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SEGA president: We’re “making considerable investment in core games for the Wii”


During its most successful years, SEGA marketed itself an extreme, edgy games-maker that catered to the hardcore tastes of the market.

It worked once. Why not try again?

In an interview Wednesday with IGN, SEGA of America president Simon Jeffery made it clear his company is making an effort to reach the hardcore Wii gamer.

“SEGA is making considerable investment in core games for the Wii,” says Jeffery. “We strongly believe that games like Mad World and House of the Dead Overkill have a great place on the Wii — and Nintendo of America shares our belief. Everyone is churning out wide market and family-friendly fare for the Wii platform, but there are millions of core gamers being underserved right now.”

This philosophy was one of the factors behind SEGA’s decision to publish The Conduit, High Voltage Software’s anticipated shooter.

“The Conduit is one of those games that ignites a frenzy of interest across the gaming community. We really liked the way High Voltage was promoting and presenting the game. They had us at ‘The…’”

As reported on Infendo last month, rumors persist that High Voltage Software has already begun working on a sequel, and Jeffery seems enthusiastic about its potential as a exclusive Wii franchise for SEGA.

“We are currently only talking about the first game, but we have every belief that HVS is building something awesome here.”

Published on October 31st, 2008 under , ,

Interview with Conduit developer: If we aren’t listening to the fans, we aren’t doing our jobs


Eric Nofsigner, Chief Creative Officer of High Voltage Software, has long been an advocate of better gaming on the Wii. “Most of the games on the Wii look like crap.” Nofsinger told IGN last April, “We want to change that. …Our goal is to be the most technically innovative Wii developer on the planet.” High Voltage has spent the last year developing The Conduit, the much hyped independent first person shooter that seems to be pushing Wii graphics to the limit.

At Nintendo’s Fall Press Summit, Eric Nofsinger and I talked about how important fan feedback was to the development of The Conduit.  “One of the things we’ve really done at every one of these shows is gotten feedback from folks, from press, from fans, and that’s been awesome.” Nofsinger says, “We write up a list of all the stuff, and we go back to the studio and put it on a punch list – not all of it gets on there, but a lot of it does.” This kind of fan involvement is almost unheard of in the industry, as we approached the demo unit I asked for details. “Can you show me an example?”


“I can point to a lot of things in this build that have changed since the PAX build directly as a result of fan feedback. One of the things that a lot of the fans talked about in the forums was the jaggy textures, they felt like when you got right up on the walls that the texturing was jaggy. So we went back to the studio and asked ‘how do we fix this,’ and sorted out a way to make it happen so you can go right up on a texture and it’s nice and crisp.”

Eric calls the trick “black magic,” explaining how The Conduit displays different textures depending on player distance from a surface. “I’ve not seen this in another Wii title.” he said, “There are other things we’ve incorporated, People came up to us and said ‘it would be nice if your character ran faster,’ or ‘it would be nice if the general turn speed, or cursor speed was more responsive,’ these are all things that we tweak and tweak and tweak, and people come back to the next show, and we have them try it and say ‘how does this feel now? We’re getting in the striking zone, closer and closer to an ideal, that’s something we don’t want to lose.”

Now I was interested!  I’ve seen fan suggestions ignored, ridiculed and dismissed, but never listened to, let alone implemented! As if reading my mind, Nofsinger continued, “I would hope that a couple of the things that we are doing aren’t typical to the developer/publisher mold, and I would hope that our example will help other folks. How many developers do you know at these shows who walk the hall with a notebook and have it filled up with ideas? I’ve written pages of comments directly from people, and I’ve done that at every show we’ve been to. It matters what the fans think. If we are not listening to them and we aren’t actively putting that stuff in there, we aren’t doing our jobs.”

I began to wonder if this philosophy had caused High Voltage any trouble, not all fans agree on what a game should be like. “What do you do when you have one person asking you to do something one way, and another person asking for the opposite?”
“That’s something we encountered very early on,” Eric explained, “even within our own office. You ask people ‘how should you control a first person shooter on the Wii,’ and out of fifty different people you’ll get fifty different responses. ‘Where should your HUD be?’ Everybody tells you something different!” Remembering a conversation from earlier, I had to interject. “Your colleague was telling me about that yesterday, that there is some dispute at the office about what to do with the HUD. He said you were thinking about letting the user decide.”

“Exactly,” Eric started again, “that’s in the next build, you guys will all see. You’ll be able to drag and drop your HUD elements exactly where you want them. If you want to play with no HUD, great – play with no HUD. If you want to play with your health meter right dead center in the middle of the screen? Sure, why should we stop you? We’ve had some dispute about that, ‘Well, then consumers can break it,’ and it’s like, ‘okay, let them break it if that’s what they want!’ Maybe putting the HUD somewhere that blocks your view is more of a challenge for you, maybe you just want to see if you can do it. After that you can throw it on YouTube and say ‘check it out, I beat the game with all the HUD stuff right in the middle of the screen!’”

One of the reasons High Voltage has the freedom to include fans in the development process is due to the fact that until recently, Conduit has been a completely independent title, without a publisher. Even so, their independent approach and revolutionary graphics for the Nintendo console garnered them a lot of attention. “We’ve had many suitors over the last few months; it was just a process of widdling that down to the ones that really made sense, and there is a lot of criteria that went into that. We weren’t just going with whoever was the highest bidder; we wanted to make sure they were somebody who would be a great partner, and that we would be able to continue to make a great game.”

With all the hype surrounding The Conduit, High Voltage’s long list of suitors is no surprise. When the game’s Quantum3 engine was first revealed as a tech demo in April, gamers and publishers alike were blown away by the promise of 60fps at near Xbox 360 quality graphics. Nofsinger explained that companies were inquiring about licensing the engine for their own games right away. “It’s something we’ve been approached a lot about, the initial tech demo that went out, that was really only made for internal and for publisher purposes, it wasn’t really intended for the public but people really grabbed onto it.

“Right now we’re not really looking to license the engine, really we’re focusing more on making a really high quality game than becoming a middleware provider. We’re trying to raise our quality level and raise the quality level of core games on Wii. We do want to make sure that if we were going to sell the engine we’d want to be sure it’s being utilized in interesting ways, as opposed to selling it to anybody with a dollar – because that pulls the whole thing down again.”
Amid all the licensing requests and fan feedback, High Voltage has still found time to pick out a suitor. “We have a publisher now, it’s just we haven’t announced it yet. It’s supposed to be signed, but there is some back and forth. It’s in the hands of the lawyers now.”

High Voltage Software and its new partner are expected to make an announcement sometime within the next two weeks.

Published on October 9th, 2008 under , , , , ,

Nintendo Media Summit: Infendo’s Hands on Impressions


Last week, Nintendo held it’s Fall Media Summit, dropping bombshells like the Nintendo DSi, a new Punch-Out!! for Wii, and the arrival of Club Nintendo to U.S. shores. I was lucky to be on site to mingle with Nintendo staff, talk to developers, and sample unreleased games. Keep an eye out for previews, hands-on impressions, interviews, and speculative analysis of the event in the coming weeks.

Hit the jump for some initial gameplay impressions on Animal Crossing, the Conduit, Call of Duty, and more!

Animal Crossing: City Folk is shaping up to be the definitive game the series. The rolling horizon has been brought over from the DS version, and now it actually increases your field of view. Some things are only visible from far away, like the clock tower in the city. (Which actually keeps time!) You can play with the wii-remote and the nunchuk, or just with the wii-remote. I found using the remote only setup very satisfying, it makes me dream of lazing away an afternoon on the sofa.

Eric Nofsinger, Chief Creative Officer of High Voltage Software, guided me through my first hands-on of The Conduit. I can see where the hype about this games graphics and controls come from, but what stood out to me was the AI. Enemy characters will react differently if you come out firing, or if you try to hit them with a melee weapon. Enemies will react differently each time you play the level through. Good AI is one of the most important aspects of a FPS, and in this respect, Conduit seems to be shaping up quite nicely. That said, the rumors are all true, the game looks great and it features the best custom control setup I’ve seen for a first person shooter on any platform.

It’s well known that Call of Duty: World at War is built on the engine from Call of Duty 4 and it shows, but it’s a little jaggy. The engine runs pretty smoothly on the Wii, but don’t expect the same visual experience as CoD4. The controls were among the best I’ve seen for a shooter on the Wii, and felt natural. Because all of the maps, missions, and resources are the same across every console, players on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii will all play the same single player campaign. Still, the demo left me wondering if all platforms would truly get the same experience. Perhaps it’s because I had such a positive experience with The Conduit, but the AI in World at War, although better than other Wii shooters, seemed unimpressive. I’m somewhat concerned that Call of Duty for Wii will suffer diminished AI intelligence vs. it’s “next-gen” brothers. Then again, CoD4 on Xbox had it’s own AI problems.

Two DS games on demo at the media summit took my by surprise. The first, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, hit me hard with its classic platforming action, fast paced puzzle element, smooth animation, and goofball humor. The bottom screen is home to the puzzle element of the game, where the player eliminates ascending bricks through color matching in order to gain power ups, regain health, or defeat certain enemies. If an “enemy block” makes it to the top of the screen without being eliminated, it seeps into the platfrming world of the top screen, and Henry Hatsworth must defeat it in order to return it to the puzzle. Despite how odd it sounds, the integration between the two styles of play is flawless, and feels natural.

The other DS title that caught my eye was Rhythm Heaven, a collaboration of the Wario Ware team and Japanese composer Tsunku. Rhythm Heaven takes music games on the DS in a new direction. Rather then focusing on completing a sequence of rhythmic button pushes (Guitar Hero) or sequential taps (Elite Beat Agents,) the player must listen for musical cues to know when to tap, flick, or hold their stylus to react with the action on the top screen of the DS. Although it seems simple, the game gets progressively more challenging as you go along. Because your performance effects how the music sounds, doing well in the game is extremely satisfying, relaxing, and quite fun. Rhythm Heaven may not be hardcore, but its addictively fun.

I’ve already shown you that Tetris Party is more than your average Tetris remake, and the new modes of play are really what makes this game great. I’m not a huge Tetris fan, and I usually don’t give the classic puzzle game more than a second thought, but the duel space and shadow modes really caught my eye. When I played Tetris for the first time as a child, I didn’t know what the rules were. I found myself building up designs and trying to draw pictures with the mysterious falling shapes. Tetris Party turns the game on its head and validates my younger self’s innocent, but incorrect gameplay approach. The new game modes are fun, innovative, and competitive. I found myself deeply impressed with how Tetris Party made an old game seem new again The only thing missing is Wii-Speak functionality.

That’s it for this initial sampling of post-media summit impressions. Keep watching the front page more detailed previews of these titles, interviews, and more.

Published on October 6th, 2008 under , , , , ,

High Voltage wants you to map The Conduit controls


High Voltage continued its one-of-a-kind marketing blitz for The Conduit this evening with a new contest. It’s a pretty simple, pretty cool little contest that effectively gives you, the gamer, a chance to map the game’s controls.

Update: High Voltage’s Eric Nofsinger wrote us to clarify the prize: “The prize is getting your name in a videogame, e.g. the Jack Loftus control scheme. =) We will likely send a lot of other junk too (T-shirts, etc) but the real prize is credits / bragging rights,” he said.

More from the release, including contest rules, below the fold.

“Given how flexible our control scheme code is, and how we’re going to have several pre-set mappings to choose from,” said Lead Programmer for The Conduit, Ed Federmeyer in a press release delivered to Infendo. “Wouldn’t it be a cool contest to allow gamers to propose schemes and we can take the best and burn them into the game as additional preset control mappings?”

The High Voltage folks are making no secret of the fact that this game is designed with a certain type of person in mind, and they’re doing it in a way that I hope gets noticed by other developers in the genre.

“From the start of the project our primary goal has been to make the definitive first person shooter for the Wii, and specifically for core gamers. Asking core gamers for their input is just a logical extension of that rationale,” said High Voltage CEO Kerry J. Ganofsky.

What a concept. One of the biggest barriers to entry for the FPS is often the control scheme. Making the process more “open source,” to borrow a term from my previous job, could be pretty revolutionary. Well, maybe not revolutionary, but pretty neat.

The contest rules are simple; using a standard Wii-Remote and Nunchuk combination, fans should send in what control mapping they think would be best for the following functions:

1. Move Forward/Back
2. Strafe Left/Right
3. Jump/Activate
4. Shoot Weapon
5. Target Lock
6. Crouch
7. Reload Weapon
8. Scope/Binocular Mode
9. Switch Between Weapons Carried
10. Switch Between Grenades Carried
11. Pause Menu
12. Swap Between Weapon Carried and Weapon on Ground
13. Equip ASE (All-Seeing-Eye) / Special
14. Aim Reticule/Turn Camera
15. Melee Attack
16. Throw Grenade

Fans should also feel free to also suggest Wii-motions (gestures) to trigger actions – just be sure to describe motions thoroughly enough that they are clear to High Voltage Software’s design team.

Entries should be sent to with the subject line of “Conduit Controller Mapping Contest”. Winning entries will be made available for selection through the UI as official controller schemes for The Conduit, with appropriate in-game credit given to their creators.

Contest entries must be received prior to November 14, 2008. Entries using duplicate schemes will be awarded based on whichever was received first. Winners grant permission to High Voltage Software (HVS) to use his/her name for professional and promotional purposes. All entries become the property of HVS and under no conditions does HVS promise any financial or monetary compensation to those who enter.

Now, all they need is that publisher…

Published on September 18th, 2008 under , , ,

Sequel to The Conduit already in the works?


The best Wii game you’ve never played may already have a sequel.

During an interview with IGN, High Voltage Software’s Eric Nofsinger suggested a sequel to The Conduit, one of the most highly anticipated games of 2009, may already be in early planning and development.

“I think you guys will be happy with the publisher we’ve landed with because they’re big believers in what we’re trying to do on the Wii. … One of our main criteria (in choosing a publisher) was we still wanted to have a lot of access to the press…some of the other criteria that we definitely wanted to make sure was in the mix was having the ability to get started on the sequel right away, so that is something that we’re excited about as well.”

Nofsinger and other High Voltage members also discussed the game’s publisher situation, their hardcore focus on Wii and more. Listen to the full interview on the latest IGN Nintendo podcast.

The Conduit is still without a publisher, though High Voltage has indicated an announcement will be made in the coming month.

Published on September 4th, 2008 under , ,

Nintendo haters? It’s time to fess up, shut up, or grow up


It’s pretty crazy to think about it, but E3, with all its Wii Music-induced Nintendo-is-the-end-of-gaming paranoia, was about two months ago now. And, as predicted, the cacophony of rhetoric and vocal minority-driven criticism has subsided, only to be replaced with cold, hard facts.

Facts like Wario Land: Shake It and Mega Man 9, which will no doubt revolutionize and modernize 2-D platform gaming when they launch this fall. Or the fact that Disaster: Day of Crisis—perpetually delayed, canceled, and then revived for a rumored October release (in Europe)—is actually alive and ready for release, thank you very much. And then there’s The Conduit, now on the cusp of being published and heralded by respected tech blog ars technica as an impressive feather in Wii’s cap.

Hell, even Sadness, like the drunk uncle that shows up at Easter and Christmas, made an appearance in August with admittedly suspect “game play” footage. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the next great vaporware title (behind Duke Nukem Forever, of course), but at least it was something.

The bigger picture in all this (and my point), bigger in fact than whatever “negativity” arose from Nintendo’s kooky E3 keynote, is that each of these titles is pretty mature. They’re also all pretty exclusive, and none of them are technically Nintendo first party IP. Again, I renew my criticism to those who incorrectly belittled Nintendo for treating E3 as the clown-driven, yesterday’s news circus that it was. What’s the deal? It’s time to fess up, grow up, or shut up. Personally, I’d prefer a mashup of all three.

First stage? Fess up. Why the angst? Why the cries of abandonment when the platter is so full–and looking even more full as we prepare to enter the holiday season and beyond? Forgive me for being so logical (aced it in college, sorry), but I fail to see the life benefit of complaining about a title like Wii Music, especially when Pokemon, a title more geared towards children than anything, is far larger, more far reaching and (I quote the hardcore here) “threatening” to the video game way of life than some harmless music simulator. Why the wasted effort? From the belly-aching that pretty much gripped July and August, one would have thought Nintendo, Gestapo style, was marching through the streets of the U.S., breaking down doors and forcing consumers to plop down $50 to play Miyamoto’s take on rhythm games. I have yet to see the news reports of Nintendo employees, jack boots and all, breaking anything but sales records. Maybe I missed them.

Is it because it’s cool? Are the forum lurkers, with their gift of putting together a carefully crafted and substance-free sentence that happens to include the word Nintendo, so inspirational that you cannot resist taking the easy route to the hate wagon?

Again, I only ask such questions after carefully surveying the long-term landscape. There’s 1:1 motion control on the horizon on only one system; there’s relatively inexpensive touch-based portable gaming only only one system; and the games above—all exclusives—are only available on one system. That these systems also include a brain dead music sim in Wii Music, or a game that trains your brain with number puzzles and IQ tests, is largely irrelevant to the overall success of those very systems, just as it is with any other medium (like movies, for example). Need proof? Did Hannah Montana prevent you from seeing the Dark Knight this summer? Does the fact that there’s a Bratz movie vying for marquee space during the warmer months mean Hell Boy 2 failed the hardcore test? Comedian Ricky Gervais is making a corny ghost flick, set to release later this month–does that mean the original Office spontaneously became a suck-fest? Of course not, and yet these kind of illogical arguments and belly-aching pervade the video game discussion like a plague.

What’s also ignored, either by choice or by ignorance, is the fact (again with the word fact…) that the past year and a half has seen Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 (a genre-defining FPS, on the Wii?! Really?!), Super Mario Strikers, Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii.

Again, I think the vocal minority, with its insatiable multi-games-per-month mentality (which is entirely their right), has hijacked the conversation. A game that continually posts a top 10 finish month-over-month across the entire frickin’ globe (Mario Kart DS, a-hem), is deemed irrelevant. How sad. And how sad that one little non-game, like Wii Music, can so easily distract a group of people from all the fun games that have hit Nintendo systems over the past two years. And, in doing so, it’s effectively overshadowed what’s set to arrive in the next six months. At least in the hardcore forums, anyway. The rest of the world has snatched up Wii’s and DS’s in record numbers throughout 2007 and 2008 in spite of this apparent outcry against Nintendo’s current strategy.

Lastly, part of fessing up is being brutally honest about yourself. Do you want only epic, realistic, uncanny valley failing games with 40-hour play times and one-player adventures? Then stop expecting them from Nintendo en masse. You’ll get them occasionally, like with Disaster should it be as real as its appeared to be this week, but you’ll no longer get a 12-month stream of identical games as you’ve had on other systems in the past. Variety? Yes, please.

So the next step is just to shut up. Rude? Sure, but have you read some of the comments here on Infendo and abroad lately? When people aren’t being plain offensive, they’re being offensively obtuse; ignoring, as I’ve stated above, readily available facts (addressed, above) and trends about not just Nintendo, but the industry as a whole. Wii MotionPlus should have been available since the beginning just because people say so; in doing so, they are willfully ignoring the fact that by delaying MotionPlus on purpose, as they claim it did, Nintendo would have been voluntarily pissing away development dollars and potential mega-hits. Who needs to criticize clueless analysts like Michael Pachter when the ignorant masses can do just as good a job for free?

That leads to the next point… I think a lot of what’s going on today has everything to do with some of the other players in the industry. When your marketing arm is able to so deftly and successfully give a small, “core” group of video game players a label that sticks and personifies them so adequately, and on a medium–the Internet–where it’s so easy for even the dumbest of denizens to post their thoughts, they’ll more than gladly do a majority of your work for you. It helps when they already have 24/7 access to the Internet and a knack for Internet memes. In this light, consoles are no longer venues for playing all types of games, they are suddenly isolated silos of coolness, ready to play your mature games and serve as launching pads for close-minded, old world assaults on the Brain Ages of the world. If you didn’t know Sudoku was an imminent threat to the safety of Halo 3, you will after a trip to any “hardcore” video game blog.

Personally, I’d rather be challenged. I’d rather find out if a game is fun by playing it, and base my criticism off that. Was the Wii Music demo laughable? Sure it was. Watching it made many people, rightfully, uncomfortable. But so did Wii Sports when we all saw Reggie and company bowling like idiots at E3 2006. But it’s easier to forget that and join in the chorus, I suppose. It’s cooler. But it’s not challenging. It’s predictable. If Wi Music wants to be a mind-numbingly easy music “toy” as Miyamoto describes it, then that’s how I’ll evaluate it. I’m not going to go in, as so many have done so already, wanting it to be a Guitar Hero music rhythm game, and then cry about how disappointed I am afterward.

That leaves the last point to this, the latest Jack Nintendo tirade. I’ll keep it succinct, given the hour and the pile of 12 fun Wii games I have at my disposal right now (and 20+ DS, too): grow up. Too many people think video games are about them these days; that their limited boy’s toys world view is what’s going to drive gaming to new heights and lead to head-spinning new levels of innovation and fun. It’s not, and that’s an incredibly good thing. 2-D platformers are enjoyed by all ages and sexes to this day. Music rhythm games have been responsible for more 20- to 30-something age parties over the past year than I can count. My parents both play the Nintendo DS I got them last Christmas. My Abercrombie-influenced sister is mature and secure enough to get down with Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution. I started playing video games again after the dark days of the GameCube in 2006, and I haven’t looked back since. Ignoring these facts or pretending that they’re not cool enough to welcome into the fold, or that they somehow mean you’re not going to have any more fun on a Nintendo system isn’t going to affect one iota of the industry. What it will do is ensure that you’re probably in front of a computer screen, ranting against the man, when you could be enjoying a solid, growing, and diverse catalogue of Nintendo titles.

The average age of gamers today hovers around late 20’s all the way up to 35. It’s time to start acting like it.

Published on September 2nd, 2008 under , , , , , , , , ,

The Conduit to feature LAN play, publisher to be named “in the coming month”


Tech-focused Web site Ars Technica went hands-on with The Conduit, High Voltage Software’s hotly anticipated Wii shooter, at PAX and came away with glowing impressions, as well as news for Wii owners who might be skeptical the publisher-less game will be released.

“We’re not ready to officially announce anything,” said High Voltage’s Rob Nicholls. “But things are in the works. Look for the word in the coming month.”

As if unrivaled Wii visuals, an extensive single-player campaign, online and offline multiplayer modes and fully customizable controls weren’t adequate selling points for The Conduit, Nicholls also revealed High Voltage is “working with Nintendo” to include LAN play.

As has become the standard for encounters with The Conduit, Ars Technica bestowed little but enthusiastic praise upon the game:

The Conduit is already easily the best looking Wii game, at least from a technical level. It’s hard to ignore the stellar particle effects, real-time lighting, fluid animation, fast-paced action, and screen-filling boss. While some of the texture work is relatively low resolution, and the environments themselves were in need of more post-process lighting effects, the game could easily be confused with an Xbox 360 title. But the real question is, how does it play?

The Conduit exhibits many lessons learned from past Wii first-person shooter titles. The game gathers what companies like Retro Studios, Ubisoft, and EA have learned with regard to bounding boxes and IR aiming on the console, and offers the most competent FPS control on the platform yet. This is spearheaded by an unbelievably vast amount of customization options. Players can jump into the menu and then adjust a ton of sliders and settings to refine the control for themselves. This is all done within the actual game engine while playing, as opposed to static menus, so you can get a feel for the changes you make instantly.

Check Ars Technica’s full article for more, including some interesting weapon descriptions and more gameplay impressions.

Published on September 2nd, 2008 under , , ,

The Conduit to utilize Wii Motion Plus


PAX 2008 has officially hit the west coast. As mentioned a few weeks back, High Voltage Software is planning on taking full advantage of the public event by showcasing the newest build of The Conduit. Though the demo shown is old news, Gamespot UK managed to squeeze the following bit of unexpected news out of the team.

High Voltage does plan to support Wii Motion Plus add-on so we will have to see later how that will work.

Nice! I’ve said it time and time again…High Voltage Software earns an applause from Wii owners due to their firm development dedication. You have these amazing devs like High Voltage who will implement a piece of hardware announced just a mere seven weeks ago. On the flip side you have AAA publishers such as Lucasarts who will complain about not knowing any info on Motion Plus, and fail to use the device in software that would truly enhance the gameplay.

More details on this news coming soon.

Published on August 31st, 2008 under , ,

“I have to admit, it’s looking better, looking better all the time.”

Published on August 22nd, 2008 under , ,

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