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Classic WoW AMA Recap: August 20th

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The WoW Classic dev team today answered your questions on r/classicwow and here are the highlights.

Check out our WoW Classic hub for the latest Classic news!

AMA Highlights

  • Some common misconceptions surrounding layering have been cleared up.
  • We also posted about the intended player cap for dungeons in Classic separately.
  • The Enter World button will instantly light up once Classic launches.
  • There will be no character boosts in Classic.
  • Herod (US) and Shazzrah (EU) queue times can reach several hours or more in certain instances.
  • Lengthy queue times are expected for at least the first week after launch.
  • Free transfers will be offered to players if servers are overpopulated at launch.
  • They're considering integrating a character transfer service once players have reached higher levels.
  • No other paid services beyond character transfer are considered at this time.
  • There are no plans to prevent stacking resources ahead of the AQ event.
  • All players who will be in the instance when Onyxia is engaged will be locked, no hearthstoning at 0.5% is possible in Classic.
  • The plan is to get rid of layering in Phase 2 indefinitely.
  • Phases will be simultaneous across all realms in a region.
  • Bindings of the Windseeker will drop in Phase 1.
  • It seems that certain items that have been added in Patch 1.4/1.5 will drop in Phase 1.
    • Some items have been restricted to later changes. They took a careful look at items they decided to restrict to make sure it didn't affect drop rates of other items too much. If it did, they went back and pulled an earlier version of the drop table.
  • The catch-up gear added in Patch 1.10 won't be available until Phase 5.
  • There are currently no plans for maintenance after launch.
  • They rewrote the honor calculation code and realms won't need downtime for honor to update.
  • Thorium Point and Jintha'alor quests should be available during Phase 1.
  • Most quests in Cenarion Hold will be available during Phase 5 along with the AQ Gate opening content.
  • There are no plans to bring DX12 support to Classic.
  • They've done most of the hard work by bringing back 1.12 so progressing to Burning Crusade would be a lot easier for them after Phase 6.
  • Kazzak has a hard leash, but you will still be able to kite certain world bosses to capital cities.
  • The main objective is to ensure healthy realm communities in a post-Launch world.
  • Hunters were the hardest to recreate in Classic.
  • World buffs are going to function exactly as they did in 1.12 which is to say that they will remain available and will not be restricted when new phases are rolled out.
    • Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer will have a cooldown. You will need to wait for the current Onyxia or Nefarian head to despawn before being able to regain the buff from a new turn-in.

We've highlighted all questions that have been answered below.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

Will servers be brought down at some point before release or will players be able to sit at character select waiting for "Enter World" to activate?

We are likely to perform some kind of realm restarts or maintenance between now and launch. However, in the minutes leading up to launch, our plan is that the realms will up and available and the Enter World button will instantly light up once we're launched.

Do you have a contingency plan to deal with a larger-than-expected population? Suppose as many people create characters in the 24 hours before and after launch as have done so already -- how quickly will you be able to add new servers?

We have contingency plans in place to bring up additional realms quickly if needed. We may also integrate character transfers (this ultimately became a service in original WoW.)

As you can imagine, it's difficult for us to gauge how many people will come to play Classic and stay on to experience max-level content. Ultimately, we want to see realms with healthy stable populations so we'll try to match demand without inadvertently creating low population realms in the process.

I hope that the character services stays limited to server xfers, because things like Character Boosts would break my heart.

Character Boosts are not in keeping with Classic. We don't want to break any hearts.

One of my core memory from Classic was Halloween holiday event. I know it got introduced in 1.8 patch and its model was a bit different from current. Like for e.g. Trick or Treat was given by innkeeper with 1h CD.

As this and other holiday events are quite soon from now (like 1-2 months), can we expect it being live with old functionalities?

Trick or Treat! Yes, because we're based on patch 1.12's data, holidays will play out as day did during that patch. So we look forward to spooky treats and happy haunts this October!

When you went through some of the old code, did you find any work that really stood out and you couldn't believe they achieved what they did back in 2006?

I found old code that stood out because I wrote it in 2005! What I am most impressed by is the longevity of our code base. We don't toss out old systems just to rebuild again from scratch. We mostly take an evolutionary approach, which is to say we improve and extend systems as far as they can. When code systems do reach an overextended point, that's when we try and refactor out common components or pay down tech debt. On the engineering side, the technical decisions we make should be done in service of delivering great gaming experiences.

During the development of Classic did you stumble over any easter eggs or secrets that the community never discovered?

When we were going through the original source code, we uncovered a few inline developer comments. It was super interesting to read them - like messages from the past. One of the most colorful comments I enjoyed was in reference to adding spells: "whatever you do, don't get them wet".

On the Herod and Shazzrah servers, assuming population stays like it currently is, can you provide some rough idea of what you expect the minimum time in queue to be at launch?

On the most popular servers, such as Herod and Shazzrah, we are currently estimating lengthy queue times - up to several hours or more in certain instances. That is why we strongly encourage players to use the name reservation period to transfer their characters and their guilds to lower pop realms.

Is that on launch/phase patch day only or do you expect lengthy queues (up to several hours) during regular weekdays after the first week aswell?

This is something we are definitely keeping an eye on and making adjustments as needed. Due to all the excitement, we are expecting lengthy queues for at least the first week after launch.

Will you offer free realm transfers if servers get way overpopulated after launch?

This is definitely one of the options we are considering. But for now, we are encouraging players to use the name reservation period to transfer their characters to lower population realms.

Piggy backing on this...will PAID transfers also be a thing should a server drop heavily in population and a player wishes to move to find more activity or reconvene with friends on another server.

We're considering integrating a character transfer service once players have reached higher levels. This was available in the original WoW. We'll look at the rules we imposed at that time and also discuss the implications of players moving to a new realm. We believe realm identity is an important aspect of Classic so any guidelines around transfers should support this belief.

Will there be paid services for Classic?

We aren't considering other services beyond character transfer at this time.

Has the reception of Classic met or exceeded expectations? Are there far more people coming back for Classic than expected? Or were you guys right within the predicted ballpark?

We've been blown away by the response to WoW Classic. The passion from the community is exactly what got us working on this in the first place, and we see new signs of your passion and excitement every day. We're very excited to make it a reality for all of you next week!

For the Gates of AQ event, are you guys keeping the resources and amounts the same for turn-ins or can we expect you to have a few tricks up your sleeves to prevent stockpiling prior?

#nochanges

In all seriousness, one of our core pillars is to recreate the original experiences as authentically as possible. This will extend to the required resources of the AQ War Event. We realize there is nothing we can do to unwind the knowledge gained over the years. What we do have control over is ensuring that World of Warcraft Classic matches as closely as possible to the original 1.12. data.

On certain private servers (unsure how this worked back in the day) you would only get locked to an Onyxia ID if you were inside the instance when she died. This meant 30 people could hearth out when she was at .5% HP and the loot would only have to be split between the remaining 10 people. This "trick" allowed you to clear Onyxia multiple times per reset.

This was apparently possible back in the day (as per this tweet), and will this "mechanic" be present in Classic? Will it be considered an exploit if it is?

This is not possible in Classic. All players who were in the instance when Onyxia is engaged will be locked.

What exactly are the pop caps for a layer? And extrapolating from that, what are the server pop thresholds roughly indicating (what makes a server low vs medium vs high?)

We're not releasing specific numbers, that will likely change dramatically. Based on the response we got from name reservations, we're anticipating large player populations for some realms initially. This may change as players switch to lower population realms. We'll use layers to help improve performance in the short-term if large groups of players cluster in an area. We hope to reduce the use of layering over time as people spread out in each realm.

Could you reiterate and clarify this and your current intentions and plans with layering, server caps and handling population at launch and in the future now that you've had the chance to study and tweak it during the stress test?

I'm so glad you asked this question.

We’ve seen some confusion about layering, both about how it helps support our launch, and how it’s supposed to behave while its active, so I’d like to both speak to it and clear up some misconceptions about it.

First, we’re absolutely committed to reducing to one layer per realm before our second content phase goes live, and the sooner we can get there, the better. The reason we can’t do that initially is that on launch day, everybody will be clustered in the starting zones, and having players so close together causes an exponential drain on server resources. In fact, the same number of players cause more server problems crammed into Northshire than they do spread across all of Elwynn Forest. We expect that even after the first couple of days, we’ll need fewer layers than we need for the initial hours of launch, and our stress tests have confirmed that expectation.

A related concern that was raised during our pre-launch test was that capital cities felt empty, but that only occurred because we left the pre-launch test running two days past its original end date, and we didn’t reduce the number of layers at all during that test. During our launch week, as the players spread out across the world, we’ll monitor activity and reduce layers as necessary, so the world continues to feel full.

Some players have suggested using sharding in low level zones to address launch demand, both because we talked about that at Blizzcon, and because it’s what they’re used to from our modern expansions. Unfortunately, while modern WoW has content designed to work with sharding, WoW Classic does not. The most obvious example of incompatible content is Rexxar’s famously long patrol path, but there are lots of other examples throughout WoW Classic. Since we want all that content to work as it was originally designed, we’ve made sure that every layer is a copy of the entire world, so you can kite Anachronos all the way to Orgrimmar, and you can ride the boat from Ratchet to Booty Bay with the same people alongside you the whole way.

Some players have asked us to use realm caps and login queues to handle the demand, and while those are tools we have at our disposal, we don’t want to rely on them exclusively, because they keep people from playing the game.

One of the most frequently reported problems during our tests was players transferring to a layer for what seemed like no reason. There were several bugs that caused this, and we’re confident we’ve fixed them. At this point, the only thing that should cause you to change layers is accepting an invite from a player on another layer. Additionally, it should always transfer the player who was invited to the layer of the player who invited them.

Nonetheless, after accepting an invite, the layer transfer doesn’t always happen immediately, because we don’t want to transfer you in the middle of combat, or before you get a chance to loot. During our pre-launch test, we saw a few reports of what seemed like random layer transfers, but when we investigated, we realized this was due to us making that transfer delay too long. The delay was so long that players could unintentionally chain one delay into another by starting combat immediately after looting. Because of those reports, we’ve fixed the transfer delay to give you enough time to loot, without being so long that you’re left wondering why you can’t join your friend. We’ll keep an eye on that, and we may decide to reduce it further.

We’ve also seen reports of people transferring suddenly at the entrances to capital cities, which was related to the transfer delays. If you’re waiting to transfer to your friend’s layer, and you enter a capital city, we ignore the delay and transfer you immediately. The long delays were making it more likely that you’d enter a capital with a transfer pending, and now that we’ve reduced the transfer delay, it will be a bit more clear that your transfer was the result of accepting a group invitation.

Regarding PvP, we saw many posts from players wondering if getting invited to a party is a good way to escape from PvP combat. I’m pleased to say there’s actually a separate, longer transfer delay following any PvP combat. We know a lot of world PvP enthusiasts are excited for WoW Classic, and we don’t want the additional layers to feel like they’re robbing you of your kills. When the time comes to withdraw from the fight, you’ll have to escape from your enemies and get to a safe place before you’re able to join your friends on another layer.

I’d also like to clarify how multiple layers work with logout. Early in our stress testing, players reported that logging out and back in would let you hop to a new layer to farm the same mineral or herb node on different layers. That was a bug, and we’ve fixed it. Your layer assignment now persists for a few minutes between logouts, long enough that by the time the game would choose a new layer for you, that node would have respawned on its own anyway.

I hope that all makes things a bit more clear.

If my intentions are to group up and fight back against the opposing alliance all I need to do is be the party leader and invite my friends, not accept invites from them? 

Yes, that's correct. The person who issues the invite will bring the invited players to their layer. Inviting your higher-level friends to come help you fight back is certainly something people used to do, and we encourage you to do so. Enjoy the fight!

 What are plans for phase 2 if some realms are horrifically overpopulated at 50K+ players? Will layering stay?

We're absolutely committed to reaching one layer per realm by Phase 2. This is why we need to have upper bounds on the number of players connected to the realm at one time, and queue players past that point. That, of course, is why we're willing to open new servers if necessary, and we've even started doing that in response to the incredibly positive reception we've had during the name reservation period!

When creating classic, was there anything specific your team thought was going to be incredibly hard to accomplish that turned out be A LOT easier than expected? or vise versa.

One of the biggest benefits of having worked on World of Warcraft continuously since the beginning is that I have a strong grasp not only of how our game and server systems worked originally, but how they changed over time. So I can't say there was anything "incredibly" hard. The process mainly involved a constant iteration comparing Classic to our 1.12 reference, and making fixes and adjustments when we found differences.

On a side note, I did find old bits of code that I wrote as a young engineer. I fought hard to resist the urge to clean and refactor it in places it was not technically needed (because at this point it's been production hardened for 10+ years)

My question is about phases, specifically if they will be rolled out universally.

Phases will be simutaneous accross all realms in a region.

I think one of the biggest questions I see floating around the community (especially among the communities of guild leadership) is what state Molten Core's loot tables will be released in.

In phase 1, will the raid only drop items added to Molten Core before patch 1.3? In phase 2, will it only drop items added to Molten Core before 1.5? Or will it have the 1.12 vanilla Molten Core loot table from the start?

For me, some of the fun of clearing a dungeon is discovering the loot as you go, but for those who want more information: the drop tables are mostly from 1.12.

There is a significant exception to that, in Phase 5, when Relics are added to drop tables. When they were originally added, in patch 1.10, they affected drop tables significantly enough that simply removing relics from the drop table until Phase 5 wouldn't be sufficient. It would have had effects on the drop-rates of other items that we didn't feel were acceptable or authentic. So for that specific change to item drops, we did reproduce the boss drop-tables from the previous patch (1.9). Before Phase 5, the affected bosses have the 1.9 drop tables, and once Phase 5 hits, they'll use the 1.10 drop tables.

That change doesn't affect MC or Onyxia very heavily, so you should expect those drops to launch in a state very similar to their final phase 6 state. Again I don't want to give it all away, so I'll leave a bit to exploration and discovery here. ?

Does this pertain only to raid bosses, or to 5- and 10-man dungeon bosses as well? I think people were expecting item-gating where blue-quality "catch up" gear from 1.10 wouldn't exist in dungeons until phase 5 to avoid warping raid difficulty and protect the importance of epic drops in early raiding. Can you clarify this point a bit more?

This does apply to 5-man dungeons as well.

We gated specific item drops when it made sense to do so, and if those removals affected the drop rates of other items in a significant way, we used the rest of the drop-rates from the previous patch to compensate.

In fact most of the changes in Phase 5 will be changes to 5-man dungeon loot tables.

Please clarify whether this means drop % or actual item drop tables. Changing mageblade drop % when more items get added to the table isn't that big of a deal, changing whether bindings drop in Phase 1 is entirely different.

They're related. Imagine a drop-table that has 2 items that each has a 50% chance to drop. If you restrict it so one of those can't drop, the other one just became a 100% chance to drop, or you have to have a 50% chance to drop nothing.

There are various items throughout the game that were added later, and which we've restricted to later phases, but we took a careful look at any item we decided to restrict to make sure it didn't affect the drop-rates of other items too much. If it did, we went back and pulled an earlier version of the drop table, so it would have an appropriate loot distribution, and the biggest of these changes was in Phase 5 (from the patch 1.10 change).

That said, none of those drop-table changes occur between Phase 1 and 2. They're all in later phases. So yes, Bindings can drop in Phase 1. Good luck getting both of them. ? (I'm still missing one...)

This seems mindbogglingly stupid. You're releasing catchup gear released in 1.10 at the same time as the original pre-DM loot tables? So MC and BWL will be an even bigger cakewalk with catchup gear meant for AQ/Naxxramas?

Edit: For instance, why would casters ever go Onyxia now? Mages' tier 2 headpiece is strictly worse than Spellweaver's Turban from Upper Blackrock Spire. Such a dumb change.

The catch-up gear added in 1.10 won't be available until Phase 5.

The MC tables weren't affected very much by the 1.10 changes. Almost all of their loot was the same from 1.5 to 1.12, so the changes you see to MC throughout our content unlocks will be very minor.

What are your plans for server reset days for Classic?

Will it align with retail reset days? Tuesday NA/Wednesday EU?

Have you thought of having a separate day for Classic reset to offset a little?

The raid reset points have been restored to their original 1.12 values.

Classic operates as part of our general World of Warcraft infrastructure. Our goals are to minimize service downtime and maximize availability. In some weeks we might not need to take realms down for maintenance.

How does that work with the honour calculations? They were always done in downtime.

When restoring the honor calculation code we re-wrote it so it can work while the game is live. Realms do not need downtime for honor to update.

What is the intended player cap for Dungeons in Classic WoW?

Hi ZeldenGM, thanks for the question!This was indeed a bug that we have fixed and you should be able to enter most lower-level dungeons with up to 10 players, as was possible in Original WoW 1.12. There are some dungeons that had specific caps by the end of Original WoW however. To be specific, all lower level dungeons available through Maraudon should have a player cap of 10, with Blackrock Depths, Scholomance, Stratholme, and Dire Maul being capped at 5 players.

As was the case in Original WoW 1.12, Blackrock Spire should also have a cap of 10 players.

Will we see a maintenance downtime the morning after Launch?

We are not currently planning a maintenance downtime for the morning after launch.

Could you specify a little about how you will handle quest hubs like Thorium Point, Silithus, Jintha'alor, as well as other "later phases" quests. Which will be available from the beginning of phase 1 and which will come later?

As /u/pazorax mentioned earlier, we want there to be some exploration and discovery to this, so I can't dig super deep into exact specifics around when individual quests, items, or rep items will be available. Painting in broad strokes however, Thorium Point and Jintha'alor quests should be available during phase 1. Most quests in Cenarion Hold will be available during phase 5 along with the AQ Gate opening content. The general methodology was to make quests, recipes, items, and the like available when it makes sense to do so and feels relevant to the rest of the available content.

Will we see DX12 in Classic and the multi-threaded utilization enhancements at some point? If not, is there a technical limitation?

We are not planning to bring DX12 and the multithreaded enhancements to the Classic client. The multithreaded support greatly improves performance in large scale environments like Suramar or Boralus. Classic's world and models are much simpler. It would also increase the system requirements.

Spell bactching seems to be causing problems with aoe abilities such as people being able to run over hunters traps and it not going off or running through mages blizzard spell and not getting hit or slowed by it and many more aoe abilities.. are there any thoughts about lowering the spell batching delay or another way to fix these issues?

This is actually not related to spell batching. Traps and AoE abilities check for the presence of targets during a heartbeat update. If the target moves through them between two heartbeat updates they will not notice the target. This is how it was in the original 1.12.

What does "success" look like for Classic WoW to the dev team?

"Success" for us is that players enjoy the game! We hope that those who played back in the day are overcome with nostalgia, great memories, and reconnect with old friends. We hope that new players get to experience this iconic time in MMO history and experience the world with new friends.

What are the plans after Phase 6? More content for classic or moving to TBC?

We've done most of the hard work by bringing back 1.12 so progressing to Burning Crusade would be a lot easier for us. Our plan is to identify everything we need to do should we ever decide to go this route. We want to be sensitive to the desires of our players. Some may want BC and some may not. We'll be following the Classic community closely to help determine what our next steps should be.

The only thing I wanna know is, can we still pull Lord Kazzak to Stormwind?

Kazzak has a hard leash in 1.12. But there are other bosses in the world that do not!

Are realm forums coming back?

Yes! We’ll open subforums for each Classic realm in our official forums when WoW Classic launches next week.

Will Mankrik's wife be moved to recreate an authentic Vanilla experience?

nochanges

What steps are being taken to ensure that at launch, the same thing doesn't happen on an even grander scale during the initial rush? Are there measures in place to avoid punishing those that get randomly disconnected through no fault of their own?

We're planning a number of fixes to improve that experience. First, we've already begun opening new realms and we encourage people to switch to them. We've also increased the size of the realm queues, so they can hold more people before disconnecting them. And we've improved the error message you get, so that you'll know you're being disconnected because the queue is full, instead of getting a generic disconnect message.

What are some of the perks you guys had on using Legion game engine for Classic?

We have VASTLY improved telemetry and error reporting tools now than we had in 2006. As someone who has fielded 3am calls, I consider this a HUGE perk! An engineering only perk is we use modern compilers and debuggers which is a huge boost to productivity, scalability, security and robustness. On the client front, our engine is much more efficient at rendering images and more stable and free of crashes in general.

What will you do if all of the realms are capped out at launch day with massive queues? Will you continually put up realms until the demand is met?

We have contingency plans in place to bring up additional realms quickly if needed.

We took a careful approach here. Taking various things into consideration, we wanted to hold true to our main objective of ensuring healthy realm communities in a post-Launch world. Therefore, we felt that the best approach here was to start off with fewer realms in order to gauge player interest during the name reservation period. As we have seen players congregate on certain types of realms, we have opened up new realms with communication to that effect. While we acknowledge that queues will be part of the launch experience, we encourage players to keep an eye on the forums and message boards over the next days/weeks for communications around realms with lower populations and therefore more manageable queue times.

What was the hardest thing to recreate?

Hunters. They were one of the most complicated classes in vanilla and we had to do a huge amount of work in restoring them.

What are some interesting hiccups or bugs you guys hit in redeveloping vanilla?

There was a bug when two priests mind control each other the mind control itself would cancel out but the camera would still switch to each other. The result is both priests would be stuck watching each other move around which hilarious and very confusing.

How are you going to handle world buffs? 

World buffs are going to function exactly as they did in 1.12 which is to say that they will remain available and will not be restricted when new phases are rolled out.

Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer will have a cooldown. You will need to wait for the current Onyxia or Nefarian head to despawn before being able to regain the buff from a new turn-in.

Did any of you run into code you wrote all those years ago?

I absolutely did! The best part about it was being able to measure personal growth as an engineer by comparing how I might solve problems now to how I solved them in the past.

Will there be a debuff priority system in place to ensure important debuffs stay on targets and aren’t overwritten by things like Deep Wounds?

There is a debuff priority system in vanilla and we replicated it.

What are the plans after Classic? Will we see TBC/Wrath servers?

We're looking into what would be required to support BC and WotLK should we decide to go that route. The guiding principle for WoW Classic was staying faithful to the original game.

It's less clear what our direction should be with BC and WotLK. As you point out, it is likely that some features of these expansions will not be universally embraced by the Classic community. We'll be following player progression and sentiment to help guide us in our next steps.

What is the stance on people trading gold from Classic realms for gold on BfA realms and vice versa?

There is no direct means for characters in BfA to transfer gold to characters in WoW Classic. This would be highly disruptive for Classic as the economies of these two games are very different.

Gold exchange between players in WoW is subject to our terms of service. Purchase of gold from 3rd parties could lead to suspension or banning of accounts.

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      Thank you!
    • By Starym
      It seems there was a short-lived bug in Dire Maul North that allowed the buff the guards gave after completing a tribute run to stack! A hotfix has been deployed around 30 minutes ago and that is no longer the case, so if you managed to snag some extra power you've had your fun and it's now fixed!
      Dire Maul Buffs (source)
      A hotfix was applied to all realms 30 minutes ago that squashed that bug. The buffs obtained from the guards in Dire Maul North after completing a tribute run will no longer stack.
      Thank you for your feedback on it!
      You can also check out our DM guides as well as an official preview for the dungeon here.
    • By Starym
      It's been a while since we got word that something weird was happening with the auras in Classic, with several aspects that affect them already resolved. Today we have further progress on that, namely the part where some item enchants were using up slots and thus knocking off helpful buffs like Power Word: Fortitude and the like, as the issue has been partially fixed. There are still some item enchants that require a slot, but that's what it was like in 1.12 as well so it's staying. Check out the full details below:
      October 15 (source)
      With scheduled maintenance earlier today, we applied the following hotfix:
      WoW Classic
      Enchantments on gear should no longer count as helpful auras. They now count as passive auras. There are still some enchantments occupying helpful slots – notably, the Arcanum enchants that will come from Dire Maul and other enchantments that are applied via item rather than via the enchanting profession. This was the case in our 1.12 reference.
      Thank you very much!
    • By Stan
      Dire Maul will be available later today at 10:00 AM PDT // 7:00 PM CEST. Blizzard decided to open the dungeon ahead of Phase 2 which brings World Bosses and the Honor System including PvP Rank Rewards to WoW Classic.
      UPDATE: Our Dire Maul Dungeon Hub is now up! Check it our to learn more about the dungeon!
      Phase 2 will launch later this year, according to the latest interview by Game Director Ion Hazzikostas.
      Blizzard (Source)
      Following up on our announcement from last week, Dire Maul will become available today, October 15, at 10:00am PDT.
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