After the excellent Wasteland 2, we were excited to get our hands on the new installment, and we can say without fear that it has met expectations. Wasteland 3 is a sign of the love that InXile has for his work and Brian Fargo for the genre that has created a name for him. If you are a lover of the saga or the genre, do not hesitate to enjoy it.
Wasteland 3 doesn’t pull any punches with its subject matter in sexuality, violence, and language. But if you are fine with that, I would highly recommend you give Wasteland 3 a shot, especially if you were (or still are) a Fallout fan.
On Paper Wasteland 3 sounds like the perfect RPG-Dream but the execution leaves much to be desired. Bugs, Glitches and graphics that doesn't really represent a game that releases and the end of this console generation are a bit of a letdown. Everything else from the great story, entertaining NPCs, solid battle system, clever leveldesign over to the love for details is amazing, besides some flaws that should soon be fixed, as inXile and Brian Fargo promise. Everyone that wasn't happy with the latest Fallout Games will surely love Wasteland 3.
Wasteland 3 is a old-school role-playing game, with a compelling story, a combat system that promises but is not groundbreaking and some funny moments and black mood, which always remind us that we are in a post apocalyptic world, but with a smile. Don't forget the powerful character editor, rhythm voices, and the beautiful scenery that puts you in that atmosphere of cold and snowy Colorado.
Wasteland 3 can be a bit of slog if you're gunning for marathon gaming sessions with it at the helm. Combat, whilst exciting initially can fall into the traps of repetition. A little more variety could have negated some of the repeated player actions. That said, the story is compelling and the characters an interesting assortment of misfit survivors, although perhaps fitting post-apocalyptic stereotypes. It's a fun, easy to play game overall though that should well-please fans of the series and keep players entertained for quite some time with its high replay-value. However, aside from some bugs here and there, the impressive amount of voice-work on offer, the character building is the best part of the experience where you can really nurture your ranger squad in this snowy post-apocalyptic world.
At least in my time with it, Wasteland 3 has been a fascinating experience. I’ve come to appreciate its depth of gameplay, character, building, and exploration, even if some of its pieces and parts still feel very foreign to me.
I will be even happier with Wasteland 3 once it’s patched and most of the bugs that bit me end up getting squashed. Even in its current state I’m having a grand ol’ time bringing some justice to the cold depths where no Ranger has dared to before. But for as much of a blast as I’m having out northeast in the cold, I hope I can make it back to sunny Arizona in time to save my fellow lawmen!
Wasteland 3 is a throwback to the old School RPGs of yesteryear, while providing a new combat experience and a bigger world. Players that liked previous Fallout Games, or games like Wasteland 2 or Baldur's Gate will feel right at home with this title, and will have the opportunity to try X-Com like combat. For the amount of content provided, 60 USD is a very good price, and fans of the genre should get more than their money's worth.
Wasteland 3 doesn't bring much new to the table, both as a CRPG and as a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction. But, it's a terrifically executed role-playing game that rewards player investment from beginning to end.
Wasteland 3 is a heady crescendo of post-apocalyptic story-telling. Its combat is compelling and fun while its characters and overall plot are engrossing, even when it goes to some dark places. A must-play for tactical RPG fans.
We’ll update this review if the game is fixed, and the issues outlined are fixed or at least addressed; and then I’ll pick it back up. As it stands now, I’ll be playing something else that isn’t as apt to crash. Buyer beware.
There are a few misgivings related to Wasteland 3's technical aspects, mechanics, and overall challenge. However, its cast of characters (both old and new), the switch to a traditional turn-based combat system, and branching paths filled with decisions and dire consequences make for a superb journey with the Desert Rangers.
With a focus on freedom of choice that is second-to-none, Wasteland 3 has set the benchmark for CRPG narratives, all the while being supported by wonderfully engaging gameplay and roleplaying mechanics.
It took me a while to realize how much these interactions, whether it be the interpersonal conversation or combat encounters themselves, stuck with me. Wasteland 3 has rules, but they only exist for you to bend them. With limitless character creation combinations, branching dialogue choices that affect what quests you do or don’t experience, and multiple endings, Wasteland 3 is an expanse of content and opportunity. The change in locale does wonders, no longer relying on a tired post-apocalyptic biome. Wasteland 3 has a wonderful backdrop in Colorado’s frozen wastes, making it the perfect place to spend a nuclear winter.
Wasteland 3 takes players to a new location and presents them with equally unfamiliar challenges, yet still perfectly demonstrates all of the reasons why this series has had die-hard fans for over three decades, and is absolutely worth playing for anyone looking for their next post-apocalyptic fix.
Wasteland 3 doesn't change its predecessor's successful formula but, outside of certain design limitations, it perfects and modernizes it. It's easily the best game in the franchise, in terms of pure technique, and one that clearly gives you an idea of what inXile is able to achieve.
Wasteland 3 is a good role-playing game, technically passable but enriched by a dense network of intriguing subplots that will push the most dedicated to play it several times. Watch out for the ever-present release bugs, though – best to wait a couple patches if you want to avoid unnecessary hurdles.
Wasteland 3 features everything only the best role-playing games do: an engaging story powered by excellent writing, compelling characters, tons of customization options, and a deep tactical combat system that feels fresh even after dozens of hours. But, most of all, it features a living world that reacts to what the player does, and changes depending on how the player decides to deal with the troubles ahead, providing a role-playing experience of the highest degree, one that very few games can boast of.
Wasteland 3 is a testament to the power of the branching narrative, taking it far beyond binary choices and into a grand canopy of cause and effect. It gives the wintry climbs of Colorado a lifelike quality that must have been painstaking to build. The most impressive RPG in years, Wasteland 3 is a masterpiece.
Wasteland 3 shines with clear dedication to crafting the best game its genre has ever seen. Excellent visuals are matched by top notch voice work and some of the best and most natural writing I have seen in a video game not made by Naughty Dog. The combat is a brutal dance where one wrong move can spell disaster, but victory is an exhilarating rush that never becomes old. Wasteland 3 cements inXile as one of the best in the business in the RPG genre and affirms that Xbox has something truly special on their hands.
Well! Here we are again. Everyone is sitting around this internet campfire, anxiously awaiting another Hawk story. Some of you are making S'mores. Others have crammed a stick into a hotdog and are now roasting it. I "Cope" with life and have a fat dip in. The only person I don't see is Hawk. Wait. There he is, and he keeps sticking his fingers into the fire to, "make sure it's still hot." I wonder if there is still a need to detail how mentally deficient or completely oblivious Hawk is? I strongly encourage you to read my previous stories if you have not been formally introduced to Hawk. I suspect you will continue to read anyways, so I offer you this: Hawk is the type of guy that gets into a spelling argument with his tattoo artist and walks out proud of his two-inch sized font forehead tattoo that reads "No Regerts." We were in beautiful Iraq, a charming vacation destination for thousands of Americans. The vacation was all inclusive. The local women dressed like Pac-Man ghosts or ninjas, and countryside smelled like raw sewage and regret. Most of the locals were very hospitable, but some of the locals had a very strong desire to shout, "Praise Allah" while simultaneously trying to kill us. I am not bothered by much. Every human is entitled to their beliefs. We are also entitled to our own opinions. For example, I don't personally feel "man-dresses" and flip-flops are suitable combat attire, but who am I too judge? The only time I have an issue with people is when they are actively trying to kill me. I don't know why, but it really pisses me off. That and grape jelly. We worked out of two different locations during this deployment. The majority of my Battalion worked out of a medium-sized Forward Operating Base (FOB), but we also operated out of a smaller FOB. We typically stayed at this other location for about ten days, and would rotate with another Platoon. The location was not horrible, but I personally hated the transient lifestyle. We lived out of our ruck-sacks, and had to find ways to occupy our time when we were not conducting raids or other missions. We didn't have the luxuries we had at "home." There were no gaming systems or large televisions. We simply had find ways to occupy ourselves. Football was the game of choice for a couple weeks, then it got blacklisted. It had nothing to do with the ball being pigskin either. It was mostly due to poor mission analysis. Football was one of the few things we could all do and actually enjoyed, until it was too dark to play. We had a brilliant and genius idea. We fucking "own the night" with our Night Vision Goggle (NVGs), so why don't we rent it for a couple hours to finish the game? Game on Garth! We thought of everything. We drenched that infidel ball in Infrared (IR) chemlight (Glow Stick) juice. The depth perception problem was immediately evident. House took a fucking laser beam pass to the to the face. Two black eyes builds character though. We can work through it though. His NVGs were still Fully Mission Capable (FMC), and we all realized that we needed to be a bit quicker. The fourth play from scrimmage was undoubtedly the best, and worst football play in the history of Iraq football. Fuck punting. We were going for it. It would have been easy to confuse Tony, our quarterback for Michael Vick from the shotgun. Tony was a Michael Vick with NVGs, and without the dog fighting felony. Tony evaded numerous rushers and then superbly delivered a fifty yard completion to Ryan. It was beautiful to watch, until it wasn't. NVG's are great, but they don't offer the same Field of View (FOV) your eye-nuggets offer. Ryan thought he was all alone and started a leisurely stroll to the end-zone. The he got fucking nuked from the top and bottom, in fucking reverse directions. Sure, Ryan broke a finger and required "some" stitches. Oh and they broke three sets of NVGs in one play, but damn that was a glorious fucking hit. It was first-and-ten, but our Platoon Sergeant was less than happy. Game off Wayne! We were now bored again. There was another unit on the FOB with us, but they were not fans of us. The only real interaction we had was when their full-bird Colonel told us to, "stay the fuck away from his Soldiers." I don't know if one of the other Platoons ruined it for us, but the guy was just a complete prick to us. We did our best to keep our reverse schedule, but it was just so boring during the evenings we were not working. The majority of us resorted to playing Spades or Echure, and others read. Hawk and a handful of others would take nightly showers and then seemed to vanish. "Knowledge is power" and I knew Hawk was utterly powerless. I knew better than to ever let that retarded bird spread his wings and fly solo. I didn't see any reason to worry though. The other people Hawk was with were far smarter than Hawk woud ever be. Furthermore, with football now off the table, there was really no way for anyone to get in trouble at this FOB. Imagine Hawk in a cattle chute. If I put a box labeled "commonsense" on the opposite end, Hawk would never fucking find it. In a place he literally has no option but to find it, he would NOT FIND IT. EVER. However, if I had a box labeled "worst decision ever" and dropped it in the ocean, Hawk would fucking somehow stumble upon the lost city of Atlantis. I had never really got my ass chewed before I became Hawk's leader, but that trend went out the window when I inherited him. We lived on the second floor, and my bunk was closest to the door that rotation. Thankfully too. I was woken up when I heard, "I want to talk to one of your leaders." I didn't know "who" was in trouble, but I had Hawk so I knew it was best to simply put my shoes on and assume I was in trouble by proxy. I didn't even wait to see if I would get to sit on the Green Army Weenie, I just spit in my hand and readied my o-ring for maximal insertion. It was too early for the sun to even be out, and I was already willingly walking to my execution. My how things had changed so quickly. I walk outside and I see five Soldiers, one Hawk, and a fucking pissed of Colonel (COL). COL: Are you their leader? OP: I am one of them. How can I help you Sir? COL: Do you know where I caught them? This is where I would typically say something stupid, but this guy didn't look happy, and I didn't want to give him a reason to wake up someone who "may" have gave a shit as to why he was irate. OP: No Sir. I don't. COL: Above MY SHOWER? I was now pissed. There was a large shower tent in the middle of large open courtyard. One half was male and the other was female. These fucking morons were spying on naked females? I want to kill them for listening to Hawk. Well, I assumed it was a Hawk idea. Like Hawk's brain, I was putting the cart before the horse. I assume it was Hawk, but I had questions. OP: How in the fuck did you guys get on top the shower tent? I was working myself into a frenzy. My brain does not operate like normal people brains. I was pretty pissed considering they violated the privacy of the beautiful ladies at the FOB, but I was actually more pissed they got on top of a fucking tent. They seemingly forgot everything about military tactics and got caught; that was the foremost reason for my anger. The spying on deployment 1's (binary thingy) was second. Considerably a far worse offense, but second at the point in time. COL: NO. Not the shower tent. On my personal shower. What? This guy was so special, he had a personal shower. What, he was too good to use the pallet floored showers like the rest of us? So maybe the Romanians (We think anyways) occasionally shit on the pallets and waffle-stomped the poop through the pallets, but the water pressure was phenomenal. OP: You have a personal shower Sir, and they were on top? COL: YES. I caught them in my water tank. Well, back to being puzzled. I don't judge. I personally don't care if penis gazing is your hobby, but there are five of you? Why don't you just unleash your hogs and stare at each others? Anyways, how in the fuck did they all fit into the water tank? What the fuck did they do when they got inside? My god, my brain was running wild with unsightly pictures. OP: My apologies Sir, but how did they all fit into your water tank? COL: Come with my Sergeant; so you understand what I am talking about. OP: You mother fuckers can wait for me in, the front-leaning-rest (Push-up position). I still wasn't certain I entirely cared, but I thought this would may demonstrate that I showed concern about his fucking one-person shower. COL Prick then lead me around the side of the building and showed me his water tank. It was fucking huge. It was one of the typical hard plastic tanks, but the entire top had been cut off. God knows why, not like it was ever dusty in Iraq, but the top was no-more. It all made sense now. They weren't gay; they were chilling in a makeshift hot tub! Well, the gayness thing is up in the air, but I guess they were too loud while he was showering!?! I apologized profusely, but COL Prick had me locked up at the position of attention for at least ten minutes just dressing me down. I was a "really poor leader, and you're not going to go anywhere in the Army." Jokes on him, they haven't kicked me out yet. COL: This is why nobody likes "cool guys." Words, words, words. You'd better do something about this, words, words, words. My penis is too small to shower with the big boys, words, words, words. NOW GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SIGHT. I returned to the Soldiers, whom were still all in the front-leaning-rest. I screamed, "GET ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BUILDING. I DON'T WANT TO GO TO JAIL AFTER PEOPLE SEE ME SMOKE THE FUCKING LIFE FROM YOUR BODY. NOW FUCKING RUN." They fucking scurry, and I stroll to the other side of the building. Out of sight and out of mind. (I will use "Group" unless Hawk is the person talking. Too many useless names otherwise.) OP: That fucking dickhead has his own fucking shower! What the fuck? GROUP: I know right? OP: What the fuck were you guys thinking? I would expect this from at least one of you, but I won't point elbows. (I then just fucking stare at Hawk.) GROUP: We didn't think anyone used it. We had never seen anyone go into the room, and the room looked empty. We saw the water tank on top, and just figured we would check it out. OP: How the fuck did you even get up there? GROUP: You can walk to it if you exit any second floor window on our building. Well, the courtyard side. OP: So you guys just sneak out and hang out in this guys shower water? GROUP: Yes, but we seriously thought nobody used it. We would not have used it otherwise. OP:You fucking dip-shits think this was just a randomly placed unused water tank? You fucking idiots just stand in this guys shower water for hours? HAWK: No. We are not dumb Sergeant. We sit on MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) boxes. OP: HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON? GROUP: (LaughteGiggles) Every night!?! OP: We have been here for five days now! NO FUCKING MORE! I will fucking kill you if I get yelled at again over this. The only thing that makes me smile is the fact that he is showering with your ball funk. Hawk: I have some excellent news then Sergeant OP: Really? Whats Hawk? Hawk: (Smirk) We made a promise that, "nobody pisses in the hot tub"... OP: This is why your mother should have swallowed you Hawk. Why the fuck would that make me happy? Hawk: (Laughing) Because I broke that rule every night. Most nights more than once! GROUP: What the fuck Hawk! We have been lounging in your piss? What the fuck dude! Hawk: I know. (Smiles.) I lied to you though! Cheer up Sergeant. I peed on him for you! For the record, Hawk did not find the hot tub. He just peed in it, a lot. I don't think any of us paid attention because they came back from wet and with towels. I merely assumed they went to the showers. I suppose I should have kept better track of time. Also, I apologize if this was not as funny as the other Hawk tales. I realized it when I reread it, but it was certainly funny being on-the-ground and witnessing it. Can't laugh at them all I suppose. Remember, next week, "Hawk Walks Home: In Iraq." I don't think it is feasibly possible to not make that one funny. Lastly, some of my stories are a result of me being in the military, but not military. Those stories and others will/are posted at FuckeryUniveristy. I am not ever going to compete with this page, but I do need a place to post other stories and have little fear they will be taken down. The mod may be a huge prick, but at least I know the guy. Man...huge prick! Cheers!
You’re probably closer to independence than you realize
Financial Independence, as most spreadsheets frame the idea, is the art of replacing your spending with investment returns. More quietly stated is an implicit promise that after you’ve done it, you’re free. Chasing that freedom is an incredible motivator if you’re anything like me. And you’re probably at least a little like me, if you’re on this subreddit. Except, of course, we all know you’re never completely free. The outside requirements on a human life don’t stop at the financial. You still have to go to the doctors office to make sure your body is running OK. You need to take out the trash. Your desk gets messy and you have to clean it up. You feel guilty if you forget send your mom a card on her birthday. You’re not free, you’re still a human being. Just a human being with a lot of flexibility. And, of course, once most people do the math, it becomes clear that in order to get spending low enough to make it work, your part time job effectively becomes frugality. Being frugal isn’t a terrible part time job. You autonomously set your own schedule, it gives you an opportunity to be creative, you develop skills which have an impact on your life, such as gardening and thrifting. Frugality challenges your comfort levels at times, which in turn allows you appreciate luxury when it’s available. For me, it’s pretty much the checklist for what counts as an incredibly satisfying job. I don’t have a problem with any of this. And as a thoughtful person who’s put some brain time into designing your life, you already implicitly know everything I’m saying. But it’s useful to say explicitly. I sat down this week to write a plan for what I would do if I lost my job tomorrow, and was barred from full time employment for the rest of my life. I was not shocked to discover that even without 100% FI savings, I could design several options for lifestyles where my FI goals of satisfying work, low stress, extreme autonomy, meaningful relationships, and security were accessible. But what I was shocked to discover was that I could also design such a life without relying on any of my considerable savings or investments at all. The savings and investments made it a lot easier, but they really weren’t necessary. It turns out the important part of this thought exercise was forcing myself to give up my current job. With that, I had to get rid of my own internal limiters: the unconscious need to project success to peers, the fear of giving up what I’ve already worked for in my current job, the iron clad spreadsheet and financial plan that I’ve been faithfully following for seven years, the fear of something new. When all that creativity was being pointed towards the actual life goals, as opposed to purely the financial goals that I thought would help with the life goals, a lot of shortcuts became apparent. And I couldn't have done it without having put a tremendous amount of thought into clarifying what, exactly, I want out of life. Of course, I’m not quitting my job immediately. And it’s not like my current lifestyle is too far of a cry from my goal lifestyle. It has a little less autonomy than I’d like, and a little more stress, but we’re in the ballpark. But the lesson that I think is important to remember is that financial goals are easy to measure, easy to track, and easy to let swallow you to the point of distraction. Life is not a binary between FI and failure. Extreme saving is a tool, and only a tool, and it’s worth putting thought into what you need that tool for, and not just how to get your hands on it.
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.
A thorough evaluation of the 9/18 PTS update and base changes, as well as almost everything else coming up.
Hello, here’s another round of Esamir Rework reviews. I’ll also cover the Indar base changes, the storm, vehicle balance changes and new infantry gear. I’m not going to touch on outfit resource changes here, since this post is long enough already. I’d like to give shoutouts to aln-isolator , [NWYT]Praefectus, the pilots of [SACA] and everyone else who helped give feedback. Here’s the image gallery. This time around the bases listed in the document match the order in which they appear in the gallery. https://imgur.com/a/5pd5VFj Esamir has a new skybox which is much less bright. I can now see vehicle weapon tracers when shooting. This is a long asked for change. Andvari: 3 points now, 12 min cap with 2 points, 4 mins with 3 points. Consider adjusting the timers. Ymir: No changes to terrain that I can see. It’s a 12 minute cap with two points owned, and 4 minutes with 3 points. Might consider reducing those slightly. Apex Genetics has had its wall adjusted somewhat, as well as the rocks surrounding the triple stack. There are now more routes for infantry to enter the base. Aurora Materials: Sunderer garage and surrounding terrain seem to have been lowered slightly. Also, there’s now a rock at the end of the garage, which reduces the possible angles the bus inside can be shelled from. The slope between the crescent building and the road has had some paths added for infantry. Overall, good changes. However, there’s still one issue here, and that’s the possibility of shelling the triple stack balcony from the ridge NW of the base. Additional purple spikes from the cluster behind the spawn room could be positioned to block this firing angle. Eastwake Harborage: Point has received a new structure above it. It’s now on the bottom floor of a triple stack that has an expanded balcony around its second floor. This gives point holders a lot of additional cover, but the problems with this base still exist. There’s still a ridiculous distance between spawn room and the point with minimal cover from vehicles/bolters/LAs- a literal Death Valley. The area immediately around point is still extremely harasser friendly and could use some props to obstruct harasser movement. In its current position, the teleporter room is useless since infantry leaving it must still advance through Death Valley. Sundy positions are a bit sketchy, too. Fortunately, I’ve had a long discussion and now believe this base could be fixed with a couple tweaks. Consider replacing the AI turret outside the spawn room with an AV gun. This would discourage excessively aggressive vehicles from camping Death Valley. Likewise, replacing the light vehicle pull with an MBT pull gives defenders a bit more potential firepower, and increases the area attacking vehicles must cover to protect their own vulnerable spawns. This base would also benefit from the moving of primary teleporter room to a point higher up the hill and closer to the point, as shown by squad waypoint in this image: https://i.imgur.com/TuEee9F.png. A second teleporter here at hearts waypoint https://i.imgur.com/JUbXklc.png gives defenders another route into the point without going through Death Valley. At these two locations sunderer garages could be built to create safer spawn points for attackers.https://i.imgur.com/QWblfz4.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/w4HR05n.png Echo valley: Rocks have been added on the exterior side of the vehicle terminal to give it some cover. However, they aren’t close enough to each other to prevent me from driving through with a Kobalt bus, nor is there anything stopping me from hacking the terminal or using a GSD to get through the shield and then start driving around the base. Placement of a couple rocks in very specific spots would stop this. Secondly, a crate has been placed between bridges to give infantry another path into the point building. It’s a cool concept, but it needs some form of obstruction to prevent me from driving harassers or possibly larger vehicles onto the two bridges and blasting point directly. Thirdly, consider some form of sight blockers on the west wall to reduce the potential for LAs to spawn camp. Excavion DS-01E: Cover has been placed over both tunnels, which is an excellent change. MBT pulls have been added to this base, though they could stand to be moved slightly closer to the spawn room to deter attackers from hacking them and flooding the base with AI vehicles. A point is located in a long narrow building near the eastern tunnel exit. B is in a triple stack on the south side. C is located immediately west of the drill site. Capture timer is 4 minutes with two points and 1 minute with all 3. This base is mostly fine, but could do with some small tweaks for increased cover. At A point the point holders have few options for cover inside. There are two small smokestack structures (pictures in gallery) that could be replaced with actual buildings to provide more cover from aircraft for players moving around inside the base. Timers could probably be increased slightly. Overall though it’s in a decent state. Genudine Gardens: Some props have been added throughout the base that’ll prevent harassers from turboing around like maniacs, but the gigantic hole in the wall in one corner needs to be closed off somewhat to prevent vehicle entry or at least make it more difficult. This base would be fine if that hole were sealed or obstructed better. Grey Heron: Additional cover has been placed on the side of the staircase leading from spawn to B/C point. The secondary route for defenders has been fleshed out- the door now is high enough to get under, and there is a hole in the floor that allows defenders to drop down to the lower level. Cover has been added on the B side of this base. For improvements, I still think a roof is needed over the stairs from defender spawn to the lower level. A wall alone won’t stop tanks from shelling it. C could use a bit of cover, but I’m concerned that adding too much will turn it into a fortress. You can enter this base with harassers, so some bollards should be added to each entrance to prevent that. Jaegers’ fist: Sunderer garage has been added, and the trench has been improved. This base has some odd issues from an infantry perspective, namely that attackers and defenders have the exact same routes to the point, as shown in the gallery. I have no ideas for how this could be improved. I still believe the point needs some kind of roof to block HESH spam and A2G, preferably a solid one to deter LAs from doing C4 bombing. BL-4 Recovery and Vidar Observation Post both have spawn rooms and light vehicle terminals. This is a pretty good change, allowing closer vehicle pulls and a shorter sundy reinforcement distance for attacks on the surrounding facilities. Jord Amp Station: More cover has been added around C point. This is a good change, but doesn’t change the fact that A is still inside the station. Mani Lake: This one has undergone the most terrain edits, and consequently has become a lot less vehicle friendly. The two trenches leading into the base have had barricades installed, allowing infantry to move through but not vehicles. The hills surrounding the base have had their exterior faces steepened significantly, preventing treaded vehicles from driving up them. This change is excellent, but needs a bit of tuning. The Western Ridge’s southern tip has a shallow enough slope that tanks can still drive up it. On the large mountain to the West on the far side of the road, there’s a small protrusion that should also be levelled. Once these two spots are taken care of, this base will be fine. Overall, the changes are very good here. Mattherson’s Triumph: The Sunderer NDZ has been reduced in radius, which allows the defenders to deploy inside the south tower for a safer position. This is a good change. The ridgeline to the NE has had its northern face steepened significantly, preventing tanks from driving up that side. However, the SW face has become easier to traverse, so the ridge is still usable for bombardment of the catwalks and A point. If this goes live in this state, it’s not a total disaster since tanks driving up that will be very exposed to AV fire from the tower, but it still could stand to be addressed. Likewise, there’s still a nice spur sticking out of the north end from the NW ridge that allows tanks to easily shell defender spawn and A point. The fix here is simple- flatten the spur completely. A point needs additional work. At minimum, the windows on each tower in the room where A point/SCU would normally go should be sealed off to reduce the angles point holders must watch. There’s very little cover on the ground, especially when you consider all the angles A can be shot at from. I believe the point could be enclosed in the same type of building used at Chimney Rock’s point on Amerish. The bridges are a mixed bag. They’re identical copies with one rotated 180 degrees, which means that crate placement favors the attackers on B side and the defenders on the C side. Picking one crate pattern for all 4 bridge ends is one possible fix. I’m still not sold on the idea of both points being on bridges. They’re very exposed to A2G spam and bolters. Overall, at the very least the terrain edits are a nice start, and the sunderer NDZ change is very welcome. Nott Communications: This base is now entirely underground. Attackers enter by overloading a shielded gate, and then drop down into an amp station interior. These gravity lifts are one way, but please consider adding an up lift to replace one of the drop pads. A point is in the position where A points usually are in amp stations. B and C are in the room where SCU would be normally positioned. At the end of this room where the tunnels and back door would normally be is a one-way teleporter, which is the only way for anyone to get out of this base right now. Defenders spawn underground and there’s a one-way shield leading to where the vehicle bay normally is. To improve this base, I’d make the one-way shield a two way shield, and reverse one of the grav lifts. I could not test the cap timer since I did not feel like ghost capping half a continent. Pale Canyon: Some cover has been adjusted by the big yellow tanks on the SE side. A new route has been placed through the rocks at the NW corner of the base. This is an interesting change, but I don’t know how that’ll play out on live since currently I can park a bus inside the base at the same location. The Rink: The ground texture at A point is now ice, so it’s actually an ice rink. Too bad you don’t slide around here. Saerro Listening Post: Trees added to A point to break LOS between attacking vehicles and the tower. The wall between A and B has had some new gaps placed in it to allow infantry to get in. Interesting changes for sure, but I don’t know how they’ll play out. The Traverse: The bridge has been resurrected, although it’s in a heavily damaged state. It’s now an infantry only playground, unless you’re a bold harasser or magrider driver. Because the storm was here, I really couldn’t stick around and take a long look at this. Lastly, the bottom of the pit has been raised a bit and paths to the bottom have been defined more clearly. There also have been some changes to roads around the continent, but nothing major. Indar: TI Alloys: The removal of the bridge is a failure to understand why TI Alloys is such a difficult base to attack. On live servers, TI currently suffers from horrific sunderer placement options which combine with its central location to create a base that’s easy to defend. From the North, attackers must park their bus and attack up a hill through narrow ravines into entrenched defenders backed up by AI harassers, sunderers, ANTs, lightnings and even occasional MBTs. From the South, attackers have two bus spots: One is placed to the south-east, below the point. The other is placed directly south of the spawn room on the far side of the road. Both of these options are suboptimal- on the south east spawn the bus can easily be sniped by vehicles shelling from the Crown, driving down from the Crown, or by vehicles streaming out of the vehicle pull. The south bus on the far side of the road is also not ideal, since infantry have to cross the road and deal with a flood of vehicles as well as an angry AI turret. The only decent spawn location is at the end of the rock bridge, since that one’s reasonably safe from enemy vehicles and doesn’t involve attacking from the low ground. However, this position’s impeded by the fact that attackers from the north inevitably gravitate to the eastern side of the base since that’s safer from the defenders, forcing a three way that never ends. The result is a base that can’t be broken except by routers. The removal of the rock bridge changes none of this, but instead creates more problems. The safe sundy position on the bridge is gone entirely. Further, the bridge’s removal allows tanks to bombard Ti from the Crown once more, since it served as a line-of-sight blocker. The new attacker foot path to the north east is extremely vulnerable to bombardment from the Crown. As far as the base interior goes, a new wall has been added to the interior of the point room structure. This might give attackers a better chance to get to the point, but at the same time it might make things easier for the defenders should they conduct an organized push since there are fewer angles to set up a crossfire from. So how can Ti be improved? I’d start by bringing the bridge back, or at least a small section of it to allow for a safe sunderer position at the east side. For the south, consider a tunnel leading under the road. This allows infantry to get to the base safely. I’d also consider adding in more props to restrict the passage of vehicles through the spawn room area to the northern side of the base. Removing the Kobalt bus fiesta there will make it easier for attackers to push in from the north. Lastly, if the bridge is not restored, consider creating a rock wall at the north east section of crown to prevent tanks from raining hell on anyone fighting at Ti. Crown: The removal of D point is honestly a good thing. It wasn’t fun for anyone to attack since it’s open ground and below a cliff which enables C4 spam against vehicles and requires attackers push against entrenched infantry. Since Crown becomes a three point again, now the base cannot be stuck in a perpetual stalemate. I’m not a fan of where A point was moved to, either. I think if the rock bridge were kept then Crown would be mostly fine. With the three non-vehicle points it has on live. The issue with A being on that southern bridge is that if the attackers set up sunderers to control B, then they get A almost for free and can contest C as well. B point has been moved farther towards the center of the mountain and the tunnel system lengthened a bit, and a lot of cover has been removed at the initial entrance room that exists on live.The extra tunnel into B is an interesting idea and gives a better chance of an attack from the North succeeding, but at the same time it’s just another tunnel choke point to for aoe spam to create nasty farms. C is also problematic if it’s supposed to be the easy point for defenders to contest. It’s a fair distance from the tower, and it’s also open ground which is prime for A2G farming. I’d suggest moving this one into one of the nearby buildings if A must stay in the position it’s at on PTS. I’m not convinced the base needed any point position changes apart from the removal of D point. The current point layout on PTS favors an attack from the SE very heavily, and attacks from the East or North are far more difficult. While old A was very close to the tower, at least it provided a convenient point for attacks from the East. None of the changes really address the problem of poor bus location options, and with the current terrain there really aren’t many good potential spawn options. At most some garages could be added. Ceres Hydroponics: Defenders now have a slightly shorter path to the point when pushing from the NE side of the base. The point itself has much less cover. I’m not going to make judgements on this without seeing how it plays out. The Esamir storm: I’m not sure what this thing is supposed to do. The entire point of the game is large scale battles, yet this thing rolls around the map destroying the biggest fights. There’s nowhere safe from it. Sunderers will get destroyed even if put in garages. When outdoors infantry can be instagibbed by lightning for staying outside too long, and even when indoors their shielding takes frequent chip damage from environmental effects. The shield damage consistently drops players down about 150 shield points that constantly recharge, but this is enough to start messing with TTKs. For example, a commissioner can consistently OHK players. Since the shield damage is not synchronized across all players, it’s possible to be forced into gunfights where you have no hope of winning not because you were in a bad spot or outplayed, but simply because the game decided it’s your time to die. This applies doubly for lightning bolts which will randomly strike you down. There’s a text warning, of course, but random OHK mechanics really shouldn’t be a thing. You cannot use steel rain in the storm. For vehicles this is obnoxious too. Ground vehicles lose most of their mobility, which will punish new players with poorly certed vehicles even more. Aircraft are even worse off, losing most of their vertical thrust. At times I felt like even afterburning upward was barely enough to keep the aircraft airborne. Vehicles kept in the storm for too long will simply be instagibbed, which cripples sunderers as spawns. The storm also destroys base turrets and terminals. There are counters to the storm, though. Infantry can deploy lightning rods bought with merit that allow them to fight outside, but it doesn’t stop shield chip damage, and can equip an insulated armor suit at the cost of flak armor, nanoweave, or shield capacitor. This suit slot appears to be bugged and doesn’t actually reduce the chip damage taken by your shields. Carapace seems to be immune to this chip damage. Vehicles can equip insulated armor in the defense slot. This mitigates the performance hit to vehicles, reduces the damage taken by lightning, and prevents the storm from instagibbing your vehicle. Now, this is less of a problem in the first place for aircraft and tanks, but it screws over sunderers. Sunderers are already fragile enough even with deployment shield equipped, but forcing spawn buses to use this module and rely on their low hull HP is a very bad idea when paired with random lightning strikes and the severe lack of garages Esamir has. With all that out of the way, the question I have to ask is why is the storm designed like this? It seems like a band-aid fix for zerging and actively punishes trying to create large fights. It cripples the vehicle game, negatively affects the infantry game, creates inconsistent TTKs, and only adds frustrating game mechanics. If the center of the map ends up with stalemates, it’ll circle around there endlessly preventing any kind of progress through the pile of three point bases. Why this, when there’s a lot more interesting concepts that could be used? For example, maybe the storm could reduce the rate at which players can spawn at a base/sunderers/routers. Maybe it could jam radaprevent Q spotting. Consider reducing shield chip damage to 50 shields instead of 150 to reduce TTK variance. There’s a lot more interesting ways it could change the game without being the anti-fun mechanic that it’s currently set up as. Infantry gear: Lightning grenade: Cool, you can launch a targeted lightning strike when in the storm. More instagibs is what the game needed. Lightning rod: This temporarily redirects lightning strikes near you. This is a solution to an obnoxious problem that doesn’t need to exist. Condensate grenade: Reduces movement speed and ROF by 20% for six seconds. This is a terrible idea in an FPS game. This doesn’t create interesting gameplay situations. Instead of being outplayed, players hit by this just lose since the game’s punishing them for playing. Keep this in RPGs and RTS games. Now, we do have status grenades already, but do we need one that’s as powerful as this one is? BEC grenade: Similar to Condensate Grenades, this is a horrible addition to the game. Anything that hurts player mobility/damage output is a bad idea. Neutralizer Device: Campaign reward that allows players to acquire abandoned vehicles, and apparently strip ability energy from players too. I like the idea of vehicle acquisition, but I don’t know if we’ll ever see the second use of this tool. Abandoned vehicles: Around the continent are the hulks of abandoned tanks, sunderers and aircraft. They come with a special ability that I haven’t really tested, HEAT cannons and the first generation ES top gun. For the sake of loadout parity for all 3 abandoned MBTs I’d like to suggest the Prowler get a Gatekeeper instead of the Vulcan. Vehicle changes: Havoc missiles: Are these things still necessary, with the liberator nerfs? These things seem redundant now, and they’ll punish rep gal balls unnecessarily hard while valkyries with rep monkeys can probably still dodge these things easily. Phalanx AA turret range increase: This doesn’t fix any of the problems with the current AA setup. Instead, it’s going to just annoy A2A players who are flying along at high altitude and getting plinked by base AA guns, which is the reason the things got their range capped to begin with! Honestly I think these things should be replaced by weapons like Bastion CIWS guns. Those things are nasty at close range but their damage output falls off heavily at range. Liberator: -500 HP and ESF nosegun resist from 85 to 80. While the liberator needed some changes regarding its durability and repair tanking in particular, this change spectacularly misses the mark on many levels. This change skews ESF vs Liberator combat too far in favor of ESFs. When paired with air locks this brings down the TTK to incredibly fast levels (around 9 seconds, which isn’t even enough for three dalton shots) In this post, mystoganofedolashttps://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivjg8t/rock_paper_scissor_balance/ explains in great detail the liberator issues- it’s a blatant hard counter to ground vehicles, and gets brutally hard countered by ESFs on PTS. Hard counter mechanics are terrible in an FPS game. In this sort of rock-paper-scissors gameplay, things boil down less to individual ability and more towards who has an exact counter to something, which is extremely boring. There’s no skill in using A2A missiles, just as there’s minimal skill in hovering over tanks and daltoning them. In this post here https://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivsssx/did_some_basic_math_regarding_the_upcoming/, taltharius demonstrates that -500 HP barely changes anything in the case of liberators eating multiple AP shells before hitting fire suppression and flying off. Skilled gunnery should be rewarded, and sloppy flying should be punished. So how can this be improved? Consider reducing vulnerability to ESF noseguns slightly. Adjusting Liberator resistance against tank shells, light anti-vehicle, gatling guns, and infantry rockets will increase the damage libs take from ground fire and punish poor flying/reward skilled aim. Possibly consider increasing MBT main gun elevation angles slightly, to reduce the ability of liberators to hover over tanks with minimal counterplay. Harasser: Nanite cost to 300. Oh boy this one misses the mark completely. The problem with harassers has never really been cost related, but rather one that got introduced with CAI. The harasser itself is not overpowered and its efficiency in combat drops off hard at higher levels of gameplay. Only when harasser numbers become overwhelming (3 or more harassers vs 1 MBT) do the harassers stand a chance of defeating the best tank crews, and even then the tank usually can take 2-3 harassers with it. Harasser vs tank gameplay is extremely boring and very binary. If the harasser has a CQ AV gun it’s forced to fight at point blank which means I delete it easily. If it uses halberd or ES long range AV we both enter a boring poke fight where neither one does significant damage to the other. Even if the harasser opens up with rear hits the MBT still has an overwhelming advantage in firepower and hit points. With tanks, the problem since CAI has been poor muzzle velocity of HEAT shells which makes hitting difficult and what most players will have equipped, pathetic Basilisk DPS against everything (Kobalt kills stock harassers 4 seconds faster), Skyguards being helpless against every ground vehicle, and the Viper not having the accuracy to deal with small moving fast targets. Small changes to these three weapons will reduce harasser vs tank complaints. Harasser vs Harasser is broken, for a different reason. Harassers have a weakness to gatling guns, which means that the Vulcan and Aphelion rip through harassers while the Mjolnir specializes in fighting heavy vehicles. In practice, this means that for low/average skilled car crews, vulcans are disproportionately powerful since less skilled players won’t know to keep outside minimum damage range. At higher levels an Aphelion car is very hard to fight. Toning back harasser weaknesses to gatling guns might improve this situation, but at the same time it might nerf the Aphelion too much. At the very least this’d probably reduce vulcan whine somewhat. Overall, I have mixed impressions. The base changes are mostly for the better, but the storm, infantry gear, and vehicle changes are mostly bad or miss the mark completely.
The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Jeph's attempts to represent every major marginalized group in the United States have absolutely wrecked this comic, and ended up accurately representing nobody.
Jeph...is not a great writer. I know we all have fond memories of QC in its "glory days," but participating in the reread I've started to realize something. Jeph's ability to write a good story is limited to what he himself experienced in his formative days and while he was writing the early strips: life as a mid-twenties-something guy, pining after attractive girls that came and went from his little indie music scene.And he does it well, because he's drawing on what he knows. The dialogue is realistic! Comics don't all end with a shitty-punch-line delivered by a sp0rk-holding-rando...because Jeph probably didn't interact with people like that. The main characters come off as real people because most of them are probably based, consciously or not, off of people Jeph really knew and interacted with. It's also real. There's plenty of dialogue that reads as entitled, or would now be considered entirely unacceptable in Jeph's writing. See Sarah's "rape/hump" dialogue. This is how Jeph and his friends *probably* spoke. I know that I threw around the word 'rape' much more casually when I was young and immature than I do now. (It also bothers me that Jeph tries to hide the fact that he's grown out of this mindset, but that's a different post altogether.) Or look at Faye's alcoholism storyline - probably the best writing the comic has seen. It's compelling and readable because it's something Jeph himself has dealt with - he knows those feelings of helplessness and addiction. It's true to life, and as a consequence the writing is almost naturally well done. And it makes sense! Because things proceed like a person's life often does, for Marten. People come, people leave. You fall in love with one girl, she leaves and you meet another. It's realistic because it's based in reality. It's fun because it has goofy situations, interesting characters, and a "very-pretty-if-you-don't-look-too-hard-at-it" sci-fi angle. Then we come to today. Look at how the cast has changed. Aside from having no protagonist, there is not a single main character that Jeph can really relate to on any real-world-experience level. As far as I know, he does not identify as a woman, as a person of color, as someone who is queer, or as someone who is transgendered. There's nothing wrong with that or writing about it, but it's definitely going to make writing characters who *are* living those lives a little harder to write. You don't have the dialogue to draw on. You don't have those interactions with other characters as lived-experiences to draw on. So you've got two choices. You either write what you *imagine* them to be and sound like, or you do your research. Let's talk about the first, and more problematic of the two options, first. I would encourage everyone to go check out /menwritingwomen for some good examples of why it can be this way. Even if you're doing your best to write it realistically, it's probably going to come off as often-times awkward sounding dialogue. Effectively every female character in the comic has been reduced to this. When they're not serving Jeph's purpose to represent their marginality (May opining the life of a convict, Roko having a dissociative episode, Brun acting emotionlessly and/or discussing clocks, the list goes on) they're acting like Jeph probably *imagines* women act around other women. Because Jeph has never *been* a woman alone with another woman, and he doesn't know the intricacies of homogenous gender conversations of the opposite sex more than a cis-gendered woman could explain had by men alone. It invariably turns to stereotypes - boobs, appearances, relationships. It also gives you characters, even if you represent them well, who are defined by the one characteristic you created them for. Brun is my favorite example for this. Do we know *anything* about this girl? We know she's an out-of-work bartender, enjoys clocks , and has autism. We know *so* much about her autism and almost nothing else about her because that's probably what Jeph has to draw on. I don't know that he's ever met someone with autism, let alone spoken with them about their life and experiences. We also know that everyone wants to fuck her, but that's its own weird can of worms that I don't really want to address right now. So what's the alternative, if you want to write about a person who is different from you? I don't think that artists should be constrained and I also think representation is really important. I think that Jeph's *intentions,* to write a comic that accurately represents the lives of members of marginalized groups, *especially* considering everything that's been going on in the United States is an admirable thing. And he actually does hit some elements quite well, actually. I know this sub likes to bash on the realism of Clinton's perceived sexual revelations, but queerness doesn't require foreshadowing to appear in someone's life and Jeph understands this. But, if you're going to do it, do your research. Be forewarned that from this point onwards, I'm speaking *solely* on theory. I don't get the sense that Jeph has ever researched the communities and issues he's trying to write about, save for the woketwitter threads he reads. Everything he writes now reads like it came out of a 15-post-long twitter thread explaining the virtues or disvirtues of this and/or that. I do not get the sense that he's ever strived to understand anything more than the broad-strokes of an issue, know the key-phrases and topic catchphrases, and sets off to write about it. For starters, *talk* to these communities. Reach out, past Twitter and Deviantart, and get a real understanding of what you're writing about. Meet transgendered people. Work with children with autism. Work with convicted felons. That's what good writers *do* when they want to understand the subjects they're writing about. Yes, that's hard when you're trying to represent *everyone,* so maybe it's time to scale back and focus in a little harder on one issue that's important to you, Jeph. Here's how I want to conclude this: Jeph wants to represent the marginalized in his comic, and he wants to offer sincere political commentary. I do not believe he does it just for the woke points (although, yes, his Patreon is the specter that will always loom over him). But if it's going to be at all quality, Jeph needs to narrow things down tremendously. Choose your target, do your research, and continuously write about that character, giving them the chance to develop naturally. Otherwise, it's going to be more of this herky-jerky bullshit forever. Edit: Read comments, decided to add a bit more. A lot of this comes from Jeph's mixed attempt at what he's doing. On one hand, he's admitted he's trying to make this comic a safe space for trans and other non-binary folk, which I think is great. On the other hand, he's simultaneously telling the stories of the lives of marginalized folks and write social commentary about the world as he perceives it. And there's nothing wrong with that...except for that you end up with, frankly, shitty storytelling and messages that don't come across very clearly. He has these intense lead-ups, like Faye coming out to her mother, or Roko's dissociative episodes, or Elliott confessing his attraction to someone who (as far as he knows) is a straight man. And then it just...gets resolved. No difficulties, no problems, just smooth sailing. And hey, if Jeph just wants to tell a friendly story there's nothing wrong with that, but it isn't really telling the stories of the marginalized. Because the truth is that those stories usually don't have happy endings. They don't usually end with accepting parents, or a problem that can be resolved with a snap of the fingers. They're oftentimes painful and they're intense, and if Jeph as an author is going to tell these stories then it is his responsibility to tell the truth. I think doing anything else is irresponsible, frankly. He's giving his readers, many of whom are younger and impressionable, a false sense of how these stories usually go. And I don't agree with the, "It's just supposed to be lighthearted," angle either. Plenty of shows have managed to maintain a tone while handling serious issues. Adventure Time is a great example of this.
Originally, I was leaning against doing an obligatory post-OSCP Reddit post because I didn’t want to come across as another “look at me - I passed OSCP!!” cringeworthy OSCP Oscar speech, but I decided to go ahead and do one because my experience was perhaps a little unique and answers the much-asked question “can I do OSCP without experience?”. A quick background to add context… I’m 31 years old and my employment history is a mixture of sales, graphics, and media-related job roles. I felt discontented for a long time earning (barely) living wage in job roles I had little passion for. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to quit my latest sales job in November last year (2019) to pursue a career in cybersecurity/infosec. I didn’t know what ‘TCP’ or ‘UDP’ was, and I’d never heard of ‘Kali’ or how to run a VM, but I was convinced that this would be the career path for me. Anyway, I went through Security+ and C|EH from November to March and, just as I was going to start applying for Security Analyst type job roles, our friendly neighbourhood Coronavirus came along and shut down the economy. Even though I had no intention of doing OSCP for another year or two, I thought it was a better option than twiddling my thumbs for a few months, so I decided to sign up for PWK labs and have a crack at it. Fast-forwarding to yesterday, after a few brutal months and an incredible experience, I finally got the OSCP “you have successfully completed” email. Apologies in advance for the essay but I just want to go through my journey for those of you that might be in a similar position to the one I was in - limited/zero IT experience and feeling intimidated by the dreaded OSCP mountain. My journey… In the weeks leading up to the wait to start my 60 days PWK material and labs, I went through The Cyber Mentor’s Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course and then went on a Hack the Box rampage, so, by the time my lab time started, I felt like I was in a pretty decent position. Unfortunately, because I was a naïve idiot, I tackled the labs straight away and went through the PWK PDF casually on the side. This was a big mistake and something I would definitely change in hindsight because it cost me 5 easy points on the exam (I thought I could smash through the PDF exercises during the last week of labs but this didn’t prove to be enough time). In 60 days I ended up rooting around 40 machines - I didn’t bother going for the networks because it didn’t apply to the exam and, although valuable real-world experience, I didn’t want to get distracted and flood my brain with even more information when it wasn’t going to be relevant for my mission. One big thing that I did get right was note-taking. I can’t express enough how valuable it is to take detailed notes and build your own cheat sheet library. After every machine I rooted, I did a walkthrough on OneNote and added any new tools/commands to my cheat sheet library. This not only saves precious time in the exam, but it helps you build your own knowledge instead of relying on other people’s cheat sheets without really understanding what you’re doing. After my 60 days had finished, I spent 1 month on TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list and IppSec’s video walkthroughs. I also can’t stress enough how valuable this learning methodology is. My only regret is that I rushed through it. I’d already booked my exam 30 days after lab time, so I ended up jumping through walkthroughs when I got stuck on boxes instead of exhausting all options. This was another naïve idiot mistake on my behalf and something I would do differently in hindsight. There’s a difference between “trying harder” and “trying harder, but in a smart way”. I was putting 10+ hours in every day but I wasn’t always being efficient with my time. I’d definitely recommend seeking hints and tips on boxes but only after you’ve exhausted all options first, something which I didn’t always do. Anyway, my first exam attempt came around towards the end of July. Was I ready? No, but I had delusional confidence in myself that has paid off for me more often than not, so I was hoping it would pay off for me again. My first exam was brutal. I sat in my chair for a total of 23 hours and 15 minutes, with only 3 short 5-minute breaks to get food to snack on. My VPN was shut down after 24 hours and I had a total of 65 points, which I’d been stuck on for the last 8 hours of my exam. I got the BO, root on one of the 20-point machines, root on the 10-point machine, and user on the other 20-point machine. I just couldn’t get root on that last machine. I was pretty devastated because I’d put my heart and soul into Sec+, C|EH, and OSCP for 7 straight months and I wanted it bad. But my delusional confidence wasn’t enough. After listening to depressing Taylor Swift songs for a few days (joke), I decided to book another exam in, 4 weeks after my first attempt. This time around, I decided to go through Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation courses (they were great) and go back over some of the HTB machines. I honestly felt at this point that there wasn’t much more study material that I could go through. 2nd exam came up and it was an almost minute-for-minute repeat of the first exam. BO done, 20 point rooted, 10 point rooted, but could only get user on the other 20 point. 65 points again. This time I ended up listening to Taylor Swift + Lana Del Rey. I was pretty adamant that I could do this and that I was very close, so I sent Off-Sec an email explaining my situation and they were kind enough to allow me another exam attempt without waiting 8 weeks - I booked another exam in 2 weeks after my second attempt. This time, my preparation was entirely mental. In both my prior exams, I was sat on my chair for over 23 hours because I was flapping around aimlessly like a headless chicken, desperately firing off exploits that I knew wouldn’t work on the other 20-point machine. So, I went into the 3rd exam determined to go at a slow and steady pace, and not let the 24-hour timeframe pressure me into a wild goose chase. Miraculously, it seemed to work. After 14 hours, I’d done the BO, rooted both 20-point machines, rooted the 10-point machine, and got user on the 25-point machine. 85-ish points in total. The point of this story is to get across to people that you need to try simpler, not harder. I perhaps failed my first exam because I’d not gone through Tib3rius’s Priv Esc courses, but I failed on my 2nd 100% due to mentality. There was no skill-level difference between my 2nd exam and 3rd exam. I’ll finish off with my recommended learning methodology and exam tips (for people with limited/zero IT experience): . The Cyber Mentor Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course (usually on offer at $14.99-ish) . Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation course (usually on offer at $12.99 each) . Try Hack Me OSCP Learning Path (I would recommend doing this before HTB - it is $10 for 30 days) . PWK labs (I personally don’t feel more than 60 days are required - unless you work full-time) . TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list ($10 for retired HTB machines - very worth it) . You should be ready for the exam Exam tips: . Become proficient with Nmap but use an enumeration tool like nmapAutomator for the exam . You will need to understand what bash and Python scripts are doing (you don’t need to be able to write them from scratch) . Don’t be tempted to use a fancy BO methodology for the exam, stick with PWK’s methodology - it works (some of the others don’t) . Play around with various reverse shell payloads - sometimes a bash one-liner won’t work so you need to go with Python. Sometimes Bash, Python, and netcat won’t work, so you need to understand what alternatives you can use in that scenario . Get into the habit of reading service manuals. In all 3 of my exams, I came up against machines that had services I’d never even heard of. Fortunately, I’d got into the habit reading service manuals, otherwise, I would have skipped over the services and got lost down a rabbit hole . Get into the habit of exploiting conventional services in unconventional ways. Just because an SUID binary isn’t on Gtfobins, it doesn’t mean that you can’t exploit the SUID binary in an unconventional way. Again, get into the habit of reading manuals to understand what services do . Become familiar with Burp Suite. Many exploits won’t work in the way you might expect them to, but they will work if you run them through Burp. Or, at the very least, you’ll be able to understand why they’re not working. This issue came up in my last exam and I would have been completely lost if it weren’t for Burp . Take breaks if you get frustrated - this is said over and over again by people on this subreddit and it’s an absolute must. The 20 point machine that I couldn’t root after 8 hours on my 2nd exam was on my 3rd exam (thanks Off-Sec - I know you tried to fu*k me with that), but I was able to root it within 1 hour on my 3rd exam, simply because my mindset was different at the time. . Trust your gut - by doing PWK and HTB machines, you should develop a gut feeling of when you are in a rabbit hole and when you’re on the right track. I ended up rooting over 100 machines before the exam (albeit with plenty of hints and tips) and it helped me develop a good gut feeling. I can’t explain why but there were times in my last exam where I knew I was in the right area even though I wasn’t able to enumerate the specific service version. This feeling simply came from experience. I’m sure many of you watch IppSec’s videos and wonder “how the hell does he know to do X or Y?”. I used to wonder this all the time but after going through dozens of machines, I finally got it. It comes down to experience. Try to do as many machines as you can before the exam to build that gut feeling, and trust it in the exam. . Embrace failure - this is perhaps the most important thing that I can say. OSCP is a difficult journey and many people fail multiple times before passing. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to fail. It’s how you react to failure that counts. I’m not particularly smart but I embrace failure and I know deep down that I will keep trying until I pass. I was prepared to take the OSCP exam 1000 times if I had to, I was never going to let the exam beat me. I suggest you approach it with the same mentality and not let silly pride prevent you from having a go at it. One last thing! Join a solid Discord community. This journey has been amazing since day one and a big reason behind that is the amazing online community. I was very active in an HTB community and ended up talking to several people who were going through OSCP at the same time as me. This was honestly such a massive help to me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing when I first started! Sorry for the massive rant - I just see so many people on here treating OSCP like an unsurmountable mountain. It’s not. You can do it!
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition One of the rules of the Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every square?” Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either. Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
Why? What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format! Planning: The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons). Numbers: For this card, I officially read 32 books for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems for a total of at least 2,739,975 words (the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time). I read 189 different authors. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online). 1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold: Frozen Fairy Tales edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
3. Optimistic Spec Fic: Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
Hard Mode: Yes. <3
Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy: The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic: Life Within Parole, Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
7. Novel Featuring Exploration: No Limits edited by Peter David (original anthology)
Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
8. Climate Fiction: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
9. Novel with a Color in the Title: The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
10. AnyFantasyBook Club Book of the Month ORFantasyReadalong Book: Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
11. Self-Published Novel: In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs: Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
13. Novel Published in 2020: Shadows & Tall Trees 8 edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
14. Novel Set in a School or University: Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
15. Book About Books: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
16. A Book That Made You Laugh: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
17. Five Short Stories:
Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
That Ways Lies Camelot by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.
Hard Mode: … Yes?
Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
18. Big Dumb Object: Alien Artifacts edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
19. Feminist Novel: Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
20. Novel by a Canadian Author: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
21. Novel with a Number in the Title: Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
23. Novel with a Magical Pet: No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama: Eerie Archives, Volume 1 edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
25. Novel Featuring Politics: Retief! by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
Favorite collections:The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
The End Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason. Oh. Never mind. I get it now. All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there. If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis or The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020, is also a fun way to explore short fiction. And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF, FIYAH, and Fantasy & Science Fiction for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside, and Tor.com for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction. Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology. I’ll end this with the following:
an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
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