Minionmancy: Balancing Pros and Cons.


Pathfinder Online

Goblin Squad Member

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Disclaimer: This thread is speaking on behalf of the concentrated grouping of necromancers within Golgotha. I am personally fighting for my preferred play-style.

Unless there has been an update that has escaped notice, Necromancers who command undead will receive the "Heinous" flag that makes them target-able and kill-able for no alignment hit or reputation loss. The flag is considered a major "debuff" that stands in the way of becoming an Undead Master. On the upside, it relates that we will in some way have the ability to command undead on a scale befitting of a necromancer.

There have been arguments for and against persistent undead in the past. I have heard things such as "meaningful player interaction" and meaningful choices leveled at necromancers wishing to pursue the route of Undead Master, or more commonly known as Minionmancy. My counter to this is below:

1) Necromancers will need to band together and protect each other if the "Heinous" flag is still being used in the game. Players will have the ability to fight and kill even high reputation necromancers without taking any penalty due to this flag.

2) Necromancers will be unwelcome in nearly all player settlements that represent the Good alignment axis.

3) Having undead under your control will present a unique and fulfilling play-style with plenty of danger due to increased permanent hostility from non-allied players.

To me, and this represents my personal opinion, it appears that as soon as one chooses the lifestyle of Undead Master they have made a meaningful choice that will affect their entire "career" with that character. It will promote many meaningful player interactions that will result in several of the core values of Pathfinder Online.

So I have proposed this system before, and I reanimate it now in order to polish it and present it anew:

A Multi-tiered system that allows the necromancer to benefit from his chosen play-style in the same way all other roles/classes will benefit.

**Note** All Undead should need to be created from a Corpse within the game. You do not "summon" undead into existence: You create them. the moment you have animated any undead, you should receive your "Heinous" flag. (Feel free to give me a permanent flag)

There will be three tiers of "minions" that can operate at the same time. Tier 3 minions will be weak and be used primarily for DPS and Survivability. Tier 2 minions should buff the other tiers(or debuff enemies, based on choice of minion) as well as offer some sustainability to your minions. The tier 1 minion should be your proudest achievement. It will most define your role within a "party" or encounter. Your tier 1 minion should offer the most benefit to other players as well. While your Tier 3 and 2 minions can provide damage, it is your Tier 1 minion that has the capabilities that other players will want when choosing an adventuring partner.

**NOTE** Unlocking a new Tier of minion should be and feel like an accomplishment. If choosing Undead Master as your play-style, the player will feel the most reward when gaining access to new Tiers. To fill the gap between learning the tiers, an Undead Master could learn priority debuffs (Spectral Hand + Enervate is a mean combo in TT).

Tier 3: Animate Dead: (Should require feats to present variant skeletons or zombies)
The necromancer has the ability to animate 1 to 3 Skeletons(or zombies) that will follow him and perform his wishes until death. The number of undead animated should be based upon your effective "level". The power of the undead animated should be a "Base Build" that is then further influenced by your Personality(Replaced CHA yes?) attribute.(I imagine for Tier 3 minions this would be along the lines of a 1-10% increase without buffs)

Tier 2: Create Undead: (Should require feats or achievements to unlock different undead or variants)
The necromancer has the learned the ability to create more powerful undead. S/he now has the ability to animate 1 to 2 Ghouls(or other medium power undead) that will follow him and perform his wishes until death. The number of undead animated should be based upon your effective "level". The power of the undead animated should be a "Base Build" that is then further influenced by your Personality attribute. This undead will give minor buffs to your other minions, or minor debuffs to your enemies.(Depending on which specific undead is chosen).

Tier 1: Greater Create Undead: (I took the most liberties here)
The necromancer has learned the ability to create the ultimate manifestation of his ability. S/He now has the ability to animate 1 minion that will follow him and perform his wishes until death. The power of the undead animated should be a "Base Build" that is then further influenced by his Personality attribute. This undead will define your role within a given party/encounter.

Tier 1 choices: (Feel free to have fun here, I presented three choices below)
Mummy: A fairly strong minion that has the ability to CC enemies and provide defensive boons to your companions and other minions.

Vampire: A fairly strong minion that has the ability to drain health from your enemies and heal your companions, yourself, or other minions.

Wraith: A fairly strong minion that has the ability stealth and deliver rapid damage and debuff your enemies.

Goblin Squad Member

My concern: if one player can add more party members, what is to stop this from becoming standard practice?

What benefits do the agents of Good get? (Angelic General would be an interesting twist)

What is your answer to the "wouldn't it be cool if....therefore, everybody does X" question?

I am not opposed to your idea, merely wanting to see it fleshed out a bit more.

Goblin Squad Member

TEO Alexander Damocles wrote:
My concern: if one player can add more party members, what is to stop this from becoming standard practice?

I'm not entirely sure what the "party member cap" is, but I will attempt to explain:

In truth, the only minion that should even be considered a "pet" spell should be the tier 1 minion. With the amount of training a necromancer should have to focus in, in order to attain the different Tiers, he will have to slot several of these abilities. Which in turn takes away from the spells he can cast. Consider the Tier 3 minions a persistent DoT spell, following that consider the Tier 2 minion a persistent debuff or buff with another small persistent DoT spell. Consider then that your Tier 1 minion is your actual Pet that performs abilities that you would normally have covered, but are unable to because of the requirements from slotting abilities and such with your minions.

You should be left with a few ability slots open to still perform a role such as debuffing, etc.. Truth be told, your minions make you a solid one person. When your minions are dead you are operating with half a character.

But! to alleviate concerns: Due to the Heinous flag and the requirement to be Evil, I do not see this becoming common practice, even among necromancers. The Undead Master Role will be played by those who enjoy this play style. (And the added danger of the Heinous flag)

Quote:
What benefits do the agents of Good get? (Angelic General would be an interesting twist)

I would agree, but only under the principle that if Evil gets the heinous flag that makes anyone able to kill me, then the good guys need something bad too :p

There are examples of this in the TT game: There are Ranger and Druid variants that focus on having multiple companions. Insert animal of choice in Tiers and you should be good to go.

Quote:
What is your answer to the "wouldn't it be cool if....therefore, everybody does X" question?

I'm not really sure I understand. Would you mind clarifying for me please?

Quote:
I am not opposed to your idea, merely wanting to see it fleshed out a bit more.

Please feel free to help me flesh out the idea. I don't want to see a valid play-style for Evil in the Tabletop just disappear.

Goblin Squad Member

Well the good characters don't have to deal with the flag that lets everyone in the game kill you. So they have that going for them.

Goblin Squad Member

Gol Phyllain wrote:
Well the good characters don't have to deal with the flag that lets everyone in the game kill you. So they have that going for them.

Agreed, but I see his point, but from a balance perspective there should be something on the other side. In my above reply, I mentioned the Ranger and Druid variants that allow them have multiple companions.

Also:

Paladins, and other good guys get plenty of boons for striking down these evil heretics.

Smite Evil does bonus damage against undead.

But I could see a system where the Leadership feat(From the TT) was instigated, using the same Tier system above. I would request that they receive some Flagging mechanic that allowed Evil players to kill them without reputation loss though. (For balance)

Goblin Squad Member

Celestial Champion or some such would work nicely. However, I'd rather not see things be perfectly mirrored, because then it takes away any fun from being Good or Evil (if its just a skin, its boring).

How would you make this system "Evil" to use?

Side Note: Does the heinous flag stop rep loss? I thought it was only in place to prevent alignment loss. If so, I don't think evil needs to worry about it, because killing Good would be, well, Evil. Kind of what they are aiming for.

Goblin Squad Member

I think it prevents rep and alignment loose, but I'm not sure. All the flag threads are so old that I wouldn't trust them.

Goblin Squad Member

Someone with the Heinous flag is freely attackable (hostile) to all players (except in party?) without alignment or rep loss to the attacker.

Being heinous does not give the necromancer any additional freedom to attack anyone, although he can of course defend himself if attacked.

Goblin Squad Member

The Evil Aspects:
1) Requiring Corpses of living creatures killed in order to animate your minions
2) Focusing heavily on debuffing your enemies and siphoning their strengths to use to your advantage
3) Using any of the undead controlling abilities in the Tabletop has the evil descriptor

Tailoring to Alignment:
-Have Evil focus on debuffing enemies and siphoning
-Have Good focus on buffing allies and restoration

I think Guurzak has the right of it, but I would welcome a quote from the developers(or developer input)

**NOTE** In addition the reason this is not on IdeaScale is for two reasons:
1) There isn't even a Pet system in place. Point Blank: its too early
2) The idea is not fully fleshed out with input from the community. Before it is presented as a crowd-forging option it should be fleshed out by those that want to weigh in on the subject.

Goblin Squad Member

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Here's my thinking:

* I can understand and sympathize with the concerns about balance with minionmancers being mechanically much stronger than any other solo character

* Ditto for the technical constraints of massed pets creating server load, AI coding work, etc.

* Ditto for the philosophical position that sims should not be used to fill in for anything that would otherwise be done by players.

With all of that said, there are some important points that need to be argued in favor of strong necromancy.

* Playing evil should feel like a different experience from playing good. Taking good spells and re-skinning them with red particles would be a cop-out.

* Evil needs mechanical benefits to make up for its mechanical penalties AND for willingly becoming the content for most of the server.

* fighting evil should be interesting and frightening. "Necromancers inc"should be an oh s#$+ moment in the forces of good, not just more of the same old.

So maybe a necro isn't walking around with a dozen permanent minions. But he needs something to make his lifestyle choices viable and add interesting color to the game world.

Scarab Sages Goblin Squad Member

I forget, is Heinous part of the alignment system, part of the reputation system, or a relic from the days when those two systems were still somewhat connected?

Making a character attack-able by all other characters without penalty sounds more reputation-related than alignment-related to me, and if I understand the modern systems correctly, it's now possible to be any alignment and still maintain high reputation.

Limiting the number and strength of minions that a necromancer can control seems like a better solution than muddying the distinction between alignment and reputation.

Of course, all of the familiar/animal companion/eidolon/minion classes seem to be low on the implementation waiting list. By the time it matters, I'm sure all of the flags will be well-defined.

Goblin Squad Member

KarlBob wrote:

I forget, is Heinous part of the alignment system, part of the reputation system, or a relic from the days when those two systems were still somewhat connected?

Making a character attack-able by all other characters without penalty sounds more reputation-related than alignment-related to me, and if I understand the modern systems correctly, it's now possible to be any alignment and still maintain high reputation.

Limiting the number and strength of minions that a necromancer can control seems like a better solution than muddying the distinction between alignment and reputation.

Of course, all of the familiar/animal companion/eidolon/minion classes seem to be low on the implementation waiting list. By the time it matters, I'm sure all of the flags will be well-defined.

The "Heinous" flag is a flag for heretics that do unspeakable things such as use slaves and command undead. It can be defined as evil`ish. Slavery in itself is not inherently evil, but it is considered an abomination against the order of the universe.

The heinous flag deals less with Alignment ad Reputation and more with inspiring meaningful choices and player interaction. BUT! on that note it is a method in which to engage in PvP without taking an alignments or reputation hit. This is likely due to the fact that there are some things that are unforgivable and receiving the "heinous" flag means you have done one of these things.

Goblin Squad Member

I think there should bonuses and other cool stuff, in exchange for being flagged for everyone.

This argument is very similar to those of us that will be criminal flagged for playing our role. We don't mind being flagged FFA PvP to everyone, we just want to know where our upside is?

Necromancers, if saddled with the heinous flag, should have an offset for that downside.

The argument that if it were hid enough if an offset, than everyone would be a Necromancer, is just silly. Of course they won't. Most of the vocal members of this forum barely want to PvP, so we are to believe they would suddenly don the heinous flag? I think not.

Here is an idea. For every 2 hours of game time that a PvP flag is flown the Heinous or Criminal earn 1 minute of storable time of consequence free PvP. They can then expend this stored time while currently flying the flag, allowing them to attack without reputation consequences until the timer runs out.

Goblin Squad Member

Trying to stop the flood of Flag discussion before its too late:
I trust GW will tool the Flag system as time goes on

This conversation is more about how to implement Undead Masters without disrupting the balance and flow of the game. I included the Heinous flag into the balancing factors of the suggested build above, but if need be I can re-tool the build with ideas from others without the inclusion of the Heinous flag.

TBH even without the Heinous flag included I don't see the above build as "overpowering" compared to any other role in the game, and I actually like the "Heinous" portion that will inspire meaningful choices.

Goblin Squad Member

On a casual read, one of the things that stands out to me is the proposal to tie the power of minions to your Personality stat. Abilities in PFO are not based on stats. Having higher strength does not improve your melee abilities, nor does a higher dex improve your ranged combat or sneaking. It's probably worth taking another pass to provide a different growth mechanic (probably ranks in the creation feats) to keep it in line with the structure of PFO.


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Do you see minionmancy mechanics being balanced and available to roles beyond necromancers?

I look forward to dwarven artificers being able to manufacture stone golems for the protection of our gold-filled vaults, and our priests and mages being able to call upon the earth itself to wage war upon those who would presume to trespass in our mountains (ie summon elemental).

These gameplay features would be thematically and lore appropriate for dwarves, and might be regarded as core elements of high level gameplay for dwarf wizards, druids, clerics and smiths.

Scarab Sages Goblin Squad Member

I apologize for derailing the thread.

What seems to make the Undead Master different than other pet classes is the multiple pets. Considering a group of Tier 2 undead to be equivalent to a persistent buff is an interesting comparison.

Dark Age of Camelot had a pet class with some summons that were equivalent to attacks: the animist.The bomber summons were usually more like single attacks than persistent debuffs, though. Animists also had multiple simultaneous turret summons, but those were immobile. Were there any other MMOs with multiple simultaneous, persistent, mobile summoned pets? If not, this is another area where PFO could break new ground.

Goblin Squad Member

Creating undead should be treated as specialized crafting (other than the simpler ones such as skeletons and zombies that are raised temporarily). I would reverse the tier nomenclature you're using so that mummies etc. are called tier 3 in keeping with higher level equipment. Permanent undead (including skeletons and zombies) would need a recipe and the appropriate materials.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

Bluddwolf wrote:

I think there should bonuses and other cool stuff, in exchange for being flagged for everyone.

This argument is very similar to those of us that will be criminal flagged for playing our role. We don't mind being flagged FFA PvP to everyone, we just want to know where our upside is?

Necromancers, if saddled with the heinous flag, should have an offset for that downside.

The argument that if it were hid enough if an offset, than everyone would be a Necromancer, is just silly. Of course they won't. Most of the vocal members of this forum barely want to PvP, so we are to believe they would suddenly don the heinous flag? I think not.

Here is an idea. For every 2 hours of game time that a PvP flag is flown the Heinous or Criminal earn 1 minute of storable time of consequence free PvP. They can then expend this stored time while currently flying the flag, allowing them to attack without reputation consequences until the timer runs out.

Can you provide a concrete example of how this could be used legitimately? Every use case I construct is simply that as much -rep behavior is crammed into those few minutes as possible, and the high cost is not particularly relevant.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

To the OP: what feature should be mutually exclusive with having the pets?

I could see "necromancy" being a dedication bonus for clerics or wizards, replacing the domain or school specialty. I could also see it take an implement slot or both, or replace a weapon. Each of these implies different characteristics of the pets, specifically including different power levels.

Goblin Squad Member

To me a necromancer isn't a necromancer unless they can get quite a hoard of undead minions going. I absolutely loved trying to see how many minions I could get going at once in the original Guild Wars.

The obvious concern with too many people doing this in an MMO is that at a certain point it will generate a ton of lag, and it has the potential to be really overpowered. But really, a necromancer without a horde of minions is just a pet class like druid or ranger with a different flavor of pet, and that's just not nearly as cool.

So yeah. I'd really like to see ways to give necromancers the feel of controlling a freaking ton of undead without making them game-breaking or lagging the server too much.

Goblin Squad Member

If necromancy were to exist, I believe the best way to implement it would be as a relatively long-term summoning spell (10, 30 minutes?) - essentially you can create X undead, where X is the number of units/unit power levels. Make the power level based on a skill you have to develop and the dead unit you 'raised'. This would obviously require you to invest in multiple skills in order to control multiple undead, or even a single 'powerful' undead. Which sounds about right.

Because undead are mindless - and I don't think it's at all a good idea to allow the creation of intelligent undead unless we want some evil characters wandering around making new escalation cycles - you could gain specific feat/skills to slot in your Implement bar (so you need a Focus that supports the appropriate spells) and they would be as simple as - attack target, flee, hold position, etc. Perhaps a Control Undead ability could exist along the same lines, allowing a character to gain much more temporary control over the undead (several rounds, perhaps).

I do think that having the dead following you around should generally grant you the aggressor tag at all times, or cause the guards to attack you as if you had a low reputation.

I don't see this becoming too much of a problem (other than server load issues) as long as the controllable undead are balanced with other forms of attack. (A fireball rightly should just shatter your dozen skeletons - sorry.)

Also I think that the action linked to Create Undead would best be required to cost Power, as it is a generally costly spell in the TT.

Goblin Squad Member

A large group undead summoning or crafting could be a war tool. Perhaps if a Settlement has the Training/Support structure for Necromancy, they can raise groups of undead to be used like siege engines.

As for the player level, I don't see a problem with what the OP has posted. But it would need careful balancing so it won't be too powerful and it should not be able to replace the 'party' of PCs.

Goblin Squad Member

Banesama wrote:
A large group undead summoning or crafting could be a war tool. Perhaps if a Settlement has the Training/Support structure for Necromancy, they can raise groups of undead to be used like siege engines.

Maybe we are thinking the same thing here?

I definitely think that it should be able to create undead minions to follow you around but where I think there is also great potential to make something amazing in this game with necromancy on a settlement level.

I think it would be great if a settlement with sufficient numbers of talented necromancers could create for example bone golems or bone dragons to help them during sieges. It would require time, resources and DI (or what the equivalent of DI on company level is called, I forget) investment but with all that a group of necromancers could summon a magnificent beast to aid them.

It need not be stupidly overpowered, I think that siege equipment will also require a rather big investment and provide great advantages so in a way it could be seen as an alternative to building that. As long as there are counter measures to be taken against the undead siege beasts it could work out just fine.

There could perhaps be other fantastic "war machine replacements" available to other roles, like mammoths for kobold barbarians ;)

Goblin Squad Member

What if instead of a hoard of undead minions the Necromancer can produce only one minion for every tier of his power (1 - 3)? The Necromancer can produce two types of undead minions.

Source Corpse NPC: Less powerful and no Heinous Flag
Source Corpse PC: More Powerful and Heinous Flag

Justification for the difference, NPC are not marked by Pharasma, PC are. So the use of a fallen PC is a greater heresy.


One option for necromancy could be a "zombie swarm"-style entity. Basically a single pet, but comprised of a varying number of undead already in formation.

Goblin Squad Member

Labor #1. The necromancer should be able to use his simpler undead for labor. If tools are available, he could have a half-dozen zombies mining away. There are two caveats: since he's giving them instructions, they can't be any better at gathering than he is, and are likely worse as his attention is spread across multiple minions. Also, gathering isn't risk-free; mining and logging, for example, are two of the riskiest professions in the US. Where a skilled and mindful PC will avoid the risks, the mindless undead continues working and is prone to being maimed or destroyed in the course of such work. This all might be condensed into allowing the necromancer to create undead-powered mining (or logging, or...) kits for his own use.

Labor #2. The necromancer should be able to apply his simpler undead to the settlement's (or an Outpost's) labor queues as well. As above, they need to be supervised, so all minions of a single necromancer might be limited to a single queue; they don't work as efficiently as a PC; and their efficiency may be a function of the necromancer's power and the size of his entourage.

Combat. I think the idea of groups of undead is a good one. A few points:
- The simplest undead have a simple AI and not a lot of skill.
- Necromantic spells to draw on the the skills of the long dead take more power, and power might be obligated long term in holding creations together
- A necromancer should be able to override the AI by focusing his attention on a single minion, within control range (line of sight + a range limit for commanding the creature). This would allow the necromancer to shift into the undead and control it directly, but like most micromanagement there might be some things that a less effective when the boss is too much in charge; your super-skilled undead warrior might be hampered by the necromancer in control.

It should go without saying, but just in case: any weapons, armor, and other items carried by undead are by definition unthreaded. There should be some ability for a necromancer to use some of his own threads to bind an object held by a minion, but this will always be inefficient. Requiring 2x the threads to protect any one item might be reasonable.

Goblin Squad Member

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Couple of points

The flag is there more to match the Pathfinder game setting. Necromancers are bad, everyone wants to see them destroyed, ergo you get a permanent free to kill flag. Its about meaningful choices. If you want to play a role type that is universally hated and generally killed on site, guess what :-)

As far as implementation, I'd suggest people look at drones from Eve for an idea of how this *could* work. You carry around bone chips, zombie toes, whatever in a limited supply (ammo) and use your spellbook to animate them, losing some of your direct damage & utility spells in place of summon spells, armor slots, weapon slots to balance out the pets. If the pet dies, the bone chip/zombie toe is gone.

Drawbacks and why this may never see the light of day

Server load & client side load animating a group of NPC "pets" per necromancer to cater to they're playstyle AND the eventual possibility of the Necromancer becoming an exploit to overload weaker systems for easy PVP kills?

Pet AI. While this will eventually need to be put into game if they want to support the Druid, Ranger, Caster Familiars, my favorite class Summoners, Summon Monster Spells, etc. those would all be one person with one "pet" and I would expect there to be more work involved in AI for multiple pets then 1 pet per person.

AT the very least I wouldn't be looking for this during EE and probably not even early OE unless the game explodes and they can hire more staff (although that could worsen the server and client load problem)

Goblin Squad Member

<Flask> Ulf Stonepate wrote:
Creating undead should be treated as specialized crafting (other than the simpler ones such as skeletons and zombies that are raised temporarily). I would reverse the tier nomenclature you're using so that mummies etc. are called tier 3 in keeping with higher level equipment. Permanent undead (including skeletons and zombies) would need a recipe and the appropriate materials.

Yup. Onyx Gems.

Goblin Squad Member

A thought on minions: For a given minion to remain acitve it could consume X points of power(?) per six seconds, once your characters power(?) pool empties all minions are de-spawned. Low levels of summoning spells/feats would drain more power than higher level ones. This may allow a minion for a greater duration or several minions for lesser duration dependant on the skill level.

* I don't recall but believe power is the name of the resource for "daily" spells and replenishes slowly?


I've always liked minions because I believe it takes actual micro-managing skill in order to succeed with them.

What about if the flag would only occur if you animated an undead out of the corpse of a human? And that you could say, pop some other things from animals. Or, when your undead 'tiered' up too high that what you were creating was truly an abomination.

The whole flag system is hard to take seriously. As long as a flag system is based on attacks and not something deeper,it will never work. Meaning that... characters should be allowed to engage such characters in pvp (in my mind) but if they die, it shouldn't be as though they were murdered.

I wonder what the true answer to the flagging system is. A zone of influence? Maybe something where you, as an 'enemy', could target a player and it would allow some choice to be made (like saying if you come within a certain range, I can attack you.) Having to always attack second is stupid, as if you couldn't tell who was going to attack you.

Because, I mean, you could be a necromancer who had undead... and not be aggressive. You could be using your undead to plant flowers when someone comes up and rudely attacks you.

Would be nice to have a dishonorable thing, even, where if you see someone you could engage in pvp with them and it would have a timer and if someone just ran up behind you and started hitting you, they'd be dishonorable. Which, among other things, should not be permitted for certain alignments.

Scarab Sages Goblin Squad Member

Although PFO isn't trying to perfectly replicate PnP Pathfinder, it's worth noting that there is a cleric archetype called the Undead Lord in Ultimate Magic. The undead lord has one primary minion, a skeleton or zombie with hit dice not exceeding its master's cleric level. It's called a corpse companion.

The corpse companion isn't counted against its master's limit of commanded undead. With the feats Command Undead and Undead Master, an undead lord can command the corpse companion and a group of non-companion undead with hit dice equal to his or her cleric level +4.

Which is basically a long-winded way of saying that Pathfinder lore supports a necromancer with a good-sized pack of undead. Whether the game server and clients can handle a pack of undead per necromancer is a different question.

Goblin Squad Member

Maybe you do it for contrast, but making best tier 1 and common tier 3, flips standard discourse. In PfO. You candothat for effect, but you may fail to communicate and thus,... Fail.

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