Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
|Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem|
|Release date(s)||NA June 23, 2002
|Distribution||Nintendo optical disc|
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is a survival horror video game released for the GameCube. Developed by Silicon Knights and originally planned for the Nintendo 64, it was first released and published by Nintendo on June 24, 2002 in North America, October 25, 2002 in Japan and November 1, 2002 in Europe. It was the first video game published directly by Nintendo, rather than a third-party developer, to be rated M for mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Eternal Darkness' setting is centered around a mansion in Rhode Island - the home of protagonist Alexandra Roivas' grandfather - and a book that Alexandra finds there. It utilizes a third-person view in which the player must navigate a number of locations as twelve characters spanning different time periods. The game utilizes "sanity effects" to enhance the gameplay.
Though not a commercial success, Eternal Darkness was widely praised, winning the "Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Development" award at the 6th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, presented by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and numerous other awards.
The action in Eternal Darkness is divided between four principal locations. The game skips back and forth through time when the player begins or ends each chapter. The locations include the Forbidden City in Persia, a Cambodian temple in Angkor Thom, the Oublié Cathedral in Amiens, France, and the Roivas family mansion with the Ruined City of Ehn'gha in Rhode Island, United States.
The plot of the game revolves around Alexandra Roivas, who is investigating the mysterious murder of her grandfather Edward Roivas. While exploring his Rhode Island mansion, she discovers a secret room containing, among other odd items, a book bound with human skin and bone. When she reads this book, The Tome of Eternal Darkness, she experiences a scene in the life of Pious Augustus, a respected Roman military commander in 26 BC. Pious is led by mysterious voices to an underground temple, where he chooses one of three mysterious artifacts. The artifact transforms him into an undead warlock, the Liche, and makes him slave to one of three Ancients, powerful godlike beings whose "Essences" are incarnated as the artifacts. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that Pious is attempting to summon his Ancient into this reality, while the powerful fourth "Corpse God" Mantorok is bound on Earth already, apparently helpless to stop it. If this summoning came to pass, the Ancient would feast on the bodies and souls of all living beings, and cast the universe into the horror of eternal darkness.
As she searches for and finds chapters of the Tome scattered throughout the mansion, Alex finds herself reliving the experiences of several (player controlled) individuals who have crossed paths with Pious or other servants of the Ancients over the centuries, and as a result came into contact with the Tome itself. While many of these individuals meet a sinister fate, their cooperation ultimately gathers the Essences of the three remaining Ancients in the mansion. Alexandra's own ancestors discover the long-deserted City of Ehn'gha beneath the family mansion, and powerful magickal machinery inside. Alexandra powers up this mechanism with the Ancients' essences, and summons a rival Ancient to fight Pious'.
While the two Ancients fight, Alexandra engages in combat with Pious with the aid of the spirits of his victims, the souls played in previous chapters, ultimately destroying his Ancient's essence. It loses the fight above as Alexandra kills Pious. Then, realizing that the Roivases and their allies have just brought another powerful Ancient into the world, Edward's spirit quickly uses the mechanism in Ehn'gha to send the other Ancient back where it came from. He expresses pride in his granddaughter before he disappears.
After completing the game under all three alignments, it is revealed that all three Ancients have been destroyed — "All at once, separate and simultaneous, for the universe is made of many timestreams, many possibilities, all in harmonious synchronicity." Because he was bound, and not powerful enough to stop Pious Augustus himself, Mantorok manipulated the Roivas family into completing the work for him. He orchestrates the deaths of all three Ancients, in separate timestreams, and then connects them all, resulting in the annihilation of all three alignments. In the end, only the corpse god Mantorok is still alive, "festering in its tomb... plotting".
The player controls the following characters in the years noted next to their names. The game does not introduce them in chronological order and they are listed in the order the player first takes control of them.
- Alexandra Roivas (2000 AD) - A student at a university in Washington. The game's main protagonist, she is investigating her grandfather's gruesome death in Rhode Island. Finding the Tome, she reads about the past struggles against The Darkness, and of the plan to prevent Pious from summoning the Ancient. The player controls her during the intro, the finale, and in between the other chapters. Voiced by Jennifer Hale, her surname is "savior" spelled backwards.
- Pious Augustus (26 BC) - A Roman Centurion in his late 20s, at war in Ancient Persia. He becomes the game's chief antagonist after being corrupted by one of the Ancients' essences while examining the ruins he stumbles upon. Alexandra Roivas defeats and kills him in 2000 AD. There is a bad ending in which the character dies and the darkness prevails, in which Pious defeats Roivas. This ending is obtained if the character dies while fighting Pious. Voiced by Richard Doyle.
- Ellia (1150 AD) - A Khmer slave girl and court dancer for Suryavarman II. She yearns for adventure after reading passages from the Tome. After finding herself locked in a temple imprisoning the former Khmer fertility god, she is chosen to bear Mantorok's essence. Pious kills her for her resistance to him shortly afterwards, but she remains half-alive because the essence is inside her body. Eight hundred years later, she gives it to Edwin Lindsey and then finally dies. Voiced by Kim Mai Guest.
- Anthony (814 AD) - A Frankish messenger for Charlemagne, ordered to deliver a message to his liege, a message that consumes Anthony in some corrosive magick which alludes to treachery in store for the Frankish emperor. He learns that the monks are plotting against the emperor, but is too late to save him. When Paul Luther finds him centuries later, he rises as a zombie-like creature, under the control of the Darkness. Paul defeats him, prays for the boy's soul, and takes his sword and a gem needed to proceed. Voiced by Cam Clarke.
- Karim (565 AD) - A Persian swordsman, sent into the desert to find a treasure (one of the Ancients' essences) for his love, Chandra. Chandra, however, is not faithful. She is mutilated and killed by a nobleman's jealous mistress, and her ghost warns Karim about the artifact's true nature. Although initially reluctant to believe her, he sacrifices himself so that he can watch over the artifact. Voiced by Rino Romano.
- Dr. Maximillian Roivas (1760 AD) - A rich doctor in colonial Rhode Island, ancestor of both Edward and Alex. Something is amiss in the mansion he recently inherited from his father, Aaron. Max eventually finds the city of Ehn'gha under the mansion, and after realizing how powerful the denizens are after barely defeating a Lesser Guardian in single combat, he attempts to warn the world, but fails. It is implied that he was committed to an insane asylum for that, but later revealed that he killed four of his servants, suspecting they were possessed by Bonethieves. Alex, surveying the room where the servants' remains lie sealed, notes that one of the corpses was missing its head, and there are only three sets of bones. Voiced by William Hootkins.
- Dr. Edwin Lindsey (1983 AD) - An archaeologist exploring Cambodian ruins under the auspices of a mysterious benefactor named Paul Augustine. Paul Augustine, revealing himself to be Pious in disguise, tries to kill Lindsey, but he escapes and makes his way through Angkor Thom. Eventually he finds the undead remains of Ellia, who gives him Mantorok's essence; Lindsey returns to the United States and delivers it to Edward. Lindsey is one of the few characters to escape the Eternal Darkness without any physical or mental harm. Voiced by Neil Ross.
- Paul Luther (1485 AD) - A Franciscan monk on a pilgrimage to see a holy relic, the Hand of Jude. He is detained in Amiens by the Inquisition (led by Pious in disguise) on a pretense of suspicion in the murder of Brother Andrew. A custodian frees him, and helps him to find Brother Andrew's journals, which reveals that Andrew was killed to protect a secret: the dominant Ancient's Relic is hidden in the Cathedral. The Hand of Jude was a fake to lure victims to sacrifice. Paul ventures deeper into the Amiens Cathedral, finding a metal statue of the custodian near a door. Paul must "kill" the statue with a magical dagger to open the door, but as he does so he hears a wail from nearby, and finds the custodian has been killed with a similar dagger. Later, Paul finds the Black Guardian, who violently kills him on the orders of Pious. Voiced by Paul Eiding.
- Roberto Bianchi (1460 AD) - A traveling Venetian artist and architect, taken as a prisoner of war while roaming abroad. He is forced to work for a warlord (revealed as Pious Augustus in a pre-level cinematic), helping with the construction of the Pillar of Flesh by surveying the foundations. He acquires the artifact from Karim while surveying the monster-infested site, and when his work is complete, he is thrown into the pillar and buried alive. Voiced by Phil Proctor.
- Peter Jacob (1916 AD) - A field reporter during World War I, staying at Oublié Cathedral, which has been converted into a field hospital. He notices that people are mysteriously disappearing, and investigates the lower levels when monsters attack. He defeats the Black Guardian, and keeps the artifact for many years until he delivers it to Edward. Besides sleepless nights, he is one of the few characters who does not suffer a tragic end as a result of the Tome. Voiced by Michael Bell.
- Edward Roivas (1952 AD) - A clinical psychologist, Alex's grandfather, led to the Tome by Max's ghost. His servants are attacked by a dreadful presence, the Vampire. Edward eventually defeats it and wipes out the garrisoned forces of Ehn'gha with a massive Dispel Magick spell from the city's nine-point spell circle (formed by the towers of the city). Years later, he is killed by a Lesser Guardian. Edward is the game's primary narrator, introducing each Tome chapter (with the exception of Pious') and narrating the epilogue. Voiced by Neil Dickson.
- Michael Edwards (1991 AD) - A Canadian firefighter sent to extinguish oil fires ignited by Iraqi troops in Kuwait after the Gulf War. An explosion at one well leaves him trapped in the Forbidden City as the only survivor. He receives the Essence of an Ancient from Roberto and destroys the City with magickally-enhanced C-4 plastic explosives placed at the bridge. A few years after his return, he meets up with Edward in a city at night. Mike gives Dr. Roivas a package, believing that he himself will soon be killed by the Guardians (though his ultimate fate is not revealed). The package's contents are unknown, as the Essence and the Enchanted Gladius (if the player has acquired it) were later sent to Alex in a hastily wrapped and unmarked package dropped inside the mansion's front door, hinting at Michael's possible survival (also the fact that his statue in the Hall of the Tome of Eternal Darkness is missing, possibly meaning that his life did not end in the hands of the Ancients). Voiced by Greg Eagles.
The Ancients are depicted as godlike beings that existed on Earth before humanity. The three Ancients that Pious may align with were expelled from this universe, and Pious works to bring about the return of his Ancient. The featured Ancients are:
- Ulyaoth, whose powers focus on magick and the dimensional planes: his creations are tinged blue, and they specialize in magickal damage. Ulyaoth's form is reminiscent of a jellyfish.
- Xel'lotath, whose powers focus on the mind and insanity: her underlings are tinged green, and have an affinity for affecting sanity. Xel'lotath has an eel-like lower body, with four slender arms connected to a torso with a large eye in the center.
- Chattur'gha, whose powers focus on physical strength and matter: his troops are tinged red, and focus on physical attacks and toughness. Chattur'gha is crustacean-like in appearance, and has two large claws.
- Mantorok is described as the "Corpse God" and the "God of Chaos", and is the only Ancient known to have a physical presence on Earth. Its minions are tinged black and its magick is purple. Mantorok appears to be in a position of inferiority to the other Ancients (its only identified creatures are weak, skeletal zombies), due to a powerful binding spell cast by Pious. It is, however, described as the "Keeper of the Ancients", and maintains equilibrium among the other three Ancients, ensuring that they are bound to fight against and destroy one another. Mantorok is a massive, amorphous being with countless eyes and mouths, somewhat reminiscent of a shoggoth. The murals of its temple depict it as once having a more defined, but still very grotesque shape.
A fifth alignment, colored yellow, was confirmed to be the alignment of another Ancient that was not included in the game. In-game, yellow appears on unaligned runes and disintegrating enemies.
Initially, the player controls Alexandra as she investigates the mansion, which serves as a hub, in 2000 AD. Upon finding The Tome of Eternal Darkness, the player takes control of Pious Augustus in 26 BC. After Pious' chapter, the player resumes control of Alex as she finds additional chapter pages around the mansion. With each chapter, the player assumes control of a different character in the past, and ends with the perspective returning to Alex. Each chapter progresses the story and provides both the player and Alex the knowledge and abilities needed to progress. Alex does not actually engage in combat herself until late in the game.
The player chooses which of the three essences Pious attempts to claim at the start of the game. This determines which of the three Ancients he is aligned with, and subsequently which enemies dominate. These subtle differences can influence the players experience and in some cases the difficulty of the game. If Pious chooses Chattur'gha (the red one), whose enemies are tougher to represent Chattur'gha's affinity for matter and physical power, most of his monsters deal more damage and have more health, making the Chattur'gha alignment an unofficial hard mode. While Ulyaoth's (the blue one) monsters focus on their magick, they sometimes have unique abilities. For example: Ulyoath's zombies, when attacked, will chain themselves to other Ulyaoth zombies in the room and self-destruct simultaneously with devastating force. This can be taken advantage of by the player to clear the room of the zombies quickly, or attempt to use them to damage other enemies. Xel'lotath's (the green one) monsters tend to sap more sanity from the player than the monsters from other alignments' and therefore if Pious picks Xel'lotath the game tends to get creepier faster as the player loses more sanity than they gain.
The alignments are identified by color, and have a rock, paper, scissors relationship, which is important in the player's consideration of his or her own magick use. Ulyaoth (blue) affects magick ability and has power over Chattur'gha. Chattur'gha (red) affects physical health and has power over Xel'lotath. Xel'lotath (green) affects sanity and has power over Ulyaoth. By completing an optional goal, the player may also gain the ability to align spells with Mantorok (purple), which has power over the other three alignments and affects multiple parameters at once. However, there are certain spells the player cannot cast with the Mantorok alignment.
Eternal Darkness offers magical powers for healing, solving puzzles, and experimenting in combat. For example, it is possible for player characters to summon monsters like those they are fighting. This is achieved by a system of runes for the components of the spell and 3-, 5-, or 7-point "Circles of Power" which allow the runes to be scribed. Though they are called "runes" by the game (probably due to the term's association with mystery and magic), these symbols do not form an alphabet, but rather a vocabulary. As such, they would be more accurately termed glyphs or especially sigilia. To cast a spell, an alignment rune (fueling the spell with the power of one of the four Ancients), a "verb" or effect rune (describing the action of the spell) and a "noun" or target rune must be used. For example, the spell for recovering health consists of the alignment rune for Chattur'gha, the rune for "absorb" (Narokath), and the rune for "self" (Santak). The same runes when aligned to Xel'lotath would restore sanity, rather than health. As more runes are discovered, more combinations are possible, although not all have an effect. With a larger Circle of Power, "power" (Pargon) runes may be added to spells to increase the intensity of the spell. Runes and Circles gathered during a chapter are stored in the Tome of Eternal Darkness and available in all subsequent chapters, as well as to Alex in 2000 AD.
The game's standout concept, patented by Nintendo, is the "sanity meter", a green bar on screen which is depleted by various events, generally when the character is seen by an enemy. It can be restored by such actions as performing a "finishing move" on an enemy or casting a restorative spell. As the bar becomes low, subtle changes are made to the environment and random unusual events begin to occur, reflecting the character's slackening grip on reality. If the bar remains empty, further damage to sanity decreases the player character's health.
One effect which is consistently used is a skewed camera angle accompanied by whispers, cries, and unsettling noises. The lower the sanity meter, the more skewed the camera angle and the louder the sound effects. Fourth wall breaking effects include simulated errors and anomalies of the TV or GameCube (one effect being a Blue Screen of Death); this does not affect gameplay unless the player misconstrues them as actual technical malfunctions and attempts to correct them. There are many different sanity effects, the length they last depends on each effect. Not all effects will necessarily be encountered during a given run through the game. A few more commonplace examples include sounds, such as footsteps, women and children screaming, doors slamming, the rattling of chains and the sound of a blade being sharpened; the player character finding him/herself walking upon the ceiling after entering a new room; walls and ceilings bleeding; the volume being lowered, accompanied by a fake television volume indicator on the screen; and the appearance of large numbers of monsters that are not really there, and disappear when attacked. Some sanity effects are character- or area-specific and reflect the individual's personal fears or experiences or take advantage of environmental features (such as a statue whose head turns to follow the player). When the sanity effect is finished, everything goes back to normal and the character often utters a panicked statement to the effect of, "this can't be happening!"
The game was revealed at the E3 1999, initially being developed for the Nintendo 64 and featuring "a Special Forces commando deep behind enemy lines" among other characters. It was then planned to be a launch title for the Nintendo GameCube, but had to be delayed as a consequence of the September 11 attacks, as a quarter of the levels were reworked because of a major setting in the Arab world, which the developer Silicon Knights felt the people were not ready for at that time. Karim was not in the early builds of Eternal Darkness. Writers Denis Dyack and Ken McCulloch had originally placed Joseph De Molay, a Knight Templar, in the scenario, though later changed this in 2001.
The music and sound effects of Eternal Darkness were composed by Steve Henifin. The soundtrack was made exclusively available through Nintendo Power magazine. The disc contains 14 tracks from the game, many of which are extended versions of those heard in the game. The game also features voice-overs from actors such as Jennifer Hale, Neil Dickson, and Cam Clarke. Many voice actors are known from the Metal Gear series, notably the aforementioned Jennifer Hale and Cam Clarke, as well as Kim Mai Guest, Greg Eagles, Paul Eiding and David Hayter.
Reviews and sales
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem received a near-universal critical acclaim upon its release, with aggregated review scores of over 9/10 at both GameRankings and Metacritic. Upon review, IGN gave Eternal Darkness one of its Editor's Choice Awards.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem won the "Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Development" award at the 6th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards 2003; it was also nominated for "Console Game of the Year," "Innovation in Console Gaming," and "Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction." At its Best and Worst of 2002, GameSpot awarded Eternal Darkness "Best Sound on GameCube", "Best Story on GameCube", and "Best Graphics (Artistic) on GameCube"; the game was also nominated for "Best Music on GameCube", "Best Action Adventure Game on GameCube", and "Game of the Year on GameCube". Additionally, the game won the honorary "Day of the Tentacle (Cthulhu) Award" at GameSpy's Game of the Year Awards.
In 2006, Nintendo Power ranked Eternal Darkness as the 101st top game on Nintendo systems, while the readers of IGN had it voted as the 96th best video game of all time on all systems; in 2009, Official Nintendo Magazine had it listed as the 48th best Nintendo game. The game was ranked as the seventh best game for the GameCube by X-Play in 2006, as the fifth best GameCube game by IGN in 2007, as the tenth best GameCube game by ScrewAttack that same year, and placed fourth on the list of top GameCube games in the January 2009 issue of Game Informer.
Both X-Play and Game Informer in 2007 in 2006 ranked it as the fifth scariest game of all time. In other lists, ScrewAttack ranked the fake "Corrupt Data" sanity effect as the ninth top "OMGWTF" moment in gaming in 2008, while Alex Roivas was included among the 50 greatest heroines in video games by Tom's Games in 2007 and ranked as the 40th greatest heroine in video game history by Complex in 2013.
Several retrospective articles demanded a follow-up game. IGN included Eternal Darkness on their 2008 list of "horror franchises that should rise from the grave", GamesRadar included Eternal Darkness among the games "with untapped franchise potential" in 2009, and UGO included it on a similar list of games "that need sequels" in 2010.
In 2002, Nintendo and Hypnotic, a film entertainment company, established a filmmaking contest in which contestants submitted ideas that would be later funded into short films if selected. Hypnotic also purchased the rights to produce a film or TV series based on the IP. The contest looked for ideas that evoke the same kind of psychological horror that the game intends to evoke, but the films were not directly based on the Eternal Darkness characters or storyline.
The contest drew over 500 submissions. Ten finalists were selected and were granted $2,000 each to produce their respective short films. The grand prize for the contest was $20,000, and was selected by a panel of industry experts. The finalists were unveiled between May 23 and July 4, 2002. A second prize, the viewer's choice award, was awarded on the basis of its popularity among the online audience.
The grand prize winner of the contest was Patrick Daughters, for the film Unloved. The viewer's choice award went to the film Cutting Room Floor by Tyler Spangler and Michael Cioni. Other videos featured on the official website included Article Number One by Julian Cautherley, Dinner with Kip by Chris Schwartz, Del by Chris Milnes, Suburban Nightmare by Christopher Reves, Darkness Visible by David McMillan, Corner of the Eye by Peter Hunziker, Carnal Noise by Francisco Aliwalas, and << (pronounced "rewind") by Rich Gallup.
Denis Dyack, designer of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Too Human, said "absolutely yes" in July 2006 regarding the question of a possible sequel. He stated that Silicon Knights had intended for Eternal Darkness to be a stand-alone game, but the company has always intended to make more games set in the Eternal Darkness universe involving the Ancients. At Microsoft's Spring 2008 Showcase, Dyack confirmed that a return to the Eternal Darkness brand could be on the cards: "There is a chance; we love all the games we work on. We don't want to be pigeon-holed [into a genre], we want to be known for strong content...There's a strong chance we'll return to it, but there's no announcements yet." In November 2011, Silicon Knights claimed they wanted to focus on one of their most requested titles for the next generation of consoles. This combined with the fact Nintendo had trademarked the title once again, spawned rumours that another Eternal Darkness game would be made as a launch title for the Wii U. The project however was canceled due to Silicon Knights' legal troubles with Epic Games. In December 2012, Nintendo extended their ownership on the Eternal Darkness trademark for the fifth time, indicating that the company still has interest in the property.
Shadow of the Eternals
|Shadow of the Eternals|
On May 3, 2013, it was announced that Precursor Games, staffed by many former Silicon Knights members, had begun a crowdfunding campaign through PayPal, seeking $1.5 million to create a spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness under the title Shadow of the Eternals, to be released for Microsoft Windows and Wii U. The game would be released in 12 two- to four-hour long episodes, with Denis Dyack acting as the game's chief creative officer. On May 13, a secondary fund-raising campaign was launched on Kickstarter, aiming to receive $1.35 million within 36 days. Eventually, being only half-way through their funding campaign in early June, as a result of "a host of a new exciting opportunities that will make the game better than [Precursor Games] envisioned," the company decided to shut down both funding campaigns on Kickstarter and their official website whilst refunding all the accumulated money back to their contributors, and promised to relaunch a new campaign a few weeks later with "a reveal of these exciting new developments." Later in June, Precursor's founding member, and co-designer of both Eternal Darkness and Shadow of the Eternals, Kenneth McCulloch was arrested on child pornography charges; the studio immediately severed all ties with him. Another Kickstarter campaign was launched on July 25 aiming for a $750,000 goal this time. Instead of 12 episodes, the game was intended to be released as one 8-10 hour experience.
The game was announced as follows: "When Detective Paul Becker is called to one of the bloodiest gang massacres in Louisiana state history, only two survivors remain from a brutal conflict between two rival cults. As Becker begins his interrogations of the suspects, their combined recollections will uncover the truth about the 'Eternals'. Featuring an ensemble cast of heroes and villains, Shadow of the Eternals will span over 2500 years of history throughout Egypt, England, Hungary, and the United States. Players will question the perception of reality as they try to balance the mechanics of combat, magick, and sanity events to progress through the adventure. Shadow of the Eternals will take players on a memorable journey throughout time; weaving historical fact with disturbing fiction to create an experience unlike any other." On May 10, a nine-minute gameplay trailer was shown. In creating the look of the game, Precursor Games purchased art assets from Silicon Knights which were going to be used on the Eternal Darkness sequel before it was canceled. Though Nintendo still owns the rights to Eternal Darkness as well as the patent for the game's unique "Sanity Meter", Precursor Games head Paul Caporicci stated that the studio were in "constant communication" with Nintendo, who are supportive of the project.
As of September 30, 2013, Shadow of the Eternals was delayed indefinitely due to lack of funding on Kickstarter. The Escapist commented: "What seemed like a fairly obvious slam-dunk sequel to a classic game has instead been a circus of multiple failed crowdfunding campaigns, child pornography, and outright lack of faith in the developers. It certainly must be a discouraging experience for everyone involved, but that's the double-edged blade of crowdfunding: the crowds occasionally not want your game." Kyle Hilliard of Game Informer wrote, "Despite good intentions, and the excitement surrounding the prospect of a sequel to Eternal Darkness, Shadow of the Eternals has been plagued with issues since its original announcement. It's disappointing, but not too surprising that Precursor has decided to put the game on hold. I would still like to see the final game someday, but I am not confident that we will be seeing or even hearing from the game anytime soon."
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