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Subject: Leaving opportunity for сheating in game design rss

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Maxim Steshenko
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Hello everyone. I've recently came up with interesting mechanic for one of my games, but with this mechanic you can't be sure that opponent plays fair. The mechanic is about secretly putting cards on appropriated place in deck, so technically nothing stop player from looking other cards or misplacing his cards.
So, should designer assume that everyone plays fair or he must exclude every opportunity for сheating?
Poll
What opportunity in cheating should game-designer leave to a player?
Player can't cheat because his actions can be checked within a course of a game.
Player can cheat but it can be checked after a game.
Player can cheat but on tournaments a judge will watch his actions.
Player can cheat but he will be conscience-stricken!
      88 answers
Poll created by silencewalker
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John "Omega" Williams
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These sorts of "Trust" games are dependant on the group and or individual players. Some groups have chronic cheats where a game with such an opportunity will be exploited to the point the game is ruined for everyone else.

If there is the option to cheat then you need an option for players to call out someone they suspect and check... But... A penalty for them (or boon for the suspect) if they called wrong.
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Robert Wesley
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I prefer the "OX" 'methodology' of 'teaching card games', as presented there:

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Justin Hawkins
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Looking through my game library, I have two types, it appears.

Those where cheating is impossible (say, Arkham Horror, everything played face-up, or Pandemic, where the only hidden cards can't be used to "cheat", per se)

And those where cheating is minuscule, but couldn't really be caught without knowing someone's hand of cards (Catan and Last Night on Earth, the first where you could draw a Victory Point and then a Knight, and pretend you drew them in opposite order to make the Knight eligible to play, and the second where you could hide a card that says "Play Immediately" until you draw a card later and want to play it). In the first I personally would simply draw and play them in front of me face down in order (so you can see if I rearrange them in Catan), and in the second, wouldn't mind showing the center part where the red text is/isn't to show if I kept a card or not. But either way, I think it's a tiny thing for the games.

Oh, and Munchkin. But with my group, a tiny bit of cheating is usually forgiven (favorite game, played with two of my group and one of those two's younger brother, and the younger brother had a hand of 20+ cards by the end of the game because we weren't watching his hands off the edge of the table; he drew Divine Intervention and two of us (not him) won, so we let it slide)

Ultimately, I think game designers should design around cheating if possible, but only if it fits the game. I don't think it's worth compromising a game to eliminate cheating, but if you notice it and can fix it without ruining the game, I think you should do so. But that's just me.
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Chris
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If I may be so bold as to offer a considered and invited opinion on the Internet?

In poker people can already cheat. Western movies are replete with examples of cowboys and gamblers and doing so all the time. Within the rules of the game there doesn't appear to be anything said about penalties for doing so and so the players themselves punish violations of the rules. The designers of that game and most every game under the sun have assumed "that everyone plays fair". It seems your game only differs in the degree of facility with which one may cheat.

Leaving it up to cheating players to be conscience stricken seems a great way either to attract those who like seeing if they are observant enough to detect cheating or to repel those who do not want to play with cheaters. The latter seems much more likely to my mind and I gather that the majority of players on these forums--and in the Old West of Hollywood's romance, though I'm not sure that these two sample sets are representative of the world's game playing population--are in agreement. Thus I refute your fourth option.

Most people that I know who play games have never taken part in a game tournament and have no intent to ever do so. Thereby I dismiss your third point as being of little utility.

(Also, skilled and unbiased referees must be present. Where are they to be found?)

Your second point I see as being of any value only if the rules state that anyone who cheats or has cheated in the match loses that match, with the winner being selected from the non-cheating participants. However, if everyone cheats then is it resolved by who cheated more; and how does one judge that? To believe you have won a game, to have invested time in the game only to then discover that you have lost because you inadvertently placed a wrong card could very well sour the experience to the point where the game is played no more. Such a capricious ending might as well be replicated by the infamous "high roll wins" mechanism for all the skill and satisfaction that generally involves. To play the game against someone who was cheating and to discover after the game is complete that all the frustration you experienced for being unable to match your opponent during the game's natural course because he was cheating would likewise be as ashes in your mouth.

This leaves only the obvious result: That unless the object of the game is to cheat, to convince others you are not violating the standard rules while in fact doing so, the laws of the game must exist in such a manner as to minimise the possibility of both accidental and deliberate infringement of those laws during the game.

Edit: Deleted a tautology. The remainder of the poor grammar will have to stand or fall as it may.
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D 4te
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interesting...I think that if I was putting a certain card back into the deck and I could see other cards (even if inadvertently) It could compromise the outcome of the game.

if it changes the way your players perceive the deck then it could be compromising the mechanics altogether.

I have a similar mechanic where players can look through the deck to pick a certain card, but most players immediately reshuffle so as not to be setup by a tainted deck, but mostly because players like the idea of luck being a dish better served fresh.

a deck where someone has looked through seems like the odds can be affected by who may or may not be playing fair which can ruin the overall experience for some players.
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Tom Steynen
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I chose 'Player can cheat but it can be checked after a game.'

If players can cheat without fear of ever being caught then I think it might be too tempting for some people. However if the player can be caught, even if only after the facts, then the group will be able to get wise about the cheater and can act accordingly.
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Alex Weldon
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I think the most important thing is whether cheating requires a conscious effort or whether it can be done accidentally (or passively, through insufficient effort to not cheat).

So the problem I have with the rules you're describing is where you mention "looking at other cards," as a way someone might cheat. If you've got someone picking up a deck of cards and doing things with it and they're allowed to look at some of the cards but not others, there's a high probability of accidental (or "accidental"-on-purpose) cheating.

As far as games that allow opportunities for purposeful cheating, obviously it's better to minimize those opportunities if you can, but if it's not, I wouldn't consider it a dealbreaker.
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Johan Haglert
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1 or 4.

I would trust people to do the right thing but I guess it's a bad design if it allows for cheating.
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Ethan Larson
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My personal opinion is to design games where cheating is as unlikely as possible. Sure, people can cheat in poker; but it takes a determined player a lot of practice to learn to do this.

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Liam
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Cheating is always an option, to some extent, in every game, some designs make cheating easier/less risky but eliminating it is impossible.

Personally I'd go with the design you want and assume your players are honourable people, who came to enjoy playing with others and not to win through cheating.
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Josh Taylor
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If you put it in the rules, it's likely to actually encourage people to cheat, at least when they think they'll get away with it. If it's in the rules, it will be seen as part of the game. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on the game.
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Dan Cassar
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Personally, I feel like a game is somehow incomplete if its design allows for uncheckable cheating.

Chris C wrote:
In poker people can already cheat. Western movies are replete with examples of cowboys and gamblers and doing so all the time.


You really can't cheat in poker. Cheating with false shuffles, aces up the sleeve and the like is of course possible, but at that point, you've stopped playing the game as designed.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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maltezefalkon wrote:
You really can't cheat in poker. Cheating with false shuffles, aces up the sleeve and the like is of course possible, but at that point, you've stopped playing the game as designed.


Aside from the computer programmers who build cheat codes into their games, I don't think that game designers purposely design games with methods for cheating.

I think cheaters purposely look for either loopholes in the game mechanics, or they look for ways to defeat the game design by manipulating the physical elements.

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Arthur O'Dwyer
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xopods wrote:
I think the most important thing is whether cheating requires a conscious effort or whether it can be done accidentally (or passively, through insufficient effort to not cheat).


almo2001 wrote:
My personal opinion is to design games where cheating is as unlikely as possible. Sure, people can cheat in poker; but it takes a determined player a lot of practice to learn to do this.


Thumbs to both of these. I'd put it in cryptographic terms: The rulebook describes a game-playing protocol with certain assumptions; for example, in poker it's assumed that you don't know the contents of your opponents' hands.

It's important that the rulebook be clear about its assumptions. For example, Fluxx is clear that the discard pile is public information; Dominion is clear that only the top card of each player's discard pile is public information (and is sadly unclear on whether Alice may look through her own discard pile [EDIT: I'm wrong. Dominion is clear about this; I just couldn't find it on first reading.]).

It's good for the rulebook to provide reference implementations of its protocol which are cryptographically secure (metaphorically speaking), even if most players won't use those reference implementations. For example, in Chrononauts the card "Quick Trip Into the Future" allows you to search the draw pile and select any one card from it. The "Quick Trip" card specifically instructs you to "reshuffle the deck" once you have made your selection. The only in-game effect of reshuffling is to minimize the amount of information you just got about what's coming up in future draws.

So, for example, in Chrononauts it's possible to skip the reshuffling step if all players agree to it. But if Alice "accidentally-on-purpose" forgets to reshuffle the deck, it's legit for Bob to call her on it and force a reshuffle according to the reference implementation.

Similarly, the initial-setup protocols for both Race and Innovation have simultaneous-reveal mechanisms in the reference implementation, but many players choose to simply reveal their choice as it's made, without waiting for everyone else to make their choice. (I see this happen all the time in Race; Innovation usually goes by the rules.)

Also from Race, during the Develop phase, the reference implementation has everybody simultaneously reveal what card they chose to develop, or no card at all. I've never seen this implementation in practice, except when it's getting down to the last turn of the game and someone makes a point of it: "Hang on, Bob, we'd better do this simultaneously, because it matters." So there's usually the potential that Bob could cheat by waiting to see what Alice develops before deciding whether to develop something himself. Usually nobody cares, because the payoff is so small. But for those turns when somebody does care (e.g., the "4+ developments" major goal is on the table and Alice and Bob have 3 apiece), the rulebook helpfully provides the reference implementation.

I hope that all made sense.

Lastly, in a thread on cheating, I have to mention my biggest pet peeve when playing Dominion: people who don't reveal their money before buying! Nothing is more annoying than the guy who goes "ihavefouri'mbuyingasmithy" <discard everything> For one thing, you can't even call him on it without slowing everything down and probably coming out looking like a jerk... but really, folks, how hard is it to fan out your money during the Buy phase? angry
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Ben Marshalkowski
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I had an interesting discussion about this regarding a tabletop wargame. The game was being beta-tested and seemed to work best over forums, because there was a great deal of fog of war that wouldn't be possible on a tabletop.

Part of the mechanic of this game was that in order to communicate with your troops in the field, you would need a telepath. The same went for communicating in real-time with other players.

One player bemoaned these rules, calling them useless. "If I want to talk to another player, I can email him. It's that simple."

I argued that if the rules say don't do XYZ, then you shouldn't do it. He argued that you can't assume people will cheat.

Admittedly, until that point, I'd taken it as a point of pride that you don't cheat as a gamer. Perhaps wargames are a little different, but it didn't occur to me how acceptable cheating might be to others. It really changed how I approach board game design.

tl;dr - people have different opinions than me!
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Alex Weldon
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maltezefalkon wrote:

You really can't cheat in poker. Cheating with false shuffles, aces up the sleeve and the like is of course possible, but at that point, you've stopped playing the game as designed.


You realize that the definition of cheating is "not playing the game as designed," right?

The actual point of this thread has to do with a) how easy it is to adhere to the rules as written, and b) how easy it is for others to verify that you're doing so.

Poker's pretty good in both respects. For the most part, it's very easy to adhere to the (basic*) rules, with the only exception being when someone accidentally catches a glimpse of someone else's cards. But this is solved through poker culture, and the fact that only noobs hold their cards in their hand and everyone else leaves them face down on the table. It's also fairly easy to verify that people aren't cheating; obviously, people can and do get away with it, but it requires a huge amount of practice, and you'll likely still get caught if someone with equal experience in spotting cheats is present.

*: Some casino rules like no string betting seem to be pretty hard for beginners to grasp and remember to follow, but those are also not particularly important for a casual game with friends. It's normal for games to have expanded, more formal rulesets for serious play.
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Ted Groth
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I was torn between the 1st and last answer. I'm not particularly worried about cheating. I don't like it, and won't tolerate it, but it doesn't really happen in my circle of friends, so not an issue.

But a game design that allows players to accidentally mis-play without detection is a real problem. This makes it difficult to teach new players, or correct careless play by casual players, and can easily frustrate any attempt to play the game as designed. I suppose it also could easily lead to accusations of cheating, which sours the experience for everyone.

I voted for relying on conscience because that works fine for me and the people I am happy to play with, but I prefer to have actions checkable within the game just because of errors.

Edit: in the situation described, secretly placing cards into a deck, I would be comfortable that nobody would deliberately examine the deck, but if the specific mechanism made it difficult to avoid seeing the deck then I would avoid it.
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Quuxplusone wrote:
It's important that the rulebook be clear about its assumptions. For example, Fluxx is clear that the discard pile is public information; Dominion is clear that only the top card of each player's discard pile is public information (and is sadly unclear on whether Alice may look through her own discard pile).

Really? I know this thread isn't about Dominion, but the Dominion rulebook is very specific about this. Dominion's rulebook is an example of a very clear, well-written book.
Dominion rulebook wrote:
A player is allowed to count how many cards are left in his Deck,
but not in his Discard pile. A player may not look through his Deck
or his Discard pile. A player may look through the Trash pile, and
players may count the number of cards left in any pile in the
Supply.

Quote:
Lastly, in a thread on cheating, I have to mention my biggest pet peeve when playing Dominion: people who don't reveal their money before buying! Nothing is more annoying than the guy who goes "ihavefouri'mbuyingasmithy" For one thing, you can't even call him on it without slowing everything down and probably coming out looking like a jerk... but really, folks, how hard is it to fan out your money during the Buy phase? angry

Oh boy, this gets me too. It's not that I think my friends are cheating - I'm sure they're not - but it's important to not get into bad habits in that game especially and it falls on me to try and correct the behavior when a board comes up that does rely on it. There tends to be lots of inadvertent cheating when people don't fully understand the rules or the purpose of the rules, though.
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Joe Mucchiello
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Stormtower wrote:
Aside from the computer programmers who build cheat codes into their games, I don't think that game designers purposely design games with methods for cheating.

Illuminati - awesome game, cheating is specifically allowed by the rules

I don't care about cheating as a designer. But as a player I hate games where mistaken play is easy. Take Bohnanza. The rules for managing your hand are completely uncheckable. It's not just easy to cheat in the game, it's easy to make mistakes no one will notice in the game. This is more important to me because someone making a mistake consistently could easily become called a cheater.

To me it is more important to design the game so that mistakes are easily noticed by the other players. Cheaters will always find a way around the rules so it is not worth changing my game at their expense. Thus, cheats that exploit distraction (hey look at that, rob $100 from the bank) I can't really do anything about. But cheats that are exploits in the process of the game (I take 3 1-vp chits, actually takes 2 1-vp an 1 5-vp chit) are things I strive to avoid.
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Arthur O'Dwyer
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Luce wrote:
Quuxplusone wrote:
It's important that the rulebook be clear about its assumptions. For example, Fluxx is clear that the discard pile is public information; Dominion is clear that only the top card of each player's discard pile is public information (and is sadly unclear on whether Alice may look through her own discard pile).
Really? I know this thread isn't about Dominion, but the Dominion rulebook is very specific about this. Dominion's rulebook is an example of a very clear, well-written book.
Dominion rulebook wrote:
A player is allowed to count how many cards are left in his Deck,
but not in his Discard pile. A player may not look through his Deck
or his Discard pile. A player may look through the Trash pile, and
players may count the number of cards left in any pile in the
Supply.
Whoops, I've edited my post to reflect this. Thanks. I believed that that was the rule, but I specifically got down my roommate's Dominion set and read the entire rulebook looking for that rule... and couldn't find it!

It turns out that the quote above is from the Additional Rules found in the sort of "auxiliary" rulebook that comes with Dominion, the one with the descriptions of all the cards and so on. I hadn't thought to read that book too.

So while I strongly agree that Dominion has a clear and well-written rulebook, it certainly is not well organized. All the rules of the game should be in one place, and if you can't fit them all in one place, at least they should be in the same physical book! Having two books effectively labeled "The Rules" and "The Rest of the Rules" is just asking for trouble.
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Alex Weldon
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Well, there are two types of gamers... the ones who want the rules to be short and simple, and the ones who want them to be thorough and precise. Unless a game is very simple, you can't have both.

So I think in Dominion, they were just trying to appeal to both by putting the general rules in one book, in short and simple form... and everything else, including specific card rulings in the other.
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Arthur O'Dwyer
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jmucchiello wrote:
Illuminati - awesome game, cheating is specifically allowed by the rules
I like Illuminati, but the rule that "cheating is allowed" seems stupid to me. It almost negates the whole point of having rules for a game in the first place.(*) I read the rulebook to learn how the game is played; if the author is just going to be like, "Meh, do whatever you like as long as you don't get caught," it's like he's abdicating his responsibility.

Drifting off topic here, but I feel the same way about games with too many "official variants" or "suggested house rules". It's not quite the same sort of abdication, but I think it's related. How do you feel about that sort of game?

(*) - It's probably also my lack of imagination; Illuminati says you aren't allowed to cheat by taking extra money, right? So that limits you pretty much to cheating by introducing arithmetic errors into your power calculations, which are painful enough to get right even when everyone's cooperating.
Quote:
I don't care about cheating as a designer. But as a player I hate games where mistaken play is easy. Take Bohnanza. The rules for managing your hand are completely uncheckable. It's not just easy to cheat in the game, it's easy to make mistakes no one will notice in the game. This is more important to me because someone making a mistake consistently could easily become called a cheater.
Yes! My peeve about Dominion players who don't show their money before buying falls into the same category.
Quote:
To me it is more important to design the game so that mistakes are easily noticed by the other players. Cheaters will always find a way around the rules so it is not worth changing my game at their expense.
Alternatively, you could say that if you design the game so that mistakes are easily noticed, then deliberate cheats will also be more easily noticed. Or at least the cheaters will have to work harder. But if mistakes are hard to notice, then cheats will be practically guaranteed to go undetected.
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Christopher Dearlove
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My attitude can be shown by the game Dragon Pass, which back in the day (over 30 years ago) I played quite a few games of. For those who don't know, it involves allocating points secretly. That would be easy to cheat at, so the designers say write each turn's allocation down on a small bit of paper and slide under the board. At the end of the game you can pick the board up and check the slips. So we slid our bits of paper under the board and then two or three games later when we packed up, there were two or three games of slips under the board unchecked. So we threw them away and gave up on doing that.

The main thing I want designs robust against (which Dragon Pass fails at) is errors. I'm pretty sure no one I play games with cheats, but we all make errors, and it's a shame if that impacts on the game (either way, I want to win, but fairly). To take a game that's recently had a second wind, Outpost (I have both editions) the necessary practice where we do our own thing and don't check each other's results, coupled with the slightly fiddly arithmetic, makes errors easy. I find myself rechecking my own calculations more than I otherwise would for those reasons. But the game is good enough to make it tolerable.

Incidentally I said I don't think anyone cheats. And the best evidence of that is when playing games with open counting, so people check, errors are caught. But people make errors both ways equally - and correct people to their own disadvantage. I've seen a player almost awarded a win point out an error in an opponent's score and take second.
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Dan Cassar
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xopods wrote:
maltezefalkon wrote:

You really can't cheat in poker. Cheating with false shuffles, aces up the sleeve and the like is of course possible, but at that point, you've stopped playing the game as designed.


You realize that the definition of cheating is "not playing the game as designed," right?

I suppose you're right, but introducing a 53rd card into a deck (the "ace up the sleeve") is the equivalent to drawing a new space on a board. You've fundamentally altered the formal structure of the game. But consider Go Fish. I could shuffle normally, draw cards normally, and appear in all respects to be playing normally, and still cheat. And there's no way for players to know otherwise.

xopods wrote:
The actual point of this thread has to do with a) how easy it is to adhere to the rules as written, and b) how easy it is for others to verify that you're doing so.

The "actual point" of this thread is about whether it's okay to include a mechanic where "you can't be sure that opponent plays fair". And I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the OP is designing a strategy game.

Once you introduce a rule into the game that says "players must be honest," you've moved out of the realm of strategy games and stepped into the more murky waters of social games. In my opinion, when you're designing a strategy game, you want a ruleset that is complete and well-defined. And that means you can't have rules that rely on players' mental states.
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