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Original author: 
Megan Farokhmanesh

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"It's time for bed now."

Your mother sings you a song as you slowly drift off to sleep, but your rest is short lived. Your eyes struggle open as your teddy bear is dragged away by something you can't see. Your crib tilts, dumping you onto the floor. This is your room and these are your toys, but they look far more menacing in the late hours of the night. You're two years old, and the world is terrifying.

Among the Sleep is a horror game currently in development for Windows PC, Mac and Linux where players explore the world as a child. Unlike other titles in the genre, which often rely on violence or grotesque monsters, the game is more about atmosphere. Every new room is filled with shadowed tricks of light and new obstacles to...

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Something is happening. I’ve noticed it, you may have noticed it, and it’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s ever bought an “indie” record. The corporations with a finger in this delicious pie we call the games industry have been watching what’s happened, too. They’ve been watching the achievements of the likes of Jonathan Blow, 2Dboy, Notch/Mojang and other countless successful indie developers. Now, they’re changing the way the operate. And that is in turn changing how indies operate. Indie gaming will never be the same again. Is this a bad thing?

We talked to Double Fine, Positech, Klei and others to find out. (more…)

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 AlbumIn the business of selling stuff, there’s a lot of managing. Sales reps usually have a boss they check in with on the status of deals in the pipeline, maybe to get some advice on how to close a deal when there’s stiff competition from another company, or to go over how an important customer was reeled in, so that others can learn from it.

These check-ins are sometimes referred to as coaching, and there is data to show that coaching can boost sales performance. A study by the Sales Executive Council suggests that reps who received three or more hours of coaching per month outsold those who received two hours or less of coaching per month, by as much as 17 percent.

Getting that coaching done can be kind of a hassle. But it’s the sort of hassle that Salesforce.com has often sought to understand intimately, and then create products within its suite of cloud software tools.

Today is one of those days. The company is announcing a trial of a new feature that closely ties its traditional Sales Cloud with its Work.com product. The point is to do a few things: Speed up the review portion that has always tended to be a big consumer of time and attention in pretty much any organization, and also to make it easier for sales managers to find ways to motivate their teams to, you know, sell more stuff, which is basically the point of sales in the first place.

Through a combination of Salesforce services including the Sales Cloud, its social enterprise platform Chatter and Work.com, an HR software outfit that includes the Rypple acquisition it made last year, sales teams will see each other’s goals, will learn about big deals coming in, and know about each other’s expertise.

The new tools will also give managers a way to provide instant feedback and public recognition to those sales people who are doing well. Remember “gamification”? It’s not my favorite word, but apparently it works to some extent, especially with sales people who have monthly, quarterly and annual targets to make.

There is research to back up the assertion that when people leave sales jobs they do so in part because they don’t think they’re getting enough recognition from above. Now, on those occasions when a rep lands a big customer in a competitive deal, the manager can publicly pat them on the back with a “thanks in Chatter” feature, and give them a “sales Ninja” badge, or something like it, that everyone can see in their Chatter feeds.

Think it all sounds hokey? Maybe it is, but there’s a lot of evidence that these things have a way to making sales people happier on the job. And happy sales reps are sales reps who close deals, or least that’s the theory. We’ve come a long way since Alec Baldwin’s memorable (and profanity-laced) monologue in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

The new features are coming in early 2013, and are available for certain Salesforce customers on a pilot basis starting today.

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joust igf.jpgPlayStation Move-controlled Johann Sebastian Joust is the sort of thing that truly needs to be played to be understood. The improvisational, highly-physical experience has captivated indie gaming fans worldwide -- chances are you've heard the flood of enthusiasm from those who have tried it.

It's earned an honorable mention in the Excellence in Design category for this year's Independent Games Festival, and -- as an unconventional, experimental game -- has earned a nod in the Nuovo category. The galvanizing title also has a nomination for the IGF's Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

In this extensive interview, we catch up with Douglas Wilson of Die Gute Fabrik (who's also long been an inspiring figure in the Copenhagen Game Collective) on the genesis of the project, the idea of digital folk games, and the strength of the indie community.

What background do you have making games?

I've always been an avid player of games, but it didn't occur to me until college that I might seriously study or develop them. In 2003, I took a class with Professor Henry Lowood, called the History of Computer Game Design. So, I actually started writing about games before I started making them. But fortunately I complemented my humanities degree with an MS in computer science. For one of our project assignments, some friends and I developed a game called Euclidean Crisis. It was nominated as a Student Finalist at IGF 2007. I suppose that was my first "proper" computer game.

In 2007, I moved to Denmark on a grant to research games at IT University of Copenhagen. Beyond just my studies and research, I started hanging out with a some other students and artists who were also interested in developing games. Together, we started making all sorts of games, both digital and non-digital. In fact, that year worked out so well that I decided to settle in Copenhagen more permanently. I'm still living here today!

My best known projects are probably Dark Room Sex Game, a cheeky Wiimote game which we developed in 2008, and B.U.T.T.O.N., a highly physical party game which we developed in 2010. B.U.T.T.O.N. even ended up getting a nomination for the Nuovo Award at IGF 2011.

But I have no commercial development experience. I'm just an egghead researcher!

What development tools did you use?

I'm actually using the engine Unity, mostly because I prefer to code in C#. To get the Move controllers working with my MacBook Pro, I'm using Thomas Perl's Move api, which in turn is based off Alan Ott's hidapi. That code, including our Unity bindings, is freely available online!

How long has your team been working on the game?

I first prototyped the game at the Nordic Game Jam last year. At that time, it was for the Wiimote. I quickly realized that the game would work even better using the LED light on the Move, and in May I got Thomas Perl's Move API working on my computer. We debuted the Move version of the game in June, in the streets of Copenhagen. Since then, I've been slowly adding new features and fixing bugs in my free time. I'm currently finishing up my PhD dissertation, so until now I've only been able to work on the game very gradually, on the side.

Where did the concept for Joust come from?

It's very unconventional. At the Nordic Game Jam last January, I prototyped the first version of J.S. Joust using three Wiimotes. Partially inspired by the Animal Tracker mini-game from Nintendo's Wii Party, as well as my own game B.U.T.T.O.N., I originally wanted to develop a racing game where three players would carefully inch towards a fourth controller on the other side of the room.

The breakthrough moment came when Nils and I were walking around the room with Wiimotes in hand, testing the controllers' sensitivity values. At one point, we found ourselves walking towards each other from opposite sides of the room. Both of us silently hatched the same mischievous plan; as soon as we were in range, we shoved one another in an attempt to make the other lose. In that instant, it became clear to us that the game we actually wanted to play was a more antagonistic duel.

The game was also inspired by several non-digital folk games that we play here in Copenhagen. For example, my obsession with slow-motion games is no doubt influenced by Liste Lanser (translation: "Sneaky Lance"), a game invented by some friends of a friend. In Liste Lanser, two players faceoff blindfolded, each with a wooden spoon in hand. The first player to hit the other wins! The twist is that both players must move in slow-motion, enforced by the cheering spectators. To make the whole thing extra silly and cinematic, we often play loud drum and bass music!

What do you mean by "folk game"?

Good question! I'd say that "folk game" encompasses a diverse variety of sports and games. As I use the term, "folk game" suggests a relatively simple game played with commonly available equipment (a ball, a rope, dice, etc.) or no equipment all, such that the game can be easily spread by word of mouth. A defining feature of folk games, as I use the term, is that they facilitate "house rules" and player modification. They generally evolve over time, and are appropriated by different player communities in different ways. Often, they involve physical interaction between players. Some examples might include Duck-Duck-Goose, Freeze Tag, Ninja, Solitaire, and Mafia.

But I also have my own, more idiosyncratic definition. For me, "folk game" suggests festivity, laughter, and bodily physicality. I write about this in my PhD research (see here). When I look towards folk games for design inspiration, I'm usually trying to capture a particular kind of physical comedy and humor of the absurd. I'm not sure if that more specific interpretation holds for other people, but for me it's been very useful.

Does J.S. Joust itself qualify as a folk game? I'm not sure. I've called it a "digital folk game" for lack of a better term, but there are some reasons one might be a little skeptical of that description. Sure, the game is very amenable to player modification, but the software isn't even available yet, and the hardware (i.e. the Move controller) is still somewhat niche. Of course, now that many of us have smart phones, accelerometers are becoming commonplace. Are smart phones, then, going to become a general-purpose gaming "tool," like the jump rope or deck of playing cards before it? And does a game's code have to be open-sourced in order for it to qualify as a folk game? These are tricky questions.

One notable thing about your game is it challenges the idea that video games require graphics. Getting outside the bounds of what we normally think of as "video game design" is something you've worked with for some time. Why is this compelling to you?

J.S. Joust embodies two core interest of mine. First, ever since I worked on Dark Room Sex Game, I've been interested in digitally-mediated games where players look at each other rather than at a screen. Obviously, that's something we're used to doing when we play non-digital games like sports, boardgames, etc. But it isn't typically what you do when playing a computer game. So there's something fun in it of itself in the subversion of re-purposing gaming technology towards different ends (this is the same trick behind B.U.T.T.O.N.).

Second, I'm interested in games in which players are actively encouraged to negotiate and improvise their own "house rules." That's actually the core focus of my academic research. Some people have argued that the main benefit of computers is that they relieve us the "burden" of having to enforce the rules. I disagree. In the right context, it can be deeply enjoyable to argue about and modify the rules. In J.S. Joust for example, are you allowed to kick other people? What would it be like to try playing with the controllers in your pockets? There are a lot of physical world actions that the computer isn't able to monitor, and that can actually work to the players' advantage. Often, the most enjoyable game of them all is making up your own game.

Actually, we've always talked within the context of the Copenhagen Game Collective. When did you form Die Gute Fabrik, and who's involved?

Die Gute Fabrik is a small indie games studio founded by Nils Deneken. Nils is an illustrator by training, but got sucked into the gaming world when his adventure game Ruckblende was nominated for IGF in 2008. Nils and I met each other at IndieCade 2008 in Seattle. I was there showing Dark Room Sex Game, and he was there showing Ruckblende.

We both loved each other's games, and so we got to hanging out. He lives in Copenhagen (though he's actually German), and I was about to move back to Denmark myself, and so we decided that we should try working together. In early 2009, we worked together on a silly Flash game called 5 Minute MMORPG (along with some other friends). Since then, we've been collaborating a number of projects, including our party game B.U.T.T.O.N.

This summer, we decided to finally make our partnership more "official." When I finish my PhD this Spring, I'll be joining Die Gute Fabrik as a co-owner and Lead Game Designer. I'm going full-time indie! It's both exciting and terrifying.

Nils and I are the main owners of Die Gute Fabrik, but there are also a few more people in the extended Die Gute Fabrik family. Our friend Bernie Schulenburg is the lead designer behind our recent PSN game Where is my Heart? My roommate Christoffer Holmgard does web development and biz dev for us. Finally, our friend Alessandro Coronas (based in Italy) does sound and music for us. Alessandro did the soundtrack for Where is My Heart? and he'll also be working on our upcoming game Mutazione.

Nils and I have indeed been involved in the Copenhagen Game Collective, which we helped co-found in 2009. However, these days I'm not so involved in the Collective, as I'm trying to focus on Die Gute Fabrik and my own projects. Beyond my work with Nils, I'm increasingly interested in collaborating with friends back in North America. This past year I spent a few months in Montreal, San Francisco, and New York, and I'm very excited about the game dev scenes in all three areas. I'm already working with David Kanaga (based in Oakland) on my upcoming Beacons of Hope installation. There are also a number of indies in New York (e.g. Matt Parker, Zach Gage, Ramiro Corbetta) who I'd love to work with some day.

What's next for Joust? Anywhere further you want to go with it?

Oof, good question! I can't say too much right now, but we're still trying to figure out release plans. We're considering a variety of different platforms. There are a lot of opportunities, but also a bunch of challenges. I'm delighted that the game seems to appeal to a wide variety of people - even people who didn't think they were interested in digital games. So, I'm hoping to find a way to reach that broader audience.

Ultimately, I'd like to release the game with a ton of optional gameplay features, so that players can more easily invent their own variations. For instance, I recently added a "handicap" feature that allows you to make some controllers more sensitive than others.

As suggested by one of my playtesters, Mikhail, this allows for a "Protect the King" mode where two "guards" need to protect a third player whose controller is ultra-sensitive. I'm also quite happy about the "invincibility" feature that I recently added, where you can press the trigger button to go invincible. The thing is, the invincibility only lasts for a few seconds; if you ever use up your entire meter, you kill yourself. The feature opens up some fun defensive tactics.

The LED light on the Move controller helps a lot here - just simple things like color changes and brightness allows me to signal a bunch of different gameplay information. Man, that controller is so underrated! A lot of people dismissed it as a Wiimote knockoff (see this Penny Arcade satire), but as I see it, that LED light changes everything. The radical thing about the Move controller is that each player essentially carries around with them a giant pixel.

The controllers act as a kind of distributed screen. I find that affordance so exciting that I'm currently working on a whole series of no-screen Move games. One of them, Beacons of Hope, is a horror-game played in a large pitch dark room. The Move's LED light is particularly beautiful when it shines out in the darkness. You can get a glimpse of that in this video we shot in Death Valley National Park.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any you particularly love?

Yes! I've been lucky enough to play several of them. As I've written before here, I particularly love GIRP and Proteus. In fact, I'm so obsessed with GIRP that I was even inspired to build an entire physical installation around the game, called Mega-GIRP. Proteus, meanwhile, is one of the most genuinely moving games I've ever played. David Kanaga's dynamic soundtrack is truly stunning. The game itself is like an indie take on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but infused with the spirit of Boards of Canada, James Turrell, and Carl Sagan. It's magical.

I do want to add that I wish Where is my Heart (also by Die Gute Fabrik) had made IGF too. I didn't work on it myself, but I love that game to bits! Where is my Heart received three honorable mentions (Audio, Design, Seumas McNally). I'd give them my finalist spot if I could. They deserve it.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

The indie game development scene has quite literally changed my life. Ever since I was a kid, I always thought I'd go into academia (my father is a professor). Now I find myself leaving the ivory tower to run my own indie studio. It's so strange for me because I never figured myself for an entrepreneur. But there's just so much energy in the indie scene right now. There was no way I could resist its gravity! In just the past year, I've met so, so many wonderful game people across Europe and North America. I feel so blessed.

More than anything, I'm excited about all the localized gaming events and "scenes" that are popping up around the world. One of my favorite examples is New York City's Babycastles indie arcade, which I've been fortunate enough to collaborate with over the last year. More generally, game collectives, artists, and passionate gamers around the world are making things happen. I think this development is fundamentally changing what it even means to be "indie." There are now more opportunities than ever for game makers to show work in public and physical contexts.

Indie games can be more than just "products" distributed over the Internet. A game like J.S. Joust, for instance, is more of an "event-based" game. There's a lot of fertile ground to be explored at the intersection between games and more experience-based creative traditions like performance art, new media art, LARP, etc. If Babycastles is any indication, I think we'll see more indies exploring installation art, and more artists interfacing with the indie games world.

All that said, the gaming scene is obviously haunted by a number of thorny diversity issues (i.e. in regards to race, gender, age, etc.). Some intrepid game developers (for example, Toronto's Difference Engine Initiative) are working to change things for the better, but obviously we still have a long way to go. This is part of the reason why I'm so eager to reach out to collaborators in other cultural traditions like dance, music, contemporary art, etc. I think we need to expand the indie gaming "tent" as much as we reasonably can. For this reason, I'm far less interested in "advancing" the medium of games (ugh, the age-old myth of cultural "progress" - such bullshit) than I am in exploring the territory between games and other traditions.

Like DJ Spooky says: "It's the twenty-first century. Things should be really wild. Anything else is boring."

[This article originally appeared on Gamasutra, written by Leigh Alexander.]

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[Video Link]

Leon Botha, a South African artist and DJ who became widely known through his association with the band Die Antwoord, died on Sunday from complications related to progeria. He was 26. He died one day after his birthday. Botha was one of the longest-living persons ever to have been diagnosed with this rare disease.

Word spread online last night. Leon had been struggling with increasing physical challenges in recent months. He shared some of that experience with me, along with news of his creative explorations, in occasional emails. Boing Boing pal Griffin of the South African counterculture blog WatKykJy today confirmed the sad news for us: Leon's condition became grave last week, and he died Sunday from a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot on his lungs).

Leon was working on a new painting of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord just this last week, Yo-Landi tells us. "He was an angel," she said today.

I did not know Leon as well as Ninja, Yo-Landi, and other friends in South Africa's art and DJ circles, but I would like to share a little of the interaction I had with this gentle and singular soul by way of Boing Boing.

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I first became aware of Leon through his appearance in some of Die Antwoord's early music videos; he appeared in them as a DJ/"hype man," and his unusual physical appearance made him instantly unforgettable. At the time, I didn't know his name, or anything about him beyond that physical appearance. For many, that first physical impression, what progeria does to the human form, defined him. But Leon did not want to be defined by this difference.

We ended up becoming internet pen-pals of a sort. Through this, and through some of his friends (who all expressed great affection and protectiveness toward Leon) I learned more about his visual and performance art work. In that work, in his written word, and in some of the incredible monologues you can find from on YouTube, his presence radiates. All who knew him, and all who were touched by his spirit through those videos, will know what I mean when I say that he emanated deep sincerity, gentleness, a serenity and quiet wisdom. Leon was aware of his own mortality in ways most people are not. He transformed that awareness into a sort of mindfulness of how vast and awesome life is.

One day over email, Leon shared with me that the passing mentions of him that existed on Wikipedia were upsetting to him. He was mentioned only on the page for Die Antwoord, and under the page for the disease he had, progeria.

"I was a bit paranoid that my art wouldn't be in there, in case something happened to me," he said.

Leon was very mindful of the value of the internet as a reflection of human life, and an archive of the living after they die. He wanted to be understood as a complex, self-determined, thoughtful creator and connector and thinker. Not as a disease, and not as a footnote in someone else's better-known story. He wanted to be known for who he really was while he was alive. He wanted us to respect him, and his work, after he was gone.

Recently, our email exchanges seemed to include news of greater physical hardships for Leon. He never complained, but when I asked after longer silences, he shared. I cannot imagine the physical suffering he endured.

"I always thought when I was little, like, all of this is okay," he wrote in one email. "Just please don't let it reach the levels where it is now."

"And now, I just need to flow with it. What else can I do? It is important, to reach back and remember all the lessons I have learned on my journey so far. I think the main lesson is that we are not victims to life... and then, the other lesson, is that we must live life."

How are you holding up, I asked him once after he went through a particularly painful medical procedure. Things were not sounding good.

I am here, he said. "I am trying to work and focus, not letting the outer world speak more loudly than my inner. Because I think we tend to forget. Have a great day, peace."


[Video Link]

Below, I will paste without edits the autobiography he sent me in 2010, when he was frustrated by Wikipedia. These words, his own words, best defined who he was and what he'd accomplished so far, in that last year of his life.

Leon Botha was born on the 4th of June, 1985. Brought up and still living in Cape Town, South Africa.
He started drawing at the age of three. And was diagnosed with progeria around the age of 4 years.
 He took art in high school. Painting and Jewelery design for two years. He did not receive any formal training, and did not study art any further.

After school he dedicating himself to painting full time. Doing commissioned work, as well as working on a solo exhibition.
In 2005 he underwent heart bypass surgery having been at critical risk of heart attack, due to Progeria, which calcified his arteries.

This was successful and he hosted his first solo exhibition in January, 2007 at the Rust-en-Vrede gallery in Durbanville. It was called: "Liquid Sword; I am HipHop", and revolved around HipHop culture, explained as a way of life.
It was opened by close friend, the late Mr. Fat of the South African HipHop group Brasse Vannie Kaap (B.V.K.) 
It received great responses, as well as media coverage. Television, radio, magazine and newspaper articles and interviews.



In mid March, 2009 he hosted his second solo exhibition entitled "Liquid Swords; Slices of Le[m]on", 
The exhibition was a break away from HipHop. The title was a play on his name, with the "M" crossed out, so to read "Leon". The exhibition featured "slices" of the artist's life. Based around a twist of the phrase; "when life gives you lemons you make lemonade", with the attitude of; "When life serves you lemons, you slice it and serve it back." Hinting at the artist's attitude and alchemical philosophy, and struggles under Progeria. It featured a large spectrum of more dark, personal as well as spiritual work.


The responses and media coverage grew even more than before and sold a third of the entire collection of 33 paintings under the first week. 

Many of the articles, images of the paintings etc. are to be found on his flickr page. A video clip of a news insert about the opening of the second exhibition can be found on youtube.



In the beginning of 2010, he hosted the first showing of: "Who Am I? ...Transgressions," a photographic-collaboration exhibition with friend and photographer Gordon Clark. 
In which they collectively conceptualized images and shots to reveal Leon Botha to the world, which was a bold step due to the nature of his condition, of which he is currently one of the world's oldest survivors.

'Who am I? ... Transgressions' aimed at stereotypes, ideas of time, life and death and immortality.
 This exhibition is planned to travel around the world. Again, it received a lot of attention, locally as well as internationally.


Leon is well known for his spiritual outlook and philosophy in interviews. 
He also dj's under the name Solarize, and occasionally opened for Die Antwoord.


Botha was featured alongside Ninja, in the music video 'Enter the Ninja', from Die Antwoord. As of March 2010 the video had received over 2 million views on Youtube.

Leon Botha: website, myspace, youtube

Here is Leon's Wikipedia page now. He seemed pretty happy with how it represented him in the end, thanks to the thoughtful work of dedicated Wikipedia editors who took the task of crafting a living person's biography seriously. It's funny how something as simple and transient as a page on Wikipedia can have significance in someone's life.

Related blog and news coverage of Botha's passing: Leon's Facebook page, where friends and fans are posting condolences; Durban Live, SaFindIt, Channel24.co.za, blabla.co.za, Mail and Guardian.

 

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After debuting at SXSW this week, Harmony Korine's latest short film, starring Die Antwoord members Ninja and Yo-Landi and entitled Umshini Wam (meaning Bring Me My Machine Gun), is now available to watch online thanks to VBS.tv.

In the film South African rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi star as wheelchair-bound, cartoon-outfit-wearing, trigger-happy gangsters who live on the outskirts of civilisation. During the film's 16-minutes the pair go around town sticking-up business owners, firing off their machine guns in the woods and sharing stupidly large joints. In the words of VBS - "It is a tale of love and the struggle for survival."


www.vbs.tv

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If you own an iDevice and have any interest in game development, then you should probably go get this game right away. In Game Dev Story you play as an owner of a startup company, just about to get your feet wet in the risky business of game development. The adventure begins with your secretary advising you to add a couple of designers, artists and coders to the payroll, then assigning them to a game project where the genre, budget and targeted platform will all be decided by you.

Once the initial meeting is over, the team begins to work on the game for the next couple of months, each member contributing a variable number of points to four important game element stats (creativity, fun, graphics and sound) over the entire course of the project. These points will determine how well your game is received by the press and your fans, but you can also spend more on advertising to hide the shortcomings of your newest title and push up the sales numbers considerably.

The main campaign of Game Dev Story runs over a period of twenty years and spanning the releases of several popular consoles (with slightly different names to avoid copyright issues), although you can continue playing after that for as long as you want and churning out one bestseller title after another. You'll see parodies of nearly every single console from the early 80's until today, including the slightly obscure ones like the PC Engine and Game Gear being available as a platform for you to develop on.

If making money isn't your thing, there is the annual game show award which honors the best games of the year as well. Besides the usual prize money being given out to the winners, the reputation of your game studio also increases whenever a trophy is presented to you for your achievements, so it is a worthwhile cause to chase after if you want the fans to be on the lookout for any of your upcoming games in the near future.

Game Dev Story is available from the App Store for $3.99.

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