Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pick and choose

Want to start an argument?  Tell someone in EVE Online that they're "rich".
Tyler Durden: You're not your job.  You're not how much money you have in the bank.  You're not the car you drive.  You're not the contents of your wallet.  You're not your fucking khakis.  You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

As I said yesterday, on the surface comparing EVE to Fight Club makes perfect sense because EVE is all about angry men beating the crap out of one other out of a lack of more constructive goals or opportunities.  Still, you can't talk about Fight Club without talking about its screed against consumerism.  Tyler Durden points out that people are being goaded by advertising to do jobs they hate to acquire piles of stuff that they don't need.

And that's also EVE all over.  All of us are in some way doing jobs that we hate to acquire piles of stuff that we don't need.  If you doubt it, check out your hangar sometime, be honest with yourself, and count up how many of the ships in there that you actually fly regularly.  Unless you're remarkably disciplined or have done a bro-sale recently, the fraction is probably pretty small.  Often, we want some of those obscure ships "just to have one" or "just in case I need it."  And we probably got all of those ships by participating in some in-game activity that we hate, whether that involved shooting little red crosses, turning big rocks into little rocks, or dealing with EVE's oh-so-charming industry system.

So we're simultaneously Fight Club... and everything Fight Club despises.  All at once.  Gotta love this game.

But the fun thing about this is that no matter how much stuff we accumulate in-game, there exist only three types of EVE Online players:
  • those that proudly acknowledge being ultra-rich;
  • a small group in the middle; and,
  • those that despairingly bemoan how poor they are.
The group at the top comprises maybe 5% of all EVE Online players, in my experience.  Then there's another 10% or so in the middle that, when asked about this topic, grudgingly admit that they're "doing OK" but would vehemently deny being "rich."  That leaves the other 85% or so of players.(1)  All 85% of these players are poor.  Even the players that own multiple super-carriers and titans.  Hell, maybe especially those players.

Just ask them.  They'll tell you how poor they are.  When you object, they will say "but I only have a few hundred million liquid ISK" or other somesuch nonsense.  Meanwhile, they're sitting on tens or hundreds of billions of ISK in ships, modules, implants, and PLEXes.  And if you call them rich for this reason, they'll dismiss the accusation.  Sure, there are lots and lots of people in this group that are actually poor.  But we're increasingly entering an age of EVE where truly new players are becoming a rarity.  But more about them in a second, because there a really important consideration for this topic.

The vast bulk of EVE players -- and if you're reading this, you're probably among this group -- would never describe themselves as rich, yet have hangars full of ships that they rarely fly... and are working feverishly toward acquiring the next ship or three that they desire for their growing fleet.  Or at the very least, they're saving up to buy this or that pimp module for this or that ship.

Now don't get me wrong and don't get defensive: I'm not saying this is negative, necessarily.  It's just how EVE is.  The acquisition of stuff was built right into the DNA of the game.  I was reading an interesting thread on FHC the other day about the early days of the game.  It was funny to hear players talking about buying the first Moa BPO or being rich enough to buy their first battleship and when that happened.  So consumerism's been around since EVE Day One.  What wasn't built in was the risk aversion that a lot of EVE players have come to be known for, but even that's kind of a side effect.  It just comes back to the Fight Club theme: lacking constructive goals or opportunities, men will seek out other ways to measure and test themselves against each other.  The scorecard that is evidenced through full hangars, full module cans, and a fat ISK balance is one of the ways for EVE players to do that.  Losing ships reduces your score, whether you measure yourself by ISK balance, hangar size, or K/D efficiency.

This is something that CCP has been struggling with for the last couple of years, as passive income sources grow ever-larger and the player base shifts toward a stable mix of veterans that have min-maxed the hell out of the various means of acquiring personal wealth in New Eden.  Rote Kapelle was lucky enough to pick up a CVA FC in the last couple of days, and something that he wrote in his CVA resignation letter applies here:
There is no "poor" in Eve anymore: Incursions, cobalt buff, wormholes, forsaken hubs, mag sites, 10/10s, lowsec L4 mission blitzing... it's all available...
Bet a lot of people who read that letter in CVA objected to to being told there's "no poor in EVE any more."  ;-)

"Players are always richer than you think," goes this argument in Reyk.  The CSM arguing this very point to CCP at the May Summit certainly reinforces this view.  And like every good lie, there's a kernel of truth in it.

Yeah, that's right.  I said lie.

Because sooner or later, if EVE if going to survive, we're going to need a large influx of brand new players.  So those that are arguing "nerf all the income sources" are not doing anything except arguing for sowing the seeds of the game's eventual destruction.  Inflation is driving up the price of commodities, ships, and mods all over the game; we've all seen it.  Combine that with the pushing down of brand new player incomes that's come from L4 mission nerfs and player events like miner ganking and bumping and you're left with quite the little chicken-egg problem.  Which is a big reason why cheap ships like frigates and cruisers are being buffed like crazy.  But more about that another time.

In the meantime, as CCP makes their plans for 2013, they have to keep this dichotomy in mind and pick their battles with care.  Anything that they do to try to break the cycle of consumerism and risk aversion that is part of EVE's DNA also threatens to make the EVE early game a stultifying, horribly long experience that nobody will want to go through.  They need to give new players good enough income sources to have a hope of catching up... without making those income sources so good that the vets jump on them.  So I expect we're going to see them try to build in EVE's new income sources first before they take away some of the old ones.  And they'll look for ways to allow new players to grief veterans.  The bounty system is a pretty good example of both of these.

And sooner or later, I suspect we're going to view CCP's own version of Project Mayhem in one form or another.
Tyler Durden: It's getting exciting now, two and one-half.  Think of everything we've accomplished, man.  Out these windows, we will view the collapse of financial history.  One step closer to economic equilibrium.


(1) Note to self: blog about the 85-15 rule sometime.

35 comments:

  1. I remember when I join EVEONLINE around the end of 2010, I ran lv1~lv3 missions for 3 months. Then when I got enough isk to buy my 1st bs, I got the "OK" amount of sp to fly one as well. At that time it's 350m isk for one plex, 50m for a geddon, and 80m for an apoca. I'm curious how long would take any casual noob player grinding lv1~lv3 missions for a bs.

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  2. I've written similar posts over the years, warning of the exact things we are seeing come to fruition in-game now. And it appears we are headed down the same path full-speed ahead.

    I still have an email I wrote four years ago to some in-game when I made my very first million isk. That was an extremely hard million isk to make. In the email I exclaimed, "I"m rich!" not knowing at the time just how silly that thought was. A million isk is a dust mote for most players now.

    The accumulation of wealth leads to risk-aversion leads to bloat leads to... what exactly? I'd be interested in what this famous "economist" that helped build the Eve economy thinks.

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  3. ...Solution presents itself. I'm only half joking, really.

    Imagine that every character that gets biomassed or abandoned for a specific period loses it's name and face and randomly gets assigned to someone just registering an account.

    Player rotation, the ecological way. :)

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  4. Whilst this is true - to an extent - don't underestimate the level to which the 'non liquid' argument actually makes sense.

    I suspect that you - like a bunch of other players - have a big percentage of assets scattered across regions and stations which you are never ever going to visit/live in again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, dunno about you... But, whilst I have some stuff stuck in 0.0 stations I can't currently dock at, and some semi-useful cheap stuff in remote high- or lowsec locations, most of my non-liquid ISK is stacked all in one place in hisec. Two or three faction battleships, a bunch of command ships, a couple of recons I never fly, some spare logis, all those faction and t2 frigs I once bought because I could but never fly... My alt's jump-freighter. My alt's faction/new named mods/etc-fitted carrier is somewhere else, but not currently useful either. Etc. Those things add up.

      Whilst I'm off in WH space with a minimal setup.

      Delete
  5. Unfortunately, none of the ISK faucets mentioned are actually usable by new players - esp. those in their first week or two. At best, a spanking new player can run L1 missions, or mine high sec, for ISK.

    But, CCP seems hell bent on nerfing the new players, right out of the game.

    First off, the L1 missions got a lot harder, thanks to the upgraded NPC AI.

    Second, noob mining got a lot harder, since the upgrades to mining ships allows mining fleets to strip high sec belts clean much faster, leaving nothing for the noobs to mine. Also, the entry-level T1 mining ships got a lot more expensive, thanks to BPO changes.

    Third, the replacement cost of T1 frigs has gone up a lot, thanks to the increases in the BPO material requirements.

    Fourth, flipping wrecks got a lot more dangerous, thanks to the new Crimewatch.

    Fifth, salvaging for noobs got more difficult, since vets can clean up sites faster these days with the Noctis (and, ofc, the new salvage drones even make it worse).

    So, what's left for noobs, to pay for those first implants, skill books and T1 frigs? Begging in local?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Buy a single plex. Run L2 or L3s with other noobs. Trade in an industrial which you get after your tutorial.

      which reminds me that playing those tutorials alone buys for your first cruiser which opens up l2 just fine. Not to speak of those damn strong destroyers that should clean out L2s in many cases even solo just fine too.

      What was your point again?

      Delete
    2. L2s now shred dessies. You need at least a cruiser to do them solo.

      And, L3s can no longer be run by noobs in cruisers, even a small group of them.

      Delete
  6. Its an interesting point and I feel in many ways I feel that EVE is a cross over between skinner box and gambling.

    The essential currency in both mind sets is time - how you choose to 'spend' that time in game.

    As a carebear I base my success on possessions and wallet amount simply because they represent a positive expenditure of 'time' - the game is saying "You've done well at this, and your reward is more stuff" - exactly the same 'Fight Club' situation that you've described.

    I am risk adverse simply because if I lose a ship then its a negative expenditure of 'time' and I feel that I've wasted it unnecessarily. For example if I grinded out missions all day to buy a ship and then it gets destroyed I feel like I may have well have not bothered playing that day because my gains have been wiped out by my losses; almost regardless of how much 'fun' was had along the way.

    On the other side of the fence I feel that the risk takers are quite similar to gamblers - they are willing to risk 'time' investments for 'fun' because of the possibility of a larger gain than their investment and the thrill of the potential loss of that investment if it all goes south. Its normal for most gamblers to keep losing and simply feel like that all they need is one good win to balance it all out (even though it rarely does).

    Personally I feel that its a great example of a good sandbox at work - with real consequences players will have real personalities and much more real approach to risk and reward; if the potential loss exceeds the potential gain or the risk of loss is greater than the chance of success then it simply becomes a mathematical equation and most players will simply take the path with the highest chance of success, regardless of how boring that is.

    I don't think that CCP should discourage or encourage any play style over another as it defys the point of the sandbox - in a sandbox if I want to spend all my time making T1 ammo and selling it for little or no profit then as long as I am happy doing that then I shouldn't feel persecuted for doing something that I enjoy simply because its not the 'preferred' playstyle.

    I think what the sandbox needs is more toys for each play style to play with so that everyone has something that they enjoy doing but also have the chance to try something new and if they enjoy it they'll keep doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Older players have too much ISK and not nearly enough to spend it on.

    Nerfing ISK sources is part of the problem, but not the biggest part.

    What is needed are bigger ISK & asset sinks at the high end, not across the board - ie. don't introduce things which make the low end more expensive and overly penalizes the new players. Clone replacement costs work this way already, so it isn't a new idea.

    New taxes which affect the rich would be good. Luxury tax on more expensive modules & ships, for example.

    Office costs, corp and alliance fees - all this should be based on member numbers (bigger, ie. richer, pays more).

    And, fix that stupid wardec cost formula - wardec costs should be based on aggressor size, not defender.

    And, the material reqs on BPOs for caps and supercaps should be increased dramatically - say, up 10x or so. This would also help deal with the supercap proliferation problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And, fix that stupid wardec cost formula - wardec costs should be based on aggressor size, not defender.

      Neither nor, wardec cost should be based on corp size differences and scale with corp size.

      Delete
  8. 1) Introduce maintenance costs on assets. Make players pay to keep their toys. More toys, more ISK it takes to support the habit. Call it storage fees, whatever. But keep it per player. Corp assets similarly charged. fee applies to anything in the game with a value: ship, module, implant, component, mineral, PLEX, POS structure, fuel, etc.

    2) Assembled ships decay. After 30 days of not being flown in space, the ship will lose a % of structure, eventually sitting at 1%. You may want to rep that before flying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everything should decay, after a set period of time, unless it is repaired. This includes ships (assembled or not), modules, rigs, drones, etc. Decayed components should have lower performance, perhaps dropping a meta level after reaching a certain level - eventually decaying into T1 components and finally into Metal Scraps.

      Ships in space should decay faster than ships in station - this includes ships within a POS shield.

      Repair costs are an ISK sink, so it is a good mechanism for sucking up some of the excess ISK.

      Delete
    2. A better way to implement maintenance costs would be to have an increasing amount of damage be applied per week that the costs are not paid. One cannot, though, have damage occur at the same time that someone pays their maintenance fee - that would be ridiculous.

      Also, not absolutely everything in game should have a maintenance cost. Certain things (i.e. plex) should not logically cost anything to maintain.

      The only problem is that such a system would tend to have a disproportionate impact on less wealthy players. If that problem could be solved equitably, though, why not have such a system?

      Delete
    3. "The only problem is that such a system would tend to have a disproportionate impact on less wealthy players. If that problem could be solved equitably, though, why not have such a system?"

      Equality is not wanted in this case, you want to tax rich players more than poor, and you do this via their assets. Rich players simply have more of them. And for convinced this will stay for most that way even when they have to pay tax on their assets. Furthermore inflation will reduce the value of their liquid ISK, while taxes on assets will consume the value of their stored assets. Imo this is a good mechanic.

      Delete
  9. I'm a newish player. I've been playing for 7 or 8 months now.

    I view PvE as the grind needed to PvP. When I have a lot in my wallet, I never bother with PvEing. When I start to get low I start grinding away. I don't have a hanger full of ships I don't fly. In fact the only ships I don't get blown up on a regular basis is mining barges and missioning boats that I've largely stopped flying. The only reason I haven't sold them is the difficultly in recapping the costs of the rigs.

    Thanks to faction warfare, scarcity for new players is a thing of the past. It's less boring than mining or missions and you get decent combat experience from it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your faction war example only works for players that enjoy that sort of thing, Jack. Not every player wants to do FW. For those that do, it's great, but the system can't be designed just around one style of play.

      Everyone needs to be given a reasonable chance to make ISK and progress in terms of ship possession. Not necessarily an equal chance, but at least a reasonable one.

      Delete
  10. I read the devblog about EVE Serenity's reset (still haven't been able to confirm if it's a true reset) and I find myself very excited by that concept. I doubt most players would agree with me, but if all of EVE were going to be reset from square 1, I'd resub in a heartbeat.

    I played for a bit over 2 years but gave away all of my assets (I'd put myself in the 10% of people doing "ok" with assets previously in the 10's of billions). The proliferation of wealth, supers, and fleet numbers just doesn't interest me though. Maybe I'll learn Chinese and start fresh =P

    ReplyDelete
  11. New players are risk-adverse because of the cost of replacing ships.

    Old players are risk-adverse because losing expensive ships lowers their KB efficiency.

    So, for new players, the insurance costs should be lowered and the insurance payoff set much higher. After all, the ship reimbursement program is one way that successful corps/alliances attract new players.

    And, for old players, a new metric of KB efficiency should be created - one which gives a higher ranking to players who risk flying more expensive ships, even if they lose them. So, losing with an officer-fit BS, worth over 1B ISK, should give you a better score than winning with a T1 fit frigate, worth less than 2M ISK.

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    Replies
    1. SRP and KB aren't the be-all and end-all of EVE.

      Whether an alliance or corp has an SRP has nothing to do with my decision on flying with them. In fact, I would argue that entities that have so much ISK that they can afford robust SRPs are a symptom of what's broke in EVE. With the amount of ISK floating about to the point where losing ships is meaningless (or almost so), one of the underlying pillars of what I think makes EVE great is destroyed. No or little consequence makes EVE into a more complex version of BSG Online. (And, yes, I do understand that not every SRP is bottomless, but my underlying point is still valid.)

      As for KB efficiency, it holds no water for me. It's a meaningless statistic. In fact, those corps and alliances who hold KB stats near and dear to their hearts are ones I don't bother with. I could care less what my epeen stats are and I suspect I'm not the only one. Now if only that attitude would take hold among the "leet" nullsec alliances and the general PvP groups...

      Delete
    2. KB efficiency might not matter to Heretic, but it does to most everyone else.

      It *is* a stupid statistic, and one which either needs to be removed or replaced by something that everyone agrees is better.

      Until then, yes, players are going to avoid fights, just to avoid losing expensive ships.

      Delete
  12. Quid pro rho

    The last scene of fight club is interesting. You blow up all the credit history buildings and then no one can be charged for past purchases, all debt is forgiven. Everyone is rich then and has money again.

    Also what is fun is the muslims did do terrorism to disrupt economic activity. Also chuck really wanted to write 9/11 stories but was told no one would publish them if he did, so he decided not to, but really wanted to. Just mean, some people have already tried the economic terrorism and its hasn't worked out tooo well, but who knows.

    Besides you just said most players in EVE are Spoiled rich kids, so I doubt they could do a serious terrorist even.

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  13. From what I been hearing between the new AI decimating drones & level 4 rooms going agromanic there has been a bigger stealth nerf on missions then was expected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really.

      As usual, the ones who are whining are carebears who rely totally on EVE-Survival to run missions, fit like s**t, are unable to adapt, and need mommy to hold their weenies while they pee.

      The "new" L4 mission NPC AI is the same as the Sleeper NPC AI in wormholes, and the same strategies work to beat them. The only difference is that early WH players gladly took on the new AI as a challenge, whereas the carebears just cry and wet themselves.

      I've already run several of the L4s, incl. WC - no BFD.

      Give it a month or two, after EVE-Survival gets all of the L4 missions updated, and the whining will die down.

      Delete
    2. And this is only phase 1 of the plan to wipe out high sec income aka missions. Have a look at the dev blog about the AI. Fox Four states quite clearly that Retribution was released with a "defect" in the AI where only the 1st release of drones were targeted by a wave of NPC's. If the drones acquire aggro (which they do within seconds), and they manage to get back to your drone bay, you can release them and forget about the NPC's in that wave attacking them again. However, Fox Four has stated that this "defect" will be fixed soon by CCP. That means that drones will be attacked anytime, by any NPC in a mission, or plex, or belt, or anomaly.

      That will end all use of drones in PvE.

      To understand what is happening, you have to go back to the last FanFest, and the Ten Ton Hammer interview done by Soundwave. Incidentally, if you did not know, Soundwave is a goon. He did the Fanfest presentation a number of years ago for the goons, and it can be seen on You Tube. In that presentation he states he ran the espionage wing of goons. So CCP has hired the guy that specialized in espionage for the group that most prides themselves on destroying games and bringing down organizations from within.....

      But I digress. Soundwave in his Ten Ton Hammer interview specifically stated that he may have to lower all mission income by 10% to reign in inflation. (Never mind that the May economic report stated we were in a deflationary state, and the current economic report this week stated that if Plexes were removed from the equation, the Eve Economy was in a deflationary state.) Well, CCP is doing just that, and then some. Who knows what the final numbers will look like, but it will likely be far more than 10% reduction.

      Oh, the reason that we won't know for sure is because CCP has stopped giving out precise numbers on income generation. It is easier make a lie believed if there are no facts available to refute it.

      Delete
  14. Interesting assessment. I admit I scoffed at first, but you've got a good point all around. Minor quibble though - "inflation" isn't so much to blame for rising costs lately so much as "CCP done fucked up the mineral supply" is. And even then, that's only relative to the all-time lows imposed by the drone regions...I can go buy a raven today for right around what I did my first one back in 2006, and fit it more cheaply to boot thanks to invention having long since cheapened T2 equipment.

    The cost of game time (PLEX these days) is exempt from everything I just said, of course. Back when I paid the same ~150m for my first raven in 2006, I paid a mere 90m for a month of play...

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  15. If we don't count replacement ships (equally fitted clones of "main" ships), I use 100.0% of my ships. Probably that's why I'm in the rich 5% group with 80B liquid in the moment.

    About the point of the article: too long to be a comment, will write a blogpost about it.

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  16. Some people enjoy giving their hard-earned to noobs and start-ups.
    EVE won't die until the quiet core of altruists are completely alienated from the game. Yes, the ying and yang of build and destroy is out of balance at the moment; but that makes the humane in an unforgiving universe much more valuable.
    Sure there is lot of isk out there, but how much of it is in active circulation? how much of it is locked away in abandoned accounts? - which is what I think Mary Titor's point addresses - although I don't agree with the solution.
    I think Proff E's got it right. More stuff needs to be seen to disappear destructively. PvE events need to be frighteningly devastating and something to rally against. Not an optional source of income. Have the Serpentis compromise CONCORD for a while. Change the rules for a few months and people will wake up from their comfortable routines and start playing again.

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  17. Our socialist German government would just tax the rich and give it to the poor.
    Also, when players leave the game for that, they would have agreements with other game manufacturers to do the same :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Make supercaps take CONCORD licenses to run, purchasable with isk or concord LP

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  19. I'm a newish player (7 months). I think the real wrinkle for me is that the ways that it sounds like people make lots of money involves either having a lot of money/skills (Incursions, Wormholes) or lots of time (Faction War under the old system, station trading, manufacturing). If you're a family man who plays a couple times a week for 1-2 hours, then some of those don't seem to work. So I'm trying things like missions to get some ISK and then dip into FW or RvB when I have enough to afford losing some ships. But I'm certainly not seeing getting to the point that I have a billion around.

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  20. Inflation or not is not a problem in eve-online. We are sandbox, trade is global, if everyone pays 10 isk or 100 isk or 1.000.000 isk for stuff is not really relevant.

    We are not rich because our wallets are full. We are rich because resources are not worth much. Our slaves generate not only isk out of thin air, but our slaves aka bots generate resources out of thin air.

    Most ships from the rifter to the avatar are build from ore that has been acquired from afk miners or bots. This is the root many problems of eve.
    We are rich because our resources are nearly unlimited. if technetium could be botted ... you can figure out the rest.

    This is not really the economical deal we original signed up for eve where minerals were advertised as limited resource and controlling those resources was key to rule the universe. Instead we have moon goo.

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  21. "The cost of game time (PLEX these days) is exempt from everything I just said, of course. Back when I paid the same ~150m for my first raven in 2006, I paid a mere 90m for a month of play..."


    Very good example. Plex still has real value. Ships without tech have not.

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  22. Too much ISK in your wallet?

    Start putting bounties on every carebear in high sec.

    I've put over 100 bounties on random carebears so far. The tears are amazing. Apparently, most of the carebears didn't bother reading the devblogs or patch notes, so many of them are panicking now that they have WANTED plastered across their faces... lololol.

    I've gotten over 50M ISK in revenge bounties, too - as well as the usual threat emails.... :)

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    Replies
    1. LOL... our corp has been doing much the same, except we're putting them on everyone who doesn't have a bounty.

      We want everyone to celebrate the new year with a WANTED banner.

      Delete

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