Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Lords of Bedtime

The game requires sleep but at least offers several types of locations where you can sleep.
This entry represents an accomplishment that many people wouldn't see as much of an accomplishment. I'm writing it on 18 January and scheduling it to post on 22 January, which means that I've managed to keep my blog on schedule for the entire duration of my two-week Caribbean cruise. This hasn't been easy, what with inadequate Internet access most of the time, lack of a second monitor, uncomfortable places to work and play, and of course Irene constantly urging me to "do" something other than sit on the balcony with my laptop. On the positive side, I've been able to visit, for the first time, many of the very forts that I sacked in Pirates! 

I may have conveyed this in previous postings, but I'm a total wuss when it comes to international traveling, despite (or, perhaps, because of) how much of it I do. I get annoyed swiftly with the lack of my usual comforts. For instance, when I'm in the United States, and before 17:00, it's a rare moment that I don't have a cold bottle of Diet Coke within reach--a bottle, mind you, not a can. In the U.S., I depend on the excessive availability of vending machines and convenience stores, many open 24 hours, to supply this need. I find that such stores don't exist, or are not convenient, or are not always open, when abroad. I don't understand this fad for "body wash" that European hotels seem to have embraced, but I use bar soap, thank you. I don't pack carefully, and I need an iron and ironing board each day.
I'm going to be rambling for a while, so here's a shot of my character being chased by a dwarf on Wyvern Mountain.
I have a friend named Eli who will happily grab a backpack, fly to a place like Indonesia with $50 in his pocket, and somehow have a great week. I absolutely cannot do that. I haven't not showered in the morning since I was 9. I don't wear clothes two days in a row. I don't sleep in communal rooms or on other people's couches. I'd rather pay for a hotel room for the night and use it for 20 minutes than use a public toilet. These types of frailties are a bit limiting when traveling. If I get too far afield, I start to worry where I'm going to find my next drink, pillow, and clean restroom. (It really says something that on a cruise, when you're only in port for one day and you know exactly where you'll be sleeping that night, I spent half the time on each island anxiously looking around and saying, "Doesn't this place have any 7-Elevens?") Sometimes I wish I could be more like Eli, who will get off a boat and stalk off towards the nearest mountain range, not worrying how, when, or in what condition he'll return.

By way of tortured segue, those needs are somewhat mirrored in Lords of Time and its predecessor, Faery Tale Adventure. The need for food and sleep put a functional limit on how long you can adventure and how far afield you can go. If you don't find a bed every 24 hours, your magic points drain away, and then your hit points. (Faery Tale Adventure would just have you collapse on the ground if you got too tired, but given the frequency with which monsters spawn, that would be a death sentence here.) A similar fate befalls you if you fail to eat a couple of meals a day.
I think if I found myself in a medieval world, I'd be grateful enough for inns with beds.
I can't say that I find the need for food and sleep particularly desirable aspects of an RPG, but if it's going to be done, I guess I'd prefer the way it's done here. First, it's somewhat "realistic" in both the availability of these resources and the time intervals that you need them. Second, they provide a logistical challenge, but it's one that's more of timing than one of supply. By this, I mean that beds are plentiful if you know where to look (inns, private homes, occasional "resting stations"), and food is cheap at stores and free if you can find an apple tree. This isn't like Ultima II where (until you learn how to shoplift) you're constantly killing creatures just to be able to afford food, and it's not like Rogue, where the hunger system punishes you for taking your time. It's more--and this similarity would have occurred to me no matter how I began this entry--like Pirates!, where you leave one port with not just a destination in mind, but a route that will ensure you maintain your supplies. In a modern game, I think Fallout 4 in survival mode also does this very well: food and sleep aren't so rare and precious that they dominate gameplay, but neither are they so inconsequential that you wonder why the developers introduced the dynamic in the first place.

That's a positive aspect of Lords of Time. Let's talk about a negative: open exploration is basically ruined by the relentless spawning of monsters. It's brutal. If you leave the game unattended for 15 seconds without pausing, you'll be dead when you next look at the screen. When I decide I need to go to a particular place, I'm not so much walking in that direction as constantly fleeing monsters in that direction. "Fleeing" because even at this point in the game, with over 100 maximum hit points, training in both basic intermediate swordplay, enhanced statistics, plate mail armor, a broadsword, and a healing spell, I still can't win more than five or six consecutive battles before my hit points get so low I have to recharge. The game will gladly hand you five or six consecutive battles in about 30 seconds if you're not always on the move.
Walking along water makes it easier to see enemies approach--and avoid them.
Meanwhile, the interiors of the game make it very difficult to run away from monsters. Negotiating thick clusters of trees and bushes is nearly impossible, although the monsters get through them with unerring pathfinding. Thus, I've learned to follow coastal and river routes to most destinations. When I have to fight, doing so while wading in water makes it easier to control my position relative to the enemies. It's harder when foliage is constantly blocking your view.

You may recall that shortly after my character's arrival in The Realm, he was summoned to meet with the king, who I later learned is named Tanor. The king said to get home, I'd need help from one of two archwizards, Bessak or Kruel, and that of the two, Bessak was most likely to help. I found Bessak's keep in the middle of the Dark Forest, but I couldn't open the door. I suspected that a woman in Murkvale had the key to the keep around her neck.

Commenters helped me with the solution: to buy an orange sleeping potion in Murkvale, dump it in a mug of ale, and offer it to the woman. I wasn't prepared for this level of complexity in inventory interactions or this type of adventure-style puzzle, so I appreciate the hints. I was more alert for such possibilities in later gameplay.
Hey, it's a medieval society.
When she was asleep, I was able to take the key, and it did turn out to offer me an entrance to Bessak's keep. Like most locations in the game, it was large but mostly empty. Bessak himself was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found a journal in which he noted that "Kruel has pushed me too far," and that he intended to destroy Kruel "with the help of the Druids and their Spell of Annulment."
I think the second "throne" belonged to the woman in the bar. I wonder why she thinks Bessak is dead.
The Druid Temple is a short walk from Bessak's keep. I had previously visited but couldn't figure out how to get in. This time, I tried harder and found a maze around back. It took a while to navigate it, but when I emerged, I was in the interior of the temple.
I should draw this so I don't have to figure it out by trial-and-error every time.
The multi-columned temple was quite large but mostly empty. The only thing I found was a set of stairs leading up to a kind of altar with four braziers in the corners. The altar seemed to block a staircase going downwards.

I had an idea of what to do from a book in the Castleguard library, which said that four plants are sacred to the Druids: mountain shrub, willow, maple, and spruce. Assuming I'd have to do something with them at some point, I had spent some time walking up to each of these trees and choosing "pick a small branch from the tree" from the contextual menu. (I ended up with a lot of spruce because it has several appearances; the other three trees only have one each. Mountain shrub is particularly rare.) Thus, when I arrived at the Temple, I already had one sprig of each. I put one in each brazier, and the game told me that the braziers began burning the twigs.

Unfortunately, nothing happened. I tried different configurations of plant to brazier but still nothing happened. Thinking that timing might be important, I tried it at different times of day (including midnight, which becomes important below), still to no avail.
None of this worked.
Stuck again, I began exploring and re-exploring the map, looking for more adventures and hints. Among my discoveries and accomplishments:
  • At an armor shop, I decided "what the hell" and gave it a try and managed to shoplift a full set of plate mail on my first attempt and a two-handed sword on my second attempt. Unfortunately, I failed the next three attempts for much less valuable stuff, and I got sick of reloading, so my shoplifting career came to an end.
  • There are several caverns on Wyvern Mountain. None of them were occupied by wyverns, but some of them had wyvern nests and, within them, wyvern eggs. Shortly after grabbing a couple of those eggs, I started getting dive-bombed by flying creatures that toss rocks at me from above. I assume these are wyverns, and that their appearance was triggered by my pilfering.
This was perhaps a bad idea.
  • One of the caves on "Wyvern" Mountain led to a dragon. He awoke and killed me with one breath. I assume I'll have to deal with him later, and I wonder if it will involve the "Dragonsbane" plant I've been finding on some mountains.
This is a reasonably well-drawn dragon.
  • I made it to the hall of the "Dwarven High King" on the northwest part of the map, but a guard wouldn't let me in.
I assume I'll be back later.
  • I also found "Lord Dervak's Holde" but couldn't get through the front door.
  • In the Dwarven Mines, as a commenter pointed out, pick-axes will remove embedded jewels. These sell for about 25 gold pieces.
The dwarves still won't talk with me, even though I learned their language.
Throughout these adventures, my character development has been steady, in several ways. First, you "level" behind the scenes at experience point thresholds, increasing your maximum health and spell points, and occasionally increasing an attribute or two.

Second, I was able to take most of the courses offered at the guilds in Murkvale and Castleguard. Some of them have experience point requirements that are still beyond me, but over these six hours, and between the two locations, I got "Intermediate Lockpicking" (I had taken basic last time), "Intermediate Spellcasting,"  "Potion Identification," "Shoplifting," "Personal Money Management," "Weather Control," "Traps," "Dwarven Language," "Dealing with Stress," and "Fighting Dragons." I think some of the courses were valuable for hidden attributes that they improve, but others were valuable mostly for the information conveyed right on the screen.
Others . . . I'm not sure what use they were.
I had been picking up spells called "Ability Enhancement," but I wasn't capable of casting them until I got "Intermediate Spellcasting" and at least 100 spell points. I chose to enhance strength with all three iterations of the spell, because I had been sick of messages that said I wasn't strong enough to wield various weapons. Thanks to the spells, I was able to finally wield the broadsword that I stole. I'm still too weak for the two-handed sword. It must be said, though, that I haven't noticed either sword or armor upgrades making combat particularly easier.
"Enhancing your attributes" sounds less creepy in an RPG than in real life.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • The Riverside Inn lies south of Castleguard and is "fortified for your protection" with a wall around it. That's a bit of a hoot since enemies spawn without any problem inside walls.
  • There are wells in a lot of places, but most of them just seem to make you sick. If you find one with good water, you can fill canteens, but since water isn't a requirement (unlike food), I'm not sure what use this is.
  • Spiders poisoning me are still an automatic reload. This far into the game, I don't have a "cure poison" spell.
  • "Fistak's Magical Mapping Spell," which I picked up somewhere, makes a little mini-map of the environment. This makes it much easier to find buildings and other important areas.
A map shows the location of nearby rivers and mountains.
  • Some kind of sea dragon started appearing as an enemy, but they're limited to bodies of water and wander off if the character is on land.
  • From entering Bessak's, my "score" went up to 10/190.
  • Given the number of times I've needed to enter the castle, I'm getting sick of guards challenging me every single time.
Oh, come on! I just want to sleep.
In all my explorations, I had trouble finding any hints about the next steps--until I decided to systematically tip bartenders. As an old Ultima player, I should have realized this would be important. Bartenders offer different hints at different tip thresholds, and I had only been getting the lowest tier. 

From them, and a couple of NPCs, I learned that Kruel used to be Bessak's protege, and that Bessak has long sought the Druid Book of Life. (I assume if I ever meet him, that will be some kind of sub-quest.) The bartender in Murkvale told me that an old wizardess in the Great Swamp knows something about the Druid Temple.

The Great Swamp wasn't on the game map, but I figured it might have something to do with the archipelago at the river delta southeast of Murkvale, and I was right. In fact, there was a whole community in those islands that I'd overlooked, including another potion shop and a second library.
Information from the second library. I wonder if everyone in The Realm crashed test planes.
The wizardess in question gave me a little verse:

When the moon is blue
And four twigs on four altars lie
Admittance will be gained by you
Under the midnight sky
Reminder: poetry is about meter as much as rhyme.
This agreed with what the bartender had told me (in another tip) about the Druids "all excited over an upcoming set of blue moons." This is great except I have no idea how to tell when the moon is blue. Nothing in the game tells me anything about the status of the moon. (I don't know; does the symbol above the health meter have something to do with the moon? If so, it always looks blue to me.) I don't even know if the term refers to the color of the moon or the second appearance of the full moon within a month.

I don't want to have to keep showing up at the temple (and navigating that damned maze) every night until the right night comes along, especially since a nighttime expedition takes some planning. You have to try to sleep into the afternoon so you don't get tired after dusk, and thus run out of steam completely before morning. I'll be glad for hints, but barring that, my plan is to revisit the spell stores and make sure there isn't something magical that's supposed to tell me the moon's status.


  1. hints: dragonbane on throwing knives, black potion poisons weapon, thick potion is paralyzing on knives, healing water in some wells(curing poison?), pour in canteen. 2nd or 6th night should be right night for ritual. dont sell biggest diamond. find something for fire resistance. few potions can change your form.

    1. It's already like day 20 in my game, so I hope you mean it repeats every 4 days.

      On your last point, I have a potion that can change me into a frog. I haven't noticed a use for it yet, but I look forward to it.

      I'll keep checking wells. I haven't noticed any that heal yet. Just lots that make me puke or have regular water. Oh, wait. I think I have a rumor about a healing well to the northwest of Murkvale . . .

    2. just wait, right night will come, i hope:)

    3. Yeah, forget swords and buy throwing knives.

  2. And it's such an easy fix, too.

    "When the moon is shining blue
    And four twigs on altars lie
    Admittance will be gained by you
    Underneath the midnight sky"

    1. Maybe change the 3rd line to "You will be admitted" or "You will gain admittance" and then "Beneath the midnight sky"

    2. Yeah, I think that awkward passive voice is a far worse offender than the lack of strict meter.

    3. Simple iambic tetrameter:

      When e'er the moon is shining blue
      And twigs of four on altars lie
      The druids' fires will welcome you
      Beneath the tranquil midnight sky

  3. "I need an iron and ironing board each day"

    Don't you have a wife to do the irening?

    1. A real man should be able to take care of himself

    2. Cute pun. Alas, ironing is one of the few domestic chores that she eschews. I kind of like it, frankly. It puts a nice pause in the morning, and I can watch or listen to something while I do it.

      I was just thinking the other day about how, for me at least, the smartphone has revolutionized my perception of what's "boring" or a "waste of time." I don't hear people talk about this enough. With my crossword app, Kindle, various streaming services, and the entire Internet at my fingertips, I'm now actually grateful for long lines at the grocery store and "boring" chores like ironing and dishwashing.

    3. "ironing is one of the few domestic chores that she eschews"

      Isn't it irenic? "Like rain on your wedding day"?

    4. Agree on the dishwashing. It's "my" chore at home, for about the last ten years and our machine is always full. Since getting (expensive!) hearing aids, I can run a podcast or YouTube straight into my ears with Bluetooth wherever I go (within a few rooms range), it's turned into quiet leisure time .

  4. I don't know where you're traveling in Europe, but it's not like we lack for places to get cola. There's a grocery on every other street in most cities.

    1. Closed half the time. If not, they have those wimpy 12-ounce bottles, unrefigerated.

      Look, I'm sure if you live in Europe, you find your resources convenient for YOU, because you know enough to build your world around what's there. But until you visit the U.S., you have no idea what "convenient" is. We've basically designed it so that wherever you are, you could spontaneously decide to live there, and you'd have everything you need within a 3-block radius. You think a grocery on the next street is "convenient?" In an American hotel, 33% of the time, you'd have a minibar right there in the room. If not, there would be two gas stations within walking distance, a 7-Eleven on the corner, a little pantry within the hotel, and a vending machine on every floor. The fact that you even said "grocery" shows that you don't know what you're talking about. In America, EVERY store has a cooler up front with sodas. Drug stores, craft stores, hardware stores, office supply stores. If you could just say "diet Coke" and have one appear in your hand, it would only be marginally more convenient.

    2. I'm not saying we're "better," you understand--though in this respect, we clearly are--only that you have to be thinking from this perspective to understand my frustration.

    3. >>within walking distance

      Walking? Surely not? :P

    4. As a continental European, I travel a lot in the US and recently spent a few months in Canada, and for me many things are so much less convenient in North America. So "until you visit the U.S. you have no idea what convenient is" doesn't agree with my experience, except that I find it very inconvenient, but I suppose that's not what you meant. :-) The many 24-hour 7-Elevens just don't sell the things I would like to buy.

      I think everyone's experience depends largely on what you vs. the place you visit think of as basic conveniences. For me, the UK is generally the least inconvenient place as a visitor, but that's just because what it offers has a large overlap with what I want.

    5. If it is less than 200 steps it isn't classified as walking under the US legal code...

      CRPG is right, and it is why we Americans tend to be way to hefty.

    6. If you're drinking cola at all you're doing it wrong. A bottle a day is insane.

    7. I had a friend who drank ~3 liters of Diet Coke a day (2 giant cups from the gas station). I don't think I ever saw him drink water.

    8. He didn't say bottle a day. USA citizens typically constantly drinking. Soda is bottomless in most restaurants, and cheap for galactic sizes .my FIL drinks a diet soda with breakfast.

    9. The part where no bottled or canned beverage was ever sold refrigerated was probably the hardest thing for me to get used to when I was visiting my parents while they lived in Germany. The only ways to obtain a cold beverage were to either cool it yourself (with fridge or ice), or to go to a restaurant and pay almost 5 euro for a 0.4L cup of soda with ice in it. I super don't get it. I don't even like to drink water that's at room temperature, much less almost anything else. And every time I was there in summer it was 100F or more and there was no A/C anywhere, so cold drinks were vital. (It was only that hot pretty much starting when I arrived and ending when I left. It was uncanny.)

    10. Which part of Germany would that be? Berlin and Hamburg at least have plenty of the so-called Sp├Ąti-s, which are full of refrigerators (and also work on weekends/past 6 pm).

    11. In my experience only a very few places in the US are convenient to get around for a non-driver. Having everything you need in walking distance is a thing that never happened to me. At best, if you live somewhere with decent public transport (rare), you might get there eventually.

      Europe is better about actually having everything I need in walking distance, but does have an irritating tendency to close early. I'm a night owl, stop closing half your businesses at 5pm!

    12. Yeah, I felt the same. In the US, I couldn't walk anywhere, but in the UK I can get anywhere on foot, as long as I'm there before 5pm!

    13. > Look, I'm sure if you live in Europe, you find
      > your resources convenient for YOU, because you
      > know enough to build your world around what's
      > there. But until you visit the U.S., you have
      > no idea what "convenient" is.

      I found that 'service' is more important in the US than in Europe. Most notably the guy that packs your stuff in the supermarket.

      But as a European, I found that a car is essential in the US, otherwise forget about convenient. When I was on a business travel, each morning I used to walk from the hotel to the office. I was the only one on the street (besides some Mexicans with leaf blowers). I really wondered whether the police would stop and question me at some point.

    14. So, worth noting this was 2003-2006 or so so might be out of date. I was mostly in Bavaria and the biggest urban area we regularly visited was Wurzberg, but I was flying in and out of Frankfurt and we occasionally went to places like Munich, with one memorably sweaty trip to Berlin during one of those 100F summer visits. I don't recall ever finding refrigerated beverages for sale, even in Berlin. Though we may just not have known where to go. Or, as I say, that may be a more recent development.

      Mind you, it was a great experience otherwise. Got to see lots of cool castles (including Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau), the walled city of Rothenburg (complete with torture museum), the Holocaust Museum in Berlin; learned to ride the train despite not speaking German (and am fiercely jealous of German rail service), picked up lots of awesome German language rock and metal, tried a bunch of flavors of the infinitely better Fanta that's sold everywhere except the US, was super jealous of sparkling apple juice just being on soda fountains everywhere (here it's hardly sold anywhere and when it is it's an overpriced "gourmet" thing from like Kristian Regale or whoever.). And my parents were renting a house with an atrium in the middle, which was amazing.

    15. With a bit of travel around Europe, I tend to agree with the dissenting point of view:

      Re: Germany
      Blue City offered products and services only dreamt of in most of the U.S.

      Re: Italy
      The gentlemen with purses offered an amazing array of products and services unavailable in the U.S.

      Re: France
      Loc. cit.

      As an unrelated aside, France is the only nation in which I have been robbed at gunpoint.

      So, I'm digging the Euro centric view. More variety, more excitement!

  5. A mostly abandoned world where you are constantly fleeing monsters as you move from place to place in search of food and shelter... this should have been themed as a zombie apocalypse game.

  6. My mother lives in nowhere western PA. When you're 2 hours out from the nearest city, and that city is Pittsburgh, you know you're in "another country". (For non-locals, Pittsburgh is the 26nd largest metro area in the US with 2.6M people. Not tiny, but 2+ hours away and you're pretty rural.)

    I flew in to see her one Christmas. Little airport, only one terminal, mostly used for recreational aircraft. (Two months after I did this, they stopped offering commercial flights.) For a city guy like me, the hardest thing was that the car rental (at the airport!) wasn't open that day. There also wasn't any cabs because there's only one cab driver in the county and he was taking the day off. I eventually arranged in advance (by asking very very nicely) and they had someone from the car rental place come in especially for my flight. They were an hour late, but that was better than no car.

    My mother's actual house is miles from the nearest gas station or convenience store, although I think I saw a soda machine in the complex that she lives in.

    So while I fully sympathize with your travails, there are plenty of places in the US that have the same challenges you faced on your cruise...

    (Then again, since moving to Boston almost twenty years ago, I am still puzzled by just how difficult it is to buy gas on a Sunday night. The number of times I just barely managed to limp my car home nearly empty because I didn't plan ahead for a Sunday outing is too many.)

    1. Even Boston has its challenges. On the beltway about 40 minutes from Logan, I called 411 for a cab. I'll spare you the details, but I should have known from his difficulty in finding a well-known location that one of us may have been experiencing a significant cognitive deficit. When I got in, the combination of blankets and odor suggested that someone probably lived in the vehicle. The heater was in no shape to overcome the New England winter. His brakes were shot, so he couldn't or wouldn't drive faster than 40 mph on the interstate. He had to stop to get gas. The entire trip took more than two hours. Bottom line: I missed my flight. I was courteous and tipped, but ever since, Uber and Lyft have been my go-to.

  7. If you've not investigated it already, by the way, as a dude who likes to get *all* the way into things, to the extent of running a blog of this sort; who likes routine and gets disproportionately uncomfortable when you can't maintain it, or don't get to have the sensation of a shower in the morning, or itch in clothes you've worn for two days; who often feels like your brain is missing a little something, leading you to a lifetime of experimentation with caffeine, alcohol, or possibly other stimulants...

    ... you should really check out the possibility of being on the autism spectrum. Or, if that idea makes you uncomfortable, look up the experiences of people on spectrum with things like this and see if some of their insights and hacks are meaningful to *your* life.

    This should not in any way be interpreted as anything negative. As someone with the same profile, and the same behaviours, who got a late life diagnosis myself, I'm just saying I wish someone had said this to me earlier. Happy to talk further at the email address associated with this account if you want.

    1. As someone else on the autism spectrum, parts of this post also felt *very* familiar.

    2. Pretty neurodivergent crowd I suspect. Poor old Greg fell afoul of some absolutist thinking though, as you'll see!

  8. (Warning, possible spoiler for original Faery Tale below)

    How effective are the missile weapons in Lords of Time? Any hints of magical weaponry? I played the original FTA on Sega Genesis back in the day, and finished it pretty easily after acquiring the magic wand that's hidden inside a cave in the NW part of the map. The wand has unlimited charges and no cooldown. I had a Sega arcade joystick with turbofire. Combined together, they made Julian into an unholy killing machine, effectively removing the crummy combat system from the game. If there's any similar weapon/exploit available for Lords, I'd chase it down and use it. Wielding the Blue Firehose of Doom made FTA bearable; I couldn't imaging finishing it while having to actually melee the monsters.

    I will say that it appears LoT is much less empty than FTA, so at least it's got that going for it.

  9. Also (sorry I missed it earlier): 33% of the time having a mini bar in your hotel is not really extraordinary? I am pretty sure the percentage of hotels with (overpriced) mini bars is higher than 33% in most of Europe.

  10. As my original post seems to have been eaten: I think there are many things that are less convenient in the US. Credit card payments. Not seeing the final price on things (taxes excluded, heavy tipping in restaurants).

    And I have been in very many places in the US, of which many did NOT have all those shops you list in 3 blocks radius. Most of the times those have been the more beautiful places in the country.

  11. Ok, given your comment about diet coke, I'm wondering if you are the other-coasted, mirror universe clone of my old boss. It was a rare day to see him without a diet coke or coke zero in his hand, and we could tell when he'd been by the lab as he'd often absentmindedly leave one on someone's desk in the office or by the door to the lab (Since you couldn't go into the actual lab with food or drink of course).

  12. Oh, I forgot to mention; You might want to check out Roguelike Radio, a podcast. They've had some very good discussions of what they call Food Clocks, and how a few games use them to great effect, usually to force you onwards instead of grinding on the same level, but a lot of roguelikes include them since their source of inspiration does, but without an actual purpose, and they become just another button you have to hit every X moves.


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