Bluehole - Let's talk Wellbia/XINGCOD3 user privacy risks for the sake of transparency
For those who don't know.. XINGCODE-3 is a kernel (ring0) privillege process under xhunter1.sys owned by the Korean company Wellbia (www.wellbia.com). Unlike what people say, Wellbia isn't owned or affiliated with Tencent, however, XINGCOD3 is custom designed contractor for each individual game - mainly operating in the APAC region, many of them owned by Tencent. XINGCODE-3 is outsourced to companies as a product modified to the specific characteristics of the game. The process runs on the highest privilegied level of the OS upon boot and is infamous for being an essential rootkit - on a malware level, it has the highest vulnerability to be abused should Wellbia or any of the 3rd Party Companies be target of an attack. It has been heavily dissected by the hacking community as being highly intrusive and reversed engineered (although nowadays still easily bypassable by a skilled and engaged modder by created a custom Win Framework). While most is true for a standard anti-cheating, users should be aware that XINGCOD3 able to scan the entire user memory cache, calls for DLL's, including physical state API's such as GetAsyncKeyState where it scans for the physical state of hardware peripherals, essentially becoming a hardware keylogger. Studying the long history of reverse engineering of this software has shown that Wellbia heavily collects user data for internal processing in order to create whitelists of processes and strings analyzed by evaluating PE binaries - having full access to your OS it also is known to scan and having access to user file directories and collecting and storing paths of modified files under 48 hours for the sake of detecting possible sources of bypassing. All this data is ultimately collected by Wellbia to their host severs - also via API calls to Korean servers in order to run services such as whitelists, improve algorithm accuracy and run comparative statistics and analysis based on binaries, strings and common flags. Usually this is a high risk for any service, including BattleEye, EasyAntiCheat, etc. but what's worrying in Wellbia, thus. Bluehole's are actually a couple of points: (not to mention you can literally just deny the service from installing, which by itself is already a hilarious facepalm situation and nowhere does the TSL call for an API of the service)
Starting off, Wellbia is a rather small development company with having only one product available on the market for rather small companies, the majority hold by Chinese government and countries where the data handling, human rights and user privacy is heavily disregarded. This makes my tinfoil hat think that the studio's network security isn't as fortified as a Sony which had abused rootkits, just due to budget investment alone. Their website is absolutely atrocious and amateur - and for an international company that deals with international stakeholders and clients it's impressive the amount of poor english, errors and ambiguous information a company has in their presentation website - there's instances where the product name is not even correctly placed in their own EULA - if a company cannot invest even in basic PR and presentation something leaves me a bitter taste that their network security isn't anything better. They can handle user binaries but network security is a completely different work. The fact that hackers are easily able to heartbeat their API network servers leaves me confirming this.
This the most fun one. Wellbia website and terms conditions explicitely say that they're not held accountable should anything happen - terms that you agree and are legally binded to by default by agreeing to Bluehole's terms and conditions:" Limitations of Company Responsibility
IGNCODE3 is a software provided for free to users. Users judge and determine to use services served by software developers and providers, and therefore the company does not have responsibility for results and damages which may have occurred from XIGNCODE3 installation and use.
2. Company has no responsibility attributable to user’s computer or network environment-based reasons.
3. Company has no responsibility for XIGNCODE3 and XIGNCODE3 based service errors, XIGNCODE3 and XIGNCODE3 based service prohibition from other services are attributable to user-based reasons."
(the fact that in 1. they can't even care to write properly the name of their product means how little they care about things in general - you can have a look at this whole joke of ToS's that I can probably put more effort in writting it: https://www.wellbia.com/?module=Html&action=SiteComp&sSubNo=5 - so I am sorry if I don't trust where my data goes into) 3) It kinda pisses me that Bluehole adopted this in the midst of the their product got released post-purchase. When I initially bought the product, in nowhere was written that the user operative system data was being collected by a third party company to servers located in APAC (and I'm one of those persons who heavily reads terms and conditions) - and the current ToS's still just touch this topic on the slightest and ambiguously - it does not say which data gets collected, discloses who and where it's hold - "third party" could be literally anyone - a major disrespect for your consumers. I'm kinda of pissed off as when I initially purchase the product in very very early stages of the game I didn't agree for any kernel level data collection to be held abroad without disclosure of what data is actually being collected otherwise it would have been a big No on the purchase. The fact that you change the rules of the game and the terms of conditions in the midst of the product release leaves me with two options Use to Your Terms or Don't Use a product I've already purchased now has no use - both changes ingame and these 3rd party implementations are so different from my initial purchase that I feel like it's the equivalent of purchasing a shower which in the next year is so heavily modified that it decides to be a toilet. I would really like for you Bluehole to show me the initial terms and conditions to when the game was initially released and offer me a refund once you decided to change the product and terms and conditions midway which I don't agree with but am left empty handed with no choice but to abandon the product - thus making this purchase a service which I used for X months and not a good. I really wish this topic had more visibility as I know that the majority of users are even in the dark about this whole thing and Valve and new game companies really make an effort in asserting their product's disclosures about data transparency and the limit of how much a product can change to be considered a valid product resembelance upon purchase when curating their games in the future - I literally bought a third person survival shooter and ended up with a rootkit chinese FPS. Sincerely, a pissed off customer - who unlike the majority is concerned about my data privacy and I wish you're ever held accountable for changing sensitive contract topics such as User Privacy mid-release. ----- EDIT: For completely removing it from your system should you wish: Locate the file Xhunter1.sysThis file is located in this directory: C:\Windows\xhunter1.sys Remove the Registry Entry (regedit on command prompt)The entry is located here: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > ControlSet001 > Services > xhunter For more information about XINGCOD3 and previous succesful abuses which show the malignant potential of the rootkit (kudos to Psychotropos): - https://x86.re/blog/xigncode3-xhunter1.sys-lpe/ - https://github.com/Psychotropos/xhunter1_privesc
Hey, it's some weirdo again. Bored on a gloomy day, thought I'd write down some thoughts. I see a lot of my fellow sissy weirdos having a lot of serious struggles with whether to come out, whether to live full time, and what kinds of secrets to have. It can be a very painful thing to struggle with, and for a lot of people it's what leads a harmless kink into some serious depression and anxiety. So I just wanted to share a bit about what I've learned along the way in the hopes that it could be beneficial to someone reading. Now just to start with, I have very little judgement and I don't aspire to be a bummer. The last thing I want to do is make you overthink your love of sucking cock, your desire to have your sensitive little sissy nips played with while you're in a pink tutu, or make you feel bad about your secret panty collection. This should be fun, and you should have fun! I don't think sex is inherently something to be ashamed of, nor do I think eschewing normal gender roles is inherently problematic. So don't worry, sweet little sluts, I have you. That said, we do get a little serious towards the end. I feel like I need to give a disclosure here: I live my life as a cis man, but experience some gender dysphoria and have been having sissy experiences for something like a decade. I'm not a mental health professional, and if you're struggling with serious depression, go find one instead of reading reddit threads. That said, if you want someone to relate to, some of my experiences might help. Definition of Sissy So though a million people have done this in the past, I wanted to start by defining what a sissy is. The fact is that nobody can really make a definition that works for everyone as there is no true authority on the matter. But from reading what others have interpreted and from my own personal life experience, I think that a sissy is a person born male who gets sexual gratification out of the idea of being forced/ coerced/ or seduced into acting feminine, dressing feminine, or taking on a feminine role in sex. This is meant to stand in contrast to a trans woman, who is a person assigned male at birth but who identifies distinctly as female. Trans women can certainly still enjoy sissy play, but not all sissies are trans. What's probably the most important thing to take from this definition of sissy is that it sort of has some inherent discord to the definition: "sissy" describes a person who should have had the OPPORTUNITY to be male and masculine, but who instead chooses or is forced to portray a feminine role. The very existence of sissies is thus in a state of inherent disharmony, a disharmony echoed in most sissy porn that frequently expresses coercion or plays off the idea of being degraded to a point of sexual submission. In essence, it's about being one thing AND another, at the same time. It's no surprise then that the idea of secrets and imbalance are an inherent part of the ideology. You are effectively living your life as one thing and another, so it's normal that people confront this idea of secrets and what to be open with. The Value of Secrets In short, everyone has secrets, and secrets can be a fun thing. We all like to act like we're open books, but the fact of the matter is that everyone you know has something they don't share with the world. More of us than not have unique sexual interests or have had unique sexual experiences, and even outside of sex, we all have things we don't want the world to know about. You shouldn't feel like a freak if you have a fun obsession with sexy sissy stuff. If you day dream about having a mouth full of cum all the time, you shouldn't feel bad about that. Gargle away. Secrets in this case are not inherently a bad thing. By their very nature they express a certain vulnerability: they represent something that you know that you wouldn't want the world to know about, and that can make you feel like there's a moralistic imperative to have less of them. Basically you're afraid of your secret leaking to the world, so you think to yourself that your secret is inherently bad. But it isn't! The way I always think about it is this: does your mom need to know what your favorite sex position is? Does your boss need to know when your first hand job was? These are fundamental experiences we all have that don't need to carry a moral weight to them, but that also don't need to be shared in the world. Your personal fetishes can be the same. And there are, from my personal experience, some benefits to having secrets. I spent a long time in my 20s being pretty closeted about my sexual endeavors. I'd meet up with guys from craigslist and suck their cocks, I would dress in my girlfriends clothes and have two guys over to double end me, I snuck off to gay sex parties where i'd suck cock and get fucked by strangers, and the world didn't know about it. As much as I did feel some vulnerability that my secrets might be exposed, I also felt an ongoing sense of confidence. When you have secrets like that, certain things in the world can't touch you. insults that people might make about you or assumptions about you just roll off your back: you know that they don't know the real you, so how could their opinion about you really matter? Only you know the real you. They just see what you want them to see. their judgments mean nothing. Additionally, going through some of the real scary and intense sort of stuff--having gay sex in a public restroom or glory hole, or going to a strangers house to fuck--can sort of turn down the volume on other things in life. Stuff that used to be scary simply isn't anymore because you've dealt with some REAL scary shit, and survived. Even when your secret is that you love taking it in the ass and guzzling piss and cum, it can be empowering to simply have something for YOURSELF. something that you do, because you want to do it, and you aren't afraid of the world's repercussions. The Cost of Secrets All of that said, there are certainly costs to being a secretive person, and some of those costs can be pretty serious and a real bummer. Some of them can have a drastic effect on your mental health. The first thing to confront for sissies of course is whether or not you're expressing internal homophobia or misogyny. Feeling closeted can be an awful feeling. Watching people be out and proud about being gay or being trans and you yourself having impulses that you don't share can make you see yourself as a coward, or a liar, or a fake. You can feel like you're hurting people who are out, or hiding from people who scare you. There's a lot of nuance in the sissy world about this kind of thing so I won't go at it at length, but I would encourage everyone to try to step away from those classic "is being a sissy gay" or "am i gay if i just wanna suck cock" kind of arguments. These sort of things still put the term "gay" as being this awful, OTHER thing that you don't want to be. It's inherently qualifying gay as being a worst case scenario, something to avoid, something to be afraid of. So i would encourage you to have less fear of it as a sexual identity. maybe you are bisexual, or queer, or curious, or whatever. It doesn't matter. What matters is how you feel about it. If, to you, having a preference to suck cock isn't any different than a slight preference for doggy style, then sure, maybe you don't have an obligation to come out as gay or bi or whatever. Looking at some cock here and there isn't a big deal. But if for you it's causing you to feel ashamed, then consider coming out as queer or bisexual. That's what i did! eventually i started feeling awful about being closeted in a world full of hate and homophobia, so i came out. For me, it was a good decision that ended up having a remarkably small effect on my life, and it separated a lot of the mental baggage i had. I still had my secrets, nobody knew exactly WHAT i was doing with guys, but knowing that the world had an idea made me a lot less afraid to be exposed to the world, a lot less ashamed of who i was as a person. So, to summarize, it's a personal decision, but consider non-binary options. You can identify however you want, to whoever you want. Shades of gray are not only permitted, but inevitable. (quick note: there's nothing cowardly or shameful about not coming out if you're in a scary situation. if you live with your parents and your dad is an awful homophobe, you don't have to feel an obligation to come out that said, you should start the wheels on doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you can to get out of that situation, at your own pace. get a job, save money, make a plan to move out and gain your own independence so you can start being yourself.) The next risk of being secretive concerns your partners. Many of you are in straight relationships and you might feel like you've got past the point of no return: if you were going to tell your partner that you sometimes suck cock or that you want to wear her clothes or that you look at weird sissy hypno porn, you feel like you should have done it by now. maybe you feel like she won't love you or respect you anymore. This obviously is going to be very different from relationship to relationship. But I would strongly recommend that you open up to people you're in relationships with, and try to do it early. The longer you're with a person the higher the odds are that they'll somehow find out what you've been up to, and if they find out that you have a whole sexual identity that they weren't aware of when they've been with you for years, this can be a very painful and traumatizing process. It isn't that the things you enjoy are inherently BAD, it's simply that you've shown that you don't trust this person to know the whole you, or to be welcomed in. and that can put a serious dent in a relationship. You certainly don't need to tell your partner every time you jerk off or show them what porn you like (unless you do that in a fun, kinky way). but if it's going to be an increasingly big part of your life, consider opening up to them about your interests. In the end, you deserve to be loved and appreciated for who you really are. \**incoming, important part**** Which leads into the biggest problem with secrets. Secrets are fun at first; as stated above, you get a thrill out of having these secret parts to you, these things that make you unique and special. you feel excited, horny, thrilled, and you have a good time. But there is a consequence to this, and that is that you'll begin to subconsciously feel that the people in your life don't know the REAL you. You'll come to believe that your friends, family, and partners only love the version of you that you PROJECT into the world, that they only love you because of who you fake you are. And when you're in a dark place in your life and you're trying to convince yourself that you are a good person, a person who's life has meaning and value... then a loved one looking you in your eyes and telling you they love you and think you're a good person will begin to feel hollow. You won't be able to take comfort in it, because you'll know that they don't actually know the REAL you. and you'll resent that part of yourself, and the people who don't know the real you, and you'll convince yourself that if they DID know the real you, they would hate you. If it isn't clear, I'm talking a bit from experience here. But fear not, there is a way out. I was a man full of secrets and lies, and eventually i realized that to really enjoy my life the way i wanted to i'd have to just be honest. I worked with my partner to open up about who i am and open up our relationship so that i could get what i needed, i gave my friends loose details about me being into weird kinky stuff (and didn't go into more detail than that) and came out as bisexual. And now, when my partner says she loves me, i can believe it. I know she knows the real me. And I have to tell you, my fellow perverts, having someone know the real you, know your deepest darkest feelings and secrets, and still LOVE you is just... the best feeling there is. Whether it's your partner or your friends or your family, it's a very uplifting feeling. So it takes work to communicate these things. You'll need to go out of your comfort zone. you'll hurt feelings, you'll have a hard time communicating, you'll stumble, you'll have moments of remorse. But if you get to the end of that road, you'll be happier and more free than you thought you could be. Whether to go Full Time Ok again, have to say that I'm not a therapist and i'm not a trans person, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt. But I know that lots and lots of you fine sissies are struggling with whether to go from fantasy to reality and transition. The first and most important thing here is that there isn't anything inherently wrong with being trans! So don't consider it a worst case scenario or anything that you should look at with dread. lots of people transition and live much happier lives, so if that's the path for you, enjoy yourself. That said! As I stated above, there's this inherent idea of being a "sissy" that means that you know that you're a man but believe you should act like or be treated like a woman. So a lot of the porn that goes along with sissy stuff tends to deliver this tempting, taunting message that you should finally take the plunge, take the leap, give in to your true desires, and transition. I guess I'd just say that you should jerk off and then think about it, if i'm being straight with you. We all get pretty ... intense, when we're in the heat of a sexual moment. when i'm horny and desperate you can feed me your ass and piss and spit in my face and i'll beg you desperately for more. I've done some shit. And for me personally, it does make me want to fall headlong into sissy play. I want to shave every inch of me, convert my body, throw away all my boxer shorts and be the sissy cock sucker cum dump i was meant to be. But i guess just keep in mind that real life is, in fact, real life. you can't actually look at the life of a cock sucking sissy as a simple ALTERNATIVE to your hum drum life because the fact is that sissies also need to do things like pay rent, have jobs, see their families on the holidays, raise their kids, see that guy from high school at the mall... all the stuff we have to do every day. The fact is there just aren't all these rich guys who want to pay you to dress pretty and be their slut, and the people who do get close to that, just get a few years out of it before they age out. So just jerk off. get it all out of your head, then go back and ask yourself how transitioning would effect your life goals, your relationships with people, and everything else you have going on. if it meets your goals, then go talk to a therapist and see if it's a good idea! If not, maybe you should just chill out and enjoy that you have this ever tempting fetish that you can enjoy for the rest of your days. In the End, Open Your Mind So that's pretty much it. I'd just want to end on this: a lot of sissies feel anxiety about their personal identity because they're trying to force that identity into boxes other people have defined. Whether you're gay or straight, whether you're a male or female, whether you're full time or part time, passable or not, a slave or a pillow princess, a cum addict or just a fantasizer.... these are all just toys for you to play with. none of them have to define you. none of them have to hurt you. you can use them to build up the identity and routine that gives you a sense of sexual satisfaction while preserving your greater life goals. so have fun with it, and relax. the world is your playground. note: if you liked reading this, i've written about lots of other sissy stuff on reddit. just click on my page and you'll see more, i think, i dunno i don't really know reddit. also, i love talking about sex and sexuality, so feel free to dm me with any questions if you don't like to comment directly.
No gods, no kings, only NOPE - or divining the future with options flows. [Part 2: A Random Walk and Price Decoherence]
tl;dr - 1) Stock prices move continuously because different market participants end up having different ideas of the future value of a stock. 2) This difference in valuations is part of the reason we have volatility. 3) IV crush happens as a consequence of future possibilities being extinguished at a binary catalyst like earnings very rapidly, as opposed to the normal slow way. I promise I'm getting to the good parts, but I'm also writing these as a guidebook which I can use later so people never have to talk to me again. In this part I'm going to start veering a bit into the speculation territory (e.g. ideas I believe or have investigated, but aren't necessary well known) but I'm going to make sure those sections are properly marked as speculative (and you can feel free to ignore/dismiss them). Marked as [Lily's Speculation]. As some commenters have pointed out in prior posts, I do not have formal training in mathematical finance/finance (my background is computer science, discrete math, and biology), so often times I may use terms that I've invented which have analogous/existing terms (e.g. the law of surprise is actually the first law of asset pricing applied to derivatives under risk neutral measure, but I didn't know that until I read the papers later). If I mention something wrong, please do feel free to either PM me (not chat) or post a comment, and we can discuss/I can correct it! As always, buyer beware. This is the first section also where you do need to be familiar with the topics I've previously discussed, which I'll add links to shortly (my previous posts: 1) https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/comments/jck2q6/no_gods_no_kings_only_nope_or_divining_the_future/ 2) https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/comments/jbzzq4/why_options_trading_sucks_or_the_law_of_surprise/ --- A Random Walk Down Bankruptcy A lot of us have probably seen the term random walk, maybe in the context of A Random Walk Down Wall Street, which seems like a great book I'll add to my list of things to read once I figure out how to control my ADD. It seems obvious, then, what a random walk means - when something is moving, it basically means that the next move is random. So if my stock price is $1 and I can move in $0.01 increments, if the stock price is truly randomly walking, there should be roughly a 50% chance it moves up in the next second (to $1.01) or down (to $0.99). If you've traded for more than a hot minute, this concept should seem obvious, because especially on the intraday, it usually isn't clear why price moves the way it does (despite what chartists want to believe, and I'm sure a ton of people in the comments will tell me why fettucini lines and Batman doji tell them things). For a simple example, we can look at SPY's chart from Friday, Oct 16, 2020: https://preview.redd.it/jgg3kup9dpt51.png?width=1368&format=png&auto=webp&s=bf8e08402ccef20832c96203126b60c23277ccc2 I'm sure again 7 different people can tell me 7 different things about why the chart shape looks the way it does, or how if I delve deeply enough into it I can find out which man I'm going to marry in 2024, but to a rationalist it isn't exactly apparent at why SPY's price declined from 349 to ~348.5 at around 12:30 PM, or why it picked up until about 3 PM and then went into precipitous decline (although I do have theories why it declined EOD, but that's for another post). An extremely clever or bored reader from my previous posts could say, "Is this the price formation you mentioned in the law of surprise post?" and the answer is yes. If we relate it back to the individual buyer or seller, we can explain the concept of a stock price's random walk as such:
Most market participants have an idea of an asset's truevalue (an idealized concept of what an asset is actually worth), which they can derive using models or possibly enough brain damage. However, an asset's value at any given time is not worth one value (usually*), but a spectrum of possible values, usually representing what the asset should be worth in the future. A naive way we can represent this without delving into to much math (because let's face it, most of us fucking hate math) is: Current value of an asset = sum over all (future possible value multiplied by the likelihood of that value)
In actuality, most models aren't that simple, but it does generalize to a ton of more complicated models which you need more than 7th grade math to understand (Black-Scholes, DCF, blah blah blah). While in many cases the first term - future possible value - is well defined (Tesla is worth exactly $420.69 billion in 2021, and maybe we all can agree on that by looking at car sales and Musk tweets), where it gets more interesting is the second term - the likelihood of that value occurring. [In actuality, the price of a stock for instance is way more complicated, because a stock can be sold at any point in the future (versus in my example, just the value in 2021), and needs to account for all values of Tesla at any given point in the future.] How do we estimate the second term - the likelihood of that value occurring? For this class, it actually doesn't matter, because the key concept is this idea: even with all market participants having the same information, we do anticipate that every participant will have a slightly different view of future likelihoods. Why is that? There's many reasons. Some participants may undervalue risk (aka WSB FD/yolos) and therefore weight probabilities of gaining lots of money much more heavily than going bankrupt. Some participants may have alternative data which improves their understanding of what the future values should be, therefore letting them see opportunity. Some participants might overvalue liquidity, and just want to GTFO and thereby accept a haircut on their asset's value to quickly unload it (especially in markets with low liquidity). Some participants may just be yoloing and not even know what Fastly does before putting their account all in weekly puts (god bless you). In the end, it doesn't matter either the why, but the what: because of these diverging interpretations, over time, we can expect the price of an asset to drift from the current value even with no new information added. In most cases, the calculations that market participants use (which I will, as a Lily-ism, call the future expected payoff function, or FEPF) ends up being quite similar in aggregate, and this is why asset prices likely tend to move slightly up and down for no reason (or rather, this is one interpretation of why). At this point, I expect the 20% of you who know what I'm talking about or have a finance background to say, "Oh but blah blah efficient market hypothesis contradicts random walk blah blah blah" and you're correct, but it also legitimately doesn't matter here. In the long run, stock prices are clearly not a random walk, because a stock's value is obviously tied to the company's fundamentals (knock on wood I don't regret saying this in the 2020s). However, intraday, in the absence of new, public information, it becomes a close enough approximation. Also, some of you might wonder what happens when the future expected payoff function (FEPF) I mentioned before ends up wildly diverging for a stock between participants. This could happen because all of us try to short Nikola because it's quite obviously a joke (so our FEPF for Nikola could, let's say, be 0), while the 20 or so remaining bagholders at NikolaCorporation decide that their FEPF of Nikola is $10,000,000 a share). One of the interesting things which intuitively makes sense, is for nearly all stocks, the amount of divergence among market participants in their FEPF increases substantially as you get farther into the future. This intuitively makes sense, even if you've already quit trying to understand what I'm saying. It's quite easy to say, if at 12:51 PM SPY is worth 350.21 that likely at 12:52 PM SPY will be worth 350.10 or 350.30 in all likelihood. Obviously there are cases this doesn't hold, but more likely than not, prices tend to follow each other, and don't gap up/down hard intraday. However, what if I asked you - given SPY is worth 350.21 at 12:51 PM today, what will it be worth in 2022? Many people will then try to half ass some DD about interest rates and Trump fleeing to Ecuador to value SPY at 150, while others will assume bull markets will continue indefinitely and SPY will obviously be 7000 by then. The truth is -- no one actually knows, because if you did, you wouldn't be reading a reddit post on this at 2 AM in your jammies. In fact, if you could somehow figure out the FEPF of all market participants at any given time, assuming no new information occurs, you should be able to roughly predict the true value of an asset infinitely far into the future (hint: this doesn't exactly hold, but again don't @ me). Now if you do have a finance background, I expect gears will have clicked for some of you, and you may see strong analogies between the FEPF divergence I mentioned, and a concept we're all at least partially familiar with - volatility. Volatility and Price Decoherence ("IV Crush") Volatility, just like the Greeks, isn't exactly a real thing. Most of us have some familiarity with implied volatility on options, mostly when we get IV crushed the first time and realize we just lost $3000 on Tesla calls. If we assume that the current price should represent the weighted likelihoods of all future prices (the random walk), volatility implies the following two things:
Volatility reflects the uncertainty of the current price
Volatility reflects the uncertainty of the future price for every point in the future where the asset has value (up to expiry for options)
[Ignore this section if you aren't pedantic] There's obviously more complex mathematics, because I'm sure some of you will argue in the comments that IV doesn't go up monotonically as option expiry date goes longer and longer into the future, and you're correct (this is because asset pricing reflects drift rate and other factors, as well as certain assets like the VIX end up having cost of carry). Volatility in options is interesting as well, because in actuality, it isn't something that can be exactly computed -- it arises as a plug between the idealized value of an option (the modeled price) and the real, market value of an option (the spot price). Additionally, because the makeup of market participants in an asset's market changes over time, and new information also comes in (thereby increasing likelihood of some possibilities and reducing it for others), volatility does not remain constant over time, either. Conceptually, volatility also is pretty easy to understand. But what about our friend, IV crush? I'm sure some of you have bought options to play events, the most common one being earnings reports, which happen quarterly for every company due to regulations. For the more savvy, you might know of expected move, which is a calculation that uses the volatility (and therefore price) increase of at-the-money options about a month out to calculate how much the options market forecasts the underlying stock price to move as a response to ER. Binary Catalyst Events and Price Decoherence Remember what I said about price formation being a gradual, continuous process? In the face of special circumstances, in particularly binary catalyst events - events where the outcome is one of two choices, good (1) or bad (0) - the gradual part gets thrown out the window. Earnings in particular is a common and notable case of a binary event, because the price will go down (assuming the company did not meet the market's expectations) or up (assuming the company exceeded the market's expectations) (it will rarely stay flat, so I'm not going to address that case). Earnings especially is interesting, because unlike other catalytic events, they're pre-scheduled (so the whole market expects them at a certain date/time) and usually have publicly released pre-estimations (guidance, analyst predictions). This separates them from other binary catalysts (e.g. FSLY dipping 30% on guidance update) because the market has ample time to anticipate the event, and participants therefore have time to speculate and hedge on the event. In most binary catalyst events, we see rapid fluctuations in price, usually called a gap up or gap down, which is caused by participants rapidly intaking new information and changing their FEPF accordingly. This is for the most part an anticipated adjustment to the FEPF based on the expectation that earnings is a Very Big Deal (TM), and is the reason why volatility and therefore option premiums increase so dramatically before earnings. What makes earnings so interesting in particular is the dramatic effect it can have on all market participants FEPF, as opposed to let's say a Trump tweet, or more people dying of coronavirus. In lots of cases, especially the FEPF of the short term (3-6 months) rapidly changes in response to updated guidance about a company, causing large portions of the future possibility spectrum to rapidly and spectacularly go to zero. In an instant, your Tesla 10/30 800Cs go from "some value" to "not worth the electrons they're printed on". [Lily's Speculation] This phenomena, I like to call price decoherence, mostly as an analogy to quantum mechanical processes which produce similar results (the collapse of a wavefunction on observation). Price decoherence occurs at a widespread but minor scale continuously, which we normally call price formation (and explains portions of the random walk derivation explained above), but hits a special limit in the face of binary catalyst events, as in an instant rapid portions of the future expected payoff function are extinguished, versus a more gradual process which occurs over time (as an option nears expiration). Price decoherence, mathematically, ends up being a more generalizable case of the phenomenon we all love to hate - IV crush. Price decoherence during earnings collapses the future expected payoff function of a ticker, leading large portions of the option chain to be effectively worthless (IV crush). It has interesting implications, especially in the case of hedged option sellers, our dear Market Makers. This is because given the expectation that they maintain delta-gamma neutral, and now many of the options they have written are now worthless and have 0 delta, what do they now have to do? They have to unwind. [/Lily's Speculation] - Lily
There's been some discussion on Mikasa in the sub lately, both positive and negative, and it's led me to think a bit more about her character. In particular, I've been thinking about her character flaw, what it is exactly, and whether or not she's developed past it – and if she has, what that means for her in the final arc. Isayama once said that Mikasa is a character who 'expresses herself via actions and facial expressions quite a lot'. I sometimes feel that that's why a lot of her personal story gets overlooked – because she's not loud about it, and nor is anyone else. She's one of the most reticent characters in the manga and, more importantly, deliberately written that way. It's intentional on Isayama's part for Mikasa to mostly 'express herself via actions and facial expressions', and so, as difficult as it might be to follow, that's mostly how her personal journey is told. Because she doesn't say much, talks a lot with her fists, and is the team's natural and aggressive protector, it's easy to assume that there's nothing more happening there. Isayama clearly doesn't mean for readers to overlook her, but some inevitably do because she's not as obvious and outspoken as other characters. She's not like Eren, whose dissatisfaction with the world drives him to continuously push back, or like Armin, whose self-doubt and fear of responsibility constantly battle with his natural intelligence and sense of duty. She doesn't outwardly appear to suffer from the neuroses that afflict a lot of the others in the main cast. As a result, her development as a character isn't easy to track. Where does it start? Where does it end? What even is it? It's fair to ask, in Mikasa's case, whether she even has a character arc to begin with. What changes about her? Does she actually react in any way to her experiences and evolve as a result of them, or does she remain the same from beginning to end?
Fans' opinions on Mikasa's character are often based on her feelings for Eren and the actions she undertakes to protect him. It irks some readers that Eren is Mikasa's priority, and that her life seems to revolve around him. Because they consider this her character flaw, they expect that her character development is going to rectify this flaw; that she'll move away from Eren, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, and find something else to live for. In a 2016 interview, Isayama said: 'Mikasa's growth probably involves separation from Eren'. People generally stop at that and go from there – they either believe that Mikasa can't grow as a person unless Eren stops being important to her, or that a Mikasa who isn't separated from Eren (emotionally, mentally, or physically) is inherently a flawed character. Isayama's explanation of the 'separation' he means is never usually discussed, even though he actually does go on to clarify it: 'Mikasa's growth probably involves separation from Eren. By separation, I mean she might be able to return to that ordinary girl that she used to be in childhood'. If the all-important 'separation' for her growth is about Mikasa returning to the 'ordinary girl' she used to be, it's worth asking what isn't ordinary about the girl Mikasa became, and when that change happened. And once that 'non-ordinary' quality about Mikasa becomes apparent, it can be identified as Mikasa's flaw; the deficiency in her character that we can expect her to overcome. Mikasa loving someone or wanting to protect them isn't in itself a flaw. It's a fairly ordinary, reasonable thing, and it's something plenty of other characters already display in the story: Franz wants to protect Hanna; Ymir, Historia; Eren, Mikasa; Kenny, Uri; Levi, Erwin, and so on ad infinitum. There's a reason that Mikasa's love for and general protectiveness towards Eren never changes. It's because it's not something she was ever meant to 'grow past' or 'get over'. It was never her flaw. Her flaw is fear. Mikasa's overprotectiveness of Eren is what isn't 'ordinary', because it's connected to her deep, abiding fear of loss. Her desire to constantly stay by him is pitiful because, above all else, it represents her fear and her mistrust of the world. And it's why her 'separation' from him is about more than just 'Mikasa finds something else to do apart from care about Eren'; it's a return to her being 'the ordinary girl of her childhood': a normal girl who isn't constantly fixated on how the people she loves can die at any moment: https://preview.redd.it/gpraaqxt1sq51.jpg?width=750&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=dbcb1a366ae0b26f287143aa4d7e916d1c7b3c49
When Levi says they'll focus on one objective and that won't include outright killing Annie, Mikasa's one objection is: 'How many of our comrades has she murdered?' Mikasa has no problem being straightforward with Levi. If her first and only consideration was Eren, she'd voice it. She'd even get away with it, because they all need Eren at this point. But instead, she reveals that she has a separate, personal desire: avenging their dead. Mikasa wants to kill Annie for her own reasons.
Levi states that their goal is to retrieve Eren. He gives himself the main role of 'slash[ing] away' at the titan, meaning that he will be the one to actually save Eren, who is in the titan's mouth. And he gives Mikasa the job of distracting Annie. Mikasa accepts asecondary role in a planthat isspecificallyto rescue Eren.
And when she does break from the plan, it's not so she can go and get Eren herself. Mikasa risks the objective of the mission – and Levi, and Eren – by going in for the kill. Mikasa risks the plan to save Eren by acting on her own desire to kill Annie.
Two important shifts take place here for Mikasa. One, she entrusts Eren to someone else, as demonstrated by her action of allowing Levi to take the lead. Two, her focus stops being, even for a short while, Eren – as confirmed by her facial expression when Levi challenges her on it, because she doesn't seem to immediately realise she's even capable of that: The objective was: Forget killing the Titan. Rescue Eren. And Mikasa, for no matter how short a time, lost sight of that. The fearful, overprotective aspect of Mikasa's relationship with Eren is beginning to change, because her relationship with the rest of her world is beginning to change. With his rescue of Eren in the forest, Levi proves to Mikasa that other people are just as capable of protecting Eren as she is. And if she happens to take her mind off Eren for a bit, it doesn't mean he'll die. This is where the 'separation' begins. Mikasa starts to accept distance between herself and Eren; the distance of being able to trust others with him, of not needing to constantly be with him and personally oversee his safety. And it leads to this watershed moment in the Uprising arc: Mikasa. Whilst Eren has been kidnapped. And all they know is that he's inside a coffin with some random undertaker at some random inn. Maybe. In Chapter 4, Mikasa couldn't handle Eren being in a different part of the city from her during a mission because of how afraid she was that he'd die without her. In Chapter 30, she let Levi take the lead on getting Eren back, and was shocked when she realised that, even for an instant, she'd prioritised something else over him. In Chapter 57, Eren's been kidnapped, no one's been certain for two days about where he is or what's happening to him, and Mikasa is, well, as pictured above. The debilitating fear that used to tie Mikasa to Eren is gone for good. She's finally let Eren go, and discovered that it doesn't mean she'll lose him.
Post-timeskip Mikasa is in a good place, and long past the fear with which she faced the world as a young girl. She's with Eren, working with the Volunteers, and she and Armin are excited about the possibilities of the widening world. Then Eren effectively betrays the SC for reasons they can't fully understand, and, once again, Mikasa's world begins to change in alarming, unpredictable ways. https://preview.redd.it/y4f97ksi2sq51.png?width=346&format=png&auto=webp&s=a17a0410c8f25e97ee450b57d9636e5fc147b874 For the first time in a long time, she loses someone she loves. Eren's in jail and Mikasa remains by Sasha's grave, pondering the old words that bind her and Eren together: 'If we don't win, we die. If we win, we live. If we don't fight, we can't win.' Ironically enough, Sasha is the only character in the entire manga to have said those words apart from Eren and Mikasa themselves. And she's now dead as a result of Eren's fight. So what exactly is Eren fighting for, and what does winning that fight entail? This is the first time in the manga that Mikasa begins to doubt Eren, and the first time their bond has ever really been threatened. And not by the world, titans, or murderous kidnappers, but by Eren himself. The idea that there is beauty where cruelty also exists has informed Mikasa's perspective on the world since Eren wrapped his scarf around her. He showed her that it is possible for the two things to co-exist; for there to be human cruelty as well as human kindness, cold as well as warmth, life as well as death. But Eren is now showcasing the exact cruelty that Mikasa used him as a beacon against. What he's done is undoing what she believes in; it's not just that it's shaken her view of Eren – it threatens to undo Mikasa's whole world-view. In that same 2016 interview, Isayama spoke of Eren and Mikasa's eventual separation being ideological: 'If I were to draw the separation of Eren and Mikasa . . . Mikasa would have to endure the strain of being stuck between Eren and Armin. Even though she can sympathise with Armin, who considers things from a ''globalism'' perspective, it’s possible that she can't just let the more self-focused Eren go'. This ideological separation begins the moment Eren defects from the SC. It's from this point onwards that EMA's paths truly begin to diverge, and Mikasa in particular is presented with a choice that she's never had to face before. Of the two people she loves most in the world, does she choose the 'self-focused' Eren or the 'globalist' Armin? The choice she makes will most likely conclude Mikasa's character arc once and for all, and it's a choice that's been building since before the time-skip, represented by her interactions with two characters in particular: 1. Mikasa and Floch At the award ceremony in Chapter 90, Floch points out something interesting about Mikasa in what is otherwise an easily overlooked moment in the manga. Although multiple people were present on the rooftop during Serumbowl, he is the only one to explicitly draw attention to the fact that Mikasalet go. She resigned herself to losing Armin because Hanji convinced her that Erwin was more important to humanity and Mikasa's grief at losing him was something that would pass. https://preview.redd.it/oqjfh2gk2sq51.png?width=584&format=png&auto=webp&s=f13d8f9a80608e4ac8a85c30d3ddc79b751ad1dd Floch sees this as maturity, but the realisation that she was willing to let Armin go for the sake of humanity is something that Mikasa is shocked by. It makes her falter, and let go of Eren. Mikasa has always defined herself as Armin and Eren's protector; she's presented in the story as such, and she styles herself as such. She's the one who keeps Eren and Armin safe. But Floch's words make her realise that, on the rooftop, she was able to step away from that role – because her world has expanded beyond Armin and Eren. It has expanded to include Hanji and Levi and the other Scouts – and humanity. Mikasa is capable of making choices that hurt her deeply for the sake of a greater cause. 2. Louise and Mikasa Louise meets Mikasa on three occasions. The first time, Louise tells Mikasa she likes her because Mikasa saved her, and gave her something to strive for: 'You can't save anyone without power. It's okay for us to fight against unjust violence. That's what I learned' (109). In the same way Eren 'gave' Mikasa a motto to live by, Mikasa gave one to Louise. The second time, Louise tells Mikasa that she's happy to be by her side again, fighting for the same goal. Mikasa is ambivalent towards her. And she leaves her scarf behind, choosing to go and fight the titans without it. In between the second and third meetings, Mikasa talks to Armin. She asks him if he's really going to tell Connie to give up on his mother and let her remain a titan; Armin says yes, he is. When Mikasa asks what should be done about Eren, Armin replies that there's nothing to be done; he's a lost cause. After Armin leaves, Mikasa notices that the scarf is missing, and goes to retrieve it. The third and last time they meet, Louise is dying. She tells Mikasa that Eren wanted her to throw the scarf away, but she thought that she could take it to be close to Mikasa. Though she appears to sympathise with Louise's plight, Mikasa demands the scarf back from her. She walks away from Louise even as Louise tells her that she had no regrets, because she chased after Mikasa, devoting her heart. Each meeting between Louise and Mikasa mirrors, in an abbreviated way, the different stages Eren and Mikasa's relationship has gone through. 1: Louise's initial love and gratitude, and her taking Mikasa as an inspiration; 2: their fighting side by side as equals; and, finally, 3: their literal separation as Mikasa chooses to walk away. Louise reminds Mikasa of what Eren means to her. Mikasa never seeks to stop Louise from talking about her feelings; instead, she listens. She might not reciprocate, but she does understand. And her understanding Louise's love reminds her of her own. She walks away, but she takes the scarf with her. Despite what Armin said, and what Louise told her about Eren and the scarf, Mikasa chooses to keep a hold of it in the way she keeps a hold of the hope that Eren can still be brought back. Mikasa is capable of holding on to the person she loves even when he's gone too far. Mikasa Chooses . . . Mikasa Despite the apparently binary choice, Mikasa doesn't have to choose to side with Eren (allow the Rumbling to go ahead) or with Armin (kill Eren to stop him). She said it herself: there's a third option. Her way. Eren's wandered so far down his path that he's lost sight of Mikasa and of Armin; of what connects him to the world. Mikasa chooses, not to support him or to believe that he's a lost cause, but to remind him that walking away from his humanity doesn't mean that he can't turn around and walk back. Kruger said 'Anyone can become a god or a devil. All it takes is for someone to claim it for it to be true' (88). But if there's someone to challenge that belief, then the possibility remains of breaking the facade and setting the story straight – thereby freeing that person from the role they've either taken on out of necessity, or been assigned. It's something we've already seen happen. All it takes is for one person to question it, and the goddess falls apart to reveal an empty, unloved young girl, or the devil's mask cracks open to show the boy still grieving for the world he's lost. Ymir knows that Historia's faking it; Mikasa knows that Eren is kind. Each of them challenges the story that their loved one is telling in order to keep going: Historia to survive, Eren to achieve his dream. It took Mikasa years to truly overcome the cruelty she had seen as a child. Despite everything, she did, in the end, go back to being that 'ordinary girl'. She came to acknowledge that cruelty exists, as does death – but life must nevertheless be lived, people loved, experiences had, and faith kept. Seeing the beauty in a world that is inherently cruel is, and always has been, Mikasa's greatest strength. It's something she is capable of offering Eren, who no longer seems to believe in that duality, or in his own humanity. She can show him what he showed her; that the world isn't black or white, cruel or beautiful, dark or light. It's both. And it's possible to live with that.
Mikasa is no longer fighting to protect Eren from the world; she's fighting to protect the world from Eren. She's the person best suited to do that not only because she's his family, but because Eren's despair and anger at the world is what she might have ended up with herself. If any character was dealt a crueller hand by the world than Eren, or could have become as bitter about the world as him, it was Mikasa. But he stopped that from happening because his kindness showed her that the world, as bad as it was, had good in it. Little by little, Eren's abandoned that view of the world himself. He no longer sees both its beauty and its cruelty, but has confined himself to seeing - and acting on - only one. When they fought Annie in Stohess, Mikasa had to remind Eren that the world was cruel, because Eren had lost sight of that truth. Now, Eren's lost sight of another, equally valid truth; that the world, as cruel as it is, is also beautiful. That he, as inhuman as he thinks he is, is also kind. If Mikasa manages to 'bring Eren back', she'll have come full circle. She started off as a little girl who was seeking something, anything, to hold on to. She needed a saviour, and she got one in the form of Eren. In this scenario, she'll end as a saviour herself, someone who is now able to pass on the light that she once received. Her fear of the world and of losing her loved ones subsided; she managed to find the warmth she needed to carry on. She doesn't need Eren's scarf anymore – but he might need hers.
My perspective on Mikasa is that she's not a very obvious character when it comes to development, and so she sometimes appears static. And because so much of her drive is Eren, a lot of fans look to her relationship with Eren to change for proof that she's somehow developed. But Mikasa's obstacle, her personal flaw, isn't Eren himself, and never has been. Her flaw has always been her deep and debilitating fear about losing the people she loves – Eren and Armin – and her inability to really trust or love anyone apart from them. Mikasa's separation from Eren = her beginning to trust the rest of the world not to stab him in the chest, almost behead him, or eat him alive whilst she's not there. It's good for her because it means she stops being so terrified that she'll lose Eren, not because it means she'll stop loving him or wanting him to be safe. And she reached that point of separation a long time ago in the manga. It was fully realised the moment she decided to trust Levi during the Uprising arc, despite the fact that Eren was literally gone from her side and she had no way of knowing whether he was dead or alive. The final confrontation is where Eren and Mikasa's ideological separation, the one discussed by Isayama in the interview, will/won't occur. It – and its finer details – can unfold in a number of ways, and each one could mean something different for Mikasa's character. But her choosing to face Eren in this way is a natural culmination of her development until now. I've no concrete theories on what will actually happen once the Alliance reaches Eren, but I'm fairly certain that Mikasa is central to the resolution of this arc. And what with the way she's been written by Isayama so far, that's no bad thing. So, to finally end this ramble, I hope that this post at least offers people a different perspective on Mikasa's character and how it's changed over the course of the story. I look forward to reading any other observations/thoughts on Mikasa's development that people might have. Many thanks for giving mine a read!
Possibility 1: Mormonism is not true, but you sincerely believe that it is and live your life accordingly. Possibility 2: Mormonism is true, but you sincerely believe that it is not and you live your life accordingly. Between these two possibilities, which do you think carries the greater risk? Which would you choose if you could choose one, recognizing that within my hypothetical scenario, I’m stipulating that whatever one comes to believe, that belief has been arrived at honestly and sincerely? Here’s my brief analysis. In the first option, you live your life as a believing mormon, but the religion turns out not to be true. What have you given up and what have you gained? No doubt, mormonism offers a lot, but I find the good things that mormonism offers can also be found within other constructs or communities. Is it really worth it to live the strict standards of mormonism if it’s not actually true? I enjoy my morning cup of coffee and the quiet moments of “zen” that it provides. I enjoy the freedom to responsibly have adult beverages when I feel like it, and the freedom to choose my own underwear. Most of all, I cherish the freedom to follow my own intellect and reasoning and desire to follow the truth wherever that leads without feeling like I must confine my conclusions within a proscribed belief system. These things add value and enjoyment to my life that I would be missing out on in following mormonism. If it all turned out not to be true, then this would be a huge loss for this one life that I get to live. In the second option, I still get to enjoy these same things, but instead mormonism turns out to be true. As long as I am being honest and sincere in my approach, the God of mormonism will judge me according to my sincere understanding of things. In this scenario, I’m really no worse off and got to live a fulfilling life. If the God of mormonism condemns me eternally to some lesser degree of glory for my honest pursuit of truth, well then, I wouldn’t want to be in the same kingdom with that God anyway. So in my analysis, scenario 2 is vastly more appealing and carries far less risk than scenario 1. Of course there are other possibilities than this binary I am setting up, but between the two, what would you choose? Which of these mormon Pascal wagers would you be less scared of?
CMV: Cosmetic Genital Surgeries on Intersex Children Shouldn't be Legal
Nature doesn't follow the boundaries that humans have created to define male and female. Internal and external genitalia, chromosomes, gonads, and hormones don't always align with the binary classifications. And this is not a rare occurrence. According to what is thought to be the most accurate study to date (Blackless, "How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis"), approximately 2% of the population is born with differences in sex development, aka bodies that don't align with what is typically male or female. That is the same as the percentage of people with green eyes or red hair- ~156 million people. Differences in sex development aren't anomalous, they are an expected biological variation on the spectrum of sex development. But western/modern culture doesn't recognize this and actively erases the existence of intersex traits because they don't conform to the binary model we created. Due to the pressure to fit in with the social understanding of male and female, "gender normalizing" surgeries are often performed. These are rarely medically necessary and take place even when the infant is perfectly healthy. These surgeries didn't start because medical professionals were didn't know the sex of the infant, they started because they thought society wouldn't be able to accept their bodies' differences as the sex they were. Essentially, they are only done to enforce gender norms. Even when they present no harm to the infant, doctors pathologize intersex traits and present them as a medical emergency. For the majority of cases, the only "medical emergency" is that intersex traits challenge the sex binary of modern society and the medical professionals' ideas of gender and sex. Infants and children cannot consent, so these surgeries also violate their right to autonomy over their bodies and futures. They are irreversible and can have lifelong consequences. When it is done with parental consent, the parents who make the decision for their children are often uninformed and pressured by the doctors. The surgical procedures are also an issue in and of themselves. They often only focus on heteronormative sexual performance. For example, the surgically constructed vaginal canal just has to be “a hole big enough to fit a typical-sized penis. It is not required to be self-lubricating or even to be at all sensitive” (Dreger). Clitoridectomies (the removal or reduction of the clitoris) are associated with permanent nerve damage, scarring, incontinence, loss of sexual function, and painful intercourse. Studies done by C.L. Minto and Peter Lee found that almost 80% of people who received clitoridectomies as an infant had difficulty experiencing sexual pleasure, 56% had dyspareunia, and approximately 40% had complete anorgasmia. Under the U.S law, female genital mutilation is considered to be barbaric and a human rights violation that's illegal even when a consenting adult requests it. Yet when it happens to infants with intersex conditions that cannot consent, it's apparently fine. Also, unnecessary gonadectomies in infants makes them sterile, taking away their choice to have kids and forcing them to rely on HRT for the rest of their life. There is also evidence that genital surgery on infants has worse outcomes than for adults. The results of vaginoplasties tend to be be more successful when the patient has higher estrogen levels and there is a reduced rate of vaginal stenosis when performed in adulthood. The scar tissue can also limit the options for genital surgery that the patient might want/need in the future I'm completely pro cosmetic genital surgery once the intersex individual is old enough to consent and has been fully informed on the risks and benefits of the procedures. I'm also not against assigning a gender to an infant at birth, I just think that can be done without surgical intervention. I just don't see what's wrong about waiting and seeing how the child develops (because doctors can attempt to predict this, but it is not 100% accurate) and what gender they end up identifying as (which cannot be predicted). The lack of consent for an irreversible surgery, violation of body integrity, risk of assigning the wrong gender, loss of sexual function, and nonconsensual sterilization are all huge red flags for me. The main arguments I ever see against this is that it makes things easier for the parents and the child's future "psychological health", but even those things have been disproved. Actually, research shows that besides physical harm, the surgeries can cause significant mental harm as well, including PTSD, gender dysphoria, iatrophobia, body dysmorphia, genophobia, depression, trust issues, suicidal ideation, anxiety disorders, self-loathing, etc (Tamar-Mattis). I suppose I do somewhat understand why it happens, especially since our society that cares so much about appearance and people tend to fear things that are "different." But that's not really a logical explanation and also doesn't mean it is ethical and should be legal. Also, society is much more accepting of differences now (as compared to the 1960's when these surgeries became popular) and sometimes even celebrates them. I can't think of any legitimate, evidence-backed reason as to why cosmetic genital surgery for infants with intersex conditions should continue to happen. I must admit that I have bias, as I am an intersex male who was subjected to cosmetic feminizing surgery as an infant and I'm pretty salty about it. However, I want to hear more from those who believe it should be done and am open to revising my views on the issue. I would like to ask that you include credible sources when mentioning statistics, etc. I am happy to dm my bibliography of sources to anyone who requests it.
No gods, no kings, only NOPE - or divining the future with options flows. [Part 3: Hedge Winding, Unwinding, and the NOPE]
Hello friends! We're on the last post of this series ("A Gentle Introduction to NOPE"), where we get to use all the Big Boy Concepts (TM) we've discussed in the prior posts and put them all together. Some words before we begin:
This post will be massively theoretical, in the sense that my own speculation and inferences will be largely peppered throughout the post. Are those speculations right? I think so, or I wouldn't be posting it, but they could also be incorrect.
I will briefly touch on using the NOPE this slide, but I will make a secondary post with much more interesting data and trends I've observed. This is primarily for explaining what NOPE is and why it potentially works, and what it potentially measures.
My advice before reading this is to glance at my prior posts, and either read those fully or at least make sure you understand the tl;drs: https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/collection/27dc72ad-4e78-44cd-a788-811cd666e32a Depending on popular demand, I will also make a last-last post called FAQ, where I'll tabulate interesting questions you guys ask me in the comments! --- So a brief recap before we begin. Market Maker ("Mr. MM"): An individual or firm who makes money off the exchange fees and bid-ask spread for an asset, while usually trying to stay neutral about the direction the asset moves. Delta-gamma hedging: The process Mr. MM uses to stay neutral when selling you shitty OTM options, by buying/selling shares (usually) of the underlying as the price moves. Law of Surprise [Lily-ism]: Effectively, the expected profit of an options trade is zero for both the seller and the buyer. Random Walk: A special case of a deeper probability probability called a martingale, which basically models stocks or similar phenomena randomly moving every step they take (for stocks, roughly every millisecond). This is one of the most popular views of how stock prices move, especially on short timescales. Future Expected Payoff Function [Lily-ism]: This is some hidden function that every market participant has about an asset, which more or less models all the possible future probabilities/values of the assets to arrive at a "fair market price". This is a more generalized case of a pricing model like Black-Scholes, or DCF. Counter-party: The opposite side of your trade (if you sell an option, they buy it; if you buy an option, they sell it). Price decoherence ]Lily-ism]: A more generalized notion of IV Crush, price decoherence happens when instead of the FEPF changing gradually over time (price formation), the FEPF rapidly changes, due usually to new information being added to the system (e.g. Vermin Supreme winning the 2020 election). --- One of the most popular gambling events for option traders to play is earnings announcements, and I do owe the concept of NOPE to hypothesizing specifically about the behavior of stock prices at earnings. Much like a black hole in quantum mechanics, most conventional theories about how price should work rapidly break down briefly before, during, and after ER, and generally experienced traders tend to shy away from playing earnings, given their similar unpredictability. Before we start: what is NOPE? NOPE is a funny backronym from Net Options Pricing Effect, which in its most basic sense, measures the impact option delta has on the underlying price, as compared to share price. When I first started investigating NOPE, I called it OPE (options pricing effect), but NOPE sounds funnier. The formula for it is dead simple, but I also have no idea how to do LaTeX on reddit, so this is the best I have: https://preview.redd.it/ais37icfkwt51.png?width=826&format=png&auto=webp&s=3feb6960f15a336fa678e945d93b399a8e59bb49 Since I've already encountered this, put delta in this case is the absolute value (50 delta) to represent a put. If you represent put delta as a negative (the conventional way), do not subtract it; add it. To keep this simple for the non-mathematically minded: the NOPE today is equal to the weighted sum (weighted by volume) of the delta of every call minus the delta of every put for all options chains extending from today to infinity. Finally, we then divide that number by the # of shares traded today in the market session (ignoring pre-market and post-market, since options cannot trade during those times). Effectively, NOPE is a rough and dirty way to approximate the impact of delta-gamma hedging as a function of share volume, with us hand-waving the following factors:
To keep calculations simple, we assume that all counter-parties are hedged. This is obviously not true, especially for idiots who believe theta ganging is safe, but holds largely true especially for highly liquid tickers, or tickers will designated market makers (e.g. any ticker in the NASDAQ, for instance).
We assume that all hedging takes place via shares. For SPY and other products tracking the S&P, for instance, market makers can actually hedge via futures or other options. This has the benefit for large positions of not moving the underlying price, but still makes up a fairly small amount of hedges compared to shares.
Winding and Unwinding
I briefly touched on this in a past post, but two properties of NOPE seem to apply well to EER-like behavior (aka any binary catalyst event):
NOPE measures sentiment - In general, the options market is seen as better informed than share traders (e.g. insiders trade via options, because of leverage + easier to mask positions). Therefore, a heavy call/put skew is usually seen as a bullish sign, while the reverse is also true.
NOPE measures system stability
I'm not going to one-sentence explain #2, because why say in one sentence what I can write 1000 words on. In short, NOPE intends to measure sensitivity of the system (the ticker) to disruption. This makes sense, when you view it in the context of delta-gamma hedging. When we assume all counter-parties are hedged, this means an absolutely massive amount of shares get sold/purchased when the underlying price moves. This is because of the following: a) Assume I, Mr. MM sell 1000 call options for NKLA 25C 10/23 and 300 put options for NKLA 15p 10/23. I'm just going to make up deltas because it's too much effort to calculate them - 30 delta call, 20 delta put. This implies Mr. MM needs the following to delta hedge: (1000 call options * 30 shares to buy for each) [to balance out writing calls) - (300 put options * 20 shares to sell for each) = 24,000net shares Mr. MM needs to acquire to balance out his deltas/be fully neutral. b) This works well when NKLA is at $20. But what about when it hits $19 (because it only can go down, just like their trucks). Thanks to gamma, now we have to recompute the deltas, because they've changed for both the calls (they went down) and for the puts (they went up). Let's say to keep it simple that now my calls are 20 delta, and my puts are 30 delta. From the 24,000 net shares, Mr. MM has to now have: (1000 call options * 20 shares to have for each) - (300 put options * 30 shares to sell for each) = 11,000 shares. Therefore, with a $1 shift in price, now to hedge and be indifferent to direction, Mr. MM has to go from 24,000 shares to 11,000 shares, meaning he has to sell 13,000 shares ASAP, or take on increased risk. Now, you might be saying, "13,000 shares seems small. How would this disrupt the system?" (This process, by the way, is called hedge unwinding) It won't, in this example. But across thousands of MMs and millions of contracts, this can - especially in highly optioned tickers - make up a substantial fraction of the net flow of shares per day. And as we know from our desk example, the buying or selling of shares directly changes the price of the stock itself. This, by the way, is why the NOPE formula takes the shape it does. Some astute readers might notice it looks similar to GEX, which is not a coincidence. GEX however replaces daily volume with open interest, and measures gamma over delta, which I did not find good statistical evidence to support, especially for earnings. So, with our example above, why does NOPE measure system stability? We can assume for argument's sake that if someone buys a share of NKLA, they're fine with moderate price swings (+- $20 since it's NKLA, obviously), and in it for the long/medium haul. And in most cases this is fine - we can own stock and not worry about minor swings in price. But market makers can't* (they can, but it exposes them to risk), because of how delta works. In fact, for most institutional market makers, they have clearly defined delta limits by end of day, and even small price changes require them to rebalance their hedges. This over the whole market adds up to a lot shares moving, just to balance out your stupid Robinhood YOLOs. While there are some tricks (dark pools, block trades) to not impact the price of the underlying, the reality is that the more options contracts there are on a ticker, the more outsized influence it will have on the ticker's price. This can technically be exactly balanced, if option put delta is equal to option call delta, but never actually ends up being the case. And unlike shares traded, the shares representing the options are more unstable, meaning they will be sold/bought in response to small price shifts. And will end up magnifying those price shifts, accordingly.
NOPE and Earnings
So we have a new shiny indicator, NOPE. What does it actually mean and do? There's much literature going back to the 1980s that options markets do have some level of predictiveness towards earnings, which makes sense intuitively. Unlike shares markets, where you can continue to hold your share even if it dips 5%, in options you get access to expanded opportunity to make riches... and losses. An options trader betting on earnings is making a risky and therefore informed bet that he or she knows the outcome, versus a share trader who might be comfortable bagholding in the worst case scenario. As I've mentioned largely in comments on my prior posts, earnings is a special case because, unlike popular misconceptions, stocks do not go up and down solely due to analyst expectations being meet, beat, or missed. In fact, stock prices move according to the consensus market expectation, which is a function of all the participants' FEPF on that ticker. This is why the price moves so dramatically - even if a stock beats, it might not beat enough to justify the high price tag (FSLY); even if a stock misses, it might have spectacular guidance or maybe the market just was assuming it would go bankrupt instead. To look at the impact of NOPE and why it may play a role in post-earnings-announcement immediate price moves, let's review the following cases:
Stock Meets/Exceeds Market Expectations (aka price goes up) - In the general case, we would anticipate post-ER market participants value the stock at a higher price, pushing it up rapidly. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the positive move since:
a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worthless (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares, buying them, and pushing the stock price up. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of puts are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of calls are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares AND also buy more shares to cover their calls, pushing the stock price up. 2) Stock Meets/Misses Market Expectations (aka price goes down)- Inversely to what I mentioned above, this should push to the stock price down, fairly immediately. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the negative move since: a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worth more, and a lot of calls are now worth less/worth less (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell/short more shares, pushing the stock price down. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of calls are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of puts are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell even more shares to keep their calls and puts neutral, pushing the stock price down. --- Based on the above two cases, it should be a bit more clear why NOPE is a measure of sensitivity to system perturbation. While we previously discussed it in the context of magnifying directional move, the truth is it also provides a directional bias to our "random" walk. This is because given a price move in the direction predicted by NOPE, we expect it to be magnified, especially in situations of price decoherence. If a stock price goes up right after an ER report drops, even based on one participant deciding to value the stock higher, this provides a runaway reaction which boosts the stock price (due to hedging factors as well as other participants' behavior) and inures it to drops.
NOPE and NOPE_MAD
I'm going to gloss over this section because this is more statistical methods than anything interesting. In general, if you have enough data, I recommend using NOPE_MAD over NOPE. While NOPE in theory represents a "real" quantity (net option delta over net share delta), NOPE_MAD (the median absolute deviation of NOPE) does not. NOPE_MAD simply answecompare the following:
How exceptional is today's NOPE versus historic baseline (30 days prior)?
How do I compare two tickers' NOPEs effectively (since some tickers, like TSLA, have a baseline positive NOPE, because Elon memes)? In the initial stages, we used just a straight numerical threshold (let's say NOPE >= 20), but that quickly broke down. NOPE_MAD aims to detect anomalies, because anomalies in general give you tendies.
I might add the formula later in Mathenese, but simply put, to find NOPE_MAD you do the following:
Calculate today's NOPE score (this can be done end of day or intraday, with the true value being EOD of course)
Calculate the end of day NOPE scores on the ticker for the previous 30 trading days
Compute the median of the previous 30 trading days' NOPEs
Find today's deviation as compared to the MAD calculated by: [(today's NOPE) - (median NOPE of last 30 days)] / (median absolute deviation of last 30 days)
This is usually reported as sigma (σ), and has a few interesting properties:
The mean of NOPE_MAD for any ticker is almost exactly 0.
[Lily's Speculation's Speculation] NOPE_MAD acts like a spring, and has a tendency to reverse direction as a function of its magnitude. No proof on this yet, but exploring it!
Using the NOPE to predict ER
So the last section was a lot of words and theory, and a lot of what I'm mentioning here is empirically derived (aka I've tested it out, versus just blabbered). In general, the following holds true:
3 sigma NOPE_MAD tends to be "the threshold": For very low NOPE_MAD magnitudes (+- 1 sigma), it's effectively just noise, and directionality prediction is low, if not non-existent. It's not exactly like 3 sigma is a play and 2.9 sigma is not a play; NOPE_MAD accuracy increases as NOPE_MAD magnitude (either positive or negative) increases.
NOPE_MAD is only useful on highly optioned tickers: In general, I introduce another parameter for sifting through "candidate" ERs to play: option volume * 100/share volume. When this ends up over let's say 0.4, NOPE_MAD provides a fairly good window into predicting earnings behavior.
NOPE_MAD only predicts during the after-market/pre-market session: I also have no idea if this is true, but my hunch is that next day behavior is mostly random and driven by market movement versus earnings behavior. NOPE_MAD for now only predicts direction of price movements right between the release of the ER report (AH or PM) and the ending of that market session. This is why in general I recommend playing shares, not options for ER (since you can sell during the AH/PM).
NOPE_MAD only predicts direction of price movement: This isn't exactly true, but it's all I feel comfortable stating given the data I have. On observation of ~2700 data points of ER-ticker events since Mar 2019 (SPY 500), I only so far feel comfortable predicting whether stock price goes up (>0 percent difference) or down (<0 price difference). This is +1 for why I usually play with shares.
Some statistics: #0) As a baseline/null hypothesis, after ER on the SPY500 since Mar 2019, 50-51% price movements in the AH/PM are positive (>0) and ~46-47% are negative (<0). #1) For NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma, roughly 68% of price movements are positive after earnings. #2) For NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, roughly 29% of price movements are positive after earnings. #3) When using a logistic model of only data including NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma or NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, and option/share vol >= 0.4 (around 25% of all ERs observed), I was able to achieve 78% predictive accuracy on direction.
Like all models, NOPE is wrong, but perhaps useful. It's also fairly new (I started working on it around early August 2020), and in fact, my initial hypothesis was exactly incorrect (I thought the opposite would happen, actually). Similarly, as commenters have pointed out, the timeline of data I'm using is fairly compressed (since Mar 2019), and trends and models do change. In fact, I've noticed significantly lower accuracy since the coronavirus recession (when I measured it in early September), but I attribute this mostly to a smaller date range, more market volatility, and honestly, dumber option traders (~65% accuracy versus nearly 80%). My advice so far if you do play ER with the NOPE method is to use it as following:
Buy/short shares approximately right when the market closes before ER. Ideally even buying it right before the earnings report drops in the AH session is not a bad idea if you can.
Sell/buy to close said shares at the first sign of major weakness (e.g. if the NOPE predicted outcome is incorrect).
Sell/buy to close shares even if it is correct ideally before conference call, or by the end of the after-market/pre-market session.
Only play tickers with high NOPE as well as high option/share vol.
--- In my next post, which may be in a few days, I'll talk about potential use cases for SPY and intraday trends, but I wanted to make sure this wasn't like 7000 words by itself. Cheers. - Lily
Going to keep this simple. EDIT: this isn’t simple and I should write a short story on this. I am generally risk averse. I hate losing $100 at the casino, I hate paying extra for guac at chipotles, I will return something or price match an item for a few dollars of savings. I am generally frugal. But, I somehow had no issues losing 10k in options... How I started I remember my first trades like they were yesterday. I was trading the first hydrogen run-up in 2014 (FCEL, BLDP, PLUG) and made a few hundred dollars over a couple weeks. I quickly progressed to penny stocks / biotech binary events and general stock market gambling mid-2014. I was making a few % here and there but the trend was down in total account value. I was the king of buying the peak in run-ups. I managed to make it out of 2014 close to break-even to slightly down. WSB Era March 2015 was my first option trade. It was an AXP - American Express - monthly option trade. I saw one of the regular option traders/services post a block of 10,000 calls that had been bought for 1.3 and I followed the trade with 10 call options for a total of $1300. I woke up the next day to an analyst upgrade on AXP and was up 50% on my position. I was addicted! I day-dreamed for days about my AXP over night success. I think around that time there was some sort of Buffet buyout of Heinz and an option trade that was up a ridiculous amount of %%%. I wanted to hit it BIG. I came up with the idea that all I needed to reach my goal was a few 100% over night gains/ 1k>2k>4k>8k> etc. I convinced myself that I would have no problems being patient for the exact criteria that I had set and worked on some other trades. Remember, the first win is always free. I was trading options pretty regularly from March 2015 until August 2016. During my best week I was up 20k and could feel the milli within reach. I can remember the exact option trade (HTZ) and I was trading weeklies on it. For those who have been in the market long enough, you will remember the huge drawdown of August 2015. I lost half my account value on QCOM calls (100 of them) that I followed at the beginning of July and never materialized. I watched them eventually go to 0. It was another 10,000 block that was probably a hedge or sold. In August 2015 there were some issues with China and all of us woke up to stocks gapping down huge. Unfortunately my idea of buying far dated calls during the following days/weeks after the crash went sideways. I quickly learned that an increase in volatility causes a rise in option prices and I was paying a premium for calls that were going to lose value very quickly (the infamous IV crush). I kept trading options into the end of 2015 and managed to maintain my account value positive but the trading fees for the year amounted to $30,000+. My broker was loving it. I tried all the services, all the strategies. I created rules for my option plays: 1. No earnings 2. Only follow the big buys at a discount (10,000 blocks or more). 3. No weekly options 4. Take profit right away 5. Take losses quickly 6. etc. I had a whole note book of option plays that I was writing down and following. I was paying for option services that all of you know about - remember, they make money on the services and not trading. I even figured out a loop-hole with my broker: if I didn’t have enough money in my account, I could change my ask price to .01 and then change it to market buy and I would only need to accept a warning ⚠️ for the order to go through. I was able to day trade the option and make money, who cares if I didnt have enough? After a few months of this, I got a call from my broker that told me to stop and that I would be suspended if I continued with this. By the way, I was always able to satisfy the debit on the account - so it wasn’t an issue of lack of funds. Lost it all. Started taking money from lines of credits, every penny that I earned and losing it quicker and quicker. I was a full on gambler but I was convinced that 8 trades would offset all the losses. I kept getting drawn in to the idea that I could hit a homerun and make it out a hero. I eventually hit rock bottom on some weekly expiring FSLR options that I bought hours before expiration and said to myself - what the f are you doing? I resolved to invest for the long term and stop throwing tendies away. The feeling was reinforced during the birth of my first born and I thought - what a loser this kid will think of me if he knew how much I was gambling and wasting my life. It was a really powerful moment looking at my kid and reflecting on this idea. I decided at that point I was going to save every penny I had and invest it on new issues with potential. Fall 2016 TTD, COUP and NTNX IPO ‘ed I decided I was going to throw every dollar at these and did so for the next few months. I eventually started using margin (up to 215%) and buying these for the next 6 months. They paid out and managed to make it over 100k within the year. The first 100k was hard but once I crossed it, I never fell below this magic number. 2017 - I did some day trading but it was mostly obsessing over the above issues. I did gamble on a few options here and there but never more than 1k. 2018 - SFIX was my big winner, I bought a gap up in June 2018 and my combined account value had crossed 400k by August 2018. I was really struggling at crossing the 500k account value and experienced 3 x 30-40% drawdowns over the next 2 years before I finally crossed the 500k barrier and have never looked back. I still made some mistakes over the next few months - AKAO & GSUM come to mind. Both of these resulted in 20k+ losses. Fortunately my winners were much bigger than my losers. I thought about giving up and moving to index funds - but i was doing well - just experiencing large drawdowns because of leverage. 2019 big winners were CRON SWAV STNE. 2017 / 2018 / 2019 all had six digit capital gains on my tax returns. At the beginning of 2020 I was still day trading on margin (180-220%) and got a call from my broker that they were tightening up my margin as my account was analyzed by the risk department and deemed too risky. Believe it or not this was right before the covid crash. I brought my margin down to 100-110% of account value and even though the drawdown from covid hit hard, I wasn’t wiped out. I stayed the course and bought FSLY / RH during the big march drawdown and this resulted in some nice gains over the next few months. I am constantly changing and testing my investment strategy but let me tell you that obsessing over 1 or 2 ideas and throwing every penny at it and holding for a few years is the best strategy. It may not work at some point but right now it does. I still day trade but I trade with 10k or less on each individual position. It allows me minimize my losses and my winners are 1-7%. I am able to consistently make between 3-700$/ a day on day trades using the above strategy. I still take losses and still dream about hitting it big with an option trade but dont feel the need to put it all on the line every month / week. I finally crossed into the two , club. I know people are going to ask for proof or ban but I am not earning anything for posting and the details about some of the trades should be proof enough that I kept a detailed journal of it all. I have way more to write but these are the highlights. Eventually I will share how I build a position in a story I love. I still sell buy and sell to early but I am working on improving. TL:DR - I gambled, lost it all and gambled some more lost more. I made it out alive. I have only sold calls/puts lately. The one common denominator in all successful people is how much they obsess over 1 or 2 ideas. Do the same. All the winners on this sub have gone all in on one idea (FSLY / TSLA ). Stick with new stories or ones that are changing and go all in...wait a second, I didnt learn anything.
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.
The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill, Part 3
Okay, Wendy’s or Walgreens or whoever, I don’t care who you are, you’re listening to the rest.
Introduction to Part 3
Welcome back one last time to “The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill,” a series where we discuss all aspects of skill design and development. In Part 1, we talked about OSRS’s history with skills, and started the lengthy conversation on Skill Design Philosophy, including the concepts of Core, Expansion, and Integration. This latter topic consumed the entirety of Part 2 as well, which covered Rewards and Motivations, Progression, Buyables, as well as Unconstructive Arguments. Which brings us to today, the final part of our discussion. In this Part 3, we’ll finish up Section 3 – Skill Design Philosophy, then move on to chat about the design and blog process. One last time, this discussion was intended to be a single post, but its length outgrew the post character limit twice. Therefore, it may be important to look at the previous two parts for clarity and context with certain terms. The final product, in its purest, aesthetic, and unbroken form, can be found here.
3-C – Skill Design Philosophy, Continued
3-12 - Balancing
What follows from the discussion about XP and costs, of course, is balancing: the bane of every developer. A company like Riot knows better than anyone that having too many factors to account for makes good balance impossible. Balancing new ideas appropriately is extremely challenging and requires a great respect for current content as discussed in Section 3-5 – Integration. Thankfully, in OSRS we only have three major balancing factors: Profit, XP Rate, and Intensity, and two minor factors: Risk and Leniency. These metrics must amount to some sense of balance (besides Leniency, which as we’ll see is the definition of anti-balance) in order for a piece of content to feel like it’s not breaking the system or rendering all your previous efforts meaningless. It’s also worthy to note that there is usually a skill-specific limit to the numerical values of these metrics. For example, Runecrafting will never receive a training method that grants 200k xp/hr, while for Construction that’s easily on the lower end of the scale. A basic model works better than words to describe these factors, and therefore, being the phenomenal artist that I am, I have constructed one, which I’ve dubbed “The Guthix Scale.” But I’ll be cruel and use words anyway.
Profit: how much you gain from a task, or how much you lose. Gain or loss can include resources, cosmetics, specialized currencies, good old gold pieces, or anything on that line.
XP Rate: how fast you gain XP.
Intensity: how much effort (click intensity), attention (reaction intensity), and thought (planning intensity) you need to put into the activity to perform it well.
Risk: how likely is the loss of your revenue and/or resource investment into the activity. Note that one must be careful with risk, as players are very good at abusing systems intended to encourage higher risk levels to minimize how much they’re actually risking.
Leniency: a measure for how imbalanced a piece of content can be before the public and/or Jagex nerfs it. Leniency serves as a simple modulator to help comprehend when the model breaks or bends in unnatural ways, and is usually determined by how enjoyable and abusable an activity is, such that players don’t want to cause an outrage over it. For example, Slayer has a high level of Leniency; people don’t mind that some Slayer tasks grant amazing XP Rates, great Profits, have middling Intensity, and low Risk. On the other hand, Runecrafting has low levels of Leniency; despite low Risk, many Runecrafting activities demand high Intensity for poor XP Rates and middling Profits.
In the end, don’t worry about applying specific numbers during the conceptual phase of your skill design. However, when describing an activity to your reader, it’s always useful if you give approximations, such as “high intensity” or “low risk,” so that they get an idea of the activity’s design goals as well as to guide the actual development of that activity. Don’t comment on the activity’s Leniency though, as that would be pretty pretentious and isn’t for you to determine anyway.
3-13 - Skill Bloat
What do the arts of weaving, tanning, sowing, spinning, pottery, glassmaking, jewellery, engraving, carving, chiselling, carpentry, and even painting have in common? In real life, there’s only so much crossover between these arts, but in Runescape they’re all simply Crafting. The distinction between what deserves to be its own skill or instead tagged along to a current skill is often arbitrary; this is the great challenge of skill bloat. The fundamental question for many skill concepts is: does this skill have enough depth to stand on its own? The developers of 2006 felt that there was sufficient depth in Construction to make it something separate from Crafting, even if the latter could have covered the former. While there’s often no clean cut between these skills (why does making birdhouses use Crafting instead of Construction?), it is easy to see that Construction has found its own solid niche that would’ve been much too big to act as yet another Expansion of Crafting. On the other hand, a skill with extremely limited scope and value perhaps should be thrown under the umbrella of a larger skill. Take Firemaking: it’s often asked why it deserves to be its own skill given how limited its uses are. This is one of those ideas that probably should have just been thrown under Crafting or even Woodcutting. But again, the developers who made early Runescape did not battle with the same ideas as the modern player; they simply felt like Firemaking was a good idea for a skill. Similarly, the number of topics that the Magic skill covers is so often broken down in other games, like Morrowind’s separation between Illusion, Conjuration, Alteration, Destruction, Mysticism, Restoration, Enchant, Alchemy (closer to Herblore), and Unarmored (closer to Strength and Defense). Why does Runescape not break Magic into more skills? The answer is simple: Magic was created with a much more limited scope in Runescape, and there has not been enough content in any specific magical category to justify another skill being born. But perhaps your skill concept seeks to address this; maybe your Enchantment skill takes the enchanting aspects of Magic away, expands the idea to include current imbues and newer content, and fully fleshes the idea out such that the Magic skill alone cannot contain it. Somewhat ironically, Magic used to be separated into Good and Evil Magic skills in Runescape Classic, but that is another topic. So instead of arguments about what could be thrown under another skill’s umbrella, perhaps we should be asking: is there enough substance to this skill concept for it to stand on its own, outside of its current skill categorization? Of course, this leads to a whole other debate about how much content is enough for a skill idea to deserve individuality, but that would get too deep into specifics and is outside the scope of this discussion.
3-14 - Skill Endgame
Runescape has always been a sandbox MMO, but the original Runescape experience was built more or less with a specific endgame in mind: killing players and monsters. Take the Runescape Classic of 2001: you had all your regular combat skills, but even every other skill had an endgame whose goal was helping combat out. Fishing, Firemaking, and Cooking would provide necessary healing. Smithing and Crafting, along with their associated Gathering skill partners, served to gear you up. Combat was the simple endgame and most mechanics existed to serve that end. However, since those first days, the changing endgame goals of players have promoted a vast expansion of the endgame goals of new content. For example, hitting a 99 in any non-combat skill is an endgame goal in itself for many players, completely separate from that skill’s combat relationship (if any). These goals have increased to aspects like cosmetic collections, pets, maxed stats, all quests completed, all diaries completed, all music tracks unlocked, a wealthy bank, the collection log, boss killcounts, and more. Whereas skills used to have a distinct part of a system that ultimately served combat, we now have a vast variety of endgame goals that a skill can be directed towards. You can even see a growth in this perspective as new skills were released up to 2007: Thieving mainly nets you valuable (or once valuable) items which have extremely flexible uses, and Construction has a strong emphasis on cosmetics for your POH. So when designing your new skill, contemplate what the endgame of your skill looks like. For example, if you are proposing a Gathering skill, what is the Production skill tie-in, and what is the endgame goal of that Production skill? Maybe your new skill Spelunking has an endgame in gathering rare collectibles that can be shown off in your POH. Maybe your new skill Necromancy functions like a Support skill, giving you followers that help speed along resource gathering, and letting you move faster to the endgame goal of the respective Production skill. Whatever it is, a proper, clear, and unified view of an endgame goal helps a skill feel like it serves a distinct and valuable purpose. Note that this could mean that you require multiple skills to be released simultaneously for each to feed into each other and form an appropriate endgame. In that case, go for it – don’t make it a repeat of RS3’s Divination, a Gathering skill left hanging without the appropriate Production skill partner of Invention for over 2 years. A good example of a skill with a direct endgame is… most of them. Combat is a well-accepted endgame, and traditionally, most skills are intended to lend a hand in combat whether by supplies or gear. A skill with a poor endgame would be Hunter: Hunter is so scattered in its ultimate endgame goals, trying to touch on small aspects of everything like combat gear, weight reduction, production, niche skilling tools, and food. There’s a very poor sense of identity to Hunter’s endgame, and it doesn’t help that very few of these rewards are actually viable or interesting in the current day. Similarly, while Slayer has a strong endgame goal it is terrible in its methodology, overshadowing other Production skills in their explicit purpose. A better design for Slayer’s endgame would have been to treat it as a secondary Gathering skill, to work almost like a catalyst for other Gathering-Production skill relationships. In this mindset, Slayer is where you gather valuable monster drops, combine it with traditional Gathering resources like ores from Mining, then use a Production skill like Smithing to meld them into the powerful gear that is present today. This would have kept other Gathering and Production skills at the forefront of their specialities, in contrast to today’s situation where Slayer will give fully assembled gear that’s better than anything you could receive from the appropriate skills (barring a few items that need a Production skill to piece together).
3-15 - Alternate Goals
From a game design perspective, skills are so far reaching that it can be tempting to use them to shift major game mechanics to a more favourable position. Construction is an example of this idea in action: Construction was very intentionally designed to be a massive gold sink to help a hyperinflating economy. Everything about it takes gold out of the game, whether through using a sawmill, buying expensive supplies from stores, adding rooms, or a shameless piece of furniture costing 100m that is skinned as, well, 100m on a shameless piece of furniture. If you’re clever about it, skills are a legitimately good opportunity for such change. Sure, the gold sink is definitely a controversial feature of Construction, but for the most part it’s organic and makes sense; fancy houses and fancy cosmetics are justifiably expensive. It is notable that the controversy over Construction’s gold sink mechanism is probably levied more against the cost of training, rather than the cost of all its wonderful aesthetics. Perhaps that should have been better accounted for in its design phase, but now it is quite set in stone. To emphasize that previous point: making large scale changes to the game through a new skill can work, but it must feel organic and secondary to the skill’s main purpose. Some people really disliked Warding because they felt it tried too hard to fix real, underlying game issues with mechanics that didn’t thematically fit or were overshadowing the skill’s Core. While this may or may not be true, if your new skill can improve the game’s integrity without sacrificing its own identity, you could avoid this argument entirely. If your skill Regency has a Core of managing global politics, but also happens to serve as a resource sink to help your failing citizens, then you’ve created a strong Core design while simultaneously improving the profitability of Gathering skills.
3-16 - The Combat No-Touch Rule
So, let’s take a moment to examine the great benefits and rationale of RS2’s Evolution of Combat: This space has been reserved for unintelligible squabbling. With that over, it’s obvious that the OSRS playerbase is not a big fan of making major changes to the combat system. If there’s anything that defines the OSRS experience, it has to be the janky and abusable combat system that we love. So, in the past 7 years of OSRS, how many times have you heard someone pitch a new combat skill? Practically no one ever has; a new combat skill, no matter how miniscule, would feel obtrusive to most players, and likely would not even receive 25% of votes in a poll. This goes right back to Section 3-5 – Integration, and the importance of preserving the fundamentals of OSRS’s design. I know that my intention with this discussion was to be as definitive about skill design as possible, and in that spirit I should be delving into the design philosophy specifically behind combat skills, but I simply don’t see the benefit of me trying, and the conversation really doesn’t interest me that much. It goes without saying that as expansive as this discussion is, it does not cover every facet of skill design, which is a limitation both of my capabilities and desire to do so.
3-17 - Aesthetics
I don’t do aesthetics well. I like them, I want them, but I do not understand them; there are others much better equipped to discuss this topic than I. Nonetheless, here we go. Since the dawn of OSRS, debates over art style and aesthetics have raged across Gielinor. After all, the OSRS Team is filled with modern day artists while OSRS is an ancient game. What were they supposed to do? Keep making dated graphics? Make content with a modernized and easily digestible style? Something in-between? While many players shouted for more dated graphics, they were approached by an interesting predicament: which dated graphics did they want? We had a great selection present right from the start of OSRS: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. People hungry for nostalgia chose the era that they grew up in, leading to frequent requests for older models like the dragon or imp, most of which were denied by Jagex (except the old Mining rock models). But which era was OSRS supposed to follow? Jagex elected to carve their own path, but not without heavy criticism especially closer to OSRS’s conception. However, they adapted to player requests and have since gone back and fixed many of the blatant early offenders (like the Kingdom of Kourend) and adopted a more consistent flavour, one that generally respects the art style of 2007. Even though it doesn’t always hit the mark, one has to appreciate the OSRS artists for making their best attempt and listening to feedback, and here’s to hoping that their art style examination mentioned in June 2020’s Gazette bears fruit. But what exactly is the old school art style? There are simple systems by which most players judge it in OSRS, usually by asking questions like, “Would you believe if this existed in 2007?” More informed artists will start pointing out distinct features that permeated most content from back in the day, such as low quality textures, low poly models, low FPS animations, a “low fantasy” or grounded profile that appeals somewhat to realism, reducing cartoonish exaggerations, and keeping within the lore. Compiled with this, music and sound design help that art style come to life; it can be very hard on immersion when these don’t fit. An AGS would sound jarring if its special attack sounded like a weak dagger stab, and having to endure Country Jig while roaming Hosidius suddenly sweeps you off into a different universe. But coming back to skill design, the art, models, and sound design tend to be some of the last features, mostly because the design phase doesn’t demand such a complete picture of a skill. However, simple concept art and models can vastly improve how a skill concept is communicated and comfort players who are concerned about maintaining that “old school feel.” This will be touched on again later in this discussion under Section 5-2 – Presentation and Beta Testing.
3-18 - Afterword
Now we’ve set down the modern standards for a new skill, but the statements that started this section bear repeating: the formula we’ve established does not automatically make a good or interesting skill, as hard as we might have tried. Once again, harken back to the First Great Irony: that we are trying to inject the modern interpretation of what defines a skill upon a game that was not necessarily built to contain it. Therefore, one could just as easily deny each of the components described above, as popular or unpopular as the act might be, and their opinion could be equally valid and all this effort meaningless. Don’t take these guidelines with such stringency as to disregard all other views.
5-0 - The OSRS Team and the Design Process
If you’ve followed me all the way here, you’re likely A) exhausted and fed up of any conversation concerning new skills, or B) excited, because you’ve just struck an incredible skill idea (or perhaps one that’s always hung around your head) that happens to tick off all the above checkboxes. But unfortunately for you B types, it’s about to get pretty grim, because we’re going to go through every aspect of skill design that’s exterior to the game itself. We’ll be touching on larger topics like democracy, presentation, player mindsets, effort, and resource consumption. It’ll induce a fantastic bout of depression, so don’t get left behind.
5-1 - Designing a Skill
Thus far, Jagex has offered three potential skills to OSRS, each of which has been denied. This gives us the advantage of understanding how the skill design process works behind the scenes and lets us examine some of the issues Jagex has faced with presenting a skill to the players. The first problem is the “one strike and you’re out” phenomenon. Simply put, players don’t like applying much effort into reading and learning. They’ll look at a developer blog highlighting a new skill idea, and if you’re lucky they’ll even read the whole thing, but how about the second developer blog? The third? Fourth? Even I find it hard to get that far. In general, people don’t like long detail-heavy essays or blogs, which is why I can invoke the ancient proverb “Ban Emily” into this post and it’ll go (almost) completely unnoticed. No matter how many improvements you make between developer blogs, you will quickly lose players with each new iteration. Similarly, developer blogs don’t have the time to talk about skill design philosophy or meta-analyse their ideas – players would get lost far too fast. This is the Second Great Irony of skill design: the more iterations you have of a lengthy idea, the less players will keep up with you. This was particularly prominent with Warding: Battle Wards were offered in an early developer blog but were quickly cut when Jagex realized how bad the idea was. Yet people would still cite Battle Wards as the reason they voted against Warding, despite the idea having been dropped several blogs before. Similarly, people would often comment that they hated that Warding was being polled multiple times; it felt to them like Jagex was trying to brute-force it into the game. But Warding was only ever polled once, and only after the fourth developer blog - the confusion was drawn from how many times the skill was reiterated and from the length of the public design process. Sure, there are people for whom this runs the opposite way; they keep a close eye on updates and judge a piece of content on the merits of the latest iteration, but this is much less common. You could argue that one should simply disregard the ignorant people as blind comments don't contribute to the overall discussion, but you should remember that these players are also the ones voting for the respective piece of content. You could also suggest re-educating them, which is exactly what Jagex attempts with each developer blog, and still people won’t get the memo. And when it comes to the players themselves, can the playerbase really be relied on to re-educate itself? Overall, the Second Great irony really hurts the development process and is practically an unavoidable issue. What’s the alternative? To remove the developer-player interface that leads to valuable reiterations, or does you simply have to get the skill perfect in the first developer blog? It’s not an optimal idea, but it could help: have a small team of “delegates” – larger names that players can trust, or player influencers – come in to review a new, unannounced skill idea under NDA. If they like it, chances are that other players will too. If they don’t, reiterate or toss out the skill before it’s public. That way, you’ve had a board of experienced players who are willing to share their opinions to the public helping to determine the meat and potatoes of the skill before it is introduced to the casual eye. Now, a more polished and well-accepted product can be presented on the first run of selling a skill to the public, resulting in less reiterations being required, and demanding less effort from the average player to be fully informed over the skill’s final design.
5-2 - Presentation and Beta Testing
So you’ve got a great idea, but how are you going to sell it to the public? Looking at how the OSRS Team has handled it throughout the years, there’s a very obvious learning curve occurring. Artisan had almost nothing but text blogs being thrown to the players, Sailing started introducing some concept art and even a trailer with terrible audio recording, and Warding had concept art, in game models, gifs, and a much fancier trailer with in-game animations. A picture or video is worth a thousand words, and often the only words that players will take out of a developer blog. You might say that presentation is everything, and that would be more true in OSRS than most games. Most activities in OSRS are extremely basic, involve minimal thought, and are incredibly grindy. Take Fishing: you click every 20 seconds on a fishing spot that is randomly placed along a section of water, get rid of your fish, then keep clicking those fishing spots. Boiling it down further, you click several arbitrary parts of your computer screen every 20 seconds. It’s hardly considered engaging, so why do some people enjoy it? Simply put: presentation. You’re given a peaceful riverside environment to chill in, you’re collecting a bunch of pixels shaped like fish, and a number tracking your xp keeps ticking up and telling you that it matters. Now imagine coming to the players with a radical new skill idea: Mining. You describe that Mining is where you gather ores that will feed into Smithing and help create gear for players to use. The audience ponders momentarily, but they’re not quite sure it feels right and ask for a demonstration. You show them some gameplay, but your development resources were thin and instead of rocks, you put trees as placeholders. Instead of ores in your inventory, you put logs as placeholders. Instead of a pickaxe, your character is swinging a woodcutting axe as a placeholder. Sure, the mechanics might act like mining instead of woodcutting, but how well is the skill going to sell if you haven’t presented it correctly or respected it contextually? Again, presentation is everything. Players need to be able to see the task they are to perform, see the tools they’ll use, and see the expected outcomes; otherwise, whatever you’re trying to sell will feel bland and unoriginal. And this leads to the next level of skill presentation that has yet to be employed: Beta Worlds. Part of getting the feel of an activity is not just watching, it but acting it out as well - you’ll never understand the thrill of skydiving unless you’ve actually been skydiving. Beta Worlds are that chance for players to act out a concept without risking the real game’s health. A successful Beta can inspire confidence in players that the skill has a solid Core and interesting Expansions, while a failed Beta will make them glad that they got to try it and be fully informed before putting the skill to a poll (although that might be a little too optimistic for rage culture). Unfortunately, Betas are not without major disadvantages, the most prominent of which we shall investigate next.
5-3 - Development Effort
If you thought that the previous section on Skill Design Philosophy was lengthy and exhausting, imagine having to know all that information and then put it into practice.Mentally designing a skill in your head can be fun, but putting all that down on paper and making it actually work together, feel fully fleshed out, and following all the modern standards that players expect is extremely heavy work, especially when it’s not guaranteed to pay off in the polls like Quest or Slayer content. That’s not even taking into account the potentially immense cost of developing a new skill should it pass a poll. Whenever people complain that Jagex is wasting their resources trying to make that specific skill work, Jagex has been very explicit about the costs to pull together a design blog being pretty minimal. Looking at the previous blogs, Jagex is probably telling the truth. It’s all just a bunch of words, a couple art sketches, and maybe a basic in-game model or gif. Not to downplay the time it takes to write well, design good models, or generate concept art, but it’s nothing like the scale of resources that some players make it out to be. Of course, if a Beta was attempted as suggested last section, this conversation would take a completely new turn, and the level of risk to invested resources would exponentially increase. But this conversation calls to mind an important question: how much effort and resources do skills require to feel complete? Once upon a time, you could release a skill which was more or less unfinished. Take Slayer: it was released in 2005 with a pretty barebones structure. The fundamentals were all there, but the endgame was essentially a couple cool best-in-slot weapons and that was it. Since then, OSRS has updated the skill to include a huge Reward Shop system, feature 50% more monsters to slay, and to become an extremely competitive money-maker. Skills naturally undergo development over time, but it so often comes up during the designing of an OSRS skill that it "doesn't have enough to justify its existence." This was touched on deeply in Section 3-13 – Skill Bloat, but deserves reiterating here. While people recognize that skills continually evolve, the modern standard expects a new skill, upon release, to be fully preassembled before purchase. Whereas once you could get away with releasing just a skill's Core and working on Expansions down the line, that is no longer the case. But perhaps a skill might stand a better chance now than it did last year, given that the OSRS Team has doubled in number since that time. However, judging from the skill design phases that have previously been attempted (as we’ve yet to see a skill development phase), the heaviest cost has been paid in developer mentality and motivational loss. When a developer is passionate about an idea, they spend their every waking hour pouring their mind into how that idea is going to function,especially while they’re not at work. And then they’re obligated to take player feedback and adapt their ideas, sometimes starting from scratch, particularly over something as controversial as a skill. Even if they have tough enough skin to take the heavy criticism that comes with skill design, having to write and rewrite repeatedly over the same idea to make it “perfect” is mentally exhausting. Eventually, their motivation drains as their labour bears little fruit with the audience, and they simply want to push it to the poll and be done with it. Even once all their cards are down, there’s still no guarantee that their efforts will be rewarded, even less so when it comes to skills. With such a high mental cost with a low rate of success, you have to ask, “Was it worth it?” And that’s why new skill proposals are far and few between. A new skill used to be exciting for the development team in the actual days of 2007, as they had the developmental freedom to do whatever they wanted, but in the modern day that is not so much the case.
5-4 - The Problems of Democracy
Ever since the conceptualization of democracy in the real world, people have been very aware of its disadvantages. And while I don’t have the talent, knowledge, or time to discuss every one of these factors, there are a few that are very relevant when it comes to the OSRS Team and the polling process. But first we should recognize the OSRS Team’s relationship with the players. More and more, the Team acts like a government to its citizens, the players, and although this situation was intentionally instated with OSRS’s release, it’s even more prominent now. The Team decides the type of content that gets to go into a poll, and the players get their input over whether that particular piece makes it in. Similarly, players make suggestions to the Team that, in many cases, the Team hadn’t thought of themselves. This synergy is phenomenal and almost unheard of among video games, but the polling system changes the mechanics of this relationship. Polls were introduced to the burned and scarred population of players at OSRS’s release in 2013. Many of these players had just freshly come off RS2 after a series of disastrous updates or had quit long before from other controversies. The Squeal of Fortune, the Evolution of Combat, even the original Wilderness Removal had forced numerous players out and murdered their trust in Jagex. To try and get players to recommit to Runescape, Jagex offered OSRS a polling system by which the players would determine what went into the game, where the players got to hold all the cards. They also asked the players what threshold should be required for polled items to pass, and among the odd 50% or 55% being shouted out, the vast majority of players wanted 70%, 75%, 80%, or even 85%. There was a massive population in favour of a conservative game that would mostly remain untouched, and therefore kept pure from the corruption RS2 had previously endured. Right from the start, players started noticing holes in this system. After all, the OSRS Team was still the sole decider of what would actually be polled in the first place. Long-requested changes took forever to be polled (if ever polled at all) if the OSRS Team didn’t want to deal with that particular problem or didn’t like that idea. Similarly, the Team essentially had desk jobs with a noose kept around their neck – they could perform almost nothing without the players, their slave masters, seeing, criticizing, and tearing out every inch of developmental or visionary freedom they had. Ever hear about the controversy of Erin the duck? Take a look at the wiki or do a search through the subreddit history. It’s pretty fantastic, and a good window into the minds of the early OSRS playerbase. But as the years have gone on, the perspective of the players has shifted. There is now a much healthier and more trusting relationship between them and the Team, much more flexibility in what the players allow the Team to handle, and a much greater tolerance and even love of change. But the challenges of democracy haven’t just fallen away. Everyone having the right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the democratic system, but unfortunately that also means that everyone has the right to vote. For OSRS, that means that every member, whether it’s their first day in game, their ten thousandth hour played, those who have no idea about what the poll’s about, those who haven’t read a single quest (the worst group), those who RWT and bot, those who scam and lure, and every professional armchair developer like myself get to vote. In short, no one will ever be perfectly informed on every aspect of the game, or at least know when to skip when they should. Similarly, people will almost never vote in favour of making their game harder, even at the cost of game integrity, or at least not enough people would vote in such a fashion to reach a 75% majority. These issues are well recognized. The adoption of the controversial “integrity updates” was Jagex’s solution to these problems. In this way, Jagex has become even more like a government to the players. The average citizen of a democratic country cannot and will not make major decisions that favour everyone around themselves if it comes at a personal cost. Rather, that’s one of the major roles of a government: to make decisions for changes for the common good that an individual can’t or won’t make on their own. No one’s going to willingly hand over cash to help repave a road on the opposite side of the city – that’s why taxes are a necessary evil. It’s easy to see that the players don’t always know what’s best for their game and sometimes need to rely on that parent to decide for them, even if it results in some personal loss. But players still generally like the polls, and Jagex still appears to respect them for the most part. Being the government of the game, Jagex could very well choose to ignore them, but would risk the loss of their citizens to other lands. And there are some very strong reasons to keep them: the players still like having at least one hand on the wheel when it comes to new content or ideas. Also, it acts as a nice veto card should Jagex try to push RS3’s abusive tactics on OSRS and therefore prevent such potential damage. But now we come to the topic of today: the introduction of a new skill. Essentially, a new skill must pass a poll in order to enter the game. While it’s easy to say, “If a skill idea is good enough, it’ll pass the threshold,” that’s not entirely true. The only skill that could really pass the 75% mark is not necessarily a well-designed skill, but rather a crowd-pleasing skill. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, the latter is far easier to make than the former. Take Dungeoneering: if you were to poll it today as an exact replica of RS2’s version, it would likely be the highest scoring skill yet, perhaps even passing, despite every criticism that’s been previously emphasized describing why it has no respect for the current definition of “skill.” Furthermore, a crowd-pleasing skill can easily fall prey to deindividualization of vision and result in a bland “studio skill” (in the same vein as a “studio film”), one that feels manufactured by a board of soulless machines rather than a director’s unique creation. This draws straight back to the afore-mentioned issues with democracy: that people A) don’t always understand what they’re voting for or against, and B) people will never vote for something that makes their game tougher or results in no benefit to oneself. Again, these were not issues in the old days of RS2, but are the problems we face with our modern standards and decision making systems. The reality that must be faced is that the polling system is not an engine of creation nor is it a means of constructive feedback – it’s a system of judgement, binary and oversimplified in its methodology. It’s easy to interact with and requires no more than 10 seconds of a player’s time, a mere mindless moment, to decide the fate of an idea made by an individual or team, regardless of their deep or shallow knowledge of game mechanics, strong or weak vision of design philosophy, great or terrible understanding of the game’s history, and their awareness of blindness towards the modern community. It’s a system which disproportionately boils down the quality of discussion that is necessitated by a skill, which gives it the same significance as the question “Should we allow players to recolour the Rocky pet by feeding it berries?” with the only available answers being a dualistic “This idea is perfect and should be implemented exactly as outlined” or “This idea is terrible and should never be spoken of again.” So what do you do? Let Jagex throw in whatever they want? Reduce the threshold, or reduce it just for skills? Make a poll that lists a bunch of skills and forces the players to choose one of them to enter the game? Simply poll the question, “Should we have a new skill?” then let Jagex decide what it is? Put more options on the scale of “yes” to “no” and weigh each appropriately? All these options sound distasteful because there are obvious weaknesses to each. But that is the Third Great Irony we face: an immense desire for a new skill, but no realistic means to ever get one.
6-0 - Conclusion
I can only imagine that if you’ve truly read everything up to this point, it’s taken you through quite the rollercoaster. We’ve walked through the history of OSRS skill attempts, unconstructive arguments, various aspects of modern skill design philosophy, and the OSRS Team and skill design process. When you take it all together, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the thought that needs to go into a modern skill and all the issues that might prevent its success. Complexity, naming conventions, categorizations, integration, rewards and motivations, bankstanding and buyables, the difficulties of skill bloat, balancing, and skill endgames, aesthetics, the design process, public presentation, development effort, democracy and polling - these are the challenges of designing and introducing modern skills. To have to cope with it all is draining and maybe even impossible, and therefore it begs the question: is trying to get a new skill even worth it? Maybe. Thanks for reading. Tl;dr: Designing a modern skill requires acknowledging the vast history of Runescape, understanding why players make certain criticisms and what exactly they’re saying in terms of game mechanics, before finally developing solutions. Only then can you subject your ideas to a polling system that is built to oversimplify them.
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