The Limits of “Fun” (#BoRT)

September 3, 2012

Oh hey, Alan Williamson over at Critical Distance is bringing back Blogs of the Round Table! I used to have some fun bouncing from blog to blog reading these things, so I think I’ll give this one a shot. Here’s this month’s assignment:

2K’s Chris Hartmann recently said that achieving photorealism was the key to opening ‘new genres’ of games. Without discussing whether or not this is true (it isn’t), what genres or subjects have games left uncovered, and what should they be focusing on? Alternatively, if photorealism isn’t the limiting factor on the diversification and evolution of gaming experiences, what is? Were Belgian Eurodance group 2 Unlimited right with their assertion that, in fact, there are No Limits?

Ah…hm. Right. Since I have never felt inspired by a discussion of genre, I’ll go with option 2, thank you.

* * *

You know, it’s a funny thing, looking back at where games have came from, because for almost any individual trying to look back, it becomes a personal history. “Where have games come from” could have as much to do with Colecovision, Turbografx-16, and Virtual Boy (well, maybe not Virtual Boy) as they do Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Sega Genesis. One person’s treasure is another’s unknown quantity, and there have been enough games and gaming systems out in the last 35 or so years as for it to be a virtual impossibility that anyone could do a comprehensive history based on personal experience.

As such, we have to share our experience. The internet is the obvious vehicle for that now, as blogs, user reviews, and actual legitimate criticism are available in abundance for those willing to look. For a while, though, we didn’t have such obvious venues for discussion.

We had magazines, magazines that offered reviews with rating scales that looked like this:

Presumably, the faces were there just in case we weren’t sure how to read numbers.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved GamePro, and probably read more issues multiple times than was healthy for a growing boy in the mid-’90s. It was one of the most identifiable gaming mags out there, and it was a common enough touchpoint to be something you could talk about with friends in school hallways. It was so common, in fact, that its reviews felt a bit like gospel truth at the time. These reviews were rated in the four categories that you can see above: Graphics, Sounds, Control, and something GamePro called “FunFactor”. It was this last category that was typically seen as the most important; after all, one could get past primitive visuals, lousy music, and even shaky controls if the game was fun to play. That was the point of games, after all, right? Fun?

It is the idea of “games” and “fun” being necessarily paired that limits the medium. When we fall into the trap of comparing games to books or movies and marveling at just how little the narrative structures of games have in common with those of other mediums, much of the difference can be attributed to the desire of the developer to give the player something “fun” to play. The words “player” and “play” themselves carry with them connotations of fun, unlike, say, “reader” or “viewer”. Books and films are offered the opportunity to be Serious Business by not necessitating that the consumer of such media have a pleasurable experience. One can marvel at the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood while never ever suffering from the delusion that it is a “fun” movie. One can absorb something as nihilistic as The Road without cracking a single smile. These are great works, but they are allowed to be so by not being bound to the constraint of offering enjoyment to their audiences. Some art is work.

Knowing that there are films, or books, or even pieces of music (hey, Lou Reed) that are specifically geared toward making their audiences work toward understanding enhances these mediums as a whole. The idea that we should be “playing” games, presumably having “fun” while we do so, necessarily reduces the possibilities of the medium.

There are counterexamples, of course, mostly at the fringes of PC gaming, but there are a few major publishers who have been willing to take the risk of offering an experience to gamers that is not at all intended to be fun. Perhaps the recent highest profile of these counterexamples is Spec Ops: The Line, a game whose gleeful toying with player expectations is expertly detailed here. Sure, some of it falls into shooter conventions, but its questioning of the genre and of the player for enjoying that genre is a commendable step toward challenging consumers of these games, rather than simply pandering to their base desires. Games like No More Heroes and the Fable series monetize manual labor, repetitive tasks that aren’t really fun, but do benefit the player in a very real way. And then, of course, there are little things like Passage, which is more like an interactive short story, except without the words that typically get in the way of such things.

Believe me, I realize that the idea that a game doesn’t have to be “fun” to be great isn’t a new concept, but such an idea is certainly one of the limitations of the medium. The money is in fun; people don’t play Call of Duty or Gears of War or even World of Warcraft to be intellectually challenged. People play those games because they satisfy some definition of “fun”. At some point, our money should start going toward things that aren’t “fun”. Our money should start speaking to experiences that offer a range of emotional responses, that draw us into experience that make us question our values, our preconceptions, and our biases.

Maybe instead of looking for the Citizen Kane of gaming, we should be looking for, say, its Taxi Driver.


Endgame: The Legend of Zelda, Second Quest

May 23, 2012

As it turned out, I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. I actually set out to do the one thing I hadn’t tried in the overworld: I went through each screen — every single one — one by one, and bombed, burned, pushed, and whistled my way through them. I found a small pile of secrets to everybody. I found many more grumpy old men who made me pay to fix their doors. I found a couple of shops, some old ladies selling potions, and a shocking number of money making games.

And yet, I never found the seventh dungeon.

As a fun fellow who calls himself Octopus Prime mentions in this thread, “It lies concealed under a completely innocuous shrub on a screen full of shrubs.” Even as I willed myself the patience of exiting and re-entering each highly forested room to try and burn down every god forsaken tree, I never found it. My suspicion is that I “missed” – that my attempts to burn multiple trees at once in order to reduce the time it took to go through every single one got slightly lazier than it was allowed to; that while I thought I had tried to burn that bush, I never actually did. Once I was done with that room — once I could assure myself that I had tried everything there was to try in that room — I never went back. There was no reason to, unless I wanted to try bombing trees.

Thankfully, I never did try bombing trees. While I did go ahead and force my way through dungeon 8 before I ever found dungeon 7 (something that goes against the pseudo-OCD behaviors I typically display while running through games like this), I never got desperate enough to think that maybe shooting arrows at rocks would help, or anything like that. This is where, long ago, the primitive sort of crowdsourcing was the only way to win; advice from a friend, or a couple of hours of play in the hands of my brother. I can confidently say I never would have found that dungeon, and I’d have put the game down having still (still!) never finished the second quest.

I’m glad even my stubbornness has its limits. If I had spent another 10 hours looking for that dungeon, eventually finding it, and then almost immediately finding the red candle that lives in it, I’d have had to seek a refund for my shattered 3DS on account of “a destructive sense of irony”.

That out of the way, and free to get back to the business of exploring things whose existence I had not yet come to doubt, it didn’t take all that long (comparatively) to finish out the rest of the game. Even finding the red ring and silver arrow didn’t feel like terrible awful trudges through the unknown. Other than a mildly insidious multi-room moving block puzzle in the final dungeon, it was pretty straightforward the rest of the way through. Awful blue wizzrobes here, awful red bubbles there, and a couple of awful triple dodongo rooms later, Ganon showed himself once again, and with no new tricks up his sleeve, he quickly fell to dust once again:

And then, The Legend of Zelda told me I was “great”, for lo, I had only (well, “only”) died 24 times over the course of two separate adventures:

And I thought, “you know what? I am great.” Then I powered down.

There’s a beautiful balance that The Legend of Zelda strikes, between setting a certain set of expectations and rules, and then slowly breaking them down. You see this a bit in the first adventure — figuring out that you can bomb your way into rooms unmarked on a dungeon map is one of the great little secrets that everyone who conquers the first adventure eventually has to come to realize, since finding these unmarked rooms is actually necessary in the final dungeon. The second adventure, however, is full of this — between walls you can walk through, advice whose meaning changes, and whistles that could blow open a staircase pretty much anywhere, the second quest is a tremendous mash of “everything you know is wrong”. There are even old men more ornery than the “door repair charge” guys, old men who demand either 50 coins or a heart container(!) before they allow you to proceed.

The beauty of it is that if you’ve put the time into conquering the first quest, none of the second quest will really feel impossible. It’ll throw you for a loop, sure, but the ways in which the rules break in the second quest are introduced just as gradually as those same rules were set in the first. Throw your assumptions about what you can and can’t do out the window a bit, and you find an open world that’s even more “open” than the first quest even suggests.

Maybe you won’t find everything, but it won’t be because the game cheated. It’ll only be for lack of diligence.

Even as it delayed my progress on other things, taking on the second quest was a pursuit worth doing. Best of all, I can finally claim the mastery of it that should accompany my other Legend of Zelda-related claim: namely, that it is the best game the NES ever saw.

Took long enough.


The Legend of Zelda. Second Quest. Search for the Seventh Dungeon. Day 8.

May 18, 2012

I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.

Until now, a random survey was enough. Explore the world I know, set some bombs in the conspicuous spots, explore the dungeons as thoroughly as I can muster, and try to burn every tree I find. And now, it’s suddenly not enough.

I almost gave up at the sixth dungeon. It almost had me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d be blowing a whistle to make a gravestone disappear. I’d tried to move that same gravestone countless times before that, sure that I had simply not pushed for long enough, or perhaps that I had let my fingers slip and gave it a crooked push. It never budged. It was waiting for a melody.

The Legend of Zelda‘s second quest has that effect on you. Every time it breaks the rules that the first quest laid out, every time it opens up one more possible place to hide something, you don’t feel as though you’ve accomplished something by making that possibility a reality. Rather, there’s a despair with uncovering the secrets of the second quest. It’s the knowledge, once you blow the whistle and open up a random stairwell in the desert, that you’re going to have to blow the whistle in every single screen of the overworld if you want to uncover all its secrets.

Scratch that — it’s not just the secrets you need to uncover. It’s the dungeons. These are the necessary pieces of conquering the quest. And they could be anywhere.

It’s the terror of the unknown. It breaks you down. It makes GameFAQs look awfully enticing.

I mean seriously, are you kidding me with this?

Part of my goal in returning to these old games was to inspire the nostalgia of playing games before the internet age. Playing games felt different in a time before spoilers were inevitable and answers were readily available. When you ran into a dead end and you had no idea how to progress, you typically had three options: crowdsource an answer from any friends who might also have been playing the game, spend some money to call a hotline or buy a strategy guide, or just run bull-headed back into the game convinced that this was it, this was the attempt when a solution was going to become clear.

Really, it’s not that different from the paid-DLC model that instantly levels up your character. How much money could Nintendo have made if they had come up with a way to offer $4.99 paid “Dungeon-Finder” DLC? What if they offered the Master Sword as a bonus?

It certainly would have been awfully enticing in a time like this.

At least it was obvious what to do here.

I mean, what kind of sadistic game encourages you to not only bomb every wall in every dungeon, but attempt to walk through it? The very first dungeon in the second quest makes it very clear that the map means nothing, so it doesn’t even matter if you think there’s a room there. You’d better try and get through that wall, or risk missing something very important.

I thought I could hold out. I did. I thought I had the patience to look under every rock, to methodically search every room. I am operating under a few basic assumptions: there is a maximum of one visible or hidden door, combined, in every overworld panel. Every treasure necessary to uncover a higher-numbered dungeon can be found either in the overworld or in a lower-numbered dungeon.

Rafts need docks to be launched.

Even the master sword can’t break down a wall like a bomb can.

How do I know that any of these are even valid? In my searching, I’ve found the entrances to the eighth and ninth dungeons. How do I know that I won’t find the entrance to the seventh dungeon somewhere inside the eighth dungeon?

That’s the issue. I don’t know. And I don’t know how much longer I can keep up the search.


A Legend that Lasts

April 15, 2012

It’s funny how the faces of some games shine brighter, even on a tiny little screen.

After what turned out to be the relative disappointment of Ice Climber, I needed something that I knew I would enjoy, something that had never disappointed me no matter how many times I returned to it. Looking at the 8-bit offerings on display, my eyes kept flitting back and forth, back and forth…



The Legend of Zelda might actually be my favorite NES game of all time. Mere mention of the name triggers the “Overworld Theme” in my head, a miniature 8-bit symphony that can last for days. It’s the only game that I’ve played start to finish enough times to legitimately have a case that I’ve memorized it; I could tell you where the blue ring is, where every heart container is, which gravestone the old man with the magical sword is in, and so on. It’s a game I’ve been able to relax and enjoy while whipping through it, taking down dungeons and bosses like it’s my job, planting bombs on inconspicuous walls to find even the most hidden of treasures (though I do still have to pay the “door repair charge” on occasion).

My only real hiccup so far has been the sixth dungeon, in which the ever-despised Blue Wizzrobes took me for a ride after one of those walking gullets called Like-Likes took my fancy shield away.

As of this writing, I am on the 9th dungeon and looking for a Red Ring, a Silver Arrow, and Ganon himself. The 9th dungeon is something like the 1986 version of Ocarina of Time‘s famous and infamous Water Dungeon, a confusing and difficult slog through difficult enemies, passageways that lead to other passageways, and a factory’s worth of doors that require keys. It is a dungeon that reminded me of 8-bit gaming’s utter willingness to trap you in a place where your only means of escape is either suicide or the Reset button.

Yes, I forgot to dig the Master Key out of the eighth dungeon. Of course, I paid dearly for my oversight, reduced to stabbing an old man so his fire would slowly, painfully (shoot fireballs at me and) kill me.

(An aside: the map for the fourth dungeon always reminds me of the Atari 2600's rendition of E.T.. Is it just me?)

Being trapped in The Legend of Zelda is a startling thing, given that it is largely an extremely open and forgiving game, full of fairies and potions and stray hearts all strategically placed in such a way as to keep you going and make sure you can stay alive and explore as much of the world is possible, almost at your leisure. Sure, it’s not really a good idea to go anywhere near the sword-throwing Lynels before you have a Magical Shield or a Blue Ring, but even that’s not impossible if you’re determined enough. That the game would actually physically keep me from progression due to an oversight on my part, well, I hadn’t experienced that since maybe 1987. Given the intricacy of the dungeon design elsewhere, it’s honestly pretty impressive that such situations don’t happen more often.

Pondering the difficulty of this ninth dungeon, it seems hard to imagine that Zelda‘s second quest could offer up a more difficult version. It occurs to me that for all the times I’ve played through the first quest, I have never actually beaten the second quest; as a purist who tries to refuse all outside help in solving a given game, the second quest has always eluded me. I have always given up before conquering it; putting as much work as I did into learning the first quest exhausted my capacity for adventure. I suspect I moved on to something else meaning to cleanse my palette, never coming back as I intended.

This realization reveals a hole in my Legend of Zelda experience, a hole that must quickly be filled.

Onward, then.


The Limits of Nostalgia: Ice Climber

April 6, 2012

It’s like life, yes? Always another mountain to climb.

Being spoiled on modern games is the type of experience that makes Ice Climber feel even older than it is. Yeah, it’s an NES game, but it’s unremarkable even in an eight-bit context. These characters have names, but they’re essentially interchangeable as palette swaps of one another. The enemies are innocent birds, bears, and (um) fuzzballs, that are mostly minding their own business unless they are actually trying to repair the mountain that is their habitat.

Clearly, environmental conservation wasn’t on the minds of the developers here, nor those who enjoyed the game.

Worse than the lack of an identifiable central character and the fact that the route to completion is via destruction rather than construction is the physics. Momo and Popo can apparently jump three times their height upwards, but side to side, their jumps are hopelessly feeble. It’s like their knees work, but their ankles don’t. Even if you build up a head of steam on your way to a jump, your momentum actually slows down when you make the jump.

There’s not even a defined goal! Why are we jumping? Is it because the pterodactyl stole the eggplants? Is it because the Ice Climbers are trying to get home, and only the eggplant (or pumpkin, or pickle) stealing pterodactyl can get them there?

Good Lord, this game’s a mess.

I never owned Ice Climber, though I did covet it. As one of the original NES experiences, complete with standardized, pixelated pseudo-screenshot cover art and the types of generic names we might now more readily associate with the Atari 2600, I just kind of took for granted that it was, you know, a good game. Maybe not Mario good, I guess, but good, whatever that even meant in the context of the early NES. Maybe “good” just meant that there was more to it than your average Atari game, that it did something that nothing in the previous generation could. I’d go to friends’ houses and ask to play it. Sometimes we’d play together. Sometimes I’d borrow it and play it with my brother on my own NES. It probably got just as many hours out of me as a modern blockbuster. And I can’t for the life of me fathom why.

Even as the “Nintendo Ambassador” crowd of games was announced, I found that still, I coveted Ice Climber, and it became one of my top two or three anticipated games when I found out I’d be getting 10 NES games on my 3DS at no charge. It had been forever since I played it, and the romantic notion of it still stuck in my head. Even as I knew I’d be playing for score, even as I knew there was no defined ending other than to start over again in a more difficult iteration of the first 32 levels, I wanted to play it and conquer it.

It turns out, nostalgia can only take a gaming experience so far.

My gaming habits have been largely tied to nostalgia essentially since I entered college. Some of the first NES emulators were just hitting the internet at that point, and the idea that I could play these games that I loved, not ported but utterly unchanged, was extremely appealing. I got to play games I never knew existed, I got to play games that I loved that I thought had disappeared to time. While I understood that the mechanics, music, and visuals of these games were primitive, I would still defend them anyway to those who might not have played them when they were, you know, new. Take away the modern-day expectations that we have for video game experiences, and there was true, unassailable quality to be found.

There’s a limit to that nostalgia, and it is Ice Climber. While it does properly invoke nostalgia for a time when my standards were low enough that I would enjoy any game set in front of me, it does not hold up as a gaming experience, either now or in the context of its contemporaries.

* * *

“Ambassadorship” is a new category that will concern itself with looks at the 20 games offered by the 3DS Ambassador program. As one of the lucky ones who ended up with these retro games, it’s a way to get me to play them (again) and look at the effect of time and nostalgia on some of the better games of their respective generations.


Owning the Grind

October 3, 2011

I’ll admit, it feels a little bit silly blogging about a game that’s apparently already out-of-print, but there’s a lesson to be found in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to point it out whether you get to experience it or not.

Devil Survivor is an SRPG with turn-based isometric battles in the tradition of the genre. The entire game is played on the clock; you get seven days to save the world, and every major game action — whether initiating a major battle or having a plot-progressing conversation — takes half an hour off the clock. Also, the protagonists sleep, because, you know, they’re supposed to be humans rather than automatons trapped in a video game.


Like this guy. You'll need to grind to beat this guy.

You would think that this would eliminate the grind altogether, but this isn’t the case. If you find that you’re simply not strong enough to take on one of the game’s many difficult battles, you can enter a free battle at no in-game time cost whatsoever. You can stockpile money, gain levels, and overpower yourself as much as you like.

It would seem that an SRPG is just about the last place you’d want to be subjected to a grind, but Devil Survivor actually manages to make it work, by inspiring the player to set very specific goals to the grind. The playable team in Devil Survivor is so malleable, so very subject to the player’s wants and whims, that a very specialized team can be created for any situation. Sure, the main characters remain (mostly) constant, but each main character gets to be flanked by two of a possible stable of 16 demons. Demons can be bought, and demons can be created through the fusion of other demons, and a little bit of play time reveals that it doesn’t take all that many battles to create a highly specialized team. If you’re fighting a series of enemies that are weak against fire, finding four or five demons with fire abilities isn’t all that difficult. If you’re fighting a battle that includes the condition of needing to win within three turns, carrying a stable of demons that can double up on attacks might be the way to go.

Strategy in an SRPG tends to be a matter of getting the most out of a very limited set of variables. You have a set team, and you have to figure out some way to get that team to work together, to make the most out of whatever abilities that team has. Devil Survivor has some of this, but just as much of the strategy is in building the team that’s going into battle.

If you pay attention during the battles that you win, you can start forming generalized strategies right off the bat — demons with the “Anger Hit” ability work well with a hero that has the “Marksman” ability, for example, given that the never-miss Marksman supercedes the 50% success rate of the Anger Hit. Given that you have three active ability slots per demon, it helps to slot a healing spell in at least one of those if possible to give the player the greatest flexibility of attack and support. The more likely a paralyzing or petrifying skill is to hit, given whatever aids and buffs are present in the battle, the more useful it happens to be. You can build teams to take advantage of all of these, and for much of the game, fielding a team that simply exists to function in harmony with itself is enough.

There are some very, very difficult battles in the game, however, particularly late, but again, if you’re paying attention, they don’t feel unfair. When you start a battle, there is no mystery to the specific enemies you are fighting; all of the information about those enemies, including their abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and stat boosts, are immediately made available at the start of each battle. By knowing everything about these enemies, the player can then enter into free battles, with the goal of recruiting a cadre of demons that will best fight that specific battle.

Usually, it only takes two or three free fights before you’re ready to go in guns blazing, ready to shred up the enemies that seemed so intimidating not long before. Granted, “two or three free fights” can take an hour to an hour and a half depending on the player’s approach, but there’s a very immediate sense of progress. This isn’t walking back and forth and triggering random battles for an hour just to trigger a minor stat boost; this is grinding with a goal.

Does it undercut the urgency of the game, somewhat removing the idea that the player pays a price for every action? Sure it does. But as a way to keep a player interested in what is already a fairly long and difficult game, it is perfect. The grind is not boring, it’s just one more element to the “S” in this particular SRPG.


A Bastion of Emotion: Dénouement

August 27, 2011

So, this is part three, which means MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD. That’s your warning.

There's something sinister in those eyes...

So. Have you played to the end of Bastion? And then, did you play it again?

I was trying to think back to the last time the end of a game affected me the way Bastion‘s did, and the only thing I could come up with was the end of Klonoa. Klonoa spent a few stages pretending it was a game for kids, and then it killed off Klonoa’s grandpa and started torturing him in ways that would be cruel in an M-Rated game, never mind an E10. Still, even that game was affecting not because the story was executed well — if I’m being completely honest, it was a little ham-fisted and melodramatic — but because it went in a direction that was pretty much the opposite of my expectations. Klonoa‘s story succeeds not because it’s written well, but because it’s written differently than pretty much any other game of its ilk.

The end of Bastion offers the opposite experience. The ending, really, is projected almost from the very beginning of the game; even its central choice is projected early on: Sure, you can erase the past, but do you really, truly want to?

Bastion succeeds because it manages to make two seemingly simple binary choices feel utterly monumental. Primed by the experience of trying to survive a world in which it’s not clear that you’re the “good guy”, per se, the choice of whether you’re going to carry your once-ally-now-enemy Zulf home after he has been betrayed and left for dead by his people is a big one. It’s confession time: I left him facedown the first time I played, and proceeded to wipe out the rest of his people with my very big stick. I didn’t enjoy it, but Rucks assured me that all of the mayhem and death was okay, given that the goal here was to turn back the clock anyway. It was a means to an end, an end in which presumably all of the dead would be resurrected. Systematic genocide doesn’t seem so bad if there’s an undo button, I suppose.

But then, I didn’t push it. I wiped out an entire race of people, and then, at the urgings of Zia, the singer responsible for the first truly affecting moment in the game, I decided the world was better off without them. Partly, I think, this was to spite Rucks, who I was actually angry at for all but tricking me into systematic genocide; partly, it was the nagging suspicion that by erasing the past, I wouldn’t really be changing anything.

I think I messed things up for myself by doing this; not only did I remove any sympathy or empathy that I felt for my own avatar, but Brendan Keogh’s brilliant little Bastion blog post suggests that by not choosing to “reset the world”, I’ve removed much of the meaning from the New Game Plus mode’s clever little changes.

Still, by turning my character into a selfish git, I motivated myself to burn through the game again so that I could “make it right” the next time around. I have a hard time playing the ass in RPGs; I can’t even bring myself to insult the most ridiculous and irredeemable characters in dialogue-heavy Bioware games. Making the choices I did went completely against my normal mode of play, offering the drive to do it better the next time around. Little did I know how much better things would seem.

Carrying Zulf through the mass of hostile Ura may have been the most beautiful little experience I’ve ever had in a game. That the Ura would eventually stop firing — that an Ura commander would quite literally strike his charge down for firing — all while “Mother, I’m Here” plays, and we continue to hear Rucks’ narration, telling Zia that The Kid was probably in the process of destroying him once and for all…it’s thwarted destiny, it’s humanity, and it’s devastation, all in one convenient two-minute scene. It’s a wrenching scene, one that renders the choice of whether to restore Caeldonia almost meaningless.

I restored it. Only because I hadn’t before. But I sort of wish I hadn’t.

The ending is what we work for in a game. We want to see how the story is resolved by the writers and designers responsible for presenting it to us. Coming up with a satisfying way to close a game is a difficult thing, and a half-hour cutscene, while often interesting, often feels like a letdown, as if the power is being taken out of our hands for the game’s final moments. What Bastion does is give us a small choice that makes all the difference in our perception of what happened over the previous hours of play. Without its endings, Bastion is a good game, one certainly worth killing a few hours with; with its endings, it is a treasure.