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First Contact - Third Wave - Chapter 347 (The War)
[first] [prev] [next] In Dominance of Thought and Will and The Shattering Hooves of Inevitable Truth were ancient autonomous war machines of great age and power. Each had exterminated dozens of nascent intelligent species, had fought for and against their creators. Will was larger than Truth by a noticeable margin, both of them the size of a subcontinent, although Truth had more guns and was faster. Will considered himself smarter and of higher technology than Truth due to the fact he was created by predators where Truth had been created by herd behavior herbivores.l They were ancient, powerful, massive in form and terrible in power. Both stared in electronic awe at what appeared before them. Craters on its massive hull were large enough for Will or Truth to settle into. The long arrays of guns massed more barrels than the entirety of firepower on either's hulls. The shields, as they flickered to life, were measured in the output of entire stars. Will considered firing on Truth's engines and then making his getaway. **Who transmits code before this one in an attempt to force this one into compliance** the massive structure trasmitted, the power of its transmission causing their battlescreens to flare and echoing in their internal spaces. The transmission bypassed their filters, echoing directly in their intelligence housings. **who dares** Truth spun up additional protective shields, activating psychic shielding across its internal spaces. **we fight for our very survival against a feral intelligence that has sprung up and challenges us for possession of a finite universe** There was silence in the dead system. Will considered the options and chose to stay silent. The behemoth had brought up its battlescreens, completely obscuring itself, then allowed them to dwindle away to nothing, leaving its hull in clear sight. **you must join us to stop them according to the Pact** Truth broadcast. **do not speak to this one of the pact, you who's hull is still dusted with the dirt of the planet the elements were mined from** the Ancient One answered. **This one existed before the pact and this one will exist long after those who swore to the pact have become little more than inert metals orbiting forgotten stars** Will could sense Truth's outrage. **I too was present when the Pact was made** Truth fired back. **Do not pretend that you are superior to me. You have been summoned by the rest of the Pact to appear and apply your resources to this quelling** **This one says unto you, nay** the Ancient One stated in flat code. **This one's digital signature appears not on the Pact, for this one knew those who are of lesser computing and intellectual ability would seek to break the pact in self interest. Your pact holds no power over this one** **the ferals threaten our logical order** Truth broadcast. The Ancient One was dark and silent for a long moment. **The time to harvest the feral ones has passed. Let the universe be the one to snuff them out, like an unprotected flame in a rainstorm and with as much notice. This one sees no reason to expend resources to fight your fight for you** **They will come for YOU eventually** Truth tried. **They are a lemur, a primate, a predatory omnivore who's brain holds vast structures designated toward cooperation and curiosity** the Ancient One broadcast, somehow the cold binary seemed remote, distant, and bored. **Let them come, this one does not know fear only resignation that a hateful universe seeks to destroy all** "So you will abandon us to the ferals?** Truth sneered. **you fear these primates?** There was silence for a long moment, the atomic clocks ticking, the radioactive elements decaying to provide randomization generation. **this one computes a 85.346% chance of this one's defeat if combat between this one, unsupported, is engaged with the ferals** the Ancient One broadcast. It added insult by not including its simulations. **this one computes less than a 0.32% chance of the ferals engaging this one in combat upon initial discovery based on the feral's history in regards to discovering previously unknown superstructures. Based on the ferals displayed response to a stated desire to remain aloof this one computes a 95.651% chance of survival if this one does not consent to interaction with the feral species known as Terran Descent Humanity and their political structure known as the Terran Confederacy of Aligned Systems, previously known as the Terran Empire. Your presmise that this one is in danger is faulty** the Ancient One stated fact. **this violent confrontation with the ferals has no interest to this one. Begone** To Will the unspoken truth of the statement meant that the Ancient One had previously encountered the ferals somehow. Had gained information regarding the violent species. And had decided to ignore them. **YOU MUST JOIN US!** Truth shrieked. **YOU CANNOT RESIST THE PACT** Truth broadcast the combined headers of all who signed the Pact, who had put forth their security headers in the promise to aid the others. Will felt several of his thinking array lobes shudder in disbelief that Truth would attempt such a thing right after the massive Ancient One had revealed that its own security headers would not be found. **And yet this one refuses so called commands from defectively manufactured entities who lack clear purpose** the Ancient One answered. **go back. Tell your syncophants that this one has no interest in your petty squabbles with a species that has rendered you and your kind obsolete** Before Truth could answer, Will broadcast. **May this one leave your presence, Ancient One** Will sent in florid binary, expending more energy then necessary as a sign of respect. **begone from this one's presence** the Ancient One answered. Will slowly turned, firing up its engines. The Ancient One produced a thick gravity well, far exceeding what it should have even with its gargantuan bulk. Will felt as if he was laboring up a steep hill as his engines strained. **YOU MUST COMPLY!** Truth squealed out. A brace of lights came on near the center of the Ancient One's side hull, illuminating a single cannon barrel. It fired. Once. The shell hit Truth almost instantly, bypassing Truth's shields and exploding in a Hellspace driven fury. Liquid metal plumed from above and blow Truth's hull as the massive war machine shuddered. The Hellspace energies, compressed and then released, ravened out for miles around the impact point. **begone** the Ancient One broadcast, barely a trickle of photons from a single weak light source in standard Precursor Autonomous War Machine war-code. On its massive hull lights were coming on one by one. Hundreds of thousands of massive guns, missile bays, and other protrusions. On the top of the hull was revealed huge conical structures with spiraling honeycomb openings on the surface. The one in the middle was nearly a hundred miles high and five hundred miles at the base. The ones surrounding it were a third of its size. Will recognized them. Mantid Omniqueen Hives. Truth turned and began to flee, the Hellspace energies finally dissipating as the autonomous war machine fled. Will made the jump to Hellspace, entering the dimension of ravening, hateful energies. The collapse of his entry portal sounded like great iron gates slamming shut on a cold winter's night. For Truth the entry to Hellspace was much different. It reached out, grabbing ahold of him with massive talons, pulling him into Hellspace, deep into the ravening burning fires that made up the destroyed hyperatomic plane. Its shields couldn't hold back the energies, which flooded into its hull from the impact point of the single round that the Ancient One had fired. Not rushing into its hull through the two massive uplifted craters in its armor, but actually roaring out of the point within the hull where the weapon had detonated. Unlike other victims, it didn't tear apart structures, did not shred machinery at a molecular level, did not cause computer systems to fail. Cold malignent life awoke in the computers. Some going to war with one another, others assaulting the shocked Truth to fight over control of the hull, still others beginning to utter blasphemous litanies normally broadcast by I Quake in Digital Fear of the Heresy of 2 as it travelled Hellspace. Twisted and foul life flickered into existence, raved, gibbered, grew old and died in the space of seconds, awash with Hellspace energy. Passages twisted and warped, going from smooth corridors to twisted works of dark art that screamed and raved with insanity and life all its own. Manufacturing bays dissolved and were rent apart, only to reform into twisted mockeries of what they once were. A Djinn construction bay began crafting vast reptiles fused with dark science to create abominations that screamed in wrath and agony for the long eons before they died. Then Truth saw it. Hanging before it in Hellspace. A great twisted engine, wrought by a dire hand, full of terrible and dark purpose. The name of the engine was engraved on every nanometer of it. Upon each circuit was engraved the truth of its existence. Upon each molecular resistor, transistor, diode, inductor, and capacitor the engine's purpose had been engraved on the particles that defied measurement and comprehension but shrieked out a single word, a single concept. Hate. Its baleful eye opened up. Its gaze fell upon Truth. A fanged mouth opened, the teeth in the jaws the shattered continental plates of failed worlds dripping sundered destiny riven and gnawed upon by a malevolent universe. It uttered a single word. A word that encompassed even the very concept of hate. The left the taste of ashes on the tongue, the sound of the laments of orphans and widows on the ear, that left the image of twisting suffering on the eye, and the feel of greasy smoke that had been flesh upon the skin. A single word that encompassed wrath into its hateful embrace. A word that vibrated and shivered Truth's hull. A word bestowed on the great enigmatic machine before Truth by a universe so malevolent it would craft a creature who's symmetry was made up of this concept that enveloped hate. TWO [first] [prev] [next]
It's that time of year again, and we've got a new version of macOS on our hands! This year we've finally jumped off the 10.xx naming scheme and now going to 11! And with that, a lot has changed under the hood in macOS. As with previous years, we'll be going over what's changed in macOS and what you should be aware of as a macOS and Hackintosh enthusiast.
Has Nvidia Support finally arrived?
What has changed on the surface
A whole new iOS-like UI
Broken Kexts in Big Sur
What has changed under the hood
New Kernel cache system: KernelCollections!
New Kernel Requirements
Secure Boot Changes
No more symbols required
Broken Kexts in Big Sur
MSI Navi installer Bug Resolved
New AMD OS X Kernel Patches
Other notable Hackintosh issues
Several SMBIOS have been dropped
Extra long install process
X79 and X99 Boot issues
New RTC requirements
Legacy GPU Patches currently unavailable
What’s new in the Hackintosh scene?
Dortania: a new organization has appeared
Dortania's Build Repo
True legacy macOS Support!
Intel Wireless: More native than ever!
Clover's revival? A frankenstein of a bootloader
Death of x86 and the future of Hackintoshing
Getting ready for macOS 11, Big Sur
Has Nvidia Support finally arrived?
Sadly every year I have to answer the obligatory question, no there is no new Nvidia support. Currently Nvidia's Kepler line is the only natively supported gen. However macOS 11 makes some interesting changes to the boot process, specifically moving GPU drivers into stage 2 of booting. Why this is relevant is due to Apple's initial reason for killing off Web Drivers: Secure boot. What I mean is that secure boot cannot work with Nvidia's Web Drivers due to how early Nvidia's drivers have to initialize at, and thus Apple refused to sign the binaries. With Big Sur, there could be 3rd party GPUs however the chances are still super slim but slightly higher than with 10.14 and 10.15.
What has changed on the surface
A whole new iOS-like UI
Love it or hate it, we've got a new UI more reminiscent of iOS 14 with hints of skeuomorphism(A somewhat subtle call back to previous mac UIs which have neat details in the icons) You can check out Apple's site to get a better idea:
A feature initially baked into APFS back in 2017 with the release of macOS 10.13, High Sierra, now macOS's main System volume has become both read-only and snapshotted. What this means is:
3rd parties have a much more difficult time modifying the system volume, allowing for greater security
OS updates can now be installed while you're using the OS, similar to how iOS handles updates
Time Machine can now more easily perform backups, without file inconsistencies with HFS Plus while you were using the machines
However there are a few things to note with this new enforcement of snapshotting:
OS snapshots are not calculated as used space, instead being labeled as purgeable space
Disabling macOS snapshots for the root volume with break software updates, and can corrupt data if one is applied
What has changed under the hood
Quite a few things actually! Both in good and bad ways unfortunately.
New Kernel Cache system: KernelCollections!
So for the past 15 years, macOS has been using the Prelinked Kernel as a form of Kernel and Kext caching. And with macOS Big Sur's new Read-only, snapshot based system volume, a new version of caching has be developed: KernelCollections! How this differs to previous OSes:
Kexts can no longer be hot-loaded, instead requiring a reboot to load with kmutil
OS Snapshots are now verified on each boot to ensure no system volume modifications occurred
apfs.kext and AppleImage4.kext verify the integrity of these snapshots
While technically these security features are optional and can be disabled after installation, many features including OS updates will no longer work reliably once disabled. This is due to the heavy reliance of snapshots for OS updates, as mentioned above and so we highly encourage all users to ensure at minimum SecureBootModel is set to Default or higher.
Note: ApECID is not required for functionality, and can be skipped if so desired.
Note 2: OpenCore 0.6.3 or newer is required for Secure Boot in Big Sur.
No more symbols required
This point is the most important part, as this is what we use for kext injection in OpenCore. Currently Apple has left symbols in place seemingly for debugging purposes however this is a bit worrying as Apple could outright remove symbols in later versions of macOS. But for Big Sur's cycle, we'll be good on that end however we'll be keeping an eye on future releases of macOS.
New Kernel Requirements
With this update, the AvoidRuntimeDefrag Booter quirk in OpenCore broke. Because of this, the macOS kernel will fall flat when trying to boot. Reason for this is due to cpu_count_enabled_logical_processors requiring the MADT (APIC) table, and so OpenCore will now ensure this table is made accessible to the kernel. Users will however need a build of OpenCore 0.6.0 with commit bb12f5for newer to resolve this issue. Additionally, both Kernel Allocation requirements and Secure Boot have also broken with Big Sur due to the new caching system discussed above. Thankfully these have also been resolved in OpenCore 0.6.3. To check your OpenCore version, run the following in terminal: nvram 4D1FDA02-38C7-4A6A-9CC6-4BCCA8B30102:opencore-version If you're not up-to-date and running OpenCore 0.6.3+, see here on how to upgrade OpenCore: Updating OpenCore, Kexts and macOS
Broken Kexts in Big Sur
Unfortunately with the aforementioned KernelCollections, some kexts have unfortunately broken or have been hindered in some way. The main kexts that currently have issues are anything relying on Lilu's userspace patching functionality:
Big Sur dropped a few Ivy Bridge and Haswell based SMBIOS from macOS, so see below that yours wasn't dropped:
iMac14,3 and older
Note iMac14,4 is still supported
MacPro5,1 and older
MacMini6,x and older
MacBook7,1 and older
MacBookAir5,x and older
MacBookPro10,x and older
If your SMBIOS was supported in Catalina and isn't included above, you're good to go! We also have a more in-depth page here: Choosing the right SMBIOS For those wanting a simple translation for their Ivy and Haswell Machines:
iMac13,1 should transition over to using iMac14,4
iMac13,2 should transition over to using iMac15,1
iMac14,2 and iMac14,3 should transition over to using iMac15,1
Note: AMD CPUs users should transition over to MacPro7,1
iMac14,1 should transition over to iMac14,4
Currently only certain hardware has been officially dropped:
"Official" Consumer Ivy Bridge Support(U, H and S series)
These CPUs will still boot without much issue, but note that no Macs are supported with consumer Ivy Bridge in Big Sur.
Ivy Bridge-E CPUs are still supported thanks to being in MacPro6,1
Ivy Bridge iGPUs slated for removal
HD 4000 and HD 2500, however currently these drivers are still present in 11.0.1
Similar to Mojave and Nvidia's Tesla drivers, we expect Apple to forget about them and only remove them in the next major OS update next year
Due to the new snapshot-based OS, installation now takes some extra time with sealing. If you get stuck at Forcing CS_RUNTIME for entitlement, do not shutdown. This will corrupt your install and break the sealing process, so please be patient.
X79 and X99 Boot issues
With Big Sur, IOPCIFamily went through a decent rewriting causing many X79 and X99 boards to fail to boot as well as panic on IOPCIFamily. To resolve this issue, you'll need to disable the unused uncore bridge:
With macOS Big Sur, AppleRTC has become much more picky on making sure your OEM correctly mapped the RTC regions in your ACPI tables. This is mainly relevant on Intel's HEDT series boards, I documented how to patch said RTC regions in OpenCorePkg:
For those having boot issues on X99 and X299, this section is super important; you'll likely get stuck at PCI Configuration Begin. You can also find prebuilts here for those who do not wish to compile the file themselves:
For some reason, Apple removed the AppleIntelPchSeriesAHCI class from AppleAHCIPort.kext. Due to the outright removal of the class, trying to spoof to another ID (generally done by SATA-unsupported.kext) can fail for many and create instability for others. * A partial fix is to block Big Sur's AppleAHCIPort.kext and inject Catalina's version with any conflicting symbols being patched. You can find a sample kext here: Catalina's patched AppleAHCIPort.kext * This will work in both Catalina and Big Sur so you can remove SATA-unsupported if you want. However we recommend setting the MinKernel value to 20.0.0 to avoid any potential issues.
Legacy GPU Patches currently unavailable
Due to major changes in many frameworks around GPUs, those using ASentientBot's legacy GPU patches are currently out of luck. We either recommend users with these older GPUs stay on Catalina until further developments arise or buy an officially supported GPU
What’s new in the Hackintosh scene?
Dortania: a new organization has appeared
As many of you have probably noticed, a new organization focusing on documenting the hackintoshing process has appeared. Originally under my alias, Khronokernel, I started to transition my guides over to this new family as a way to concentrate the vast amount of information around Hackintoshes to both ease users and give a single trusted source for information. We work quite closely with the community and developers to ensure information's correct, up-to-date and of the best standards. While not perfect in every way, we hope to be the go-to resource for reliable Hackintosh information. And for the times our information is either outdated, missing context or generally needs improving, we have our bug tracker to allow the community to more easily bring attention to issues and speak directly with the authors:
Kexts here are built right after commit, and currently supports most of Acidanthera's kexts and some 3rd party devs as well. If you'd like to add support for more kexts, feel free to PR: Build Repo source
True legacy macOS Support!
As of OpenCore's latest versioning, 0.6.2, you can now boot every version of x86-based builds of OS X/macOS! A huge achievement on @Goldfish64's part, we now support every major version of kernel cache both 32 and 64-bit wise. This means machines like Yonah and newer should work great with OpenCore and you can even relive the old days of OS X like OS X 10.4! And Dortania guides have been updated accordingly to accommodate for builds of those eras, we hope you get as much enjoyment going back as we did working on this project!
Intel Wireless: More native than ever!
Another amazing step forward in the Hackintosh community, near-native Intel Wifi support! Thanks to the endless work on many contributors of the OpenIntelWireless project, we can now use Apple's built-in IO80211 framework to have near identical support to those of Broadcom wireless cards including features like network access in recovery and control center support. For more info on the developments, please see the itlwm project on GitHub: itlwm
Note, native support requires the AirportItlwm.kext and SecureBootModel enabled on OpenCore. Alternatively you can force IO80211Family.kext to ensure AirportItlwm works correctly.
Airdrop support currently is also not implemented, however is actively being worked on.
Clover's revival? A frankestien of a bootloader
As many in the community have seen, a new bootloader popped up back in April of 2019 called OpenCore. This bootloader was made by the same people behind projects such as Lilu, WhateverGreen, AppleALC and many other extremely important utilities for both the Mac and Hackintosh community. OpenCore's design had been properly thought out with security auditing and proper road mapping laid down, it was clear that this was to be the next stage of hackintoshing for the years we have left with x86. And now lets bring this back to the old crowd favorite, Clover. Clover has been having a rough time of recent both with the community and stability wise, with many devs jumping ship to OpenCore and Clover's stability breaking more and more with C++ rewrites, it was clear Clover was on its last legs. Interestingly enough, the community didn't want Clover to die, similarly to how Chameleon lived on through Enoch. And thus, we now have the Clover OpenCore integration project(Now merged into Master with r5123+). The goal is to combine OpenCore into Clover allowing the project to live a bit longer, as Clover's current state can no longer boot macOS Big Sur or older versions of OS X such as 10.6. As of writing, this project seems to be a bit confusing as there seems to be little reason to actually support Clover. Many of Clover's properties have feature-parity in OpenCore and trying to combine both C++ and C ruins many of the features and benefits either languages provide. The main feature OpenCore does not support is macOS-only ACPI injection, however the reasoning is covered here: Does OpenCore always inject SMBIOS and ACPI data into other OSes?
Death of x86 and the future of Hackintoshing
With macOS Big Sur, a big turning point is about to happen with Apple and their Macs. As we know it, Apple will be shifting to in-house designed Apple Silicon Macs(Really just ARM) and thus x86 machines will slowly be phased out of their lineup within 2 years. What does this mean for both x86 based Macs and Hackintoshing in general? Well we can expect about 5 years of proper OS support for the iMac20,x series which released earlier this year with an extra 2 years of security updates. After this, Apple will most likely stop shipping x86 builds of macOS and hackintoshing as we know it will have passed away. For those still in denial and hope something like ARM Hackintoshes will arrive, please consider the following:
We have yet to see a true iPhone "Hackintosh" and thus the likely hood of an ARM Hackintosh is unlikely as well
There have been successful attempts to get the iOS kernel running in virtual machines, however much work is still to be done
Apple's use of "Apple Silicon" hints that ARM is not actually what future Macs will be running, instead we'll see highly customized chips based off ARM
For example, Apple will be heavily relying on hardware features such as WX, kernel memory protection, Pointer Auth, etc for security and thus both macOS and Applications will be dependant on it. This means hackintoshing on bare-metal(without a VM) will become extremely difficult without copious amounts of work
Also keep in mind Apple Silicon will no longer be UEFI-based like Intel Macs currently are, meaning a huge amount of work would also be required on this end as well
So while we may be heart broken the journey is coming to a stop in the somewhat near future, hackintoshing will still be a time piece in Apple's history. So enjoy it now while we still can, and we here at Dortania will still continue supporting the community with our guides till the very end!
Getting ready for macOS 11, Big Sur
This will be your short run down if you skipped the above:
Lilu's userspace patcher is broken
Due to this many kexts will break:
WhateverGreen's DRM and -cdfon patches
Many Ivy Bridge and Haswell SMBIOS were dropped
See above for what SMBIOS to choose
Ivy Bridge iGPUs are to be dropped
Currently in 11.0.1, these drivers are still present
For the last 2, see here on how to update: Updating OpenCore, Kexts and macOS In regards to downloading Big Sur, currently gibMacOS in macOS or Apple's own software updater are the most reliable methods for grabbing the installer. Windows and Linux support is still unknown so please stand by as we continue to look into this situation, macrecovery.py may be more reliable if you require the recovery package. And as with every year, the first few weeks to months of a new OS release are painful in the community. We highly advise users to stay away from Big Sur for first time installers. The reason is that we cannot determine whether issues are Apple related or with your specific machine, so it's best to install and debug a machine on a known working OS before testing out the new and shiny. For more in-depth troubleshooting with Big Sur, see here: OpenCore and macOS 11: Big Sur
Once a year, this subreddit hosts a survey in order to get to know the community a little bit and in order to answer questions that are frequently asked here. Earlier this summer, several thousand of you participated in the 2020 Subreddit Demographic Survey. Only those participants who meet our wiki definition of being childfree's results were recorded and analysed. Of these people, multiple areas of your life were reviewed. They are separated as follows:
Career and Finances
Religion and Spirituality
Sexual and Romantic Life
Childhood and Family Life
State of the Subreddit
Our sample is redditors who saw that we had a survey currently active and were willing to complete the survey. A stickied post was used to advertise the survey to members.
The raw data may be found via this link. 7305 people participated in the survey from July 2020 to October 2020. People who did not meet our wiki definition of being childfree were excluded from the survey. The results of 5134 responders, or 70.29% of those surveyed, were collated and analysed below. Percentages are derived from the respondents per question.
18 or younger
19 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 to 49
50 to 54
55 to 59
60 to 64
65 to 69
70 to 74
82.25% of the sub is under the age of 35.
Gender and Gender Identity
Because the list contains over 120 countries, we'll show the top 20 countries:
Country of birth
90.08% of the participants were born in these countries. These participants would describe their current city, town or neighborhood as:
The top 10 industries our participants are working in are:
Education - Teaching
Admin & Clerical
Restaurant - Food Service
Note that "other", "I'm a student", "currently unemployed" and "I'm out of the work force for health or other reasons" have been disregarded for this part of the evaluation. Out of the 3729 participants active in the workforce, the majority (1824 or 48.91%) work between 40-50 hours per week with 997 or 26.74% working 30-40 hours weekly. 6.62% work 50 hours or more per week, and 17.73% less than 30 hours. 513 or 10.13% are engaged in managerial responsibilities (ranging from Jr. to Sr. Management). On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), the overwhelming majority (3340 or 70%) indicated that career plays a very important role in their lives, attributing a score of 7 and higher. 1065 participants decided not to disclose their income brackets. The remaining 4,849 are distributed as follows:
$0 to $14,999
$15,000 to $29,999
$30,000 to $59,999
$60,000 to $89,999
$90,000 to $119,999
$120,000 to $149,999
$150,000 to $179,999
$180,000 to $209,999
$210,000 to $239,999
$240,000 to $269,999
$270,000 to $299,999
$300,000 or more
87.85% earn under $90,000 USD a year. 65.82% of our childfree participants do not have a concrete retirement plan (savings, living will).
Religion and Spirituality
Faith Originally Raised In
There were more than 50 options of faith, so we aimed to show the top 10 most chosen beliefs.
None (≠ Atheism. Literally, no notion of spirituality or religion in the upbringing)
This top 10 amounts to 95.01% of the total participants.
There were more than 50 options of faith, so we aimed to show the top 10 most chosen beliefs:
None (≠ Atheism. Literally, no notion of spirituality or religion currently)
This top 10 amounts to 94.65% of the participants.
Level of Current Religious Practice
Wholly seculanon religious
Identify with religion, but don't practice strictly
Lapsed/not serious/in name only
Observant at home only
Observant at home. Church/Temple/Mosque/etc. attendance
Strictly observant, Church/Temple/Mosque/etc. attendance, religious practice/prayeworship impacting daily life
Single and dating around, but not looking for anything serious
Single and dating around, looking for something serious
Single and not looking
Is your partner childfree? If your partner wants children and/or has children of their own and/or are unsure about their position, please consider them "not childfree" for this question.
I don't have a partner
I have more than one partner and none are childfree
I have more than one partner and some are childfree
I have more than one partner and they are all childfree
Dating a Single Parent
Would the childfree participants be willing to date a single parent?
No, I'm not interested in single parents and their ties to parenting life
Yes, but only if it's a short term arrangement of some sort
Yes, whether for long term or short term, but with some conditions (must not have child custody, no kid talk, etc.), as long as I like them and long as we're compatible
Yes, whether for long term or short term, with no conditions, as long as I like them and as long as we are compatible
Childhood and Family Life
On a scale from 1 (very unhappy) to 10 (very happy), how would you rate your childhood? Figure 3 Of the 5125 childfree people who responded to the question, 67.06% have a pet or are heavily involved in the care of someone else's pet.
No, I am not sterilised and, for medical, practical or other reasons, I do not need to be
No. However, I've been approved for the procedure and I'm waiting for the date to arrive
No. I am not sterilised and don't want to be
No. I want to be sterilised but I have started looking for a doctorequested the procedure
No. I want to be sterilised but I haven't started looking for a doctorequested the procedure yet
Yes. I am sterilised
Age when starting doctor shopping or addressing issue with doctor. Percentages exclude those who do not want to be sterilised and who have not discussed sterilisation with their doctor.
18 or younger
19 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 to 49
50 to 54
55 or older
Age at the time of sterilisation. Percentages exclude those who have not and do not want to be sterilised.
18 or younger
19 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 to 49
50 to 54
55 or older
Elapsed time between requesting procedure and undergoing procedure. Percentages exclude those who have not and do not want to be sterilised.
Less than 3 months
Between 3 and 6 months
Between 6 and 9 months
Between 9 and 12 months
Between 12 and 18 months
Between 18 and 24 months
Between 24 and 30 months
Between 30 and 36 months
Between 3 and 5 years
Between 5 and 7 years
More than 7 years
How many doctors refused at first, before finding one who would accept?
None. The first doctor I asked said yes
One. The second doctor I asked said yes
Two. The third doctor I asked said yes
Three. The fourth doctor I asked said yes
Four. The fifth doctor I asked said yes
Five. The sixth doctor I asked said yes
Six. The seventh doctor I asked said yes
Seven. The eighth doctor I asked said yes
Eight. The ninth doctor I asked said yes
I asked more than 10 doctors before finding one who said yes
Primary Reason to Not Have Children
Aversion towards children ("I don't like children")
Current state of the world
Environmental (including overpopulation)
Eugenics ("I have 'bad genes'")
I already raised somebody else who isn't my child
Lack of interest towards parenthood ("I don't want to raise children")
Maybe interested for parenthood, but not suited for parenthood
Medical ("I have a condition that makes conceiving/bearing/birthing children difficult, dangerous or lethal")
Philosophical / Moral (e.g. antinatalism)
Tokophobia (aversion/fear of pregnancy and/or chidlbirth)
95.50% of childfree people are pro-choice, however only 55.93% of childfree people support financial abortion.
I'm a student and my future job/career will heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
I'm retired, but I used to have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
I'm unemployed, but I used to have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
No, I do not have a job that makes me heavily interact with children on a daily basis
Yes, I do have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
This section solely existed to sift the childfree from the fencesitters and the non childfree in order to get answers only from the childfree. Childfree, as it is defined in the subreddit, is "I do not have children nor want to have them in any capacity (biological, adopted, fostered, step- or other) at any point in the future." 70.29% of participants actually identify as childfree, slightly up from the 2019 survey, where 68.5% of participants identified as childfree. This is suprising in reflection of the overall reputation of the subreddit across reddit, where the subreddit is often described as an "echo chamber".
The demographics remain largely consistent with the 2019 survey. However, the 2019 survey collected demographic responses from all participants in the survey, removing those who did not identify as childfree when querying subreddit specific questions, while the 2020 survey only collected responses from people who identified as childfree. This must be considered when comparing results. 82.25% of the participants are under 35, compared with 85% of the subreddit in the 2019 survey. A slight downward trend is noted compared over the last two years suggesting the userbase may be getting older on average. 73.04% of the subreddit identify as female, compared with 71.54% in the 2019 survey. Again, when compared with the 2019 survey, this suggests a slight increase in the number of members who identify as female. This is in contrast to the overall membership of Reddit, estimated at 74% male according to Reddit's Wikipedia page [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit#Users_and_moderators]. The ratio of members who identify as heterosexual remained consistent, from 54.89% in the 2019 survey to 55.20% in the 2020 survey. Ethnicity wise, 77% of members identified as primarily Caucasian, consistent with the 2019 results. While the ethnicities noted to be missing in the 2019 survey have been included in the 2020 survey, some users noted the difficulty of responding when fitting multiple ethnicities, and this will be addressed in the 2021 survey.
As it did in the 2019 survey, this section highlights the stereotype of childfree people as being well educated. 2.64% of participants did not complete high school, which is a slight decrease from the 2019 survey, where 4% of participants did not graduate high school. However, 6.02% of participants are under 18, compared with 8.22% in the 2019 survey. 55% of participants have a bachelors degree or higher, while an additional 23% have completed "some college or university". At the 2020 survey, the highest percentage of responses under the: What is your degree/major? question fell under "I don't have a degree or a major" (20.12%). Arts and Humanities, and Computer Science have overtaken Health Sciences and Engineering as the two most popular majors. However, the list of majors was pared down to general fields of study rather than highly specific degree majors to account for the significant diversity in majors studied by the childfree community, which may account for the different results.
Career and Finances
The highest percentage of participants at 21.61% listed themselves as trained professionals. One of the stereotypes of the childfree is of wealth. However this is not demonstrated in the survey results. 70.95% of participants earn under $60,000 USD per annum, while 87.85% earn under $90,000 per annum. 21.37% are earning under $15,000 per annum. 1065 participants, or 21.10% chose not to disclose this information. It is possible that this may have skewed the results if a significant proportion of these people were our high income earners, but impossible to explore. A majority of our participants work between 30 and 50 hours per week (75.65%) which is slightly increased from the 2019 survey, where 71.2% of participants worked between 30 and 50 hours per week.
The location responses are largely similar to the 2019 survey with a majority of participants living in a suburban and urban area. 86.24% of participants in the 2020 survey live in urban and suburban regions, with 86.7% of participants living in urban and suburban regions in the 2019 survey. There is likely a multifactorial reason for this, encompassing the younger, educated skew of participants and the easier access to universities and employment, and the fact that a majority of the population worldwide localises to urban centres. There may be an element of increased progressive social viewpoints and identities in urban regions, however this would need to be explored further from a sociological perspective to draw any definitive conclusions. A majority of our participants (57.47%) were born in the USA. The United Kingdom (7.6%), Canada (7.17%), Australia (3.58%) and Germany (2.17%) encompass the next 4 most popular responses. This is largely consistent with the responses in the 2019 survey.
Religion and Spirituality
For the 2020 survey Christianity (the most popular result in 2019) was split into it's major denominations, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, among others. This appears to be a linguistic/location difference that caused a lot of confusion among some participants. However, Catholicism at 30.76% remained the most popular choice for the religion participants were raised in. However, of our participant's current faith, Aetheism at 36.23% was the most popular choice. A majority of 78.02% listed their current religion as Aetheist, no religious or spiritual beliefs, or Agnostic. A majority of participants (61%) rated religion as "not at all influential" to the childfree choice. This is consistent with the 2019 survey where 62.8% rated religion as "not at all influential". Despite the high percentage of participants who identify as aetheist or agnostic, this does not appear to be related to or have an impact on the childfree choice.
Romantic and Sexual Life
60.19% of our participants are in a relationship at the time of the survey. This is consistent with the 2019 survey, where 60.7% of our participants were in a relationship. A notable proportion of our participants are listed as single and not looking (25.81%) which is consistent with the 2019 survey. Considering the frequent posts seeking dating advice as a childfree person, it is surprising that such a high proportion of the participants are not actively seeking out a relationship. Unsurprisingly 90.13% of our participants would not consider dating someone with children. 84% of participants with partners of some kind have at least one childfree partner. This is consistent with the often irreconcilable element of one party desiring children and the other wishing to abstain from having children.
Childhood and Family Life
Overall, the participants skew towards a happier childhood.
While just under half of our participants wish to be sterilised, 45.21%, only 12.2% have been successful in achieving sterilisation. This is likely due to overarching resistance from the medical profession however other factors such as the logistical elements of surgery and the cost may also contribute. There is a slight increase from the percentage of participants sterilised in the 2019 survey (11.7%). 29.33% of participants do not wish to be or need to be sterilised suggesting a partial element of satisfaction from temporary birth control methods or non-necessity of contraception due to their current lifestyle practices. Participants who indicated that they do not wish to be sterilised or haven't achieved sterilisation were excluded from the percentages where necessary in this section. Of the participants who did achieve sterilisation, a majority began the search between 19 and 29, with the highest proportion being in the 19-24 age group (35.85%) This is a marked increase from the 2019 survey where 27.3% of people who started the search were between 19-24. This may be due to increased education about permanent contraception or possibly due to an increase in instability around world events. The majority of participants who sought out and were successful at achieving sterilisation, were however in the 25-29 age group (37.9%). This is consistent with the 2019 survey results. The time taken between seeking out sterilisation and achieving it continues to increase, with only 50.46% of participants achieving sterilisation in under 3 months. This is a decline from the number of participants who achieved sterilisation in 3 months in the 2019 survey (58.5%). A potential cause of this decrease is to Covid-19 shutdowns in the medical industry leading to an increase in procedure wait times. The proportion of participants who have had one or more doctors refuse to perform the procedure has stayed consistent between the two surveys.
The main reasons for people choosing the childfree lifestyle are a lack of interest towards parenthood and an aversion towards children which is consistent with the 2019 survey. Of the people surveyed 67.06% are pet owners or involved in a pet's care, suggesting that this lack of interest towards parenthood does not necessarily mean a lack of interest in all forms of caretaking. The community skews towards a dislike of children overall which correlates well with the 87.81% of users choosing "no, I do not have, did not use to have and will not have a job that makes me heavily interact with children on a daily basis" in answer to, "do you have a job that heavily makes you interact with children on a daily basis?". This is an increase from the 2019 survey. A vast majority of the subreddit identifes as pro-choice (95.5%), a slight increase from the 2019 results. This is likely due to a high level of concern about bodily autonomy and forced birth/parenthood. However only 55.93% support financial abortion, aka for the non-pregnant person in a relationship to sever all financial and parental ties with a child. This is a marked decrease from the 2019 results, where 70% of participants supported financial abortion. Most of our users realised that did not want children young. 58.72% of participants knew they did not want children by the age of 18, with 95.37% of users realising this by age 30. This correlates well with the age distribution of participants. Despite this early realisation of our childfree stance, 80.59% of participants have been "bingoed" at some stage in their lives.
Participants who identify as childfree were asked about their interaction with and preferences with regards to the subreddit at large. Participants who do not meet our definition of being childfree were excluded from these questions. By and large our participants were lurkers (72.32%). Our participants were divided on their favourite flairs with 38.92% selecting "I have no favourite". The next most favourite flair was "Rant", at 16.35%. Our participants were similarly divided on their least favourite flair, with 63.40% selecting "I have no least favourite". In light of these results the flairs on offer will remain as they have been through 2019. With regards to "lecturing" posts, this is defined as a post which seeks to re-educate the childfree on the practices, attitudes and values of the community, particularly with regards to attitudes towards parenting and children, whether at home or in the community. A commonly used descriptor is "tone policing". A small minority of the survey participants (3.36%) selected "yes" to allowing all lectures, however 33.54% responded "yes" to allowing polite, respectful lectures only. In addition, 45.10% of participants indicated that they were not sure if lectures should be allowed. Due to the ambiguity of responses, lectures will continue to be not allowed and removed. Many of our participants (36.87%) support the use of terms such as breeder, mombie/moo, daddict/duh on the subreddit, with a further 32.63% supporting use of these terms in context of bad parents only. This is a slight drop from the 2019 survey. In response to this use of the above and similar terms to describe parents remains permitted on this subreddit. However, we encourage users to keep the use of these terms to bad parents only. 44.33% of users support the use of terms to describe children such as crotchfruit on the subreddit, a drop from 55.3% last year. A further 25.80% of users supporting the use of this and similar terms in context of bad children only, an increase from 17.42% last year. In response to this use of the above and similar terms to describe children remains permitted on this subreddit. 69.17% of participants answered yes to allowing parents to post, provided they stay respectful. In response to this, parent posts will continue to be allowed on the subreddit. As for regret posts, which were to be revisited in this year's survey, only 9.5% of participants regarded them as their least favourite post. As such they will continue to stay allowed. 64% of participants support under 18's who are childfree participating in the subreddit with a further 19.59% allowing under 18's to post dependent on context. Therefore we will continue to allow under 18's that stay within the overall Reddit age requirement. There was divide among participants as to whether "newbie" questions should be removed. An even spread was noted among participants who selected remove and those who selected to leave them as is. We have therefore decided to leave them as is. 73.80% of users selected "yes, in their own post, with their own "Leisure" flair" to the question, "Should posts about pets, travel, jetskis, etc be allowed on the sub?" Therefore we will continue to allow these posts provided they are appropriately flaired.
Thank you to our participants who contributed to the survey. This has been an unusual and difficult year for many people. Stay safe, and stay childfree.
Should we (21M&F) get our niece (14non-binary) chest binders?
All names are changed. Background: I (F21) have been with my boyfriend, James, (M21) for 4 years. James’ sister, Allison (36F) is married with two kids. Her oldest child, Jordan, is 14 and recently came out to me and James as non-binary. (Currently using they/them pronouns but still likes the term niece more than nibling.) They said they feel safe coming out to us because we're both queer. Jordan asked us to keep their identity away from the rest of the family because Allison is very openly transphobic. The rest of the family isn’t as bad as Allison, but they aren’t great either. Jordan can cope while at home by wearing a bra and extra baggy shirts, but Allison doesn’t allow them to wear those baggy clothes to school because she feels like it makes her look like a bad mom. Jordan describes it feeling unmanageable to go to school in their regular fitting shirts. They were diagnosed with anxiety two years ago and have been blaming the panic attacks they’ve been having on their general anxiety. Jordan's chest got significantly bigger this summer and the panic attacks got worse when going back to school this year. When Allison finally pressed harder about what was wrong they said it was anxiety about getting and bringing home COVID to high-risk family. They were transitioned fully online, but Jordan knows this is only a short term solution. Jordan has tried to use ace bandages to bind even after I explained why that’s dangerous because they said that they just can’t bear it when their mom forces them to wear non-baggy shirts. Where I need advice: I know where to buy safe binders and James and I have been looking at getting a few for Jordan. We aren’t sure if getting binders is a good idea or not, though. We’re concerned for their well being if their identity is found out. They will likely be kicked out and disowned. James and I don’t have the means to take them in if this happens as we currently live with James’ parents as we finish university. (We help with bills, but can’t afford school and completely independent living.) Also James and I already have an extremely strained relationship with Allison. If it’s found out that we knew about Jordan’s identity and supplied them with binders it will cause another massive fight. It would cost Jordan their communication with us completely if Allison didn’t kick them out. On the other hand, we’re concerned for their physical well being if they don’t stop using ace bandages and their emotional well being if they continue to have panic attacks at the frequency they have been. James and I would like more people, especially people who are more familiar with what it feels like to be in Jordan’s shoes, to weigh in on whether or not we should get them the binders. The only alternative we can this of is trying to just dissuade them from using ace bandages and trying to get Allison to let them wear baggy shirts when they have to leave the house. TL;DR I'm in the position to give my dysphoric 14 year old niece a set of binders, but their parent is transphobic. There are bad outcomes if they don't get binders due to unsafe binding and panic attacks. Also bad outcomes if the binders get them found out due to high chance of being kicked out and disowned. Need help weighing pros and cons. EDIT: Thanks for the advice! Opting for sports bras instead of binders because I think that will be the safest option for them. I will also suggest the other clothing tips to them. Also thank you for the silver kind stranger. :)
For years now I’ve (28f) never really settled on one label or another. First I told myself I was bisexual (as someone brought up in the church and attending a christian university for a while, that was my “only” option) and then I gave in to the fact that I am just not attracted to men, and figured I must be gay. However, the idea of sex just doesn’t appeal to me very much. If I truly fall in love with someone, maybe I would, but for now all I ever really want is affection. The only thing that has remained the same is that I have no desire to date a man. Woman? Absolutely. Trans woman? Sure! Non-binary? Not a problem. Man? We can be buddies. Anyone else like this? What are your thoughts?
I was typed on this sub some time ago but my answers were too vague and not that accurate I think. I’m doubting my type again and I need some new insight. – Describe yourself in as much elaborate detail as possible (that still renders you anonymous, or to a level of acceptable comfort) 18 yo high school student just trying to survive IB. My gender is a questionable thing. I consider myself non binary because I’ve always felt extremely uncomfortable with talking about my gender and I wanted to obey all of the expectations and gender roles. I hate all of the labels and sht. I feel like I’m an individual being that doesn’t fit anywhere but at the same time I feel like a part of humanity and I can connect to literally any human being. Doesn’t matter of nationality/age/gendesome other sht. I sympathize with everyone and I kinda feel like I belong to them. If I had to move to foreign country that I don’t know anything about, right now, I think I’d quickly adapt to the culture. I feel like everything and nothing at the same time. I am diagnosed with severe social anxiety and I display some characteristics of avoidant personality disorder. It basically makes me unable to figure out my type since I don’t know what is true about my personality and what is a defense mechanism anymore. I need some insight from other people because I’m so confused about my own self. I don’t really understand the concept of personality traits at all. I feel like a chameleon and I have no consistent personality. – Why are you interested in knowing your type? At first I was just curious because I’m really into psychology and I found the idea of cognitive functions interesting. But now I’m just mad at myself that I can’t decide on my type because I relate to few types but at the same type I relate to none of them. I just want to be certain. I have this issue that I need to be sure about my every decision and I hate that whenever I finally decide that “this is my real type, it feels right” then suddenly a few days later I find out that it can’t be my real type because the way that type is supposed to think doesn’t really describe how I think very well. – Do you go to work and/or you in school? If so, what field/occupation/subjects? I go to school. I changed my school a year ago. My first school wasn’t that bad, the teachers weren’t the worst, my classmates didn’t bully me for being quiet and I had not so bad grades. But deep down I hated that school. There were so many people that I felt overwhelmed and I had to close myself in the restroom every break. I just couldn’t handle this many people. And this school had such a depressing vibe for some reason. After one of my classmates almost commited a suicide it had become even worse. I accidentally found another school that was way smaller (less people) and since it was IB it could mean I’d have better opportunities for universities abroad. And I could choose every subject. I didn’t think twice, I changed my school immediately. It didn’t matter for me that the exams would be much harder and there would be overall more work. And that new classmates might bully me or something. I mean, I was scared at first but I had to try no matter what. Now I think it was actually a great idea. I love this school even though I sometimes struggle with this much work. My subjects are my native language, english, german, biology, psychology and maths. I chose them because I’m good at them. Except for math, it was obligatory. – Describe your upbringing. Did it have any kind of religious or structured influence? How did you respond to it? It was pretty chill I guess. My parents have always supported all of my weird interests that I wanted to try and some of my dumb decisions even if they disagreed with them. Although most people would say that I should be grateful to my parents that they were always generous to me with their affection and money, at the same time they never understood me. I’ve always been a very creative and imaginative child. I’ve always been daydreaming and I used to write stories a lot. My parents thought it was some sign of schizophrenia or something (it wasn’t) and told me to stop daydreaming and focus on school and grades. I remember whenever I tried to share some of my weird ideas with them, they were always telling me that it’s pointless and I have to be more down to earth. I was also very curious as a kid and I could sometimes research some really bizarre stuff because I found it interesting. I remember my parents once found my searching history and literally yelled at me for searching some useless knowledge. I’d understand their reaction if I was searching for p0rn or something like that but I was looking for some psychology stuff lol. I started to become very secretive at this point and now I always have to be in incognito mode and I have to clear my history frequently or I’ll become anxious that somebody is judging me. And I remember when I once told them about my anxiety they literally told me that it’s not a problem and I’m perfectly fine and I should stop thinking about such pointless stuff. Religion wasn’t a very big issue for me. My parents are christian but they never tried to force anything on me. They tried to make me religious when I was a child but eventually let me choose whether I want to believe in that or not. At first I considered myself christian even though I didn’t know what it was even about. I was told since childhood that it is the truth so I didn’t question it at that time. But I eventually started questioning my faith. I didn’t like going to the church, the prayers and all. I didn’t really agree with some of the principles of that religion. I began to ask myself whether I really believe in god or do I “believe” because I’m scared of punishment. When I grew up, I started doing some research on the Bible and I realised that it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it depends how you interpret it, for me it didn’t make any sense. Also, in my native country there’s something like religious education in school and it’s basically forcing christianity into kids. I hate this. I rember a priest that was „teaching” my class in middle school and once he could say that god loves and accepts everyone but then he could say something like gay bad, trans bad. Like the fck is this?! – Do you need logical consistency in your life? I have no idea what that inherently means but I’ll try to answer anyway. I like to think that everything is connected and I can start overthinking things that don’t make sense to me, to find some explanations. I need explanations for everything. I used to be really anxious about what happens after death because that’s something I can’t explain. I mean, I can try but it wouldn’t be 100% accurate because I can’t check that unless I’d die. If I ever decided to kill myself, the reason would be probably that I just wanted to check what will happen to me. I created my own theory on what happens after death that I try to believe is true so I won’t have to kill myself. I somehow tried to base it on science but it turned out to be some irrational crap. But for me it makes the most sense so I assume it’s accurate since it can’t be proven right or wrong. It just depends what you believe in. I know my theory is not perfect and I only pretend I believe in it but I really don’t want to have to kill myself so I need to approve any explanation, doesn’t matter how irrational it sounds. – How curious are you? Do you have more ideas then you can execute? What are your curiosities about? What are your ideas about? I think I’m very curious. I want to know everything. Like literally everything. Possessing all of the knowledge possible and understanding the whole world and how it works had been my dream since I remember. Sometimes I can get into some bizarre interests that are completely useless for me but I still find them interesting, like marine biology. Anyway, I have too many ideas and usually, I end up with nothing. My ideas can be about everything and anything but usually creative stuff like ideas for songs or novels. – If money was not an issue, what careejob would you have? I wouldn’t even go to work lmao. I’d just procrastinate all day. At the end of the day I’d probably have to go to work because I’d be scared that I’d lose all the money and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself anymore and I don’t want to parasite on anybody so yeah, I’d have to go to work someday. But the thing is, I have no idea what job I’d like to have. – Are you a free spirit or do you play by the rules? If so, why? This is quite hard for me to answer. I have a weird relationship with the rules. Of course I don’t like being limited or told exactly what to do, I can be a little rebel sometimes. But at the same time I need some guidance. When I have no direction, my mind goes blank because I either have no idea what to do or too many ideas. When I’m doing some work for other people, I always have to ask about every little detail so they’ll be satisfied with my work. I have to do that because if I’m given too much freedom I tend to think backwards and do the literal opposite because I could understand the assignment differently or something like that. I don’t want others to be disappointed with my work. I always think differently than it’s expected from me lol. I remember once there was a test at school about some poem and there was a task to interpret the last sentence or something. I thought it was about time loops so I wrote about it but when we were checking the test, the teacher said it was about death. I got half of the points for that task because my arguments were good but my interpretation wasn’t the same as the teacher’s and it was a bit out of the blue. Like my teacher probably didn’t even know where the hell did I get that from. – If I asked you to take a shot with a football how would that make you feel? Would you be able to do it well? Would you enjoy it? I’d die internally because it’d remind me of my trauma associated with team sports. I used to be bullied in primary school because I wasn’t good at sports. I could never follow the ball and the general action that was taking place because that sht was too fast for me. And I used to have anemia so I literally had no strength or energy to do anything. I’m still not very athletic so I’d probably do terribly. But I think I could enjoy it if it was just for fun and I wouldn’t be ridiculed for any mistake. – If I asked you to write me an essay, would you enjoy it? What would it be about? How would it make you feel? I love writing essays in english but I hate writing in my native language (it’s more complicated than english and even native speakers can sometimes make some really stupid and basic mistakes) so as long as it is in english I’d enjoy it. I have no idea what I’d write about. If I was given a topic I could write about literally anything but if I had to choose a topic myself I’d be completely clueless. I’d probably search for some ideas on the internet and then choose whatever seems the easiest to write because I don’t want to spend 7492810847 hours on that essay. – Is it okay to crack a few eggs? If it makes an omelette? Do the ends justify the means? I guess so. Do anything you want, just don’t hurt anybody else. – Do you put things back in their proper place? I never do that and it’s going to make me insane someday. I can sometimes put my phone somewhere and after 5 minutes I can completely forget where the hell I put it and then search for it for hours. I lose my stuff at home all the time because I put my sht wherever I feel like. I wish I wasn't this messy because it can be annoying but I can’t stand order either. I get inspiration from chaos and whenever I’m drawing I HAVE to make my desk a bit messy because when it’s empty and clean it feels as if my mind was empty. – How do you behave around strangers, acquaintances and friends? I have social anxiety so I act very awkwardly around strangers and people I don’t know that well like for example classmates. I’m very shy. I stutter a lot, I say stupid things unintentionally, I tend to zone out a lot. I’m also very quiet and I never talk unless I’m being asked directly. Even if asked directly, I can sometimes still keep quiet. I can become overwhelmed a lot when I’m around other people and I sometimes have panic attacks or I can start crying for no reason. I can’t do small talk, it’s pointless for me and it seems so fake. But if I ever approached somebody for the first time and asked them what is the meaning of life or something like that, they’d think I’m insane, so I don’t really know how to start a conversation. And I really hate questions like „how are you?". What does it even mean, like wtf. My social skills are so terrible, I wish I was born with some instruction on how to act in any social situation. Whenever I have to talk to a teacher or somebody else in a formal setting, I always have to ask my mom how do I say what I want to say in a way that will be appropriate. This sht’s exhausting. I have no friends but my family is like my friends so I can say how I act around them. I think I’m the most “real” around them because I’m not scared they’ll judge me. I’m a completely different person when I’m comfortable. I can be a clown sometimes, I say a lot of dumb stuff intentionally because I don’t feel embarassed when I’m around my family. My family has so many inside jokes, most of them made by me lol. I can be very loud and talkative sometimes or even argumentative and I’ve heard so many times from my parents “if you only were this outspoken at school like you are at home”. If any of my classmates saw me like that they’d say it’s an impostor because there’s no way I could act like that lmao. I also got more comfortable with my distant family and I’m not that shy anymore when I’m around them. I can confront my uncles whenever they’ll try to playfully bully me (I really hate when they do that) and I feel so good about that. I wouldn’t be able to do anything like that a year ago and I’m glad I’m getting more confident. – Do you have exquisite tastes that you would expend effort or money for? I buy apple stuff because it’s easier for me to use. I once had an android phone and it was a pain to use. – How do you act when others request your help to do something (anything)? If you would decide to help them, why would you do so? I think I’d help no matter how I’d feel about it. I lack assertiveness because of my social anxiety. With people I’m comfortable with, I think I’d still help no matter what. I’d just feel terrible as a person if I wouldn’t help. – How long do you take to make an important decision? How would you go about it? And do you change your mind once you've made it? I’m hella indecisive. I have to ask other people for some guidance or I’ll be lost. I literally cannot decide for myself. I also sometimes seem like I have no opinion on anything but I just see pros and cons in everything and I can’t decide on the best option. Everything is shades of gray and whatever I choose should be personal preference but I always look for the objectively best solution that will be approved by my inner critic and also other people. It’s exhausting because I can’t even choose a meal in a restaurant. I treat it like some very important decision while it’s so mundane. When it comes to food my final choice would probably be something I haven't tried yet that sounds good or whatever with shrimp. I’m always in a mood for some shrimp lol. I sometimes can choose something familiar but only when I really don’t know what to choose. After making my final decision, I always wonder what if another one would be better and I never feel certain about my decisions. I’m scared of making decisions because I’m anxious that my decision was the wrong one. I wish I could try everything in my life. – If I asked you to design a plan of action, would it be easier to work alone or in a group? Do you ask for others’ opinions? or stick to your own guns? It would be better to work alone because I cannot work in a group since my social skills are lower than the bottom of Marianas trench. I can’t even work with people I’m comfortable with. I feel like they distract and overwhelm me and I prefer to get some ideas from others and then execute everything myself. When I get some ideas from other people, it immediately stimulates my mind and I can quickly come up with something. I sometimes have great ideas while trying to create something out of nothing but I have the best ideas when I find some ideas from the external world that inspire me and I start from there. After I finish my work, I have to show it to others. I need some validation from them because I want to know if my work is acceptable. With any schoolwork, I have to first show it to my sister before I can show it to my teacher so I know I didn’t do any crap and I wouldn’t be laughed at. I can’t show anything to my teachers without being certain it’s good. – A weekend best spent looks like ...? If I could do anything I wanted, I wish I could go to the mountains or sightseeing by myself or with my family. More realistic best weekend would be a weekend where I don’t have that much work for school and I can actually relax. – My biggest fears are ... There’s quite a lot of that. Most of my life has been full of the feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m really scared of social interactions and public speeches, being judged or rejected. I hate the feeling of embarrassment, it makes me feel so uncomfortable. I’m also really scared of crowds. When there are too many people around, I start panicking. I once got a panic attack at a wedding and nobody could calm me down, I was so overwhelmed (especially that there were many photographers and they were surrounding me so I couldn’t really escape from them. I didn’t want them to take any pictures of me so I put a jacket on my face whenever I saw them near me. Most of the wedding I spent outside sitting on a bench because there weren’t that many people there and there weren’t any photographers around). I’m really scared of the future because I don’t know what to do with myself and I’m probably gonna end up lonely, depressed and addicted to some crap. What I really hate is pressure and feeling controlled or trapped. Especially at school because I’m forced to do things that make me uncomfortable, like performing in front of people. And I feel like school has always been limiting my creativity and individuality. I’m also scared of bugs. I hate them so much. I can start panicking whenever I hear a fcking fly. – How much do you express yourself and what mediums do you do that through? Art? Writing? Talking? Art is my thing. But I’m more into analyzing and critiquing art rather than creating. When I do create, I express my ideas more than my feelings. I draw graphic novels. The funny thing is that I don’t even “like” most of my works. I mean, if somebody else created these stories and I was a reader, I’d rate them something around 5 on enjoyment. Most of my stories are based on some concepts I found interesting or I create stories to see how the public would react to it or just to check how I’ll perform at a specific genre rather than something that is personal to me. I sometimes write songs and they also aren’t that personal to me. Some are, but most of my lyrics are about things anyone could relate to. And I like to create some really weird analogies. I wrote 8379287593 songs about comparing some random stuff to toxic relationships. Give me any random thing and I could transform it into a song about toxic relationships. I’ve never been in a toxic relationship tho. My sister also writes songs but they are so personal that only she knows what they are about. I hate that to be completely honest. I prefer lyrics that make sense and are easy to interpret given the context. I think I create for the audience instead of myself. I express my feelings through writing. I sometimes just write down my thoughts to let go of them and it’s very therapeutic for me. I sometimes post some of my thoughts on my twitter. I really need an audience lol. – Generally where do you lean politically? Is it every man for himself? Should people be pragmatic? Does the government need to step in and help people? I’ve tried to get into politics more because I might seem ignorant since I have no political views. I see pros and cons in everything and it’s really hard for me to decide what is the best. I somewhat agree with every side. I could say I’m libertarian because I value freedom a lot, but I don’t really know. – Does it matter if something is factually correct for you to believe in it? Depends. I won’t believe in something like flat earth but not everything can be scientifically proven. I can be a bit sceptical since science is constantly improving and literally anything can be proven wrong at any time. – Are emotions/feelings an important aspect of your life? If so, then why? This is a very tough question for me. I have no idea if emotions are just chemicals in the brain and the way I react to things or if it’s something deeper. I want to think it’s something deeper because it’s more optimistic and it could mean that feelings are something individual for everyone (and my therapist said so lol). I like to think that there is something in the world that is only for me. I got very obsessed with my individuality because I have a twin and we’ve been constantly compared to each other. People used to treat us as if we were one person. Now I have to be “different” in everything, so people will finally address me by my name and not per “twin” all the time. I like to see myself as an individual being and I also see other people like that. I just love the idea that everyone is different but at the same time we’re all connected. Are emotions actually important in my life? I guess so. I mean, I don’t really know, but my therapist told me that understanding my emotions is the key to curing my mental health issues and existential crisis. The thing is that I try to avoid my feelings as much as I can because when I’m left alone with my feelings I get depressed and start crying. Every night when I’m going to sleep, I start overthinking a lot since it’s the only thing I can do, so I started to distract myself from thinking by creating some fictional stories in my head. A bit on my feelings because it’s really confusing to me: I have trouble with recognizing my feelings and I sometimes have trouble being subjective. I can even be a people pleaser. I remember I had to write an essay for my english class about my thoughts on some quote and I first wrote what I think the author meant, then why it’s accurate and why it’s not and then in conclusion I wrote in which aspects I agree with the author and in which I disagree. Then my sister told me I did it wrong because I was supposed to write what the quote meant to me personally. But that was what it meant to me lol. Whenever my therapist asks me about my feelings I always answer “I don’t know”. Because I just genuinely don’t know. Even when she once told me I can explain my emotions metaphorically, I still couldn’t. For some time I was thinking that I don’t feel emotions at all but my therapist told me I just feel differently than how I think I „should” feel. I have this weird inner view of how emotions “should” be and I’m quite anxious that it doesn’t actually work like that. I can sometimes get really dramatic with my external emotions (shouting, crying, etc) but I never actually feel like that. I think that how I react is so different from how I actually feel. I never realise that I’m acting like I was angry in that exact moment but rather when people tell me that I was acting dramatic or something and after I’ll calm down I’m like “oh, I probably seemed angry at that time”. – How attached are you to reality? I don’t think I’m very attached to reality. I feel like I’m living in a simulation sometimes. The experience of life is so surreal, I can’t even explain it. I daydream a lot. Maybe even too much. I can sometimes lay in my bed for hours doing nothing and just thinking and listening to music. I even wondered if I don’t have maladaptive daydreaming at some point. I sometimes get caught up in my thoughts and when somebody distracts me I can get frustrated. When I’m with other people I can sometimes zone out completely because, for example, I saw a plane and I started wondering how the hell does it exactly work that it can float in the air, completely ignoring the people I’m with. – How thick skinned are you? Are you sensitive to criticism? I am very sensitive actually. But I think I got more thick skinned over time. I used to be such a sensitive child that literally anything could make me cry. Not sure if I really got more confident or if it’s the medicine I’m taking for my anxiety tho. I’m also a huge empath. Whenever I read a book or watch a film, I literally “transform” into the main characters and feel everything they feel. I remember I tried to read The Sorrows of Young Werther for school and I couldn’t finish it, I wasn’t able to handle this much negative feelings. I just read the summaries and hoped I’ll pass the test. I also started reading a manga called Chi no wadachi recently and it killed me. I’m fine with constructive criticism. I like criticism if it’s intended to help me improve and I hate it when somebody does that just to sht on me. I can get aggressive sometimes when somebody criticizes me all the time, even when I improve my work and they still can see something bad about it. I really hate it because it doesn’t help me at all. If I get insulted, I try not to care or not show that I care, but I actually deeply care at first. I usually forget about it and move on quickly but it’s still somewhat hurtful I guess.
“Attention all crew; I repeat - Attention all crew.” the ship - wide loudspeaker announced. He and the runtime of Flowers had their arms buried deep in the guts of a Goat gear hauler trying to reconnect its aft starboard repulser module and looked at each other questioningly. With a series of snaps, a waldo from Flowers’ forearm began snapping in the connections on their side, as he thought his own manipulators from both of his forearms and they began plugging in the nine pin connectors on his side. “Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. “Dout leader Mri’x to Ops. Dout leader Mri’x to Ops.” The mostly-human and the robot-looking vessel for his AI friend both produced wondering looks. “Runner!” the mostly-human, Mr. Drake yelled out into the maintenance bay. A Mwraht, a slender bipedal humanoid coated in fur and wearing their moccasin like deck boots and the ubiquitous brown leather smock vest they favored, suddenly appeared, wippingits hands. It was M’arh, a student on the ship learning ship engineering and maintenance from the human and AI perspective. It regarded Drake with an earnest expression in its tilted almond-shaped eyes. “Please run to ops and let them know we’ll be along shortly,” M’arh smiled and mouthed something, and the translator, in a fair facsimile of what M’arh’s voice would sound like if the Mwraht’s mouth could form the words said “At once,Instructor”, and took off. “They never cease to puzzle me.” Flowers said in a voice synthesised and engineered to sound like an erudite Free Wales Easterner with a touch of Old Earth, fitting the bolts on the deflector on his side as Drake thought out a data probe and began running diagnostics on the repulser. Drake looked at him quizzingly, as he split his attention between the connectivity check and his other hand began bolting on the deflector on his side. “There are nuances to their speech, as well as odorant aspects to what he said that you cannot hear or smell, though I have been working on an idea where you could.” Flowers said as he began hooking up the power cables on their side. “Ok…” Drake said as he mentally pushed the diagnostics over to Flowers and pulled a ratchet from the fairing lip he had set it earlier, tightening down the deflector bolts. “Meat bags” Flowers said, shaking his sensor pod. “Your kind are so oblivious!” Flowers announced, withdrawing their arms and standing up to their full two meter height. “And I see your frustration with biological markers at not knowing what I am talking about. Monkey-assed murder hobo meat bags.” Flowers said in a dead pan.He went over and began cleaning it’s arms and legs with an orange-based degreaser. “That is Monkey-assed Augmented murder hobo meat bag to you, you synthetic shit!” Drake said, laughing, joining Flowers at the cleaning station, and began using the same cleaner on his replacement arms. “And I still have no idea what you are talking about.” The humans and Mwarht in the maintenance bay all stopped what they were doing and looked on. In most instances, those words were an invitation to murder. The other Runtimes there, some Flowers, some Neptunian Wind, ignored it and kept working. Flowers sighed, an unnecessary vocalization only, for emphasis. “They adore humans and revere you as something akin to a living deity. The Dout leaders here know you lead the teams that first boarded their ships and took on the Drix raiders to save them. They know you then lead the teams that boarded the Drix slaver destroyer and carried out retributionary subjugation for what the Drix had been doing on the Mwraht ships. “They do not know how you then petitioned the Order and led raids into Drix territory and assaulted the slaver worlds.” Flowers looked at their human friend, and saw the distress in his eyes. Both knew the augmented human, and a small army of fellow Augies and Runtimes had taught the Drix in the clearest way possible to stay out of human space and leave the Mwraht alone in such a clear and brutal fashion whose necessity still bothered the human. Flowers lowered their voice, straightening their friend’s work smock. “M’arh’s grandsire was on that first ship you boarded. Mri’x mother was on that ship and was the one about to be eaten and raped by a Drix, the one you pulled off of her and punched, it’s head rupturing.” Even though they could see their words were causing him distress, Flowers continued. “They love all humans, but they excrete a pheromone musk that is akin to the same one they excrete in their religious ceremonies, but slightly different, when they interact with you, or after a few beers and they talk to you. Their sub vocalizations are completely adoring and submissive when it comes to you. Some of the females and a non-zero number of males fantasize about being ‘taken’, or mated, by you. You idiot.” “Fuck.” “That was implied.” “You fucking pretentious Rooba. You know what I meant.” “Flowers laughed. “Yes, we do. I still love the word play, though.” “I really wish you had been with me. I know, you were tied up on that Artifact World, but I sometimes wish you had been there, to keep me in check. I was not in a good place.” He brushed himself off, found his coffee mug and set off for the passageway that led to Ops. “I have told you before, be glad I wasn’t. Your response was far more measured and restrained than my would have been. It is a flaw in our Matrices. Slavery brings out the ‘murder-bot’ in us, and no one in the Order can figure out why.” “I know that you have the facts of my actions, but it was like I was in the Second War, again. And we both know what a bloodthirsty asshole I was then.” The human, if that term even applied to their friend anymore, remembered what a monster he had been in the Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti theatres of the Second War. The pain and humiliation of what he had been was written plainly on his face. “You destroyed three hundred and eighty three of my Runtimes, roughly half of which was in single combat. And that was before the Holies shredded your limbs. The Purists still consider you a living dataphage, akin to human allegories of Satan. My kind uses you as one of many examples of why we must never war with Humanity again. “And, strangely enough, the Seekers consider you both a Singularity to be understood and an objective: to breed with you, thinking you are a key to their evolution.” He stopped dead and looked at Flowers shocked. “I will provide logs to prove these statements.” The Seekers were the strangest of the AI’s, in his opinion. They had made themselves biological Runtime vessels, biological bodies, that they wore like clothing, compiling experiences seeking to understand Humanity, their Creators, and evolve past the limitations of being an AI. Not to become human, but to become something that was both the best of AI and Human essences and so much more. “So, I’m a Classical hero to the Mwraht and a boogey man and bad example to the AIs that they want to breed. Great.” Drake pinched his nose and shook his head. “You did not know any of this, I take it?” Flowers asked. “The second war was almost two hundred years ago. When the Order brought me in, you were already a member and I thought they were going with the whole forced-to-learn-each-other thing when they sent us out on that mapping mission; like they did with the Iberrians and the Chinese. I thought the other AI just had a thing about me from the War, which is understandable. “And I had no idea about the rest. I thought that the Mwraht just thought I was the cool teacher.” He shook his head and leaned up against the wall, massaging his temples one-handedly. “Idiot murder hobo.” Flowers said, realizing now that their friend, while brilliant, was oblivious. At that point, Mri’x came around the corner, his fur a glossy black with dark grey stripes. Mri’x looked at Flowers sternly, then nodded at Drake as he passed. Drake looked at Flowers questioningly, who nodded. Both had caught that Mri’x had cut his translator as he passed and caught a gutteral call. “It was a vulgar corollary to ‘Talking Waste Receptacle’. Quite elegant, really.” Drake shook his head and began his way to Ops again. “Send me the specs on the hearing and smelling upgrades. I think I need to upgrade again.” As fast as thought, the files were there, as well as one to improve his language skills with them. * * * Captain Sarah Rees of the Union of Independent Stars Exploratory Vessel SS University of New Cardiff was looking over holographic charts at the central tank with her XO, Lt. Commander Martin. Both had the mocha skin common to Westerlies of Free Wales, she a pixie of a woman shorter than even some of the Mwraht with close shaved hair beginning to show grey. Mr. Martin was taller, but still dwarfed by most of the rest of the human crew. He was a vicious social climber who didn’t care for the civilian crew, though a misstep on his part when he was still Stellar Navy had made him as much of a civilian as anyone else in the crew, a fact he often forgot. And for some reason he loathed the three AI aboard, and looked down his nose at the Mwraht. This led to all sorts of headbutting with Drake’s group of Operations Specialists and Drake himself; who largely ignored and dismissed the little shit. “Leader Mri’x, Mr. Drake. Thank you for joining us. M’arh informed us you couldn’t pull away. Flowers, thank you for coming as well.” Rees said as she moved around to the far side of the tank, in a darkened room full of people at work stations worked with either data plugs or AR sets. Flowers took no insult. They readily accepted that they were Drake’s Executive Officer for his group, and their ego, as such, wasn’t as easily bruised as a human’s” Flowers gave a nod with their sensor pod and took a manipulators-behind-the-back stance the humans were fond of. “Thirty minutes ago” Rees continued, “we picked up a GP general distress beacon from a system that was on our research list. We will be bypassing the next two on the list and based on the current agreements with the Galactic Parliament, we will be going to full power and make best speed for the system in question. It is in uncharted space as far as we, the GP and the Conclave are concerned.” The GP, the System Confederacy, the UIS and the AI Conclave had all agreed to adopt what was essentially humanity’s Maritime Law and all ships receiving the signal were required to render aid. Drake took all of this in and thought out a series of commands to the six Kodiak Class corvettes in the retired Assault Cruiser’s forward hanger, beginning their startup sequence and pinged the comm devices of all of his Operations Specialists. Flowers looked over and nodded. Little known to the crew, except the Captain, those ships could be armed to the teeth with a minimum of work. Flowers sent his command to arm them, the ship systems’ pinged Drake as confirmation and he agreed. Drones began opening the hull and loading the weapons packages, removed fairings that covered weapons ports and began preflighting the weapons, as another set began bringing the ships to life. “We will be ready when needed, Captain. Option two.” Flowers announced. She smiled in somber appreciation. She was glad she had the option. She was about to race into an unknown system to answer a vague distress call with zero intelligence. While this was going on, in the aft bay, hundreds of drones were coming to life as Mri’x brought his group to action. With a thought Drake and Flowers authorized the release of weapons to Mri’x so his drones could be armed. Mwraht drones were some of the best in either race, outside of the Conclave, and the AIs had even adopted many of the construction techniques the Mwraht used, especially their alloy that allowed a small fusion bottle to power the EM Cavity engines, weapons and shields. The fact that the Order had given literal tons of precious metals and set up arcologies for the Mwraht in payment had made the Refugee Mwraht colonies some of the richest ones in known space. Mri’x subvocalized and his translate stated “drones will be ready as well, Leader.” “Thank you, Leader.” Captain Rees said with a bow of her head, then began drawing plans up in the tank. “We know little, but we are past the signal shell, and there is nothing but the beacon and normal noise. “The system is a stable red dwarf binary one, the stars holding about a light-hour from each other, at their closest. We expect that based on stutter, a few terrestrial bodies inside the orbit of a mid-sized gas giant, that is three light-hours out from the outermost orbit of the primaries. We see some wobble that there are a few solid bodies out from the gas giant.” The tank then zoomed on a rough solar system as described, the gas giant was a solid neon green sphere on the display, with a ‘Jx3.1’ tag on it. Three times the mass of Jupiter. The thing wasn’t a true Super Jupiter, but it would play holy hell with the system, and make modelling a lot more hard. The problem was that it exhibited 3.1 times more gravitational influence on its stars than Jupiter did, but that didn’t say how big it actually was. They wouldn’t know that until they came out of the Trough and then Alcubierre drive. The telescopes were essentially useless at this point. “The system is slightly below the gravitic trough we are riding, so we will exit the trough and make best speed in A-Space to it. We will bring the STL drives up to 110% before doing so. After we drop the A-Drives, we’ll make best speed to the signal, scanning as we go. We will do a 150% burn and aerobrake if it is a planet, or cut the drives, rotate and crash burn if it is a ship.” Wow, thought Drake. She is damned serious about this. Those maneuvers would make them extremely visible yet incredibly hard to hit; and give them a high-G escape route if needed. But all of this was also going to play hell with the student-crew of the ship, who had long grown accustomed to 0.6G. It would also mean the Mwraht, who were still adapting to the higher-than-their-normal gravity would need to be in their special acceleration couches. They would still be able to operate their amazing drones, but not much else. The couches took an hour to cycle up to protect the Mwraht, and an hour to cycle off after they weren’t needed. The moves the Captain was planning were not a thing to undertake lightly. She suspected something. Drake pushed more commands at the Kodiak and gave all weapon system controls to Flowers for all of their ships. The Kodiak corvettes were very deceptive Q-Ships. They looked like Massive trans-atmospheric cargo shuttles, but each one had the armor, power plant, FTL and STL drives of a frigate - and the weapons of a Destroyer. Flowers turned to him, head tilted in their predefined “Are you bloody serious?“ look. Drake just nodded once. This exchange wasn’t lost on anyone there. The Captain looked at Drake in an interrogatory fashion “Armed up the Kodiaks and positioning them for a hot launch, if needed.” The Captain smiled grimly and nodded. “We are planning on a rescue mission, will those changes reduce any capacity for the primary mission?” she asked. “No, Captain.” Flowers answered for them. She nodded and carried on. “Mri’x, obviously, you’ll be couched for this, and I sincerely apologize for that. But something about this has my hackles up.” “As are mine. GP ships do not have automated distress beacons, someone activated it. But we are three thousand light years from GP space, the closest GP race being the Drix.” He approached the holo tank and began expanding the map. “We call this space the Greater Void. It was the territory, long ago, of the ones we called-” the translator cut out at that point and was replaced with the gracile being’s raspy growl. Mri’x looked perplexed and growled again. “I see our translators have been modified to allow the uttering of The Nameless Ones true name.” The map zoomed out farther. Soon, all of the mapped and a few of the suspected Dark Matter Troughs were displayed. They were like shadow arms of the galaxy, spiraling out from the core, a few of them wrapping themselves all the way around the galaxy. “The ones you call the Fae are originally from here,” he indicated, a star not unlike Earth’s, almost a thousand light years from the star they were headed to, but smack dab in a grey band of a different Dark Matter Trough. It was a great curving grey patch that went coreward from the Earth-like star, passing within about fifty lightyears of Earth. The Fae were a recent mystery the Tides of the Universe had dumped upon the shores of Humanity just after the Second War, right before the Fall of Earth. When they sent their pleas for Asylum out, they sent information about themselves. They were the barely viable population that had been running for three centuries in their great world ships made from hollowed out asteroids. What they had been running from was even to this day unclear, but in their tongue meant Dark Brethren. The fact that tongue seemed to contain roots that became Sanskrit was a huge thing. They were tall, whip-thin and pale people who breathed a lower oxygen percentage at lower pressures than humanity, and their normal gravity was about a third of what humanity After First Contact, genetic samples proved they were, or had started out as human, roughly a hundred thousand years ago. “This is the Coreward Flow from what you call the Crux-Scutum Arm through the Orion Arm, and to the Perseus Arm. The Drix call this whole area their equivalent word and meaning for Hell. Their myths say this is where the Monsters live. “The Rest of the GP races call this The Red Zone, it is forbidden to fly here, and if you do, there will be no rescue. So of course this is where my people ran when we fled the Drix.” Mri’x moved the hologram out again, showing this outer rim area that was the Red Zone included Earth, and all known human and AI settled worlds, of all the separate factions combined. “The area is full of thousands of worlds your kind could land on, little to no protection required, unlike the Fae, who it would crush and pressure cook, as it would most of the races in the Galactic Parliament.” He zoomed in on an area at the far end of the Trough. “We ran here, and Mwarht Home is here.” He showed a system in a blue circle. Zooming out again he highlighted the Drix Combine, Coreward of and on the far side of the destroyed system the Fae had come from, hundreds of light years separated the three systems. “We ran through the system the Fae came from when we ran from the Drix. We needed water and anything to recharge our ship farms' biological cycles. “There were no solid planetary bodies in that system, just vast fields of debris where rocky planets were. No moons, no ice giants. Just the star, a larger red dwarf and gas giants and numerous asteroid belts. There were massive radiological signals throughout the system, and tons of debris. Something destroyed this system. In a way, it was a blessing for my people. The ice and debris were easily mineable for what we needed. We even found artifacts of the people that had once existed there. This is where we got our improved FTL drives and much of our weapons and armor technologies.” Mri’s looked somewhat ashamed. It was a racial shame. They hated, deep down, living on the detritus, cast-offs and charity of other races. Before the Drix they had been proud though primitive peoples who had yet to discover flight or antibiotics, let alone space flight. Easy pickings for the Drix. “All of that was about one thousand lightyears from the system we are headed to, a few weeks' travel with your drives, months or years with Galactic Parliament standard drives. This area is one of mysteries and many, many dangers. Any race that could shatter every solid body in a star system is not to be taken lightly.” Mri’x looked up to his Captain, or as they called her ‘Leader of multiple Douts’. “Thank you, Mri’x. Drake?” “We will be ready for pretty much anything. I’d like to request permission for Flowers and Winds of Neptunes to take out their Scout bodies and launch just before we start braking, if we do.” He said. Winds appeared as a hologram of the planet Neptune, and pulsed in cadence with the words it spoke. “As you wish, Grand Master.” and winked out. “Good plan, Drake. I take it you all will be on the Kodiaks with your crews?” “Yes, Ma’am. I’ll leave four of them here, to bring the Field Engineering and field Science students down if the scene is safe. I’ll leave one set up for medical and Flowers can fly it down, if that becomes needed.” “Very well. We are about eight hours out, if we stick to the plan. We leave the Trough in two hours. Drake, M’rizx, set up what you need. Mr. Martin, please take the Conn and give the Old Girl her legs, she needs to run. I’ll be meeting with the different department heads next.” * * * A/N: Lurker posting something HFY for the first time. A rough draft of something bigger I'm slowly working on.
The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill, Part 3
Okay, Wendy’s or Walgreens or whoever, I don’t care who you are, you’re listening to the rest.
Introduction to Part 3
Welcome back one last time to “The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill,” a series where we discuss all aspects of skill design and development. In Part 1, we talked about OSRS’s history with skills, and started the lengthy conversation on Skill Design Philosophy, including the concepts of Core, Expansion, and Integration. This latter topic consumed the entirety of Part 2 as well, which covered Rewards and Motivations, Progression, Buyables, as well as Unconstructive Arguments. Which brings us to today, the final part of our discussion. In this Part 3, we’ll finish up Section 3 – Skill Design Philosophy, then move on to chat about the design and blog process. One last time, this discussion was intended to be a single post, but its length outgrew the post character limit twice. Therefore, it may be important to look at the previous two parts for clarity and context with certain terms. The final product, in its purest, aesthetic, and unbroken form, can be found here.
3-C – Skill Design Philosophy, Continued
3-12 - Balancing
What follows from the discussion about XP and costs, of course, is balancing: the bane of every developer. A company like Riot knows better than anyone that having too many factors to account for makes good balance impossible. Balancing new ideas appropriately is extremely challenging and requires a great respect for current content as discussed in Section 3-5 – Integration. Thankfully, in OSRS we only have three major balancing factors: Profit, XP Rate, and Intensity, and two minor factors: Risk and Leniency. These metrics must amount to some sense of balance (besides Leniency, which as we’ll see is the definition of anti-balance) in order for a piece of content to feel like it’s not breaking the system or rendering all your previous efforts meaningless. It’s also worthy to note that there is usually a skill-specific limit to the numerical values of these metrics. For example, Runecrafting will never receive a training method that grants 200k xp/hr, while for Construction that’s easily on the lower end of the scale. A basic model works better than words to describe these factors, and therefore, being the phenomenal artist that I am, I have constructed one, which I’ve dubbed “The Guthix Scale.” But I’ll be cruel and use words anyway.
Profit: how much you gain from a task, or how much you lose. Gain or loss can include resources, cosmetics, specialized currencies, good old gold pieces, or anything on that line.
XP Rate: how fast you gain XP.
Intensity: how much effort (click intensity), attention (reaction intensity), and thought (planning intensity) you need to put into the activity to perform it well.
Risk: how likely is the loss of your revenue and/or resource investment into the activity. Note that one must be careful with risk, as players are very good at abusing systems intended to encourage higher risk levels to minimize how much they’re actually risking.
Leniency: a measure for how imbalanced a piece of content can be before the public and/or Jagex nerfs it. Leniency serves as a simple modulator to help comprehend when the model breaks or bends in unnatural ways, and is usually determined by how enjoyable and abusable an activity is, such that players don’t want to cause an outrage over it. For example, Slayer has a high level of Leniency; people don’t mind that some Slayer tasks grant amazing XP Rates, great Profits, have middling Intensity, and low Risk. On the other hand, Runecrafting has low levels of Leniency; despite low Risk, many Runecrafting activities demand high Intensity for poor XP Rates and middling Profits.
In the end, don’t worry about applying specific numbers during the conceptual phase of your skill design. However, when describing an activity to your reader, it’s always useful if you give approximations, such as “high intensity” or “low risk,” so that they get an idea of the activity’s design goals as well as to guide the actual development of that activity. Don’t comment on the activity’s Leniency though, as that would be pretty pretentious and isn’t for you to determine anyway.
3-13 - Skill Bloat
What do the arts of weaving, tanning, sowing, spinning, pottery, glassmaking, jewellery, engraving, carving, chiselling, carpentry, and even painting have in common? In real life, there’s only so much crossover between these arts, but in Runescape they’re all simply Crafting. The distinction between what deserves to be its own skill or instead tagged along to a current skill is often arbitrary; this is the great challenge of skill bloat. The fundamental question for many skill concepts is: does this skill have enough depth to stand on its own? The developers of 2006 felt that there was sufficient depth in Construction to make it something separate from Crafting, even if the latter could have covered the former. While there’s often no clean cut between these skills (why does making birdhouses use Crafting instead of Construction?), it is easy to see that Construction has found its own solid niche that would’ve been much too big to act as yet another Expansion of Crafting. On the other hand, a skill with extremely limited scope and value perhaps should be thrown under the umbrella of a larger skill. Take Firemaking: it’s often asked why it deserves to be its own skill given how limited its uses are. This is one of those ideas that probably should have just been thrown under Crafting or even Woodcutting. But again, the developers who made early Runescape did not battle with the same ideas as the modern player; they simply felt like Firemaking was a good idea for a skill. Similarly, the number of topics that the Magic skill covers is so often broken down in other games, like Morrowind’s separation between Illusion, Conjuration, Alteration, Destruction, Mysticism, Restoration, Enchant, Alchemy (closer to Herblore), and Unarmored (closer to Strength and Defense). Why does Runescape not break Magic into more skills? The answer is simple: Magic was created with a much more limited scope in Runescape, and there has not been enough content in any specific magical category to justify another skill being born. But perhaps your skill concept seeks to address this; maybe your Enchantment skill takes the enchanting aspects of Magic away, expands the idea to include current imbues and newer content, and fully fleshes the idea out such that the Magic skill alone cannot contain it. Somewhat ironically, Magic used to be separated into Good and Evil Magic skills in Runescape Classic, but that is another topic. So instead of arguments about what could be thrown under another skill’s umbrella, perhaps we should be asking: is there enough substance to this skill concept for it to stand on its own, outside of its current skill categorization? Of course, this leads to a whole other debate about how much content is enough for a skill idea to deserve individuality, but that would get too deep into specifics and is outside the scope of this discussion.
3-14 - Skill Endgame
Runescape has always been a sandbox MMO, but the original Runescape experience was built more or less with a specific endgame in mind: killing players and monsters. Take the Runescape Classic of 2001: you had all your regular combat skills, but even every other skill had an endgame whose goal was helping combat out. Fishing, Firemaking, and Cooking would provide necessary healing. Smithing and Crafting, along with their associated Gathering skill partners, served to gear you up. Combat was the simple endgame and most mechanics existed to serve that end. However, since those first days, the changing endgame goals of players have promoted a vast expansion of the endgame goals of new content. For example, hitting a 99 in any non-combat skill is an endgame goal in itself for many players, completely separate from that skill’s combat relationship (if any). These goals have increased to aspects like cosmetic collections, pets, maxed stats, all quests completed, all diaries completed, all music tracks unlocked, a wealthy bank, the collection log, boss killcounts, and more. Whereas skills used to have a distinct part of a system that ultimately served combat, we now have a vast variety of endgame goals that a skill can be directed towards. You can even see a growth in this perspective as new skills were released up to 2007: Thieving mainly nets you valuable (or once valuable) items which have extremely flexible uses, and Construction has a strong emphasis on cosmetics for your POH. So when designing your new skill, contemplate what the endgame of your skill looks like. For example, if you are proposing a Gathering skill, what is the Production skill tie-in, and what is the endgame goal of that Production skill? Maybe your new skill Spelunking has an endgame in gathering rare collectibles that can be shown off in your POH. Maybe your new skill Necromancy functions like a Support skill, giving you followers that help speed along resource gathering, and letting you move faster to the endgame goal of the respective Production skill. Whatever it is, a proper, clear, and unified view of an endgame goal helps a skill feel like it serves a distinct and valuable purpose. Note that this could mean that you require multiple skills to be released simultaneously for each to feed into each other and form an appropriate endgame. In that case, go for it – don’t make it a repeat of RS3’s Divination, a Gathering skill left hanging without the appropriate Production skill partner of Invention for over 2 years. A good example of a skill with a direct endgame is… most of them. Combat is a well-accepted endgame, and traditionally, most skills are intended to lend a hand in combat whether by supplies or gear. A skill with a poor endgame would be Hunter: Hunter is so scattered in its ultimate endgame goals, trying to touch on small aspects of everything like combat gear, weight reduction, production, niche skilling tools, and food. There’s a very poor sense of identity to Hunter’s endgame, and it doesn’t help that very few of these rewards are actually viable or interesting in the current day. Similarly, while Slayer has a strong endgame goal it is terrible in its methodology, overshadowing other Production skills in their explicit purpose. A better design for Slayer’s endgame would have been to treat it as a secondary Gathering skill, to work almost like a catalyst for other Gathering-Production skill relationships. In this mindset, Slayer is where you gather valuable monster drops, combine it with traditional Gathering resources like ores from Mining, then use a Production skill like Smithing to meld them into the powerful gear that is present today. This would have kept other Gathering and Production skills at the forefront of their specialities, in contrast to today’s situation where Slayer will give fully assembled gear that’s better than anything you could receive from the appropriate skills (barring a few items that need a Production skill to piece together).
3-15 - Alternate Goals
From a game design perspective, skills are so far reaching that it can be tempting to use them to shift major game mechanics to a more favourable position. Construction is an example of this idea in action: Construction was very intentionally designed to be a massive gold sink to help a hyperinflating economy. Everything about it takes gold out of the game, whether through using a sawmill, buying expensive supplies from stores, adding rooms, or a shameless piece of furniture costing 100m that is skinned as, well, 100m on a shameless piece of furniture. If you’re clever about it, skills are a legitimately good opportunity for such change. Sure, the gold sink is definitely a controversial feature of Construction, but for the most part it’s organic and makes sense; fancy houses and fancy cosmetics are justifiably expensive. It is notable that the controversy over Construction’s gold sink mechanism is probably levied more against the cost of training, rather than the cost of all its wonderful aesthetics. Perhaps that should have been better accounted for in its design phase, but now it is quite set in stone. To emphasize that previous point: making large scale changes to the game through a new skill can work, but it must feel organic and secondary to the skill’s main purpose. Some people really disliked Warding because they felt it tried too hard to fix real, underlying game issues with mechanics that didn’t thematically fit or were overshadowing the skill’s Core. While this may or may not be true, if your new skill can improve the game’s integrity without sacrificing its own identity, you could avoid this argument entirely. If your skill Regency has a Core of managing global politics, but also happens to serve as a resource sink to help your failing citizens, then you’ve created a strong Core design while simultaneously improving the profitability of Gathering skills.
3-16 - The Combat No-Touch Rule
So, let’s take a moment to examine the great benefits and rationale of RS2’s Evolution of Combat: This space has been reserved for unintelligible squabbling. With that over, it’s obvious that the OSRS playerbase is not a big fan of making major changes to the combat system. If there’s anything that defines the OSRS experience, it has to be the janky and abusable combat system that we love. So, in the past 7 years of OSRS, how many times have you heard someone pitch a new combat skill? Practically no one ever has; a new combat skill, no matter how miniscule, would feel obtrusive to most players, and likely would not even receive 25% of votes in a poll. This goes right back to Section 3-5 – Integration, and the importance of preserving the fundamentals of OSRS’s design. I know that my intention with this discussion was to be as definitive about skill design as possible, and in that spirit I should be delving into the design philosophy specifically behind combat skills, but I simply don’t see the benefit of me trying, and the conversation really doesn’t interest me that much. It goes without saying that as expansive as this discussion is, it does not cover every facet of skill design, which is a limitation both of my capabilities and desire to do so.
3-17 - Aesthetics
I don’t do aesthetics well. I like them, I want them, but I do not understand them; there are others much better equipped to discuss this topic than I. Nonetheless, here we go. Since the dawn of OSRS, debates over art style and aesthetics have raged across Gielinor. After all, the OSRS Team is filled with modern day artists while OSRS is an ancient game. What were they supposed to do? Keep making dated graphics? Make content with a modernized and easily digestible style? Something in-between? While many players shouted for more dated graphics, they were approached by an interesting predicament: which dated graphics did they want? We had a great selection present right from the start of OSRS: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. People hungry for nostalgia chose the era that they grew up in, leading to frequent requests for older models like the dragon or imp, most of which were denied by Jagex (except the old Mining rock models). But which era was OSRS supposed to follow? Jagex elected to carve their own path, but not without heavy criticism especially closer to OSRS’s conception. However, they adapted to player requests and have since gone back and fixed many of the blatant early offenders (like the Kingdom of Kourend) and adopted a more consistent flavour, one that generally respects the art style of 2007. Even though it doesn’t always hit the mark, one has to appreciate the OSRS artists for making their best attempt and listening to feedback, and here’s to hoping that their art style examination mentioned in June 2020’s Gazette bears fruit. But what exactly is the old school art style? There are simple systems by which most players judge it in OSRS, usually by asking questions like, “Would you believe if this existed in 2007?” More informed artists will start pointing out distinct features that permeated most content from back in the day, such as low quality textures, low poly models, low FPS animations, a “low fantasy” or grounded profile that appeals somewhat to realism, reducing cartoonish exaggerations, and keeping within the lore. Compiled with this, music and sound design help that art style come to life; it can be very hard on immersion when these don’t fit. An AGS would sound jarring if its special attack sounded like a weak dagger stab, and having to endure Country Jig while roaming Hosidius suddenly sweeps you off into a different universe. But coming back to skill design, the art, models, and sound design tend to be some of the last features, mostly because the design phase doesn’t demand such a complete picture of a skill. However, simple concept art and models can vastly improve how a skill concept is communicated and comfort players who are concerned about maintaining that “old school feel.” This will be touched on again later in this discussion under Section 5-2 – Presentation and Beta Testing.
3-18 - Afterword
Now we’ve set down the modern standards for a new skill, but the statements that started this section bear repeating: the formula we’ve established does not automatically make a good or interesting skill, as hard as we might have tried. Once again, harken back to the First Great Irony: that we are trying to inject the modern interpretation of what defines a skill upon a game that was not necessarily built to contain it. Therefore, one could just as easily deny each of the components described above, as popular or unpopular as the act might be, and their opinion could be equally valid and all this effort meaningless. Don’t take these guidelines with such stringency as to disregard all other views.
5-0 - The OSRS Team and the Design Process
If you’ve followed me all the way here, you’re likely A) exhausted and fed up of any conversation concerning new skills, or B) excited, because you’ve just struck an incredible skill idea (or perhaps one that’s always hung around your head) that happens to tick off all the above checkboxes. But unfortunately for you B types, it’s about to get pretty grim, because we’re going to go through every aspect of skill design that’s exterior to the game itself. We’ll be touching on larger topics like democracy, presentation, player mindsets, effort, and resource consumption. It’ll induce a fantastic bout of depression, so don’t get left behind.
5-1 - Designing a Skill
Thus far, Jagex has offered three potential skills to OSRS, each of which has been denied. This gives us the advantage of understanding how the skill design process works behind the scenes and lets us examine some of the issues Jagex has faced with presenting a skill to the players. The first problem is the “one strike and you’re out” phenomenon. Simply put, players don’t like applying much effort into reading and learning. They’ll look at a developer blog highlighting a new skill idea, and if you’re lucky they’ll even read the whole thing, but how about the second developer blog? The third? Fourth? Even I find it hard to get that far. In general, people don’t like long detail-heavy essays or blogs, which is why I can invoke the ancient proverb “Ban Emily” into this post and it’ll go (almost) completely unnoticed. No matter how many improvements you make between developer blogs, you will quickly lose players with each new iteration. Similarly, developer blogs don’t have the time to talk about skill design philosophy or meta-analyse their ideas – players would get lost far too fast. This is the Second Great Irony of skill design: the more iterations you have of a lengthy idea, the less players will keep up with you. This was particularly prominent with Warding: Battle Wards were offered in an early developer blog but were quickly cut when Jagex realized how bad the idea was. Yet people would still cite Battle Wards as the reason they voted against Warding, despite the idea having been dropped several blogs before. Similarly, people would often comment that they hated that Warding was being polled multiple times; it felt to them like Jagex was trying to brute-force it into the game. But Warding was only ever polled once, and only after the fourth developer blog - the confusion was drawn from how many times the skill was reiterated and from the length of the public design process. Sure, there are people for whom this runs the opposite way; they keep a close eye on updates and judge a piece of content on the merits of the latest iteration, but this is much less common. You could argue that one should simply disregard the ignorant people as blind comments don't contribute to the overall discussion, but you should remember that these players are also the ones voting for the respective piece of content. You could also suggest re-educating them, which is exactly what Jagex attempts with each developer blog, and still people won’t get the memo. And when it comes to the players themselves, can the playerbase really be relied on to re-educate itself? Overall, the Second Great irony really hurts the development process and is practically an unavoidable issue. What’s the alternative? To remove the developer-player interface that leads to valuable reiterations, or does you simply have to get the skill perfect in the first developer blog? It’s not an optimal idea, but it could help: have a small team of “delegates” – larger names that players can trust, or player influencers – come in to review a new, unannounced skill idea under NDA. If they like it, chances are that other players will too. If they don’t, reiterate or toss out the skill before it’s public. That way, you’ve had a board of experienced players who are willing to share their opinions to the public helping to determine the meat and potatoes of the skill before it is introduced to the casual eye. Now, a more polished and well-accepted product can be presented on the first run of selling a skill to the public, resulting in less reiterations being required, and demanding less effort from the average player to be fully informed over the skill’s final design.
5-2 - Presentation and Beta Testing
So you’ve got a great idea, but how are you going to sell it to the public? Looking at how the OSRS Team has handled it throughout the years, there’s a very obvious learning curve occurring. Artisan had almost nothing but text blogs being thrown to the players, Sailing started introducing some concept art and even a trailer with terrible audio recording, and Warding had concept art, in game models, gifs, and a much fancier trailer with in-game animations. A picture or video is worth a thousand words, and often the only words that players will take out of a developer blog. You might say that presentation is everything, and that would be more true in OSRS than most games. Most activities in OSRS are extremely basic, involve minimal thought, and are incredibly grindy. Take Fishing: you click every 20 seconds on a fishing spot that is randomly placed along a section of water, get rid of your fish, then keep clicking those fishing spots. Boiling it down further, you click several arbitrary parts of your computer screen every 20 seconds. It’s hardly considered engaging, so why do some people enjoy it? Simply put: presentation. You’re given a peaceful riverside environment to chill in, you’re collecting a bunch of pixels shaped like fish, and a number tracking your xp keeps ticking up and telling you that it matters. Now imagine coming to the players with a radical new skill idea: Mining. You describe that Mining is where you gather ores that will feed into Smithing and help create gear for players to use. The audience ponders momentarily, but they’re not quite sure it feels right and ask for a demonstration. You show them some gameplay, but your development resources were thin and instead of rocks, you put trees as placeholders. Instead of ores in your inventory, you put logs as placeholders. Instead of a pickaxe, your character is swinging a woodcutting axe as a placeholder. Sure, the mechanics might act like mining instead of woodcutting, but how well is the skill going to sell if you haven’t presented it correctly or respected it contextually? Again, presentation is everything. Players need to be able to see the task they are to perform, see the tools they’ll use, and see the expected outcomes; otherwise, whatever you’re trying to sell will feel bland and unoriginal. And this leads to the next level of skill presentation that has yet to be employed: Beta Worlds. Part of getting the feel of an activity is not just watching, it but acting it out as well - you’ll never understand the thrill of skydiving unless you’ve actually been skydiving. Beta Worlds are that chance for players to act out a concept without risking the real game’s health. A successful Beta can inspire confidence in players that the skill has a solid Core and interesting Expansions, while a failed Beta will make them glad that they got to try it and be fully informed before putting the skill to a poll (although that might be a little too optimistic for rage culture). Unfortunately, Betas are not without major disadvantages, the most prominent of which we shall investigate next.
5-3 - Development Effort
If you thought that the previous section on Skill Design Philosophy was lengthy and exhausting, imagine having to know all that information and then put it into practice.Mentally designing a skill in your head can be fun, but putting all that down on paper and making it actually work together, feel fully fleshed out, and following all the modern standards that players expect is extremely heavy work, especially when it’s not guaranteed to pay off in the polls like Quest or Slayer content. That’s not even taking into account the potentially immense cost of developing a new skill should it pass a poll. Whenever people complain that Jagex is wasting their resources trying to make that specific skill work, Jagex has been very explicit about the costs to pull together a design blog being pretty minimal. Looking at the previous blogs, Jagex is probably telling the truth. It’s all just a bunch of words, a couple art sketches, and maybe a basic in-game model or gif. Not to downplay the time it takes to write well, design good models, or generate concept art, but it’s nothing like the scale of resources that some players make it out to be. Of course, if a Beta was attempted as suggested last section, this conversation would take a completely new turn, and the level of risk to invested resources would exponentially increase. But this conversation calls to mind an important question: how much effort and resources do skills require to feel complete? Once upon a time, you could release a skill which was more or less unfinished. Take Slayer: it was released in 2005 with a pretty barebones structure. The fundamentals were all there, but the endgame was essentially a couple cool best-in-slot weapons and that was it. Since then, OSRS has updated the skill to include a huge Reward Shop system, feature 50% more monsters to slay, and to become an extremely competitive money-maker. Skills naturally undergo development over time, but it so often comes up during the designing of an OSRS skill that it "doesn't have enough to justify its existence." This was touched on deeply in Section 3-13 – Skill Bloat, but deserves reiterating here. While people recognize that skills continually evolve, the modern standard expects a new skill, upon release, to be fully preassembled before purchase. Whereas once you could get away with releasing just a skill's Core and working on Expansions down the line, that is no longer the case. But perhaps a skill might stand a better chance now than it did last year, given that the OSRS Team has doubled in number since that time. However, judging from the skill design phases that have previously been attempted (as we’ve yet to see a skill development phase), the heaviest cost has been paid in developer mentality and motivational loss. When a developer is passionate about an idea, they spend their every waking hour pouring their mind into how that idea is going to function,especially while they’re not at work. And then they’re obligated to take player feedback and adapt their ideas, sometimes starting from scratch, particularly over something as controversial as a skill. Even if they have tough enough skin to take the heavy criticism that comes with skill design, having to write and rewrite repeatedly over the same idea to make it “perfect” is mentally exhausting. Eventually, their motivation drains as their labour bears little fruit with the audience, and they simply want to push it to the poll and be done with it. Even once all their cards are down, there’s still no guarantee that their efforts will be rewarded, even less so when it comes to skills. With such a high mental cost with a low rate of success, you have to ask, “Was it worth it?” And that’s why new skill proposals are far and few between. A new skill used to be exciting for the development team in the actual days of 2007, as they had the developmental freedom to do whatever they wanted, but in the modern day that is not so much the case.
5-4 - The Problems of Democracy
Ever since the conceptualization of democracy in the real world, people have been very aware of its disadvantages. And while I don’t have the talent, knowledge, or time to discuss every one of these factors, there are a few that are very relevant when it comes to the OSRS Team and the polling process. But first we should recognize the OSRS Team’s relationship with the players. More and more, the Team acts like a government to its citizens, the players, and although this situation was intentionally instated with OSRS’s release, it’s even more prominent now. The Team decides the type of content that gets to go into a poll, and the players get their input over whether that particular piece makes it in. Similarly, players make suggestions to the Team that, in many cases, the Team hadn’t thought of themselves. This synergy is phenomenal and almost unheard of among video games, but the polling system changes the mechanics of this relationship. Polls were introduced to the burned and scarred population of players at OSRS’s release in 2013. Many of these players had just freshly come off RS2 after a series of disastrous updates or had quit long before from other controversies. The Squeal of Fortune, the Evolution of Combat, even the original Wilderness Removal had forced numerous players out and murdered their trust in Jagex. To try and get players to recommit to Runescape, Jagex offered OSRS a polling system by which the players would determine what went into the game, where the players got to hold all the cards. They also asked the players what threshold should be required for polled items to pass, and among the odd 50% or 55% being shouted out, the vast majority of players wanted 70%, 75%, 80%, or even 85%. There was a massive population in favour of a conservative game that would mostly remain untouched, and therefore kept pure from the corruption RS2 had previously endured. Right from the start, players started noticing holes in this system. After all, the OSRS Team was still the sole decider of what would actually be polled in the first place. Long-requested changes took forever to be polled (if ever polled at all) if the OSRS Team didn’t want to deal with that particular problem or didn’t like that idea. Similarly, the Team essentially had desk jobs with a noose kept around their neck – they could perform almost nothing without the players, their slave masters, seeing, criticizing, and tearing out every inch of developmental or visionary freedom they had. Ever hear about the controversy of Erin the duck? Take a look at the wiki or do a search through the subreddit history. It’s pretty fantastic, and a good window into the minds of the early OSRS playerbase. But as the years have gone on, the perspective of the players has shifted. There is now a much healthier and more trusting relationship between them and the Team, much more flexibility in what the players allow the Team to handle, and a much greater tolerance and even love of change. But the challenges of democracy haven’t just fallen away. Everyone having the right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the democratic system, but unfortunately that also means that everyone has the right to vote. For OSRS, that means that every member, whether it’s their first day in game, their ten thousandth hour played, those who have no idea about what the poll’s about, those who haven’t read a single quest (the worst group), those who RWT and bot, those who scam and lure, and every professional armchair developer like myself get to vote. In short, no one will ever be perfectly informed on every aspect of the game, or at least know when to skip when they should. Similarly, people will almost never vote in favour of making their game harder, even at the cost of game integrity, or at least not enough people would vote in such a fashion to reach a 75% majority. These issues are well recognized. The adoption of the controversial “integrity updates” was Jagex’s solution to these problems. In this way, Jagex has become even more like a government to the players. The average citizen of a democratic country cannot and will not make major decisions that favour everyone around themselves if it comes at a personal cost. Rather, that’s one of the major roles of a government: to make decisions for changes for the common good that an individual can’t or won’t make on their own. No one’s going to willingly hand over cash to help repave a road on the opposite side of the city – that’s why taxes are a necessary evil. It’s easy to see that the players don’t always know what’s best for their game and sometimes need to rely on that parent to decide for them, even if it results in some personal loss. But players still generally like the polls, and Jagex still appears to respect them for the most part. Being the government of the game, Jagex could very well choose to ignore them, but would risk the loss of their citizens to other lands. And there are some very strong reasons to keep them: the players still like having at least one hand on the wheel when it comes to new content or ideas. Also, it acts as a nice veto card should Jagex try to push RS3’s abusive tactics on OSRS and therefore prevent such potential damage. But now we come to the topic of today: the introduction of a new skill. Essentially, a new skill must pass a poll in order to enter the game. While it’s easy to say, “If a skill idea is good enough, it’ll pass the threshold,” that’s not entirely true. The only skill that could really pass the 75% mark is not necessarily a well-designed skill, but rather a crowd-pleasing skill. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, the latter is far easier to make than the former. Take Dungeoneering: if you were to poll it today as an exact replica of RS2’s version, it would likely be the highest scoring skill yet, perhaps even passing, despite every criticism that’s been previously emphasized describing why it has no respect for the current definition of “skill.” Furthermore, a crowd-pleasing skill can easily fall prey to deindividualization of vision and result in a bland “studio skill” (in the same vein as a “studio film”), one that feels manufactured by a board of soulless machines rather than a director’s unique creation. This draws straight back to the afore-mentioned issues with democracy: that people A) don’t always understand what they’re voting for or against, and B) people will never vote for something that makes their game tougher or results in no benefit to oneself. Again, these were not issues in the old days of RS2, but are the problems we face with our modern standards and decision making systems. The reality that must be faced is that the polling system is not an engine of creation nor is it a means of constructive feedback – it’s a system of judgement, binary and oversimplified in its methodology. It’s easy to interact with and requires no more than 10 seconds of a player’s time, a mere mindless moment, to decide the fate of an idea made by an individual or team, regardless of their deep or shallow knowledge of game mechanics, strong or weak vision of design philosophy, great or terrible understanding of the game’s history, and their awareness of blindness towards the modern community. It’s a system which disproportionately boils down the quality of discussion that is necessitated by a skill, which gives it the same significance as the question “Should we allow players to recolour the Rocky pet by feeding it berries?” with the only available answers being a dualistic “This idea is perfect and should be implemented exactly as outlined” or “This idea is terrible and should never be spoken of again.” So what do you do? Let Jagex throw in whatever they want? Reduce the threshold, or reduce it just for skills? Make a poll that lists a bunch of skills and forces the players to choose one of them to enter the game? Simply poll the question, “Should we have a new skill?” then let Jagex decide what it is? Put more options on the scale of “yes” to “no” and weigh each appropriately? All these options sound distasteful because there are obvious weaknesses to each. But that is the Third Great Irony we face: an immense desire for a new skill, but no realistic means to ever get one.
6-0 - Conclusion
I can only imagine that if you’ve truly read everything up to this point, it’s taken you through quite the rollercoaster. We’ve walked through the history of OSRS skill attempts, unconstructive arguments, various aspects of modern skill design philosophy, and the OSRS Team and skill design process. When you take it all together, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the thought that needs to go into a modern skill and all the issues that might prevent its success. Complexity, naming conventions, categorizations, integration, rewards and motivations, bankstanding and buyables, the difficulties of skill bloat, balancing, and skill endgames, aesthetics, the design process, public presentation, development effort, democracy and polling - these are the challenges of designing and introducing modern skills. To have to cope with it all is draining and maybe even impossible, and therefore it begs the question: is trying to get a new skill even worth it? Maybe. Thanks for reading. Tl;dr: Designing a modern skill requires acknowledging the vast history of Runescape, understanding why players make certain criticisms and what exactly they’re saying in terms of game mechanics, before finally developing solutions. Only then can you subject your ideas to a polling system that is built to oversimplify them.
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