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Diablo IV Quarterly Update: February 2020: UI Design, Controller Support, Cannibal Monster Family

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The first quarterly update on Diablo IV has arrived with an introduction by Game Director Luis Barriga, Lead UI Designer Angela Del Priore guides us through updates based on post-BlizzCon feedback, controller support on PC, and more. The update is closed by Senior Encounter Designer Candace Thomas who shares a first look at a new set of enemies, the tribes of the Dry Steppes.

UI Design, Controller Support, and Co-Op

  • The devs are not planning to bring back different-sized items.
  • With item icons, they initially pursued a painterly style, but right now, they decided to go with a different approach based off the 3D models to give them natural texture and realism.
  • The brightness and saturation of icon backgrounds have been toned down.
  • Inventory layout has been reorganized and now has a more balanced composition.
  • Based on feedback, the default position of the action bar will be moved to the bottom center for PC players.
  • Diablo IV is for the first time being developed for PC and consoles at the same time. The PC version of the game will support controllers.
  • The focus for Diablo IV is improving the favored 2 player couch co-op experience and come up with core progression UI screens.

Monster Family & Design: Cannibals

  • Monsters in Diablo IV are classified into "families".
  • Legends say that Cannibals are a former tribe of barbarians, banished from Arreat years ago.
  • The Cannibal family has four members, each type has their own unique weapon and a different silhouette or stance to help them discern from one another.
  • Cannibals have two melee combatants; one's wielding a Two-Handed greatsword cleaver, the other one's using a halberd which allows Cannibals to leap at players from great distances.
  • Bruisers use spiked clubs to deliver intense blows.
  • Dual-axe-wielding swarmers unleash a flurry of quick frontal attacks.
  • The Cannibal family will have no ranged units, but they will have supernatural swiftness to make combat feel frenetic.

Check out the official blog post below for more information.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

Table of Contents

Introduction to Quarterly Updates
Luis Barriga, Game Director

UI Design, Controller Support, and Co-Op
Angela Del Priore, Lead UI Designer

Monster Family & Design Highlight: Cannibal Tribes
Candace Thomas, Senior Encounter Designer

Hello, and welcome to the new blog section of the Diablo IV website!

The Diablo IV development team has been hard at work since BlizzCon and we are all still incredibly energized by the response to our announcement and follow-up blog posts. We can tell you are all excited to see more info coming from the team and about how the game is coming together.

Well, we have some great news for you today. We are stoked to deliver the first of our quarterly blog updates with you, and this one happens to be a doubleheader.

First, we have a word from our Lead UI Designer, Angela Del Priore, with some super cool updates on post-BlizzCon feedback, controller support on PC, and a deep dive into couch co-op. If you’d like to jump to her update right now, click here.

Our second update is by our Senior Encounter Designer, Candace Thomas. She shares a first look at a new set of enemies: the cannibal tribes of the Dry Steppes. You’ll see some amazing new art by Igor Sidorenko, read some of our in-world lore, and even watch video of these flesh-eaters in action. To check out Candace’s update, click here.

We hope you enjoy both of these updates. We’re looking forward to your thoughts and comments on them, and please also let us know the sorts of things you’d like to hear about next. We realize many of you are curious about different aspects of the development process—some of you love reading and re-reading lore, while others of you may geek out over item tooltips or want to hear some early music tracks. So be sure to tell us what excites you most! Our goal for these updates is to cover a wide variety of subjects and, over the course of development, share something exciting for everyone. 

Once again, we want to thank you all for sharing in this journey with us.

See you in Hell.

-Luis Barriga-
Game Director, Diablo IV Team

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UI DESIGN, CONTROLLER SUPPORT, AND CO-OP

Angela Del Priore, Lead UI Designer

For anyone who isn’t familiar with user interface (UI) design, our team is responsible for communicating game systems to the player and providing players with the inputs they need to engage with those systems. So while we are focused on helping the player achieve what they want to do, we also need to balance that goal against the vision for the game while maintaining the clarity of what our interface is trying to communicate.

As you might imagine, this means that we iterate on our UI regularly. As systems change, the UI changes with it, which can in turn cause player goals to change. The UI then needs to adapt while keeping our visual language consistent across the entire game. Visual polish is one of the last things we focus on for this reason. Please keep that in mind as we talk through and show some of our in-progress work, but feel free to let us know your thoughts!

BlizzCon Demo Feedback

It’s been a few months since BlizzCon, but we still wanted to take a moment to address some of the UI-specific feedback we received from the demo and announcement videos.

Inventory

We saw a lot of feedback around the inventory, either regarding its coloring, the style/size of the item icons, or overall aesthetic. To avoid interrupting gameplay with pockets of inventory management, we’re not planning on bringing back different-sized items. However, we’ve been tackling the other points from a variety of directions.

With item icons, we’d initially pursued a painterly style to stay in line with the overall art direction of the game, and we’re finding that it doesn’t come across as well when we’re talking about small elements in the UI. We’re now exploring another approach more directly based off the 3D models to give them natural texture and realism.

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We’ve also toned down the brightness and saturation of the icon backgrounds, as well as added secondary visual cues for indicating rarity via the border decoration. This way, we’ve made rarity indicators visually more subtle but hopefully with a wider range in accessibility.

We received some non-specific feedback about the inventory, but we had guesses as to what people were reacting to based on our own observations. We’ve reorganized the layout of the inventory to what is hopefully a more balanced composition, and across the board we’re looking at the color spread and contrast levels of individual UI pieces.

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We hope to both home in on our goal of a gritty, realistic UI, while balancing ease of use. As the inventory screen is something our players will probably interact with the most, we really appreciate your feedback in this area.

Rebinding Left-Click

A surprising number of players asked for the option to rebind their primary skill to anything but the left mouse button so that they could separate moving from attacking. Adding more flexibility to our binding options had already been on our radar for a while, and the demo feedback helped confirm that this was a customization feature that players really wanted.

In addition to giving players the freedom to assign any skill to any slot from the get-go, all skill slots can now have their keys rebound. We’re committed to supporting skill rebinding for controllers as well.

The Left-Corner Action Bar

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We went through a lot of iteration on this piece of UI. The left-corner configuration came about because we wanted to try clearing the central combat area and freeing up the bottom of the screen where the isometric camera already sees less. However, based on usability test results, the team’s feedback, and the feedback we received from the demo, we’re going to move the default position of the action bar back to the bottom center for PC players.

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That’s not all, though! The preferred position changes to the left-corner when people play further away from the screen. This doesn’t come as a surprise given the shift in viewing angle (illustrative diagram below not to scale), but it does mean that the center configuration isn’t a majority winner on PC since we’re supporting controller input. So, while we will only stick to the corner configuration on consoles, we will offer both left and center positions as options on PC.

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Supporting controllers on PC

This is the first time a Diablo game is being developed simultaneously for both PC and consoles, but the decision to support controller input on PC is what caused the greater paradigm shift for us. We wanted to give players the ability to switch between the two options freely, so our UI needed to be unified enough that swapping hardware inputs on the fly wouldn’t throw people completely off kilter. A unified UI means our layouts are more grid-based for ease of navigation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an identical interaction flow.

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We try to maintain this sort of approach, of keeping established keyboard and mouse conventions while creating controller-friendly shortcuts or alternate flows, throughout the game. Controller support shouldn’t be a limiter on how complex our game can be; it just means we have more paths that we need to consider. It’s not a simple undertaking, but we’re really striving for a native feel for both types of inputs.

Couch Co-Op UI

We know many players enjoyed couch co-op in Reaper of Souls, and that the biggest complaint was the inability to do anything while one local player had a UI screen open. When the topic of couch co-op came up early on in development, we looked at the number of people who utilized this feature in Diablo III and found that the 2-player setup accounted for an overwhelming majority. For Diablo IV, we decided to focus on improving the favored 2-player co-op experience and set up our core progression UI screens such that they can be opened independently or at the same time.

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We iterate on this interface regularly and ease of interaction comes before visual polish, but we still welcome impressions at any stage. Everyone approaches the game with a different set of experiences and, consequently, different expectations for how things should look or work and it’s always interesting to hear these perspectives.

Thanks for reading!

Back to Top

MONSTER FAMILY & DESIGN HIGHLIGHT: CANNIBALS

Candace Thomas, Senior Encounter Designer

If you had the chance to watch our World and Lore Panel during BlizzCon, you learned that monsters in Diablo IV are classified into “families.” In our various panels we covered different monster families such as the Fallen, who are returning to once again terrorize Sanctuary, and the Drowned, who are a brand new threat plaguing the shores of this world. We touched on their story, combat abilities, the regions they inhabit, and how they interact with one another in a meaningful way. Now, we would like to give you a look into another new family: The Cannibals.

What is a Monster Family and Why Does it Matter?

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Cultist Family—Diablo IV

Before we dive into the specific mechanics of the Cannibal family, let’s take a moment to talk about our design philosophy when it comes to monsters.

In the bestiary of Diablo III, we classified monsters into broad categories like demon, unholy, undead, humanoid, or wildlife. These monsters served as an anchor to the story by adding to the overall setting and tone, which made the whole game feel complete.

In Diablo IV, the vast and seamless world we created necessitates a slightly different approach to worldbuilding and storytelling. It requires building Sanctuary as a living, breathing character—especially through its creatures. Since we have everything from serene ocean cliffsides to the gaping maw of Hell itself, what does that mean for the bestiary? Well, to fill those areas and make them feel real, we definitely needed to have more non-aggressive wildlife than in Diablo III. But never fear, we still have plenty of monsters to fight.

Every monster has been reimagined, but in a darker, more gritty art style. We have lovingly handcrafted every creature you’ll encounter from the ground up: that includes demons, NPCs, Act Bosses, and even the skittering critters you can crush underfoot. Though we still pay tribute to some hallmark gameplay—such as Fallen Shamans resurrecting other Fallen—we have completely reimagined things in other places.

To have these creatures feel more sophisticated and robust, we designed them in what we call “monster families” and archetypes. Each family has a different combat style and feel. For example, the Drowned family has five members in various archetypes: bruiser, ranged combat, melee combat, swarmer, and dungeon boss.

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Drowned Family Lineup in Diablo IV

Each archetype plays a different role in combat. Swarmers strike in groups, making AoE attacks feel satisfying. Bruisers are larger monsters with high health values, which will make damage over time abilities feel good. Melee combat units act as shields by standing in the way of projectiles for their ranged counterparts. Situations like this provide the player with interesting positional dilemmas if they want to focus fire on ranged units. When adding all of this together, each encounter with the Drowned will be slightly different with regards to player positioning and choice of attack. These rich and varied combat experiences are the power of a monster family.

Who Are the Cannibals?

HKZ6MDKVQ9TC1582662145938.jpgCannibal Family Lineup in Diablo IV

“Corpses riddled with bite marks. Splintered bones scraped clean of marrow. Tongues sawed off and eyes gouged out of their skulls. These are the bloody fingerprints the Cannibals leave behind—if they leave behind anything at all. No one is certain where they come from, but some legends claim they are a former tribe of barbarians, banished from Arreat years ago. Whether their cannibalism led to their exile or developed out of desperation afterward is unknown. The outcasts brought their endless hunger to the Dry Steppes, and from there spread to the far corners of the world to prey on lonesome caravans and unsuspecting villages.

The few who have survived encounters with these butchers share the same stories. They tell of the mad fire that burns in the eyes of all Cannibals, of how eating the flesh of their victims in battle only fuels their hunger for more. They whisper of the unlucky souls spared in the attacks, hauled off like livestock for the raiders to pick clean until their next hunt. And then, they say no more. The silence speaks for them: sometimes it is better to die than to live and remember.”

—Liya Khal’tib

A Battle for Survival

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Now that we’ve introduced some new lore about this family, we can dive into how we try to use them to give a cohesive experience narratively, while also providing the peaks-and-valleys of combat expected in a hack-n-slash ARPG. So what does this mean for Cannibal combat design? How do we convey their story through combat? We took a couple of approaches:

Weaponry 

The Cannibal family has four members. They each have their own unique weapon and a significantly different silhouette or stance to help differentiate them from one another. There are two standard melee combatants: one wielding a two-handed greatsword cleaver, which delivers a slow, sweeping frontal attack; and the other using a lightweight halberd which allows them to leap at players from a great distance and crash down with a devastating attack.

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The bruiser uses a spiked club in each hand to deliver intense blows that will stun players if they aren’t paying attention. By contrast, the dual-axe-wielding swarmers can unleash a flurry of frontal attacks that will quickly kill if left unchecked. However, this is a less binary pass/fail than the bruiser’s stun attack. If the player finds themselves surrounded by flurrying swarmers, getting hit by the bruiser’s dazing blow would remove all possibility of escape. It’s combinations of attacks like these that make this family so deadly.

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Archetype

Earlier, we explained how different monster archetypes play different roles in an encounter. For example, players who want to efficiently kill ranged monsters will need to learn how to reposition their accompanying melee attackers so that a cleverly dropped area of effect ability will target both clusters of enemies. This makes for interesting on-the-fly decision-making, and skilled players will be able to spot the optimal positions for these attacks very quickly.

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By design, the Cannibal family has no ranged units. Instead, they spring at the player with supernatural swiftness. Some may close the gap by leaping over obstacles and would-be competitors, while others will swiftly and deftly maneuver through other monsters to get first blood. This provides a very different experience and gives the player less time to make thoughtful positioning decisions, thus making combat with these flesh-eaters feel frenetic.

That’s it for today. Thanks for staying a while and listening!

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NoteComments on all Diablo blog entries have been disabled. This is part of our website migration for GDPR compliance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Have a question, comment, or feedback about the information we shared today? Join the conversation here on our General Forum. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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3 hours ago, Stan said:

Diablo IV is for the first time being developed for PC and consoles at the same time. The PC version of the game will support controllers.

I like this approach a lot more than what other companies do. They make games focused on consoles and then rushed bugged PC ports with lubberly character controls. Smooth gameplay like D3, WoW, Overwatch have, feels a lot better.

Edited by Kaelos

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nice, i really like quarterly updates. Seeing progress and more parts of the game, and the developers can see some feedback early 🙂

I remember, back in the day, i was so crazy focused on diablo 3 after its announcement, i hyped it up so much for myself, over the years till its release, that it was pretty unhealthy. Those updates will keep my mind at ease.

Plus: Diablo looks great 🙂

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I dont get why people would want a nasty stupid crappy demon HUNTARD over an amazon anyways xD    so far the way they are going with the genre with d4  itd make 100 times more sense to have a amazon and a paladin introduced with the other 3 classes before they bring in a stupid demon huntard. take that class back to wow please 😛

 

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      A more zoomed in overhead camera helps us deliver simple story beats.
      The second storytelling method we are developing is real-time cutscenes (or RTCs). Here we grab your camera and treat the storytelling more like a movie, so we’re reserving this technique for the most important story moments. Having these be real-time has great advantages—we can show your character with their currently equipped armor as part of the scene, for example. But we can also display them at your current resolution and with your currently enabled graphics settings, so they end up feeling more seamless and like a part of the game.
      We showed you some early work on real time in-game cinematics during the BlizzCon demo. Our cinematics and engine teams have made a lot of improvements since then, so we were excited to see a fully produced cinematic serve as the climax to the Dry Steppes experience, and the team was not disappointed. Here’s a screengrab that the story and cinematics folks have given us the go ahead to share with you as it shouldn’t spoil the details of what’s to come.


      In-game cinematics in Diablo IV set a properly dark mood
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      Open World
      One of the main new features we are bringing to the Diablo series is the open world of Sanctuary. So, while you can concentrate on the story campaign and work through that, we have a variety of open world systems and pieces of content that you are also discovering along the way. If you want to take a break from the main campaign and go exploring, crafting, or PvPing, you are free to do so.
      During the playtest, we saw this variability in action quite a bit. On an average playthrough, team members took several hours to complete the campaign content for the region, but those who focused only on the story finished the arc in less than half the average time (and were, of course able to do side content after that). We think the ability to approach the game with a different mix of story and side content tailored to your own appetite will make playing (and re-playing) the campaign more enjoyable than it has been in previous ARPGs.
       

      Playtests like this one allow us to collect and aggregate data to help guide our design.
      This distribution heatmap indicates areas in the Dry Steppes that saw the most traffic.
        While we have many open world activities, such as crafting, events, world PvP, and side quests, perhaps the most popular open world feature was Camps. These are locations of importance that have been overrun by enemies, which once cleansed turn into friendly outposts with NPCs and a waypoint location. While there is a backstory to each camp, most of the storytelling is visual and quests don’t directly send you to them. For example, one of the camps in the zone was a town afflicted by a curse that turned villagers into piles of salt. Another was a crypt, haunted by a spirit that possesses the bodies of various undead—jumping from skeleton to skeleton until you defeat him.
      We really dug the impact of seeing the world change as you reclaim a small piece of Sanctuary and bring hope back to its common folk. We look forward to the Open World designers showing you more about this feature in the future!



      Camps start out as hostile and turn into small hubs with a waypoint and vendors after being completed
      Finally, mounts were another thing you could obtain during the playthrough. We really liked how the open world interacts with mounts—you could get to your objectives more quickly without trivializing travel or combat. Itemization for mounts also opened up a new axis of progression.
      One of my favorite things about mounts was customizing it by attaching a trophy to the saddle to signal to other players an obscure challenge in the zone that I had completed. Of course, there is more work to be done on mounts. For example, on navigation and tuning, it is currently too easy to get stuck on stray pieces of collision or to get dismounted by a random enemy projectile. These are all things that are just going to get better the more we play and tune the feature.
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      Multiplayer
      Fine tuning the right approach to multiplayer in Diablo IV has been challenging. Our goal has always been to incorporate elements from shared world games without the game ever feeling like it’s veering into massively multiplayer territory. To be clear, this is a philosophy rather than a tech limitation. We find that the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers.

      Towns become social hubs where you can run into other players once key segments in the story are completed
      I’ll break down our experiences during the playtest with some examples. Dungeons and key story moments are always private—just the player and their party. Once story moments are complete and towns turned into social hubs, you’d run into a few people in town. While on the road, you’d sometimes run into a player here and there. And then finally, if you went to a location where a world event was happening, you would see a larger congregation of players trying to defend against an attack by a cannibal horde or trying to take down Ashava, the demonic world boss we showed at BlizzCon.
      It’s worth calling out that while some coordination is helpful during these events, you are never forced to join a party. Solo players can walk in, help complete the event, and claim a reward. We think this seamless approach to multiplayer is working well and look forward to sharing more about this approach with you. In our tests so far, the world feels alive and dynamic without compromising the feel of Diablo. And for players that do want to party up against the minions of Hell, we have new tools available to find a group, whether by activity or proximity in the game world.

      The World Boss Ashava shown during Blizzcon 2019 in Scosglen can spawn in the Dry Steppes as well
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      Items and Progression
      One of the things that was very useful about our two-day playtest was that we could get better feedback on progression as there was a sense of permanence. Gear and skill choices you make on day one have an impact on day two (though some people chose to roll alts as we had multiple classes to test). A friend of mine used to say that Diablo is the game that you keep playing inside your head and Diablo IV is no different. In addition to the official play time allotted to the team during the playtest, I could feel the game lingering in my mind, thinking about the items that could possibly drop for my build, and talents I could finally unlock to get me those key skill interactions.
      You might have already read the developer blog by David Kim shortly after last BlizzCon. In it, he describes new affixes and itemization philosophies. We’ll have a beefier update on items later in the year, but in the meantime, here are some items that dropped during the playtest to whet your appetite!


      Various items from the playtest utilizing the new attribute system. Note that the item icons are not final art
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      Other Thoughts
      The overall feedback from the team was that even at these early stages, Diablo IV is very fun to play. The classes especially are going down a promising path that we’re excited about. We’re taking cues from what makes the Barbarian’s Arsenal system or the Druid’s shapeshifting feel special and looking for ways to apply similar innovations to all classes (more on this in a future update).
      The playtest was also a really good way to put our tech through its paces. Since we played at home, we got to test the game on a lot of different setups—from graphics cards, to screen aspect ratios, to network speeds. We also had the opportunity to exercise our client-server technology, including deploying builds with fixes to bugs during the playtest.
      Of course, we still have a lot of work ahead of us and to be clear, we are not at an Alpha or Beta stage yet. We don’t typically discuss our early milestones publicly during the course of development, but we think it’s especially important to continue to share our progress during a year without a BlizzCon. Also, this was an important milestone for the team as we feel it corroborated that we have all the key ingredients for a great Diablo IV (of course, we’ll continue to seek feedback and iterate as we drive to completion).
      We hope you’ve enjoyed this update and, as always, we welcome you to share your thoughts on the platform of your choice—whether it’s our own forums, other sites, or social media, we read and appreciate your comments and feedback. We were happy to see lots of great discussion after our last blog (which seeded a bunch of conversations on our end as well).
      We are also excited to see the range of topics you want to hear about. Based on your response so far, we think talent trees are by far what you’re the most eager to discuss, so we’ll make sure to queue that up for our very next blog. Items continue to be a popular topic and there was also a lot of interest in music. We are shooting to have more updates around those topics later in the year. Let us know how that sounds.
      Thank you for taking the time to read this update. We can’t wait to share more of Sanctuary with you!
       

      Development is well underway outside the Dry Steppes. More of Sanctuary awaits in coming updates!
       
      -Luis Barriga-
      Game Director, Diablo IV Team
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      Have a question, comment, or feedback about the information we shared today? Join the conversation here on our General Forum. We can’t wait to hear from you!
      The Q2 Diablo 4 update is here!
    • By Starym
      We have some news on the second Diablo 4 quarterly update, in the form of a very short reply from Community Manager Lead PezRadar, confirming that it's still planned for this month, with a note that things can change. But we do now know it's at least written (in some form), so that's something. You can check out the previous quarterly update from back in February here, which focuses on the UI, controllers and co-op and the Cannibal monster family.
      We also recently took a look at whether D4's release could be closer than anticipated, a cool Assassin fan concept, a hate/excitement meter on some D4 features from reddit and discussed whether local co-op was in the cards for PC players as well.
      2nd Quarterly Update (source)
      One simple question, is the D4 Q update still on track for this month?
      Yes but will caveat that things can always change. But I have read it/gone through it.

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