How large is considered to be "Too large" when it comes to numbers?

Pootscooter

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@Tai_MT I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion of numbers not having psychological effects. That just doesn't align with common sense if you think about it... No need to get into details, cuz it clearly doesn't make sense.

I think when it hits the millions, it gets to be a bit too ridiculous
Reminds me of Dragonball Z/Super and the ridiculous power level scaling lol. I remember Freeza form 2 had a power level of 1,000,000 and they only got more absurd after the Freeza saga. I'm genuinely surprised nobody's brought up Dragon Ball yet since we're discussing big numbers lol.
 

magnaangemon01

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That wasn't damage. That was just power levels. In DBZ, over a billion gets to be a bit much
 

Pootscooter

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I know, I was just referring to how large the numbers get. In Super, it goes into the quadrillions and quintillions lol.
 

Frostorm

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Similarly, I remember how awesome it felt when I came across a 100,000,000,000,000 (yes, One Hundred Trillion) dollar bill from Zimbabwe in a currency shop, selling for about $20 USD. I looked it up to make sure it was real and not a joke (the picture on it was a pile of rocks!!) - and yes, it was real. Zimbabwe had experienced some severe hyperinflation which led to the printing of such banknotes. Its actual value was right around $1 USD, and I was more than happy to buy it for $20. Why? Because it felt ****ing awesome to be a trillionaire. Bragging rights, sure, but even if I wasn't allowed to tell another soul I would have loved to have that big number.

I lost that 100 Trillion dollar bill a few years later and couldn't find it. _ Good thing I'm RMW's moderator and not its accountant.
Damn, I'd love to know where you purchased that bill lol. I remember discussing the whole Zimbabwe hyper-inflation thing many years ago in a college Econ course.

Reminds me of Dragonball Z/Super and the ridiculous power level scaling lol. I remember Freeza form 2 had a power level of 1,000,000 and they only got more absurd after the Freeza saga. I'm genuinely surprised nobody's brought up Dragon Ball yet since we're discussing big numbers lol.
Lol, if you've been keeping up with the manga, it's gonna get even more ridiculous. Easily getting into the sextillion range... Imagine if they were still using Scouters (that didn't blow up lol).
 

Wavelength

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I don't disagree that we shouldn't strive for those hits of dopamine. Nor should we discount including them.

My disagreement is whether these hits are "psychologically significant". I don't think they are.
...
As it is a fleeting moment of happiness, it isn't psychologically significant.

Is that dopamine hit unimportant? Absolutely not. It is a vital tool devs can and should use in their design.
So it sounds like we agree on this point, mostly? I agree it's not "psychologically significant" using your definition of creating long-lasting, meaningful change in a person's psychology. I'm saying that I don't feel that standard should be necessary in the context of this discussion - as long as it's "a good thing" that naturally encourages that small, important hit of dopamine, there's very little reason not to design for it. :)

Tai_MT said:
I believe the "breakpoints" are more fluid. Numbers ending in zero are just "easiest to compare" most of the time. Passing a threshold of 573 isn't going to mean much without a lot of context for it. However, if something ends in zero, it's an automatic "stop point" just based on the way numbers are used. 10, 20, 30, 100, 200, 1000, 5000, 10,000, etcetera. You can create a "satisfying" break point at any number in reality, but ones that end in zero are actually far easier to do since most people are already trained and wired to value numbers that end in zero. After all... ten fingers... ten toes... learn to count to ten... rules for how you say numbers higher than ten change every 10 digits... etcetera. It's learned behavior that we wire into ourselves and each other. 10 is the basis of our decimal systems... etcetera.
Tai_MT said:
But, the rules get "muddy" when you get into video games.
...
It's because Level 100 means absolutely nothing in the game. How does it mean absolutely nothing?
...
But, if you played say... World of Warcraft and achieved level 100 after 600+ hours of gameplay... Well, the breakpoint of 100 is exceptionally significant. It represents the effort you put in.
I think of World of Warcraft maxed us out at Level 93, it would feel very dissatisfying! Like - our brain can see the path ahead, to either Level 99 or Level 100, and it feels like that path is being prevented or left unfinished.

It definitely means more when you've worked hard for it, and it definitely feels like it means more when the devs do a great job with messaging, framing, and audiovisuals (which Blizzard is great at and many mobile games are poor at), and that stuff all matters more than the number of the max level, for sure. But the difference between Max Level at 100 (or 99 even) and Max Level at 93 is a very real thing, too.

I think the psychological breakpoints go beyond the "round numbers" of having a zero at the end - adding a digit helps (e.g. 90,000 vs. 100,000), and getting to a new "named" amount also helps (specifically 90 to 100, 900 to 1,000, and 999,000 to 1,000,000).

Damn, I'd love to know where you purchased that bill lol. I remember discussing the whole Zimbabwe hyper-inflation thing many years ago in a college Econ course.
Nakano-Broadway in Tokyo. It's a cool place; they have a lot of manga/anime shops, and also a lot of other niche collectors' stuff (including three rare currency shops that I remember).
 
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Tai_MT

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So it sounds like we agree on this point, mostly? I agree it's not "psychologically significant" using your definition of creating long-lasting, meaningful change in a person's psychology. I'm saying that I don't feel that standard should be necessary in the context of this discussion - as long as it's "a good thing" that naturally encourages that small, important hit of dopamine, there's very little reason not to design for it. :)
There's nothing wrong with designing for the hit of dopamine. It is just beneficial to remember that in a video game, there's no "guaranteed" way of doing so. Especially where numbers are involved.

Players can be trained to value whatever numbers you want, and more easily than they would be than if we were trying to apply those numbers in the real world, where their context can be more or less important.

My point has been largely that the number itself is insignificant for that dopamine hit since you can design your game in such a way that any number achieved will deliver that dopamine hit.

That's the cool part about video games.

I think of World of Warcraft maxed us out at Level 93, it would feel very dissatisfying! Like - our brain can see the path ahead, to either Level 99 or Level 100, and it feels like that path is being prevented or left unfinished.
You sort of my make my point for me here. Why is "reaching level 99" satisfying at all? It's short of 100 by one! Shouldn't that feel like the path is unfinished? Shouldn't that be dissastifying?

Except it's not.

Why not?

It's because we've been trained by other video games to recognize that "99 is max level". It existed in other games because there was a memory limit on earlier games and making max level 100 took up too much memory space and it wasn't really worth it when you were already so brokenly overpowered in most games by 99, that an extra level to 100 wouldn't make much a difference. "99" became the practical level cap in a lot of games.

As a child, I wondered early on why 99 was the max level. As I played more games where 99 was the cap, I didn't question it anymore. Later on, when games started giving you that extra level and 100 was the cap, it felt strange to me to have that be the cap. Why isn't 99 the cap anymore?

When I got into MMOs, it was weird when they started going "120 is the level cap". Why isn't 99? Or 100? But, in an MMO, I think nothing of a level cap being 20, 50, 60, 70, or 80. Level 20 usually means (to me, at least) that the grind is real and might be a slog, but each level is going to be insanely powerful. Level 50 usually means, "base game", and numbers after that usually tell me, "several expansions exist for this game". When we start getting into Level 100 and beyond caps, I begin thinking to myself, "game has a lot of bloat here".

But, that's the thing. I've been taught and conditioned by other games to have these perceptions.

That's my point with video games. They tell you what numbers you should get your dopamine hits at, and provide the context of why you'd get it.

It definitely means more when you've worked hard for it, and it definitely feels like it means more when the devs do a great job with messaging, framing, and audiovisuals (which Blizzard is great at and many mobile games are poor at), and that stuff all matters more than the number of the max level, for sure. But the difference between Max Level at 100 (or 99 even) and Max Level at 93 is a very real thing, too.

I think the psychological breakpoints go beyond the "round numbers" of having a zero at the end - adding a digit helps (e.g. 90,000 vs. 100,000), and getting to a new "named" amount also helps (specifically 90 to 100, 900 to 1,000, and 999,000 to 1,000,000).
Going back to your level example. In a game like World of Warcraft, where leveling was very time consuming, any gained level was a dopamine hit. It didn't even have to be a round number. The act of gaining the level was the reason for the hit rather than what the number was. Hitting level cap also delivered dopamine, but in a different way (it'd be difficult to measure if the dose of dopamine was larger than usual without wiring into someone's brain and doing experiments). Each level gained was a powerful moment. Level 53 bathes you in golden light and it advertises you've leveled up and attempts to signify that it's important, and then you're back on the journey again. The fanfare for reaching Level 53 was the same as reaching Level 10. The dopamine hit pretty much the same too.

We prefer anything divisible by ten because we've been trained by real life to view tens as a "break point". A "new beginning". Nineteen to Twenty is a new naming convention with Twenty being the start point for that.

But, again, we're working with video games here. We can establish value for any number we choose. It might seem strange at first to put max level at 93 (bucking conventions and all), but hitting it would feel no less impactful than hitting level 20, 50, 60, 70, 80, 100, or 120 in a game. It has meaning because we say it has and delivers dopamine because we've designed it to.

What do you think would happen if all video games had Level 93 as the "level cap"? Do you think it would continue to feel unsatisfying to players? I don't think it would. It just takes proper conditioning to have a player enjoy any number you decide on. The main reason we use "tens" is because the conditioning is already present in our life. Devs are just using the existing conditioning rather than creating their own.

But, that's sort of the great part about video games. You can break that existing conditioning quite easily if you so desire. Video Games somehow create the space and environment for players to be open-minded enough to just accept what you give them (so much so that players can't tell if someone is lying to them unless you make it pretty obvious that the person is lying to them in the game.). Trying to break the conditioning of "tens" in the real world would be far more difficult and require nearly every aspect of a person's life to conform to the new numbers you want to condition them to. But, in a video game, a player is more open minded to having this challenged and broken for the sake of "fun" and "accomplishment".
 
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Wavelength

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You sort of my make my point for me here. Why is "reaching level 99" satisfying at all? It's short of 100 by one! Shouldn't that feel like the path is unfinished? Shouldn't that be dissastifying?
I totally get what you're saying, but my use of 99 doesn't make your point (and in fact in reinforces mine further that player perception of numbers isn't arbitrary or completely contextual in games).

There's a certain psychological "bigness" to the digit 9, as it's the largest digit there is. It doesn't feel quite as big as named thresholds or extra digits (which is why "odd-even pricing" such as $9.99 exists), but it's non-trivial.

If you go back into my previous posts in this topic you'll see quite a few places that I intentionally used numbers starting with 8... as a comparison to the 10... of the "next step up". I didn't want to obfuscate my earlier points by bringing it up.

99 is the biggest number that can be represented by a two-digit display, and it's something that player just automatically recognizes because they bring that understanding in from their everyday life (especially players around our age who grew up with a lot of simple digital devices). That's why Level 99 felt big. You bring knowledge in automatically and you have an intrinsic sense that everything is maxed out with 9's, it's really really big.

It's because we've been trained by other video games to recognize that "99 is max level". It existed in other games because there was a memory limit on earlier games and making max level 100 took up too much memory space and it wasn't really worth it when you were already so brokenly overpowered in most games by 99, that an extra level to 100 wouldn't make much a difference. "99" became the practical level cap in a lot of games.
Expectations come into play, for sure. Expectations you've developed from other games, as a gamer, come into play. Expectations you've developed from the real world and society, as a human being, also come into play.

It's possible for games to completely override your existing expectations from the real world if they consistently and noticeably contradict those existing expectations (which is why Undertale worked so well, basically calling you out for not taking your "humanity" into the game with you, and viewing enemies as EXP pinatas). But numbers are not a place where this has traditionally happened in games!
Generally, numbers have either been treated as all equal by games (such as 98 vs. 99 damage vs. 100 damage being equally important) - which causes players' minds to default somewhat to their own existing perception of how big these numbers are, or numbers in games have conformed to our real-world constructs, with "new digit" breakpoints being especially important - there is a reason that so many things (such as Talent Trees and Death Penalties) open up in World of Warcraft when you hit Level 10, rather than Level 8 or 12 or 20. It's not arbitrary, and it's not because you're unprepared for these things at Level 9. It's because feeling like you've entered the Big Leagues at Level 10 specifically feels extra-good and will be more memorable than if you did so at Lv 8 or 12.

I do think Level 93 would be a very weird max level in games. I might get used to it, but it wouldn't provide the same kind of satisfaction that we currently get when we max out at a "big-feeling" level like 99 or 100. Level 255 (the cap in some old games because 255 is the largest number that can be represented by an 8-bit variable) is a good example - this number has become somewhat important to gamers, but it took a long time and it never became as important as numbers like 100 which are just naturally important to us as framing devices.

Going back to your level example. In a game like World of Warcraft, where leveling was very time consuming, any gained level was a dopamine hit. It didn't even have to be a round number. The act of gaining the level was the reason for the hit rather than what the number was.
As I said, Blizzard is very good at this kind of stuff. They could have provided the golden light and victorious stinger at 33% and 67% of the way through each level and it would have felt just as good, even though it offered you absolutely nothing. :D
it's too bad they have no idea how to design a card game
 

Tai_MT

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@Wavelength

I don't really agree with the "psychological bigness" of 99, or even 9. Again, this is something that's trained into us. 9's are large because of "limitations". If there were never limitations in these forms of technology, 9 wouldn't matter at all. It matters now, because we've been trained that when you have limitations in how big a number can ever be... filling each slot with 9's is the best you're going to manage.

My point through pretty much all of this is that if you're doing your job as a dev well... It just doesn't matter how big or small of numbers you use. You can condition a player to value any number you feel like. Big or small. That conditioning is actually easier to accomplish in a video game than if we were trying to do so in real life.

The thing is, most dev's just use the already existing "real world" conditioning for the sake of simplicity. There's nothing wrong with this, at all.

The point I'm making is that what numbers you choose to work with is essentially completely arbitrary unless you've made them for mechanical/practical reasons (such as a limitation of the engine you're using, or you're using smaller numbers so that small jumps in power are meaningful, etcetera).

A number is just a number without proper context. Providing that context nets you the "dopamine high".

It is possible to have players gain stats, do high numbers of damage, and gain massive amounts of levels without them getting their hit of dopamine. It is also possible to render that hit of dopamine for nearly any random thing you can think of and minor accomplishment if you design your game to do so.

Heck, I tried a little bit to remove the dopamine hit from "gaining a level" in my game just to keep players from "grinding levels". Granted, you still gain rewards, but they're something you have to go find after earning them most of the time. The dopamine hit is "delayed" to an extent as a result.

But, I am also trying to work with combat design to provide that dopamine hit through more than just damage numbers.

The topic itself is essentially "what is better? big numbers or little numbers?". I think the correct answer is, "it doesn't matter. It only matters that you deliver context for your numbers so players can get their 'good feels' from doing whatever damage you decide they should do".

Personally, I just prefer to use small numbers. Makes my life far easier as a dev, and I like the benefits I can deliver to a player as a result.

And, when I play games, I personally don't really watch the "damage numbers" all that much. I tend to watch the "meters" more. It means more to me that a hit drained half my meter rather than it did 58,724 damage.

I even look at Healing in an MMO the same way. "My spell heals X amount of your meter" and make judgement calls based on that.

If I'm doing that, other players are probably doing that as well. At which point... Doesn't it raise the question of "are numbers even necessary at all?".

But, that's probably a whole different discussion for a different topic.

Sorry I had to @ you. My Quote function was all messed up and kept trying to "multiquote" over and over again and I couldn't find a way to clear it out. This is the best I can manage.

BTW, I'm not saying I disagree with your assessment on why certain numbers and thresholds are important. I'm disagreeing on what makes them important. As well as how they became important. I'm disagreeing because understanding those aspects can actually provide useful insight into creating game mechanics for devs as well as spurring some creativity.

Yes, I agree about 99. Yes, I agree about 100. I do not agree that these numbers need to be important. I do not agree because of how those numbers became important and what they represent. These two factors can open up a lot of really interesting ways to design games when you consider that what they accomplish can be replicated with different variables.
 

Htlaets

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I think when it hits the millions, it gets to be a bit too ridiculous
Personally, I feel that way long before that point. But, yeah.

Though sometimes ridiculousness is the point: see Disgaea.


Personally I'm more fond of small numbers. Small numbers gets rid of damage variability, allows the player to do simple math to figure out how many turns it'd take to finish an enemy or be finished by an enemy and also keeping things small numbered allows damage/health increases from level ups have a much more tangible effect.

If you do 6000 damage before you level up and 6100 after, it kinda just feels like a rounding error. But if you do 3-5 damage before a level up and 4-6 afterwards, you have a very clear picture of the difference that makes in combat. Of course, such a system would also have to make level ups harder to get so each one having a high percentage difference works.

Of course, in my own games I sorta go for mid-damage levels. High tens to mid hundreds.
 

Frostorm

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The main reason we use "tens" is because the conditioning is already present in our life. Devs are just using the existing conditioning rather than creating their own.
Excellent point regarding the conditioning of numbers. I wanted to share this example of a totally different numbering system than we're accustomed to, just to illustrate the possibilities.

The long division in the video is particularly impressive lol. I'm thinking of giving the Elves in my game this numbering system, just for lore/flavor though, the player would still be using our traditional numbering system of course.
 
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Kupotepo

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If anyone like a super larger number, use the distance between stars or planets.

238,900 miles is the distance between the Earth and the moon. @Frostorm, thank you for your correction. mi = mile

Distance to Earth: 390.4 million mi of Europa or Jupiter II.

2.5 million light-years is the distance between milky way and andromeda.
 
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Insomniac_Warrior

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Anything over 10,000 tends to look very cheesy to me unless there's a very good and weighted reasoning for it. I like my individual tiny numbers having a stronger meaning, and throwing globfuls of thousands on the screen just feels like oversaturation.
 

Aaron

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Baal from the Disgaea series is spooky when it comes to numbers.
 

Nohmaan

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I say 9999 is max. Why?

Consider damage as a value from 0% to 100% with 2 decimal places of precision.

When you hit for 120 damage you are doing 1.2% of the maximum possible damage. When you hit for 5000 you hit for 50.00% the maximum damage.

It's simple and makes sense. And, within the context of your game the max damage is just the most powerful attack someone can make.
 

BK-tdm

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Numbers do have a psychological impact, and here's a little experiment to make people uncomfortable.

Warning: this game could kill people with OCD. :kaoswt2:
Set:
Max bgm/sound volume on settings to 70.
Max level to 91.
Damage cap to 993.
MP Cap to 97
Hp Cap to 1001
Money cap to 991
Item prices to odd numbers, no exceptions, a potion costs 17 now.

Sit and watch almost all game questions be related to the "weird" choosing of numbers and limits, its still numbers, and it doesnt matter if the music only goes numerically to 70, as mechanically is the maximum output, will still feel out of place.

If your average damage is in the 500-900s, seeing a flashy critical of 1500 will feel good to the player and will probably encourage the "how high can it get?" curiosity.

Going overboard is a problem too, as things like variance and % resistances are better managed on lower numbers, why do you need 10m damage for a boss that has 999m hp and dishes 5m damage to your 90m hp pool? Ditch the "M"s its the same thing and more manageable balance-wise.

The first time i played world of warcraft was the Burning Crusade expansion, coming from a lot of jrpgs and even other MMOs i was used to and expected a different level cap than 70, i felt a slight discomfort of being so far from 100, the Legion expansion let us reach lv 100, and it felt catharthic now they're squishing things back to lv60 and my reaction borders the "meh" spectrum.


The "Odd even price" logic is designed to play psychologically, as logically 9.99 vs 10 is the same as the difference is meaningless, most people still take the bait.

"Bait prices" is a known practice in marketing, setting 3 products with the same function next to each other but due to branding and quality prices vary so you get the following prices: 1,3,5.
Statistically, people will gravitate towards the product priced 3, as it does the same thing compared to the most expensive, but its not the "cheapest" and by proxy, not the lowest quality one.
 

taarna23

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I mean... hitting the 32 bit limit would probably be bad (that's 4.some-odd billion), but other than that... whatever level of big or small suits your game.
 

LostFonDrive

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As others have said, technically all that really matters is how those numbers relate to enemy HP and overall game balance, and how they rise as you get stronger in the game.
However, as a matter of personal preference, I've always found games balanced around small numbers to feel way more satisfying and significant. For example the old Fire Emblem games did this very well. They were games where a stat going up a single point makes a huuuuge difference, whereas this doesn't feel as true in newer ones because they've kind of inflated all the numbers now
 

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Bit late on replying cause I'm usually not on the forums often, but I can definitely see both sides of the debate.

But yeah, starting to feel like things don't need to be changed in my case because of how I'm personally balancing things to try and make progression feel worthwhile.

Also, the whole point of starting out small is to try and ease players into the system a bit and eventually get used to the larger stuff. Most skills and magic aren't instantly obtained in my game, you learn them by freely spending points on stuff a character can learn. Naturally more abilities become available to learn as you level up, but that will stop around lv50.

Leveling up however has the aforementioned stat progression and each level you gain is also extra points to spend on skills, which is on top of what you can grind from killing enemies. Plus with how I'm planning things, you'll still be around lv80 or so by the time you face the final boss, leaving basically Lv90 and above as post game progress. I may push this to lv100 though. It may sound like the game is long, but I plan on making exp grinding not so tedious.

But to add on things further, there's damage caps as well. Each character has weapons which they can't swap out, but progressing in the story will eventually increase the power of these weapons. One progression is locked behind extra content though. And that's the version of the weapons that removes damage cap entirely. Since it's not needed for completing the main story, I've left that as a post game thing about lv150. But the main thing is that each weapon upgrade increases the damage cap until you get ultimate ones which have no cap.

And stat progression was manually done with some Hime plugins because stat curves never got things right to where at times you'd feel too weak or too strong. I literally spent time to manually enter each stat and had each character get their own stats by having a variance of up to 5% on those stat tables. There's also not many things you can use to alter these stats as equipment in general is for special effects or resistances. I've also entered exp tables the same way, but instead of making each character have their own exp table, they gain varying amounts of exp.

And above all this, there's going to be difficulty modes. However, balancing the hardest difficulty is the tricky part as for now it just alters enemy stats (and how much currency and exp you gain). I first test things on normal difficulty and then do so again for the other 4 difficulties, 2 of which are harder while 2 are easier. And difficulties can be changed outside of battles but the easier difficulties give less rewards for winning, as an incentive to play the game on normal. There's also more incentive to play on harder difficulties as they give more rewards.

The trickiest part of balancing seems to be skill/magic costs though. I want to balance it so these increase in cost as your max MP increases, but still makes it feel like more max MP has more uses. Enemies also don't use MP at all so their MP stat is just an extra pool of MP you can drain from them, which can be handy since each item also has it's own inventory limits.

But yeah, can agree that the biggest thing is trying to balance everything. Even if I decided to use smaller numbers, lack of balance means that the entire thing falls apart.
 

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