Archive for MMORPGs

MMO Income – Part 1 – Planning

Making Money in the Auction House

First this is NOT about making REAL money by playing video games. If you were hoping to fund a new video card, you’re out of luck. If you were hoping to start a gold selling service, please logout of the Internet and never return.

What I did want to share is some general tips and tricks about how to make the most out of an in-game market place, commonly called by players (and some game developers), the Auction House (AH). The tips I’m going to share here should apply to most games as there are some general themes to how these things work.

Sidebar – It’s not an Auction

A minor pet peeve of mine (which I mostly get over) is that technically it isn’t an auction. In an auction (like eBay or Meekum) people bid on an item for sale and the person who bids highest wins. What most games have is more akin to a consignment shop. You sell stuff you found (or made) for a set price and you get the money (minus a commission).

Buying and Selling 101

You’ve heard the great advice, right? “Buy low. Sell high.” Seems like a great idea, and sound advice. But what is “low” and what is “high”? In an active, fluid marketplace how can I tell if the price I can buy an item for is a good value? Or what the best price is to sell the item at?

Sorry to say, but if you’re going to play this part of the game, you’re going to need to do some work on your own. I have a spreadsheet that I use to track prices on items that I typically buy and sell. The sheet tracks trends, calculates statistics, and figures out based on what I expect to sell something for, what price I should buy it at to achieve my goals.

Sidebar – Market Watch Sites

Some games have market watching sites. So, you may be thinking, I don’t need a spreadsheet, there’s this other site that shows what things are worth! Well, not so fast. Any sampling of an MMO market is a “point in time” sample. For items which rotate through the AH quickly, they may be missing a lot of data. Also, you don’t really know how they’re reporting that. Is it an average? Is it just the latest data point? Items tend to change in value to the players as changes in the game systems occur; so trusting that site which is providing an “average value” from the last year may be foolish. Track your own!

Whenever I decide to get into a new market niche, I try to give myself at least 10-20 days of just gathering data until I’m confident in my numbers. If there’s a significant change in the game, I will even zero things out and act like I don’t know anything to see how the market fluctuates.

As a “reward” for reading my guide, I’ll offer a simplified version of what I’m talking about in my next post to the blog. The spreadsheet needs it’s own explanation. J

Failure to Plan…

“Goals?” you ask. “Isn’t the goal to make as much as I can?”

Well, sure. But there are multiple ways to do that. Most games have those handful of high-end “endgame” items that sell for millions of coin. However those are rare, and you’re probably going to be competing with people who have large pocket books for those. At the other end are the “newbie” items which are common to find, but you’re going to make barely (if any) profit on them.

I typically start by setting a profit margin goal. In my case, I use 30%. If I’m not going to make 30% on my purchase, it isn’t worth it to me.

But, that doesn’t mean that I look for something selling for 70% of my target selling price. I also need to account for the fact that the AH is keeping their commission. In my current game (The Secret World), that commission is 15%.

So, to get the REAL buying price, I need to look for something that is 100 – 15 – 30 = 100 – 45 = 55% of my target selling price. As you might imagine, that’s going to significantly limit my target purchases. I’m basically looking for someone who just wants to make a little bit more than selling to an NPC vendor.

Sidenote – Below Vendor!

In every game I’ve played, there are always people who don’t know the floor on the prices they set. I’ve seen time and time again where people post items in the AH for less than what the vendor would have given them if they’d just sold it as “vendor trash”. The reason this happens is that when most people are selling on the AH, they undercut whatever the lowest price is. In TSW, if you hover over an item, it will tell you the vendor price for it. People STILL routinely sell certain things for less than that. I don’t worry about margins in those cases, I will buy even if I only make 2 coins since it’s guaranteed profit.

So, now I’ve told you that you need to gather data and have a plan. But what should you be targeting?

Target Market

I typically look to make profit in three specific areas of a market. These are reliable coin makers. They aren’t going to be the big ticket things, so I don’t normally hit a huge profit. However, in TSW, I average around 1 million coin per day profit. That’s for about 30 minutes of “work” on the Auction house and it’s steady income not relying on loot tables or RNG.

Sub-Endgame Gear

When it comes to buying and selling gear, I tend to target the non-endgame stuff. Endgame gear (mostly desired by raiders and PvP players) is well known and has a lot of market competition. The interesting thing is that those same endgame players tend to see the lesser gear as “trash” and will dump it on the market without a lot of concern.

Let’s say the level cap on your game is 50 levels. If you target gear for level 40-48, you’re going to find a few things. First, the demand is higher. In most games players don’t always make it to the level cap, but they almost always get close. Even if a player caps one character, it’s not uncommon for them to start another to play while they wait for their guild’s Raid Night. Since their endgame character has deep pockets, they’ll fund these alt characters pretty well.

Sidenote – Know your game. In WoW for instance, PvP is tiered every 10 levels. So PvP players will often target an x9 character (19, 29, 39, etc.) for PvP purposes. You may be able to make really good profit with lower level gear just by knowing some things about where the min/max players will try to optimize.

Crafted Items

If you’re going to be a crafter (I love that part of MMOs by the way), then you need to really learn the markets. One category of items that is almost always in demand is consumables (typically food and potions). With their “one time use”, and constant demand, it can be easy to make a lot of coin in this way. The more “accessible” (aka “easier”) crafting is to get into, however, the harder this market becomes. So tread lightly here.

Crafting Materials

This one is VERY game specific. In TSW, crafting materials are created by deconstructing existing items. In most games, materials are gathered from the field. In the case of TSW, I’ve done the analysis to know what prices I’ll pay for different tiers of “Green” (low-quality) gear so that I can break them down into materials and make very steady profit selling them on the AH.

Convertible Materials

I love this category! In both WoW and TSW, I have made a TON of coin by simply knowing that crafting materials can be improved (or degraded). Let me give a quick example using TSW.

In TSW, the highest quality crafting materials are “Sacred” followed by “Pure”. TSW allows me to convert 5 Sacred materials into one Pure material. I can also deconstruct one Pure material into 4 Sacred ones. So, consider the two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Upgraded Dust

Sacred Dust : 1500
Pure Dust : 14000

In this example, if I buy 5 Sacred Dust for 1500, I will have paid 7500 coin for them. But I can convert them (for no additional cost) into one Pure Dust, which sells for 14000. My “buy cost” for Pure Dust would be 14000 * 0.55 = 7700; so buying the Sacred Dust, converting it, and selling it as Pure Dust meets my profit goals.

Scenario 2: Downgraded Fire

Sacred Fire : 2000
Pure Fire : 4000

In this example, I can buy the Pure Fire for 4000, downgrade it to 4 Sacred Fire. This gives me a cost per Sacred Fire of 1000 coin, a bit below my buy price of 2000 * 0.55 = 1100 coin. However, in this case I really need to know my market. Sacred Fire might not be a big seller. Sure there may be plenty listed on the AH, but I need to pay attention to whether it sells or not.

Vanity Items

Oh we gamers are surely vain things! Depending on the game this may be clothing or furniture for in-game housing or dye packs to change the color of your gear. Many vanity items drop randomly. A player who isn’t into this sort of thing may not realize the value of the pink shirt that he just got from a mob. But you’re tracking the data; so you DO know. Snatch it up for 1000 coins, sell it for 5000 and profit!

Sidebar – Above the Vendor?

One of the funniest things to me in WoW was that, because I liked to explore, I knew where I could buy a frilly “pirate shirt” looking thing from a clothing vendor. As I recall, the cost was like 10 silver. However, I could routine sell 2 or 3 of those every week on the AH for 50 silver because people were too lazy to go find where they could buy it on their own.

Wrap-up for Part 1

So in this installment, I’ve talked about knowing your market and setting a goal for yourself. I’m planning a couple more posts on this topic. In the next one I’ll share a version of my spreadsheet and explain it. I also have a post planned talking about how timing of your purchases and sales plays into it. And I’ll wrap up a 4-part series with some other little tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

I hope this whets your appetite to come back and read some more. Feel free to post questions and comments, I’ll answer as I’m able to.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Reverse Engineering

One topic which comes up OFTEN in the Crew Skills forums on SW:TOR is people complaining about how long it takes to get the schematics they want. We’ll often see “I’ve reverse engineered 30 of these things and haven’t gotten a schematic! It must be broken!” Unfortunately, the real answer is that they are simply the victims of bad luck (or bad record keeping … but we won’t go there).

Chance of RE Success

Each time a crafter reverse engineers an object, they have a 20% chance of finding the schematic (there are a few exceptions where it is 10%, but let’s stick with 20% for now). This means that there is an 80% chance that RE’ing an item does NOT produce the desired result.

Sidebar – 1 in 5?

Unless one has studied mathematics (or more properly statistics), it is easy to see 20% meaning that I have a 1 in 5 chance of getting a schematic as a result. Logically, one may think “Then if I RE 5 implants, I’ll get one for sure, right?” But that doesn’t weigh out in the end. To see why, it may be easier to think of a coin flip.

Each time you flip a coin, there is a 50% (1 in 2) chance that it will land on heads. That means that if you flip the coin twice you’ll definitely have at least one ‘head’ result, right? No, unfortunately, that’s not right. If we think of the possible results from flipping a coin twice, we have the following…

Flip 1 Flip 2
Heads Tails
Heads Heads
Tails Heads
Tails Tails

So, with our coin flip example, there is a 1 in 4 chance that by flipping twice, you’ll get no head result at all. In statistics, this sort of phenomenon is commonly calculated by using what is called a binomial distribution function.

Likelihood of a Schematic

If we’re answering the question “What is the likelihood that I’ll get at least 1 schematic by reverse engineering a certain number of items?”, it is somewhat counter-intuitive but we actually get the answer by asking the reverse question “What is the chance that we will FAIL to get ANY schematics by RE’ing a certain number of items?”

Using a binomial distribution function, we can calculate the chances that we fail to receive a schematic depending on how many items we RE. See the spreadsheet attached to this article for more info, but for now some samples at various points are good enough:

Attempts Failure% Success%
1 80% 20%
5 33% 67%
10 11% 89%
15 4% 96%
20 1% 99%

First point to mention is that while we might have thought logically that by RE’ing 5 items, our “1 in 5” chance should work out to 100%, it’s actually only 67% likely to produce a schematic. We’ll have to go higher to be more confident of our results.

We can see that by this chart, that there is a 96% chance that once we’ve RE’d 15 items we will have received a schematic. The chances never quite get to 100%, however by the time you get over 20 attempts, you’re only going to fail to receive a schematic less than 1% of the time. Even at 50 attempts, there is still a 0.0014% chance that you won’t find a schematic; so it CAN happen!

I tend to use the 96% threshold as my target that I’m comfortable with. Much higher and I’m likely to be wasting too much time / resources.

But I Don’t Want Just ANY Schematic!

The reality is that most players don’t just want to be able to craft ANY item, they want a SPECIFIC schematic. At times there can be as many as 3 new schematics to learn from a given item. Since I’m working on some of my Tier 11 implant schematics, I’ll use those as an example.

An Anodyne Might Package MK-1 can be reverse engineered into 3 variants (Expert, Fervor, or Veracity). If what I want is the Expert schematic, then the fact that I can feel confident of getting at least one of the 3 by RE’ing 15 items isn’t enough. Sure, it could work out that the first schematic I get is the one I want, but Murphy seems to love Random Number Generators; so let’s assume I need to find more than one to be SURE that I have what I want.

The good news is that this time math is in our favor. 🙂 I won’t have to do 3 times 15 (45) items to RE to get my Expert schematic.

Finding 2 Schematics

Again using the binomial distribution function we can calculate what the chances are that we find less than 2 schematics. Inverting this number gives us the chance of finding 2 schematics in our RE’ing attempts.

Attempts Failure% Success%
2 96% 4%
5 74% 26%
10 38% 62%
15 17% 83%
20 7% 93%
25 3% 97%
30 1% 99%

This means that we can reasonably expect that 97% of the time, if we RE 25 items, we’ll have discovered 2 schematics. Since we’re assuming there are 3 total schematics to be learned, there is a 66% chance that at this point we have found the schematic we need.

Finding 3 Schematics

If we’re curious about what it would take to feel certain that we find our target schematic, then we’d need to figure out the chances that we find all 3 possible outcomes. The table for this is as follows:

Attempts Failure% Success%
3 99% 1%
5 94% 6%
10 68% 32%
15 40% 60%
20 21% 79%
25 10% 90%
30 4% 96%
35 2% 98%
40 1% 99%

This means that if we’re looking for that 96% confidence factor, we need to plan to RE 30 items. Note, however, that after 15 attempts, we are at 60% (better than a coin flip). So the extra 15 attempts only really add 36% to our confidence that we’ll find what we want.

It’s All About Artifacts

So, to have a 96% confidence that I’ll find the desired Prototype (blue) schematic, I re-engineered 30 items. However, the end-goal is really to create a Hawkeye version of the implant. The Prototype Expert implant can yield 3 different Artifact schematics (Expert, Hawkeye, and Vehemence). So I am basically duplicating what I did to get the Prototype Expert in order to get my Artifact Hawkeye implant. I’ll have to plan on making 30 Expert Anodyne Might Package MK-1 implants in order to find the schematic for Hawkeye.

Throwing Away Resources

My personal belief is that the frustration people have with the Re-Engineering process is not the success rate per-se. It’s more because they are creating 15, 20, 30, or more items that they DON’T want in order to get the schematic for the item they DO want to create. This represents a “waste” of resources in many people’s minds. Whether those are the credits used to buy materials, the materials themselves, or the time to craft “junk” items.

Resource 1 – Time

It takes approximately 5 minutes for one of my characters to create a single Anodyne Might Package MK-1 implant. I need to plan on making 30 of them. Since at level 56+ you can have 6 crew members crafting at any one time, and each can queue up 5 items each, I’ll need to plan on one full cycle of my crew to get my Expert schematic. That’s 5 times 5 minutes = 25 minutes.

Then, I have to do it all over again with the Expert to get the Hawkeye. Expert implants take longer, though. They require 28 minutes in fact; so a total of 140 minutes (2 hours, 20 minutes). Which brings my total time (assuming I’m perfectly efficient) to 2 hours and 45 minutes to find the schematic I want. And remember there’s still about a 4% chance that either of those steps failed.

Resource 2 – Materials

The other factor involved in the dissatisfaction is that you “waste” a lot of materials just to get your desired schematic. In my example, I created 60 implants whose sole purpose was to discover the schematic for the one I really wanted to create.

Anodyne Implants require 2 Synth-Net Implant Processors, 2 Metamorphic Cell Cultures, and 2 Anodyne Extracts per implant. The Expert Implants add 4 Hemostatic Gels to the above. That means I used a total of 120 Processors, 120 Cell Cultures, 120 Extracts, and 120 Gels. All “wasted” in pursuit of a schematic.

Sidebar: I know that the reverse-engineering process can also return some of those materials. However my experience has been (at least at the Tier 11 level where I have tracked it) that the amount returned is too small to factor into the calculations of required resources.

Psychological / Emotional Impact

Interestingly enough, our brains are made to enjoy the risk/reward cycle. Studies have shown that when a gambler is playing the slots, their endorphin levels (the chemicals that make you feel happy) peak just BEFORE the dials stop spinning. Even if they win, the peak chemical enjoyment of the process is the anticipation of getting what you want.

However, the problem we see in this dissatisfaction is that over time you stop believing that you could win. As you reverse engineer item after item, eventually you stop believing that you’ll get the schematic. It stops being exciting to see if the schematic drops or not, you’re just frustrated with having to keep clicking.

Too Much Success?

So here is an interesting twist. As I mentioned, if I want a 96% chance that I’ll find the schematic I want, then I’m going to produce 60 implants (30 Premium (green) implants and 30 Prototype (blue) implants). However, if Lady Luck were to smile on me, I might only have to create 2 (1 of each). I could hit my 20% chance on each one and then the 33% chance that the schematic which procs is the one I’m trying to find. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it could happen. (Btw, if it ever does, I’m running out right away to buy a lottery ticket!) Regardless of the likelihood, the lucky happening ends up creating another issue.

Basically if I made 30 items and only actually NEED 2 or 3 to get the schematic I was looking for, then the other 27+ of them feel like a huge waste of effort. That might be ok once. But when you figure there are 17 different Tier 11 implant lines to make for a biochemist, if it happens more than a couple of times, it actually starts feeling like a negative.

Completionists Beware

If you have the unfortunate luck to be like me, and you want to find ALL of the Tier 11 schematics, be prepared. If you look at my Gap Analysis spreadsheet, you’ll see there are 51 Prototype and 153 Artifact implant schematics which can be learned for Tier 11. A total of 204 learned schematics to discover. If I’m making 30 “throwaway” schematics each, that means I have to make over 6000 implants that (technically) I don’t need. I’ll spend a bit over 12,000 of each resource in pursuit of this silly goal. Not to mention almost 16 DAYS of active crafting time.

Side note: It IS silly. I realize that. But I’m having fun; so I don’t care about the waste of time/credits.

The only positive? 6000 Tier 11 enhancement slot pieces (which currently retail for an average of 5500 credits each); so at least I’ll make about 3 million credits selling that junk. My balance seems to mostly be stable as I buy resources from the GTN and sell enhancement components.


Barring a change in the RE process (which I wouldn’t count on if I were you), there isn’t a very good solution to the “problem”. In fact, from a game system design point of view, it isn’t really a “problem” in that it is working as designed. However, there are a couple of things that you might do in order to reduce the frustration levels.

Multiple Targets

I have a slight advantage in that I can have each of my 6 crew members working on a different Implant line. It makes me feel like I’m making more progress because I have more targets than only wanting to get 1 Artifact schematic. You might consider pursuing more than one final schematic at a time. It may take more time to get any specific schematic, but at least it will feel a bit better as you’ll make progress on almost every crafting pass.

Reduce the Investment

If you’re willing to trade time for resources, you could build the “junk” items in smaller batches. This would likely reduce the overall waste since by my tables the first 15 items give you a 60% chance of success. That means that the second 15 in my plan are only giving me another 36% confidence. If you did things in batches of 5, you could stop as soon as you find the schematic you’re looking for. Overall time investment would be higher (as you’d need to micro-manage your crew a bit to accomplish this), but it would require fewer resources.

Stop Worrying?

Ok, I know this sounds like a “Life isn’t fair, get over it” argument. But it might help you out to simply accept that the system does work in the way it is designed. I think (as a rule) much frustration in life comes from the fact that reality doesn’t match how we wish things would be. Sometimes you can be the change that you want there to be. In this case, there isn’t much we (as players) can do to influence this system. So accepting that it is the way it is may be the best approach in the end.


The spreadsheet that I used for the stats in this article is attached. It includes some data beyond my summary here. Also, as a “bonus”, I include one sheet from the workbook I use for tracking the recipes my crafting characters have discovered. I used the Tier 11 Implants sheet. It can be adapted fairly easily to other crafts as well.

SWTOR Crew Skills – Reverse Engineering

The Five Whys


I’ve been helping a friend of mine add some depth to his roleplaying character in SWTOR. I thought it might be nice for others who follow my gaming stuff if I shared a technique that I’ve found to be very helpful when I’m trying to flesh out what is behind my characters.

I call it “The 5 Why’s”. The goal of the exercise is to explore the psyche and motivations of your character. Along the way you may define some events that occurred that may (or may not) be fleshed out as part of their backstory.

While, technically, you can do this yourself, sometimes it helps to have someone else asking the questions. The reason being that we tend to focus our efforts on things we know how to answer. When someone else is asking the questions, it can force us to go down a path we hadn’t considered.

I first started doing stuff like this with my main characters in stories after I read an interview with Anne Mcafferry. The interviewer asked her why her characters seemed so “alive”, she answered (paraphrasing…)

Because I know them so well. I spend a lot of time exploring things like the motivation for my characters. If you ask me what Masterharper Robinton has in the 3rd drawer of his desk, I can tell you. Not because I’ve written down all the notes about how he stocks his office. But because I know him so well that I know what he would keep in his desk.

This is how I tend to roleplay in MMOs. I don’t necessarily write down all the details about the backstory for my characters. But I know who they are well enough that if someone asks, I can tell you what their parents did for a living, etc. I don’t have to wonder how they would react in a situation, I know them well enough that whatever reaction I come up with is likely to fit within their personality.

The Approach

Start with a particular topic or personality aspect. Say your character wants to protect the innocent. Or wants to rise to power with the Sith Empire. Or is striving to be the best long rifle shot in the galaxy.

Then ask “Why do they want to do this?”

When you have the answer, pick a part of that answer and ask “Why do they…” and keep going until you’ve hit 5 “Why’s” or until you decide there isn’t anything more, it is a core attribute.

An Example

For example, I have an Twi’lek Assassin named Claressa. She is one of the most stone cold killers I’ve ever played. She scares me a little. But what if someone were to ask Claressa:

1) Why are you so casual about killing?
A: Because if you aren’t strong enough to beat me, then you’re not worthy of life.

2) Why aren’t they worthy?
A: Life is a gift which must be defended.

3) Why should someone be able to defend themselves?
A: If they can’t defend their self, then they won’t be able to defend others.

4) Why should they defend others?
A: Someone might be relying on them for protection.

5) Why does it matter if someone is relying on them?
A: When they fail, they betray that trust. By culling those too weak, I save those poor fools from the betrayal I felt when my parents failed me!

To me, Claressa is much more interesting as a character when one understands that she is willing to kill whomever she needs to because she believes she is protecting the innocents around that person who might be trusting them for protection. It also exposes a core issue for Claressa. The death of her parents affected her in a very foundational way.

Trying it Out

Find someone you think can help you. I really think you get the most out of this by having someone else ask you the questions. Give them an overview of who your character is. And let them start asking. You can do this exercise multiple times if you’d like as the questions can vary.

If you’re the one asking the questions, don’t ask the obvious ones. 🙂 In my example above, the better Why #3 would have been about life being a gift. The path that was chosen was one that I knew pretty well already.

Remember that the goal is to understand your character’s personality and world view. Not to write a lot of backstory. If you’re doing this via email or chat, try to keep answers short. The hope will be that at the end you’ll have discovered something about your character’s motivation and (perhaps) have some new area to write about when crafting their backstory.

TSW Builds : To Elite or Not?

NOTE: This information was current for The Secret World. Since the conversion over to Secret World Legends, build theory is significantly different; so this likely no longer applies.

After posting my Auxiliary Weapons extension to my TSW build analysis, in my How many builds are there? thread on the TSW forums, Novarind brought up the point that my analysis assumes everyone will want to use an Elite skill in both their Active and Passive selections. This may or may not be the case; so the question was raised how choosing NOT to select an Elite Ability affects the number of build choices.

I’ve updated my spreadsheet to allow you to choose not to select an Elite ability then ran the numbers for four scenarios.

Here is how things breakdown…

No Elites: 2,508,577,928 “viable” builds
Passive Only: 2,164,937,116 “viable” builds
Active Only: 4,476,090,029 “viable” builds
Active & Passive: 3,862,927,011 “viable” build

I guess what you can infer from this is that choosing a Passive Elite actually limits the different ways to build your character (by 14%), however Unlocking and adding in the Active Elites actually increases your choices by 78%. Choosing to do both still adds 54% more build options; so the positive addition vis-a-vis the Active Elites outweighs the limiting factor of the Passive Elites.

Also keep in mind that this is purely math / statistical analysis. The specific effects of the abilities drastically changes how viable each build combination would be.

Updated Spreadsheet: tsw-skillbuilds-auxiliary

TSW Builds Update – Auxiliary Weapons

NOTE: This information was current for The Secret World. Since the conversion over to Secret World Legends, build theory is significantly different; so this likely no longer applies.

So a LONG time ago now, I posted my “final” review of TSW Builds

However, since that time, Funcom introduced Auxiliary Weapons. Someone the other day pinged me about how my numbers were way off since auxiliary weapons (of which there are current 5 to choose from) multiply the build diversity. So, factoring in Auxiliary Weapons, there would be a theoretical build diversity of…


Passive Combinations

x 16,982,901,936

Active Combinations

x 5

Auxiliary Weapons

= 386,292,701,143,169,000,000,000

Theoretical Builds

x 0.00000000000001

1 millionth of 1 percent

= 3,862,927,011

Potential Viable Builds

And an update to my spreadsheet as well: tsw-skillbuilds-auxiliary

SWTOR: Confessions of an altaholic

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Just for background info: SW:TOR has been my game of choice (again) lately. I played for a few months right around the launch time, but lost interest as I burned out on alts (my fault) and the guild I was part of exploded in nasty ways. I wasn’t there for the “Free to Play” choice, and I don’t play “free” now either. I play on The Ebon Hawk server and I consider myself primarily a roleplayer, although I have enjoyed PvE and PvP content in the game as well. My main characters this go around have been on the Imperial side.

What I wanted to talk about here is how I approach alternate characters. I consider SWTOR to be an alt friendly game (to an extent). The main storylines are interesting and playing through at least all 8 of the main stories can be fun. Considering advanced classes (16) and that you could choose both male/female and light/dark side potentially you could play 64 times, although you get less and less variety with each choice. Advanced classes don’t matter to the stories, just to the playing style. Male/Female change romantic options, but not anything major about the main storyline. And playing Light or Dark makes some dialog choices different, but the end results of the story missions are largely the same.

The Problem

The main problem with playing multiple characters in SWTOR is that it can be a bit repetitive. Although the main story missions change, those don’t make up the bulk of what you do on each planet. Most of your missions on a planet will be so-called “side missions”. So if you play a Bounty Hunter and go to Balmorra, then play a Sith Warrior, you’ll also go to Balmorra, and 90% of the content there will the exact same as the last time you ran through that world. Maybe that is ok for 2 characters, but get to 4 (or more) and you’ll start to be like the vets who whine “Oh, I can’t WAIT to get OFF of this planet!”

My Solutions

I have a couple of ways that I approach this “burnout” issue. The point of this blog article is to describe what I do. Hopefully 1 or more of them may resonate with you and help you enjoy your journey in the “Galaxy Far Far Away” more.

Focus First

First let me encourage you to focus on getting one character all the way through the game (at least through the main storyline if not all the way through to level 55). You are going to help yourself SO much if you do this. By focusing on one character, then the next time you have to go back and do missions on Dromund Kaas or Coruscant you won’t feel as much like “Wasn’t I just here?”

Playing for Both Teams

Second let me encourage you to experience the quests and playing experience from both sides of the galactic conflict. By alternating characters between Imperial and Republic factions, you’ll cut WAY back on how much you feel like you’re repeating things. I started my original run at SWTOR thinking I was going to play all 8 Republic Advanced Classes. Big mistake. This was a major part of my burnout. It also didn’t let me see the awesome stories on the “Evil Empire” side of the game either. You may feel drawn to one side or the other, but trust me that an altaholic like me will be well served by swapping back and forth.

Just keep in mind that in some cases, the character classes aren’t THAT different in playing style. A Sith Warrior plays very much like a Jedi Knight. There are differences, and the true masters at the classes can point those out. But in many cases the Republic and Imperial classes mirror each other. So if you want to maximize your differences, don’t follow leveling your Sith Juggernaut with a Jedi Guardian. On the other hand, if you wanted to experience the story without needing to relearn how to play, using the mirrored classes would work to your advantage.

Mapping the Journey

The primary way that I’ve found to avoid burnout is by mapping which planets each of my characters will focus on. For instance, I might say “This character is going to do everything they can on Coruscant, but I’m going to blitz through Balmorra.” There are some exceptions that I make for this. For instance, I really enjoy the Imperial missions on Taris, but I can’t stand Tatooine. So I tend to make Taris a “must see” and always tend to blitz Tatooine. Don’t even get me started on Belsavis. Too big, too many walls/chokepoints, too many tunnels, not enough fast travel locations.

Space Mission Grinding

One way that the above planet mapping works for me is by using the Space Missions (not talking about Galactic Starfighter, but the old style “space combat on rails” missions). I like to use those to gain additional XP so that I can overlevel the planets that I want to skip through. I’m not someone who needs every encounter in the game to be challenging to the point of frustration. So by ensuring that I’m about 2-3 levels above the minimum recommendation for each planet I give myself more flexibility as to which missions I want to complete.

Growing Through PvP

I wanted to put out a quick “shout out” to the option of using PvP as an alternative leveling mechanism. It is (theoretically) possible to level to 55 doing nothing but PvP activities. It will be a LONG grind, but it is possible. As an alternative, you could use the PvP system in place of what I said above about Space Mission Grinding. Gaining a few levels via PvP would also help break up some of the monotony of the planet side missions. Although depending on your playing style/preferences, it could be a case of replacing one grind with another. 🙂

Kuat Drive Yards (KDY)

If all you are really interested in is playing a different style of play, and don’t care as much about the story missions, then the Kuat Drive Yards (KDY) may be a good choice for you. You have to first reach level 15 on your own, however once you do that, you can join the flashpoint. In KDY, you are automatically bolstered to level 55 / rating 186 gear as far as your stats go. You’ll still only have access to level appropriate skills and skill tree of course. KDY is often used in conjunction with double XP weekends / weeks to quickly level alts to the level cap. You can then go back and do the story missions on each planet to advance the story, get your full complement of companions.

I have done a few KDY runs, but on the whole I would only recommend them for people who are leveling an alt where they don’t care about the character’s story. Veterans with several level 55 characters find KDY to be a nice alternative to re-running plantside missions that they’ve already done dozens of times.


SWTOR can feed the cravings of an altaholic. However, without careful thought and planning, it is easy to get burned out on the leveling grind and become bored with the game. I hope the above tips and ideas I’ve provided help some of you as you plan out your Star Wars journey. Please feel free to comment / ask questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

League of Angels – Overview

League of Angels is a free-to-play browser based MMO(RPG). While far from perfect, I find it to be more enjoyable than some games I’ve paid to play. The following are some of my general observations about the game as a whole.

General Gist

The game is set in a fantasy world where the guardian angels of various lands have been imprisoned. Your job as the hero in the story is to free these angels who then promise to aid you as you help their sisters. Honestly, most LoA players would probably be hard pressed to tell you anything about the story. It just isn’t that important.

In addition to the angels, you are able to recruit other party members to round out your party. They have fairly traditional roles based on their primary skills. Tanks, Melee DPS, Ranged DPS and Support characters are available. Depending on which Angel you’re using, and what level she has obtained, you can have up to 6 members in your part (including your main character).

Game play mostly consists of a string of “mini-games” which range from fun to frustrating. The main storyline and main side quests are run via a pretty simple point-and-click system. There isn’t anything to the combat once the battle starts. The decisions you make before that (see below) have a lot more to do with how the battle ends than anything else.

A list of the ways in which you play League of Angels:

  • Main Storyline Quest – the main story that moves you through various areas in the LoA world. Something you have to do, but it won’t be enough on its own to progress your characters.
  • Side Quests – there are a few side quests in each area, but once you’re done with them they don’t come back; so similar to the main quest, they are worth doing for money / xp but not enough on their own.
  • Aegis Quests – Angels don’t really have “gear”. Instead, they have Aegis which give them different abilities. Unlocking those abilities and then gathering Aegis shards which are used to upgrade the abilities are an important part of managing your angels
  • Blitzing – One thing that I do like (see The Good below) is blitzing missions. Blitzing allows you to automate the process of grinding for xp. You basically say “I want to run this dungeon 30 times” and the game starts doing it. Useful for xp/gold farming.
  • Gemology – A little ‘match 3’ game (think Bejeweled) that rewards you with gems which are used to upgrade your equipment. It’s not too awful, but wouldn’t rival Candy Crush for fun or anything. 🙂
  • Arena – In the Arena, players are divided into different groups, in each group you compete in 1 : 1 duels to get enough ranking points to move to the top of the leaderboard. Because of how combat works (see The Bad below), your opponent doesn’t have to be online. You’re also awarded Arena Badges which can be used to buy gear and skill upgrades.
  • Clash of Might – similar to the Arena, the Clash pits you against your fellow players. However in this case the only way you rank up is by beating someone higher than you. And you can be ranked down if you get defeated. Also, the pool of participants is everyone on the server. So Clash is more representative of the relative strength of your party.
  • Tidal Pool – By far my least favorite mini-game. You shoot nets into a “tidal pool” to capture fish. These fish reward you with random loot ranging from gold to Gems to Herosouls (used to upgrade your NPC member’s skills). The problem is that it seems very random as to whether you catch the fish you’re aiming the net at.
  • Team Arena – You and two friends (or strangers who may become friends?) fight against another team of 3. One difference here is that the opponents are from other servers.
  • Team Dungeons – Another team game where you join 2 other players. In this case, you fight through a dungeon together (similar to how the Main and Side quest dungeons work). The dungeons are tiered by level and reward your team for finishing them quickly.
  • Guild Games – Games like Gauntlet where you try to keep 15 waves of monsters from killing the angel you’re protecting and Twilight Clash where you have a “capture the flag” fight against another guild. They are nice for the rewards they give and to give you and your guildmates something to do together.

The Good

Beyond the “Gotta catch them all!” collector aspect, probably the best part of the game is the level at which you can customize the attributes of your characters, NPCs, and angels.

Main Character

Your main character starts with a base class (familiar to any RPG player). However, from there you can specialize (my fighter became a Paladin – Tank, but could have been a Beserker – Damage). Your character also has skills which can be upgraded. Some are passive (like a boost to your HP) some are active like special attacks which can trigger during fights. Part of the customization is picking which triggered skills your character is going to use.


For your NPCs, they also have skills that can be upgraded (using a different resource than the Main character). However in their case you can’t select different triggered skills, they use their best skills on their own. They also have “partner” skills. In this case each NPC is partnered with another one. When you have both of them in your party at once, they will provide benefits to each other during the battle.


Your angel’s biggest way to grow is through her level. Leveling your angel is vital as the higher level, more powerful angels enable you to bring more NPC characters with you. Also, I mentioned the Aegis up above. The Aegis is how you can change what special attack your angel uses in battle. Leveling the Aegis makes it stronger and provides additional passive buffs to your angel’s abilities as well.


Both Main and NPC characters wear 6 units of equipment (weapon, helmet, chest, ring, legs, boots). Equipment has both vertical and horizontal advancement. Vertically, equipment levels up providing more benefits to your character’s abilities. Horizontally, equipment can carry up to 5 gems. These gems provide additional benefits to your character. There are 12 different types of gems, and each piece of equipment can only carry a single gem of each type. So picking and choosing your gem types can have a significant effect on battle effectiveness. Gems can also be leveled up, improving their buffs.

More Depth to Come

I’ve only scratched the surface here in regards to what levels of detail you can add to your characters. And they do make a HUGE difference. Your party is given a battle rating (BR)  based on the levels of the characters, gear, and gems. But choosing how those complement each other is also important. My current BR is around 155,000. However I have lost battles to people with as low a BR as 115,000 and have beaten others who were as high as 180,000. This depth is the primary thing that I like about League of Angels.

The Bad

Ok, there are definitely some things that I don’t like.


The combat system could use some significant attention. Right now, once the battle starts, the player is an observer. There isn’t anything you can do to affect the outcome. That makes doing some of the things like the quests and even arena battles a great deal less interesting.


You can play LoA for free. And never have to pay a single cent, and you can still accomplish everything in the game. That is my definition of a true “free to play” game. However, paying money does help. In some cases quite a bit. Rather than taking time to gather all the resources you need to improve your characters, you can buy packages of them for real money. In most cases, all this does is to reduce the time that you would need to spend gathering the resources yourself. If that player spends $100 now and never spends another dime, I will eventually catch up to him.

The one case where someone can legitimately pay to win is in the large scale PvP battles. For instance in the capture the flag game (Twilight Clash), players can pay 50 diamonds ($0.50) to resurrect right away instead of waiting out the 30 second resurrection timer. That can be a significant advantage. it won’t make a small, low powered guild the top dawg or anything. But in an evenly matched battle, it can make a lot of difference.

The Ugly

Ok, maybe not “ugly”, but LoA has followed in the footsteps of some other similar games when it comes to how they advertise. I actually saw a side-banner video ad the other day where this is this girl walking toward a bathtub. Her robe drops off suggestively (without really showing anything) and then it ends with the League of Angels logo and a link to the game. That has ZERO to do with the game and is clearly just intended to get young male players to click on the link.

Is it Fun?

That’s the only real question that matters when we’re talking about a game, right?

Yes, I think it is. I have had a good time playing so far and now that I’m getting into the details of systems like the Gem slotting system, it is also interesting to find ways to optimize my builds. Will it continue to hold my attention now that I’m getting to the steeper part of the levelling curve? Maybe. There are so many areas to improve that I can see having goals for quite some time. It may be a couple of days to get a new level on my main character, but other smaller progression is taking place.

The Secret World – Skill Points

NOTE: This information was current for The Secret World. Since the conversion over to Secret World Legends, build theory is significantly different; so this likely no longer applies.

So there are several great places to go to get information about selecting skills for your character builds. My personal favorite is TSW Guides: TSW Build Page. But a question that comes up over and over again on The Secret World Newcomers Forum is about how to spend the skill points. Since skill points come at 1/3 the frequency of ability points, it’s a legitimate area to be concerned about. So I thought I’d write this up to explain how I allocate my skill points when I start a new character.

To explain, I was in the Closed Beta portion of testing and each new build I would create a new character from scratch; so this approach comes from a few dozen character rolls that I did during that time.

What Are Skill Points?

Skill Points (SP) are used to allow you to equip ever more powerful equipment (weapons and talismans). Since your major increase in strength comes from the gear that you can wear, allocating your skill points to maximize your potential is an important part of character building. You gain a new SP every time you completely fill your experience bar. Another way to measure it is you get one skill point for every 3 ability points that you earn.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind about skill points.

  1. The Quality Level (QL) of equipment you can use is one higher than the corresponding Skill Level (SL). For example, if you have an SL of 3 in Blades, you can equip up to a QL 4 Blade weapon.
  2. For weapons (which have two paths to spend your SP on), your SL is the HIGHEST of the two paths, NOT the sum. So investing in both paths usually doesn’t pay off from a pure SL standpoint
  3. There is an SP cap (currently 44). Once you have 44 unused SP, you won’t earn any more. So it doesn’t make sense to keep banking them forever.

Where Can I Spend My SP?

You open the Skill Point tree by pressing (K) in-game. You can also get to it from your Ability Wheel (N). The SP tree is divided into weapons on the top half and Talismans on the lower half. A full discussion of weapons and talismans is really beyond this guide. Suffice it to say that weapons are how you enable your character to use abilities tied to those weapons and talismans are the stat generating gear typically associated with armor in other MMOs.


Each Weapon is further divided into two categories. The first is always Damage. Allocating SP in the Damage category will enhance your damage dealing skills with that weapon. Read the descriptions for each weapon to see exactly what each weapon skill enhances. The second branch for each weapon is going to either be Survival, Support, or Healing. The buff associated with allocating points in this branch usually help with tanking, buffing/debuffing, and healing abilities respectively. The following list is a summary. See the in-game tree for details.

  • Fist
    • Damage – Buffs Sweep and Regrowth skills.
    • Healing – Buffs healing delivered to targets.
  • Blade
    • Damage – Causes additional damage.
    • Survivability – Self heal on blocked attacks.
  • Hammer
    • Damage – Causes additional damage from hammer attacks
    • Survivability – Reduces damage received when blocking.
  • Pistol
    • Damage – Additional damage on successful hit
    • Support – Heal defensive target when you hit opponents
  • Shotgun
    • Damage – Additional damage at close range
    • Support – Shield for defensive target when using a shotgun turret ability
  • Assault Rifle
    • Damage – Stacking damage buff against target
    • Healing – Improves Leech effects for AR abilities
  • Elemental
    • Damage – Additional AoE damage to enemies
    • Support – Buffs defensive target damage output when using Manifestation abilities
  • Blood
    • Damage – Damage buff while Blood Offering is active
    • Healing – Heals defensive target when Barrier expires
  • Chaos
    • Damage – Potential for additional attack causing damage
    • Survivability – Evading attacks further reduces the damage you receive

Note that you will only get the stat benefit for the weapons you are actually wielding. For example, putting points into the Survivability line for Blade won’t grant you the self-heal if you don’t have a Blade weapon equipped.


Talismans are divided into Head, Major, and Minor categories. These correspond to talismans that fit into the following slots on your character:

  • Head – Your head slot. Buffs Magical Protection.
  • Major – Wrist, Neck, Finger. Buffs hit points (hp).
  • Minor – Waist, Occult, Luck. Buffs Physical Protection.

Theory Behind My Approach

I break this down into three phases of the game.

  • Phase 1 – First Upgrades – The first equipment upgrades you’re likely to receive are going to be weapons. Therefore, I want to make sure I can use a new weapon as soon as I pick it off some zombie’s rotting hands in Kingsmouth.
  • Phase 2 – Talismans, First, Second, and Third – Over the long haul, you will find more talisman upgrades than any other. Makes sense, right? Since you have 7 slots for talismans but only 2 for weapons?
  • Phase 3 – Maximize buffs

My First 32

The part of SP allocation that I want to focus on here is how I spend my first 32 SP that I earn. I’ll provide some overall guidance following that, but let’s hit those first 32 first. I’ll lay out the table of how I do this, then follow up with some discussion.

SP Allocation SL
1 Major Talismans 1
2 Minor Talismans 1
3 Head Talismans 1
4 Primary Weapon (Damage) 1
5 Secondary Weapon (Survival/Support/Healing) 1
7 Major Talismans 2
9 Minor Talismans 2
11 Head Talismans 2
13 Primary Weapon (Damage) 2
15 Secondary Weapon (Survival/Support/Healing) 2
18 Major Talismans 3
21 Minor Talismans 3
24 Head Talismans 3
27 Primary Weapon (Damage) 3
30 Secondary Weapon (Survival/Support/Healing) 3
31 Primary Weapon (Survival/Support/Healing) 3
32 Secondary Weapon (Damage) 3


The first 2 points go to my weapons. Whichever I’m using for damage, gets a point in it’s Damage category. The other gets a point in the supporting branch. This will allow me to equip up to QL 2 weapons, which gets me through most of Kingsmouth Town.

The next points go in order to Major Talismans, Minor Talismans, and then Head Talismans. I choose Major first because it also buffs my HP (which everyone can use more of) and it supports 3 crucial talisman slots on my character. Minor comes next because it covers 3 more talisman slots. While Head talismans account for bigger bonuses than the others, since they are also more rare, I leave those for last.

Once I have everything at level 1, I proceed to get my 2 weapons and my talisman skills up to SL 3. This will allow me to equip up to QL 4 which gets me past Kingsmouth and well into the Savage Coast.

Finally, just before I enter the mid-game part of my strategy, I put one point (and ONLY one point) into the “other” branch of my weapons trees. The reason I do this is because the first point is usually a significant buff for whatever skills that weapon is supporting. Subsequent points will raise bonuses from 5% to 5.5% or something similarly trivial. But that first 5% bonus for 1 SP is worth it in my book.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Well, that depends. In my case, I decided I wanted to diversify from my Blade/Fist build which serves me well for soloing and work on a tanking build using Blade/Chaos. So I started putting some points into those skills. I’m also slow playing the whole game (I’m still on Solomon Island with 2.25 days of /played time). so I don’t need gear that can handle Egypt yet, which allows me to branch out and look at some healing and other builds as well. For me, going back and running through the Kingsmouth Town quests with new weapons is kind of fun.

On the other hand, if you’re sticking with the weapons you have, then you could just continue the pattern. Major, Minor, Head, Primary, Secondary until you reach SL 9/10.

I hope this was helpful to someone. Let me know if anything is unclear (or even worse incorrect).

TSW Builds – Final

NOTE: This information was current for The Secret World. Since the conversion over to Secret World Legends, build theory is significantly different; so this likely no longer applies.

Now that we’re reaching the 30 day mark for The Secret World being live, I figured it was time to give the final analysis of the number of potential character builds based on the current ability wheel in-game.

A Brief History of Builds

I’ve made several posts over the last months in regards to why I think that TSW’s build system is unique and offers some challenges and opportunities for those of us who like to crunch numbers. Here is the history of those posts…

The Real Deal Wheel

On the live wheel, there are 9 weapons and 3 “general” ability segments. These are:

  • Magic
    • Blood Magic
    • Chaos Magic
    • Elemental Magic
  • Ranged
    • Shotguns
    • Pistols
    • Assault Rifles
  • Melee
    • Blades
    • Hammers
    • Fists
  • General
    • Survivalism
    • Subversion
    • Turbulence

The weapons each have 24 Active and 24 Passive abilities plus 5 Elite Active and 3 Elite Passive abilities as well. The general ability segment each have 3 Active, 3 Passive, and 1 Elite Active ability in their segment.

Selecting the Building Blocks

As mentioned previously, a build in TSW consists of 7 active and 7 passive abilities. You’re allowed to have 1 Elite ability in each Active and Passive parts of the deck. For Active abilities, you’re further restricted that they have to be either tied to one of the 2 weapons you’re allowed to equip or part of the general segment of the ability wheel. Passive abilities can be equipped no matter what weapons you’re using.

Active Abilities

With 2 weapons, and 3 general segments, there are 13 potential Elite Active abilities. There is also a pool of 57 normal active abilities from which you can build your deck. Assuming that you want to use 1 Elite ability if it is available, that leaves 6 active abilities to be selected from the pool of 57. The math works out as follows:

1 Elite Active out of a pool of 13 = 13 combinations

6 normal actives out of a pool of 56 = 36,288,252 combinations

13 x  36,288,252 =  471,747,276 combinations for each weapon pair

Since there are 36 ways that you can select 2 weapons out of a pool of 9 options…

36 weapon pairs x  471,747,276 active combinations per pair =  16,982,901,936 possible ways to select your 7 active abilities at the end game.

Passive Abilities

Passives are a bit easier since they aren’t dependent on weapon selections. There are a total of 27 Elite Passive abilities and a pool of 225 normal passive abilities to select from when creating your build.

1 Elite Passive out of a pool of 27 = 27 combinations

6 normal passives out of a pool of 225 = 168,488,720,400 combinations

27 x 168,488,720,400 =  4,549,195,450,800 possible ways to select your 7 passive abilities

Builds and Viability

So with 16,982,901,936 different ways to select Active abilities and 4,549,195,450,800 ways to select passive abilities, you end up with …

16,982,901,936 x 4,549,195,450,800 = 77,258,540,228,633,700,000,000 potential builds

If, once again, we use 1 millionth of 1 percent as our viability estimator, we still end up with 772,585,402 potential ways to build your character.

With over 772 million possible builds, I’m pretty sure that balance should end up being a non issue.

Once again I’ve uploaded my spreadsheet that I used to come to these conclusions. One number you could play with is the “synergistic sets”. For raw number purposes, I assumed that all 36 weapon combinations could potentially work. You could look at it and decide that only 10 of those weapon choices are actually likely to work together. But if you do that, I’d recommend you adjust the Viabilty factor as well.

TSW Skill Builds – Final

The Secret World Diversity, Round 3

NOTE: This information was current for The Secret World. Since the conversion over to Secret World Legends, build theory is significantly different; so this likely no longer applies.

A Brief History

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the vast number of skills and combinations (decks) there of which can be used to customize your character’s skill sets. For background on this, I’d refer you to:

New Information

In reviewing some recent comments from developers and players at the PAX East conference, I’ve come across two things that have made me revise my model:

Elite Abilities

Each of the 9 weapons has an Elite Active and Elite Passive ability. However, in your build deck, you are only allowed one of each. I’ve made the assumption (which I feel is safe) that the elite abilities will be strong enough that one will want to have them included in your build deck. This has the following effects on your skill selections:

  • On the active side, since you can only have 2 active weapons, you’re going to be choosing 1 of 2. This has the added effect of reducing the active ability pool for the other 6 actives in your deck by two.
  • On the passive side, there are 9 passive elite abilities which can be chosen independent of your active weapons. Therefore you can choose 1 of 9 and your pool of abilities for the remaining 6 passive abilities is reduced by 9 as well.

Active / Passive Split

I’ve seen a couple of comments which go along these lines:

“There are 9 abilites in each cell of the skill wheel which alternate Active then Passive”

If this holds true, then the split of active to passive skills should be 5 to 4. So I’ve adjusted my respective pools using those numbers for now.

Back to the Math!

With this new information, my calculations break down as follows:

Active Builds

Select 1 of 2 Active Elite abilities, giving you 2 possible Active Elite combinations.

Select 6 of 60 Active Standard abilities, giving you 50,063,860 Active Standard Combinations.

Multiply and get 100,127,720 potential Active Builds

Passive Builds

Select 1 of 9 Passive Elite abilities for 9 possible Passive Elite combinations.

Select 6 of 226 Passive Standard abilities for 168,488,720,400 possible Passive Standard combinations

Multiply to get 1,516,398,483,600 potential Passive Builds

Complete Builds

Multiply the Active Builds and the Passive Builds and you get 151,833,522,774,325,000,000 potential character builds. Using the 1 millionth of 1 percent number that I’ve used to filter for viability, that still represents 1,518,335 potential viable builds!


While each bit of information that we get reduces the raw numbers of builds that we can use, I think it stands to reason that this number is still staggeringly diverse and should allow for an extremely high degree of customization for our TSW characters.

For those of you who wold like to disect my math model, I’ve uploaded my latest version of the spreadsheet as well.

Excel 2007/2010 format: TSW-SkillBuilds-v3

Excel 97-2003 format: TSW-SkillBuilds-v3 (2003)

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