Save our servers

For all my assurances that I believe ngmoco:) intends to carry on with We Rule, I still realize that the game can die simply from developer neglect. If developers quit introducing new items or wrinkles, players are going to loose interest and quickly.

This is similar to the mistake TV producers make when they start moving shows around to new nights and odd hours. They may convince themselves they are attracting new viewers, but the truth is viewers don't want to follow and the shows they move into their new time slots often do even worse.

ngmoco:) developers say their servers can no longer support new game elements, and this may be true. I accept part of the blame, overloading the servers with hundreds of stacked items. But they are so cool. And I didn't have to stack the new bird residences to add more than a thousand to a single realm. The developers did that on their own.

Are there ways to free up the servers to allow new elements into the game? Yes, although they may be painful.

First, ngmoco:) can email all players who have been inactive for more than six months and tell them their kingdoms will go away to make room for new players and items. Players who have really given up on the game can start playing again. If they don't start playing in a month, remove them from the servers.

Some players won't get the notice because they used bogus emails. Oh well. Players who have multiple kingdoms and no longer use them, will probably be willing to give them up to keep playing their main kingdom.

Next ngmoco:) can limit the number of any single item that can stay in inventory. I think 50 groves and residences, and 1o of any shop would be a start. ngmoco:) could also rotate more buildings out of service. It shouldn't be hard to run a query to find out which items have lost their luster to players. They should keep the original items because they are so easy to earn coins to buy, and the best producers.

But does anyone still want the cheese shop, or romantic bistro or bookstore? Probably not too many, and the ones that do can inventory three or four. First on my list, the shops that don't have cute characters but have mediocre performance: the pie shop, the chimney sweep, the roller coaster, gatehouses, venetian palazzo, chick chalet, corn maze, alpine lodge, bridal boutique, pelt shop, millenary, tea house and Rapunzel's tower.

Just for starters.

Do I want to see most of my inventory go or the remote kingdom I use to test new shops? No. But I would do it in a heart beat if it would help keep the game continuing.

ngmoco:) may not intend to kill the game, but sitting on your hands and hoping players will still love you is no solution either.

No contest

There was only one entrant in my hell kingdom contest and that was me, and I already have copies of the prizes. It dawned on me that it may be too close to Halloween and players may have been waiting for ngmoco:) to announce a contest too. So in case anyone would still like to try their hand, send me a screen shot of any halloween or hell kingdom and.

This is my hell kingdom complete with characters being developed for the show “Raising Hell,” being proposed at Amazon Studios. So far readers have a choice of being visited by Lucifer, Pilgrim, the male or female manifestation of Mephistopheles, and Mrs. Sternmother (the worst boss ever, after Lucifer himself).

One reader will win a free copy of the Grimoire, at least two more will get free copies of Raising Hell, and I will feature the ones I like. So it no longer has to be a hell kingdom, any Halloween theme will do.

Not so extreme makeover

We Rule edition

ngmoco:) has seriously slowed down their new product launches, which could further fuel player speculation that they (or ubermeister DeNA) lost faith in the game. And it does seem long in the tooth after two years. Developers don’t seem to like holding onto old games, players get tired and want new stuff. The lukewarm reception to Dreamtopia and the recent announcement that We City was closing down didn’t salve anyone’s concerns.

When the player dropout rate exceeds the rate of new players buying in, the beancounting starts to weigh in favor of abandoning a game. Losing We Rule would be a shame for me because because I finally pulled the Grimoire from Book Baby (I sent it in February) and now have to deal with iBooks and Kindle directly. (And buy yet another ISBN number, and retool the book for each device.)

It would suck even more for players who sunk lots of money into mojo investments.

That being said, there are some ways ngmoco:) could make the game more attractive to new and familiar players without the grandiose mojo schemes that put them into the financial straits they find themselves in. I have a couple of ideas to throw out there:

Pocket God is one of many games that sells expansion packs and skins to enhance the gaming experience. Rather than requiring players to buy essential items for leveling up, the games provide optional custom kits and themes.
  • Undercut the cost of mojo. Every game and it’s mother is lined up at the well for player’s money. The game economy will go south if it isn’t already. In app game dollars are like Amway pyramids. The more games there are sucking money the less money players have to spend. So cut the cost of mojo by 75% and the cost of mojo purchases by 75%. With your game cash being cheaper than other games, players may be more willing to use it and keep We Rule afloat.
  • Expansion packs. Much of the fun of We Rule is decorating, especially with buildings featuring animated characters. But lately We Rule has skimped on the animation and decoration department. Why not release expansion kits for a dollar each? Over the months they could add a Steam Punk kit with two characters and decorations and street styles, a Persian or Egyptian kit, a Xena kit or even a warrior monk kit. Decorations could include weapons, special street tiles, or even costume changes for the main characters. Pocket God has done this with their iPhone app for years and it helps them maintain a quality product. ngmoco:) could even toss in a $2 kit where the characters fight or interact.
  • In app $1 purchases to unlock old events so that players can catch up on buildings they missed. With no time limit, players could play the long game with no mojo or spend mojo to get what they want now. They could even share creatures with other players using the expansion event.
  • Online game challenge mode. Battle Nations does this, although their version is so frustrating and expensive I finally quit playing altogether. Players could match fleets, or play Wizard’s checkers. Players who want to participate could buy enhancements and spells (but for 5m not 75 like the supertanks in Battle Nations). They could be limited to three spells per game to equalize the match.
  • Player to player communication. This is another feature available in Trade and Battle Nations. Players can send messages to any of their friends, allowing them to chat, coordinate realm designs and even announce new installations of high value buildings.
  • Collectables. I noticed that Snoopy’s Street Fair offers collectables such as trading cards that players can view in albums as they add new cards. They also have a decorative tree with collectable ornaments. ngmoco:) could drop eggs or gift boxes as players hit in-level milestones (e.g., delivering a dozen orders). They could then collect dragons and open them in a dragon aviary, or weapons that they could view in their weapons cache. Or players could be allowed to collect decorations for a solstice/Christmas/generic holiday tree. Players could email snapshots of their trees to friends.
  • Greeting Cards. ngmoco:) could offer players a holiday booth that changes items with the seasons. For instance, the spring booth could have flowers and the summer booth fireworks. The booth might also allow them to decorate with their dragon collection. Players could open the booth and create a decorative arrangement and send it as a greeting card to friends and family. Not only would this provide a fun game enhancement, the eCards could invite new players to join.
  • We Bay. I suggested this before as a joke but why not let players trade buildings and decorative items?

Just a couple of these enhancements might be enough to renew life to We Rule and even draw players back. Especially the drastic cut in mojo prices.

But don’t settle for my thinking. Email ngmoco:) and suggest game enhancements that might make players willing to stick with the game. Sooner or later someone will come up with an idea that sells. Just stress that you don’t want them to use this as an excuse to twist even more mojo out of our game wallets.

Dear ngmoco:): Please extend event

Special post

This week’s event finally paid off for those with the patience to hang with it. The fantasy zoo delivers 14000cp to players, which is the best event total ever. Hourly is about the same as the previous best event reward at 583hcp. The payoff for vendors is 21200cp, which is actually better than the solstice fortress, and a whopping 883 hourly. So if you’re close, play as long as it takes until they remove the event tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to connect for much of the weekend, and this could be hurting other players’ chances if it is a problem for everybody. As irritating as events can be for players who don’t care or already completed them, I would hope ngmoco:) would extend the event by a couple of days to give players a chance to make up for lost time.

And for any players whose orders expired in my kingdom, all I can say is theya culpa (which is, I admit, a terrible, however irresistible, pun and even worse Latin).

Valentine offerings slim

Not much news for blog’s return

I’m running behind on the articles I took time off to write, but I thought I should take the time to review the latest developments, or lack of them, in We Rule.

Once Christmas ended, and the incredible outpouring of items from the We Rule shop, ngmoco:) began to slow things down. Only three items have been introduced for Halloween, although they may still release some items on Valentine’s Day or Monday. Quite frankly, I’m relieved.

But I’ve also noticed that they’ve been sloppy and lax lately. They took a couple of days to add the splash screens to announce several items. Their blog and Facebook entries have been noticeably uninformative, especially about event rewards beyond the traditional two items.

Interestingly, they removed the experience point leaders from the leader boards but still have the leader listings for the Thanksgiving event (three events ago) without posting leaders for the two that followed. Okay, I had fallen a hundred places or so in the leaders when they dropped it, and perhaps they were afraid that new players would be scared off seeing leaders with three billion points. 

The landing strip and craft factory that were rewards for the most recent event were the coolest in a long time, maybe ever. I really liked the steam punk crafts as well. Too bad we won’t know who collected the most. ngmoco:) hasn’t updated event leaders since Thanksgiving.

Still, I have to think that’s a motivation. If Zimidar can earn three billion points, so can I. Admittedly he will probably have twelve billion by the time I collect my three, but still. I’ve never had a billion anything (except maybe molecules).

The rewards for events haven’t been that lucrative either. In the past you could count on the last reward for every second event producing the highest yield of any building in your realm. The return offered on the three events since Halloween have been decent, great for players at lower levels, but far less rewarding than shops available for coins at L60 and up.

So I have to wonder if DeNA isn’t growing as weary of We  Rule as some of the players seem to feel (or so it seems by their comments). I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps their ceaseless push to sell mojo finally put off a lot of players and they had to downsize the development, design and marketing teams.

Maybe they just decided to squeeze even more profit by cutting back. 

I am happy with the pace of new item releases, but I would like to think they’re responding to player requests to slow things down, not losing interest themselves.

Idle income bargains

I would like to point readers to two real bargains for generating idle income. The best, the golden temple, is only available to players at L59 or above and it’s very expensive. It’s also hidden next to the milliner’s shop in the build menu (at least in my build menu) and not with the items available around L60.

If you have coins to burn, this is a great way to burn them. The temple returns 430hcp (337 in xp) every 15 hours. You can add up to fifty a realm. Granted the cost is high (1 million coins) but by the time you reach L70, 337 xp hourly for a million coins is a good trade off. (It basically comes down to 750000 xp every two days for every realm with 50 temples).

Cupid’s cottage is another good deal, delivering 130cp every hour. You can get them at L23. Yes, you have to check in hourly to collect the full value, but let’s break down the numbers. One cottage costs 15000c, and delivers 780 points in six hours if you make every collection. Two ruby groves deliver 360 in six hours and cost 16000c.

That cute Cupid’s cottage can be incredibly lucrative if you’re willing to spend more time with the game. You can collect 130cp every hour.

When you’re at L23 you’re starting to get eager to level up because the number of experience points needed to jump starts to grow exponentially. If you want to install a Cupid’s cottage instead of 2 groves, and check in every hour or two, you will make the jump much more quickly. (If you only check in every six hours, the groves are the better deal.)

Seasons Greetings

As the snow falls on your realms, may you find peace and also find the gingerbread house, sled shop and other items you missed in the after-Christmas giveaway in the gift cart.

At least, this was what I planned to post and then ngmoco:) released another event for Christmas eve. Many players have been cleaned out of mojo buy all of the mojo only shops and trying desperately for the promised bounty of gifts. (So far I’ve seen a sled shop and a holiday lamp). This may not have been the most well-considered release.

If the event follows the past you will need to collect one each of the teddy bears, one each of the rag doll, wind-up mouse and rocking horse, and one each of the toy soldier, dragon and nutcracker. That will be the first round. In the second round, you will need to capture, three of each teddy bear and two dolls, mice and rocking chairs but only each of the top tier items. The grand prize, the toy museum, should be the highest paying building in your realm and the teddy bear worth half that. There may be an additional prize for collecting ten of each item.

I am extremely disappointed that ngmoco:) decided to double the mojo price for early harvest. Pushing up a teddy bear harvest will now cost 2m and a toy harvest a whopping 4.

I am with my family and we have the entire holiday planned so I will not have time to follow the event as much as I might like too. Honestly, if you have friends or family, you might find your time better spent with them as well. Then, maybe, ngmoco:) may at least offer an after-Christmas half-off mojo sale to lure you back.

Waiting for Santa

If you’re like me, you’ve been leaving space in your Christmas realm for all those gifts ngmoco:) announced for the gift cart last Wednesday. You may also be disappointed that it’s been almost a week and you still haven’t found one of those gifts.

In the past, ngmoco:) has spaced out the gifts they announced. The first one might not show up for a couple of days, the next for a couple more. But I have yet to see a single Christmas item. Moontown commented that she actually spent 80 mojo without receiving a single Christmas gift.

Still waiting for

It’s possible that ngmoco:) is waiting for Christmas eve to start releasing gifts, or they may start earlier this week. But I wouldn’t spend a lot of mojo trying to get them. If worse comes to worse, they will start showing up frequently after Christmas and you can stock them in inventory for next year.

In fact, they may start pouring in by the dozen once Christmas has passed.So what can you do with all those extra gifts you have lying around. Since ngmoco:) doesn’t seem to be warming up to WeBay, I recommend that you sell them when you want to install a new item you can’t afford. When I get a chance, I will start a chart of gift sale prices, but standard items that you receive as gifts sell for 10 percent of their purchase price. I wouldn’t empty it your inventory, but if you have a dozen vintage chateaus you can sell them to help buy a Jack Frost’s lair for the design display.

The great wall of Chickmix

One design that could be the cornerstone of a Christmas showcase it the wall in Chickmix’s north realm. The battlements would need to be replaced with holiday items, but I think it looks better than the winter walls ngmoco:) introduced. (Or, with enough ambition, a new one with diamonds would really sparkle on the snow). This wall required no hacking (unlike Guy 0084) so you should be able to figure out how it was done.

Chickmix installed the a great wall of We Rule in the north realm. You should check it out. It took a lot of patience.

I will be in Dallas over Christmas, so I my last chart update will be Wednesday night. I usually use my iPad to update but WordPress often drops entire sections when I update from my iPad. So I have to decide between leaving you a few days behind or risk wiping out the charts until I can get back to Austin. Enjoy your holidays and with a little luck, you might even stumble across a Christmas gift in the gift cart.

Winter’s coming

As winter content keeps pouring in, speculation has begun about a winter design contest to follow halloween’s design spectacular. I’ve checked ngmoco:)’s blog and Facebook site for information and found none, but that doesn’t mean their won’t be one.

Based on the Halloween winners, I should warn players that the ngmoco:) judges like gimmicky design tricks. I have nothing against mazes and halloween jack-o-lantern faces made with glowing jack-o-lanterns, but I do feel there is more to design than patterns. So, regardless of ngmoco:)’s plans, the Grimoire will be featuring it’s own winter design showcase.

Since there are plenty of realms available and plenty of winter decorations coming, this year I will ask for players to fill an entire realm with their winter design. The items don’t have to be exclusively winter related, but you stand a better chance of being featured if you add items we might associate with winter (e.g., St. Basil’s Cathedral would work, but not Mt. Vesuvius). Nor does the theme have to be Christmas. You could do Valhalla, which is definitely associated with winter.

I will be looking for some sense that you thought about the general appearance of the elements. I will be looking for balance and color selection, as well as design techniques (including patterns and repetition). Don’t rush it. Take your time and tinker. Sketch out some ideas on paper. To enter simply send an email with your player id and which realm you used for the contest. Yes, you can do more than one realm.

I have already set up my kingdom for the showcase. Santa and the elves are waiting for me to add make it look as festive as possible. I suggest you start with a focal point (I used the winter walls and frozen lake) and build from there.

Submit your contest information by December 26 (yes, 2011). I will review the entries and publish screenshots of the top three-to-five entries. No, you don’t win anything. That’s why I’m calling this a showcase and not a contest.

Hoping for more return appearances

We’ve already seen the return of some popular winter items from last season. I hope there will be more to come. I loved the peppermint cottage, candy cane forests and ginger bread shop.

Fortunately, I kept mine in inventory but I would really like to see newer players get a chance to install them.Two special items I hope to see are the toy bag with animated Santa and Santa’s sleigh. Santa’s sleigh took up very little room and delivered 100xp every few hours. They were inexpensive by this year’s standards and could be used to create some interesting designs.

The mysterious moving castle

I noticed some buzz in the comments about Guy0084. Somehow he figured out how to move his castle and players want to know how he did it. I don’t have the slightest idea, but it’s certainly cool. Hopefully he’ll post a note to players on the Grimoire to share his secrets. I don’t see any competitive advantage, but I certainly see it’s design possibilities.

How did this happen? Guy0084 managed to relocate his castle to the back corner of his main realm.Hopefully he’ll share with other fans, since the trick offers no competitive advantage that I can see (unlike stacking).

Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a demonstration on YouTube some day.

Will black Friday move to We Rule?

Based on the sheer amount of shops dumped onto the We Rule Market in the last ten days, I fear for the prospect of a We Rule Black Friday.

With luck we’ll have a Thanksgiving event poaching the king’s royal woods. We could capture turkeys, ducks and rabbits, who are easy to catch. The rare creature challenge would be to hunt wild boar and deer and the delicious but useful goose that lays golden eggs.

Maybe we could even keep one of each to wander around our realms between now and Christmas.

The last ten days have made me feel we are more likely to get a feast of conspicuous We Rule consumption. More shops with higher returns, making us desperate to spend mojo for those grand farms and dragonslayer’s dens we could otherwise not afford.

In the past it’s taken about three months to replace the top earning shop with a new one. It was a matter of weeks before the necromancer’s lair replaced the thunderbird, and the dragonslayer’s den arrived to top the necromancer four days later.

The dragonslayers are eating the thunderbirds. For the first time since I can remember, ngmoco:) has replaced the top earning shop, not just in a matter of weeks, but over a single weekend. I hope you didn’t install more than a couple of the necromancer’s lairs over the weekend because they cost $3 and fell into second place with the next new release.

Here’s a quick run down of shops in the last ten days:

  • Adventurer’s tavern, L22
  • Axesmith, L44
  • Paladin Citadel (gift)
  • Magic wand shop, L32
  • Necromancer’s lair, L55 (top earner)
  • Dark Knight haven, L50 (outperforming the previous L50 leader, the Black Dragon)
  • Dragonslayer’s den, L68 (new top earner)
  • Fall trees, L11 (decoration)
  • Corn Maze, L18 (super high idle income producer)
  • Pie Shop, L42
  • Turkey Pen, L24
  • Cider Mill, L34
  • Grand Farm House, L62 (third highest performing shop)

That’s 13 different items in a ten day period (15 if you count the three different fall tree varieties).

If you add the seven Spanish items in the two prior releases, we’re talking 20 new items in two weeks. Can you say, “conspicuous consumption?” The only other competing developer I know who can come close to that pace is Zynga, who is ahead of ngmoco:) in gross profits.

Trade Nation usually introduces about six items a month, although many of those items require extraordinary gem expenditures. Would you pay 750m for a poodle?

I just want to remind readers that you don’t have to buy something just because ngmoco:) releases it. Buy shops only when they improve the return of the shops at your level. You may think you need that turkey pen for Thanksgiving, but by the beginning of December you will have forgotten all about it.

I save my coins to invest in the highest producing shops available at my level (which will usually be the highest producing shop for the next several levels, at least for a few weeks). If you’re below L20, look to invest in two or three. From L20 to L30, invest in four to six. Above L30 try to install as many as ten (or until you find no one’s ordering).

You don’t have to do this at once. Add them as you have money. Then invest in decorative items like rivers, trees and roads to spruce things up until you can afford to add shops just to decorate.

Here’s my Black Friday request to ngmoco:): Fifty percent off mojo and fifty percent off every shop available. You’ll still make a bundle and your fans will feel a little more appreciated.

Spooks and ghosts and goblins. Oh, my!

The Halloween design contest is on. So far as I can tell from the ngmoco:) blog site all you need to do is design one realm with Halloween and other spooky items from your inventory.
The deadline is Nov. 1 at 1o am PST, so get to work.

ngmoco:) has already returned last year’s Halloween items to the store in addition to some cool new ones. The candy cottage is supposed to come with a witch, but I haven’t seen her yet. If you haven’t either, don’t panic because it took a while for the ghost girl from the haunted house to show up last year.

The Haunted Hollow comes with two characters, the headless horseman and his head. For fans who remember Calvin and Hobbes, the head looks like it might be Calvin under his ghost robe running around looking for someone to trick.

The headless horseman and head come with the haunted hollow. It’s a treat to get two characters with the same building.

If you like anything, get it now because it will disappear soon after Halloween ends to make way for the Christmas/Hanukah, and, hopefully, maybe even a couple of Thanksgiving items like a Turkey pen. Last year I was hoping for a burning yule log but we didn’t get one. Let’s hope we’ll see one this year to burn in front of the Green Knight’s chair.

There is no reason not to start laying some items out to get a sense of your theme. You might even want to sketch a few ideas first so you don’t spend hours redesigning. And I certainly hope this doesn’t preempt the Grimoire’s second annual holiday contest coming up this winter.

I don’t know if there will be a Halloween design leaderboard, but ngmoco:) promises to send 30 mojo to players who enter. Don’t forget your basilisks and giant spiders. Maybe add some goblin fences.

There’s nothing wrong with blocking out your Halloween design now so you can tweak it during next week’s event. Start placing items for a general layout and leave room for a couple of items because there’s a good chance we will be catching spooks and will want to add the event rewards. You can fill in the trees and tiny details later.

New event coming?

The gift cart disappears on Tuesday. That’s usually a sign that a new event is coming. Since it’s Halloween, there’s a good chance we could be catching ghosts and goblins for some spooky cool items.

Zimidar suggested that you refresh your friends list during the event to make sure you send captured creatures to active players:

Best way to use this list of friends for Events is to refresh Social Map. On the iPad click twice and list will be refreshed. For the iPhone/iPod, to refresh social map is a two step process. First click Social Map and then go to Plus+ menu and close out of Plus+ (keep in mind, you are not closing out of WR app).

This refresh process to share does work for Events. The friends that are not active anymore will appear but after you have shared with active friends that appear on the Social Map. Best to delete inactive friends and add them back later if needed.

Oops

Janet Webster wrote to say her initials are JEW, hence the unfortunate choice of name “jewdog.”

Since we know that ngmoco:) doesn’t allow players to change plus+ IDs she will continue to use the name, but now we can congratulate a real person, Janet E. Webster, for winning the Merry Men event.

Elemental event winding down

The elemental event ends Wednesday morning, and based on the comments players are far happier with this implementation than they were with the flutterflies near debacle. There have been far fewer crashes, and, in case you missed ngmoco:)’s notice when the game launched, turning off mojo confirmation will make the game even more stable.

Both rewards offer enormous payouts and the game seems to play essentially like the previous two. The most common elementals (in this case, the imps) are relatively easy to catch, with the mud being easiest and the fire imp less so.

As a rule of thumb, in all of these events the top left creature is the easiest to catch and the creatures become increasingly more difficult as you move to the right and down. The rarest three creatures are almost always impossible to catch.

I managed to catch all 27 creatures the first evening by harvesting spells with mojo and making sure I caught every one the first time. But that was to run the numbers. Nonetheless, it was far easier this time than in the last two events.

These are the creatures and number of creatures you must catch in the second round to win the elemental forge. The stakes are higher than with past events because you have to catch more of the rarest creatures.

So I would recommend with these games that if you definitely want the reward, spend the mojo on the three most difficult catches (in this case, since you have to catch the three rarest elementals four times each, that’s 120m). But with all of these events, you should be able to catch most items over the course of the week without spending mojo.

Making it to the top 100 in catches will definitely require mojo.

As the deadline looms on Tuesday, however, I would decide how badly you want to play. If you’re determined to succeed, cast spells and spend mojo to mature them as often as possible. Don’t worry about catching creatures after you’ve bagged your limit. Grab at them, and if you miss, move on.

Free orb harvests

ngmoco:) is assuring players that using the orb is permanently free, for now. The “for now” part, of course, means they’re hedging their bets. They are considering capping orb use, and charging a coins penalty for exceeding it. So use it guilt free for now, and don’t worry about what they might do.

Two enhancement requests

While I would never want new enhancements at the expense of processing power and stability, I have stumbled across two enhancements that might make the game more enjoyable.

  • Magic grapes. Okay, I’ve asked for these before. How hard would it be to give players a magic crop that harvests on the same schedule as groves? Especially if developers may cap orb use in the future.
  • Quicker planting I would love the ability to plant the same crop without going back to the crop menu. I’ve seen this in other games, and it would be really helpful for players with magic plots in every realm.

Currently you have to open the crop menu every time you plant a new crop, even thought the game remembers the last crop planted. Why not let players select one crop, and then plant the same crop by touching each plot in turn? If players want to change crops they can simply wait a few seconds before planting again.

I just finished playing Cityville Home Town to review for iPad Envy and one of the few things I like is the ability to select a crop once and then tap on each plot where I want to plant it.

If it means more crashes, however, I’m good.

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