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[Review] Ranking all the Switch shmups Ep25 - Q-YO Blaster
There was a time when I believed that shmups could only feature ships. Then games like Parodius came to challenge that belief. If an Octopus can be the player, then anything is possible. And don’t get me started on Cho Aniki… When it comes to unusual characters for a shmup, it’s always a coin toss. They could either be the most fun you’ve had in a while or end up being a disappointment. Time for me to toss this coin! Publisher: Forever entertainment Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jun 27, 2019 Price: $9.99 Tate: You can, but you might need to tilt your head Q-YO Blaster is by far the strangest 2D horizontal shmup I’ve reviewed for this ranking list. The gameplay and mechanics aren’t anything particularly odd, but there’s something about the presentation and the lore which is legitimately fascinating. For some reason it feels like a game developed by someone out of this world who learned about our culture through animated movies.
SATURDAY MORNING SHMUP
One of the aspects that tipped me over the edge when deciding what to review was the art style. Keeping up with the animation vibe, Q-YO Blaster sports an old school cartoon art style. Enemies will be colorful creatures with quirky details such as baseball caps, big eyes or even Mickey Mouse styled gloves. Their animations are equally as comical whether it is their attack animation of their death animation. Of course, cartoony can be used to describe maybe half of the style. The other half is probably more akin to a sci-fi coat of paint. Along the many bugs and animals, there’s also a great deal of robots, monsters, heavy weaponry and even blood running rampant (or maybe it’s oil?). It does makes sense considering the bugs came from space, and it definitely adds a touch of mystery when navigating through the stages of Q-YO Blaster.
EVERYONE IS HERE!
My original expectation of the game was to have a few pilots including the Q-YO, floating dog head from the screenshots and doggy airplane. Little did I know that Q-YO Blaster has more pilots than I have fingers in both of my hands. Pilots are arranged into 3 different teams. Each pilot has different stats which include damage, speed and fire. The teams can have +damage, +endurance or a mixture of both. Fortunately, despite the outrageous pilot designs and sprites, their hitboxes are all the same. After picking your pilot, you can pick one of 7 different special weapons to round out your style. From whichever angle you want to watch it, Q-YO Blaster offers a crazy amount of customization options. The defining feature of each team is their assistant. Assistant are powerful screen-wide effects that trigger once you fill the assistant gauge. The gauge can be filled by continuously shooting and defeating enemies. Once filled, you can hold the fire button to unleash its effect. The effects are a screen explosion that clears bullets, a temporary shield or a 360 barrage of missiles.
BUILDING YOUR OFFENSE
With all of the previous elements combined, you can play as one of 112 possible combinations of team, pilot and special weapons. In terms of weapons at your disposal, you have 3: your basic shot, your special weapon and your assistant. Your basic shot is an infinite gun that shoots bullets straight ahead with some degree of spread. The first shot is always straight, so you can opt for manual rapid fire to keep a straight line of fire. Alternatively, you can hold the button and just auto-fire. Occasionally, you’ll find power-up weapons flying around the stage. This power-ups will grant you a limited weapon when collected. These extra weapons are considerably faster than your basic shot at the cost of having limited ammo. They also have a unique effect on their very first shot, once more giving you a choice between manually shooting or going with the auto-fire.
ALSO BUILD YOUR DEFENSE
One defensive tool you have at your disposal is the pulse. Pulse clears every bullet on screen and turns them into gems. When collected, this gems will increase the level of your special weapon gauge. This special weapon will be whatever you picked on the character select, and has 3 different levels of strength depending on how many gems you have collected. It also comes with some slight invulnerability so you can use it to get out of sticky situations. The caveat of pulse is that you can only carry 3 stocks, and it is only refilled by collecting extra pulse power-ups. I have mixed feelings about this limitation, as I feel it plays an integral part of your offensive game plan. Its hard limit prevents any smart usage other than just a get-out-of-jail card. I would have loved if it had a gauge like the assistant, as that would have created a balance between building pulse and shooting your special.
Every stage carries a sort of familiar scenery. I like to think of it as Toy Story levels. Considering the characters are Q-YOs and bugs, it makes sense for the scenery to be a relatively small scale such as houses or gardens. I find them to be very charming, or it might be just my nostalgia kicking in because I grew up with Toy Story. Nonetheless, I really dig the stages. At the end of each stage, there’s a very comical boss waiting for you. These bosses represent whichever vibe you got from the level. For example, the boss of the garden level is none other than Queen Bee herself. Bosses turn the action up to 11 featuring huge bullet patterns and significantly more aggressive tactics. My one complaint about the bosses is that they feel a lot like a flow chart. They have a couple of attacks and will cycle through them in the same order all the time. Assuming you can dodge them, it’s only a matter of repeating the same moves over and over until the boss goes down. This is even worse on the harder difficulties when the bosses have much more HP. The most interesting aspects of the stages are the end rewards. Similar to many rogue-lite games, clearing a stage will let you choose a perk for the rest of your adventure. The perks are always the same, but include upgrades such as increased speed, faster shots or even 1ups.
Despite being a shmup, I really recommend paying attention to the story! It really is something else! I don’t think it actually makes much sense, but there’s something about the way it’s told that crashes my brain. It does have some powerful moments as well! Including that one stage with the sad music and the rain. I don’t want to spoil it, but it really hit me hard. I didn’t delve too much into game modes, but there’s basically classic and arcade. Classic is your base mode with the entire story and 3 selectable difficulties. If you don’t want to go through the story every time (even though it is skippable), then arcade mode is for you. Arcade mode features 0 cutscenes, so it’s all fun and games. Arcade mode is also much harder, but has 99 continues.
HARDER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
I have to make one of my classic parenthesis to talk about difficulty. Being honest, I think the expert difficulty and to some extent arcade are pretty terrible. The reason is because of the way the game is balanced as a result of them. Harder difficulties feature faster bullets and more complex patterns, but also feature increased vitality for the enemies. The increased lethality of the enemies makes for a hearty challenge, but all good is wiped out by the tedium of enemy endurance. What I found out was that enemies are very durable in the harder difficulties. Rather than creating a fun challenge, it makes it incredibly hard to destroy enemies. Most enemies feel like sponges that just refuse to die unless you have a special weapon. Some enemies feel outright impossible to kill before they leave the screen, an issue which hurts a lot when it comes to homing projectiles that need to be destroyed. Fun and dynamic dog fights become grindy situations where you focus on a single ship and fail to destroy it while having others flood the screen. I really think harder difficulties would have been better without the added HP on enemies but retaining the faster bullets and harder patterns.
SLOW AND STEADY DOESN’T WIN THE RACE
While on the topic of hard difficulties, the homing bullets are another culprit behind the reason the difficulty isn’t fun. I’ve never been a fan of homing attacks as they feel cheap, but it feels like it wasn’t play tested because some slower ships can’t actually avoid a homing shot without the speed upgrade. To be fair, no one shoots homing bullets on stage 1, so taking speed is utmost priority. One thing I do like about speed is that most boss patterns allow you to dodge at high speed. You can’t slow your speed, so it’s nice that there isn’t finesse required to survive some waves.
A LITTLE BIT MORE TIME IN THE OVEN
If I was on a game show about quick words and someone mentioned “Q-YO Blaster”, my response would be “rough”. While some aspects of the game are really cool, there are other where it feels a little bit incomplete. Some enemies don’t match the visual quality of others such as Major Tomm. The UI and menus also seem to come from a prototype version. There’s also a sort of bug where if you die and use a credit, the game immediately pauses. Not a big deal, but it feels out of place. The customization screen is also all sorts of blurry. You can’t remap controls either, which is a shame considering the shoulder buttons would really come in handy. Most of these issues aren’t a big deal by themselves, but they taint the final product by making it feel a little like shovelware. The game is really fun though, so it is sad to think about having it fall under that umbrella.
So the mandatory question is, is it fun? It definitely is! With its bizarre and unsettling vibe, Q-YO Blaster is still tons of fun to play. While there is certainly a lot of room for improvement, Q-YO Blaster is still a solid choice for a shmup if you are fan of the cartoon style, of the horizontal shmup format or just a fan of little critters in general. THE RANKING SO FAR:
Steredenn: Binary Stars
Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
Sky Force: Reloaded
R-Type Dimensions EX
Sine Mora EX
Shikhondo – Soul Eater
Ghost Blade HD
Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
Howdhee-ho everyone! So the other day I did a ranking of all the Showtime attacks. I’d said that if it got a bit of attention and people seemed interested in this kind of stuff, I’d do rankings for other Persona 5 bits. So today I thought I’d explore Palaces. Now, this one is going to be a bit lengthy because Palaces have a lot to talk about. And for the usual disclaimer; Spoilers ahead! And everything from here is just my own take on it. If you feel differently, awesome! I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! So, here are the main criteria I’m basing this stuff on. “Story” - Now, this isn’t a plot review, but rather a review of how the Palace feels in relation to the story. Essentially, how well does this Palace fit, and does it make sense for the ruler? “Creativeness” - How creative does the Palace feel? “Gimmicks” - Puzzles, areas, things like that. Are they good? Do they fit thematically? “Atmosphere” - From design, to enemies, to music. How does it feel? Does it match the tone of the current arc? “Length” - This is not necessarily “how long is the Palace” but rather “How long does it FEEL”. Does it drag on? Does it feel too short? Also, I will NOT be including major bosses as part of the Palace. I’ll be covering bosses another day! So without further ado… let’s dive right in with what I feel is the worst Palace. And I don’t think this one will be a very hot take. #9 - Okumura’s Big Bang Death Star Yikes Alright. I’m gonna tackle this one at a time, just going down the criteria list. So to start with the story, I don’t think that a space station makes sense, because thematically it’s a bit… odd. Realistically, the whole “point” of Okumura’s arc is that he wants to “Ascend to the political world”. And you uh… can’t ascend much further than outer space. I think they could have gotten the same general idea with the Palace being something like a NASA Headquarters. Then you still get the space feeling, and the concept of “escaping to Utopia”. I’ll admit this one is a bit of a nitpick. But it’s always been a nagging issue for me. Now, this is a pretty creative design for a Palace. A giant space station with faceless, robotic drones sacrificing themselves for their leader. It screams of Star Wars with the Stormtroopers just letting themselves get ripped apart for Palpy and Vader. And honestly I remember feeling this sort of overwhelming sense of wonder as I walked into the Palace for the first time and saw SPACE sprawled out in front of me. It’s cool. Now, here’s where the problems come in. The gimmicks. Not only are they not good, but GODS ABOVE they are repetitive. First there’s the “robot interrogation” section. Try to find the highest ranking robot. But first you need to go through all the ranks below him. If I wanted to be sent up a chain of command until I talked to someone who is actually useful, I’d call up tech support. And fun fact, calling tech support is awful and nobody does it for fun. Well, except apparently the person who designed this “puzzle”. Then we have the breaking arms and lunchtime puzzles which are just… build a bridge here, hit the button, sprint across to the new bridge, make another bridge, run back to the third bridge. I dunno. It’s very uninspired. And then we have the airlocks. Or as I like to call it, wasted potential. This puzzle COULD HAVE BEEN great. But they made it so overly complex and so long that it gets grating. Now, for the atmosphere. Honestly, I think this Palace does atmosphere very well (which is ironic since it’s in space). But it really gives the idea of a ruthless, corporate conglomerate. And while I think the music is one of the worst tracks in the game, it really does fit here. It’s tedious, repetitive, and droning. Just like working in fast food (and being in this Palace). And length. Yeah. It’s long. Probably the longest Palace. It definitely feels like it. So yeah. This Palace is kind of not great. #8 - Kaneshiro in the House from Disney/Pixar’sUp Now, I don’t want people to think I hate this Palace. Because I don’t. But I do find it to be one of the more bland ones. It’s just kind of… uninspired. Eh. I’ll get more into it below. So as far as the story goes it makes sense but… there isn’t a lot TO Kaneshiro. Like, he’s a guy who likes robbing people. We never get to know him beyond that. So a bank is kind of the only option. So it makes sense because well… nothing else would as far as we know. And unfortunately, this impacts how creative the Palace is. It’s cool that it’s flying, but the flight part is a little… irrelevant. Once you’re in the bank it’s just kind of… a bank. Like, there’s nothing really unique or cool about it. It’s a bank. All of it. The whole thing is just a normal, run of the mill bank once you’re inside. Well… except the money pit. Which is a full like 5 minutes of the Palace so ya’know. Now, for the Gimmicks. There is one. One singular gimmick. And I don’t really like it. Kaneshiro’s bank has the “letter math”. Basically he has a bunch of notes with things like D=1, U=2, M=3, and B=4. Then you go to a panel with the word DUMB on it and put in the code 1234 (sounds like something an idiot would put on his luggage). So yeah. It… certainly exists. Now I will say, I do like the atmosphere. And the BGM is, as the kids say, “A bop”. I’d say it’s the… fourth best Palace track. And the Palace DOES really feel like a bank. It’s heavily guarded, and you really get the feeling of “I don’t belong here” after you pass the main room. This is the only Palace that really made me feel like I was trespassing somewhere I wasn’t welcomed. And if you’ve ever been anywhere in a bank that isn’t the main hall, I’m sure you get the feeling. And the basement level does give me that sort of “bank heist” vibe. Now, I don’t know how long this Palace is. But it certainly feels long. I think most of this is the basement level. Once you get to the lettenumber puzzle it feels kind of like it starts dragging. So yeah. This Palace is… it’s okay. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just kinda exists. #7 - S.S. Shido I don’t know how controversial this one will be. But I don’t really enjoy this Palace all that much. It gets REALLY old REALLY quickly. But it does have some merits. Firstly, the Ship idea makes a lot of sense. Especially after Haru just goes “Here’s the metaphor!” in case the player doesn’t get it. Yeah, it makes sense that Shido has a giant cruise liner filled with only the elite as the country around him collapses. Plus, he does talk about “steering the country” more often than Ryuji says “FOR REAL?!” … okay. Maybe that’s not factual. But you get my point. Now I will say, this Palace is very creative. The idea of a giant Ship cutting through buildings is cool. And I like how it’s treated as a cruise liner because it allows for a lot of additional areas, like the pool restaurant, and obviously the usual ship bits. Now for the gimmicks… there is one. It’s the rat puzzle. And it can go fuck itself. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. Now for the atmosphere. It feels perfect. The Palace itself feels grand, powerful, and intimidating, and the score accompanying it amplifies that feeling by quite a lot. I think it’s a bit of a step down from other Palaces, but it certainly makes sense and really works in regards to Shido. As for length… holy hell this Palace is long. Both literally and mentally. It has basically 5 mini levels, really annoying and long puzzles, and a whole game’s worth of dialogue. I get that they have a lot of loose ends to wrap up but ye gods this Palace feels like it takes an eternity to beat. This Palace is the textbook definition of wasted potential. It could have been amazing. It has all the pieces it needed to be. But they squander them by diluting the palace with annoying puzzles and WAY too much tangentially-related plot stuff. #6 - King Kamoshida’s Crazy Castle Now, I know that I have this one at 6th. But that isn’t a bad thing. I personally think this is the first “good” palace. It’s nothing amazing or crazy, but for the first Palace it’s nice and fun. Obviously the Castle aesthetic works with Kamoshida. It makes a lot of sense seeing how he lords his power over everyone in the school. Even Principal Eggman gives in to him. So an idea of him lording over everyone obviously makes a lot of sense. And a bit of a fun fact, the guards in his Palace have the same voices as the other teachers. And the big Castle is actually pretty creative. For a first Palace it really sets a tone, and standard for other Palaces to follow. It’s grand, absurd, and completely disgusting. Makes sense for something formed from distorted desires. There are also some really cool areas like the chandelier hopping, and the crazy, distorted upper floors. Now for gimmicks. They’re kind of simple. The two present are the book ones, where you need to place the proper book in the proper section, and the one where you need to kill enemies to get the eyes for the statue. Neither are particularly hard, or particularly inspired. They aren’t bad though. And they aren’t overly-long. They’re standard RPG trope puzzles. Now the atmosphere is kind of… strange. Honestly, I find it hard to take this Palace seriously. The BGM sounds like something out of a 70’s porno, and the Palace itself honestly feels like 70’s porn meets Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t really fit the story content of the outside world. It doesn’t reflect Kamoshida’s abuse or Shiho’s suicide. It feels a little too silly. I still like the aesthetic, but I don’t think it really fits with the plot. It needed to be more serious. And this Palace, unfortunately, does start to drag. By the time you reach the messed up, hyper distorted floors where the floor tiles are floating around, the Palace is getting a bit old. Though this could be due to the fact that you don’t really get to make any progress during your first like… four visits. Overall, it’s a solid Palace, and a great starting point. #5 - Madarame’s Museum (I couldn’t think of a creative name for this one. I’m sorry.) I really like this one. It’s fantastic. And I realize saying that for the 5th ranked Palace is kind of weird, but honestly I think that’s just a testament to how great the next four are. Starting off like normal, this Palace makes a lot of sense… but I always found it odd that his distortion is a Museum. Because like… that isn’t exactly unusual. He’s a renowned artist with a ton of very famous works. I feel like he has art in museums. I mean, we’re introduced to him at an exhibit. I dunno. It’s a nitpicky issue that I don’t want to press. Regardless, it obviously makes sense. And I love how all the paintings in here are sort of distorted in their own way to show how Madarame has to change his own cognition to accept his art as his own. And uh… yeah. This Palace is creative as hell. Sure, at first it feels like a normal museum. But stuff like the weird golden staircase abyss, the awesome courtyard, and the painting puzzles are so cool. Speaking of the painting puzzles. There are two major puzzles here. The painting ones where you enter paintings Mario 64 style, and the Sayuri puzzle. The one where you enter the paintings is kind of cool, because ultimately it’s about remembering the path that works, while also unlocking other paths to take and figuring out which path will let you escape. It’s cool, and brief, but a little TOO easy. Then there’s the Sayuri puzzle which I love. Basically you are presented with a few different paintings. All the Sayuri, but with slightly different modifications. And you need to pick the “real” one. I like this because it tests how well you were paying attention. They start off obvious, but the differences get more and more subtle as it goes on. It’s a great gimmick. As far as the atmosphere goes, this place is great. Not only does it match the overall feeling of an art museum, but it honestly has this sort of tenseness to it. I can’t really describe it, but it almost feels ominous. And I think that fits given that Madarame himself is a rather ominous figure. We know he’s bad, but we can’t really prove it for most of the arc. And I think this Palace has a perfect length. It doesn’t feel rushed or like it’s dragging, and I think that’s more because of the physical length. It isn’t an overly long Palace as far as playtime goes. So yeah. This one is pretty damn good. I like it. #4 - Sae’s Controversial Casino Yeah. This one is going to piss people off. I know that a LOT of people have this as their favorite Palace. And I can understand why. But it has a few issues that sort of drag it down for me. They don’t drag it down MUCH, but they keep it from getting any higher on my list. Obviously, the Palace makes sense as far as the story is concerned. Sae sees her job as essentially rigged gambling. Anyone outside “the system” thinks they can win, but in reality it’s not possible. As such, everything in her Palace is rigged to make it unwinnable. Or it SHOULD be. But we have a Futaba. So we get to cheat too. “Mwehehe”. Honestly, the casino and premise is very creative. The concept of a Casino full of rigged games that you need to unrig is awesome, and the layout and mission is great. Also, I love how they have it set up so Sae actively wants you to try to reach her. It’s incredibly unique as far as that goes. Now for gimmicks. There’s really only one, because most of the time you’re either walking around or killing things. And this gimmick… kind of sucks to be honest. I’m talking about the House of Darkness. It’s the only part that is more than a cutscene, standard area, or standart fight. But all it is is a standard area you can’t see. And it sort of sucks. It’s really… boring. And kind of lengthy. It’s pretty bad. As far as the atmosphere goes it uh… well, it certainly feels like a Casino. And Sae’s presence throughout makes it feel much like how the plot does outside. Sae and the SIU are closing in, rigging the game and challenging you to take the fight to them. It’s great, and I love the plot elements here. And now onto my major gripe. The length. This is definitely the shortest Palace. And it feels short half of the time. The problem is that the parts that DON’T feel short are painfully bad, and feel painfully long. I’m talking mostly about the Dice Game, and the House of Darkness. As I just said, the House of Darkness is little more than some dark corridors. And unfortunately, the Dice Game is the same, but without the darkness. There’s no real “Game” to this Casino. It’s just a bunch of drab, grey hallways that feel like a nuisance to traverse. It sucks when what you WANT is to get to the good Casino shenanigans (like the Arena) but instead have… this stuff. It makes the Palace feel like it drags, even though it’s probably the shortest one. So yeah. I still love this Palace but it has some glaring issues that I can’t overlook. #3 - Lil Sister’s Big Pyramid God I love this Palace. Much like with my Showtime list, I honestly think I could lump my top 3 all in as my “Favorite Palace” but for the sake of this I did want to try to dive into this on a deeper level. I’ll admit, too, that from here on a lot of these placements are more on gut feeling. Anyway, to start off, this one works incredibly well as far as story. Throughout the entire Palace we see Futaba go back and forth between wanting help and rejecting help. Her shadow knows we’re busting in from day one and follows us around just like Sae does. But due to her desire to push people away, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle against her to save her, even though she wants us to save her. And the fact that her Palace is a pyramid out in the middle of the desert is awesome symbolism for how Futaba’s position is. She hates the idea of being near other people, so she locks herself away. Now, I personally think this Palace is super creative. It has a nice blend of ancient Egypt with the pyramid, but also ultra-modern tech stuff. Random flecks of data appearing all around, mechanical traps, and the room before the boss which is basically a massive data stream with floating hunks of pyramid floor in it. It’s just so cool. It’s a combination of ancient and modern that shouldn’t work, but does. As for gimmicks, there are three major ones here and I think they’re all great. Firstly are the Anubis puzzles. These are pretty simple, but the gist is you grab an orb from one statue and need to put it in another. However taking them blocks off certain paths. It’s not super hard. But I like it. Next, there is the binary puzzle. Again, fairly simple. There’s a red column and a blue one, and you need to put in certain binary codes in these columns to unlock certain doors. Finally, there’re the picture puzzles. And honestly I love these. You come to a mural of something important to Futaba’s life and you need to rearrange them to make the picture “correct”. I love it because the scrambled appearance is symbolic of Futaba’s distorted view of these events. And they get harder as you do more, but never overly hard. It’s just a quick, fun mini-game. As for atmosphere, I think it does a great job of showing the isolation, desperation, and mistrust Futaba feels. The music score (my 3rd favorite Palace theme) is absolutely amazing and the wailing guitar helps to show the pain in Futaba’s heart. And while this one is lengthy, it never feels overly long or overly short. It changes up the pace enough to feel fresh, and doesn’t overuse the elements it has. So as you can see, I have no problems with this Palace. Only things I like. Which is why Placing these top three was so hard for me. But I think the things I like in the other two I happen to like more. #2 - The Public’s Prison. Memes and Mentos. Now, Mementos itself is kinda bleh. We all know this. But the Depths of Mementos, the Prison of Regression, is absolutely incredible. And I KNOW this one is going to be controversial as hell. But I can’t help it. I love this Palace. It’s so good. To start with, obviously this one works with the story outside because… well… it’s the one most linked to the outside plot. This is about every single person in the world being unwilling to commit and plot their own lives. And this place thematically matches. It’s a prison, because every person sees themselves as a prisoner. And the creativeness levels are off the charts. Sure, they could have gone with a stereotypical “hell” level but they didn’t. It’s a prison of almost alien design. It’s the kind of weird, off the wall evil that I’d expect to see in Mass Effect. Like I could see the Reapers living in the Prison of Regression while they wait for the next cycle. It’s just so damn cool looking. I love this place. It’s so menacingly malevolent without beating you over the head with the horror it holds. Plus the post-fusion part in the second half is so wild and insane looking. It looks like something I’d expect to see in Doom. The Gimmicks are also great. While there’s only one real Gimmick, it’s a fun one. A puzzle where you need to light up tiles on the floor. The first one is a gimme. But they increase in difficulty to hilariously easy, to you actually needing to complete other puzzles first in order to do the one necessary to progress. I already sort of touched on this with the creative part, but the atmosphere of just existential dread this place holds is immense. And the BGM, Freedom and Security (my personal favorite Palace theme) really hammers that home. It has an eerie, ominous feeling to it that really works well in tandem with the rest of the level. And as I mentioned above, tt flips from being dreadful and terrifying, to having our heroes triumphantly running up a staircase of bones, destroying Yaldy’s minions as they march on to kick his ass like Doom Guy sprinting through Hell to kill a big boss demon. Finally, it’s a perfect length. Not overly long, but not short either. And the plot elements halfway through give a nice breather and tone shift before thrusting you into the awesome second half as you climb up to the Grail’s chamber. If I had to give a reason why this one is in second place, it’s that the second half is a little too focused on being cinematically badass that it foregoes exploration in exchange for a linear path. And while it works well, I still prefer the first half of the Palace. #1 - Dr. Snack’s Hospital of Happiness Here it is folks. My Number one. I don’t think this one will be as controversial as some of the others. But even so. Here we are! So to start, obviously this Palace makes a ton of sense for Maruki. He was intended to get a research lab built in the spot where this Palace forms, and the Palace IS a research lab. So obviously that works. And the whole concept was about using cognition to change people’s lives for the better. We can see this in the Palace during the quiz section where we see how Maruki guides patients to his happiness. Which is thematically nice because it shows that while Maruki claims he wants everyone to be happy with their desires, he actually wants them happy with his. Anyway, I’m rambling. The Palace is great as far as story and makes sense for the character. And yeah. This place is creative as hell. It’s not just a research lab. It’s a massive spire with rainbow bridges, massive telescopes, and a dome on top meant to represent heaven since Maruki sees himself as God. It’s the most grandiose, over the top thing in this game. And I’ll remind you, in this game you shoot a God in the face with a sword gun. *ahem* anyway. The gimmicks here are really damn good. The first thing is the awesome Quiz section. I do think it’s a little bogged down by the whole “The team must meet and discuss” part, but I love how this whole thing is just “How well do you know Maruki?”. If you know him well, you get a reward. If you don’t, you get punished. Then there’s the color bridge section which is just “If the Okumura space tunnels didn’t suck”. It’s so good because it requires a lot more strategy and a lot less luck than the Okumura port. And if you make a mistake it’s a much easier fix. The atmosphere is amazing too. The sterile but obviously corrupted first bit when you’re in the main building feels very clinical. But the strange bits of oddities really gives off an other-worldly vibe. Remember how I said the Prison of Regression felt like it had Mass Effect vibes? This part has like… Resident Evil vibes. It’s like a modern hospital tainted by an otherworldly monstrosity and it’s awesome (and, actually, not far from the truth. Much love, Azathoth.) Oh, and the BGM is my 2nd favorite. I fucking adore Gentle Madman. As for the length, I do think it’s probably the longest Palace. It definitely comes close with Okumura. The difference is you’re actually forced out about a third of the way through and, if you’re playing “optimally”, you won’t be back for a bit. So it never feels like it gets old or tired. And it changes up often enough, and with drastic enough changes that it never drags on like the bottom three Palaces on this list. So it’s great. GOD DAMN I LOVE THIS PALACE. Aaaaanyway. That’s my list. I’m thinking I’ll do bosses next, but I dunno. What would you guys want a massive rank essay on? Bosses? Awakenings? Phantom Thief members? Party Personas? And what are your thoughts on this here list? How would you rank the Palaces? I hope you all enjoyed this, and I look forward to hearing your opinions in the comments!
We need to talk about The Outer World's setbacks, and how much it is streamlined from Fallout New Vegas and other RPGs
Well, I don't really know how to start this. I finished the game last night and I have been thinking about this all day long. Clocked close to 40 hours, did what I'm pretty sure was most if not all quests (even tasks), and played on Hard. My overall impression is that The Outer Worlds is sadly not nearly as good nor as profound as Fallout: New Vegas as so many outlets claimed... and it has some questionable cut-corners and design choices. Below you will find an absurdly long list of points in which this game falls short when compared to its predecessors, and even some of the games it is being frequently compared to. Please do note that this list focuses on things within the scope of a AA game — stuff like game balance, design, structure and writing (spoilers are marked and at the end). Visuals or direct-gameplay are not even discussed. It goes as follows:
No true disguise system: There is a small interaction in the beginning of the game (I can't recall the exact NPC), in which someone points out that you are dressed as a Marauder, and such a thing is dangerous. However, this is the game falsely insinuating that a 'proper' disguise system is in place - this is a facade. The only instance in which there is a disguise system is on marked/segmented areas in which your holographic shroud briefly clouds your identity. Other than these segments, the game (or NPCs, for that matter) never react to your faction clothing. Not only are there not consequences for wearing an opposing faction armor, the NPCs do not even address it.
Quest design: Early quest design is exemplary, especially on Edgewater. However, as the game opens up, quite the number of quests start to deteriorate into fetch quests. Go and retrieve this, go and kill that. Which isn't the crux of the problem — I think simple quest premises are fine as long as there are other elements to support them, like an intriguing plot point, twist, unique enemy type, or something along those lines. Unfortunately, that's not often the case. What I observed is that Obsidian largely chooses a different approach: paddling and extensive exposition dumps. It is good to have extensive dialogue, but sometimes NPCs use sentence structures that no human being would ever use to get their point across. They extend their ideas too much, ramble, digress, and lose sequence structure just to make room to a corporation-shenanigans joke, or a snarky passing-by comment. Other times the quest require you to go to a far away place to talk to another person and then come back. This way the game artificially extends its duration, and also makes objectives seem more complex than they really are. However, it would be unfair to say this problem is unique to The Outer Worlds — most if not all RPGs have quests like this, and not all missions can be the crown jewel of level design. I understand that.
Limited ammo types: If I am not mistaken, the game only has three ammo types: light, heavy and energy. No several ammo configurations for a specific weapon as New Vegas had. There is no piercing, hollow, explosive or any such ammo type. Any variation in ammunition comes from your equip weapon mod / abilities. Fallout 4 had more ammo types than this, even.
Uninteresting perks: Perks are the most boring, uninteresting ones I have ever seen in an RPG. Period. Damage buffs, increased carry weight, companion cooldowns and the likes. No perks like Cherchez La Femme / Confirmed Bachelor, Terrifying Presence, Wild Wasteland, Cannibalism, Mister Sandman or Bloody Mess. Perks that changed the game in fun, dynamic ways that did not have to do with simple stats boosts. Even Fallout 76 has more interesting perks. Taking flaws is straight-up counterproductive as a single perk point, which can only be wasted in garbage perks, is absolutely not worth the often enormous debuff it implies.
No skill checks outside of dialogue: One of my biggest gripes. We all complained when Fallout 4 shipped with no skill-checks, and they were added to Fallout 4: Far Harbor and 76. I could not find a single skill-check outside of dialogue. Specializing in skills like medic or engineering is utterly useless in this regard because you never get to heal anyone or repair anything. Those people in the sick-house on Edgewater? Groundbreaker? Yeah, you can die as, even though I have maxed medical skills, I can't offer my help. I can only offer my help to the guy at the beginning so you feel like there'll be similar options later (there aren't). There is also one robot you can repair on an early-game quest... but you repair it through dialogue. You don't even use components or scrap to do so. I do not count hacking or lockpicking as 'skill-checks' as those are ingrained in the experience differently. Some people like the corresponding mini-games gone, but I disagree. They added another layer of gameplay on an otherwise same-y experience. They were skills that required thought and actual player input - even if tedious at times.
Only two armor slots: You cannot equip rings, collars, layered armor pieces, glasses, or anything of the sort. Only an armor and head-ware. You cannot customize them in any way that isn't some under-the-hood stat increase. This severely limits the flexibility of builds as you are limited to only two armor pieces, which means only two armor effects. Besides, visual customization is severely impaired as most endgame characters will look strikingly similar as a result of the very limited armor selection - which I guess doesn't matter as you never even look at your character, which brings me to...
...no third-person camera: I suppose this is part of the scope of the game. I seriously don't think they intended to release this game as solely a first-person-shooter from the start. It goes against immersion to never be able to see your character. Visual customization is useless because you only see your face up-close during customization. I know the screen rotates whilst you are idle, and I shouldn't even say it, but that's obviously not enough to get a feel for your character appearance.
No companion wheel: I know that there's a companion sub-menu, but it is rather limited compared to the companion wheel from Fallout New Vegas, or the companion dialogue from Skyrim. You can only change their attack pattern, weapon type of preference, and travel distance relative to the player. You cannot order them to hold position, pick up an item, perform a specific action, activate a button, etc. You cannot talk to them about anything unless it's about a point of interest or related to a quest, or part of their small conversation pool. You can't ask them how they are doing or their current interests. I know companions had some dialogue during most major quests in the game, but so did most companions in New Vegas and Fallout 4. I want to add, nonetheless, that this is solely regarding the companion managing system, not the companions themselves. They are well developed, very unique and distinguishable from one another, and their quests are well done (save for Felix's and Ellie's, that are not bad but clearly too short).
Reduced weapon variety and lackluster unique weapons: Unique weapons are as bad as they were in Skyrim and Fallout 4, although at least the latter had more diversity in weapon effects. Most unique weapons are not even re-skins: they are just re-named base weapons with special mods. They are oftentimes weaker than weapons found in the over-world. Weapon variety is bare-bones, with most weapons behaving similarly, lacking punch or weight. Science weapons are mostly gimmicky and serve little purpose in combat, unless one specializes in them (and you are still weaker than if using base weapons with more flexible skill alternatives). No fist nor unarmed weapons.
Enemies: Fallout New Vegas had «legendary» enemies that were unique versions of base enemies, often bigger, stronger and possessing better loot. The Outer Worlds has «colossal» enemies, which just offer a bigger pool of generic loot — which, I should say, the loot in this game is terrible. Ammo and consumables are the bulk of it, with most consumables being redundant since they offer the same buffs, which are rarely needed in combat as the game becomes a cake-walk on any difficulty other than Supernova. Enemy variety is rather lacking. Only one type of generic bandit (marauders), which share like five enemy classes and three outfits. Very little variety in creatures too.
Reputation facade: There is a reputation system, as we all know, but it's really just a facade. Reputation is almost meaningless. The Board was after my head, and then I completed the quest in which you participate in a film, and I went to neutral again with them. Reputations falls to two things: their vendors cut their prices by 25% if they like me, or they shoot me on sight if they hate me. The in-between is nothing. Having negative reputation with a faction is negligible as you can quest your way out of their perception and be in their good graces again even if you did irreparable damage to them.
Binary choices: Everybody always cites Edgewater as brilliant quest design in which no choice feels ideal: that is correct. It's an excellent quest chain; one of the best I've seen in a game like this - no wonder they used it in the very beginning, as quest flow, progression and choice seriously deteriorate the more you play. Choices start to become very binary as the whimsical nature of the character's ideologies makes it rather easy to pick sides depending on your role-playing morale. Most factions are one-dimensional.
World & Simulation: The game feels static and in a constant state of hiatus, waiting on the player to set it in motion. NPCs do not have a schedule, the same NPCs always stand still on the same spot, at all times, until they are no longer needed to progress the game. Exploration is not rewarding as loot is limited, enemy variety is bad, and most interior cells in the worldspace are too similar among one another. There are even in-lore reasons that establish these limitations, as the corporations are cheap and they ship these futuristic, systematic enclaves for the inhabitants to build and settle in. This only makes it weirder that, for whatever reason, Obsidian decided to imitate Bethesda's cell streaming system using Unreal Engine 4. Bethesda uses different cells because they keep track of many dynamic systems: random events, NPCs schedules, dynamic objects, dynamic quests, and any disruption the player character can cause to those core systems. The Outer Worlds doesn't need to keep track of any of that - why does it still need to load the worldspace in chunks? Weird.
And, perhaps my biggest gripe with the game, is the way its ending is handled. Obviously I will mark it as spoilers, so feel free to turn away now if you haven't finished the game — despite my grievances, I still strongly recommend you to finish it. Alright then. The game ending is abrupt, lacking of weight and gravitas, and seems more preoccupied with establishing the premise of its sequel rather than closing off this chapter of the story. Most endings, to my understanding, involve a similar chain of events. Dr. Phineas Wells is captured and sent aboard a high-security prison, located on the planet Tartarus. No matter what you do in the game, most paths will lead you here, with slight variations (like who is taunting you along the way). The game makes it so that you think you can turn in the Doctor, but every time you are close to do it, there's always an excuse as why you cannot. This a major issue with the game - it constantly paddles you with arbitrary obstacles like high-prices for a nav-key, or being forced to travel to different worlds only to talk with someone and then come back. Most choices are not really 'felt', just heard of during the ending. To a certain extent, most of the choices feel meaningless. When you make a choice — not all choices, mind you, but most of them — the world just freezes in this state of hiatus. Nothing really happens until you end the game, and when you do, you only get to hear about it in a slideshow presentation. That on itself it isn't that disappointing, but... there were like twenty slides. A lot of things didn't get closure, and most were rather vague. For example, what happened to that lady scientist that was either working with aliens or solving the starvation problem on Halcyon? No matter what you choose, you never hear from her again and she's not mentioned during the ending. What happened with most of the Corporations now that The Board is disbanded? Most choices are hardly explained during the ending at all. It's like the story accelerates to conveniently corner you into an ending. And, besides... the ending mission was lackluster. Seriously, I have major gripes with Fallout 4's main story, but storming the Institute felt more satisfying than this. Even more so, in Fallout 4 at least you get to choose different endings — even if they are too similar from one another — you destroy the Institute, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel, or a combination of these factions. In The Outer Worlds, most endings involve Phineas trapped in the Taruarus prison, with someone different standing next to him, and having the same EXTREMELY disappointing boss fight. Most endings are virtually the same with very light variations - and not that it matters, the ending slideshow is short and vague anyway. Lastly, and it is a nit-pick, I admit... for all those moments in which your companions participate and talk... why do they NOT SAY ANYTHING DURING THE END? They just stand there, and if you try to talk to them they'll greet you with their generic responses. They don't mutter a word about me assassinating the Chairman or freeing Phineas. They just stand there. I can't even say goodbye to them, and there's no closure at all because no matter what you do they eventually all leave your crew, according to the ending slides. Even your fucking robot abandons you, lmao. I don't want to do a finishing paragraph as this already extended tenfold from what I anticipated, and I don't want to risk redundancy. I'm just overall... disappointed. In retrospective, this game is a facade of a better game that seems to be there, but isn't. I wish more reviewers pointed out some of these flaws, but they seemed to have mostly ignored them. What gives? For all intents and purposes, aside from dialogue flow (which is excellent) and some of the quest design, this game is very streamlined, and hardly takes any risks or brings anything new to the scene.
Alright you dicks. This is gonna get long. (But it did go GOLD! thanks anon!) https://i.imgur.com/ae9pwNF.png (putting this here to change the cover photo.) I've seen a lot of posts asking how to make your fallout playthrough more akin to a "Metro" experience, or a "STALKER" experience. Well guess what...this guy is here, he's bored enough at work, he just bought a new keyboard, and hes fuckin ready to help you get your shit together. and just like some guy from the desert said...I never said it would be easy, I just said it would be worth it...and stable. we are really going for stability here After playing STALKER COC periodically over the years and most recently for like 4 months straight (and even making a mod for it (shameless plug) https://www.moddb.com/mods/call-of-chernobyl/addons/stcop-soundoverhaul) I have walked over every single inch of that game and I can say that it not only kicks ass...but that compared to a Bethesda game it has all the bugs with half the content. I've done EVERYTHING in that game and most of its mods. And if you're like me, you're always looking for more people to murder, more loot, more guns, and more fun to partake in while wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland. Guess what, Fallout has a shitload of content, so you're in luck. Plus it's a great candidate for uploading an unholy amount of mods while maintaining relative stability. Which is exactly the right kind of environment we need for our particular crusade and the reason I installed it in the first place. What Fallout 4 lacks is direction. It's like a 50's satire/post apocalyptic/shooterpg/serious/cartoony/silly/scary...thing. its all over the fuckin place. WE are going to give this game some direction NOW before we go any further. I dont want to hear anyone bitching about it not being exactly like STALKER. of course its not. Theyre different games, that's why you paid money for each of them (hopefully). One of them is a russian sci-fi-horror masterpiece, the other is a quasi-50's nuclear survival mix up. Theyre inherently different. One of them is russian weird, the other one is 50's kitsch. and this is also personal preference for what *I* like (but i think you'll genuinely enjoy, and that you can tailor to your own tastes). There are a number of mods that you can add to get it more like stalker (armor, weapons blah blah)...im not going for stalker recreation...im going for that FEELING you get when you play stalker. that FEELING like you need to shower and write home to babushka. So you're going to have to look past some of this shit and really focus on gameplay, or keep in mind that specific mods in specific categories can be swapped out to your liking. Dig it? Good. First fuckin things first. We need to look at what makes Metro and STALKER the experiences they are (you can skip this shit if you want, but for me it was important to look at when making my game play the way I wanted it to). ATMOSPHERE: STALKER is absolutely DRIPPING with specific things. It's more than "cheeki breeki" memes, russian pseudo-realism, and an unstable game engine ripe with funky glitches and crashes (in that respect its identical to Fallout). If STALKER nails one thing right... its DREAD. It makes you feel the urge to explore but making you apprehensive to do so. You want to walk outside and see what kind of rad shit is out there, but you are constantly checking your inventory to make sure you have what you need, and always looking over your shoulder for those fucking snorks. Its a masterclass in uncomfortable tension immersion. Everything about it is there to pull you in and make you feel like toasted shit. The music, the tone, the tonemapping, the atmosphere (find me a review that doesn't have the word "atmosphere" in it of STALKER and I'll...do nothing but be surprised) buuut, it also makes you curious as to what's out there in the world. I still feel like im discovering new shit whenever I play COC, and I think that compelling mix of dread horror, exploration and a touch of non hampering realism mixes well into something fun and digestable. There's no faux-rpg nonsense, theres no "you cant fight this guy because you aren't the right level" bullshit. It's a matter of "do you have enough food, enough anti-rad, and enough firepower to not only make it there, but wade through the shit, and then have enough room in your backpack to haul back the loot?" Never once have I felt like it was hampered by any of it's mechanics. SO, the things we need to pay attention to in recreating this in a different game: --ATMOSPHERE - the main contributors to this iconic tension are the sounds (music is the biggest one by far...the music in STALKER set the entire tone, creaks, groans) the ominous fear of attack at any second, the look of the game (drop shadows from flashlights (in fallout if you want this add "bAllowShadowcasterNPCLights = 1" in your mygames\fallout4\Fallout4Prefs.ini), the tonemap (very grey and desolate) the rusted burnt out industrial areas, brutalist buildings etc) and the feeling of the unknown. that game is really interesting because you wanna know what the fuck else is out there. even when you think you've seen it all there is some weird curve balls thrown at you and it's a world you've never seen before (for the record...that last one is the hardest to recreate and until someone (im working on it) makes an anomaly mod for Fallout 4 it is something you're going to have to live without). --GAMEPLAY - STALKER has unique gameplay where it's like a stripped down shooter, a stripped down RPG, an experiment in horror, and at the time...focused entirely on keeping you immersed. The vanilla gunplay is okay, the non-human enemies look ridiculous minus the bloodsuckers, and the snorks (snorks look dumb, but i'd be damned if they don't scare my britches off every fucking time i see one). The vanilla weapons aren't great, the firefights are okay. Buuuut. again, that feeling of wanting to explore. that feeling of wanting to get out there and see what the fuck is going on...thats powerful. because there are some games that are ripe with stuff to do, but i dont really want to go out and do it. im like "meh". but the discovery feeling is really important in STALKER, and it's also a feeling of overcoming your own fear, and the relief you get when you get back to your stash like "ah fuck...i made it". you should dread going outside your door and relish when you get back. You are also against enemies that are scary. They can be killed, there really arent any that are particularly hard to kill, but they pose a challenge in the way they kill you, or the circumstances you encounter them in (enemies that you need to run away from. well you just ran into one in a small room and now you're getting jacked). Also the gunplay feels relatively realistic as far as damage. Fallout is a bulletsponge nightmare. Stalker is headshots do work...so we are going to need to overhaul the damage system TWO MAIN THINGS WE NEED TO RECREATE FROM STALKER - ATMOSPHERE & UNIQUE GAMEPLA Now, Metro has arguably some of the best gameplay mechanics of any AAA first person shooter. they took the cliches and flipped them on their ass. The need to plan your gear as IMPERATIVE. The environment makes a difference on what you carry. The modularity of weapons plays a huge role in how you approach a situation and how you deploy. if you know you're going to be getting in long range skirmishes you loadout. if youre heading into a linear part...well buddy youll be packing a shotgun. they made ammo hard to get, they made health kits a strategy, and they made your gear and environment play in a way that if you leave your base without being properly prepared you WILL NOT succeed. Period. not to mention it does have many of the qualities listed in STALKER. but for me...STALKER works better. Metro is amazing, but STALKER feels more organic in atmosphere. but METRO feels more proper in gameplay. Also...Metro Exodus is a serious contendor for one of the best looking video games ever made. I was absolutely blown the fuck away while playing it. and this fidelity is possible depending on your hardware within Fallout. Not exact...but you can treat yourself to a graphical wonderland depending on your taste and specs. it is possible. so things we need to recreate: --GRAPHICS - What fallout does have is fluid visuals...unfortunately they are ugly, they look decidedly last gen, and they are unoptimized. its undeniable. but they do fit well together. Metro is also very fluid looking, it looks like ONE guy made the entire game in the same art style. its gorgeous. not to mention the fidelity is breathtaking. you can look at a texture through a scope and it still looks good. you can open a door and the entire room looks solid, fleshed out, and tended to. When we are modding the visuals of a game we dont want conflicting art styles in our texture packs, we dont want an ENB on there that clashes with the base game, and more than anything we want the entire game to elicit a mood. We want to feel immersed in a post apocalyptic wasteland that is actually serious...not a kitschy cartoon. If you enjoy that fine...but for me...i want dismal. I want heavy. --GAMEPLAY - Metro has one of my favorite things that i've touched on multiple times throughout this long ass tirade...you need to plan ahead. if you leave without being equipped, if you're lopsided in your equipment (too much ammo not enough health kits, or not enough filters) you will fail...or at the very last have a hard fuckin time accomplishing your goals. BUT it never reaches the point of impossible, and it never hampers the gameplay. It's not like Tarkov where any mistake absolutely beats the shit out of you. we still want to have fun. Not to mention the guns in Metro feel solid, they shoot hard, it feels like you're wrecking on shit when you're fighting...and fortunately for us Fallout 4 does have excellent base shooting mechanics...we just need to mitigate the bulletsponge and be sure that we are making both parties lethal. you want to question whether you should engage a target, or whether you should sneak by. --STORY - Sorry buddy...Metro Exodus had a killer story and you're stuck trying to find your ugly ass baby. Not much we can do about that. No Anna either...that russian minx. buuut, Curie is kinda similar and shes just a good person (robot?) all around, give her a shot. IN CONCLUSION: what we are looking to recreate is a highly atmospheric, lethal experience that looks great, plays great, runs great, and mimics the idea of a realistic, threatening, resource scarce, overwhelming nuclear wasteland as best as possible with minimal gear you may find laying around if shit hit the fan and you found yourself looting a body. to me that means real world tactical gear, real world weapons, survival options, scavenging and finding real world items. keep in mind I'm a huge military/gun/tactics nerd, so this might be a little tacticool for some...thats fine, but for me it really makes a great experience and I think you'll like it too. We are limited to specific parameters. again...no anomalies, no metro or stalker monsters, and no weird russian shit. but we can work with what we have, and while it wont be exact in every aspect...the feeling, mood, and experience is what we are looking to recreate here. YOU CAN SKIP THAT OTHER SHIT AND START READING HERE: Recommended Mod Manager - Vortex. (but really, mod how you like. im not here to judge.) Disclaimer: if you break your game...well. reinstall it. This setup has worked for me for over a month now solid. If it doesn't work for you or it doesn't fit your style, either add mods that fit your style, delete mods that dont, or dont follow this guide. TWO THINGS:
DONT ENABLE MODS UNTIL YOU ARE OUT OF THE VAULT (use "start me up")
CHECK ALL REQUIREMENTS BEFORE INSTALLING MODS. IF SOMETHING DOESN'T WORK CHANCES ARE YOU MISSED ONE ITS DEPENDENCIES.
** WEAPONS : (What kind of STALKER playthrough would you have if you didn't have a good arsenal? also...this is in no way exhaustive, you can add any weapons mods you want. im just sticking in the basics; rifles, snipers, smgs, shotguns. find whatever you want and throw them in, but these are guaranteed to not conflict or mess with game.) AK-400 - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/36873) AK-400 WEAPON REPLACER (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/38602) AK47/74 MODULAR MOD (this is on GUNNETWORK.org because it does have ripped assets from Tarkov, but the work is incredible, and uses the AK400 as a base, but adds way more customization options and more real world weapons. its a must if you're a gun nut) RU556 M4 - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/22536 / https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/35712) RU556 WEAPON REPLACER - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/33409) Winchester 1987 Shotgun - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/33313?tab=description) MPX (great submachine gun) - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/34628) L96A1 (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/38554) (for the record, i dont use this mod anymore...the weapon is SEVERELY underpowered, and i think sniper rifles should be 120-150 HP per shot. if you know CK you can bump this up, but i dont use this mod, i just use the stock in game sniper rifle because its rad.) Browning Hi-power pistol (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/20143) Browning hi-Power replacer (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/33789) OPTIONAL WEAPON MODS Lowered Weapons with a button (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/6364) Shell Rain (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/870) (not needed but for no performance impact...get it) Muzzle Flash Shadow (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/2571/?tab=2&navtag=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nexusmods.com%2Ffallout4%2Fajax%2Fmodfiles%2F%3Fid%3D2571&pUp=1) Basic Ammo Crafting (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/30048) (not needed, but for me...its a must.) - NOTE: There are holster mods for all of these weapons. You can find them if you want them. They're not needed hence not included for brevity (brevity...HA!) ** APPEARANCE : (This will cover things like player armor, enemy armor, and NPC appearance for all your dress up needs). AWKCR - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/6091/) (MOST mods need this, download it) ArmorSmith Extended - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/2228) (again...used by tons of mods) PLAYER APPEARANCE // High Speed Caps - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/31178) (hats...cool ones) CROSS Headset - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/10131) (you dont want to go deaf buddy) BF4 Armor pack (cant link this, its on gunnetwork.org, go find it. looks amazing). Modular Plate Carrier (cant link this one either, found on gunnetwork.org. search "asnavaro plate carrier") NPC APPEARANCE // Militarized Minutemen (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/29853) (makes them not lame looking) Raiders in Rags (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/27176) (makes raiders anywhere from normal people just looking for a bite, to rust covered hard asses) The Mercenary (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/20088) (adds a bunch of sweet armor for NPCs and character) BF4 brotherhood of steel replacer (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HTHJ7S_RTch8y-RptUfY67_b66JL4GmK/view?usp=sharing) (requires BF4 armor pack) GHOULS // (2 mods...choose which one you prefer) D.E.C.A.Y. https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/2500 (overhauls them completely with added shit. I like keeping my load as light as possible...sort of. So i use the next one, but this mod is GREAT). More Feral Ghouls (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/36653) (Adds more variety to the ghouls but keeps them fast and creepy. Light, easy, performance friendly.) ** GAMEPLAY : (these will change things in game that will divert the feeling from Fallout to a more...not fallout feel. also just nice shit to have.) ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE - Better Locational Damage - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/3815) (I left this completely stock how it came and have had ZERO issues. it runs perfectly, and completely mitigates the bulletsponge that fallout 4 is famous for, turning this game from an "RPG" into a satisfying shooter). Monsters to Raiders - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/17678) (check whatever you want during the installer...i personally turned off all the fucking flies, and weird monsters because fuck those fucking things, why wont you die when i shoot you with a shotgun 12 times, why are you like this, what kind of sick joke are you playing, who programmed this, oh my GOD im going to kill someone, and pretty much only left super mutants, synths, deathclaws, and humans of course) Endless Warfare - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/17626) (this one took a fat minute to get configured right, and while I cant share my setup with you if you do use it be sure to change the Randomness of the spawnspots, otherwise youll have 20 guys spawning at random places all over the map fighting each other...not really what you're going for. It adds just the perfect amount of random fights, random ambushes, and most importantly...performance. it turns a simple walk to the corner for some aluminum cans into a paranoid ridden pain in the ass, keeping you on your toes the entire time.) Survival Options - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/14650) (this mod makes it so playing on survival mode, which you should be doing, is less of a pain in the ass...allowing saves during cell changes, sleeping, eating, whatever. Enabling fast travel, etc. Set it up however you want. but its a must. set it up according to your tastes). Start Me Up - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/18946) (lets you skip the intro). Also mentioned by Nebuchadnezzer2 but never played with - Fast Start (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/29227 ) Skip the intro) Gas Masks of the Wasteland - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/17491) (seriously a game changer. I do not use the weather mod included, i use NAC which is included below, but this adds a really important mechanic on scarce resources, and really makes preparing all the more important. I have it set to only run when it rains/rad storms. All the time isnt really my cup of tea.) ** GRAPHICS : (These will make your game gorgeous) TEXTURE PACKS. Enhanced Blood Textures - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/212/) (performance friendly). Werefull's realistic blood (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/31646) (makes the blood less corny.) FlaconOil Retexture pack - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/3747?tab=description) (I run the 2k, looks fantastic). Valius Texture pack - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/318) (i run the 4k pack because it is breathtakingly on point) Vivid Fallout texture pack. - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/25714) (2k all day) -- Other visual overhauls. Enhanced Lights and FX - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/13596) (makes interiors gorgeous, dark and dynamic. Taxing.) Boston FPS Fix (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/26286) (it...fixes...the fps in boston). NAC weather mod - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/7657) (this adds more weather but also flattens the image to a more realistic and dry look. An INSANE amount of options to tailor it to your experience. Darker Nights, Darker interiors, sscreen effects...it is hard to get down right, but once youve got it set it really can facelift your entire game. It can look a little pale, recommend coupling with a good ENB. (i will include a link to my personal setting that I think looks really nice. Desolate but realistic...its not too washed out, but also not too colorful. I think its got a great look and ran on a 660 FTW with SSAO turned off (since then has been turned on and tuned. it is the one included with NAC and i take no credit whatsoever. its simply my preset files). ENB - choose whichever you like. if you are interested you can use my preset included below (edited NAC preset, i take no credit) BUT YOU WILL NEED TO DOWNLOAD THE ENB BINARIES FROM (http://enbdev.com/mod_fallout4_v0385.htm) AND INSTALL THEM FIRST. Pip-Boy Flashlight - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/10840) ( as far as I'm concerned one of the defining features of STALKER when i first played it was the drop shadow from the flashlight. it absolutely blew my mind and how realistic it looked and to this day adds depth to scenes that some games still havent achieved. For a STALKER playthrough this is an absolute must have. relatively performance friendly too. BE SURE TO ENABLE SHADOWS. (also, if you know anything about CK you can change weapon lights to spotlights with shadows, completely changing the visuals of the game too, its super easy if you dare)) Honorable Mentions: FO4 Enhanced Color Correction (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/5060) (this mod is an absolute win as far as I'm concerned. He corrected the colors of the game with ZERO performance loss and did it perfectly. It deepens the scenes and really touches up every shortcoming from the vanilla game with default shaders. IF YOU ARE RUNNING AN OLDER CARD (GTX 660 or below) THIS PACK IS A MUST. If you want a great looking game that runs well with lower specs avoid ENBs and give this a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised.) Dynamic Lights and Shadows (VERY VERY TAXING. USE WITH CAUTION) - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/34572) (Makes shit look absolutely bananas outside) NOTE: People like to run grass mods. I dont run any. The performance impact even on halfway decent rigs like mine is just unacceptable for the looks it gives me. I think the default foliage is fine, its a little sparse but for consistent performance I've had to overlook foliage mods. If you want one, search for it. See performance notes below for possible issues when installing them. If any readers have any suggestions that dont break precombines please let me know.) LAST ONE IMMERSION: (These will make sure you never want to go outside again.) MUSIC MODS (what would STALKER be without the music? seriously). STALKER music mod - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/36844/) (this ones good but for some reason it never seemed to properly fit in the Fallout universe for me. So...i ended up using this next mod) Spaceout Ambient Music Overhaul - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/959/?)) (this mod just slays. the music works PERFECTLY for the fallout universe. interiors are creepier. Night time is scary as fuck. Daytime has an epic melancholic feel to them. This mod was exactly what I was looking for in a STALKER-esque music mod. You should give it a shot. If you dont love it, head back to the STALKER music mod, no harm no foul.) HUD MODS (the Fallout 4 HUD is in your face like Vin Diesel. Lets fix that.) HUD Framework - (you need this to run gas masks anyway, just be sure to install it before the next one). DEF_UI - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/10654) (lets you edit your own HUD, just follow the instructions. if you're not into that I'm going to include my preset with my ENB setup as well (again...all credit to the authors, these are just my edits.) if youre not into THAT, then check the requirements list on DEF_UI's nexus page and you can see the infinite list of other peoples presets. Find one that fits your taste.) No More Cash Register Noise - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/100/?)) (seriously who thought hearing that every 5 seconds was a good idea? NOTE, i think disabling the widget that pops up during XP gain in DEF_UI will make that noise stop. I dont have this mod installed anymore and my HUD turns off that widget...so maybe? Give it a shot on your own setup.) Shut The Followers Up - (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/24590) (turned my experience of having someone follow me around just chatty kathy as fuck, acting like nothing was wrong during our disease ridden excursion through a desolate nightmare, with NPC firefights plagued by supposed to be hardcore ass wasteland badasses saying absolutely ridiculous shit mid fight, to a much more realistic experience composed of fights being a surprise without anyone shouting their intentions straight at their enemies. This mod is a MUST if you like followers or want more immersive combat. It really ratchets up the intensity with such a simple change.) Realistic Death Physics (https://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/4371?tab=description) (no longer will people fly across the room when you shoot em.) LOAD ORDER FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (pro-tip, if you want this mod order, simply install in this order with Vortex...not needed but you could run into potential conflicts if installed differently). (to be honest, i've only had to move around a few mods for this to work properly, namely pip-boy flashlight) - Pip-Boy Flashlight Flacanoil texture pack Valius textures Werefulls Realistic Blood Winchester 1897 Shut the followers up Survival options. enhanced lights and fx shell rain realistic death phyysics raiders in rags ru556 armory project no combat music (added by BLD) cross uni headset better locational damage basic ammo crafting Gas Masks of the Wasteland. BOS BF4 armor replacer (found on gunnetwork) BF4 armor pack (found on gunnetwork) Button lowered weapons AK400 High Speed Caps (hats mod) mercenary militarized minutemen modular AK (found on gunnetwork) more ghouls (called ghoulblood in vortex) RU556 monsters to raiders plugins (theres like 9 of em) BLD level lists MPX weapon Better locational damage Armorsmith extended enhanced blood vivid fallout NAC endless warfare boston fps fix everything else related to AWKCR (there are multiple plugins that i skipped over, but they are arbitrarily stacked in the load order, and if not listed they wont cause issues if they are loaded differently. this list is simply provided as a template if issues do arise in your game and you want to know where to put something. it is not an end all be all optimized list. my shit works good, so i included it.) THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR. Look, this list isnt going to satisfy everyone. You're inevitably going to go down the mod rabbit hole just sticking completely useless shit in your game. That's half the fun. So heres some advice. If you need to know anything about modding Fallout 4 is that it'll make you think it's running well...when you really just broke some shit that you'll run into six hours from now which either demands reloading an old save, or reinstalling the game. That said I'm going to make your life easier with some quick tips. - AVOID ANYTHING THAT BREAKS PREVIS/PRECOMBINES. Dont know what they are? Tough shit. Don't touch em. Mods that edit exterior cells (that dont include rebuilt precombines) will break them, and they will make your game run like shit. Bethesda's half assed optimization system is hanging on by a thin thin thread, and as soon as its broken its reload or live with it. Ask my 128 hour character how he felt about returning back to a 12 hour save because I broke downtown Boston and had to reinstall the game. He wasn't very excited. In fact his is now driving a bro-dozer blaming his problems on poor people like a complete idiot. Confederate flag sticking out of the bed, he hasn't shaved in weeks, smoking pyramids, its a disaster. RULE OF THUMB FOR THESE. Stay away from exterior environment mods, flora overhaul mods and scrap mods (which sucks because i really like having a clean house...in game). Texture packs and shit are fine, but mods that edit cells will degrade your performance unless you know how to rebuild precombines...which some people do but odds are you're not one of them. Things that change the size of grass aren't a big deal...but ReGrowth, Spring Cleaning, and shit like that? yeah. Messed my game right up. OVERLY TAXING ENB'S. Look, you want your game to look good. I get that. But there are ENB's out there that have plenty of useless shit enabled that does nothing but bog your system down. Poorly optimized DOF shaders, SSIL with the quality set to high that isnt turned on enough to even be noticable. shit like that. You can make a performance friendly post processing preset that fits your style very easily...and you can probably find someone who did it for you, better than you can, that actually runs well. Avoid shitty ENBs, and be sure to check off any features that don't make a noticeable difference, or that are too taxing for your setup. nothing wrong with dialing shit back for the sweet 60 CONCERNING TEXTURES It is imperative that you texture you game according to your specs. if you have less than 8GB VRAM try all 2k textures, if you have less use 1k. prioritize what you look at the most. I personally want anything im really close to to look great, therefore I made sure the packs that affected interiors were higher resolution. 2k for the outdoors stuff. The work these guys put into their packs is insane...and to honest they all look great on any resolution. So just work around your specs and youll make a great looking game. my card is 8GB, and these packs coupled with the armor packs and stuff equals out to be about 7.6 gigs of shit on my card. and i rarely experience stutter (this game isnt perfect...and does stutter no matter how clean your mod list is), so if you have a 1070 or up, these texture packs are the perfect combination of looks and performance.) NVIDIA USERS - have Geforce Experience optimize the game for you. It fixed some shadow shit for me and a few other things. I avoided it until like last week, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it made my game run. Once it optimized the game, I then went in and bumped some of the settings down, just because no matter what you're running, shadows in this game will beat your computer up. and for very little difference you can run them on medium and have great fps + visuals. AVOID FPS OVER 60 - The game breaks over a certain FPS. Do what you want, but mine is limited to 60 in my ENB. Zero issues. "but my monitorrrr", stop. This game is poorly made. Either work around it, or play something else. (here come the "i run it at 118 just fine!" people. good for you.) - FEEL FREE TO UNINSTALL AND REINSTALL SPECIFIC MODS AT WILL. Texture mods, Audio mods, small changes that are only loaded resources...swap em in and out at will. Heavier mods like Gas Masks, and NAC, be sure to follow their uninstall instructions. You can potentially break you game. I mean...i fuckin uninstall random shit it all the time, but im a moron. Don't be a moron like me. - MY SPECS (provided to compare whether you can run this setup...if you dont meet these simply turn down the graphically demanding mods and you should be fine.) I5-4670 3.4 ghz 16GB 10600 RAM Samsung Evo 860 500gb ASUS H87M Plus Some 550w PSU. Gigabyte G1 GTX 1070 8GB Custom Ducky One 2 Mini 60% Keyboard (not that its really important...i just want you to know that I have one, and that it is in fact amazing, and I dont even know what a ForkKnife is.) NOTE: I did not install the Unofficial Fallout 4 Patch. I am sure this mod list would work with it just fine, but it's been running so well since i had to revert to another save that I haven't installed it. but normally i recommend Unofficial Patches to everyone. If you have issues with the patch installed please let me know IN CONCLUSION - Fallout 4 is a fickle fickle...FICKLE asshole of a mistress, and thats even before you mod it. you will spend a lot of time tweaking an infinite number of things. Shadows mainly. You'll spend two weeks tweaking shadows. But if you take the time and mod your game responsibly you can have a completely different experience that runs smooth, caters to your taste, and gives you that excruciatingly ominous, foreboding, sketched out, melancholic, nightmare stricken feeling when you step into those STALKER boots, or when you pull down your METRO mask. It is possible. Just take it easy, install one mod at a time, make sure they activate, and as platitudinous as it is...have fun. It's not about the destination, its about the potentially frustrating ass journey. Right? Here is a link to my ENB preset (edited NAC. again, I take ZERO credit) https://www.mediafire.com/file/bf1qd0r4qlcsm2l/STALKER_MOD_FILES.zip/file Here is an obligatory Imgur album with screenshots of some sweet shit (please dont ask where I got the mods, its all contained in that 32222 character count wall of text - https://imgur.com/a/lgFlWJw reupload these anywhere, do whatever you want with them. I do not care. punk rock).
As I’ve done every year for the last couple years, I’ve done an overly in-depth look at all the cards submitted for the 2018 Reddit Fantasy Bingo Challenge. I am NOT an actual statistician, but I have once figured how much to tip in my head. PRELIMINARY NOTES Before I get into the numbers, here are some notes:
I am not someone who determines of anyone gets a bingo, so when assembling this information, I don’t question a book you may have read or where you placed it on your bingo card.
To make it easier for my analysis, I followed the idea of one book per square (or up to five for short stories). If you submitted the name of a series or an omnibus volume, I took only the first book in the series or omnibus (I didn’t do this in a couple minor cases, however). If you said you read Heartstrikers by Rachel Aaron, for example, I wrote down that you read Nice Dragons Finish Last so I could compare you against others who read only the first book.
Graphic Novels: I subdivided the Graphic Novels/Audiobooks square into its component parts. It's possible that I made a mistake if you weren't clear that you were reading an audiobook versus a graphic novel (I hate everyone who read the comic of or listened to Rivers of London). I found it is more much useful to compare comic book series against each other instead of by volume, so the person who read Monstress Volume 1 was compared with one who read Monstress Volume 3.
I attempted a gender breakdown, but I may be wrong! I said female/male/nonbinary/other based on the pronoun the authors preferred (author bios were useful in this regard), but sometimes I guessed. In a few rare occasions, I couldn't find evidence either way and left it alone. If you notice an error on my part, please let me know.
I did not look to see if the author was a person of color or other demographic data such as language or country of origin or other interesting information. It took me about 60 hours to get the data to its current point, and with almost 1500 individual authors read, it’s far too much work for me to research.
If you want to see my raw data, please click this link. I don’t include anyone’s username on this sheet. Though I only show the most popular books and authors per square below, I do have exactly how many people read what and whom, so if you’re curious about a specific author or book, feel free to ask in the comments!
PART I: What Is Popular?
Overall Bingo Cards
By the time the submissions were closed, I had 282 bingo cards from 264 people. (In 2017, we had 243 cards from 228 people, which is not as great an increase as the previous 3 bingos.)
Not everyone turned in a complete cards, though—47 cards turned in incomplete cards, though all had at least 5. (And one card was submitted with 24 complete—ouch!). So there are 6616 squares of books, short stories, and graphic novels to sift through (up from 5731 last year). 434 squares were left blank (6.2% of all squares).
I counted 6856 total items submitted (+681 from 2017). 2634 of these were unique (+173). 7097 total authors (+703) wrote these books with 1484 of them unique (+69).
Of these 6856 entries, I have 3551 by men only (51.8%), 3124 by women only (45.6%), 90 by mixed authors (1.3%), 46 nonbinary (0.7%), 20 unknown/uncredited (0.3%), 25 by male editors with female contributors (from anthologies) (0.4%).
The square most often left blank was surprisingly Five Short Stories on 25 cards; Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics was left blank on 24 cards. All 25 squares were left blank at least 12 times.
The square most often substituted with the new rule was Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics on 12 cards with Fantasy Novel that Takes Place Entirely Within One City and Self Published Novel tying for 11 substitutions each. Only Novel that was Reviewed on Fantasy and Novel from the fantasy LGBTQ+ Database were never substituted.
The most often avoided square (left blank or substituted) is then Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics at 36 times.
Most Read Books Overall:
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang was the most read book (64 times) (9.3% of all books)
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (58 times)
Circe by Madeline Miller (57 times).
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (53 times)
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (43 times)
The Poppy War was used on 9 different bingo squares. The book with the lowest ratio of number of times read to squares used (minimum 10 times used) was The Monster Baru Cormorant (11 times in 7 squares). Most Authors Read Overall:
Once again, Brandon Sanderson was the most read author (121 times) (17% of all authors)
(tie) Naomi Novik & Terry Pratchett (98)
Neil Gaiman (86)
Becky Chambers (80)
Martha Wells (72)
Brandon Sanderson was the most widely used author in 20 squares, followed by Neil Gaiman in 15 squares, and Naomi Novik, Terry Pratchett, Michael J. Sullivan, and N. K. Jemisin tied for 14 squares. Random Note: Something I realized is that someone read a Roald Dahl book for this bingo... and it was the first ever in 4 years anyone had read a Dahl book before. It's always interesting what people do and do not read for Bingo versus their possible general popularity in the real world. 1. Novel that was Reviewed on Fantasy Books:
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (7 times)
(tie) Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence & Witchmark by C. L. Polk (4)
TOTAL: 268 books (204 unique) LEFT BLANK: 14 / SUBSTITUTED: 9 *Authors: * 1. (tie) Josiah Bancroft & Mark Lawrence (9 times) 2. (tie) Brand don Sanderson & Nicholas Eames (7) TOTAL: 272 authors (166 unique) GENDER: 153 by men (56.3%) / 116 by women (42.6%) / 2 by nonbinary (0.7%) / 1 unknown Note: I was pleasantly surprised by how many different books we got for this one; aside from the short story square, the only other square with more options was the "Fewer than 2500 Goodreads Ratings." When you have it wide open like this, you get a lot of choices, though still leaning male and "Fantasy popular." 2. Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting Books:
(tie) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi & The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (13 times)
Jade City by Fonda Lee (12)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden & The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (10)
TOTAL: 276 authors (103 unique) GENDER: 147 by women (53.3%) / 122 by men (44.2%) / 4 by nonbinary (1.4%) / 3 unknown (1.1%) Note: The first square that women "win," thanks to the popularity of 3 of the 4 most popular books. 3. Five Short Stories Short Stories (all tied at 3 times):
“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
“I, Kane” by Laura M. Hughes
“In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch
“No Fairytale” by Ben Galley
“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse
TOTAL: 300 short stories (261 unique) Authors:
(tie) H. P. Lovecraft & Ken Liu (14 times)
Neil Gaiman (9)
(tie) Brandon Sanderson & Tanith Lee (7)
TOTAL: 304 authors (170 unique) GENDER: 156 by men (51.3%) / 137 by women (45.1%) / 11 by nonbinary (3.6%) Note: 60 people chose to read 5 short stories instead of reading an anthology but it was quite obviously with some of you that you were reading FROM a collection/anthology; why didn't you finish them? Collections & Anthologies:
(tie) Brief Cases by Jim Butcher; Lost Lore by Terrible Ten; & The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu (9 times)
(tie) Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson & The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (6)
TOTAL: 214 authors (105 unique) GENDER: 122 by men (57%) / 80 by women (37.4%) / 1 nonbinary (0.5%)/ 11 unknown (5.1%) Note: Not too many surprises for me, Ken Liu is a pretty popular short story writer, and Brief Cases came out last summer, and Sanderson and Sapkowski are subreddit faves. 4. Novel Adapted by Stage, Screen, or Game Books:
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (11 times)
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (10)
(tie) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski; The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle; & The Magicians by Lev Grossman (8)
TOTAL: 269 authors (90 unique) GENDER: 211 by men (78.4%) / 57 by women (21.2%) / 1 unknown Note: This was the most male-dominated square on here, I think we can all guess why. 5. Hopeful Spec-Fic Books:
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (12 times)
(tie) The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold & Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (11)
(tie) Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron & Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin (8)
TOTAL: 266 authors (113 unique) GENDER: 152 by women (57.1%) / 112 by men (42.1%) / 2 unknown Note: Even though NOT reading Chambers and Aaron would be hard mode, plenty of people wanted to read them anyway. 6. Fantasy Novel that Takes Place Entirely Within One City Books:
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (22 times)
(tie) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch & The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung (16)
TOTAL: 250 authors (136 unique) GENDER: 163 by men (65.2%) / 83 by women (33.2%) / 4 unknown Note: I think most of the top authors here have a presence on the subreddit, but I'm definitely surprised that Rowe's books took BOTH top slots for this square. 8. Novel Published Before You Were Born Books:
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (10 times)
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (7)
(tie) Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce; Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey; & The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (4)
(tie) Anne McCaffrey; J. R. R. Tolkien; & Robert Jordan (6)
TOTAL: 262 authors (127 unique) GENDER: 156 by men (59.5%) / 105 by women (40.1%) / 1 unknown Note: Le Guin dominates this, as an easy recommendation for most of the younguns on the sub. 9. Any fantasy Goodreads Group Book of the Month Books:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (54 times)
Circe by Madeline Miller (17)
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (15)
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (14)
(tie) Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett & Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (12)
TOTAL: 262 authors (53 unique) GENDER: 161 by women (61.5%) / 96 by men (36.6%) / 5 by nonbinary (1.9%) Note: Wells and Miller contribute to the women's domination of this category, with the overwhelming popularity of Murderbot quite evident. This is also a rather restrictive square, as there were only 68 books to choose from. 10. Novel Featuring a Library Books:
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (40 times)
TOTAL: 264 authors (96 unique) GENDER: 150 by men (56.8%) / 113 by women (42.8%) / 1 unknown Note: People love libraries and they love Cogman & Hawkins. Also, only 5 out of the 110 books had "Library" in their title... but 3 of them are in the top 4, hmm. 11. Subgenre: Historical Fantasy OR Alternate History Books:
His Majesty’s Dragon/Temeraire by Naomi Novik (11 times)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (9)
(tie) A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake & The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (8)
TOTAL: 269 authors (128 unique) GENDER: 176 by women (65.4%) / 87 by men (32.3%) / 6 by nonbinary (2.2%) Note: Another women-heavy square, I'm not surprised by any of the popular books or authors here. 12. Novel Published in 2018 Books:
TOTAL: 275 authors (133 unique) GENDER: 140 by women (50.9%) / 134 by men (48.7%) / 1 unknown Note: You're going to see Poppy War again and again. 13. Novel Featuring a Protagonist Who is a Writer, Artist or Musician (NOT: Kingkiller Chronicles) Books:
Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (14 times)
Where the Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick
(tie) Dust and Light by Carol Berg & Song of the Beast by Carol Berg (8)
TOTAL: 260 authors (102 unique) GENDER: 140 by women (53.8%) / 120 by men (46.2%) Note: I'm highly amused that two different Berg books tied in this case. Also, even though the highest ranked book by Sanderson is only 31st overall, his general popularity means he may not always win a category but he's often around somewhere, especially with the 20 different squares he's used for. 14. Novel Featuring a Mountain Setting Books:
The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer (29 times)
TOTAL: 257 authors (110 unique) GENDER: 154 by women (59.9%) / 101 by men (39.3%) / 1 by nonbinary (0.4%) / 1 unknown Note: If you read The Whitefire Crossing you read it for this square, no question. This was the most popular book only used for one square. Also, only 3 books have "Mountain" or "Mount" in them, and the highest ranked one is all the way down in 9th at 4 books. 15. 2017 fantasy Top Novels List Books:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (15 times)
(tie) Krista D. Ball; Liam Perrin; & Phil Tucker (5)
TOTAL: 272 authors (217 unique) GENDER: 146 by men (53.7%) / 124 by women (45.6%) / 1 by nonbinary (0.4%) / 1 unknown Note: Another one of my favorite squares for the sure number of unique books. Almost 80% of the cards have this square unique. If you look at the raw data, I recommend scrolling this section to see what might be new and interesting for you. 17. Novel with a One Word Title Books:
Touch by Claire North (11 times)
Mort by Terry Pratchett (8)
Worm by Wildbow (7)
(tie) Borne by Jeff VanderMeer & Circe by Madeline Miller (5)
(tie) Brandon Sanderson & Terry Pratchett (13 times)
Claire North (11)
Jeff VanderMeer (8)
TOTAL: 272 authors (149 unique) GENDER: 166 by men (61%) / 106 by women (39%) Note: The longest one-word title was Transformation by Carol Berg; the shortest was Ra by Sam Hughes. I think the longest one with one syllable is Scourged by Kevin Hearne. The shortest with multiple syllables is probably City (Simak) or Fyre (Sage) depending on you say that last one. 18. Novel Featuring a God as a Character Books:
TOTAL: 275 authors (88 unique) GENDER: 151 by men (54.9%) / 124 by women (45.1%) Note: Miller adds to her Circe lead with a bit of Song of Achilles. 19. Novel by an Author Writing Under a Pseudonym Books:
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (28 times)
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (11)
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (9)
(tie) 84K by Claire North & A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (8)
TOTAL: 288 total (70 unique) GENDER: 184 by women (63.9%) / 102 by men (35.4%) / 2 unknown Note: Raise your hand if you were surprised by this AT ALL, and I still wouldn't believe you. 20. Subgenre: Space Opera Books:
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (20 times)
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente (19)
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (9)
(tie) Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie & Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (7)
TOTAL: 278 authors (85 unique) GENDER: 154 by men (55.4%) / 118 by women (42.4%) / 6 by nonbinary (2.2%) Note: I'm disappointed in you all for not getting the actual book called Space Opera to the top. 21. Stand Alone Fantasy Novel Books:
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (9 times)
The Night Circus (8)
(tie) Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle; Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik; & Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (6)
TOTAL: 278 books (151 unique) GENDER: 146 by men (52.5%) / 132 by women (47.5%) Note: It's interesting to see Riddle's book make it so high here compared to the general popularity/recommendations of the others mentioned here. 22. Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics Books:
Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft (20 times) [RRAWR]
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (18) [Classics]
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (17) [Classics]
TOTAL: 250 authors (43 unique) GENDER: 176 by men (70.4%) / 74 by women (29.6%) Note: I'm pleasantly surprised that the divide between the two clubs here is almost even: 125 books (25 unique) for RRAWR / 121 books (22 unique) for Classics. This was always going to be a tough square because of the limited number of books (only 24 in the end for Classics, and only about 24 authors for RRAWR [now RAB]). 23. Novel from the fantasy LGBTQ+ Database Books:
(tie) On the Shoulders of Titans by Andrew Rowe & Sorcerous Rivalry by Kayleigh Nicol (10 times)
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (9)
TOTAL: 281 authors (130 unique) GENDER: 158 by women (56.2%) / 112 by men (39.9%) / 11 by nonbinary (3.9%) Note: I'm glad to see that people took the challenge! 24. Format: Graphic Novel (at least 1 vol.) OR Audiobook Graphic Novels:
Monstress by Marjorie Liu (19 times)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (9)
(tie) White Sand by Brandon Sanderson & Rik Hoskin & Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (7)
TOTAL: 171 graphic novels (109 unique) LEFT BLANK: 20 / SUBSTITUTED: 6 [shared with Audiobooks] Authors:
Marjorie Liu (19 times)
Brian K. Vaughan (12)
Noelle Stevenson (9)
TOTAL: 200 authors (111 unique) GENDER: 138 by men (69%) / 62 by women (31%) Note: I actually tried to convince lrich1024 to make the hard mode this year both Saga AND Monstress, so I'm not surprised Monstress had a good showing here! Audiobooks: All tied at 2 each:
Midnight Riot/Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Authors: All tied at 3 each
TOTAL: 88 authors (76 unique) GENDER: 62 by men / 26 by women LEFT BLANK: 20 / SUBSTITUTED: 6 [shared with Graphic Novels] Another crazy square in which no one really dominates because of the lack of restrictions otherwise. 25. Novel Featuring the Fae Books:
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (11 times)
Fae: The Wild Hunt by Graham Austin-King (9)
(tie) Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire & Stardust by Neil Gaiman (8)
TOTAL: 263 authors (101 unique) GENDER: 158 by women (60%) / 105 by men (40%) Substitutions Out of 282 cards, 102 used the Substitution rule. Books: No books were used as substitutes more than once except for the following 4 books: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant; Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor; The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie; & The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. Squares: 36 squares from past Bingos were used as substitutes with the most popular being:
(tie) Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic / Apocalyptic / Dying Earth (from 2017) & Sequel: Not the First Book in the Series (from 2017) (8 times)
(tie) Non-fiction Fantasy Related Book (from 2017) & Science Fantasy OR Sci-Fi (from 2016) (7)
Just One Damned Thing After Another was the only one used for the Time Travel substitute, which happened twice. Of the 102 substituted books, 54 were by women (52.9%) Note: Someone apparently would rather read a 1000+-page book by Brandon Sanderson (Oathbringer) than read Five Short Stories. I can't stop laughing at this. Also, another bingo participant decided to replace the Hopeful Spec-Fic square with Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic / Apocalyptic / Dying Earth. Who hurt you?
PART II: The People You Know and Love
In addition to the popularity charts above, I also ran through each individual card to figure out a few things:
How much of your card did you submit (a full 25, or less than that?)
How many squares had women/non-binary people in them?
What was the unique title count? As in, how much of what you read was unique to your card?
How many people have done the Bingo more than once?
NEW: How did Hard Mode go this year?
Card Completion 282 cards were submitted by 264 people. Of the multiple-card submitters, 16 turned in 2 cards and two turned in 3 (among the secondary cards, 3 were incomplete). 47 out of 282 cards (16.7%) did not fill out all 25 squares. Each submitted card had at least 5 squares filled. In 2017, 44 out 243 cards (18%) weren't fully filled out. One person had cards with only 24 squares submitted. Ouch! Better luck next year. :) Gender in Cards I counted a card as having a woman/non-binary person on it if at least one woman/non-binary person was involved. So if you read an anthology that had at least one story by a woman, it counts. If you submitted 5 short stories and one was by a woman, it counts. 6 out of 282 cards (2%) had zero men on them (with one incomplete card having all 18 squares by women/nonbinary). 16 other cards had at least 20 women. There was an average of 11.4 women/nonbinary across all cards. The average raises to 12.2 for complete cards. This differs only slightly from 2016's 12.3 average for complete cards. Two cards had zero women/nonbinary on them (both were 5-square-only cards). Among the 235 completed cards, two of them had only 1 woman/nonbinary on them Unique Title Count I specifically did not count short stories submitted, but did count anthologies and collections. (There were 300 short stories submitted and they had a very high unique rate overall). For 2018, the average number of unique titles per card was 5.2. Three cards had 0 unique titles (everything they read was read by someone else). 8 cards had at least 12 unique titles, with only one person at 15 unique titles. As more people join Bingo, it becomes harder to get those unique titles. (For 2017, the average number of unique titles per card was 5.3. Ten cards had 0 unique titles. 17 cards had at least 12 unique titles, with only one person at 17 unique titles. In 2016, the average unique count was 6.8, and no cards had 0. 11 cards had at least 12, with one person at 15. In 2015, the average unique count 8.0, and no cards had 0. 18 cards had at least 12, with one person at 18.) Repeat Bingo Readers From the survey we included int he Google Form, 31 of the 264 of you (11.7%) have done Bingo each year since 2015. Well done you! Amazingly 113 say this is your first time doing Bingo--that's 42.8%! Wow. NEW: Hard Mode 30 out of 282 cards were 100% hard mode cards. Another 7 just missed it by one square. 9 people didn’t bother with hard mode at all, including 6 complete cards. Average hard mode count was 11 squares, 12.3 for complete cards. EDIT: Thanks to mantrasong for the calculating the following: Fewest Hard Mode entries:
Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics (61/246 - 24.8%)
Any fantasy Goodreads Group Book of the Month (69/262 - 26.34%)
Novel Published Before You Were Born (73/255 - 28.63%)
Novel from the fantasy LGBTQ+ Database (78/270 - 28.63%)
Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting (78/265 - 29.85%)
Most Hard Mode Entries:
Novel Featuring a Library (167/260 - 64.23%)
Format: Graphic Novel (at least 1 vol.) OR Audiobook (174/256 - 67.97%)
Stand Alone Fantasy Novel (176/268 - 65.67%)
Five Short Stories (193/253 - 76.28%)
Hopeful Spec-Fic (195/260 - 75%)
PART III: Measuring Variety
Something I've been interested in for the last couple years is trying to figure out how to meaningfully measure the overall variety of selections per square. For example, in the 2015 bingo, in the Comic Fantasy square, Terry Pratchett was read for 42 of the 88 cards. The next most popular author had only 5 reads. That's quite lopsided!!! In the end, I decided to try to use the Gini index. The Gini coefficient is used by economists to measure income inequality, where 0 = everyone has the same income to 1 (or 100 in my case) = the income is concentrated in one individual. In our case, instead of income, I'm using the number of books read and authors read. If, for example, 25 different books are each read once, its "FarraGini" index would be 0 (all books were read equally). If 24 books were read once and the 25th book was read 51 times, its FarraGini index would be 64. So the more widely spread a category is read, the lower its index number. I've created a table below of all the categories (splitting short stories into individual Stories & Collections, and Graphic Novel and Audio) and their FarraGini indices per book and author. You'll notice that the FarraGini index for Goodreads Group Book of the Month has the highest single number for book as All Systems Red dominated its category, but also that Pseudonym has the highest FarraGini index for author, since Robin Hobb accounts for 20% of all books in that category.
As you can see above, the numbers paint a picture that we've seen in the individual square sections above--the FarraGini indices for Reviewed and <2500 Goodreads ratings are pretty low because of the variety (with Audiobooks at an insane number), where Goodreads Book of the Month and Pseudonym indicate that a book or author is really weighting numbers towards it.
How a Danish university dependent on corporate America fosters corporate loyalty in students
Students of Roskilde University ("RUC") have no choice but to accept, become dependent on, and support these corporations:
Mathworks Inc (students of statistics)
At RUC there is no escape from Microsoft. Mathworks is only avoided by students who avoid taking statistics.
E-mail service that establishes trust in Microsoft (and how it evolves into loyalty)
RUC has outsourced e-mail service to Microsoft. Students are obligated to access their Microsoft-served e-mail in order to receive official correspondence from school staff. There is no opt-out mechanism. Regular exposure to MS corporate branding in the student's UI establishes brand awareness using freemium. Students become accustomed to the look and feel of the Outlook UI, making them more likely to develop trust and cling to that interface more in the future. It's through repeated forced bonding with Microsoft's UI that leads ultimately to fostered loyalty. The loyalty is deepened further when the student grapples with idiosyncrasies like booking a room because the struggle leads to the user acquiring vendor-specific knowledge. The user is rewarded when their skill with the tool advances as they become more efficient with overcoming flaws and anti-features; as if they filled up a Starbucks loyalty card and got a payout. Unlike a loyalty card these advancements continue rewarding the user as long as they keep using the tool. When the user faces the decision to use an alternate tool they are less inclined to give up the vendor-specific knowledge that has accumulated. So overcoming non-intuitive aspects of a UI actually leads to more loyalty. The university sharpens this effect by trapping the student on the tool. Whereas being outside an organization includes freedom to switch tools anytime a use-case becomes non-intuitive. RUC has disabled IMAP access, thereby crippling students who would prefer a vendor-neutral standards-complying mail user agent ("MUA") or an MUA of a different vendor. Forcing Microsoft's non-standard protocols and favoring Microsoft UIs creates biases that raise the barrier to exit. Diligent motivated users who install Evolution or hack together a davmail proxy can escape -- but these users are a small minority and ultimately still forced to share their email contents with Microsoft and to feed Microsoft's bottom line. And what about independence? If the university can't handle being independent from corporations itself aren't students therefore conditioned to lack confidence in overcoming corporate dependency? When a self-sufficient student or outsider who runs their own residential mail server tries to send an email to an outlook.com/ruc.dk recipient, they are blocked. Microsoft has configured their mail servers to force individuals to be dependent on a corporation for email delivery. RUC has aligned with a corporation who pushes corporate loyalty even beyond the school, dragging outsiders into the Microsoft loyalty program and causing collateral damage to those who don't comply with Microsoft-dictated policy on how email must be transmitted in order for MS to accept it.
Document preparation: Office 365 or Google Docs (LaTeX discouraged)
Students are free to choose their document preparation tool, but professors and supervisors discourage the use of LaTeX. Scientific papers are produced within group projects with supervisors serving as mentors. Some supervisors are reluctant to learn LaTeX or review LaTeX code. Consequently professors urge students to avoid LaTeX to accommodate limitations of supervisors. RUC equips students with MS Onedrive accounts and one writing tool: MS Word, which is supplied with gratis copies of Office 365. This implies that using MS Word with its co-authoring feature and Onedrive is the only approach on which students can expect official school support. Note that Office 365 is unavailable to Linux users who are therefore limited to the feature-poor in-browser Word app should a Linux user end up in a Microsoft-aligned group. Some groups opt for LaTeX (vendor-neutral) and use Overleaf (a service of Writelatex Limited) for collaboration, but this choice comes with risk. If just one student in the group opposes the steep learning curve that LaTeX entails, that student likely already has vendor loyalties that they developed in post-secondary school and they will fight hard to avoid the effort of learning something new. RUC basically has the back of students who resist LaTeX, which bends groups in the direction of a corporate solution that builds vendor loyalty. Google Docs is seemingly the most popular choice. The school discourages use of the most suitable vendor-neutral technology so students gravitate toward Google Docs. All realtime collaboration options (msword, gdocs, latex) have stumbling blocks and idiosyncrasies. The LaTeX variety of issues lead students to learn something useful about the language or text editor, which furthers their knowledge of technology in a generic way that can be useful in the future. The MS Word and Google Docs varieties of issues lead students to learn about workarounds for specific flaws and limitations of those particular tools. This vendor-specific knowledge is not generally portable to other tools. It's without foundation and does not generally form a basis for building more knowledge. It's knowledge that bonds the user to the tool. The increased efficiency of knowing workarounds for vendor-specific tools serve to heighten vendor loyalty. The user becomes less inclined to migrate to a competing tool later because it entails wasting the knowledge that has no other applicability while inviting new issues to tackle.
Proprietary software labeled as "Free Software" helps propagate brand loyalty
RUC distributes gratis copies of licensed proprietary software under the heading "Free Software". "Free" has two meanings in English: freedom and gratis. The software industry specifically assigns "free software" special meaning: software that gives the user freedom. The software offered by RUC under this heading is quite the opposite of the industry-accepted term. Microsoft Office 365 and Matlab are commercial proprietary binary blobs that deny students the academic freedom of looking at the source code. The distinction between gratis and freedom when discussing software is paramount. RUC's use of the term misinforms the students they are tasked with educating. Use of the word "free" has a bigger problem: it's one of the most powerful forces in neuromarketing used to manipulate consumers according to Dan Ariely's study published in Predictably Irrational. RUC has refused to correct the heading on their English website from "free software" to "gratis proprietary software". RUC is exploiting the persuasion of the word "free" to maximize the number of students who will install software that will induce brand loyalty.
Research material jailed in corporate walled-gardens of Google and CloudFlare
Copenhagen housing crisis and Facebook's role in it
There is an acute housing shortage in the whole Copenhagen region resulting in apartments with waiting lists as long as five years. There is also a shortage of on-campus university-administered student housing that's so severe that Roskilde University has restricted the units exclusively to exchange students. Permanent full-time students are ineligible for these rooms. The school provides no service to help the 8000+ permanent students secure a place to stay amid the shortage. Students are given no information about how to directly get in contact with owners of apartments in close proximity to the university. RUC publishes a list of commercial profit-driven brokers who charge students a fee for helping with the hunt for housing or roommates. In some cases the fee is not based on placement so a student could pay fees to simply communicate with a prospective roommate or landlord without actually acquiring housing - which is a very likely scenario. Students are made dependent on a dozen or so private corporations before school even begins. RUC pays a premium to one of them ("Housinganywhere") to give RUC students VIP treatment (which in this case entails answering e-mail from students), and Housinganywhere falls short of responding to e-mail. These brokers have no obligation to get a student a booking. Students often arrive homeless or become homeless mid-term. This illustrates the inherent problem of outsourcing to private corporations something as essential as student housing particularly when resources are severely limited. The brokers' objective is to maximize profit not maximize student placements. One of the brokers charges nothing to the students but designed their website to deny service to students who don't have a CPR number (a number that can only be acquired after establishing a residence), so students entering Denmark for the first time are blocked from using the one broker who charges them nothing. Another corporate artifact is age discrimination. Some buildings try to cater for students and to keep the rentals marketable to students they impose an age limit. Every "dorm" in close proximity to RUC imposes age restrictions so older RUC students are pushed out of the city to suit corporate policy. RUC and the housing specialists and brokers RUC endorses have come up short. Enter Facebook. Facebook is the hack by which students find housing. Facebook secures student loyalty in this case not by clever marketing but simply by actually serving as a hack to an otherwise ill-served need.
Facebook invasion into official school communications
Of all the corporations RUC fosters loyalty for, Facebook is the most insidious. Facebook is a cocaine addiction compared to others. Copious articles try to help people break away from Facebook. The stranglehold of Facebook loyalty has driven Cornell University to study it. Facebook is used to make announcements to RUC students and the internal website is littered with Facebook references. In particular, there are social events that are officially school-sanctioned which appear exclusively on Facebook. Some might say "fair enough" because social events are non-essential and purely for entertainment. However, RUC has organized all the coursework around group projects. A culture of social bonding is considered important enough to justify having school-sanctioned parties on campus. The organizers have gone as far as to strategically separate student parties and to discourage intermingling across the parties so that students form more bonds with the peers they work with academically. Social bonding is a component of the study program. Announcing these social events exclusively on Facebook creates an irresistible temptation for non-Facebook users to join. It also destroys any hope of existing FB users who want to break away from Facebook from doing so. Students without Facebook accounts are naturally in the dark. Facebook non-patrons may be able to catch ad-hoc hallway chatter about school events but this is a reckless approach. When the official class schedule is incorrectly published students who discover the error in advance announce it on Facebook. Facebook then stands as the only source of information for schedule corrections, causing Facebook non-patrons to either miss class or show up for a class that doesn't exist. Unofficial student-led seminars and workshops are sometimes announced exclusively on Facebook. These workshops are optional but academic nonetheless. Sometimes information exists on the school website and is duplicated on Facebook. The information becomes very well buried on the poorly organized school website because the maintainers are paying more attention to the Facebook publication that they assume everyone is reading. Specifically the study abroad program has two versions of the document that lists all the foreign schools for which there is an exchange program. One version is obsolete showing schools that no longer participate. Both versions appear in different parts of the website. The schedule of study abroad workshops is so buried that a student relying on the school website is unlikely to know that the workshops even exist. Removing the Facebook distraction would perhaps mitigate the website neglect. RUC does not instruct students to establish Facebook accounts. There is simply a silent expectation that students have them. Some of the above mentioned problems can come as a surprise because Facebook excludes non-members from even viewing the content, so non-patrons don't even have a way to see what kind of information they are missing. There is an immense undercurrent of pressure for RUC students to become addicted patrons of Facebook's corporate walled-garden.
VPN depends on GSM
RUC's VPN service requires two-factor authentication ("2fa), and the possession factor is met exclusively by SMS messages. There is no opportunity to opt-out of 2fa and no possibility to use an alternate mechanism. Phones and service are also not provided. This forces students into the marketplace to buy phone equipment when most phone vendors have a long history of unethical conduct. Many GSM service providers have the same problem. If a student can manage to find non-controversial hardware and service they are still subject to needless tracking that's inherent in GSM technology while being pushed into establishing loyalty for the corporation, baited by the lower pricing of phones and plans that are marketed with contracts. A student should be able to reject all GSM hardware and service vendors without being denied access to the RUC's VPN service.
The FabLab uses Telegram Messanger. Offering to collaborate through a service like this is an advancement away from corporate dependency in principle because it enables voice communication without GSM service. However, Telegram is centralized and requires users to disclose their mobile phone numbers (which they may not have) just to register for an account even if it's only going to be used on a desktop. Some Telegram competitors have figured out how to offer gratis account registration without imposing GSM service on the user.
The statistics class is structured around MATLABtm, which cannot be installed without registering at Mathworks website (under Dynatrace tracking mechanisms), signing click-through agreements, and disclosing an email address. The email address is later used to promote Mathworks' products and to ask students to help Mathworks with product promotion to others. Students would normally be charged for a MATLAB license but RUC pays a high premium to ensure students pay nothing. This creates a brand awareness using freemium scenario. Mathworks marketing tries to draw students to more Mathworks products. Students have little choice but to become entrenched in acquiring vendor-specific knowledge on MATLAB to get through the class. This creates a bond and potential to manifest into brand loyalty.
Microblogging centralized on Twitter - loyalty required (new section)
RUC uses Twitter exclusively for microblogging. Without a Twitter account students are only permitted to read RUC's timeline and cannot participate in any discussion. Students must become loyal to Twitter Inc. if they want to participate in RUC's microblog. Twitter registration requires Tor users to have a phone number and to disclose it. This forces students to either expose their IP address to Twitter for their records or to trust Twitter with their phone number. Both situations compromise anonymity and as a consequence chills speech. Students are also forced to agree to Twitter's one-sided non-negotiable terms before they can communicate with RUC. Twitter is a private corporation with ultimate authority over which students may talk to their school and what they can say. Twitter has a right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, and they use it. My account was locked because (apparently) using an API over Tor is (falsely) treated as robotic use. So here I am among the public with the need to communicate with my public school, and this private corporation has blocked it. RUC gives Twitter this power.
If RUC wants to foster independence from sketchy corporations and enable students to boycott unethical players:
RUC needs to replace..
outlook.com mail server
in-house mail server, IMAP service (perhaps consult UCLA for guidance)
MS Office 365
shell accounts on vendor-neutral OS, version control, emacs+Rudel, Gobby or the like, LaTeX, LyX, Libreoffice
non-CloudFlared sources if they exist, otherwise show an apologetic warning of GDPR breach next to the CF link & state where to complain
"Free Software" website heading
"Gratis Proprietary Software"
(†) actually Copenhagen Library needs to do this, not RUC. (‡) RUC does not push students to use Google Docs; inertia brings students there. RUC should guide students away from that particular privacy-hostile walled-garden.
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