Non-factors raging again? Good thing we can easily replace them!

I don’t always agree with Tobold, as we generally approach MMO games from two very different viewpoints, along with having different writing styles, but I’m in total agreement with the basis for this post and the ones before it, and can’t help but laugh at all the people disagreeing and frothing with rage.

Whenever I’m playing a themepark MMO, I’m always playing either the tank or the healer (usually the tank). The reason? Because I know I’m better than the ‘average’ themepark player, and rather than ‘waste’ that skill on a simple and replaceable role (dps), I’m much better off playing something critical. Lets face it, most instances can be beaten with a good tank and healer, plus whatever filler dps you find, and a super-star dps player won’t do much if the tank or healer can’t do their job.

Just a few days ago my buddies and I were talking about our old WoW raiding days, and how much better things would have gone if one of our friends has played a priest rather than a mage, as his talent was under-utilized in the easily replaceable and somewhat non-impact DPS role. Furthermore, while I remember our standout tanks (me basically) and healers, I’m having trouble remembering who topped the dps charts, or who played any kind of critical dps role. Actually, the only thing I do remember about DPS is wondering how some of them were so inferior to our better guys, given that everyone had similar gear. But that inferiority meant nothing more than clearing a raid a bit slower, while if we had our sub-par healers on, it usually meant not making much progress (I was the MT, so, you know, that area was always solid, unless I let one of my underlings try and MT, much to the chagrin of everyone else in the raid). Furthermore, while we often kicked dps players who were terribly, you had to be a complete and utter mutant to be kicked if you played a healer.

I think that is why people are so up in arms about what Tobold wrote; because the average dps player switching to a vital role would expose them. It’s easy to go unnoticed as a slightly below average rogue/mage/hunter, but play poorly as a tank or healer, and everyone sees it. If you are in even a semi-competitive guild, that might mean getting kicked, or at least not being selected for a raid. And not only can dps ‘hide’ their skills, but generally the bar is set lower for them to perform anyway. Generally dps roles don’t position raid bosses, they generally don’t have to worry about burst damage or sustained healing, or theory-crafting out how to handle the next encounter. Nope, they show up, mash 1-2-3-2, and at most worrying not to mash too fast to grab agro (and the bad ones do that anyway, which a good tank will overplay to make up for them). Of course there are examples were dps does more , but is it any surprise that generally, those bosses are considered the tough ones?

So while it’s amusing to watch reply after replay, post after post, talking about ‘player freedom’ or how this is Blizzard’s fault (ignoring the fact that this setup existed long before WoW launched…) and all that nonsense, I think a large kernel of truth lies in the fact that, when you really break it down, the ‘average’ player is scared to play a vital role and expose or challenge themselves. Playing a role that requires 100% attention is ‘work’, and “it’s just a game”. One which you sit for 30 minutes in a queue for to avoid getting noticed.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Non-factors raging again? Good thing we can easily replace them!

  1. Mala says:

    Right on. I’ve tended towards tanks and healers as well (usually healer as its my personal preference) over the years. I’ve made a hell of a lot of friends, or at least, people to play with, just by being a good healer and being noticed for it. Heck, even when WoW went random dungeon happy I got a lot of praise in groups for keeping DPS alive despite poor tanks that couldn’t tank stuff.

    I wouldn’t devalue legitimately good DPS as much as you would thought, I learned that the hard way once blizzard started putting in more DPS races (don’t know if they still do). In any event, I think the team sport thing is a good analogy, and it is in fact the exact same analogy that my raid guild used back in vanilla. We said, it isn’t a job, but we are like a sports team, and if you aren’t willing to put in the effort “off the field” you won’t get time “on the field.” LIkewise, you were expected to do what was best of the team, not what was best for you personally. I still approach grouping in MMOs that way, even with strangers, and I think its just part of my approach, and I can see how people would be hostile to the idea. At the end of the day its their leisure time and all that, but MULTIPLAYER means welll, what it looks like, and if you aren’t willing to actually engage with other people and work with them to have a good experience, what are you doing playing this kind of game?

  2. Hudson says:

    Ahmen brother. DPS will always cry and whine. But the fact is they are pretty much talentless when it comes to branching out and trying real classes. When I played WoW I raid tanked, healed and DPS’s to make myself a more rounded player. So I feel I had the credentials to freely insult the really bad or worthless DPS’ers. Hunters of course being the bottom of the barrel.

  3. Sean Boocock says:

    Don’t feed his ego by further responding to his inane argument. I would feel better, and might perhaps still read his blog in the future, if I thought he was just fishing for diminishing page views. But, I’ve read his blog for long enough to know that his current screed is an all too real reflection of some personal insecurity that he sees fit to address by chest thumping on the internet.

    As for his argument, it is based on a premise that doesn’t sustain a moment’s analysis (and which I’ve already addressed in comments to his original posts so I won’t repeat it here). Any user experience problems with the matchmaking systems in WoW are game design issues and at least with respect to recent events, partially deliberate. Cataclysm’s entry level dungeons are hard and long enough to, when combined with guild awards for doing so, incentivize coordinated guild groups over random pugs.

    As for tanking versus healing versus damage dealing, I wouldn’t be surprised if they attracted different personality types, though I guess I’m not as cynical as you at what that amounts to. What I find most appealing about DPS is that the barometer for success is both measurable and effectively infinite. The boss might die but I can always optimize my play further and do more DPS, and that performance can be gauged between tens of thousands of others on combat log sites (read: community developed leaderboard system). When I’m tanking, success comes down to two questions – Did the boss die? Did I die? – the answers to which are fairly binary. I like tanking too as I find it alot less stressful but I ultimately prefer DPS.

    • Mala says:

      Your comment on tanking basically suggests to me that you have no idea what you are talking about.

      • Sean Boocock says:

        I tanked 12/12 ICC 10, 11/12 ICC 25 and 5/12 ICC25 heroic on my DK (pre 4.0) and a smattering of other encounters throughout Wrath. Perhaps I don’t know what I am talking about, but I do know what I prefer and when.

    • Dril says:

      You have no understanding of tanking at all. Your last statement, that there are only two binaries that determine (personal) success, prove as much, which only lends credence to Syncaine’s argument that people who would rather not expose their own failings don’t play tanks and healers as their mains.

      Before I get into why you’re wrong, let me preface this by saying that a) I really don’t think Tob has a huge ego, especially as other internet persons think they are somehow god’s gift to game design, and b) I think Tobold is spot on. If everyone played DPS, everyone would suffer. I get VERY annoyed by DPS players who think that tanks getting burnt out and egoistic is any worse than them critiquing tanks when they themselves are playing what is, effectively, a mathematical and hopelessly dull role.

      Back to tanking: it’s not binaries, sunshine. If you want to use meters, bars and maths, you might like to consider the following things:
      -did I cycle my CDs properly?
      -did my healers go OOM way too early?
      -did I lose threat at any point?
      -was my damage taken better (or worse) than last time, and if so, why, and what can I do to improve further (or just improve full stop.)
      -how was my situational awareness? Did I pick up all the adds/boss phases as soon as they happened, or was I lagging behind and causing disruption?

      Those aren’t binaries, and that’s just a fraction of what I’m thinking about when I analyse my tanking performance.

      • Sean Boocock says:

        First of all my point was what I found appealing in tanking. I do not primarily play my tank, but when I do, I take pride in my TPS, (now) Blood Shield uptime, healing done, and proper cooldown use and positioning. I optimize my gearing for magic versus physical fights and dual spec tanks specs, even when leveling.

        Those are table stakes though, at least for me. Those factors are not measurable in the same sense that damage done/dps is, something that can be easily ranked against others. I like leaderboard systems and for me, playing a pure dps character is most of the above (proper positioning and cooldown use, optimal DoT uptime, etc) combined with a leaderboard system ala Pacman Championship edition.

  4. sid67 says:

    It absolutely helps when your best players play the most important roles. We took that approach in my last WoW guild and our two top players purposefully re-rolled as healers.

    However, when good players are surrounded by bad players, the good players will always get frustrated even if they are in the important roles.

    As I see it, the behavioral problem isn’t personal responsibility but respect and credit. When the big bad boss gets killed, people say “great job, Tanking” and when you wipe they say “where were the heals?”.

    Healers get no respect even when they do a great job. Even when they CARRY the shitty tank. The are expected to keep dumb players alive no matter what that dumb player does and are expected to shoulder all the blame for all the stupid people.

    It’s a thankless job. So as I see it, players unwillingness to play that role is not about responsibility but about being able to accept a job where they will get no credit and all the blame.

    That’s a hard pill to swallow for anyone.

    Contrast that to the DPS role which is all about glory. “Wow did you see that crit!” “Look at me, Ma! Top of the deeps meter!”

    As a side note — Tanking, in WoW, has been dumbed down so much that any moron can do it. It’s no longer a “skilled” role like it was in the Vanilla WoW days. The decline of aggro management (or the lack of it) across all classes has been one of my biggest criticisms.

    • Jezebeau says:

      “Healers get no respect even when they do a great job. Even when they CARRY the shitty tank.”
      “Tanking, in WoW, has been dumbed down so much that any moron can do it.”

      You contradict yourself. First, while DPS may fail to recognize good healers, dedicated tanks (who aren’t just DPS shortening their queue) definitely do.

      Second, “any moron” can tank in the same capacity that there are still DPS doing under 5k single-target DPS. In WoW, the difference between healing a barely competent warrior tank and healing a good warrior tank in similar gear is enormous. Tanking in WoW has always been more about situational awareness than threat management, and that’s still the case, even if in the current state of the game it’s generally more about boss mechanics than watching for breakaway adds.

      • sid67 says:

        LOL. Not going to argue the tanking point. Facts are facts. It’s waaaaaaaaay easier to tank in today’s game. Seriously, how hard is it to watch a video and see where you need to stand while you spam your abilities.

        The hardest thing Tanks have to do in modern WoW is knowing when to use the situational cooldowns that mitigate damage. **YAWN** Real tough stuff here.

        I’m not saying DPS is harder — far from it. I’m just saying that Tanking is so ridiculously easy these days that it doesn’t even matter if those players are skilled any longer.

        Whereas, “maybe” the Tank knows when the healers are doing a good job. But that’s only because he knows he either sucks or is under geared. And you can bet your ass he doesn’t step up and take the blame when things go bad.

        Healers get the raw end of the stick all around. No credit when things go well. All the blame when things go bad. And it’s quite frankly a harder job because you are also responsible for fixing everyone’s mistakes.

        Tank dies because you ran out of mana keeping the idiot DPS alive? Your fault. Can’t kill the boss because your DPS died because you can’t heal him and the tank? Your fault. Work your ass off healing everyone and the boss goes down — “Wow.. look at those DPS meters! Great job, Tanking!”

        Tanks get glory. DPS gets glory. Healers take the blame. And even if 10% of the players out there can and do recognize good heals — the other 90% don’t.

        • Mala says:

          This may be true in a lot of PUG scenarios, but the raiding guild I was in was always especially grateful to healers. There were many an encounter I remember our raid leader exclaiming “GREAT job keeping everyone up healers.”

        • SynCaine says:

          Indeed, any decent guild realizes the value of good healers/tanks, and rewards them accordingly.

        • sid67 says:

          I don’t disagree. Any raid leader worth his salt will work to understand the ‘actual’ reason for a wipe and not the popular one.

          As I said, in my old WoW guild, our best two players both re-rolled healers because it was thought to be the most difficult and important job.

          Of course, 10% of the players who do understand and offer praise is little comfort when the 90% are playing the blame game.

    • sid67 says:

      Let me take a different spin on this discussion…

      The social dynamic is such that I believe Healers are in short supply because of the way that other players treat healers.

      As Tobold and Syn both point out, what needs to change is personal accountability by DPS players.

      One way to read that is to make the logical conclusion that Tobold makes that more DPS should play Tanks and Healers. And specifically, that YOU should make that change if YOU don’t like it. However, even if people DON’T make a class change, I think they should push themselves to be more accountable to the group.

      DPS likes to focus on the wrong meters. With proper gear and a good spell rotation, anyone can top a DPS meter. No – I always felt the true measure of “skill” for a DPS is the “Heals Received” meters. Personal accountability for the damage you take. The more effective you are WITHOUT needing heals – the more value you are to the group.

      This is particularly true of Melee DPS which are usually more susceptible to taking damage. Thus the skill in NOT taking damage is in many ways more important than your ability to deal that damage. If you take this personal accountability into the game and find that you are often the one who NEEDS the heals – maybe you should thank your healer a bit more often.

      • Mala says:

        I think the problem is less that people think they will be treated poorly as a healer, and more than most people just don’t like healing. How many people would play Halo: Medic – where you just run around after master chief for 10 levels spamming heals on him while he decimates an entire alien army.

        Hell, I LOVE playing healers in RPGs, and I wouldn’t play that game, but my point is, people are used to playing the badass in video games, and thats the same mentality they take when the decide what to play in their MMO. I see a difference in being a support player and enjoying that role, I’ve played support/healer characters since 2nd edition D&D, but for people whose main video game experience is something like god of war, the mentality is that “this is a video game, I fuck shit up.” I don’t think they are being malicious or selfish, its just the way people think about gaming.

        • Coeur-de-fer says:

          I suspect that this sort of mentality is indeed a major contributing factor amongst the general gaming population. The problem then becomes one of design, marketing, and demographics. In this particular case, Blizzard has always quite clearly been reaching beyond the traditional (MMO)RPG niche with WoW, developing and marketing for the broader, mainstream gamer demographic, aided in no small part by the legion of fans from their past successful franchises (in which we massacre the opposing force RTS style, or hack and nuke a gory path through the hordes of monstrous NPCs). The God of War crowd didn’t gravitate towards that particular title because they were interested in playing support, and if you’re looking to grab and retain that crowd, there are a few options:

          a) Design your game around such offense-centric playstyles, de-emphasizing support roles to the point that they are unnecessary, perhaps simply omitted.

          b) Convince your typically support-phobic demographic to play support. Preferably happily, as opposed to grudgingly.

          c) Tap demographics that do enjoy support roles, and in proper proportion to the support-phobic crowd that the support:offense ratio is adequate for the game to be played.

          I’d be very surprised if Blizzard were oblivious to this aspect of gaming culture. Thus far, they seem to have aimed for option C, with a bit of B (support roles have always played a part in the past games whose designs they were aping, so I doubt A was seriously considered). While the exact ratios change, and some particular encounters shake things up a bit, all major group activity is generally designed around a large number of DPS with relatively few of the “other” roles. The strict 3:1:1 of the dungeon finder makes the traditional setup that much more canonical. They’ve cast the nets wide, and while the bulk of the playerbase may be Halo kids with no desire to play any kind of support, they’ve retained enough players who traditionally enjoy, have found they enjoy, or at least grudgingly submit to, filling those roles for the game to function. The long queue times, however, indicate that the ratio is still far from perfect. If they anticipated retaining enough support for the current system to run smoothly and equitably for all players, their estimates were a bit off, if not catastrophically so.

          A problem, of course, is the difference in gaming cultures between the various demographics, and the fact that they’re now playing together, and forced to interact. I suspect much of the acrimony between the DPS and healer+tank camps stem from this “culture-war.”

  5. Wilhelm2451 says:

    Heh, there is a reason why I always play tank or healer when I go into a random DF group.

    There was a time in WoW when you couldn’t really play something like a holy paladin or a resto druid and do the quests in the main world without it being a serious slow drag, back when respec’ing cost a lot relative to the gold we used to have. And even when you could dual spec, that used to cost a lot as well.

    But now, with dual spec 10g at level 30 and damage having been ramped up so much that I don’t even bother changing my druid out of his healer gear to run quests in feral spec, the barrier to playing one of the key roles in the group is pretty low. If you’re tired of waiting in the queue, pay the 10g and try your hand at something new.

    That said, I do feel a bit for the people who really only have time for one character and who chose a mage, a warlock, or a hunter. There is no respec to another role for them. If you thought crowd control was important because you came from EQ, well sorry, nobody crowd controls any more, at least not in random DF runs. Even our instance group, which used to be religious about crown control now does a token sheep pull once in a while just to keep our hands in.

    • Torcano says:

      If you were only ever going to roll *one* character, then good god you’d have to be an utter moron to pick one of those classes.

      • Wilhelm2451 says:

        No, you’d have to be an utter moron to assume that everybody knows up front exactly what the implications of a given class is going to be in the long term or that nobody ever grows while playing a game or expands their horizons.

        • SynCaine says:

          Wait you mean that Warlock with the tanking pet can’t actually tank? Or that because of some unrelated to PvE factor (PvP balance), they play completely different now?

          That would never happen in an MMO!

  6. Max says:

    Playing a tank in pvp is fail though. Healers are usefull in pvp but that if you enjoy playing them

    Thats why I like rift soul system. I can play my main preferred archetype for pvp (dps rogue) while I can switch on the fly to riftblade for dungeon tanking, or bard for support.

    WoW supports this via dual spec to degree, but as always itemization ruins everything yet again. You have to have 2 sets of equip for each role. This is not apparent problem in rift yet due to low level cap lets see how they handle it at end game

    • Shadow says:

      Depends on the game.

      Tanks in WAR were VITAL to success.
      Tanks in LoL can be hugely helpful to win.
      Tank-fit ships in EVE is a necessity.

      Of course, if you’re only talking about WoW, then you may be right.

  7. Dril says:

    Spot on. I have nothing but contempt for bad DPSers (but I do have a great deal of respect for damn good DPSers), and I frankly couldn’t stand to play one. The idea of doing basically the same thing every boss fight appals me, so I only play tanks and healers. It’s so very gratifying to know that me doing a damn good job was one of the key pillars of downing a boss. Ah, yes. So good.

  8. Tipa says:

    You never played EverQuest DPS, I can see :)

    • Shadow says:

      I was thinking about the difference between a good dirge/trough and a bad one in EQ2 while reading bits of this.

      Of course, EQ2 has a MUCH better set up for grouping with a 6 man team. Breaking it down into the 2/2/2 setup can help a group be immensely prepared for any situation. Of course, the set up changes for raiding. But in EQ2, I rememember my dirge had a TON of debuffs and buffs that were incredibly helpful to keep track of. Of course, that was a “Tier 3 DPS”, so, yeah.

      • Bhagpuss says:

        I really can’t discuss how this works in WoW. I bailed out in the low 70s (I think it was) on my highest character and never did any meaningful grouping. What I did do was loathesome, mainly.

        In MMOs where I have done a lot of grouping, however, I have always preferred to play Healers first, Crowd Control second, Tanks third. DPS I find very one-note in the main.

        I’m not sure I agree that it takes more skill to play a healer. I personally have always found it more natural, and indeed easier, to counter incoming damage on a team-mate than deal damage to an opponent. Tanking I do think takes more skill. In EQ I would, with due modesty, say that for the kind of content we did (anything up to raids – I never did much raiding) I was a better-than-competent healer but only a competent tank.

        I could and did hold continual conversations, while healing but I had to use 100% concentration to tank. I found tanking enjoyable, stressful and hard work and healing enjoyable, exhillarating and quite easy. DPS I found easy and fun in short bursts but dull and repetetive if carried on for too long.

        Nothing, however, competed with crowd control for pure satisfaction. Playing an Enchanter in a difficult dungeon of its day, like Chardok for example, is about as much fun as you can get in an MMO. Also utterly exhausting.

        All the very best players I can remember from EQ were Enchanters or Bards doing crowd control. Then it would be other classes doing crowd control (especially Necros). The next tier down in skill would be tanks. Then healers and very specialist DPS, particularly really good rogues. Everyone else comes in after that.

        I’ve always thought that the main reason more people don’t play Healers in most MMOs is because they are generally slow soloists, not because of any inherant difficulty in the role.

    • SynCaine says:

      Why would anyone play EQ1 back then when you could have been playing UO…

  9. Edwin says:

    this post is EPIC.

  10. Saucelah says:

    Healer 4 lyphe son.

  11. Kyir says:

    Everyone knows that you can do anything with a group full of tanks and healers.

    Search your hearts, you know it to be true.

  12. pkudude99 says:

    I continually get told I’m a good tank when I play one, yet I rarely feel like I’m anything other than adequate. Even if the last time I really tanked anything was when we were short-manning raid mobs and I was holding aggro just fine, so I guess that means I’m doing all right.

    I have pulled some nice saves out of my ass as a healer though, so I feel like I’m above average there.

    I do all right as a CC as well, and my EQ2 coercer is my “main” in that game.

    That said, sometimes it is fun to take the night off and simply bow stuff up on my nuker too.

    • Jezebeau says:

      The thing about tanking is that, unless something unexpected happens, it’s hard to tell good from adequate. A smooth run is generally about the best you can ask for.

  13. Andrei says:

    Non-factors you say? Just wait until Blizzard *fixes* game design to appease said non-factors and not to your liking. Then we will see who is true non-factor here…

    • Wilhelm2451 says:

      Well, SynCaine will always be a non-factor in WoW since he doesn’t actually play it any more.

      • SynCaine says:

        Not to mention Andrei is about, oh, 3-4 years? late with that comment. Blizzard has long since ‘fixed’ WoW for people like me.

    • Dril says:

      Then there’ll be a new benchmark for DPS, since the DPS role will be flooded with good players fleeing from Blizzard ruining any semblance of personal responsibility in WoW.

      So, the non-factors will be taken even less. Good news ;)

      • I guess you can keep calling them non-factors if it makes you feel better about the situation :) Because good players are true non-factors in how the game is evolving.

        • Dril says:

          You’re aware of hardmodes, yes?

        • Andrei says:

          Are you referring to a recycled content with a few gimmicks in the fight mechanics? Eventually made available to everyone including rewards and achievements?

        • Dril says:

          Hardly everyone; a lot of raiders never do them, and a lot of people don’t raid all that much.

          And, might I ask, what is questing but recycled mechanics OVER AND OVER with a new skin and new shinies; oh, and everyone can do them.

  14. Riptor says:

    I guess the DPS from the old days remeber the old scoreboards very well while they might not have such a profound knowledge of each Tanks individual skill or how well each and every Healer handled his Class.

  15. Saucelah says:

    Off-topic: this week’s friday update for TOR is filled with comments (on facebook) of people bitching that flashpoints require a group because, in the words of one poster, they “plan to solo the entire game but don’t want to miss any content.”

    I’m starting to feel like this genre is dead. Someone heal me, quick.

    • SynCaine says:

      That’s not the MMO you are looking for.

      That’s not the MMO you are looking for.

      • Saucelah says:



        Seriously though, I don’t mind themeparks, but this one seems likely to be populated by people who have no MMO experience. Some of the other entertaining comments:
        “I was going to play this game until I found out there would be a monthly fee. What kind of game charges me to play after I buy it?”
        “Is this game going to be released on XBox 360?”
        “Can you have a group of one?”

        murder. death. kill. Clean-up on aisle TOR.

        • SynCaine says:

          But it’s going to have a million subs yo! It means its good!

        • Saucelah says:

          My response lately to the WoW has 200 quadrillion subs therefore it is good argument: “Justin Bieber has sold over 4 million albums.”

          If you use that one and it doesn’t end the debate, you’re arguing with a preteen girl.

  16. Imrys says:

    DF had a patch.

    You still play that game?

    Any info on the patch? Thoughts? Review?

    Don’t really care about WoW PERSONALLY.

    • SynCaine says:

      Having most of my time dominated by LoL and M&B:W right now, but I did see the notes. Not much to write about really, improving Meditation is important, but this patch was a small addition rather than really putting the system where it needs to be. I also thought there was going to be more to it than just this. Hopefully the next one is the substantial one, looking forward to that for sure.

  17. Crevex says:

    Great post. I tend to agree with your argument. As someone who usually plays DPS, i can honestly say its a choice made because of the lack of responsibility. Never played WoW much so cant speak to that, but in the games i have played, raiding becomes very dull after awhile. I find it much more enjoyable to simply coast through encounters while watching TV or reading a book (macros ftw). Just top the parse every once and awhile so it looks like your actually paying attention =D.Doesn’t matter for 90% of fights if you go balls out or just slack. Maybe the mob will die 5 seconds earlier, who cares. Of course for tough fights id usually switch to crowd control or healer, and actually have to like do stuff =(

    Im sure not all DPS are lazy sacks of crap like me, but there are legions of us out there.

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  19. Diagon says:

    You long for the good old days of hearing “Heal me, heal me, heal me!” over Vent followed quickly by a somber “Gavell down”. Who would rather have been healing, Allerion or Master? Stupid question, Master hates healing. Some of the DPS was memorable, you had a few players (like Nieco & Drekken) that were both reliable and excellent at their job.

    Otherwise, you’re right, they were a dime a dozen.

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