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RE: When? - 12/3/2005 10:47:30 AM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

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I apologize. After a little thought I decided the previous post contained little thought.

A better answer would have been: "Thank you and I accept your offer."

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(in reply to Shannon V. OKeets)
Post #: 61
RE: When? - 1/3/2006 8:38:28 AM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

Posts: 18411
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January 1, 2006 Status Report for Matrix Games’ MWIF Forum

Accomplishments of December

Project Management
A target date of summer 2006 is my best guess at this time.

Communications
Rob Armstrong provided artwork for the terrain bitmaps and the British Isles.

I monitored all the threads in the MWIF World in Flames forum daily. Members of the forum have been extremely helpful in improving the graphics for the land units.

Graham Dodge, a.k.a., Greyshaft, gathered the first list of play testers. There are about 50, of which we will take 20 to start.

One of the forum members has volunteered to help with writing the code. I anticipate being able to delegate some tasks to him that can be worked on more or less separately. Hopefully this will save me tens of hours of work every month, or more.

I remain in frequent email contact with Chris Marinacci about how CWIF works.

CWIF Conversion
I replaced the internal data storage structures for factories and resources in order to create enough room for storing the indices for coastal bitmaps. This worked as I had originally designed it back in September. However, I had to do a lot of rewriting of routines relating to the factories. Those for resources were very easy to convert by comparison.

Scenario Information
I reviewed most of the hex control file for scenarios (800+ hexes) and it all looked good. This file dictates which countries control which hexes at the start of each scenario. It is important for Germany’s progress invading Russia and Japan’s progress in China. The interactions of the British and Italians in the Mediterranean and Africa also have a lot of entries. Each hex is entered individually. There are some questionable decisions about hexes in the Pacific (who controlled what at different times of the war), but I will let the play testers review them rather than do it all by my lonesome.

I made some good progress on many of the scenarios. There are still a lot of loose ends here, but I have put them aside to focus on the graphics for the map and units. [Those had always been a higher priority anyway.] For the first release to the play testers, I will just enable the Barbarossa scenario, which is fully functional. The restriction to just Barbarossa is primarily because the full world map will not be ready.

Map and Units
I replaced all the bitmaps for terrain with the ones provided by Rob. This meant converting the code from processing 68 by 76 pixel bitmaps to processing 136 by 152 bitmaps. Doing so presented some obstacles but I eventually overcame them all, and now have the map displayed on screen with the new terrain. I had to modify all the unit counters, doubling their size from 48 pixels square to 96 pixels square. At this point the map works as it did before with 8 levels of zoom and there does not appear to be any substantial deterioration in refresh speed: full screen refresh of the map with units, when displaying 30 by 40 hex section of the map, is less than ½ second.

I incorporated Rob’s test BMP file containing all the bitmaps for the British Isles coastal hexes into the MWIF code proper. Along the way I wrote a utility program that automates that process. What this means for the future is that Rob will be able to create multiple hex bitmaps for a section of coastal hexes and see how they look in MWIF - when he runs the copy of MWIF I will provide him with.

Once the coasts look ok to Rob, he can send me each multiple hex bitmap file, one at a time, and I’ll be able to add the new coast lines immediately (and painlessly). What I have done here is to code MWIF to see if a bitmap for a coastline hex exists. When it doesn’t, the program uses the old style of depicting coastal hexes (as per CWIF). This way development in other areas can continue unaffected by the continuing work on the coastlines for the world (5070 hexes).

I corrected the errors in the CWIF map for the British Isles. I have a complete list I compiled earlier (September?) for all the differences between the WIF FE European maps and CWIF. I eventually will transform MWIF into a perfect match with the WIF FE European maps. The other WIF FE maps won’t match because the scales are different.

The land units at high resolution were worked on extensively with pretty much continuous feedback from the forum members. The final result of this refinement process are some nice looking high resolution land units. There is still some work to be done on the units for non-major powers and other odds and ends, but they can be officially considered 98% complete - with all that that implies in the world of computer programming.

The air and naval units are waiting on Rob to send me samples so I can automate the incorporation of his work on them into MWIF. Rob has the master computer files from ADG for the counter sheets and will extract the beautiful renderings of the air and naval units for me to insert into the MWIF unit depictions on screen.

For all units I have decided on 3 levels of resolution: high (96 by 96 pixels), medium (60 by 60), and low (36 by 36). The medium and low resolution I can do myself for the most part. The map has 8 zoom levels and the high res units will look good at the 2 highest levels of zoom (7 and 8). Lower than that the details of the high res become lost. The medium res units are intended for zoom levels 6 down to 4 with the low res for the smallest depictions of hexes (at zoom levels 3, 2 and 1).

The unit sizes zoom with the map hexes so the units are always in proportion to the hexes. There is nothing stopping the players from using any of the unit resolutions at all of the zoom levels. It’s just that the high res units look real nice and probably will be used as much as possible by the players. The medium res communicate as much information as the high res but do not look as pretty because fewer pixels are available. There are going to be times when the players want to see a much bigger picture of the map, and the low res will let them gather some information about what units are in which hexes. However, the low res depictions do not provide as much information. For example, the 64 unit types and two unit sizes are compressed into a half dozen unit types of unspecified size.

I still have the task of coming up with medium and low resolution versions for all the unit types, but that will be rather easy. It is simply the process of removing fine details from the counters and making the remaining important information larger so it is easier to read when the map is zoomed out.

Saved Games
This has moved up in priority because I want it working again for play test. I have completely mutilated the CWIF save game system, and now have to start from scratch. But that is what I intended when I made that decision in July.

Game Interface
I have a few more ideas for the interface. Once I get play testing started I will start making improvements to the game play interface.

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
I will delay this to give higher priority to those tasks needed for play testing.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
I have yet to definitize the design documents for these.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
A few more ideas about strategic plans have drifted in from forum members. I have rewritten several sections on decision making for air combat: when to intercept, how many fighters to send as escorts, how to select casualties, and so on.

Other
To complete the first screen shot of the coastlines for the British Isles before the end of the year, golf was eliminated for the last 2 weeks of the month. I kicked up work on MWIF to 12 - 14 hours a day, (every day), during that period.

====================================================================
December summary: good progress on the graphics.
====================================================================


Tasks for January

Communications
Continue monitoring the forum threads.

Map and Units
Work with Rob on all aspects of rendering the map and units on the screen.

CWIF Conversion
Finish replacing the Scrap and Save Setup routines. Replace the random number generator.

Rules
Modify the code on optional rules so it includes those, and only those, selected for MWIF Product 1.

Saved Games
Finish the design for saved games (including encryption) and code it.

Game Interface
Continue modifying the 100+ windows/forms.

Historical Detail, Animations, and Sound
Identify with whom at Matrix I should work to define exactly what will be included in the game for all of these.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Finalize the design for all three of these areas.

AI Opponent
Finish defining the relationship between the air, naval, and land unit values. Continue working on defining the value of individual hexes and a line of hexes (i.e., a front line).

Software Development Tools [February]
Develop a small program for Internet communications using Indy10 to test the design for multiple players over the Internet.

Multiplayer Design [February]
Code the new design for the multiplayer system using Indy10, removing the calls to DirectPlay.

============================================
January summary: the push is on to get MWIF functional for play test
============================================



_____________________________

Steve

Perfection is an elusive goal.

(in reply to Shannon V. OKeets)
Post #: 62
RE: When? - 2/1/2006 8:14:05 PM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

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February 1, 2006 Status Report for Matrix Games’ MWIF Forum

Accomplishments of January

Project Management
A target date of summer 2006 is my best guess at this time (unchanged from last month).

Communications
Rob Armstrong provided artwork for the bitmaps of the European maps. These included both the individual bitmaps for the coastal hexes and the rivers and lakes overlay.

I monitored all the threads in the MWIF World in Flames forum daily. Members of the forum have been extremely helpful in improving the graphics for both the maps and the units.

Graham Dodge, a.k.a., Greyshaft, has inducted the first set of beta testers (20) and has gathered most of their non-disclosure agreements.

Dan Hatchen has written some code for processing the air unit writeups that Graham laboriously created (over 500 unique writeups). Dan is now working on the Internet design and implementation for MWIF. Two other programmers have offered to help write code and I am working on finding things for them to do as well.

I remain in frequent email contact with Chris Marinacci about how CWIF works.

CWIF Conversion
I replaced the form and process for setting up units completely (or 90%). It is now much more streamlined and setting up all the Russian and German units for Barbarossa can be accomplished faster and with more control.

Scenario Information
I halted work on the scenarios in a push to get a version of MWIF ready for beta testing. The first beta version will only include the Barbarossa scenario which is already done. So finishing the other scenarios can wait.

Map and Units
I took the bitmap file of the European map I received from Rob Armstrong and modified it through stretching and displacement so that is registers correctly on the136 by152 pixel hex grid used in MWIF. Through preprocessing routines, I extracted all the bitmaps for the coastal hexes and the hexes requiring river/lake overlays. There is compression and decompression involved for the rivers because they are so numerous (over 7000 hexes involved). After inserting all the new code for rendering the map on the screen, I found I had to make revisions so the code would be more efficient. The refresh rate now is acceptable but not as fast as I would like. I will do more on improving the efficiency of the scrolling algorithm in the future.

I received some examples of the map icons (cities et al) from Rob but they needed to be made larger. Once I receive them in the correct size, I can just pop them in as replacements for the current (CWIF) ones.

I have spent a lot of time going over the placement of the icons and the names/labels on the European map, setting each of them by hand. The position of the cities, ports, factories, and resources within each hex add to the beauty of the map. The placement of the names need to be such that they do not obscure other information.

I created an automated system for putting the rail lines in. Doing them as an overlay would have required more bitmaps than are available and taken a lot of the artist’s time. Having the computer generate them on the fly makes the screen refresh faster and allows for zooming in and out. It was tricky to get them to follow a coastline and a few more changes remain to be made to avoid some of the large inlets/bays in Greece and northern Africa. They also need to be smoothed out a bit. They have negligible effect on the refresh rate.

Nothing substantial has been done on the units this past month, just some buffing and polishing.

Saved Games (no change from last month)
This has moved up in priority because I want it working again for play test. I have completely mutilated the CWIF save game system, and now have to start from scratch. But that is what I intended when I made that decision in July.

Game Interface
The interface for setting up the units was mentioned above. It is used at the beginning of a scenario and also at all the other times units are placed on the map: reinforcements, setting up minor countries, placing partisans, and setting up reserves.

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
I have delayed this to give higher priority to those tasks needed for beta testing.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
The tutorials received a boost from the beta testers. They provided a lot of input as to what should be included and how it should be presented. Based on their input, I have the design document half written and should finish it in the next couple of days.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Work on this has been in hiatus because I have been focusing heavily on the map and the interface issues that are needed for beta testing.

Other
Only one round of golf in the last 2 months - versus my norm of 3 times a week. The weather has been perfect, but the desire to get the beta version whipped into shape has taken precedence. On the other hand I am now singing bass in a barbershop quartet for a couple of hours every week, which has been a personal goal of mine for the last 9 years.

====================================================================
January summary: excellent progress on the graphics.
====================================================================


Tasks for February

Communications
Continue monitoring the forum threads.

Map and Units
Get the icons finalized and start work on the high resolution air and naval units.

CWIF Conversion
Finish replacing the Save Setup routine. Replace the random number generator.

Rules
Modify the code on optional rules so it includes those, and only those, selected for MWIF Product 1.

Saved Games
Finish the design for saved games and code it.

Game Interface
Continue modifying the 100+ windows/forms.

Historical Detail, Animations, and Sound
Identify with whom at Matrix I should work to define exactly what will be included in the game for all of these.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Finalize the design for the first 2 of these areas.

AI Opponent
Finish defining the relationship between the air, naval, and land unit values. Continue working on defining the value of individual hexes and a line of hexes (i.e., a front line).

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
Formalize and finalize the design so that the work on the Multiplayer Internet system can continue smoothly.

Software Development Tools
Develop a small program for Internet communications using Indy10 to test the design for multiple players over the Internet.

Multiplayer Internet [March]
Code the new design for the multiplayer system using Indy10, removing the calls to DirectPlay.

==========================================================
February summary: the push continues to get MWIF functional for beta test
==============================================================



_____________________________

Steve

Perfection is an elusive goal.

(in reply to Shannon V. OKeets)
Post #: 63
RE: When? - 2/12/2006 6:00:37 AM   
rhondabrwn


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It would be really nice to see something like this posted monthly for ALL of the Matrix games in development <hint> <hint>

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Far Dareis Mai

My old Piczo site seems to be gone, so no more Navajo Nation pics :(

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Post #: 64
RE: When? - 2/12/2006 4:03:40 PM   
Coeur de livre

 

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Just wanted to add to rhondabrwn's comment. Steve's regular and detailed progress reports are much appreciated by me and a lot of WiF fans. I've been waiting along time for this game but happy to wait longer knowing it is in good hands.

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Post #: 65
RE: When? - 2/12/2006 4:31:52 PM   
wodin


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I agree its this dedication thats actually made my mind up to purchase the game when it comes out!

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Post #: 66
RE: When? - 2/12/2006 7:02:07 PM   
Yohan

 

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Wodin, you will love this game and I don't think we will see the EiA type delays. (fingers crossed)

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Post #: 67
RE: When? - 2/13/2006 8:30:52 PM   
wodin


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Well Im very interested and would love to get stuck into a detailed game at this level. After reading about rules and optional rules etc etc then detail is here in plenty.

Really looking forward to this I can tell you.

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Post #: 68
RE: When? - 2/22/2006 9:35:51 AM   
TheDishwasher


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Wow! It's amazing to see that development is well and truly underway on this project. I was a part of the early testing way back when Chris Marinacci was working on it. Back then I played WiF about 3 times a week and, seeing as I live in Canberra, often played with Harry himself - which meant I was having an input on the rules and so on of the game itself.

I stopped playing about 3 years ago though after 15 year of it simply because I need a break. I've been feeling the itch of late though and I'm about to start up again with my old group. To see that the computer version is coming along strong is a real pleasure since I thought it had died a painful death.

Great work!

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Post #: 69
RE: When? - 2/22/2006 9:44:05 AM   
tigercub


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quote:

ORIGINAL: rhondabrwn

It would be really nice to see something like this posted monthly for ALL of the Matrix games in development <hint> <hint>
GREAT idea but dont hold your breath

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Post #: 70
RE: When? - 2/22/2006 9:45:48 AM   
tigercub


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quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

I agree its this dedication thats actually made my mind up to purchase the game when it comes out!
i would have to say the same thing!

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Post #: 71
RE: When? - 2/28/2006 10:37:43 PM   
marcuswatney

 

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It might be interesting to poll users on just how important AI is to them.

My impression of the computer game industry is that:
a) a disproportionately large amount of time (and therefore development cost) is spent on AI, and
b) AI is easily outwitted by a devious human opponent once the underlying algorithms have been sussed, and
c) most of the post-publication de-bugging relates to the AI.

Personally, I really don't have any interest in beating up a mere computer. For me gaming is social, so I would buy (and promote to my friends) MWiF solely on its internet/PBEM software ... in other words, its ability to give an old favourite new life.

Virtually all my on-line gaming these days is via ACTS, a wonderful free resource with no AI at all. I've just completed a game of Age of Renaissance with players from four different countries, for example, and it was great.

Now I concede that some AI to handle lesser nations like the KMT and CCP might be handy... but it would be really sad if a project as huge and important as this went over-time and over-budget because of problems with the AI that few players actually care about or would use.

I suggest that a shrewd corporate startegy would be to publish MWiF initially without the AI, and so keep unit costs down and profits up, and then offer the AI subsequently as an add-on for those few lonely players without a modem.

I for one cannot imagine myself playing seriously any computer game against AI, when the net is awash with interesting and sociable people more than ready to be my opponents (and, worse, my allies!)

What do others think?


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Post #: 72
RE: When? - 2/28/2006 10:43:55 PM   
c92nichj


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I also mainly look forward to play the game using PBEM.
Playing against computer opponents make me bored too quickly thoose days, I bought CIV IV but only played it once or twice before getting bored, the same with HOI 1&2.

A good AI Assistant would be nice though, who could help in speeding up the game and deciding on aircombat and intercepts.

(in reply to marcuswatney)
Post #: 73
RE: When? - 2/28/2006 10:56:26 PM   
JanSorensen

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: marcuswatney

It might be interesting to poll users on just how important AI is to them.

My impression of the computer game industry is that:
a) a disproportionately large amount of time (and therefore development cost) is spent on AI, and
b) AI is easily outwitted by a devious human opponent once the underlying algorithms have been sussed, and
c) most of the post-publication de-bugging relates to the AI.

Personally, I really don't have any interest in beating up a mere computer. For me gaming is social, so I would buy (and promote to my friends) MWiF solely on its internet/PBEM software ... in other words, its ability to give an old favourite new life.

Virtually all my on-line gaming these days is via ACTS, a wonderful free resource with no AI at all. I've just completed a game of Age of Renaissance with players from four different countries, for example, and it was great.

Now I concede that some AI to handle lesser nations like the KMT and CCP might be handy... but it would be really sad if a project as huge and important as this went over-time and over-budget because of problems with the AI that few players actually care about or would use.

I suggest that a shrewd corporate startegy would be to publish MWiF initially without the AI, and so keep unit costs down and profits up, and then offer the AI subsequently as an add-on for those few lonely players without a modem.

I for one cannot imagine myself playing seriously any computer game against AI, when the net is awash with interesting and sociable people more than ready to be my opponents (and, worse, my allies!)

What do others think?


I think you are incorrect in your assumption that the majority of buyers plays games with no desire for an AI opponent. While I also prefer to play vs human opponents I am not blind to the fact that sales (and hence paychecks) almost surely depends on having atleast a mediocre AI.

So, I think you are being financially naive.

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Post #: 74
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 12:31:52 AM   
marcuswatney

 

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My point is that it would be commercially sensible for Matrix to at least conduct market research before plunging into the design of expensive unnecessary AI.

I don't think this game has any sort of market amongst the general public, who are already well supplied with a host of lighter quasi-historical games. If it is loyal to its ancestry, then MWiF is going to be far too complex to grab the short attention span of that particular market.

The people who buy this game are going to be those who remember its wonderful pedigree but who, like me, now find it difficult to find the time for a big weekend session. I really don't think we lot need AI, mediocre or otherwise.

I don't think it is wise to call a correspondent 'financially naive' when you have no idea of his RL background.

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Post #: 75
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 12:59:57 AM   
JanSorensen

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: marcuswatney
I don't think it is wise to call a correspondent 'financially naive' when you have no idea of his RL background.


Neither your nor my RL background play any part in this matter. I reply strictly to what you posted. The only possible way your RL background would play any part was if you actively wanted to finance the project.

Even if you were infact correct that the cost-benifit would be better from developing the game without an AI that decision was almost surely made long ago. Asking the developer to change strategy at this point is unlikely to have any effect in my opinion as a good deal of the work with the AI is already done.

Mind, I do not expect a great AI nor do I find the AI to be exceptionally important for me personally - but I think having an AI that will perform credibly for the novice and mediocrely for the imtermediate player is absolutely essential to selling computer war games of this kind.

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Post #: 76
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 1:34:28 AM   
marcuswatney

 

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I do not want to see this project collapse, but I fear that is what will happen if Matrix burdens it with the need for AI. The company will throw good money after bad, until someone loses their nerve and pulls the plug on the whole thing.

I was just reading a thread on GG's WaW where a corrrespondent complains at the success of too many ahistorical strategies, and how that has killed the game for him ... and, wow, WaW has a whole 350 areas and a staggering 15 unit types !! Getting any sort of AI to work on a game as detailed as WiF is going to be an absolute nightmare. Already the developer reports he has been putting in 50 hour weeks for many many months.

Commercially, it is absolutely bonkers to publish MWiF a year after WaW. By your reckoning, they're both chasing the same market. The only way it can work is by aiming WiF at a niche market distinct from WaW users. Avoiding huge developmental costs trying to get the WiF AI to do even a half-way meaningful job, and instead focussing on getting a pure PBEM game out to enthusiasts at a sensible cost to the company, is surely the better business strategy.

I have seen too many good people go out of business by being over-ambitious.

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Post #: 77
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 2:39:33 AM   
wodin


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I will not buy without an AI.

Even though in the long run I may only play PBEM, I will at first practice and learn about the game and the mechanics by playing against the AI.

I also only have limited time to play PBEM. With that in mind I really dont like commiting to PBEM games. I prefer to play when I want to and not go by someonelses schedule. Even if they say oh dont send it back for a week I still feel the need to play my turn.

So I want an AI. Otherwise no purchase.

Besides this was bought up at the begining and it was decided an AI was being made. For that Im very pleased.

< Message edited by wodin -- 3/1/2006 2:41:19 AM >


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Post #: 78
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 3:24:40 AM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

I will not buy without an AI.

Even though in the long run I may only play PBEM, I will at first practice and learn about the game and the mechanics by playing against the AI.

I also only have limited time to play PBEM. With that in mind I really dont like commiting to PBEM games. I prefer to play when I want to and not go by someonelses schedule. Even if they say oh dont send it back for a week I still feel the need to play my turn.

So I want an AI. Otherwise no purchase.

Besides this was bought up at the begining and it was decided an AI was being made. For that Im very pleased.


Actually, the decision to include an AI opponent was made before I joined the project. It is part of my contract with Matrix Games.

Sometime back in July or August of last year I wrote a very eloquent (I thought so at any rate) reply to this and similar questions about what the game should include. The gist of my answer was that different people want different things. Everybody thinks only the things they want should be included and that adding any of the other "unnecessary" stuff has no value and delays the release date. Various arguments are put forth to support that position, but they all come down to what the individual wants included in the game.

For example, there was one person who thought that coding an Internet capability was a waste of time. What? Am I hearing some cries of outrage at such a thought?

The decisions on what to include/exclude are not made lightly and are based on Matrix Games' substantial experience in the marketplace.

By the way, I am up to 60 - 70 hours a week on this. Coding the save and restore capability has been taking almost all my time last week. During that period I wrote 3700 new lines of code for those 2 routines, with roughly another 800 yet to be added. It is the last item I need to complete for the patient (impatient?) beta testers. Oh, and I enjoy doing this. But best of all will be coding the AIO.

_____________________________

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Perfection is an elusive goal.

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Post #: 79
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 5:51:11 PM   
Cheesehead

 

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quote:

do not want to see this project collapse, but I fear that is what will happen if Matrix burdens it with the need for AI. The company will throw good money after bad, until someone loses their nerve and pulls the plug on the whole thing.

I was just reading a thread on GG's WaW where a corrrespondent complains at the success of too many ahistorical strategies, and how that has killed the game for him ... and, wow, WaW has a whole 350 areas and a staggering 15 unit types !! Getting any sort of AI to work on a game as detailed as WiF is going to be an absolute nightmare. Already the developer reports he has been putting in 50 hour weeks for many many months.

Commercially, it is absolutely bonkers to publish MWiF a year after WaW. By your reckoning, they're both chasing the same market. The only way it can work is by aiming WiF at a niche market distinct from WaW users. Avoiding huge developmental costs trying to get the WiF AI to do even a half-way meaningful job, and instead focussing on getting a pure PBEM game out to enthusiasts at a sensible cost to the company, is surely the better business strategy.

I have seen too many good people go out of business by being over-ambitious.


If Matrix games tried to satisfy everyone with this project, there would be no MWiF. Period. I'm just happy that somebody finally stopped listening to all the fan requests and started the project according to what they feel will be the best game for most of the people that care about WiF. I don't mean to speak for Steve, but from what I gather from his generous communications with us grognards...it is the challenge of creating an AI that has interested him in this project to begin with. I doubt he would be spending the 60-70 hours a week on this if he was just going to be creating a polished up version of CWiF (no offense to Chris, who got the ball rolling and laid the groundwork). Let's have a little faith.

_____________________________

You can't fight in here...this is the war room!

(in reply to marcuswatney)
Post #: 80
RE: When? - 3/1/2006 10:44:43 PM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

Posts: 18411
Joined: 5/19/2005
From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Status: offline
March 1, 2006 Status Report for Matrix Games’ MWIF Forum

Accomplishments of February

Project Management
A target date of summer 2006 is my best guess at this time (unchanged from last month).

Communications
Rob Armstrong is formally under contract. This past month he provided artwork for icons and bitmap examples for high resolution air and naval counters. He also made some revisions to the river and lake bitmaps for the European maps, (1) removing the anti-aliasing and (2) thickening the outlines so the images do not distort as much when zoomed out. Rob made a first pass on the Alpine hexsides too.

I monitored all the threads in the MWIF World in Flames forum daily. Members of the forum have been extremely helpful.

Graham Dodge, a.k.a., Greyshaft, has all 20 beta testers in their starting stalls, chopping at the bit.

Dan Hatchen is writing code for testing the design for Internet play. He has it working in a restricted environment and is modifying it to handle the conditions likely to be encountered in the real world.

Roger Feed has coded up a new random number generator - which I had yet to subject to analysis as to the evenness of distribution of numbers it generates. I do not expect any problems with that though. Roger is now processing the Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames counter sheets, as provided by Patrice in Excel spreadsheet format, into CSV (comma separated values) files that can be read by MWIF.

I met with Claes Insulander (who lives in Honolulu) and discussed with him revising the Scandinavian portion of the map in accordance to the changes made by Nils Andresen. It shouldn’t be too difficult to do and Nils’ recommended changes are an improvement over the CWIF depiction of Scandinavia.

Another volunteer has offered to help with the game and is looking into creating write-ups for the naval units. We had 2 previous volunteers for this task who disappeared, but perhaps the third time is the charm.

I remain in email contact with Chris Marinacci about how CWIF works, though this has become less frequent.

CWIF Conversion
I am in the throes of replacing the save and restore game routines. As of today I have added 4000 new lines of code and counting. My objective here is to understand perfectly what game data elements are saved and restored. As new features/code is added to the program, there will be additional variables that will have to be saved and restored. The CWIF code for this capability was scattered in dozens of different files (roughly 50). Because of their diffuse locations, it was very difficult to determine exactly what was being saved and restored, much less start making changes intelligently.

The single file I have now created is long (70+ pages when completed) but it is possible to print out the save and restore routines and place them side by side to see that they fit together “hand-in-glove” which is essential for them to work correctly.

Saving setups has been dropped from MWIF product 1. Conceptually there were several problems with how to do this and the forum members said they had no interest in the capability. The player can save the game at almost every point in the game. During setup just isn’t one of them.

Scenario Information
No changes here, though one person has offered to do the extremely tedious task of typing in the data for the two remaining scenarios. Placement of commas and blanks has to be perfect or the data doesn’t load correctly.

Map and Units
The European map is ready for beta test. I have positioned all the icons and names to minimize overlap and maximum clarity. I also modified the rail line generation routines to smooth them out and avoid running into the various pools of water on the map. In making these changes I went back to my original design of 25 different set locations within each hex: the center plus 2 locations for each o’clock position. The clock positions are halfway and 2/3rds of the way from the center to the edge of the hexagon. Using these 25 locations, I control where the icons are placed in each hex using data from the “Named Locations” file. I also use them to route the rail lines around wet spots. This stuff works at all 8 levels of zoom.

Rob still need to do the artwork for some basic map elements: fortifications, straits, and Alpine hexsides. For the last, he and I worked out a design and he made a first pass at the graphics.

Rob sent over a first pass on the high resolution air and naval units and then a revised one later, without anti-aliasing. I coded up a preliminary system for loading and displaying them. Once I see how Rob wants to format the thousands of bitmaps, I will need to have them uniquely identified and linked to each specific unit. Patrice and Roger are waiting to perform that task, once Rob starts sending them over en-mass.

There are a few items that need to be worked out first though. For example, Rob does not have the latest and greatest images of the counter sheets in computer file format. Rob is in communication with Harry Rowland and should get them someday soon. Part of the reason for the delay is that Harry is moving from one side of the island they both live on (Australia) to the other, so things there are a bit at sixes and sevens.

I also have to work out with Rob, at the pixel level, exactly where the bitmaps leave off and the numbers written by the program begin. Since the different unit types have the graphic images placed differently (e.g., fighters versus bombers), this needs some care to get it right. The goal is to maximize the number of pixels available for the pretty pictures while keeping the numbers from obscuring/being obscured by the bitmap image. Details, details.

Saved Games
The save portion of this code is completed, but I keep making some small changes to it as I write the restore piece. Doing this task has certainly added to my understanding of all the various data structures CWIF used for different game elements. Every aspect of WIF seems to require creating and storing completely different data. When I find that two game elements can use the same data structure, I am instantly concerned that I am missing something. This task is essential, but really boring.

Game Interface
Made serious revisions to the Start of Game form. Modified the optional rules section so it is now up-to-date with the list of optional rules for MWIF product 1. That includes new default settings for newcomers to WIF, experienced WIF players, and personal preferences. There are an even 80 optional rules at last count. Reworked the scenario section of the Start of Game form and struggled to get the Players section to work correctly. That latter problem has been put aside for now, but will get attacked anew in March. Killed off a few bugs and made some small improvements to the routines for placing units on the map during setup.

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
I have delayed this to give higher priority to those tasks needed for beta testing.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
I completed the design document for the tutorials. The beta testers reviewed the Rules as Written (RAW) and marked it up for where changes will be needed for a comparable document for MWIF. I had titled that document Rules as Coded (RAC). The changes mostly have to do with the use of the unified world map and the replacement of the physical pieces of the board game (paper map, cardboard counters, and dice) with computer equivalents. Any changes to the rules themselves (and they are extremely few in number) have been provided as optional rules.

The beta testers are also discussing the user’s manual and we hope that the WIF-naive beta testers will give us a better understanding of what needs to be included for players who have had no previous exposure to WIF.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Work on this has been in hiatus because I have been focusing heavily on the map and the interface issues that are needed for beta testing.

Other
Program and sing, an odd combination, but I have always been odd. Aside from the time I take out for quartet practice and singing in a barbershop chorus, I spend all my time on this game. We have our annual show coming up in May and I have to finish writing the dialogue for the script. For the past 3 years, I have been writing dialogue for our show and trust me, it is a real kick to hear thousands of people laugh at your jokes. I do not act, just sing. Other members of the chorus, and some outside talent, act in our shows and deliver the laugh lines.

====================================================================
February summary: good progress on graphics, but beta test wasn’t ready in February - rats!
====================================================================


Tasks for March
Communications
Continue monitoring the forum threads.

Map and Units
Get the rest of the map icons finalized and refine the high resolution bitmaps for the air and naval units. Sort out the rivers and lakes so they look good at all levels of resolution. Start Claes on revising Scandinavian portion of the map.

CWIF Conversion
Finish replacing the Save and Restore routines. Thoroughly test the new random number generator.

Rules
Start the beta testers rigorously testing the rules to see if they perform in accordance with RAW.

Saved Games
Finish coding the restore game feature. And release the first beta test version.

Game Interface
Finish the changes to the Start of Game form.

Historical Detail, Animations, and Sound
Identify with whom at Matrix I should work to define exactly what will be included in the game for all of these.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Finalize the design for the help system.

AI Opponent
Finish defining the relationship between the air, naval, and land unit values. Continue working on defining the value of individual hexes and a line of hexes (i.e., a front line).

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
Formalize and finalize the game engine design so that integrating the Multiplayer Internet system can be done smoothly.

Software Development Tools
Develop an expanded version of the test program for Internet communications using Indy10 (multiple players over the Internet).

Multiplayer Internet [April]
Incorporate the Indy10 code for the new design for the multiplayer system into MWIF. This requires replacing the the CWIF calls to DirectPlay.

================================================================
March summary: the beta testers will need something new to keep them amused in April.
================================================================


_____________________________

Steve

Perfection is an elusive goal.

(in reply to Shannon V. OKeets)
Post #: 81
RE: When? - 3/2/2006 12:46:57 AM   
Froonp


Posts: 7899
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From: Marseilles, France
Status: offline
Thanks for this.
Each month you have posted this status report, and each month I wondered if I was dreaming !
This must be taking a lot of your time (writing all those documents), but I'm happy you're amongst the ones that understood that work was better when it was organized and supported by written documents .

(in reply to Shannon V. OKeets)
Post #: 82
RE: When? - 3/2/2006 1:29:57 AM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

Posts: 18411
Joined: 5/19/2005
From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: Froonp

Thanks for this.
Each month you have posted this status report, and each month I wondered if I was dreaming !
This must be taking a lot of your time (writing all those documents), but I'm happy you're amongst the ones that understood that work was better when it was organized and supported by written documents .


Status reports, as I use/define them, are very useful for they let you know where you have been and plan where you are going. Each cycle you see how well you did in accomplishing the planned tasks. Some successes, some delays, some failures. Then you get to prioritize for the next cycle. I have 3 or 4 tasks lists going at any one point in time, each with a different scale and/or focus. Love to check off the items as done.

_____________________________

Steve

Perfection is an elusive goal.

(in reply to Froonp)
Post #: 83
RE: When? - 3/2/2006 6:00:24 AM   
Neilster


Posts: 2281
Joined: 10/27/2003
From: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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quote:

ORIGINAL: marcuswatney

It might be interesting to poll users on just how important AI is to them.

My impression of the computer game industry is that:
a) a disproportionately large amount of time (and therefore development cost) is spent on AI, and
b) AI is easily outwitted by a devious human opponent once the underlying algorithms have been sussed, and
c) most of the post-publication de-bugging relates to the AI.

Personally, I really don't have any interest in beating up a mere computer. For me gaming is social, so I would buy (and promote to my friends) MWiF solely on its internet/PBEM software ... in other words, its ability to give an old favourite new life.

Virtually all my on-line gaming these days is via ACTS, a wonderful free resource with no AI at all. I've just completed a game of Age of Renaissance with players from four different countries, for example, and it was great.

Now I concede that some AI to handle lesser nations like the KMT and CCP might be handy... but it would be really sad if a project as huge and important as this went over-time and over-budget because of problems with the AI that few players actually care about or would use.

I suggest that a shrewd corporate startegy would be to publish MWiF initially without the AI, and so keep unit costs down and profits up, and then offer the AI subsequently as an add-on for those few lonely players without a modem.

I for one cannot imagine myself playing seriously any computer game against AI, when the net is awash with interesting and sociable people more than ready to be my opponents (and, worse, my allies!)

What do others think?




The AI is very important to me. I might be a bit odd but I like playing computer oponents. I also like playing when I want to play.

Have you read all the AI thread? If not, I recommend it. It might change your mind about the quality of the oponent we can expect.

Cheers, Neilster

(in reply to marcuswatney)
Post #: 84
RE: When? - 3/2/2006 7:05:50 AM   
tigercub


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AI not very important to me as they are never been hard to beat! only tend to use them to find out how the game ticks! Then play a human.
taking on board Rob Armstrong is a master stroke! keep up the good work guys

_____________________________


You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life

(in reply to Neilster)
Post #: 85
RE: When? - 3/2/2006 7:50:16 AM   
SamuraiProgrammer

 

Posts: 338
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From: Paducah, Kentucky
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I think the AI is VITAL for many reasons.

1) IMHO, No computer game will sell well without it... With no AI, you might as well play using Vassal or Cyberboard.

2) Having an AI lets new players learn how to play the game without getting hammered and deciding to move on to something else.

3) (Hopefully a by-product of 1 and 2) An AI will contribute to a bigger WiF community of players.

Please note that 1-3 are accomplished even if the AI is only mediocre.

If the AI is actually competent, the following happen:

4) Having an AI will allow players to try out new strategies and tactics without showing them to other players before they are ready.

5) Having an AI will allow players to replace dropouts from long term games without totally restarting the game or slowing things down by requiring remaining players to take on more responsibilities than they are willing to.

6) Having an AI will allow a situation where you cannot count on completely cooperative allies. While this sounds bad at first, just ask yourself this question: Was Germany happy when Japan forced the issue by bombing Pearl Harbor? Could the timing be better? What about when there is a conflict of whether to lend lease units or lend resources?

Due to the investment of time, space and energy in organizing schedules, I have not been able to play this game in over 8 years. I have a brand new copy of the game that has NEVER BEEN PLAYED. I, personally, NEED an AI even if it sucks to reacquaint myself with the game. I will need to be able to do it incrementally and at my own pace as Real Life (TM) seems to always know how to get in the way.

I am not sure I will be able to promise to allocate enough time to ever play against humans any time before retirement (2029 or thereabouts). I NEED an AI to even think about playing this game. Otherwise I might as well be dinking around with cyberboard.

Irregardles of ANY of these, the most important reason of all is that THE PEOPLE INVESTING THE MONEY INTO THE GAME WANT AN AI.

More real progress seems to have been made on this game in recent months than in quite some time. If Steve says Summer, then I believe Christmas at the latest. (Please don't be offended, Steve.) Maybe I am a fool. Maybe not.

Only time will tell. We have waited years for this. Lets be happy that progress is being made.

One other thing, while we are on the subject. Before anyone starts pointing to Empires In Arms and how long it is taking to be released, I would like to say that I am ecstatic that this company is willing to continue to polish something until it is READY and not release it just to cash in on hopeful gamers. That doesn't guarantee anything in the way of quality, but it is the biggest step I can think of in a situation where the producers MUST MUST MUST operate in a profit motive.

Sorry about the rant. I have no intentions of angering anyone.

Keep on trucking STEVE!!!!





_____________________________

Bridge is the best wargame going .. Where else can you find a tournament every weekend?

(in reply to tigercub)
Post #: 86
RE: When? - 3/5/2006 2:13:43 AM   
marcuswatney

 

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The chemistry of carbon is greater than the chemistry of all other elements combined. Likewise, the challenge of producing AI is greater than the challenge of producing every other aspect of a computer game combined. That is why it worries me greatly that the developer reports in detail trivial matters such as success with graphics, while work on the AI merits two lines.

I believe that the AI challenge of MWiF will prove financially crippling to Matrix and that will lead the head honchos to pull the plug, so we end up with nothing at all. That is why I am implacably opposed to the idea of burdening development with AI, because it is an albatross that threatens to destroy the entire project.

Better, I submit, to publish the game as a Game Assistance Program initially, with the AI as an exciting 'advanced' module "coming to a game shop near you soon". That way Matrix at least gets an income to justify the outlay made to date ... and if as I suspect the AI never works properly, they can then pull the plug on that module alone, yet still have a creditable product and one admired by the hobby.

The gung-ho attitude I have read in these threads really really worries me. If Empires in Arms is in such difficulties, with only a part-time developer allocated, what chance does MWiF have? EiA is an area movement game with very straight-forward rules, and should not require more than a year of development time. Compared to an area-movement game, any hex-game hugely increases the options available at any given moment (a geometrical progression no less) and therefore the strain on the AI. I will be (pleasantly) amazed if, in the end, the AI does more than advance the enemy at us as the British advanced on Bunker Hill.

It is years since I played WiF, but here is an example of what I mean. I remember that there is a fascinating decision to be made by the Japanese at the start of the game: how to hit the KMT without irritating the United States into increased hostility. I recall, after hours analysing the pros and cons, I devised an exotic strategy that involved the Japanese building some bombers to hit Chinese factories (which hurt the KMT but didn't seem to irritate the US as much as a land offensive) ... an extremely unhistorical strategy, but one that did seem to work. Is the AI really going to be able to handle such subtleties? Is the AI going to sense how to counter such a strategy?

WiF is one of the very few monster games which actually works. It would be such a shame if an over-ambitious attempt to create an AI opponent scuppered the worthiest project of a decade.

(in reply to SamuraiProgrammer)
Post #: 87
RE: When? - 3/5/2006 4:36:03 AM   
Shannon V. OKeets

 

Posts: 18411
Joined: 5/19/2005
From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: marcuswatney

The chemistry of carbon is greater than the chemistry of all other elements combined. Likewise, the challenge of producing AI is greater than the challenge of producing every other aspect of a computer game combined. That is why it worries me greatly that the developer reports in detail trivial matters such as success with graphics, while work on the AI merits two lines.

I believe that the AI challenge of MWiF will prove financially crippling to Matrix and that will lead the head honchos to pull the plug, so we end up with nothing at all. That is why I am implacably opposed to the idea of burdening development with AI, because it is an albatross that threatens to destroy the entire project.

Better, I submit, to publish the game as a Game Assistance Program initially, with the AI as an exciting 'advanced' module "coming to a game shop near you soon". That way Matrix at least gets an income to justify the outlay made to date ... and if as I suspect the AI never works properly, they can then pull the plug on that module alone, yet still have a creditable product and one admired by the hobby.

The gung-ho attitude I have read in these threads really really worries me. If Empires in Arms is in such difficulties, with only a part-time developer allocated, what chance does MWiF have? EiA is an area movement game with very straight-forward rules, and should not require more than a year of development time. Compared to an area-movement game, any hex-game hugely increases the options available at any given moment (a geometrical progression no less) and therefore the strain on the AI. I will be (pleasantly) amazed if, in the end, the AI does more than advance the enemy at us as the British advanced on Bunker Hill.

It is years since I played WiF, but here is an example of what I mean. I remember that there is a fascinating decision to be made by the Japanese at the start of the game: how to hit the KMT without irritating the United States into increased hostility. I recall, after hours analysing the pros and cons, I devised an exotic strategy that involved the Japanese building some bombers to hit Chinese factories (which hurt the KMT but didn't seem to irritate the US as much as a land offensive) ... an extremely unhistorical strategy, but one that did seem to work. Is the AI really going to be able to handle such subtleties? Is the AI going to sense how to counter such a strategy?

WiF is one of the very few monster games which actually works. It would be such a shame if an over-ambitious attempt to create an AI opponent scuppered the worthiest project of a decade.


A few of points in reply.

Graphics are not easy.

I have a 83 page design document for the AI - so far. Plus I have loads of detailed ideas on strategic plans from various members of this forum. [You might read through some of the old threads in this forum on strategic plans for the AIO. There are separate threads for each major power.] The AI has received little attention over the last 3 months. I have trouble keeping 17 balls in the air at once. Work on improving the graphics, drastically revising the player interface, adding new counters, revising optional rules, starting the Internet programming, ... just couldn't seem to find any time for the AIO since mid-December. My highest priority is to keep the other people who are working on this project productive - I do not want to cause any delays in what they are working on.

My payment is from royalties, so I cost Matrix nothing until the game is released and a revenue stream exists. I believe that is the case for most of the other people involved.

A little calculation seems to indicate that my 60 - 70 hours a week on this is more than part time.

The difference in doing the AI for area and hex based games does not lend itself to a simple calculation - any more than you can say that carbon is 4 times more complex that hydrogen.

_____________________________

Steve

Perfection is an elusive goal.

(in reply to marcuswatney)
Post #: 88
RE: When? - 3/5/2006 5:43:13 AM   
macgregor


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Part of me has to concur with Marcus on this. Though I do believe you Steve, and wish you godspeed. And I am indeed eternally grateful that you have rescued this project from inaction. However, at some point I will be having to wait for a game I love in order that some enhancement will be added that I will not use. I don't need to hit this point too hard. I know you're working your butt off. The IGOUGO thing is understandably a concern. In reality, my IGOUGO game will be TOAW, which was concieved as IGOUGO, and which should be released before WiF. I've always felt that the strength of WiF was as a simulltaneous play strategy game,with a certain amount of, well almost realtime decisions, something I've never seen for a PC.

< Message edited by macgregor -- 3/5/2006 5:54:24 AM >

(in reply to Shannon V. OKeets)
Post #: 89
RE: When? - 3/5/2006 7:16:56 AM   
mlees


Posts: 2261
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From: San Diego
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While I encourage Steve et. al to work on an AI, for me it is not going to be a sale breaking deal if it is a weak one. Afterall, I still play CWiF solo. As additional alternatives, hotseat and play by email will still offer the diehard fans an opprtunity to play WiF without losing any floorspace.

(in reply to macgregor)
Post #: 90
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