Meanwhile…

I’ve pretty much given up on the account magic fairy returning to allow me into the game before October 12th, and so I’ve been using the time to play stuff I haven’t played in a while and check out a few new things. One of the most interesting I’ve played so far is a new free-to-play game called Black Prophecy.

Graphically it seems somewhat reminiscent of Eve-Online, and your on-screen character is represented by your ship, but that’s where the similarities end. It’s a real time space shooter but with a good solid storyline, quite unlike Eve in the actual gameplay. The major drawback I’ve found so far is that the targeting and combat controls are loose and difficult to master, but I haven’t yet reached the point where I’ve given up trying. I just downloaded this a couple of days ago and am still in the earliest stages of the game so I’m willing to put in a little more time and effort before I decide that it’s just too much of a pain in the ass.

As luck would have it, it seems this game went live just a couple of weeks ago, and so it’s still fresh and new. I’m hoping I can get enough of a handle on the combat that it’ll prove a suitable distraction for the next few weeks until I can play FE again.

I was in the closed beta of Rusty Hearts, but lost the game when my hard drive crashed and I haven’t felt that I’ve missed it enough to bother re-downloading it, even though it’s just gone into open beta, supposedly with many new features and updates. Maybe I’ll give that one another shot if I decide to bail out on Black Prophecy…we’ll see.

Also, just released is a new FAQ on FE’s free-to-play configuration. As I’d expected, the crafting limit is apparently not something which disappears if you prove yourself a real player and not a chip farmer by buying something in the premium store like the chip limit, but rather something which will continue to plague free players throughout their time in the game unless and until they get a paid account.

This, to me, is the single biggest problem with FE’s upcoming free-to-play configuration and the one aspect of the game most likely to discourage new players from sticking around long enough to to want to invest actual money in the game. Simply put, once new players get into the game enough to start regularly using the crafting system to upgrade their equipment and discover how long it’s going to actually take them to build a complex item like a vehicle or a more powerful weapon than what they start with when they’re limited to only 8 hours of crafting a day, many of these new players are going to start looking for something else to play.

Some MMO’s can probably get away with this kind of thing, particularly those which are extremely popular already such as WoW, or those which are connected to a popular franchise like Star Trek, Star Wars, or DC Comics, but Fallen Earth doesn’t have any of those things. FE will live or die solely on its own merits because it doesn’t have an established fanbase outside of the game itself from which to draw players from. The reality is that a lot of players just aren’t going to have the patience to work around that crafting limit and aren’t going to be willing to wait three times as long as paid players to craft an item they want or need to progress in the game. Making your first ATV is time-consuming enough even with 24-hour crafting, and I seriously doubt that players who are just trying out this game for the first time are going to be willing to accept a tripling of crafting time in order to accomplish many of their in-game goals.

For players like me, this isn’t as big a deal. I fully intend to get a paid subscription once I can afford it because I really enjoy the game and I already have a lot of time and effort invested, but new players trying to get their footing in the game won’t have that history with Fallen Earth and therefore likely won’t have established their loyalty to the game as solidly as I have.

With so many free-to-play alternatives out there already and more coming all the time, including big-name-major-franchise-connected games like Star Trek Online and DC Universe Online, I have serious concerns that Fallen Earth won’t be able to compete in the free-to-play market with so basic a game function as crafting crippled as severely as it will be for free players. I see it as much the same as if STO didn’t allow a free player to fly a real starship but only shuttles or if DCUO didn’t allow you to fly on free accounts. Such limits would kill the free-to-play model on those games and I fear the same may be true for FE and its crafting limit.

What I’d much rather see happen is GamersFirst trash the crafting limit and instead offer more in the way of customization options for paying players the way STO and Crimecraft do. Another option I think is important which GamersFirst doesn’t currently offer is to allow players to use G1 credits to buy premium account game time. I’m someone who generally doesn’t like to use credit cards to pay for gaming if I can avoid it and that would allow players like me to go to our local store, buy gaming cards with cash, and so be able to access premium-tier game time without using a credit card.

The success of the free-to-play model is a symptom of the modern economic reality for a lot of gamers, maybe even the majority. A part of that reality is that a lot of us just can’t or won’t get involved with a recurring monthly subscription anymore because we don’t know if we’ll be able to keep affording the expense even as little as just a few months down the road. For most of us, particularly for adult gamers with adult-level bills to cover every month, the entertainment budget is going to be the first thing that takes a hit when finances get tight and cutbacks in expenses have to be made, and for many an MMO subscription is likely to be among the very first things that will go in such situations.

If a player has the ability to buy premium gaming time when and as she can afford it I believe it’s much more likely that she’ll upgrade her account on a game she really likes for as long as she can as often as she can than if the only way to access those premium account benefits is to initiate a recurring subscription. Two different kinds of players, two different ways of paying, two different sources of income for GamersFirst. Not only is it just more convenient for more players in general,  but having both ways to pay will probably generate more income for GamersFirst because more players will be able to get what they want without having to get involved with recurring subscription payments that will give pause to many currently on shaky financial ground.

In addition, allowing players to use G1 credits to buy premium account time will also allow players of limited financial means to earn all or part of their premium time through participating in surveys and other offers which pay off in G1 credits, opening still a third avenue of income for GamersFirst from players who might not be able to pay for that time at all otherwise and giving those players more incentive to stick around and keep playing (and paying).

The simple truth is that in GamersFirst buying Fallen Earth and taking it free-to-play the obvious ultimate goal is for this game to succeed and even flourish for many years to come. The more money Fallen Earth generates, the more likely it is that that will happen. The better an introduction to the game a new player gets when they arrive, the more incentive they’re given to keep playing, and the more ways they’re offered to pay for the best experience they can afford, the more likely it is that they’ll be inspired to continue to invest money in the game.

I believe that the imposition of the crafting limit in Fallen Earth works directly against all of these goals. I hope GamersFirst gives this a serious rethink. I’d hate to see this game go down in flames because it couldn’t keep enough new players who might have stayed otherwise.

After all, if the choice is either offering 24-hour crafting to all players or not gaining enough new players to keep the servers up for anyone, is that really a choice at all?

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Pricing Out the Future of Fallen Earth

Knowing that I’m probably going to sign up for some sort of premium account with Fallen Earth once I can afford it, I’ve been thinking about what kind of account I’d want. If the money’s there, I’d probably go for a Wastelander account at $15 a month, but realistically I may well find myself settling for a Survivalist account at $10 a month.

One thing I do know for sure is that even if I had it to spare I’d never plunk down $30 a month for a Commander account because I don’t believe the benefits are worth the price. I mean, sure the aura buff sounds nice, and there are a few upgrades on experience gain, crafting speed, and a few other things, but nothing I can see that makes it worth double the price of the Wastelander account, even if I were a clan leader (which, frankly, I don’t expect to be as it isn’t something I aspire to).

What bothers me most about the new pricing tiers for FE isn’t the crafting, experience, and other buffs, but the limits placed on crafting time. While some players may not craft as much as I do, I’m one of those players who almost always makes it a point to log out in a crafting facility with often enough crafting projects lined up overnight to get me through until I can log in again. I have a feeling I’ll be bumping up against that 8 hour limit quite often and I’m not going to be happy about it.

Buffs, or the lack thereof, I can live with. In fact, I enjoy taking the time to smell the tainted roses. I really enjoy the game and I’m in no rush to hurry through the content. The crafting limit is another story. For me, the crafting is part of what makes FE special and interesting. I’ve seen no other free-to-play game that limits crafting in this way. Crimecraft, for example, as part of their premium accounts gives you increased experience gain, a gold bar stipend (in-game cash for use in their premium store) and a few other buffs, but doesn’t limit the amount of crafting you can do.

I’m hoping that GamersFirst reconsiders the crafting limit as well as the pricing of the Commander account. Frankly, one of the biggest things that makes FE attractive, that makes it stand out from all the other free-to-play games on the market, is the crafting. By limiting crafting GamersFirst is also limiting the fun to be had by playing FE in that in order to progress in the game you must be replacing and upgrading your equipment on a fairly regular basis. By limiting crafting to 8 hours for Scavenger accounts, GamersFirst is consigning Scavengers to endless hours of grinding and scavenging in order to come up with chips to pay for that which they won’t be able to craft for themselves.

A big selling point of FE is that 95% of the available items in the game can be crafted. When crafting is limited in this way it means that non-premium players will have the choice of either spending hours and hours grinding for chips to work around the crafting limit or they will find themselves at a substantial disadvantage in terms of making their way through the game. I believe that’s going to unbalance the game in a way that many players will not find worth that much time and effort to rectify.

I left Eve-Online in part because for me it became less about having fun and more about responsibility and work. That’s not what I play an MMO for. When I take on responsibility and work I expect a paycheck, not to be paying for the privilege. Personally, I believe that more than any other single issue the crafting limit will inspire many new players to quit the game in annoyance and frustration, and FE will be left with what it had before, that which led it to go free-to-play in the first place: A relatively small hardcore paying player base with very few new players joining the ranks or sticking around very long if they do. With more and more free-to-play games popping up all the time, I strongly suspect that Fallen Earth will find itself losing players to other games with less limits for free players on the aspects of the game that make them attractive to new players in the first place, besides simply the fact that they can play for free.

Of course I can only speak for myself here, but as an MMO veteran and someone who’s played probably more than her share of free-to-play games and betas I know that, forget everything else, the reason I game is to have fun, and if I’m having fun with a game I’ll be more inspired to spend money on it. If progressing through that game requires me to spend a lot of time doing stuff that’s less fun, or even boring, it’s far less likely that I’m going to be willing to shell out for more. It’s not only because there’s so much more less fun or boring stuff I’d have to do in order to get to the stuff I do want to do, but also because the real world limits my total time available for gaming and I want  to spend that time having fun. Simply put, if I’m not having fun playing a game then it’s not worth my time to play it and it’s time to say buh-bye.

There are many ways to fund a free-to-play game, but limiting something as a basic to FE as crafting is, in my opinion, limiting the amount of fun a player can have by playing this game and that’s a recipe for either mass exodus or mass apathy. With the amount of choices players have these days in regard to where to spend their available gaming time, it’s also a recipe for a slow-motion final death blow for this game. Casual free players will move on to other games and unlike me, will probably never return to FE. As a result, GamersFirst will lose all that potential revenue and eventually will have no choice but to shut down the servers, when they might well have been able to save a significant portion of those players and the potential future revenue they could have generated from those accounts by keeping the parts of FE that make it stand out from the crowd and attract new players as they are.

The reality is that when you tell players “If you want more from this game than the basics you ‘ll have to pay for it.” most players can and will accept that, but if you instead tell players “If you don’t want us to take away basic parts of the game that got you interested in the first place you’ll have to pay.” a lot of players will say “Fuck that.” and start looking for something else to play. It may not be fair, it may not make sense from a business and maximizing profits standpoint, but it is nonetheless the truth. And another truth is that if enough players do say “Fuck this.” and move on to other games, they’ll take their potential profits with them and GamersFirst will quickly find itself with an investment that perhaps barely breaks even or generates too little profit to sustain its infrastructure and development expenses. If that happens, we can start counting the days until Fallen Earth goes bye-bye.

There’s no doubt that going free-to-play will generate renewed player interest in this game. Whether those players stick around, though, will be entirely dependent on whether it remains fun for everyone, not just fun for those who are willing to pay for premium accounts and a less than fun monotonous grind for everyone else. Here’s hoping that GamersFirst remembers why they bought this game in the first place and takes steps to eliminate the crafting limit for all players and reduce the Commander subscription down to a fair and affordable price level ($20 a month seems reasonable to me).

Extra-fast crafting as a premium buff, sure. Time limits on crafting, no, no, no…not if this game is to be successful in free-to-play.  One is paying to get more from the game, the other is paying not to get less than players already get right now. One is a win, the other a virtually guaranteed loser. If GamersFirst is indeed serious about putting gamers first, there’s only one possible way to go here, the one which helps to ensure that FE will be around and healthy for a long time to come. Here’s hoping they make the right choice, preferably before October 12th.

Old Enough To Be New Again

Ok I’ll admit it…I’m bored.

Bored with Star Trek Online, bored with Need For Speed World, and thoroughly annoyed with Crimecraft, to the point where I’m seriously considering uninstalling that game and not playing it anymore. It seems that after a recent server merge Crimecraft managed to lose many older characters, including the one I’d been playing for months. My account and the servers say it’s still there, but I can’t access it. When I tried to post a question and request for help about it on their forums I couldn’t, some kind of server error. So if I want to play Crimecraft it appears I’ll have to start from scratch, and there’s just no fucking way, after all the time and effort I put into that toon, that I’m going to do that.

So with my return to Fallen Earth still a month away I went to my library of games on Direct2Drive to see if anything caught my eye as being worth replaying. Not an easy task. Aside from FE, which I originally purchased from there in back in ’09, I’ve replayed most of my favorites from there enough that I just don’t want to do it again. I suppose I’ll eventually have to replay the Mass Effect games before ME3 comes out to get the best experience, but I just replayed them a few months ago and I’m just not up for that right now. Batman: Arkham Asylum I’ve pretty much played to death…it’s a great game, but just not something I feel like replaying right now.

Then I found my answer, a game I enjoyed when I bought it originally in ’09 but never got around to replaying: Prototype. I figure that with Prototype 2 coming out soon now is as good a time as any to do my first replay of that game. It was long enough ago that I remember that I enjoyed the game but not all of the details and the storyline. Good enough to give it a shot. So that’s downloading right now, but I won’t get any play time on that until tomorrow. As I write this, it’s just before 11pm eastern, and that’s when I watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann, followed by The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yes, I do have other interests than gaming. When you’re a transsexual woman, as I am, your life is wrapped up in politics because just being who you are and living your life in this country is a political statement, one not everyone is going to take kindly to, regardless of where they stand politically. For me, gaming is an escape, but one must always return to reality sooner or later. For me, for tonight, that time is now.

See ya next time, stay safe out there.

The Longest Month

The good news is that my PC is back and operational again. The bad news is that my Fallen Earth account isn’t. Once I got it home and got the basics up and running, Norton, Firefox, various and sundry social media programs, etc., the first thing I did was download the GamersFirst client and FE. No dice, I’m still getting the message that tells me my account is expired.

I suppose I really have no right to complain, considering that I did get several days free over and above my 7-day free return, but I find I’m still missing Fallen Earth more than any other game I play, so much so that I’ve actually toyed with the idea of creating yet another trial account to keep myself busy. Thing is, I doubt I’m going to end up doing that. I made a lot of progress with my main during that free time, and that’s where I really want to explore. Starting from scratch with a toon I know perfectly well I’m going to dump as soon as I can log in again with my main account just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

Goddess, no FE for an entire month, what am I gonna do?

Honestly, it’s not like I don’t have other games to play, though I’ll have to download anything I want to play from scratch. I’m a lifer at Star Trek Online, but that one’s going to be an overnight download. In the meantime, I’m just finishing up downloading Crimecraft so I’ll have that, and I’ve already downloaded Need For Speed World, though that game has apparently had the bad timing of having their servers go down today so I can’t play that right now. I’ve got a shitload of games I’ve bought through Direct2Drive, though again, anything I want to play from my collection there will have to be downloaded and installed first.

I’ve considered re-downloading APB but I dunno…I never really got into that game all that much, and I’ve decided to make it a policy not to overload my freshly-wiped PC with too much stuff I don’t use enough to make it worth keeping. Last time around, I kinda went download crazy, which was easy to do because I had tons of drive space but this time one of my drives is dead and in need of replacement so until I can afford to do that I’ll have about half the drive space I used to. Kinda sucks, but mainly it’s an incentive for me to keep my remaining HD clean and free of stuff I really don’t need to have on it, and that includes games I only play now and then.

So, the fates have conspired to prevent me from playing any video games today, but maybe that’s a good thing on the anniversary of 9/11. In 1980, I was a messenger for a Madison Ave. insurance brokerage and spent a good part of my workday at the World Trade Center. I knew those buildings well and many of the people who worked there. Had 9/11 happened 21 years earlier, I’ve have likely been on the 86th floor of the north tower when the plane hit. I’ll never forget that place or those people. I’ll admit to being a bit commemorationed-out today, but it’s something I think a lot of people need…those who were personally affected and those who need to learn and understand about the impact of that day and what it means for us as a nation, for many of us personally, and to make sure we never, ever, forget.

Stay safe everyone.

You Can’t Keep A Good Clone Down

I know, it’s been a few days. I’ve got a good excuse though. It was a couple of days ago when the RAID controller on my big bad gaming PC apparently decided to take a crap. Joy. Fortunately, I know exactly who to take it to, and my poor sick baby will be back among the functional in a day or two. I’m going to lose a shitload of stuff I really should have backed up, but I’ll also be upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 at the same time so I guess it’s not quite as bad as it could have been. I’m writing this post on a laptop onto which I downloaded FE yesterday. I barely use this thing so it has plenty of space and I was hoping it would serve well enough to get into FE for a couple of days.

Unfortunately, it seems that whatever magic I was enjoying a few days ago is gone. When I tried to log into FE on this laptop I got a message that my account had expired. Given that there’s only just over a month to go before the game goes free-to-play and I’m not apparently able to just buy a month’s game time without using a credit card it seems likely that I’ll be waiting along with everyone else for October 12th to get back into it. Once I have my baby back, though, I’m going to be commencing an Essential Download and Installation Festival as everything I had on my PC for the last 2 years will be gone. Of course, FE will be one of those essential downloads and I’ll try again once I have it installed, but if I can’t get in, I suppose I’ll survive well enough without a daily FE dose until next month.

Of course, I’m not jumping for joy that two years worth of stuff, most of which had not been backed up, is going bye-bye, but at the same time I find that it’s often a very good thing to start fresh. I’ve owned this PC for about two years now, I know I’d accumulated a bunch of stuff on it which was probably slowing it down more than it should if I’d been better about keeping useless crap off my drives.

I must admit that I am kinda secretly hoping that I can somehow get back in after I get my PC back. I’d just gotten a motorcycle and was having a shitload of fun with it before my PC went down. If not, this is probably the last post you’ll see here until next month.

Fingers crossed…

Cleaning Up

In a previous post I said that I’d eventually get around to finishing up in Sector 1. Yesterday, while looking for something to do, I decided to try out the new fast travel system. The only two fast travel stations I have open so far are Watchtower and Credit Bend, but they served the purpose this time around. I hadn’t remembered to bookmark the local Lifenet pod in Credit Bend the last time I was there, but it was easy enough to just go find a pack of Marauding Wolves and let them eat me to be teleported there. I set that station as my home and used the fast travel system to go to Watchtower, got my ATV and headed up to Trumbull to finish the mission I’d gone up to Sector 2 to get the drugs for originally.

After getting that done I went to Spider Hill looking for the local Lifenet pod so I could add it as a teleport station. I couldn’t find it but decided not to bother with suicide teleporting because it probably wasn’t a place I’d be needing to go anyway. I drove down to Watchtower, gave the local wolves a clone snack, and ‘ported myself back to Credit Bend.

I think at some point I’ll have to go back to Sector 1 and hit all the fast-travel-enabled Lifenet pods that would be useful to have teleport links to, and I think I should probably do it soon, before October 12th and what I expect will be a massive increase in players. I’m actively looking for a new clan to join (I think the Saints booted me when I disappeared for a year and half), and I expect that If I want to attend any world or clan events with any regularity, having as many fast travel options as possible can only be a good thing. A lot of these events seem to happen in Embry and that’s a hell of a long ride from Credit Bend, or even from Watchtower.

And oh yeah, I almost forgot. In between doing all of that, I’m making a motorcycle. I’m finishing up the parts now and in a few hours it’ll be time to start the final build. That’ll be a fun toy to play with …and it’s proving a hell of a lot less of a hassle to craft than building my ATV. I had to build another ATV key to craft the motorcycle knowledge book, but once I had that I already had the knowledges I needed for the parts from the ATV quest and it’s now just a matter of making the parts and putting them together. I estimate that it’s probably going to take about half the time and effort to create this motorcycle as it did to create the ATV, maybe even less if you factor in the extra quest chain I had to do in order to get the last couple of knowledges I needed.

Ok, time to go in-game. More soon.

We’re Movin’ On Up…

…to the north side.

After doing a few more minor missions in Trumbull, I got one that required me to get 4x Crude Disease Resistance. This, I soon discovered, isn’t available from a vendor in Sector 1 and my Medical skill isn’t high enough to craft it myself. A check of the Fallen Earth Wiki told me that it could be purchased from vendors in Sector 2, so I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and head north to see what I could see. I checked my map, made sure I had plenty of gas and ammo, set my waypoint for the northernmost point on the road that goes past Trumbull, and set out for parts unknown.

I’d tried this once before when I was about level 10 back in ’09 and it didn’t go well at all. I hadn’t been in Sector 2 for more than 10 minutes before I ran into a pack of zombies who aggro’d me into oblivion in about 0.3 seconds. Once I recovered my horse, I quickly reversed course back to Sector 1 and that’s where I’d been ever since. This time, though, I’m six and a half levels higher, with much better attributes and hardware.

I followed the road northward for what seemed like a very long time until I finally hit the  Plateau-Northfields Wastelands. Continuing on, I eventually got to where I’d set my waypoint. The Sector 1 map indicated the end of the road but visually I could see that it continued north, so I checked my map but found nothing to guide me. In a flash of inspiration, I switched the map over to Sector 2 and realized that I’d crossed the sector border and was already well into it, even though there was no in-game indication of this as I was driving. So, I decided that I’d try to find my needed drugs where the Fallen Earth Wiki told me was the closest location, Post 23. I set my waypoint and headed in that direction, eventually deciding to take a few risks and go off-road in order to save a little time.

When I arrived at Post 23, I discovered something I should have known but hadn’t, probably because up to that point I’d been focused on Sector 1 and had never really taken the time to research what to expect in Sector 2. I found the right vendor but he wouldn’t sell to me, telling me that I needed to have a better faction rating with the Enforcers.

Since I first began playing Fallen Earth back in beta and learned the basics of the game, I’d known that I wanted to be a Traveler. It just seemed to fit me best. I’m no plant-pusher so the Vistas were out, I’ve never been particularly chummy with the cops so I knew I didn’t want to be an Enforcer, and I’ve never been big on religion so forget the Lightbringers. Having been a punk rocker as a kid (yes, I know that dates me, but fuck it, I don’t care) the CHOTAs were more my speed but I was never all that big on anarchy as a political concept so it wasn’t quite a perfect fit. Similarly, my geeky side made the Techs attractive but again, that wasn’t quite exactly right either. The Traveler faction, on the other hand made perfect sense for me, both in terms of personality and politics. Even the allied factions were right. Now that I realized I was finally faced with making a game-impacting decision on this, I checked my map and knew that the only right answer was to get back on my ATV and head to Credit Bend.

As I rode toward Credit Bend, I experienced something I’d never seen before in FE, rain, eventually turning into a full-on storm complete with lightning and thunder. It was then that I began noticing that the terrain was a bit different than sector 1 as well, with patches of green and even wildflowers here and there. When I arrived in Credit Bend, I realized that I really had no idea what to do next, so I went around town seeing who would talk to me and what they had to offer. Mutter Slate, the medicine merchant, wouldn’t sell me anything until I raised my faction with the Travelers, so I went looking for faction-raising missions to do.

Eventually I found Eloise Kimball, who sent me on a tour of Credit Bend to meet all of the major players in town in exchange for 3000 Traveler faction points. After doing this mission I was able to get my drugs and interact with all of the merchants and mission NPCs in town, and I did a couple of pretty easy missions that involved killing and harvesting coyotes and bears. I haven’t tried anything more challenging as yet, but I expect that’ll be my next step.

It’s kinda funny, y’know? Now that I’ve accomplished the goal I originally set out for, getting the Crude Disease Resistance drugs, I’m not so sure I really want to turn around and go back to Sector 1 to finish the mission. I suppose I will at some point, but I’m really in no big rush. I’m having a pretty good time checking out Credit Bend and the missions here, so going back to Sector 1 right now just isn’t all that urgent. There’s still plenty of new and interesting stuff to check out up here, and I want to spend some more time doing that before I think about heading back.

Most importantly, I’ve come to understand that Sector 2 isn’t nearly as scary or difficult to survive in as I thought it would be. I’ve only been killed once, by a bear, and that just sent me back to a Lifenet pod in Pleasant Hill just across the road from a gas station where I was able to reclaim my ATV and quickly get right back to the mission I was doing. I’ve had far tougher times on missions in the upper reaches of Sector 1. Of course, I’m still very new to Sector 2 and my opinion on that may change, but so far, I’m doing pretty ok up here, especially considering what I’d expected. As for the rest, well I guess we’ll see what we see.

More soon.