EDIT: MAJOR UPDATE AT BOTTOM Welcome to the "Speculations" mega thread for the device possibly upcoming in the Oculus Quest line-up. This thread will be a compilation of leaks, speculation & rumors updated as new information comes out. Let's have some fun and go over some of the leaks, rumors, speculation all upcoming before Facebook Connect, we'll have a full mega thread going during Connect, but this should be a great thread for remembrance afterward. Facebook Connect is happening September 16th at 10 AM PST, more information can be found here. Leaks In March, Facebook’s public Developer Documentation website started displaying a new device called ‘Del Mar’, with a ‘First Access’ program for developers. In May, we got the speculated specs, based off the May Bloomberg Report (Original Paywall Link) • “at least 90Hz” refresh rate • 10% to 15% smaller than the current Quest • around 20% lighter • “the removal of the fabric from the sides and replacing it with more plastic” • “changing the materials used in the straps to be more elastic than the rubber and velcro currently used” • “a redesigned controller that is more comfortable and fixes a problem with the existing controller” On top of that, the "Jedi Controller" drivers leaked, which are now assumed to be V3 Touch Controllers for the upcoming device. The IMUs seem significantly improved & the reference to a 60Hz (vs 30hz) also seems to imply improved tracking. It's also said to perhaps have improved haptics & analog finger sensing instead of binary/digital. Now as of more recent months, we had the below leaks. Render (1), (2) Walking Cat seems to believe the device is called "Quest 2", unfortunately since then, his twitter has been taken down. Real-life pre-release model photos Possible IPD Adjustment From these photos and details we can discern that:
there will likely be at least one white model of Quest in the future.
The camera positions and angles have been changed slightly. This might be to improve tracking coverage overhead.
The tracking ring has become somewhat larger and has been angled backward, presumably so they face the cameras better at all times.
The thumb-area has widened significantly & the capacitive thumb-area seems to have returned from the original CV1 touch controllers.
The HMD seems to have become smaller in terms of depth. This could perhaps mean a severe decrease in weight; balancing the headset more.
The head strap is similar to that of the Oculus Go.
It appears there are two microphone holes on the bottom of the headset. This implies the headset might have stereo microphones. Getting two over getting one decent microphone might also mean the two microphones have better recording quality than the original Quest?
Further features speculation based on firmware digging (thanks Reggy04 from the VR Discord for quite a few of these), as well as other sources, all linked.
Additional Sources: 1/2/3/4 Headset Codenames We've seen a few codenames going around at this point, Reggy04 provided this screenshot that shows the following new codenames.
Oculus Del Mar - HOLLYWOOD
Oculus Seacliff - SEACLIFF
Pricing Rumors So far, the most prevalent pricing we've seen is 299 for 64gb, and 399 for 256GB These were shown by a Walmart page for Point Reyes with a release date of September 16 and a Target price leak with a street date of October 13th Speculation What is this headset? Speculation so far is this headset is a Quest S or Quest 2 OR This is a flat-out cheaper-to-manufacture, small upgrade to the Oculus Quest to keep up with demand and to iterate the design slowly. Again, This is all speculation, nothing is confirmed or set in stone. What do you think this is and what we'll see at FB Connect? Let's talk! Rather chat live? Join us on the VR Discord EDIT: MAJOR UPDATE - Leaked Videos. 6GB of RAM, XR2 Platform, "almost 4k display" (nearly 2k per eye) Source I am mirroring all the videos in case they get pulled down. Mirrors: Oculus Hand Tracking , Oculus Casting, Health and Safety, Quest 2 Instructions, Inside the Upgrade
I'm reading every Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award winner. Here's my reviews of the up to 1980 (Vol 4)
It is that time once more, folks. Links to previous posts at the end, links to full length blog reviews are all in one comment. Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
Plot: A normal human could not survive on Mars... our only option? Cyborgs!
Page Count: 183
Award: 1976 Nebula
Worth a read: No... but consider it for a laugh.
Primary Driver: (?????????)
Bechdel Test: Pass... but a real weak pass.
Review: Imagine if you took subplots from a trashy romance, a political thriller, a horror flick, and a space travel story... and forgot to put in the main plot. Starts decently, spirals wildly out of control with astounding speed. Almost worth reading to experience the hilarious concluding deus ex machina. This one is probably in the "so bad it's good category" - but sweet skittles is it bad. Also, turn on safe search if you look this book up.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
Plot: After a pandemic causes infertility (and every other apocalypse hits), the only way for humans to survive is through cloning. But are they really human?
Page Count: 251
Award: 1977 Hugo and 1977 Locus
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: Disappointing and disjointed. There are a lot of messages here that just get blended together to nothingness. Cumbersome writing, uncompelling characters, bland dystopia, and just a dull story. Odd choices on where to discuss science at length and where to just skip over it. First third was its own story originally, and is the best part.
Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle
Plot: There is no joy like dying to advance science, at least according to Doctor Rat.
Page Count: 243
Award: 1977 World Fantasy Award
Worth a read: No... but worth a glance at a chapter or two.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: N/A
Technobabble: Frequent descriptions of animal experiments.
Review: This book is truly horrifying to read. It's about the gruesome nature of animal testing - and cruelty to animals in general - and is chock full of graphic animal gore. It's the child of The Jungle and Animal Farm but without subtext. Consider checking it out to read a couple of chapters - the grotesque fascination wears thin. Some might consider the unambiguous use of Nazi imagery for animal testing to be a step or three too far.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Plot: The Heechee left behind technology so advanced that we cannot understand it; that doesn't stop us from using it to get rich or die trying.
Page Count: 313
Award: 1977 Nebula, 1978 Hugo, and 1978 Locus SF
Worth a read: Yes. Very yes.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: Really good. Cleverly bounces between the story as it unfolds and therapy sessions afterwards - we know that our hero survives, but something terrible has happened. A bit too Freudian. Still, excellent job of making a complex protagonist, interesting world, compelling story. Wanting to know what went wrong kept me reading - and it pays off.
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Plot: Turns out Middle Earth had other jewelry too.
Page Count: 386
Award: 1978 Locus Fantasy Award
Worth a read: Yes.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This is epic fantasy in its purest form; it is myth and legend, at times obtuse, but absolutely riveting. Tolkien's world is fully immersive. Had the physical book to follow the story, the audiobook for pronunciation, and laptop for family trees. Absolutely worth it - even as a casual LoTR fan.
Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
Plot: Something sinister is haunting Franz Westen, and dealing with it involves unearthing answers that might be best left buried.
Page Count: 183
Award: World Fantasy Award 1978
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This is a horror story. Atmosphere is excellent. Book begins with some truly unsettling images and world building. The narrative itself is slow and frequently self-indulgent, but atmosphere stays on point. A qualified recommendation; but some scenes from this will stick with me for quite a while.
Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
Plot: Long after the end of the world as we know it, Snake wanders the world, healing those she meets to the best of her abilities.
Page Count: 288
Award: 1978 Nebula, 1979 Hugo, and 1979 Locus
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
Review: Less-is-more world building with good execution. A lot of interesting tidbits to keep you wondering what the rules are, who the people are, and so on. Story itself can be slow and stakes are consistently low. "I'm going to a place, surprise! something comes up, I will go to another place along the way." Characters are well written though not particularly complex.
Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen by Michael Moorcock
Plot: In an alternate timeline, Queen Elizabeth I rules over the vast empire of Albion and must do her best to manage a corrupt and twisted court.
Page Count: 368
Award: 1979 World Fantasy Award
Worth a read: Absolutely No.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This book is remarkable in that it combines shockingly dull and lengthy exposition with some truly awful and problematic ideas about sex. A whole lot of parallel world court intrigue that just does not matter at all. The actual plot starts developing halfway or later into the book - and is not interesting. The title addressing Gloriana's inability to orgasm is a big ol' red flag. A deeply unpleasant read. Really awful.
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
Plot: Humans have built many marvels, but nothing can compete with a space elevator.
Page Count: 317
Award: 1980 Hugo and 1979 Nebula
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Fail
Review: Overall enjoyable. Main narrative is about the space elevator, secondary is about an equally ambitious ancient building project - woven together in interesting ways. The science and vision offered are interesting, though characters are not and tension is infrequent. Marred somewhat by some truly bizarre (and underdeveloped) side plots and unnecessary epilogue.
The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
Plot: All the wizards left behind were riddles, and the only one who might be able to solve them is the biggest riddle of all.
Page Count: 578 (Full Trilogy)
Award:Harpist in the Wind (Book 3): 1980 Locus Fantasy
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
Review: It's an epic fantasy trilogy. It's a good one. Kinda loved it. Heroes and villains are complex, magic is interesting and coherent. Excellent characters. Cool development of powers, though it is far more power sprint than power crawl. Pacing can be odd; a few long pauses followed by frenetic scenes. Very well written. A satisfying read.
Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn
Plot: The Southerners picked the wrong keep to invade; Ryke will do everything he can to get it back.
Page Count: 240
Award: World Fantasy Award 1980
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
Review: The sweet, sweet taste of subpar writing. World building: "You people from the hot South are not used to how cold it is here up North!" Character Development: "You mean... I don't just need to indiscriminately murder people?!" and "You mean... women can fight too?!" Writing Quality (Verbatim): "He thought it might have ben a room in Tornor. The room was hot. He went to the window to open the shutters. They stuck. He had to force the latch. At last one opened."
Titan by John Varley
Plot: The intrepid crew of the Ringmaster crash in alien territory and must figure out how to survive.
Page Count: 309
Award: 1980 Locus SF
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
Review: It is hard to find such a dumb book that takes itself so seriously. Some legitimately interesting exploration bits not enough to redeem this one. Extremely juvenile. Raises interesting questions and offers insultingly insipid answers. There are elements that are quite good - particularly some crisp dialogue - but it's just not worth it.
Any questions or comments? Fire away! A truly massive thank you to u/gremdelfor mailing me a bunch of books! People like you are what make this endeavor worth the effort. I’ve been using this spreadsheet, as well as a couple others that kind Redditors have sent. So a huge thanks to u/velzerat and u/BaltSHOWPLACE At the request of a number of you, I’ve written up extended reviews of everything and made a blog for them. I’ve included the links with the posts for individual books. I try to put up new reviews as fast as I read them. Take a look in the comments for that link! The Bechdel Test is a simple question: do two named female characters converse about something other than a man. Whether or not a book passes is not a condemnation so much as an observation; it provides an easy binary marker. Seems like a good way to see how writing has evolved over the years. At the suggestion of some folks, I’m loosening it to non-male identified characters to better capture some of the ways that science fiction tackles sex and gender. For a better explanation of why it’s useful, check out this comment from u/Gemmabeta
I have been lurking on this board for a few years. I decided the other day to finally create an account so I could come out of lurk mode. As you might guess from my id I was able to retire at the beginning of this year on a significantly accelerated timetable thanks to the 20x return from my AMD stock and option investments since 2016. I spent my career working on electronics and software for the satellite industry. We made heavy use of FPGAs and more often than not Xilinx FPGAs since they had a radiation tolerant line. I thought I would summarize some of the ways they were used in and around the development process. My experience is going to be very different than the datacenter settings in the last few years. The AI and big data stuff was a pipe dream back then. In the olden times of the 90s we used CPUs which unlike modern processors did not include much in the way of I/O and memory controller. The computer board designs graduated from CPU + a bunch of ICs (much like the original IBM PC design) to a CPU + Xilinx FPGA + RAM + ROM and maybe a 5V or 3.3V linear voltage regulator. Those old FPGAs were programmed before they were soldered to the PCB using a dedicated programming unit attached to a PC. Pretty much the same way ROMs were programmed. At the time FPGAs gate capacity was small enough that it was still feasible to design their implementation using schematics. An engineer would draw up logic gates and flip-flops just like you would if using discrete logic ICs and then compile it to the FPGA binary and burn it to the FPGA using a programmer box like a ROM. If you screwed it up you had to buy another FPGA chip, they were not erasable. The advantage of using the FPGA is that it was common to implement a custom I/O protocol to talk to other FPGAs, on other boards, which might be operating A/D and D/A converters and digital I/O driver chips. As the FPGA gate capacities increased the overall board count could be decreased. With the advent of much larger FPGAs that were in-circuit re-programmable they began to be used for prototyping ASIC designs. One project I worked on was developing a radiation hardened PowerPC processor ASIC with specialized I/O. A Xilinx FPGA was used to test the implementation at approximately half-speed. The PowerPC core was licensed IP and surrounded with bits that were developed in VHDL. In the satellite industry the volumes are typically not high enough to warrant developing ASICs but they could be fabbed on a rad-hard process while the time large capacity re-programmable FPGAs were not. Using FPGAs for prototyping the ASIC was essential because you only had one chance to get the ASIC right, it was cost and schedule prohibitive to do any respins. Another way re-programmable FPGAs were used was for test equipment and ground stations. The flight hardware had these custom designed ASICs of all sorts which generally created data streams that would transmitted down from space. It was advantageous to test the boards without the full set of downlink and receiver hardware so a commercial FPGA board in a PC would be used to hook into the data bus in place of the radio. Similarly other test equipment would be made which emulated the data stream from the flight hardware so that the radio hardware could be tested independently. Finally the ground stations would often use FPGAs to pull in the digital data stream from the receiver radio and process the data in real-time. These FPGAs were typically programmed using VHDL but as tools progressed it became possible to program to program the entire PC + FPGA board combination using LabView or Simulink which also handled the UI. In the 2000s it was even possible to program a real-time software defined radio using these tools. As FPGAs progressed they became much more sophisticated. Instead of only having to specify whether an I/O pin was digital input or output you could choose between high speed, low speed, serdes, analog etc. Instead of having to interface to external RAM chips they began to include banks of internal RAM. That is because FPGAs were no longer just gate arrays but included a quantity of "hard-core" functionality. The natural progression of FPGAs with hard cores brings them into direct competition with embedded processor SOCs. At the same time embedded SOCs have gained flexibility with I/O pin assignment which is very similar to what FPGAs allow. It is important to understand that in the modern era of chip design the difference between the teams that AMD and Xilinx has for chip design is primarily at the architecture level. Low level design and validation are going to largely be the same (although they may be using different tools and best practices). There are going to be some synergies in process and there is going to be some flexibility in having more teams capable of bringing chips to market. They are going to be able to commingle the best practices between the two which is going to be a net boost to productivity for one side or the other or both. Furthermore AMD will have access to Xilinx FPGAs for design validation at cost and perhaps ahead of release and Xilinx will be able to leverage AMD's internal server clouds. The companies will also have access to a greater number of Fellow level architects and process gurus. Also AMD has internally developed IP blocks that Xilinx could leverage and vice versa. Going forward there would be savings on externally licensed IP blocks as well. AI is all the rage these days but there are many other applications for generic FPGAs and for including field programmable gates in sophisticated SOCs. As the grand convergence continues I would not be surprised at all to see FPGA as much a key component to future chips as graphics are in an APU. If Moore’s law is slowing down then the ability to reconfigure the circuitry on the fly is a potential mitigation. At some point being able to reallocate the transistor budget on the fly is going to win out over adding more and more fixed functionality. Going a bit down the big.little path what if a core could be reconfigured on the fly to be integer heavy or 64 bit float heavy within the same transistor budget. Instead of dedicated video encodedecoders or AVX 512 that sits dark most of the time the OS can gin it up on demand. In a laptop or phone setting this could be a big improvement. If anybody has questions I'd be happy to answer. I'm sure there are a number of other posters here with a background in electronics and chip design who can weigh in as well.
The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill, Part 3
Okay, Wendy’s or Walgreens or whoever, I don’t care who you are, you’re listening to the rest.
Introduction to Part 3
Welcome back one last time to “The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill,” a series where we discuss all aspects of skill design and development. In Part 1, we talked about OSRS’s history with skills, and started the lengthy conversation on Skill Design Philosophy, including the concepts of Core, Expansion, and Integration. This latter topic consumed the entirety of Part 2 as well, which covered Rewards and Motivations, Progression, Buyables, as well as Unconstructive Arguments. Which brings us to today, the final part of our discussion. In this Part 3, we’ll finish up Section 3 – Skill Design Philosophy, then move on to chat about the design and blog process. One last time, this discussion was intended to be a single post, but its length outgrew the post character limit twice. Therefore, it may be important to look at the previous two parts for clarity and context with certain terms. The final product, in its purest, aesthetic, and unbroken form, can be found here.
3-C – Skill Design Philosophy, Continued
3-12 - Balancing
What follows from the discussion about XP and costs, of course, is balancing: the bane of every developer. A company like Riot knows better than anyone that having too many factors to account for makes good balance impossible. Balancing new ideas appropriately is extremely challenging and requires a great respect for current content as discussed in Section 3-5 – Integration. Thankfully, in OSRS we only have three major balancing factors: Profit, XP Rate, and Intensity, and two minor factors: Risk and Leniency. These metrics must amount to some sense of balance (besides Leniency, which as we’ll see is the definition of anti-balance) in order for a piece of content to feel like it’s not breaking the system or rendering all your previous efforts meaningless. It’s also worthy to note that there is usually a skill-specific limit to the numerical values of these metrics. For example, Runecrafting will never receive a training method that grants 200k xp/hr, while for Construction that’s easily on the lower end of the scale. A basic model works better than words to describe these factors, and therefore, being the phenomenal artist that I am, I have constructed one, which I’ve dubbed “The Guthix Scale.” But I’ll be cruel and use words anyway.
Profit: how much you gain from a task, or how much you lose. Gain or loss can include resources, cosmetics, specialized currencies, good old gold pieces, or anything on that line.
XP Rate: how fast you gain XP.
Intensity: how much effort (click intensity), attention (reaction intensity), and thought (planning intensity) you need to put into the activity to perform it well.
Risk: how likely is the loss of your revenue and/or resource investment into the activity. Note that one must be careful with risk, as players are very good at abusing systems intended to encourage higher risk levels to minimize how much they’re actually risking.
Leniency: a measure for how imbalanced a piece of content can be before the public and/or Jagex nerfs it. Leniency serves as a simple modulator to help comprehend when the model breaks or bends in unnatural ways, and is usually determined by how enjoyable and abusable an activity is, such that players don’t want to cause an outrage over it. For example, Slayer has a high level of Leniency; people don’t mind that some Slayer tasks grant amazing XP Rates, great Profits, have middling Intensity, and low Risk. On the other hand, Runecrafting has low levels of Leniency; despite low Risk, many Runecrafting activities demand high Intensity for poor XP Rates and middling Profits.
In the end, don’t worry about applying specific numbers during the conceptual phase of your skill design. However, when describing an activity to your reader, it’s always useful if you give approximations, such as “high intensity” or “low risk,” so that they get an idea of the activity’s design goals as well as to guide the actual development of that activity. Don’t comment on the activity’s Leniency though, as that would be pretty pretentious and isn’t for you to determine anyway.
3-13 - Skill Bloat
What do the arts of weaving, tanning, sowing, spinning, pottery, glassmaking, jewellery, engraving, carving, chiselling, carpentry, and even painting have in common? In real life, there’s only so much crossover between these arts, but in Runescape they’re all simply Crafting. The distinction between what deserves to be its own skill or instead tagged along to a current skill is often arbitrary; this is the great challenge of skill bloat. The fundamental question for many skill concepts is: does this skill have enough depth to stand on its own? The developers of 2006 felt that there was sufficient depth in Construction to make it something separate from Crafting, even if the latter could have covered the former. While there’s often no clean cut between these skills (why does making birdhouses use Crafting instead of Construction?), it is easy to see that Construction has found its own solid niche that would’ve been much too big to act as yet another Expansion of Crafting. On the other hand, a skill with extremely limited scope and value perhaps should be thrown under the umbrella of a larger skill. Take Firemaking: it’s often asked why it deserves to be its own skill given how limited its uses are. This is one of those ideas that probably should have just been thrown under Crafting or even Woodcutting. But again, the developers who made early Runescape did not battle with the same ideas as the modern player; they simply felt like Firemaking was a good idea for a skill. Similarly, the number of topics that the Magic skill covers is so often broken down in other games, like Morrowind’s separation between Illusion, Conjuration, Alteration, Destruction, Mysticism, Restoration, Enchant, Alchemy (closer to Herblore), and Unarmored (closer to Strength and Defense). Why does Runescape not break Magic into more skills? The answer is simple: Magic was created with a much more limited scope in Runescape, and there has not been enough content in any specific magical category to justify another skill being born. But perhaps your skill concept seeks to address this; maybe your Enchantment skill takes the enchanting aspects of Magic away, expands the idea to include current imbues and newer content, and fully fleshes the idea out such that the Magic skill alone cannot contain it. Somewhat ironically, Magic used to be separated into Good and Evil Magic skills in Runescape Classic, but that is another topic. So instead of arguments about what could be thrown under another skill’s umbrella, perhaps we should be asking: is there enough substance to this skill concept for it to stand on its own, outside of its current skill categorization? Of course, this leads to a whole other debate about how much content is enough for a skill idea to deserve individuality, but that would get too deep into specifics and is outside the scope of this discussion.
3-14 - Skill Endgame
Runescape has always been a sandbox MMO, but the original Runescape experience was built more or less with a specific endgame in mind: killing players and monsters. Take the Runescape Classic of 2001: you had all your regular combat skills, but even every other skill had an endgame whose goal was helping combat out. Fishing, Firemaking, and Cooking would provide necessary healing. Smithing and Crafting, along with their associated Gathering skill partners, served to gear you up. Combat was the simple endgame and most mechanics existed to serve that end. However, since those first days, the changing endgame goals of players have promoted a vast expansion of the endgame goals of new content. For example, hitting a 99 in any non-combat skill is an endgame goal in itself for many players, completely separate from that skill’s combat relationship (if any). These goals have increased to aspects like cosmetic collections, pets, maxed stats, all quests completed, all diaries completed, all music tracks unlocked, a wealthy bank, the collection log, boss killcounts, and more. Whereas skills used to have a distinct part of a system that ultimately served combat, we now have a vast variety of endgame goals that a skill can be directed towards. You can even see a growth in this perspective as new skills were released up to 2007: Thieving mainly nets you valuable (or once valuable) items which have extremely flexible uses, and Construction has a strong emphasis on cosmetics for your POH. So when designing your new skill, contemplate what the endgame of your skill looks like. For example, if you are proposing a Gathering skill, what is the Production skill tie-in, and what is the endgame goal of that Production skill? Maybe your new skill Spelunking has an endgame in gathering rare collectibles that can be shown off in your POH. Maybe your new skill Necromancy functions like a Support skill, giving you followers that help speed along resource gathering, and letting you move faster to the endgame goal of the respective Production skill. Whatever it is, a proper, clear, and unified view of an endgame goal helps a skill feel like it serves a distinct and valuable purpose. Note that this could mean that you require multiple skills to be released simultaneously for each to feed into each other and form an appropriate endgame. In that case, go for it – don’t make it a repeat of RS3’s Divination, a Gathering skill left hanging without the appropriate Production skill partner of Invention for over 2 years. A good example of a skill with a direct endgame is… most of them. Combat is a well-accepted endgame, and traditionally, most skills are intended to lend a hand in combat whether by supplies or gear. A skill with a poor endgame would be Hunter: Hunter is so scattered in its ultimate endgame goals, trying to touch on small aspects of everything like combat gear, weight reduction, production, niche skilling tools, and food. There’s a very poor sense of identity to Hunter’s endgame, and it doesn’t help that very few of these rewards are actually viable or interesting in the current day. Similarly, while Slayer has a strong endgame goal it is terrible in its methodology, overshadowing other Production skills in their explicit purpose. A better design for Slayer’s endgame would have been to treat it as a secondary Gathering skill, to work almost like a catalyst for other Gathering-Production skill relationships. In this mindset, Slayer is where you gather valuable monster drops, combine it with traditional Gathering resources like ores from Mining, then use a Production skill like Smithing to meld them into the powerful gear that is present today. This would have kept other Gathering and Production skills at the forefront of their specialities, in contrast to today’s situation where Slayer will give fully assembled gear that’s better than anything you could receive from the appropriate skills (barring a few items that need a Production skill to piece together).
3-15 - Alternate Goals
From a game design perspective, skills are so far reaching that it can be tempting to use them to shift major game mechanics to a more favourable position. Construction is an example of this idea in action: Construction was very intentionally designed to be a massive gold sink to help a hyperinflating economy. Everything about it takes gold out of the game, whether through using a sawmill, buying expensive supplies from stores, adding rooms, or a shameless piece of furniture costing 100m that is skinned as, well, 100m on a shameless piece of furniture. If you’re clever about it, skills are a legitimately good opportunity for such change. Sure, the gold sink is definitely a controversial feature of Construction, but for the most part it’s organic and makes sense; fancy houses and fancy cosmetics are justifiably expensive. It is notable that the controversy over Construction’s gold sink mechanism is probably levied more against the cost of training, rather than the cost of all its wonderful aesthetics. Perhaps that should have been better accounted for in its design phase, but now it is quite set in stone. To emphasize that previous point: making large scale changes to the game through a new skill can work, but it must feel organic and secondary to the skill’s main purpose. Some people really disliked Warding because they felt it tried too hard to fix real, underlying game issues with mechanics that didn’t thematically fit or were overshadowing the skill’s Core. While this may or may not be true, if your new skill can improve the game’s integrity without sacrificing its own identity, you could avoid this argument entirely. If your skill Regency has a Core of managing global politics, but also happens to serve as a resource sink to help your failing citizens, then you’ve created a strong Core design while simultaneously improving the profitability of Gathering skills.
3-16 - The Combat No-Touch Rule
So, let’s take a moment to examine the great benefits and rationale of RS2’s Evolution of Combat: This space has been reserved for unintelligible squabbling. With that over, it’s obvious that the OSRS playerbase is not a big fan of making major changes to the combat system. If there’s anything that defines the OSRS experience, it has to be the janky and abusable combat system that we love. So, in the past 7 years of OSRS, how many times have you heard someone pitch a new combat skill? Practically no one ever has; a new combat skill, no matter how miniscule, would feel obtrusive to most players, and likely would not even receive 25% of votes in a poll. This goes right back to Section 3-5 – Integration, and the importance of preserving the fundamentals of OSRS’s design. I know that my intention with this discussion was to be as definitive about skill design as possible, and in that spirit I should be delving into the design philosophy specifically behind combat skills, but I simply don’t see the benefit of me trying, and the conversation really doesn’t interest me that much. It goes without saying that as expansive as this discussion is, it does not cover every facet of skill design, which is a limitation both of my capabilities and desire to do so.
3-17 - Aesthetics
I don’t do aesthetics well. I like them, I want them, but I do not understand them; there are others much better equipped to discuss this topic than I. Nonetheless, here we go. Since the dawn of OSRS, debates over art style and aesthetics have raged across Gielinor. After all, the OSRS Team is filled with modern day artists while OSRS is an ancient game. What were they supposed to do? Keep making dated graphics? Make content with a modernized and easily digestible style? Something in-between? While many players shouted for more dated graphics, they were approached by an interesting predicament: which dated graphics did they want? We had a great selection present right from the start of OSRS: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. People hungry for nostalgia chose the era that they grew up in, leading to frequent requests for older models like the dragon or imp, most of which were denied by Jagex (except the old Mining rock models). But which era was OSRS supposed to follow? Jagex elected to carve their own path, but not without heavy criticism especially closer to OSRS’s conception. However, they adapted to player requests and have since gone back and fixed many of the blatant early offenders (like the Kingdom of Kourend) and adopted a more consistent flavour, one that generally respects the art style of 2007. Even though it doesn’t always hit the mark, one has to appreciate the OSRS artists for making their best attempt and listening to feedback, and here’s to hoping that their art style examination mentioned in June 2020’s Gazette bears fruit. But what exactly is the old school art style? There are simple systems by which most players judge it in OSRS, usually by asking questions like, “Would you believe if this existed in 2007?” More informed artists will start pointing out distinct features that permeated most content from back in the day, such as low quality textures, low poly models, low FPS animations, a “low fantasy” or grounded profile that appeals somewhat to realism, reducing cartoonish exaggerations, and keeping within the lore. Compiled with this, music and sound design help that art style come to life; it can be very hard on immersion when these don’t fit. An AGS would sound jarring if its special attack sounded like a weak dagger stab, and having to endure Country Jig while roaming Hosidius suddenly sweeps you off into a different universe. But coming back to skill design, the art, models, and sound design tend to be some of the last features, mostly because the design phase doesn’t demand such a complete picture of a skill. However, simple concept art and models can vastly improve how a skill concept is communicated and comfort players who are concerned about maintaining that “old school feel.” This will be touched on again later in this discussion under Section 5-2 – Presentation and Beta Testing.
3-18 - Afterword
Now we’ve set down the modern standards for a new skill, but the statements that started this section bear repeating: the formula we’ve established does not automatically make a good or interesting skill, as hard as we might have tried. Once again, harken back to the First Great Irony: that we are trying to inject the modern interpretation of what defines a skill upon a game that was not necessarily built to contain it. Therefore, one could just as easily deny each of the components described above, as popular or unpopular as the act might be, and their opinion could be equally valid and all this effort meaningless. Don’t take these guidelines with such stringency as to disregard all other views.
5-0 - The OSRS Team and the Design Process
If you’ve followed me all the way here, you’re likely A) exhausted and fed up of any conversation concerning new skills, or B) excited, because you’ve just struck an incredible skill idea (or perhaps one that’s always hung around your head) that happens to tick off all the above checkboxes. But unfortunately for you B types, it’s about to get pretty grim, because we’re going to go through every aspect of skill design that’s exterior to the game itself. We’ll be touching on larger topics like democracy, presentation, player mindsets, effort, and resource consumption. It’ll induce a fantastic bout of depression, so don’t get left behind.
5-1 - Designing a Skill
Thus far, Jagex has offered three potential skills to OSRS, each of which has been denied. This gives us the advantage of understanding how the skill design process works behind the scenes and lets us examine some of the issues Jagex has faced with presenting a skill to the players. The first problem is the “one strike and you’re out” phenomenon. Simply put, players don’t like applying much effort into reading and learning. They’ll look at a developer blog highlighting a new skill idea, and if you’re lucky they’ll even read the whole thing, but how about the second developer blog? The third? Fourth? Even I find it hard to get that far. In general, people don’t like long detail-heavy essays or blogs, which is why I can invoke the ancient proverb “Ban Emily” into this post and it’ll go (almost) completely unnoticed. No matter how many improvements you make between developer blogs, you will quickly lose players with each new iteration. Similarly, developer blogs don’t have the time to talk about skill design philosophy or meta-analyse their ideas – players would get lost far too fast. This is the Second Great Irony of skill design: the more iterations you have of a lengthy idea, the less players will keep up with you. This was particularly prominent with Warding: Battle Wards were offered in an early developer blog but were quickly cut when Jagex realized how bad the idea was. Yet people would still cite Battle Wards as the reason they voted against Warding, despite the idea having been dropped several blogs before. Similarly, people would often comment that they hated that Warding was being polled multiple times; it felt to them like Jagex was trying to brute-force it into the game. But Warding was only ever polled once, and only after the fourth developer blog - the confusion was drawn from how many times the skill was reiterated and from the length of the public design process. Sure, there are people for whom this runs the opposite way; they keep a close eye on updates and judge a piece of content on the merits of the latest iteration, but this is much less common. You could argue that one should simply disregard the ignorant people as blind comments don't contribute to the overall discussion, but you should remember that these players are also the ones voting for the respective piece of content. You could also suggest re-educating them, which is exactly what Jagex attempts with each developer blog, and still people won’t get the memo. And when it comes to the players themselves, can the playerbase really be relied on to re-educate itself? Overall, the Second Great irony really hurts the development process and is practically an unavoidable issue. What’s the alternative? To remove the developer-player interface that leads to valuable reiterations, or does you simply have to get the skill perfect in the first developer blog? It’s not an optimal idea, but it could help: have a small team of “delegates” – larger names that players can trust, or player influencers – come in to review a new, unannounced skill idea under NDA. If they like it, chances are that other players will too. If they don’t, reiterate or toss out the skill before it’s public. That way, you’ve had a board of experienced players who are willing to share their opinions to the public helping to determine the meat and potatoes of the skill before it is introduced to the casual eye. Now, a more polished and well-accepted product can be presented on the first run of selling a skill to the public, resulting in less reiterations being required, and demanding less effort from the average player to be fully informed over the skill’s final design.
5-2 - Presentation and Beta Testing
So you’ve got a great idea, but how are you going to sell it to the public? Looking at how the OSRS Team has handled it throughout the years, there’s a very obvious learning curve occurring. Artisan had almost nothing but text blogs being thrown to the players, Sailing started introducing some concept art and even a trailer with terrible audio recording, and Warding had concept art, in game models, gifs, and a much fancier trailer with in-game animations. A picture or video is worth a thousand words, and often the only words that players will take out of a developer blog. You might say that presentation is everything, and that would be more true in OSRS than most games. Most activities in OSRS are extremely basic, involve minimal thought, and are incredibly grindy. Take Fishing: you click every 20 seconds on a fishing spot that is randomly placed along a section of water, get rid of your fish, then keep clicking those fishing spots. Boiling it down further, you click several arbitrary parts of your computer screen every 20 seconds. It’s hardly considered engaging, so why do some people enjoy it? Simply put: presentation. You’re given a peaceful riverside environment to chill in, you’re collecting a bunch of pixels shaped like fish, and a number tracking your xp keeps ticking up and telling you that it matters. Now imagine coming to the players with a radical new skill idea: Mining. You describe that Mining is where you gather ores that will feed into Smithing and help create gear for players to use. The audience ponders momentarily, but they’re not quite sure it feels right and ask for a demonstration. You show them some gameplay, but your development resources were thin and instead of rocks, you put trees as placeholders. Instead of ores in your inventory, you put logs as placeholders. Instead of a pickaxe, your character is swinging a woodcutting axe as a placeholder. Sure, the mechanics might act like mining instead of woodcutting, but how well is the skill going to sell if you haven’t presented it correctly or respected it contextually? Again, presentation is everything. Players need to be able to see the task they are to perform, see the tools they’ll use, and see the expected outcomes; otherwise, whatever you’re trying to sell will feel bland and unoriginal. And this leads to the next level of skill presentation that has yet to be employed: Beta Worlds. Part of getting the feel of an activity is not just watching, it but acting it out as well - you’ll never understand the thrill of skydiving unless you’ve actually been skydiving. Beta Worlds are that chance for players to act out a concept without risking the real game’s health. A successful Beta can inspire confidence in players that the skill has a solid Core and interesting Expansions, while a failed Beta will make them glad that they got to try it and be fully informed before putting the skill to a poll (although that might be a little too optimistic for rage culture). Unfortunately, Betas are not without major disadvantages, the most prominent of which we shall investigate next.
5-3 - Development Effort
If you thought that the previous section on Skill Design Philosophy was lengthy and exhausting, imagine having to know all that information and then put it into practice.Mentally designing a skill in your head can be fun, but putting all that down on paper and making it actually work together, feel fully fleshed out, and following all the modern standards that players expect is extremely heavy work, especially when it’s not guaranteed to pay off in the polls like Quest or Slayer content. That’s not even taking into account the potentially immense cost of developing a new skill should it pass a poll. Whenever people complain that Jagex is wasting their resources trying to make that specific skill work, Jagex has been very explicit about the costs to pull together a design blog being pretty minimal. Looking at the previous blogs, Jagex is probably telling the truth. It’s all just a bunch of words, a couple art sketches, and maybe a basic in-game model or gif. Not to downplay the time it takes to write well, design good models, or generate concept art, but it’s nothing like the scale of resources that some players make it out to be. Of course, if a Beta was attempted as suggested last section, this conversation would take a completely new turn, and the level of risk to invested resources would exponentially increase. But this conversation calls to mind an important question: how much effort and resources do skills require to feel complete? Once upon a time, you could release a skill which was more or less unfinished. Take Slayer: it was released in 2005 with a pretty barebones structure. The fundamentals were all there, but the endgame was essentially a couple cool best-in-slot weapons and that was it. Since then, OSRS has updated the skill to include a huge Reward Shop system, feature 50% more monsters to slay, and to become an extremely competitive money-maker. Skills naturally undergo development over time, but it so often comes up during the designing of an OSRS skill that it "doesn't have enough to justify its existence." This was touched on deeply in Section 3-13 – Skill Bloat, but deserves reiterating here. While people recognize that skills continually evolve, the modern standard expects a new skill, upon release, to be fully preassembled before purchase. Whereas once you could get away with releasing just a skill's Core and working on Expansions down the line, that is no longer the case. But perhaps a skill might stand a better chance now than it did last year, given that the OSRS Team has doubled in number since that time. However, judging from the skill design phases that have previously been attempted (as we’ve yet to see a skill development phase), the heaviest cost has been paid in developer mentality and motivational loss. When a developer is passionate about an idea, they spend their every waking hour pouring their mind into how that idea is going to function,especially while they’re not at work. And then they’re obligated to take player feedback and adapt their ideas, sometimes starting from scratch, particularly over something as controversial as a skill. Even if they have tough enough skin to take the heavy criticism that comes with skill design, having to write and rewrite repeatedly over the same idea to make it “perfect” is mentally exhausting. Eventually, their motivation drains as their labour bears little fruit with the audience, and they simply want to push it to the poll and be done with it. Even once all their cards are down, there’s still no guarantee that their efforts will be rewarded, even less so when it comes to skills. With such a high mental cost with a low rate of success, you have to ask, “Was it worth it?” And that’s why new skill proposals are far and few between. A new skill used to be exciting for the development team in the actual days of 2007, as they had the developmental freedom to do whatever they wanted, but in the modern day that is not so much the case.
5-4 - The Problems of Democracy
Ever since the conceptualization of democracy in the real world, people have been very aware of its disadvantages. And while I don’t have the talent, knowledge, or time to discuss every one of these factors, there are a few that are very relevant when it comes to the OSRS Team and the polling process. But first we should recognize the OSRS Team’s relationship with the players. More and more, the Team acts like a government to its citizens, the players, and although this situation was intentionally instated with OSRS’s release, it’s even more prominent now. The Team decides the type of content that gets to go into a poll, and the players get their input over whether that particular piece makes it in. Similarly, players make suggestions to the Team that, in many cases, the Team hadn’t thought of themselves. This synergy is phenomenal and almost unheard of among video games, but the polling system changes the mechanics of this relationship. Polls were introduced to the burned and scarred population of players at OSRS’s release in 2013. Many of these players had just freshly come off RS2 after a series of disastrous updates or had quit long before from other controversies. The Squeal of Fortune, the Evolution of Combat, even the original Wilderness Removal had forced numerous players out and murdered their trust in Jagex. To try and get players to recommit to Runescape, Jagex offered OSRS a polling system by which the players would determine what went into the game, where the players got to hold all the cards. They also asked the players what threshold should be required for polled items to pass, and among the odd 50% or 55% being shouted out, the vast majority of players wanted 70%, 75%, 80%, or even 85%. There was a massive population in favour of a conservative game that would mostly remain untouched, and therefore kept pure from the corruption RS2 had previously endured. Right from the start, players started noticing holes in this system. After all, the OSRS Team was still the sole decider of what would actually be polled in the first place. Long-requested changes took forever to be polled (if ever polled at all) if the OSRS Team didn’t want to deal with that particular problem or didn’t like that idea. Similarly, the Team essentially had desk jobs with a noose kept around their neck – they could perform almost nothing without the players, their slave masters, seeing, criticizing, and tearing out every inch of developmental or visionary freedom they had. Ever hear about the controversy of Erin the duck? Take a look at the wiki or do a search through the subreddit history. It’s pretty fantastic, and a good window into the minds of the early OSRS playerbase. But as the years have gone on, the perspective of the players has shifted. There is now a much healthier and more trusting relationship between them and the Team, much more flexibility in what the players allow the Team to handle, and a much greater tolerance and even love of change. But the challenges of democracy haven’t just fallen away. Everyone having the right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the democratic system, but unfortunately that also means that everyone has the right to vote. For OSRS, that means that every member, whether it’s their first day in game, their ten thousandth hour played, those who have no idea about what the poll’s about, those who haven’t read a single quest (the worst group), those who RWT and bot, those who scam and lure, and every professional armchair developer like myself get to vote. In short, no one will ever be perfectly informed on every aspect of the game, or at least know when to skip when they should. Similarly, people will almost never vote in favour of making their game harder, even at the cost of game integrity, or at least not enough people would vote in such a fashion to reach a 75% majority. These issues are well recognized. The adoption of the controversial “integrity updates” was Jagex’s solution to these problems. In this way, Jagex has become even more like a government to the players. The average citizen of a democratic country cannot and will not make major decisions that favour everyone around themselves if it comes at a personal cost. Rather, that’s one of the major roles of a government: to make decisions for changes for the common good that an individual can’t or won’t make on their own. No one’s going to willingly hand over cash to help repave a road on the opposite side of the city – that’s why taxes are a necessary evil. It’s easy to see that the players don’t always know what’s best for their game and sometimes need to rely on that parent to decide for them, even if it results in some personal loss. But players still generally like the polls, and Jagex still appears to respect them for the most part. Being the government of the game, Jagex could very well choose to ignore them, but would risk the loss of their citizens to other lands. And there are some very strong reasons to keep them: the players still like having at least one hand on the wheel when it comes to new content or ideas. Also, it acts as a nice veto card should Jagex try to push RS3’s abusive tactics on OSRS and therefore prevent such potential damage. But now we come to the topic of today: the introduction of a new skill. Essentially, a new skill must pass a poll in order to enter the game. While it’s easy to say, “If a skill idea is good enough, it’ll pass the threshold,” that’s not entirely true. The only skill that could really pass the 75% mark is not necessarily a well-designed skill, but rather a crowd-pleasing skill. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, the latter is far easier to make than the former. Take Dungeoneering: if you were to poll it today as an exact replica of RS2’s version, it would likely be the highest scoring skill yet, perhaps even passing, despite every criticism that’s been previously emphasized describing why it has no respect for the current definition of “skill.” Furthermore, a crowd-pleasing skill can easily fall prey to deindividualization of vision and result in a bland “studio skill” (in the same vein as a “studio film”), one that feels manufactured by a board of soulless machines rather than a director’s unique creation. This draws straight back to the afore-mentioned issues with democracy: that people A) don’t always understand what they’re voting for or against, and B) people will never vote for something that makes their game tougher or results in no benefit to oneself. Again, these were not issues in the old days of RS2, but are the problems we face with our modern standards and decision making systems. The reality that must be faced is that the polling system is not an engine of creation nor is it a means of constructive feedback – it’s a system of judgement, binary and oversimplified in its methodology. It’s easy to interact with and requires no more than 10 seconds of a player’s time, a mere mindless moment, to decide the fate of an idea made by an individual or team, regardless of their deep or shallow knowledge of game mechanics, strong or weak vision of design philosophy, great or terrible understanding of the game’s history, and their awareness of blindness towards the modern community. It’s a system which disproportionately boils down the quality of discussion that is necessitated by a skill, which gives it the same significance as the question “Should we allow players to recolour the Rocky pet by feeding it berries?” with the only available answers being a dualistic “This idea is perfect and should be implemented exactly as outlined” or “This idea is terrible and should never be spoken of again.” So what do you do? Let Jagex throw in whatever they want? Reduce the threshold, or reduce it just for skills? Make a poll that lists a bunch of skills and forces the players to choose one of them to enter the game? Simply poll the question, “Should we have a new skill?” then let Jagex decide what it is? Put more options on the scale of “yes” to “no” and weigh each appropriately? All these options sound distasteful because there are obvious weaknesses to each. But that is the Third Great Irony we face: an immense desire for a new skill, but no realistic means to ever get one.
6-0 - Conclusion
I can only imagine that if you’ve truly read everything up to this point, it’s taken you through quite the rollercoaster. We’ve walked through the history of OSRS skill attempts, unconstructive arguments, various aspects of modern skill design philosophy, and the OSRS Team and skill design process. When you take it all together, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the thought that needs to go into a modern skill and all the issues that might prevent its success. Complexity, naming conventions, categorizations, integration, rewards and motivations, bankstanding and buyables, the difficulties of skill bloat, balancing, and skill endgames, aesthetics, the design process, public presentation, development effort, democracy and polling - these are the challenges of designing and introducing modern skills. To have to cope with it all is draining and maybe even impossible, and therefore it begs the question: is trying to get a new skill even worth it? Maybe. Thanks for reading. Tl;dr: Designing a modern skill requires acknowledging the vast history of Runescape, understanding why players make certain criticisms and what exactly they’re saying in terms of game mechanics, before finally developing solutions. Only then can you subject your ideas to a polling system that is built to oversimplify them.
Originally, I was leaning against doing an obligatory post-OSCP Reddit post because I didn’t want to come across as another “look at me - I passed OSCP!!” cringeworthy OSCP Oscar speech, but I decided to go ahead and do one because my experience was perhaps a little unique and answers the much-asked question “can I do OSCP without experience?”. A quick background to add context… I’m 31 years old and my employment history is a mixture of sales, graphics, and media-related job roles. I felt discontented for a long time earning (barely) living wage in job roles I had little passion for. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to quit my latest sales job in November last year (2019) to pursue a career in cybersecurity/infosec. I didn’t know what ‘TCP’ or ‘UDP’ was, and I’d never heard of ‘Kali’ or how to run a VM, but I was convinced that this would be the career path for me. Anyway, I went through Security+ and C|EH from November to March and, just as I was going to start applying for Security Analyst type job roles, our friendly neighbourhood Coronavirus came along and shut down the economy. Even though I had no intention of doing OSCP for another year or two, I thought it was a better option than twiddling my thumbs for a few months, so I decided to sign up for PWK labs and have a crack at it. Fast-forwarding to yesterday, after a few brutal months and an incredible experience, I finally got the OSCP “you have successfully completed” email. Apologies in advance for the essay but I just want to go through my journey for those of you that might be in a similar position to the one I was in - limited/zero IT experience and feeling intimidated by the dreaded OSCP mountain. My journey… In the weeks leading up to the wait to start my 60 days PWK material and labs, I went through The Cyber Mentor’s Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course and then went on a Hack the Box rampage, so, by the time my lab time started, I felt like I was in a pretty decent position. Unfortunately, because I was a naïve idiot, I tackled the labs straight away and went through the PWK PDF casually on the side. This was a big mistake and something I would definitely change in hindsight because it cost me 5 easy points on the exam (I thought I could smash through the PDF exercises during the last week of labs but this didn’t prove to be enough time). In 60 days I ended up rooting around 40 machines - I didn’t bother going for the networks because it didn’t apply to the exam and, although valuable real-world experience, I didn’t want to get distracted and flood my brain with even more information when it wasn’t going to be relevant for my mission. One big thing that I did get right was note-taking. I can’t express enough how valuable it is to take detailed notes and build your own cheat sheet library. After every machine I rooted, I did a walkthrough on OneNote and added any new tools/commands to my cheat sheet library. This not only saves precious time in the exam, but it helps you build your own knowledge instead of relying on other people’s cheat sheets without really understanding what you’re doing. After my 60 days had finished, I spent 1 month on TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list and IppSec’s video walkthroughs. I also can’t stress enough how valuable this learning methodology is. My only regret is that I rushed through it. I’d already booked my exam 30 days after lab time, so I ended up jumping through walkthroughs when I got stuck on boxes instead of exhausting all options. This was another naïve idiot mistake on my behalf and something I would do differently in hindsight. There’s a difference between “trying harder” and “trying harder, but in a smart way”. I was putting 10+ hours in every day but I wasn’t always being efficient with my time. I’d definitely recommend seeking hints and tips on boxes but only after you’ve exhausted all options first, something which I didn’t always do. Anyway, my first exam attempt came around towards the end of July. Was I ready? No, but I had delusional confidence in myself that has paid off for me more often than not, so I was hoping it would pay off for me again. My first exam was brutal. I sat in my chair for a total of 23 hours and 15 minutes, with only 3 short 5-minute breaks to get food to snack on. My VPN was shut down after 24 hours and I had a total of 65 points, which I’d been stuck on for the last 8 hours of my exam. I got the BO, root on one of the 20-point machines, root on the 10-point machine, and user on the other 20-point machine. I just couldn’t get root on that last machine. I was pretty devastated because I’d put my heart and soul into Sec+, C|EH, and OSCP for 7 straight months and I wanted it bad. But my delusional confidence wasn’t enough. After listening to depressing Taylor Swift songs for a few days (joke), I decided to book another exam in, 4 weeks after my first attempt. This time around, I decided to go through Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation courses (they were great) and go back over some of the HTB machines. I honestly felt at this point that there wasn’t much more study material that I could go through. 2nd exam came up and it was an almost minute-for-minute repeat of the first exam. BO done, 20 point rooted, 10 point rooted, but could only get user on the other 20 point. 65 points again. This time I ended up listening to Taylor Swift + Lana Del Rey. I was pretty adamant that I could do this and that I was very close, so I sent Off-Sec an email explaining my situation and they were kind enough to allow me another exam attempt without waiting 8 weeks - I booked another exam in 2 weeks after my second attempt. This time, my preparation was entirely mental. In both my prior exams, I was sat on my chair for over 23 hours because I was flapping around aimlessly like a headless chicken, desperately firing off exploits that I knew wouldn’t work on the other 20-point machine. So, I went into the 3rd exam determined to go at a slow and steady pace, and not let the 24-hour timeframe pressure me into a wild goose chase. Miraculously, it seemed to work. After 14 hours, I’d done the BO, rooted both 20-point machines, rooted the 10-point machine, and got user on the 25-point machine. 85-ish points in total. The point of this story is to get across to people that you need to try simpler, not harder. I perhaps failed my first exam because I’d not gone through Tib3rius’s Priv Esc courses, but I failed on my 2nd 100% due to mentality. There was no skill-level difference between my 2nd exam and 3rd exam. I’ll finish off with my recommended learning methodology and exam tips (for people with limited/zero IT experience): . The Cyber Mentor Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course (usually on offer at $14.99-ish) . Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation course (usually on offer at $12.99 each) . Try Hack Me OSCP Learning Path (I would recommend doing this before HTB - it is $10 for 30 days) . PWK labs (I personally don’t feel more than 60 days are required - unless you work full-time) . TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list ($10 for retired HTB machines - very worth it) . You should be ready for the exam Exam tips: . Become proficient with Nmap but use an enumeration tool like nmapAutomator for the exam . You will need to understand what bash and Python scripts are doing (you don’t need to be able to write them from scratch) . Don’t be tempted to use a fancy BO methodology for the exam, stick with PWK’s methodology - it works (some of the others don’t) . Play around with various reverse shell payloads - sometimes a bash one-liner won’t work so you need to go with Python. Sometimes Bash, Python, and netcat won’t work, so you need to understand what alternatives you can use in that scenario . Get into the habit of reading service manuals. In all 3 of my exams, I came up against machines that had services I’d never even heard of. Fortunately, I’d got into the habit reading service manuals, otherwise, I would have skipped over the services and got lost down a rabbit hole . Get into the habit of exploiting conventional services in unconventional ways. Just because an SUID binary isn’t on Gtfobins, it doesn’t mean that you can’t exploit the SUID binary in an unconventional way. Again, get into the habit of reading manuals to understand what services do . Become familiar with Burp Suite. Many exploits won’t work in the way you might expect them to, but they will work if you run them through Burp. Or, at the very least, you’ll be able to understand why they’re not working. This issue came up in my last exam and I would have been completely lost if it weren’t for Burp . Take breaks if you get frustrated - this is said over and over again by people on this subreddit and it’s an absolute must. The 20 point machine that I couldn’t root after 8 hours on my 2nd exam was on my 3rd exam (thanks Off-Sec - I know you tried to fu*k me with that), but I was able to root it within 1 hour on my 3rd exam, simply because my mindset was different at the time. . Trust your gut - by doing PWK and HTB machines, you should develop a gut feeling of when you are in a rabbit hole and when you’re on the right track. I ended up rooting over 100 machines before the exam (albeit with plenty of hints and tips) and it helped me develop a good gut feeling. I can’t explain why but there were times in my last exam where I knew I was in the right area even though I wasn’t able to enumerate the specific service version. This feeling simply came from experience. I’m sure many of you watch IppSec’s videos and wonder “how the hell does he know to do X or Y?”. I used to wonder this all the time but after going through dozens of machines, I finally got it. It comes down to experience. Try to do as many machines as you can before the exam to build that gut feeling, and trust it in the exam. . Embrace failure - this is perhaps the most important thing that I can say. OSCP is a difficult journey and many people fail multiple times before passing. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to fail. It’s how you react to failure that counts. I’m not particularly smart but I embrace failure and I know deep down that I will keep trying until I pass. I was prepared to take the OSCP exam 1000 times if I had to, I was never going to let the exam beat me. I suggest you approach it with the same mentality and not let silly pride prevent you from having a go at it. One last thing! Join a solid Discord community. This journey has been amazing since day one and a big reason behind that is the amazing online community. I was very active in an HTB community and ended up talking to several people who were going through OSCP at the same time as me. This was honestly such a massive help to me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing when I first started! Sorry for the massive rant - I just see so many people on here treating OSCP like an unsurmountable mountain. It’s not. You can do it!
I was typed on this sub some time ago but my answers were too vague and not that accurate I think. I’m doubting my type again and I need some new insight. – Describe yourself in as much elaborate detail as possible (that still renders you anonymous, or to a level of acceptable comfort) 18 yo high school student just trying to survive IB. My gender is a questionable thing. I consider myself non binary because I’ve always felt extremely uncomfortable with talking about my gender and I wanted to obey all of the expectations and gender roles. I hate all of the labels and sht. I feel like I’m an individual being that doesn’t fit anywhere but at the same time I feel like a part of humanity and I can connect to literally any human being. Doesn’t matter of nationality/age/gendesome other sht. I sympathize with everyone and I kinda feel like I belong to them. If I had to move to foreign country that I don’t know anything about, right now, I think I’d quickly adapt to the culture. I feel like everything and nothing at the same time. I am diagnosed with severe social anxiety and I display some characteristics of avoidant personality disorder. It basically makes me unable to figure out my type since I don’t know what is true about my personality and what is a defense mechanism anymore. I need some insight from other people because I’m so confused about my own self. I don’t really understand the concept of personality traits at all. I feel like a chameleon and I have no consistent personality. – Why are you interested in knowing your type? At first I was just curious because I’m really into psychology and I found the idea of cognitive functions interesting. But now I’m just mad at myself that I can’t decide on my type because I relate to few types but at the same type I relate to none of them. I just want to be certain. I have this issue that I need to be sure about my every decision and I hate that whenever I finally decide that “this is my real type, it feels right” then suddenly a few days later I find out that it can’t be my real type because the way that type is supposed to think doesn’t really describe how I think very well. – Do you go to work and/or you in school? If so, what field/occupation/subjects? I go to school. I changed my school a year ago. My first school wasn’t that bad, the teachers weren’t the worst, my classmates didn’t bully me for being quiet and I had not so bad grades. But deep down I hated that school. There were so many people that I felt overwhelmed and I had to close myself in the restroom every break. I just couldn’t handle this many people. And this school had such a depressing vibe for some reason. After one of my classmates almost commited a suicide it had become even worse. I accidentally found another school that was way smaller (less people) and since it was IB it could mean I’d have better opportunities for universities abroad. And I could choose every subject. I didn’t think twice, I changed my school immediately. It didn’t matter for me that the exams would be much harder and there would be overall more work. And that new classmates might bully me or something. I mean, I was scared at first but I had to try no matter what. Now I think it was actually a great idea. I love this school even though I sometimes struggle with this much work. My subjects are my native language, english, german, biology, psychology and maths. I chose them because I’m good at them. Except for math, it was obligatory. – Describe your upbringing. Did it have any kind of religious or structured influence? How did you respond to it? It was pretty chill I guess. My parents have always supported all of my weird interests that I wanted to try and some of my dumb decisions even if they disagreed with them. Although most people would say that I should be grateful to my parents that they were always generous to me with their affection and money, at the same time they never understood me. I’ve always been a very creative and imaginative child. I’ve always been daydreaming and I used to write stories a lot. My parents thought it was some sign of schizophrenia or something (it wasn’t) and told me to stop daydreaming and focus on school and grades. I remember whenever I tried to share some of my weird ideas with them, they were always telling me that it’s pointless and I have to be more down to earth. I was also very curious as a kid and I could sometimes research some really bizarre stuff because I found it interesting. I remember my parents once found my searching history and literally yelled at me for searching some useless knowledge. I’d understand their reaction if I was searching for p0rn or something like that but I was looking for some psychology stuff lol. I started to become very secretive at this point and now I always have to be in incognito mode and I have to clear my history frequently or I’ll become anxious that somebody is judging me. And I remember when I once told them about my anxiety they literally told me that it’s not a problem and I’m perfectly fine and I should stop thinking about such pointless stuff. Religion wasn’t a very big issue for me. My parents are christian but they never tried to force anything on me. They tried to make me religious when I was a child but eventually let me choose whether I want to believe in that or not. At first I considered myself christian even though I didn’t know what it was even about. I was told since childhood that it is the truth so I didn’t question it at that time. But I eventually started questioning my faith. I didn’t like going to the church, the prayers and all. I didn’t really agree with some of the principles of that religion. I began to ask myself whether I really believe in god or do I “believe” because I’m scared of punishment. When I grew up, I started doing some research on the Bible and I realised that it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it depends how you interpret it, for me it didn’t make any sense. Also, in my native country there’s something like religious education in school and it’s basically forcing christianity into kids. I hate this. I rember a priest that was „teaching” my class in middle school and once he could say that god loves and accepts everyone but then he could say something like gay bad, trans bad. Like the fck is this?! – Do you need logical consistency in your life? I have no idea what that inherently means but I’ll try to answer anyway. I like to think that everything is connected and I can start overthinking things that don’t make sense to me, to find some explanations. I need explanations for everything. I used to be really anxious about what happens after death because that’s something I can’t explain. I mean, I can try but it wouldn’t be 100% accurate because I can’t check that unless I’d die. If I ever decided to kill myself, the reason would be probably that I just wanted to check what will happen to me. I created my own theory on what happens after death that I try to believe is true so I won’t have to kill myself. I somehow tried to base it on science but it turned out to be some irrational crap. But for me it makes the most sense so I assume it’s accurate since it can’t be proven right or wrong. It just depends what you believe in. I know my theory is not perfect and I only pretend I believe in it but I really don’t want to have to kill myself so I need to approve any explanation, doesn’t matter how irrational it sounds. – How curious are you? Do you have more ideas then you can execute? What are your curiosities about? What are your ideas about? I think I’m very curious. I want to know everything. Like literally everything. Possessing all of the knowledge possible and understanding the whole world and how it works had been my dream since I remember. Sometimes I can get into some bizarre interests that are completely useless for me but I still find them interesting, like marine biology. Anyway, I have too many ideas and usually, I end up with nothing. My ideas can be about everything and anything but usually creative stuff like ideas for songs or novels. – If money was not an issue, what careejob would you have? I wouldn’t even go to work lmao. I’d just procrastinate all day. At the end of the day I’d probably have to go to work because I’d be scared that I’d lose all the money and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself anymore and I don’t want to parasite on anybody so yeah, I’d have to go to work someday. But the thing is, I have no idea what job I’d like to have. – Are you a free spirit or do you play by the rules? If so, why? This is quite hard for me to answer. I have a weird relationship with the rules. Of course I don’t like being limited or told exactly what to do, I can be a little rebel sometimes. But at the same time I need some guidance. When I have no direction, my mind goes blank because I either have no idea what to do or too many ideas. When I’m doing some work for other people, I always have to ask about every little detail so they’ll be satisfied with my work. I have to do that because if I’m given too much freedom I tend to think backwards and do the literal opposite because I could understand the assignment differently or something like that. I don’t want others to be disappointed with my work. I always think differently than it’s expected from me lol. I remember once there was a test at school about some poem and there was a task to interpret the last sentence or something. I thought it was about time loops so I wrote about it but when we were checking the test, the teacher said it was about death. I got half of the points for that task because my arguments were good but my interpretation wasn’t the same as the teacher’s and it was a bit out of the blue. Like my teacher probably didn’t even know where the hell did I get that from. – If I asked you to take a shot with a football how would that make you feel? Would you be able to do it well? Would you enjoy it? I’d die internally because it’d remind me of my trauma associated with team sports. I used to be bullied in primary school because I wasn’t good at sports. I could never follow the ball and the general action that was taking place because that sht was too fast for me. And I used to have anemia so I literally had no strength or energy to do anything. I’m still not very athletic so I’d probably do terribly. But I think I could enjoy it if it was just for fun and I wouldn’t be ridiculed for any mistake. – If I asked you to write me an essay, would you enjoy it? What would it be about? How would it make you feel? I love writing essays in english but I hate writing in my native language (it’s more complicated than english and even native speakers can sometimes make some really stupid and basic mistakes) so as long as it is in english I’d enjoy it. I have no idea what I’d write about. If I was given a topic I could write about literally anything but if I had to choose a topic myself I’d be completely clueless. I’d probably search for some ideas on the internet and then choose whatever seems the easiest to write because I don’t want to spend 7492810847 hours on that essay. – Is it okay to crack a few eggs? If it makes an omelette? Do the ends justify the means? I guess so. Do anything you want, just don’t hurt anybody else. – Do you put things back in their proper place? I never do that and it’s going to make me insane someday. I can sometimes put my phone somewhere and after 5 minutes I can completely forget where the hell I put it and then search for it for hours. I lose my stuff at home all the time because I put my sht wherever I feel like. I wish I wasn't this messy because it can be annoying but I can’t stand order either. I get inspiration from chaos and whenever I’m drawing I HAVE to make my desk a bit messy because when it’s empty and clean it feels as if my mind was empty. – How do you behave around strangers, acquaintances and friends? I have social anxiety so I act very awkwardly around strangers and people I don’t know that well like for example classmates. I’m very shy. I stutter a lot, I say stupid things unintentionally, I tend to zone out a lot. I’m also very quiet and I never talk unless I’m being asked directly. Even if asked directly, I can sometimes still keep quiet. I can become overwhelmed a lot when I’m around other people and I sometimes have panic attacks or I can start crying for no reason. I can’t do small talk, it’s pointless for me and it seems so fake. But if I ever approached somebody for the first time and asked them what is the meaning of life or something like that, they’d think I’m insane, so I don’t really know how to start a conversation. And I really hate questions like „how are you?". What does it even mean, like wtf. My social skills are so terrible, I wish I was born with some instruction on how to act in any social situation. Whenever I have to talk to a teacher or somebody else in a formal setting, I always have to ask my mom how do I say what I want to say in a way that will be appropriate. This sht’s exhausting. I have no friends but my family is like my friends so I can say how I act around them. I think I’m the most “real” around them because I’m not scared they’ll judge me. I’m a completely different person when I’m comfortable. I can be a clown sometimes, I say a lot of dumb stuff intentionally because I don’t feel embarassed when I’m around my family. My family has so many inside jokes, most of them made by me lol. I can be very loud and talkative sometimes or even argumentative and I’ve heard so many times from my parents “if you only were this outspoken at school like you are at home”. If any of my classmates saw me like that they’d say it’s an impostor because there’s no way I could act like that lmao. I also got more comfortable with my distant family and I’m not that shy anymore when I’m around them. I can confront my uncles whenever they’ll try to playfully bully me (I really hate when they do that) and I feel so good about that. I wouldn’t be able to do anything like that a year ago and I’m glad I’m getting more confident. – Do you have exquisite tastes that you would expend effort or money for? I buy apple stuff because it’s easier for me to use. I once had an android phone and it was a pain to use. – How do you act when others request your help to do something (anything)? If you would decide to help them, why would you do so? I think I’d help no matter how I’d feel about it. I lack assertiveness because of my social anxiety. With people I’m comfortable with, I think I’d still help no matter what. I’d just feel terrible as a person if I wouldn’t help. – How long do you take to make an important decision? How would you go about it? And do you change your mind once you've made it? I’m hella indecisive. I have to ask other people for some guidance or I’ll be lost. I literally cannot decide for myself. I also sometimes seem like I have no opinion on anything but I just see pros and cons in everything and I can’t decide on the best option. Everything is shades of gray and whatever I choose should be personal preference but I always look for the objectively best solution that will be approved by my inner critic and also other people. It’s exhausting because I can’t even choose a meal in a restaurant. I treat it like some very important decision while it’s so mundane. When it comes to food my final choice would probably be something I haven't tried yet that sounds good or whatever with shrimp. I’m always in a mood for some shrimp lol. I sometimes can choose something familiar but only when I really don’t know what to choose. After making my final decision, I always wonder what if another one would be better and I never feel certain about my decisions. I’m scared of making decisions because I’m anxious that my decision was the wrong one. I wish I could try everything in my life. – If I asked you to design a plan of action, would it be easier to work alone or in a group? Do you ask for others’ opinions? or stick to your own guns? It would be better to work alone because I cannot work in a group since my social skills are lower than the bottom of Marianas trench. I can’t even work with people I’m comfortable with. I feel like they distract and overwhelm me and I prefer to get some ideas from others and then execute everything myself. When I get some ideas from other people, it immediately stimulates my mind and I can quickly come up with something. I sometimes have great ideas while trying to create something out of nothing but I have the best ideas when I find some ideas from the external world that inspire me and I start from there. After I finish my work, I have to show it to others. I need some validation from them because I want to know if my work is acceptable. With any schoolwork, I have to first show it to my sister before I can show it to my teacher so I know I didn’t do any crap and I wouldn’t be laughed at. I can’t show anything to my teachers without being certain it’s good. – A weekend best spent looks like ...? If I could do anything I wanted, I wish I could go to the mountains or sightseeing by myself or with my family. More realistic best weekend would be a weekend where I don’t have that much work for school and I can actually relax. – My biggest fears are ... There’s quite a lot of that. Most of my life has been full of the feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m really scared of social interactions and public speeches, being judged or rejected. I hate the feeling of embarrassment, it makes me feel so uncomfortable. I’m also really scared of crowds. When there are too many people around, I start panicking. I once got a panic attack at a wedding and nobody could calm me down, I was so overwhelmed (especially that there were many photographers and they were surrounding me so I couldn’t really escape from them. I didn’t want them to take any pictures of me so I put a jacket on my face whenever I saw them near me. Most of the wedding I spent outside sitting on a bench because there weren’t that many people there and there weren’t any photographers around). I’m really scared of the future because I don’t know what to do with myself and I’m probably gonna end up lonely, depressed and addicted to some crap. What I really hate is pressure and feeling controlled or trapped. Especially at school because I’m forced to do things that make me uncomfortable, like performing in front of people. And I feel like school has always been limiting my creativity and individuality. I’m also scared of bugs. I hate them so much. I can start panicking whenever I hear a fcking fly. – How much do you express yourself and what mediums do you do that through? Art? Writing? Talking? Art is my thing. But I’m more into analyzing and critiquing art rather than creating. When I do create, I express my ideas more than my feelings. I draw graphic novels. The funny thing is that I don’t even “like” most of my works. I mean, if somebody else created these stories and I was a reader, I’d rate them something around 5 on enjoyment. Most of my stories are based on some concepts I found interesting or I create stories to see how the public would react to it or just to check how I’ll perform at a specific genre rather than something that is personal to me. I sometimes write songs and they also aren’t that personal to me. Some are, but most of my lyrics are about things anyone could relate to. And I like to create some really weird analogies. I wrote 8379287593 songs about comparing some random stuff to toxic relationships. Give me any random thing and I could transform it into a song about toxic relationships. I’ve never been in a toxic relationship tho. My sister also writes songs but they are so personal that only she knows what they are about. I hate that to be completely honest. I prefer lyrics that make sense and are easy to interpret given the context. I think I create for the audience instead of myself. I express my feelings through writing. I sometimes just write down my thoughts to let go of them and it’s very therapeutic for me. I sometimes post some of my thoughts on my twitter. I really need an audience lol. – Generally where do you lean politically? Is it every man for himself? Should people be pragmatic? Does the government need to step in and help people? I’ve tried to get into politics more because I might seem ignorant since I have no political views. I see pros and cons in everything and it’s really hard for me to decide what is the best. I somewhat agree with every side. I could say I’m libertarian because I value freedom a lot, but I don’t really know. – Does it matter if something is factually correct for you to believe in it? Depends. I won’t believe in something like flat earth but not everything can be scientifically proven. I can be a bit sceptical since science is constantly improving and literally anything can be proven wrong at any time. – Are emotions/feelings an important aspect of your life? If so, then why? This is a very tough question for me. I have no idea if emotions are just chemicals in the brain and the way I react to things or if it’s something deeper. I want to think it’s something deeper because it’s more optimistic and it could mean that feelings are something individual for everyone (and my therapist said so lol). I like to think that there is something in the world that is only for me. I got very obsessed with my individuality because I have a twin and we’ve been constantly compared to each other. People used to treat us as if we were one person. Now I have to be “different” in everything, so people will finally address me by my name and not per “twin” all the time. I like to see myself as an individual being and I also see other people like that. I just love the idea that everyone is different but at the same time we’re all connected. Are emotions actually important in my life? I guess so. I mean, I don’t really know, but my therapist told me that understanding my emotions is the key to curing my mental health issues and existential crisis. The thing is that I try to avoid my feelings as much as I can because when I’m left alone with my feelings I get depressed and start crying. Every night when I’m going to sleep, I start overthinking a lot since it’s the only thing I can do, so I started to distract myself from thinking by creating some fictional stories in my head. A bit on my feelings because it’s really confusing to me: I have trouble with recognizing my feelings and I sometimes have trouble being subjective. I can even be a people pleaser. I remember I had to write an essay for my english class about my thoughts on some quote and I first wrote what I think the author meant, then why it’s accurate and why it’s not and then in conclusion I wrote in which aspects I agree with the author and in which I disagree. Then my sister told me I did it wrong because I was supposed to write what the quote meant to me personally. But that was what it meant to me lol. Whenever my therapist asks me about my feelings I always answer “I don’t know”. Because I just genuinely don’t know. Even when she once told me I can explain my emotions metaphorically, I still couldn’t. For some time I was thinking that I don’t feel emotions at all but my therapist told me I just feel differently than how I think I „should” feel. I have this weird inner view of how emotions “should” be and I’m quite anxious that it doesn’t actually work like that. I can sometimes get really dramatic with my external emotions (shouting, crying, etc) but I never actually feel like that. I think that how I react is so different from how I actually feel. I never realise that I’m acting like I was angry in that exact moment but rather when people tell me that I was acting dramatic or something and after I’ll calm down I’m like “oh, I probably seemed angry at that time”. – How attached are you to reality? I don’t think I’m very attached to reality. I feel like I’m living in a simulation sometimes. The experience of life is so surreal, I can’t even explain it. I daydream a lot. Maybe even too much. I can sometimes lay in my bed for hours doing nothing and just thinking and listening to music. I even wondered if I don’t have maladaptive daydreaming at some point. I sometimes get caught up in my thoughts and when somebody distracts me I can get frustrated. When I’m with other people I can sometimes zone out completely because, for example, I saw a plane and I started wondering how the hell does it exactly work that it can float in the air, completely ignoring the people I’m with. – How thick skinned are you? Are you sensitive to criticism? I am very sensitive actually. But I think I got more thick skinned over time. I used to be such a sensitive child that literally anything could make me cry. Not sure if I really got more confident or if it’s the medicine I’m taking for my anxiety tho. I’m also a huge empath. Whenever I read a book or watch a film, I literally “transform” into the main characters and feel everything they feel. I remember I tried to read The Sorrows of Young Werther for school and I couldn’t finish it, I wasn’t able to handle this much negative feelings. I just read the summaries and hoped I’ll pass the test. I also started reading a manga called Chi no wadachi recently and it killed me. I’m fine with constructive criticism. I like criticism if it’s intended to help me improve and I hate it when somebody does that just to sht on me. I can get aggressive sometimes when somebody criticizes me all the time, even when I improve my work and they still can see something bad about it. I really hate it because it doesn’t help me at all. If I get insulted, I try not to care or not show that I care, but I actually deeply care at first. I usually forget about it and move on quickly but it’s still somewhat hurtful I guess.
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition One of the rules of the Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every square?” Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either. Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
Why? What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format! Planning: The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons). Numbers: For this card, I officially read 32 books for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems for a total of at least 2,739,975 words (the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time). I read 189 different authors. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online). 1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold: Frozen Fairy Tales edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
3. Optimistic Spec Fic: Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
Hard Mode: Yes. <3
Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy: The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic: Life Within Parole, Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
7. Novel Featuring Exploration: No Limits edited by Peter David (original anthology)
Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
8. Climate Fiction: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
9. Novel with a Color in the Title: The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
10. AnyFantasyBook Club Book of the Month ORFantasyReadalong Book: Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
11. Self-Published Novel: In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs: Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
13. Novel Published in 2020: Shadows & Tall Trees 8 edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
14. Novel Set in a School or University: Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
15. Book About Books: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
16. A Book That Made You Laugh: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
17. Five Short Stories:
Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
That Ways Lies Camelot by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.
Hard Mode: … Yes?
Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
18. Big Dumb Object: Alien Artifacts edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
19. Feminist Novel: Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
20. Novel by a Canadian Author: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
21. Novel with a Number in the Title: Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
23. Novel with a Magical Pet: No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama: Eerie Archives, Volume 1 edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
25. Novel Featuring Politics: Retief! by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
Favorite collections:The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
The End Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason. Oh. Never mind. I get it now. All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there. If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis or The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020, is also a fun way to explore short fiction. And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF, FIYAH, and Fantasy & Science Fiction for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside, and Tor.com for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction. Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology. I’ll end this with the following:
an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
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