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No gods, no kings, only NOPE - or divining the future with options flows. [Part 3: Hedge Winding, Unwinding, and the NOPE]
Hello friends! We're on the last post of this series ("A Gentle Introduction to NOPE"), where we get to use all the Big Boy Concepts (TM) we've discussed in the prior posts and put them all together. Some words before we begin:
This post will be massively theoretical, in the sense that my own speculation and inferences will be largely peppered throughout the post. Are those speculations right? I think so, or I wouldn't be posting it, but they could also be incorrect.
I will briefly touch on using the NOPE this slide, but I will make a secondary post with much more interesting data and trends I've observed. This is primarily for explaining what NOPE is and why it potentially works, and what it potentially measures.
My advice before reading this is to glance at my prior posts, and either read those fully or at least make sure you understand the tl;drs: https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/collection/27dc72ad-4e78-44cd-a788-811cd666e32a Depending on popular demand, I will also make a last-last post called FAQ, where I'll tabulate interesting questions you guys ask me in the comments! --- So a brief recap before we begin. Market Maker ("Mr. MM"): An individual or firm who makes money off the exchange fees and bid-ask spread for an asset, while usually trying to stay neutral about the direction the asset moves. Delta-gamma hedging: The process Mr. MM uses to stay neutral when selling you shitty OTM options, by buying/selling shares (usually) of the underlying as the price moves. Law of Surprise [Lily-ism]: Effectively, the expected profit of an options trade is zero for both the seller and the buyer. Random Walk: A special case of a deeper probability probability called a martingale, which basically models stocks or similar phenomena randomly moving every step they take (for stocks, roughly every millisecond). This is one of the most popular views of how stock prices move, especially on short timescales. Future Expected Payoff Function [Lily-ism]: This is some hidden function that every market participant has about an asset, which more or less models all the possible future probabilities/values of the assets to arrive at a "fair market price". This is a more generalized case of a pricing model like Black-Scholes, or DCF. Counter-party: The opposite side of your trade (if you sell an option, they buy it; if you buy an option, they sell it). Price decoherence ]Lily-ism]: A more generalized notion of IV Crush, price decoherence happens when instead of the FEPF changing gradually over time (price formation), the FEPF rapidly changes, due usually to new information being added to the system (e.g. Vermin Supreme winning the 2020 election). --- One of the most popular gambling events for option traders to play is earnings announcements, and I do owe the concept of NOPE to hypothesizing specifically about the behavior of stock prices at earnings. Much like a black hole in quantum mechanics, most conventional theories about how price should work rapidly break down briefly before, during, and after ER, and generally experienced traders tend to shy away from playing earnings, given their similar unpredictability. Before we start: what is NOPE? NOPE is a funny backronym from Net Options Pricing Effect, which in its most basic sense, measures the impact option delta has on the underlying price, as compared to share price. When I first started investigating NOPE, I called it OPE (options pricing effect), but NOPE sounds funnier. The formula for it is dead simple, but I also have no idea how to do LaTeX on reddit, so this is the best I have: https://preview.redd.it/ais37icfkwt51.png?width=826&format=png&auto=webp&s=3feb6960f15a336fa678e945d93b399a8e59bb49 Since I've already encountered this, put delta in this case is the absolute value (50 delta) to represent a put. If you represent put delta as a negative (the conventional way), do not subtract it; add it. To keep this simple for the non-mathematically minded: the NOPE today is equal to the weighted sum (weighted by volume) of the delta of every call minus the delta of every put for all options chains extending from today to infinity. Finally, we then divide that number by the # of shares traded today in the market session (ignoring pre-market and post-market, since options cannot trade during those times). Effectively, NOPE is a rough and dirty way to approximate the impact of delta-gamma hedging as a function of share volume, with us hand-waving the following factors:
To keep calculations simple, we assume that all counter-parties are hedged. This is obviously not true, especially for idiots who believe theta ganging is safe, but holds largely true especially for highly liquid tickers, or tickers will designated market makers (e.g. any ticker in the NASDAQ, for instance).
We assume that all hedging takes place via shares. For SPY and other products tracking the S&P, for instance, market makers can actually hedge via futures or other options. This has the benefit for large positions of not moving the underlying price, but still makes up a fairly small amount of hedges compared to shares.
Winding and Unwinding
I briefly touched on this in a past post, but two properties of NOPE seem to apply well to EER-like behavior (aka any binary catalyst event):
NOPE measures sentiment - In general, the options market is seen as better informed than share traders (e.g. insiders trade via options, because of leverage + easier to mask positions). Therefore, a heavy call/put skew is usually seen as a bullish sign, while the reverse is also true.
NOPE measures system stability
I'm not going to one-sentence explain #2, because why say in one sentence what I can write 1000 words on. In short, NOPE intends to measure sensitivity of the system (the ticker) to disruption. This makes sense, when you view it in the context of delta-gamma hedging. When we assume all counter-parties are hedged, this means an absolutely massive amount of shares get sold/purchased when the underlying price moves. This is because of the following: a) Assume I, Mr. MM sell 1000 call options for NKLA 25C 10/23 and 300 put options for NKLA 15p 10/23. I'm just going to make up deltas because it's too much effort to calculate them - 30 delta call, 20 delta put. This implies Mr. MM needs the following to delta hedge: (1000 call options * 30 shares to buy for each) [to balance out writing calls) - (300 put options * 20 shares to sell for each) = 24,000net shares Mr. MM needs to acquire to balance out his deltas/be fully neutral. b) This works well when NKLA is at $20. But what about when it hits $19 (because it only can go down, just like their trucks). Thanks to gamma, now we have to recompute the deltas, because they've changed for both the calls (they went down) and for the puts (they went up). Let's say to keep it simple that now my calls are 20 delta, and my puts are 30 delta. From the 24,000 net shares, Mr. MM has to now have: (1000 call options * 20 shares to have for each) - (300 put options * 30 shares to sell for each) = 11,000 shares. Therefore, with a $1 shift in price, now to hedge and be indifferent to direction, Mr. MM has to go from 24,000 shares to 11,000 shares, meaning he has to sell 13,000 shares ASAP, or take on increased risk. Now, you might be saying, "13,000 shares seems small. How would this disrupt the system?" (This process, by the way, is called hedge unwinding) It won't, in this example. But across thousands of MMs and millions of contracts, this can - especially in highly optioned tickers - make up a substantial fraction of the net flow of shares per day. And as we know from our desk example, the buying or selling of shares directly changes the price of the stock itself. This, by the way, is why the NOPE formula takes the shape it does. Some astute readers might notice it looks similar to GEX, which is not a coincidence. GEX however replaces daily volume with open interest, and measures gamma over delta, which I did not find good statistical evidence to support, especially for earnings. So, with our example above, why does NOPE measure system stability? We can assume for argument's sake that if someone buys a share of NKLA, they're fine with moderate price swings (+- $20 since it's NKLA, obviously), and in it for the long/medium haul. And in most cases this is fine - we can own stock and not worry about minor swings in price. But market makers can't* (they can, but it exposes them to risk), because of how delta works. In fact, for most institutional market makers, they have clearly defined delta limits by end of day, and even small price changes require them to rebalance their hedges. This over the whole market adds up to a lot shares moving, just to balance out your stupid Robinhood YOLOs. While there are some tricks (dark pools, block trades) to not impact the price of the underlying, the reality is that the more options contracts there are on a ticker, the more outsized influence it will have on the ticker's price. This can technically be exactly balanced, if option put delta is equal to option call delta, but never actually ends up being the case. And unlike shares traded, the shares representing the options are more unstable, meaning they will be sold/bought in response to small price shifts. And will end up magnifying those price shifts, accordingly.
NOPE and Earnings
So we have a new shiny indicator, NOPE. What does it actually mean and do? There's much literature going back to the 1980s that options markets do have some level of predictiveness towards earnings, which makes sense intuitively. Unlike shares markets, where you can continue to hold your share even if it dips 5%, in options you get access to expanded opportunity to make riches... and losses. An options trader betting on earnings is making a risky and therefore informed bet that he or she knows the outcome, versus a share trader who might be comfortable bagholding in the worst case scenario. As I've mentioned largely in comments on my prior posts, earnings is a special case because, unlike popular misconceptions, stocks do not go up and down solely due to analyst expectations being meet, beat, or missed. In fact, stock prices move according to the consensus market expectation, which is a function of all the participants' FEPF on that ticker. This is why the price moves so dramatically - even if a stock beats, it might not beat enough to justify the high price tag (FSLY); even if a stock misses, it might have spectacular guidance or maybe the market just was assuming it would go bankrupt instead. To look at the impact of NOPE and why it may play a role in post-earnings-announcement immediate price moves, let's review the following cases:
Stock Meets/Exceeds Market Expectations (aka price goes up) - In the general case, we would anticipate post-ER market participants value the stock at a higher price, pushing it up rapidly. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the positive move since:
a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worthless (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares, buying them, and pushing the stock price up. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of puts are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of calls are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares AND also buy more shares to cover their calls, pushing the stock price up. 2) Stock Meets/Misses Market Expectations (aka price goes down)- Inversely to what I mentioned above, this should push to the stock price down, fairly immediately. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the negative move since: a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worth more, and a lot of calls are now worth less/worth less (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell/short more shares, pushing the stock price down. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of calls are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of puts are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell even more shares to keep their calls and puts neutral, pushing the stock price down. --- Based on the above two cases, it should be a bit more clear why NOPE is a measure of sensitivity to system perturbation. While we previously discussed it in the context of magnifying directional move, the truth is it also provides a directional bias to our "random" walk. This is because given a price move in the direction predicted by NOPE, we expect it to be magnified, especially in situations of price decoherence. If a stock price goes up right after an ER report drops, even based on one participant deciding to value the stock higher, this provides a runaway reaction which boosts the stock price (due to hedging factors as well as other participants' behavior) and inures it to drops.
NOPE and NOPE_MAD
I'm going to gloss over this section because this is more statistical methods than anything interesting. In general, if you have enough data, I recommend using NOPE_MAD over NOPE. While NOPE in theory represents a "real" quantity (net option delta over net share delta), NOPE_MAD (the median absolute deviation of NOPE) does not. NOPE_MAD simply answecompare the following:
How exceptional is today's NOPE versus historic baseline (30 days prior)?
How do I compare two tickers' NOPEs effectively (since some tickers, like TSLA, have a baseline positive NOPE, because Elon memes)? In the initial stages, we used just a straight numerical threshold (let's say NOPE >= 20), but that quickly broke down. NOPE_MAD aims to detect anomalies, because anomalies in general give you tendies.
I might add the formula later in Mathenese, but simply put, to find NOPE_MAD you do the following:
Calculate today's NOPE score (this can be done end of day or intraday, with the true value being EOD of course)
Calculate the end of day NOPE scores on the ticker for the previous 30 trading days
Compute the median of the previous 30 trading days' NOPEs
Find today's deviation as compared to the MAD calculated by: [(today's NOPE) - (median NOPE of last 30 days)] / (median absolute deviation of last 30 days)
This is usually reported as sigma (σ), and has a few interesting properties:
The mean of NOPE_MAD for any ticker is almost exactly 0.
[Lily's Speculation's Speculation] NOPE_MAD acts like a spring, and has a tendency to reverse direction as a function of its magnitude. No proof on this yet, but exploring it!
Using the NOPE to predict ER
So the last section was a lot of words and theory, and a lot of what I'm mentioning here is empirically derived (aka I've tested it out, versus just blabbered). In general, the following holds true:
3 sigma NOPE_MAD tends to be "the threshold": For very low NOPE_MAD magnitudes (+- 1 sigma), it's effectively just noise, and directionality prediction is low, if not non-existent. It's not exactly like 3 sigma is a play and 2.9 sigma is not a play; NOPE_MAD accuracy increases as NOPE_MAD magnitude (either positive or negative) increases.
NOPE_MAD is only useful on highly optioned tickers: In general, I introduce another parameter for sifting through "candidate" ERs to play: option volume * 100/share volume. When this ends up over let's say 0.4, NOPE_MAD provides a fairly good window into predicting earnings behavior.
NOPE_MAD only predicts during the after-market/pre-market session: I also have no idea if this is true, but my hunch is that next day behavior is mostly random and driven by market movement versus earnings behavior. NOPE_MAD for now only predicts direction of price movements right between the release of the ER report (AH or PM) and the ending of that market session. This is why in general I recommend playing shares, not options for ER (since you can sell during the AH/PM).
NOPE_MAD only predicts direction of price movement: This isn't exactly true, but it's all I feel comfortable stating given the data I have. On observation of ~2700 data points of ER-ticker events since Mar 2019 (SPY 500), I only so far feel comfortable predicting whether stock price goes up (>0 percent difference) or down (<0 price difference). This is +1 for why I usually play with shares.
Some statistics: #0) As a baseline/null hypothesis, after ER on the SPY500 since Mar 2019, 50-51% price movements in the AH/PM are positive (>0) and ~46-47% are negative (<0). #1) For NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma, roughly 68% of price movements are positive after earnings. #2) For NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, roughly 29% of price movements are positive after earnings. #3) When using a logistic model of only data including NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma or NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, and option/share vol >= 0.4 (around 25% of all ERs observed), I was able to achieve 78% predictive accuracy on direction.
Like all models, NOPE is wrong, but perhaps useful. It's also fairly new (I started working on it around early August 2020), and in fact, my initial hypothesis was exactly incorrect (I thought the opposite would happen, actually). Similarly, as commenters have pointed out, the timeline of data I'm using is fairly compressed (since Mar 2019), and trends and models do change. In fact, I've noticed significantly lower accuracy since the coronavirus recession (when I measured it in early September), but I attribute this mostly to a smaller date range, more market volatility, and honestly, dumber option traders (~65% accuracy versus nearly 80%). My advice so far if you do play ER with the NOPE method is to use it as following:
Buy/short shares approximately right when the market closes before ER. Ideally even buying it right before the earnings report drops in the AH session is not a bad idea if you can.
Sell/buy to close said shares at the first sign of major weakness (e.g. if the NOPE predicted outcome is incorrect).
Sell/buy to close shares even if it is correct ideally before conference call, or by the end of the after-market/pre-market session.
Only play tickers with high NOPE as well as high option/share vol.
--- In my next post, which may be in a few days, I'll talk about potential use cases for SPY and intraday trends, but I wanted to make sure this wasn't like 7000 words by itself. Cheers. - Lily
Fallout 4 feels to me like a huge, shallow time sink with no payoff and not enough memorable things. [POTENTIAL FALLOUT 4 STRUGGLE SESSION]
I've spent about 60 hours on Fallout 4 in the last few weeks, and I've finally realised that Bethesda games are enormous time wasters. At least Fallout 4 and Skyrim are. The complaints below might be anodyne to a lot of the people here, or they might be very controversial, but these things are hitting me particularly hard while replaying Fallout 4. I've played it before, but having spent so much time with it recently, the realisation has dawned on me more harshly. Bethesda build these amazing worlds with so much detail and complexity to them, only to inundate you with hours of fetch quests, bore you with a main quest that has no substance, and have you follow a map marker to the detriment of the world they’ve built. They encourage you to look down at the bottom of the screen to the degree that you never have to actually look around at the world to try and find a solution to whatever problem the game throws at you. Even if you turn the objective marker off, the problem that the games have is that 1) some quests require you to know the exact location of an item for you to progress and 2) you're incentivised to look at the bottom of the screen to find new locations to explore instead of just stumbling across them naturally (or with the help of your Pip-Boy map). You're not encouraged to just look at the world. You're not encouraged to memorise the landscapes or routes from one location to another. The fast travel isn't the problem here, either. It has everything to do with the way the game pushes you to walk in one direction nonstop until you reach your objective, and the way new locations are shown to you before you even find them. It's hard to call this "distracting" when it's a fundamental way the game is constructed. You're meant to look at the bottom of the screen. They clearly want your eyes there at all times. Another problem I have is that almost no companion in either Fallout 4 has a legitimate reason to follow you or feels motivated - ideologically or opportunistically - to do so. I can’t recall a single one of them struggling to have a reason to follow you and just doing it because that’s what the game expects of them. While this problem extends to Skyrim, I want to keep the complaints to Fallout 4 since that's the topic of the sub. Preston has possibly the best reason to follow you: You saved his life and the lives of his friends, and he has nothing else to fight for after the Minutemen are disbanded and his friends find safe haven in Sanctuary. So he doesn't bug me that much. But Piper follows you for basically no reason, because you answer some questions. Does she require you to find her a scoop for her newspaper, or uncover dirt on the mayor? Nope. Nick Valentine kind of abandons his job to follow you after he does a job for you, which makes it seem like he doesn't actually have a full-time job with an employee working for him; he doesn't even require your assistance to work through a different job before he agrees almost unconditionally to follow you. Paladin Danse following a wastelander - even one that helped him in a rough spot - makes even less sense because that's the sort of shit that if his commanders found out about they'd probably reprimand him. They fucking hate Paladins associating with wastelanders. This is established canon. Deacon immediately likes you despite knowing very little about you and requires no convincing for him to follow you. John Hancock is pretty similar. There's just no depth to these companions and even though they all have distinct personalities, the lack of conflict and the lack of conversation options makes them feel very boring and bland. They're fun and entertaining but only on a surface level. What annoys me more about this is that they will idolise you if you do enough odd tasks to placate them. Pick a bunch of locks with Piper around? She'll sleep with you after you pass a speech check. Use chems around Hancock? He'll tell you what a hip, rad person you are with basically no effort on my part as a player. Just be an asshole to everybody with Cait around? She will fall in love with you. It's so stupid to me. Again, Preston is the one whose affection for the player makes the most sense and requires the most effort; you have to do a lot of pro-Minutemen quests or do a lot of good deeds and stand up to shitty people for him to like you. His loyalty feels earned, and he's pretty much the only one that applies to. But I honestly don't think the level of trust applies to the other characters. They trust you if you just do enough random things they like. They'll spill their guts to you or sleep with you despite having few conversations with them and not helping them with any personal problems. Give Piper a pep talk about her sister, and you're all set. It's frustratingly shallow. Literally nothing in this game comes anywhere close to earning Cass's or Boone's or Arcade's or Veronica's trust in Fallout: New Vegas. It's honestly kind of a joke by comparison. Those characters won't just follow you for any reason. You can't just twiddle your thumbs to make Boone follow you. You have to help him meaningfully, and even then he only leaves because he doesn't trust anybody and wants to be gone. Veronica follows you only after she senses you aren't hostile to the Brotherhood of Steel, and because she wants a traveling companion. There are explicit and clear reasons why people follow you in that game. And if you want to earn their trust and get them to live in the endgame with relative peace, you need to do an enormous amount to do so. And if you don't want to help them? If you dislike them and don't want anything to do with them? You can literally kill them yourself. The game gives you that option. With Fallout 4 the character relationships feel arbitrary and meaningless, like there's no weight to the beliefs or decisions of anybody. It doesn't help that every character is potentially bisexual and you can technically fuck every single one of them. Just throw on some Fashionable Glasses, drink some alcohol, and wear some fancy clothes, and passing their speech checks is easy. You can coerce people in this game to do things easily. Which I guess brings me to the fact that there is almost no capacity to roleplay in this ostensibly roleplaying game. You don't have to make sacrifices to accomplish goals, and you don't have to choose a specific path. You can pretty much do anything you want with few limitations, which sounds freeing and liberating, but it actually removes the whole idea of playing a role from a series that has emphasised that for years. An RPG where you can pretty much do anything without risking alienating most people in the world because you chose one side over another is not really an RPG. And when you get around to interacting with people, the dialogue choices are limited as hell, you can't kill essential characters like Preston (which makes saving or helping him a foregone conclusion), questlines play out in an incredibly boring and linear fashion, and outside of a few moments the game doesn't actually give you a lot of room to decide the outcome of major incidents. You don't even have to actually choose one group over another when it comes to combating the Institute. The endings are simplistic and practically binary. I know it's a bit of a meme to compare the choices you have in other Fallout games with this one, and the consequences of those choices, but you have no room to roleplay as a person you want to be in this game. High or low INT doesn't impact the dialogue or speech checks. High or low charisma impacts things minimally. You're pretty much going to have 1 of 2 conversations every time you talk with anybody about anything. Even when you come to the crossroad where you have to choose a side in the main conflict of the game, you can play your cards right and bring everybody together, which sounds good in theory, but it isn't earned in a way that makes the opposing sides set aside their conflict. Ideology dissolves under the weight of the player making decisions that has fuckall to do with these people and their opposition to one another, and it makes it seem like the Minutemen, Brotherhood, and Railroad opposing one another in any way is baseless and petty. There's just nothing to these conflicts. If the characters in your game set aside their differences because the player did 1 thing, then you haven't written compelling conflicts. You've written lousy artifices to trick people into being motivated into bringing them together (which is insultingly easy) or choosing one side over another (which you don't actually need to do). The settlement minigame is kind of cool, but ultimately pointless. The game doesn't change the least bit whether you decide to build settlements or not. There's no reward to it, and very rarely do you need to build settlements to unlock questlines or get a character to like you. It all feels so damn hollow and pointless. For a game that demands so much time from the player to do things, there's nowhere near enough payoff to justify it. I could just go play Rust or Minecraft or another type of game for a more thorough and less frustrating experience building settlements. So yeah, that's how I feel about Fallout 4, and even Skyrim for the most part. They're big beautiful time wasters with no real substance. I remember next to nothing about Skyrim after spending a hundred hours in it and while I remember more about Fallout 4, I don't remember being challenged in any meaningful way. I mostly remember shambling from place to place, helping settlement after settlement with raiders and super mutants, until I got bored and went off to Diamond City to fuck around with the main quest that I found underwhelming, and meeting people who don't force me to analyse their beliefs or my own. The conflicts are mostly petty, the quests I'm given feel like tedious chores, and it's all an excuse to get you to explore the world that they ultimately don't even want you to look at because they force your eyes down to the bottom of the screen. It's numbing, repetitious, and draining. I feel part of my soul dying the more I play either one of these games. Apologies for the melodrama of the writing by the end there, but I'm very frustrated with this game and don't think I'm gonna play it further. I really don't feel like there's a point to anything. I'm becoming a nihilist thanks to this game.
What is up Depthians! We are back with another monstrous update as this one incorporates five beta test builds, so we have a lot to cover. If you want to dive straight into the massive changelog/dissertation Click We should probably start with the biggest change to From The Depths in this update and that is the change of fuel and ammo storage. Quoting Nick, our lead developer
The change is quite simple: "remove ammo and fuel as separate resources. Weapons will consume materials directly, fuel engines and CJEs will burn materials directly". Before I dig into why I think this is the right thing for FtD, I'd like to explain a few details. Energy, fuel and ammo are still needed for your constructs. We have changed the "ammo barrels (etc)" and "fuel tanks" so they are just alternative material storage containers, but with the following properties: --"ammo barrels" now increase the maximum possible rate of usage of materials as "ammo" for reloading guns. They still explode. --"fuel tanks" increase the maximum possible rate of use of materials as "fuel" for fuel engines and CJEs, with the future stretch goal of fuel tanks being flammable. --So ammo racking is going to remain a feature of the game- vehicles that need to reload a large amount of materials may need additional ammo barrels Ammo and oil processors are replaced ship-wide with existing material storage containers of the same size. They'll be made decorative blocks so you can still use them decoratively in future if you want to. The oil refinery will be repurposed (described later in the patch notes) There are two main reasons why I think this is the right move. Why it's right for the business and why it's right for the player. Let's start with why I think it's right for the player: Ammo and fuel containers are currently purchasable as either "empty or full". This is confusing when considered in the context of the campaign, story missions, custom battles, multiplayer matches...how do empty and full tanks behave in these modes? I'd need an hour to study the code and a small essay to explain it. That's not good game design. Localised resources, when considering just the moving of material (and energy, if you want), becomes infinitely more manageable. The supply group system and the transit fleet system are not intuitive and for a lot of situations, their usage becomes fiddly and too complicated. We've replaced these systems with a new supply system that is much more intuitive for moving materials and energy around. The UI is less cluttered now that ammo and fuel bars are not shown. This is not a minor point...it'll reduce the amount of data on screen by about 40% in a lot of the different views. It'll be so much easier to know at a glance if a particular fleet is running low on "materials" or doing fine. Is a transport ready to leave, or does it need to pick up more materials? Will a set of vehicles have enough materials for the next fight...this is so much easier with just one main resource type per vehicle. When you or an enemy run out of ammo or fuel in a battle it's just frustrating. By combining fuel, ammo and materials for repairing you can guarantee that if someone runs out, the fight is going to be over quickly. I imagine that deep down the majority of players would rather not have to create, stock and resupply fuel and ammo. I know that personally, the requirement to do this puts me off playing the campaign. By using a single material it still focuses the game on making efficient war machines, maintaining supply lines and growing your economy, but without the extra confusion of mat->ammo and mat-> fuel conversion. Being able to assess weapons, engines and vehicles in terms of material cost and running cost is elegant. Most grand strategy games and RTS games don't have localised resources, and many don't have more than 2 resource types to handle. Very few combine localised materials with multiple types. Why it's right for the business: The ammo and oil processors were created about 8 years ago. Boring single blocks that don't add much to the game. It's been our intention to add something similar to the oil refinery but for ammo creation. That's a lot of work and adds to the complexity of the logistical part of the game, which we feel is already a burden. Making the localised resource supply system more user friendly to make it easy/natural/pleasant to move ammo, fuel and material around the map would require a lot of effort and, quite frankly, I'm not sure we'd ever manage it. The complexity of the UI scares off a lot of our customers. The barriers to getting a gun firing or a boat moving will be lowered if a single material container can theoretically get everything working. Running out of ammo/fuel in combat is a problem for our players. We want to find a solution to that, but it would take a lot of effort to do so. We also want the strategic AI to always enter a battle with enough ammo and fuel for the fight- that's another massive bunch of work. The campaign's strategic AI has to work hard to get materials where it wants them. It's a bundle of work and added complexity to get NPC fleets to restock ammo and fuel as well. We had proposed work to make resource dumps (from dead ships) contain ammo and fuel...again, that's more work, more bugs, more testing. Certain game modes such as story missions, tournament mode, and multiplayer maps should theoretically allow the player to choose the amount of ammo or fuel stocked into their vehicles before the match begins. That's another bundle of work and added complexity we'd like to avoid. Currently out of play units on the map can run out of fuel and will still continue to move "for free". It's exploitable and we don't have a solution to that...but if all the different out of play movement calculations are burning material, there will be no avoiding the cost. The development effort can be much better spent polishing up other features that I actually believe in, rather than flogging the dead horse of logistical complexity in an attempt to make it interesting, approachable and fun for everyone (which I fundamentally don't think it would ever be). Fundamentally I think that by winding back this feature we tie up a large number of loose ends and it results in a far more finished and enjoyable product. And what's-more everyone on the development team agrees that we enjoy the game for fighting, looting and creating...not staring blankly at dozens of resource bars trying to figure out who needs to head back for more fuel and how long we need to wait for ammunition to process. We've also simplified the resource transfer system. "Supply groups" and "Transit Fleets" have been replaced with a simple but comprehensive three-tier system. You can mark a vehicle as a "Creator", a "Cargo" or a "User". Creators fill up Cargos (and Users), Cargos give to Users (up to procurement levels). Users equalise their material with their neighbours, so do Creators, and there are a few handy transfers from Users back to Cargo and Creator to make sure they maintain their procurement levels as well. This system covers 95% of the way people were using the resource system and does it all semi-automatically. This simplification is much more possible now that materials are the only resource, as they invariably just need to flow from the resource zones to the front line, with everyone (Creators and Cargo) keeping what they need and passing the rest on. This new resource system also facilitates the long-range transport of materials from refinery to refinery, which is neat. The system also has an option, for Creator and Cargo types, to set their "supply chain index", so if you want to relay materials from output to output in order to accumulate them at a central location you can set the supply chain index to determine which way along the chain the materials will flow. It's all explained in the game.
After spending a lot of time with this new system from adventure to campaign and designer mode, the gameplay feels a little faster to get going and a little simpler for fleet management. As if you didn’t already know, you can shift+right click (with your supply construct selected) on the target construct / flagship of a fleet to keep supplied, keep holding down shift and right-click where you want to pick the resources up from and once again while not letting go of shift, shift+right click on the target construct/flag ship to finish the loop. This would be done of course after setting up the settings Creator, Cargo and User. Creator as an example is the harvesting construct, Cargo which would be the supply ship, User which would be a single target construct that uses the mats. This will keep the supply ship target waypoint updated and therefore your supply ship will always head to the target construct no matter where it has moved to after setting up the loop. You still need ammo and fuel boxes on your constructs, as these are governing the transfer rate / the speed that stock your turrets and fuel engine with the materials needed for them to run. You can run a construct without fuel or ammo boxes, however, once your APS clips are empty you will see a drop in your rate of fire as the material is not being transferred fast enough, this is the same for fuel engines and CJE. Another change that goes hand in hand with resource management is the changes to fuel refineries. In short:
Refineries on a force with greater than 1 million materials on it will begin refining the material into 'commodities' that are stored centrally. Commodities (AKA centralised materials) can be added by the player to any vehicle in allied territory, at any time.
Steam was previously totally unbalanced and arbitrary. For example, 9 small boilers with 1 small piston was the optimal steam setup, which was more efficient and denser than almost all other engines; and turbine power generation only depended on its pressure, so compact turbines were always optimal.
It lacked many critical info in its UI.
It was hard to control the usage of steam
What's good with new steam:
A bit more of realism and complexity
Larger steam now generally have better efficiency and density than equivalent smaller steam
More useful info such as total power production, performance over time
Possibility to regulate steam usage with valves
Pros of steam compared to injector fuel:
Denser and more efficient
Even denser with turbines
Easier to fit into irregular space
Provides a buffer with flywheels or steam tanks
More efficient when used for propellers
Doesn't require fuel containers, uses material directly from any type of storage
Computationally less intensive
Cons of steam compared to fuel:
Still hard to regulate, so it's only useful when the power usage is constant or there's a buffer energy storage
Turbines waste energy when batteries are full
Crankshafts waste energy when reaching speed limit
More susceptible to damage (injector engines can often still run fine even when half of it is gone, steam can stop working when a single pipe is destroyed)
Why cost of parts is hilariously high: Steam engines have better efficiency and density (many players seem to forget that one) than injector engines. So a higher initial costs makes it less overpowered. (In my opinion, the potential waste of energy is a major drawback of steam and justifies for its high potential power. But iirc Draba said that injector engines would be useless on designs that require a lot of power if steam doesn't have higher initial cost, which also makes sense.) Problem with new steam that can't be fixed:
Many old designs are broken due to low power output
Problems that can probably be fixed but I don't have a solution:
Inefficient steam engines are ridiculously bad (a bad steam engine is like 30 PPM and 50 PPV, while a good one is around 600 PPM and 110 PPV) (I tried to fix this and spent like 40 hours on that, but I only managed to make it easier to build a mediocre engine)
Cannot be simulated to calculate a stable power output, like fuel engines do (actually it's easy but would take a lot of time to do and I don't think it's necessary)
Another massive change is the detection rework which I also left a few questions for Ian AKA Blothorn to explain the system and how it works. Why a change was warranted:
Different types of detection weren't well balanced--for instance, visual components had better accuracy than IR and vastly better range.
Detection autoadjust used an incorrect formula, so optimizing adjustment was both mechanical and tedious.
Trackers having much better detection ranges than search sensors meant that detection was very binary--if you could see something at all you could usually get a precise lock (barring ECM, which was only counterable by large numbers of components).
Needing both sensors and munitions warners made reactive missile defence difficult on small vehicles.
There were a number of other inconsistencies/imbalances, e.g. some visual/IR sensors working through water, steam engines producing no heat, etc.
Overview of the new system: On the offensive side, each sensor type now has a role in which it is optimal, and large vehicles are best using a variety to cover their weaknesses. Visual probably remains the default for above-water detection--it remains impossible to reduce visual signature other than reducing size. IR is better against fast vehicles, as they have trouble avoiding high IR signatures from thrust and drag. Both visual and IR are weak in rangefinding (although coincidence rangefinders are adequate for most purposes); radar is correspondingly strong in range and weak in bearing, although it often offers better detection chances against vehicles that don't pay attention to radar stealth. On the defensive side, there are two approaches. Most obvious is signature reduction--while it is deliberately difficult to avoid detection entirely, reducing signature reduces detection chances and thus degrades opposing accuracy. At short ranges, however, this doesn't work well--detection chances are likely high regardless, and low errors at short range mean even sparse detections can give a good fix. Smoke and chaff can be useful here: they increase detection chance while adding a distance-independent error to opponent's visual and radar sensors, respectively. ECM, buoys, and radar guidance have also been reworked. Buoys are more powerful, becoming more accurate as they get closer to the target. While their base error is high, at long ranges a buoy at close range can beat the accuracy of any onboard sensor. If you worry about opponents’ buoys, ECM can now intermittently jam them--except if they are connected to their parent vehicle by a harpoon cable, in which case they don't need the vulnerable wireless connection. Most blueprints should need no modifications under the new system, although a few may want a few more or less GPP cards. The one exception is water interactions--IR cameras, laser rangefinders, and retroreflection sensors can no longer work through water, so submarines that used them underwater or vehicles that used them to detect submarines will need to replace them (likely with buoys). Vehicles that predominantly used visual detection should also consider adding a greater variety of sensors--in particular, visual camera trackers tied to AA mainframes should likely be replaced with IR cameras. Also, radars and cameras can take over missile and projectile detection (radar is required for projectile detection), so munitions warners can be removed/replaced with additional sensors. Last but not least a sweet little addition to our build menu prefabs. https://preview.redd.it/iqw1ymabu9t51.png?width=1920&format=png&auto=webp&s=aa1e3cdba6e1d62e07aef83caf0acad2a39249ed Please do make sure you go through the changelog as a hell of a lot has changed!
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.
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.
OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – ESCAPE FROM STALAG SULTANATE, Part 1
That reminds me of a story. “HELLFIRE AND DALMATIANS!” I shouted to no one in particular. “What’s the problem, dear?” Esme asks in that way she has of telling me to calm down without having to say it directly. “This bloody fucking country. A day late and several dollars short.” I fume. “Can’t get a new liquor license because of the bloody COVID. Can’t go to a hotel bar and have a snort because of the bloody COVID. Can’t even slip across the border to Dubai and soak up some room service and buckets of complimentary cocktails because of the bloody COVID.” Yes, the Sultanate of Oman, in its infinitesimal wisdom, has traditionally followed other GCC countries by at least three months in making any sort of proclamations regarding this latest bugaboo: the hideous, deadly, itchy, loathsome, and possibly serially bent, noxious, pandemical COVID-19; aka, this pandemic’s entry for flu. Their response is one of immense knee-jerk without first having thought of the consequences. “Bloody lockdown, 2100 to 0700. What is this, the whole fucking country’s been bad and now being sent to bed without any supper?” I wondered aloud. “Idiot benchodes.” Even Esme couldn’t come up with a rejoinder to that. “Plus they close all the bars. And all the hotels. And the fucking bottle shops. It’s not enough that these fucking Muppets jack the ‘sin tax’ on booze and cigars by 100%, now they’re not even legally available.” I swore. Of course, once you’ve spent even a small portion of the time that I have in the Middle East, you have your connections. Your system. Your access to the seedy underbelly of any society; the venerable Black Market. Jesus Q. Christ on toast with baked beans, fried tomatoes, black pudding, and mushrooms, I could get most anything in the Middle East, be it legal, shady, or just plain illegal. However, before you all recoil in horror that the venerable Dr. Rocknocker dabbles in the prohibited, just remember: the ends always dojustify the means. “I'm telling you, Esme dear; this Gulf story is getting too complicated. The weasels have started closing in.” I complain to Es as she hands me a fresh drink. “Do you think…?” Esme asks expectantly. Esme is more than ready to go. I’ve used this place as a base of operations for years whilst I wear out the Omani legal system suing those asswipes that think just because they’re local and I’m a kafir, they’re immune to the law. I’ve spent a long, profitable and time-consuming period of the last few years proving them wrong. But, time was marching onwards. I agreed with Esme, we’ve milked this particular cash cow dry. It was time to hitch up our bootstraps, call it a day, and get the hell out of Dodge. But not before I took care of a few loose ends. Now, the country had recently lost its venerable Sultan, who croaked back in January of this year. Sultan Qaboos was a good egg, friend to expat and local alike. Did a shitload of good for this benighted Middle East sandpit. Dragged it kicking and screaming out of the 12th century into, well, not exactly the 21st, but a whole hell of a lot closer. He realized that he needed revolutionary, not evolutionary change in the country. By revolutionary, he needed American, British, Canadian, and the like Western Expats here to do the heavy thinking and lifting and Eastern Expats like Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese to do all the scut work. Yeah, I know. That sounds racist as fuck, but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounced. Simple evolution of society where Omanis graduated the local equivalent of grade school, through high school, into University, and finally into Entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry wasn’t going to cut it. Took too long and the country needed a serious cash flow now. So, that’s what he did. And it worked a treat. Then he died. And his chosen took over. Except his chosen was pretty much antithetical to everything the previous and very revered and successful, Sultan wanted. Soon, there are 100% ‘sin taxes’ aimed directly at the western expats. Tourists included. Then there’s quotas and ‘Letters of No Objection’, which are impossible to get so that the Eastern Expats can’t switch jobs. Then, there are Sultanic proclamations of new taxes on tourists, new taxes on fast food, new taxes on this, that and the other. Then there’s, in his own words, “Oman is for Omanis”, blatantly ridiculous and xenophobic Omanization, and the general swipe at all expats. “GET OUT.” This was the clear message of the new sultan. He wanted to take over and possibly nationalize all the oil workings in the country. Ask Venezuela, Iran, and Myanmar how well that worked out for them. Then he wants all expats out on their asses. He wants Omanis to take over all the jobs, even though they’re nowhere near educated nor experienced enough for the positions. Then take up the massive GDP slack in lower oil production and oil prices with tourism. Given everything else, that last line should be enough to get him off the throne. He’s fucking nuts if he thinks people are going to want to cruise or overland anywhere near a place where foreigners are seen only as a cash supply, are despised, and would welcome these all new 100% tax levies. Be that as it may, Esme and I decided that we have had enough of 135O F summer temperatures, virtual house arrest under the guise of a COVID lockdown, and idiots who were the only ones stupid or twisted enough not to vamoose when the great, big bloody letters were clearly written on the wall. But, there was the physical act of getting out of the country. Now, I had plenty of strings which I could pull, but I decided I’d start low and save those until we really needed them. So low, in fact, we went to the US Embassy in Muscat. “How low can you go?” reverberated through my head. What a haven of sad-sacks, flubadubs, and third rate hobbyists. Was either Esme or I surprised that when we finally secured an invitation to the embassy, that required a bit of string-pulling with the ex-Ambassador to Oman, now in Kabul; that besides the peach-fuzz faced Marine guarding the place, we were the only Americans in the joint? “This is American soil!” I laughed, as I pulled out a huge Cuban cigar and was immediately told to extinguish it. “We’re as American as apple pie and napalm! We file our fucking 1040s every April; I pay my fucking long-distance taxes and demand US assistance to vacate this gloomy place of sandy, sweaty, sultry Sturm und Drang!” “Shut up, Rock”, Esme chided me, “They don’t understand English. Much less, the florid English the way you trowel it on.” “Fuckbuckets”, I remonstrated. “Here I had memorized the whole Patrick Henry speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. Troglodytes. No admiration for the classics.” “Rock, dear?” Esme noted, “It’s almost 1100 hours. Best to get to our appointment.” True, our appointment was slated for 1100 hours. But around here, anything starting within three hours of the stated time was considered close enough. We dragged ourselves, none too cheerfully, to the waiting room. Once we pried open the door, there was the usual “If you hear a high pitched wail, hit the deck” signs, and other things one could do while kissing one’s ass goodbye if there was a terrorist attack, we had a whole new slew of bullshit with which to deal. “Social distancing. 6 feet. Or if you’re from Baja Canada, 1 cow’s length.” “Must wear a mask. Bandanna, bandoliers, and large-caliber weapons or sombrero optional.” “No sitting. Faux Naugahyde seats are too difficult to sterilize. You must stand at attention, do not talk amongst yourselves, and remain patient until your number is called.” “Well, fuck!”, I snorted quietly, as I raised my first secret flask in rapt attention to our old glory of red, white, and blue. “Good thing they didn’t say nothin’ about getting a load on. If I’m going to be treated like cattle, I’m going to at least have something to chew on in the process.” “Oh, lord”, Esme grumbled, “You didn’t bring that Japanese Rye Whiskey with you, did you?” “ルハイム”, I said, which is Japanese for “L’chaim”! “Oh, hell”, Esme grinned as she borrowed my flask, “This is going to be a long day.” I began to protest but remembered that I was wearing my Agency-issued field vest. I must have had at least 5 or 6 more flasks lurking around in those pockets somewhere. Funny aside: they don’t bother with my going through an X-ray machine nor do they confiscate my phone, radio, knives, nor other field equipment when I go to the US Embassy. It took them almost two solid hours last time, and by the time they got to my Brunton Compass, emergency flasks, a few spare blasting cap boosters, and saw the label sewn into the back of my vest, they decided they’d just send Rack and Ruin some evil Emails and let me pass unmolested. “I’ll drink to that”, I say as I raise a flask as the locals raise an eyebrow. “Courtesy of Atheists International. We’re here for your children…” The collective gasps and growls indicate they weren’t happy with me or my betrothed. “Don’t care, Buckwheat”, I smiled, “Never did, never will. We’re out of here for good. You can curse my name all you want then. But, then again, why you standing in the American Embassy trying to get a visa to visit the land of the great evil empire?” All the locals and most of the Eastern Expats crowded into a corner as far away from us as they physically could. “BOO!” I snickered over a shot of Wild Turkey 101 Rye. “Now serving number 58! Number 58!” came the call over the tannoy. “Look at that”, I remarked to Es as I stashed both our flasks, “It’s only 12:35. Record time.” We both shimmy into the glass-fronted and presumably bullet- but not C-4 resistant- glass. We pick up the telephones there and acknowledge that we are who we said we were. The East Indian fella, one Harsh Talavalakar, behind the multiple layers of glass asked us why we were here. “Didn’t you read the appointment card?” I asked, “We’re here to have Uncle Sam get us passage out of this sordid and sultry place.” “You are American citizens?” he asked, vacantly. “That’s what it says on appointment cards and these here blue passports,” I replied. “Well, how was I to know?” he scoffed, returning to his half-consumed powdered sugar doughnut. “Maybe read the appointment card and see that we are US Citizens here on the behest of Ambassador Bethesda Orun?” I replied. “Like I have time to read everything that comes across my desk”, he scoffed again. I tapped on the glass to make certain I had his full attention. “Look here, Herr Harsh. I’m not sure how you got this job at the American Consulate but want to be very clear with you. My wife and I are residents of this place for the last 20 years. We’re American citizens of very high standing and have more high powered connections than an Arduino in a nuclear power station. We have direct connections with Langley, Virginia and if you want to retain your cushy job, you’ll put down that fucking doughnut and pay very rapt attention to the two Americans standing here who are getting more and more irritated with some Indian benchode that doesn’t think he has to really do his job. You savvy? You diggin’ me, Beaumont” I guess the benchode got his attention. The two scowls he received from Esme and myself sort of cemented the idea that we’re not too pleased and not with to be trifled. “Yes, sir?” he said, “And ma’am”, as Harsh quickly corrected himself as the doughnut disappeared. “We want out. Gone. Vamoose. Outta here. AMF. You got me?” he nods behind the shatterprone glass. “Now I know the borders are sealed and the airport’s closed, but fuck that. We want out and we want gone for good. I can’t make that much simpler or clearer. Get after it, son.” I said, as seriously as I could. “Well, sir”, he began, “ The airport’s closed…” “Are you deaf or born stupid and been losing ground ever since?” I asked, rhetorically. “I know that. We all know that. My HAT knows that. So, what devious little plan does the US Embassy have in store in just such an unsavory situation?” “Well”, he chokes a bit, “There’s this unofficial lottery where America citizens are issued random numbers and if their number comes up, there are seats made available on special clandestine charter flights.” Considering that Es and I are some of the last American citizens left in the country, I thought our chances might be pretty good. “OK”, I said, “Let us have two of your finest numbers.” “Yes, sir”, he said, “That will be US$500 total.” “Excuse me?” I said. “Oh, yes”, he smirked, “US$250 per number. Chances are you’ll never be called, but with these numbers, at least you stand a chance.” “OK”, I said, “Forget the numbers. I want your name and operating number. I’ve got a report to file that’s due in Virginia before breakfast.” “Oh, sir”, he smirked more, “I cannot release that information. Thanking you. Now be having a good day.” And he slammed the supposedly bulletproof shield between himself and Es and me. “Bulletproof? Maybe. Nitro proof? No fucking way.” I groused as I fished out a couple of blasting cap superfast boosters. “Calm down, dear”, Esme smiled to me as we walked out, “When he wasn’t looking, I took his picture, got his operating number, and full name. In fact, I think I got some information on where he lives…” In the cab on the way back to our villa, I reviewed and confirmed Es’s subterfuge. Flasks number 6 and 8 needed serious replenishment by the time we arrived home. “That’s fucking right, Ruin.” I yelled over the phone, “We need extraction. And now. Along with our personal effects and a few hundredweight of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ boxes of stuff we need to be transported.” “Well, Rock”, Agent Ruin replied, “That’s a tall order. Usually, extraction is for one person and the stuff they’re wearing. Tell you what. Let Rack and I work on it for a week or so. We’ll arrange transport of your personal effects, then we’ll see about getting you and Esme to Dubai. At least there, you can order a plane. Hell, knowing you, you’ll get Tony Stark to fly in and provide door to door service. Sit tight. We’ll be back in touch.” “Good!” I say as I slam the phone down. With these newfangled cellphone telephone instruments, they lack the same sort of satisfying “KER FUCKING CLANG” the old landlines used to have. “Es!”, I yelled, “Start packing. We’re due out of here within a week.” That meant we needed to do some packing triage: • Things going home with us. • Things being shipped. • Things being sold. • Things being left behind. • Things no one was about to get their furry little mitts on. “Oh, fuck!”, I startled. I had just remembered the John Wick-ian stash of various explosives, and adjunct materials I had buried in the basement. Obviously, I couldn’t take it home with me, I couldn’t sell it, and I sure as festering frothing fuck wasn’t going to leave it here. I needed to call one of my more shifty and swarthy friends and arrange for passage out to the deep, dark desert. Around the area where the new sultan had opened a couple of brand new landfills. Looks like I was going to expand them a few meters once we disposed of the few hundred kilos of accumulation I attained over the last few years. See, I’m a packrat. I never leave nor toss anything that might be convenient. Might have a benefit. Might prove to be useful sometime down the line. So, I’ve accumulated a bit of kit. Like…well…a few hundred sticks of Du Pont 60% Extra Fast Dynamite. A couple dozen spools of Z-4 Primacord, in various degrees of fullness. A shitload of C-4; enough bricks for a Floydian wall. A couple, well, a dozen, well, two dozen cases of binary liquid explosives. Hey, this stuff is hard to come by… Continuing, several thousand blasting caps and superfast flash blasting cap boosters. Some mercury fulminate. Some nitrogen triiodide. A couple tens of pounds of PETN. An equal amount of RDX. A few Erlenmeyer flasks full of shit even I’m not certain of what it is… Oh. And a few kilos of freshly decanted, raw nitroglycerin; packed in sturdy wooden boxes lined with new fuzzy lamb’s wool. Not that much. Just 10 or 12 kilos. Yeah. I can’t leave that here. Even a small accident with this stuff would lay waste to not only our villa; but my landlord’s villa with whom we share a common wall. Besides, as Omanis go, my landlord was the only dishdasha dressed denizen for which I had any respect or admiration. He was a good guy. I needed to return his villa at least in some semblance of what I received when we first rented from him. So, I had to dispose of many, many billions of kilojoules of potential energy. I needed to do this out in a distant and far away from prying ears and eyes regions and I needed a truck to haul this stuff out to the range. To be continued…
Wall Street Week Ahead for the trading week beginning June 29th, 2020
Good Saturday afternoon to all of you here on StockMarket. I hope everyone on this sub made out pretty nicely in the market this past week, and is ready for the new trading week ahead. Here is everything you need to know to get you ready for the trading week beginning June 29th, 2020.
Fragile economic recovery faces first big test with June jobs report in the week ahead - (Source)
The second half of 2020 is nearly here, and now it’s up to the economy to prove that the stock market was right about a sharp comeback in growth. The first big test will be the June jobs report, out on Thursday instead of its usual Friday release due to the July 4 holiday. According to Refinitiv, economists expect 3 million jobs were created, after May’s surprise gain of 2.5 million payrolls beat forecasts by a whopping 10 million jobs. “If it’s stronger, it will suggest that the improvement is quicker, and that’s kind of what we saw in May with better retail sales, confidence was coming back a little and auto sales were better,” said Kevin Cummins, chief U.S. economist at NatWest Markets. The second quarter winds down in the week ahead as investors are hopeful about the recovery but warily eyeing rising cases of Covid-19 in a number of states. Stocks were lower for the week, as markets reacted to rising cases in Texas, Florida and other states. Investors worry about the threat to the economic rebound as those states move to curb some activities. The S&P 500 is up more than 16% so far for the second quarter, and it is down nearly 7% for the year. Friday’s losses wiped out the last of the index’s June gains. “I think the stock market is looking beyond the valley. It is expecting a V-shaped economic recovery and a solid 2021 earnings picture,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. He expects large-cap company earnings to be up 30% next year, and small-cap profits to bounce back by 140%. “I think the second half needs to be a ‘show me’ period, proving that our optimism was justified, and we’ll need to see continued improvement in the economic data, and I think we need to see upward revisions to earnings estimates,” Stovall said. Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, said she expects the recovery will not be as smooth as some expect, particularly considering the resurgence of virus outbreaks in sunbelt states and California. “Now as I watch what’s happening I think it’s more likely to be rolling Ws,” rather than a V, she said. “It’s not just predicated on a second wave. I’m not sure we ever exited the first wave.” Even without actual state shutdowns, the virus could slow economic activity. “That doesn’t mean businesses won’t shut themselves down, or consumers won’t back down more,” she said.
In the second half of the year, the market should turn its attention to the election, but Sonders does not expect much reaction to it until after Labor Day. RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Democrat Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points, and the odds of a Democratic sweep have been rising. Biden has said he would raise corporate taxes, and some strategists say a sweep would be bad for business, due to increased regulation and higher taxes. Trump is expected to continue using tariffs, which unsettles the market, though both candidates are expected to take a tough stance on China. “If it looks like the Senate stays Republican than there’s less to worry about in terms of policy changes,” Sonders said. “I don’t think it’s ever as binary as some people think.” Stovall said a quick study shows that in the four presidential election years back to 1960, where the first quarter was negative, and the second quarter positive, stocks made gains in the second half. Those were 1960 when John Kennedy took office, 1968, when Richard Nixon won; 1980 when Ronald Reagan’s was elected to his first term; and 1992, the first win by Bill Clinton. Coincidentally, in all of those years, the opposing party gained control of the White House.
The stocks market’s strong second-quarter showing came after the Fed and Congress moved quickly to inject the economy with trillions in stimulus. That unlocked credit markets and triggered a stampede by companies to restructure or issue debt. About $2 trillion in fiscal spending was aimed at consumers and businesses, who were in sudden need of cash after the abrupt shutdown of the economy. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin both testify before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday on the response to the virus. That will be important as markets look ahead to another fiscal package from Congress this summer, which is expected to provide aid to states and local governments; extend some enhanced benefits for unemployment, and provide more support for businesses. “So much of it is still so fluid. There are a bunch of fiscal items that are rolling off. There’s talk about another fiscal stimulus payment like they did last time with a $1,200 check,” said Cummins. Strategists expect Congress to bicker about the size and content of the stimulus package but ultimately come to an agreement before enhanced unemployment benefits run out at the end of July. Cummins said state budgets begin a new year July 1, and states with a critical need for funds may have to start letting workers go, as they cut expenses. The Trump administration has indicated the jobs report Thursday could help shape the fiscal package, depending on what it shows. The federal supplement to state unemployment benefits has been $600 a week, but there is opposition to extending that, and strategists expect it to be at least cut in half. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 12.2% from 13.3% in May. Cummins said he had expected 7.2 million jobs, well above the consensus, and an unemployment rate of 11.8%. As of last week, nearly 20 million people were collecting state unemployment benefits, and millions more were collecting under a federal pandemic aid program. “The magnitude here and whether it’s 3 million or 7 million is kind of hard to handicap to begin with,” Cummins said. Economists have preferred to look at unemployment claims as a better real time read of employment, but they now say those numbers could be impacted by slow reporting or double filing. “There’s no clarity on how you define the unemployed in the Covid 19 environment,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. “If there’s 30 million people receiving insurance, unemployment should be above 20%.
This past week saw the following moves in the S&P:
The economy is moving in the right direction, as many economic data points are coming in substantially better than what the economists expected. From May job gains coming in more than 10 million higher than expected and retail sales soaring a record 18%, how quickly the economy is bouncing back has surprised nearly everyone. “As good as the recent economic data has been, we want to make it clear, it could still take years for the economy to fully come back,” explained LPL Financial Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Think of it like building a house. You get all the big stuff done early, then some of the small things take so much longer to finish; I’m looking at you crown molding.” Here’s the hard truth; it might take years for all of the jobs that were lost to fully recover. In fact, during the 10 recessions since 1950, it took an average of 30 months for lost jobs to finally come back. As the LPL Chart of the Day shows, recoveries have taken much longer lately. In fact, it took four years for the jobs lost during the tech bubble recession of the early 2000s to come back and more than six years for all the jobs lost to come back after the Great Recession. Given many more jobs were lost during this recession, it could takes many years before all of them indeed come back.
The economy is going the right direction, and if there is no major second wave outbreak it could surprise to the upside. Importantly, this economic recovery will still be a long and bumpy road.
Nasdaq - Russell Spread Pulling the Rubber Band Tight
The Nasdaq has been outperforming every other US-based equity index over the last year, and nowhere has the disparity been wider than with small caps. The chart below compares the performance of the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 over the last 12 months. While the performance disparity is wide now, through last summer, the two indices were tracking each other nearly step for step. Then last fall, the Nasdaq started to steadily pull ahead before really separating itself in the bounce off the March lows. Just to illustrate how wide the gap between the two indices has become, over the last six months, the Nasdaq is up 11.9% compared to a decline of 15.8% for the Russell 2000. That's wide!
In order to put the recent performance disparity between the two indices into perspective, the chart below shows the rolling six-month performance spread between the two indices going back to 1980. With a current spread of 27.7 percentage points, the gap between the two indices hasn't been this wide since the days of the dot-com boom. Back in February 2000, the spread between the two indices widened out to more than 50 percentage points. Not only was that period extreme, but ten months before that extreme reading, the spread also widened out to more than 51 percentage points. The current spread is wide, but with two separate periods in 1999 and 2000 where the performance gap between the two indices was nearly double the current level, that was a period where the Nasdaq REALLY outperformed small caps.
To illustrate the magnitude of the Nasdaq's outperformance over the Russell 2000 from late 1998 through early 2000, the chart below shows the performance of the two indices beginning in October 1998. From that point right on through March of 2000 when the Nasdaq peaked, the Nasdaq rallied more than 200% compared to the Russell 2000 which was up a relatively meager 64%. In any other environment, a 64% gain in less than a year and a half would be excellent, but when it was under the shadow of the surging Nasdaq, it seemed like a pittance.
The US equity market made its most recent peak on June 8th. From the March 23rd low through June 8th, the average stock in the large-cap Russell 1,000 was up more than 65%! Since June 8th, the average stock in the index is down more than 11%. Below we have broken the index into deciles (10 groups of 100 stocks each) based on simple share price as of June 8th. Decile 1 (marked "Highest" in the chart) contains the 10% of stocks with the highest share prices. Decile 10 (marked "Lowest" in the chart) contains the 10% of stocks with the lowest share prices. As shown, the highest priced decile of stocks are down an average of just 4.8% since June 8th, while the lowest priced decile of stocks are down an average of 21.5%. It's pretty remarkable how performance gets weaker and weaker the lower the share price gets.
It's hard to believe that sentiment can change so fast in the market that one day investors and traders are bidding up stocks to record highs, but then the next day sell them so much that it takes the market down over 2%. That's exactly what happened not only in the last two days but also two weeks ago. While the 5% pullback from a record high back on June 10th took the Nasdaq back below its February high, this time around, the Nasdaq has been able to hold above those February highs.
In the entire history of the Nasdaq, there have only been 12 periods prior to this week where the Nasdaq closed at an all-time high on one day but dropped more than 2% the next day. Those occurrences are highlighted in the table below along with the index's performance over the following week, month, three months, six months, and one year. We have also highlighted each occurrence that followed a prior one by less than three months in gray. What immediately stands out in the table is how much gray shading there is. In other words, these types of events tend to happen in bunches, and if you count the original occurrence in each of the bunches, the only two occurrences that didn't come within three months of another occurrence (either before or after) were July 1986 and May 2017. In terms of market performance following prior occurrences, the Nasdaq's average and median returns were generally below average, but there is a pretty big caveat. While the average one-year performance was a gain of 1.0% and a decline of 23.6% on a median basis, the six occurrences that came between December 1999 and March 2000 all essentially cover the same period (which was very bad) and skew the results. Likewise, the three occurrences in the two-month stretch from late November 1998 through January 1999 where the Nasdaq saw strong gains also involves a degree of double-counting. As a result of these performances at either end of the extreme, it's hard to draw any trends from the prior occurrences except to say that they are typically followed by big moves in either direction. The only time the Nasdaq wasn't either 20% higher or lower one year later was in 1986.
In the mid-1980s the market began to evolve into a tech-driven market and the market’s focus in early summer shifted to the outlook for second quarter earnings of technology companies. Over the last three trading days of June and the first nine trading days in July, NASDAQ typically enjoys a rally. This 12-day run has been up 27 of the past 35 years with an average historical gain of 2.5%. This year the rally may have begun a day early, today and could last until on or around July 14. After the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, NASDAQ’s mid-year rally had a spotty track record from 2002 until 2009 with three appearances and five no-shows in those years. However, it has been quite solid over the last ten years, up nine times with a single mild 0.1% loss in 2015. Last year, NASDAQ advanced a solid 4.6% during the 12-day span.
Tech Historically Leads Market Higher Until Q3 of Election Years
As of yesterday’s close DJIA was down 8.8% year-to-date. S&P 500 was down 3.5% and NASDAQ was up 12.1%. Compared to the typical election year, DJIA and S&P 500 are below historical average performance while NASDAQ is above average. However this year has not been a typical election year. Due to the covid-19, the market suffered the damage of the shortest bear market on record and a new bull market all before the first half of the year has come to an end. In the surrounding Seasonal Patten Charts of DJIA, S&P 500 and NASDAQ, we compare 2020 (as of yesterday’s close) to All Years and Election Years. This year’s performance has been plotted on the right vertical axis in each chart. This year certainly has been unlike any other however some notable observations can be made. For DJIA and S&P 500, January, February and approximately half of March have historically been weak, on average, in election years. This year the bear market ended on March 23. Following those past weak starts, DJIA and S&P 500 historically enjoyed strength lasting into September before experiencing any significant pullback followed by a nice yearend rally. NASDAQ’s election year pattern differs somewhat with six fewer years of data, but it does hint to a possible late Q3 peak.
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Micron Technology, Inc. $48.49
Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Monday, June 29, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.71 per share on revenue of $5.27 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.70 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 71% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.40 to $0.70 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 29.00% with revenue increasing by 10.07%. Short interest has increased by 7.6% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 8.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 0.9% below its 200 day moving average of $48.94. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 46,037 contracts of the $60.00 call expiring on Friday, July 17, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.4% move in recent quarters.
General Mills, Inc. (GIS) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.04 per share on revenue of $4.89 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.10 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 69% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 25.30% with revenue increasing by 17.50%. Short interest has decreased by 9.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 2.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.8% above its 200 day moving average of $54.91. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Wednesday, June 24, 2020 there was some notable buying of 8,573 contracts of the $60.00 call expiring on Friday, July 17, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 3.0% move in recent quarters.
FedEx Corp. (FDX) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.42 per share on revenue of $16.31 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.65 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 61% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 71.66% with revenue decreasing by 8.41%. Short interest has increased by 10.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 43.9% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.6% below its 200 day moving average of $140.75. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 25, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,768 contracts of the $145.00 call expiring on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.7% move in recent quarters.
Conagra Brands, Inc. (CAG) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:30 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.66 per share on revenue of $3.24 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.69 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 66% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 83.33% with revenue increasing by 23.99%. Short interest has decreased by 38.3% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 6.3% from its open following the earnings release to be 6.4% above its 200 day moving average of $30.68. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,239 contracts of the $29.00 put expiring on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.8% move in recent quarters.
Constellation Brands, Inc. (STZ) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:30 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.91 per share on revenue of $1.97 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.12 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 53% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 13.57% with revenue decreasing by 13.69%. Short interest has increased by 20.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 5.2% below its 200 day moving average of $178.34. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, June 9, 2020 there was some notable buying of 888 contracts of the $195.00 call expiring on Friday, October 16, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 3.1% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 5.7% move in recent quarters.
Capri Holdings Limited (CPRI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.32 per share on revenue of $1.18 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.34 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 39% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.68 to $0.73 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 49.21% with revenue decreasing by 12.20%. Short interest has increased by 35.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 56.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 44.0% below its 200 day moving average of $25.67. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 4, 2020 there was some notable buying of 11,042 contracts of the $17.50 put expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 10.8% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.7% move in recent quarters.
X Financial (XYF) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 5:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 25% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 55.00% with revenue increasing by 763.52%. Short interest has increased by 1.0% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 1.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 37.7% below its 200 day moving average of $1.47. Overall earnings estimates have been unchanged since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 4.9% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Acuity Brands, Inc. (AYI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:40 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.14 per share on revenue of $809.25 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 42% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 51.90% with revenue decreasing by 14.60%. Short interest has increased by 48.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 2.4% from its open following the earnings release to be 23.4% below its 200 day moving average of $110.25. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 9.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.2% move in recent quarters.
Methode Electronics, Inc. (MEI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.77 per share on revenue of $211.39 million. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 45% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 24.19% with revenue decreasing by 20.53%. Short interest has increased by 6.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 1.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 9.0% below its 200 day moving average of $32.97. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 18.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.1% move in recent quarters.
UniFirst Corporation (UNF) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.17 per share on revenue of $378.28 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.25 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 44% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 52.44% with revenue decreasing by 16.63%. Short interest has decreased by 2.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 14.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 8.4% below its 200 day moving average of $186.14. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 7.0% move on earnings in recent quarters.
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