The Merchant Marine

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Sapphire Wyvern
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#31 Post by Sapphire Wyvern » Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:32 am

utilae wrote:If freighters have weapons, then the fleet strenth of freighters compared to the blocade determines automatically (eg no space combat) which is destroyed.
What? The freighters are modelled in an entirely implicit fashion, how is there ever a decision as to whether they are armed?

Besides, assuming we're talking about blockades and not piracy, arming the freighters would only make a difference if that meant they could destroy the blockading force - which is better resolved using regular space combat anyway. I think it's better to assume that blockade runners are, y'know, running the blockade, and base the odds entirely on mobility, stealth, perceptiveness, and numbers. If freighters aren't warships (and they shouldn't be - that's what warships are for) getting caught is equivalent to being captured or destroyed. Weapons don't factor into it because any actual fighting is already totally one sided.
We also have two variables
-ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade
-ChanceCargoStopped
Actually, that's only one variable. If the other isn't the complement of the first (ie x1 = 1 - x2), you have a logical inconsistency.

The rest of your post pretty much agrees with my opinions.

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#32 Post by utilae » Fri Nov 18, 2005 8:40 am

Sapphire Wyvern wrote:
utilae wrote:If freighters have weapons, then the fleet strenth of freighters compared to the blocade determines automatically (eg no space combat) which is destroyed.
What? The freighters are modelled in an entirely implicit fashion, how is there ever a decision as to whether they are armed?

Besides, assuming we're talking about blockades and not piracy, arming the freighters would only make a difference if that meant they could destroy the blockading force - which is better resolved using regular space combat anyway. I think it's better to assume that blockade runners are, y'know, running the blockade, and base the odds entirely on mobility, stealth, perceptiveness, and numbers. If freighters aren't warships (and they shouldn't be - that's what warships are for) getting caught is equivalent to being captured or destroyed. Weapons don't factor into it because any actual fighting is already totally one sided.
Maybe if your race is very millitary (eg unlimited access to weapons for civilians) freighters and any private ship can be armed with weapons. The government has no control over such ships, cause they are owned by civilians and that is why they are not counted as part of the empires fleet. Also freighters running the blockade would happen too often since it is assumed that the amount of freighters travelling through a blockade is unlimited, therefore if you had to have a space combat each time it would get annoying (if you kept beating the blockade you would not notice it, but if you kept loosing, it would be every turn).
Sapphire Wyvern wrote:
We also have two variables
-ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade
-ChanceCargoStopped
Actually, that's only one variable. If the other isn't the complement of the first (ie x1 = 1 - x2), you have a logical inconsistency.
You do not understand.

It is two variables and it has to be two variables. ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade is part of the freighter. ChanceCargoStopped is part of the blockader.

eg
Your frieghters have stealth, so there ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade=50

Enemy blockade have sensors, so there ChanceCargoStopped=75

You then realise that the enemy blockade can see the freighter. Freighter has no weapons, if so then it dies. Freighter has weapons, if so then invisible combat occurs (ie calculated combat).

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#33 Post by Sapphire Wyvern » Fri Nov 18, 2005 2:04 pm

utilae wrote:
Sapphire Wyvern wrote: Besides, assuming we're talking about blockades and not piracy, arming the freighters would only make a difference if that meant they could destroy the blockading force - which is better resolved using regular space combat anyway. I think it's better to assume that blockade runners are, y'know, running the blockade, and base the odds entirely on mobility, stealth, perceptiveness, and numbers. If freighters aren't warships (and they shouldn't be - that's what warships are for) getting caught is equivalent to being captured or destroyed. Weapons don't factor into it because any actual fighting is already totally one sided.
Maybe if your race is very millitary (eg unlimited access to weapons for civilians) freighters and any private ship can be armed with weapons. The government has no control over such ships, cause they are owned by civilians and that is why they are not counted as part of the empires fleet. Also freighters running the blockade would happen too often since it is assumed that the amount of freighters travelling through a blockade is unlimited, therefore if you had to have a space combat each time it would get annoying (if you kept beating the blockade you would not notice it, but if you kept loosing, it would be every turn).
Sapphire Wyvern wrote:
We also have two variables
-ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade
-ChanceCargoStopped
Actually, that's only one variable. If the other isn't the complement of the first (ie x1 = 1 - x2), you have a logical inconsistency.
You do not understand.

It is two variables and it has to be two variables. ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade is part of the freighter. ChanceCargoStopped is part of the blockader.

eg
Your frieghters have stealth, so there ChanceCargoGetThroughBlocade=50

Enemy blockade have sensors, so there ChanceCargoStopped=75

You then realise that the enemy blockade can see the freighter. Freighter has no weapons, if so then it dies. Freighter has weapons, if so then invisible combat occurs (ie calculated combat).
Ah, I see now - I was misled by the fact that you named the variables "chance" variables. That made me think in terms of probability theory. In fact, these variables are a sort of "blockade strength" comparison aren't they? Whichever one is higher just wins. Also, there is no consideration of numbers in this model is there? One ship is effective as 100, and "Klackon Capital" is as easy to blockade as "Backwater V, the boredom world". That's fine if we decide to go that way for simplicity's sake; I'll just point out that my model does give an advantage to larger blockading forces and requires force commensurate with the importance of the world.

Personally I don't see the advantage of using trivial resolution mechanics when the UI is no simpler (after all computers are good at math), but your model does have one advantage. It potentially reduces micro management that could exist under my system - my system makes deciding force allocations for blockades important for blockade effectiveness and force splitting reasons, while under yours the only factor to consider is force splitting.

Now as for combat versus blockade runners - I'm going to assume that even in a fully militarised society, freighters are still focussed on freighting. There's only so much combat worthiness you can put on that kind of hull, really, and still be a freighter - and therefore I still think actual warships would more or less win outright (although the aforementioned "blockade specialist" frigate with no shields and 1 laser cannon would probably be in strife!)

I'm a bit leery of the idea that "background freighters" could eventually entirely whittle away a blockading force, which is possible under your system. While this is, to a certain extent, "realistic", I don't think it should be possible to destroy a blockading fleet automatically using free units that you didn't have to build. Really, it's the responsibility of the empire's naval forces to deal with such issues as blockading. I don't think that just waiting for them to killed by your l33t freighter captains should be at all viable; and if it isn't viable, there's probably no need to model it at all.

If we do want to have attritive losses from hostile freighter cap'ns with guns, we could easily just lump that in with whatever other attritive losses are in the game (pirates etc). I honestly don't expect that there will be any other than space monsters (which aren't really attritive losses, since you fight them explicitly) and maybe special events - it's just such a cheap way to lose ships that you've invested resources into building.

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#34 Post by utilae » Fri Nov 18, 2005 8:59 pm

Sapphire Wyvern wrote: Ah, I see now - I was misled by the fact that you named the variables "chance" variables. That made me think in terms of probability theory. In fact, these variables are a sort of "blockade strength" comparison aren't they? Whichever one is higher just wins. Also, there is no consideration of numbers in this model is there? One ship is effective as 100, and "Klackon Capital" is as easy to blockade as "Backwater V, the boredom world". That's fine if we decide to go that way for simplicity's sake; I'll just point out that my model does give an advantage to larger blockading forces and requires force commensurate with the importance of the world.
Actually that was a simple example. To expand, it does take different numbers of ships into account. Just add up variables for each ship and then compare the totals for each fleet.
Sapphire Wyvern wrote: but your model does have one advantage. It potentially reduces micro management that could exist under my system - my system makes deciding force allocations for blockades important for blockade effectiveness and force splitting reasons, while under yours the only factor to consider is force splitting.
What do you mean by force allocations and force splitting? Aren't they the same thing?

Also I do not think that it would be that much micromanagement compared to managing the buildings built on 100 planets in Moo2.
Sapphire Wyvern wrote: Now as for combat versus blockade runners - I'm going to assume that even in a fully militarised society, freighters are still focussed on freighting. There's only so much combat worthiness you can put on that kind of hull, really, and still be a freighter - and therefore I still think actual warships would more or less win outright (although the aforementioned "blockade specialist" frigate with no shields and 1 laser cannon would probably be in strife!)
This is true. While it might be possible on the odd occasion for a rich civilian to have a super powerful ship with cargo space to boot, most ships would not be this lucky.
Sapphire Wyvern wrote: I'm a bit leery of the idea that "background freighters" could eventually entirely whittle away a blockading force, which is possible under your system. While this is, to a certain extent, "realistic", I don't think it should be possible to destroy a blockading fleet automatically using free units that you didn't have to build. Really, it's the responsibility of the empire's naval forces to deal with such issues as blockading. I don't think that just waiting for them to killed by your l33t freighter captains should be at all viable; and if it isn't viable, there's probably no need to model it at all.
I actually would not want the enemy blocade fleet to be damaged or destroyed at all. The idea is to see if freighters get through or not. If a few laser cannon shots force the enemy ship to dodge fire and not attack you for a few seconds or if your shields can hold off a few shots, then you may get through.

Of course if freighters are failing to get through too much, this would probably stop even l33t captians from trying.

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#35 Post by Ran Taro » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:39 pm

Here's a thought to throw into the mix.

What if the player is allowed to design their own merchant vessels, and then put them in a pool which abstracts and handles shipping between planets?

Each planet needs a certain amount of merchant fleet supply depending on the size of its population/ economy and distance from the nearest supply depot/ capital/ sector capital. It's merchant fleet supply needs are therefore based on size and speed - megatonnes per lightyear perhaps.

The player has to have enough capacity in their merchant fleet pool to cover the combined needs of all planets, otherwise they start to lose a proportional amount of their production. The system doesn't calculate each ship movement, just the empire total and each system's contribution to it.

Now, if an enemy player blockades an enemy system, they have a chance of intercepting random merchant fleet vessels based on the size of the fleet, the balance of sensors/cloaking/ECM/ECCM, relative speeds and the amount of merchant fleet traffic in the system. If they manage to intercept, then there is an (autocalc) battle between the intercepting ship and the merchant vessel(s).

This system has the advantage that you can not only disrupt an enemies economy, you can also destroy his merchant fleet. On the other hand, the blockaded player can prevent this by adding ships to the merchant fleet with good defences / cloaking / speed (potentially he could even add heavily armed "escorts" into the merchant fleet pool). He could also nominate systems for his merchant fleet to avoid, surrendering them to total blockade, but sparing his merchant fleet from attack.

Any thoughts? Too complex?

P.S. Without getting into it too much, the merchant fleet in this system could be used for various other things - merchant fleet capacity might be required for trade between empires, fleet supply, moving population around etc. Thus allowing raiding and disruption of these things aswell.

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#36 Post by utilae » Sat Nov 19, 2005 12:21 am

I think it would be better if you could design ships that the public are going to buy.

For example you are the Mitsubishi Cargo Ship Company. Since the government does not allow you to add weapons on your cargo ships, then civilians won't be getting ships with weapons. But, the government does allow you to put weapons on your ships. So you start making and selling ships with weapons on. Civilians buy these ships.

So there is no need to build the ships and put them into fleets, etc. You just design the product, eg cargo ships/war cargo ships. Retailers build and sell your product. Civilians buy the product.

So overall, this way you can control what kinds of ships your civilian freighters have.

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#37 Post by Ran Taro » Sat Nov 19, 2005 2:24 am

But then wouldn't you just always have the best of everything on the ships you design, if you don't have to pay for them (ie civilians do)?

And what would govern how many ships there were, which designs got bought in which quantities etc?

I don't really understand how that would work.

Also if you think about how merchant fleets work in wartime, they may be 'civilian', but often they are strategically controlled in a military/ political fashion - for example lend lease shipments to the USSR in World War 2. I'm not trying to make a realism argument here, I'm just saying that it isn't nessesarily better to have it all be totally abstracted into 'civilian enterprise'. Although I guess that could be a simpler implementation, it has less strategic implications.

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#38 Post by skdiw » Sat Nov 19, 2005 7:25 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:
skdiw wrote:I think you forgot the macro-game: military suppose to beat up growth players so enemies should be able to blockade an econ player and beat him.
It's not just "military" vs. "growth". If it was, then there would be no need for blockades at all, since you could just invade and take over the system. This would also seem to make any economic strategies ineffective, since any military strategy would beat it every time, and the only way to defend against a military strategy would be a military strategy of your own.

Rather, the idea is that "military" is actually two things: ships and ground troops. The situation in which you'd blockade a planet without invading it would be that you have the ship strength to gain space superiority in a system, but don't have the ground troops to take a planet, and don't want to or can't kill the planet's population from space.

So, a strong ships player can significantly hinder an economic player by blockading his/her worlds, but needs troops to actually take the planet. In defense, the economic player who doesn't want to focus on ships can make a lot of ground troops to prevent any invasion, and then develop ways to circumvent the blockades without building a ship-based military. In order to actually take planets after achiving space superiority in a system, a player would need to bring some ground troops, or could use some cultural and espionage stuff (however it's implemented) to take the planet without ground troops. Alternatively, economic warfare of some sort could be used to cripple the planet without even having to bring ships. Or perhaps cultural methods could be used to make the planet's population strongly pacifistic, so that they are strongly opposed to any military (ship or ground troop) presence in their system, so that a player who has both string ships and military wouldn't be able to effectively defend his/her planets against other empires' ships attacks without crippling unhappiness and waste. Or biological warfare could be used to decimate a planet's population, whilst blockading the system to prevent any help from arriving... or perhaps biological warfare could be used defensively, so that any invading troops get sick and die, making the planet impervious to ground assault.

It's all a web of strategies and counterstrategies. The ability to circumvent a naive ship blockade makes the economic strategy viable, which fits into the whole big picture. IMO these aren't insignificant details, bur rather are significant big picture game design issues.
you beat military with defense.

you are right, ships blockade until troops arrives.

and no, you don't want to be bother with 10 techs with 100 applications and 1000 options just on how you specifically decrease the effectivess of some blockade. Those are the details I was refeering to. I'll put it in other words, I was refering how untilae get carried away with every idea.

I didn't forget the macro-game.
In what way does having a good blockade model impinge on the macro-game?

In what way does having to have a significant fleet (rather than one frigate with no shields and a laser cannon) to blockade a major Core World make the macro-game worse?

In what way does having superior technology improve the effectiveness of your economic and military tactics make the macro-game worse? If you have cloaking technology, pinnacle engine tech, etc, why would having Fred Flintstone's Fleet in your system affect you in any way? Technology should improve *all* use of the military, not just combat.

These are all *good* things.

As for tech affecting blockades, I mainly see the tech side of the blockading as being something that you get alongside other benefits. Got stealth tech? Then you can run blockades better, as well as building cloaked cruisers. Got good scanners and engines? Then you're better at levelling a blockade, as well as knowing where the enemy fleet is and your ships are more maneuvrable. (I assume that transporting to shielded ships will be banned for balance reasons, just like in Star Trek). I suppose if we're running short on applications we could make the blockade modifiers into applications in their own right, but at the moment I wouldn't recommend it; it's a bit over-specialised, and breaks the "internal trade is automatic" model.

Seriously, as long as everything is intuitive to the player and doesn't require additional UI to manage the system, it's all good. I think it's fine to have complex mechanics behind the scene to make tactics that *should* work into tactics that *do* work. We're designing a computer game, not a board game, so we can have systems that involve formulae and record keeping without reducing the quality of game play at all.

There's more to winning a war than fleet numbers and quality. Too many 4X games neglect this.
You misread. I didn't say no blockade, I said make blockade simple. see how the latter phrase preclude my use of "details" in getting carrying away with insignificant detail.

I would be careful on overcomplication. players don't like some numbers and not understand where it comes from.
:mrgreen:

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#39 Post by Ran Taro » Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:13 pm

skdiw wrote: I was refering how untilae get carried away with every idea.
Isn't that the point of brainstorming though? Come up with as many wacky ideas as possible then pair them down to the best, most elegant implementation?

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#40 Post by utilae » Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:40 pm

skdiw wrote: and no, you don't want to be bother with 10 techs with 100 applications and 1000 options just on how you specifically decrease the effectivess of some blockade. Those are the details I was refeering to. I'll put it in other words, I was refering how utilae get carried away with every idea.
If I get carried away with ideas, then you seem to exagerate them. No one said anything about using 1000 techs to affect a billion complex little minor features of the game.

I thought the way I described the blocade system was pretty simple. I just said that some techs that could help freighters get through a blocade or stop freighters would have a duel effect. Eg stealth shield when equiped on a ship would make it invisible, while on a freighter would help for getting through blocades.

Really only two types of techs would effect the chance of freighters getting through the blocade: stealth and sensors. But other things, such as shields and weapons would help too, as they would a ship you build and design.

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#41 Post by Sapphire Wyvern » Sun Nov 20, 2005 9:06 am

utilae wrote:Really only two types of techs would effect the chance of freighters getting through the blocade: stealth and sensors. But other things, such as shields and weapons would help too, as they would a ship you build and design.
Stealth, sensors, and engines are the critical aspects. There's a reason why the word "run" is part of "blockade runner". :) As you say, weapons and shields might have a small beneficial effect as well, but I think little would be lost if we neglected those - they're second order at best.

I think it's reasonable to assume that all your freighters are equipped proportional to your empire's available technology (so if you get better engines, the benefit applies automatically). Designing civilian freighter models is too much detail. Techs related to blockade effectiveness should be "freebie" side-effects of military technology Application research (engines, cloaks, sensors) or very cheap Applications in their own right that become available once the military Application is researched.

Example:
You research Ship Component: Cloaking Device.
Then the new Application "Civilian Cloaking Device (+3 blockade evasion)" becomes available.

Personally I just prefer it as a "freebie" side effect, as it keeps the game simpler. So the example tech would become:

Application: Cloaking Device
Benefits: Ship Component (Cloaking Device), +3 blockade evasion.

One advantage of an extremely simple blockade model (ie binary yes/no) is that it would match up better with the military supply line model that Geoff the Medio has eloquently convinced me is superior. I still have a fondness for the idea of a Blockade Meter and proportional trade blocking, though.

I can't say skdiw has convinced me that this model (whether binary or proportional) is over-complicated, though. It seems about right to me. I'd need to see a better argument against this small amount of complexity before I agreed that one frigate with a laser cannon (so it counts as a military ship!) and no other equipment ('cause it would cost PP) should be able to cripple the economy of a major industrial system.

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#42 Post by muxec » Sun Nov 20, 2005 9:41 am

Civ4 style automatically established trade routes that give you just money are good.
All your systems trade with limited number of other systems. There is some time detween the trade route is available and planed for work and when it becomes fully operational. When the trade route is cut off the trade route is stopped.

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#43 Post by skdiw » Thu Nov 24, 2005 6:02 am

My whole point is no designing freight trade ships. Freebie tech effects is already pushing it as you add a little here and here, the variables propagates into a enormous formula then multiplies over by different lvls, and all of sudden we get Moo3.

Even a little laser cannon cost a lot. Weapons cost much much more than commerical goods or services. Adding a little technology to freights increases the cost of trade and therefore decrease the amount of profit. That gain in security in cases of blockade is in no way anywhere close to being worth the trouble. otherwise, blockade is meaningless and the whole military aspect of 4X is obsolete. Players can just focus on growth and ground defense and won't bother with any expensive ships. It will seems too much like SimCity as the economy side is overpowered--assuming trade is integral part of the game.
:mrgreen:

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#44 Post by Sapphire Wyvern » Thu Nov 24, 2005 6:40 am

skdiw wrote:My whole point is no designing freight trade ships. Freebie tech effects is already pushing it as you add a little here and here, the variables propagates into a enormous formula then multiplies over by different lvls, and all of sudden we get Moo3.
I agree with you whole-heartedly about not designing freighters.

However, formulae don't necessarily have to be enormous - Utilae's proposal is basically (Base Score + Bonuses - Penalties) * Ships, and that is by no means hard to follow. Besides, as long as the game trends that the formula causes are well understood (ie the player *knows* that if they deploy more ships and better tech, their blockades will be more effective) the actual details of the resolution aren't that important (to the player). People don't need to solve discrete difference equations to understand that building new colonies will increase their Empire's growth rate, even though calculating the precise growth rate of their empire over time would require doing exactly that.

(Aside: is there an Official Policy on game formulae? I know we're supposed to be able to explain the game rules to a kid, but does that mean explaining the causal relationships in the game (better tech means higher growth rate!) or having the kid be able to do all the math behind the scenes? If the latter, we're restricted pretty much to arithmetic for game formulae, which significantly reduces the descriptive power of the modelling; I'd certainly think that use of logarithms, exponents, and so on would be called for as well.)
Even a little laser cannon cost a lot. Weapons cost much much more than commerical goods or services. Adding a little technology to freights increases the cost of trade and therefore decrease the amount of profit.
All true, and an excellent argument. Of course, there are always those specialists who are experts in getting around people who want to stop trade... they're called smugglers, or sometimes blockade runners (I wonder where they got the name? :)) and it would be economical for them to invest in good engines and stealth. Han Solo anyone?

Of course it can easily be argued that this type of ship is far too rare to make blockade running effective for feeding a starving world or importing/exporting bulk goods (ie PP). So these "arguments from realism" don't really force the decision one way or another.
That gain in security in cases of blockade is in no way anywhere close to being worth the trouble. otherwise, blockade is meaningless and the whole military aspect of 4X is obsolete. Players can just focus on growth and ground defense and won't bother with any expensive ships. It will seems too much like SimCity as the economy side is overpowered--assuming trade is integral part of the game.
Well what you're really arguing here is that any complexity we introduce will automatically be poorly balanced. I don't think that's a justifiable statement. In any case, I think it's less well balanced for a military player to plonk one barely-armed ship in every enemy system, staying a long way away from the ground-based defences, and say "Look! I'm blockading you! Ha ha ha!" which could arise if we don't pay some attention to the blockade mechanics.

You'll note that I have an entire thread devoted to thinking up ways to discourage turtling, so I'm certainly not interested in making the game stagnate or discouraging players from starting wars. Feel free to contribute any other ideas you have there as well. :) In any case a militarily strong player will be able to easily *conquer* systems, not just blockade them. Mainly, I just want numbers and tech level to contribute to your security/strength in economic matters, just like they do in a fight. I don't see why your tech level should affect only the military side of the game or your legal build orders.

(Aside 2: Anyway, my personal bias is that the economy side of a game cannot ever be overpowered, because major wars are pretty much fought between economies, not nations. But that's another argument entirely and irrelevant here. :))

IMO, the main advantage of a very simple binary blockade mechanic is that it would be consistent with the supply line rules. Consistency is a wonderful thing that should be encouraged in every conceivable way, as it allows a player who has learned one element of the game system to extend that knowledge into other elements of the game system.

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#45 Post by skdiw » Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:00 am

There won't be a scout ship destroying planets like in moo1 or blockading a major system. That's why I propose small natural defenses proportional to your system development size and tech and it's also why I purpose proportinality and significant threshold to blockade.
:mrgreen:

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