A Brief History Of Gaming Graphics

Written by Nour on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 10:18 PM
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The next generation game engines are nothing more than a flicker of how graphics will look in 25 years.

As a GD'er you likely get quivers running down your spine while watching a next gen tech demo...

As a GD'er you probably sit in a cinema watching a movie full of beautiful explosions and wonder "when will gaming have this sort of visual development?"

As a GD'er you probably relentlessly frazzle your mind trying to work out all the levels of technical specs to run different games at optimum beauty.

If you agreed with all those points then you are likely a veteran Gd’er!

In terms of graphical capabilities, don’t get too excited. We're not there yet, but we’re pretty damn close!

History of Graphics Evolution – From pixels to polygons



Before we get into any complicated matters; let’s start off with a simple theory shall we? Back in 2002, nVidia released a tech demo called “Dawn”. It was used to showcase the capabilities of the GeForce FX series using the DirectX 9.0 “advanced features”. It presented some realistic hair and skin along with some high performance vertex shaders and all the other good stuff.
It was amazing – at the time of course – But look at it right now, just mediocre, dated graphics with really nothing mind blowing or new. Figures.

10 years later, nVidia releases another tech demo, called “A New Dawn”. This was by far superior in so many ways; on a paper “Dawn” had 7000 triangles, where “A New Dawn” has nearly 4 million, the “so called” realistic hair in the “Dawn” demo reported to have had 1700 static strands, “A New Dawn” has just about 40,000 tessellated strands, all physically animated, perfectly suitable for “whipping your hair back and forth.”

That’s evolution. In just 10 years.


The Resident Evil Franchise

The best example I found was the longest and most successful franchise.Gamers from the nineties probably have this marked down as a personal favorite, the instant this game got released the positive reception was overwhelming; not mainly because of the graphics, but that’s for another topic.

Resident Evil 1 (1996)

Look at the picture above, what do you see?

The “Goof Troop” graphics engine was mainly used for the Super NES casual games, it was never planned to be used in hardcore games, but then you see this beautiful masterpiece rocking the good ol’ graphics engine and working like a charm with – what used to be - Beautiful pre-rendered backdrops, amazing art, particles, shadows, lighting, and polygon characters. Nearly flawless was what the critics called it back then.

Resident Evil 3 (1999)

“Look at those graphics! Pre-rendered backgrounds? Is that even legal?” Yup, that’s exactly what my nerdy friend told me back in primary school days. This was such a revolutionary progress that it had set some new boundaries for the capabilities of consoles and PC.

Thousands of polygons rendered in a one-time pixelated caricatures felt like heaven, a game had never felt so real before, we though the graphics had reached its limits.

Well, obviously we were wrong.

Resident Evil 6 (2012)

Leaping 13 years later we find ourselves scratching our head in bewilderment, “how is that even possible? How many polygons does Leon’s face have now? A million? The first game never exceeded a dozen and it blew our mind!”

Polygon textures, real-time lighting and shadowing technology have never been so eye popping. It feels like heaven for a gamer playing since being a toddler. Now think “Resident Evil 15”... Hold that though then mark my words, you’ll look back at this game and jeer at the graphics unrealism.

Next Gen Graphics

Photo-realistic graphics is what this is, completely and utterly marvelous visuals are what that is. You should be expecting this in a couple of years, so you won’t be holding your breath for long.

Examples for some next gen games? Yes Please!

Why go far? Crysis 3 is what you’re probably placing your bets on. That’s a common choice people take for a seamless example for the next gen visuals, but I decided to pick a different game this time, next generation visuals for our current generation technology. Have you guessed it yet?

Watch Dogs (2013)

This is just gorgeous. A game that has “next gen” written all over it, yet Ubisoft is instead pushing to get it on PCs and current-gen hardware.

Is your jaw on the ground yet? No? This should do it then.

This is my evaluation of the graphical capabilities from the 10 min demo I’ve seen

- No volume-based shadows as I had suspected, this will either be replaced by an unknown technology or the “Shadow maps” technology. This is probably the most advanced edge smoothing you’ll ever see this decade, I doubt there will be something more advanced since from what I’ve seen, it has well reached the height of real life shadows.

- Various lighting enhancements, I couldn’t tell what they were using though. It seemed like high dynamic range rendering-centric effects, bloom, volumetric lighting, soft particles, pixel shader effects, post processing, dynamic water surfaces, procedural animation, cloth simulation, depth of field, and the familiar motion blur. Just like Crytek and Frostbite 2, all seemed beautiful, but nothing new.

- I have no idea how much the texture data would be there, but I reckon it won’t exceed the 20GB limit "id" had set earlier, and I highly doubt the game’s textures would even fill half of that space.  

- Probably enhanced draw distance, I could tell when they went out to the streets in the demo.

This is all I could tell at this time, but I’ll keep you guys updated if there’s more to come.

Here is the full E3 trailer to remind you of what we can expect from Watch Dogs. Remember to crank up the resolution. Check out around 6:12 when the protagonist steps outside into the rain. 

Gaming is advancing so fast that we’re not keeping up with it, consoles are aging and our computers are screaming for mercy. It brings a shiver of excitement and fear down my spine when I think how the visuals might look in 25 years.

What are your expectations for the next gen graphics? Lets heat up the debate down in the discussion area!

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18:15 Apr-26-2013

expecting cool gameplay and storyline in near future not high end graphics to burn my rig... NORMAL GRAPHICS ARE ALSO FINE... but if game does require that much high graphics then they should really build it as a well optimized game

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15:16 Jan-23-2013

looking at the trend from Wii, Kinect, Motion and stuffs like that, holographic in a VR sense would be logical achievement in the next advancement. that surely expands gameplay horizon :)

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15:28 Nov-19-2012

Great graphics, perfect AI, good gameplay and marvelous story is all that matters.

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15:53 Nov-19-2012

Honestly I just want compelling story and gameplay. After that I doñt care if the graphics are 20 years old....

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12:59 Nov-20-2012

+1

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06:04 Nov-21-2012

+1 to you too :D

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14:30 Nov-20-2012

Hehehehehehehhe Fallout 2

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15:40 Nov-20-2012

Tero's coming in 3, 2, 1...

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16:26 Nov-20-2012

@MNour Hahahah I was thinking the same thing...

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18:21 Nov-19-2012

Congratulations, you just named all the factors of a game : ) Pretty logical that everything is all that matters ; )

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11:56 Nov-19-2012

graphics are important, but it's all just technical problems really, what the gaming industry needs are brilliant minds that can produce brand new ideas, mechanics, and narrative aspects to a game, because i think that is what matters most..

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12:37 Nov-19-2012

I'd say it's Story>Gameplay>Re-playability>Graphics. Graphics do matter, but what's a pretty game with a lame story and boring gameplay?

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13:09 Nov-19-2012

I've got to agree - good graphics can't save a game without a story.

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13:37 Nov-19-2012

But a good game with absolutely omygod ugly graphics... I'd still not play it as quickly as a game with good graphics

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07:09 Nov-20-2012

how 'bout minecraft?

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09:00 Nov-20-2012

It sucks :P i didn't say i will not play it, but if a game looks awesome i will be tempted to play it sooner

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08:56 Nov-22-2012

so i guess graphics are like mayonnaise, you'd still eat a sandwich without it but it won't taste as good..

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10:38 Nov-22-2012

That's the most adequate description until now :)

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12:43 Nov-23-2012

that made me want to eat a sandwich...which i did..

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16:53 Nov-18-2012

2 things from me:
1) all gfx card will be made compatible for nex-gen games or these kinds of games.
Same for consoles also, for 3 to 5 years, and again after 3 to 5 years so on... same way of pricing as now
2)If both gfx cards and consoles will be expensive then search gold mine owners
I am going to grab current and old gen consoles,Because still there are way more.. games left not played and will be enough till I die

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00:10 Nov-17-2012

Want to see the future of gaming ? Well if you want you should watch Accel World and Sword Art Online i know that those 2 are anime but still is the closest theory what will happen to gaming in the next 10-30 years. Virtual reality ,cloud computing and fiber optics is the next step which i do not know if we are ready to make it. We will see

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13:27 Nov-17-2012

I've watched the first season of Sword Art online and waiting for the second. Awesome anime :)

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15:09 Nov-17-2012

Sword Art Online will never come to reality as such in my opinion, simply because of one thing - absolutely every emotion and feeling is generated in your brain as if it were real. If a person spends 8 hours at work, they wouldn't probably want to log in and spend an hour WALKING (with all the tiring consequences) just to fight a monster.

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17:45 Nov-17-2012

Correct, plus I wouldn't dare attach a wire to my brain.. Too risky if you ask me, and with all the cyber hacking going on.. I'd pass..

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23:17 Nov-17-2012

Yeah, stuff like what in deus ex: hr happens. It might be 'completely safe', but your bank account hacked and your money stolen is one thing, your body hacked (that's really shocking to type:/) is anotber...

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22:11 Nov-16-2012

I was amazed when I played Oblivion and saw the leaves on trees and grass moving in the wind. That's the first game I ever played that actually did that.

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22:32 Nov-16-2012

Oblivion is still one of the most beautiful games in existence. :)

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22:37 Nov-16-2012

It was pretty good for that time, but for now i'd say it's pretty ugly actually. I think it's not really ugly but a strange way of "annoying" if you catch my drift...

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23:23 Nov-16-2012

Well the characters are fairly ugly, but the actual areas are very nice to look at. I really enjoy the woodlands especially.

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23:26 Nov-16-2012

Load up a couple of mods and it's better than Skyrim :)

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08:27 Nov-17-2012

@flutter yeah that's exactly what i meant :)

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13:17 Nov-16-2012

I think Our PC's Will handle Next Gen games at good settings ;)

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23:54 Nov-16-2012

Talk for yourself ,my rig will die with the next gen games XD

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15:45 Nov-18-2012

My pc hasn't even lived lol :D .

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01:32 Nov-17-2012

It depends who all fall under the 'our' category :D

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11:39 Nov-16-2012

That's right enough... but how we deal with clear example of regression, whose paradoxally don't coincide with a decrease of requirements?

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04:17 Nov-16-2012

i remember in Resident Evil 1 (1996) when zombies face show to player its scare me

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00:31 Nov-16-2012

I love graphics as much as the next guy, but I hope they don't advance TOO fast. Can't afford to upgrade my PC every year :(

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06:56 Nov-16-2012

amen to that bro

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21:39 Nov-16-2012

Look at my rig, I don't think I can afford it ether! :( Gary, your in a better position then me buddy :S .

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18:38 Nov-15-2012

I agree about the photorealism. That's where graphics are going (that's the only place they have to go). Once a perfect photorealism is achieved, then the next step should be amazing realistic effectslike explosions, 'magic swirls', bullets, etc. Even the fanciest game of nowadays don't have a good looking fire effect. The closest one to real fire that I've seen so far is Crysis 2. I'm not saying that the effects in current games suck, but they are always the same. For example, in GTA IV, if a sports car explodes while running at 500 mph, it's the same as if you blow up a parked Patriot by shooting it with a gun. I'm talking about cause and effect.

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18:41 Nov-15-2012

Oh, I almost forgot:
Physics. That's something that has to be perfected in the future. Even Borderlands 2 or Battlefield 3 have some weird physics :P!

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00:37 Nov-16-2012

Yep, PhysX in BL2 almost even just affect negatively your visibility field

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01:14 Nov-16-2012

also, you need a 560+ to get it working properly
I have a gtx 650 and the effects go slow

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08:38 Nov-16-2012

I have a 6850 HD and suffered no slow downs :)

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14:17 Nov-16-2012

but you can't enable physx with an amd gpu, can you?

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18:10 Nov-16-2012

With an amd gpu, physics are handled by the cpu, but you don't have physX...

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16:46 Nov-15-2012

My expectations are you actually in the game, but in a simulation. Wouldn't that be awesome? If you are simulating Skyrim, you can actually battle dragons on your own, and Shout on your own. When that day comes, I'm sure every gamer on the planet would want one.

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17:10 Nov-15-2012

yeah tat might be possible with motion censor technology like nintendo wii...

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17:33 Nov-15-2012

We probably would need something like the animus from Assassin's Creed. But one day something would definetly top it anyways. People in 1900 couldn't think of something like a PC, same for us now.

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17:41 Nov-15-2012

I'd feel a bit stupid having to bellow "FUS RO DAAAHHH" honestly + my neighbors might call the police.

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10:54 Nov-16-2012

lol, your neighbors might think you're in some kind of a cult :P

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19:32 Nov-16-2012

LOL, same here. Would be nice, though.

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19:38 Nov-16-2012

How about Prototype? Changing your arms into lethal weapons, hunting, assassinating.

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16:34 Nov-15-2012

new graphic engines enhance gaming capabilities from time to time, GPU's CPU's are coping with it, so.. a very high end GPU like, a GTX690 or an radeon HD 7990 sgould keep up to par for 3 years or so. ( max out of course ) , wew, i'm afraid my little laptop rig would even play the latest games for next year even in low settingss. *sighs

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14:52 Nov-15-2012

the next hit is gonna be 3d gaming

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14:49 Nov-15-2012

If Graphics keep advancing at this rate, I am afraid we are going to have to buy a new rig every YEAR!

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15:11 Nov-15-2012

If you would buy at least a GT440 or HD6670 you will be fine on low-medium settings next 3 years ;) even low settings wouldn't be a problem, since modern games look GREAT even on low.

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15:33 Nov-15-2012

Depends on the game but for the most part that is NOT true. Especially if you have the tendency to pay close attention to certain details.

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15:45 Nov-15-2012

If you put it this way, pay atention to details, go in any game, look at the wall close and tell me how un-realistic and plastic-looking the texture is.. even if it is on games like BF3, if you really play a game just to look on small details, then you can find low-quality parts in any game, try playing crysis 2, bf3 on low settings, and see how well the game looks even on such "low-quality" settings

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17:02 Nov-15-2012

I agree with kazelethon nowadays u cant even differentiate much on high and low settings. I hv played borderlands 2 on high setting but could not get a decent fps hence changed it to lower settings and to my surprise i couldnt notice a single difference in graphic quality(even went to double check the settings to make sure) .but yeah games like fifa 13 do show tat minute change of details though..

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19:30 Nov-15-2012

I have already done what you mentioned before and I do notice a difference, especially in games like Crysis 1 and Skyrim.

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08:36 Nov-16-2012

I am playing withcer 2 on lowest possible setting, and very low reslution, with avg fps of 9 (trust me its playable and real data) and i am still amazed by the graphics of my surroundings.

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09:56 Nov-16-2012

An AVERAGE framerate of 9 and its playable? Now i'd like tobsee that...

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10:53 Nov-16-2012

Hell yeah me too :D

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14:38 Nov-15-2012

I strongly believe graphics have far from hit it's roof, and are being pushed back by current hardware and possibilities.

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14:40 Nov-15-2012

I only halfway agree with you. Since I already explained my thoughts earlier, just look at my post just below this one.

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15:04 Nov-15-2012

I do not think the technology would have hit the roof yet if hardware would have kept up. There is always something to improve on. I believe, that in (a long) time, we will have photo-realistic graphics, or be able to physically walk in a virtuel world.

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15:12 Nov-15-2012

Just a long as its not so real you can't tell it's a game I'm fine with it really.

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15:30 Nov-15-2012

Honestly, after playing Crysis 2, the only way I can see them getting THAT much better than they are is if they used photographic textures... @_@ Of course, we also need to do away with the "cardboard" grass / leaves & work on smoothing out edges as well.

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14:00 Nov-15-2012

I personally believe it graphics have (almost) hit the roof in terms of what is actually possible. Not trying to sound like an elitist here but whats holding back that maximum possibility are two things: Consoles and the people are still using primitive technology to this day (like floppy disks).

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14:10 Nov-15-2012

As far as I know,the Ps3 has great graphics on games like Killzone 3,Uncharted 3,The last of us and others.

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14:26 Nov-15-2012

Yes but even that is holding back graphic capability on PCs. Otherwise I bet we would have already reached the greatest possible.

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15:50 Nov-15-2012

At a certain moment we won't be able to go further because it's just as realistic as the real world. You can't be more realistic that reality

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13:53 Nov-15-2012

i really wish they would make better story and gameplay instead of graphics dragon age origins will be 4 or 5 years old and i dont care about graphics but the game has awesome gameplay and story and this is why i am playing it for the 15th time

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13:36 Nov-15-2012

I used to play prince in dos some time in 1994 when i was just 7 years. after some time i used to play lot on the arcade machine. games like street fighter zero, kof 1995/1996/1997/1998 and so on. And i also play this games now on my pc using fbevo.
in pc games i bougth my first pc on 1999 a intel 200mhz processor machine used to play games road rash , nfs 3 hot pursuit - thats my favorite game i played it for almost a decade.

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13:44 Nov-15-2012

I think of how much graphics have advanced , when I play forgotten sands, since old school prince of Persia .

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| 60FPS, High, 720p
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Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Gigabyte D5 2GB 8GB
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| 60FPS, Ultra, 1440p
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APU A8-7410 Quad-Core Radeon R5 7410 8GB
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