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Game

The Game Awards 2021 full nominees list and how you can vote

We’re quickly closing in on the annual Game Awards, and after going remote for a year, we’ll be back in person for 2021. Today, The Game Awards revealed the nominees for each of its categories, including the Game of the Year award. While there are a bunch of different categories and, by extension, many more nominees, there are, as always, some big categories that are worth paying particular attention to.

Game of the Year and beyond

Game of the Year is going to be the biggest award handed out during The Game Awards on December 9th, and there are some solid games in the running. As revealed over on The Game Awards website, the nominees for Game of the Year are Deathloop, It Takes Two, Metroid Dread, Psychonauts 2, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Resident Evil Village.

While we thought that Metroid Dread and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart were both fantastic games (you can find our reviews for both in the timeline section at the end of this article), every contender in this category is one of the year’s heavy hitters. Those games appear in plenty of other categories as well, including Best Game Direction.

The list of nominees for that one is actually very similar to the Game of the Year award, with Deathloop, It Takes Two, Psychonauts 2, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart all featured there along with PS5 exclusive Returnal. With Best Score and Music, we actually see some significant shake-ups, as the nominees for that category include The Artful Escape, Cyberpunk 2077, Deathloop, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139.

Voting is open now, but maybe wait a bit

In all, there are 30 different categories for all sorts of awards, from genre-specific rewards to things that are more gaming-adjacent such as Best Community Support, Best esports Coach, and Content Creator of the Year. Voting is open now, and all it requires is a login using third-party services like Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Twitch.

However, you might want to wait a little while to cast your vote because The Game Awards website seems to be struggling at the time of this writing. When it’s not returning errors, pages are loading very slowly, which is an issue when you have to look at each category and its nominees individually.

Also, keep in mind that the fan vote ultimately counts less than the votes of the jury – significantly so. Jury votes have a 90% weight to them, while the fan vote accounts for the remaining 10%. Still, the fan vote does matter to some extent, so if you want to vote, be sure to get your choices in before December 8th at 6 PM PST, which is when voting ends. The Game Awards will happen the next day, on December 9th at 7 PM EST.

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Game

AGDQ 2022 full schedule revealed: Speedruns we’re looking forward to

The schedule for Awesome Games Done Quick 2022 has been revealed, and as always, we’ve got a week’s worth of speedruns to sift through now that it’s live. Previously, Games Done Quick announced the games list for AGDQ 2022, but now with the full schedule out in the open, we get to see how each day of the event will play out. For Games Done Quick veterans, there’s even one surprising change this year.

Image Credit: BONDART PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock

AGDQ 2022 schedule and details

The full schedule can be found on the Games Done Quick website. Awesome Games Done Quick will run 24 hours a day for nearly an entire week, starting at 11:30 AM EST on Sunday, January 9th, 2022, and wrapping up sometime after midnight on Sunday, January 16th. In fact, the schedule says that the finale should be going live right around midnight on the 16th, but Games Done Quick events tend to run long by a few hours.

For those who may be new to Games Done Quick, the gist is that the organization hosts a pair of week-long speedrunning marathons each year in which speedrunners from all over the world attend to show off their skills and their games. Awesome Games Done Quick takes place in the winter, while Summer Games Done Quick takes place in – you guessed it – the summer. At AGDQ, the money raised goes toward the Prevent Cancer Foundation, while SGDQ raises funds for Doctors Without Borders.

Recent events have been forced to go online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and AGDQ 2022 will be no different in that regard. There was some hope that Games Done Quick would be able to resume in-person events beginning with AGDQ 2022, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing in many regions of the world, we’ll have to wait until at least SGDQ 2022 – and possibly even later – before in-person events resume.

AGDQ 2022 runs we’re looking forward to

Since AGDQ 2022 is a week-long event, it’ll be packed with a ton of speedruns. There are too many good speedruns to count, but there are a few we’re looking forward to specifically. The marathon gets off to a strong start with speedruns of Deathloop, Mega Man 2, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, and a blindfolded tanker run of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance all on the first day, though that last one is a bonus run that will only be played if a certain donation incentive is met.

Throughout the rest of the marathon, a few of the runs that stick out include Gunstar Heroes on expert difficulty, a Super Mario Galaxy Luigi race between four different players, a New Game+ speedrun of the fantastic Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on PS5, and a speedrun of Sonic Jam on the beyond terrible Game.com handheld.

The last day, as always, is filled with some big runs, including Mario Kart Wii, Earthbound, Subnautica, Sonic Adventure DX, and Halo: Combat Evolved. The show will be closing with a speedrun of Metal Gear Solid, so there won’t be any six-hour RPG runs to cap off AGDQ this time around.

Interestingly, there’s a rather sparse showing from the Metroid series at AGDQ 2022. While Games Done Quick marathons typically have a Super Metroid speedrun or race toward the end of the show – such as the Super Metroid Impossible run by Oatsngoats that we’ve embedded above – there will be no Super Metroid at AGDQ 2022. The only Metroid speedrun comes on the very first day, with a run of Metroid Prime Hunters on the Nintendo DS.

Still, even without Super Metroid or a long RPG to end the show, AGDQ 2022 is looking like a pretty stacked marathon. Sadly, we’ve still got a couple of months to wait before the marathon kicks off, as the show won’t be kicking off until Sunday, January 9th 2022. When the time comes, you’ll be able to watch the entire marathon on the Games Done Quick Twitch channel.

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Game

Darkest Dungeon 2 Is Dark, Stressful, and Full of Hope

Early access is an oddly unique phenomenon that really only works in the world of video games. Playing a game that’s still incomplete and giving the developers feedback makes sense; it’s almost the purest form of beta testing. Imagine, though, if the audience could look at the dailies on a movie shoot, or listen to the bass line of a new EP. It would be absolute madness. That makes early access feel more intimate. We, as players, get to see a game blossom and grow into its final form, like a butterfly with a two-frame jab and a health bar.

This was my experience with Darkest Dungeon back when it first came to early access in 2015. I watched, and played, every step of the development process. The highs, the lows, the heart attacks, and corpses. I was there to witness it all. Now I am fortunate to do this all over again with its sequel Darkest Dungeon 2 as it has just been released into early access on the Epic Games store. After playing the game for more hours than I care to admit, the main takeaway I got was the feeling of hope.

Stress and hope

For those wondering if Darkest Dungeon 2 is still similar to its predecessor, I want to assure you: Yes it very much is. The core combat mechanics are still at the heart of the game. Managing stress and inventory space are also front and center. Of course, the game is filled with horrific and insidious creatures that are looking to tear the world apart. Even the art and aesthetics have been preserved despite the game being fully 3D.

This time around, players are unleashed upon a wide-open world. Unfortunately, the horrors from the first game have been unleashed as well and have thrown the world into complete chaos. Players must create a caravan of heroes … or fools that are brave enough to take on the darkness head-on. This makes the core loop of the game very different from the original. Instead of slowly traversing through a murky cave or dark catacombs, you are barreling down the road in a horse and carriage trying to get to the next inn. Some roads are more difficult than others as this ramps up the stress that the player will feel. Making split decisions when choosing a path can spell out doom for the player’s run.

A “run” of the game is completely different, as the player no longer has a home base or a collection of heroes (read: fools) ready to jump into the next dungeon. All that is available is a caravan and whoever can fit inside it. Once all the heroes meet their grisly demises, the game is over and must be restarted from the beginning. Of course, certain skills are carried over from each game, as well as the unlocked heroes. Darkest Dungeon 2 feels more like a roguelike this way and feels more refreshing with each run.

Plague Doctor and Highwayman respecting each other.

The stress mechanic is probably the most impactful change compared to the original game. It’s no longer a meter based on 100, but instead 10. That means characters hit their breaking point more often, but it’s also tied very closely to the new relationship mechanic. During each run, characters develop a relationship with each other, for better or worse. The Grave Robber might become inseparable from the Plague Doctor due to the amount of healing and buffs she gives her, or the Highwayman might start to hate the Man-at-Arms because he keeps stealing his kills. These relationships will shape the flow of combat and can be both beneficial and a problem. However, once a character reaches 10 stress they will take a serious hit to their positive relationships, which makes it easier for them to fall into a negative one. The health of the party’s relationships seems as important as the fate of the world.

Currently, there are only nine playable heroes in the early access build, and it’s unknown how many will be in the full game. It has only been playable for less than a week now, so who knows what the final product will look like. This is something the developers are keenly aware of and are asking players to be cognizant of too. A post from Chris Bourassa and Tyler Sigman, the creators of Red Hook Studios and Darkest Dungeon, asks the players to be patient playing through the early access version of Darkest Dungeon 2. They state that things will be updated, balanced, and outright changed during the development process. They also ask the players to give the sequel a chance, despite it being so different from the original.

A message from the founders. pic.twitter.com/LAW1DFKSuM

— Darkest Dungeon (@DarkestDungeon) October 26, 2021

Hope is the true centerpiece of Darkest Dungeon 2. Hope transcends past themes and gameplay and even relates to the creators themselves. The torchlight mechanic from the first game has even been replaced by the resource Hope. When traveling through the game, the heroes will meet survivors of this catastrophe that are in desperate need of hope. The negative relationships the heroes have with each other can slowly be mended during a run, giving a player hope that a particular run is not completely lost.

Hope also drives the developers into making this game — hope that this game can stand on its own, and not just be an expansion of the original. They hope that they can pull this off, and they hope that players will give them time and the chance to do it.

Even with the world turning into an absolute nightmare (specifically talking about the game, but you know …) I cannot help but see the brighter things. The new relationship mechanic, the new push-pull feeling of the stress meter, and even the dreams and desires of the developers make me see this game as a beacon of hope. No amount of unspeakable horrors and negative reviews can stop that for me.

Darkest Dungeon 2‘s early access build is now available on the Epic Games Store.

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Game

‘Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’ trailer is full of zombies

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, a reboot of the movie series, will hit theaters on November 24th, and Sony Pictures has provided a taste of what’s in store with the first trailer. Writer and director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) indicated earlier this year that he was taking things back to the franchise’s horror roots and the trailer offers some positive signs that he’s achieved his goal.

The film is based on the first two games in the classic series and it’s a complete reset following the six (6) Paul W.S. Anderson movies. In case there was any ambiguity about Roberts starting over, the trailer’s opening voiceover puts that firmly to bed. “Every story has a beginning,” one character, perhaps Claire Redfield, says. “Discover the origin of evil.”

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is set in 1998, and we see the first game’s creepy mansion as well as some of the city where the sequel takes place. The trailer hits a lot of the right beats and it includes some memorable moments from the games. There’s a nod to the opening scene of Resident Evil 2, in which an infected truck driver plows his tanker into Raccoon City. Despite a couple of iffy CGI shots, there’s some solid creature design too, including zombie dogs and even a licker. Add in some jump scares, and it’s a promising first look.

If you’re craving more Resident Evil until the movie arrives, you can check out a virtual-reality version of Resident Evil 4 on Oculus Quest 2 later this month. Elsewhere, a live-action show based on the franchise is coming to Netflix. The delayed multiplayer game Resident Evil Re:Verse will arrive next year, and Capcom is working on DLC for Resident Evil Village.

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Game

Here’s our first look at Forza Horizon 5’s full map

The workweek has started with a big reveal for those of us looking forward to Forza Horizon 5. This afternoon, the folks at Playground Games revealed the full map for Forza Horizon 5, and it’s definitely worth a look. The map even names some of the regions and places of interest we’ll be cruising through in Forza Horizon 5, but for the most part, this is all about getting the lay of the land and seeing some of the routes that we’ll get to drive.

As revealed during E3 2021, Forza Horizon 5 will be set in Mexico. The changing seasons of Forza Horizon 4 will be sticking around, though, as today’s reveal shows us the map as it looks during the summer wet season. While Forza Horizon 5 isn’t aiming to give us a carbon copy of Mexico in-game, the map is inspired by Mexico and will feature a collection of different biomes.

Obviously, the thing that immediately sticks out about the map is the massive volcano in the upper left portion. That volcano is featured in the reveal trailer for the game, and as this map shows us, there are roads that lead up to the top and a trail system that takes us around the volcano’s crater.

Following the roads takes us to some interesting places, from farmland to lakeside to either one of the coasts. The bottom portion of the map looks to be mostly covered in rainforest, so we can probably expect some solid offroad courses there. At the same time, a large highway stretches almost horizontally from one coast to the other, making it a good place to test out those supercars that may not handle tight twists and turns as well.

It’s an impressive map, to be sure, and this is a rare chance to see a Forza Horizon map that isn’t filled to the brim with icons and waypoints. Forza Horizon 5 is out on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC on November 9th.

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Game

Today’s Google Doodle is a Full Olympics Video Game

Google has released its most ambitious interactive Doodle yet: A full sports video game inspired by the Olympic games. Champion Island Games stars a calico cat who competes in seven different sporting events on a colorful island.

The Doodle coincides with the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Video games are already a large part of the event this year, as the opening ceremony featured music from Japanese video games like Dragon Quest.

Champion Island Games stars a female calico named Lucky who lands on a sport-filled island. There are seven different sports strewn around the island, each of which is presented as a unique minigame. There’s a Dance Dance Revolution-esque swimming rhythm game and a Tony Hawk-like skateboarding event, to name just two. Players get a scroll for winning in each event — you’ll have to play to see what happens when you get all seven.

There’s a surprising amount to do in the game. There are several little sub-quests scattered around the island. Players can complete tasks to fill a trophy room. All in all, it’ll take players at least a half hour to fully complete the game.

Notably, the game features gorgeous animated cutscenes that look like they arrived straight out of an anime. The animations were created by Studio 4°C, which made the game alongside Google.

According to Google, Champion Island Games is the largest interactive Doodle the company has ever made. A making-of feature notes that most Doodles are the size of one of the game’s sports, making it a surprisingly robust undertaking.

Champion Island Games is available to play right now by heading over to Google and tapping on the Doodle. It supports both mouse and keyboard controls, as well as mobile ones.

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Game

GDC Dev Survey Shows Full Impact of the Pandemic on Gaming

It probably comes as no surprise that the pandemic had a major impact on the video game industry. That’s been especially apparent in 2021 as major game delays seem to happen every week. Companies like Ubisoft have completely shifted their release schedule as studios adapt to work from home development.

That’s left gamers with plenty of anxiety about just how long we’ll be feeling the effects of the pandemic in the gaming industry. If games that were close to completion needed to be delayed a full year, what does that mean for games that were early in their development cycle?

We now have some clearer answers to those questions thanks to GDC’s 2021 State of the Game industry report. GDC surveyed over 3,000 developers this year, who shed some light on how the pandemic impacted their games. While the short-term effects have been grim, a move to remote work may be a net positive for gaming in the future.

The bad news

The immediate effects of the pandemic on gaming have been fairly obvious. With studios forced to suddenly shift to remote work on a dime, game development hit a snag back in March 2020. Games like The Last of Us Part 2 had their release dates shifted back a few months to deal with that shift, but the real scope of the blowback wasn’t felt until 2021. After all, games that were scheduled to launch in 2020 were already close to the finish line. It’s the games that weren’t quite as far along that could be impacted hardest.

GDC’s State of the Game survey echoed that result. In 2020’s poll, only 33% of responders said their game faced a pandemic-related delay. This year, that number shot up to 44%. While the majority of developers polled said their games hadn’t been delayed, that’s still a significant rise compared to last year.

There are plenty of challenges that game developers have faced in different phases of the process, from playtesting to prototyping new ideas. I spoke to GDC Content Marketing Lead Kris Graft about the survey’s findings, who gave a specific example of the obstacles developers have faced.

“Early on in the pandemic, we were talking to the Jackbox folks and they were talking about the way that they make games,” says Graft. “They’re stuff is so community-based and interactive with other issues. They had an issue with playtesting. I am an advocate for remote work, but I understand that you can’t devalue having face-to-face time.”

Logistical nightmares aren’t the only problems game developers faced in the last year and a half. Several developers cited that childcare created some headaches as well. Work-life balance between challenging to juggle as developers found themselves interrupted by kids who were stuck learning from home. Others lost access to some of their contractors as they had to pivot to taking care of their kids full time.

The good news

With a year and a half of challenges, one has to wonder if gaming will continue struggling with delays (both internal and external ones) beyond 2021. Fortunately, Kris Graft believes that we may be through the worst of it as studios begin to reopen and formally adopt hybrid workflows.

“If a game is in its early stages right now, I don’t think five years from now people are going to say it’s because of COVID-19 that it got pushed back,” Graft jokes. “As people have gotten used to the new processes, things start to move more smoothly. Once offices start opening up safely and people are able to start doing hybrid or in-office work, I don’t see why the past year and a half would continue to impact game release dates.”

If anything, the survey indicates that remote work could be a net positive for the industry in the long run. Developers largely felt that their productivity didn’t suffer while working from home. In fact, 35% said their productivity either somewhat or greatly increased, while 32% said it stayed about the same. While others found it more challenging, the results indicate that developers were more than capable of working outside of a studio.

The amount that developers worked during a week remained static as well compared to 2020’s polling. A majority of responders said they were working somewhere between 36 and 45 hours a week, which is a positive sign that developers were able to create boundaries in their work-life balance.

There’s one aspect of remote work that’s been especially positive for gaming. Studios are less restricted in who they can hire. Rather than just recruiting local talent who can come into an office, companies can expand their talent search since work can happen remotely. That means studios can make more diverse hires, as well as nab powerhouse talent that wouldn’t be willing to move for a job.

Despite the delays, Graft finds that the forced shift to work from home is ultimately good for the industry. The long-term effects may sound troubling in theory, but survey data indicates that remote work is able to help game developers, not hinder them.

“I do think that it’s good for this to be an option for companies to have now,” says Graft. “I don’t think remote working is ever going to replace all in-person stuff, but you can strike a balance and expand the talent pool. I think that’s really good for the game industry; getting more people in and not forcing them to move out to the Bay or something.”

The video game industry was forced to change in the past year and a half. While some of those were tough, companies shouldn’t throw out what’s worked for developers. The industry should come out of this strong, not weaker.

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Tech News

Chrome will no longer try to hide the full address of websites

As the maker of the world’s most-used web browser, Google has both a moral and maybe even legal obligation to protect the privacy and security of its users. Not all of its efforts have been welcomed without scrutiny, however, as shown by the Privacy Sandbox and FLoC, short for Federated Learning of Cohorts. Even before that, however, Google has been trying to fight off phishing scams by modifying what uses see on Chrome’s address bar. It turns out that strategy wasn’t as effective as it presumed and Google is now backtracking on the position it defended strongly last year.

Many phishing scams rely on people’s tendency not to double-check things, be it numbers that are calling them or the address that websites have. The latter can be even trickier when some phishing sites try to use URLs or addresses that look or sound so close to the original, use extra-long strings of text to deter inspection, or use other tricks to hide their true source. Google’s prosed solution was to hide those URLs altogether and only show the real domain name of the web page.

Last year, Google started an experiment where it would hide all but the domain name of a site in the hopes that it would help users more easily distinguish “google.com” from “gooogle.com”. It is a far tamer option compared to an even older proposal where Chrome would not even show URLs but only search terms. That, of course, presumed everyone uses address bars for directly searching on Google or other web engines.

Now Google is apparently now ending this “simplified domain experiment”, which means it will no longer land on end-users’ Chrome browsers. It simply said that the strategy didn’t move relevant security metrics, which is probably another way of saying it wasn’t actually effective in combating spoofing sites. There is probably an even bigger risk that people won’t give the simplified URL a second look because it actually looked more legit by looking simpler.

Beyond doubts about the effectiveness of the solution, however, Google also got criticized for favoring its own apps and services with this strategy. In particular, it would have hidden Google’s AMP pages from plain sight, driving more traffic to Google’s servers rather than the actual source of those sites.

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Tech News

Lyft’s first in-house electric bike is reflective and packed full of sensors

After two years of in-house development, the ridesharing company Lyft has introduced its first electric bicycle. The new model is described as the company’s next-generation ebike, one that features a distinct and highly reflective design, as well as a stronger motor, single-gear transmission, and more. In addition to launching the ebike, Lyft has plans to pilot a charging station feature.

Electric bicycle rentals have become a common sight in big cities, offering tourists and residents alike the ability to easily rent a motorized bicycle for getting around. There are benefits to using these bikes: you don’t need to purchase and store your own model, you can grab one whenever it is convenient, and the company takes care of all the maintenance.

Lyft has been offering ebike rentals for a while, but this is the first time it has introduced an electric bicycle designed in-house. The company describes its bike as smart and adaptive; its battery and cables are fully integrated into the bike’s frame, it’s better equipped to handle situations like bridges and hills, and it packs a variety of sensors that monitor the bike’s systems.

Other features include the use of retroreflective paint, the same kind you find on street signs, to make sure cyclists are highly visible to drivers. The paint is joined by an illuminated light ring, hydraulic brakes, a wider seat with an improved adjustment clamp, a longer range of 60 miles, and an LCD screen with a speaker that offers users instructions on renting and using the bikes.

Lyft’s kicking off its public beta test after thousands of hours of testing, the company said as part of its announcement. The in-house Lyft ebike will first be available to the public in the Bay Area, followed by a phased roll out to other cities starting with Chicago later this year.

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Computing

Get Full Dell Desktop Bundle For $830 With This Insane Deal

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When buying a new PC, you’ll usually have to look at desktop computer deals and desktop monitor deals separately, and figure out the CPU and screen that are perfect for each other. However, Dell is making the process easier with the Inspiron Desktop Bundle, which includes the CPU, a pair of 24-inch monitors, and essential accessories. Making the bundle an even better deal is that it’s currently on sale with a $275 discount, bringing its price down to just $830 from its original price of $1,105.

The Inspiron Desktop Bundle includes a CPU that’s powered by the 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and the Intel UHD Graphics 630, so it can run the latest productivity apps without any problems. You’ll also be able to smoothly multitask between several apps at a time, which will make it easier and faster to finish tasks for work or school. The CPU also features a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD, for more than enough space to install the software that you regularly use.

The CPU comes with a pair of Dell S2421HN monitors, which look amazing with their 23.8-inch screens and 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution. The very thin bezels make the displays look even larger, and with ComfortView technology, they’re easy on the eyes as harmful blue light emissions are reduced. For gamers, the monitors also support AMD FreeSync technology with refresh rates of up to 75Hz, for tear-free experiences while you’re playing your favorite games.

Completing the Inspiron Desktop Bundle are the CA Essential Webcam and the Dell Pro Wireless Keyboard and Mouse, so that once everything is all set up, you can immediately start working, participating in virtual meetings, or attending online classes.

If you want to upgrade your PC, but you don’t want separate purchases for the CPU, monitor, and accessories, then you might want to consider the Inspiron Desktop Bundle. Dell is currently offering the bundle at $275 off, lowering its price to just $830 from its original price of $1,105. It’s unclear how long the deal will last, so if you want to experience the convenience of buying everything that you need for a new PC while enjoying savings at the same time, you shouldn’t hesitate on clicking that Buy Now button.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

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