The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
WotV PvP Tactics & Mentality - Six Months of Mediena Bombs & how the Meta Evolves in PvP
*** Registration is Now Open until 9/15 for the latest Live PvP tournament, organized by u/LongTimeGaming. There is no entry fee and everyone is guaranteed at least five rounds of combat! Please PM him or myself for details on how to register! *** For today's entry I want to discuss one of the stronger live PvP strategies currently floating around the meta, particularly at the higher player ranks or with whales smurfing at lower ranks: The Medi (Mediena) Bomb.
The Medi bomb, as it currently exists, comprises three major components: a Shukuchi Mediena, Agility, and as much Magic/Magic Attack equipment and VCs as can be mustered together. If you take away any of these components the win probability of the strategy plummets. Let's examine each in turn:
Shukuchi (and forward deployment) - Without Shukuchi and pushing Medi as far forward as you can you leave a lot of squares open where the enemy team can be hiding. No highly competitive team in live PvP is sticking to the default 'three across' formation!
Agility - Medi's main weakness is her fragility. If Medi doesn't go first there's the chance that the opponent will have a high speed unit in place to OHKO Medi (i.e., Frederika) or will at least be able to reposition their faster units out of Medi's threat range. Shadow Runner on a Medi is a must of course, but VCs that yield AGI are crucial as well.
Magic Attack - Being able to OHKO at least one enemy unit is essential - a unit with 1 HP is as dangerous as a unit with 4000 HP. A Platinum Rod +5, and a high level Trousseau are the most important elements. Mag from Ramuh is useful. You won't have Medi's own mag passive available due to needing Speed + Movement.
Responses to the Medi Bomb - Sample Formations
So here are some sample formations I whipped up - note the screenshots are composites from my main account so levels and etc. are not going to be optimal. There are many variations possible, these are just starting points! Option 1 - Go Faster than Medi Gunner Girls that are faster than a Medi Bomb are close to a guaranteed win! The hardest counter to Medi bomb is a Fred that's faster than her - A properly kitted Fred can OHKO a Medi with sharpshoot off the bat without any external buffs. Because Medi + AGI VC is always faster then a Fred without, you will need to put AGI cards of your own on top of your Fred to ensure you go before the enemy Medi does. Option 2 - Be able to survive the Plume This is the second picture here - the first one had an impossible setup for Rain due to my photoshopping (I don't own Rain). There are of course characters that can survive a plume, even a plume from a super whaled out Medi. Rain is one of these - he's a magic tank off the bat and he has elemental advantage to Medi. Ayaka can stand your viktora back up post plume while Rain can OHKO the Medi. Option 3 - Be able to Evade the Plume Miranda is a super useful utility placeholder for these formations Vinera is pretty popular in live pvp these days due to her combination of speed, power, and high evade. She is essentially unhittable to teams that haven't geared with guaranteed hit options or stacked as much ACC as they can. I don't have a leveled up Vinera to test the above combination for exact hit percentages but an unbuffed Vinera should have about 150-200 evade depending on cards. Not exactly easy to hit with a plume!
A Brief History of the Medi Bomb
Finally, the changes in popularity to the Medi Bomb through time exemplifies the essential elements that define the 'meta' in live PvP: the outcome to nearly every match is a binary win or loss. Any team that is slightly better than another will win almost all the time holding all over elements equal. Medi's evolution in live pvp shows this perfectly. In the first weeks of WotV, Medi bombs were one of the most common formations available. Medi was I think the fastest launch character and once she hit level 40 she could OHKO most other units common at the time that were also at level 40 (Mont, Sterne, etc.). This meant that Medi could just run up and drop the other team. Lots and lots of Medi v Medi engagements were happening and Medi's dominance in PvE and PvP was often remarked on by jokes or commentary here and elsewhere. Flash forward to the FFT event or so and Medi bombs disappeared from competitive play. Two things happened: Frederika and increasing toughness of teams. Fred, as I said before, is a hard counter to Medi as long as she goes first and at this stage in the game almost no one had high AGI VCs so Freds melted Medis off the live PvP scene. A secondary effect was that everyone was getting to level 99 on their mains and starting to amass TMRs - Medi stopped being able to OHKO units. Medi Bombs stayed quiet for the months following FFT until Platinum Rod came out, then whales with +15% AGI off the House Beolve card could go first in most engagements and do enough damage to OHKO broad swaths of units. Now with FFT2 almost done plenty of dolphins or even minnows/f2p willing to proc 5-6 whimseys per day can have their 15% AGI cards so Medi bombs are more accessible. Essentially, the meta is an unstable equilibrium defined by a complex set of inputs and that binary output of winning/losing. As soon as Medi is one AGI slower then her hard counter *and that hard counter is common* she becomes worthless. Same with the tipping point between OHKO and survival. Right now medi bombs are fast and powerful - therefore viable against many team comps. Well that wraps up today's post - this one turned out to be longer than I was expecting. Let me know if its too long in the comments and if you have any suggestions for future topics that you'd like a detailed breakdown on please let me know! ------------------------------------------------ WotV PvP Tactics & Mentality is an irregularly updated series of posts about the most neglected aspect of WotV: Live PvP If you liked this post, feel read to my previous entries in the series:
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
This post draws on my personal experiences and challenges over the past term at school, which I entered with hardly any knowledge of DSA (data structures and algorithms) and problem-solving strategies. As a self-taught programmer, I was a lot more familiar and comfortable with general programming, such as object-oriented programming, than with the problem-solving skills required in DSA questions. This post reflects my journey throughout the term and the resources I turned to in order to quickly improve for my coding interview. Here're some common questions and answers What's the interview process like at a tech company? Good question. It's actually pretty different from most other companies.
(What It's Like To Interview For A Coding Job
First time interviewing for a tech job? Not sure what to expect? This article is for you.
Here are the usual steps:
First, you’ll do a non-technical phone screen.
Then, you’ll do one or a few technical phone interviews.
Finally, the last step is an onsite interview.
Some companies also throw in a take-home code test—sometimes before the technical phone interviews, sometimes after. Let’s walk through each of these steps.
The non-technical phone screen
This first step is a quick call with a recruiter—usually just 10–20 minutes. It's very casual. Don’t expect technical questions. The recruiter probably won’t be a programmer. The main goal is to gather info about your job search. Stuff like:
Your timeline. Do you need to sign an offer in the next week? Or are you trying to start your new job in three months?
What’s most important to you in your next job. Great team? Flexible hours? Interesting technical challenges? Room to grow into a more senior role?
What stuff you’re most interested in working on. Front end? Back end? Machine learning?
Be honest about all this stuff—that’ll make it easier for the recruiter to get you what you want. One exception to that rule: If the recruiter asks you about your salary expectations on this call, best not to answer. Just say you’d rather talk about compensation after figuring out if you and the company are a good fit. This’ll put you in a better negotiating position later on.
The technical phone interview(s)
The next step is usually one or more hour-long technical phone interviews. Your interviewer will call you on the phone or tell you to join them on Skype or Google Hangouts. Make sure you can take the interview in a quiet place with a great internet connection. Consider grabbing a set of headphones with a good microphone or a bluetooth earpiece. Always test your hardware beforehand! The interviewer will want to watch you code in real time. Usually that means using a web-based code editor like Coderpad or collabedit. Run some practice problems in these tools ahead of time, to get used to them. Some companies will just ask you to share your screen through Google Hangouts or Skype. Turn off notifications on your computer before you get started—especially if you’re sharing your screen! Technical phone interviews usually have three parts:
Beginning chitchat (5–10 minutes)
Technical challenges (30–50 minutes)
Your turn to ask questions (5–10 minutes)
The beginning chitchat is half just to help your relax, and half actually part of the interview. The interviewer might ask some open-ended questions like:
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about something you’ve built that you’re particularly proud of.
I see this project listed on your resume—tell me more about that.
You should be able to talk at length about the major projects listed on your resume. What went well? What didn’t? How would you do things differently now? Then come the technical challenges—the real meet of the interview. You’ll spend most of the interview on this. You might get one long question, or several shorter ones. What kind of questions can you expect? It depends. Startups tend to ask questions aimed towards building or debugging code. (“Write a function that takes two rectangles and figures out if they overlap.”). They’ll care more about progress than perfection. Larger companies will want to test your general know-how of data structures and algorithms (“Write a function that checks if a binary tree is ‘balanced’ in O(n)O(n) ↴ time.”). They’ll care more about how you solve and optimize a problem. With these types of questions, the most important thing is to be communicating with your interviewer throughout. You'll want to "think out loud" as you work through the problem. For more info, check out our more detailed step-by-step tips for coding interviews. If the role requires specific languages or frameworks, some companies will ask trivia-like questions (“In Python, what’s the ‘global interpreter lock’?”). After the technical questions, your interviewer will open the floor for you to askthemquestions. Take some time before the interview to comb through the company’s website. Think of a few specific questions about the company or the role. This can really make you stand out. When you’re done, they should give you a timeframe on when you’ll hear about next steps. If all went well, you’ll either get asked to do another phone interview, or you’ll be invited to their offices for an onsite.
The onsite interview
An onsite interview happens in person, at the company’s office. If you’re not local, it’s common for companies to pay for a flight and hotel room for you. The onsite usually consists of 2–6 individual, one-on-one technical interviews (usually in a small conference room). Each interview will be about an hour and have the same basic form as a phone screen—technical questions, bookended by some chitchat at the beginning and a chance for you to ask questions at the end. The major difference between onsite technical interviews and phone interviews though: you’ll be coding on a whiteboard. This is awkward at first. No autocomplete, no debugging tools, no delete button…ugh. The good news is, after some practice you get used to it. Before your onsite, practice writing code on a whiteboard (in a pinch, a pencil and paper are fine). Some tips:
Start in the top-most left corner of the whiteboard. This gives you the most room. You’ll need more space than you think.
Leave a blank line between each line as you write your code. Makes it much easier to add things in later.
Take an extra second to decide on your variable names. Don’t rush this part. It might seem like a waste of time, but using more descriptive variable names ultimately saves you time because it makes you less likely to get confused as you write the rest of your code.
If a technical phone interview is a sprint, an onsite is a marathon. The day can get really long. Best to keep it open—don’t make other plans for the afternoon or evening. When things go well, you’ wrap-up by chatting with the CEO or some other director. This is half an interview, half the company trying to impress you. They may invite you to get drinks with the team after hours. All told, a long day of onsite interviews could look something like this:
10am-12pm: two back-to-back technical interviews, each about an hour.
12pm-1pm: one or several engineers will take you to lunch, perhaps in the company’s fancy office cafeteria.
1pm-4pm: three back-to-back technical interviews, each about an hour.
4pm-5pm: interview with the CEO or some sort of director.
Code tests aren’t ubiquitous, but they seem to be gaining in popularity. They’re far more common at startups, or places where your ability to deliver right away is more important than your ability to grow. You’ll receive a description of an app or service, a rough time constraint for writing your code, and a deadline for when to turn it in. The deadline is usually negotiable. Here's an example problem: Write a basic “To-Do” app. Unit test the core functionality. As a bonus, add a “reminders” feature. Try to spend no more than 8 hours on it, and send in what you have by Friday with a small write-up. Take a crack at the “bonus” features if they include any. At the very least, write up how you would implement it. If they’re hiring for people with knowledge of a particular framework, they might tell you what tech to use. Otherwise, it’ll be up to you. Use what you’re most comfortable with. You want this code to show you at your best. Some places will offer to pay you for your time. It's rare, but some places will even invite you to work with them in their office for a few days, as a "trial.") Do I need to know this "big O" stuff? Big O notation is the language we use for talking about the efficiency of data structures and algorithms. Will it come up in your interviews? Well, it depends. There are different types of interviews. There’s the classic algorithmic coding interview, sometimes called the “Google-style whiteboard interview.” It’s focused on data structures and algorithms (queues and stacks, binary search, etc). That’s what our full course prepares you for. It's how the big players interview. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, LinkedIn, etc. For startups and smaller shops, it’s a mixed bag. Most will ask at least a few algorithmic questions. But they might also include some role-specific stuff, like Java questions or SQL questions for a backend web engineer. They’ll be especially interested in your ability to ship code without much direction. You might end up doing a code test or pair-programming exercise instead of a whiteboarding session. To make sure you study for the right stuff, you should ask your recruiter what to expect. Send an email with a question like, “Is this interview going to cover data structures and algorithms? Or will it be more focused around coding in X language.” They’ll be happy to tell you. If you've never learned about data structures and algorithms, or you're feeling a little rusty, check out our Intuitive Guide to Data Structures and Algorithms. Which programming language should I use? Companies usually let you choose, in which case you should use your most comfortable language. If you know a bunch of languages, prefer one that lets you express more with fewer characters and fewer lines of code, like Python or Ruby. It keeps your whiteboard cleaner. Try to stick with the same language for the whole interview, but sometimes you might want to switch languages for a question. E.g., processing a file line by line will be far easier in Python than in C++. Sometimes, though, your interviewer will do this thing where they have a pet question that’s, for example, C-specific. If you list C on your resume, they’ll ask it. So keep that in mind! If you’re not confident with a language, make that clear on your resume. Put your less-strong languages under a header like ‘Working Knowledge.’ What should I wear? A good rule of thumb is to dress a tiny step above what people normally wear to the office. For most west coast tech companies, the standard digs are just jeans and a t-shirt. Ask your recruiter what the office is like if you’re worried about being too casual. Should I send a thank-you note? Thank-you notes are nice, but they aren’t really expected. Be casual if you send one. No need for a hand-calligraphed note on fancy stationery. Opt for a short email to your recruiter or the hiring manager. Thank them for helping you through the process, and ask them to relay your thanks to your interviewers. 1) Coding Interview Tips How to get better at technical interviews without practicing Chitchat like a pro. Before diving into code, most interviewers like to chitchat about your background. They're looking for:
Metacognition about coding. Do you think about how to code well?
Ownership/leadership. Do you see your work through to completion? Do you fix things that aren't quite right, even if you don't have to?
Communication. Would chatting with you about a technical problem be useful or painful?
You should have at least one:
example of an interesting technical problem you solved
example of an interpersonal conflict you overcame
example of leadership or ownership
story about what you should have done differently in a past project
piece of trivia about your favorite language, and something you do and don't like about said language
question about the company's product/business
question about the company's engineering strategy (testing, Scrum, etc)
Nerd out about stuff. Show you're proud of what you've done, you're amped about what they're doing, and you have opinions about languages and workflows. Communicate. Once you get into the coding questions, communication is key. A candidate who needed some help along the way but communicated clearly can be even better than a candidate who breezed through the question. Understand what kind of problem it is. There are two types of problems:
Coding. The interviewer wants to see you write clean, efficient code for a problem.
"I have to at least look at all of the items, so I can't do better than O(n)O(n)."
"The brute force approach is to test all possibilities, which is O(n^2)O(n2)."
"The answer will contain n^2n2 items, so I must at least spend that amount of time."
Get your thoughts down. It's easy to trip over yourself. Focus on getting your thoughts down first and worry about the details at the end. Call a helper function and keep moving. If you can't immediately think of how to implement some part of your algorithm, big or small, just skip over it. Write a call to a reasonably-named helper function, say "this will do X" and keep going. If the helper function is trivial, you might even get away with never implementing it. Don't worry about syntax. Just breeze through it. Revert to English if you have to. Just say you'll get back to it. Leave yourself plenty of room. You may need to add code or notes in between lines later. Start at the top of the board and leave a blank line between each line. Save off-by-one checking for the end. Don't worry about whether your for loop should have "<<" or "<=<=." Write a checkmark to remind yourself to check it at the end. Just get the general algorithm down. Use descriptive variable names. This will take time, but it will prevent you from losing track of what your code is doing. Use names_to_phone_numbers instead of nums. Imply the type in the name. Functions returning booleans should start with "is_*". Vars that hold a list should end with "s." Choose standards that make sense to you and stick with them. Clean up when you're done. Walk through your solution by hand, out loud, with an example input. Actually write down what values the variables hold as the program is running—you don't win any brownie points for doing it in your head. This'll help you find bugs and clear up confusion your interviewer might have about what you're doing. Look for off-by-one errors. Should your for loop use a "<=<=" instead of a "<<"? Test edge cases. These might include empty sets, single-item sets, or negative numbers. Bonus: mention unit tests! Don't be boring. Some interviewers won't care about these cleanup steps. If you're unsure, say something like, "Then I'd usually check the code against some edge cases—should we do that next?" Practice. In the end, there's no substitute for running practice questions. Actually write code with pen and paper. Be honest with yourself. It'll probably feel awkward at first. Good. You want to get over that awkwardness now so you're not fumbling when it's time for the real interview. 2) Tricks For Getting Unstuck During a Coding Interview Getting stuck during a coding interview is rough. If you weren’t in an interview, you might take a break or ask Google for help. But the clock is ticking, and you don’t have Google. You just have an empty whiteboard, a smelly marker, and an interviewer who’s looking at you expectantly. And all you can think about is how stuck you are. You need a lifeline for these moments—like a little box that says “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass.” Inside that glass box? A list of tricks for getting unstuck. Here’s that list of tricks. When you’re stuck on getting started 1) Write a sample input on the whiteboard and turn it into the correct output "by hand." Notice the process you use. Look for patterns, and think about how to implement your process in code. Trying to reverse a string? Write “hello” on the board. Reverse it “by hand”—draw arrows from each character’s current position to its desired position. Notice the pattern: it looks like we’re swapping pairs of characters, starting from the outside and moving in. Now we’re halfway to an algorithm. 2) Solve a simpler version of the problem. Remove or simplify one of the requirements of the problem. Once you have a solution, see if you can adapt that approach for the original question. Trying to find the k-largest element in a set? Walk through finding the largest element, then the second largest, then the third largest. Generalizing from there to find the k-largest isn’t so bad. 3) Start with an inefficient solution. Even if it feels stupidly inefficient, it’s often helpful to start with something that’ll return the right answer. From there, you just have to optimize your solution. Explain to your interviewer that this is only your first idea, and that you suspect there are faster solutions. Suppose you were given two lists of sorted numbers and asked to find the median of both lists combined. It’s messy, but you could simply:
Concatenate the arrays together into a new array.
Sort the new array.
Return the value at the middle index.
Notice that you could’ve also arrived at this algorithm by using trick (2): Solve a simpler version of the problem. “How would I find the median of one sorted list of numbers? Just grab the item at the middle index. Now, can I adapt that approach for getting the median of two sorted lists?” When you’re stuck on finding optimizations 1) Look for repeat work. If your current solution goes through the same data multiple times, you’re doing unnecessary repeat work. See if you can save time by looking through the data just once. Say that inside one of your loops, there’s a brute-force operation to find an element in an array. You’re repeatedly looking through items that you don’t have to. Instead, you could convert the array to a lookup table to dramatically improve your runtime. 2) Look for hints in the specifics of the problem. Is the input array sorted? Is the binary tree balanced? Details like this can carry huge hints about the solution. If it didn’t matter, your interviewer wouldn’t have brought it up. It’s a strong sign that the best solution to the problem exploits it. Suppose you’re asked to find the first occurrence of a number in a sorted array. The fact that the array is sorted is a strong hint—take advantage of that fact by using a binary search. Sometimes interviewers leave the question deliberately vague because they want you to ask questions to unearth these important tidbits of context. So ask some questions at the beginning of the problem. 3) Throw somedata structuresat the problem. Can you save time by using the fast lookups of a hash table? Can you express the relationships between data points as a graph? Look at the requirements of the problem and ask yourself if there’s a data structure that has those properties. 4) Establish bounds on space and runtime. Think out loud about the parameters of the problem. Try to get a sense for how fast your algorithm could possibly be:
“I have to at least look at all the items, so I can’t do better than O(n)O(n) ↴ time”.
“The brute force approach is to test all possibilities, which is O(n^2)O(n2) time. So the question is whether or not I can beat that time.”
“The answer will contain n^2n2 items, so I must at least spend that amount of time.”
When All Else Fails 1) Make it clear where you are. State what you know, what you’re trying to do, and highlight the gap between the two. The clearer you are in expressing exactly where you’re stuck, the easier it is for your interviewer to help you. 2) Pay attention to your interviewer. If she asks a question about something you just said, there’s probably a hint buried in there. Don’t worry about losing your train of thought—drop what you’re doing and dig into her question. Relax. You’resupposedto get stuck. Interviewers choose hard problems on purpose. They want to see how you poke at a problem you don’t immediately know how to solve. Seriously. If you don’t get stuck and just breeze through the problem, your interviewer’s evaluation might just say “Didn’t get a good read on candidate’s problem-solving process—maybe she’d already seen this interview question before?” On the other hand, if you do get stuck, use one of these tricks to get unstuck, and communicate clearly with your interviewer throughout...that’s how you get an evaluation like, “Great problem-solving skills. Hire.” 3) Fixing Impostor Syndrome in Coding Interviews “It's a fluke that I got this job interview...” “I studied for weeks, but I’m still not prepared...” “I’m not actually good at this. They’re going to see right through me...” If any of these thoughts resonate with you, you're not alone. They are so common they have a name: impostor syndrome. It’s that feeling like you’re on the verge of being exposed for what you really are—an impostor. A fraud. Impostor syndrome is like kryptonite to coding interviews. It makes you give up and go silent. You might stop asking clarifying questions because you’re afraid they’ll sound too basic. Or you might neglect to think out loud at the whiteboard, fearing you’ll say something wrong and sound incompetent. You know you should speak up, but the fear of looking like an impostor makes that really, really hard. Here’s the good news: you’renotan impostor. You just feel like an impostor because of some common cognitive biases about learning and knowledge. Once you understand these cognitive biases—where they come from and how they work—you can slowly fix them. You can quiet your worries about being an impostor and keep those negative thoughts from affecting your interviews.
Everything you could know
Here’s how impostor syndrome works. Software engineering is a massive field. There’s a huge universe of things you could know. Huge. In comparison to the vast world of things you could know, the stuff you actually know is just a tiny sliver: That’s the first problem. It feels like you don’t really know that much, because you only know a tiny sliver of all the stuff there is to know.
The expanding universe
It gets worse: counterintuitively, as you learn more, your sliver of knowledge feels like it'sshrinking. That's because you brush up against more and more things you don’t know yet. Whole disciplines like machine learning, theory of computation, and embedded systems. Things you can't just pick up in an afternoon. Heavy bodies of knowledge that take months to understand. So the universe of things you could know seems to keep expanding faster and faster—much faster than your tiny sliver of knowledge is growing. It feels like you'll never be able to keep up.
What everyone else knows
Here's another common cognitive bias: we assume that because something is easy for us, it must be easy for everyone else. So when we look at our own skills, we assume they're not unique. But when we look at other people's skills, we notice the skills they have that we don't have. The result? We think everyone’s knowledge is a superset of our own: This makes us feel like everyone else is ahead of us. Like we're always a step behind. But the truth is more like this: There's a whole area of stuff you know that neither Aysha nor Bruno knows. An area you're probably blind to, because you're so focused on the stuff you don't know. We’ve all had flashes of realizing this. For me, it was seeing the back end code wizard on my team—the one that always made me feel like an impostor—spend an hour trying to center an image on a webpage.
It's a problem of focus
Focusing on what you don't know causes you to underestimate what you do know. And that's what causes impostor syndrome. By looking at the vast (and expanding) universe of things you could know, you feel like you hardly know anything. And by looking at what Aysha and Bruno know that you don't know, you feel like you're a step behind. And interviews make you really focus on what you don't know. You focus on what could go wrong. The knowledge gaps your interviewers might find. The questions you might not know how to answer. But remember: Just because Aysha and Bruno know some things you don't know, doesn't mean you don't also know things Aysha and Bruno don't know. And more importantly, everyone's body of knowledge is just a teeny-tiny sliver of everything they could learn. We all have gaps in our knowledge. We all have interview questions we won't be able to answer. You're not a step behind. You just have a lot of stuff you don't know yet. Just like everyone else. 4) The 24 Hours Before Your Interview
Feeling anxious? That’s normal. Your body is telling you you’re about to do something that matters.
The twenty-four hours before your onsite are about finding ways to maximize your performance. Ideally, you wanna be having one of those days, where elegant code flows effortlessly from your fingertips, and bugs dare not speak your name for fear you'll squash them. You need to get your mind and body in The Zone™ before you interview, and we've got some simple suggestions to help. 5) Why You're Hitting Dead Ends In Whiteboard Interviews
The coding interview is like a maze
Listening vs. holding your train of thought
Finally! After a while of shooting in the dark and frantically fiddling with sample inputs on the whiteboard, you've came up with an algorithm for solving the coding question your interviewer gave you. Whew. Such a relief to have a clear path forward. To not be flailing anymore. Now you're cruising, getting ready to code up your solution. When suddenly, your interviewer throws you a curve ball. "What if we thought of the problem this way?" You feel a tension we've all felt during the coding interview: "Try to listen to what they're saying...but don't lose your train of thought...ugh, I can't do both!" This is a make-or-break moment in the coding interview. And so many people get it wrong. Most candidates end up only half understanding what their interviewer is saying. Because they're only half listening. Because they're desperately clinging to their train of thought. And it's easy to see why. For many of us, completely losing track of what we're doing is one of our biggest coding interview fears. So we devote half of our mental energy to clinging to our train of thought. To understand why that's so wrong, we need to understand the difference between what we see during the coding interview and what our interviewer sees.
The programming interview maze
Working on a coding interview question is like walking through a giant maze. You don't know anything about the shape of the maze until you start wandering around it. You might know vaguely where the solution is, but you don't know how to get there. As you wander through the maze, you might find a promising path (an approach, a way to break down the problem). You might follow that path for a bit. Suddenly, your interviewer suggests a different path: But from what you can see so far of the maze, your approach has already gotten you halfway there! Losing your place on your current path would mean a huge step backwards. Or so it seems. That's why people hold onto their train of thought instead of listening to their interviewer. Because from what they can see, it looks like they're getting somewhere! But here's the thing: your interviewer knows the whole maze. They've asked this question 100 times. I'm not exaggerating: if you interview candidates for a year, you can easily end up asking the same question over 100 times. So if your interviewer is suggesting a certain path, you can bet it leads to an answer. And your seemingly great path? There's probably a dead end just ahead that you haven't seen yet: Or it could just be a much longer route to a solution than you think it is. That actually happens pretty often—there's an answer there, but it's more complicated than you think.
Hitting a dead end is okay. Failing to listen is not.
Your interviewer probably won't fault you for going down the wrong path at first. They've seen really smart engineers do the same thing. They understand it's because you only have a partial view of the maze. They might have let you go down the wrong path for a bit to see if you could keep your thinking organized without help. But now they want to rush you through the part where you discover the dead end and double back. Not because they don't believe you can manage it yourself. But because they want to make sure you have enough time to finish the question. But here's something they will fault you for: failing to listen to them. Nobody wants to work with an engineer who doesn't listen. So when you find yourself in that crucial coding interview moment, when you're torn between holding your train of thought and considering the idea your interviewer is suggesting...remember this: Listening to your interviewer is themostimportant thing. Take what they're saying and run with it. Think of the next steps that follow from what they're saying. Even if it means completely leaving behind the path you were on. Trust the route your interviewer is pointing you down. Because they can see the whole maze. 6)How To Get The Most Out Of Your Coding Interview Practice Sessions When you start practicing for coding interviews, there’s a lot to cover. You’ll naturally wanna brush up on technical questions. But how you practice those questions will make a big difference in how well you’re prepared. Here’re a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your practice sessions. Track your weak spots One of the hardest parts of practicing is knowing what to practice. Tracking what you struggle with helps answer that question. So grab a fresh notebook. After each question, look back and ask yourself, “What did I get wrong about this problem at first?” Take the time to write down one or two things you got stuck on, and what helped you figure them out. Compare these notes to our tips for getting unstuck. After each full practice session, read through your entire running list. Read it at the beginning of each practice session too. This’ll add a nice layer of rigor to your practice, so you’re really internalizing the lessons you’re learning. Use an actual whiteboard Coding on a whiteboard is awkward at first. You have to write out every single character, and you can’t easily insert or delete blocks of code. Use your practice sessions to iron out that awkwardness. Run a few problems on a piece of paper or, if you can, a real whiteboard. A few helpful tips for handwriting code:
Start in the top-left corner. You want all the room you can get.
Leave blank space between each line of code. This makes it much easier to add things later.
Slow down. Take an extra second to think of descriptive variable names. You might be tempted to move faster by using short variable names, but that actually ends up costing more time. It’ll make your code harder to debug!
Set a timer Get a feel for the time pressure of an actual interview. You should be able to finish a problem in 30–45 minutes, including debugging your code at the end. If you’re just starting out and the timer adds too much stress, put this technique on the shelf. Add it in later as you start to get more comfortable with solving problems. Think out loud Like writing code on a whiteboard, this is an acquired skill. It feels awkward at first. But your interviewer will expect you to think out loud during the interview, so you gotta power through that awkwardness. A good trick to get used to talking out loud: Grab a buddy. Another engineer would be great, but you can also do this with a non-technical friend. Have your buddy sit in while you talk through a problem. Better yet—try loading up one of our questions on an iPad and giving that to your buddy to use as a script! Set aside a specific time of day to practice. Give yourself an hour each day to practice. Commit to practicing around the same time, like after you eat dinner. This helps you form a stickier habit of practicing. Prefer small, daily doses of practice to doing big cram sessions every once in a while. Distributing your practice sessions helps you learn more with less time and effort in the long run. part -2 will be upcoming in another post !
THE SEARCH FOR THE GREATEST SWITCH SHMUP: EPISODE 28 – Raiden V: Director’s Cut
Before I begin, I just want to remind everyone that all of my reviews can be found at my site: www.azormx.com. I tried to keep it as minimalist as possible, and it doesn't have any add or any other intrusive elements, so the content is king. Do check it out, as reviews are usually live there before I publish them elsewhere. Any way, on to the review! The shmup genre hasn’t been a mainstream genre in a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it ever was, even during the arcade days. While we certainly don’t have a shortage of shmups, let alone new release, they usually come from smaller teams. Indies have taken it upon themselves to become a guiding light for all of us. Their creations have been nothing short of amazing! However, we don’t really have anything we could call a “AAA” shmup. We do seem to have the next closest thing: Raiden. Developer: Moss Co. Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jul 25, 2019 Price: $29.99 Tate: Unfortunately… no. This really needed to have TATE Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a vertical shmup set in a fictional but real world. It claims to be the original bullet-hell, and after playing it extensively I gotta say that I agree. Raiden V features some intense air combat, coupled with giant bosses and some jaw-dropping transitions between areas.
THE GREAT INTRO CHECKLIST
Right out of the gate, what caught my attention was the intro. The best way I can put this is that it has everything great about shmups in a short video. It has a great track, it has giant enemies, it has ships and it even has pieces of lore I do not understand! Simply amazing! Most importantly, it is a very accurate portrayal as to what you should expect from the game. Unlike other shmups, Raiden goes all out in the presentation department, with the story taking a mayor role. Another way I can put this, is that it certainly feels like a considerable effort was placed in every element of the game. Raiden V features a level of polish that very few shmups can claim to have.
WELCOME TO THE CUSTOMIZATION STATION
One of Raiden’s strength is the amount of customization you have available for your ship. At the beginning of the game, you can choose between one of 3 different ships: Azuma, Spirit of Dragon and Moulin Rouge. Each of these ships has different stats in terms of attack, defense and speed. They also have their own sub-shot which is always firing along with your main cannon. On top of selecting a ship, you can arm yourself with 3 out of 9 different weapons. Those 9 weapons are grouped into 3 categories: Vulcan, Laser and Plasma. You can pick, or rather you must pick 1 for each category. The result is a combat style that is unique to you. During your play throughs, you will encounter several power-up orbs. These orbs will power up each of your weapons up to 10 times! Each of these orbs can be either red, blue or purple depending on the weapon it powers up. The orbs cycle the colors, with an outer dot indicating a timer until it changes colors. This allows you to control which weapon you want to power up, giving you the flexibility to pick your own style or choose a weapon for the occasion. The best part is that absolutely no power-ups are lost upon death! This means that you are free to retry to your heart's content and play at your own pace. Raiden won't punish you or set you up for failure with an unrecoverable situation. I didn’t put too much attention into weapon selection at first. I figured it wouldn’t be too relevant, as I would probably just play the entire game with a single weapon, but the advanced scoring mechanics and the rank system were quick to make me second guess my decision.
At the core of Raiden V, there are 2 main systems to be aware of: your rank and your flash level. Both of them measure your combat capabilities, although in different ways. Your flash point gauge is a score multiplier that tracks how fast you defeat your enemies. By defeating enemies as soon as possible after spawning, you can earn higher multipliers to increase your flash gauge. By having quick kills, you can raise it to higher levels to increase your score. Your rank, on the other hand, only concerns itself with how many enemies you’ve defeated. Your rank doubles as the deciding factor of which path you will be taking. Raiden features branching paths with an A, B, C or S version of each stage. Depending on your total destruction rate, you will either move up or down in rank after a stage. While I do not know the exact numbers, I believe having more than 98% destruction rate will increase your rank, 90 – 98% will keep it as is and <90% should decrease your rank. S rank stages are presumably harder than A/B/C stages, with C being the lowest. Apart from having a higher score and challenging yourself with the difficulty, the importance of S rank is getting the true ending. In order to truly watch the ending of the game, you need to reach the final stage on S rank using a single credit. You also need to power up your 3 weapons to level 10. Once you meet those conditions, you will be able to challenge the final boss. Alternatively, you could just fulfill the level 10 weapons condition to fight the true final boss.
THE BEST CHEERLEADER
A new addition to Raiden V is the cheer system. By accomplishing certain in-game milestones like a certain number of enemies destroyed, you will get an achievement. These achievements are broadcasted to any players connected to the leaderboards. They can then “cheer” on your achievement to increase your cheer gauge. This goes both ways, as you can also cheer the achievements of your fellow Raiden players. Once the cheer gauge is full, you can unleash it to clear the screen and gain a drastically stronger sub-shot. Think of it as a devastating bomb, only more devastating and easier to fill. It clears screens and decimates even the bosses. Perhaps many people won’t think too much of it, but I found it really interesting to know that there’s someone on the other side celebrating my achievements. Likewise, there were times where I left my game on pause to do other stuff, but held on to my controller to provide support for my comrades.
Everything I’ve mentioned before plays out in the general strategy of the game. Assuming you want to get the best results, you need to know where to hit and how to hit hard. For the untrained eye, most shmups just look like games where you fire away with complete disregard and hope the enemy dies. This is definitely not the case in Raiden. In order to succeed, you must be able to find your rhythm and read the stage. Learn the enemy formations and strategize the quickest kills. Be there before the enemy arrives and take them down before they realize what hit them. If you want to face the true final boss, then you must also learn to juggle your weapons and find the moments to upgrade them. Maxing a weapon and then switching is a recipe for disaster, as you don’t want to be on the later stages with a level one weapon and risk your flash level or destruction rate. With so many weapons and ship types, your strategy to succeed will be unique to you!
One of the main selling points, at least per the game itself, is the story. Raiden V features an extensive story that is fully voiced and occurs as you play the game. This story elements come as the prologue and epilogue scenes, as well as all the events happening mid stage. As you fly your way to the levels, characters will be advancing the story by having conversations and narrating the current events. The dialogue is available on one of the gadgets located on the right side of the screen. You can read anything you might have missed and even pause to read the on-screen log of events (up to a certain number of events, as the log scrolls to open way for new text). As for my opinion of the story, I have absolutely no idea of what happened during the game. I played my fair share of runs, but I found it next to impossible to focus on the dialogue while trying my hardest to survive. The voice acting would have been my saving grace, but I found the sound mixing to be the opposite of ideal for listening to dialogue. I even tried lowering the sound effects and BGM to see if I could focus on dialogue to no avail. The text is also incredibly small when playing on docked mode. It gets even worse when playing handheld.
THE WORST CHEERLEADER
Out of all the voices, Eshiria’s was the one who got on my nerves the most at the beginning. Other than having her role as navigator on the plot, she also critiques your gameplay. In-between stage scenes, she will provide commentary describing your gameplay. She will be quick to point out if you did well, but also if you did poorly. On my early runs, when I was still learning, it would tilt me to listen to her complaining to me about stats I did not understand. And perhaps, a huge part of my problems was a lack of understanding of the game mechanics. I listened to her complain about my destruction rate without knowing it was about my rank. She also complained about destruction speed without me knowing it was about the flash point. The problem is that the game never bothered explaining any of its mechanics to me. I really looked around for some sort of tutorial to no avail. I had to resort to 3rd party resources. While that isn’t uncommon, I really don’t like games with obscure mechanics that can’t be discerned in-game. Once I got better and consistently reach the S levels, I finally started to value her advice. Of course, I wouldn’t count on everyone reaching the same enlightenment as I did. In my opinion, her comments would more often than not add insult to injury. Once again, it’s not really the commentary, it’s the fact that none of what she said made practical sense until I started digging on the wiki.
GADGETS AND THE SCREEN REAL ESTATE
Perhaps the worst omission from Raiden V is the lack of a TATE mode. Vertical shooters don’t really have an excuse to do this, with the existence of add-ons like the flip grip or rotating monitors. Instead, Raiden decided to make the most out of the free space and add several gadgets. In standard fashion, these gadgets will keep your stats like score, flash level, the dialogue and even hi-score statistics. Your left gadget can even be cycled between the score chart and cheer notification, in-game tips and global statistics. Out of those, the tips are definitely the winners. They do give some important advice, such as staying on top of the guns of the first boss to avoid damage.
NOT A FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD
Every stage is divided into smaller scenes. These scenes serve as a way to catch your breath and tally your score. There’s even a nifty “restart scene” option that allows you to replay a scene. Choosing to restart will deny you the option to upload your score to the leaderboard, but serves as a great way to practice or even “fix” a run to so can get to the true ending. Every once in a while, the action will pan out and open the way to a bigger stage, with you looking smaller in comparison. I admire the grandioseness of the resulting scenes, but they were also quite impractical. Think about your weapons, the destruction rate and the flash gauge. An extended stage means longer travel distances from side to side. Having a bigger stage means you move slower, which reduces the pacing of the game to a crawl. Reaching enemies quickly becomes a struggle. Worst yet, I’ve counted times where it took me whopping 5 seconds to go from side to side of the stage.
THE OG BULLET HELL
Despite all the fun of blasting enemies quickly to gain flash levels, I gotta say that I found the combat, specifically the bullets, to be lacking in grace. For a game that’s the original bullet hell, most enemy volleys feel like bullet showers. There’s no finesse in them, just a bunch of bullets moving towards you. Dodging them isn’t fun, it’s survival. The problem only gets worse in higher difficulties where the bullets just go faster. Not all patterns are as bad though. While the vast majority will be just a bunch on increasingly faster bullets thrown at you, some exceptional patterns will show from time to time. As a result, fights tend to be very hit or miss, with both hits and misses being on their respective extremes. What certainly doesn’t help is that the bullets are very hard to see. As pretty as the backgrounds might be, they are very busy and the quick motion makes them into a blur. Bullets don’t have their characteristic outlines or color palettes to become distinguishable. Some even blend with your own vulcan. The result is a lot of cheap kills caused by intentional obfuscation. It this was their intention, then perhaps I’m being too harsh, but you know visibility is usually one of my pet peeves in shmups.
REPLAYABILITY AND LONGEVITY
As far as game length goes, I consider Raiden V to be one of the longer ones. I was surprised after my first run of the game, as it took me 50+ minutes to complete the campaign. Usually, my baseline for shmups is around half an hour, which made this one almost twice as long. While I’m not fond of longer campaigns, I know a lot of people would certainly be glad to know there is plenty of content. Of course, playing through the campaign isn’t enough to view the entire game. If you recall, most stages have 4 versions of themselves. Those versions are separated by the ranks: S/A/B/C. This means you would need at least 4 runs to see everything the game has to offer. There’s also 6 different endings to uncover. Also new to the Director’s Cut edition are 2 bonus levels. These level are slightly different from your typical levels. The bonus missions will challenge you to fight a new boss ir oder to obtain medals. Dealing damage will detach the medals from the boss, allowing you to catch them. Gather enough medals and you will advance to the next phase. Higher medals mean higher ranking. Taking damage will take medals away from you, so surviving continues to be a priority. Lastly, there is a new boss mission mode that allow you to play “boss rush” missions. These missions have certain conditions, like using a specific weapon or fighting at a specific HP level. The targets are usually 1-3 bosses. Boss mission is a very fun arcadey mode for those who enjoyed the boss fights and want more of them.
If there’s a factor that merits my highest praise is the sound department. Simply put, the OST is fantastic. The track length syncs perfectly with the stages, and it always fits the mood. I just couldn’t get enough of the OST, and listening to it while writing this review was the recipe for a perfect Sunday! I also got some good coffee that would make the captain proud. For all the praise the music gets from me, it still is dragged down by the terrible sound mixing. Similarly to the voice acting, I tried to mess with the sound settings to increase the volume and reduce the sound effects, but it still wasn’t enough. The tracks were great but I struggled to listen to them amidst all the explosions. The calm moments were great, as they let me listen to the songs in peace.
Raiden is a master class in shmup design for the wrong reasons. Its high points perfectly illustrate how shmups should look and feel. The low points also show what you should NOT do when creating a shmup game. Despite all of this, it all comes down to how fun a game is. Raiden V is a very fun game. It isn’t different, but it’s certainly very polished. I delivers some levels of quality that are notably absent in the majority of the games. As a concept, I feel like it serves as an example of how current gen shmups should be. The execution fell flat in some regards, but as a whole I was satisfied with the time I spent with the game. It does come with a hefty price tag, so my advice is to check this game out when you find a decent sale. I got mine at -70%.
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efficiency costs of purchase vs awakenings ideal ranks and their use in winning tournaments
https://preview.redd.it/govc8j6lwaw41.jpg?width=720&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b53ae8c35f697ea53d6d292ec05f434f29578784 blue = gem cost of initial purchase of a hero at that starting rank, vs. red = gem cost of the awakenings needed to get them to R6 (800*each rank) - together being 100% of their total cost. The "box"-looking effect is the proportion that each rank takes up irt its' relative cost - e.g., the blue boxes are always larger b/c they offer less efficiency at 1500/rank instead of the 800/rank for each awakening; and they are different sizes b/c the heroes have different total costs (i.e., so the awakenings take up a smaller or larger relative proportion of it). The black line is then the % of tokens that can be skipped when starting off with a hero at that starting rank, and the green dashed lines represent each successive rank above that, which are always the same regardless of a hero's starting rank: so a R0 hero starts off with none, but then at R1 is 3% of the way through, then at R2, R3, R4, R5, and R6 is 9, 18, 29, 53, and 1005 of the way through. Speaking of, I did not make another one for R7 though I could if there is interest - still, this should help get across the main points. And yes, I realize that there are no heroes that start at R3, or R6 (yet!), but it was easier to leave those in than to take them out. Also an accompanying table of other helpful numbers.
R3 (though no hero starts here)
R6 (doesn't exist - yet!?)
total gem cost:
remaining tokens to R6:
People keep asking questions about the "efficiency" of ranking up heroes for tournament usage, so I thought I would share this graph, in case it helps. For instance, did you realize that once you buy a hero that comes pre-awakened to R2, you've already spent nearly *half* of their total gem cost to fully awaken them to R6? (4 more awakenings*800 each=3200, vs. their 3000 price-tag) Although you start off only skipping 9% of the total tokens needed to get them there ((5+10)/(5+10+15+20+40+80)). Especially for newer players considering which heroes to buy and rank up to unlock worlds, these heroes offer fantastic utility for the campaign, Endless mode, and higher-difficulty RS situations. And then once bought, they offer the same efficiency as any other hero to finish off to their R6 for use in tournaments. It's a matter of preference to get one or several of them early and enjoy their use in the campaign, or to avoid their high cost and just awaken more inexpensive ones for faster, though more difficult progress. In contrast, the heroes that come pre-awakened to R5 are more expensive - but their purchase price represents 90% of their total gem costs, and they already have more than half the total tokens that would be needed to unlock their R6. In short, if you have the gems, it's way more efficient to purchase Yan or Narlax and then finish them off to their R6 than it is to start a new hero at R1 (although if you would have to save up the gems first, read this post instead: https://www.reddit.com/RealmDefenseTD/comments/g1mmg5/advice_about_awakening_existing_heroes_vs_buying/). (Also, do not buy Leif, at least not for the sake of tournaments, although he's great for campaign, and the #1 hero for RS, so especially good for getting a new event hero to higher rank.) As far as it pertains to "ideal" ranks (those below R6 that are worth pausing at, to win during a hero's week), that is something that many newer players want to know about, but don't quite realize that it's not necessarily for them just yet. But for those that are keen to know, read https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Meta#Season_11_Meta.2FAnalysis for the utility of heroes in Tournament settings, and https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Awakening_Tokens#Most_powerful_Ranks for the utility of each awakening, plus https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Heroes_overview for some additional commentary on hero ideal ranks. For instance, Smoulder has 2 of them, for different purposes: R4 for anti-flier stun situational effect, R5 for his own week that adds stun & a reduced cooldown, although really for his own week he's mostly R6-or-bust, but that depends heavily on the league & the lateness of the season. I should perhaps add that I've never had much luck with ideal ranks. They seem mostly to be useful in Diamond League, and then by Masters already they are no longer useful. That said, you should give each one careful thought, individually for each hero, b/c it can save you a TON of time from getting a hero's R6 when you didn't need it (yet). Perhaps the most (in-)famous example is Yan's R6, which she doesn't need on her own week (I've literally seen Gold- rather than Purple-outlined Yans among the *very* top scores of a league), probably b/c she doesn't have great skills to help turn her blessed stat boost into actual DAMAGE (being mainly a "support" hero, which she is good at), and especially if you don't even have Efrigid or Bolton yet to receive the synergy that her R6 talent would offer, then it is fairly useless. Though these things do tend to change over time - like Narlax's R6 also used to be unnecessary, until this past season (11) when on his own blessed week it became mandatory to pull several strong bosses. Also one of Hogan's ideal ranks used to be R3 iirc (when his R5 decreased rather than increased his attack speed, before it was switched), then last season it became R5 to keep him alive (also against a strong boss), and now this season it looks like his blessed week is strongly pushing even his R6? Oh yes, some heroes can't/shouldn't really be paused at all, like Lancelot who prior to R6 is flat-out replaceable even when blessed, but at R6 gains a STRONG anti-air utility that is absolutely mandatory to win that week (as in, if ANYONE else in your group has it, who isn't terribly unskilled, then you have little chance to get a higher score than them). Where the concept of "ideal ranks" is most helpful then, is when you already have (most of) the Meta, and are looking to win more reliably each week. Having a hero at an ideal rank may not be required to win in Gold League for instance, but it can be helpful to use that along the way while you work on other things too (like a second hero's ideal rank, or their R6, or even continuing on with the same hero, just holding back on the actual gem cost - btw strong shout-out thanks to lanclos for sharing with me most of what I know about ideal ranks:-). I suppose it may be like identifying potential resting spots while climbing a mountain - once you identify them you can either pause and rest at them, or else of course skip them and keep going, but either way they may be nice to at least plan to pass by during your ascent, just in case you find that you need them. SPEAKING OF, here are some additional thoughts on tournaments that might help in that regard, though first I'll have to cover some basics: a) there is an effect I call the "leading edge" whereby the earlier weeks in the season are the hardest. e.g., *this week* in Gold League is literally the hardest week that it will ever be in this season, b/c *this* is the week that it contains the most senior players (like former GMs). Then, next week, Platinum League will be created, and will be populated by the top 3 players from each group that managed to get promoted - which lets face it tends to be the most senior players, with the deepest hero investments and also the most experience & skill; and thus *that week* will be the hardest that Platinum will ever see, and so on in Diamond, and Masters, and...actually Legendary is special, b/c once a player reaches GM, they remain there. But the other leagues get easier the further the season goes, b/c of all the more senior players getting promoted each week. So therefore the last week of each season (prior to Legendary) is literally the easiest to get promoted in. There are some important modifiers to this, b/c it may be easy or hard in general but not for you b/c of the heroes you have, and also an effect where campers used to try to not get promoted so quickly, but then towards the end of the season get nervous and want to move upwards, but anyway, this is generally true. So when I say "in lower leagues, later in the season", what I mean is "further away from the leading edge". IN OTHER WORDS, the difficulty of Gold League on week #1 is nowhere NEAR the same difficulty as Gold League on week #15. On the other hand, Platinum League on week #2 is quite similar actually to the difficulty of Legendary League, anytime, b/c that is the league where at that time all the veterans are (with anything above Platinum not yet having been created). See what I mean? But b/c of this effect, any talk about "Gold League" or "Platinum League" must be merely an average of how difficult it is to win, which basically means mid-way away from the leading edge, although be aware of these variations where earlier means *much*-harder-than-average, and later means much easier. b) Gold League further is special in its' being so small, and in having players that haven't finished the campaign yet, which (vastly) increases the number of total players, and has the effect of "diluting" / spreading the veteran players out between/among the various groups. Therefore, even on week #1, its' difficulty is nowhere near as hard as Legendary League, b/c of being mitigated by this effect. Platinum on week #2 also isn't *quite* as hard as Legendary for similar reasons (the group size being 30 instead of 50; and effects like even former GMs lacking Hogan and not being promoted while others who have Hogan's R6 can do even better), but...Gold is truly special in being the easiest league to win in (aside from the non-repeatable Bronze and Silver of course). Though again, for people having trouble getting promoted from Gold League, take heart: as the season progresses it WILL get easier!:-) c) in Gold League, with Koi & Raida you can pretty much win by accident even w/o meteors (though this particular week requires Narlax too, and might even need meteors - though I have never used any to get out of Gold myself). This is b/c those heroes provide so much higher utility, compared to so MANY players that lack them, that you definitely have a good chance. And that chance keeps repeating every week, as it gets easier and easier later and later into the season, so if you don't get promoted one week, keep trying the next. The advice for players lacking Koi & Raida is the same: keep trying, and eventually you'll get into a group that lacks Koi, or perhaps someone who doesn't know how to use them yet, and you CAN win! And if you truly want to prioritize this aspect of the game, before you finish the campaign, get a hero to an ideal rank or even R6, and on their blessed week, if it's late enough, you'll have a VERY good shot (though perhaps also needing good generic heroes like Narlax and Leif, unless you get VERY lucky with your group placement, or outright R6 a few heroes for this purpose). d) in Platinum, it gets a bit harder. Though, if you have the Meta, not by that much. For those who have Raida & Koi, also pick up Yan, necro-Connie, Narlax, and Smoulder's R4 and you'll do fine in Platinum, even without the blessed hero (though of course, earlier in the season you may need them, while later you can get by without them, having strong generic+situational replacements). e) in Diamond, it gets harder still, where you start to need the blessed hero more often. Though not every week, and not necessarily at an "ideal"/pausing rank. Two seasons ago (while I was still R6ing Koi) I got promoted by having Obsidian, not at his ideal rank of R4 but just about level 20 and rank R2 - & even then he was replaceable with Efri's R6 (which I did not have) - though that was week #13 out of 15, so very late. Many other similar stories told by veteran players abound: Mabyn's R2, Helios's R4, and if you have Yan's R6, then also Efri's R4 & Bolton's R3, etc. f) in Masters, it is pretty much R6-or-bust, and so you are already past the stage where ideal ranks can help you for the most part (I mean Yan's R5 would probably still work, and Helios's R4 b/c towers don't add much to tournament situations, but...not much else). *If* you use the blessed hero at all, you probably need them all the way to R6. Though there are a few situations where a hero is outright replaceable - chiefly Sethos, Leif, and Masamune (possibly needing to be quite late in the season for that one), all of whom lack anti-air capabilities (though Masamune's R7 is going to change that!). g) that said, Masters League is still nowhere near as difficult as Legendary. Scores that would get you promoted out of Masters won't even get you a reward in Legendary (although THIS season looks to be changing that - thus encouraging promotion and concurrently discouraging camping in lower leagues - definitely a plus for both veteran and more junior players alike!). Also, for the most part you can get by without the whole entire cast of "situational" heroes that are needed in Legendary, to win a GM. What I mean is: when veteran players have ALL the heroes to choose from, and they are all at R6, they can find the absolute BEST one for any given week - which could be Efri, Mabyn, Azura, Caldera, Connie, Helios, Shamiko, Narlax, Smoulder, etc., and if you want to get a GM, you need to have whatever it is that week that is among the BEST. While in Masters, you most often don't - so actually, R6-or-bust isn't that hard to do, at least compared to Legendary where you need both the blessed hero that week AND one of a large(-ish?) cast of situational heroes, and of course their R6 as well. h) an argument against ideal ranks is that it may spread out your hero investments too thin to let you win many weeks. On the other hand, an argument for it is that even having a hero's R6 doesn't guarantee a win (e.g., at first I was absolutely terrible at using Narlax - and still I have yet to ever win a week where he is blessed). Also aiming for ideal ranks lets you maximize your elixir income (https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Realm_Siege_Strategies). Though an R6 hero also offers the option to use that hero even when not blessed (and yet this works better for some heroes and not so well for others - e.g., Mabyn can perhaps win at R2 in Diamond, but as a situational hero needs her 5th meteor talent gained at R6 to truly be effective; while Bolton + Obsidian are mostly only used when blessed, and never outside of that - although this week may again be revealing that the devs may change that in the future!). Therefore there are many benefits to either using, or not using, ideal ranks. Ultimately whether you want to pause at an ideal rank, or keep going all the way to R6 for every hero that you own, seems to be a matter of personal preference: how EXTREME of a personality are you? Do you want to work on increasing your MAXIMUM power, to possibly win a GM title sooner - but also maybe fail to even reach Legendary League at all, as a more junior player, and also have little chance at all on weeks that you lack the blessed hero (at least in Diamond League, or others earlier in the season, closer to the seasonal reset - i.e., take a risk, and maybe be #1 on the weeks you've prepared heavily for, but then score very low on (many of) those you've invested literally nothing into? Or do you prefer to aim for a more AVERAGE level of power, which may leave you unable to be promoted on a given week (maybe several of them), but yet still maybe get some rewards, not being the best but neither being the worst, and yet still get practice either way, and maybe win sooner with less of a hero investment needed into a particular week, leaving you free to focus your efforts elsewhere? Like most things in life, the ideal path is probably somewhere between the most extreme of R6ing one hero before moving on to the next, vs. having all heroes at ideal ranks but none at R6. Though there are people who have pursued each of those strategies! (and I can tell you some of their names if you want:-) Ultimately you need 4 wins to get to Legendary League, and then at least 1 more if you want a GM title that season. So pick a few heroes to get to R6, another few to get to ideal ranks, and with that collection you'll do well. Another hint: do you want your strongest hero investments to be earlier in the season, in your lowest league, or later, in the highest? Watch the https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Blessed_Heroes_-_Tournament page to see how early a hero is blessed in the last few seasons, and pick one that will likely be blessed later rather than earlier, and then aim to buy that hero and work on increasing their power. e.g., Yan and Narlax are both in the Meta, and blessed mid-to-late-season. Also there are a TON of other helpful tips - about towers, heroes and synergies and combo moves, and many other tournament topics on https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Basic_Info and https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Detailed_Strategy. So now all that's left is for me to wish you good luck!:-) Edit: while I thought about adding these couple of thoughts before, they didn't specifically touch on ideal ranks, so I left them out. But so many are asking so I'll put them in after all... i) there are 3 hero roles to fulfill each week: generic, situational, and blessed. If you want to think about it harder it's "really" 2 situational and 1 blessed, but since right now one of those slots is nearly ALWAYS Koi, the former formula is at least a nice way to think about/remember it. generic: especially if you lack blessed heroes and/or Koi, this is about all you've got - so use it! When you get to W3, Helios or Sethos can work, to help get you promoted from Gold - though you shouldn't get them just for this purpose (it is terribly inefficient to buy new heroes all the time when you can awaken earlier ones for nearly half the cost, though that takes TIME so this is a strategy mainly for P2W players). In W4, Yan and especially Narlax can get you promoted in Platinum (though again, don't buy JUST for this short-term purpose), and in W5, Leif/Caldera can get you promoted even as high as Diamond (later in the season). I doubt that any of these can get you promoted in Masters, and if anyone ever actuall DID that, they should count their lucky stars, but it's not something that you should "expect" to happen. Once you get Raida and Koi though, you'll never use these other heroes for their "generic" utility again. situational: usually there is some hero / class of heroes that will work best for a given week. Otherwise, for example, if the only powerful heroes you have are Koi & Leif, then every week you'll always bring them, for their *generic* power. But Leif hardly does anything against fliers - merely blessing towers which, while that work GREAT in RS on blessed tower spots, is virtually useless in tournament situations. Instead, if you brought Smoulder, especially with his R4 anti-flier slow-down talent, then you have a *much* better defense & offense against fliers, even though Smoulder seems to offer FAR less "generic" power than Leif - but even thoug it is "less", it is "more" appropriate to the *situation* - see? So for a level lacking fliers entirely, Leif would be better, although for a sitaution where fliers are the ones ending your tournament play, Smoulder can be a huge boon. Also, sometimes situational utility can (nearly or even completely) win out over generic or blessed heroes! An example is where on Sethos or Leif's blessed week, a team of strong anti-flier utility can relatively easily get scores as good as or better than a team including the blessed hero at R6 (though skill also plays a role of course). Lancelot prior to his R5 is also replaceable, and Masamune even at his R6 is *somewhat* so (if it's not a binary yes/no, but rather a continuum, where his R6 provides *one* route to win, but a strong anti-air team is *another* way, which even though offers less power, and so can't win a GM, is offered at much greater efficiency and may let you get high rewards or even promoted with from Masters League). -) anti-fliers: Raida, Smoulder, Connie are enough to get you started, then later you'll want to add Helios & Azura. Each offers something different - like Smoulder slows them down, Raida stuns them, Connie does both, Azura can charm up to 4 (good for when there are more rare but tanky ones like W3 crows), and others can be good too like Efrigid also slows them, Narlax pulls them back, etc. The Narlax+Raida pull+charge/stun combo is ESPECIALLY powerful (read more at https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Detailed_Strategy#Narlax_.2B_CC_combo). Note that while Fee is tremendous for fliers in campaign, she can't really keep up in this mode, except when she's blessed. -) bosses: Koi & even Raida (& Leif if you got him for other reasons) can tank fairly well at first. Connie's bunny mamma does even better, and her little bunnies help slow it down. Narlax at his R6 can pull them back. Later, you'll want Azura who can help charm an enemy to use as a tank against the boss, and then there is Caldera who is immune to all physical damage, but extremely vulnerable to magic. Although the latter two are rarely blessed themselves, and often aren't as worth bringing as the blessed hero. If you are just getting started, Fee (at any rank) may actually work surprisingly well, as her wolves can delay a boss somewhat as it pauses to kill them. -) delay: Connie, Raida to stun, Narlax to pull back, Efrigid to slow/freeze; or for just a few enemies that get past a checkpoint, Yan to teleport, or Mabyn for fear. -) worlds: Mabyn works REALLY well for W3, to send enemies back whereupon the archer-bots can regain control of the situation after being broken through. Azura works really well for W4 since she is immune to the slow effect, can heal to help counteract all the ranged damage being thrown at you, and can charm strong enemies - like an armored tank to use against a boss, or a strong flier to use against other strong or weak ones, etc. Caldera isn't good in W3 (poison) or W4 (magic), but is very effective in W1,2,&5. -) synergies: these can be stronger than anything else (yes even than Koi - in fact this is the ONLY reason why you might not want to use Koi if you have him) - basically you either have the synergy partners or you lose that week (except *maybe* in Gold?). Efri & Bolton need both Yan & Koi's R6, Bolton & Obsidian need each other, Fee needs at least 1-2 of her synergy partners, and Smoulder needs his R6 + Narlax to in. Read the wiki for more comprehensive details. Note that every one of Leif's synergies is absolutely useless and *never* worth bringing him along, unless you are a more junior player and lack anything better to do (hint: it might help once or twice, but it's REALLY not worth getting those 80 tokens and spending 800 gems to get his R6 - that should be one of it not literally THE last thing you do in the game; unless the devs change that soon? I personally would LOVE to see that!:-). -) special mention 1: Yan hastes Koi, and is thus used more often than any other hero, after Koi himself. She can do this at her R5 though - no need to get her R6 until you are ready to take advantage of her 2 synergies. -) special mention 2: Raida's extremely high generic utility (2nd only to Koi), AND his high situational utility (for fliers, stunning & damaging bosses, large CC, etc.) makes him the top #1 all-around utility / situational hero...though only providing a very "average" level whenever you lack some other hero who can provide a higher MAXIMUM power. When you have literally every other hero in the game, and to their R6, then you may never use Raida again (though even that's not quite true - players often use him in their first try at a level, to be ready for anything, even though he is always replaced with someone better to get the final maximum score), but until you invest that deeply (which will take YEARS of your life), Raida can provide a great deal of help. *Especially* on the days where you lack the blessed hero, though that is more of a generic functionality, and yet also when you lack the top situational hero for that week (Azura?). Use him as a stepping-stone. blessed heroes: there is no getting around the fact that you need the blessed heroes to have the best chance to win on a given week. Especially by Masters League, though of course they still help a LOT to win more often in Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Until then, strong generic+situational utility can help fill in - some heroes are more replaceable than others as mentioned above - but after you get the Meta (Koi, Raida, Connie, Yan, Narlax), then you need to decide whether to prioritize more situational heroes, or more blessed heroes. Both ways work, and you probably want to split your efforts b/t the two. Often heroes work for both: e.g. Narlax is blessed every season, usually fairly late, and then last season (11) was also used another 4 times. In contrast, heroes like Fee, Lancelot, and Masamune are only ever used once, on their blessed week. But still, you only need 4 wins to get to Legendary, and especially if you already had these heroes at a high rank to help you unlock worlds in campaign, they can be a GREAT way to win, certainly much easier than trying to win with purely generic+situational utility that doesn't match what is needed on a given hero's blessed week. One tip: pick a hero that you like to work with, and get them to R6 - you'll likely do better with them than you would with some other hero that you don't enjoy as much. j) R7 heroes and future predictions: many people, myself included, think that R7 will mostly be necessary for winning GMs. Thus, R6 becomes another ideal/pausing rank, though this one useful to win Masters League with. Many people want to know whether they "should" get an additional hero to R6, or focus that time instead to continue on to R7, though again this is up to your personal preference - do you want to win more often, though possibly not at the #1 spot and maybe not get promoted but do get rewards, so aiming for a higher "average" utility, or do you want to take a risk for a chance to get a GM, and aim for "maximum" utility instead (at the cost of being farther behind in terms of having fewer heroes to use whenever they are blessed)? It's a GAME, so go for what YOU want!:-) TLDR: use ideal/pausing ranks for heroes blessed earlier in the season, and instead put your highest investments into heroes blessed later, where you'll need their power the most.
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