Red Post Collection: Exploring Runeterra & upcoming Lore changes, MEGA GNAR portrait, and more!

Posted on at 9:13 PM by Moobeat
Tonight's red post collection features a lengthy developer blog discussing upcoming changes to League of Legends' lore and what the future holds for RuneterraGypsylord discussing why Gnar swaps portraits when he transforms, Riot Baconhawk with a reminder on in-development content, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Dev Blog: Exploring Runeterra

Another in-depth developer blog is has been published and this one features Tommy Gnox discussing radical changes coming to the lore of League of Legends, including the removal of the Institute of War and the concept of "Summoners" to better facilitate story telling.
"First of all, though these are technically my words, I’m just one of the many people involved with storytelling at Riot, and what you’re about to read is inspired by their collective passion. League of Legends covers a lot of ground at this point, but is ultimately always centered on the gameplay at its heart, so the idea that there are a lot of Rioters connected to narrative might surprise some. That’s a big part of why we’d like to talk to you about the current state of League’s story, as well as some of the changes you’ve seen (and will continue to see) as part of our evolving approach to storytelling.

Evolution is one of the core elements of League of Legends. Champions, events, skins, splash art, and the maps themselves are just some of the avenues through which we seek to continually level up every facet of the game. We want League to always feel current through design balance, art updates, and new character themes and stories.

We want League to always feel current through design balance, art updates, and new character themes and stories.

That means we have to be willing to look at work we’ve done in the past and honestly reevaluate it. In some cases – say, with a champion update – the original concept is mostly sound (or even timelessly awesome!) and all we have to do is bump things up to modern standards. Sometimes, however, we look back at decisions that made perfect sense when we originally made them, but are now at odds with our design values and ultimately limit our ability to continually improve League of Legends. That’s unacceptable, and in such situations we seek to aggressively reimagine content in a way that realizes its full potential.

As players ourselves, it’s easy to get excited about upcoming developments – but you, the players, don’t always have visibility into what’s coming down the pipe, or why. And so we’ve learned how crucial it is to communicate changes in ways that give you a sense of why choices are being made and what benefits can be expected. In this case, that first requires a bit of backstory.


In the early days of League, we created a fictional background that would justify how players could control champions during games. We came up with concepts like Summoners, Fields of Justice, an Institute of War, and indeed, the League of Legends itself – all in an attempt to provide fictional context for in-game action.

After a while, these early choices began to create unexpected problems. Every new champion needed a reason to join and remain in the League, and as their number grew, the net result was that over time the world started to feel, well, small, and eventually less interesting. The institutions we’d designed fostered creative stagnation, limiting the ways that champions, factions and Runeterra itself could grow and change. Furthermore, the very idea of all-powerful Summoners made Champions little more than puppets manipulated by godlike powers. The background we’d created to explain in-game action was ultimately restricting the potential narrative development of the game’s defining characters.

Faced with these limitations, our use of narrative elements tightly bound to the original vision (Journals of Justice, Judgments, etc.) dwindled, because they felt fundamentally restrictive to our hopes for a more vibrant and expansive world. In response, we started (with efforts like the Freljord event and recent champion bios) to tell stories that explored the furthest limits of League’s original creative framework.

Time and again, we’ve heard players clamor for more story, fueling our desire to make the necessary changes to bring you bigger and better glimpses of Runeterra and its inhabitants. A lot of you have voiced your thoughts on these changes, and in a variety of ways – with enthusiasm, ideas for further new approaches, or even concern. In all these cases, we’re grateful for your interest, and we’re committed to both pushing narrative development further and doing a better job of providing insight into what’s going on under the hood with story.


At a very broad level, we’ve decided to push League’s story beyond its original focus on explaining in-game action and forge a new narrative path for Runeterra – a world in which the factions and champions we all know and love have full freedom to grow, travel, and kick ass on a worldwide scale. From champion interactions to bios to events (and beyond), we aim to expand the scope of League’s story and pursue a more dynamic and wide-ranging world fit for the outsized capabilities and personalities of our champions.

Story has the potential to affect every element of League of Legends, so the decision to venture into new narrative territory wasn’t made quickly or capriciously. The need for change only became apparent over time, and the choice was made only after a great deal of deliberation. Further, we want you to know that this new approach is focused on opening up possibilities and unlocking a wider, more fully-fledged world – the point isn’t to tear up older stories that form their own cherished part of League’s history.

At a very broad level, we’ve decided to push League’s story beyond its original focus on explaining in-game action and forge a new narrative path for Runeterra...

But what does that mean?

Essentially, it means that the game and story aren’t one-to-one copies of each other. League as a game is about creating awesome gameplay, while League as a story is about creating deep, vibrant characters and factions inhabiting an expansive world. We don’t want to limit story because of gameplay, just like we wouldn’t limit gameplay because of story – we want both of them (and all the other elements of League) to have the freedom to be as great as they possibly can be.

Does this mean older story efforts like the Journal of Justice and League Judgments are meaningless? Of course not. In the same way that we can go back and enjoy old books, shows, films, art, and comics that have been superseded by more recent interpretations of the same material, League’s original lore remains a cherished part of its history. From comic books to classic literature, exploration of the same creative space in vastly different ways is a natural part of storytelling.

Runeterra is a big place, with lots of room to be explored in different ways by different people – including players.


When it comes to storytelling, things will continue forward much as they have done already– League as a whole evolves steadily over time, often in small steps, and the same is true of its story. We’ll continue to explore Runeterra through various mediums, in chunks both large and small, and we hope you’ll come along for the ride and continue to share your ideas and feedback.

The point is simply that League of Legends constantly evolves, and, as it does, its narrative needs to evolve as well.

Communication is where you should really notice a difference. Similarly to the gameplay team’s ongoing Design Values series, we’ll be back with future Dev Blogs discussing both our latest narrative efforts and our general principles when it comes to developing story in League. For example, one of the principles we’d love to discuss further is our focus on ensuring that champion identities remain consistent regardless of where you encounter them; for example, Darius should always feel the same regardless of whether he’s administering an axe in a story piece, the game, or a cinematic. Exploring champions’ backstories and motivations beyond what you see in the game doesn’t mean they’ll suddenly start feeling like different characters; what it does do is offer a huge spectrum of options for fleshing out personalities and deepening connections.

The point is simply that League of Legends constantly evolves, and, as it does, its narrative needs to evolve as well. We couldn’t be more thrilled to share this process with you and to hear what you have to say about it. More than anything, we want to rekindle the conversation with you. What stories do you want us to tell? What parts of Runeterra would you like to see?

We’re excited to keep exploring the possibilities, and we hope you are too.

Tommy Gnox (but really the whole Narrative team)"
Here are full sized wall papers of the fantastic art shared in the post, show casing Bilgewater, Freljord, Ionia, and Shurima:

Of course such a big announcement spurred a lot of discussion between the devs and the community.

To clarify, Carnival J reiterated the new direction, saying:
"No, Summoners, the Fields of Justice and the Institute are not canon within the fictional world of Runeterra. In-game, players are still referred to as summoners - but summoners won't be part of the story."
Carnival J continued:
"To an extent the gameplay and story will be separate. They're not totally separate, (for instance, Darius will always feel like Darius no matter where you see him, and the maps will always be evocative of actual places within the world) but there won't be an in-story justification for five unrelated champions tearing each other apart in the game over and over."
Carnival J also noted:
"Thank you! I've been a huge lore fan since I started playing, and I get that it could sometimes be a little demoralizing to end an interesting idea on "and then they rang the doorbell at the Institute of War." Part of revisiting stories is opening up the avenue for new and interesting ideas - not with the intention to ruin or demolish old lore, but to build something even more vibrant on top of it."

Ace of Trolls also commented on the directional changes, explaining:
"This shift in storytelling gives our teams the freedom to explore our champions in exactly the ways you have outlined above and more!"
Ace of Trolls also noted that the lore team will continue to be active on the forums moving forward:
"You're welcome, and thank you for enjoying the lore. 
And don't worry, the team will be on the forums more in the future through devblogs and other avenues. 
We're looking forward to talking to everyone!"

 In response to frustration that everything will change, Tommy Gnox added:
"Also, to be clear, we don't want people to think we're doing away with everything that's ever been posted in the Journals, Judgments, or other places. That stuff will always exist to be enjoyed, as it should -- a lot of players love it. It's about modifying things that get in the way of our telling bigger, better stories. It's kind of like with comic books: Wolverine in a '60s X-Men comic looks a lot different from Hugh Jackman in the DoFP movie, but he's still recognizably the same character. Superman's origin story has been retold numerous times and ways in many different media; some of the interpretations I've loved, others I haven't so much, but it's always fascinating to see those new perspectives on familiar tales. New doesn't invalidate old, it just broadens the world of stories told about Runeterra."

When asked for a better explanation on the benefits of separating the gameplay mechanics from the lore, Tommy Gnox noted:
"Hey @hellioning -- Sorry, I'm having some tech issues, so I have to reply to your "pluses" question up here. We tried to give a sense of what some of the benefits will be in the dev blog -- e.g. champions as puppets takes away their agency as characters, having all wars be fought by proxy between gladiators removes one of the main sources of conflict available to a fantasy universe, etc. More of them will emerge over time. Regarding the League itself, it certainly is the device in the game that justifies why these folks are fighting each other over and over on a square map with straight paths, but in anything like a real-world setting it doesn't make a lot of sense. Garen probably wouldn't beat up on his sister; Ashe doesn't really die eight million times a day. It's a game. We want to start telling more stories outside the game context, and some of those game elements just don't work outside that context. It's really not any more complicated than that. (None of that invalidates the emotional importance those game elements have for you, me, or anyone else, though. They'll all still be there in the game whenever you play it.)"

When asked how the removal of the institute will change the lore, Tommy Gnox commented:
"Happy to do it. I guess the best way to sum up our approach going forward is that we want to, in the words of my colleague Glorft, "do no harm, and respect core themes." The key word in terms of what both you guys are saying is "core." What falls into that category is somewhat subjective; you might think killing Superman and then reviving him as four different people for a while still stayed faithful to the core themes of the character, since each of the four was meant to personify an aspect of his character. I might disagree. There's no right or wrong. Some players may feel that getting rid of the Institute of War and Fields of Justice cuts too close to the bone as far as core themes of LoL; we've thought about it long and hard, though, and decided that, in our opinion as stewards of the game and its fictional world, the pluses of doing so outweigh the minuses (by quite a bit, frankly). We hope you ultimately agree, but we know not every single LoL player will agree with every choice we make. Doesn't mean we're not listening, though, and it certainly doesn't mean we make any such choices casually. You'd be surprised how long and hard all of this has been debated within Riot before we arrived at a place we all felt good about."

Tommy Gnox continued, speaking more about the removal of the League and Institute of War:
"Good questions. Taking the League/Institute out of the world in no way changes the relationships between the factions and cultures of Runeterra -- you can be sure those will remain and get explored more fully. (Noxus and Ionia are still enemies [that happens when you get invaded].) And, of course, it allows for both the threat and the reality of armed conflict. 
But the impact isn't limited to those things. Nations interact with each other in all sorts of ways, right? There's the public stuff -- ambassadors, consulates, official statements; then there's the less public stuff -- communications from one leader to another, negotiations, etc. And then there's the really underground stuff -- spying, covert ops, blackmail, assassination. And that's all before we even get into the various forms actual war can take. 
I think you'll see that we're now going to have freedom to tell stories including any or all of that stuff that we never would have been able to tell within the original framework of the game. Cross-regional conflict will definitely be on the table, and I think we're as eager to explore the Noxus-Ionia enmity and what's going on in the Freljord as you are. (Remember, we're all LoL lore fans, too.)"

As for the Institute of War and some of the relative champion lores that will need to be change, TommyGnox noted:
"I hear you. You're right, we could have chosen to deal with the Institute in that way; the dev blog contains some of the reasoning behind why we ultimately chose otherwise. Part of this approach is to get looser about the whole idea of "canon," and instead let cool story ideas and characters drive the decisions we make. After a ton of deliberation, we're convinced that's the approach that offers the broadest possibilities, the most freedom to do cool stuff. 
You're also right in pointing out that we'll have to rethink some champions' backstories as a result. Again, though, we feel strongly that the upside far outweighs the down. Not having to do narrative gymnastics to explain why every champ is in the League of Legends means a) less sameness, and b) way more creative freedom to come up with great bios. I'll be shocked if you don't agree after seeing some of the actual changes we're making (although I totally get how it could seem off-putting in the abstract)."
Addressing the lore team's extended silence, Tommy Gnox noted:
"I hear you. The short answer is: we've been listening. We haven't been saying much. That's mostly been because we only want to say things that we know are true and going to happen; nobody is going to be happy if we tease something awesome that, for whatever reason, ends up not being the best way to go. That said, we want to do a better job moving forward of engaging in two-way conversation with you guys. That's the biggest reason for the dev blog you just read. That's what it's meant to kick off."
He continued:
"Thanks for that thoughtful post. We totally understand how frustrating it may have felt for a while for those LoL players who love lore, which is one reason we really wanted to kind of kickstart things by giving you guys some idea of what we've been thinking and talking about. We've actually been building up to this moment for a while, but League is a big place and it's taken a lot of people a lot of time thinking all the possibilities through to arrive at decisions that felt right for LoL and worthy of our players. This is the beginning of something, most definitely. Please do keep talking to us and letting us know what you think and what you'd like to see!"

Riot Opeli also commented in a different thread to recap the shift in the lore's direction:
"We're basically reworking it all. No Summoners, no Institute of War. That was a convenient excuse plot when LoL was first created, but we want to give champions more life/energy/agency/blah blah blah and remove them from the confines of the League. I certainly don't want to think Joe Schmoe Summoner can call upon Cho'Gath, shrink him down to human size, and have him fight Heimerdinger or something (although that'd be a cool battle to see). I want Cho'Gath to be at his fullest height and size and see people get rekt. 
Part of the struggle, for me at least, is that it's a monumental task to do a FULL re-envisioning for the ENTIRE cast and beyond, and we'd always be battling with time. I don't think piecemeal the ideal way to do it, but we now feel compelled/pressured to give you a start and follow-up. The entire time we wanted to do story "part 2's" and stuff we knew we were going to re-explore League's world, so a lot of those efforts were put on hold until we said something about our lore reboot."
When asked if the name "Summoner's Rift" will stay and why champions are even fighting in the arena anymore, Opeli noted:
"It's still called Summoner's Rift. It's a name I think will never go away for League, so we're not going to make you call it something else. 
What do you mean, why? It's a game, and we want to keep it that. It's okay for the game to stay the same and champions' backstories to change."

Riot Opeli continued:
"There has to be a reason? We can't explore these champions in a cool, fun way that's just the game League of Legends? The game and the narrative are separate entities. Champions are made for the game, but we want them to have a life of their own if, say, League was a novel, or comic series, or movie, or something like that. We wouldn't show Vel'Koz and Zilean fighting with three other randos down alleys to conquer a base in a movie. That's just... weird."

Regarding the disconnect between the lore and the gameplay, Riot Opeli asked:
"I mean, why is it imperative that a 5v5 game is deeply connected to our characters? Can they not be enjoyed on their own, or separately? The point of separating them, although it's not clear now, is to give the champions better stories and to care about them more. You keep assuming we're doing this because we don't care or we're lazy or we (fill in the blank) but you aren't trying to consider why this might be a positive. It sucks to have something change, but not all change is the worst thing ever. 
"It's just a game" is NOT the attitude. I frickin' love League. I love the game. I like knowing about the champion I'm playing, which is a thing you'll still get to experience. The core experience of supporting a champion with a backstory, personality, and motivations has not disappeared. They just aren't permanently tied to this UN of Runeterra anymore."

As for why the team had remained so silent on the forums, Opeli noted:
"Because we wanted to do it in a better way and me just popping up on the forums and being like "HEY GUYS you know that lore ya'll liked? Yeah, well, we're ignoring it startinnnnng NOW." We wanted to do it in a better way, and a forum post wasn't "good enough" so we made a Dev Blog.

The Narrative department has also gone through a lot of (GOOD) changes the past two years or so, so perspectives and how we want to handle it have changed over time. We fucked up and should have done this like a year and a half ago or something buttttttttt we didn't."
She continued:
"It has been a problem because we haven't been able to come out and say where we're leading the story. Now that it's out, though, (the Dev Blog) things are going to get more clear. Now I don't have to keep ignoring the question "WHY DID VEL'KOZ JOIN THE LEAGUE?!!" because the League isn't a part of our overall story-telling strategy anymore. 
But when I say "you're asking the right questions" it's because I don't want to fucking spoon-feed everyone the secrets of these champions' stories. Movies, comics, books, tv shows - they don't do that. Fans will make a resource that can spoon-feed you everything you need to know about a champion in wikis and stuff. I hate the idea that people just want a compendium of knowledge instead of experiencing story and piecing it together in other ways (although I'm sure you wouldn't want that if we released a regular story-telling series of something). Unfortunately, like I mentioned elsewhere, it's just taken us way too goddamn long to give you guys satisfying narratives. Hopefully you'll be content with the next few months."
Riot Opeli bowed out of the one of the forum threads on the topic, reminding that feedback is being read even if there is no response.
"Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man. I'd totally click on that! 
Anyways, happy to see this discussion going on here. I don't have too many new things to say - I'm kind of spent between Twitter and our Boards. Just wanted to let you know I'm not ignoring this thread. It feels a bit pointless, to be totally honest, because we can't make everyone happy. Older lore fans (I'm generalizing - bear with me) want the old stuff back and for us to undo this change. Going forward with this change in any capacity will make you guys unhappy. 
The only thing we can do at this point is explain our reasoning and engage with you and hope you trust us. If you don't, that's fine. But I know the team is interested in making our relationship right."

As for if all the factions will be receiving more lore love, Riot Whren noted:
"We're definitely exploring all the factions, the Shadow Isles included :) As we're trying to create a living, breathing world, we're definitely also focused on developing the relations between factions and not just in isolation. 
That said... Noxian tea cups."

When asked about the new abbreviated Shurima champion lore updates on the PBE, Riot Entropy commented:
"I can confirm that those single paragraph summaries are not intended to be a wholesale replacement of old lore, they exist to be high level summary of the character designed to populate the Lore section within the current client. The longer form lore pieces will still live on the Champion pages outside of the client and continue to be published there. The reason for moving these pieces is because the architecture of the code that populates the Lore pane (and other data) was built with very explicit parameters in mind and attempts to expand beyond those have been painful. We're not going to continue trying to force the material into the system (and occasionally break it in amusing ways), but that doesn't mean we aren't investigating alternatives.

You may have seen the recent discussion on updates to the client in general. Creating a space for the longer form stories (and other media)to live comfortably are also a part of that ongoing development."
Riot Entropy also answered a series of questions regarding how the new lore will change champions who reference summoners, summoner spells, and "the entire idea the game is based off of".
"Nah, you're not being rude about it. I'd be upset if I was on hold this long too. I'm actually glad that this dialogue can get started because while there will undoubtedly be a lot of arguing it's better than not being able to talk about it. That said, I personally don't have all the answers regarding overall strategy, but I'll speak to what I know.

Ideally, I would suggest hopping into the discussion here rather than keeping it splintered in many threads:

So, to point number one: You might have noticed that those sort of references and motivations have been de-emphasized in past updates. That'll continue. New ties to the world of Runeterra, other Champions and factions will take the place of Summoners.

For two: Players are still summoners, they still have summoner spells, they still summon Champions to fight within the game League of Legends. The difference is that summoners are not directly part of Runeterra and aren't making political plays in Valoran or policing the city-states.

Three: This seems more rhetorical than anything, but I'll answer anyway. The game is still about Summoners calling forth Champions to fight on battlegrounds representing places in the world of Runeterra, but they will no longer be a literal part of that world.

As to whether this is the best way to improve the lore, that's fairly subjective. The way I had it explained to me that allowed me to consider the merits versus the disruption of making such sweeping changes was this: "League of Legends lore is good for League of Legends the game, but it leaves little room to grow outside of the MOBA. If the game is a literal representation of the world, can we affect much meaningful change in the world within the canon? Can Warwick finally lose the last shred of his humanity or finally kill Soraka and save himself in the world we've built? We might be able to create justifications, but would trying to make it work just burden those stories?" Personally, I think Runeterra and its Champions are worth exploring and if that means breaking Fiddle out of his closet in the Institute of War then that's a price I'm willing to pay.

Hopefully that at least makes some sense, even if you don't agree with it."

Finally, Tommy Gnox commented on the player passion surrounding the announcement and what the future holds:
"Listen, we're thankful that you care. It's our job and our honor to listen to you guys and to do our best to create champions and stories that are worthy of your passion for LoL. As far as new content, I can't give anything specific away, but I have noted in my life that quiet often means cool change is coming. :-)"
As for examples of new content, he mentioned:
"Sure. Some have already happened and are in the client or on our website -- basically, check out any recent champions or champion updates -- Yasuo, Braum, Gnar, Karthus, Twitch, Azir on PBE. (By the way, don't get spooked by the fact that some of the bios in the client are now super-short; for technical reasons, we've decided to have the client bios contain only basic and essential info, while moving the longer bio and character pieces to the website. This will be true for all new champs and champ updates moving forward, and we'll be doing it to older champs as well on a rolling basis.) 
Beyond the stuff that's already out there, we're definitely still spinning things up (just like what's happened in general with champion updates over the past year or so), but it seems reasonable to assume we wouldn't have started this conversation with you if all we intended to do was talk. If you've been following what's gone on with LoL over the past week or two, you probably have some idea of what the short-term may hold. Let's just say you'll know it when you see it. :-)"

Gnar's Transforming Icon

In a thread asking if Shyvana, Nidalee or Elise could also get new icons when they switch forms just like Gnar does when he goes from Mini to Mega, Gypsylord offered context on the icon swap and his thoughts on adding it to other champions:
"We did this for Gnar because of how drastically his playstyle changes when he goes Mega. He's like fighting two separate characters based on the status of his rage bar and allies and enemies need to adapt their play style depending on what form he's in. Gnar's transform status is also intended to be highly visible so there were gains to be had by making it easier to tell his current state by glancing at the mini-map. Quinn also benefits from this. See a falcon on your map? Quinn has used her R and will be flying in shortly. That's something you can play around. 
I don't think we'd do this for Nid or Elise because the cadence of their form swaps is so high. With Gnar you are fighting Mega or Mini Gnar at any given time. With Nidalee and Elise the swap happens repeatedly on a very short CD. You are essentially fighting both forms at all times. There is no clarity to be gained by an icon swap that happens every 2 seconds. Could in fact lose clarity due to the picture constantly changing on your minimap. There are thematic wins of course but I'm not sure they're worth the cost. 
Shyvanna is a more interesting case. There's huge thematic wins for 2 icons on her and she does stay in Dragon form for a pretty long time so the icon swap would actually mean something. The only argument I'd make against it is that Shy doesn't really change all that much when she activates R. She essentially gains an awesomely themed stat boost. The way you play against her doesn't change so the icon swap doesn't give much valuable information."
Ququroon also popped in to share a nice, high quality version of Mega Gnar's icon:
"Folks on Reddit were asking for a larger version of MegaGnar's icon! Alex Flores was the artist who worked on this:"

I want a skin for X!

In a thread asking when champions such as Karma or Zac are due for a new skin, Riot Baconhawk sizzled in to comment:
"We will make skins for everyone. I'm sorry if you are reading deeper into this and seeing something I'm not actually saying :\ We do consider all champions, time since their last skin, popularity, age, viability in terms of model and other factors when making skins, so some may take more time than others to get a new skin (i.e., Zilean), but they will, eventually."
When asked why it took so long to make a Kha'Zix skin (such as Guardian of the Sands Kha'Zix which is currently testing on the PBE) , Baconhawk added:
"It wasn't because we didn't want to make a skin for Kha that we took so long; it's just that sometimes our ideas fall flat. We had ideas but they just weren't good enough. We had to wait until the perfect one and the right time..."
As for other future content such as the plethora of VUs referenced in recent times, she reminded:
"I appreciate this. Remember two things:
  • We ARE working on things.
  • We CAN'T tell you what they are, lest they change (see Magma Chamber, Ao Shin).
Also, ChampUp team has their own priorities--I don't know what they are--but I can tell you that a simple Rammus TU is waaay different than a Sion kit rework. Any kit rework is essentially creating a brand new champion, which uses designer time, which is part of the reason we aren't releasing so many new champs. Everything has to be balanced--if it wasn't, you would have never seen the adorable Gnar... and Azir... 
Lastly, we take time to do things right. I am truly sorry you have to wait--I was on that side of the screen before, for a year and a half, and I know the feels. RITO PLS WTF GIEF SKIN/CHAMP/MAPSKIN/REWORK/ETC believe me when I say 
we. know. 
we are making cool shit just like always. 
patience. :3"

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