Shiness Is An Indie JRPG That Looks Anything But

By Nathan Grayson on May 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Shiness‘ pastel vistas and vast, Avatar-esque skyscapes were coming from a major Japanese publisher. The JRPG’s tribute’s production values are at least baseline triple-A-level, if not even more impressive in some places. Shiness, however, isn’t even Japanese, let alone the spawn of some publishing Godzilla. Instead, it’s the work of small French indie studio Enigami. Naturally they’ve taken to Kickstarter, but what they’ve already managed to build quite a lot. Video below.

Shiness’ world-building is undeniably impressive. It takes place on a series of celestial islands (the world exploded, kind of, but not entirely) and focuses on many different races, of which humanity is only one. The game’s developers even invented their own entire language, one of many holdovers from the fact that this world has apparently been in the works (in various ways) for 20 years.

Combat, meanwhile, is more action-oriented than traditional turn-based JRPG fare. It looks really smooth and well-animated, too. The influence of action anime (think Naruto or Dragonball Z) is pretty overt here.

All that said, the characters and plot seem cliched as all get-out, which is unfortunate. But then, it’s tough to find a JRPG – tribute or not – that doesn’t subscribe to the notion of the entire genre as comfort food. There are exceptions (Persona on consoles, for example), but JRPGs frequently straddle the line between reverence for the past and outright rut.

Shiness is seeking $100,000, and it’s already well on its way there. Think you’ll back it?

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81 Comments »

  1. Artea says:

    There is something profoundly unsettling about those furry characters. Though for an indie effort, it looks amazing.

    • Chalky says:

      It looks impressive for an indie effort, but still overwhelmingly generic in my opinion.

      Regardless, I’m sure it’ll appeal to some. I’d be interested to know whether just $100,000 is a realistic budget to complete a project of this apparent scale. It seems rather unlikely that you could just pay a few guys for a couple of years and end up with a finished product with the apparent quality of the video.

      Seems a bit suspect to me.

    • Zyrxil says:

      I’d say it’s a combination of it being a furry character, and the fact that it’s done in an 80s US cartoon style, instead of the anime style the human characters have. It’s really an odd decision on the creators’ part, and makes them look both outdated and odd.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Thank you for putting your finger on precisely the issue my brain was wordlessly struggling with – pick 80s American cartoon or anime, but not both please.

        For what it’s worth, I vote for 100% animorphics in anime style. Okay, I’ll shut up now…

    • draglikepull says:

      What is this bizarre obsession with “EWW FURRIES” that people in comment sections on video game web sites have? Most of us have been playing games with anthropomorphic animals in them for years and no one seemed to think this was strange until very recently. Like, I get that some people have a weird fetish that you’re not into, but if you’re so obsessed with thinking about that that you can’t enjoy a game that has nothing to do with the fetish that’s kind of weird. I don’t really understand foot fetishes but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying Rayman.

      • Melonfodder says:

        That’s not so much the problem here I think – rather it’s the style used in conjunction with anthropomorphic characters. Those huge eyes with painted on specs look aaawwwwffuuuuul. But other than that, hope these guys make it. For a KS effort from a new studio it’s nice to see something that is relatively ambitious.

    • DrManhatten says:

      What is more unsettling is the voice-over as it is neither french nor japanese it just sounds weird and off-putting

  2. Loque says:

    I understand that we’re living in the era of digital begging, that’s fine… but I’m starting to get tired of the insane amount of Kickstarter projects. I really wish there was a “skip kickstarter posts” option on this site.

    • fatgleeson says:

      Many times I’ve seen a game I am interested in, then see the ‘Kickstarter’ tag and just keep scrolling

    • vegeta1998 says:

      yep

    • 69stabcat says:

      yep

    • Hanban says:

      Yep! Imagine all the minutes you would save by not having to click yourself back to the homepage! Added across the year you’d probably have half an hour which you could spend staring blankly at the computer screen pondering how pointless your life is.

    • Frank says:

      Nope. I’d rather read about a game I haven’t heard of than whatever Ken Levine or Peter Molyneux are blathering on or the latest cod press release about any day. Thanks RPS

    • Keyrock says:

      There is. The RPS staff is nice enough to mention, pretty much always, if it’s a Kickstarter project in the first paragraph, before the jump. It’s generally bolded and in red to make it very easy to spot, so anyone can pick it out almost immediately. At that point, you have the option to stop reading, and, more importantly, to not click the link that brings you to the full story page. Problem solved. See how easy that was?

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Yeah man there’s like 300 Kickstarter posts per each Decent Game That Does Not Beg post in RPS…wait

  3. jbenholl says:

    They may want to hire a composer before they get sued for copyright infringement.

    • Geebs says:

      Because Square copyrighted painfully generic tuneless noodling over arpeggios?

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      You know, only an actual recording is given copyright. Which is why “sampling” may require licensing deals.

      And lyrics set to music are given copyright.

      Since this video shares neither lyrics with nor portions of the actual Chrono Cross intro recording, please enlighten us as to what, legally or ethically, is wrong here.

      • gwathdring says:

        Yeah …. the implication here is that you can’t use the same chord structures and instrumentation in two separate songs that share broad textures as a result of their chords structures. Which wipes out probably most of the poster’s favorite music.

        Originality in an absolute context is a fruitless pursuit. Relative originality from the purview of one’s audience is another matter, of course but even then it doesn’t hold a candle to implementation.

      • Targaff says:

        Um? Since when? You can absolutely register copyright in a musical composition, regardless of whether or not the composition includes lyrics. It’s wholly separate from sound recording copyright.

        • gwathdring says:

          We might be dealing with multiple legal systems here, bear in mind–for my part I figured the OP was just poorly worded. I think it’s quite clear that more than the literal recording is protected otherwise everyone would go wild with instrumental covers.

          But we should bear in mind, too, that being able to register a copyright and being able to practically enforce your monopoly over a work are two very different things. I don’t think copy right of a composition has very often successfully been used in court to attack similar sounding music–let alone music as weakly similar as the most relevant example.

          In the US, at least, the idea of compulsory license complicates matters–following certain parameters you cannot be refused a right to copy so long as you pay royalties.

          And of course there’s that age old problem of musical copying: what IS music? Is it the chords? The notes? The instruments? How much has to change before it can be considered an original work? What does original even mean with respect to music? Filing copyright is not necessarily sufficient to show you originated material; if there is robust evidence your material was not stolen or copied, then even alarming similarities will not always be enough to win you a suit. Fortunately, copyright isn’t anywhere near as first-post-y as patenting.

  4. pkg911 says:

    Omigosh Furriiieeessssss…
    No, just no.

    • gwathdring says:

      How do you people exist? How are there so many of these comments?!?

      Watership Down, a lot of disney, the Loony Toons, felix the cat, Sesame Street, The Muppets, Redwall, Beatrix Potter, the Rats of Nimh, like every mythological tradition ever.

      Anthropomorphic animals are not new. They are not gross. They are not all or even mostly connected to sexual sub-culture so even if we were determined to arrogantly label said sexual subculture inherently disgusting, that would still not apply to most of the media that people throw the label “furry” onto.

      Christ doing a jig on the head of a pin stuck in the eye of the motherfucking chicken of bristol *how do you people exist?*

  5. vegeta1998 says:

    Creepy furry shit from no name euro trash publishers? Let me get my wallet.

  6. Mutennn says:

    I thought you have to be a Japanese developer, making an RPG, for your game to be call a JRPG; but anyways, what do i know right?

    The game looks pretty, and already 50% founded, good luck!

    * I was trying to make a surrender joke on my post, but i couldn’t get it work :( *

    • RedViv says:

      That hasn’t really been the case for quite a while. It’s more “Japanese-style RPG” now. Wasn’t really ever that useful anyway, since several JRPGs could barely even be counted to be in the same genre, partly due to how vague the term RPG has become.

  7. Pombar says:

    Tales of Furrya

  8. Eight Rooks says:

    I seem to remember Nathan said he stopped playing JRPGs quite some time ago, so I’ll assume that’s why he’s jumped in with the “OMG this is amazing” and not his regular youthful enthusiasm. Saw this on Kotaku and, yeah, it’s an impressive effort for a no-name studio doing it in their spare time but it’s nowhere near AAA quality, not at this point in time. It looks like your average second-string PS2 filler with a resolution bump. And the art design really isn’t doing much for me – I’m not intrinsically opposed to furry characters, but these mostly just give me a a shudder, same as Dust did, and the rest of it seems fairly bland.

    Good on them for sticking with their dream project and all; if they can make Kickstarter work I’ll certainly cheer. But I don’t see any reason to praise it at this point beyond general applause for the effort these guys must have been putting in. Which is great! But it’s not what gets me to spend money on games.

  9. SkittleDiddler says:

    They’re building it with the Unreal Engine? Egads, it looks like a Unity game. With furries.

    Fucking furries.

  10. skyturnedred says:

    It looks like dirt and grass, but the characters seem to behave like they’re on ice. So much gliding.

  11. Harlander says:

    I keep reading the title as “Shininess”…

  12. Turkey says:

    I think playing this game would actually kill me.

  13. Geebs says:

    AaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh……..*breathes in*…..AaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

  14. Simbosan says:

    I don’t mind furry, I don’t mind generic JRPG, I like generic JRPG and don’t have one at the moment. I just can’t stand cel-shading. It takes a big 3D world and squishes it flat back to 2D again, all that effort, squashed. “Oooh let’s build huge sweeping landscapes and then… SQUISH!”

    Purely personal, but enough to stop me playing cel-shaded games. Nice as a gimmick, once, then no more.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I think the issue that cel-shaded 3d lacks the detail of photorealism, and also usually lacks the expresiveness of manually drawn artwork.

  15. InternetBatman says:

    I normally dislike the furry art style, but this intrigued me. It certainly has high production values.

  16. Fox89 says:

    Can we please stop calling these games ‘JRPGs’? I know all genre names are pretty terrible in games but this is the worst of the bunch. It’s a Japanese Role Playing Game! From France! That’s not confusing.

    It’s also pretty tiring to hear people go on about the ‘traditional JRPG tropes’ like turn based battles. How many notable RPGs have come over to the west from Japan in recent years with turn based battles? Final Fantasy? Barely. Tales of Xillia? Nope. Xenoblade? No. There’s just Bravely Default on the 3DS and a couple of HD remakes.

    You know what the most talked about Japanese RPG has been in recent years? Dark Souls. Let’s at least try to shake off this outdated view that every game Japan makes is some variation of FFVII.

    • Jenks says:

      Nope, JRPG is a tag for the genre of a game, not its country of origin. It’s been that way for a very long time.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Yeah, they’ve evolved into two different styles. This is likely down to RPGs being simultaneously developed as genres in both places, so they went their separate ways.
        It’s why there’s Japanese-made RPGs which feel very much like Western RPGs, like the aforementioned Dark Souls and things like Dragon’s Dogma.
        Also France has been making JRPG-style things for quite a while. Heck, there’s a hugely popular MMO they have and it’s it’s a very Japanese-looking SRPG. Child of Light is also basically a JRPG.

  17. Frank says:

    Scrolling down their pitch, it seems they do plenty of nongeneric stuff, having characters whose special abilities solve puzzles (like in Trine, Gobliiins, …) and problems that can be solved through stealth, fighting and negotiation…. which, um, sounds impossibly ambitious.

    Anyway, I do hate combo moves, so this’ll be a pass. They say “Given its wide range of attacks, your hero will only be at his full potential if you memorize all specials combo combinations.” Ugh

  18. LTK says:

    Wow, it’s like it’s National Griping Day in Gripeville, Gripetopia with all the griping going on around here. I can’t see why that is, they obviously have a lot to show for their work in both the worldbuilding and game design department. I say, the best of luck to them.

    Okay, I’m lying, I can see why that is, it’s because everyone seems to have an irrational dislike for anthropomorphic animals and any game featuring them is inevitably going to get griped on because of it.

    • Sian says:

      See, I don’t get this. I grew up on anthropomorphic animals – Mickey Mouse et al, to be specific. I can see how the more… shady parts of furry fandom freaks people out; hell, it freaks me out too. Don’t want to see animal porn. But simple anthropomorphic creatures in entertainment? That’s been around for decades. Centuries if you count fables. So why all the hate?

      • Harlander says:

        It’s the kind of memetic metastasis that’s incredibly pronounced on the Internet, coupled with the tendency to associate all members of a set with the actions of the least palatable members. (I’m prone to do that with 4chan, for example.)

        • gwathdring says:

          That’s lovely! I’ll have to be stealing that. :D

          Whereby malignancies grow off of memes and metastasize until they are more broadly distributed than the parent meme and begin deteriorating the health of the parent organism.

      • pepperfez says:

        Personally I have an issue with the lameness of the mainstream “anthro” style, which seems designed to sap away everything that makes human-animal characters interesting. I totally get the appeal of identifying with animal characteristics, but I wish they would have latched onto a better look.

        But of course that’s not what the “Ewwwwww, furries!” brigade objects to, because they’re among the worst people on the internet.

      • Chris D says:

        Yeah, anthropomorphic animals have been used in storytelling for centuries. Off the top of my head there’s:

        Aesop’s fables
        Any number of fairy tales – three little pigs, goldilocks and the three bears etc,
        Brer Rabbit
        Wind in the Willows
        Beatrix Potter
        Narnia
        The Jungle book
        Winnie the Pooh
        Animal Farm
        Mickey Mouse and friends
        Bugs Bunny and co.
        The Muppets
        Dangermouse
        Dogtanian and the Muskehounds
        and probably a ton of others

        Anyone who just thinks “Urgh Furries” any time they see an anthropomorphic animal is juist panfully unaware of their own cultural heritage.

    • Geebs says:

      I respect your right to your opinion, but that argument was lost the first time somebody drew both boobs and a massive ejaculating erection on an anthropomorphic fox and made it appear in my internet search for something entirely innocent.

      • gwathdring says:

        I suppose the presence of porn images in your middle-era (post everything-is-on-the-internet-somewhere, pre we-finally-figured-out-effective-safe-search-algorithms) google searches also ruined cups, leather, every comic book character ever, every children’s character ever, fruit, water, anything about extra-terrestrials, and pirates? :P

        • gwathdring says:

          There really was a period of about 5 years where google image searching for anything that possessed something resembling a fandom would drag up porn.

          I was trying to remember was various characters from The Magic School bus looked like once and I feel very sorry for that poor bus.

          • The Random One says:

            What you don’t know is that Geebs actually feels that way. Every time someone brings a cup in the room he punches them shouting GET THIS FILTHY THING AWAY FROM ME.

          • gwathdring says:

            Heeheehee. It’s funny how these things propagate. I’ve never actually seen most of the porn/shock memes from that era, but I’m nonetheless familiar with them because everyone knew SOMEONE who a) encountered it and b) felt the need to make a point of it in one way or another.

            Unfortunately my experience with the Hamster Dance is first hand. God saying that makes me feel so much older than it should.

            Quite recently I was looking up “peanut butter jelly time” because I was wondering how the meme had evolved over time and I found a picture of an anthropomorphic jar of peanut butter having sex with an anthropomorphic jar of jelly surprisingly high up in the list.

            P.S. Edited for syntax. Jar of anthropomorphic jelly and anthropomorphic jar of jelly are somewhat different.

  19. Philomelle says:

    I saw the Kickstarter earlier. The combat engine looks interesting, but everything else…

    I’m sorry, it’s actually not the furries. It’s that they very obviously saw how popular Wakfu is and decided they want to get some of that. The art style is very gratingly “inspired” (just check the recent Wakfu animated series Kickstarter for comparison) by that series and having seen it, I can even tell which episode inspired which location in their trailer.

    I’m fine with anthro animals and I loved Wakfu, which is the closest we’ll ever have to Ultima Online 2 even after Shroud of the Avatar comes out. But this is so obviously inspired by that franchise (which originates in France, where Shiness’s developer is from) that it actually raised my eyebrow.

    Going through the Kickstarter more thoroughly, they even styled the pledge reward list to resemble Wakfu’s. This is embarrassing.

    • particlese says:

      Woah, that’s the closest to traditional 2D anime I’ve ever seen from 3D-based stuff. Not quite there, but really close! I’m thinking of both fan-made rigged character model demos and real anime with 3D elements, which I usually feel are animated too smoothly. Unless it’s something just floating along — then it’s the realistically-changing perspective/parallax which feels weird in the anime context.

      • Philomelle says:

        According to Ankama, the entire series is animated in Flash. It’s hard to believe when you watch the series, it lacks the usual “floatiness” one would associate with that kind of animation. The whole thing looks incredibly good in motion.

        The game it’s based on is a turn-based strategy/RPG set in an open sandbox world. It’s unique among other big MMOs of our time because it actually lacks a questline or even an NPC-driven government structure. People forage for items, trade and craft everything on their own, and the governor of every in-game faction is a player elected by other people from that faction and allowed to customize laws regarding what one can and cannot do while in their territory.

        It’s a surprisingly good and robust game. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else on the market.

        • particlese says:

          Well, balls, I thought I had a keen eye, but after another watch: Yup, I guess that’s where the floatiness really comes from…jeez, that’s got to be a lot of work! Not that 3D isn’t, but…I’m going to have to check this out. The game I’m not too sure about*, but I’m definitely intrigued by the show now. It’s like the Mirror’s Edge interludes** but much more anime-like. And much more French***-sounding (for now). ;)

          *You were so enthusiastic that I typed much boring text, but I decided to delete it and make a footnote: It mostly boils down to time and visual style. For me.
          **I think I’m the only one who didn’t mind these.
          ***Asterisksksksksks! Asterix? (I just wanted to make another footnote.)

    • Bewoulve says:

      Hello, french reader here.

      Sorry but saying the art style was “inspired” by Wakfu seems a bit silly from my point of view : the dudes from Ankama are certainly very good at what they’re doing, but it’s not like their work is anything original around here.

      Mangas and anime have allways been very popular in France, every single kid born in the eighties and ninties grew up with the same classics and a lot of those kids learned to draw by trying to copy the art style of people like Akira Toriyama, Shingo Araki or Hayao Miyazaki.

      You may think of Wakfu when looking at Shiness (actually, I feel this looks much more like Tail Concerto), but it’s not like the universe of Ankama comes from nowhere.

    • gwathdring says:

      Holy shit. Wakfu looks breathtakingly gorgeous from that pitch video.

  20. particlese says:

    *consults Kickstarter page* AHA! They did create their own language for this. I was intrigued that it sounded like Japanese but was incomprehensible, and yup, they have a pair of linguists inventing things.

    And because I’ve had it stuck in my head recently, here’s Prisencolinensinainciusol — also made-up language (or words, at least), but a bit more entertaining:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X_7iMHugXM#t=90

    Anyway, best of luck to these folks! Not really my cup of tea, but it certainly looks like the effort’s there.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Always a nice touch when they do things like that.
      I can only think of Simlish and the mix of Swedish, English & Gibberish Magicka uses in games though.

      • PsychoWedge says:

        Jade Empire, Outcast, Ultima, Blizzard with WarCraft and arguebly all of the Lord of the Rings games do it too.

        • Ringwraith says:

          The fact I’ve not played most of those says a lot.
          Though I wouldn’t count Lord of the Rings as they were already written before games were made of them. So the languages weren’t specifically made for a game. Though it’s splitting hairs mostly.

          • PsychoWedge says:

            Well, that’s why I wrote arguably, even if I misspelled it… xD

            The work that went into the languages in these games varies a lot though. In Jade Empire you hear the same 30-40 sound bits over and over again, even though the language itself (Tho Fan or something like that) is much, much more fleshed out. They basically used it to save disc space.

            Outcast had hundreds of words but very little grammar and stuff and I’m not so sure if all the different languages in Warcraft are even languages to the least extend or just some character swapping algorithm. Although they did record a song called The Lament of the Highborne in the Thalassian language for Burning Crusade…

          • particlese says:

            Argoobley!

            I had forgotten about World of Warcraft’s language manipulation. I thought it was a pretty cool idea for restricting communication between factions.

            Another game was Skyrim with its dragon language. I’m not sure how fleshed out it really is, but there’s enough to make the theme song and some conversations, at least. I think it would have been more convincing if they didn’t repeat the greeting in English every time it was said, but I enjoyed the slight alienation nonetheless.

          • gwathdring says:

            I hate it when that happens. It’s like … use the language of the character or the language of the audience. Don’t use *both* unless one of them is a subtitle or represents the character speaking more than one language one of which the audience’s language stands in for.

            I get using accents to remind the audience that the characters are speaking a different language from the audience. That’s a technique that combats an audience perception issue and it’s a valid technique as such (it’s no more silly for them to speak English in German accents when they’re in-fiction speaking German than it is for them to speak German in English accents or English in English accents; there is a valid stylistic space for each of those choices). I also get using individual words to do the same thing–remind the audience of the different culture and maintain a sense of alienation or foreign-ness. But when you say “Schlardi, hello.” or “Take this glorkfil–bread you would call it.” it’s just weird and patronizing. If the neither the character nor the audience need an explanation, offering one is needlessly immersion breaking. If one or the other needs explanation … you need to be very careful of the inconsistency that divide creates and use extreme skill and caution in proceeding to explain especially since sometimes not explaining creates it’s own power and intrigue and immersion and whatnot. If both need explanation … that’s where you break out the translations and the in-character exposition being careful of course because exposition is inherently a little clumsy.

          • particlese says:

            I agree with you 100% there, although I must admit I get a kick out of Tolkien saying the same name in five different tongues in rapid succession. Still, I think it works: I’d say it consistently fits the general character of his writing and the speech of his characters, if nothing else.

            Another technique related to all this which I saw recently was in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. The Klingons talked in Klingon with English subtitles while the human protagonists held translators to their ears. After a while, everyone was speaking English (except for the occasional untranslated expletive, probably), and it seemed like a pretty natural transition, other than the fact I noticed and thought it was interesting.

            In terms of games, I remember hearing about one years ago where more of the subtitles or text-only conversations were automatically translated the further along you were, but I can’t remember what it was. PsychoWedge’s post and a little Googling point me toward Outcast, though. Seems like a really good way for games to immerse you in the foreign environment.

          • gwathdring says:

            That’s a VERY cool technique! :D

            Also I’m with you on Tolkien … to a point. I love Tolkien. It works for me. But then I read Dune and I had exactly the same reaction to it many of my friends did to Tolkien and it suddenly *cllicked.* :P So while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’d say it “works.”

            The language part definitely works better than it does in Dune. Dune is my go-to example of bad sci-fi language. THIs iS a WoRD FoR BrEad. It means bread. It dosn’t mean special bread that does something special. It means bread. This is a word for sword. It doesn’t means special sword that does something special. It means sword. Bene Gesserit? Fine. Awesome. Grok (sorry, switched authors)? Awesome. But sometimes the extra language neither creates interesting sentences nor provides insight into the fictional cultures nor provides a term for something that English does not describe.

          • particlese says:

            Ahh, interesting! I haven’t read any Dune, but I have a similar feeling about certain other books, such as Deus Ex: Icarus Effect. That one in particular drops fictional brand names like it’s its job, as if all these companies will somehow be involved with the grand conspiracy. Maybe they are, but there’s no hint of it in the book that I can remember. A character might use not just a rifle, not just a .30-06, but this specific brand of .30-06 rifle that he has no particular attachment to and whose maker doesn’t do anything interesting other than making at least this one gun. Maybe that’s just something modern military novels do, but I find it really awkward and useless. Then again, most of what I’ve read is Asimov, who seems to stick to descriptive or repurposed English words like “kettle” and “psychohistory”. I can see how the repurposing could be annoying, but it seems like he does it for the sake of brevity and specificity rather than doing it just to try to sound cool. And I suppose he does make up names for people and places like it’s nobody’s business, but that seems much more natural than blurting out brand names. :)

            At any rate, thanks for the stimulating conversation! Makes me think I should check out the forums more often…

    • The Random One says:

      Nice. Usually when a dev says “we invented our own language” it means “we forced our voice actors to read from an English substitution cypher”.

  21. widardd says:

    Looks like Zelda plus Tales which is nice, but judging from these QTE-nogos it might turn out flat and too easy.

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