VAST Horizon: Adrift- Ghost

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Dr. Nolira Eck is finally able to open a communications channel and hear a distress hail to the Bifrost.

S1 E5
Released: July 22nd, 2019
Length: 31 minutes

If you’re keeping track you might be wondering where episodes 2-4 are. Truth be told, I ran out of time to get my thoughts together for those 3 episodes before this new one came out last week. Even this write up is a bit later than I would have liked it to be. They’re good you should listen to them. Norlira does some crazy stuff, we learn there’s another life form on the ship, and she names the AI Ali.

I still like how the world-building happens in bits and pieces throughout the episodes. This week we learned that humanity has spread far a wide throughout the galaxy via a lecture. Expansion to the point where the lecturer questions if we should be expanding even more

.Where episode 1-4 were fast-moving and action-packed, episode 5 gives us a bit of a breather with a more reflective tone. Even though it’s not as exciting, it’s an important mommnet. So far the dynamic between Norlira and the AI has been built around survival. Ali is calculating the best routes to take, the amount of time Norlira has to get things done, constantly reminding her that there is no one available to help her. In this episode and even a little bit in episode 4, Ali seems to be trying to understand Norlira more and questions why she does some of the things she does. Tanja Milojevic does a fantastic job with Ali. There are times when she seems almost human. Other times I’m reminded it’s only an advanced computer when it repeats words and phrases the exact same way.

—-Spoilers Ahead—-

At the end of the last episode, Norlira had reached the communications bay and was receiving a distress signal. We learn that this distress signal is coming from an escape pod of a seemingly different ship that also ran into something. The child, Po Yano, is the sole survivor.

Norlira desperately tries to contact Po but it seems the escape pod can only broadcast out. What resonated the most with me is this scene where Norlira is determined to let Po know that she’s not alone which is something that Ali can’t understand. There’s this great exchange between the two where Norlira keeps arguing she needs to try to help this girl and the AI keeps calculating the chances of saving Po at zero. And even when it’s revealed that this broadcast was just a recording, Ali doesn’t understand why Norlira is still upset.

Norlira has overcome incredible things given the circumstances. She’s gone outside the ship, she’s traversed areas of the ship with no life support, she’s crawled through maintenance shafts in the dark, and yet she can’t save this scared girl trapped and alone in space. To me, it seems Norlira is trying to come to terms with just how helpless she is in her situation. You can hear the defeat in her voice when she says “…She tried so hard and there was no one here for her, she was alone, she died out here alone. Just like I will.”

Hero Siege: Shield Lancer and Plague Doctor

 

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It’s always weird starting at the beginning of a season after playing a high-level character. Everything feels slower and it gives me that race to the end mentality because I know what the end game is like and I quite enjoy it. Plus the damage numbers are low and it takes so long to kill everything. But I love loot collecting in ARPGs. I rarely share loot between characters because it’s always a rush when you find that one item that puts you over the edge for the next area of difficulty.

I picked up the Shield Lancer and Plague Doctor classes just to support the developer and complete my collection of the classes. I started a solo playthrough with the Shield Lancer. Shield Lancer has a much different playstyle than most of the classes. Where most of the classes want to avoid damage at all costs, getting one-shotted in the higher levels is common, the Sheild Lancer wants to take damage to deal damage. It’s hard to switch from dodge everything mentality to sit in the AOE to charge up my counter-attack. I’m looking forward to how he performs in this games version of greater rifts, wormholes.

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Shield Lancer doesn’t really come online until level 48. At level 36 you unlock Shield Wall which summons a ring of shields around you. At level 48 you unlock Spiked Shield which makes the orbiting shields actually do damage. So for the build, I’m running, the play is to run into a group of enemies, taunt them to lower their defense, pop shield wall and watch everything die. Anything still alive after shield wall runs out can be taken care of with a counter-attack which has been charging every time you got hit. I find this to be super satisfying.

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In my co-op playthrough, I’m playing the Plague Doctor. I didn’t pick this up when it first came out because I was maining a different class for the season. The theme of this class is fantastic. It has an army of rats to spread the plague to enemies, it throws jars of leaches, and does a lot of damage over time. Just like the Lancer, the Plague Doctor really starts doing a lot of damage at level 48. The skill The Last Patient explodes all of the corpses around you spreading a poison gas. You get enough dead trash mobs around an elite and pop it, that 100K health elite is demolished.  My buddy, Jay, is playing the pyromancer that does a lot of burst AOE damage so we’ve been shredding through the Acts. We just got into Nightmare difficulty on Saturday and the increase in difficulty is actually surprising. Luckily, the quality of loot is improving as well. We made it to Act 3 out of 7 this weekend in Nightmare

I want to try a few more classes out before I decide on one to climb the wormholes with. Last season, I was rocking it on the Marauder and ended up on the top 10 softcore leaderboards for a while. But I also didn’t play anything else for a few months. I want to find another class that clicks for me. So far it’s looking like the Lancer but Jay and I are going to try a few more classes co-op.

 

 

Generating Ideas

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Part of the reason I enjoy participating in Blaugust is that it forces me to think more. What you’ll generally see here are posts about my game time, what my thoughts are on games I’ve finished. I like writing these because their easy and because there the kind of posts I like to read the most from other blogs. The challenge with writing these kinds of posts every day for an event is that there are some days I just don’t play anything. For these occasions I find myself struggling to come up with something to write about. Last year I actually suprised myself with some of the ideas I came up with.

This year I’m trying to think about these ideas ahead of time. I used to be able to read about games and think about game-related topics a lot more. I was a security guard for 2 years and there was a lot of downtime. Getting a new job this last year has given me a lot less time to immerse myself in gaming news and editorials. And since I’ve been blogging a lot less, I haven’t really thought too much about the bigger ideas.

As cliche as it is, my best brainstorming sessions happen in the shower. I actually have a waterproof notepad that I recently found again. That thing is going back where it belongs. So many post ideas have been outlined in there. I redownloaded Evernote as well. I used to use it all the time but when I got a new phone I never redownloaded it. Evernote has been great in the past when I suddenly get an idea and I’m out and about. Last but not least, challenging myself to post every day is also a challenge to generate more things to actually write about. We’ll see how it goes.

To anyone out there who would like to share, how do you come up with your topics when you post?

Prepping for Blaugust

 

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Today starts the beginning of Blaugust prep week. No doubt you’ve seen many posts this month about the blogging event that is Blaugust. It’s that special time of year when new bloggers burst onto the scene, seasoned bloggers give out their sage advice, and bloggers like me dust of their blog and get inspired again. Our feeds so full of posts there’s hardly enough time to read them!

As I’ve said a lot of times here, I like the idea of blogging, I get excited when I think about writing posts. I constantly think about what I could write about when I’m playing something. But when it comes time to write my execution falls very, very, short. Every year I say I’m going to remedy it and every year I have this conversation with myself.

They say that writing every day makes you a better writer. Makes sense. They say you need to develop a habit of writing to the point where it feels wrong not to write. Also makes sense. So this year I’m going to listen to that advice!

Last year I dove into Blaugust with a passion and zeal that would not be tempered. I got up every day and I wrote and I surprised myself with some of the things I came up with to write about. That lasted all of two weeks maybe not even. But I learned something very important, writing every day actually does make you more likely to write. And then I promptly forgot about that and didn’t post until January.

I’ve actually started to try and write every day since the beginning of July. I’m not totally consistent yet but I’m getting better at making time to write something up. You may have noticed there’s been a lot more activity here. I’m also finding that writing in advance leads to a lot more consistency with posts. I even wrote this one a whole 4 days in advance.

So, plans for Blaugust: I’m challenging myself to write and post more than I did last Blaugust, so more than 16 posts. The ultimate goal is to post all 31 days I will admit the quality of the posts will be…different but maybe even in a good way. After that, the goal is to post with less frequency but more consistently.

On a less self-gratifying note, Good luck everyone participating! I look forward to reading as many posts as I can!

 

 

 

 

Hero Siege 3.0

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Hero Siege is one of those games that I always come back to. Last year I was really into it and put nearly 100 hours into it before moving on to something else. I actually bought the game in 2014 and it’s continued to be updated and grow from a wave clearing roguelike into a 2D pixel Diablo.

On Wednesday the next big update dropped for the game. Once again, everything was overhauled.  The game engine was completely reprogrammed to improve performance.  The Hero Level system (think paragon points in D3) has it’s own talent tree now for more customization. And there’s even jumping now, I didn’t know I even needed that!

This update also comes with a lot of balance fixes. The difficulty settings have been reduced to 4 (Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno ((Sound familiar?)) Max points into a skill is now 30 and the level cap has been decreased to 100. There also used to be a bug with multiplayer where players that weren’t hosting the game didn’t take damage from the majority of attacks. The patch notes say host/client taking and dealing damage bugs have been removed. My friends seem to die more when I host than they did before so it looks like it’s working.

 

The other major update is to the loot system. Loot is handcrafted now so that stats that did not work for your class don’t show up on your items. In the past, you would end up finding spell caster weapons with strength and swords with energy stats. More stats have also been added increasing item diversity and items can now be socketed with stat gems/runes.

Acts 5 and 6 which had previously been DLC only have been made part of the base game. There looks like there’s some contention around this. Mainly, some think DLC content that others bought should be given out for free. Personally, I’m all for it. That DLC has been out for years and it only gives you the extra maps and not the extra classes. So there’s still a reason to buy it if you’re so inclined.

I played for most of Wednesday night. There were a few stability issues, the main ones being server lag and disconnections. I was DC’d 3 times in my play session but that’s to be expected on release day for a smaller game like this. I’m having a great time and in many ways, it feels like a brand new game. It’s been interesting seeing this game grow over the years and, honestly, I may like it even more than Diablo 3. Now if I could only decide on a class to play in season 7.

 

Figuring It All Out Again

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My plans this weekend were to get through the post ARR quests and get into the Heavensward expansion in Final Fantasy XIV. I had heard there was a lot of quests right after ARR but I didn’t realize how many until I read Naithin’s post “Starting The Horrible Hundred”.

At first, I thought, no way there’s a hundred quests and promptly headed over to the wiki. Yikes, yes there are exactly 100. I thought, well I must be a pretty good way through them. Nope, just barely over halfway there with 48 quests to go. It looked like I wouldn’t be getting to Heavensward after all. I found a nice stopping point about 1/4th the way through Patch 2.4 (Dreams of Ice) on Sunday.

Now I haven’t played FFXIV in a long time.  I bought the expansions up to Stormblood on PC because of a sale but almost of all of my playtime has been on PS4. The last few times I resubbed I’ve made new characters so I could learn the controls with a keyboard. Each time I realized I didn’t want to run through all of the base game again and would let the sub lapse. Now I know what your thinking, why don’t I just play my original character? Because then I’d have to figure everything out again!

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I bit the bullet this time around and dusted off my main and hoped for the best. It took me a good hour to figure out what was what. I had to remake all my gear sets, I had to weed out skills off my skill bar that don’t exist anymore, and then I had to figure out what everything did again. To make matters slightly worse I also switched my movement keys to ESDF to free up a bit more keyboard space for skills.  I didn’t attempt to look through my inventory, I have my limits.

I tried to play Dragoon because she looked so cool in her armor but I was in no mood to relearn the combos. I decided to not attempt to play my White Mage until I had a handle on the keybindings again. Your welcome people running their roulettes. So I settled on playing Bard. Easy to play, no combos, skills that were mostly the same from 2 years ago, and a stylish hat.

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I’ve been having fun reacquainting myself with the game, the locations, the music, and my character. I haven’t been finding this stretch of quests to be too bad. I wouldn’t call them horrible but they aren’t anything to write home about. Though it may not seem like it, I’m not actually in a rush.  I think this stretch would be tedious if I had to run multiple characters through it but knowing I only have to do it once decreases the tedium for some reason. Plus I don’t actually know what’s on the other side. I’m amazingly good at avoiding spoilers.

So I figure, if I can find this stretch enjoyable, Heavensward’s just going to be that much better. 38 quests to go!

VAST Horizon: Adrift- Stirred

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Nolira is an agronomist tasked with establishing agriculture in a new solar system, but when she wakes up on a now- empty colony ship, the whole of her plan disappears. The ship has been set adrift, with numerous mission-critical problems requiring immediate attendance outside of her area of expertise.

S1 E1
Length: 38 minutes

Audio Dramas might be my favorite type of podcasts. They can be exceptionally good entertainment if done right. And VAST Horizon: Adrift does everything right I discovered this one thanks to Mission To Zyxx on my way to work this morning. I downloaded the first episode for my commute home.

Norlira wakes up on a colony ship on a set course to a new solar system. Except there are no signs of anyone else and the onboard computer AI can’t tell here what happened. We do learn that most of the ship, the Bifrost, is severely damaged and 72% of the ship is without life support. The ship has no communication equipment, navigation, or propulsion. Oh yeah and there’s no crew left to fly it as far as we know.

As far as first episodes go, this one really grabbed my attention. There’s a lot of action-packed into this opening episode and a bit of backstory. The episode flips back and forth between the Norlira’s present struggles on the ship and flashbacks to before Norlira left on the Bifrost. It seems that her family was reluctant for her to go, which is understandable, seeing as she won’t be coming back. So far we’ve only met Dr. Norlia Eck and the ship’s AI and it’s unknown if there will be more characters. though at the very end of the episode, there are signs of life detected in the nursery.

Acting makes or breaks this type of show and the cast in this episode did a great job. I liked the dynamic between Norlira and the Bifrost AI as they attempt to solve problems one at a time. I also found the various flashbacks compelling and a great way to build on backstory without the presence of other characters.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this show is made by Foll and Scholar Productions who made The White Vault. Personally, I didn’t care for the White Vault, I’m still an episode or two shy of finishing season 1, but I know others who loved every minute. Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t know, it might have put me off to listen to this show.

VAST Horizons: Adrift is currently 4 episodes in with a new episode releasing every 2 weeks. I’m sure I’ll be all caught up in time for episode 5 which will be released on July 23rd.

Fun Money

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Mission to Zyxx has been my go-to weekly podcast for the last year and a half and I was very content listening each week for free. They had a Patreon and released bonus content there but I was never intrigued enough to actually donate. This season they have moved to the Maximum Fun network which allows users to donate to the show through them with reward tiers and such. It seems like a more specialized podcast focused Patreon. In episode 2 of season 3  Seth Lynn said something that really stuck with me. It was: “Think about what your life would be like without Mission to Zyxx.” I know the whole point of this 10-minute spiel was to get people to donate but at the same time, it made me realize that I can’t expect other people to support the things I like if I don’t support the things I like. While it may be a silly improvised sci-fi podcast it’s something that’s important to me and if it went away I’d be heartbroken. So I subscribed, good on you Seth you’re a guilt marketing genius.

I’ve come to this realization that It’s OK to spend money on things I like. Especially things that I enjoy and have been enjoying for a while. I know this sounds like common sense but it really struck me only a few months ago.

I was playing Black Desert heavily for a while. When I first started, I looked at the prices of cash shop items and thought ” $40 for an outfit, that’s outrageous.” But after 100+ hours in a month, I bought 5 pets and a value pack for $50 and felt no guilt. I’ve gotten more enjoyment and playtime out of BDO than a $60 AAA title.

I’m starting to feel the same way about Trove. I actually bought the starter pack because it gave me 4 inventory expanders for $5 instead of $20. Did I need those inventory slots? No, but they are nice to have and make the game a little more enjoyable. I also have picked up the freemium subscription, the patron pass that gives a lot of great boosts for 2 months now. I’ve complained in the past that free to play games tend to milk their customers for money and I felt that way very strongly about Trove under Trion. But I look at steam and see 500 hours played. Maybe after 500 hours, they deserve a little compensation no? A little too late for Trion but at least Trove is still around.

I remember the first time I asked my parents to buy something for me for an online game. They looked at me like I had 2 heads. Why would you want to spend real money to dress up a character in a video game and why do you need to pay monthly for a video game. I had no disposable income of my own so I lived the F2Per’s life and grinded through Runescape, Flyff, and countless other free to play MMO’s. Thank god Guild Wars was a buy to play the game without a subscription otherwise I may never have played my favorite game of all time.

This carried over even when I had a disposable income of my own. Why would I pay for this virtual item when I could buy a whole game. Why would I pay a subscription every month when I can buy a game and play it forever. But here’s the thing. Those microtransactions are in games I actually enjoy playing. Those subscriptions have been the price of admission to some really great games. And those games I bought for $20 on steam are still sitting there unplayed.

My budgeted “fun money” is going to be spent anyways. Might as well spend it on something I’m enjoying right now and support the continued development or existence of it.

Backlogged: The Last Door: Season 1

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I love horror. Across all media, it’s my favorite genre. My favorite kind of horror isn’t in your face slashers and monsters. It’s the psychological, creepy, unsettling horror that not only makes your skin crawl but makes you think as well. That’s exactly the kind of horror the Last Door is.

Originally released episodically, Season 1 provides the first 4 chapters of The Last Door. It follows Jerimiah Devitt after he receives a letter from an old boarding school friend Anthony Beechworth. Devitt arrives at the Beechworth Estate,  in Victorian-era Sussex, only to find that his friend has hanged himself. He discovers another letter instructing him to seek answers at his old boarding school which has been turned into an end of life care facility. There he remembers the events of him and 4 others conducting a ritual to see “beyond the veil”.  Throughout the game, Devvit sees a huge bird eye and there is a heavy emphasis on crows. There is another story with 2 psychiatrists talking about their patient Devvit. It is unclear whether this is taking place before, during, or after the events of the game.

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I didn’t think a game that looked like this could be unsettling. If there is a game that proves you don’t need fantastic graphics to convey a great story and have a great gaming experience it’s this one. The sound design makes the experience very immersive. In fact, the sounds are the scariest parts. The auditory jump scares they are placed sparingly and in just the right moments. The original music by Carlos Viola carries the game. The piano is haunting, sad, and creepy. Plus, there’s a different track for almost every room.

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Okay, that’s a little creepy
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And that…..

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Point and Click games are hit or miss for me. Sometimes the gameplay gets in the way of the story. It can be frustrating when I can’t figure out a puzzle but I want to continue the story. That isn’t the case here. The items and their use are very logical. There was only one time, in episode 4, that I had a hard time figuring out what to do next. after about a half an hour using objects on anything and everything, I ran to the internet for help. Turns out I had missed an entire area and a lightbulb had to be used with a dead deer to make a light for a photography darkroom. Other than that the puzzles were logical without being too easy.

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My favorite part of Season 1 was in episode 3. There’s an area that is covered in fog and throughout the episode, the characters tell you it cannot be traversed without a map. It turns out the map is actually a poem and you have to match the sound clues in the foggy area to lines in the poem to make it through. This section highlights the best parts, the sound design, and the writing.

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After the first 4 chapters, there are 4 mini-scenes in the extras.  They don’t give any answers to the original chapters and provide a lot of questions for the next season. I wan’t expecting these when I finished the game and clicked the extras menu. It was a nice touch.

It took me 5 hours to complete Season 1. That’s more time than I initially thought I would get out of it. I’m very much looking forward to playing through season 2 and seeing how the story plays out.

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Steam Sale 2019: And Actually Playing Them

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I’m trying something new with the games I own. Play them as soon as I buy them. I know, what a novel idea. I haven’t bought many games this year because I know I don’t play them. Then like clockwork, the steam sale comes around and suddenly I have 8-10 new games that then sit there collecting virtual dust while I play something else.

I remember when I first discovered Steam and the magic of that first steam sale. Texts and calls would be flying among friends about which games we have to get right now because of the amazing flash sales. I ended up with a lot of games that year because they were cheap, not necessarily because I wanted to play them.

After a few years of being a PC gamer, the steam sale loses it’s excitement and just becomes a fact of life. Don’t buy any games in June/July because that big sale’s coming. I for one am glad they did away with the flash sales. Sure the discounts aren’t as big but there’s no fear of missing our and constantly checking steam for the game you want.

These days I don’t buy much on steam unless there’s a sale. I browse games, I wishlist them, and then when the big sales come around I see what still interests me and I buy it. God forbid I ever buy a game at full price. I rarely go off my wishlist now unless a friend gets something they want to play with me. I even cleaned some games out of my wishlist this year. If I haven’t bought it in the 5 years it’s been sitting in there, I don’t think I ever will.

My biggest change this year is how I organize Steam. Before I had a bunch of genre categories and placed games accordingly. When I beat a game I  put it in the completed category and hid it from my library. This year I decided to make a new category called Current, place all the games I just bought in it and collapse everything else. I’m only going to play these games until there aren’t anymore on the list and then add more based on what I feel like playing. I like it better this way. There’s artificially less choice in what I want to play. We will see how it turns out

Steam Sale Games 2019

Agarest: Generations of War – A strategy JRPG series that I’ve been eying for a few years now. The bundle with the 2 other games wasn’t that much more than the first game so I picked it up.

Dragon Cliff – I’ve been into idles games this year for some reason. This game bills itself as a semi idle game where you manage a guild of adventurers. From the few hours I’ve played, it has a story and some interesting mechanics.

Elminage Gothic – I’ve been craving an old school dungeon crawler ala Wizardry for a while now. I had read that this one was pretty good. The interface is a little weird, I believe it’s a port from the PSP.

Stranger of Sword City – Another Wizardry style dungeon crawler. This one is supposed to be more beginner-friendly and I like the art style.

Fictorum – I don’t remember where I first read about Fictorum but it’s been on my wishlist for at least a year. From what I understand it’s a wizard simulator with a great destructible environment.

Has-Been Heroes – So far this is my favorite purchase this year. It’s a rogue-like and the combat system is amazing. You have 3 heroes and each one occupies a lane. They all have spells and basic attacks with various cooldowns so you have to swap them between the lanes to deal with the encroaching enemies. It feels a little like a tower defense game.

It’s A Wipe – A parody simulation of MMO raiding. I love the tagline: “All the fun of leading a guild without the people.”

The Last Door Seasons 1 and 2 – a pixel art point and click horror game. I’ve been playing a lot of story-heavy games recently and I’ve heard this one is good.

Observer – a story-heavy game with a sci-fi setting.

Outlast – I’ve never played a proper horror game. SOMA is the closest thing I’ve played. It was $3 and on my wishlist so why not.

Sanctum 2 – I’ve looked into getting this game for years now. A friend and I put a ton of hours into Orcs Must Die! 2 and this looked just like that but with guns. Plus it’s up to 4 players which is perfect for my gaming group. I bought a 4 pack so everyone could play. After playing it together we also got the DLC.

Strange Brigade – 2 of my friends got this and it looked fun so I picked it up too. Played it once so far and this is my second favorite purchase this year.

Valkyria Chronicles – I wanted to play this when it came out for PS3 and never did. Then I wanted to play it when it came out for PS4 and never did. Then it was on PC for a while and I still never bought it until this year. There are apparently 4 games in this series now. It’s just such a different concept, JRPG anime World War 2.