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GBH

First Impressions Feedback (Very Wordy)

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Alright! So I've only had a chance to play about an hour or so thusfar, but here are my first observations. Overall, pretty freakin' fantastic! Especially for pre-alpha, hot damn. And I haven't managed to break the game catastrophically yet, which seems like a good sign.

 

Silly minor issues y'all probably know about already:

Some buildings (especially shops) generate with their doorways about three feet off the ground, couple instances of shops generating right next door to an identical shop (I assume you'll have more shop models later), yellow leaf texture on the pavement tends to overlay peoples' feet so it looks like they've begun to melt into the ground, found some dudes casually walking through walls (though to be fair that just added to the creepiness factor), framerate dropped like a stone if I messed with the graphics settings at all (not down to hardware since this laptop runs all other games at ultra with no issue).

 

Gameplay features that have confused me so far:

Possibly related to my being a bit slow, but it took me a bit to figure out I had to hold down E to leave the starting area. Adding a simple "press and hold" above the command prompt the first time you use it would solve this issue. I spent a while saying hello to everyone I passed, finding that to be a neat mechanic, but was then saddened when I said hello to an old lady and she immediately tried to clobber me. How rude. It was dark out by then so perhaps she just didn't approve of me being out past my bedtime or something? A warning or clue (perhaps in the form of her screaming something like "HOW DARE YOU SAY HELLO TO OLD LADIES AFTER DARK YOU RUDDY PERVERT" or the like) as to why exactly she thought it prudent to murder me would be nice.

 

Also while I've sort of vaguely followed release notes and thus more or less know what's up with all the scraggly folks hanging around the blown-out houses, I was confused as to what made them so thoroughly pissed off at me all the time? I found a few things that looked like maybe they were special events, like a tea party all set up on the road, but the scraggly people were so enraged by the mere sight of my face I wasn't able to interact with it. Was also slightly befuddled that I couldn't say hello to these angry folks. Do I need to adjust my behaviour depending on which side of town I'm on, then? Or is there just no way to stop the angry folks being suspicious? I suppose if they've lost their minds then there's ample justification to say they're just paranoid, but it would be fun if there was a way to adjust your behaviour to fit in with the crazy loonies as well as with the 'normal' folks. Leading perhaps to situations where you need to keep a fine balance between acting nutso and normal to convince two opposing parties that you're on both their sides at once, maybe? That would be pretty neat.

 

Lastly it's reeeeally easy to just turn tail and bugger off whenever folks are angry with you. I pissed off probably about two dozen policemen and then escaped by just running, which granted is probably a good idea when a man's trying to kill you, but I feel like it shouldn't be that easy to get away from an angry mob. Obviously this is incredibly early in development so the AI isn't too sophisticated yet, but if somewhere down the line it becomes much more costly to run (perhaps by implementing that excellent stamina meter that pops up when you jump, which I love) and thereby one becomes forced to choose between the easier-but-costly running or harder-but-cheap finding somewhere to hide, that'd be awesome.

 

I suppose overall what I'm hoping to see in later builds is a much weaker player character, or at least the option for one. Over in my modded Fallout 3 game I've been playing a stealth-based character who's got the approximate constitution of a wet paper towel, and being that wimpy and defenseless forces a really immersive level of paranoia and strategic planning. Not only in combat scenarios but in dialogue as well, since you'll always be looking to avoid conflict at all costs. That's the feel I'd expect out of a game with this premise. I mean after all we do get this (gorgeously illustrated) image of a sad, weedy man who looks like he hasn't eaten in days as our protagonist. I wouldn't expect him to be the type to just casually punch folks to death and sprint dead away from a cop without a care in the world, right? Having him feel every bit as weak and desperate as he looks on the menu screen will go a huge way towards your atmosphere and player engagement. And then as you get better at the game you can craft a sword or something and give the poor lanky nerd his revenge fantasy, hah.

 

Anyway! I type a lot, sorry.

 

In summary I think the game looks amazing, plays very well, the animations are incredible (especial bonus points for the way he catches himself when jumping off a great height, and the knock-down sequences, loved those), art direction is to die for, and I like the atmosphere a lot, in particular the background music and Uncle Jack's radio/tv show ambiance. I hope to eventually see a much weaker PC, more serious incentive to avoid getting into fights, and greater clarity as to what on earth NPCs are expecting of me. (Say hello to everyone? Don't say hello? Say hello only on a Thursday in pleasant weather?) Having tricky situations where you have to carefully juggle suspicions would be really neat to see further down the line as well.

 

Can't wait to see how this game develops! And yeah I'm probably gonna type massive essays like this on a continual basis. I'm a writer, can't help it.

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Oh, haha! Well after getting to play a bit more (plans cancelled this evening, what luck) I've now discovered sprinting, which does drain the stamina. This of course means it's entirely possible to escape the police with a brisk walk, though, which is actually a bigger issue than when I thought I was running.

 

Also found a torn suit and such so the angry folks aren't as angry now. Tutorials! Y'all will need a tutorial option, haha. Because it's not readily apparent that changing one's suit is going to help with the whole loonies want you dead situation.

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different types of willies have different habilities, old ladys are expecially powerful detecting you are a downer, even from HUGE distances

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I'd sort of gathered that, and to be honest it sort of makes sense since they have elderly wisdom and all that, but without a reliable way to counteract their nosiness it just ends up being a game of avoid the old people. Which is difficult since they're everywhere. I'd rather be able to trick the old people and get a penalty if I screw up, rather than just have them mysteriously able to sniff out my sadness despite saying hello like a polite young man.

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I'm curious since I haven't been able to get that far in -- when you were detected by the old lady, were you on a decent amount of Joy or not? I remember hearing the Joy level will influence whether you can make it through the Joy detector sometimes set up on bridges. Since you said the lady seemed fine during the day I'm wondering if that's because of the day/night cycle or because you had a certain level of the city's tainted food/water in your system.

 

I remember one of the devs saying in a livestream that Joy is basically "short-term gain for mid-term loss", since taking too much will lower suspicion but eventually cause you to bottom out. That might be it. (Or else the lady just needs a bit more balancing...)

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^From my experience she'll still notice you if you're high on Joy, but you have to be much closer. Joy detectors and beams won't notice you at all when you're tripping.

 

However, Joy eventually causes you to crash and drastically lowers your Hunger and Thirst bars (the amount seems to be dependent on how full your Joy bar is when you crash). Also, while you're crashing, Wellies will notice you more easily (you'll be at yellow suspicion)

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Yeah, I saw someone crash on a stream once -- it was pretty funny in the "Oh god what's happening" kind of way.

 

Related, I agree with other posters who would like a HUD option to display thirst, hunger and Joy in real-time. I know it clutters the screen somewhat but it was awkward paging back and forth between the world and the interface to see just how desperately I needed a pump.

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I didn't even know I was able to take Joy the first time she clobbered me. And I'd not yet bothered to eat or drink anything (which, in retrospect, begs the question of why I hadn't passed out yet - maybe she noticed I was hungry?) so there was no Joy to be had.

 

I actually only got my first encounters with Joy on this last playthrough, wherein I took some at a phone booth (incidentally whilst trying to hide from a mob sicced on me by an old lady) and then again later when I massively overdosed after getting gassed in some sort of fiendish Downer trap. After the first dose of Joy I walked outside and the little festive pennants hanging off the buildings had all become massive and were stretched out blocking the streets. Wasn't quite sure if that was a graphical glitch or if Joy just makes everything ten times as festive? (Pretty sure it was a glitch.) I do think an old lady tried to accost me then as well but I was busy being mystified by the colour effects and walked away without paying much attention.

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After the first dose of Joy I walked outside and the little festive pennants hanging off the buildings had all become massive and were stretched out blocking the streets.

 

...that actually sounds pretty awesome.

 

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It was pretty friggin' trippy I gotta say.

 

In regards to Joy, though... so I've been taking amphetamines on a daily basis for several years now (legally, for ADHD) and from that frame of reference the mechanics of Joy dosage and duration make very little sense. I mean generally when you have a capsule of something it's meant to be an extended release variety, right, because by nature the coating of the capsule will prevent the contents from being immediately emptied into the stomach. But taking a capsule of Joy somehow kicks in instantaneously. Moreover, that instant high gets you absolutely wrecked and the crash is both extremely hard and extremely quick. Those are all the features of drug abuse, not normal everyday maintenance use. And they're usually the features of an IV stimulant.

 

So, either the Wellies are all set up with an insulin pump full of Joy, or they somehow all manage to perfectly balance that age-old game of "try to keep your high constant even though your drug wears off in ten minutes", which is generally a lifestyle reserved for cokeheads. Having once spent a good six months trying to manage that particular tightrope act myself I find it hard to believe all these folks are somehow mysteriously able to avoid either overdosing themselves or ending up on a rollercoaster of crash-high-crash all throughout the day.

 

Though I suppose an alternative explanation is that the player character simply isn't metabolizing the Joy correctly. Maybe he's hypersensitive to it so he gets all the drug in one fantastical go instead of a steady dosage like you're intended to? Or, hell, maybe that's why the Wastrels are all screwed up? Those unlucky souls whose digestive systems don't process the drug right. What if they've developed a severe tolerance? Ah geez, now I feel even worse for bashing their heads in.

 

... I should probably stop over-analyzing a lore that hasn't even been properly released yet.

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ah, but over-analyzing is part of the fun of a pre-alpha game. maybe our character DOES have an off reaction to joy, since it would help explain the sudden spikes and crashes - i never thought of it that way before

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From what I understand, the Wastrels are people that have undesirable reactions to Joy- which is why they're exiled from town. They keep saying things that are sad/remind them of bits and pieces of the Very Bad Thing, plus they're a little bit off their rockers. The player character is in the garden district, so Joy not working properly makes the most sense. It seems to work more like Nitrous at the dentist's (wears off once it's not being administered) than a sustained maintenance mood-enhancing drug. On top of that, much of the food and all of the water/drinks in town have Joy in them.

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I had to come up with a story off the top of my head because i had to babysit my 10 year old nephew Friday and there was no freaking way that i was waiting for him to leave before jumping on. So the story i fed him was there's a poor town and a rich town and because they are all sad that there was a war they decided to all start using *scary evil voice* DRUGS... but when you take drugs you get addicted so you need more and more and the poor people couldn't afford them, so they would steal and kill for it. The rich people kicked the poor people out Which Made Them crazy and that's why they chase you. When you sneak into the rich town you can blend in but you are poor so you have to break into peoples homes to find food and water, @GBH regarding the doses I just assumed since they have been taking it for so long and they lace everything with joy that they need a constant supply and therefor what you take is extremely potent hence the crashing from just a couple pills. ( on a side note in retrospect im realizing what a awesome storyteller i am and i should become a children's author)

 

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@GBH - I think the peculiarities of Joy (particularly what KIND of drug it is) have been discussed before somewhere, probably in General Discussion. The explanation was, if I recall, "Whatever kind you think makes sense, but it's fictional and so it does whatever it needs to". So I'm not too bothered by the side effects. :)

 

However, speaking as someone who's been on several non-amphetamine type long-term maintenance doses, I will say having a steady dose (in this case, in the Wellies' food and water) as well as individual instant-reaction pills (like the Joy dispensers in town) is comparable to how I'm being treated for my anxiety disorder. I take daily doses of xanax XR in addition to an antidepressant, both of which are, as you say, extended releases. I take these daily and notice no particular high or low. However, for "breakthrough" events, like severe panic attacks, I also have the traditional xanax. Instant-release will act in about 10-20 minutes depending on how recently you've eaten. (Ambien is similar, and my unprepared first experience was a lot like your encounter with the pennants...)

 

Another thing I've noticed is that while it's hard to balance between a maintenance dose and the diminishing returns of habituation, if you discontinue certain meds for a certain period of time your tolerance will reset. I've noticed this myself, and I've seen it intentionally done in a clinical setting with some others (I believe the one I'm thinking of had to do with insulin), either due to tolerance or undesirable side effects. If Joy is not a particularly long-acting drug or if the player character has been off it for a while I can see taking what would have been considered a low dose at one point have some unusually drastic consequences.

 

While I agree with you the side effects and "high" are radically accelerated, I think that's a necessary evil for viable gameplay. As @ceruleanspiral noted, I believe it's been said the wastrels are those who had a bad reaction to Joy, or on whom it stopped working entirely. That would mean everyone in Wellington Wells is playing Medicinal Roulette and has little choice about it.

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@SyAlmans Ah, good point about tolerance resetting! Not sure how I forgot about that bit. But then yeah, I'm curious as to this guy's backstory. I've had episodes where a drug that was working fine suddenly doesn't anymore, so I wonder if one day Joy just stopped really affecting him, or started to have weird side-effects, and out of fear of being exiled he just stopped taking it? Then he starts to remember all the Bad Things and so on and so forth.

 

I like the distinction, then, between the Wastrels being people with poor reactions to Joy, and the Downers as people with little/no reaction to it, or whose reactions are unpleasant enough to make them stop taking it but not bad enough to drive them insane. Gives the entire concept of being a Downer a much more tragic bent than it already had, I think. I mean at least the Wastrels get to lose their minds and live in relative peace. A Downer can't experience Joy yet remains sane enough to know exactly what it is he's missing.

 

Incidentally this whole literal spin on the depressive/disillusioned mindset seems like it'll pretty much guarantee mass audience appeal with the 20s/30s crowd, so long as the execution's up to snuff.

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@GBH Yeah, I'm also curious about the backstory. I'd guess that the protagonist saw or experienced something that caused him to choose to stop taking it. Given his apparent age and the fact WWII was 20ish years ago by the time of the game, it's also possible that he was started on it young and before he really had a choice in the matter, like a kid or teen who's medicated "for his own good". Now he's either decided to discontinue it for some reason or been without/unaffected by it long enough that he just wants out.

 

Personally, I lean towards the theory that downers choose to stop taking the drug. It seems implied in some of the marketing materials, but it also gives the protagonist a little more agency -- not reacting, but acting.

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@SyAlmans Ooh, there's a thought, though! Are there going to be children in the towns? At least, ones we get to see? Because there must be some hidden around here somewhere as evidenced by the fact that I've just stumbled upon a childrens' playground in the middle of one of the town areas -- laughed my ass off upon finding out that interacting with the toys will instantly erase all Wellie suspicion of you. "Nothing odd here, ma'am! Just a grown man playing on the teeter-totter, lovely day for it!"

 

And while I do tend to prefer the idea of personal agency, and a protagonist who chose to become an outlaw, there would have to be a compelling reason for him to do so. Otherwise he just seems like a bit of a masochist. A main character whose whole world just crumbled down around him one day would be delightfully tragic, I think. And the underlying moral lesson in his choosing to find a way to survive instead of wallowing in self-pity would feel very in-tune with the whole post-WWII England setting. Keep calm and carry on, y'know. Your life's literally bereft of all Joy but you've got to soldier on for Queen and Country, m'boy.

 

I'm sure whichever way the plot goes will be utterly fascinating, though.

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@GBH It's been confirmed by the devs (in a livestream by youtuber ChristopherOdd -- the videos are uploaded on Youtube) that there is a definite reason we don't see children. There is also an insane amount of graffiti in the Garden district with less than pleasant connotations. The one that strikes me the most is the image of a boy and girl with their faces scratched out. (I feel comfortable saying these are children, because the boy is wearing short pants.) There's also the "WHEN WILL THEY STOP CRYING" scrawl and walls full of names. So you know. Not creepy at all.

 

While I think it's been removed from the in-game avatar, I seem to remember that the concept art of the glasses-guy included a nametag, like some sort of inspector or someone with a decent degree of security clearance. If he was stationed out in the Garden or somewhere far from Joy for some reason it's not beyond reason that he didn't start off inadvertently missing his meds -- or else he saw something that caused him to stop taking it.

 

The big question is, what exactly did these people do? On its face it feels monstrous to murder wastrels and Wellies just trying to go about their business, but the Kickstarter itself referred to the protagonists as mildly horrible people. Knowing what their crime was would go a long way towards explaining why someone might choose to go off their meds. I also don't want to say it's ever justifiable to, say, choke someone to death while they sleep and rob their house, but it may give some context as to why the protagonist is apparently fine with using lethal force.

 

 

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@SyAlmans Well, well, that's interesting. Right before reading your post I stumbled upon a room full of little beds with scrap-heap effigies of children all laid out like they were sleeping in the top floor of a Wastrel house. And in the cupboards were shovels. A'right then.

 

So perhaps the threat of imminent war led the community to pull a mass Machine for Pigs gambit and their collective coping mechanism in the aftermath is Joy. But then if the war was the catalyst/setting for this Very Bad Thing involving eternally-crying children wouldn't our protagonist have been a child himself when it happened? Or at best a teenager?

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@GBH First, damn, that sounds awesome. I haven't seen that one yet.

 

Second, a couple weeks ago Compulsion posted a two-part series of Uncle Jack telling

. Worth noting is the strangely German-sounding "rats", and the fact that instead of the traditional version (that the Piper claimed only their children as payment) it was the entire village that was taken. I'm still ruminating on this, but there seems to be some digression from real history based on the old propaganda posters urging people to join Germany in the fight against communism. I would suspect that in this version of history Germany either allied with England or managed to occupy them as they did France, and the "very bad thing" had to do with getting them out.

 

Now, two of the three player characters seem to be somewhat young -- art isn't perfect but they seem mid-30s at most. If the timeline's about equivalent I'd guess the younger man and the woman in the sassy hat were just old enough to be spared whatever might have happened to the children. If this is the case they may have had marginally less culpability in the sacrifice (no children of their own to sacrifice, but maybe lost siblings). It would also have placed them in a very vulnerable situation where they were taking mind-altering drugs while their brain chemistry was still developing and/or they were doing so at the instruction of their parents. So -- possibly they didn't really have the resources to make a fully informed decision about taking Joy at the time OR they aged out of it, so to speak.

 

It makes a degree of sense for individuals on the cusp of adulthood whenever the Bad Thing happened would be more likely to lash out at the Wellies without quite the same moral compunctions - witness to what happened and receiving its benefits, but not fully participating in it. I mean yeah, it's an issue of survival, but it may also be out of a sense of betrayal and displaced rage.

 

 

Addendum just for fun:

 

Wikipedia has a delightful article full of speculation about the origin of the Pied Piper myth and possible explanations. While some of them are interesting, if a little outlandish, these elements in particular seem thematically plausible.

 

Others have suggested that the children left Hamelin to be part of a pilgrimage, a military campaign, or even a new Children's crusade (which is said to have occurred in 1212) but never returned to their parents. ...

 

It has also been suggested that one reason the emigration of the children was never documented was that the children were sold to a recruiter from the Baltic region of Eastern Europe, a practice that was not uncommon at the time. In her essay Pied Piper Revisited, Sheila Harty states that surnames from the region settled are similar to those from Hamelin and that selling off illegitimate children, orphans or other children the town could not support is the more likely explanation.

 

 

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@SyAlmans Oh wow, I'd not seen the Pied Piper story telling. That's basically the entire backstory right there, isn't it? Aside from the very German rats we also have a Piper whose accent is very distinct. My first instinct is to say he sounds like Churchill, but then there might be other historical British figures with the same kind of grumbly jowly accent, I'm not sure.

 

While it's kind of absurd to read too much into this, it does sound like the whole tale is probably a veiled telling of the game's backstory. Details like the wolves coming down to attack the sheep and the crows waiting for rotting meat have no bearing on the plot of Jack's story, for example, and so they must have been included for another reason, as part of a different story. We're set after WWII here, yes? So wolves from the mountains would make me think first of Germany. But then they would appear to be the rats, so... maybe some other aggressive world power? (Russia?) And the crows I would think must be war profiteers, whether civilian or political, who commit atrocities in the name of their trade and cover up war crimes and/or illegal political dealings, hence refusing to say what else besides wolves kill the sheep at night.

 

Since the rats only come in the summer, and they very specifically come from France, then that might suggest that in this version of history the first London Blitz (occurring around springtime 1940, I think) was successful enough to lead to a German land invasion. (Or, as you said, maybe England simply allied with Germany for some reason.) After being occupied by German forces the town is eventually liberated by this expy of Churchill, which I guess would mean British military intervention, and I suppose his demand of payment might be war taxation. But then I'd not really think of Wellington Wells as a town of jerkasses just for refusing to pay their taxes...? I mean it's kind of a dick move but nowhere near an "omg you monsters" sort of level.

 

It seems pretty significant that the pipes themselves were described in such detail, so I suspect some metaphor there. (Unless that's part of the original story, I dunno, I don't feel like looking it up.) And it would seem to make sense if the Piper "stealing" the village is a metaphor for the government (or whomever) forcibly recruiting them into some sort of wartime experimentation program. The lame smith's reaction to being unable to follow the music is a standard enough trope for drug addiction, after all.

 

But then the overall plot there doesn't really jive with the "these people are really monsters" and "something they did killed all the children" aspects, nor does it explain why they need to forget so badly. And if Joy originally came from the person/institution they betrayed rather than being a deliberate action on their part then that would turn the Wellies into sympathetic victims rather than cowardly villains.

 

I wandered around the game world for an hour or two last night but didn't find any more clues besides a big empty church. Kind of amusing that my biggest drive for exploring the world map right now is to find lore-related stuff and not, y'know, actual attempts at winning.

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@GBH If nothing else, we do know (from the concept art on the Kickstarter) that there's an island town called Hamelyn. So all I'm prepared to say at this point is that it's definitely an allegory, but how specific it may be is kind of up for grabs. Though the wolves/crows/rats thing may represent the Axis powers...

 

(Personally I am almost certain that in this version of history Germany either successfully occupied Britain or Britain surrendered to their demands, hence the "DARE TO ENDURE" posters.)

 

This is way into speculation territory, but since there's not only emphasis on lost children but also a total lack of children currently I'm wondering if the Wellies have either been 1) sterilized (as in some kind of eugenics program) or 2) are still forfeiting their offspring to this day as part of the deal. That would mean they've surrendered their futures to preserve their present. Or perhaps their future was the price for . . . whatever.

 

This is also wild speculation but I'm pretty sure Uncle Jack is, or is at least a representative of, the Piper in this scenario. For one, he just gives that kind of otherworldly, Big Brother-vibe. For another, "Jack Ketch" is slang for the Devil. So you know.

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@GBH I'm sorry I don't have a very detailed analysis to type up, but I did want to point out that in the "Join Germany in the fight against Communism!" poster we find in the Garden District, German and British soldiers are shown fighting a wolf. Connection to the wolves in the story, perhaps?

GWJgmGl.jpg

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I thought the kickstarter video specifically mentioned that the germans won and occupied england in this reality.

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