After the excellent Wasteland 2, we were excited to get our hands on the new installment, and we can say without fear that it has met expectations. Wasteland 3 is a sign of the love that InXile has for his work and Brian Fargo for the genre that has created a name for him. If you are a lover of the saga or the genre, do not hesitate to enjoy it.
Wasteland 3 doesn’t pull any punches with its subject matter in sexuality, violence, and language. But if you are fine with that, I would highly recommend you give Wasteland 3 a shot, especially if you were (or still are) a Fallout fan.
On Paper Wasteland 3 sounds like the perfect RPG-Dream but the execution leaves much to be desired. Bugs, Glitches and graphics that doesn't really represent a game that releases and the end of this console generation are a bit of a letdown. Everything else from the great story, entertaining NPCs, solid battle system, clever leveldesign over to the love for details is amazing, besides some flaws that should soon be fixed, as inXile and Brian Fargo promise. Everyone that wasn't happy with the latest Fallout Games will surely love Wasteland 3.
Wasteland 3 is a old-school role-playing game, with a compelling story, a combat system that promises but is not groundbreaking and some funny moments and black mood, which always remind us that we are in a post apocalyptic world, but with a smile. Don't forget the powerful character editor, rhythm voices, and the beautiful scenery that puts you in that atmosphere of cold and snowy Colorado.
Wasteland 3 can be a bit of slog if you're gunning for marathon gaming sessions with it at the helm. Combat, whilst exciting initially can fall into the traps of repetition. A little more variety could have negated some of the repeated player actions. That said, the story is compelling and the characters an interesting assortment of misfit survivors, although perhaps fitting post-apocalyptic stereotypes. It's a fun, easy to play game overall though that should well-please fans of the series and keep players entertained for quite some time with its high replay-value. However, aside from some bugs here and there, the impressive amount of voice-work on offer, the character building is the best part of the experience where you can really nurture your ranger squad in this snowy post-apocalyptic world.
At least in my time with it, Wasteland 3 has been a fascinating experience. I’ve come to appreciate its depth of gameplay, character, building, and exploration, even if some of its pieces and parts still feel very foreign to me.
I will be even happier with Wasteland 3 once it’s patched and most of the bugs that bit me end up getting squashed. Even in its current state I’m having a grand ol’ time bringing some justice to the cold depths where no Ranger has dared to before. But for as much of a blast as I’m having out northeast in the cold, I hope I can make it back to sunny Arizona in time to save my fellow lawmen!
Wasteland 3 is a throwback to the old School RPGs of yesteryear, while providing a new combat experience and a bigger world. Players that liked previous Fallout Games, or games like Wasteland 2 or Baldur's Gate will feel right at home with this title, and will have the opportunity to try X-Com like combat. For the amount of content provided, 60 USD is a very good price, and fans of the genre should get more than their money's worth.
Wasteland 3 doesn't bring much new to the table, both as a CRPG and as a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction. But, it's a terrifically executed role-playing game that rewards player investment from beginning to end.
Wasteland 3 is a heady crescendo of post-apocalyptic story-telling. Its combat is compelling and fun while its characters and overall plot are engrossing, even when it goes to some dark places. A must-play for tactical RPG fans.
We’ll update this review if the game is fixed, and the issues outlined are fixed or at least addressed; and then I’ll pick it back up. As it stands now, I’ll be playing something else that isn’t as apt to crash. Buyer beware.
There are a few misgivings related to Wasteland 3's technical aspects, mechanics, and overall challenge. However, its cast of characters (both old and new), the switch to a traditional turn-based combat system, and branching paths filled with decisions and dire consequences make for a superb journey with the Desert Rangers.
With a focus on freedom of choice that is second-to-none, Wasteland 3 has set the benchmark for CRPG narratives, all the while being supported by wonderfully engaging gameplay and roleplaying mechanics.
It took me a while to realize how much these interactions, whether it be the interpersonal conversation or combat encounters themselves, stuck with me. Wasteland 3 has rules, but they only exist for you to bend them. With limitless character creation combinations, branching dialogue choices that affect what quests you do or don’t experience, and multiple endings, Wasteland 3 is an expanse of content and opportunity. The change in locale does wonders, no longer relying on a tired post-apocalyptic biome. Wasteland 3 has a wonderful backdrop in Colorado’s frozen wastes, making it the perfect place to spend a nuclear winter.
Wasteland 3 takes players to a new location and presents them with equally unfamiliar challenges, yet still perfectly demonstrates all of the reasons why this series has had die-hard fans for over three decades, and is absolutely worth playing for anyone looking for their next post-apocalyptic fix.
Wasteland 3 doesn't change its predecessor's successful formula but, outside of certain design limitations, it perfects and modernizes it. It's easily the best game in the franchise, in terms of pure technique, and one that clearly gives you an idea of what inXile is able to achieve.
Wasteland 3 is a good role-playing game, technically passable but enriched by a dense network of intriguing subplots that will push the most dedicated to play it several times. Watch out for the ever-present release bugs, though – best to wait a couple patches if you want to avoid unnecessary hurdles.
Wasteland 3 features everything only the best role-playing games do: an engaging story powered by excellent writing, compelling characters, tons of customization options, and a deep tactical combat system that feels fresh even after dozens of hours. But, most of all, it features a living world that reacts to what the player does, and changes depending on how the player decides to deal with the troubles ahead, providing a role-playing experience of the highest degree, one that very few games can boast of.
Wasteland 3 is a testament to the power of the branching narrative, taking it far beyond binary choices and into a grand canopy of cause and effect. It gives the wintry climbs of Colorado a lifelike quality that must have been painstaking to build. The most impressive RPG in years, Wasteland 3 is a masterpiece.
Wasteland 3 shines with clear dedication to crafting the best game its genre has ever seen. Excellent visuals are matched by top notch voice work and some of the best and most natural writing I have seen in a video game not made by Naughty Dog. The combat is a brutal dance where one wrong move can spell disaster, but victory is an exhilarating rush that never becomes old. Wasteland 3 cements inXile as one of the best in the business in the RPG genre and affirms that Xbox has something truly special on their hands.
I am not a top-100 player, as given the inevitable RNG of effects, matchups and draws in card games, and the lack of rewards for ranking up in LoR, I simply don't see the point in painstakingly grinding up to such a level. The highest I've climbed is low Diamond, but considering the above knowledge, I believe that at a certain skill level (perhaps at around Platinum), it's more about how much time one can put in than how skilled they are. HOWEVER, considering all this, I have the absolute conviction that this deck is a top-100 worthy deck.
This is the only deck that I've played since Day 1 of Call of the Mountain, with various modifications, and I believe that it is a completely undiscovered meta unicorn. I've never faced a similar deck on ladder, and my deckbuilding experiments with any other archtypes have left me completely unsatisfied with the lack of interaction and agency, as well as the sheer counterability of the vast majority of tools currently out there. A lot of people are frustrated with the current meta - a lot of points of which are covered by BruisedByGod in his recent video critique. To summarize his main points:
Most answers are completely outclassed by threats
Sheer lack of healing options locks out deckbuilding choices
Most top-tier strategies prey on lack of interactivity (Pirate Burn, Lee Sin OTK, Star Spring)
This is a Control deck which, while originally devised to prey on the inevitably popular Aurelion Sol and Troll Chant and abuse the broken, flexible toolbox of Invoke on Day 1, also manages to both answer all 3 of these problems efficiently.
Lunari Duskbringer x 3
Spacey Sketcher x 3
Lunari Shadestalker x1
Pale Cascade x 3
Unspeakable Horror x 2
Vile Feast x 3
Simply the best available early-game that an Invoke Targon deck could hope to muster - Diana functioning as both early game and late-game removal (we have just enough Nightfall Synergy) for practically no investment, Pale Cascade being legitimately one of the most broken cards currently in the game, and the ping cards also serving a modicum of uses at all stages of a match. Spacey Sketcher has been severely underrated so far - providing critical tools for certain matchups and/or providing early game minions without needing to actually run them (a fundamental weakness of faster decks top-decking late). Its 'discard-replace' synergy with our late-game, as well as Duskpetal Dust and meta-call flex cards is just icing on the cake. Finally, note how every early game card I've chosen scales well and still plays a role as the game goes later; as removal, Elusive blocking, tool-building, Burst-speed Nightfall, pings and cantrip Combat Tricks. This is an often overlooked but fundamental difference between Control early-drops, and aggro early-drops (such as Precious Pet). ~
Sunburst x 3
Vengeance x 3
These two cards, combined with any generated Obliterates, form the only proper removal this deck has - and were the catalyst for me creating this deck in the first place. All three of these removal types leave almost NO room for the opponent to interact with them, and I believe that is the sole condition for a high-cost removal spell to be playable in the current game state. NOTE: Ruination is easily and always played around at a high-level of play - and leaves the opponent with ALL of the agency/choice to play around it/bait it exactly how they wish, instead of you (whose only options are to play the card too early and get out-tempo'd afterward, use more than 3 mana elsewhere to catch-up at which point it becomes unplayable, or lose the game to a sudden-attack completely at your opponent's discretion) - the ultimate NO-NO for this deck: I never even considered putting it in. ~
Meta Call Flex Spots
Divergent Paths x 2
At times I feel as if this card could be cut to 1 copy, but right now 2 feels great against the current meta, and drawing into at least one is almost necessary in order to compete with Star Spring (Obliterate is conditional and too great a tempo loss early on). In other metas previously, I've experimented with 1 copy of Passage Unearned, as well as 2 extra copies of Lunari Shadestalker. ~
Literally Everything Else One Could Ever Hope to Need
Lunari Priestess x 2
Solari Priestess x 3
Mountain Scryer x 3
Moondreamer x 3
Starshaping x 3
I still believe that Invoke is one of the most broken mechanics currently in the game. This is one of the heaviest late-game decks I can possibly imaginable, yet the only cards above 5-mana we run are removal, and our mid-game minions and healing straight up provide whatever early OR late-game tools we might possibly need in any matchup - it's simply overly flexible (flexilibity in card games being a MUCH bigger deal than most people give it credit for) and not enough of a tempo/stat sacrifice IMO. I think that Invoke as a mechanic is even stronger when ran in bulk, and especially in a Control deck - as the game goes on slowly you generate a toolbox that can handle just about any dynamic situation that meta decks can throw your way. The spell-mana nerf to Living Legends has balanced it out quite a bit, however the same-nerf to Cosmic Inspiration still hasn't convinced me that it isn't in the top 5 least healthy effects that a game based on carefully stat-balanced of minion trading could ever have (hit me up with your Cosmic Inspiration hate!) - a large proportion our games are won by this disgusting effect. Solari Priestess and Starshaping need no introduction as some of the most popular, utilitarian Invoke cards, however Mountain Scryer and Moondreamer (not so much Lunari Priestess) really put in the work, and I've never seen anyone else play these cards. The former provides crazy mana-advantage as the game goes on given our huge focus on Celestials (it's a shame we can't afford to push its Invoke chances even higher), and the latter has juuussst the right stat distribution at 3/5 to blockade most midgame tempo plays out opponent might go for. NOTE: Aurelion Sol is straight up unnecessary to compete late-game, is always burdensome and clunky draw, ruins our surprise factor (though that doesn't exist anymore with this post being made), and we often outvalue decks running him anyway (don't forget that the original premise of this deck was 'How can I best remove Aurelion?'). ~
Matchups/Strategy (Order Based on Mobalytics Tier List)
Lee Sin (60/40)
A somewhat favored matchup - although more recent lists that have cut Bastion in favor of Nopify may be a bit more in their favor (a proper Ping Counter). Hard mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and our pings. Generating Silence (Equinox) for Mentor of the Stones/Zenith Blade is our main early game goal. Our Mid-to-Late game goal is removing all 3 Lee Sin's at the expense of practically everything else (the rest of their deck is pretty much completely irrelevant, but rushing them down is also pretty much impossible) - after which our win is basically guaranteed.
This matchup is sadly the most binary thing: Sunburst/Vengeance/Ping's VS Lee Sin/Spell Denial/Zenith Blade
The rest of both decks are basically irrelevant other than to slow down the level up/speed up the level up/Draw into above cards
Draw Draw Draw + Always save enough mana to Removal Spell + Ping if the opponent has 4 mana up late game
I believe that we are very, very heavily favored if played properly (although it's a VERY nuanced matchup to play right), and most of our losses come from bricking our early-game draws and/or not drawing/generating a single Starshaping/Golden Sister as their burn damage inevitably builds up. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 cost cards (only keep 1 Pale Cascade with a 1/2 cost minion).
NEVER, EVER play early minions proactively (e.g. NO turn 1 Lunari Duskbringer unless they play something) - only ever match however many minions the opponent has AND trade right away to minimise Make it Rain/TF value (For instance, if you proactively play a minion with nothing to trade it into, and then find yourself needing to play, say, Diana/Solari Priestess later - the opponent is basically guaranteed free additional AOE value: make EVERY chump blocker count)
ALWAYS open attack into Powder Keg's (usually with our single developed minion)
Take ANY trade you can get (even if somewhat unfavorable) to clear both sides of the board going into turn 8 - one of the ways we can lose is if Riptide Rex clears our heavy board and we only have time to develop one chump blocker before the onslaught - especially because Riptide is MUCH stronger against minions than the nexus > Late game, try to keep both sides of the board as empty as possible
If you find yourself with priority against their activated Plunder past turn 8, play small minions to bait out Rex without having to pass the turn OR play larger minions, especially with uneven health like Moondreamer to protect the rest of your board from potential cannons
ALWAYS try to find a NON-Rex'able position late game to develop Golden Sister, and save Pale Cascade if possible to protect her from Noxian Fervor and recover 6 previous health
ALWAYS have enough mana to remove Leviathan if the opponent has more than 8 mana on any given turn (prioritise Leviathan over Swain himself)
Sacrifice minions to TF attacks and remove Zap Sprayfin ASAP to minimise chip damage (which really builds up)
Be careful and make sure you always have a way to prevent Swain connecting with the Nexus (even if they develop him this turn and open attack the next); Pale Cascade is a good tool here
Pirate Aggro (55/45)
We are much more prone to bricking on draws here than Swain/TF, as we need quite a specific hand to deal with their onslaught - This is probably our most draw-dependent, low-agency matchup by far - as face-deck matchups tend to be. In addition - Captain Farron is much more effective against our removal strategy than the likes of Leviathan. Nonetheless, from my experience I think that we're still every-slightly-so favored in this matchup - often winning by the skin of our teeth. Starshaping/Golden Sister are mandatory late-game, and not bricking by not drawing/generating either is also basically a loss. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 drops, and keep a single Sunburst for Gangplank if your hand is already looking great.
There's nothing much to say here given the nature of their deck - pray your draws are good and take the obvious trades
A very unfavored and binary matchup (see below as to why) that has luckily become rarer recently. Mulligan for Removal/Invoke cards.
Save Starshaping for when you can actually make use of the heal (don't just play it on turn 3 because they're 'starting off slowly' - it's very important to maximise your leeway to survive Atrocity later on)
Try to remove Trundle on curve with Sunburst/Vengeance
Generate/Stockpile removal throughout the midgame
Sadly, none of these choices really matter in the end and the match comes down to luck - if Warmother's pulls a Level 1 Tryndamere on their attacking turn, the obvious open attack followed by a loss is all but guaranteed (Vengeance doesn't stop Atrocity in this case - leading to too great a health/tempo loss, and my previous Passage Unearned tech to deal with specifically this scenario simply wasn't worth the dead card in other matchups). We can also lose to a big levelled Trundle, or simply not generating/drawing into enough removal. Sadly these cases happen more often than not. Warmother's generated too much tempo if left unchecked by hard removal for even a single turn so there is little leeway for bad luck.
If Warmothers' timing and Invoke/draws are on our side, the matchup becomes pretty simple - Smartly use about a removal spell on their big guys for about 8 turns, play around Ruination and Atrocity, then cruise to victory.
This deck was basically created on Day 1 specifically to destroy Trundle/Asol. Sadly though, even at 75/25 the matchup is worse than it should be due to the nature of Invoke RNG - if one player draws into Cosmic Inspiration and the other didn't the match is over, full stop + the occasional shenanigans involving The Great Beyond uninteractibly going face and non-stop Living Legends value. Mulligan for Sunburst, Vengeance and pings.
Remove Trundle ASAP with Sunburst (Vengeance/Obliterates are best saved for Asol so getting Sunburst value while Trundle is still unleveled and 6 health is a big deal in terms of removal distribution)
Always try to remove Asol on the first turn he's played with Vengeance chaining into a ping to minimise the opponent's chance of getting game-winning Invoke RNG/matching your late-game value with free Celestials
If you still haven't drawn a ping late game, try to fish for Crescent Strike with Spacey Sketcher
Play around 7-mana Asol (Augur of the Old Ones) as much as possible
Pray you draw Cosmic Inspiration and the opponent doesn't
Discard Aggro (80/20)
I don't know why this deck is considered competitive - maybe because our matchup here is basically as favored as TF/Swain except without any gameplay nuance required on our part. Mulligan for 1-2 drops. Keep Solari Priestess/Sunburst if hand is good. Only necessary statistical losses to bad early draws against an aggro archtype.
Make obvious trades. Play around Mystic Shot on Diana. Chump block Draven/Jinx. Remove Draven/Jinx. Profit.
Another draw dependent, but quite favored matchup. Quite difficult to play though - you need to balance maintaining some modicum of tempo whilst also being able to deal with their crucial threats. Mulligan for 1-2 drops ESPECIALLY Pale Cascade/Pings, and Removal.
DON'T play ANY minion with less than 3 attack from turns 1-4 UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground OR you have Pale Cascade (otherwise Fiora gets a free trade and the opponent gets to use their buffs reactively rather than proactively - giving you less leeway to remove her)
Save ping's for Fiora Barrier's, NOT Fleetfeather Tracker UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Save a removal spell and mana for turn 3 Fiora, turn 4 Shen, turn 6 Genevieve and turn 9 Brightsteel UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Basically the Pirate Aggro matchup but a tad bit slower and with no burn - giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws both early and late.
Make the obvious trades, pray to draw well and don't to let Genevieve get 2 attacks off
Basically the Trundle/Asol matchup except with no 'must remove ASAP' threats giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws. Celestial RNG and especially Cosmic Inspiration still give them a chance to win as usual. ~
Shyvana Dragons (50/50?)
I surprisingly, haven't faced too much of this deck yet personally, but looking at it's cards compared to ours, I think the matchup would be about 50/50 (an otherwise favourable looking matchup affected a bit by their high tempo removal and guaranteed Cosmic Inspiration in the form of Kadregrin). ~
This matchup is dependent on whether we draw removal for Ashe somewhat on curve, how much tempo they manage to build early on and whether we draw good enough to afford to play around Reckoning. Mulligan for Sunburst, Solari Priestess, Pings and Diana (only if you've already drawn support) as our other standard early drops are all pretty ineffective against theirs.
Remove Ashe ASAP
Try to Vengeance Sejuani on the attack if she directly attacks your Frostbitten minion in order to prevent the free value trade and maintain tempo on board.
Play around Reckoning as much as possible, especially if it wouldn't affect their own board too much compared to yours - maximise your 5+ attack minions to theirs if Reckoning begins to look more likely
Try to bait out an invested attack/Frostbite support for Trifarian Gloryseeker before pinging her - especially because Elixir of Iron is a bit rarer nowadays
Probably our most favored meta-deck matchup, and unfortunately rarer recently. Their win conditions - Kalista, Blighted Caretaker tempo, Neverglade Collector and They Who Endure simply don't stand a chance against our toolbox. Most losses come from unanswered Blighted Caretaker tempo. Mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and Pale Cascade.
ALWAYS pick Silence (For They Who Endure) or Stun (For Blighted Caretaker) off Spacey Sketcher
Try to hold a minion to play on turn 3/4 to kill an attacking Kalista with Pale Cascade AND get the Nightfall card draw
Play as reactively as possible with your pings - playing them proactively will almost always be answered by Glimpse Beyond, and when they run out of gas later on they will be forced to play their Glipmse proactively - your chance to strike!
Silence/Sunburst Blighted Caretaker as it comes down
SAVE Vengeance for They Who Endure - going into the late game, stockpile Silence/Sunburst and Vengeance and maintain enough mana (usually open-attacking) if necessary (IF can still afford to play They Who Endure that turn) to use one of the former followed by Vengeance to counter into their Atrocity: with this line of play, it's basically impossible to lose the combo
The biggest downside and sheer impossible matchup of this archtype. Maokai manages to pack even less interactivity/inevitability than we do, and the nature of our deck gives us no chance of out-tempoing Deep early OR late. Auto-concede. ~
A simpler aggro matchup than the others. Mulligan for 1-2 drops - especially Spacey Sketcher and Diana, as well as Sunburst.
ALWAYS pick the Stun spell off Spacey Sketcher, and save it for Diana, or of lesser priority, Nocturne/Ephemerals off Stalking Shadows
Removing Nocturne ASAP with either Sunburst or Vengeance is a HUGE priority
ALWAYS play around Pale Cascade
Play around Atrocity and Doombeast damage later on in the match
Another matchup that I haven't faced too much of just yet. Mulligan hard for Divergent Paths and Solari Priestess - Once we remove their uninteractive element trump-card in the Landmark win-condition, if we can survive their early tempo, the rest of the match should be a cinch given our heal/health-ignoring conditionless removal for their Champions. ~
Thanks for reading up to this point, and pardon my formatting, the ridiculous length and the sheer pomposity of it all. I still think Invoke is flexible to the point of being broken and the only reason the matchup spread is so good. I also think that with the release of this guide - more people will come to recognise this archtype and the element of surprise affecting enemy mulligans against an assumed more aggro, Nightfall-focused Diana archtype will be lost. People will also know to play around less common cards such as Sunburst, and I expect winrates to fall somewhat across the board. To conclude this guide, I'd like to say that this is this is not a healthy deck. At the deepest level, this deck is fundamentally about removing agency from your opponent and giving it to yourself, as well as securing the critical boon of having inevitability over your opponent in a game with the nature of LoR. If all decks were like this, LoR would completely cease to be fun. What else do I think is unhealthy right now? - Simple: anything removing interactivity from your opponent - ESPECIALLY as a win condition; Maokai, Star Spring, Cosmic Inspiration, Lee Sin. The avenues through which these cards can be interacted with are way too limited right now. A lot of the metagame nowadays is about having an uninteractable win condition, or focusing damage to face so fast the opponent has no chance to react - another form of non-interactivity. Here's hoping that the meta in the near future heads back in the direction of the close but fair midrange board battles we all came to love back in vanilla LoR. ~ (slinx4)
The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Retard Bot Update 2: What is there to show for six months of work?
What is there to show? Not shit, that's why I made this pretty 4K desktop background instead: 4K On the real: I've been developing this project like 6 months now, what's up? Where's that video update I promised, showing off the Bot Builder? Is an end in sight? Yes sort of. I back-tested 6 months of data at over 21% on a net SPY-neutral, six month span of time (with similar results on a 16 year span) including 2 bear, 2 bull, 2 crab months. But that's not good enough to be sure / reliable. I had gotten so focused on keeping the project pretty and making a video update that I was putting off major, breaking changes that I needed to make. The best quant fund ever made, the Medallion fund, was once capable of roughly 60% per year consistently, but in Retard Bot's case 1.5% compounded weekly. "But I make 60% on one yolo" sure whatever, can you do it again every year, with 100% of your capital, where failure means losing everything? If you could, you'd be loading your Lambo onto your Yacht right now instead of reading this autistic shit.
The End Goal
1.5% compounded weekly average is $25K -> $57M in 10 years, securing a fairly comfortable retirement for your wife's boyfriend. It's a stupidly ambitious goal. My strategy to pull it off is actually pretty simple. If you look at charts for the best performing stocks over the past 10 years, you'll find that good companies move in the same general trajectory more often than they don't. This means the stock market moves with momentum. I developed a simple equation to conservatively predict good companies movements one week into the future by hand, and made 100%+ returns 3 weeks in a row. Doing the math took time, and I realized a computer could do much more complex math, on every stock, much more efficiently, so I developed a bot and it did 100% for 3 consecutive weeks, buying calls in a bull-market. See the problem there? The returns were good but they were based on a biased model. The model would pick the most efficient plays on the market if it didn't take a severe downturn. But if it did, the strategy would stop working. I needed to extrapolate my strategy into a multi-model approach that could profit on momentum during all different types of market movement. And so I bought 16 years of option chain data and started studying the concept of momentum based quantitative analysis. As I spent more and more weeks thinking about it, I identified more aspects of the problem and more ways to solve it. But no matter how I might think to design algorithms to fundamentally achieve a quantitative approach, I knew that my arbitrary weights and variables and values and decisions could not possibly be the best ones.
Why Retard Bot Might Work
So I approached the problem from all angles, every conceivable way to glean reliably useful quantitative information about a stock's movement and combine it all into a single outcome of trade decisions, and every variable, every decision, every model was a fluid variable that machine learning, via the process of Evolution could randomly mutate until perfection. And in doing so, I had to fundamentally avoid any method of testing my results that could be based on a bias. For example, just because a strategy back-tests at 40% consistent yearly returns on the past 16 years of market movement doesn't mean it would do so for the next 16 years, since the market could completely end its bull-run and spend the next 16 years falling. Improbable, but for a strategy outcome that can be trusted to perform consistently, we have to assume nothing. So that's how Retard Bot works. It assumes absolutely nothing about anything that can't be proven as a fundamental, statistical truth. It uses rigorous machine learning to develop fundamental concepts into reliable, fine tuned decision layers that make models which are controlled by a market-environment-aware Genius layer that allocates resources accordingly, and ultimately through a very complex 18 step process of iterative ML produces a top contender through the process of Evolution, avoiding all possible bias. And then it starts over and does it again, and again, continuing for eternity, recording improved models when it discovers them.
The Current Development Phase
Or... That's how it would work, in theory, if my program wasn't severely limited by the inadequate infrastructure I built it with. When I bought 16 years of data, 2TB compressed to its most efficient binary representation, I thought I could use a traditional database like MongoDB to store and load the option chains. It's way too slow. So here's where I've ended up this past week: It was time to rip off the bandaid and rebuild some performance infrastructure (the database and decision stack) that was seriously holding me back from testing the project properly. Using MongoDB, which has to pack and unpack data up and down the 7 layer OSI model, it took an hour to test one model for one year. I need to test millions of models for 16 years, thousands of times over. I knew how to do that, so instead of focusing on keeping things stable so I could show you guys some pretty graphs n shit, I broke down the beast and started rebuilding with a pure memory caching approach that will load the options chains thousands of times faster than MongoDB queries. And instead of running one model, one decision layer at a time on the CPU, the new GPU accelerated decision stack design will let me run hundreds of decision layers on millions of models in a handful of milliseconds. Many, many orders of magnitude better performance, and I can finally make the project as powerful as it was supposed to be. I'm confident that with these upgrades, I'll be able to hit the goal of 60% consistent returns per year. I'll work this goddamn problem for a year if I have to. I have, in the process of trying to become an entrepreneur, planned project after project and given up half way through when it got too hard, or a partner quit, or someone else launched something better. I will not give up on this one, if it takes the rest of the year or five more. But I don't think it'll come to that. Even with the 20% I've already achieved, if I can demonstrate that in live trading, that's already really good, so there's not really any risk of real failure at this point. But I will, regardless, finish developing the vision I have for Retard Bot and Bidrate Renaissance before I'm satisfied.
Version Control in Game Development: 10 Vague Reasons to Use It
Whether you’re a AAA development shop or an indie programmer, building a game will surely take more than just a couple of weekends. Many things can happen between the inception of the game and the time it will be released. To track and manage these changes, developers use version (source) control. Let's talk about version control, branching, and how to select the best version control system. https://preview.redd.it/br064yidj0z51.jpg?width=2190&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=16b91701114c2e185a7e33bde1bebf2634cb396e The software development process is a long and arduous road. Changes might be introduced to the game mechanics, the admin part of the game, or practically anywhere, especially, if you develop a GaaS product. These changes need to be tracked. Indeed, you don’t want to simply copy the entire folder of the game project and save it under a different name (like mycoolgame_v02). You will need version management. That’s what version control systems are for.
What is version control?
Version control is the practice of tracking and managing changes to the code base. Version control systems provide a running history of how the code changes. Using version control tools also helps to resolve conflicts when merging contributions from multiple sources.
What is source control?
Source control and version control are practically interchangeable, but to put a fine point to it, version control is a more general term. Source control systems typically manage mostly textual data — source control typically means source code or program code. On the other hand, version control refers not only to the source code but also to the other assets of the game app, like images, audio, and video resources.
When you think of a branch, you’d typically picture a fork-like structure. Initially, there’s only one path, but then the paths diverge. That’s essentially what a branch is in source control lingo. As you build your game app and expose it to testers, QA, and other stakeholders, they will give input that may force you to introduce changes to the game’s source. Most of the time, the changes will be small, but the changes will sometimes be massive. These large changes are inflection points to the development process. This is typically where you decide to branch. The purpose of branching in version control is to achieve code isolation. You’re branching probably because the new branch represents the next version of the game, or it could be something smaller, like “let’s fix bug number 12345”. Whatever branching method you choose, you’ll need a version control. https://preview.redd.it/693agxrej0z51.png?width=640&format=png&auto=webp&s=1a9672b8137f9a53968d6b4159269559b67db644
Why use version control in game projects?
#1 - Code backup
Source control, especially a remote repository, is a backup for your code. Indeed, you don’t want your hard drive to be a single point of failure. Do you? What happens to 10 months of coding work if the drive gets fried? What if your server dies? Do you have an automated backup?
#2 - Better team collaboration
Share the code with other contributors and still be in sync with each other. If you’re not using source control, how will you work with other developers? Do you really want to use Dropbox or Google Drive to share source codes? How will you track each other’s changes? Version control systems take care of synching and resolving conflicts or differences with codes from multiple contributors.
#3 - Roll back to the previous version
Version control systems are a retreat strategy. Have you ever made breaking changes to the code and realized what a colossal mistake it was? If you ever want to go back, it’s a cinch to do that in a version control system.
#4 - Experiments with zero risks
It makes experimentation easy. Do you want to try something radical, but you don’t want to clutter or pollute your codebase? Branch. If the idea doesn’t pan out, just leave the branch and go back to the trunk
#5 - Full audit trail
Provides an audit trail for the codebase. You can go back to previous versions of the code to find out when and where the bugs first crept in.
#6 - Better release management
Monitor the progress of the code. You can see how much work is being done, by who, where, and when.
#7 - Code comparison and analysis
You can compare versions of your code. When you learn how to use diffing techniques, you can compare versions of your code in a side-by-side fashion.
#8 - Manage different versions of the game
Maintain multiple versions of your product. Branching strategies should help you maintain different versions of your game/product. It is a common practice for the developers to have at least a production version (free from bugs, well-tested) and a work-in-progress development version.
#9 - Scaling the game projects and companies
Are you an indie developer? Or you are employed by one of the game giants - Ubisoft, Tencent or King? Whatever project you are involved into at the moment, you may come to the point when you’ll need to deal with more teammates, run more tests, and fix more bugs. Version control software is an indispensable part of your game growth.
#10 - Facilitate the continuous game updates
Thinking about the previous point, how often do you plan to release your game updates? Do you plan to do it once a year, monthly or weekly? The more frequently you update your game, the more likely you’ll need to do the feature branching or release branching to minimize bugs and achieve flawless user experience. Not to mention if you select the games-as-a-service model.
What to consider when selecting version control systems
If you’re about to start a project and deciding which version control system to use, you might want to consider the following.
Ability to support game projects. Some version control platforms are better suited for application development where most of the assets are textual (source codes), and some are better at handling binaryfiles (audio, video, image assets). Make sure your source control system can handle both.
User experience. The source control platform must be supported by tools. If the platform is a CLI-only (command-line interface), it might be popular amongst developers, but non-dev people (artists, designers) might have difficulty using it. The tools have to be friendly to everybody.
Ecosystem of tools and integrations. Does your CI/CD platform support it? Can Jenkins pull from this repo? Your version control system must play nice with the CI/CD apps in the age of continuous integration. Other questions to ask might be;
Can you hook it up with Unreal/Unity?
Do our IDEs support it?
Is it easy to connect it with Trello? Jira?
Hosted or on-premise. Are there companies offering a hosted solution for this version control system? Or do you have to provision a server yourself and find a data center where to park it? Hosting an in-premise source control system has advantages. Still, it also carries lots of baggage like IT personnel cost, capital cost, depreciation cost, etc. In contrast, a hosted solution lets you avoid all those in exchange for a fee.
Single file versioning ability. Can you check out only a single file, or do you have to download everything? Some version control systems force developers to download all the updates from a central server before you can share or see any change. This might be sensible for application code, but it may not make sense for a game app where some of the assets are large binary files.
Access control. Does the system let you control who has access to what? How granular is the control? Can you assign rights down to the file level? Can you assign read but not write privileges to users for particular files?
Some common version control systems are better at handling some of the things we stated above, and some are better at managing others. You may need to do a comparison matrix to select amongst the version control options. If you ask an application developer for recommendation, I’m almost sure they’ll tell you Git, Subversion, or CVS. These are heavy favorites of app devs. They’re open-source software and great at handling textual data, but they may be ill-suited for a game development project because of the way they handle BLOBS or binary files (which a game app has lots of). If you ask a game developer, you’ll get a different recommendation; game development projects have very different version control needs than application development projects. Should it be an independent software or a built-in feature in your database or CMS platform? How many people are involved in game development? How many databases? How are localization and content delivery done? Gridly features the built-in version control, which enables branching of the content datasets, tweak them in isolation and merge back to the master branch. Sign up for free and make your first branch.
Big ol' post. How I went about researching top surgery (and to some degree, my identity), therapy, experience with parents, early life and signs, etc. I found personal accounts to be helpful when I was starting to look into things, so here's my contribution.
My therapist keeps telling me that it's good for people to know what's possible, both bad and good. I've been lucky in a lot of areas and I didn't want to post about it because I don't want people to feel bad. But she keeps telling me that hope is an important tool for people so, if this is upsetting, blame her lol. First some context and personal info about me. I'm nonbinary, but I lean and present masculine. I'm not on hormones. After wanting it for roughly 15 years, I got top surgery this year at the ripe old age of 29 (kidding about being old--sort of. I think this sub tends to skew pretty young, so I feel old compared to a lot of you lol). I am so sorry about the length of this. I tried to break it down into chunks so if you want to skip headers you can. Quick TL;DR Timeline:
Childhood/Early Teens: Gender??? who cares, I'm me
Teens: I absolutely do not want these boobs but I don't have a choice. Gender still weird.
Early 20s: Learned about other gender identities and gender affirming surgeries
23: Started seriously considering top surgery for real.
27: Called to schedule a consultation with NYU Langone.
28: Had my consultation
29: Had my surgery
Until ~puberty~ and the dreaded body changes, gender was largely not something I thought about. I knew people tended to fit someone into either male or female, and I knew people viewed me as female and treated me as such, but it's not something I felt strongly about for myself at all. Puberty wound up sending me into a bit of an existential crisis. I hated my breasts. I hated how they made my shirts fit weird, I hated how people treated me differently if they were sort of on display, I constantly felt like I was smuggling a pair of grapefruits around. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 50, and had a mastectomy. I was like, holy shit? I WISH I WOULD GET BREAST CANCER SO THEY'D HAVE TO CUT OFF MY BOOBS! Yes, in retrospect, holy fuck that is an awful way to go about it. At the time I didn't know you could just like... get surgery. My only experiences with surgery were emergency situations, so I thought something had to be immediately, grievously, life-threateningly wrong in order to get surgery. So I carried that ungodly wish around for a good several years. Yikes. At the time I also hadn't heard of the term "nonbinary" and it was also really eating at me. "Woman" absolutely felt wrong, but "Man" didn't quite feel right either. I used to joke about feeling like a shapeless amoeba and being happy like that. But there was no way that was valid... right?? Obviously I was wrong, I found out about different gender identities and was much happier in that regard. It may sound weird or look the same on the outside, but a lot of my masculine traits and tendencies are less about actually being masculine but really more about being less feminine. I know it looks the same from the outside but internally, it was an important distinction for me. Still hated having boobs, tho.
This is one of the areas I really lucked out on, and the biggest thing I didn't want people to feel bad about. When it comes to my identity (and unrelated to this but my sexuality as well) my parents have been, well, remarkably chill. My dad has always been tuned into my social media, so he already knew everything and ultimately was the one who was like "what are you waiting for? Schedule an appointment already!" I had to bring him to a therapy appointment once to talk about surgery strategy, and he basically said "parents who can't support their kids unconditionally shouldn't be parents" without missing a beat so that was nice. Otherwise he basically just lets me take the lead. Let him know what I need from him, and he'll do it. My mom I was definitely more worried about, though it turned out to be pretty unfounded. My mom and I haven't had the greatest history. It basically boils down to a clash in personalities. I was a pretty shy kid, she was always pushy about it, and neither of us handled my Moody Teenager-ness well. Things have improved a lot since I became an adult and since I started antidepressant/antianxiety meds. I also had to bring her to a therapy appointment to talk about surgery recovery strategy, where it turns out she always knew about my identity in some way, she was just waiting for me to tell her myself. And then she was all hands on deck. She checked in with me after every pre-op and post-op appointment, she asked if there was anything she needed to do or buy, she dug up a bunch of her current husband's old button-ups for me to wear post-op, she stayed with me at the hospital and took me home, etc. There was never any weirdness or questioning from either of them. I knew my dad would be chill, I was always worried about my mom though, but it was all a pleasant surprise.
Researching Top Surgery (and Therapy)
Thanks to the internet and places like Tumblr, I was introduced to the concept of gender affirming surgeries. I was initially skeptical that I qualified (the good ol' "am I trans enough??" question) but the more I read personal accounts and stories from people, the more I realized that I did indeed fit the bill. But I was working at CVS at the time, had no health insurance, was (and still am) paying off student loans... it just wasn't going to happen at that time. So for 5 years I did nothing. Just plucked away at life. Then I got a new job with actual health insurance. Interest renewed. It would still be a couple of years before I even called to make a consultation but, I started looking into everything again. So I came up with a list of questions and goals that needed to be answered and researched:
What surgeon and where?
Did my health insurance even cover it?
If so, what information and documents would I need?
How much of it does insurance cover?
How much time off would I need for recovery?
I would like to emphasize, I knew NOTHING about insurance going into this. But honestly, it's not that difficult. Go through it slowly, google any terms you don't know or understand, and don't be afraid to call or email your insurance to ask even the stupidest of questions. It's their job to answer your questions. First, I found my insurance's policy for "Gender Affirming Services (Transgender Services)" which is its official title within my insurance. I read it several times, and in my case I was glad that the language avoided sticking strictly to the binary, because I was worried I wouldn't qualify. They used phrases like "gender identity other than that assigned at birth." I actually just looked at it now and it's been updated even further to be even more inclusive, which is nice. It has a list of services and surgeries that are covered, along with any requirements. I saved the pdf, as well as printed it and stuck it in a big 3-ring binder that would become my go-to resource. Next I started looking at surgeons that accepted my insurance, and whose results and reviews seemed good enough for me. Transbucket was still working at the time, so I went through the images and wrote a list of surgeons down. I live in NY, which has a few good but long-waitlisted surgeons, so to keep things a little less complicated I decided to narrow the list down to NY surgeons. I read some sketchy things about Mt. Sinai's surgeons at the time, so I decided to nix them from the list. Ultimately I decided to go with Dr. Bluebond-Langner with NYU Langone. Knowing there was going to be a long wait to deal with the rest of my prep, I called to schedule a consult pretty much immediately after I made my choice. The consult wound up being a year later, so that gave me time and a concrete deadline to work toward. Call date: January 2018 Consult date: January 2019 NYU Langone sent me a pretty comprehensive packet of info, including some requirements for getting surgery. Mainly it was a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and letter from a therapist, which would also cover my insurance requirements. So my next step was finding a suitable therapist. I had already read about the long wait times between consults and surgery, so I didn't immediately jump into therapy. There was a long stretch of just doing nothing. Initially I started out by using the "find a provider" tool on my insurance website to try and find a therapist, but it wasn't really getting me anywhere. BCBS's various websites suck ass. After having some initial talks with a few therapists, I found out it's kind of annoying for them to work with insurance in NY, so they work out of network but provide the receipts and codes for you to submit a claim on your own. So instead I started by searching "WPATH therapist [location]" and scoped out the results. They weren't necessarily registered with WPATH, but they were at least familiar with it and that was the important factor, for me. I reached out to them explaining who I was, what my identity was, and that I was seeking a diagnosis and letter so that I could get top surgery. I told them that I was absolutely okay if they were uncomfortable with this and did not want to continue. Everyone responded kindly and was down for it, but I was put off by the short responses from some of them or the informal abbreviations. In any other normal everyday situation I absolutely would not care, but I had taken the time to write this formal email where I basically bared my deepest secrets to them, and getting back a "k" was like... nah man. This ain't it. Except one woman who responded with the kind of thoughtfulness and care I was expecting, and seemed like a perfect fit. I love her to death and I'm still having sessions with her on a regular basis. Therapy start: May 2019 It was my first time being in therapy at all. Some of it was about my identity, some of it was just general life stuff, but she's great at guiding things along and she's not afraid to ask me if that's what I really think or if I'm just saying what I think she wants me to say, stuff like that. Also I've slipped out a few curses in front of her (I curse a LOT in casual conversation) so it's pretty funny when your therapist isn't afraid to say "fuck" in front of you now. In November 2019 we worked on and finalized my letter. She had me read it a dozen times before I signed off on it, and we made sure all the pertinent info and requirements were in, including the diagnosis code for gender dysphoria. She faxed it over to the hospital and also gave me a copy. Ultimately the letter was good for one year but she made it clear that she would absolutely change the date and resubmit it if my surgery date wound up falling past that point. A big source of my info on surgery, recovery, and good stuff to have around has come from blog posts and from this sub. You have been invaluable. It was good to see the gamut of recoveries from "ridiculously smooth" to "absolute hell" and help me plan for the worst case (which thankfully wasn't necessary).
The World's Longest Home Stretch AKA Approaching Surgery
Consult in January 2020 finally arrived. I was in the waiting room longer than I was actually in any part of the consult lmao. Dr. Bluebond-Langner is nice and great, let me be clear. But for her it was just another Tuesday, so she was basically just blasting right along and asking me questions while taking measurements of my chest. I had some questions and she was happy to answer but I was also just kind of nervous and caught up in the expediency of the whole process, so it was all done in like, 3 minutes. Then the photographer team took photos of me shirtless in several positions and angles. Super, duper weird and awkward but they were extremely nice and professional, and pretty made it as un-weird as possible. The good news is that they have a stellar patient portal where you can ask questions pretty much whenever you want, and they also sent me another email and another physical packet of information which largely covered anything I forgot to ask in my stupor. About 3 days later I got my surgery date. Surgery date: August 2020 Obviously COVID has been a hell of a thing. Appointments were pushed back, masks were worn, hand sanitizer was applied judiciously, temperatures were taken at doorways. I waited with bated breath to see if my appointment would be rescheduled. Thankfully I lucked out big time and hospitals started doing non-emergency surgeries again before my date came up, so they called and told me I was still on for August. I had to have an appointment with my Primary Care Physician (PCP) and explain that I was having surgery and I was going to need a bunch of tests done, and the results sent to the hospital. My doctor's office is a teaching office, so I basically had to come out to my PCP and the student shadowing her, but it was all chill. My doctor told me that she has several trans patients now and they're seeing an increase in people who are more comfortable to come out, which is nice. So she was 100% down to do whatever tests the hospital needed. In practice, getting the results in and to the hospital on time was a bit of a pain in the ass. I think technically several of my results were late but it didn't screw me over. The tests had to be done within a certain window before surgery (not too early, basically) but the processing took forever on a couple of them, and I had to ask and triple check with the doctor's office a few times because the hospital was still missing a couple of them. It was a bit of unnecessary stress leading up to surgery lol. PTO scheduled, bag packed, took a train into the city for surgery.
First off, everyone at the hospital was super nice the entire time I was there. You're not allowed to eat or drink after midnight the night before. That night I woke up every hour from a nightmare that I had accidentally eaten something. I showed up in sweats and a hoodie, got my patient wrist band (with my preferred name!) and then waited for what felt like an eternity while my mom and I chatted. Someone came and got me, I had to brush my teeth and use mouthwash (something about cutting down on possible infection), had me pee in a cup one last time, and gave me a gown. My mom was allowed to join me in the "staging area" where other people were stationed and waiting for their surgeries to start. It was just a lot of taking vitals, starting the IV, people introducing themselves to you and what their role was going to be in your surgery, Dr. Bluebond-Langner marking up my chest and asking me how I was feeling. It was the most chill hospital experience I have ever had. Granted all of my other experiences were like, emergency room visits where things were much more hectic. This was all planned out, everyone was relaxed, everything was fine. After that, one big nap. The last thing I remember was getting up on the table and apologizing for being in the way while someone said "don't be sorry, you're the star of the show, we're all here for you" and then I was out like a light. Next time I woke up I was in the recovery wing, where they stash you before they bring you to your permanent room. Initially, I was pretty dizzy and out of it, but I was definitely waking up. They were getting ready to move me, so I had to stand up, but I somehow managed to pull one of the drain bulbs out (NOT the tube that was in my body, thank god) so I looked like I was in a horror movie with a big puddle of blood on my side lol. They had me swap gowns. While this was going on and I was standing up, it was the only time I felt bad. I felt sick and I told someone I think I needed to sit down. As soon as I sat down in the wheelchair I immediately felt better, and they were ready to wheel me to my room.
Post-Op in the Hospital
Dr. Bluebond-Langner keeps people overnight, so I stayed the night in the hospital. This is another area where I feel a little bad, but my recovery has been pretty stellar and apparently I'm part Wolverine from X-Men because doctors and nurses keep telling me that I'm healing really well. Almost immediately, I was fairly mobile. The anesthesia hasn't really hung around. I was walking city blocks upon city blocks to my post-op appointments, and I'd say maybe about 1 month post-op I really started getting my range of motion back in my arms. I'm a little over 2 months now post op and can fully raise my arms over my head, etc. My pain management was also basically nonexistent. I used some extra strength tylenol for a few days until I forgot to take it, realized I didn't really seem to need it, and just stopped from thereon out. STILL NO LIFTING THOUGH! Everyone is adamant about that. After my initial hiccup with the anesthesia, it wore off pretty fast. I was up and able to walk laps around the hospital without issue. The nurse taking care of me had to keep telling me to slow down. I was wide awake, chatting and eating full meals (side note: the hospital food there was REALLY GOOD). I was able to get in an out of bed on my own, I started stripping my own drains (scared the crap out of the nurse who just saw someone moving behind my door and didn't realize I was able to do it on my own). A few times throughout my stay, either Dr. Bluebond-Langner herself or someone on her team would come by and undo my compression vest to check things out and make sure there were no issues. If I had one complaint, it's the IV fluids. I had to pee CONSTANTLY. My mom stayed with me until the end of visiting hours, chatting and doing her own work, occasionally helping me reach things, flagging down a nurse when I had to pee for the hundreth time, etc. Otherwise, I was discharged the next morning. The Uber ride and subsequent train ride home were pretty smooth. I was worried that every little bump would kill me, but the tightness of the compression vest kept everything pretty secure.
Recovery at Home
I was pretty self-sufficient. We had already moved a bunch of water glasses onto the counter for easy access, and I had a bunch of reasonably healthy easy-cook food ready to go. I had an adjustable incline pillow for sleeping on my back and keeping me somewhat elevated, coupled with a neck pillow and a total blackout sleep mask. My dog kept me company. Sleeping is honestly probably the worst part. I am very much a side and stomach sleeper. And although my recovery was pretty smooth, surgery is still surgery and I found it difficult to get a good, restful sleep through the general uncomfortableness. Showering and bathing was probably the second worst part. Taking a shallow bath was definitely easier but I basically couldn't get really clean because I was constantly worried about accidentally pulling the drains, or getting something wet. Part of my dismissal included a packet with a calendar for measuring and recording my drains. I tried to do that at about 9am and 9pm every day to keep an even 12 hour spread. I'm not a particularly squeamish person, but even I initially was a bit grossed out by the contents of the drains. I got used to it after a couple of days, though. My drains were, mercifully, not painful or irritated at the drain sites. The only issue I had was a VERY small hematoma on my right side, down where the drain actually starts in your body. Emptying my drains on that side started to produce a slightly painful pinching feeling in that spot, and putting pressure on it would hurt a bit. I contacted the surgeon's office about it, and they gave me the option to come in, or just ride it out and let it reabsorb itself. I chose to leave it alone, and it started feeling better after a few days. I had several post-op appointments, 1 each week after surgery for 3 weeks. First week was just a checkup, nothing super notable to be honest. Basically just a "holy crap you're only one week out? I would not have guessed, you're walking around just fine." At 2 weeks, we took the drains out. Thank god, because I went back to work the next day and really needed a proper shower. I still had to keep the compression vest on, but I was at least allowed to take it off and wash it. That thing was rank. And I was allowed to wear deodorant. At 3 weeks, I was officially allowed to take the vest off. They showed me how to do scar massaging, they did a quick draining of some fluid in both of my sides (in Dr. Bluebond-Langner's own words, she was being "nitpicky" about it because it was a minor amount, but figured she might as well just do it while I was there), made me promise I'd keep moisturizing my nipple scabs, and said they'll see me in a month. The scabs fell off eventually by the way. I think one fell off at like 3 weeks, the other at 4. Yes, it looks terrifying. No, they didn't die. Yes, it's normal. It is weird to see the very pink, fresh skin underneath but that's normal. Now I just oil up my scars with bio-oil every day and massage as part of my morning routine. I already made a previous post about my scars being hypertrophic and how I'm fine with that, and it might be hard to believe when you see hypertrophic scars, but they look and feel much better now than they did, and they're only going to keep getting better. I was using the silicone strips, but my scars kinda go up near my arm pits and when I get sweaty at work, it makes them come loose. I was taping those parts but the tape irritates my skin, so I just stopped trying to make that work for now.
So that's where I'm at now. I feel much, much better. I stand taller instead of hunching over to try and hide my chest. I'm probably a lot older than a lot of folks in here who probably can't even imagine waiting until nearly 30 to get to some of these points. I guess if there's a takeaway it's 1) sometimes surgery goes pretty smoothly and 2) your life doesn't end if you don't transition before 18. I THINK it's pretty comprehensive in here but, if there's a particular question you have about something feel free to ask.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
[Review] Ranking all the Switch shmups Ep26 – Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade! Publisher: ININ Games Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jun 16, 2020 Price: $44.99 Tate: Built-in Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least! This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games.
As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited. When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience… As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place. As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve.
What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece. From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game. After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet.
AN ENTIRE LEGACY
Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets. Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment! Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay.
KING OF THE ARCADE
Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes. If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion.
YOUR PERFECT CABINET
The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers. One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses! Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet.
THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE
One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player. Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song!
DARIUS, THE OG
Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling. As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind. Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue.
Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3. The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version.
The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose. The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve.
What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress. A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable. Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off!
DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS
Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors. Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying.
I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI
One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence: “Main engine energy level, 20% increase !” “I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi” “3…2…1…” It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement! A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny.
DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING
Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today. For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences.
One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage. Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones. I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me.
YOU’RE MINE NOW!
New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying! Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets. A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content!
A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA
There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch. It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays. The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups.
My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words. The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag. Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart.
THE RANKING SO FAR:
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
Steredenn: Binary Stars
Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
Sky Force: Reloaded
R-Type Dimensions EX
Sine Mora EX
Shikhondo – Soul Eater
Ghost Blade HD
Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
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