11 Settings That Are MMO-Worthy

There’s been an insane bandwagoning of franchises making the jump to the MMO genre as of late. I suppose many developers simply want a piece of WoW’s pie, but with so many MMOs competing with each other (rather than challenging WoW), it seems unlikely that any of them will get that pie. Still, you can’t blame them for trying, and a lot of developers do seem eager to get into the MMO genre. The list of franchises and series that have transitioned to the MMO world has grown quite long over the past few years, but there’s certainly room for many more. Here are several well known settings that I feel would make fantastic transitions to the land of MMOs. Note that they are not in any particular order.

Avatar’s Moon of Pandora

Pandora had it all. The moon of Pandora is home to the Na’vi, a spiritual race of wildlings that seem to be in tune with all aspects of nature. Unfortunately the technologically advanced Humans ruthlessly expanded their operations across the world and caused several major conflicts. This would be an amazing setting for an MMO, with players being able to choose between the Human or Na’vi factions. I have no idea how avatars could fit into everything, but I suppose that a creative developer could think of a great way to incorporate them. Aside from the conflict between the Humans and the Na’vi, Pandora itself suits the MMORPG genre simply because it has everything you can think of. Heck, it even has flying mountains!

Diablo’s World of Sanctuary

Despite the fact that Blizzard is working on their next MMO and it isn’t related to Diablo, I don’t think that rules out the possibility of a Diablo Online in the distant future. Imagine being able to pick from several classes spanning all three Diablo games. Angels, Demons, and Humans could be the three factions. The most appealing part, however, is the idea that we’d be able to travel to any location we’ve ever heard of in Diablo lore. Imagine Caldeum, Kingsport, Kurast, Lut Gholein, Tristram, and Westmarch all being visitable. We could even explore the Dreadlands (former homeland of the barbarians), the insanely expansive Dry Steppes which is north of Caldeum, along with the mysterious Skovos Isles which rests in the sea south of Kingsport. There’s a lot of potential here, and it’s frustrating that Blizzard still hasn’t allowed us to explore more of this huge world.

Zelda’s Land of Hyrule

If Nintendo ever decides to make an MMO, they’ll most certainly go with Zelda. Hyrule has quite a developed backstory behind it now and it has become one of the video game industry’s most celebrated and widely recognized worlds. Imagine a fully 3D Hyrule with several players grouped together and exploring mountains with hookshots, solving dungeon puzzles together, and working with each other to defeat a fearsome dodongo. There would be so much to see, so much to do! Another thing that would work in favour of a Zelda MMO is the fact that the series has Link, a completely silent protagonist. MMO characters are also completely silent (unless you’re playing The Old Republic) so it would help keep the Zelda atmosphere intact while establishing a firm sense of being in an MMO world. Whether or not Nintendo ever makes an MMO is a different question though, so this one doesn’t look terribly likely at the moment.

Mortal Kombat’s Elder God Realms

NetherRealm Studios is pretty much the last development team I’ll ever expect to make an MMO, but never say never. Mortal Kombat may be a fighting game, but it still has a vast and thorough lore behind it. Earthrealm, Edenia, Outworld, and a slew of other realms make up the several lands created by Raiden and his fellow Elder Gods. After playing Mortal Kombat Deception (I know, I know…) and experiencing a pretty limited and poor representation fo the several realms, I can only imagine how much better NetherRealm could make the realms look and feel now that they are no longer shackled down by Midway. Each realm is so distinctly different. They’d be a joy to explore in a proper MMO title. If there’s a good fighting engine in the game as well, then even better.

A Song of Ice & Fire’s Westeros

HBO’s Game of Thrones has skyrocketed the popularity of George R. R. Martin’s book series. A Song of Ice & Fire is traditional fantasy but, at the same time, it isn’t. There’s something distinctly different here that sets the series apart from other fantasy stories such as Lord of the Rings. Because of this, I don’t feel that A Song of Ice & Fire would work best as a regular MMORPG. Aside from the fact that it would simply crater due to being too similar to the competition, there’s just so much potential to make things very interesting. I’d love to see the setting adapted as an MMO where players have to align themselves with a major house right at the start and then work to strengthen their house and go to war. It could be very PvP oriented, and this would fit the whole war theme that the overall story encompasses.

Fallout’s Post-Apocalyptic World

I’ll point out right away that I hate Fallout an awful lot. I didn’t like the old RPG-esque games and I didn’t like the newer ones that utilize Bethesda’s engines. The games just don’t click with me, which is a shame because I like the setting. Post-apocalyptic settings are always very interesting, and I think that Fallout has a good amount of lore built up behind it that would enable it to be a pretty decent MMO, especially if they played off of the whole premise of essentially being a scavenger fighting to stay alive. I know that Bethesda canned one attempt at making a Fallout Online, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t have another go at it later on.

Resident Evil’s Raccoon City

Why not? Capcom is testing the waters with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, a small scale co-op shooter that is set int he fallen city. In it, players assume the role of cleansers sent in by Umbrella and it is their job to clear the undead. I think that a massive MMO with a city on the scale of what you’d find in real life, complete with an endless supply of respawning zombies, would be really cool to experience. Imagine not having to bother with grinds or levels, but rather focusing solely on your own survival and nothing else. I don’t know what kind of endgame content there would be if all you’re doing is scavenging and surviving, but wouldn’t it be a blast logging in simply fighting to stay alive against an entire city that wants to eat you? Capcom could even instance the city so that there would never be too many human players running around at once. Imagine a huge city the size of, say, the entire playable area of Skyrim, and there are only about ten to fifteen human players in it who can’t even communicate unless they’re within range of each other. Wouldn’t it be an awesome feeling of relief to find each other? Come on Capcom, this just may be able to work.

Terminator’s Post-Apocalyptic World

Imagine fighting against Skynet. Seriously, just do it for a moment and then keep reading. Okay, you’ve done it? Gave you a pretty hopeless feeling inside, didn’t it? Now imagine if you really had to do that in an MMORPG. Imagine fighting against computers ON your computer. Wouldn’t that make you feel a little paranoid? I bet the game would make Skynet cheat. Ignoring the fact that you’d be using Skynet’s own technology against them, wouldn’t it be really freaking cool to play a game that would deal exclusively with taking down terminators!? Come on, you know that you’ve mentally put yourself in the shoes of John and Sarah Conner before. You’ve imagined yourself running and trying to escape from terminators. You’ve also imagined blowing them up with high powered guns and explosives too, right? A Terminator MMO would let every teenage boy of the 1990s relive their fantasies. Terminator Online would be absolutely epic.

Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City

I’ve been wishing for an online GTA game ever since I played APB a few years back. APB was all about jacking cars and gunning down enemies in the city of San Paro. It was basically a violent GTA with absolutely no story or content besides driving and shooting. If Rockstar ever works up the courage to attempt a GTA Online, I think that it could be quite interesting. I’m sure that Rockstar locked at APB carefully and know where the developers went wrong with their car jacking, gun tootin’ MMO shooter. A GTA Online would likely feature a more defined story and would, I hope, have more features than just stealing cars and shooting at people. I’d bet money on Rockstar adding a lot of other fun group activities and minigames. Heck, maybe even PvP wouldn’t be the only thing you’d be doing all the time?

L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz

Oh we’re off the see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! While The Wizard of Oz was originally a children’s book and then adapted into a movie children, it’s impossible to ignore that there are some truly dark things going on in the world of Oz. I was never truly aware as a kid, but now that I am an adult I fully realize just how twisted of a place Oz was. It could perhaps make the MMO transition pretty well, but I’m not sure how it would be marketed. Would it be a kid friendly MMO, or would it perhaps be a little darker and grittier than the ESRB’s E rating would allow? Regardless, Oz has a lot of backstory these days and I think that a Wizard of Oz MMORPG isn’t a question of if, but rather a question of when.

Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom

Will we ever see Nintendo make an MMO? That’s a pretty good question. While Zelda’s Hyrule would probably be given the MMO treatment ahead of the Mushroom Kingdom, I doubt that anyone could possibly deny the appeal behind adventuring throughout the Mushroom Kingdom with your friends. The NES loving kid inside of me would kill for a Mario MMO while the adult that I am, who still loves the NES, would probably do very horrible and rotten things if it ever meant Nintendo would develop a Mario MMO. I mean seriously! How could anyone not want this? Imagine King Boo as a raid boss. Just do it. There, now you’re as sold as I am. The concept of a Mario MMO doesn’t even need explaining, it just needs to happen!

How Blizzard Is Ripping You Off

It’s no secret that gamers have to pay for just about everything in World of Warcraft these days. What do you have to pay for? Well…

1. Initial Game Cost
2. Monthly Subscription
3. Server Transfer
4. Race Change
5. Faction Change
6. Additional Content (Expansions)
7. Micro Transactions
8. Login Authenticator

Almost all of these are not required. WoW could still exist as is without any of the above costing money. Does this sound hard to believe? Well, it shouldn’t and here’s why.

Initial Game Cost & Monthly Subscription
In this day and age, many MMORPGs opt to only have consumers pay for monthly subscriptions. Downloading a client and then either playing a limited free version or paying for a full subscription is the norm. Blizzard forces consumers to buy the privilege to play World of Warcraft and then they must set-up a $15 monthly subscription just to play.

ArenaNet, former Blizzard employees and makers of Guild Wars, have openly stated that developers do not need to charge gamers to play MMORPGs each month and that it is nothing more than a cash grab on the part of the developers. Considering how easily ArenaNet could have fallen apart if the original Guild Wars bombed without including monthly subscriptions, it’s not hard to believe what they are saying. Monthly subscriptions, though common, are NOT required.

Account & Character Services
Want to turn your dwarf into a gnome? It’s going to cost you approximately $15 a pop. That’s right, changing your race in World of Warcraft costs as much as it does to play the game for a month. If that isn’t ridiculous, then I don’t know what is…. especially considering that in other MMOs such as APB or Champions Online you are able to completely change every aspect of your character’s appearance without spending even a single cent. Imagine that! WoW’s faction change is not any different and only takes seconds for the game to process. You are being charged a quarter of a hundred dollars for a five second computer process.

Then there are server transfers. Many MMOs do not tie characters to specific servers and you can instead come and go as you please. Other games, like Rift, will plop your character onto servers of your choosing but you are free to transfer them whenever you want for no fee at all. Whoa. In WoW, if you want to move your warlock from Shadowmoon to Hyjal, it’s going to cost you something like $25 to disguise it as something that actually requires effort on Blizzard’s part… But to play with people from either realms in dungeons or battlegrounds is completely free? Where is the logic?

Additional Content
Pretty much all MMOs will charge for this kind of content except games that have adopted free to play mantras (subscriptions become optional). For example, Champions Online is currently working on increasing the level cap from 40 to either 45 or 50 and an entirely new city will be explorable. Sounds pretty substantial! While expansions are allowed to make money and I don’t view selling them as an evil act, they don’t need to cost as much as full retail games.

Micro Transactions & Ingame Stores
Considering everything that Blizzard forces their players to pay money for, it just seems so insanely wrong that they offer ingame mounts for sale at a price of $25. Yes, you can purchase a digital horse for a digital character to ride on for a whopping $25. You can also purchase vanity pets that serve no function at all for about $10 to $15. Wow. You can purchase thorough DLC for other games at a fraction of that price. For the price of one imaginary flying glitter pony to ride on, gamers could purchase several DLC adventures for Dragon Age: Origins or upgrade their Street Fighter 4 copies and obtain several new characters and stages.

While everything Blizzard charges people for is certainly extremely wrong and unnecessary, I suppose one can’t really speak out about it too much. The players are willing to spend money for these ridiculous services, so why should Blizzard stop? In a way, I suppose it is OUR fault that Blizzard earns money for all of these services which shouldn’t even cost money.

Shame on Blizzard for offering these services and shame on us for utilizing them.

Why APB: Reloaded Will Succeed

Sometime in Q1 2011, APB will return as “APB: Reloaded.” The original designers are onboard thanks to the game and studio being bought by K2 Network. Numerous improvements are being planned, and there are a few reasons why I think APB: Reloaded will succeed. “Gasp! APB succeeding?” Why, yes. As a player of APB during it’s original run, I saw the huge amount of potential that the game has. Unfortunately, due to EA forcing Realtime Worlds to rush APB out the door, the game was not what it was promised to be.

APB: Reloaded promises to make the game what it was originally supposed to be while improving the bad aspects of the game that became evident during the game’s original run. So, what will APB: Reloaded do that will make this game succeed? I have three points that I think will lead to the game working out this time around.

1. Tougher Crackdown On Hackers
Towards the end of the game’s life cycle, APB was plagued by hackers. Countless people used aim bots, wall hacks, and god mode hacks. It was a little out of control, and Realtime Worlds are already discussing the matter of eliminating foul play from APB: Reloaded. There seems to be a good amount of confidence coming from them at the moment, and they’ve had a bit of time to learn from their mistakes in APB and, presumably, they’ll be able to close a fair amount of holes that hackers exploited originally.

2. Revamped Gameplay Focus
Realtime Worlds has stated that they want San Paro to be a more enjoyable city this time around, the core PvP gameplay will not be the complete focus of the game anymore. Apparently there will be true PvE objectives in parts of the city, and plans are in place to make players want to return to specific areas of the city. To the average reader, this sounds like Realtime Worlds wants to implement something in the districts that will make players want to hang around at certain streets and locations. Minigames? Fun and rewarding quests? I’m willing to bet on both. Perhaps we’ll have access to a miniature casino, an arcade, or something else along those lines? It’s completely probable judging from Realtime Worlds’ comments. They want people to want to hang out in specific areas of the districts. Something is at work here, and I feel that it will add a lot of replayability to the game. The fact that PvP will not necessarily be the core focus of the game is also a great idea. They want the cities to feel more like, well, cities. Let’s hope that the revamping of the gameplay is going in a good direction.

3. Free To Play/Microtransactions
Free. To. Play. Those are the three most important words in this entire article. Players will still be able to perform microtransactions to probably obtain premium features and items, but paying to play is absolutely not required anymore. This is fantastic, as the original APB simply was not good enough to warrant monthly payments at all. Not having to pay will give the developers a lot of breathing room, and players will have more patience with the game if it is still lacking when it relaunches. By not having to pay, more players will be likely to stay on and wait for improvements.

Overall, APB: Reloaded may very well be the game that we were originally meant to play. Can’t wait! Stay tuned for more info.

Return to December 2010 Articles

Player Immersion in APB

Despite having 60 hour work weeks lately, I’ve still managed to clock a lot of time in APB since it was released at the start of the week. I’ve already written a review on the game, and you can read it by clicking on the APB review link in the “Reviews” column to the right. Or click here if you’re lazy.

I’ve checked out a few professional reviews that gave APB scores of 5 and 6 out of 10, which conveys a very different message from the 8.7 that I scored APB. Despite the fact that the game isn’t actually that outstanding, I’m sticking by my score. For me, the reason why APB deserves a good score, is because of the immersion that the game provides us, the players, with.

As someone who used to play Dungeons & Dragons in my teenage years with my friends, and as someone who has taken part in online RP, I was quite impressed with the immersion provided by APB. Don’t read into this wrong, I’m not approaching APB as something that I would use for any sort of RP purpose, because the game is just too PvP oriented for such a thing to off easily. No, I’m talking about a different kind of immersion here. I’m not talking about the kind of immersion where players pretend to be their characters and roleplay them. The type of immersion I am speaking of is the kind where players are aware of what their characters represent and enjoy emulating the roles in a realistic fashion in order to increase the fun had in the game not just for one specific person, but for everybody andI intend on going over what some of these things are. Since I predominantly play as an Enforcer, the things I mention from here will be biased towards that faction.

Stop in the name of the law!
I only witnessed this once, sort of in passing. I saw some Enforcers bugging Criminals via VOIP, which is voice identification. They were hassling the Criminals to get out of their stolen vehicle and were using real police phrases to do so. It was really exciting, because the Enforcers had their sirens blasting while shouting at the Criminals. Eventually, the Criminals did surrender the vehicle and the Enforcers made off with it, presumably to turn it in for some cash. It was really great to see players enjoying themselves in such a way, and I really do hope to see more of it.

Obey the rules of the road.
This one I see each time I play, perhaps once or twice. I’m guessing that these people aren’t on missions when I see them, since they always appear to be taking it so easy. What are they doing, you ask? They’re obeying the rules of the road, that’s what. They make all the proper turns, drive at a respectable speed, stop at intersections, and allow pedestrians to cross the road. I’ve done this once or twice when I wanted a few minutes away from missions, and it was somewhat enjoyable. It makes you feel like a part of the city a little bit more, and provides passing players with a neat sight. “What? That guy is driving the speed limit and not ramming other players? I can hardly believe it!”

Officers on patrol.
This one is neat, and I’ve engaged in it a few times while looking for crimes to witness. Some Enforcers, rather than driving around the city or even running, will walk. Yes, walk. Some players may have overlooked the walk option in the control menu, but it’s there. It adds a hefty amount of realism to APB, because surely these characters can’t run everywhere they go! Aside from just making you look like a part of the city, walking can be very beneficial. It is a great method of being able to get a glimpse of potential crimes for longer than the two or three seconds you might get with a vehicle. It puts you on the street and gives you presence. Criminals beware!

A good Criminal never rests.
I’ve only heard stories about this one from Criminal players. According to them, it’s a lot of fun to rob stores and such – which is a gameplay mechanic for Criminals that awards money. However, from what I’ve gathered, a few Criminals like to plan their robberies out and really coordinate them like a real team committing a real crime. They’re not roleplaying, but they’re really getting into the game and what Criminals do, and it’s great to see them becoming so immersed in the game. If I play Criminal more, I may very well try this out.

And that’s about it for now. APB is a very enjoyable game for those who like to feel somewhat immersed in their faction’s duties and roles. The game is also fantastic for Grand Theft Auto fans, as there is a whole city to explore and have fun in while also blowing people up. I’ll be playing until my 50 hours are up and probably afterwards as well, so for those interested, I primarily play on Zombie. My Enforcer character is named Boulder, and I’m more often than not out on vehicle retrieval runs, turning in stolen vehicles for a few quick bucks so that I can play around with my character’s appearance. I’m definitely not the best shot around, but my driving skills aren’t too shabby! I’d like to think that this is because I’m addicted to racing games. Hit me up if you need a driver for a mission.

Return to July 2010 Articles

APB (Review)

“A good attempt at team based PvP, but is not without a few shortcomings.”

Despite being in development for several years, I hadn’t heard of APB (All Points Bulletin) until just a few months ago when I had seen a gameplay feed on justin.tv and had mistaken it for Grand Theft Auto. It isn’t surprising that I had thought APB was a Grand Theft Auto game, since the creator of the GTA (David Jones) was involved in the creation process of APB. Since then, I’ve become quite the follower of APB and quickly purchased the game when it was released on June 29.

When I initially wrote this review, I had given the game 8.7 out of 10, praising it immensely. I have since amended the review, and it is what you’re reading now. When I had posted the original version of my review, I had only played the game for 10 or 12 hours, which isn’t a terribly long time with an MMO. I didn’t rush to put a review up, but I did write about APB sooner than I should have. I wanted to put a review up before the big name sites so that I would get hits, which did end up working. While my traffic increased by approximately 1000% (if that makes any sense), the dozens upon dozens of random visitors came only to read a review that painted a false picture of a game that isn’t terribly amazing. I’ve spent my full 50 free hours with APB now, and I’ve altered my review to show how I truly feel about the game.

APB is nothing revolutionary nor does it really excel at what it does. Despite this, it’s the only game that I can think of that involves a “cops and robbers” sort of gameplay on a fairly large scale. This immediately makes APB fairly unique, and it sets itself far apart from other MMO games.

When most people think of MMOs, they quickly think of Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, or the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. Shooters play a large part in the MMO genre as well, but they are vastly overshadowed by MMORPGs. APB looks to change that by taking a theme that we all loved when we were children, cops versus robbers. Every young boy played some kind of variation of cops and robbers with his friends growing up, and it makes me wonder if developer Realtime Worlds had this in mind when they created this game.

A positive aspect of APB that sets it apart from other massively multiplayer games is the payment system. Players get 50 free hours of game time when they purchase APB. After the 50 hours run out, they have the option of paying a small sum that will grant them several more hours that they can play whenever they like which is a fantastic system for those who want to pay as they play rather than have to deal with monthly subscriptions. A second option allows players to pay a fixed rate for a month of unlimited play. This is not a recurring fee, so you’ll never have to worry about being charged by Electronic Arts or Realtime Worlds when you don’t want to be, and you don’t need to cancel your account to avoid those nasty subscriptions which plague other online games.

In APB, players are plunked into the crime-ridden city of San Paro. The mayor was previously murdered as crime began to escalate out of control, and the city’s police force looked incompetent. The former mayor’s daughter rises to power and quickly decides to ruthlessly attack the crime problem by passing a law that allows citizens to stand up and fight for their city as Enforcers, not quite police officers but certainly more than mere vigilantes.

The player has the option to play one of two factions, Criminals or Enforcers. The Criminals faction should require little explaining. Their goal is more or less to just infest the city and cause trouble for the civilians and law enforcement officials. Criminals do many things such as mugging pedestrians, bombing locations, delivering drugs at checkpoints, and stealing merchandise. On the other side of things, we have the Enforcers. They are the “good guys” and must keep an eye out for Criminals giving pedestrians trouble (muggings can warrant arrests) as well as responding to calls from dispatchers who they pledge allegiance to. Both factions have minor methods of making quick cash as well. Criminals can earn money by mugging pedestrians, and Enforcers can make a few quick bucks by turning in stolen vehicles.

Aside from a few minor differences, both factions mostly play the same. The only things that I think really stand out between them is that Criminals typically look more “ghetto” than Enforcers, and unlike the crime-fighting good guy faction, Criminals can mow down pedestrians and not be penalized for it. Enforcers obviously cannot run over pedestrians without paying the price for it, which often comes in the form of losing levels (called “prestige” for Enforcers, and “notoriety” for Criminals).

Mission gameplay is fairly similar between both factions. More often than not, players just need to deliver items, prevent the opposing faction from controlling a location, or either cleaning/vandalizing parts of the city. If you are not grouped, missions will always start as PvE, sort of. Players will receive a mission prompt and, after accepting it, must venture around San Paro by foot or vehicle fulfilling whatever the mission asks. Players from the opposing faction will randomly jump into the same mission, which quickly turns everything into PvP. It is at this point that you can try to outsmart your opponent, or call for assistance. Doing the latter will put out a distress message to players who aren’t in a group and, if they acknowledge it, they will join the group and (hopefully) come to your aid.

The best part of APB is undoubtedly when you have multiple people taking part in the same mission. Coordination becomes key, and teamwork is paramount. Is everyone in the group except one person driving to the mission destination? Well, if they are nowhere near a vehicle vendor or available car, you can swing by and pick them up. Passengers in your car can hang out the door windows with their guns, ready to blast anyone who causes trouble for the group. Sticking together at the mission destinations is absolutely vital, and those who do not look out for their teammates will find themselves dying frequently. APB does not encourage Rambo tactics, and rushing in like a madman will only result in death.

Despite the fact that team play is essentially what makes APB good, there are numerous problems with the core PvP gameplay itself that seriously hurt the game. For starters, once you have taken part in about three or four missions, you have essentially seen them all until Realtime Worlds adds more to the game. There are numerous missions throughout the ingame districts, but they all suffer from a severe case of deja vu, and you will find yourself doing the same thing again over and over and over and over and… You get the picture.

There are three districts to San Paro at the moment. The districts are Social, Financial, and Waterfront. The Social District is where players of both factions can just take some time to chill, but there are also dozens of kiosks spread throughout the district that allow players to buy new clothes, weapons, vehicles, and so forth while also customizing their characters. The Social District is a great place to sit when you just want to talk to your clan (guild), or when you want to check out new unlocked items that you acquired through completing missions.

The other two districts, Financial and Waterfront, are where the action takes place. In these two districts, players can openly accept missions and engage in PvP. A fourth district is supposedly in the works that will be very hectic and have open PvP that is not mission based, meaning that it will essentially be a large scale deathmatch game set in a city. Both of the PvP districts are fairly large, measuring about one square kilometre each. It does not sound like much, but considering that there are many overpasses, buildings that can be entered, and side streets, the districts feel much larger than they really are. You can cross a district fairly quickly in a fast car, but this is only when you drive point to point without any missions to district you. To finish off the districts, they sounds like they may be small and they certainly are, but there are so many accessible areas in each that it makes them feel larger than they really are.

Customization in the game is fairly extensive. Some have said that other games, such as Champions Online, have better customization options. I have played Champions Online and, to be honest, I feel that APB blows it out of the water. There are dozens of sliders just for head features alone. The customization for characters is really amazing, and it even surpasses almost every singleplayer game out there as well. Every aspect of your character’s appearance can be controlled by you, it’s really pretty amazing and, dare I say, creating an exact copy of yourself may not be very difficult!

There are extensive editors for clothing and vehicles as well, allowing you to give your character as much personality as you want. The vehicle editor is pretty impressive, as you can customize your vehicle’s wheels and such while also changing the paint job and applying whatever decals you want. There are so many decals available that creating designs based off of real things isn’t terribly difficult. Instead of doing that, I opted to paint my boring looking white car to look like a police cruiser, complete with the word “POLICE” plasted on the side. This compliments my Enforcer character wonderfully since he looks like a no-nonsense state trooper.

The customization is fantastic, though. The sky is pretty much the limit. Do you want to make Ronald McDonald driving a corporate McDonald’s car? No problem, it’s entirely possible. I’ve seen some pretty cool characters and vehicles ingame such as a very convincing Richard Nixon. Again, the customization is fantastic. I cannot stress this enough.

Another bit of “customization” that I like is the ability to decide what music you will hear when driving vehicles. You can create playlists with the songs that ship with the game, or you can use music that you have on your computer. The really cool thing about using music on your computer is that when other people are with you in your vehicle, they will hear the music you’ve chosen off of your computer if they have the same song(s) on their computer. The game utilizes last.fm to achieve this, and it really adds a great deal of immersion to the driving in this game.

While I’m talking about driving, I may as well mention the controls. Maneuvering your character is really no issue at all, and I found the character controls to be very fluid and responsive. Even aiming in the middle of gun fights is pulled off flawlessly, and appears to be completely unaffected by lag. Vehicle controls are a little different though, and they take some getting used to. Every vehicle has extremely stiff handling in APB, which makes drifting around corners essentially impossible – unless there’s a trick that I am not aware of. Vehicles are so stiff and slow to respond to your inputs that it can be frustrating at times. Directing your vehicle to turn in a certain direction can be very slow going, and I’ve found myself accidentally running over a few pedestrians and streetside objects due to my car not turning as fast as I expect it sometimes. Pedestrians can move back and forth in front of your car faster than you can weave, which is unusual to say the least. There is also the problem of vehicles flipping easily when they really shouldn’t be doing so at all. It’s not uncommon to see over a dozen flipped vehicles within one hour, and these flips are mostly all caused by driving accidents.

While the controls are just fine in combat, I found that sometimes it was difficult to judge where an opponent was when I was being shot at immediately. The game world can be so open in some areas that members of the other faction, who are involved in the same mission as you, may be shooting at you from down the street and on top of a building or in other vague locations. When this happens, I quickly scurry to anything that offers cover as I look down at my radar to see where the fire is coming from. Sometimes I will misjudge where I am being shot at from, and instead of hiding from the incoming rounds, I’ll unknowingly position myself in an even better location to be shot at. APB’s shooting mechanics would work wonderfully in a smaller game such as Counter-Strike or Team Fortress, but in a wide open city it can be difficult at times to find out just where you are being shot from, and unless you see the shooter quickly, you’ll probably end up dead – especially if they are using an SMG. There are several guns that do not seem very balanced, and you’ll soon learn what they are for yourself if you decide to play APB. It’s baffling how such a huge weapon imbalance exists when the game had gone through extensive beta testing.

Matchmaking can also cause a few problems with the game. Who you are paired against is seemingly random, as I’ve witnessed players with ratings of 20 being paired against three players with ratings over 200. The difference between 20 and 200 is gigantic, with the 200+ players having several upgrades to their characters and their weapons, which puts the low rating players at severe disadvantages. This problem occurs very often and quite honestly needs to be addressed, as it isn’t terribly fun to be pitted against players with the best upgrades available when you don’t even have one. Realtime Worlds promised that this game would reward players based on skill rather than time spent playing, but it has become evident that this is not the case with APB.

I found that the matchmaking problem can be relieved slightly by playing with real life friends, but even this lost it’s fun factor for me when my friends, who have far more time to play than I do, cruised past my rating. This made the game even more likely to give them higher rating opponents. It wasn’t bad when we were all low ratings and struggled together, but being the only one who is still moderately low (92, I believe), it makes things unfun when you are the only one who struggles against better geared players. It makes me feel a lot like a third wheel, which isn’t very fun at all.

I have a few issues with the graphics in this game. The city of San Paro looks just fine for an MMO and I don’t have a beef with it. However, I am quite upset with the player models. You see, when you are creating your character, you will see every little detail on their skin including individual moles and wrinkles. After jumping into the game and playing however, texture quality is reduced drastically and character models look, at best, only a third of how good they looked on the customization screens. I have all of my video settings on maximum and my computer is a powerhouse that is only a little more than a year old, so there’s no reason for my character to look so much worse when I am playing him. Others have complained about this issue as well, and it’s quite peculiar. I will assume that Realtime Worlds will address this in a future patch. My computer can certainly handle better looking character models ingame, and I feel slightly robbed by the fact that my character doesn’t even look half as good as he did on the customization screens. While this is due to me being on 32 bit Windows, I’ve seen a few screenshots from 64 bit users and, while their character detail wasn’t as reduced as mine, it was still present and they weren’t happy about it.

Loading is also a little slow when you are entering districts from the lobby. Load times can be up to a minute long, sometimes longer if you are playing in windowed mode and passing time in your browser or another window while you wait for a district to load. The length of the load times doesn’t diminish the gameplay too much, but when your group decides to switch instances or districts often, you’ll find yourself staring at the loading screen far more than often than playing the game.

In terms of stability, APB is a bag of mixed nuts. While most MMO titles have very shaky launches for all users, game performance has been divided amongst APB players. Some players have experienced no problems on 64 bit Windows, while others have. There are poor shmucks like me who are still on 32 bit Windows and are experiencing far too many problems. APB seems to enjoy crashing at random, or when I am in a car and someone blows it up. I also encounter bizarre black screens and game freezes when I am in the social district and trying to load up the editors. The game halts itself about three times per day, which is pretty annoying and quite bad when you think about it. There is also the case of lag and loading. Unless you have the best connection available, you’re going to experience lag while playing and many of your shots will not seem to register. I once emptied three full SMG clips into someone and they did not die, but they then saw me and killed me in about one second with only a few SMG rounds. I am on a LAN cable connection which affects my gaming slightly, but it should not cause this much lag. I would even dare say that a dial-up user shouldn’t encounter so many latency issues with a game. Very peculiar lag.

There is also a very troublesome memory leak that many players have reported. I initially did not notice it, but after playing many times in and out of full screen mode, it has become my worst enemy. Once you are playing APB, forget about anything else you have running on your computer. Do not touch MSN. Leave your browser alone. The time it will take to accomplish any task outside of the game while you AFK is absolutely insane. The memory leak causes me to wait up to a full minute for my browser to even function half the time, which is nothing short of ridiculous. I’ve had people say “it’s just because you run in windowed mode” but this is a gross inaccuracy. No MMO should affect your system in such a way. Perhaps I should resubscribe to World of Warcraft? That game never affected my computer at all, and runs silky smooth.

Overall, APB is a fairly competent and enjoyable MMO. There are a few problems that hold the game back from greatness, all of which I have mentioned above. None of the problems are game breaking however, and there’s no reason why anyone who enjoys PvP should flat out dislike this game. Trust me, if you’ve at least thought about trying the game, then the gameplay is probably something that appeals to you and you should enjoy the game somewhat, at least for a short time.

APB has had a very clean and stress-free launch, and future content sounds promising. With so much potential for future content and expansion packs, this will definitely be an MMO to watch in the future. If the game can hold your attention until then, you may be rewarded nicely. However, make sure your system can handle the game before playing, as there are A LOT of really unexplainable gremlins and glitches in this game that can, in some cases, absolutely destroy your gameplay experience.

As for me? My 50 hours are up and I’m unlikely to pay to continue playing unless some flaws are addressed, such as crippling display options for 32 bit Windows users, a lack of mission variety, very peculiar lag, poor matchmaking, the memory leak, and wonky vehicle controls. If you can overlook these issues which currently hold the game back from being a great MMO, then by all means give APB a try.

Final Score


E3 2010 Preview

Each June, dozens of video game developers converge upon Los Angeles for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3, which is essentially the Mecca of the gaming industry. At E3, many new games are announced for the first time while many hot titles in the works are often presented in playable form. Some of the gaming industry’s biggest games ever were first shown at E3 events.

This year at the Los Angeles Convention Center looks to be a show. Many confirmed big name titles will be appearing, and the rumour mill is also suggesting that a few surprises may show up. I’m not going to go into any details on the “motion capture” wars that the Microsoft and Sony are currently engaged in. Instead, I’m just going to go over some of the games that will be appearing at the show.

In this article, I will present you with a list of all “big” titles worth talking about that will be at E3 this year, but I’ll go talk about perhaps a dozen. After that, I’ll mention a few “rumoured” games that people think may show up.

Here is the list of major titles that will be shown off at E3.


Conduit 2 (Wii)
Dragon Quest IX (DS)
Golden Sun DS (DS)
Legend of Zelda Wii (Wii)
Lost in Shadow (Wii)
Metroid: Other M (Wii)
Pokemon Black & White (DS)
Super Scriiblenauts (DS)


Sid Meier’s Civilization V
Star Wars: The Old Republic


God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PS3)
Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
Killzone 3 (PS3)
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs (PS3)

XBox 360

Gears of War 3
Halo: Reach

Multi Platform Games

Arcania: Gothic IV
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Crysis 2
Dead Space 2
F1 2010
Fable III
Fallout: New Vegas
Mafia 2
Naughty Bear
Rock Band 3
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Now that we know the major titles, what’s worth talking about? There are definitely several, but I’m only going to mention a few, the ones that I feel I’d enjoy.


APB, or All Points Bulletin, is like an MMO version of Grand Theft Auto. There is a sprawling city, gun fights, driving vehicles, and so forth. This isn’t a sandbox MMO though, as it has quite a specific focus. In APB, players will join one of two factions at the beginning, the Criminals or the Enforcers.

Criminals are, predictably, out to break the law and cause crime. Robbing businesses and creating mayhem is the name of the game when you join the Criminals faction. At the other end of the spectrum is the Enforcers faction. Enforcers are basically cops on steroids that can essentially wear whatever the heck they want for a uniform. Enforcers fight and prevent crime, making them the enemies of the Criminals faction. Essentially, APB is just a giant game of cops and robbers but with really great personality and a unique presentation.

I remember when I watched someone playing the APB beta on justin.tv, I thought that he was playing Grand Theft Auto at first because I had never heard of APB. The screen layout is very similar, and the graphics are very good for an MMO. It took me by surprise when I learned that the broadcaster was not playing an offline solo adventure!

Successfully completing goals (completing crimes of Criminals, while preventing crimes for Enforcers) rewards players with money, which they can use to buy/upgrade weapons and vehicles, as well as customize their appearance very extensively.

Developer Realime Worlds has said that player skill, rather than time investment, will determine how far a player progresses in APB. The game will also feature ingame advertising. Normally I am against such a thing, but in the case of APB I really feel that it will help bring the city to life more and make it feel more realistic.

Overall, it sounds like a really great idea for an MMO and I’ve already decided to purchase (and review) it when it comes out at the end of this month.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

A new Assassin’s Creed on major consoles already! I have very little information on this game, but I’ll share what I’ve found out. Brotherhood will, surprisingly, follow Ezio again as he embarks on a fifteen hour singleplayer adventure in Rome.

Ezio will be able to recruit and train new assassins, and will enjoy killing Templars through the use of new weapons.

There will also be multiplayer modes available for the first time in the Assassin’s Creed series. How multiplayer will work in Assassin’s Creed remains to be seen, but I bet it’s safe to say that deathmatch won’t be one of the game modes for fairly obvious reasons relating to the gameplay mechanics of the Assassin’s Creed games.

It’s due out around November this year, and given how enjoyable the first two games were, it’s probably safe to say that Brotherhood will be worth checking out.

Crysis 2

Now here is a game worth talking about. The sequel to one of the most memorable first person shooters in recent years, Crysis 2, is not only appearing on the PC but the 360 and PS3 as well.

Set in an alien infested New York City, Crysis 2 sees the return of Nomad as he adventures around in the Nanosuit 2, an upgraded version of the suit he wore in the first Crysis. Because of the fact that he is wearing the new and improved suit, he is being hunted by Crynet Systems because he isn’t supposed to be wearing it. This makes me wonder, how did Nomad happen to get it? Prophet, the team leader from the first game, is supposedly going to play some kind of a role in Crysis 2. Perhaps he was involved in whatever allowed Nomad to get his hands on Nanosuit 2?

Nanosuit 2 is supposedly much more versatile than the original from the first game. Crytek has stated that the new nanosuit will be able to use more than one power mode at once. This opens the doors for some very, very interesting possibilities! Stealth and speed could be very effective.

Finally, it is worth noting that Crysis 2 will have LOWER system requirements than the first game. It sounds like they’ve straightened a few things out, considering the fact that Crysis 2 is certainly prettier than the first game.

Crysis 2 is due out in December of this year. I suspect many people will find this one under the Christmas tree!

F1 2010

Developed by Codemasters and due out in September of this year, F1 2010 is based on the current Formula One season. New teams Hispania, Lotus, and Virgin will all be featured in the game, as will the revised Silverstone and all new Korean Grand Prix circuit.

Codemasters is promoting this game as having the most advanced weather system ever seen in a video game. Weather will change in real time. Just like during the real races, rain may only sprinkle for a few minutes, or only half the track will have rain showering down upon it.

Racing lines will also dry in wet conditions, and trees will shield areas of the track from the rain, keeping them dry. It is also worth noting that driving through the water in the wet will help you cool your tires.

F1 2010 uses the EGO Engine, which was first used in DiRT and then GRID. Because of Codemasters making their recent racing games have mainstream appeal, such as the Colin McRae (now DiRT) series which only appealed to a niche crowd, I suspect that F1 2010 will follow the same path and be a great game even for people who don’t enjoy Formula One. The fact that flashbacks, which let you rewind accidents that you have and essentially “undo” them, are making an appearance in F1 2010 says it all, I feel.

Throughout career mode, players will be able to interact with the media and their team, responding the questions in conferences and interviews. I don’t recall such a thing ever being done in a racing game before, and it certainly has a nice sound to it.

I should note that the following images have 2009 cars. Codemasters have stated that they were just used as placeholders until the 2010 cars were fully implemented. I have a strong feeling that at E3, we’ll see the 2010 cars in action at last.

Gran Turismo 5

Sony’s cash cow racing series is finally nearing the finish line. After a fantastic Prologue followed by a pretty unimpressive demo, Gran Turismo 5 certainly has been taking it’s time. I’ve been told that the only reason we don’t have Gran Turismo 5 now is because of Sony pressuring Polyphony to implement 3D capabilities into the game.

The fifth Gran Turismo offers nothing less than you’d expect it to. Approximately two dozen tracks and more than one thousand cars make up Gran Turismo 5. NASCAR and WRC races will also be featured in the game, and the list of car manufacturers, which was already big enough, has welcomed Bugatti and Lambourghini. All cars can be damaged now, so if you want to smash up realistic looking Lambourghini Murcielagos, then this is the game for it.

The tracks seem to be quite varied, and will include night racing. Here is an apparent complete list of circuits in Gran Turismo 5. Note that I cannot guarantee that this list is accurate.

Apricot Hill Raceway, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Autumn Ring, Cathedral Rocks, Chamonix, Circuit de Catalunya, Circuit de La Sarthe, Circuit de Valencia, Citta di Aria, Clubman Stage Route 5, Complex String, Costa di Amalfi, Daytona International, Deep Forest Raceway, Driving Park, Dunsfold Park, Eiger Nordwand, Fuji Speedway, George V Paris, Grand Canyon, Grand Valley Speedway, Gymkhana, High-Speed Ring, Hong Kong, Ice Arena, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Laguna Seca Raceway, Las Vegas Drag Strip, London, Madrid, Midfield Raceway, Monaco, Motorland, New York, Nordschleife, Nürburgring GP Strecke, Opera Paris, Rally Japan, Rally Toscana, Rome, Seattle, Sepang International Circuit, Shanghai International Circuit, Spa-Francorchamps, Special Stage Route 5, Special Stage Route 11, Suzuka, Swiss Alps, Tahiti Maze, Texas Motor Speedway, Tokyo Route 246, Trial Mountain, Tsukuba Circuit, Tuscany, Twin Ring Motegi, Yas Marina Circuit, Zamboanga.

And here are some car manufacturers in the game. I left about ONE HUNDRED small name ones, or ones that not many people would recognize.

Abarth, Acura, Alfa Romeo, AMC, Ariel, Ascari, Aston Martin, Audi, Autobianchi, Bentley, BMW, BRM, Bugatti, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Cosworth, Dacia, Daewoo, Daihatsu, Dallara, Datsun, DeLorean, Dodge, Dome, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, FSO, GAZ, General Motors, Geo, Ginetta, GMC, Hennessey, Holden, Honda, Hudson, Hummer, Hyundai, Infiniti, Isuzu, Italdesign, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Koenig, Lada, Lambourghini, Lancia, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Lister, Lola, Lotus, McLaren, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Mercury, MG, Minardi, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Opel, Pagani, Peugeot, Plymouth, Polyphony, Pontiac, Porsche, Proton, Reliant, Renault, Reynard, Rinspeed, RollsRoyce, Rover, RUF, Saab, Saleen, Samsung, Saturn, Sauber, Scion, Seat, Shelby, Skoda, Spyker, Studebaker, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Triumph, TVR, Tyrell, Vauxhall, Venturi, Volkswagen, Volvo, Walter Wolf, Williams F1, Yamaha, Z Cars, Zakspeed, ZIL, Zytek

WOW. Okay, so Grand Turismo 5 is massive.

Halo: Reach

I’m not much of a Halo player, but I figure that a fan of the games may accidentally wander into my mostly PS3-centric blog.

Halo: Reach seems to take place in the 2552 in which humanity is at war with the alien Covenant. The player controls an elite supersoldier squad member known as Noble 6. I was surprised not see Master Chief’s name to be honest, but as a Halo outsider it may make sense that I’m surprised since to people who don’t play Halo, Master Chief practically is Halo itself.

I wish that I could say more about Reach, but I cannot. I’m aware that the multiplayer will be very deep however, and customization is apparently heavy. That’s always good! 360 fans seem to be getting a very nice FPS here.

Legend of Zelda Wii

This should be good! Little is known about this new Zelda yet, other than that it stars an adult Link and he is apparently not wielding the Master Sword. A mysterious figure on a piece of promotional art that stands behind Link vaguely resembles the Master Sword, which has raised a few questions.

Unfortunately, this is all that’s known so far about the new Zelda. Despite the fact that there so is little info, I still felt that Zelda deserved it’s own mention because, hey, it’s Zelda!!

LittleBigPlanet 2

LittleBigPlanet 2 sees the return of Sackboy on another epic adventure. This time, a vacuum cleaner-like villain dubbed “The Sucker” travels to the dimension that the game is set in and starts sucking everything up! Sounds like the levels may be more diverse than the first game’s as a result of this interstellar vacuum cleaner bad guy.

LittleBigPlanet 2 is going to play the same as the first game, and all content that you bought for the first game will be available straight away in the sequel.

It’s worth noting that customization is going to take on a whole new level of depth. While the first game promoted an editor that let you make platformer levels, LittleBigPlanet 2 supposedly lets you go even further, making racing games and even RPGs. How this is possible, I have no clue, but I’m excited to find out. I just hope that making levels is easier than it was in the first game. Unless you had lots of time to devote to the first LittleBigPlanet, you weren’t going to create much.

Online is supposed to be more intuitive, thank goodness. Hopefully Media Molecule removes the whole “globe” menu gimmick from the sequel! Anyway, LittleBigPlanet 2 will be available this fall, presumably in December.

Metroid: Other M

Team Ninja, famous for developing the Dead or Alive and recent Ninja Gaiden games, has been given a chance to work some magic on Metroid. I can only assume that this is going to be a Metroid unlike any we’ve seen before. I do not have a Wii, but if I did, this game would probably be at the top of my list of games to watch out for.

Other M takes place after the SNES hit Super Metroid and leads Samus to an alien infested spaceship that sent out a distress signal.

Supposedly the game will play like a 3D version of the original Metroid games, and Samus will have all of her old abilities from the classic games. So, fully 3D classic Metroid? Certainly sounds good to me. Wii owners are in for quite a treat with this one, I believe.

Naughty Bear

Now this game is just plain twisted! Here is the plot of the game taken from Wikipedia.

“Naughty Bear is the only bear on the island that was not invited to a certain birthday party because of the fact that he is too naughty. While he crafted a gift for the occasion, he was laughed at by the other bears and sulked back to his house. Naughty Bear decides to take his revenge against all the other bears on the island.”

The object of the game? To be naughty! Doing so rewards you with naughty points and from there… Well, I have no idea. The game has an open sandbox environment like Grand Theft Auto, so there should be lots to do. To be honest, I don’t care what the objective of the game is, I’m going to be picking the game up when it releases at the end of this month. The idea of being a teddy bear who just causes trouble sounds really…. Fun!

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I

Finally, a new game in the numbered Sonic the Hedgehog series! It is very unfortunate that the only good game Sonic has been in recently is a kart racer (and a very good one, to be fair), but he’s finally coming home. I suppose Sega clued in and realized that Sonic has only ever done very well in 2D platformers. So, yes, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a classic 2D platformer with what I suppose are HD graphics. Sort of.

This game is more of the same. Dr. Eggman (I prefer to call him Robotnik, but oh well) has it out for Sonic, and our blue friend has to do something about it. Sonic will trek through several zones made up of 2D side scrolling levels, just like the old games. I only liked Sonic 2, but I really think I’ll be checking this one out when it is released as a downloadable title.

The first episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 will be released later this year.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Yeah, some Star Wars MMORPG.

I like the old Star Wars movies, but I know very little about this game. This is all I can say on it, really! It’s being made by Bioware and should be out around April or May 2011. I also fully expect it to steal elements from WoW, but you’d be crazy not to if you’re making an MMORPG.

Star Wars has an amazing history and setting though, which makes it perfect for an MMORPG. Considering the size of Star Wars’ fanbase, there’s no doubt in my mind that this game will be a hit.

Now, the rumour mill is always spinning around E3 time. I will now go over the four games I have heard rumours about but, at the moment, there’s no confirmation at all that these games are in the works, except MK9.

Half-Life 3

Surprisingly, yes. Valve have said that they have a “big” surprise for us at E3 this year but they didn’t specify what. A lot of people are jumping to the BIG conclusion. While it may be a stretch, it’s certainly an awesome stretch. Half-Life 3 would rock E3 to the core.

Infamous 2

While I only played the demo of Infamous (I found myself being more tempted to buy Prototype, which I did), I was able to acknowledge that the full game was probably pretty great based on what the demo offered. Judging by the review scores, I was right. More of the same can only be a good thing, right?

Mortal Kombat 9

Despite the fact that Midway bit the dust, Ed Boon and his wily crew survived after being taken in by Warner Brothers Games. It was an obvious choice for WB, considering the fact that Mortal Kombat is a cash cow. Boon revealed last year that MK9 is in development, so don’t be surprised if it shows up at E3.

Resistance 3

Sony’s “golden egg” FPS series. I find shooters to be pretty boring myself, but Resistance is pretty cool. I fully expect Resistance 3 to make an appearance at some point in time on the PS3. Whether or not it’s at E3 is yet to be seen.

And that’s about it! Overall E3, looks to have some pretty stellar games this year, and possibly some amazing surprises. Despite the fact that Playstation Move and Natal will probably be the focus of the show, we can’t forget that the games make E3, and this year it’s going to be a doozy.

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