The Psychology of Playing MMOs

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The Psychology of Playing MMOs

How I learned to continue worrying and start despising subscription MMOs.

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As someone who similarly quit WoW and played the TOR beta.

Don't.

Save the money, invest it, or just buy a dozen more fun games on Steam. You'll still be following the same quest-by-quest gameplay, the same 15 Bioware characters that they've been using in every game ever copypasted endlessly, and mirrored classes (so only really 4 to choose from).

It's not worth paying $15 a month when for $15 a month you can buy one or more complete games to have fun with. Hell, Section 8: Prejudice is a freaking $15 game that's basically a small-scale version of Planetside with 100% more jetpacks and orbital dropships.

Subscription games will and should go the way of the Dinosaur once the TOR craze wears off...and it will within a year.

I'd say you're a sucker (since you asked). I went through the exact same motions as you did with WoW. Watching films and TV-series while I did my dailies was my standard morning routine when I was an undergrad. Halfway through Lich King though I realised I wasn't enjoying it; raiding had become a chore, especially when I had to quit what I was doing because it was "raid time", or because I had to farm mats for raid consumables etc. It just wasn't proper fun. So I stopped raiding and said I'd just play with my alts and level those up. A month later, I just let my subscription expire and I never looked back.

I think the point I was absolutely certain that I was done with WoW was when the Coliseum patch hit (I was still playing at the time) and I wasn't even the slightest bit curious to see the new content. I just couldn't be bothered.
Since then, like you, my Steam account has been growing. I started looking up games I had only heard about during my 3 year WoW "career" and I slowly began to realise how much quality gaming I had missed.

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret experiencing WoW to the extent I have; I made some friends with which I had some awesome times with. I don't find it "sad" that my experiences with certain people only existed in a virtual world. I just don't feel like I can get caught up in all that again. I have enough trouble keeping up with game releases as it is (not to mention work/studies/research).

I am a big Star Wars fan and TOR would have been an awesome game to have 10 years ago. If it survives beyond a couple of years and for some weird reason I can afford the time, I *might* consider giving it a chance, but currently, I cannot bring another WoW into my life and I think, given your experience with WoW, you shouldn't either.

I was reading this article, and then got to the bottom and was like, zomg, Greg Tito wrote this?! Kudos for being honest!

Definitely makes it more relatable and down to earth. Yeah, WoW and pay to play MMOs have always kind of intrigued me. Mostly because I was too cheap to join in, and thus, could only observe it from the outside. (something about paying per month to play made me queasy).

But yeah, I did always wonder about the whole virtual world thing. I tried some f2p stuff; could get fun, but never really was much more fun than good sp games.

I'm not sure about the legal-ness of private servers (I heard they exist), but moving on to my point, I sometimes wonder if the actual 'price' of the game makes it more addictive. League of Legends is free, and I usually feel like I have to play at least once to get the Win of the Day, but I NEVER feel compelled. Maybe a little, but I don't itch. I can do other stuff when I get bored.

Is this because it's free? Or does it have to do more with the way Blizzard sculpted WoW. It's all a conjumbled mess of theories, but my main conjecture as of now is that something about 'paying per month' makes it more addictive, leading it to that 'meh, so dull kill me now; make it stop' feeling.

Greg Tito:
The Psychology of Playing MMOs

How I learned to continue worrying and start despising subscription MMOs.

Read Full Article

Fully and completely agreed on almost all counts.

Subscription MMOs began to feel like a job. The up-front payment made me feel if I wasn't playing X hours, I was "wasting" Y dollars. And the problem was that the games were containing less of the activities that kept me "busy" in earlier games -- there was combat, and that was it. No robust crafting, no house decoration... but for some reason, I felt that even logging in and standing around was somehow better than playing something else and wasting my subscription fee.

The one thing different for me is that I can pinpoint exactly when I stopped enjoying WoW: The first time I missed a raid.

When I started raiding, I wasn't exactly enjoying it, but it was novel and impressive. I mean, forty people coordinated for one purpose? Kinda cool. I was a healer, so it was so much watching bars grow and shrink, and then hearing folks bid for loot. That was the first thing I didn't like: I found I was going to have to run the same multi-hour raid dozens of times to get a full set of gear for myself. The second thing I didn't like: What does that gear get me? Into the next raid. I was Sisyphus finally realizing I wasn't actually getting anywhere.

And then life happened. I had to miss a raid one night. I let the guild leaders know in advance, apologized profusely (alarm bells there), and went to my required life event. When I came back, I had been completely replaced. They subbed me for that one event, and then decided, "Well, it's just going to come up again next month, so we switched him out. You can sub sometime." So I decided, "Okay, I'm going to respec for PvP and just kick around until that happens." I was promptly told if I respecced, I wouldn't even be subbed -- they didn't need another shadow priest, so I'd be cut totally.

And that's when it hit me: I felt like time spent not playing was wasting my money. In the same way, these other people felt like if I wasn't playing on their schedule and in their way, I was wasting their money, too.

I unsubbed, started taking a fencing class, and got married. Haven't looked back since.

Darnit Greg, now you made me wish that this game was Free-to-play right now...

Personally I enjoy the main plot, but feel the plot is sidelined by all the normal MMO sidequests. Which are interesting, but can get tiring very easily.

In relation to your question, that's something you'll have to decide for yourself while reviewing the game. I'm sorry if that doesn't sound helpful, but the best judge of which game you should play is yourself.

@Dastardly: That's some real hardcore shit right there. Thankfully my guild was a bit more casual and missing a raid or two was expected. On the other hand, I never raided during vanilla, where I believe things were more demanding. Still, my raiding career was a pleasant one, to say the least.

First note: interesting psychology difference between forum posters and facebook posters. We all agree with the writer and the facebook crowd doesn't get it. I don't know what that means but facebook is too cool to comment about gamer psych.

Second: totally understand the writer here. I played some pay to play games back in the day (city of heroes, FF11) and I always felt the need to play. The monkey on my back that said "you're paying for this play damn it!" But the magic for me was always the beginning. When everything was new and kind of gave you vertigo when you first played from figuring out all the things you could do. Watching with a dropped jaw as a BAMF rolled by while you were smacking wild boars with your wooden sword. Then once it all becomes about "the grind" or "mat hunting" i try to be the big gamer and tell myself that i'll be a badass if i keep playing. Then i go get laid and realize there's alot more out there then this. Not to bash MMO's i still play some FtP ones (shout out to my LOLers). But I can come and go with those as I please. I'd like to think there will be some harmony out there between the game devlopers and the gamers. because as it stands game developers are trying desperately to make us into gluttonous gamers that will play until our eyes bleed and our wrists fall off. Gamers want a game they like to play but don't have to feel the need to play but will always be fun to play (paradox?). Its a tough issue.

Yeah, I know what you mean, I quit WoW three years ago and its what I imagine quitting smoking or drinking is like. I would remember the fun I had hanging out with friends and playing while talking on the phone with guild members. It sucked to quit but I am so glad now that I did.
Don't go back, man. It'll just repeat and you have to deal with pulling the plug again.

I cancelled WoW not too long after Cataclysm came out. I never was into raiding (simply didn't have a regular enough schedule for it) so once I hit the level cap it all was very boring. I got Cat for some holiday or another and played it for a while, never even hit level 85. I was just having too much fun with other games.

Like a druggie lusting after another fix, I kept getting the urge to play again. I finally broke down and did the "commit to a year, get diablo free" thing and played for a little while. It was still the same, I still wasn't having fun. I was just dicking around and wasting my time.

So I haven't played it since. My sub's still active, but even something like TF2's nine classes four maps all the time gameplay is more fun than that grind.

Just... don't. MMOs are a scourge.

This is the exact reason why I canceled my WoW subscription. MMO's just flat out murder me.

will for me it was rune of magic not wow. played it for 12 months and bam it hit me. it was work not fun, i wasnt even reading quests, just watching where i had to go and get, and when you realise you are doing instances to get better gear so you can do more instances, etc time to get out while you can.

now days my multiplayer fix is world of tanks.. play a few matches, earn some credits, and xp, come back in a few days or weeks. :)

I think the in-game community is the only thing that trumps your fears of MMO = work. I usually feel like I have to play not because I paid for it, but because my friends are waiting for me in another world. I've managed to retain friendships with people I've never met over the course of 15 years simply by keeping in touch and agreeing to meet up when a new game arises.

Shout-out to Apoco, Zodd, Cabzorz, Qwai etc.

Dastardly:
So I decided, "Okay, I'm going to respec for PvP and just kick around until that happens." I was promptly told if I respecced, I wouldn't even be subbed -- they didn't need another shadow priest, so I'd be cut totally.

What? But you could very easily spec back to a healer. I don't see the big deal with you respeccing for PvP. I'm aware this was long before dual-spec but I played Vanilla WoW and if anything, respeccing was just a minor inconvenience because you had to set your bars back up. I don't understand your guild's line of thinking.

Nasrin:
I think the in-game community is the only thing that trumps your fears of MMO = work. I usually feel like I have to play not because I paid for it, but because my friends are waiting for me in another world. I've managed to retain friendships with people I've never met over the course of 15 years simply by keeping in touch and agreeing to meet up when a new game arises.

Shout-out to Apoco, Zodd, Cabzorz, Qwai etc.

This is the main reason I ultimately quit playing. As the good friends I'd made playing WoW slowly began moving on with their lives, I had less and less of a desire to login. Towards the end I'd actually ignored end game content all together and just levelled new characters and loaded them up with heirloom gear. I finally realised I was paying a monthly subscription for a game I wasn't playing and just quit.

Wow... I mean, I've heard stories from people who got addicted from MMOs before, but never so first-person and self-aware.

I've never been susceptible to the siren's call of the genre, though.
I quit World of Warcraft when my main was level 49, absolutely could not stand the grind. Ironically, the only thing I really enjoyed in WoW was reading the stories behind my quests (well, there was that one time I roleplayed through the end of the Ghostlands and blew someone's mind... but that was an isolated incident). City of Heroes started earlier and lasted longer thanks to altaholism, but after thoroughly exploring every powerset and every mission up to issue 16, I took one look at "powerset proliferation", and promptly canceled my subscription.

Before those I dabbled in EverQuest and Star Wars: Galaxies, neither of which really caught my interest. EQ was a bit too hardcore for me, and the grind in Galaxies was second to none (though I did enjoy collecting and leveling exotic pets. Creature Handler was the only skillset I really enjoyed). Aside from that, there was Motor City Online. As a gearhead, I absolutely loved that game and its part-swapping system. It was a little odd, using the same intake manifold for all Chevy smallblocks (seriously, ya can't take one off of a 283 and use it for a 400), but it was the closest I've ever seen to realistic hotrod tweaking in a video game. I was online the day the servers shut down, and it still saddens me.

So... when people describe The Old Republic as "an MMO for people who hate MMOs (and love Star Wars)", I see that as a massive positive (plus, I enjoyed the hell out of the beta).

Micalas:
What? But you could very easily spec back to a healer. I don't see the big deal with you respeccing for PvP. I'm aware this was long before dual-spec but I played Vanilla WoW and if anything, respeccing was just a minor inconvenience because you had to set your bars back up. I don't understand your guild's line of thinking.

For my character, it was expensive, and the price went up each time. I didn't "game the market" as often as they did, so I wasn't rolling in gold. But it was more that they were saying, "As long as you're a shadow priest, we won't even put you on the waiting list." I was "working" for them, in their eyes.

Nasrin:
I think the in-game community is the only thing that trumps your fears of MMO = work. I usually feel like I have to play not because I paid for it, but because my friends are waiting for me in another world. I've managed to retain friendships with people I've never met over the course of 15 years simply by keeping in touch and agreeing to meet up when a new game arises.

Shout-out to Apoco, Zodd, Cabzorz, Qwai etc.

I can also agree with this, to an extent. I kept in contact with many friends that I originally met in MMOs... but the thing a lot of MMOs have forgotten is that community is portable. Like you've indicated, you can bring it to another game when one gets tedious.

Nowadays? I hang out with the same friends on TeamSpeak, but we all might be playing different games at the same time. The staggering thing? It doesn't feel any different. I still enjoy my time talking with them just as much, which really tells me how little the games themselves contributed. They were perhaps the catalyst, but nothing more.

I'll say you're a sucker and leave it at that. 15 bucks for a lifeless RPG with an Bioware story isn't a good sell for me.

I don't have any WoW stories to tell, I only briefly played the free trial out of curiosity and could quickly recognize it for what it was, an endless grind. I don't mean to be arrogant here, if it came out 5-7 years earlier I probably would have been hooked, but I already spent my two years with a different MMORPG from 99-01.

But anyways where I'm getting at, this is more or less why I scoff at the games inclusion to any top 10 list. Sure it has over 10 million players and has made tons of money, but I just don't see it as a game that's good for the industry because it's more or less a gaming black hole. Of it's 10+ million players many probably play WoW exclusively, and rather than being innovated all it really does is spawn imitators that do nothing but fail to live up to the original.

Blizzard crafted a compelling Skinners Box, while still a good game I don't think it should be mentioned along the likes of Half Life or Shadow of the Colossus as one of gaming's best.

The introductory month of WOW I played gave me enough warning signs that I did not sign up for further months. I prefer games where I don't feel I am wasting money when I don't play them for a period of time. Subscription games just have life disruption written all over them. Would rather you buy hours on the games, but can spend those hours when you like. Or free to play obviously...

Hm... I have mixed feelings about this subject.

Before 2011, I had put six years into Everquest and three or so into EVE Online after that. I've also tried a number of other titles and didn't really get into them. If those two were my only experience I think I'd agree with Greg.

However, in 2011 I signed up for Rift and played it through August. I already knew it wasn't going to be my ideal game (I want something with the crafting from Vanguard, the resource control/pvp elements of EVE and the gameplay style of Warhammer) and that I had to start going back to school in September, so I knew my time in Telara was set in stone.

Despite this I had a really great time in Rift. I was there for beta testing and the early class balance issues. I was playing the forum warrior at work when it was quiet, imagining new DPS and hybrid builds for my cleric and trying them when I got home. I joined a guild that raided only three times a week, and ended up being a key member. In short, despite a limited timeframe AND a limited number of hours per week, I felt a sense of achievement and actually enjoyed my time in game, something I couldn't always say about EQ.

What I take out of that experience is that uberguilds are not for me - finding a guild that matches my pace and desire for achievement (somewhere between hardcore and casual, that focuses on getting those three raids a night done efficiently) is important if I'm going to enjoy an MMO again. If it feels like punching in for raid night is becoming a job, it's time to cancel.

Since then I've been doing the same things as Greg - my Steam library is starting to become impressive and I've played a heck of a lot of Minecraft - but I've got my ear to the ground for a new MMO to play.

Dastardly:

Micalas:
What? But you could very easily spec back to a healer. I don't see the big deal with you respeccing for PvP. I'm aware this was long before dual-spec but I played Vanilla WoW and if anything, respeccing was just a minor inconvenience because you had to set your bars back up. I don't understand your guild's line of thinking.

For my character, it was expensive, and the price went up each time. I didn't "game the market" as often as they did, so I wasn't rolling in gold. But it was more that they were saying, "As long as you're a shadow priest, we won't even put you on the waiting list." I was "working" for them, in their eyes.

Damn, that really sucks. You should've played on my server (Shadowmoon represent!). Our guild had banking officers that would play the AH with rare material and gear drops that no one needed to make a communal money pool. The handing out of that money was discretionary but as long as you weren't breaking the bank, we were there for you.

Here is what might happen, which happened to me:

Instead of feeling guilty that the new MMO will ruin other games, the opposite might happen. That you feel guilty for not playing SWTOR when you know you should since you've just bought it and spent a lot of money on it, but instead you end up playing your steam games.

Micalas:

What? But you could very easily spec back to a healer. I don't see the big deal with you respeccing for PvP. I'm aware this was long before dual-spec but I played Vanilla WoW and if anything, respeccing was just a minor inconvenience because you had to set your bars back up. I don't understand your guild's line of thinking.

I mostly played during Burning Crusade and the cost of respeccing on a daily basis was very restrictive. Some people did it, but it meant farming gold like mad. In vanilla especially, there wasn't that much gold in people's pockets (it sounds weird using "real world" idioms to describe the "old days" in a virtual world). Constantly changing character builds was something that caught on mostly during the mid Burning Crusade era, which is why it took until early Lich King for Blizzard to make dual-specs an option.

I don't think changing spec more than once a week (or month) was something you could really do in vanilla, money wise.

Never played WoW myself, other than a level 2 on a friends account. I did do some beta for LOTRO though, and being the massive LOTR fan I am, I played it about half n half with BFME2. Had to stop about a year later and picked it back up when it went F2P. The Monthly is what kept me from going back, cause I knew I'd just get in the mood to play something else and stop playing it completely for extended periods (last one was two weeks)

Just play ToR for the story and you'll be fine. It is not an MMO.

TOR doesn't feel like a traditional MMO, even though it's mechanics certainly are. For once it's not the loot or the strive to hit max level that's pushing me forward, it's the story. I could care less if I level or get a new piece of gear. I wanna hear more about my companions, or try to stop the Empire from destroying the galaxy. I find that, unlike other MMOs TOR really shines with a friend, so sit down with a buddy, or a significant other and just play casually. It's what I'm doing now, I've been playing since the 13th, and I'm only level 35. I;m taking my time and not going in full swing. I play for a couple of hours a day and when I feel like playing something else, I do. I have The Witcher 2, Deus Ex: HR, and Arkham City waiting for me, so I have plenty of other things to play :D

The compulsive gaming because of a fear of "wasting" your money is a scary thing. I've had this too and it's insane, really. Even when you do it, you know it's insane. I don't know how or why, but at some point I realized how foolish I was being. It's $15! It's really not that much. You can piss that away and nothing bad is going to happen to you. You probably piss away much more than that on even worse things and don't even realize it(like fast food, for example). Stop thinking about the money and just play. If it does end up that you only play for an hour the entire month...so what? It's $15. Cancel the subscription and move on. This is an instance where it's okay and probably better for you to be a little capricious.

I read this thread and the many "I quit WoW" posts.

Ask me about getting bored in a MMO.

Ask me about seeing entire guilds blacklist someone for putting WTB in the wrong chat.

Ask me about Anarchy Online.

I started playing back in 2005, when there was actually enough people around that the three main cities didn't look like ghost towns.

A bit peeved that you got replaced for missing one raid? my first characters got laughed at because I didn't have a Superior Rebuilt Perennium Blaster on at level 125.

Raiding was entirely out of the question since the people who had already hit the end-game content needed the items for their own alts, and since I wasn't level 220 I didn't really have a say in the matter.

And yet I keep resubing year after year because at least the game challenges me in ways that WoW never did.

sure, I tend to take a couple of months off from Anarchy Online so I dont get burned out on it, but when I get a craving to play a MMO, Anarchy Online is always on my desktop.

Still though, even I am wanting to check out SWTOR for a bit, even though everything I have watched about it shows its WoW with Lightsabers.

Maybe I should try Darkfall again now that it's been a couple of years.

I guess I'm going to be the first dissenter. WoW is only a job or a chore if you make it one and it isn't the money sucking pit that Greg makes it out to be.

Even a game as big as Skyrim generally only lasts for about 1 month at the outside. People who picked it up at launch are moving onto other games around now. Even a game that really sucks you in generally only has that kind of hold for a month on intense playing before you move on or are playing it for want of something else to do.

If you figure the average lifespan of a game is 1 month then WoW is a pretty decent deal for the money. Skyrim or Arkham City or whatever other big name game that chews up 1 month of your life is going to run you $40-60 so if one of those comes out more often then every 3-4 months WoW is cheaper on a per month basis. Just looking at all the games I've purchased and enjoyed this year and even with almost all of them coming through Steam sales of 50% off WoW comes out pretty even. Portal 2 (40), Witcher 2 (30), Deus Ex HR (25), Skyrim (40), Arkham City (35), Bastion (10), Space Chem (10), Frozen Synapse (15)=205 and this isn't a complete list. 12 months of WoW, also including the cost of Cataclysm spread over its 18 month lifespan (an additional $2 per month), is about 200.

As for the time complaints and raiding horror stories above, there are a few guilds on my server (nice to see another Shadowmoon player) that finish every tier of content while its relevant, they raid 12 hours a week, less after progression is over. An extra couple hours reading up on boss fights and figuring out gearing and your at 14ish hours a week. You can play beyond that but at that point its your choice, you can be a reasonably competitive raider (World top 1000) at 15 or so hours per week. Yes WoW can suck time like no tomorrow but it doesn't have to, 15 hours a week is enough to see most of what there is in the game.

I have a lucky situation. My household plays a few MMOs. Only one is subscription. The rest are F2P, though in nearly all we have made a small contribution at one time or another. In every case, the Alts are all different family members. I don't feel bad at all that I'm not playing or haven't played in months, because somebody (my son, one of my daughters, or my wife) has played it. We spread the bill across everybody, and as long as someone is playing it, I don't feel like it's a waste at all. And I don't feel I have to do squat.

I only have to make sure that I am higher level than everyone else in my family.

Most MMOs I've experienced work with this just fine: seperate inventories, friends lists, names, etc. It's not perfect: one MMO combines everything (all Alts) together in a big jumble. That's too bad, but I just deal with it and expect less from the game.

I have never played WOW or TOR though. Does this work for them?

The Old Republic brings a much-needed refocusing of MMO games' emphasis away from progression and grinding to the story.

Is the story good enough to carry the game? it's Bioware, of course it is.
Is the story good enough to justify maintaining a subscription by itself? There are many who disagree with me, but I say no.

Relevant, but slightly off-topic:
It's incredibly convenient that Youtube personality Totalbiscuit addressed a topic very similar to this one in his Mailbox video just yesterday. The question was about concern for a game's dying community when its progression ended (WH40k, in case you were wondering). He talked about people who play games, not because they're fun or even because they're activities that players want to do, but because there are prizes attached to them: achievements, perks, unlocks, etc. typical "Skinner Box" stuff.

...that's why I enjoy playing The Old Republic, because I don't feel like I'm grinding. I'm there for the story telling, and the combat's kind of fun as well. But I have a feeling that if it got to that point once I reached endgame, that I would certainly stop playing it because I can't be bothered. If your game dies at that stage it's indicative of one of two things: 1. The game isn't fun enough and it's reliant on its progression system because people want the shinies; or 2. There's a real problem with certain gamers today in that they are so obsessed with progression that they don't care about the actual experience.

He has interesting answers to several good questions as well (the first one specifically about SW:TOR and its space combat), but the bit I'm talking about starts around 7:00.

This man put into words what I couldn't. I went through the same exact situation. WoW really does make you want to play nothing else. Because, you know, why? Why do anything else? It just feels so worthless when you could be leveling up your character and doing something that will stick, and other people will see.

This article put into words the emotion I've felt with WoW (and now TOR) many a time. However, for my gaming experience, I actually LIKE it. It doesn't really matter what game I'm playing, I feel this way until I finish. The difference between my time of gaming and yours (and the reason you see this as a bad thing and I see it as good) is that I don't buy many games. I have very few games and I tend to replay them all about once a year. I rarely buy a new game, especially when I have an MMO to keep me occupied.

Now, the problem (or in my case, benefit) with WoW and TOR is that I'm never technically finished. Except, with TOR, I'm not so sure. One of the things I loved about WoW was how there was stuff to do everyday. Sure, sometimes it got monotonous doing dailies or running instances, but there was always something to do. If I was ever too bored I couldn't stand it, I was always able to run a raid. These things were there for me whenever I wanted them to be. I could still focus on school, I could still do well at work, I could still hang out with my friends. But when I wasn't, WoW was always there to keep me occupied.

TOR, however, has implicated such a compelling story, throughout the leveling process, that my expectations have become very high for the end game content. I'll most likely end up leveling all classes on both factions, which is something that I've never felt the need to do (alts on WoW were rarely something I'd spend time leveling). But what happens once I've leveled all the classes? Is there end game story that I can progress through everyday? Probably not. Sure, there are operations and flash points, but being a story- based game, Bioware has sort of made it feel weird to repeat those.

I'm concerned that the end game content of TOR isn't going to be as satisfying as that of WoW. Granted, I understand that expansions will be happening (and they'll even be free), but it still feels a bit worrying. Bioware's games have always had amazing stories, it's always been about the journey, not the finale. MMO's, however, have evolved to the point where the journey isn't really what is focused on by the players (whether it should be or not).

TOR is the first MMO I've ever played that has had a compelling story. And you don't even need to be a lore buff to feel immersed (like you do in WoW). I fear, however, that story aspect is exactly what will ultimately sap TOR's ability to be truly successful.

HOWEVER... If there's any development company that can achieve this, it's Bioware.

This is more about the psychology of worrying about money.

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