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The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves
The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places. Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races. I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great twopart post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it. For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.
The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts
The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.
The Divine Divide
As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water. One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy. Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side. No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.
Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House
Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron. Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society. If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil. Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both. Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions. Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest. Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems. Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful. Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.
The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor. As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground. Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes. Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.
Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order
The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females. Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership. However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line. The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated. Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.
Dark Elven Sex and Gender
As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies. Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.
Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves
While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason. During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.
Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses
Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will. In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself. There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
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Hi all, It's no secret that the meta is rather stale with most people going for Vayne, Jinx, and Riven comps. In almost every game I play, I don't have a lot of success playing meta and usually prefer to find weird anti-meta/off-meta picks. I got really tired of playing one of the big three so started playing Mech to limited success. Then I started 6 Battlecast and climbed from ~70 LP Masters to now 320 LP (though I played other comps too in this climb). Here are my Battlecast stats below from about 11 games played. https://imgur.com/a/nMYgpBt https://lolchess.gg/profile/na/sakuchan39 Match History This is my first guide written so let me know if there is anything I can improve on. Why play 6 Battlecast I think its a decently strong comp for climbing purposes only. As you can see, I have a really high top rate but really low win rate with this comp. To be honest, it is a bit player diff since this set I have had a low win rate in general. I think the comp is rather fun to play to see all of the battlecast procs, and is also easy due to how straightforward 6 trait comps are in general. Pros
Strong for climbing. This is because of people usually contesting one of the Big 3. Battlecast spikes early at level 6 and you will winstreak hard and do big damage to low rollers. In non high elo (GM+) lobbies, there is usually a skill gap in lobbies and people will not know how to play from behind, allowing you to at least top 6 almost any lobby through developing a large health and gold lead.
Generally uncontested. It is very easy to upgrade the units you need. Kogmaw can be contested early from Jinx players, but otherwise, Illaoi, Nocturne, Cass, are all uncontested and can be upgraded easily.
Strong matchups into Big 3 before their endgame. Nocturne jumping and getting fear on Vayne/Jinx is really good. Urgot eating Riven can quickly turn fights in late game against sorcs.
Really bad scaling. Once you do go to end game, you will probably go on a large lose streak. The purpose of this game is to win through attrition; from the large health lead you've gained through winstreaking in the mid-game, hopefully you will top 4 from everyone's end game comp beating up on each other.
Reliance on a legendary unit/spat. 6 battlecast is absolutely necessary to survive the terrible endgame. If you can't hit, you will suffer large losses and lose your win condition of barely scraping into the top 4.
Weak in stronger lobbies. I end up occasionally in GM/Chally lobbies but I cannot conclude the strength of this comp in these lobbies. I believe that it is weaker in general due to the lobby being closer in strength making it difficult to generate a high health lead (even if you win they will probably get good losses) and people knowing how to play better from behind.
Early Game The general indicators to play 6 battlecast are early upgrades to Illaoi, Nocturne, and components for Kogmaw. Kogmaw absolute core item is Red Buff and needs one of Shiv or Runaan's Hurricane. I prio Bow on first carousel because it can be either RH or Shiv, but I've seen ideas of Vest prio for Red Buff. If you get good items, but no upgrades, it may be worth it to lose streak early for carousel priority, and to stay lower level to complete Illaoi and Nocturne upgrades. Here are some early game boards. Early Kog Infil Open In Early Kog opener, Lucian is replaceable to hold Kog items, or if early Ezreal then Graves can hold Kog items. Blitz can replace Malphite. Play what makes sense in the context of your game. Mid Game The biggest spike is at level 6 and getting 4 battlecast, 2 chrono, 2 blaster with one core item on Kogmaw. Until you get there, just play whatever you have that is strongest. Again, the purpose of this comp is to win streak. As soon as I can put in 4 battlecast, I level to 6. I avoid aggressively leveling to 7 as I like to stay at 6 for increased chances of upgrading Kogmaw. Stage 4-1 is always a level 7 and then roll an appropriate amount of gold to maintain econ while upgrading your board. Since this board is pretty self-explanatory, look to snipe carries with Blitz/Noc to cheese out wins. If you can't hit these units, or have bad items at this stage, look to pivot out. I pivot to Bang Bros (shares Runaans as core item), Jinx (if high roll early Jinx), or even once Mech (had really bad items). In the mid-game, you should also look to start building Urgot items (GA and mana items) as well has hopefully completing an Ionic Spark for Illaoi. GA is really good on Urgot to trade 1 for 1 in the endgame (saving health) as well as stalling for tie breakers. Mid-game Board End-game Ideally, by the time it is time to level to 8 (between stage 4-3 to 5-1), you'll have generated a 50 health lead over the 7th and 8th place people. Now, the goal is to complete the trait with Viktor and Urgot to try and survive to 9. Until you hit these units, splashing traits like Mystic (Karma/Soraka/Lulu) or Infil (Fizz/Ekko) or front line (Gnar) are great to help you survive and can hold Urgot items. Similar to mid-game, you are looking to cheese out wins with Blitz/Infil/Urgot. Urgot targets the furthest unit in his range which is 3 hexes. Once you have hit 6 Battlecast, look to go 9 to add in Mystic/Asol/Ekko/any other broken unit. Battlecast matches up really bad against Sorcs so Mystic is usually my go to since it helps against Mech and Jinx. End-game Board Other Notes
Urgot targeting is getting changed to the farthest unit but can be blocked. This makes it difficult to snipe back row carries. He also doesn't eat through GA anymore making it difficult to fight Riven Sorcs.
Requires flexible gaming. If you don't hit early and spike too late, you will die very quickly. Think about how the items you make can be flexed into other comps. I flex RH into Bang Bros for Yi and Spark flexes into every comp. When you play 6 Battlecast, try to have an out in mind if you can't make Red Buff, can't hit Kog, or are contested by someone high-rolling Battlecast units.
Extra AP items go on Cass/Viktor. I put them on I feel is stronger at the time. Viktor 1 is also stronger than Noc 1, but I prefer Noc 2 over Viktor 1 as my 4th battlecast in the mid-game. Use whatever is appropriate (Viktor can be strong against Sorc backlines and Jinx clumps, Noc strong against solo back line Vayne).
Who does Spat go on. I haven't really had a large enough sample to tell. I really like Asol not because it is strong but because Asol is just broken. He helps you beat Sorc comps. I've seen people say Gnar which is good as added front line in a very weak front line comp, but you end up stuck with 3/4 brawler since you may need Mystic/Asol in at 9. If you hit Gnar 2 though then obviously it is better. Spat Item generally is an Urgot replacement, then Urgot replaces Nocturne.
Galaxies. Battlecast is super strong in Littler and Binary Star. It is good in Treasure Trove (access to Spat, easy to high roll items), Reroll (can high roll upgrades early, potential 3 star though I don't usually go for Kog 3), and Star Cluster (same as reroll).
I haven't played that many games with Battlecast, but the results have been very positive so far. Hopefully, this will increase the flavor of your games in the last few days of this flavorless meta. Let me know if there's anything I can improve in my guide; I realize I don't go over general Econ strategies or flex options. I think there's lots of good information in high-elo streamers on economy vs aggressive leveling. I find my playstyle to try and balance both but leaning more towards econ is king. I'll answer as many questions as I can below.
THE SEARCH FOR THE GREATEST SWITCH SHMUP: EPISODE 28 – Raiden V: Director’s Cut
Before I begin, I just want to remind everyone that all of my reviews can be found at my site: www.azormx.com. I tried to keep it as minimalist as possible, and it doesn't have any add or any other intrusive elements, so the content is king. Do check it out, as reviews are usually live there before I publish them elsewhere. Any way, on to the review! The shmup genre hasn’t been a mainstream genre in a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it ever was, even during the arcade days. While we certainly don’t have a shortage of shmups, let alone new release, they usually come from smaller teams. Indies have taken it upon themselves to become a guiding light for all of us. Their creations have been nothing short of amazing! However, we don’t really have anything we could call a “AAA” shmup. We do seem to have the next closest thing: Raiden. Developer: Moss Co. Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jul 25, 2019 Price: $29.99 Tate: Unfortunately… no. This really needed to have TATE Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a vertical shmup set in a fictional but real world. It claims to be the original bullet-hell, and after playing it extensively I gotta say that I agree. Raiden V features some intense air combat, coupled with giant bosses and some jaw-dropping transitions between areas.
THE GREAT INTRO CHECKLIST
Right out of the gate, what caught my attention was the intro. The best way I can put this is that it has everything great about shmups in a short video. It has a great track, it has giant enemies, it has ships and it even has pieces of lore I do not understand! Simply amazing! Most importantly, it is a very accurate portrayal as to what you should expect from the game. Unlike other shmups, Raiden goes all out in the presentation department, with the story taking a mayor role. Another way I can put this, is that it certainly feels like a considerable effort was placed in every element of the game. Raiden V features a level of polish that very few shmups can claim to have.
WELCOME TO THE CUSTOMIZATION STATION
One of Raiden’s strength is the amount of customization you have available for your ship. At the beginning of the game, you can choose between one of 3 different ships: Azuma, Spirit of Dragon and Moulin Rouge. Each of these ships has different stats in terms of attack, defense and speed. They also have their own sub-shot which is always firing along with your main cannon. On top of selecting a ship, you can arm yourself with 3 out of 9 different weapons. Those 9 weapons are grouped into 3 categories: Vulcan, Laser and Plasma. You can pick, or rather you must pick 1 for each category. The result is a combat style that is unique to you. During your play throughs, you will encounter several power-up orbs. These orbs will power up each of your weapons up to 10 times! Each of these orbs can be either red, blue or purple depending on the weapon it powers up. The orbs cycle the colors, with an outer dot indicating a timer until it changes colors. This allows you to control which weapon you want to power up, giving you the flexibility to pick your own style or choose a weapon for the occasion. The best part is that absolutely no power-ups are lost upon death! This means that you are free to retry to your heart's content and play at your own pace. Raiden won't punish you or set you up for failure with an unrecoverable situation. I didn’t put too much attention into weapon selection at first. I figured it wouldn’t be too relevant, as I would probably just play the entire game with a single weapon, but the advanced scoring mechanics and the rank system were quick to make me second guess my decision.
At the core of Raiden V, there are 2 main systems to be aware of: your rank and your flash level. Both of them measure your combat capabilities, although in different ways. Your flash point gauge is a score multiplier that tracks how fast you defeat your enemies. By defeating enemies as soon as possible after spawning, you can earn higher multipliers to increase your flash gauge. By having quick kills, you can raise it to higher levels to increase your score. Your rank, on the other hand, only concerns itself with how many enemies you’ve defeated. Your rank doubles as the deciding factor of which path you will be taking. Raiden features branching paths with an A, B, C or S version of each stage. Depending on your total destruction rate, you will either move up or down in rank after a stage. While I do not know the exact numbers, I believe having more than 98% destruction rate will increase your rank, 90 – 98% will keep it as is and <90% should decrease your rank. S rank stages are presumably harder than A/B/C stages, with C being the lowest. Apart from having a higher score and challenging yourself with the difficulty, the importance of S rank is getting the true ending. In order to truly watch the ending of the game, you need to reach the final stage on S rank using a single credit. You also need to power up your 3 weapons to level 10. Once you meet those conditions, you will be able to challenge the final boss. Alternatively, you could just fulfill the level 10 weapons condition to fight the true final boss.
THE BEST CHEERLEADER
A new addition to Raiden V is the cheer system. By accomplishing certain in-game milestones like a certain number of enemies destroyed, you will get an achievement. These achievements are broadcasted to any players connected to the leaderboards. They can then “cheer” on your achievement to increase your cheer gauge. This goes both ways, as you can also cheer the achievements of your fellow Raiden players. Once the cheer gauge is full, you can unleash it to clear the screen and gain a drastically stronger sub-shot. Think of it as a devastating bomb, only more devastating and easier to fill. It clears screens and decimates even the bosses. Perhaps many people won’t think too much of it, but I found it really interesting to know that there’s someone on the other side celebrating my achievements. Likewise, there were times where I left my game on pause to do other stuff, but held on to my controller to provide support for my comrades.
Everything I’ve mentioned before plays out in the general strategy of the game. Assuming you want to get the best results, you need to know where to hit and how to hit hard. For the untrained eye, most shmups just look like games where you fire away with complete disregard and hope the enemy dies. This is definitely not the case in Raiden. In order to succeed, you must be able to find your rhythm and read the stage. Learn the enemy formations and strategize the quickest kills. Be there before the enemy arrives and take them down before they realize what hit them. If you want to face the true final boss, then you must also learn to juggle your weapons and find the moments to upgrade them. Maxing a weapon and then switching is a recipe for disaster, as you don’t want to be on the later stages with a level one weapon and risk your flash level or destruction rate. With so many weapons and ship types, your strategy to succeed will be unique to you!
One of the main selling points, at least per the game itself, is the story. Raiden V features an extensive story that is fully voiced and occurs as you play the game. This story elements come as the prologue and epilogue scenes, as well as all the events happening mid stage. As you fly your way to the levels, characters will be advancing the story by having conversations and narrating the current events. The dialogue is available on one of the gadgets located on the right side of the screen. You can read anything you might have missed and even pause to read the on-screen log of events (up to a certain number of events, as the log scrolls to open way for new text). As for my opinion of the story, I have absolutely no idea of what happened during the game. I played my fair share of runs, but I found it next to impossible to focus on the dialogue while trying my hardest to survive. The voice acting would have been my saving grace, but I found the sound mixing to be the opposite of ideal for listening to dialogue. I even tried lowering the sound effects and BGM to see if I could focus on dialogue to no avail. The text is also incredibly small when playing on docked mode. It gets even worse when playing handheld.
THE WORST CHEERLEADER
Out of all the voices, Eshiria’s was the one who got on my nerves the most at the beginning. Other than having her role as navigator on the plot, she also critiques your gameplay. In-between stage scenes, she will provide commentary describing your gameplay. She will be quick to point out if you did well, but also if you did poorly. On my early runs, when I was still learning, it would tilt me to listen to her complaining to me about stats I did not understand. And perhaps, a huge part of my problems was a lack of understanding of the game mechanics. I listened to her complain about my destruction rate without knowing it was about my rank. She also complained about destruction speed without me knowing it was about the flash point. The problem is that the game never bothered explaining any of its mechanics to me. I really looked around for some sort of tutorial to no avail. I had to resort to 3rd party resources. While that isn’t uncommon, I really don’t like games with obscure mechanics that can’t be discerned in-game. Once I got better and consistently reach the S levels, I finally started to value her advice. Of course, I wouldn’t count on everyone reaching the same enlightenment as I did. In my opinion, her comments would more often than not add insult to injury. Once again, it’s not really the commentary, it’s the fact that none of what she said made practical sense until I started digging on the wiki.
GADGETS AND THE SCREEN REAL ESTATE
Perhaps the worst omission from Raiden V is the lack of a TATE mode. Vertical shooters don’t really have an excuse to do this, with the existence of add-ons like the flip grip or rotating monitors. Instead, Raiden decided to make the most out of the free space and add several gadgets. In standard fashion, these gadgets will keep your stats like score, flash level, the dialogue and even hi-score statistics. Your left gadget can even be cycled between the score chart and cheer notification, in-game tips and global statistics. Out of those, the tips are definitely the winners. They do give some important advice, such as staying on top of the guns of the first boss to avoid damage.
NOT A FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD
Every stage is divided into smaller scenes. These scenes serve as a way to catch your breath and tally your score. There’s even a nifty “restart scene” option that allows you to replay a scene. Choosing to restart will deny you the option to upload your score to the leaderboard, but serves as a great way to practice or even “fix” a run to so can get to the true ending. Every once in a while, the action will pan out and open the way to a bigger stage, with you looking smaller in comparison. I admire the grandioseness of the resulting scenes, but they were also quite impractical. Think about your weapons, the destruction rate and the flash gauge. An extended stage means longer travel distances from side to side. Having a bigger stage means you move slower, which reduces the pacing of the game to a crawl. Reaching enemies quickly becomes a struggle. Worst yet, I’ve counted times where it took me whopping 5 seconds to go from side to side of the stage.
THE OG BULLET HELL
Despite all the fun of blasting enemies quickly to gain flash levels, I gotta say that I found the combat, specifically the bullets, to be lacking in grace. For a game that’s the original bullet hell, most enemy volleys feel like bullet showers. There’s no finesse in them, just a bunch of bullets moving towards you. Dodging them isn’t fun, it’s survival. The problem only gets worse in higher difficulties where the bullets just go faster. Not all patterns are as bad though. While the vast majority will be just a bunch on increasingly faster bullets thrown at you, some exceptional patterns will show from time to time. As a result, fights tend to be very hit or miss, with both hits and misses being on their respective extremes. What certainly doesn’t help is that the bullets are very hard to see. As pretty as the backgrounds might be, they are very busy and the quick motion makes them into a blur. Bullets don’t have their characteristic outlines or color palettes to become distinguishable. Some even blend with your own vulcan. The result is a lot of cheap kills caused by intentional obfuscation. It this was their intention, then perhaps I’m being too harsh, but you know visibility is usually one of my pet peeves in shmups.
REPLAYABILITY AND LONGEVITY
As far as game length goes, I consider Raiden V to be one of the longer ones. I was surprised after my first run of the game, as it took me 50+ minutes to complete the campaign. Usually, my baseline for shmups is around half an hour, which made this one almost twice as long. While I’m not fond of longer campaigns, I know a lot of people would certainly be glad to know there is plenty of content. Of course, playing through the campaign isn’t enough to view the entire game. If you recall, most stages have 4 versions of themselves. Those versions are separated by the ranks: S/A/B/C. This means you would need at least 4 runs to see everything the game has to offer. There’s also 6 different endings to uncover. Also new to the Director’s Cut edition are 2 bonus levels. These level are slightly different from your typical levels. The bonus missions will challenge you to fight a new boss ir oder to obtain medals. Dealing damage will detach the medals from the boss, allowing you to catch them. Gather enough medals and you will advance to the next phase. Higher medals mean higher ranking. Taking damage will take medals away from you, so surviving continues to be a priority. Lastly, there is a new boss mission mode that allow you to play “boss rush” missions. These missions have certain conditions, like using a specific weapon or fighting at a specific HP level. The targets are usually 1-3 bosses. Boss mission is a very fun arcadey mode for those who enjoyed the boss fights and want more of them.
If there’s a factor that merits my highest praise is the sound department. Simply put, the OST is fantastic. The track length syncs perfectly with the stages, and it always fits the mood. I just couldn’t get enough of the OST, and listening to it while writing this review was the recipe for a perfect Sunday! I also got some good coffee that would make the captain proud. For all the praise the music gets from me, it still is dragged down by the terrible sound mixing. Similarly to the voice acting, I tried to mess with the sound settings to increase the volume and reduce the sound effects, but it still wasn’t enough. The tracks were great but I struggled to listen to them amidst all the explosions. The calm moments were great, as they let me listen to the songs in peace.
Raiden is a master class in shmup design for the wrong reasons. Its high points perfectly illustrate how shmups should look and feel. The low points also show what you should NOT do when creating a shmup game. Despite all of this, it all comes down to how fun a game is. Raiden V is a very fun game. It isn’t different, but it’s certainly very polished. I delivers some levels of quality that are notably absent in the majority of the games. As a concept, I feel like it serves as an example of how current gen shmups should be. The execution fell flat in some regards, but as a whole I was satisfied with the time I spent with the game. It does come with a hefty price tag, so my advice is to check this game out when you find a decent sale. I got mine at -70%.
Summary of Tau-Chain Monthly Video Update - August 2020
Transcript of the Tau-Chain & Agoras Monthly Video Update – August 2020 Karim: Major event of this past month: Release of the Whitepaper. Encourages everyone to read the Whitepaper because it’s going to guide our development efforts for the foreseeable future. Development is proceeding well on two major fronts: 1. Agoras Live website: Features are being added to it, only two major features are missing 2. TML: We identified ten major tasks to be completed before the next release. Three of them are optimization features which are very important for the speed and performance features of TML. In terms of time requirements, we feel very good to stay on schedule for the end of this year. We also are bringing in two extra resources to help us get there as soon as possible. Umar: Been working on changes in the string relation, especially moving from binary string representation to unistring. The idea is that now rather than having two arguments in the term, you would have a single argument for the string. Thus, the hierarchy changes from two to one and that has an effect on speed and on the storage. So the first few numbers that we calculated showed that we are around 10% faster than with the binary string. There are some other changes that need to be made with regards to the string which he is working on. Tomas: Had to revise how we encode characters in order to be compatible with the internet. It also was the last missing piece in order to compute persistence. The reason is that the stored data has to be portable and if TML needs characters and strings internally in the same encoding as it stores its own data, we can map strings directly into files and gain lots of speed with it. The code is now pushed in the repository and can be tested. He’s also working on a TML tutorial and likely before next update, there should be something available online. Kilian: Transcribed past month’s video update. You can find it on Reddit. Also, he has done more outreach towards potential partner universities and research groups and this month the response rate was better than earlier, most likely because of the whitepaper release. Positive replies include: University of Mannheim, Trier (Computational Linguistics & Digital Humanities), research group AI KR from within the W3C (https://www.w3.org/community/aik) articulated strong interest in getting a discussion going, particularly because they had some misconceptions about blockchain. They would like to have a Q&A session with a couple of their group members but first it’s important for us to have them read the whitepaper to get a basic understanding and then be able to ask respective questions. Other interested parties include the Computational Linguistics research group of the University of Groningen, Netherlands and also the Center for Language Technology of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. We also got connected to the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. Also has done some press outreach in combination with the whitepaper, trying to get respective media outlets to cover our project, but so far hasn’t gotten feedback back. Been discussing the social media strategy with Ohad and Fola, trying to be more active on our channels and have a weekly posting schedule on Twitter including non-technical and technical contests that engage with all parts of our community. Furthermore, has opened up a discussion on Discord (https://discord.gg/qZtJs78) in the “Tau-Discussion” channel around the topics that Ohad mentioned he would first like to see discussed on Tau (see https://youtu.be/O4SFxq_3ask?t=2225):
Definitions of what good and bad means and what better and worse means.
The governance model over Tau.
The specification of Tau itself and how to make it grow and evolve even more to suit wider audiences. The whole point of Tau is people collaborating in order to define Tau itself and to improve it over time, so it will improve up to infinity. This is the main thing, especially initially, that the Tau developers (or rather users) advance the platform more and more.
If you are interested in participating in the discussion, join our Discord (https://discord.gg/qZtJs78) and post your thoughts – we’d appreciate it! Also has finished designing the bounty claiming process, so people that worked on a bounty now can claim their reward by filling out the bounty claiming form (https://forms.gle/HvksdaavuJbu4PCV8). Been also working on revamping the original post in the Bitcointalk-Thread. It contains a lot of broken links and generally is outdated, so he’s using the whitepaper to give it a complete overhaul. With the whitepaper release, the community also got a lot more active which was great to see and thus, he dedicated more time towards supporting the community. Mo’az: Finished multiple milestones with regards to the Agoras Live website: 1. Question part where people post their requests and knowledge providers can help them with missing knowledge. 2. Have been through multiple iterations of how to approach the services in the website. How the service seeker can discover new people through the website. 3. Connected the limited, static categories on the website to add more diversity to it. By adding tags, it will be easier for service seekers to find what they are looking for. 4. Onboarding: Been working on adding an onboarding step for the user, so the user chooses categories of his interest and as a result, he will find the homepage to be more personalized towards him and his interests. 5. New section to the user profile added: The service that the knowledge provider can provide. Can be added as tags or free text. 6. Search: Can filter via free text and filter by country, language, etc. 7. Been working on how to display the knowledge providers on the platform. Andrei: Improved look of the Agoras Live front page: Looks more clean. Finetuned search options. Redesigned the header. It now has notification icons. If you query a knowledge provider for an appointment, he will receive a notification about the new appointment to be approved or rejected. You can also add a user to your favorites. Front page now randomly displays users. Also implemented email templates, e.g. a thank you email upon registration or an appointment reminder. What is left to do is the session list and then the basic engine will be ready. Also needs to implement the “questions” section. Juan: Has switched towards development of TML related features. Been working mainly on the first order logic support. Has integrated the formula parser with the TML core functionality. With this being connected, we added to TML quantified Boolean function solving capability in the same way as we get the first order logic support. It’s worth mentioning that this feature is being supported by means of the main optimized BDD primitives that we already have in the TML engine. Looking forward to make this scalable in terms of formula sizes. It’s a matter of refining the Boolean solution and doing proper tests to show this milestone to the community in a proper way. Fola: Have been discussing the feasibility of a token swap towards ERC20 from the Omni token with exchanges and internally with the team. Also has been discussing the social media strategy with Kilian. As we update with the new visual identity and the branding, it’s a good time to boost our social media channels and look ready for the next iteration of our look and feel. Continuing on the aspects of our visual identity and design, he’s been talking to quite a number of large agencies who have been involved in some of the larger projects in the software space. One being Phantom (https://phantom.land) who designed the DeepMind website (https://deepmind.com), the other one being Outcast (https://theoutcastagency.com) who have been working with Intel and SalesForce. We aren’t sure yet with which company we go but it’s been good to get insight into how they work and which steps they’d take into getting our project out to the wider audience. That whole process has been a lot of research into what kind of agencies we’d want to get involved with. Also, with the release of the whitepaper being such a big milestone in the history of the company, he’s been doing a lot of reading of that paper. We’re also looking to get more manpower involved with the TML website. Also going to hire a frontend developer for the website and the backend will be done according to Ohad’s requirements. Also, as a response of the community’s feedback towards the Omni deck not being user friendly, he did some outreach to the Omni team and introduced them to a partner exchange for Agoras Live. They have an “exchange-in-a-box” service which may help Omni to have a much more usable interface for the Omni Dex, so hopefully they will be working together to improve the usability of the Omni Dex. Ohad: Finished writing the community draft of the whitepaper. The final version will contain changes according to the community’s feedback and more elaboration on more topics that weren’t inserted in the current paper, including logics for law and about the full process of Tau. And, as usual, he’s been doing more research of second order logic, specifically, Boolean options and also analyzing the situation where the formulas in conjunctive normal form trying to extract some information from such a cnf. Also, what Juan mentioned about first order logic: People who are already familiar with TML will see that now with this change, the easiness of using TML got much more advanced. In first order formulas, expressing yourself has become much easier than before. Q&A: Q: What is the difference between Horn Second Order Logic and Krom Second Order Logic? A: Horn and Krom are special cases of cnf (conjunctive normal form). Conjunctive normal form means the formula has the form of n conjunction between clauses. This clause and this clause while each clause is a disjunction of atoms: It’s this or this or this or that. And now any formula can be written in conjunctive form. Any formula can be brought to this form. Krom is the case where each clause contains exactly two atoms and Horn is the case where at most one atom in every clause is positive – thre rest are negated, that’s the definition. Q: Now that the whitepaper has been released, how do you think it will affect the work of the developers? A: We see the whitepaper as being a roadmap of development for us, so it will essentially be the vision that we are working to implement. Of course, we have to turn it into much more specific tasks, but as you saw from the detailed progress from last month, that’s exactly what we do. Q: When can we expect the new website? A: We’ve just updated the website with the whitepaper and the new website should be launching after we get the branding done. There’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of considerations taking place. We have to get the graphics ready and the front end done. The branding is the most important step we have to get done and once that is complete, we will launch the new website. Q: What needs to be resolved next before we get onto a solid US exchange? A: With the whitepaper released, that’s probably been the biggest hurdle we had to get over. At this point, we still have to confirm some elements of the plan with the US regulators and we do need to have some sort of product available. Be that the TML release or Agoras Live, there needs to be something out for people to use. So, in conjunction with the whitepaper and approval from the US regulators, we need to have a product available to get onto US exchanges. Q: Does the team still need to get bigger to reach cruising speed, if so, how much by and in which areas? A: Of course, any development team would like to have as many resources as possible but working with the resources we that have right now, we are making significant progress towards the two development goals that we have, both the Agoras Live website and the TML engine. But we are bringing in at least two more resources in the near future but there’s no lack of work to be done and also there’s no lack of progress. Q: Will Prof. Carmi continue to work in the team and if so, in what capacity? A: Sure, Prof. Carmi will continue coordinating with us. Right now, he’s working on the mathematics of certain features in the derivatives market that Agoras is planned to have, and also ongoing research in relevant logic. Q: Will you translate the whitepaper into other languages? A: Yes, we expect translations of the whitepaper to occur. The most important languages that comprise our community, e.g. Chinese. What languages exactly, we cannot tell right now, but mainly the most prominent languages that comprise our community. Q: Is the roadmap on the website still correct and, when will we move to the next step? A: We will be revamping the website soon including the roadmap that will be a summary of what’s been published in the whitepaper but the old version of the roadmap on the website is no longer up-to-date. Q: What are the requirements for Agoras to have its own chain? A: If the question means why Agoras doesn’t have its own chain right now, well there is no special reason. We need to reach there and we will reach there. Q: When Agoras switches to its own chain, will you need to create a new payments system from scratch? A: No, we won’t have to. We will have to integrate with the new payment channel but that’s something we are planning to do anyway. We will be integrating with several exchanges and several payment channels so it won’t be a huge task. Most of the heavy lifting is in the wallet and key management which will be done on the client side but we’re already planning on having more than one payment gateway anyway so having one more is no problem. Q: When can we see Tau work with a real practical example? A: For examples of applications of TML, we are currently working on a TML tutorial and a set of demos. Two of our developers are currently working on it and it’s going to be a big part of our next release. Q: How can we make speaking in formal languages easier, with an example? A: Coming up with a usable and convenient formal language is a big task which maybe it’s even safe to say no one achieved up until today. But we solve this problem indirectly yet completely by not coming up with any language but letting languages to be created and evolve over time through the internet of languages. We don’t have any solution of how to make formal languages very easy for everyone. It will be a collaborative effort over Tau together to reach there over time. You can see in the whitepaper in the section 4.2 about “The Critical Mass and the Tau Chain Reaction”. Q: What are the biggest limitations of Tau and, are they solvable? A: TML cannot do everything that requires more than polynomial space to be done and there are infinitely many things like this. For example, you can look up x time or x space complete problems. We would want to say elementary but there is no elementary complete problem but there are complete problems in each of the levels of elementary. All those, TML cannot do because this is above polynomial space. Another drawback of TML which comes from the usage of BDDs is arithmetic. In particular, multiplication. Multiplication is highly inefficient in TML because of the nature of BDDs and of course BDDs bring so many more good things that even this drawback of slow multiplication is small compared to all the possibilities that this gives us. Another limitation, which we will emphasize in the next version of the whitepaper, is the satisfiability problem. The satisfiability problem of a formula without a model to ask whether a model exists – not a model checking like right now but to ask whether a model exists – this is undecidable already on very restricted classes as follows from Trakhtenbrot’s theory. So in particular, the containment problem, the scalability problem, the validity problem, they all are undecidable in TML as is and for them to be decidable, we need to restrict even more the expressive power and look at narrower fragments of the language. But again, this will be more emphasized in the next version of the whitepaper. Q: It looks years for projects such as Maidsafe to build something mediocre, why should Agoras be able to do similar or better in less time? A: Early on in the life of the Tau project, we’ve identified the computational resources marketplace as one of the possible applications of Tau, so it is very much on our roadmap. However, as you mentioned, there are some other projects, e.g. Filecoin, which is specifically focusing on the problem of storage. So even though it’s on our roadmap, we’re not there yet but we are watching closely what our competitors in this field are doing. While they haven’t yet delivered on their promise of an open and distributed storage network, we feel that at some point we will have more value to bring to the project. So distributed storage is on our roadmap but it’s not a priority for us right now but eventually we’ll get there. Q: What are the requirements in scalability, e.g. permanent storage etc.? A: We haven’t answered that question yet. Q: Will Tau be able to run on a mobile phone? A: Definitely, Yes. We’re planning on being available on all computational platforms, be it a server, laptop, phone or an iPad type of device. Q: Given a vast trove of knowledge, how can Tau determine relevance? Can it also build defenses against spam attacks and garbage data? A: Tau doesn’t offer any predetermined solution to this. It is basically all up to the user. The user will have to define what’s criminal and what’s not. Of course, most users will not bother with defining this but they will be able to automatically agree to people who already defined it and by that import their definitions. So bottom line: It’s really up to the users. Q: What are your top priorities for the next three months? A: Our goal for this year (2020) is to release a first version of Agoras Live and of TML. Q: Ohad mentioned the following at the start of the year: Time for us to work on Agoras. We need to create the Agoras team and commence work. We made a major improvement in one of Agoras’ aspects in the form of theatrical breakthrough but we’re not ready yet to share the details publicly. Is there any further news or progress with the development of Agoras? A: If the question is whether there has been more progress in the development of Agoras, specifically with regards to new discoveries for the derivatives market, then the answer is of course yes. Professor Carmi is now working on those inventions related to the derivatives market. We still keep them secret and of course, with Agoras Live, knowledge sharing for money is coming.
In addition checkout the detailed guide for analyzing input pipeline performance with TF Profiler.
tf.distribute.TPUStrategy is now a stable API and no longer considered experimental for TensorFlow. (earlier tf.distribute.experimental.TPUStrategy ).
TF Profiler introduces two new tools: a memory profiler to visualize your model’s memory usage over time and a python tracer which allows you to trace python function calls in your model. Usability improvements include better diagnostic messages and profile options to customize the host and device trace verbosity level.
Introduces experimental support for Keras Preprocessing Layers API (tf.keras.layers.experimental.preprocessing.*) to handle data preprocessing operations, with support for composite tensor inputs. Please see below for additional details on these layers.
TFLite now properly supports dynamic shapes during conversion and inference. We’ve also added opt-in support on Android and iOS for XNNPACK, a highly optimized set of CPU kernels, as well as opt-in support for executing quantized models on the GPU.
The experimental Python API tf.debugging.experimental.enable_dump_debug_info() now allows you to instrument a TensorFlow program and dump debugging information to a directory on the file system. The directory can be read and visualized by a new interactive dashboard in TensorBoard 2.3 called Debugger V2, which reveals the details of the TensorFlow program including graph structures, history of op executions at the Python (eager) and intra-graph levels, the runtime dtype, shape, and numerical composistion of tensors, as well as their code locations.
Increases the minimum bazel version required to build TF to 3.1.0.
Makes the following (breaking) changes to the tf.data .
C++ API: - IteratorBase::RestoreInternal , IteratorBase::SaveInternal , and DatasetBase::CheckExternalState become pure-virtual and subclasses are now expected to provide an implementation.
The deprecated DatasetBase::IsStateful method is removed in favor of DatasetBase::CheckExternalState .
Deprecated overrides of DatasetBase::MakeIterator and MakeIteratorFromInputElement are removed.
The signature of tensorflow::data::IteratorBase::SaveInternal and tensorflow::data::IteratorBase::SaveInput has been extended with SerializationContext argument to enable overriding the default policy for the handling external state during iterator checkpointing. This is not a backwards compatible change and all subclasses of IteratorBase need to be updated accordingly.
Add a new BackupAndRestore callback for handling distributed training failures & restarts. Please take a look at this tutorial for details on how to use the callback.
tf.image.extract_glimpse has been updated to correctly process the case where centered=False and normalized=False . This is a breaking change as the output is different from (incorrect) previous versions. Note this breaking change only impacts tf.image.extract_glimpse and tf.compat.v2.image.extract_glimpse API endpoints. The behavior of tf.compat.v1.image.extract_glimpse does not change. The behavior of exsiting C++ kernel ExtractGlimpse does not change either, so saved models using tf.raw_ops.ExtractGlimpse will not be impacted.
Keras-based LSTM models must be converted with an explicit batch size in the input layer.
Bug Fixes and Other Changes
Set tf2_behavior to 1 to enable V2 for early loading cases.
Add execute_fn_for_device function to dynamically choose the implementation based on underlying device placement.
Add reduce_logsumexp benchmark with experiment compile.
Give EagerTensor s a meaningful __array__ implementation.
Add another version of defun matmul for performance analysis.
AutoGraph now includes into TensorFlow loops any variables that are closed over by local functions. Previously, such variables were sometimes incorrectly ignored.
functions returned by the get_concrete_function method of tf.function objects can now be called with arguments consistent with the original arguments or type specs passed to get_concrete_function . This calling convention is now the preferred way to use concrete functions with nested values and composite tensors. Please check the guide for more details on concrete_ function .
Update tf.function 's experimental_relax_shapes to handle composite tensors appropriately.
Optimize tf.function invocation, by removing redundant list converter.
tf.function will retrace when called with a different variable instead of simply using the dtype & shape .
Narrow down argmin /argmax contract to always return the smallest index for ties.
tf.math.reduce_variance and tf.math.reduce_std return correct computation for complex types and no longer support integer types.
Add Bessel functions of order 0,1 to tf.math.special .
tf.divide now always returns a tensor to be consistent with documentation and other APIs.
Replaced tf.image.non_max_suppression_padded with a new implementation that supports batched inputs, which is considerably faster on TPUs and GPUs. Boxes with area=0 will be ignored. Existing usage with single inputs should still work as before.
Add tf.ragged.cross and tf.ragged.cross_hashed operations.
RaggedTensor.to_tensor() now preserves static shape.
Add tf.strings.format() and tf.print() to support RaggedTensors.
u/tf.function from SavedModel no longer ignores args after a RaggedTensor when selecting the concrete function to run.
Fix save model issue for ops with a list of functions.
Add tf.saved_model.LoadOptions with experimental_io_device as arg with default value None to choose the I/O device for loading models and weights.
Update tf.saved_model.SaveOptions with experimental_io_device as arg with default value None to choose the I/O device for saving models and weights.
No longer includes PTX kernels for GPU except for sm_70 to reduce binary size. On systems with NVIDIA® Ampere GPUs (CUDA architecture 8.0) or newer, kernels are JIT-compiled from PTX and TensorFlow can take over 30 minutes to start up. This overhead can be limited to the first start up by increasing the default JIT cache size with: export CUDA_CACHE_MAXSIZE=2147483648 .:
Update tf.vectorized_map to support vectorizing tf.while_loop and TensorList operations.
tf.custom_gradient can now be applied to functions that accept nested structures of tensors as inputs (instead of just a list of tensors). Note that Python structures such as tuples and lists now won't be treated as tensors, so if you still want them to be treated that way, you need to wrap them with tf.convert_to_tensor .
No lowering on gradient case op when input is DeviceIndex op.
Extend the ragged version of tf.gather to support batch_dims and axis args.
Update tf.map_fn to support RaggedTensors and SparseTensors.
Deprecate tf.group . It is not useful in eager mode.
Add CPU and GPU implementation of modified variation of FTRL/FTRLV2 that can triggerred by multiply_linear_by_lr allowing a learning rate of zero.
tf.data.experimental.dense_to_ragged_batch works correctly with tuples.
tf.data.experimental.dense_to_ragged_batch to output variable ragged rank.
tf.data.experimental.cardinality is now a method on tf.data.Dataset .
tf.data.Dataset now supports len(Dataset) when the cardinality is finite.
Allow var.assign on MirroredVariables with aggregation=NONE in replica context. Previously this would raise an error. We now allow this because many users and library writers find using .assign in replica context to be more convenient, instead of having to use Strategy.extended.update which was the previous way of updating variables in this situation.
tf.distribute.experimental.MultiWorkerMirroredStrategy adds support for partial batches. Workers running out of data now continue to participate in the training with empty inputs, instead of raising an error. Learn more about partial batches here.
Improve the performance of reading metrics eagerly under tf.distribute.experimental.MultiWorkerMirroredStrategy .
Fix the issue that strategy.reduce() inside tf.function may raise exceptions when the values to reduce are from loops or if-clauses.
Fix the issue that tf.distribute.MirroredStrategy cannot be used together with tf.distribute.experimental.MultiWorkerMirroredStrategy .
Add a tf.distribute.cluster_resolver.TPUClusterResolver.connect API to simplify TPU initialization.
Introduces experimental preprocessing layers API (tf.keras.layers.experimental.preprocessing ) to handle data preprocessing operations such as categorical feature encoding, text vectorization, data normalization, and data discretization (binning). The newly added layers provide a replacement for the legacy feature column API, and support composite tensor inputs.
Added categorical data processing layers:
IntegerLookup & StringLookup : build an index of categorical feature values
CategoryEncoding : turn integer-encoded categories into one-hot, multi-hot, or tf-idf encoded representations
CategoryCrossing : create new categorical features representing co-occurrences of previous categorical feature values
Hashing : the hashing trick, for large-vocabulary categorical features
Discretization : turn continuous numerical features into categorical features by binning their values
Improved TextVectorization layer, which handles string tokenization, n-gram generation, and token encoding
The TextVectorization layer now accounts for the mask_token as part of the vocabulary size when output_mode='int'. This means that, if you have a max_tokens value of 5000, your output will have 5000 unique values (not 5001 as before).
Change the return value of TextVectorization.get_vocabulary() from byte to string . Users who previously were calling 'decode' on the output of this method should no longer need to do so.
Introduce new Keras dataset generation utilities :
image_dataset_from_directory is a utility based on tf.data.Dataset , meant to replace the legacy ImageDataGenerator . It takes you from a structured directory of images to a labeled dataset, in one function call. Note that it doesn't perform image data augmentation (which is meant to be done using preprocessing layers).
timeseries_dataset_from_array is a tf.data.Dataset -based replacement of the legacy TimeseriesGenerator . It takes you from an array of timeseries data to a dataset of shifting windows with their targets.
Added experimental_steps_per_execution arg to model.compile to indicate the number of batches to run per tf.function call. This can speed up Keras Models on TPUs up to 3x.
Extends tf.keras.layers.Lambda layers to support multi-argument lambdas, and keyword arguments when calling the layer.
Functional models now get constructed if any tensor in a layer call's arguments/keyword arguments comes from a keras input. Previously the functional api would only work if all of the elements in the first argument to the layer came from a keras input.
Clean up BatchNormalization layer's trainable property to act like standard python state when it's used inside tf.functions (frozen at tracing time), instead of acting like a pseudo-variable whose updates kind of sometimes get reflected in already-traced tf.function traces.
Restored inference_input_type and inference_output_type flags in TF 2.x TFLiteConverter (backward compatible with TF 1.x) to support integer (tf.int8, tf.uint8) input and output types in post training full integer quantized models.
Added support for converting and resizing models with dynamic (placeholder) dimensions. Previously, there was only limited support for dynamic batch size, and even that did not guarantee that the model could be properly resized at runtime.
Enabled experimental support for a new quantization mode with 16-bit activations and 8-bit weights. See lite.OpsSet.EXPERIMENTAL_TFLITE_BUILTINS_ACTIVATIONS_INT16_WEIGHTS_INT8 .
Fix an issue w/ dynamic weights and Conv2D on x86.
Add a runtime Android flag for enabling XNNPACK for optimized CPU performance.
Add a runtime iOS flag for enabling XNNPACK for optimized CPU performance.
Add a compiler flag to enable building a TFLite library that applies XNNPACK delegate automatically when the model has a fp32 operation.
Allow GPU acceleration starting with internal graph nodes
Experimental support for quantized models with the Android GPU delegate
Add GPU delegate whitelist.
Rename GPU whitelist -> compatibility (list).
Improve GPU compatibility list entries from crash reports.
Set default value for StatefulNnApiDelegate::Options::max_number_delegated_partitions to 3.
Add capability to disable NNAPI CPU and check NNAPI Errno.
Fix crashes when using NNAPI with target accelerator specified with model containing Conv2d or FullyConnected or LSTM nodes with quantized weights.
Fix ANEURALNETWORKS_BAD_DATA execution failures with sum /max /min /reduce operations with scalar inputs.
TFLite Hexagon Delegate out of experimental.
Experimental int8 support for most hexagon ops.
Experimental per-channel quant support for conv in Hexagon delegate.
Support dynamic batch size in C++ API.
Opensource CoreML delegate
Enable building Android TFLite targets on Windows
Add support for BatchMatMul .
Add support for half_pixel_centers with ResizeNearestNeighbor .
Add 3D support for BatchToSpaceND .
Add 5D support for BroadcastSub , Maximum , Minimum , Transpose and BroadcastDiv .
Rename kTfLiteActRelu1 to kTfLiteActReluN1To1 .
Enable flex delegate on tensorflow.lite.Interpreter Python package.
Add Buckettize , SparseCross and BoostedTreesBucketize to the flex whitelist.
Add support for selective registration of flex ops.
Add missing kernels for flex delegate whitelisted ops.
Fix issue when using direct ByteBuffer inputs with graphs that have dynamic shapes.
Fix error checking supported operations in a model containing HardSwish .
Added tf.sysconfig.get_build_info() . Returns a dict that describes the build environment of the currently installed TensorFlow package, e.g. the NVIDIA CUDA and NVIDIA CuDNN versions used when TensorFlow was built.
Fix a subtle use-after-free issue in XStatVisitor::RefValue() .
Adds 3D mesh support in TPU configurations ops.
Added TPU code for FTRL with multiply_linear_by_lr .
Silently adds a new file system registry at gstpu .
Support restartType in cloud tpu client.
Depend on a specific version of google-api-python-client.
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