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MobyGames FAQ

Last updated on 19990512

Comments, questions, etc. about MobyGames or the MobyGames FAQ should be directed to feedback@mobygames.com.

The following document is a list of Frequently-Asked Questions (and their answers) regarding MobyGames (http://www.mobygames.com/), the world's most comprehensive personal computer gaming database project. (MobyGames and all related materials pertaining to MobyGames are Copyright 1999, Brian Hirt and Jim Leonard.)

The FAQ has grown to the point where it is both a manifesto and a manual of operations, so it has been divided into the following sections:

Select one of the above links to jump to that section or question.


Design Goals and Manifesto

What is MobyGames?

MobyGames is the working name of an extremely ambitious project: To meticulously catalog all relevant information about PC computer games on a game-by-game basis, and then offer up that information through flexible queries and "data mining". In layman's terms, it's a huge game database.

In addition to documenting much PC game information for historical posterity, anyone can contribute a rating or a review to voice their opinion about a particular game. Every rating and review in MobyGames was contributed by a real person who plays games just like you do. If a game is rated high or low in MobyGames, it is because the voting public put it there.

What might not be obvious from the above is the concept of a completely cross-referenced database, allowing practically anything you see on-screen to be a link or query to more information. From any game "rap sheet" (a comprehensive summary of that game's information), you can mine further into (and out of) the data.

How about an example of MobyGames? Using the rap sheet for "Civilization" as an example, let's say you want to play more games by the person who wrote Civilization. Just click on the designer (Sid Meier) from the full list of development credits and a new sheet comes up with all of Sid's games on it, from his early duds like Spitfire Ace (1984) to his latest masterpieces like Alpha Centauri (1999). You can then click any of those games, and their sheets come up, and the cycle continues. Exploring backward, you click on one of his older titles and see that it supports "Tandy" graphics in addition to CGA. "Tandy graphics? What the hell is that?" Click on Tandy, and a glossary entry on Tandy/PCjr graphics is displayed, along with all the games that support it. And so on.

But wait--I haven't illustrated MobyGames' queries yet (queries are slated for Q4 1999). We'll stay with the Civilization example but follow it into a different vein: Let's assume you want to try some of Sid's older works and just happen to have an old 80286 with EGA in the basement. You can search on "Designer: Sid Meier", "Graphics: CGA & EGA", "Minimum Requirements: 80286+", and "Sort By: User Rating". Not only does a list of his games come up that matches the search criteria, but it's sorted "best" to "worst" as rated by other people who have visited MobyGames and donated their opinion.

The above is just a simple example, and doesn't even scratch the surface of MobyGames' capabilities, but I think you get the idea. If you like the music in a certain game, you can search for all of that composer's games. If you want to search for all games that support 3D/FX Voodoo hardware accelerators, you can do it. If you have an older machine and want to find a list of good games (as rated by our users) for it to give to the nephew, you can execute a query that meets those requirements. If you just want to get a description of all the baseball games ever created for the PC, you can do it. If you want to search for games with an unlikely combination of interests (searching for realtime+interactive fiction+role-playing games brings up "Zyll", or searching for Racing+Arcade+Coin-Op conversions brings up "Pole Position" and "OutRun"), you can do it.

MobyGames is the world's largest and most flexible computer game documentation project in existence. And best of all, it's added to, rated, and reviewed by you--the gaming public. MobyGames is, literally, built by gamers.

What are MobyGames' main design goals?

MobyGames' main design goals are:

  • To record all relevant information about a game, including (but not limited to): system requirements; sound/video/input devices supported; game creators (programmers, graphic artists, musicians, etc.); publisher; and so on
  • To rate (and optionally review at greater length) each game in the database by several factors, and allow multiple ratings by different people for accuracy
  • To allow anyone to easily retrieve the information--including complex queries that can span multiple genres, time periods, system requirements, etc.
  • To open up the database to multiple contributors

I'll expand on each of the above bullet points:

Recording all relevant information: As previous examples have illustrated, the following will be documented and recorded into the database: Graphics modes, sound cards, minimum requirements, input devices, game developers (programmers, designers, musicians, graphic artists, etc.), publisher, screenshots, package materials (front/back box art, advertising blurbs, etc.), etc.

Ratings: MobyGames wouldn't be too useful if it didn't have ratings so you could separate the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ratings consist of a number value from 0 to 10 in different areas that are averaged together for a final score, and can optionally include short notes from each reviewer. And the best part is, ratings can be given by any MobyGames visitor. This results in a fair and accurate rating through quantity averaging. (We believe that games are best rated by the players themselves.) And if you've got more to say, spend a few minutes and review the game, writing what you like and dislike about it. The gaming community will thank you for it.

Contributors: In addition to both anonymous and non-anonymous ratings, people are strongly encouraged to submit their own database entries into MobyGames (user submissions is a feature slated for Q2 1999). We can't do it all ourselves, and we certainly can't keep up with all the new releases. Anyone, from collectors keeping history alive to game company representatives ensuring their games are properly cataloged, can become a contributor. Through multiple contributions, MobyGames can become a valuable historical public resource. In later planned implementations of MobyGames, you'll even be able to maintain your own on-line list of software, and trade with others!

Queries: Data is useless unless you can get at it. Not content to simply regurgitate, MobyGames offers the most flexible gaming-related retrieval system available.

What gaming platforms and time periods are covered by MobyGames?

In an effort to get the MobyGames database populated as quickly as possible, we're concentrating on all PC games (1981-present) for the first year of MobyGames' operation (PC games are what we know best). After that time, we'll write the necessary code and database structures to open up MobyGames to all personal computer platforms, including Amiga, Commodore 64, Apple, Atari, MacIntosh, Spectrum, TRS-80, BBC, and any other personal computer platform that you can think of.

(Please keep in mind that although MobyGames will be able to hold all non-PC information, there is no way that we could populate it since we don't own the hardware and software to do so. We will need your help--collectors, enthusiasts, etc.--in populating the databases for non-PC platforms.)

What isn't MobyGames?

MobyGames has a very focused direction--to record computer game information for posterity, historical research, and user-contributed ratings. We are not interested in re-inventing the wheel, nor are we interested in competing with professional gaming magazines. As such, you will not find the following on MobyGames:

  • The games themselves (offering commercial games for free is illegal, so we don't do it)
  • Game demos (we don't have the space, and it's best to get the demo from the game company anyway in case there are new patches, etc.)
  • Hints, cheats, walkthroughs, etc. (while we may reference you to other web sites with this information, we won't maintain any archives of it locally)
  • Patches or bug-fixes (no space and/or time to maintain this; the game companies themselves are the best places to get patches anyway)
  • Up-to-the-minute gaming news (there are tons of other web sites dedicated to gaming news)

By keeping our direction focused, we can concentrate on giving you the best possible service.


General Usage

Is there a fee for using MobyGames?

No, and there never will be.

Are cookies required to use MobyGames?

Cookies are not required until you log in with your user account. At that point, a single cookie will be set by MobyGames to keep track of you. By "keep track of you", we are not spying on you, collecting your browsing habits, or any of the other such cookie nonsense floating around the 'net. Instead, we are using cookies to make sure that you are who you say you are. This is prevent people from "hijaaking" your MobyGames session or otherwise pose as you. And if you let your browser store the cookie, you give MobyGames the capability to automatically log you in, which saves you time.

There are other, non-cookie methods that can do the same thing as all this, but cookies are the most cross-platform and work across firewalls and NAT. Besides, our use of cookies is completely harmless. We will send a free game to anyone who can prove otherwise--that's how strongly we believe this!

Is Java and/or Javascript required to use MobyGames?

No. MobyGames is dedicated to being as cross-platform as possible, and would never require Java or Javascript to use it. (Javascript is used occaisionally for administration purposes, but end-users don't have access to the admin interface.)

How do I get back to the main menu?

In a graphical browser, click on the MobyGames logo. In a text browser, select the "MobyGames.com" text at the top of the screen and hit ENTER.

Can I use Lynx to access MobyGames?

Yes, with some exceptions. Everything is available and displayed, but we are still working on getting the output looking "pretty" under text-only browsers.

We check for text-only browsers by searching for the user agent string "Lynx". If there are other text-only browsers that don't use this string, please let us know so that we can code that recognition into MobyGames.

What are some of the more advanced queries available on MobyGames?

Using the Advanced Query page (which is not yet available but should be completed by Q3 1999), you can search for some pretty interesting and wacko stuff, like:

  • All real-time strategy games made after 1995 sorted by user rating, so you can figure out what to play when Command and Conquer gets boring. (Starcraft, Myth, etc.)
  • All coin-op arcade game conversions that run on even the slowest 4.77MHz 8088 PC--and only the good ones, too, to give emulator authors a run for their money ;-). (Defender, Joust, Robotron, etc.)
  • All EA Sports games ever released sorted by user rating, so you can compare if the new ones really are better than the older ones. (Who said the CompUSA Bargain Bin was worthless? ;-)
  • Odd combinations, or "genre-spanning" games, like interactive fiction (also known as text-adventure games, or "Infocom" games) that also has role-playing, real-time, or graphic elements. (Or has all three, like the original Hero's Quest.)
  • Games that support Tandy/PCjr graphics and sound, for nostalgic value, or so that the old clunker in the basement is good for gaming when the nephews/nieces/grandkids come over for a visit.
  • All games that support Direct3D hardware acceleration in addition to Glide and OpenGL, so you can see what's available for your non-3D/fx Voodoo accelerator.
  • Specialized listings, like "top-down" RPGs (Ultimas 1-6, Wasteland, etc.) vs. "isometric" RPGs (Ultima 7-8, Diablo, etc.), vs. "1st-person" RPGs (Bard's Tale, Wizardry, Lands of Lore, etc.), and so on.

Nothing is hard-wired in our keyword-based system, so you're free to use your imagination.


User Accounts

What is a User Account and why would I want to create one?

A user account is an official "login" to MobyGames; by that, we mean that you have an identity known to MobyGames, which can be used for additional features and services. User accounts are completely free.'

User accounts are not required to use MobyGames. However, you lose out on some extra features if you do:

  • Creating a user account gives you the opportunity to be part of the MobyGames mailing list, which we use to send out new feature notifications, special offers, and other MobyGames-related information. (Becoming part of the mailing list is optional; you can turn it off if you don't want email from us.)
  • A user account gives you access to the contribution facility, where you can not only contribute to the MobyGames database and make it a better resource for everyone, but also get credit for your contributions. Each contribution you make--whether it be a screenshot, a box cover, or even a full game entry--will have your name attached to it.
  • Only people with user accounts will be able to participate in future contests and polls.

There are other benefits to creating a user account, but the reasons listed above are the most relevant.

We respect our users' right for privacy, so you can configure your account to never give out your email address, never send you email from us, and display a nickname or handle instead of your real name.

What is a Contribution Rating?

A Contribution Rating is the little number in parenthesis that appears next to your name or handle whenever displayed, like this:

Jim Leonard (126)
It's a tally of how much you've contributed to MobyGames. We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so the Contribution Rating tells others just how helpful you've been. Whenever you contribute, you're given one or more "points". Here's how the point system works:

Each contribution of... ...is worth:
A game entry 3 points
A box cover 3 points
A game review 2 points
A screenshot 2 points
A company 1 point
A related website 1 point
Rating a game About 1 point
A prequel/sequel half a point

Watching your contribution rating grow is our way of giving you the warm fuzzy feeling of helping us preserve the wonderful history of computer games.

We may also start offering prizes for high contributors, but the details of this has yet to be worked out.

Do you sell your user information to other parties?

No.

Why would I ever make my email address public?

Some people like to talk to others about computer games, so we created the ability to have your email address show up as part of your printed screen name. It's up to you; you are under no obligation to enable this feature.

Why should I join the MobyGames mailing list?

Mainly to keep abreast of major updates to MobyGames. We may broadcast additional MobyGames-related information over the mailing list, but news and updates are pretty much it for right now.

What are nicknames for?

You can specify a nickname or handle to be displayed instead of your real name; some people prefer this over having their real name displayed next to their contribution or review.


Concepts and Glossary of Terms

Where did you come up with the name for MobyGames?

The term Moby is old hacker slang meaning humongous, all-encompassing, and The Big One. We thought MobyGames was an appropriate title for a hacker/gamer-created project that tries to catalog tons of computer game information. The project is extremely ambitious, so we thought it should have a similarly ambitious name.

It's also easy to remember and rolls off the tongue quite nicely. :-)

The original title, as conceived in early 1997, was going to be The Vault, but no significant development occurred during that time and ClassicGaming.com started using it, so that name was dropped. Later, The Basement was adopted for the then-undecided project's goal of archiving classic games themselves (the reasoning was that "all great games end up in your basement"--get it?). When it became apparent that the project was truly serious, a name that best represented the scope of the project was chosen, and MobyGames was born. As for "rap sheet" for the name of the summary info, I don't know; it just popped into my head. (Yes, I know games != criminals.)

Well, that's much more than you wanted to know, isn't it? I'm a verbose person by nature, so now your brain is stuck with that useless bit of trivia for eons to come. Enjoy! ;-)

What is a MobyScore?

A MobyScore is the average of all the ratings a game has. You can use the MobyScore to determine how others feel about the game--whether it's great, good, okay, or just plain terrible. You can get a breakdown of how people rated the game's individual qualities by selecting the Rating Breakdown option on the left side of the page (or by selecting the actual MobyScore itself).

Why are old games given good ratings/reviews if there are newer games with the same theme?

Games are rated and reviewed with full consideration to their time period. We don't think it's fair to compare old games to new ones. Just because Wing Commander (1990) isn't as good in the visual department as modern 3D-accelerated shooters (Forsaken) doesn't mean it sucks--it was a great game for its time, and is rated appropriately for the year it came out.

Why do some games have more than one memory or operating system requirment when that's impossible?

Sometimes a game entry (King's Quest, for example) will have two memory requirements and also sometimes two operating system requirements. This is usually due to a game being re-released without any significant enhancements to the graphics or gameplay. It is MobyGames' policy to not enter a new entry for each release, patchlevel, etc. of a game, so if a re-release has slightly different requirements, they are both added. Any significant information about the two releases is entered into Trivia.

Following the above King's Quest example: King's Quest was released in 1984 as a self-booting diskette that required 128K of RAM, so "128K" is entered into RAM requirements, and "none (self-booting)" is entered into OS requirements. It was later re-relased as a DOS game, but requiring 256K of RAM, so "256K" of RAM gets entered into RAM requirements, and "DOS 2.11" gets entered into OS requirements. (The 1990 EGA SC1 release of King's Quest was a complete overhaul of the locations, graphics, and music, so it gets a seperate entry.)

Obviously, this is very kludgy. We are open to suggestions on how to make this cleaner.

How do duplicate-named games get entered into the database?

By adding a number after the title in parentheses. Let's say there was a game from 1983 called "Xenophage"; it gets entered into the database normally. Then, someone finds a game called "Xenophage" from 1995 that has nothing to do with the Xenophage of 1983; it (the 1995 one) gets entered as "Xenophage (2)". Same name, but two completely different games.


History

Who is behind MobyGames?

Glad you asked.

  • Jim Leonard owns the brain that gave birth to MobyGames. He's a twisted individual with an unnatural love for old games that were designed and written well. When not writing new content for MobyGames or its sister site The Oldskool PC, Jim lives in Illinois with his wife and son, who somehow manage to tolerate his 16+-year relationship with personal computers.
  • Brian Hirt is the coding juggernaut that continuously breathes life into MobyGames. If you think the Keyword Search is too fast, complain to Brian--he's the one optimizing the code. (He's also had years of experience doing this stuff, so it's no surprise he's the one doing the bulk of the coding.) Brian also has normal interests, like classical guitar and exercise, so don't think he's as twisted as Jim.

Why did you create MobyGames?

All personal computer games, from the early attempts to the latest "blockbusters", have the potential for a truly great gaming experience that transports the player away from his chair and truly entertains in a thought-provoking or exciting way. It would be a terrible shame if references to these games and their creators were never constructed. (And the user ratings and reviews practically jumped off the screen once we started the project--what better way to find good games than consulting your gaming peers?)

I (Jim) got the idea for MobyGames several times over the last decade. Whenever I would play a game I really liked, whether it was the incredible graphics, fast code, wonderful music, or game design, I found myself wanting to learn more about what other people though of the game, and also if there were more games like it. For particularly ingenious game designs or coding, I wanted to know more about who created it. MobyGames is the physical embodiment of those desires.

How was MobyGames constructed?

MobyGames uses mod_perl for server-side code, and PostgreSQL for the database back-end. All queries to the database are made via standard SQL. All HTML was written by hand in VI (including this FAQ that you're reading now).

To answer a technical question before it gets asked: As you can tell by the nature of MobyGames, the database is very normalized; some of the queries get into some funky outer joins. This is the primary reason we chose PostgreSQL over MySQL, since MySQL cannot handle some of the SQL functionality that we require. PostgreSQL also has some additional SQL options that make our job easier, like the OFFSET and LIMIT modifiers to the SELECT statement.

Where did all of the MobyGames database information come from?

This is up to the person who adds the entry, but many entries are entered completely from memory. But me personally? If I don't know enough about the game to give it a proper entry, I start at the source. Usually the game's documentation itself is checked, then the game itself (credits listed under the title screen, video/sound boards supported at the configuration screen, etc.). If nothing is found, the program binaries are then peeked at. If all else fails, a general web search is performed.

Occasionally, one of the original designers or programmers is able to add information (see "Tass Times in Tonetown"'s Trivia section for an example).

What's next for MobyGames development?

We have several new features planned (but please note that this list could change between now and then):

  • A "Find Similar" search that will find games similar to the current game being displayed, based on genre keywords.
  • A "Find Hints/Cheats/Spoilers" search that will search the web for hints/cheats/spoilers for the current game being displayed.
  • A "If you like this, you'll love..." query that will find similar games based on user reviews (if your likes and dislikes are similar to a particular reviewer, it will take that into account and show you games that reviewer liked).
  • The ability for users to maintain an on-line list of the games they own, and the games they want.
  • The ability for users to trade games they own with other users, using the aforementioned list capability.
  • A featured Game Of The Week.
  • A weekly poll.

As these features develop, we'll notify you via the MobyGames mailing list (if you're a member) and the News section at the top of the site. Stay tuned...


Miscellaneous

Where's all of the legal mumbo-jumbo I should know about?

No official legal mumbo-jumbo just yet, but here's an idea of what to expect:

  • MobyGames reserves the right to reject any contributions if they are below a standard level of quality or inappropriate.
  • Once information is entered into the MobyGames database, it becomes the property of MobyGames.
  • MobyGames is a trademark of Brian Hirt and Jim Leonard.
  • All content, code, and text is Copyright 1999, Brian Hirt and Jim Leonard.

Why should I use MobyGames when there are already other game and software review web sites?

That's a damn good question, and one that I'm happy to answer:

  • While other game review sites have verbose reviews written by professional critics, they tend to have only the most current reviews online. MobyGames is not strictly limited to new games; our database goes back almost 20 years.
  • Finding a review on other gaming sites is usually a chore--you usually have to know the exact name of the game, or you can't separate "motorcycle racing" from all racing games in the search results, or something else equally frustrating.
  • Games are rated by multiple people and reviewed by real gamers, for results that aren't biased and artificially inflated. A rating or review in MobyGames actually means something.

MobyGames is much, much more than a review site, as explained earlier in this document. If reviews are the only thing you're looking for, we encourage you to use MobyGames in conjunction with other web sites in your searches.

Aren't you worried about copyright, trademark, or intellectual property infringement?

Why would we? MobyGames doesn't do anything illegal. In fact, we're covered by Fair Use:

PER TITLE 17 - UNITED STATES CODE - SECTION 107 "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include - 1 the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 2 the nature of the copyrighted work; 3 the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4 the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."

The specific phrase above to pay attention to is "for purposes such as criticism, comment,...or research, is not an infringement of copyright." Since MobyGames is used for those purposes, MobyGames is not violating copyright.

In fact, we own the information in the database, since it is a work of our efforts, including both entering data and the structures/code that house it.

Can I use the MobyGames database for my own purposes?

How else would you use it? :-) You can't suck down the entire database, but feel free to use any specific piece of information for whatever you like. All we ask is that you properly credit us in anything you publish, either by name (MobyGames) or site name (www.mobygames.com).

I don't see my favorite game in the database... where is it?

Try typing a partial string into the Keyword Search box if you're unsure of the spelling. If you do that and you still can't find it, email support@mobygames.com asking that the entry be added, and we'll push it up to the top of the queue.

What's your relationship with The Oldskool PC?

One of the creators of MobyGames, Jim Leonard, also runs The Oldskool PC. The Oldskool PC is a website dedicated to classic PC gaming nostalgia and resources.

What are your favorite games?

Jim: I'm an oddball; I like any game that has one or more outstanding elements, like competent programming, great graphics, or excellent music. If you had to force me to name five in no particular order, I'd say:

  1. Rocket Ranger, for being the quintessential Cinemaware game.
  2. Hack (not Nethack), for teaching me VI years before knew what VI was, and for leading me on the search for The Amulet for more hours than I can count.
  3. Wasteland, for being the first game (for me) to have the perfect blend of NPC characterization, detailed locations, and finely-crafted graphics.
  4. Doom, for defining a genre (and making my jaw drop when I saw my 386/40 do the impossible).
  5. Both Stunts and Stunt Driver, for letting me fulfill my need to drive fast cars really fast, and then create my own tracks to extend that need to a crazy new echelon.

Brian: (hasn't answered this yet ;-)

How do I capture screenshots for MobyGames?

That depends on the kind of program you're trying to capture screenshots from and what kind of video card is installed in your machine. Here's a listing of just about every possible program and graphics mode, including uncommon situations:

Trying to capture... Use This Program Here's Why
Text-mode screens or tweaked "high-res" screens (80x100x16 and 160x100x16) Our free "classic" text-mode capture utility Creates authentic "classic" text-mode captures. We wrote it just for you, and it's free, so download it today! :-) Great for Infocom games; also captures "high-res" tweaked CGA modes like 80x100x16 and 160x100x16. Works on any PC ever made.
Bootable Games Flopper Flopper has a screen dump and GIF conversion program that works very well for bootable games that use CGA.
CGA, EGA, VGA, Tweaked VGA, or SVGA graphics modes Screen Thief. Screen Thief captures any CGA/EGA/VGA screen, including tweaked VGA modes, and also SuperVGA screens if you have a supported chipset.
VGA, Tweaked VGA, or VESA graphics modes Video Thief Extremely powerful! Can capture from protected-mode programs, VESA BIOS 1.2 and 2.0 (even LFB!) graphics modes, and even allows you to reprogram the PIC so that you can capture from games that completely take over the keyboard.
Windows games (including Direct3D) HyperSnap Works well.
Any graphics mode that isn't coming off of a VGA card CAMERA An excellent general screen capture utility for just about all video modes running on their native hardware, like CGA, EGA, Hercules, and even the hard-to-capture Tandy 1000/PCjr 320x200x16 mode.

Capture Guidelines: MobyGames only accepts GIF and JPEG formats. If the program you want to capture uses a high-color (64000 colors) or true-color (16.7 million colors) video mode, you should capture and convert it to a JPEG file. Otherwise, all 256-color and lower screen captures should be stored as a GIF file.

Since Screen Thief, Video Thief, and CAMERA.COM don't save in GIF or JPEG formats, you must use an intermediate conversion utility, such as Image Alchemy, Paint Shop Pro or Graphics Workshop, to convert your screen captures to GIF or JPEG. (Image Alchemy and Graphics Workshop are available in DOS versions for those who can't run Windows.) Another kick-ass swiss-army-knife is DISPLAY. Get past the interface, and you'll find the most powerful graphics manipulation utility for DOS ever.

Please note that the above "rules" don't exist to make your life harder--we're just trying to help you take great screenshots that you'll be proud of.


Congratulate yourself if you've read the entire FAQ up to this point! You must be really interested in MobyGames--thanks!

\MobyGames Copyright © 1999-2000, Jim Leonard and Brian Hirt.
All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.
\
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