confused as to what Desmond misremembers in Assassin's creed. Do you mean that he misremembers it in the context of the Assassin's Creed universe or that he experiences a different version of history than the one we're told happened in real life?

We often try to compare gaming to film, when a closer (although still inaccurate) comparison is television. A franchise is more organic than a film, and while a satisfying conclusion still needs to be reached by the end, the exposition can be infinitely more subtle. This opens up more interesting opportunities, and the ability to create "variations on a theme."

mjc0961:

The book is always better, the adaptation is always worse, and sequels are always rotten ... When it comes to videogames, the first two rules still rule supreme, but the third is nowhere to be found.

Mega Man 8
Mega Man X6
US Super Mario Bros 2 (AKA Doki Doki Panic)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the mandatory green star half of the game before you could get to the final level sucked)
Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Majora's Mask
Four Swords Adventures
Phantom Hourglass
Command & Conquer 4
Sonic Adventure 2

I could go on, but I think I made my point. There of plenty of rotten sequels to be found.

MM8-true
MM X6-true
US Super Mario 2- "Lost Levels" is the Bible for bad Mario rom hacks, so I think we got a good deal.
Mario Galaxy 2- come on, really?
Zelda 2- Progress isn't always pretty, but this game gets an unfair rep.
Majora's Mask- The most underrated Nintendo game, and my 2nd favorite Zelda game (behind WW).
Four Swords- Sequel to? Link to the Past? It's co-op, which was entirely different.
Phantom Hourglass- the DS is a love it or hate it thing, but isn't exactly rotten.
C&C 4- haven't played it, but you're probably right.
Sonic Adventure 2- sequel to the bad Sonic Adventure, it removed Big and the hub world, and offered a tighter and more satisfying mission structure and story arc. Substantially better than the first, but still not great.

Sly Cooper made leaps and bounds with every sequel.

In cinema, the best is always the original or the 2nd. The 3rd and everything after that always decline and good 3rd and 4ths are rare, even if the original was great.

In games there are high sequels that beat the original (WC3, COD4, CIV4bts, simcity4, homm3) so rule #3 doesn't apply.

Ofcourse the stories in games are mediocre, shit or non-existant and it doesn't matter. Film makers don't have that luxury.

veloper:
In cinema, the best is always the original or the 2nd. The 3rd and everything after that always decline and good 3rd and 4ths are rare, even if the original was great.

So it's the number three that does it. That makes sense, as the number is clearly haunted. But if that's the case, then tell me:

Does Toy Story 3 suffer from this type of decline? Could someone make a valid case towards it being the best of the bunch?

What about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? It's the darkest, and in some ways the oddest one. It's also the only one directed by Alfonso Cuarón, so does the "rule of threes" only apply to directors?

Third Bond film? Goldfinger. "No, mistah Bond, I expect you to DIE!" Can you see any of the decline you mention in that film?

(Of course, this is the movie where Connery spins a girl around, slaps her on the butt and says "Man talk" to get her to leave, so maybe it's a sign of the general decline of civilization as a whole.)

On the subject of Bond films, I thought Casino Royale was pretty rad. Is that the 21st Bond film, or the "first," since it's a reboot? Do reboots count among the rule of threes?

And then there's Sergio Leone, plunking around Italy and making a trilogy of Westerns. 1964, Fistful of Dollars. 1965, For a Few Dollars More.

The third film, in 1966? The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

I think The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly is a greater film than Fistful of Dollars, and I bet three full internets against anyone to convince me otherwise. When it comes to that film, I follow a very simple formula: I think it's Good. If you say it's Bad, then I call your mom Ugly.

I think the reason why games defys the 3rd rule is mainly because of technology. Back in GTA1&2, there's simply no way of making a fully 3D game, so the devs compromised. When the tech is able to produce a 3D game, they switched to 3D, we the gamers loved it. GTA4 is another graphical and gameplay improvement, but that's about it. It's the technology that allows the developers to improve the games.

On the other hand take a look at Crysis 2. It was panned by users, because Crysis 1 pushed the graphics envelope so much that Crysis 2 isn't able to surpass it yet. The technology is not there yet.

As long as technology continue to improve at the current pace, we'll see better sequels in games. Whether it's 3D, motion control, mind control or whatever they can come up with to improve the grahics and gameplay.

It's a good read--and it's also a topic that is truly taken for granted. I've never thought about it until now.

I reject the notion of the book being better applying to videogames. Its mixed at best. Dantes Inferno was far worse, but if we take Bioshock as an adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, Bioshock is infinitely suoperior to that pigshit.

Iconsting:
Sly Cooper made leaps and bounds with every sequel.

I disagree, it got really weak by the time the third rolled around. Come on, at that point at least half of your missions had absolutely nothing to do with stealth. That would be alright if the minigames were good, but most were pretty loose and random.

Brendan Main:

veloper:
In cinema, the best is always the original or the 2nd. The 3rd and everything after that always decline and good 3rd and 4ths are rare, even if the original was great.

So it's the number three that does it. That makes sense, as the number is clearly haunted. But if that's the case, then tell me:

Does Toy Story 3 suffer from this type of decline? Could someone make a valid case towards it being the best of the bunch?

What about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? It's the darkest, and in some ways the oddest one. It's also the only one directed by Alfonso Cuarón, so does the "rule of threes" only apply to directors?

Harry Potter and Toystory are mediocre stories for kiddies. Maybe the third one is better, maybe not, but why bother when the whole thing isn't worth the time?

Third Bond film? Goldfinger. "No, mistah Bond, I expect you to DIE!" Can you see any of the decline you mention in that film?

(Of course, this is the movie where Connery spins a girl around, slaps her on the butt and says "Man talk" to get her to leave, so maybe it's a sign of the general decline of civilization as a whole.)

IMO Bond films are too predictable to be good. The first one set the pattern for all to follow. Which one is best? None of them.

On the subject of Bond films, I thought Casino Royale was pretty rad. Is that the 21st Bond film, or the "first," since it's a reboot? Do reboots count among the rule of threes?

Yeah it was alright, but better than a Sean Connery Bond? Not so sure. Ask some fan instead.

And then there's Sergio Leone, plunking around Italy and making a trilogy of Westerns. 1964, Fistful of Dollars. 1965, For a Few Dollars More.

The third film, in 1966? The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

I think The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly is a greater film than Fistful of Dollars, and I bet three full internets against anyone to convince me otherwise. When it comes to that film, I follow a very simple formula: I think it's Good. If you say it's Bad, then I call your mom Ugly.

A good film, but not a sequel.

 

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