[1.09p] Working towards balance: let's compare opinions and numbers.

A lot of crunch.

By on December 5, 2010 11:57:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Werewindlefr

Join Date 03/2007
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So, as I've mentioned in another topic, I've been toying with numbers to see if I could make game balance better. I'll be honnest: as it is, it's quite disastrous. I chalk it up on the large number of system changes and the fact that damage/defense rolls have been modified. As a consequence, the game is not made for those.

So here's my figures for game balance:

1) The first critcal point: base HP should be 25. That's still half of the damage some weapons inflict, so I don't think it's too high, especially if we change weapon damage.

2) The second critical point: armor should be lowered quite a lot:

-Leather should stay as it is: 3 points for the major pieces (chest, legs. Actually, leather is an exception, with leg only having 2 armor), 2 for the minor pieces. - > 11 max with a shield

-Light plate: 4 major, 3 minor. - > 17 max with a shield

-Heavy plate: 5 major, 4 minor. - > 22 max with a shield

-Light master plate: 6 major, 4 minor. - > 27 max with a shield

-Heavy master plate: 7 major, 6 minor. - > 32 max with a shield

-Legendary: 10 major, 8 minor. 

Actually, you could increase the price (a bit) on those, too. Going for quality instead of quantity is rather cheap, as it is.

3) weapon damage should be raised by a small amount: in my xml files, I've set the early weapons in the 10s, and mid-late in the 20s for 1 handed weapons (so axe at 14, short sword 12 or 13, spear at 16, mace 18, broadsword 22, warhammer 24, greataxe early 30 or late 20s, etc). It works really fine. Let's look at the spear:

-It inflict enough damage to kill a "naked" guy in 3 hits on average.

-Leather armor, especially full leather armor (9, 11 with a shield), reduces the amount of damage from a spear significantly. Enough to require 1 or 2 more hits.

-Light plate armor (14, 17 with a shield) makes spear damage rather weak, but not inexistent. Spears still work, they're just starting to feel dated at that point. But not completely obsolete.

-Heavy plate armor (18, 22 with a shield) shrugs it off. Sometimes a bit of damage does go through, but at this stage, you'd better have a better weapon.

The good thing with this scale is that obsolescence comes slower, not suddenly like in "vanilla" 1.09p. And with higher HPs, the increase in weapon damage is kept in check. 

 

[removed, explanation later in the topic]

 

So, what's your take on game balance ?

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December 6, 2010 1:50:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Honestly, I don't think that tweaking the numbers is the answer to fun or balance in tactical combat, which I am sure is not a suprise. If one truly wishes to make combat more fun and interesting, the answer is the same as with most other systems, Choice. Right now, the vanilla tactical combat simply lacks much choice in how you approach one situation or another. Say you are a spearman with a high armor rating and you run into a battlehammer dude with some armor. In this situation, these two will simply pummel at each other unit one dies. Simply modifying the various values does not change this underlying mechanic. While you may be able to make a scenario where combat is less deterministic and units do not simply become obsolete, you have not done anything to make the experience more interesting. I personally believe if a weapon had could be used in multiple different ways, you would add a level of choice and a level of strategic value to each and every weapon. Currently, the only way to add this type of mechanic is by a twisting of the special abilities/spells system. This method works but is more of a work around than a real solution.

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December 6, 2010 2:04:48 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Right now, I'd prefer they finish up the major changes, before they trickle down to finishing off the balance.

In the meantime, just edit the XML files and change what you don't like - that is the true beauty of games like this.

My next XML change will include a free 3 Farms at every capital city to give every faction a big head start. It should make for some big cities and good fun.

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December 6, 2010 2:28:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting kenata,
Honestly, I don't think that tweaking the numbers is the answer to fun or balance in tactical combat, which I am sure is not a suprise. If one truly wishes to make combat more fun and interesting, the answer is the same as with most other systems, Choice.
If you're trying to say that the game can be fun without balance, I disagree. You can add 5 thousand cool abilities to the game, if the fundamentals are wrong, it'll stop being fun after half an hour. This is a strategy game, and in order to please the strategy ad tactics lovers, there needs to be such a thing as "balance". Not perfect, but relatively good at least.

It's pointless to add abilities if the core of the game doesn't make sense. And as it is, in the vanilla game, it doesn't. Also, I disagree that there is no choice at all without abilities. That's just completely false. With a well balanced system, you can choose between quality and quantity. You can choose between dodge and armor. You can choose between fast weapons or heavy weapons. And guess what? That's exactly why I was making those changes and testing them: to see if those choices would appear. And they do, to an extent. (And yes, those choices DO change the way the game goes.)

Because, for now, a game of walking impervious tanks and one-hit-kills, of combat that lasts one round because the "numbers" that you claim have no impact on fun are so inconsistent that the game is more cheesy than a piece of swiss emmental (), cannot please the AoW/MoM crowd.

There's no point in adding "abilities" and "talents" if the core isn't right. Because they will just add more instability to a completely unstable ruleset. Fix the fundamentals first, then add some nice powers.

 

 

Right now, I'd prefer they finish up the major changes, before they trickle down to finishing off the balance.

In the meantime, just edit the XML files and change what you don't like - that is the true beauty of games like this

It took me hours to change those XMLs. I'd rather not do it again. And almost all big mechanical changes are here; so I'd say it's high time to have all those numbers make sense. 

You can't make a game fun with good numbers (although...), but you will utterly destroy any kind of fun with bad numbers.

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December 6, 2010 3:23:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If you're trying to say that the game can be fun without balance, I disagree.

While I was not directly saying this, it is in fact true that balance is not required for fun. A simple proof of this is MOO2 where in you could build an unbalanced ships, but the underlying game was a lot of fun. In general, the term balance is thrown around a lot when talking about strategy games, and there are several good arguments for why one would desire such a thing. Yet, balance usually is just a mask over the real idea that some mechanic or system feels unfair from one perspective or another. In the case of Elemental, maybe you built a bunch of spear guys only to find out that your opponent has built battlehammer units, or your level 5 axe men are now woefully outmatched by groups of spearmen. Any way you look at it, you are really talking about scaling back unfair encounters, which is supported by your proposed changes.

It's pointless to add abilities if the core of the game doesn't make sense. And as it is, in the vanilla game, it doesn't. Also, I disagree that there is no choice at all without abilities. That's just completely false. With a well balanced system, you can choose between quality and quantity. You can choose between dodge and armor. You can choose between fast weapons or heavy weapons. And guess what? That's exactly why I was making those changes and testing them: to see if those choices would appear. And they do, to an extent. (And yes, those choices DO change the way the game goes.)

I think in general you have misunderstood my point of view. While I think that adding abilities is one part of making tactical combat more interesting, it is not the whole picture. From your point of view it seems that choices on what units to create and how to form parties equates to tactical choice. This can be an interesting and fulfilling part of any strategy game, but it does not lead to real tactical choice. In general, balancing numbers to one play style or another is a worthwhile endeavor but it always is about personal choice. While you min max your units and parties and come up with something resembling balance, you still enter combat only to find you have one small set of choices, move and attack. For every weapon, there is only the one way to use it, default attack. Again, this is not tactical choice. Consider a modification to tactical combat, where in every weapon have multiple attack choices. For example, A long sword could have three distinct attack choices - high dmg/low acc, mid/mid, low/high. In this example, the user is then able to choose how he confronts his opponents. While this example is fairly simplistic, it illustrates my point about giving real tactical choice. Until real tactical choices are added, balancing numbers feels moderately meaningless, since it does little to add strategy or promote player ability. All you find is a system where min max results in the best outputs.

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December 6, 2010 3:51:23 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If you're trying to say that the game can be fun without balance, I disagree.

And I'd disagree with you on that. Master of Magic PROVED a game can be FUN WITHOUT BALANCE. I'm tired of these whiney threads wanting balance balance balance. I don't want or care to see that. I want random factions every game to have more power or less power and to be able to use things in the game for the better or for the worse without my knowing it. I don't want to play a game of chess or checkers I want to play in a fantasy world where ANYTHING can happen without being BALANCED. I'd like to see a randomized chart every game be implemented with power of weapons changing by several points randomly up or down. The laws of logic do not have to apply in a FANTASY world. Swords could go from +1 to +5, spears could get a polearm bonus or not, stuff like that. Thus different units every game could and would be used instead of the same ole templates every same ole game. Variety is fun in a game like this, balance isn't.

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December 6, 2010 4:32:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,

1) The first critcal point: base HP should be 25. That's still half of the damage some weapons inflict, so I don't think it's too high, especially if we change weapon damage.

2) The second critical point: armor should be lowered quite a lot:

-Leather should stay as it is: 3 points for the major pieces (chest, legs. Actually, leather is an exception, with leg only having 2 armor), 2 for the minor pieces. - > 11 max with a shield

-Light plate: 4 major, 3 minor. - > 17 max with a shield

-Heavy plate: 5 major, 4 minor. - > 22 max with a shield

-Light master plate: 6 major, 4 minor. - > 27 max with a shield

-Heavy master plate: 7 major, 6 minor. - > 32 max with a shield

-Legendary: 10 major, 8 minor. 

3) weapon damage should be raised by a small amount: in my xml files, I've set the early weapons in the 10s, and mid-late in the 20s for 1 handed weapons (so axe at 14, short sword 12 or 13, spear at 16, mace 18, broadsword 22, warhammer 24, greataxe early 30 or late 20s, etc). It works really fine.

I think increasing the HP is a mistake, because this makes the combat spells less powerful.

Increasing the weapon damage would reduce the power of the strength stat. If you have an attack of 10 a strength of 20 would give you a 50 % damage bonus (+ 5), but if you increase the attack to 15 the damage bonus is reduced to 33 %. It would be better to reduce the total armor value to 75 % of the weapon attack of that tech level.

Instead of increasing the Defense a Shield should increase Dodge.

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December 6, 2010 5:26:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I posted about this not too long ago, with a pretty in depth analysis of the odds involved.  My main point goes along with your 'levels'.

My main point was that a 'baseline' needed to be set, and adhered to.  If 6 or 7 attack is the 'average' level (sword, full leather armor), then the strongest attacks and defenses ingame (with modifiers) shouldn't go above 18. 

With square/squareroot in place, a 3 to 1 ratio is actually pretty steep. 18 versus 6 under square/squareroot works out to about a 9 to 1 advantage.  So out of 81 attacks, 72 of those are going to succeed (or conversely, a 6 attack versus 18 armor means only about 9 in 81 attacks will penetrate the armor).  Plus, the unit/hero/creature sporting an 18 defense is very likely to have buttloads of HP, so even if you do penetrate, it's likely you won't kill it without LOTS of help.

Again, with square/squareroot, a 3 attack versus an 18 defense is pretty much pointless.  It works out a 1 in 36 chance you will penetrate.  Conversely, an 18 attack versus a 3 defense will only be blocked 1 time out of every 36, and probably cause around 10-12 damage every time you hit.  Hopefully your dodge skill (which now works) saves you from being hit in the first place...

This is consistent with what I've seen ingame.  I have a sovereign packing a warstaff (19 attack).  Even versus a 4 defense, she still fairly consistently causes around 11-14 damage, when she hits.  Dodge seems to kick in about a third of the time, which looks right to me as well, although I haven't analyzed those numbers yet.

 

Whatever 'baseline number' is picked, it needs to be consistent and applied to.  Otherwise, cheese will abound and you might as well retire outclassed units immediately, saving yourself some wages/gildar.

Except peasants and familars, or 'Mister Attack Soaker', as I call my familiar.  I send him in to soak up the enemy attacks (he often dies in the process), then I send the high attack unit in behind him to deliver the coup de grace with no fear of counterattacks.  That 1 summoning cost probably should be looked at...

Peasants are also similarly good for soaking up attacks, making the world more safe for your more expensive units.

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December 6, 2010 7:35:42 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think increasing the HP is a mistake, because this makes the combat spells less powerful.

Wait, what's preventing Stardock from raising the power of combat spells as well? 

With square/squareroot in place

From what I've read in a post by a dev', there's also a hard low cap a 50%, meaning you can't roll below half the max value.

  

Conversely, an 18 attack versus a 3 defense will only be blocked 1 time out of every 36, and probably cause around 10-12 damage every time you hit.

That's actually fine. Armor is here for damage mitigation, not blocking. That's what dodge is for.

But yes, you understood my point perfectly. When you play Age of Wonder 2, you realize quickly that part of the reason the tactical battles are more fun that Elemental's (for now... ) is that it's rare to kill a unit in one round with a single enemy (unless the difference of power is huge), and one-hit-kills never happen. And there's no cheesy armor that soaks all the damage either.

That allows for real tactics, not just moving stuff around to see pretty colors and dudes waving swords. Because big combats are going to last a few rounds, and because your basic units will survive long enough to justify you've built them - because they'll survive past the first round and will have a chance of inflicting some minor damage on the big dudes, even.

Elemental doesn't need to be exactly like AoW - it shouldn't, in fact. But the basics cannot be that far apart if it wants to make sense, and the first step in doing so is to think carefully about the number ranges, the extreme, and what should be obtained. 

And having hit points much lower than both weapon and armor values can't work, because those time damage goes through, it'll be 1-hit-kills. EVEN with veterans. Having those armor values vary immensely, making most weapons ineffective, cannot work. Hell, they were chosen at a time when the system actually made sure that even weapons with a much lower attack value had a decent chance to go through: the 1-N linear rolls.

It's not fun to have weapons which can't event scratch the armors of the next era (hell, even civilization doesn't have that). It's not fun to have your units not last more than one round or one blow in battle, against opponents that aren't vastly more powerful than they are. It's not fun not being able to play quantity vs. quality. I believe that this, more than anything, kills choice and variety.

 

My main point was that a 'baseline' needed to be set, and adhered to.

That was exactly my method. I chose a baseline for armor, then looked at where I could go from there. I decided that against a normally armored duded with decent hit points, it should take 4-5, sometimes 6 hits to kill him. That's only 2 rounds of combats, so it's actually very reasonable. I decided that going a step further in armor shouldn't suddenly make all weapons obsolete. I decided that for a weapon and an armor of the same generation, there should be no "blocked" result... or at least they should be exceedingly rare.

And when I put all this in, tactics started to matter. 

 

Increasing the weapon damage would reduce the power of the strength stat.

Actually, the strength stat works fine in this paradigm, too. I mean... there are weapons with 60 damage in the core XMLs already. Believe me, +6 damage from 22 strength is really really powerful even with 25 base HP (the reason is that damage mitigation from armor will reduce your damage, sometimes quite a lot, so a +6 ends up being sometimes half or more of the damage you actually inflict. Works pretty well for me).

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December 6, 2010 1:51:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Werewindlefr,

Wait, what's preventing Stardock from raising the power of combat spells as well?

Good point. I do not like that kind of power spiral since i played Dungeons and Dragons Online.

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December 6, 2010 2:18:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's not so much a "spiral of power"... it's actually less so than what currently is there.

My point is the following: current figures haven't yet received any tuning: they were leftovers from a previous system and left there because the main focus was on debugging, not making the figure consistent and fun. I'm not advocating for "complete starcraft-like balance", but at some point we need to sit at the table and discuss how to fill those XMLs, because it hasn't been done yet. If we leave them like they are, it's just like throwing some numbers around and saying that's okay.

See, for instance, 1.09o made bows utterly useless because not real game design thought was put into what their power should be and why. 12 for the strongest bow? It won't lay a scratch on anything with more than leather armor (and even leather will almost negate its damage). And that's a late-game bow ! See, it's not about achieving perfect, balance, but making things useful, viable, and pacing the game. 

I've looked at MoM. MoM certainly isn't balance, but it's a hell of a lot more internaly consistent. The number ranges, system, and mechanics are all withing reasonable limits, meaning there aren't the kind of huge discrepancies at every corner we see in Elemental. No super-armor that shrugs off everything. No unit that gets obsolete 20 turns later. No cheesy 1-hit kill (or best scenario: 1-round kill) everywhere. Sure, there's cheese, but it doesn't reach the levels of Elemental by any mean. But that's not because Elemental sucks or whatever: it's because that issue hasn't been the main focus point yet.


But now, it's time to start thinking about. So that's what I did, and I give my results.

I've also mentionned AoW 2. Elemental is close enough to AoW 2 for a comparison to be relevant... and we can compare the number ranges in the two game, the power curve (damage/armor and HPs) and the way combat works there. The power differential between low-level units and high-end ones. I'm not saying Elemental should copy it, but I don't think those item numbers have been put there with the new roll system in mind and with a big picture of how things should work out and with some testing behind to see if they achieve those goals.

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December 6, 2010 2:55:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hey Werewindlefr!

I thought of a simple way to boost attack values...

Apply the Strength bonus for your full Strength, not just above Strength above 10.  That'd add 5 to everyone's attacks right out of the gate!

As long as armor was balanced accordingly, this might actually help balance things a bit, and rather easily too!

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December 6, 2010 3:18:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't know, since the system has changed so profoundly, why should Stardock avoid actually trying to reconfigure the game to fit the system ? When you make changes that are as deep as the ones that have been made, it is important to look at the consequences and reassess the portions of the game affected by this change, or it doesn't make sense. If D&D was suddenly using a D6 for attack rolls (ridiculous idea just fr the example), then all the values for weapon, spells, armor, and circumstantial bonuses should be reworked to actually fit with that system.

Right now, we went from an 1DN vs 1DN system with no dodge (so armor had to play a role of total mitigation) with values that were already not suited to the game (5 HP? lol.). Now, we're going to an 50% min value + square, roll, square root  system, which reduces the variance and gives values in the high end of the range more often, and with a dodge system that makes those "blocked" values undesirable in most cases. So, the rest of the game, the equipment, hit points, statistics for monsters and spells should be redesigned to fit with that system. Otherwise, you're just throwing numbers around with to regards for how it will work out in the end, and the game ceases to be fun very quickly.

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December 6, 2010 5:09:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My concern is the min versus max.  If everyone starts with a 5 attack, bare-fisted, but has a 20 with a warstaff, for example, that's only a 4 to 1 ratio, i.e. not too bad.  It certainly looks better than 15 versus 0.

As for defense, Say you have a Staff (5), with a 5 bonus from str.  That's 10 factors.  Facing another 'staffer' in Leather (3+2+2+2), that's a 9 def.

Pretty even odds there.  if the attack has a 6 attack (sword), that's an 11, but with the wood shield (-1), that's still only a 1 point advantage (but keep in mind the extra attack from the +1 speed bonus).  The spearman has a 14 attack (really should only be 13), facing a 10 defense (shield).  That'll cause damage pretty consistently.

Versus the 17 defense (light plate), a WarStaff would have 20, so still an advantage.

 

I definitely agree Armors need to be tweaked, though.  I'd say no armor: 1/4 Con as defense (so a 10 gives you a 2.5 def).  This incidentally allows unarmed units (pioneers) a little defense, and a 5 versus 2.5 when duking it out unarmed.  The 1/4 Con should be applied to armored values as well.

Cloth (2 breast, 3 arms/legs/cap = 5 Def.  Add 1/4 Con, you get 7.5, or equal to a Club (5 + 3).

Leather (3 breast, 1.5 each arms/legs/cap) = 7.5 def.  Add 2.5 Con, you get a 10 on the defense, or equal to a staff (5 + 5)

Chain (4 breast, 2 each arms/legs/cap) = 10 def.  Add 2.5 Con, you get a 12.5 defense, or slightly better than an axe? (6 + 5).  Note the drop in dodge skill though...

Light Plate (4 breast/lesser dodge penalty, 2 each a/l/c with dodge penalty).  Same as above, but you are slightly more nimble.

Heavy Plate (5 breast, 2.5 each a/l/c with dodge penalty) = 12.5 + 2.5 con = 15.  Slightly higher than a spearman, equal to a sword (10).

Light Master Plate (6 breast, 3 each a/l/c with dodge penalty) = 15 + 2.5 con = 17.5.  A 12-13 str weapon would be comparable.

Heavy Master Plate (7 breast, 3.5 each a/l/c with dodge penalty) = 17.5 + 2.5 con = 20.  A War Staff (15 + 5) would be comparable.

Legendary Plate (8 Breast,  4 each a/l/c  with dodge penalty) = 20 + 2.5 Con = 22.5.  An 18 point weapon would be comparable.

 

Heavier armors should have correspondingly heavier dodge penalties, and perhaps speed/move reductions as well... when is the last time you saw a fully armored knight able to chase down an unarmored spearman?

 

At one time, greaves, armlets, etc. DID have fractional values, hence my using them in the formulas above.  Or maybe I'm thinking of another game, but as you see, they work!

Also note that Con becomes a little more useful... and that Str/2 is applied to all weapons, not (Str-10)/2. 

Also note you could have 'Bruce Lee' as a viable option now: 20 Con/4 = 5 def, 20 Str/2 = 10 attack.  OK, maybe in this case Con/2 (10 Def) would be better, but then you'd have to add another 2.5 to the attack values of the weapons to compensate... I'm actually OK with that!

Boosting all weapon strengths by one or two points would favor the attacker a little better.  I wouldn't go much past that though, using the above values.

This would help mitigate the square/squareroot a bit, which I feel pretty passionately needs to be done.

 

I did NOT include shields, because I think they should be handled by a separate block roll.  I also think their Def values should be higher, so they are actually able to reduce significant amounts of damage (not just one or two points),

 

Also, we need a dual weild rule, and a change weapons action as well for heroes, but those are subjects which have already been brought up elsewhere...

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December 6, 2010 5:22:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, in your example, you reworked the armor values massively. That works too. Both ideas work - actually, the good point of yours is that it lets HPs as they are, while mine (decreasing some armor values, but mostly increasing weapon damage) requires a major change in HP values to keep up.

It's all up to the devs, but I hope they're listening to us when we're saying that the current values are not adapted at all and that the changes that are needed are big and need to be made in a big picture fashion.

I mean, Frogboy vs. AI 4 was a clear sign: quantity vs. quality doesn't work. His spearmen, though in huge numbers, only damaged the enemy once (lightly) and got chewed way too quickly if you think about how many there were. That's a clear sign that something is way off: those enemies weren't wearing late game armor.

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December 6, 2010 5:27:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Werewindlefr,
Well, in your example, you reworked the armor values massively. That works too. Both ideas work - actually, the good point of yours is that it lets HPs as they are, while mine (decreasing some armor values, but mostly increasing weapon damage) requires a major change in HP values to keep up.

Which is why I said I agreed with your assessment of reworking armor values! 

Quoting Werewindlefr

2) The second critical point: armor should be lowered quite a lot:

Quoting TJ Ashen

I definitely agree Armors need to be tweaked, though.

 

I'm just glad to see I'm not the only one who sees the current imbalance issues for what they are!

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December 6, 2010 5:58:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Small changes to the OP: I didn't mean this to be an "ad'" to the mod and it rightfully bothered some people that I posted a 'mod' in here (it *was* kind of rude of my part. I blame sleep deprivation after playing too much.)

I'll create another topic in the mod forum anyway.

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