Posts tagged zombies


Starbreeze / Overkill Pre-E3 & The Walking Dead Game Launch Event


With E3 2015 wrapping up a couple days ago, we’ve been seeing some pretty cool announcements coming from the electronic world over the past week. Some fantastic-looking new games, new systems, new gadgets. Nerdy fun to be had by all.

Just before E3, however, I got to have a bit of that fun for myself. Recently, Overkill Software had an event they called the Hype Train for their game, PayDay 2. This happened back in February/March, but you can still see some of the info from it here. This event effectively solidified Overkill/Starbreeze as my favorite gaming company around today. While studios like Electronic Arts are nickel-and-diming us gamers with in-game purchases, and a studio like Gearbox is suspected of plagiarism, it’s getting hard to tell who the good guys are in gaming. Overkill made that a little easier with the Hype Train. Here are the basics: Overkill set a list of goals to reach with corresponding PayDay-themed prizes. These goals were met by fans purchasing the game, DLCs, characters packs, etc. Anything at all PayDay-related that was purchased from their official outlets in this time period went toward the Hype Train. As prizes were unlocked, anyone with the game got access to these prizes. So even if you just had the base game, but didn’t or couldn’t buy anything during that time, you still got the Car Shop Heist and the Hoxton Revenge Heist. The way they went about this event was very cool in that it was obviously for the fans. Instead of just being out to make a quick buck, they promoted the game and the additions in a way that engaged the community, and rewarded fans. I’ve seen a few cynical groups of fans criticize the gaming company for involving money in the event at all, but that criticism seems extremely short-sighted. Of course a business has to make money in order to continue releasing their brand of awesome. At least in Overkill’s case, they did it in a way that really gave back to their fans and their community – and not just the factions that could pay for it at that particular time.

One of the prizes released during the Hype Train affected me, directly. There was a possibility that a prize would be unlocked where Overkill would fly 10 heisters to L.A. for a Pre-E3 event. I’ll be honest – the details were incredibly vague at the time, and whether it would even happen or not had not even been announced yet by the time you had to enter to win this prize. However, to enter, all you had to do was send Overkill a tweet during a certain time frame. What does one tweet cost you?  Nothing. Nothing at all. I sent my tweet back in March, went about my life, and actually forgot about it.

That is until early June when I started getting messages from Overkill on twitter.  When they first started trying to get my attention, they hadn’t yet told me I won the trip. I was mid-sentence in a conversation with my husband, and checked a notification on my phone. I trailed off in conversation, and my eyes got very big. My husband asked what was going on, and I responded with “SOMETHING IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.” A few minutes later, Almir Listo, producer of the PayDay franchise, let me know I had won, and asked if I’d be available to fly to L.A. in exactly one week. Naturally, I freaked out, put everything in life on hold, and went. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I’ve been a big fan of the PayDay games for a while at this point, but even bigger, I have grown to respect and love Overkill as a gaming company. PC Gaming is one of my biggest hobbies in life these days, and these hotelguys were doing it right. I absolutely jumped at the chance to fly across the country and meet with them in person.

The following week was a blur of sustained excitement, and early on the Saturday morning following the announcement, I was on a plane. I arrived at the same time as several other heisters, and we instantly bonded. Everyone invited along, and everyone who met up with us from the studio were amazingly friendly and welcoming. We were all extremely excited.

We got to the hotel Overkill had us staying in – the Grafton on Sunset BLVD in West Hollywood.  A beautiful hotel that was rock-themed, newly renovated, and in a great location.  I walked with some of the other heisters to a nearby burger place, and had lunch. Afterwards, we were all in need of a nap – each of us had been traveling since early that morning, and were in for a long night ahead of us.

A few hours later, we were picked up in a limo, and given a tour of Hollywood before being dropped off at the event.

The party was at the Hollywood House of Blues. Technically, it was only half a block from our hotel, and we easily could have walked, but the limo ride was fun either way. There were 3 floors of drinks, food, music, fun people, games, and announcements. It was crazy. Immediately upon walking into the gate, I met Damion Poitier – the voice of Chains in the PayDay games. He was incredibly nice, and all for hanging with the fans. He also made the absolute best faces in all the pictures that were taken of him that night (see his twitter feed for more of these amazing faces).damion  We also chatted with Eric Etebari, the voice of Dallas, throughout the night as well. In fact, every time we turned around, there was either Damion or Eric. I’m pretty sure they wanted to be BFFs, but were too shy to say so (right? RIGHT??).

We were also greeted by shambling zombies everywhere. Since this event was the launch party for Overkill’s The Walking Dead, they made a point to really put you in the mindset of hanging with zombies. Now – I organized a large-scale Zombie Walk for years. We had some incredible zombies over the years, but none with the constitution of these Walkers. Never once did I see a single zombie break character, even for a second. One in particular made a point to sneak up behind various party people, waiting just inches from the back of their heads to notice him. The reactions were priceless.

zombie Next were the announcements.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead was obviously a huge one. There are a couple other TWD games out right now, but they’re both completely story-driven, not shooters. Since the Left 4 Dead franchise, I think we here in the gaming community have been itching for an awesome, new zombie-themed shooter. We saw a bit of the gameplay and graphics from the new TWD game, and it’s looking pretty badass. And it looks like there will also be a little crossover from the PayDay franchise. The game doesn’t come out until next year, but I’m already psyched for it. You can watch the trailer for it, and find out more details here.

Next was the announcement of PayDay 2 coming to consoles. In fact, they had several machines set up with PayDay 2 loaded up to try it out. I’m not a big console person, myself, so I asked some of the other folks in my group how it held up in terms of a console shooter. Since they were all fans of the PayDay franchise on PC previously, they were able to definitely say that the translation from PC to console was very well done. The controls are intuitive, and the game played just as well on console. So if you’ve been wanting to play PayDay 2, but just aren’t into keyboards and mice, look forward to that release.



Lastly, and possibly most importantly, we were surprised with the announcement of the StarVR system. This entire thing looks amazing. The StarVR system is Starbreeze’s answer to the recent Virtual Reality craze. It’s a headset that’s lighter than the Oculus, and instead of smaller circles to look through that are straight-ahead, the StarVR system has a wide screen that allows for peripheral vision. This may sound like a small difference in systems, but in reality, the way the StarVR is laid out allows you to really, and truly immerse yourself into the game much more than most other VR systems that are announced right now. Granted – the StarVR is still in process, as are many other virtual reality systems, and some changes and competitors may still arise. At the moment, though, it looks like Starbreeze is on the right path with this one. Here’s a Hands-on view from the E3 conference:

Overall, there were a ton of unexpected, and fantastic surprises at the Pre-E3 party. Friendships were forged, and a ridiculous amount of fun was had.

The next day, we had dinner plans with the Overkill gang, but were free until then. Some heisters explored Hollywood, some hung out at the hotel and gamed a bit. I had some friends in town, so I joined them for a killer waffle brunch. Then we were all given an address to meet up at.

The address led us to the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and the shopping center behind it. It was a little bit confusing to know where we were going at first, but once we saw that there was a Dave & Busters, we all thought ‘of course they’re going to take a bunch of video game nerds to the gaming place.’ We were right – and thrilled to be.

starbreezeWe were joined by Almir Listo, Simon Viklund (who composes all of the music in the PayDay games), and Karl Lakner (art director for Overkill). A relaxing dinner with great conversation was followed by a lot of selfies and group pics. We all got the chance to really talk with these accomplished fellows one-on-one, and ask any burning, heisting questions we may have had.

However, at the end of it, not all of us were ready to call it quits. Almir had to leave us, but Simon and Karl were dead-set on seeing a movie. We walked over the Chinese Theater, and all grabbed tickets for Jurassic World, but still had a couple hours to kill, so we went back to D&B’s to play some games. I got to shoot ridiculous amounts of aliens and terminator-bots with Karl, and then even more dinosaurs with Simon. A few of the other Overkill guys joined us for the movie – and were more than happy to talk about the weapons, explosions, and landscapes they designed for the PayDay games, and what went into them. The gentlemen we got to meet from Overkill were easily some of the nicest, friendliest, and most welcoming people I’ve met in a long time.

The next morning, I flew the 7 hours back to my usual side of the country.

It was a crazy, jam-packed, exciting, whirlwind of a weekend that I never expected to happen.


I cannot thank the guys at Overkill, and especially Almir and Karl (who were both incredibly friendly and accommodating) enough for the experience. You guys made 10 little heisters’ lives incredibly bright for that weekend.


Book Review: Deadbeat–Makes You Stronger


deadbeatBook Review: Deadbeat–Makes You Stronger by Guy Adams

Review by: Prof. Jenn

Guy Adams has created a charming “detective” duo in Max and Tom. His experience in writing Sherlock Holmes books means he knows how to set up an investigatory plot, but this isn’t your everyday police procedural. It involves the undead, too, but nowhere does one find the classic vampires or zombies (beware, the “z” word makes one of our protagonists cringe). In fact, even the minor minion characters are round, unusual, realistic in this crazy world Adams has created, and all are compelling enough to make us want to know what happens next.

Max and Tom are drunkenly leaving their bar (the Deadbeat) one night when they stumble across an undertaker’s service fumbling with a corpse. Except, this corpse seems to be breathing. As we progress through the story, we find that it isn’t the only one.

Adams seems to like writing his novels in the “change POV each chapter” structure, usually to good effect. It certainly is here–the POV switches aren’t too frequent that we don’t get to know or care about our characters, and change just when we need a new window on the proceedings. One habit I’ve noticed, though, is the quicker switches (and switches to unusual or minor characters) as the plot churns to a climax, which sometimes can be disconcerting.

I very much enjoyed the voice of Max in particular, and appreciate the beginning of the book being basically the end of the story, with the rest of the novel filling in the events till that opening one. It’s a cinematic way to go. In a good way.

Bottom line: Deadbeat–Makes You Stronger is a highly recommended, action-packed thriller. WIth the undead. Yeah.




Book Review: Plague Nation


Book Review: Plague Nation by Dana Fredsti

Review by: Prof. Jenn


For a reminder of my opinion of Fredsti’s first zombie book in this series, and my interview with her, see here:

In Plague Nation, the zombie virus has spread from our one little college town to all the way across the, well, nation. We also learn that there is more than meets the eye with how the plague started in the first place. We catch a brief glimpse of a new villain, and learn more about a possible cure. Though the next book is called Plague World, so I wouldn’t hold your breath yet.

Here’s my professional opinion of Plague Nation, in list form, like the last one was. Also, lists are cool.

What I liked:

  • The pacing. This sequel is much tighter than the first one–it hits the ground running, and doesn’t let up. Having said that, there are enough quiet spots to allow us to catch our breath, but not enough to drag down the drama.

  • Character development: Remember when I complained last time about one-dimensional characters? Well they’ve developed here, and it makes us want to know what happens next much more now that we’re getting to know our characters better.

  • The drama re: Gabriel’s mysterious condition. It’s getting down to the wire, and it’s exciting.

  • Our new silky, creepy villain. Actually I wish we had more of him– the conclusion of his thread is a bit anticlimactic, though I can tell he’ll continue in the next book. But he’s great to have–a supervillain in a zombie story, totally charming and sociopathic.

  • The premise of including lots and lots of pop culture, and characters who quote movies, and reference them in their daily activities. Like we do.

What I didn’t like:

  • Ashley’s snarky inner monologue. It was a bit too much in the last book, and in the sequel, it’s even more out of hand. Instead of sounding like a funny, smart, kick ass protagonist (which I suspect is the idea behind writing her like this), Ashley just grates on the nerves.

  • As much as I like the idea of pop culture references in a story like this, it does get a bit overboard in actual practice. Also, it veers a bit too close to Walking Dead. There’s a fine line between postmodern remix and clunky copying, and this book crosses that line a few times.

  • The conspiracy plot-line: I won’t spoil it for you, readers, but I don’t get it–the motivations behind the new evil-doers are not plausible to me. I don’t know, go read it, then email me and see if that’s just me.

Bottom line: if you can grit your teeth past Ashley’s voice, pick up Plague Nation and have fun seeing how our intrepid wild cards are faring against the spread of the zombie virus.

 ~Prof. Jenn

Image credit

Need Some Geeky Shoes?


In my many journeys through the internet, I stumbled across something awesome, and thought it deserved to be shared.  Catherine Gretschel with Aisha Voya Creations makes these intricately glittered geeky shoes by hand.

Not only are they very expertly done, but she has such a fun geeky collection. Take a look:





All of those pics lead to the actual shoes, and it looks like she has a ton of sizing options. Take a look at her shop for other fun geekness:


The Walking Dead: Comic Book vs TV Series [Episode Two: “Guts”]


Transitioning a story from one medium to another is a tricky business. It never fails, when a book, video game, television show or movie is adapted into another format someone will always tell you, the original was better. Why is that? Is there some unwritten rule that once a story’s been told you’ll never see, read, or play a better version?

Over the next few months I’m going to explore that notion with one of my favorite stories, The Walking Dead. Before it became AMC’s highest rated program of all time it was already an award winning comic book series. Both mediums tell the story of a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, but how they’re presenting their story is completely different. Not only are there the inherent differences between a comic book and television series, but the TV series has taken certain liberties when it comes to adapting its source material. Not surprisingly, some fans have taken issue with this.

Each article in this ongoing series will focus on an episode of the TV series, discuss what was comic book inspired, what’s a deviation, and whether it’s good or bad. Plus, which version had the most gruesome zombie kill! Y’know, for the kids. It should be noted these posts will contain SPOILERS for the TV series as well as all corresponding comics.


5 Questions: Maxwell Alexander Drake


This interview appeared originally at Specifically, here:   ~Prof. Jenn


The good folks over at Imagined Interprises connected with me recently, and I had the opportunity to interview one of their authors, Maxwell Alexander Drake. He’s another author that specializes in action scenes and instructing others in the composition thereof. Please to enjoy this interview, and stay tuned on facebook for a promo of his work! ~Jenn


5 Questions: Maxwell Alexander Drake

by: Jenn Zuko Boughn

1) What’s the one essential factor for writers to keep in mind when writing action sequences?

The number one thing a writer needs to keep in mind when writing action is that, well… it is ACTION. So, the words the writer chooses to use, the sentence structure, etc. all plays into how the scene will read. There is more detail in my  on my website, but here are the big issues to keep in mind.

1-Use strong verbs. Sally’s fist struck John in the face vs. Sally’s fist smashed John in the face. Smashed is a much stronger verb than struck.

2-Write in an action, reaction manner.

3-Do not write with passive voice.

4-Short sentences read faster, therefore feel faster.

2) What got you into Western Martial Arts? Why WMA and not Asian martial arts?

I like both Western and Asian martial art styles. However, for me I have always been more attracted to the western style of fighting than the Asian. Not because of the actual fighting style, but the culture that each of these has created. What can I say, I like Castles and Knights. There is just something more visceral with the western style. More primal. I am not saying the Asian fighting style is all prim and proper. When two people face off to kill each other, rarely do they do it with kindness. Perhaps it is also that my ancestry is Western Europe. Though I think it has more to do with Dungeons & Dragons than anything else.

3) What’s your favorite weapon / style in WMA?

I like the long sword; a blade that is versatile on the attack in both thrust and swing, and is good on defense. Plus, with the heavier blade, you can really put some weight behind it and cleave off extremities. A great way to end a fight.

4) Cthulhu, Zombies, Western? Wow. Please explain that combination! :)

Dead Ned is a story that is a long time in the making. It saw many different variations and themes before it became what it is today. Basically, it started out as a challenge. Someone asked me if I could write a story where the protagonist (the hero) was evil. And not in a Despicable Me kind of way that is actually loveable, but a truly vile person. After giving it some thought, I found that the only way to accomplish this would be to make the antagonist an even bigger threat. Then, it was figure out why an evil protagonist would take up the cause to kill the even more evil antagonist, throw in a few gods from other planes of existence, the occasional undead for good measure, and you have a story.

Unfortunately, due to health reasons with the artist, this project is on temporary hold. We are planning on getting back into it by year’s end and hopefully having the first graphic novel out by Comic-con 2013.

5) What action scenes in literature are the best/most inspiring to you? Is there anyone you still try to emulate in your own work?

I am a fan. The quintessential “fan boy” as it were. I love this industry with the unabashed wonder of a three-year-old child. So, basically, everything inspires me. I will walk away with ideas from even the most horrible of movies/books/comics. There is so much to see and experience, it is almost overwhelming.

As to emulating, I am not sure I have ever “tried” to emulate anyone. I do, there is no doubt about that. But it is purely subconscious. Robert Jordan was one of my favorite authors growing up. And my narrative voice is similar to his. Though, while he was heavy on description, I write mostly action and dialogue. It is also why so many equate me to Brandon Sanderson. I had never read Brandon until I was published, so he had no influence on me. However, Jordan was an influence on him, so we have walked similar paths.

However, I think my violence is unlike most. Some say it is closer to George R.R. Martin, though I disagree. I think my violence is a bit more visceral than his. More brutal. More emotional.


A Short bio of Maxwell Alexander Drake

Maxwell Alexander Drake, or Drake as he prefers to be called, is an award-winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Graphic Novelist. Drake teaches creative writing around the country as well as for the library district in Las Vegas, NV. Find out more about him at his website,



The Walking Dead: Comic Book vs TV Series


Transitioning a story from one medium to another is a tricky business. It never fails, when a book, video game, television show or movie is adapted into another format someone will always tell you, the original was better. Why is that? Is there some unwritten rule that once a story’s been told you’ll never see, read, or play a better version?

Over the next few months I’m going to explore that notion with one of my favorite stories, The Walking Dead. Before it became AMC’s highest rated program of all time it was already an award winning comic book series. Both mediums tell the story of a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, but how they’re presenting their story is completely different. Not only are there the inherent differences between a comic book and television series, but the TV series has taken certain liberties when it comes to adapting its source material. Not surprisingly, some fans have taken issue with this.

Each article in this ongoing series will focus on an episode of the TV series, discuss what was comic book inspired, what’s a deviation, and whether it’s good or bad. Plus, which version had the most gruesome zombie kill! Y’know, for the kids. It should be noted these posts will contain SPOILERS for the TV series as well as all corresponding comics.


Dead Alive 1

Red 5 Comics’ Dead or Alive


It is my belief that zombies make everything better, probably more so in fiction stories than in real life. Do you enjoy a good, rough ridin’, old west cowboy tale? Add zombies to that backdrop and you’ve got Dead or Alive. This is the debut issue, written by Scott Chitwood (Co-Publisher of Red 5 Comics, co-founder of TheForce.Net) and art by Alfonso Ruiz (Abyss: Family Issues, Ezra), and is on shelves right now and also available digitally at Comixology

The stage is set with a back story about an ancient Pueblo city discovered by a prospector in 1873. Impressive in it’s architecture and complexity, haunting in it’s apparently sudden abandonment by the Indian tribe who called it home. And this is where the fun starts.

Black Knife was a very bad Indian; a guy the others feared and   hated. He practiced dark magic and sacrificed his place in the  tribe for it. Black Knife also chose to go out in a hail of magic  puff powder, cursing the entire Pueblo city. Sure, we’ve seen this story before. The good people of the town banish the creepy guy/girl for being a witch/warlock/tomb raider, etc. Banished person says goodbye with a nasty curse that ensures all those good people suffer for being jerks. Except, this one is articularly fun and gory. You know why? Yep! Zombies!

I thought the idea of a zombie curse wiping out an entire Pueblo  city was pretty cool to begin with, but when the story then moves to the wild west and we meet cowboys Jed and Sam, the possibility of this walking dead curse standing the test of time only ups the creep factor. I mean, we all hope when the zombie apocalypse happens the flesh eating bums will just die off naturally at some point, right? What if the zombies die, but the whole thing can just happen again and again, regardless of time or location? 

Jed and Sam discover the gruesome murder of a town full of nice folks and learn that an evil, bad criminal named El Muerto is to blame. El Muerto also has a hefty price on his head. Thus begins the classic battle of good guy vigilante versus infamous outlaw.

This story is a fun, easy read. It’s familiar territory, but told in a silly, old west voice that I couldn’t help but enjoy. The artwork is colorful and fits perfectly here, just like it did for Abyss. Red 5 Comics always provides something different than the same old super hero and Dead or Alive is no exception. I see this story having the potential to continue being so entertaining, and I really like the approach of zombies created by a black magic curse which is an homage to the original “zombie” of voodoo legends.

I recommend you check it out. Read it digitally first and if you like it, please buy the print. Great, unique stories like this one often come to us via the small guys, independent publishers and creator owned work.



Web Series Review: Zombie Hunter


There’s a new mockumentary on the web and it involves zombies. Zombie Hunter follows Nathan Greene as he attempts to show his abilities when up against zombies in the wild. Along the way, he takes time to advertise zombie repellants so that you, too, can become a hunter just like him. The episodes run around 3-6 minutes each, so it’s not a big time commitment. And if the website’s design doesn’t please you, you can access all the episodes on YouTube.

This is a fun, backyard project. It’s not as professionally done as many web series offerings, so please be aware of that going in. The sound drops out frequently, the lighting is bad, and the editing is rough. I understand why the scripts are written in the language that they are, considering Nathan and company appear to be the stereotypes of rednecks, but I found the episodes themselves to not be very smooth in conveying that goal. That may be because of its coupling with the acting, which seems to be more at a beginner than a professional web series level. I’m not sure how much experience the creators have, or whether this is indeed Dedman Productions’ first full length production, so I’ll assume it’s a first-offering from a budding group of actors and directors. If the series is recut and re-edited to become more professional, I’d suggest working on the opening because I found it to be repetitive by taking cuts of the first episode and leading into the credits. I think it would be more accessible to just start the episodes with the credit and then lead into the new content. Even at three minutes apiece, the repetition began to wear on me. However, for a first offering of zombie storytelling, the series is inventive.

If you’re a fan of zombies, and are aware of the caveats mentioned, be sure to check out Zombie Hunter. I’m interested to see where Dedman Productions goes in a couple of years. The creativity is certainly evident, which could lead to bigger and better things.

The Affinity Bridge

Book Review: The Affinity Bridge


The Affinity Bridge by George Mann

Review by: Megara Noelle

I find most of my books, which turn out to be my favorites, by the book cover. This particular book I found mere weeks away from the World Steam Expo. I say this because on the cover of The Affinity Bridge is a large dirigible. Take my money, please. “A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation” the cover reads, “Steampunk is making a comeback, and with this novel Mann is leading the charge….” The Guardian dropped in, and some of the best reviews I’ve seen on the back. “An enormous pile of awesome.” Author Chris Roberson boasts, while the SF Signal says “Captures the Sherlock Holmes feel. Never a boring Passage. A Hugely entertaining book.” Steampunk and Sherlock Holmes in writing? Okay, now I’m just throwing my money at the cashier.

I wasn’t disappointed. It’s the early 1900’s, 1901 to be exact, and shipments and people coming back form India seem to have brought back a plague of some kind. Fog covers the streets, thickest in the morning and at night, and there’s a general warning out that no one is to travel the streets after sunset for fear of the plague ridden. One bite or scratch from these people will pass the plague, and those infected have merely three days before all hope is lost. Of course, those of us in the 21st century have a name for this, zombies. That’s right, I said zombies. Let’s tally this up so far. Sherlock Holmes, Steampunk, and now Zombies.

The enigmatic Sir Maurice Newbury is assigned a new assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, by the Queen herself. As soon as Miss Hobbes arrives they are thrown right into a new case, an airship crash where the automaton pilot has gone missing. They have to find the pilot, and find out why it malfunctioned when its creator claims that it can’t possibly malfunction, and investigate a string of murders committed by a glowing constable. The two cases can’t possibly be connected, so what to do what to do. The Queen is very interested in the airship crash and they’re starting to feel the pressure.

George Mann has created a world where things happen with plausible explanations, not where we’re asked to believe everything just on faith. It’s a blend of History Fiction and Sci-Fi/Fantasy that pulls you in. I usually only read Fantasy and High Fantasy novels, but with this book I find myself looking for Mann in the fiction section online and in real life for any new books. The way that Newbury and Hobbes work together gives a Holmes and Watson feel, but they have their own personalities and quirks. Headstrong Hobbes gives no real fuss when it comes to investigating or chasing down suspects, but enjoys a formal gala event and picking out the colors that she’ll wear. Newbury gives a feeling of cool calm and collected while craving and absorbing knowledge quicker than a sponge in the ocean. George Mann has a style of writing that I can only strive for as a budding author, and I personally can’t wait for the next Newbury and Hobbes installment, and if you want a mix of Steampunk, mystery, a touch of supernatural, and zombies, I think I found a book that you should give a chance.

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