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SectorWars

Sector Wars - New Atari Game Release (Potential 1980s English Software Release)

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22 hours ago, vitoco said:

I just analyzed the XEX file and found this:

C:> xex-filter.pl Sector_Wars_by_Vic_Thorn_PAL.XEX
Analyzing "Sector_Wars_by_Vic_Thorn_PAL.XEX"...
  -: 65535       [$FFFF]               BINHEAD
  1:  7168-32767 [$1C00-$7FFF] (25600) <- CODE/DATA

There is no RUNAD vector!

 

I just added it to the attached file.

C:> xex-filter.pl -w RUNAD=$1C00 -o SECTWARS.XEX Sector_Wars_by_Vic_Thorn_PAL.XEX
Analyzing "Sector_Wars_by_Vic_Thorn_PAL.XEX"...
  -: 65535       [$FFFF]               BINHEAD
  1:  7168-32767 [$1C00-$7FFF] (25600) <- CODE/DATA
Adding words...
  2:   736-737   [$02E0-$02E1]     (2) RUNAD -> 7168 [$1C00]
Writing "SECTWARS.XEX"...
  -: 65535       [$FFFF]               BINHEAD
  1:  7168-32767 [$1C00-$7FFF] (25600) <- CODE/DATA
  2:   736-737   [$02E0-$02E1]     (2) RUNAD -> 7168 [$1C00]
25612 bytes written

Please try it and comment.

 

Out of interest did anyone having a problem running it on a cartridge or 130XE try vitoco's SECTWARS.XEX patch with the Run Address added?   Did it work?  Thanks

Edited by SectorWars

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Love it, gfx slightly sparse but the action hits the spot as well as the game variations...Best so far is 23250 Sector 09 but only had a few plays, lots going on here..

 

So Vic, the big question is.........Has all this given you the coding bug again?

 

Well as it seems here in the UK we are going to be on lockdown for the whole year..

 

Whatever the answer...THANK YOU...

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34 minutes ago, Mclaneinc said:

Well as it seems here in the UK we are going to be on lockdown for the whole year..

Great idea. Nobody can complain about changes due to Brexit because there is nothing to compare to. ;)

Edited by DjayBee
d**n typos
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I'm just interested in how many countries are handling the lockdown, there seems to be no clear idea yet there was a Pandemic exercise mere weeks or so before this...Whereever people are I just hope they can stay safe....Greetings to Germany..

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17 hours ago, Faicuai said:

Am I hallucinating... or is this an Atari Assembler Editor output?

I'm sure it is not output but source code input, including line numbers (like in BASIC!).

 

2 hours ago, SectorWars said:

As the game obviously got larger I needed to come up with a way of managing all the source files and the object code.  Even to this day I don't know what other people did - I am sure there were/are better ways, but basically I developed around 150 separate source files.  At the start of a development session I would load the object code which contained all the assembled game code along with graphics data, etc.  Then I would load one source file and work on that.  At the end of a session I would just save the object code with everything compiled and up-to-date.  I never assembled everything in in go.

So the object code might not be recreated just by compiling again all the sources!!! 😱

 

Looking at those two listings, it seems that you hardcoded every game element to a fixed memory location. Ouch!!!

 

2 hours ago, SectorWars said:

how are people doing it nowadays with PCs, etc.  ?

Editing with any text editor, assembling with MADS, testing with Altirra (or use an integrated framework).

 

It seems that porting the source code of your game to MADS could be a very hard work by labelling every referenced memory address. Not impossible, but it might be done very carefully.

 

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2 hours ago, SectorWars said:

Does anyone else know how other people used to do Assembler Game Development in the old days?   Also how are people doing it nowadays with PCs, etc.  ?

I tried using the Atari Assembler but got frustrated by its limitations. I got hold of a copy of Synassembler on disk which made things much quicker .. but there were still major limitations down to the amount of source code you could fit on a floppy. I always split the assembly into main sections - for example the main game and the title routines would be assembled separately and linked by vectors at the base of each 'chunk'. When I took the plunge and started programming full time I invested in additional floppy drives to speed things up - the main file would include the other sources and data files then output an object file to disk. I'd then have to enter the Synassembler monitor to load and run the binary file. The biggest frustration was when things locked up and I'd have to reboot the system from scratch.

 

When I moved on to doing some C64 and C16 games I decided to stick with my 800 and Synassembler but output the code via joystick ports 3 & 4 to the target machine. This really sped up development - if the target machine locked up I could just reset it while the 800 stayed working. I used the same system when I wrote Timeslip on the Atari, I purchased an 800XL as a target machine.

 

I kept all of my old floppies and finally got around to transferring them to the PC a few years ago (fortunately, the majority were rescued although a few were past saving). I've now got most of my old source files converted into projects in WUDSN and assemble directly to Altirra. The speed of assembly and range of debugging features is light years ahead of the 80's ... but still as much fun :)

 

Jon

 

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@SectorWars


Very nice game. The variation in the levels is what makes it more than yet another clone. If you’d finished this back in the 80s, I have no doubt you could have sold it. 
 

I was wondering why the file name says PAL. Is there something in the game that I missed that makes it run better in PAL?

 

i haven’t had a chance to try it on my XEGS yet, but I had no problems with it in NTSC in Altirra. The speed seemed reasonable to me. 
 

Well done! Thanks for releasing it to the community. 
 

Bob C

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5 hours ago, SectorWars said:

Yes that is correct - I think I must have had a screw loose - lol.  When I wrote the game back in the 80s I only had an Atari Assembler Editor cartridge, alongside my Atari 400 48K.  For the first 6 months or so I was also use a 410 tape deck so it was painfully slow, but as the number of source files approached 60 I eventually I got a 1050 so that sped thing up.

 

As the game obviously got larger I needed to come up with a way of managing all the source files and the object code.  Even to this day I don't know what other people did - I am sure there were/are better ways, but basically I developed around 150 separate source files.  At the start of a development session I would load the object code which contained all the assembled game code along with graphics data, etc.  Then I would load one source file and work on that.  At the end of a session I would just save the object code with everything compiled and up-to-date.  I never assembled everything in in go.

 

I would always load source files from $8000 (ie: LOMEM 8000), so the game was constrained to 32K.  The real pain was if I needed to change/enhance a previously completed source file and it meant it would require more RAM, then I would need to shift down all other code in the memory that followed it.  That is why I used vectors (as shown in my screehshot earlier) as that meant I would only need to recompile the programs further down in RAM and then change the JMP vectors and not all the individual JSRs used throughout the code.  The process sounds painful but tbh I mostly completely developed/tested a module until I was finished with it, so I didn't often need to go back and change stuff.   The concept of the vectors was something that I came up with myself (I called them pointers at the time :)), but I later learned that it was a quite commonly used concept.

 

Does anyone else know how other people used to do Assembler Game Development in the old days?   Also how are people doing it nowadays with PCs, etc.  ?

You have all my respect for this one, Sir!

 

Atari 400 (@48KB) and 410 (!!??) And all with Assembler Editor? Reminds me of David Buehler and his master-piece "TypoAttack"...

 

Well, I started with a 400 (@16KB) and a 410... I felt I was not going anywhere far, with right from the 1st day (!) The 410 I owned ended up being responsible for my worst childhood nightmares... filled my head with its incessant beeping, and the impending "Boot Error" horror, right after 10 mins of Zaxxon loading.... :-))

 

I simply cannot imagine how in the name of the Lord could you have gone to those lengths (and self-driven planning and organization) to make this happen with those basic tools... but you did. 

 

And this particular example goes to show us precisely WHY it was difficult for high-quality work (for 400/800) to show up mainstream in good numbers... It sounda like the development and debugging tools required to exploit the machine's potential (in a timely manner) were probably beyond the machine's own processing power (!). Sort of a computing paradox derived from their architecture and steep learning curve to master them....

 

Congrats for putting the time and effort to make this happen!

 

Cheers!

Edited by Faicuai

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6 hours ago, Mclaneinc said:

Love it, gfx slightly sparse but the action hits the spot as well as the game variations...Best so far is 23250 Sector 09 but only had a few plays, lots going on here..

 

So Vic, the big question is.........Has all this given you the coding bug again?

 

Well as it seems here in the UK we are going to be on lockdown for the whole year..

 

Whatever the answer...THANK YOU...

Thanks - glad you like it.  I was never that hot in the graphics department (can't draw to save my life :)) and in the first phases of the game that I programmed (like Flagship, Demon Birds, Storm, etc) I was mostly just working with the Player-Missile Graphics and a scrolling starfield - the PMGs were obviously quite limited.  I think I should have instead tried to implement those in a different graphics mode using redefined character sets, etc. then the animations and number of objects could have been much better/greater.   One of the last phases I did was the Space Invaders one and for that I did use redefined characters to animate the Invaders.   By the end of the development I would have done things a different way but it was a learning curve :).   I really liked what Archer Maclean did with Dropzone - he clearly built himself a framework where he could move around many many objects (with multiple colours) anywhere on the screen - he was/is a genius and even the game title sequence on the Atari was so nice how the title droppred down the screen one scanline at a time.  :)

 

For whether I have the coding bug again.  It kind of has never gone away as I have been a programmer all my life (thanks to the Atari days).  The sad thing is I have spent most of my career programming boring Banking/Trading systems :(.   Although even now I would love to still program games the constant computer work over the years has taking its toll on the old back so I can't spend long hours on a PC sadly - age!

Edited by SectorWars
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3 hours ago, vitoco said:

So the object code might not be recreated just by compiling again all the sources!!! 😱

 

Looking at those two listings, it seems that you hardcoded every game element to a fixed memory location. Ouch!!!

 

Ah sorry I didn't explain it properly.  I could recreate all the object code again because I kept the sources up-to-date, but it was only possible to load one in at a time and assemble it.  

 

Also there wasn't really hardcoding apart from the Vectors.   You might know this already but I will just explain it in case it helps anyone else.    So all the Vectors (ie: JMP instructions) were compiled from $1C00 onwards and these would never move from $1C00 onwards.  Every single other source program (there were over 100) would only ever call the Vectors and they would never move.  For example the code to implement the score would always be called at $1C3F and it might be called from say 30 places throughout multiple source files. The vector would then JMP to $4C95 where the scoring code is assembled.  If I then needed to move the scoring code to say $4F00 then all I would need to do is change the $1C3F vector to call $4F00 instead and I wouldn't need to touch any of the other files.   What would have made it nicer of course was if there was some sort of Global constants (labels) that could be used through the source files, but at the time I wasn't aware of any way of doing it (PLUS I was 15, skint, and making it up as I went along :lol:).

 

btw: Thanks again for the ATASCIIprinter and the other utilities on your website - they are really useful :thumbsup:

Edited by SectorWars

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3 hours ago, Nojeee said:

I tried using the Atari Assembler but got frustrated by its limitations. I got hold of a copy of Synassembler on disk which made things much quicker .. but there were still major limitations down to the amount of source code you could fit on a floppy. I always split the assembly into main sections - for example the main game and the title routines would be assembled separately and linked by vectors at the base of each 'chunk'. When I took the plunge and started programming full time I invested in additional floppy drives to speed things up - the main file would include the other sources and data files then output an object file to disk. I'd then have to enter the Synassembler monitor to load and run the binary file. The biggest frustration was when things locked up and I'd have to reboot the system from scratch.

 

When I moved on to doing some C64 and C16 games I decided to stick with my 800 and Synassembler but output the code via joystick ports 3 & 4 to the target machine. This really sped up development - if the target machine locked up I could just reset it while the 800 stayed working. I used the same system when I wrote Timeslip on the Atari, I purchased an 800XL as a target machine.

:cool:

I kept all of my old floppies and finally got around to transferring them to the PC a few years ago (fortunately, the majority were rescued although a few were past saving). I've now got most of my old source files converted into projects in WUDSN and assemble directly to Altirra. The speed of assembly and range of debugging features is light years ahead of the 80's ... but still as much fun :)

 

Jon

 

Hey Jon - many thanks for the detailed info - it is fascinating for me to hear how you used to do your development.  The Synassembler sounds great for the time - I actually had never heard of it but wish I had something like that all those years back.  I also haven't tried any of the modern day tools that you mentioned but it certainly sounds like it makes life a bit easier :).   From the little bit of recent coding I have done to finish Sector Wars, just being able throttle the assembling speed in Altirra, and have virtual H: drives makes a world of difference.

 

I am glad that you managed to recover most of your source files.  I went through the process back in 1997 as a software house I was working for had a Floppy Drive which had the right controller to read Atari floppies.  I never really touched any of the code after I did the conversion but recently whilst finishing the game I found that most files were fine, but there was the odd corrupt/missing source file.

 

It is really good to hear you still have the passion for Atari development - I loved Jet Boot Jack (and so did my kids) - for me now this is a bit like an Elvis fan speaking to Elvis :cool:

Edited by SectorWars

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2 hours ago, darwinmac said:

@SectorWars


Very nice game. The variation in the levels is what makes it more than yet another clone. If you’d finished this back in the 80s, I have no doubt you could have sold it. 
 

I was wondering why the file name says PAL. Is there something in the game that I missed that makes it run better in PAL?

 

i haven’t had a chance to try it on my XEGS yet, but I had no problems with it in NTSC in Altirra. The speed seemed reasonable to me. 
 

Well done! Thanks for releasing it to the community. 
 

Bob C

Many thanks darwinmac for the very nice compliments.  The only reason I put PAL in the filename was to indicate that it was originally developed on a PAL system, because at the time (through ignorance on my part more than anything :)) I didn't put any code into program to adjust the speed, etc. for NTSC.  So by playing in PAL you will be playing it how it was developed.  I did a quick test in NTSC in Altirra and I did notice the slighter slower pace and personally being older now I quite liked it :).   It seemed to be only a small difference though, but might be more suited for different game controllers depending on what people are using.   The game uses VBIs in some places but I didn't notice any issues in NTSC with those.  Cheers.

 

 

1 hour ago, Faicuai said:

You have all my respect for this one, Sir!

 

Atari 400 (@48KB) and 410 (!!??) And all with Assembler Editor? Reminds me of David Buehler and his master-piece "TypoAttack"...

 

Well, I started with a 400 (@16KB) and a 410... I felt I was not going anywhere far, with right from the 1st day (!) The 410 I owned ended up being responsible for my worst childhood nightmares... filled my head with its incessant beeping, and the impending "Boot Error" horror, right after 10 mins of Zaxxon loading.... :-))

 

I simply cannot imagine how in the name of the Lord could you have gone to those lengths (and self-driven planning and organization) to make this happen with those basic tools... but you did. 

 

And this particular example goes to show us precisely WHY it was difficult for high-quality work (for 400/800) to show up mainstream in good numbers... It sounda like the development and debugging tools required to exploit the machine's potential (in a timely manner) were probably beyond the machine's own processing power (!). Sort of a computing paradox derived from their architecture and steep learning curve to master them....

 

Congrats for putting the time and effort to make this happen!

 

Cheers!

Cheers Faicuai - good to know someone else understands the pain ;-).  Back in the day the Atari stuff was really expensive and it was pretty difficult to buy the tools needed.  I seem to recall that the Assembler cartridge was about £40 and for me as a kid I needed to work weekends and save up to buy it.  If they had priced the machines a bit lower maybe Atari would have been more popular than the C64 (and I allowed to mention that machine here?!).

Edited by SectorWars
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Whilst looking through the floppy images of Sector Wars that I converted over in 1997, I came across an image containing something I was planning to add to the game which never got added nor finished. At the time I felt it didn't fit in as it took away the flow of the game.   In fact it was only 10% done.   It doesn't play anything like that, but for anyone interested you can see what was done.

 

At the time I was thinking that if someone managed to complete the 8 phases twice (ie: 16 sectors), they could maybe land on a planet (not implemented at all) and play a Fruit Slot Machine (Space Bandit), maybe winning lives.

 

Like I said it doesn't play or anything close but some might find it interesting.  Load it as an XEX executable.  FIRST press F3 (multiple times if you like) - this will scroll the screen left and right.   Press F2 to spin the reels (the odd graphic was done like the cherry but the rest are random characters).  It will only spin once.  There is a slight bounce on the reels at the end and that is about as far a I got!  

 

Warning: Not a game and Not Playable! 

SECTOR_SLOT.XEX

 

Thanks

 

Vic

 

 

Edited by SectorWars
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Catching up on what I’ve missed. 
 

This is a great game! Kinda reminds me a bit of a mash up of the best bits of Gorf, Threshold, Phoenix and the boss from they Intellivision Demon Attack. 
 

This is going to be a perennial favorite I think. Thanks!

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1 hour ago, pusakat said:

Great action shooter! Gameplay rocks!

 

Maybe @TIX or @José Pereira or someone else can help improve the graphics.

 

Great arcade game !! Right up my alley 👍

I'll be happy to help if there is still time, and @SectorWars feels there is a need !

 

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23 hours ago, Bunsen said:

Thank you for nice game.

My Highscore: 43670

 

IMG_20200425_214440.jpg

 

Great score! - it is always interesting to see what scores people get (and the sector number they reach) :)

 

19 hours ago, Lord Thag said:

Catching up on what I’ve missed. 
 

This is a great game! Kinda reminds me a bit of a mash up of the best bits of Gorf, Threshold, Phoenix and the boss from they Intellivision Demon Attack. 
 

This is going to be a perennial favorite I think. Thanks!

 

Thanks for the comment - much appreciated :).  I just checked out a video of the Intellivision Demon Attack as I only ever saw the VCS version in the 80s.  I was really surprised to see how close in appearance the mothership thing is to the one I created in Sector Wars (it is actually like scarily close :)).  I remember designing it on graph paper (using re-defined character set) in he mid-80s and in my head I was trying to recreate what I remembered about the Mothership in the arcade version of Phoenix.  I know I didn't get close to the arcade one and ended up with something quite different.  Seeing the similarities now though to the Intellivision one I am now thinking I must have seen the Intellivision one somewhere.  If I didn't I am spooked!

 

 

9 hours ago, pusakat said:

Great action shooter! Gameplay rocks!

 

Maybe @TIX or @José Pereira or someone else can help improve the graphics.

 

7 hours ago, TIX said:

 

Great arcade game !! Right up my alley 👍

I'll be happy to help if there is still time, and @SectorWars feels there is a need !

 

Thanks @pusakat and @TIX for the kind comments.  It is good to here all that work didn't go to waste.

 

Many thanks for the offer of help to update the graphics.  I have seen both @TIX and @José Pereira work and it is outstanding to say the least.

 

At the moment I will leave this particular release 'as is' for a couple of reasons:

 

- The first is I did most of the work as a teenager in the 80s (18+ months) and I put the finishing touches to it recently, so it is nice for me on a personal level to release a version as it would have been released way back then (if I was lucky enough to have published).

 

- Secondly - Going forward though if I can jump over a few necessary hurdles I would be all for releasing a new version at some point in the future (if at that stage anyone is still interested here of course).  What are the hurdles you may ask:)?    I first need to try and get the source code back in a manageable state (as previously discussed in this thread), and then ported over to a modern development environment.  I realised whilst trying to make some simple changes that some source files were corrupted/missing.  I also need to identify where in memory a lot of the graphic data/sprite data is, because in the old days it was all in my head where things were held.   I converted my source code over to PC back around 1997 but I still have the original floppies (and a floppy drive given to me by my old employer that could read them) so I should be able to find the missing files that failed to transfer.  The problem is they are over 250 miles away in a garage lockup, so it will have to wait until I can travel there.

 

I won't make promises of course as time is really a limiting factor.  Many thanks again for the nice comments and offer (@TIX) - I hope that if I manage to sort things at my end we can do something in the future if you are still up for it. :)

 

Cheers

 

Vic

Edited by SectorWars

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2 hours ago, SectorWars said:

.

.

Many thanks again for the nice comments and offer (@TIX) - I hope that if I manage to sort things at my end we can do something in the future if you are still up for it. :)

 

Cheers

 

Vic

 

Any time Vic  👍

 

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Thanks for the comment - much appreciated :).  I just checked out a video of the Intellivision Demon Attack as I only ever saw the VCS version in the 80s.  I was really surprised to see how close in appearance the mothership thing is to the one I created in Sector Wars (it is actually like scarily close :)).  I remember designing it on graph paper (using re-defined character set) in he mid-80s and in my head I was trying to recreate what I remembered about the Mothership in the arcade version of Phoenix.  I know I didn't get close to the arcade one and ended up with something quite different.  Seeing the similarities now though to the Intellivision one I am now thinking I must have seen the Intellivision one somewhere.  If I didn't I am spooked!

So it wasn't intentional? That's wild! It's a dead on clone of the Intellivision one for sure. I would have bet $100 without thinking it was a direct homage to that game.

Weird how stuff like that happens huh? It's like the Berenstain bears thing. I *know* it was spelled & pronounced 'Berenstein' bears when I was a kid... yet it isn't, it's BerenSTAIN. Memory is a funny thing.

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34 minutes ago, Lord Thag said:

So it wasn't intentional? That's wild! It's a dead on clone of the Intellivision one for sure. I would have bet $100 without thinking it was a direct homage to that game.

Weird how stuff like that happens huh? It's like the Berenstain bears thing. I *know* it was spelled & pronounced 'Berenstein' bears when I was a kid... yet it isn't, it's BerenSTAIN. Memory is a funny thing.

I have been thinking about it today and it is far too similar for it to be a coincidence - lol.  I suspect I had one of those Intellivision brochures or something similar which had a screenshot of the game and that inspired me to rip it off :lol:.   35 years is a long time.....   It is interesting that you mentioned it though otherwise I would have never known :)

Edited by SectorWars

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5 hours ago, SectorWars said:

I have been thinking about it today and it is far too similar for it to be a coincidence - lol.  I suspect I had one of those Intellivision brochures or something similar which had a screenshot of the game and that inspired me to rip it off :lol:.   35 years is a long time.....   It is interesting that you mentioned it though otherwise I would have never known :)

Yeah the 'boss' ship was featured prominently on the box itself, in the Intellivision Imagic catalog, and if memory serves, in a magazine ad or two. So I imagine it would be easy to 'notice' without remembering. Intellivision marketing LOVED showing anything that system did over Atari. 

Still, it was cool to see it in your game!

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Posted (edited)

Please ignore... Just noticed fundraising is closed. I wish it was reopened so that we could get the source (while supporting the charity obviously ;)

Edited by damanloox

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Just ran across this thread for the first time, and fired up Sector Wars.  If it had seen just a bit more polish and a release at the time it was being worked on, this could easily have been a commercial title.  As it stands, though, it's still a fun game.

 

Scored 21,220, finally reaching game over at the first docking screen.  Wasn't expecting diagonal fire coming in my direction :-D

 

@SectorWars: out of curiosity, who are ADA, SAM, and RAB on the high score table?  I think we can guess who VIC is ;)

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