Denisse Kreeger

S1 EP12 – Ft. Denisse Kreeger

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Episode Transcription

FLOR: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another Open World LocFact. This time we’re going to be talking about the cultural aspects in one of the most famous multiplayer online battle arena games… Yes, you guessed it: League of Legends.

ALEX: That’s right. Thanks to Riot, we got to know that some of our favorite playable characters have been influenced by different real-world cultures.

FLOR: Yes, let’s start with the beautiful Ahri. The initial concept was based on a mythological character known as Kumiho, a nine-tailed fox. The East Asian influence on Ahri further expanded into her skin lines, such as Popstar and, later, K/DA.

ALEX: Now, I remember the time when the Popstar skin came out, I know that many people were obsessed with it! In 2018, Riot ventured into the K-Pop world with K/DA. Now this is a musical group that is in the Korean Pop Genre. They’re led by Ahri and integrated by Kai’Sa, Ahri, Akali, and Evelynn.

FLOR: I absolutely love them! Another character that has an interesting backstory is Neeko. Neeko was heavily influenced by Brazilian references. A bold move by the localization team was to record Neeko’s English voice-over in Brazil with the support and supervision of the Localization team, of course. And that had a clear positive impact on the final product. Through these examples, we can see the importance of having a solid localization team behind the curtains.

ALEX: Totally. You can really tell when a team puts real work and effort in the localization of their video game. Another character with Latin American influences is Qiyana. The Qiyana concept was inspired by ancient Mexican civilizations, and we learned that the central teams even collaborated with some aspects of her voice-over.

FLOR: These are such powerful and strong characters! Thanks again Riot for this insightful LocFact!

ALEX: Yeah. We are so honored to have received this insight directly from the Riot Localization team. Huge shout-out to those folks and to the amazing work they did portraying different cultures and lore so seamlessly into the game.

FLOR: And thank you guys, our viewers, for all the support and love you show for Open World! See you all next time in the next LocFact!

FLOR: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. How are you today? We have a very special guest with us today. Her name is Denisse, she’s the Head of Global Localization Production at Riot Games. Welcome, Denisse Kreeger. Thank you so much for joining us today. How are you?

DENISSE: I’m great. How’s everybody doing? Thank you for having me. It’s obviously different temperature where we are, right?

FLOR: Yes. We were just mentioning that because I feel like an old lady here, like with this blanket in my shoulders, because it’s chilly in Buenos Aires. Ale was mentioning that he looks like out of the “It” film.

ALEX: I look like George. I’m gonna find It in a sewer somewhere with this jacket.

FLOR: No, please, don’t bring him.

ALEX: No, we don’t need It today. Please.

FLOR: So, Denisse, we are super excited to have you here. And we really want to learn about your story and what you’ve been doing in the localization and the video game fields. So first of all, I wanted to know, because I know that you’re super active in different associations such as Women in Localization and Women in Games, as well. But I’m super curious on, where did you start and what motivated you to be involved in those associations? And if there’s any other association that you’re collaborating with nowadays.

DENISSE: Yeah. So I’m actually the Chapter Manager for L.A. on the Women in Localization group. That’s one of the organizations I officially am part of. But just to take a step back for everyone, I’ve been in localization for close to 15 years, but throughout those 15 years, I’ve had so many different roles, right? So I even worked for the federal government very early on in my localization career, which was completely different.

ALEX: Wow. I didn’t know that.

DENISSE: Yeah, So I worked in, you know, investigations, doing translation work and so on. And so, as I moved into the entertainment industry through my master’s degree, I went to the U.K. and did a master’s in audio visual translation, I got in touch with the localization community and as well as the academics behind it, because a lot of people in localization, especially in the United States, outside of Europe and other countries, learn localization on the job, right? There is no formal training for it. And so through my master’s in the UK, I really developed a network of academics that study, you know, why are subtitles timed in a certain way? How many characters, you know, who determines how many characters are used, and so on? And that there’s a science behind that. And so through these networks, attending conferences like Languages & the Media and so on, has allowed me to be someone that talks about the importance of localization through different platforms. And that’s one of my biggest goals. And why I’m part of Women in Localization is to talk constantly of the value of Loc across the board in all the different industries, because localization exists all over. Everything you’re interacting with has an option of localization. Are you using Google Maps? Are you using your Facebook? People around the world need localization to have that, right? So that’s one of my big missions. So to answer your question, I’m working with lecturers, academics, people who are doing research behind the scenes, and then through the Women in Localization network, just trying to join more events and expanding that network. And whoever wants to talk to me about localization, I’m always open to it.

FLOR: If there is someone listening to this show and is interested in joining these associations, should they reach directly to you or is there any specific platform they could access to get more information about this?

ALEX: Yes, we can totally put it in the comments, if that’s the case.

DENISSE: Yeah. So we have our organization. You can look it up, We have LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups. And so the organization is actual actually global. So depending on where you live, you can look up to see if there’s a chapter associated with it, and then you can join that chapter. You can be a member, you can volunteer your time. Sometimes we’re recruiting and looking for people to help us out with different roles. So, yes, and if you can’t find it, feel free to reach out. The best way to reach me is LinkedIn. I do try to spend, uh… once every couple of weeks, I go through my inbox and try to make sure that I can help anybody that has questions about localization in general, career, mentorship. I sometimes speak to students. That’s another way that I stay in touch with the community, students that want to hear more about, how do you get into this career and how does that work and what happens behind the scenes? I also recently did a talk for the State University System to talk about careers that can lead to localization, that are in technology, that are in the arts, UX/UI design, programmers. There’s just so much in localization that overlaps. And I see this becoming even more and more crucial to be part of the skills of others. So yes, hit me up on LinkedIn.

FLOR: I love that you’re so in touch with the community, especially with the students, because sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming having so many options, and to reach out to people that may have so many years of experience in the industry can be even intimidating at times, right? So to stay close to the students and to understand their needs is super important. So, well, thank you for your work, Denisse.

ALEX: Yeah. I mean, it’s super important, and that’s kind of one of the reasons that we invited you, you know, because of your career, what you have experienced throughout. I didn’t know that you were that many years in the localization industry, in different areas. But we want to step back to your time dubbing at Netflix. What made you like do the jump to video games? And are there any similarities with the localization process between the entertainment industry versus the gaming industry?

DENISSE: Yeah, I get this question pretty often, and I think, traditionally, there’s been a very [cut-off audio] separation between both industries. And I think more recently we’re starting to see a little bit more of an overlap or talent that’s jumping from one industry to the other, which I think is great, honestly. I think it promotes different practices and points of view on how to scale localization and so on. So little fun fact, when I did my education for my audio visual translation degree, I intended to go get it so that I could go into the video game localization world, because part of the modules that I studied, in addition to dubbing and subtitling, it was video game localization. I was a gamer, I grew up, you know… I am a gamer. I grew up playing video games because I’m an only child. So I was always, you know, very into gaming, especially console gaming, and in the more recent years as a way for me to just entertain myself, too. It’s an outlet for a lot of us, right? So I had that interest. But when I joined that master’s, I got an internship at a localization vendor company that supported film and TV, and that’s how I started my journey in film and TV, and then got an opportunity at Netflix, where I helped build a lot of the infrastructure for localization, for subtitling, as well as dubbing. And so when I had the opportunity to sort of come full circle, I took it, right? Of, “All right, I now kind of developed this expertise in localization for film and TV, I wanna know what it’s like to develop it as well for gaming.” And I made that jump. And I’m so happy I did because it’s allowed me to really grow and see different processes. So to answer your question, the fundamentals of localization are the same, right? So there has to be a creative aspect to translation, to adaptation, voice recording for characters. But the things around the fundamentals are what are different. So processes and tools, workflows, cadence in which, you know, things have to kind of move. One thing that I always tell people is, if you have a film or you have a series, it kind of has a beginning and an end date. With games, you can keep going for years and years and years.

ALEX: Yes, ongoing localization. It never stops, right?

FLOR: So that’s actually, if you work with big franchises, right? And when you have marketing campaigns or release live-ops, and it’s so fast-paced, right? Compared to other industries.

DENISSE: That’s right.

FLOR: And I wanted to know a bit more about your role within Riot Games. What is it like to be part of such a huge company that represents so much within the gaming industry nowadays, right? What were your expectations when you started?

DENISSE: Well, Flor, I think that’s a really good question, especially my particular role. So I head Localization Production, and many people don’t know what that means, right? So figuring out how that discipline is such a key and important aspect of ensuring that localization happens has been mind-blowing to me. So as I was mentioning, the difference between film and TV is that it’s very linear. It sort of starts and it ends, and the workflow’s kind of the same no matter what every project. Whereas with game development, there’s different game engines, there’s different processes and cadence. And so every time you’re gonna spin up a new game, you have to build an entire pipeline that will help localization happen. And that’s essentially what my team does. So my producers go in and say, “Okay, we have this new game, let’s build a pipeline, let’s put all the processes in place.” And so when you work for a company like Riot, where now it’s not just one product, and previously I was at Blizzard Entertainment, which again, has quite a few games, you have to really understand what’s the nuance and the difference from all of those. And so I will tell you that my favorite part of joining, you know, the gaming space in Riot is that I get the best of all worlds. What I mean by that is that my production team works with the development teams for games, with publishing teams for marketing, they work with website localization, they work with campaigns, events. I mean, we touch everything, and I think that’s super exciting.

FLOR: I love that you bring this because a lot of people think about localization, video game localization and they immediately think about in-game content, and there’s so much in between that it’s not just limited to that, right? And I find it fascinating because you get to learn from all these teams, the different perspectives, and to see the lens through the publishing team or even the marketing team is super interesting.

DENISSE: That’s absolutely right. They just cover so much. And then we are negotiators, we are, you know, producers at the core, we’re dealing with all these different teams to make the magic happen.

FLOR: Exactly.

ALEX: Yeah. I mean, you can, you can set any example, right? The cement that glues everything together or whatever. Yeah, you are everywhere. But going back to your team, right, is such a diverse team that works in so many different areas. We know that you promote yourself a healthy work culture, and not only within your team, but among teams, right? Can you share any specific tips that you have involved within [cut-off audio] or your communication?

DENISSE: Sure. This is a big one for me. I care a lot about promoting and ensuring that there is a healthy work culture, an environment where people feel empowered to grow and to be able to develop themselves, but also bring their authentic self to work. So I would say those are one of the key areas, right? Be yourself. Don’t try to copy how someone is or try to portray someone that you’re not. So be yourself. Be honest. And collaboration is a huge one for me. I always feel that the environment in which people grow the most is when they get to work with others. In some companies, there’s a lot of space for creating silos where people kind of work on their own.

ALEX: Yeah. Like bubbles.

DENISSE: Yeah, exactly. So you compartmentalize your team and the next thing you know, morale is low or, you know, there’s burnout or there’s that sense that you’re not really kind of stimulated by anything else. And so that is one of the key areas that I focus on. I always try to drive initiatives where people can work together to solve problems. I think that really helps people feel like they have a purpose. And on top of it, like I mentioned, you know, being yourself, opportunity for feedback, allowing vulnerability, you know? Being able to say, “Hey, I made a mistake.” Even me as a leader, as a manager, I like to call out, you know, “Hey, keep me honest, I screwed this one up,” you now. Let me learn, let me make… help me be better. Right? And so that’s part of the journey of leadership. I think it’s not about just telling your team what to do or how to do it, but it’s about growing with them and understanding and adapting to their needs, and trying to forecast changes in the business so that you can adjust so that they are in a good place. I mean, there’s a lot of different things I can talk about this topic, but I think, at the core, is allowing people to be themselves, leveraging their strengths, and also helping overcome their so-called, you know, challenges or opportunities.

FLOR: I think that’s great advice. And one of well, for me, for example, one of the most challenging aspects is breaking these bubbles or popping these bubbles and trying to keep communication flowing, because sometimes, when you have so many people involved in the process, they may have different goals, they have a different agenda, and you have to align those planets and make it work somehow, right? Going back to your role, because I know that you mentioned all the stakeholders and all the teams that you collaborate on a daily basis, but I would like to know, how does the localization process look? Depending, of course, on the content, it may vary, I guess. But is there any specific method that you use or, for example, depending on tools or even for quality assurance, is there anything in particular that you would like to share with us?

DENISSE: Yeah. So… It’s complex, right? Especially as I mentioned, because we touch so many different types of assets, in-game as well as out of game. So we have different pipelines for those and different groups and departments, and what we call requesters, which are those within, let’s say, Riot that require localization services or localization practice. So we are constantly educating. We have a ticketing system for requesting, you know, anything that they require. So we have a lot of communication channels for that and like, “Hey, I have a need for something. Can localization help?” So we have that set up. We also have our regular operational workflows where we use things like CAT tools and content management systems. Also, one of the really, really cool things that we have at Riot on the localization department is we have a localization technology team. So that’s a team dedicated to help incorporate tooling, ensure that we’re meeting our stakeholder needs, but also that we’re scaling our operational footprint downstream. Because another thing that we do is, while my team is centrally located in headquarters with a few in Europe, a lot of our regional teams also are doing localization work. So it’s quite a lot to manage, and so we have to have the appropriate tools in place and LQA practices, partnerships. It’s quite a lot, really. But our technology…

FLOR: I bet.

DENISSE: Yeah. Our technology team helps a lot with trying to solve some of the process areas and ensuring that, in the future, we can continue to do the work that we can at a high-quality level without exploding as a team, right?

ALEX: Right. And to oil the communication between all teams the best way you guys can, right?

DENISSE: That’s right.

ALEX: So let’s… I mean, you told us that you’re a gamer, Denisse, okay? But we don’t know what you’re playing right now.

FLOR: Is there anything that you can recommend?

ALEX: Is there anything that caught your eye, maybe, I don’t know, in the E3 that happened just now? Or your go-to game. For example, my go-to game is Bloodborne on my PS4.

DENISSE: That’s a good one.

ALEX: I’m a big Bloodborne fan. I suck at it, I die a lot, of course.

FLOR: Yeah. Were just talking about, for example, one of our colleagues and I don’t like dying a lot, so it’s a bit frustrating for us.

ALEX: I was trying to explain to them that it’s part of the game’s mechanics, right? You have to die in order to get better. But what are you playing right now?

DENISSE: So I… Because I’m a manager, I am talking all day with people or trying to help make decisions. So rather than… like, for a lot of us or a lot of people that like to have a community when they game, I like to be on my own. It’s kind of my me time.

ALEX: Understandable.

FLOR: Love it.

DENISSE: So I like single player type of thing. I don’t like to kind of get into… I just want to be in the zone, be on my own and do my thing. So I’ve been playing a lot of the Spider-Man game. So the first one as well as Miles Morales. Miles Morales is the one that I’ve been playing a lot, and I love it because I also have this weird obsession with flying ever since I was a kid. I always liked heights and I like anything that’s kind of like the feeling of flying. And so I get in that game and I know I can just swing around and look at the… It’s a beautiful-looking game as well. I just swing around. And I like, you know, the mechanics and so on of the fighting and… Yeah, that’s my go-to. I sit down on my couch, I grab my PS5, and that’s how I decompress. So that’s been definitely my go-to. I’ve also been playing Cyberpunk, but not as much. Not as much.

ALEX: Well, it’s a…

FLOR: I love the…

ALEX: Sorry, Flor.

FLOR: Go ahead. Go ahead. It’s all right.

ALEX: I was gonna say that Cyberpunk is a whole different experience, right? Where the world is big and everything, but it’s a more complex RPG kind of element thing, right? You have to think a little bit more probably than just, like, sit back, chill and relax with a Spider-Man game.

DENISSE: Exactly.

FLOR: I love that that you mentioned the idea of flying. I have the same thing, but for swimming. And lately I’ve been playing Subnautica: Below Zero a lot. And I get that feeling that I’m underwater. And, well, here in Buenos Aires, during the pandemic, I haven’t got the chance to go to a swimming pool, so that’s my go-to and my escape, too. So I love that about games, that you can find that headspace and relax and connect to what makes you you, right? So…

ALEX: Single player games… Sorry…

FLOR: Go ahead. Go ahead. It’s your turn, Ale.

ALEX: Single player games are so important as well, right? I love playing with my friends, but single player games are just kind of like a need sometimes to decompress. But moving on from games because I’m going to stay talking forever.

FLOR: Yeah, we can be talking for hours.

ALEX: We would like to know a bit about diversity and inclusion, right? We would like to know about Riot’s plans in the topic, about diversity and inclusion, whether it’s something in the short term or the long term that you might like to share with our audience.

DENISSE: I’m glad you asked that question. It’s a very important question. I think it should be asked across the board, you know, constantly, because it has to be top of mind. When it comes to Riot specifically, I can say that, you know, it definitely feels top of mind, and there’s a lot of activities happening around ensuring that there’s that awareness and that there’s also not only the awareness in the talk, right? Because it’s easy to just talk about, “Hey, yeah, we need to be better at this or we need to be conscious of this.” But the actual action behind it is what we need more of. We have a lot of internal groups where we help with consultants for even some of the products, which I think is something that’s needed and really fantastic. So we have more diversity happening in things like our agents for Valorant, and we have more diversity just across our champions and stories and representing, you know, diverse voices. I personally always, and I’m a big advocate for D&I, and I always join groups and accessibility groups as well. I think it’s super important. I’m part of the LGBTQ community, I’m Latina, you know? So I always want to make sure that we are stepping forward. And Riot, from a personal… I’m not speaking for the company, but from my personal perspective, I really feel that we’re prioritizing this, right? I really feel that there’s room, there’s always room for improvement. I’m not saying it’s…

FLOR: Yeah, absolutely. Always. For everyone.

DENISSE: Of course. But the investment of, you know, okay, let’s do the right thing, let’s ensure that we have safe space and that we are also not just putting products out there with a notion of representation, but let’s bring the people that can actually represent properly. And I think that’s one really cool thing that I’m seeing currently, and I see it happening more and more, and I’m looking forward to it becoming a part of the process, right? You want to incorporate a new champion, you want to do something new, a new environment, a new map? Let’s bring the people that can actually represent that properly, not just the person that can do the research.

ALEX: Right, that can interpret…

DENISSE: Interpretation, exactly. Exactly. So I think that’s really cool. I want to see more of that across the board for everything. And it also gives opportunity to bring in more talent, right? Because we want to represent the world truthfully in everything that we’re interacting with, in games and all of entertainment. So if we look at our own companies or our own teams and we’re not seeing that representation, that’s a call to action to us. And I think that’s what it’s about, right?

FLOR: I love that there are so many new initiatives happening, and what a time to be part of this industry, right? Because we have the opportunity to generate so much change and to bring new voices and to bring this representation that is so much needed right now.

DENISSE: Absolutely.

ALEX: Yeah. It’s very inspiring as well to see that point of view from your perspective, right? In leadership, as well. So thank you for that, Denisse. Awesome.

FLOR: Yes. And for the people tuning in, they probably already saw the LocFact section of this episode, that we included a lot of information about the champions and how you came together and brought those characters to life bringing different perspectives from different cultures. So we love that, also.

ALEX: Now, Denise, we know that Arcane is coming. So can you tell us a little bit about that? Whatever you can.

DENISSE: Yes. So I’m very excited about Arcane, I’m not gonna lie. It’s been really fun working on it. Riot is obviously new at producing this type of content, and one of the really, really fun facts here is that joining Riot from my background and experience has been a really nice fit to help them build localization infrastructure for content such as this one. I can’t share a ton of details, but all of you know there’s…

FLOR: We have to wait.

DENISSE: Yes, you have to wait. But we’re working really hard on getting this out. You know, we’re partnering with Netflix on it, which is super exciting. And of course, localization is a massive part of it, so we want this to be a global experience. And that is about as much as I can say. But stay tuned. Definitely watch it. It’s really, really good.

ALEX: Now, it’s set for Autumn, right?

FLOR: Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. It’s announced for Autumn this year. Next year, is it?

DENISSE: This year.

ALEX: This year. That’s September. Something like that.

FLOR: Maybe next time for season two, you can join us and give a little bit more details on this project. And congratulations to everyone who’s working behind it.

ALEX: Yes, we are very excited, guys. Thank you for doing this, by the way.

DENISSE: Thank you. I’m sure the League of Legends fans out there… It’s gonna be fun to see, you know, these characters and their stories really portrayed in this series. So I’m really looking forward to that, as well. And yes, maybe by next time, we can talk a little bit more about it.

ALEX: For sure.

FLOR: Yeah, we would love to. So, yeah, now we’re gonna jump to our memes.

ALEX: Now, this is relatable, to say the least.

FLOR: Yeah. And it’s totally related to the fact that we are gamers and every single one of us has a different zone, like you mentioned, so. Well, this is pizza and rain, but do you have any specific moment or scenario that makes it perfect for you?

DENISSE: Oof! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza, right?

ALEX: Pizza and raining outside, I mean…

FLOR: Yeah. Make it a Friday and that’s perfect for us.

DENISSE: And some chocolate chip cookies for dessert, you know?

ALEX: Yeah.

FLOR: And a little milk, you know? That’s perfect. That’s it. Yeah, I mean, that’s my Friday night right there.

DENISSE: So that means in a few hours, hopefully?

FLOR: Yeah. My plans. Feeling a bit old, but yeah, what can I say? That’s me. It happens.

DENISSE: Yeah. That’s me all the time. All the time.

ALEX: Yeah. I mean, even the Dark Souls tutorial can be a little bit like the Dark Mario here as well. Maybe if you’re facing Gundyr or if you’re facing the Cleric Beast, it can get pretty shady as well.

FLOR: Well, for me, it’s like for every single game, it doesn’t matter how hard it is. Being a perfectionist, every single time I face a new game, it’s like I have to master it like the very first second I start playing. And I know that it doesn’t to work like that, but that’s just me. I don’t know.

ALEX: Yeah. And I call it like being bad at Dark Souls. Even though I love the game, I love the games, yeah, I suck at it. That’s you, Flor, right here! You being a perfectionist.

DENISSE: This one’s great.

ALEX: That’s like Devil May Cry, right? Triple S style. You’re kicking ass in style.

FLOR: Aww! Yeah, this feeling. I’m definitely gonna relate. How many times I tried to hug a character in a game?

ALEX: My God.

FLOR: Is there any specific game that you remember playing when you were younger?

DENISSE: Oh, no! I I’m gonna date myself really terribly.

ALEX: I’m 32 years old, so I’m gonna beat you to it.

FLOR: I’m almost 34, so you’re good.

DENISSE: I beat you both, so… you know. I obviously loved the Nintendo games back in the day, right? I mean, I even had a chance to play with my cousin’s Atari. I mean, that’s how far back, you know, I go. But I used to love Mario 3.

ALEX: Oh, that’s the best one, in my opinion. The raccoon tail.

DENISSE: Ninja Turtles. It was the Ninja Turtles game I used to love. And then I was really into the Sonic games when I had a Sega. Those were fun, but yeah.

FLOR: Yeah. I remember spending hours with my sister and my cousin also playing Sonic as well. So, yeah. You’re fine with your references. And it makes you even cooler because you have so much information that some kids don’t even know about, right?

DENISSE: That’s right. I can even tell you from back in the day of the original Doom, like playing it on PC, the very first version ever.

ALEX: Yeah. With the diskettes and everything.

FLOR: You’re not alone in this. Trust me.

DENISSE: You know, using the floppies, you know? Oh, man.

ALEX: The floppy disks. Right.

FLOR: Yeah, probably there’s people tuning in that don’t know what a floppy disk is.

DENISSE: No idea what we’re talking about.

ALEX: We can put a floppy disk somewhere so people can see it, right? Like, right now.

FLOR: Yeah, somewhere over here, so they know what it looks like. They’re probably in a museum right now.

DENISSE: Yeah, exactly. I was gonna say, we can go visit them at the museum.

ALEX: My God.

FLOR: Aww! Look at this one.

DENISSE: I can relate to this one.

ALEX: I don’t know if I look that cute on a level 1 armor, but hey, the pupper nailed it.

FLOR: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

ALEX: This one kind of hurts, especially when they carry your ass.

DENISSE: Random, come back! Come back!

FLOR: Why are you doing this to me? Don’t leave me alone. Yeah, but if you’re into single players, then that’s not happening too often.

ALEX: It’s all you, buddy.

FLOR: Yeah. And that’s the last one of our memes, so I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

ALEX: That was fun.

FLOR: Yeah, it was. Thank you so much, Denisse, for joining us today. And thanks, everyone, for tuning in. See you next time on our next episode.

DENISSE: Thank you so much. ¡Gracias!

FLOR: ¡Gracias! Take care.

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