January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

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January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Tara Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:44 am

How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers? Compare this with including alternative text for all images on a website – a technically easy thing to do, if you just remember to do it!


What are your thoughts? Is it a simple list of must haves? Does it vary by game? Are games too diverse to have a "one size fits all" type of minimum?



Remember, the highlights from this discussion will be posted on our website, so let's make it good!

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What platforms?

Post  Tara Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:25 am

I guess one of the first things I would want to know is - would this be a list for all platforms? PC/Console/Handheld? Or would it be tailored to each of those?

At first I thought that having it be console may be the better idea, but then I realized that most games come out multi-platform. Because of that I feel like having one simpler list would be the best idea.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:51 am

I am sorry, but maybe we should talk about the next steps?
What do we need to move forward?

This is what I think:
We need an update of the list of barrieres (with point of view of game designer and game developers)!
This is the basic for everything else. We need to understand what kind of barriers exists. Then we can think about solutions.

The quality of the current information is very very bad.

Best regards,
Sandra

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Tara Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:59 am

I think we know about problems that occur in gaming.

Like, we know deaf players are left out where there are no subtitles or close captions. We know that colorblind players have problems when the good guys are green and the baddies are red. AbleGamers has been doing reviews addressing barriers for a couple years now.

We know there are auditory issues, visual issues, cognitive issues, and mobility issues. A minimum accessibility standard may not fix all problems with in all of these areas- but having a simple rule like "Have color blind friendly UI or and allow for a high contrast option" covers a lot of visual issues. Sure it doesn't address blindness, but it sets a minimum. That's sorted of what this week's topic is about.

What would be a minimum accessibility standard check list? What would you put on it? Maybe we would put on information about why we request certain items on the list?

That way it says both what needs to be done and then explains why.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Max Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:23 am

I agree that I think (and hope) that by now we have a baseline of what the basic barriers are and how developers can address them.

Regarding universal vs. console specific, I would think at least at first we'd want to be as universal as possible. While controller interactions are different and such, i think things like remappable controllers are good regardless of interface.

What i'd like to see is taking this post a step further and not just defining a minimum, but also defining "levels" of accessibility. for example, if the minimum is color-blind friendly, controller remappable, and difficulty setable, having level 2 be support for alternative controllers, high-contrast settings, and game speed settings, etc.

That way not only do you give developers an "acceptable" level of accessibility to aim for, but also higher packages that they can work towards. Then, if someone eventually wanted to roll out a rating system, you've already got a framework that developers know to work towards and the accessibility community already recognizes.

so, the first step would be (and i think this might have been what Sandra was driving at), what do we see as meeting the base level of accessibility requirements for a game?


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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:32 am

Hi Max,

the big problem is that for all your wishes (which are great) we need first high quality basic information.
The truth is that at the moment the information about barriers are very very very bad.

E.g. we still miss speech!!! and Colorblind is not only red/green, blue/yellow.
We need to know more about it. And I am no expert but I think that "low vision" has different faces.
Also think about gesture tracking. We still do not have a category for Kinect .....

Oh and the we do not have a good overview about cognitive impairments ....

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Tara Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:40 am

Sandra,

Although I support your opinion in that we need more information on the subject, I don't think we should put a halt on defining things developers can do right now. I think we already have enough information that would provide us with a basic-minimum requirement list. We aren't saying make a list that covers everything in the world. We're making a list that is based on what we know now. What are simple steps we can take to address some of today's current accessibility issues? If we were to wait until we had all of the information we wouldn't ever publish anything because of the rate the new technologies are coming out.

I guess I'm saying we can address what we already know.

Think of it like this, would doctor's wait to treat cancer until they knew everything about it, or use they knowledge they currently use to fight it while still researching new and better options?

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Max Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 12:10 pm

I would like to see more expertise in the SIG devoted to putting together actual definitions for all of these, but I think Tara's point that we've got a good enough handle to start setting up baselines, and then going through and defining the issues and fleshing out recommended solutions once we have the framework.

Think of it like an outline. If we were to make an outline of the levels of accessibility, where would we put under each bullet point?

I would think our base criteria would be number of affected users. Sandra mentions that it shouldn't just be red-green or blue-yellow colorblind, but if we were to break it into statistics, like these:

http://www.colour-blindness.com/general/prevalence/
http://www.iamcal.com/toys/colors/stats.php

we would see that getting a developer to address red-green colorblindness would let 7-10% of males enjoy the game where they couldn't before, while moving up another level and addressing complete colorblindness would only open your audience up another 0.005%, but it would also serve to push your game further up the accessibility scale, which aids in promotion if it's something that's officially recognized and demonstrated. That's not to say that somehow the complete colorblind deserve to play less by any means, only that affecting change is a slow process and getting the developers to take baby steps motivated by their desire to move games is how you start that process.

So, i would say step one here is to scrape together some actual statistics and see where the numbers fall. so... go at it Smile

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Tue Jan 25, 2011 2:49 pm

You still need to know what you are looking for Surprised

By the way now is the time where new statistic about PwDs are developed.
= This is the best chance to get the statistics we need in the future.

I am sorry for the developers and designers. Imagine the solution would be: "for deaf gamers you need to care about subtitles and closed-captioning". Well, that is really a bad quality...

I prefer doing it step by step with very high quality informations that fits the point of view of the target group.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Tara Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 3:19 pm

I'm not sure what you mean by bad quality. I feel like there may have been something lost in the translation here. Could you explain?

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Max Voelker on Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:13 pm

I believe I understand what you're saying, Sandra, and I think the disconnect is that I've got a decent grasp on what disabilities affect gamers ability to enjoy a game. I'm no expert, but I was in QA for years and have been doing this producer thing for a bit now, so accessibility awareness is something i've got an okay grasp on.

What i'm suggesting is that the SIG (or a private enterprise that the SIG acts as consultants for, if that would be more appropriate) put together some data that they can then group into bundles.

The best overall pitch I could see you giving a studio as to how they could be more accessible with as little effort as possible on their end is something like:

"Here, developer, if you make your game fit these base specifications for what we term as 'Acceptable' accessibility, you'll allow an additional 17% of the world population to enjoy your game. If you were to move to this level that we'd consider 'Good' accessibility, you'd only add an additional 5% to that, but there are all these additional resources that promote accessible games out there that would certainly give you a little positive press."

To me as a producer, that means I can take that information back to my designers and my artists and say "hey, make these adjustments and you'll get your work in the hands of more people who want to enjoy it." and i can take that same information back to my CEO and/or publisher and say "If we make these small changes we can ensure a larger possible purchase base and also positive raised awareness amongst a community of game consumers who is looking for allies." That's how you sell accessibility to developers.

You're not going to get businesses to change their practices for accessibility until you get advocates inside that business, and you're not going to convert advocates until you can put the tools in their hands that let them affect that change.

That's all I'm asking for. Hopefully that cleared up whatever confusion there was and we can continue this dialogue.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:26 am

Hi,

the key is what do they Publisher and Developers companies really need?
Maybe we should check out first what they need?

And do not forget the marketing and PR guys! I learnt that they are important as the developers.
Imagine what will happen when the gamer do not accept the changes???? That would be bad.

I would like to avoid problems like Ubisoft and subtitles. They have subtitles yes, but the quality is bad (at least of the games I played).
And what is most frustrating: for deaf gamers (hearing problems) we have all we need. Only a quality check is left....

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  thomasw on Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:44 am

Hi,

I'm not sure everyone knows it, but MediaLT made a list of guidelines several years ago; of course more can be done but it is a good starting point. Also, taking the format forward in terms of patterns as Eelkes has proposed is a good idea.
http://gameaccess.medialt.no/

Regarding developers, I made some interviews for my master thesis about three years ago from which I made some conclusions. I have also worked as a developer myself so I know this from my own experience too. On my web page for the Game Accessibility Implementation Model, I have summarized the most important findings. I also describe a pattern found from a comparison of four games.
http://people.dsv.su.se/~thomasw/gaim

Marketing and PR: yes they should read Eelkes (et al) excellent paper, a survey on game accessibility to know more about the possible market.

Sandra_Uhling wrote:Hi,

the key is what do they Publisher and Developers companies really need?
Maybe we should check out first what they need?

And do not forget the marketing and PR guys!

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:56 am

Hi,

PR & Marketing = the question is how can you can explain your gamers that these changes are good and do not change the games.
We will have problems with lots of prejudices about GA.

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How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  elrobin on Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:43 am

I think it is possible to publish minimal guidelines. It will not address every issue, but it should address the major issues. For Example:

Visual disabilities

1. Developers should include the ability to increase text size in all text areas.
2. Any color used should be selected from a list of acceptable color-blind safe colors and/or should have sufficient texture difference to enable a color blind person to differentiate between two colors.
3. All controls should be labeled to allow gamers to know what the controls do.
4. All developers should follow a logical and consistent tab order to keep context for a blind or visually impaired gamer.
5. Sounds and descriptive material should enhance the gamers understanding of what is happening in the game.

Each area could be identified and specific minimum standards developed. The above are just a stream of consciousness type of statements and would need to be reworked to make them address each of the issues.

Eleanor Robinson
7-128 Software

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Tara Voelker on Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:13 am

I think Thomas hit what Max was asking for in the link he provided to the Eelkes Guidelines. It assigns things different priorities. I also think he made another great point when he said

"The missing link, as I see it, is in-between the descriptions and the actual implementations."

I think that was something that Max was pushing at as well. I feel like having both of these, in addition to better explanations, we could address some of Sandra's quality concerns.

And Sandra- Max is a developer, and I also am, and Thomas has been! We can get some of the information you're requesting right here in this thread.



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Top 10 List...

Post  OneSwitch.org.uk on Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:23 am

I think a good step we could take is to look very hard at our old Top 10 Accessibility Features wish list, redraw a new list under general agreement, then have accompanying deeper explanations for why each wish is there. I'd even recommend paring it down to an additional Top 5/Top 3 list.

http://gameaccessibility.blogspot.com/search/label/Design%20Tips

What I think is important is to take a "reasonably practicable approach" to start with. Some wishes for game types and platforms would involve massive amounts of work to implement. Some platforms and game types, much easier. We have to acknowledge that. We need also to acknowledge that just one feature from the list would be so much better than nothing.

I agree that the providing % data as regards the number of people who could potentially benefit from features could be very persuasive on a business level. We must also always explain the wider benefits of improve accessibility.

I still think we can break down all fundamental obstacles to a decent and fair gaming experience into one or more of the following four categories:

Cognitive barriers.
Physical barriers.
Sight barriers.
Hearing barriers.

I really do think Speech sits in Cognitive and/or Physical, but if people out vote me, I'd back an extra section.

That Top 10:

1.Allow all controls (mouse, keyboard, gamepad) to be remapped.
2.Add closed-captioning for all dialogue and important sound-effects.
3.Provide documentation in an accessible format (HTML or plain-text).
4.Provide assist modes (auto-targeting, training options, etc).
5.Provide a broad range of difficulty levels from incredibly simple to difficult.
6.Make interface fonts scalable.
7.Allow for high-contrast colour schemes.
8.Add audio tags to all significant elements (actors, doors, items, resulting actions, etc) in true spatial 3D.
9.Allow for a varied range of control over play-speed.
10.Announce accessibility features on packaging.

So, if in agreement, shall we start?

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:26 am

Hi,
well we should maybe decide where we start:
Describing Barrieres or Disabilities?

Here is a brainstorming

[Control: Provide a wide range of types of control]
Allow all controls (mouse, keyboard, gamepad, [voice commands, body poses, …]) to be remapped.
[Recommended: Provide at least one alternative input/control]
[Recommended: Provide a basic control with additional controls]
[Recommended: Allow also for automatic control for some inputs]
[Note: The provided game control(s) should also work for installation, setup, start, end and deinstallation of the game, when possible.]
[Positive example(s): My Golf Game, …]
[Negative example(s): Kinect: back-to-menu-pose, …]

[Sound Alternative: Provide an alternative presentation of important audio]
Add closed-captioning for all dialog und important sound-effects
[Provide an option to present all dialogues and important sound-effects in an alternative way (text, icons, force feedback, visual effects, …)]
[Sound-effects: sound-only-puzzle, danger hints, all sound information, …]
[Dialogues, do not forget: NPC, fantasy languages, out-of-screen dialogues, fighting voices, …]
[Atmosphere and Emotion: do not forget sounds-effects for atmosphere and emotions]
[Positive example(s): Half-Life2, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, Final Fantasy IV (DS)]
[Negative example(s): Half-Life 1]

[Documentation: Provide information in an accessible format]
Provide documentation in an accessible format (HTML or plain-text)
[Provide all important information in a easy way to understand]
[Tip: Add gameplay information to ingame menu (control, gameplay, tips)]
[Tip: Provide control information with a table and with a picture]

Assist Modes:
Provide assist modes (auto-targeting, training options, [hint system, Trainerprogramm,] etc.)

Difficulty Levels:
Provide a broad range of difficulty levels from incredibly simple to difficult

Size / Scalable interface:
Make interface fonts, [icons, elements] scalable

Color schemes:
allow for high-contrast color schemes
[Allow for alternative color schemes (high contrast, other color combinations)]

Graphical Alternative:
Add audio tags to all significant elements (actors, doors, items, resulting actions, etc) in true spatial 3D
[Provide an audio interface]

Gamespeed:
allow for a varied range of control over play-speed

Information about the game:
[Player should be able to know if they can play the game before they buy it:] announce accessibility features on packaging [and provide a demo of the game]


Important:
with minimal effort on their part and
without greatly hampering or intruding on general gameplay

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End of Official Topic of the Week

Post  Tara Voelker on Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:18 pm

Wow! What a great thread. We have a lot a lot of good information in here. This is just a post to let you guys know that any posts after this one will not make the summary on the website - but I highly recommend continuing this conversation. In fact, I myself am going to be back to add some more thoughts after I have made the site summary. I really think this thread could become a place for great things.

Let's not let this one die and keep the momentum going to the next topic of the week!

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:07 am

Hi,
I stoped working on an update, because I notice that we first have to update our list about barrieres.

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Follow up

Post  Tara Voelker on Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:12 pm

So during the meeting we talked about revamping our top ten list (which was also mentioned with in this thread). And I wanted to bring the conversation back instead of letting it die.

So-
Updating it. I think soon I'm going to be posting a list of recommendations I made when talking at Fullsail. It's no top ten, but I think can help guide us.

Sandra- you had talked about updating our list of barriers. What would you say they are? What information do you think we're lacking?

Let's take the first steps to getting this updated. This information can also be provided to teachers. That was also something that we were pushing for in one our meetings.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Sandra_Uhling on Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:17 am

The list with barriers is not very good. When you think about Kinect you will notice that we miss more details information.
E.g. Mobility is very often(!) reduced to "One Button" Games. And this is wrong.
Developers need a very high quality list of barriers to find ways to avoid barriers.

Closed-Captioning: reduced the alternative sound presentation to subtitles.
Better would be: Alternative presentation of important sound information and dialogues.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

Post  Tara Voelker on Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:29 am

I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with you on this Sandra. For example- This is all information I pulled off our website (btw)

We define mobility (quite extensively)-
Mobility:

Paralysis:

* Paralysis could occur as the result of accident, birth defects, or disease. In paralysis, the nerves that control the voluntary muscles of the body are no longer signaling those muscles. Depending on the cause, the person may have only a limited ability to move any part of their body.
* As a result of paralysis, certain types of games requiring excellent hand/eye coordination or the ability to rapidly press a button (“twitch” games) are not really accessible. Other types of games such as turn based strategy games may be more suitable, assuming they could work with adaptive hardware.

Neurological disorders

* Certain neurological disorders can cause mobility issues. An example is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease). Due to problems with transmitting impulses to muscles, people with neurological disorders also suffer many of the same issues affecting paralysis victims.

Repetitive Stress Injury

* Repetitive Stress Injuries are a result of repeating motions over a long period of time. There are a variety of related forms such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Trigger Finger, or Tendonitis (as well any several others not listed here).

* Most of these injuries are readily treatable, but can reoccur if the person goes back to the same habits. In many cases, changes in the ergonomics of where they play or use of a different type of controller may remove the problem.

Age related issues:

* As the “baby boomer” generation starts to approach old age and retirement, we will begin to see more of these issues appearing with respect to games.

Lack of mobility

* One of the unfortunate aspects of aging is the gradual loss of flexibility in joints and difficulties moving as fast or as well as one used to. Degenerative diseases like arthritis become more common. Games requiring the player to participate with their whole body, such as “Dance, Dance Revolution,” may not be appealing or physically possible. This also applies to many Wii games, or games featuring the PS3 move or the XBox360 Kinect.
* Even controllers can cause problems for an increasingly older population. With slower reflexes, “twitch” games become more difficult. A game that required a lot of mouse motion and rapid, accurate clicking on the screen will probably not appeal to older gamers.

Lack of steadiness

* Along with the problems listed above with lack of mobility, there is a gradual loss of muscle tone, making fine movements more difficult. Other factors like Parkinson’s Disease can also affect the ability to control a game.


Even more so, we offer lots of suggestions on way to deal with mobility- and even address kinect- like the following (once again found on our website)


Customizable controls

* While many games already allow this, the ability for all games to allow users to remap controls would be useful for people with limited mobility. Additionally, if the player is using a custom controller or a special device, it ensures that the control scheme makes sense with their device. An example of this can be found in Valve’s Portal and most current fighting games.

Better in-game tutorials / user feedback / automatic help

* This feature would be helpful to almost all gamers. Many people like to jump right in to a game without reading the manual. Guiding them through a game and providing extra feedback would be helpful, since they would pick up many of the main points of the game easily. It would be of particular help for people with learning disabilities who did not have the attention span or reading ability for focus on a long manual. Additionally, provide the player with objective indicators or directional arrow can provide assistance to players who are lost.

Improve hardware support for miscellaneous special devices

* The standard mouse, joystick, or game pad are commonly supported. However some users with mobility problems use other types of special devices. Expanding the level of support to cover these devices would allow them to play a larger set of games.

Finer Control on Degrees of Difficulty

* Allow the modification of degrees of difficulty to a further extent than usual in games and provide a broad range of difficulty levels from incredibly simple to difficult. For example, for RTS games, add a speed slider or allow the game to be switched into a turn-based mode.

An optional simplified interface mode, with just the basic controls

* For a game with a complex interface, provide a simplified interface that displays only the most commonly used controls. The full features are still available, but are normally hidden from the user. This would assist those with mobility issues, especial if the simplified interface is smaller in size and requires less movement to navigate.

Assistive Modes

* Adding modes or options such as auto aim, or auto centering, the ability to lock on a target and more and help gamers who lack the motor or reactionary skills needed to aim in some games.

Additional Control Options

* Allow the player to enable south paw controls, invert the x and y axis, adjust the sensitivity on the joy sticks to ensure that the game as adjusted to their needs as possible.

Adjustable Motion Sensitivity

* With many of today’s games supporting some sort of motion control, such as the Wii, PS3 move, and XBox360 Kinect, it is important to make sure that these games will adapt to a wide range of types of movements, from people who over exaggerate to those who make very small motions.

Optional Alternate Movement Controls

* For example, if a game requires a player to jump, but the player is in a wheel chair, allow the player to select an option that allows the player to raise both hands at a certain location or certain speed that registers as a jump motion with out requiring the player to physically jump.



As you may notice, we don't even mention one button mode on this section of the website. I'm not sure what is not adequate about what we have.

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Re: January 24, 2011 - How could we define a minimum accessibility standard that is easy to implement for all game developers?

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