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Since Canuck Play shuttered its studio, canceled Maximum Football 21, and sold the Maximum Football IP to Modus Games, the other major simulation indie title, Axis Football, found itself without any major competition in 2021. There are other indie football games on the market, such as Sunday Rivals, but that is a more arcade-style game and isn't a direct competitor to Axis. I own the Steam version, but haven't played much of it yet. The only other real competition for Axis Football is the indie game Legend Bowl.

I've received several requests to play Legend Bowl and create content for it, including a request by the game's creator, himself. Don't worry King Javo, I bought Legend bowl during the Steam Fall Sale, and will be playing it more this holiday season.

In the meantime, Axis Football has been the only indie football game that I've played this year. So I cannot do my usual thing of comparing Axis to Maximum because there isn't a Maximum Football to compare Axis to. I could do a direct comparison between Axis Football 21 and Madden 22's supposedly-upgraded Franchise Mode, but I'm hesitant to directly compare any low-budget indie product to a billion-dollar licensed game from a major publisher. Maybe I'll revisit that topic later, if I get a lot of demand for it. In the meantime, if you're interested in my thoughts on Madden 22's supposedly-improved Franchise Mode, you can check out my video on that topic, or my full review.

So instead of comparing Axis Football to its direct competition, I've decided that I will instead focus on sharing my hopes and expectations for where the game goes from here. With EA releasing its college football game in 2023, and 2k presumably releasing its "non-simulation" game in 2022, Axis Football needs to take big strides in the next year or two in order to remain relevant and competitive.

See the full wishlists on YouTube!

This wishlist was originally created as a series video essays, which I encourage you to watch. I'm not going to replicate the entire transcript here, but will instead just summarize the content of the videos. I'm also going to re-arrange this written list a little bit so that each item is in the most appropriate category. If you want more discussion, details, and examples, please watch the linked wishlist videos.

Gameplay wishlist

Admittedly, most of the gameplay improvements that I'd like to see are basically just improvements to animations and logic that bring Axis Football up to the standards of higher-budget football games from the days of the PlayStation 2.

Pass Catching and Pass Defense

Catching or defending passes in Axis has always felt like a total crap shoot -- a crap shoot that more often than not seems to favor the CPU's deep passing game at the expense of making my defense look bad.

I hope that Axis 22 and Axis 23 put a large emphasis on catching and pass-defense animations, such as animations of receivers jumping, diving, or going to the ground to make catches, and defenders jamming receivers, jostling for position, or swatting the ball in the air. I'd also like to see better pass trajectories so that receivers and DBs aren't standing around waiting for the ball as much. It would also be nice to have separate defensive inputs for swatting away a pass, versus trying to intercept a pass.

Passes apparently cannot be caught off of deflections.

There's also a few bugs with pass catching, such as deflected balls flying way up into the air and halfway across the field, while nobody on either side of the ball makes any attempt to try to catch it off the deflection. Defensive backs also have a habit of diving just as a receiver makes a catch, leaving that receiver free to score a walk-in touchdown.

Pass Leading and Trajectories

This leads me to my second wishlist item: the ability to lead passes. Axis currently has an option to aim passes with the mouse on PC (or the analog stick on consoles), which does allow the user to place a pass literally anywhere on the field. It works pretty well with the mouse on PC, though I found it very hard to complete passes this way. Some kind of visual aid to tell where to place the ball would be helpful. However, I don't use the aimed passing with the mouse because the keyboard controls are very stiff and uncomfortable. I much prefer to use a gamepad, and the right analog stick simply isn't as responsive and accurate as the mouse, so I stick with icon-based passing.

Pass leading would help with hitting holes in tight zone coverages.

With icon-based passing, however, there is currently no way (that I'm aware of) to lead passes in one direction or another. It is thus very hard to throw receivers open or take advantage of superior leverage against the cover man. Seemingly open routes get thrown right into coverage. With the improvements made to zone coverages in 2021, in which CPU defenders will do a better job of prioritizing multiple receivers that run into or through their zone, it's that much more important to have control over where I place the pass, so that I can lead receivers away from defenders, or hit the gaps in tight coverages.

There's also some bugs with anticipation throws on comeback routes. My QB will throw gutterballs whenever I try to throw an anticipation route to a comeback route. I'd like to see that fixed.

Blocking and Pocket Formation

Perhaps the second biggest weakness in the overall look and feel of Axis Football after its catching animations is its blocking animations. Blocking in Axis Football is very stiff and robotic. Blockers just kind of lock arms with the defender and they both stand there until the defender suddenly pops out of the block. There's no sense of physicality or push and pull to these animations, and it seems completely arbitrary when blocks are broken.

I hope to see more physical blocking animations from future Axis games. I would also like to see better pocket formation on passing plays. Blitzers also need better pathfinding so that they don't get stuck on the backs of other engaged defenders.

Blockers do not create a passing pocket.

Power Running Moves

Axis Football also lacks some animations and user agency is with its running animations and ball-carrier moves. Currently, we have juke left and right commands, spin command, and dive command. I can never get the jukes to work. The defense always tackles me anyway. The dive command also seems like it gets interrupted if a tackle is triggered. So the only meaningful move that the user can perform with a runner is the spin move. Axis currently lacks any sort of power running moves. There's no stiff arm or shoulder charge. I would like for functional stiff arms and shoulder charges to be added to the game.

Putting Players In Motion

Axis should also add the ability to send offensive players in motion pre-play. Sending a player in motion is a powerful tool for offenses to make pre-snap reads of the defense. How the defense moves in response to the motion is often a key indicator for whether the coverage will be man coverage or zone coverage, and also potentially what coverage shell will be used over the top.

Of course, if motion is to be used in this way in Axis Football, then defensive logic will also have to change so that defenses would line up in their base formation in zone coverages, instead of lining up to man assignments, and they would also probably have to be able to shift corners or linebackers in order to adjust to a motion receiver or tight end coming across the formation.

There are clock plays, but no proper hurry-up offense.

Hurry-up offense

Even though Axis Football includes clock management plays for kneeling and spiking the ball, the game lacks a true hurry-up offense mechanic. Both teams have to huddle up between every single play. The Accelerated Clock disables itself during the 2-minute warning, which allows teams to get in and out of the huddle very quickly, and can be used to mimic a hurry-up drill. But this also means that teams don't have to use timeouts, since very little time runs off the clock between plays anyway. So I would like to see the Accelerated Clock stay ON during 2-minute warnings, but have an actual hurry-up mechanic.

Committee Backfields and Other Rotational Substitutions

As far as I can tell, Axis currently does not have any logic for substituting reserve players in for situational roles. There's no running back committees. No speedy pass-catching backs being subbed in for 3rd downs, or bruising power backs being subbed in for short yardage or goalline situations. We also don't see pass-catching tight ends being subbed in for passing situations.

On the other side of the ball, we never see outside linebackers being subbed in for pass rush situations, or safeties being subbed in as linebackers for prevent situations.

CPU teams do not rotate different backs for different situations.

In fact, come to think of it, I don't even think I've ever specifically noticed the CPU team subbing out players due to fatigue. My players get fatigued, and I sub them out when they turn yellow or red in the play call screen, but I don't know if the CPU is doing this.

I don't expect extensive substitution logic, since that would be complicated to implement. But at the very least, I would like to see CPU teams use more of their running backs, so that they don't end up with a single back getting every single carry for every single game.

Strategic Timeouts

I would also like to see timeouts be used for more purposes than simply conserving clock during the 2-minute drill. In real life, football teams use timeouts for a variety of reasons, whether it's to give their defense a chance to rest and regroup against a fast-paced offense, or to avoid running a play with an obvious mismatch, or to avoid taking a procedure penalty such as a "delay of game" or "too many players on the field", or simply to coach up the players before an important play. None of these uses for timeouts are replicated in Axis Football. In Axis' defense, I don't think I've ever played a football game that uses timeouts for any of these purposes, not even the legendary NFL 2k did timeouts right.

Strategic focus should only be able to be changed during clock stoppages.

One thing that Axis Football could do to make timeouts more useful would be to restrict the use of the pre-play "Team Strategy" function to clock stoppages, such as changes of possession, quarter breaks, the 2-minute warning, and timeouts. If the user wants to change your strategic focus mid-drive, you'll need to take a timeout to stop play and coach up your players.

As for calling a timeout to avoid a procedure penalty, this could also be accomplished by adding pre-play motion to offensive play designs, since the time it takes to send the player in motion might lead to a delay of game. Perhaps the accelerated clock could also be adjusted to have some variability. So maybe the accelerated clock runs the play clock down to 12 seconds, plus or minus 3 seconds, so the team's break the huddle and line up with somewhere between 9 and 15 seconds left on the play clock. This would increase the risk of a "Delay of Game", and would necessitate the use of the occasional timeout.

Special Teams Overhaul

Axis Football is also in need of a complete special teams overhaul.

First and foremost, I'd like to see more of the special teams rules implemented and enforced correctly. For example, a muffed punt return should be considered a fumble and live ball that can be picked up by the kicking team. The risk of muffing a punt should be mitigated by the addition of a fair catch mechanic, which is currently not in the game at all. Axis also currently does not have the ability to kneel in the endzone for a touchback, and CPU returners will run the ball out the back of the endzone, which is easily exploitable by the user if you have a kicker with a strong leg. I'm able to run my returner out the back of the endzone for a touchback, but the CPU doesn't know to do this.

I'd also like to see depth charts for other special teams positions, such as longsnapper, field goal holder, and coverage teams. This would allow me to use backup and reserve players as specialists and not have to risk accumulating extra fatigue or injuries to offensive or defensive starters on special teams plays.

I already made a video about adding Longsnappers to Madden,
the same arguments can be applied to other football games, including Axis.

Lastly, there should be some simple trick plays on special teams. There are currently no fake kicks, which means if your opponent lines up for a field goal or a punt, you can go all-out on trying to block it, since there is no risk that it will turn out to be a fake. It would also be fun to see some trick kick returns, such as reverses or designed hook and ladder plays.

No endless overtime

For years, Axis had a non-sensical overtime in which a minute is added to the game clock repeatedly until a minute expires in which one team is winning. There was no coin toss, no kickoff, no sudden death. It was awful. Thankfully, Axis Football 21 introduced NFL-inspired hybrid sudden death overtime rules. So now we have a functioning overtime, which is good. However, one way that Axis' overtime rules varies from the NFL is that Axis does not allow ties.

Axis Football's overtime does not allow for ties -- not even in the regular season.

In Axis 21, if overtime expires without either team scoring to break the tie, another overtime period is tacked on. In a defensive struggle, this can go on indefinitely, and I have had multiple matches go into double overtime. This can lead to increased risk of injuries to players, as well as inflated stats and scores. But more fundamentally, I believe that a tie is a perfectly valid and reasonable result for a hard-fought matchup between two good defenses. This is actually one of the reasons that I despise the college football overtime model, and why I vehemently oppose the NFL switching to using college rules.

Obviously, a winner is required for playoff matches, so playing until the tie is broken is necessary for the playoffs. But for regular season games, ties should be allowed, and should occasionally happen in simulated games as well.

Franchise wishlist

The strength of Axis Football the past few years has been its deep Franchise Mode -- well, relatively deep, for an indie game. Some players and critics even claim that Axis has a better Franchise Mode than Madden, but that's debatable. My hope is that Axis Games can improve its Franchise Mode such that it is indisputably as good (or better) than anything modern Madden is offering.

Watch the full Franchise wishlist on YouTube.

Functional Practice Squad

Axis Football currently has a Practice Squad feature, but it doesn't really work like a real practice squad. As far as I can tell, placing a player on the practice squad does not affect their salary, and any player can be freely moved between the active roster and practice squad at any given time. It's basically just an extra 10 players on your team, but they can't be added to the depth chart.

Players on practice squad should have to have 3 years of experience in the league or less, and they should be paid a set salary (for each week that they are on the practice squad) that is lower than the minimum salary for active players. This would allow teams to be able to afford to keep players on the practice squad without going broke.

This would allow teams to keep a deeper reserve of players to develop, including late-round draft picks. These players can also be activated in the event that injuries deplete a particular position and their are no good/affordable free agents or trades that can be done to fill the position.

Injured Reserve

To go along with the practice squad improvements mentioned above, Axis should also add a proper injured reserve mechanic, so that I don't have to keep using the practice squad as a makeshift injured reserve. Maybe there can even be stipulations in player contracts that guarantee their salary even if they are placed on injured reserve; otherwise, they would be subject to a reduced salary similar to being on the practice squad. This would ensure that the team also has the cash to be able to sign a replacement player to fill that roster spot, and you don't end up soft-locking the game.


I know it's probably not a popular idea, but I would like to see some form of preseason added to the Franchise Mode. Even if it's just 2 games, it would be nice to have an opportunity to try out newly-drafted rookies, practice squad players, and other free agents in game situations.

I'll circle back around to this idea later.

Meaningful real-time draft

To be honest, I've never really cared for real-time drafts in football video games. I've never felt that real-time drafts provide meaningful actions for the user to perform that makes the time spent waiting for other teams to make their picks feel like anything more than a waste of time. Be honest, when you play these games in single-user Franchises, do you actually sit through every selection? Or do you just simulate to your next pick? I'm betting the vast majority of you do the latter.

At the very least, the time limit between picks should serve as a time limit to force the user to have to make selections under some sort of pressure. The game should be putting the current team on the clock and their selection in a widget on the side of the screen, allowing the user to browse the other tabs while still keeping an eye on the progress of the draft.

A live draft should put a time pressure on the user to make picks,
and give the user meaningful actions to perform while waiting.

Not knowing who the other teams might chose with their upcoming picks is a big problem because it negates any agency that the user might have. I don't know who the other teams are choosing until after they've made their choice -- at which point it's too late for me to do anything about it. If they picked a player I wanted, too bad, so sad. There's nothing I can do about it. So again, what's the point of seeing the picks in real time?

One way to mitigate this problem would be to include some simulated mock drafts that show the likely order in which players will be selected. This would also give the user an idea of whether my desired players will be available when my picks come around. During the draft, the mock draft could provide its own real-time projections of upcoming picks. This way, if the user (or other CPU team) sees that their desired prospect is likely to be drafted by another team, we can take some meaningful action by attempting to trade up and get that specific player. If I simulate the draft to my next pick, I would miss these opportunities to trade up.

Talent Evaluation and Training Camp

And once we're done with the draft, it comes time for things like training camp, preseason, and player evaluation.

I've brought this idea up before for Madden, but not for the indie Axis Football games. I would like to see a football game try out a talent evaluation feature in which the true ratings of players have to be unlocked through practice, training camp, or actual game matches. This would be a good supplement to the practice squad and preseason mentioned before, since the preseason would offer teams a chance to test out their rookies, and the practice squad would become a valuable tool for keeping players on your roster while their talent is still being evaluated.

How I imagine this working is that newly-drafted players and younger players should have some ratings hidden, and these ratings should be gradually revealed as the player sees practice or game reps.

MOCK-UP: ratings should be gradually revealed as a player gets playing time.

First, there should be a training camp that evaluates all players' physical attributes. This would reveal speed, agility, and strength for young players, and would also reveal progression or regression in those ratings for veterans.

The next step could be a preseason, in which the amount of playing time for any given player will determine if any other ratings are revealed. Then, ratings could also be revealed over the course of the regular season if the player sees any playing time. Maybe he has to play a certain number of snaps to unlock a rating?

Ideally, it should be possible (and in fact likely) for teams to stash a rookie on the practice squad for 2 or 3 years and never fully unlock all his ratings. When that player is no longer eligible for the practice squad, the coach would then have to make a judgement call: sign this un-tested player to one of your 53 roster spots, or cut him loose into free agency. Since he's no longer eligible for the practice squad, any team that signs that player wouldn't know his true ratings either, and would have to actually play the player in order to unlock those ratings.

I had already proposed a similar talent evaluation mechanic for Madden. Same logic can be applied to Axis.

In order for this to work, the CPU teams would also need to be programmed to have to play players in preseason in order to unlock their ratings. There should be some logic during the preseason games for CPU teams to rotate in backups. Maybe at halftime, they sub in all the 2nd string players, and then in the 4th quarter they start rotating in any players who still have unknown ratings.

I know a lot of people would probably see preseason games as a waste of time, but having a talent evaluation system like this would hopefully make the preseason worth playing for the user. It would be an integral part of the team-building and development process, and not just a meaningless extra game that doesn't count for anything.

Diminishing Returns From Practice Intensity

Currently, changing the practice intensity provides a linear growth in point allocations. Each step of intensity grants 8 points for your practice schedule. The only downside to increasing practice intensity is that it increases the risk of injury for players during the game, and it increases morale loss if you lose the game.

Personally, I feel like increasing the practice intensity should also come with diminishing returns as an additional deterrent to practicing too hard. It should provide less reward at much greater risk. Instead of granting 8 additional points for Heavy and Extreme intensity, perhaps going from Normal to Heavy should only grant 6 additional points, and going from Heavy to Extreme should only add 4 additional points. With diminishing returns like this, maybe higher intensity practice doesn't have to result in quite so many injuries as the deterrent.

Opponent Scouting Report

Right now, there's not much to do in terms of game preparation beside maybe reviewing the upcoming opponent's depth chart and injury report. Axis should have an opponent scouting report that highlights the upcoming opponent's top players, key injuries, coach badges, and maybe also matchups between certain position groups. The scouting report should also specify what playbooks the opponent uses on offense and defense, and also provide a breakdown of their play-calling tendencies, and current season stats.

All of this information is present in the game, the user just has to go from menu to menu searching for it. I'm suggesting that it should all be collected and shown to the user in one convenient scouting report screen that is available from the home screen of the dashboard before each game.

More staff members

Axis Football 19 put pressure on Madden by introducing a full coaching staff to its Franchise Mode. These coaches include a head coach, offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators, as well as an assistant coach for each position group, and a set of 4 regional scouts. For a whopping total of 15 coaches on your Franchise staff! Madden 22 doesn't even bother to give you a special teams coordinator, let alone assistant position coaches.

I would like Axis Football to allow us to hire medical staff, like Madden 06 allowed back in the day.

But Axis Football could still have more members of the coaching staff. I would like to see a Team Doctor and/or Medical Staff which reduces the risk of injuries to players and speeds up recovery time for players who do get injured. We could also see a Strength & Conditioning Coach or Team Trainer who improves the strength, speed, agility, and fitness of players, and who improves attribute progression for players during the offseason. There could also be a fifth Opponent Scout who's responsibility is to study your next opponent. This staff member would improve the accuracy and detail of any opponent scouting report, and perhaps also improve the Awareness of players.

Break the Glass Ceiling

Axis Football should include the option to create women as players and coaches. Women like football. Women play football video games. They should be able to be able to see themselves represented in these games too. Women have played Division I college football, and there are currently several active woman coaches in the NFL, so the idea of women in professional football is not un-precedented. There should be a small chance that women will appear in the Axis Football draft. Even if they are extremely unlikely to ever show up as anything other than kickers, and even if they aren't highly-rated players, they should at least have a chance of being in the game.

Women are coaching in the NFL, and playing in college; they should be represented in Axis Football.

Save File Import and Loyalty Reward

Since Axis Football is not tied to a real-life football league, their teams and rosters are purely fictional. As such, Axis is not bound to real-life roster changes that happen from year to year. Because of this, I would like to see it include support for importing a save file from last year's game. This would allow us users to pick up in each year's new game where we left off in last year's game. We could continue developing the same team with the same players, coaches, win/loss records, championships, and so forth, to try to build a true dynasty over the course of many seasons.

Perhaps an even better way to reward loyalty would be a monetary discount. If possible, it would be a very generous gesture for each edition of the game include a promo code for a discount towards the purchase of next year's game. For example, Axis Football 2022 on Steam could come with a Steam code for, say, 25% or 50% off of the purchase of Axis Football 2023. This would be a great way of thanking Axis Football's biggest fans, and also encouraging them to come back year after year and build a loyal, dedicated community.

Miscellaneous Improvements

Lastly, here's some miscellaneous ideas that don't really fall neatly into the category of "gameplay" or "Franchise".

Watch the full Bugs & Misc. wishlist on YouTube.

Difficulty Adjustments

One of my big pet peeves with Axis Football has always been the fact that my defense always ranks dead last in passing yards allowed. Axis Football has separate difficulty settings for playing offense and defense, but the problem here is that if I increase the difficulty of playing defense in order to make the CPU run game more dangerous, I end up giving up even more big pass plays and further imbalancing game stats. But if I decrease the difficulty of playing defense in order to hopefully improve my pass defense, then the CPU's run game becomes even more ineffective and the CPU's play-calling becomes even more one-dimensional.

As such, I'd like to see more fine-tuning of difficulty. Here are the settings that I propose:

  • User Passing Difficulty = affects user pass blocking, user QB accuracy, user WR catching, CPU pass coverage.
  • User Offense Difficulty = affects user run blocking, CPU tackling, CPU reaction to run plays.
  • User Special Teams Difficulty = affects user kicking power, user kicking accuracy, and user kick / punt return blocking.
  • CPU Passing Difficulty = affects CPU pass blocking, CPU QB accuracy, CPU WR catching, user pass coverage.
  • CPU Running Difficulty = affects CPU run blocking, user tackling, user reaction to run plays.
  • CPU Special Teams Difficulty = affects CPU kicking power, CPU kicking accuracy, and CPU kick / punt return blocking.

This would give users a better ability to custom-tailor the gameplay experience and challenge to suit their play-style, skill level, and preferences.

CPU receivers not catching passes in flats

I noticed a frustrating proliferation of CPU receivers running themselves out of position to catch wide open passes to the sidelines in the flats. Just before the ball would get to the receiver, the receiver would take a step or two forward, towards the line of scrimmage, and the pass would sail over his head out of bounds. This would lead to many incompletions in situations in which the CPU could gain yardage or make first downs, and would result in less competitive games. This might be related to the difficulty setting, but even on the easier difficulty settings, these short completions aren't going to make the CPU un-stoppable, so there's no reason for them all to be incomplete.

Missing animations for Pistol formation handoffs

I'm consistently running into a problem in which handoff animations are not happening for runs out of the pistol formation. The ball seems to just teleport straight to the back, right through the QB's body. The defense also seems to react immediately to the run, and the whole defense crashes in and stuffs the run in the backfield. This makes running out of the Pistol formation exceedingly and unfairly difficult.

It doesn't happen on every run play from the Pistol. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it is common enough that I've basically abandoned running out of the Pistol formation and have started using other offensive playbooks besides Pistol or Singleback. The CPU, however, does not realize that these plays are broken, and so continues to call handoffs from the pistol and getting stuffed in the backfield.

Clock management

I still see the CPU refusing to call its timeouts in situations in which a timeout would benefit them, and I still see them call timeouts in situations in which it doesn't benefit them.

For example, the CPU might fail to convert a 3rd down in the 2-minute drill, call a timeout, then punt anyway. Which wastes one of their timeouts, stops the clock, and spares me from having to call one of my own timeouts. Most of the time, they just don't call their timeouts at all. Sometimes, the clock seems to stop when it should continue to run, or vice versa.

The user can force a Delay of Game by repeatedly shifting the defense.

Another exploit that has been present in the game for years is that the user can force the CPU to commit a Delay of Game or to run out the clock whenever you want. The CPU is programmed to delay snapping the ball if the human defense is making pre-play adjustments, including audibles, hot routes, or shifting players. This means that the user can force the CPU to stand at the line of scrimmage indefinitely by simply shifting your D Line, linebacks, or DBs back and forth repeatedly.

I like that the CPU gives the user this little bit of leeway, especially considering that there isn't a practice mode in which to learn what all the pre-play adjustments do. This leeway from the CPU allows the user to actually learn and practice these mechanics. I still want Axis Games to have the CPU give the user a little bit of buffer time, but the CPU should know better than to let the clock run out. Even if the user is still adjusting the defense, the CPU should snap the ball when the play clock gets down to 1 or 2 seconds. And in hurry-up situations, the CPU should only give a minimal buffer period for the user to make defensive adjustments.

Custom Stadium

Currently, Axis Football only has a handful of stadiums, and each stadium belongs to a specific pre-made team. While the teams with stadiums will default to using their home stadiums, the remaining teams do not have their own home stadium, nor are there any generic stadiums. Every stadium has some unique architecture or markings representative of its home team. If you play as a team that lacks a stadium, or you play as a created team, you are stuck having to use someone else's home stadium.

I would like to see Axis Games add at least one or two generic stadiums that lack any of these team-specific architectural features. The Team customization menu should then have an option to set each team's default home stadium. If possible, it would be nice to have a few simple stadium customization options. Maybe the ability to change the color scheme of the stadium to match your team's colors, and maybe also the ability to chose between several backdrops for the stadium.

Axis Football should include some minimal amount of stadium customization, such as colors and backdrops.

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