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Dave_Billing

DOOM 1 Episode Project Beta Testers Needed

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I'm looking for someone to test my latest project, The Phobos Incursion, a full episode which is sort of a homage to the shareware episode, Knee Deep in the Dead.

The key feedback I'm looking for here is for item and monster placements as well as difficulty levels. Ideally I'd like this to be fairly difficult on UV.

Here is the link for those interested. The more feedback the better.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/a0gq2svkn3uq22v/PHOBBETA.zip?dl=0

Thanks!

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That would be good to see some screens... well I don't trust to links without images...

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This is pretty cool. Very reminiscent of e1 while being harsh enough to create tension.

-cl 3 FDAs for e1m1-e1m3: http://www.mediafire.com/download/okj8segd3lwchdn/phobosinc_set1_rdwpa_fda.rar.

The only real problem -- and I see it as a big one -- is that a lot of areas are overtly homagey of iwad designs (of their respective original levels, or in the case in the first, of their Doom II analogue). So in a way, the levels come across as bite-size imitations of the originals, smaller in scale and more generic. e1m3 is the most glaring in this regard; it's a pale imitation of the iwad e1m3 in terms of design. The levels play smoothly, lots of barrels and windows and the berserk pack, something to shoot with seemingly every step, which is the main thing they have going for them.

e1m1: Fun opener, loved the 'zerk pack. The availability thereof is a trend I like so far. Punching stuff is fun.

e1m2: A surprisingly high amount of hitscanner attrition. I noticed there wasn't a lot of health, and I ended up saving the berserk for an HP recharge if needed. Harsher than e1m3, imo.

e1m3: Two-sided lines on the automap make it possible to predict exactly where monster closet traps will be sprung, which spoils the surprise. To prevent that, give those linedefs the 'secret flag'. The 20% damaging acid throughout these levels is unnecessary, and it ends up making the berserk pack secret kind of worthless at once point (I have 89% HP and will end up at 86%, and losing a bit of armor, if I run to grab it).

Anyway, onto the next levels.

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Maps e1m9 and e1m4: http://www.mediafire.com/download/8cw5w96803am3ia/phobosinc_set2_rdwpa_fda.rar

e1m9: Good start, surrounded from all sides. Slows down into a lot of frontal doorcamping, however. I got lucky in the trap with all the pinkies -- I expected former humans or whatever.

e1m4: Again a good aggressive start and, later on, a big trap with a lot of pinkies! Most of the intermediary action was dull compared to e1m1-e1m3, however: a lot of frontal combat and door-camping is involved, often against small numbers of enemies at once, with fewer barrels and no berserk pack (at least I didn't find it this time). Spectres are more common, but the way they are used outside of the big traps isn't very fun. You encounter them one on one and just plink away with the shotgun. Slows the pace quite a bit. Until the big YK fight, I wasn't enjoying this so much. That was a mean one. The funny thing is that I saw the two-sided line on the automap, but holy shit I wasn't expecting so many pinkies. Maybe that was your plan all along, to betray early traps on the map and lead the player into overconfidence with some of the later ones. Good one, if so. :D I got lucky that the nukage pit had a secret (or not so secret) way out.

I'll probably continue tomorrow. The iwad homages persist, although e1m4 is more abstract (another compmaze though!). As earlier, I'm not so big on them. I'd like to see more original designs. I think good homage-based design tends to be more conceptual, drawing on the general ideas but not quite replicating them, instead of "hey this is that place from map whatyoucallit, and this is that place from map thingamajig" etc. The beginning of e1m9 would be a good example -- a fight with four-way symmetry that is sort of like "Military Base" but not quite -- if only the entire layout wasn't structured in that sort of way. Infrequent homages can be more overt in design, but when you have homages all over the place, down to the very texturing, it helps if they don't all slap you in the face.

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The strong homages to the original are the very purpose of this project. Some people may like them, some people may not.

Let me know if there are too many or too little health packs as well. Having less health packs for the UV setting is intentional. Again, I'm aiming to make this episode more difficult at the higher settings.

But a big thanks on the trigger lines, I forgot about those entirely!

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http://www.mediafire.com/download/09hbc0b64bzjc91/phobosinc15_rdwpa_fda.lmp

e1m5: So far the progression in these levels has been really smooth. In this one, however, the yellow key and exit doors are located way across the map from where the player will be prior to setting out for them, requiring a lot of backtracking without any sort of action. I got lost for a couple of minutes, the first time I've done so in the set. Thanks to the automap, the berserk pack and soulsphere secrets were so obvious that finding them didn't feel satisfying, and the infusion of health also trivialized the rest of the level. Up until that point health was fairly low, which encouraged door camping but made the action engaging. Altogether this feels like a weaker level than all of e1m1-e1m4.

Dave_Billing said:

The strong homages to the original are the very purpose of this project.


Yeah that's true.

I guess the problem is more that I'm often seeing the same limited number of ideas recycled, instead of a wider variety of homages, including less obvious ones.

Dave_Billing said:

Let me know if there are too many or too little health packs as well. Having less health packs for the UV setting is intentional. Again, I'm aiming to make this episode more difficult at the higher settings.


Not sure if you have watched them yet, but the demos should tell you a lot about the gameplay and balance. So far, e1m2 was a bit short on health early on, such that it felt more dangerous than both e1m3 and e1m5. I got down to 36% before I first saw anything bigger than a health bonus, and the layout allowed shotgunners to sneak up on you more easily, as opposed to say e1m5, which is low on health at the beginning too but allows you to camp everything comfortably.

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rdwpa said:

http://www.mediafire.com/download/09hbc0b64bzjc91/phobosinc15_rdwpa_fda.lmp

e1m5: So far the progression in these levels has been really smooth. In this one, however, the yellow key and exit doors are located way across the map from where the player will be prior to setting out for them, requiring a lot of backtracking without any sort of action. I got lost for a couple of minutes, the first time I've done so in the set. Thanks to the automap, the berserk pack and soulsphere secrets were so obvious that finding them didn't feel satisfying, and the infusion of health also trivialized the rest of the level. Up until that point health was fairly low, which encouraged door camping but made the action engaging. Altogether this feels like a weaker level than all of e1m1-e1m4.

Yeah that's true.

I guess the problem is more that I'm often seeing the same limited number of ideas recycled, instead of a wider variety of homages, including less obvious ones.

Not sure if you have watched them yet, but the demos should tell you a lot about the gameplay and balance. So far, e1m2 was a bit short on health early on, such that it felt more dangerous than both e1m3 and e1m5. I got down to 36% before I first saw anything bigger than a health bonus, and the layout allowed shotgunners to sneak up on you more easily, as opposed to say e1m5, which is low on health at the beginning too but allows you to camp everything comfortably.


I don't usually bother with demos, so I have no idea how to play them. I only use ZDoom and GZDoom, so they'd have to be in that format as well.

There is definitely a degree of repetition throughout the maps, but this is an inevitable consequence of adhering to a common design structure without being too radical. I recycle a lot of design concepts throughout the episode because they work for the most part, although I think I've been a little too liberal with the wall based lighting. I use a lot of "consoles" and "display panels" to break up the monotony of having nothing but STAR textures within a room, as well as adding detail, which I felt was an issue with the original episode one.

I've largely forgotten about automap in terms of design, but I've gone over secret areas and have flagged secret linedefs as such, and have likewise set trigger lines to hidden.

E1M5 does have a bit of a problem with doors I admit, especially around the central area.

I'm not a particularly good communicator at times, and so grasping the right word to describe something for me can be a little difficult, so perhaps homage is the wrong word to use, but it nonetheless does seek (for the most part) to capture the feel of Episode One, and the title itself tries to reflect this. An alternative take on it may be a better term.

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Easiest way to watch demos is to dl prBoom+ (https://sourceforge.net/projects/prboom-plus/), put it in the folder with your iwads, get ZDL if you don't have it, configure it in the settings tab to find prBoom+ and the iwads, and run something like this:



You'd have to redownload the version of the wad I played if you've changed the one on your HD, otherwise the demos will go out of sync.

Anyway, these days I often record FDAs even when I don't plan on posting them, so I'll continue.

--

http://www.mediafire.com/download/qdw290j3kk4ed57/phobosinc16_rdwpa_fda.lmp

e1m6: In a familiar story, a well-designed start, allowing shotgunners to path around in sneaky ways, got me down to thirty-something-% health before I saw the first health pack. Luckily I found the soulsphere secret, which made the rest of the level quite harmless. I think I saw three medkits in the entire level, so a secret like that becomes a disproportionate game-changer and might be better off as something like two medkits and some ammo. This map feels a lot like a reprise of what has come before. It's not a reprise of the bad parts by any means. Many of the good parts are there: the layout flows nicely, windows offer cool sniping vantages, barrels allow a lot of gib kills. But apart from that, the core gameplay was very much like that of e1m2-e1m5 in terms of ammo balance (shell-centric, beefier weapons better saved for spot use against traps), the patterns in which monsters were deployed, and the strategies best used against them. Thus it felt somewhat rote, but not bad. Many of the iwad maps tended to have distinguishable gameplay concepts that they used more than every other level in the set, sort of like trademarks: For example, e1m5 with the hellacious (by the standards of yesteryear) close-range encounters, e1m6 with the huge monster closets set up for rocket launcher carnage, e1m7 with the cross-map vantages and the wandering monsters released by distant closets. By contrast this mapset is a lot more homogeneous so far.

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rdwpa said:

Easiest way to watch demos is to dl prBoom+ (https://sourceforge.net/projects/prboom-plus/), put it in the folder with your iwads, get ZDL if you don't have it, configure it in the settings tab to find prBoom+ and the iwads, and run something like this:

http://i.imgur.com/cABPN69.png

You'd have to redownload the version of the wad I played if you've changed the one on your HD, otherwise the demos will go out of sync.

Anyway, these days I often record FDAs even when I don't plan on posting them, so I'll continue.

--

http://www.mediafire.com/download/qdw290j3kk4ed57/phobosinc16_rdwpa_fda.lmp

e1m6: In a familiar story, a well-designed start, allowing shotgunners to path around in sneaky ways, got me down to thirty-something-% health before I saw the first health pack. Luckily I found the soulsphere secret, which made the rest of the level quite harmless. I think I saw three medkits in the entire level, so a secret like that becomes a disproportionate game-changer and might be better off as something like two medkits and some ammo. This map feels a lot like a reprise of what has come before. It's not a reprise of the bad parts by any means. Many of the good parts are there: the layout flows nicely, windows offer cool sniping vantages, barrels allow a lot of gib kills. But apart from that, the core gameplay was very much like that of e1m2-e1m5 in terms of ammo balance (shell-centric, beefier weapons better saved for spot use against traps), the way the monsters were deployed, and the strategies best used against them. Thus it felt somewhat rote, but not bad. Many of the iwad maps tended to have distinguishable gameplay concepts that they used more than every other level in the set, sort of like trademarks: For example, e1m5 with the hellacious (by the standards of yesteryear) close-range encounters, e1m6 with the huge monster closets set up for rocket launcher carnage, e1m7 with the cross-map vantages and the wandering monsters released by distant closets. By contrast this mapset is a lot more homogeneous so far.


Thanks for that. The demos you've provided have proven invaluable.

Also, with E1M5. I might see what I can do to alleviate the door camping as there's too much of it, as for the yellow key, I'm thinking about making the two main doors on each side of the window of that side of the map yellow keycard doors instead. What do you think?

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http://www.mediafire.com/download/jyrbbvf2k71a3iy/phobosinc_set3_rdwpa_fda.rar

e1m7: First death of the episode. I was enjoying this and thought it would be my favorite level; the start gets quite hectic. But unfortunately the level is broken in ports lower than ZDoom, because you have a GR trigger very close to the switch trigger that makes the YK accessible. Active triggers block triggers behind them unless you have a port that automatically fixes errors like this. Speaking of blocking, the red key is blocked by a medkit -- I had to pick it up when I didn't want to. There's also a small cubby secret where it's literally impossible to actually see what's inside if you aren't playing with free look. It turned out to be a medkit that once again I didn't want to pick up. I had found the blue armor by then and health seemed to be plentiful elsewhere, so it was more of a irritant than anything.

e1m8: Second death of the episode. The level can break if you trigger the lift to baron fight and hop off as it's rising, which happened in my FDA. There needs to be a switch somewhere, so that it can be used as a lift. Alternately, the switch can raise the platform which can be used manually as a lift, so that people aren't confused by the switch that apparently does absolutely nothing. Most of the spectres in the baron fight are completely stuck. I guess ZDoom automatically fixes this, but turning on 'Square Things' in the preferences of your level editor might help detect things like these easier, if you aren't using it already. (For the uninitiated: Things are actually squares as far as collision detection goes, despite historically being represented as circles in many level editors.) It seems like a really cramped area, so I'm not sure how enjoyable it would have been if the spectres could move, without a berserk pack (freely available, not in a secret). Using the shotgun and chaingun against barons is terribly unfun. I'd personally find a cramped berserk-centric take on it more exhilarating.

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rdwpa said:

http://www.mediafire.com/download/jyrbbvf2k71a3iy/phobosinc_set3_rdwpa_fda.rar

e1m7: First death of the episode. I was enjoying this and thought it would be my favorite level; the start gets quite hectic. But unfortunately the level is broken in ports lower than ZDoom, because you have a GR trigger very close to the switch trigger that makes the YK accessible. Active triggers block triggers behind them unless you have a port that automatically fixes errors like this. Speaking of blocking, the red key is blocked by a medkit -- I had to pick it up when I didn't want to. There's also a small cubby secret where it's literally impossible to actually see what's inside if you aren't playing with free look. It turned out to be a medkit that once again I didn't want to pick up. I had found the blue armor by then and health seemed to be plentiful elsewhere, so it was more of a irritant than anything.

e1m8: Second death of the episode. The level can break if you trigger the lift to baron fight and hop off as it's rising, which happened in my FDA. There needs to be a switch somewhere, so that it can be used as a lift. Alternately, the switch can raise the platform which can be used manually as a lift, so that people aren't confused by the switch that apparently does absolutely nothing. Most of the spectres in the baron fight are completely stuck. I guess ZDoom automatically fixes this, but turning on 'Square Things' in the preferences of your level editor might help detect things like these easier, if you aren't using it already. (For the uninitiated: Things are actually squares as far as collision detection goes, despite historically being represented as circles in many level editors.) It seems like a really cramped area, so I'm not sure how enjoyable it would have been if the spectres could move, without a berserk pack (freely available, not in a secret). Using the shotgun and chaingun against barons is terribly unfun. I'd personally find a cramped berserk-centric take on it more exhilarating.


Thanks for letting me know about these. All of them have been fixed. I also added a berserk pack before the center switch in the baron arena so that you can punch your way through the demons. I'll have a revised version of the WAD ready in the next day or so with the changes.

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Dave_Billing said:

Thanks. That's not a bug, that's for monster traps.


Is that a sound tunnel then? You can achieve the same effect by Joining the sector the monsters are in to one of the sectors in the main map.

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Obsidian said:

Is that a sound tunnel then? You can achieve the same effect by Joining the sector the monsters are in to one of the sectors in the main map.


Sweet, thanks for that. Never knew that, lol.

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Dave_Billing said:

Thanks. That's not a bug, that's for monster traps.


You know you could just use linked sectors instead of sound tunnels...

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I played up until E1M5. It's been pretty easy sailing, but fun. Things I've noticed so far:

* There's a bit too much repetition in your theme. For example, I think almost every level so far had at least two COMPTALL computer mazes.
* After a few levels it's starting to feel a bit same-y and random corridor-y. The original E1 levels usually revolved around one or more central pieces of architecture (so called landmarks), which gave you an idea of the 3D space of the level, but I don't get that feeling here.
* Noticed some (too much) misaligned ceiling lights. I'd either align those sectors to the grid, or not use those light textures ... Same goes for that UAC logo floor texture btw, align it to a 64x64 grid or use FLAT14 or something instead.
* Noticed a lot of cut off keycard markings. Always make sure the floor-to-ceiling height is a multiple of 16 if you use those.
* Red keydoor exit on E1M5 can be opened without the red key
* On one of the earlier levels, there was a nukage corridor leading to a secret and it had -20% hurtfloor, with no rad suit in sight. It nearly killed me and all I got for my trouble was a lame blursphere. I think -20% floors should be reserved for lava and inescapable pits.
* On E1M4, there was an intricate secret with a timed lift and a well hidden switch that again lead to just a blursphere. I figured the secret out, but decided not to bother with doing the annoying race-for-the-lift thing for only a blursphere.

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Dave_Billing said:

Thanks for that. The demos you've provided have proven invaluable.

Also, with E1M5. I might see what I can do to alleviate the door camping as there's too much of it, as for the yellow key, I'm thinking about making the two main doors on each side of the window of that side of the map yellow keycard doors instead. What do you think?


Forgot to reply to this. Anywhere a lot closer to the east side of the map should do. What seems natural is to replace the current exit room with a short hallway and stitch the current YK-requiring area*, mirrored, to the end of that. Then the exit room can be moved somewhere close by. A remote monster closet that could open up when the YK is attained could also make the backtracking slightly more eventful -- linedef 718 seems like a natural candidate for that, as there's enough space for a triangular sector adjacent to it.


*Also I didn't notice it in-game but things 152/157 in that area are stuck.

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Dave_Billing said:

Sweet, thanks for that. Never knew that, lol.


If you don't want to change it you can always leave a gap of 1 unit which should be barely noticeable. The sound should still go through the tunnel.

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MrSkeltal said:

If you don't want to change it you can always leave a gap of 1 unit which should be barely noticeable. The sound should still go through the tunnel.


Yeah I think I'll stick to the old fashioned way and reduce to it one unit.

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janvknn said:

I played up until E1M5. It's been pretty easy sailing, but fun. Things I've noticed so far:

* There's a bit too much repetition in your theme. For example, I think almost every level so far had at least two COMPTALL computer mazes.
* After a few levels it's starting to feel a bit same-y and random corridor-y. The original E1 levels usually revolved around one or more central pieces of architecture (so called landmarks), which gave you an idea of the 3D space of the level, but I don't get that feeling here.
* Noticed some (too much) misaligned ceiling lights. I'd either align those sectors to the grid, or not use those light textures ... Same goes for that UAC logo floor texture btw, align it to a 64x64 grid or use FLAT14 or something instead.
* Noticed a lot of cut off keycard markings. Always make sure the floor-to-ceiling height is a multiple of 16 if you use those.
* Red keydoor exit on E1M5 can be opened without the red key
* On one of the earlier levels, there was a nukage corridor leading to a secret and it had -20% hurtfloor, with no rad suit in sight. It nearly killed me and all I got for my trouble was a lame blursphere. I think -20% floors should be reserved for lava and inescapable pits.
* On E1M4, there was an intricate secret with a timed lift and a well hidden switch that again lead to just a blursphere. I figured the secret out, but decided not to bother with doing the annoying race-for-the-lift thing for only a blursphere.


The door key textures are at that height deliberately, as I wanted to keep some of the doors at a height of 72 units.

There is a secret rad suit not too far, but I've lowered the damage factor anyway, as I have with some other nukage sectors.

There is only one compmaze in the entire WAD, although like Knee Deep In The Dead most maps contain computer areas in some form or another. Repetition I feel isn't necessarily a bad thing, provided each map has a diverse texture set. The lights are a bit overdone, IMO. But I won't be changing that now.

Big big thanks however for the red key door. Luckily you spotted that.

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rdwpa said:

Forgot to reply to this. Anywhere a lot closer to the east side of the map should do. What seems natural is to replace the current exit room with a short hallway and stitch the current YK-requiring area*, mirrored, to the end of that. Then the exit room can be moved somewhere close by. A remote monster closet that could open up when the YK is attained could also make the backtracking slightly more eventful -- linedef 718 seems like a natural candidate for that, as there's enough space for a triangular sector adjacent to it.


*Also I didn't notice it in-game but things 152/157 in that area are stuck.


The stuck things aren't a problem in ZDoom, however they did present a problem in BOOM, so I've fixed those.

I've shifted the yellow key doors to the front of that particular area, rather than right where you go to find the red key.

I may set a monster trap to spawn in monsters on the way back to the red door, but I won't be shifting it's location.

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Dave_Billing said:

The door key textures are at that height deliberately, as I wanted to keep some of the doors at a height of 72 units.


Well with that STARG texture, I can see why you'd want to keep the room at 72 units height, but there are solutions for the door trim texture. For example, you could make a little portal sector in front of the door that is a 8 units higher and it would look much better already.

Here's an example of how I did something like that in No Sleep for the Dead:

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janvknn said:

Well with that STARG texture, I can see why you'd want to keep the room at 72 units height, but there are solutions for the door trim texture. For example, you could make a little portal sector in front of the door that is a 8 units higher and it would look much better already.

Here's an example of how I did something like that in No Sleep for the Dead:http://i.imgur.com/7aDVLHI.jpg


I was initially planning to do that myself, but I wasn't satisfied with the result, so I stuck with the status quo. Might revisit it however.

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I have only played the first two levels so far.

E1M2's exit room really could use some work, as it does not look good at all.

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JohnnyTheWolf said:

I have only played the first two levels so far.

E1M2's exit room really could use some work, as it does not look good at all.


How does it not look good?

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I think what actually bothers me is the way the room is designed in a way that feels like the exit door should be lined up with the stairs. I am not really sure how else to put it; it just looks weird and inelegant.

Compare it to the room leading to the non-secret exit in vanilla E1M3.

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JohnnyTheWolf said:

I think what actually bothers me is the way the room is designed in a way that feels like the exit door should be lined up with the stairs. I am not really sure how else to put it; it just looks weird and inelegant.

Compare it to the room leading to the non-secret exit in vanilla E1M3.


I think it looks fine. It would look worse if it were lined up with the staircase. In any case, it's not essential.

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I think the main problem with the exit room is that the sharp angles look "off", and that the room feels cramped because of it.

These angles:



It's especially strange that you've chosen this "cramped" configuration because there are no surrounding sectors that would block an expansion of the room.

I've taken the liberty to do some quick sector surgery and changed it to this:



This looks much better in game IMO

Before:


After:


If you want to use some of these changes, feel free. I uploaded the modified E1M2 to my dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4d9uwppdoli64i3/phobe1m2.wad?dl=0

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