After the excellent Wasteland 2, we were excited to get our hands on the new installment, and we can say without fear that it has met expectations. Wasteland 3 is a sign of the love that InXile has for his work and Brian Fargo for the genre that has created a name for him. If you are a lover of the saga or the genre, do not hesitate to enjoy it.
Wasteland 3 doesn’t pull any punches with its subject matter in sexuality, violence, and language. But if you are fine with that, I would highly recommend you give Wasteland 3 a shot, especially if you were (or still are) a Fallout fan.
On Paper Wasteland 3 sounds like the perfect RPG-Dream but the execution leaves much to be desired. Bugs, Glitches and graphics that doesn't really represent a game that releases and the end of this console generation are a bit of a letdown. Everything else from the great story, entertaining NPCs, solid battle system, clever leveldesign over to the love for details is amazing, besides some flaws that should soon be fixed, as inXile and Brian Fargo promise. Everyone that wasn't happy with the latest Fallout Games will surely love Wasteland 3.
Wasteland 3 is a old-school role-playing game, with a compelling story, a combat system that promises but is not groundbreaking and some funny moments and black mood, which always remind us that we are in a post apocalyptic world, but with a smile. Don't forget the powerful character editor, rhythm voices, and the beautiful scenery that puts you in that atmosphere of cold and snowy Colorado.
Wasteland 3 can be a bit of slog if you're gunning for marathon gaming sessions with it at the helm. Combat, whilst exciting initially can fall into the traps of repetition. A little more variety could have negated some of the repeated player actions. That said, the story is compelling and the characters an interesting assortment of misfit survivors, although perhaps fitting post-apocalyptic stereotypes. It's a fun, easy to play game overall though that should well-please fans of the series and keep players entertained for quite some time with its high replay-value. However, aside from some bugs here and there, the impressive amount of voice-work on offer, the character building is the best part of the experience where you can really nurture your ranger squad in this snowy post-apocalyptic world.
At least in my time with it, Wasteland 3 has been a fascinating experience. I’ve come to appreciate its depth of gameplay, character, building, and exploration, even if some of its pieces and parts still feel very foreign to me.
I will be even happier with Wasteland 3 once it’s patched and most of the bugs that bit me end up getting squashed. Even in its current state I’m having a grand ol’ time bringing some justice to the cold depths where no Ranger has dared to before. But for as much of a blast as I’m having out northeast in the cold, I hope I can make it back to sunny Arizona in time to save my fellow lawmen!
Wasteland 3 is a throwback to the old School RPGs of yesteryear, while providing a new combat experience and a bigger world. Players that liked previous Fallout Games, or games like Wasteland 2 or Baldur's Gate will feel right at home with this title, and will have the opportunity to try X-Com like combat. For the amount of content provided, 60 USD is a very good price, and fans of the genre should get more than their money's worth.
Wasteland 3 doesn't bring much new to the table, both as a CRPG and as a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction. But, it's a terrifically executed role-playing game that rewards player investment from beginning to end.
Wasteland 3 is a heady crescendo of post-apocalyptic story-telling. Its combat is compelling and fun while its characters and overall plot are engrossing, even when it goes to some dark places. A must-play for tactical RPG fans.
We’ll update this review if the game is fixed, and the issues outlined are fixed or at least addressed; and then I’ll pick it back up. As it stands now, I’ll be playing something else that isn’t as apt to crash. Buyer beware.
There are a few misgivings related to Wasteland 3's technical aspects, mechanics, and overall challenge. However, its cast of characters (both old and new), the switch to a traditional turn-based combat system, and branching paths filled with decisions and dire consequences make for a superb journey with the Desert Rangers.
With a focus on freedom of choice that is second-to-none, Wasteland 3 has set the benchmark for CRPG narratives, all the while being supported by wonderfully engaging gameplay and roleplaying mechanics.
It took me a while to realize how much these interactions, whether it be the interpersonal conversation or combat encounters themselves, stuck with me. Wasteland 3 has rules, but they only exist for you to bend them. With limitless character creation combinations, branching dialogue choices that affect what quests you do or don’t experience, and multiple endings, Wasteland 3 is an expanse of content and opportunity. The change in locale does wonders, no longer relying on a tired post-apocalyptic biome. Wasteland 3 has a wonderful backdrop in Colorado’s frozen wastes, making it the perfect place to spend a nuclear winter.
Wasteland 3 takes players to a new location and presents them with equally unfamiliar challenges, yet still perfectly demonstrates all of the reasons why this series has had die-hard fans for over three decades, and is absolutely worth playing for anyone looking for their next post-apocalyptic fix.
Wasteland 3 doesn't change its predecessor's successful formula but, outside of certain design limitations, it perfects and modernizes it. It's easily the best game in the franchise, in terms of pure technique, and one that clearly gives you an idea of what inXile is able to achieve.
Wasteland 3 is a good role-playing game, technically passable but enriched by a dense network of intriguing subplots that will push the most dedicated to play it several times. Watch out for the ever-present release bugs, though – best to wait a couple patches if you want to avoid unnecessary hurdles.
Wasteland 3 features everything only the best role-playing games do: an engaging story powered by excellent writing, compelling characters, tons of customization options, and a deep tactical combat system that feels fresh even after dozens of hours. But, most of all, it features a living world that reacts to what the player does, and changes depending on how the player decides to deal with the troubles ahead, providing a role-playing experience of the highest degree, one that very few games can boast of.
Wasteland 3 is a testament to the power of the branching narrative, taking it far beyond binary choices and into a grand canopy of cause and effect. It gives the wintry climbs of Colorado a lifelike quality that must have been painstaking to build. The most impressive RPG in years, Wasteland 3 is a masterpiece.
Wasteland 3 shines with clear dedication to crafting the best game its genre has ever seen. Excellent visuals are matched by top notch voice work and some of the best and most natural writing I have seen in a video game not made by Naughty Dog. The combat is a brutal dance where one wrong move can spell disaster, but victory is an exhilarating rush that never becomes old. Wasteland 3 cements inXile as one of the best in the business in the RPG genre and affirms that Xbox has something truly special on their hands.
RESULTS of the State of the Game Survey: September 2020
Hi all, It’s time for the results! Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond - we had over 1,750 responses, which is great! These insights wouldn’t be possible without your time and support. As always, neither myself nor this survey are associated with Intelligent Systems or Nintendo in any way. Please direct feedback about the game itself to the official channels. Now let’s get into it!
PreviousSurveyResults: April_2020_State_of_the_Game_Survey ~ Demographics ~ 53.8% began playing FE:H in February 2017, with 20.0% more joining during the first year of the game. 12.0% of respondents joined during the second year, 8.7% joined during the third, and 4.0% joined during the fourth year (the last ~7 months). The age range breakdown of respondents is as follows:
(2.6%) 12 – 15 years old
(15.0 %) 16 – 18 years old
(23.4 %) 19 – 21 years old
(21.8 %) 22 – 24 years old
(25.8 %) 25 – 30 years old
(8.2 %) 31 – 40 years old
(1.0 %) 40+ years old
75.8% of respondents identified as Male, 18.4% as Female, and 3.0% as Non-binary. 24.6% of respondents have never missed a daily login, while a further 38.8% have missed less than a month’s worth of logins, 11.7% missed 1-2 months, 9.9% missed 3-6 months, 5.8% missed 7-12 months, and 4.7% missed over a year’s worth. 33.5% report being F2P, while 28.7% have spent less than $100, 18.3% spent between $100 - $499, 7.3% spent between $500 - $999, and 8.7% have spent over $1000. 46.6% last spent money on FE:H during the fourth year of the game (the last 3 months), while 6.6% last spent money during the third year of the game, 5.8% last spent during the second year of the game, and 5.1% last spent money during the first year of the game. ~ Summoning ~ “Which of the following banners have you used orbs on at least once?”
~ Summoning Mechanics ~ 33.7% spent orbs on the Hero Fest banner AFTER Intelligent Systems announced how they would be compensating players for the Hero Fest banner glitch, compared to 61.7% who did not. 30.5% say that knowing about the compensation for the Hero Fest banner glitch caused them to spend more orbs on the banner than they would have otherwise, compared to 41.5% who say it did not. 28.0% did not spend orbs on the Hero Fest banner. 34.3% feel positively or very positively about the quality of 4* focuses on regular banners, compared to 26.9% who feel negatively or very negatively. 69.7% feel positively or very positively about the quality of 4* focuses on seasonal banners, compared to 7.8% who feel negatively or very negatively. 53.8% report that the system guaranteeing a free 5* after 40 summons generally makes them summon more, while 5.4% report that it generally makes them summon less and 36.1% report no change in their summoning habits on New Heroes banners. “If all New Heroes Banners used the permanent 40-summons-for-a-guaranteed-5* system that CYL4 used, how would your orb-spending habits on New Heroes banners change?”
(1.8%) I would spend fewer orbs than I did before
(22.3%) I would spend the same amount of orbs I usually do
(10.3%) I would spend more orbs than I did before
(62.2%) My spending would depend more on the Heroes offered
~ Choose Your Legends IV ~ “Which CYL4 Brave Heroes have you summoned, whether from the guaranteed choice banner or the regular banner?”
Of the summoning milestones on the CYL4 banner:
(20.2%) did not reach any of these summoning milestones
(79.7%) reached 40 summons
(41.0%) reached 80 summons
(19.8%) reached 120 summons
(11.1%) reached 160 summons
45.7% say that the free 5* hero at 40, 80, 120 and 160 summons caused them to spend more on CYL4 than they would have otherwise, while 50.3% say it did not. 22.8% say that the potential use of a new Brave Hero in future F2P Guides for content such as Hero Battles influenced their Brave Heroes summons, compared to 74.0% who say it did not. “If you could only get ONE of the new Brave Heroes, which one would you choose?”
“Which Brave Hero do you believe is the overall strongest?”
“Which Brave Hero do you believe is the overall weakest?”
“Which Brave Hero do you believe has the best art?”
“Which set of Brave Heroes is your favorite overall?”
23.6% feel positively or very positively about the addition of Jorge as the CYL4 GHB hero, compared to 33.0% who feel negatively or very negatively. 86.3% believe CYL5 should add further protections against vote botting, compared to 4.4% who do not. 70.1% believe CYL5 should require Nintendo Account sign-in to vote, compared to 12.6% who do not. ~ Feh Pass and Resplendent Heroes ~ 41.2% feel negatively about the addition of the Feh Pass (down 15.8% from the last survey), compared to 11.6% who feel positively (up 1.5% from the last survey). 46.1% are neutral (up 14.3% from the last survey). 40.2% have purchased the Feh Pass, compared to 59.8% who have not. This is a 9.5% increase compared to the last survey, following a 6.7% increase before that. Of those who have subscribed to Feh Pass, 17.4% have purchased Resplendent Heroes separately (up 12.9% from the last survey), compared to 82.6% who have not. “Which Resplendent Hero has your favorite art?”
“Which Resplendent outfit theme is your favorite?”
~ Miscellaneous ~ 15.8% feel positively about the introduction of Harmonized Heroes, compared to 31.3% who feel negatively. 29.5% have a Harmonized Hero, compared to 70.1% who do not. 14.6% feel positively or very positively about the Resonant Battles game mode, compared to 51.5% who feel negatively or very negatively. 4.6% say that the Resonant Battles game mode influenced them to pull for Harmonized Heroes, compared to 94.5% who say it has not. 34.8% believe the new Arena maps are better than the maps they replaced, while 7.4% believe they are worse, and 36.7% believe they are about the same. “How often do you use Auto Dispatch in Aether Raids?”
(34.3%) All of them, always
(0.2%) All of them, in Light Season
(3.6%) All of them, in Astra season
(24.3%) Only sometimes
(37.6%) I never use it
“IV Mango” is the preferred term for Trait Fruit according to 32.2% of respondents, followed by “IVcado” at 28.9%, “Fruit” at 7.6%, and “Dragonfruit” at 6.6%. The remaining 24.7% prefer to just call them Trait Fruit. 39.3% say they will use their first Trait Fruits on a Heroic Grails unit, while 32.9% say they will use them on a Summonable unit, and 1.3% say they will use them on an Askr unit. 58.7% prefer Stat Boosts for Legendary Heroes, compared to 26.3% who prefer Pair-Up. 56.5% generally prefer Regular Duo Heroes, compared to 8.8% who prefer Harmonized Duo Heroes. 1.8% say that the update that raised the minimum hardware/software required to play the game affected their ability to play FE:H, compared to 95.8% who say it did not. ~ Recurring Miscellaneous ~ “Which game do you want a New Heroes banner from the most?”
(26.0%) Three Houses (-1.9%)
(9.7%) Radiant Dawn (+0.5%)
(7.7%) Sacred Stones (+0.2%)
(7.5%) Awakening (-3.1%)
(6.4%) Genealogy of the Holy War (-1.3%)
(6.1%) Path of Radiance (-0.9%)
(6.0%) Gaiden / Shadows of Valentia (+2.7%)
(5.9%) TMS #FE (+1.9%)
(5.4%) Blazing Blade (+1.3%)
(5.0%) Fates (+1.0%)
(4.2%) Thracia 776 (+0.8%)
(2.4%) Binding Blade (+0.6%)
(0.8%) Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light / Shadow Dragon (-1.0%)
(0.8%) Mystery of the Emblem / New Mystery of the Emblem (-1.1%)
“How much do you care about your rank in the following modes?”
(2.90/5.00 average) Arena
(2.82/5.00 average) Aether Raids
(2.48/5.00 average) PvE game modes with player ranking boards
(1.82/5.00 average) Arena Assault
“How have recent changes to FE:H changed your opinion on the game as a whole?”
(39.3%) My opinion was positive and has stayed positive
(5.7%) My opinion used to be negative, but has turned positive
(9.9%) My opinion used to be positive, but has turned negative
(5.1%) My opinion was negative and has stayed negative
~ Intelligent Systems Approval Ratings ~ The approval ratings are calculated by the proportion of Approve responses compared to the number of both Approve and Disapprove responses. Percent who approve of the way Intelligent Systems is handling:
74.6% - The addition of new heroes / characters to the game (+11.9)
69.4% - The gacha mechanics and summoning banners (+5.5)
59.2% - The story/plot (+9.4)
85.2% - Unranked PvE game modes (Hero Battles, Forging Bonds, Tactics Drills, Lost Lore, Hall of Forms) (-1.2)
50.7% - Ranked PvE game modes (Voting Gauntlets, Tempest Trials, Grand Conquest, Allegiance Battles, Rokkr Sieges, Mjolnir's Strike) (-2.6)
34.6% - Arena (-6.2)
48.0% - Arena Assault (+6.7)
45.8% - Aether Raids (+12.7)
40.5% believe Intelligent Systems cares about its Free to Play userbase (up 10.1% from the last survey), while 34.7% do not. This continues the upward trend from the previous survey, bringing us to 8.8% down from where we were before the February drop). 42.9% approve of the way Intelligent Systems is handling Fire Emblem: Heroes as a whole (up 14.8% from the last survey), while 16.9% disapprove. This continues the upward trend from the previous survey, bringing us to only 2.5% down from where we were before the February drop).
A NOTE ABOUT METHODOLOGY: The overall approval ratings question above has traditionally been the exact percent of Approve responses, as a proportion with both Neutral and Disapprove responses. Note that this is different than the way approval is calculated for individual modes (the proportion of Approve responses compared to the number of both Approve and Disapprove responses), where Neutral responses are excluded. The difference in calculation has continued this way in order to maintain comparability with previous survey results. For comparisons sake, the overall approval rating trend going by raw Approval percentage over the last 4 surveys is: 50.6% (Dec) -> 22.9% (Feb) -> 28.1% (Apr) -> 42.9% (Sept) Whereas the overall approval rating trend going by proportion of Approve/Disapprove with the Neutrals excluded over the last 4 surveys is: 82.2% (Dec) -> 41.0% (Feb) -> 51.3% (Apr) -> 71.7% (Sept).
~ Bonus Questions ~ “Who is your Favorite Hero added since the last survey?”
Dimitri (Brave) is the winner, followed by Edelgard (Brave), then Claude (Brave).
“What would be the best Harmonized Hero (a pair of two heroes from different games) and why?”: Rather than selecting a subset of responses this time, the link below is to a google sheet of almost all unique responses. I cleaned it up a little bit to remove “idk” type answers, duplicates, and partial string duplicates, so don’t worry if you don’t see your exact response in it. [Full Responses]. ~ Feedback ~ As always, I received lots of great feedback, both in your survey responses and in the thread itself. A heartfelt thank you to all participants for your encouragements and criticisms - these surveys wouldn’t be where they are without your feedback. But it’s not all serious; feedback messages also included:
“There once was a CYL4 banner / That hit my orbs hard like a hammer / The very next day / FloomMom Duo came our way / Now I'm stuck bartering with a loan planner”
“bonk, go to survey jail”
“Am I also allowed to put in "Norne and Azura" for a Harmonized Hero pair? No reason.”
“Brace yourself. Winter (armours) are coming!” “Brave Hector's refine has made me so very happy with it's inclusion. Go shove your bow up your butt Legendary Chrom.”
“Give me villager alts or give me death”
“I expect the next survey to come with +12 to attack, null follow up, and special cooldown reduction.”
“The true best Harmonized Hero would be Azura and Roy since it would make me uninstall the game and never want to play a gacha ever again”
“My headcanon for the dream storyline is that the evil fairies have the Summoner off picking up pebbles that look like orbs. Fredrickson would be proud.”
“Where's the most wanted unit to add to the game question so I can shout my want for Seteth into the void?”
“I no longer dab, for Legendary Seliph has finally appeared.”
And greetings from Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, the UK, Vietnam, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Toronto, and St. Louis, as well as from many fictional locations!
And some personal/meta comments:
“Any chance we end up seeing another Super Serious Survey in the not-so-distant future?” -> I could not believe it’s been over a year since the last one! We’ll have to do one soon!
“Feels like the end of an era, not having to count all my five stars” -> I know, right? I may have it return in a side survey for the most hardcore of respondents at some point, since some people are asking about it and it would be good to get data on it every once in a while.
“I was looking through your Nornes skills and saw you haven't given her live for bounty yet! It's the best skill for her, what are you doing!?” -> I am a fraud :( I have given her Live for Honor though :P
“What do you hope for in FEH?” -> Norne alt, Resplendent Jaffar, and Shamir
Multiple people mentioned that they had returned after a long break and were surprised to see Norne instead of Azura! Welcome back!
I also missed a bunch of other possible Trait Fruit nicknames, which I knew would inevitably happen. Sorry!
Note: Please don’t ask me to feature your feedback comment; it’s the only guaranteed way to not have your comment added! Finally, the suggestion to have separate options for serious vs non-serious feedback was a good idea, I’ll try that out on the next survey! ~ Closing Remarks ~ If you missed out on responding to this survey when it was available, consider subscribing to FEHSurveys. This subreddit serves as a place to organize FE:H-related surveys, make new releases more visible, and make it easier for users to see when surveys are active. Thanks again to everyone who participated! I hope you find the results interesting, and if there’s anything else you think can be discovered from the data, let me know and I’ll do my best to oblige!
What is up Depthians! We are back with another monstrous update as this one incorporates five beta test builds, so we have a lot to cover. If you want to dive straight into the massive changelog/dissertation Click We should probably start with the biggest change to From The Depths in this update and that is the change of fuel and ammo storage. Quoting Nick, our lead developer
The change is quite simple: "remove ammo and fuel as separate resources. Weapons will consume materials directly, fuel engines and CJEs will burn materials directly". Before I dig into why I think this is the right thing for FtD, I'd like to explain a few details. Energy, fuel and ammo are still needed for your constructs. We have changed the "ammo barrels (etc)" and "fuel tanks" so they are just alternative material storage containers, but with the following properties: --"ammo barrels" now increase the maximum possible rate of usage of materials as "ammo" for reloading guns. They still explode. --"fuel tanks" increase the maximum possible rate of use of materials as "fuel" for fuel engines and CJEs, with the future stretch goal of fuel tanks being flammable. --So ammo racking is going to remain a feature of the game- vehicles that need to reload a large amount of materials may need additional ammo barrels Ammo and oil processors are replaced ship-wide with existing material storage containers of the same size. They'll be made decorative blocks so you can still use them decoratively in future if you want to. The oil refinery will be repurposed (described later in the patch notes) There are two main reasons why I think this is the right move. Why it's right for the business and why it's right for the player. Let's start with why I think it's right for the player: Ammo and fuel containers are currently purchasable as either "empty or full". This is confusing when considered in the context of the campaign, story missions, custom battles, multiplayer matches...how do empty and full tanks behave in these modes? I'd need an hour to study the code and a small essay to explain it. That's not good game design. Localised resources, when considering just the moving of material (and energy, if you want), becomes infinitely more manageable. The supply group system and the transit fleet system are not intuitive and for a lot of situations, their usage becomes fiddly and too complicated. We've replaced these systems with a new supply system that is much more intuitive for moving materials and energy around. The UI is less cluttered now that ammo and fuel bars are not shown. This is not a minor point...it'll reduce the amount of data on screen by about 40% in a lot of the different views. It'll be so much easier to know at a glance if a particular fleet is running low on "materials" or doing fine. Is a transport ready to leave, or does it need to pick up more materials? Will a set of vehicles have enough materials for the next fight...this is so much easier with just one main resource type per vehicle. When you or an enemy run out of ammo or fuel in a battle it's just frustrating. By combining fuel, ammo and materials for repairing you can guarantee that if someone runs out, the fight is going to be over quickly. I imagine that deep down the majority of players would rather not have to create, stock and resupply fuel and ammo. I know that personally, the requirement to do this puts me off playing the campaign. By using a single material it still focuses the game on making efficient war machines, maintaining supply lines and growing your economy, but without the extra confusion of mat->ammo and mat-> fuel conversion. Being able to assess weapons, engines and vehicles in terms of material cost and running cost is elegant. Most grand strategy games and RTS games don't have localised resources, and many don't have more than 2 resource types to handle. Very few combine localised materials with multiple types. Why it's right for the business: The ammo and oil processors were created about 8 years ago. Boring single blocks that don't add much to the game. It's been our intention to add something similar to the oil refinery but for ammo creation. That's a lot of work and adds to the complexity of the logistical part of the game, which we feel is already a burden. Making the localised resource supply system more user friendly to make it easy/natural/pleasant to move ammo, fuel and material around the map would require a lot of effort and, quite frankly, I'm not sure we'd ever manage it. The complexity of the UI scares off a lot of our customers. The barriers to getting a gun firing or a boat moving will be lowered if a single material container can theoretically get everything working. Running out of ammo/fuel in combat is a problem for our players. We want to find a solution to that, but it would take a lot of effort to do so. We also want the strategic AI to always enter a battle with enough ammo and fuel for the fight- that's another massive bunch of work. The campaign's strategic AI has to work hard to get materials where it wants them. It's a bundle of work and added complexity to get NPC fleets to restock ammo and fuel as well. We had proposed work to make resource dumps (from dead ships) contain ammo and fuel...again, that's more work, more bugs, more testing. Certain game modes such as story missions, tournament mode, and multiplayer maps should theoretically allow the player to choose the amount of ammo or fuel stocked into their vehicles before the match begins. That's another bundle of work and added complexity we'd like to avoid. Currently out of play units on the map can run out of fuel and will still continue to move "for free". It's exploitable and we don't have a solution to that...but if all the different out of play movement calculations are burning material, there will be no avoiding the cost. The development effort can be much better spent polishing up other features that I actually believe in, rather than flogging the dead horse of logistical complexity in an attempt to make it interesting, approachable and fun for everyone (which I fundamentally don't think it would ever be). Fundamentally I think that by winding back this feature we tie up a large number of loose ends and it results in a far more finished and enjoyable product. And what's-more everyone on the development team agrees that we enjoy the game for fighting, looting and creating...not staring blankly at dozens of resource bars trying to figure out who needs to head back for more fuel and how long we need to wait for ammunition to process. We've also simplified the resource transfer system. "Supply groups" and "Transit Fleets" have been replaced with a simple but comprehensive three-tier system. You can mark a vehicle as a "Creator", a "Cargo" or a "User". Creators fill up Cargos (and Users), Cargos give to Users (up to procurement levels). Users equalise their material with their neighbours, so do Creators, and there are a few handy transfers from Users back to Cargo and Creator to make sure they maintain their procurement levels as well. This system covers 95% of the way people were using the resource system and does it all semi-automatically. This simplification is much more possible now that materials are the only resource, as they invariably just need to flow from the resource zones to the front line, with everyone (Creators and Cargo) keeping what they need and passing the rest on. This new resource system also facilitates the long-range transport of materials from refinery to refinery, which is neat. The system also has an option, for Creator and Cargo types, to set their "supply chain index", so if you want to relay materials from output to output in order to accumulate them at a central location you can set the supply chain index to determine which way along the chain the materials will flow. It's all explained in the game.
After spending a lot of time with this new system from adventure to campaign and designer mode, the gameplay feels a little faster to get going and a little simpler for fleet management. As if you didn’t already know, you can shift+right click (with your supply construct selected) on the target construct / flagship of a fleet to keep supplied, keep holding down shift and right-click where you want to pick the resources up from and once again while not letting go of shift, shift+right click on the target construct/flag ship to finish the loop. This would be done of course after setting up the settings Creator, Cargo and User. Creator as an example is the harvesting construct, Cargo which would be the supply ship, User which would be a single target construct that uses the mats. This will keep the supply ship target waypoint updated and therefore your supply ship will always head to the target construct no matter where it has moved to after setting up the loop. You still need ammo and fuel boxes on your constructs, as these are governing the transfer rate / the speed that stock your turrets and fuel engine with the materials needed for them to run. You can run a construct without fuel or ammo boxes, however, once your APS clips are empty you will see a drop in your rate of fire as the material is not being transferred fast enough, this is the same for fuel engines and CJE. Another change that goes hand in hand with resource management is the changes to fuel refineries. In short:
Refineries on a force with greater than 1 million materials on it will begin refining the material into 'commodities' that are stored centrally. Commodities (AKA centralised materials) can be added by the player to any vehicle in allied territory, at any time.
Steam was previously totally unbalanced and arbitrary. For example, 9 small boilers with 1 small piston was the optimal steam setup, which was more efficient and denser than almost all other engines; and turbine power generation only depended on its pressure, so compact turbines were always optimal.
It lacked many critical info in its UI.
It was hard to control the usage of steam
What's good with new steam:
A bit more of realism and complexity
Larger steam now generally have better efficiency and density than equivalent smaller steam
More useful info such as total power production, performance over time
Possibility to regulate steam usage with valves
Pros of steam compared to injector fuel:
Denser and more efficient
Even denser with turbines
Easier to fit into irregular space
Provides a buffer with flywheels or steam tanks
More efficient when used for propellers
Doesn't require fuel containers, uses material directly from any type of storage
Computationally less intensive
Cons of steam compared to fuel:
Still hard to regulate, so it's only useful when the power usage is constant or there's a buffer energy storage
Turbines waste energy when batteries are full
Crankshafts waste energy when reaching speed limit
More susceptible to damage (injector engines can often still run fine even when half of it is gone, steam can stop working when a single pipe is destroyed)
Why cost of parts is hilariously high: Steam engines have better efficiency and density (many players seem to forget that one) than injector engines. So a higher initial costs makes it less overpowered. (In my opinion, the potential waste of energy is a major drawback of steam and justifies for its high potential power. But iirc Draba said that injector engines would be useless on designs that require a lot of power if steam doesn't have higher initial cost, which also makes sense.) Problem with new steam that can't be fixed:
Many old designs are broken due to low power output
Problems that can probably be fixed but I don't have a solution:
Inefficient steam engines are ridiculously bad (a bad steam engine is like 30 PPM and 50 PPV, while a good one is around 600 PPM and 110 PPV) (I tried to fix this and spent like 40 hours on that, but I only managed to make it easier to build a mediocre engine)
Cannot be simulated to calculate a stable power output, like fuel engines do (actually it's easy but would take a lot of time to do and I don't think it's necessary)
Another massive change is the detection rework which I also left a few questions for Ian AKA Blothorn to explain the system and how it works. Why a change was warranted:
Different types of detection weren't well balanced--for instance, visual components had better accuracy than IR and vastly better range.
Detection autoadjust used an incorrect formula, so optimizing adjustment was both mechanical and tedious.
Trackers having much better detection ranges than search sensors meant that detection was very binary--if you could see something at all you could usually get a precise lock (barring ECM, which was only counterable by large numbers of components).
Needing both sensors and munitions warners made reactive missile defence difficult on small vehicles.
There were a number of other inconsistencies/imbalances, e.g. some visual/IR sensors working through water, steam engines producing no heat, etc.
Overview of the new system: On the offensive side, each sensor type now has a role in which it is optimal, and large vehicles are best using a variety to cover their weaknesses. Visual probably remains the default for above-water detection--it remains impossible to reduce visual signature other than reducing size. IR is better against fast vehicles, as they have trouble avoiding high IR signatures from thrust and drag. Both visual and IR are weak in rangefinding (although coincidence rangefinders are adequate for most purposes); radar is correspondingly strong in range and weak in bearing, although it often offers better detection chances against vehicles that don't pay attention to radar stealth. On the defensive side, there are two approaches. Most obvious is signature reduction--while it is deliberately difficult to avoid detection entirely, reducing signature reduces detection chances and thus degrades opposing accuracy. At short ranges, however, this doesn't work well--detection chances are likely high regardless, and low errors at short range mean even sparse detections can give a good fix. Smoke and chaff can be useful here: they increase detection chance while adding a distance-independent error to opponent's visual and radar sensors, respectively. ECM, buoys, and radar guidance have also been reworked. Buoys are more powerful, becoming more accurate as they get closer to the target. While their base error is high, at long ranges a buoy at close range can beat the accuracy of any onboard sensor. If you worry about opponents’ buoys, ECM can now intermittently jam them--except if they are connected to their parent vehicle by a harpoon cable, in which case they don't need the vulnerable wireless connection. Most blueprints should need no modifications under the new system, although a few may want a few more or less GPP cards. The one exception is water interactions--IR cameras, laser rangefinders, and retroreflection sensors can no longer work through water, so submarines that used them underwater or vehicles that used them to detect submarines will need to replace them (likely with buoys). Vehicles that predominantly used visual detection should also consider adding a greater variety of sensors--in particular, visual camera trackers tied to AA mainframes should likely be replaced with IR cameras. Also, radars and cameras can take over missile and projectile detection (radar is required for projectile detection), so munitions warners can be removed/replaced with additional sensors. Last but not least a sweet little addition to our build menu prefabs. https://preview.redd.it/iqw1ymabu9t51.png?width=1920&format=png&auto=webp&s=aa1e3cdba6e1d62e07aef83caf0acad2a39249ed Please do make sure you go through the changelog as a hell of a lot has changed!
OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – ESCAPE FROM STALAG SULTANATE, Part 1
That reminds me of a story. “HELLFIRE AND DALMATIANS!” I shouted to no one in particular. “What’s the problem, dear?” Esme asks in that way she has of telling me to calm down without having to say it directly. “This bloody fucking country. A day late and several dollars short.” I fume. “Can’t get a new liquor license because of the bloody COVID. Can’t go to a hotel bar and have a snort because of the bloody COVID. Can’t even slip across the border to Dubai and soak up some room service and buckets of complimentary cocktails because of the bloody COVID.” Yes, the Sultanate of Oman, in its infinitesimal wisdom, has traditionally followed other GCC countries by at least three months in making any sort of proclamations regarding this latest bugaboo: the hideous, deadly, itchy, loathsome, and possibly serially bent, noxious, pandemical COVID-19; aka, this pandemic’s entry for flu. Their response is one of immense knee-jerk without first having thought of the consequences. “Bloody lockdown, 2100 to 0700. What is this, the whole fucking country’s been bad and now being sent to bed without any supper?” I wondered aloud. “Idiot benchodes.” Even Esme couldn’t come up with a rejoinder to that. “Plus they close all the bars. And all the hotels. And the fucking bottle shops. It’s not enough that these fucking Muppets jack the ‘sin tax’ on booze and cigars by 100%, now they’re not even legally available.” I swore. Of course, once you’ve spent even a small portion of the time that I have in the Middle East, you have your connections. Your system. Your access to the seedy underbelly of any society; the venerable Black Market. Jesus Q. Christ on toast with baked beans, fried tomatoes, black pudding, and mushrooms, I could get most anything in the Middle East, be it legal, shady, or just plain illegal. However, before you all recoil in horror that the venerable Dr. Rocknocker dabbles in the prohibited, just remember: the ends always dojustify the means. “I'm telling you, Esme dear; this Gulf story is getting too complicated. The weasels have started closing in.” I complain to Es as she hands me a fresh drink. “Do you think…?” Esme asks expectantly. Esme is more than ready to go. I’ve used this place as a base of operations for years whilst I wear out the Omani legal system suing those asswipes that think just because they’re local and I’m a kafir, they’re immune to the law. I’ve spent a long, profitable and time-consuming period of the last few years proving them wrong. But, time was marching onwards. I agreed with Esme, we’ve milked this particular cash cow dry. It was time to hitch up our bootstraps, call it a day, and get the hell out of Dodge. But not before I took care of a few loose ends. Now, the country had recently lost its venerable Sultan, who croaked back in January of this year. Sultan Qaboos was a good egg, friend to expat and local alike. Did a shitload of good for this benighted Middle East sandpit. Dragged it kicking and screaming out of the 12th century into, well, not exactly the 21st, but a whole hell of a lot closer. He realized that he needed revolutionary, not evolutionary change in the country. By revolutionary, he needed American, British, Canadian, and the like Western Expats here to do the heavy thinking and lifting and Eastern Expats like Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese to do all the scut work. Yeah, I know. That sounds racist as fuck, but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounced. Simple evolution of society where Omanis graduated the local equivalent of grade school, through high school, into University, and finally into Entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry wasn’t going to cut it. Took too long and the country needed a serious cash flow now. So, that’s what he did. And it worked a treat. Then he died. And his chosen took over. Except his chosen was pretty much antithetical to everything the previous and very revered and successful, Sultan wanted. Soon, there are 100% ‘sin taxes’ aimed directly at the western expats. Tourists included. Then there’s quotas and ‘Letters of No Objection’, which are impossible to get so that the Eastern Expats can’t switch jobs. Then, there are Sultanic proclamations of new taxes on tourists, new taxes on fast food, new taxes on this, that and the other. Then there’s, in his own words, “Oman is for Omanis”, blatantly ridiculous and xenophobic Omanization, and the general swipe at all expats. “GET OUT.” This was the clear message of the new sultan. He wanted to take over and possibly nationalize all the oil workings in the country. Ask Venezuela, Iran, and Myanmar how well that worked out for them. Then he wants all expats out on their asses. He wants Omanis to take over all the jobs, even though they’re nowhere near educated nor experienced enough for the positions. Then take up the massive GDP slack in lower oil production and oil prices with tourism. Given everything else, that last line should be enough to get him off the throne. He’s fucking nuts if he thinks people are going to want to cruise or overland anywhere near a place where foreigners are seen only as a cash supply, are despised, and would welcome these all new 100% tax levies. Be that as it may, Esme and I decided that we have had enough of 135O F summer temperatures, virtual house arrest under the guise of a COVID lockdown, and idiots who were the only ones stupid or twisted enough not to vamoose when the great, big bloody letters were clearly written on the wall. But, there was the physical act of getting out of the country. Now, I had plenty of strings which I could pull, but I decided I’d start low and save those until we really needed them. So low, in fact, we went to the US Embassy in Muscat. “How low can you go?” reverberated through my head. What a haven of sad-sacks, flubadubs, and third rate hobbyists. Was either Esme or I surprised that when we finally secured an invitation to the embassy, that required a bit of string-pulling with the ex-Ambassador to Oman, now in Kabul; that besides the peach-fuzz faced Marine guarding the place, we were the only Americans in the joint? “This is American soil!” I laughed, as I pulled out a huge Cuban cigar and was immediately told to extinguish it. “We’re as American as apple pie and napalm! We file our fucking 1040s every April; I pay my fucking long-distance taxes and demand US assistance to vacate this gloomy place of sandy, sweaty, sultry Sturm und Drang!” “Shut up, Rock”, Esme chided me, “They don’t understand English. Much less, the florid English the way you trowel it on.” “Fuckbuckets”, I remonstrated. “Here I had memorized the whole Patrick Henry speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. Troglodytes. No admiration for the classics.” “Rock, dear?” Esme noted, “It’s almost 1100 hours. Best to get to our appointment.” True, our appointment was slated for 1100 hours. But around here, anything starting within three hours of the stated time was considered close enough. We dragged ourselves, none too cheerfully, to the waiting room. Once we pried open the door, there was the usual “If you hear a high pitched wail, hit the deck” signs, and other things one could do while kissing one’s ass goodbye if there was a terrorist attack, we had a whole new slew of bullshit with which to deal. “Social distancing. 6 feet. Or if you’re from Baja Canada, 1 cow’s length.” “Must wear a mask. Bandanna, bandoliers, and large-caliber weapons or sombrero optional.” “No sitting. Faux Naugahyde seats are too difficult to sterilize. You must stand at attention, do not talk amongst yourselves, and remain patient until your number is called.” “Well, fuck!”, I snorted quietly, as I raised my first secret flask in rapt attention to our old glory of red, white, and blue. “Good thing they didn’t say nothin’ about getting a load on. If I’m going to be treated like cattle, I’m going to at least have something to chew on in the process.” “Oh, lord”, Esme grumbled, “You didn’t bring that Japanese Rye Whiskey with you, did you?” “ルハイム”, I said, which is Japanese for “L’chaim”! “Oh, hell”, Esme grinned as she borrowed my flask, “This is going to be a long day.” I began to protest but remembered that I was wearing my Agency-issued field vest. I must have had at least 5 or 6 more flasks lurking around in those pockets somewhere. Funny aside: they don’t bother with my going through an X-ray machine nor do they confiscate my phone, radio, knives, nor other field equipment when I go to the US Embassy. It took them almost two solid hours last time, and by the time they got to my Brunton Compass, emergency flasks, a few spare blasting cap boosters, and saw the label sewn into the back of my vest, they decided they’d just send Rack and Ruin some evil Emails and let me pass unmolested. “I’ll drink to that”, I say as I raise a flask as the locals raise an eyebrow. “Courtesy of Atheists International. We’re here for your children…” The collective gasps and growls indicate they weren’t happy with me or my betrothed. “Don’t care, Buckwheat”, I smiled, “Never did, never will. We’re out of here for good. You can curse my name all you want then. But, then again, why you standing in the American Embassy trying to get a visa to visit the land of the great evil empire?” All the locals and most of the Eastern Expats crowded into a corner as far away from us as they physically could. “BOO!” I snickered over a shot of Wild Turkey 101 Rye. “Now serving number 58! Number 58!” came the call over the tannoy. “Look at that”, I remarked to Es as I stashed both our flasks, “It’s only 12:35. Record time.” We both shimmy into the glass-fronted and presumably bullet- but not C-4 resistant- glass. We pick up the telephones there and acknowledge that we are who we said we were. The East Indian fella, one Harsh Talavalakar, behind the multiple layers of glass asked us why we were here. “Didn’t you read the appointment card?” I asked, “We’re here to have Uncle Sam get us passage out of this sordid and sultry place.” “You are American citizens?” he asked, vacantly. “That’s what it says on appointment cards and these here blue passports,” I replied. “Well, how was I to know?” he scoffed, returning to his half-consumed powdered sugar doughnut. “Maybe read the appointment card and see that we are US Citizens here on the behest of Ambassador Bethesda Orun?” I replied. “Like I have time to read everything that comes across my desk”, he scoffed again. I tapped on the glass to make certain I had his full attention. “Look here, Herr Harsh. I’m not sure how you got this job at the American Consulate but want to be very clear with you. My wife and I are residents of this place for the last 20 years. We’re American citizens of very high standing and have more high powered connections than an Arduino in a nuclear power station. We have direct connections with Langley, Virginia and if you want to retain your cushy job, you’ll put down that fucking doughnut and pay very rapt attention to the two Americans standing here who are getting more and more irritated with some Indian benchode that doesn’t think he has to really do his job. You savvy? You diggin’ me, Beaumont” I guess the benchode got his attention. The two scowls he received from Esme and myself sort of cemented the idea that we’re not too pleased and not with to be trifled. “Yes, sir?” he said, “And ma’am”, as Harsh quickly corrected himself as the doughnut disappeared. “We want out. Gone. Vamoose. Outta here. AMF. You got me?” he nods behind the shatterprone glass. “Now I know the borders are sealed and the airport’s closed, but fuck that. We want out and we want gone for good. I can’t make that much simpler or clearer. Get after it, son.” I said, as seriously as I could. “Well, sir”, he began, “ The airport’s closed…” “Are you deaf or born stupid and been losing ground ever since?” I asked, rhetorically. “I know that. We all know that. My HAT knows that. So, what devious little plan does the US Embassy have in store in just such an unsavory situation?” “Well”, he chokes a bit, “There’s this unofficial lottery where America citizens are issued random numbers and if their number comes up, there are seats made available on special clandestine charter flights.” Considering that Es and I are some of the last American citizens left in the country, I thought our chances might be pretty good. “OK”, I said, “Let us have two of your finest numbers.” “Yes, sir”, he said, “That will be US$500 total.” “Excuse me?” I said. “Oh, yes”, he smirked, “US$250 per number. Chances are you’ll never be called, but with these numbers, at least you stand a chance.” “OK”, I said, “Forget the numbers. I want your name and operating number. I’ve got a report to file that’s due in Virginia before breakfast.” “Oh, sir”, he smirked more, “I cannot release that information. Thanking you. Now be having a good day.” And he slammed the supposedly bulletproof shield between himself and Es and me. “Bulletproof? Maybe. Nitro proof? No fucking way.” I groused as I fished out a couple of blasting cap superfast boosters. “Calm down, dear”, Esme smiled to me as we walked out, “When he wasn’t looking, I took his picture, got his operating number, and full name. In fact, I think I got some information on where he lives…” In the cab on the way back to our villa, I reviewed and confirmed Es’s subterfuge. Flasks number 6 and 8 needed serious replenishment by the time we arrived home. “That’s fucking right, Ruin.” I yelled over the phone, “We need extraction. And now. Along with our personal effects and a few hundredweight of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ boxes of stuff we need to be transported.” “Well, Rock”, Agent Ruin replied, “That’s a tall order. Usually, extraction is for one person and the stuff they’re wearing. Tell you what. Let Rack and I work on it for a week or so. We’ll arrange transport of your personal effects, then we’ll see about getting you and Esme to Dubai. At least there, you can order a plane. Hell, knowing you, you’ll get Tony Stark to fly in and provide door to door service. Sit tight. We’ll be back in touch.” “Good!” I say as I slam the phone down. With these newfangled cellphone telephone instruments, they lack the same sort of satisfying “KER FUCKING CLANG” the old landlines used to have. “Es!”, I yelled, “Start packing. We’re due out of here within a week.” That meant we needed to do some packing triage: • Things going home with us. • Things being shipped. • Things being sold. • Things being left behind. • Things no one was about to get their furry little mitts on. “Oh, fuck!”, I startled. I had just remembered the John Wick-ian stash of various explosives, and adjunct materials I had buried in the basement. Obviously, I couldn’t take it home with me, I couldn’t sell it, and I sure as festering frothing fuck wasn’t going to leave it here. I needed to call one of my more shifty and swarthy friends and arrange for passage out to the deep, dark desert. Around the area where the new sultan had opened a couple of brand new landfills. Looks like I was going to expand them a few meters once we disposed of the few hundred kilos of accumulation I attained over the last few years. See, I’m a packrat. I never leave nor toss anything that might be convenient. Might have a benefit. Might prove to be useful sometime down the line. So, I’ve accumulated a bit of kit. Like…well…a few hundred sticks of Du Pont 60% Extra Fast Dynamite. A couple dozen spools of Z-4 Primacord, in various degrees of fullness. A shitload of C-4; enough bricks for a Floydian wall. A couple, well, a dozen, well, two dozen cases of binary liquid explosives. Hey, this stuff is hard to come by… Continuing, several thousand blasting caps and superfast flash blasting cap boosters. Some mercury fulminate. Some nitrogen triiodide. A couple tens of pounds of PETN. An equal amount of RDX. A few Erlenmeyer flasks full of shit even I’m not certain of what it is… Oh. And a few kilos of freshly decanted, raw nitroglycerin; packed in sturdy wooden boxes lined with new fuzzy lamb’s wool. Not that much. Just 10 or 12 kilos. Yeah. I can’t leave that here. Even a small accident with this stuff would lay waste to not only our villa; but my landlord’s villa with whom we share a common wall. Besides, as Omanis go, my landlord was the only dishdasha dressed denizen for which I had any respect or admiration. He was a good guy. I needed to return his villa at least in some semblance of what I received when we first rented from him. So, I had to dispose of many, many billions of kilojoules of potential energy. I needed to do this out in a distant and far away from prying ears and eyes regions and I needed a truck to haul this stuff out to the range. To be continued…
Gravity's Rainbow Reading Group | Sections 66-69 | Week 20
Alright, home stretch foax. This section's a beast. Hang in there and keep sharing your insights! All together now... Section 66 "You will want cause and effect. All right." (663) What an opening - it's almost confrontational, mocking our need for clear narrative structure and causality. We discover that Thanatz was tossed overboard in the same storm that sent Slothrop off the Anubis and off on his adventure with Frau Gnahb. Thanatz is rescued by someone even stranger - an unnamed Polish undertaker (think on the etymology of that word) who happens to be a lightening aficionado. I'll stop here and comment that, earlier, when Slothrop fell into the water before and after getting on the Anubis, it brought to mind the river Styx in Hades - another underworld. It washes clean one's identity and memory. Makes you forget who you are. And there's traditionally a ferryman, Charon, to help people cross it. Can't help but think that's who saved Thanatz here, carrying him from the land of the dead to the land of the unliving, the preterite detritus of WWII. (An aside: Speaking of Styx, has anyone listened to Mr. Roboto recently? That song has some Gravity's Rainbow vibes.) Our undertaker here is inspired by the Franklin myth and is trying to get struck by lightening in order to experience that "singular point, [that] discontinuity in the curve of life" (664) passing from a rate of change of positive infinity to one of negative infinity in the blink of an eye. Seems there's something of a conspiracy among those who have been through this point of infinite inflection - a secret society of lightening heads who are aware not of another reality but of a new layer of reality laid on top of our own. Insight into a higher level of reality, of hidden systems. We get an example of the content of the lightning-aficionado's publication A Nickel Saved and it's supposedly full of coded messages for Those Who Know, each part being a veiled reference to other topics that contain the true meaning, requiring a true paranoid's ability to see (make?) connections. For example, there are repeated mentions of April, Easter, and Spring - the season of rebirth. To an Amperage Contest and lightbulbs failing - Byron the Bulb's attempts to strike back, perchance? A screen-door salesman - what is a screen door except a permeable interface? But our undertaker isn't interested in secret knowledge - he just wants to be a better businessman - and he deposits Thanatz on the shore and rows back off into the storm. Here, Thanatz meets a group of 175s - men formerly imprisoned in the Dora camp for being gay - who have formed their own solitary community in this isolated section of northern Germany. I suspect some of this imagery may initially shock readers - concentration camp victims who want to return to their prison? Who set up their own 175-Stadt to recreate the conditions of their imprisonment? But think about it - just last section, we saw Katje, someone who's been used and abused by those in power, balk at the thought of being truly free because she had become dependent on systems of control. She had integrated those control systems as part of her identity, her sense of self. "She needs the whip," Blicero wrote of her (662). Just like Katje, these men became so conditioned to depend on a system of total control and rigid social hierarchies that they don't know how to function without it. Their 175-Stadt doesn't seem like such a ridiculously dark, inappropriate caricature now, does it? Because isn't that a central point of this book - that everyone has been conditioned to need control, to need Their System, to not know how to function without it? Slothrop was our perfect everyman from within this system, and look at what it took for him to actually be free (and even then, the ideal of America still has a colonial outpost in his head). But in their 175-Stadt, these men at least control their system of control. They built it, they staff every level of it, and it's entirely under their control. An isolated state, separate from the broader System. But is there a ruler in this system, a king? No, simply the figment of Blicero. His name, his specter, looming over everything. A system of control with no real king? We've seen that before. Not only that, but this micro-society is not based strictly on the SS command from Dora, but what the prisoners inferred about the rocket command structure in the Mittelwerke. So even their "recreation" of their imprisonment is an approximation of a different system. I'd also stop here to comment that, is this imagery really as ridiculous/insane as it first appears? I'd say no, since the queeS&M community absolutely took inspiration from Nazi uniforms as symbols of dominance and control, repurposing it into fetishwear. But then, as in this 175-Stadt, the control is by choice, as is the submission. As we've seen elsewhere in this book (Blicero's Oven-State), turning submission into a fetish can be a form of rebellion, since it subverts Their means of control (fear of pain) and turns it into a source of pleasure. Is it truly control if you're choosing it? Enjoying it? No one said this book asks easy questions of its readers... Thanatz keeps looking for answers, and gets swept up amidst the vast swarms of preterite Displaced Persons being shifted across the zone. What's concerning is that these supposedly-free, albeit displaced, people, are shuffled without purpose across the Zone, with minimal food, water, or medicine, being "herded into wire enclosure[s]" and shipped around in freight cars, "deloused, poked, palpated, named, numbered, consigned, invoiced, misrouted, detained, ignored" (669). It's almost impossible to miss the painful similarity here to the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Only here the mistreatment isn't out of some pathological hatred, simply a system without a place for so many people, and without the committed resources to actually, effectively help them. The thought is unsettling, since we like to imagine that only Naziesque hatred could prompt such brutal mistreatment, not apathy. Finally, he's rescued by the Schwarzkommando thanks to his knowledge of Blicero and the firing of Rocket 00000. Here, we learn a bit more about what happened that day. Looking into Blicero's eyes, he saw windmills reflected, though none were in the area. Another four-way mandala, like we saw last week with Slothrop. Thanatz isn't in great mental shape by this point, and he's beginning to equate Gottfried and Bianca both as his children. Why? Because he felt some sense of responsibility to them? Because he failed them? Either way, the Schwarzkommando learn all they need from him about that fateful noon on the Heath, though we do not. The section ends with a simple touch of hands between Enzian and Christian, a moment of connection, of trust. Section 67 Man, how do I even start summarizing this complete doozy of a section? As Weissenburger writes, "In this episode the narration begins to fragment." (344) Ya don't say... Well, here goes. We being one serious trip of a section with Slothrop, as part of a rather unimpressive team of quasi-superheros (the "Floundering Four") fighting against evil ol' Broderick Slothrop amidst the factory-state (a Metropolis-like iteration of the Rocket-State with movable buildings?!). Broderick, in the role of comic book supervillain, keeps trying to off Slothrop, but our hero has a lucky streak just wide enough to keep him alive. Right off the bat, we see another image of the chessboard - the whole factory-state is laid out in a grid, and it's all A Game of Chess, as der Springer already informed us, and our movements are limited. Crucially, "Your objective is not the King - there is no King - but momentary targets such as the Radiant Hour." (674) How can you win at chess when there's no King? How can the land be restored and the cycle renewed if there's no King to die and be replaced? Slothrop is joined by a truly slipshod lot: Myrtle Miraculous, the only one who seems to have actual powers; Maximilian, a suave Black club manager who can flow with all natural rhythms and thus able to navigate any scenario with ease, and Marcel, a mechanical chess player (an embodiment of the Mechanical Turk, but crucially, one without the hidden human operator. No hidden Grandmaster lurking inside Marcel here - nope, this android's the real deal. This section includes one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Decisions are never really made - at best they manager to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery." (676) I can think of several times where I've been able to relate to that scenario all too well. Their chances for success and failure are equal, but these opposing odds don't cancel each other out - instead, the two opposing forces just create a "loud dissonance". The crew undertake some truly hallucinatory adventures through the Racketen-Stadt which I will not attempt to summarize, as that would be an exercise in futility. But we are treated to flashes of Slothrop, "Broderick and Nalline's shadow-child, their unconfessed, their monster son," (677) getting locked in an icebox, piloting a mobile building through the grid-streets of the factory-state like a giant chess piece. One line really jumps out at me, here, that I think is important: "Their struggle is not the only, or even the ultimate one. Indeed, not only are there many other struggles, but there are also spectators, watching, as spectators will do, hundreds of thousands of them." (679) Makes me think of the "glozing neuters," mentioned earlier - of the masses of people who are just trying to live their lives, neither part of any conspiracy nor actively aware of being subject to one. Must be nice. At the same time, the idea of other, simultaneous struggles, is noteworthy - it brings to mind the concept of intersectionality, and how people realizing their unique, individual struggles share common sources, and common traits, which they can work together to fight. We end this sub-section in an arena for these exact masses, where our heroes are on a stakeout, with Slothrop in full drag waiting in the Transvestites' Toilet for a message. You may be wondering about the multiple instances of cross-dressing, in various iterations, throughout the book. Slothrop in drag and Blicero in a wig and merkin come to mind. One aspect, I'd say, is that it reflects a blending of two (as far as society is generally concerned) binary opposites. A crossing-over, a transgression against the status quo and an option other than 1 or 0. Eliot, in his Notes on The Waste Land, wrote,
"Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." (Emphasis mine).
Cue Crutchfield the Westwardman's world of only one of everything. Likewise, the women in Gravity's Rainbow often blend together, share traits or imagery. So do the men. The joining of the two sexes in Blicero, as well as Slothrop here at the end, is significant. The Low-Frequency Listeners The introduction here of the character of Rohr, the Keeper of the Antenna, specifically as a Jehovah's witness, was odd. It's such a specific subsect of Christianity. Then we see - he heard a man on the radio, dying, asking for a priest. Rohr says, "Should I have got on and told him about priests? Would he've found any comfort in that?" (682). In what? I had to look it up, but when I did, it clicked - Jehovah's witnesses apparently do not have priests, because they are all ordained. There is no separate priest caste in their church, and thus no Preterite/Elect division. In this section, we also learn that the Nuremberg trials are getting underway. Mom Slothrop's Letter to Ambassador Kennedy You start to feel even more sorry for Slothrop as you realize just how terrible his parents apparently were. His mom cares enough to at least write another letter asking Ambassador Kennedy as to what the hell happened to their son, but her letter quickly devolves into drunken ramblings complaining about striking workers and managing to make an innuendo about Jack Kennedy while also dismissing her love of her sons. Oof. Maybe Otto was right with his conspiracy of mothers... On the Phrase "Ass-Backwards" An entertaining linguistic debate between Säure and Slothrop on American idioms, specifically ones involving a reversal, as in the case of "ass-backwards". The section then slips into a story of Säure, in his youth, breaking into the home of a young woman, Minnie, who is unable to hear or pronounce umlauted letters, and thus manages to shout the word "helicopter" rather than "cute robber" well before the vehicle was ever invented. Her cry is heard by none other than a young aerodynamics student. The word is taken as a prophesy and a warning of the helicopter's symbol of the police state, with armed officers hanging out the sides, aiming down at their targets. My Doper's Cadenza It begins with a serenade from Bodine, and then an exploration of the tenement building "Der Platz" that is home to numerous drug addicts, dope peddlers, and general ne'er-do-wells. They are building an anti-police moat around the building, entirely underground so as to avoid detection, saving breaking through the street for the end. Shit 'n' Shinola Another idiomatic diversion for Säure. A beautiful line is tucked away in here - "from outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of an artificially-graded hill." (687) This building, the Schein-Aula (Seeming-Hall), suggests "persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, melting snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay..." (688) Yet again, imagery of spring, of a return to life from the dead season of winter, of the cycle. We return to the Roseland Ballroom, where shit 'n' Shinola do actually come together. "Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for.... that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death." (688) Here Pynchon cuts straight to the point - the almost pathological fear of death and its connections to fears of blackness, excrement. Shit, Death, and the Word. Edwin Treacle hit on this back on p. 276 when he tried to show his colleagues at the White Visitation "that their feelings about blackness were tied to feelings about shit, and feelings about shit to feelings about putrefaction and death." The cycle of life is too organic, too messy. Better to replace carbon with silicon, to hide shit with porcelain, to treat people with dark skin as "other" or sub-human to avoid acknowledging that their non-European, communal ways of life were, in fact, totally natural. An Incident in the Transvestites' Toilet Not King Kong, but a small, costumed ape comes up to Slothrop, who's wearing a Fay Wray dress while waiting in the bathroom for a still-unspecified message. We get a Miltonic blank-verse poem (thanks, Weissenburger!) about the movie King Kong, written in the voice of Anne Darrow (Fay Wray's character). It's honestly quite good - I love the line "in your own stone living space" - the internal rhyme there sounds really nice, and I like the riff on living stone / Livingston, both of which have popped up previously. In the poem, Darrow talks about when she was tied up, hung by the natives as an offering to "the night's one Shape to come" (689), echoing both Greta Erdman's scene in Alpdrücken and the Hanged Man card of the Tarot (willing sacrifice, sacrifice that prompts a return, a renewal of the cycle). Darrow says she prayed, "not for Jack," her suave costar, but for her director Carl Denham, "only him, with gun and camera... making the unreal reel / By shooting at it, one way or the other-" (689). Throughout GR, we've seen a film motif, and this really brings it home. The analogy of a gun to a camera, both of which make the unreal real (a camera creates films that interpret real life - the "unreal reel", a gun makes death, which we've blocked away and tried to avoid, real and inescapable). The director is in control of the movie, the actors, the story, of how it works and what is told. Darrow ends by asking Carl to "show me the key light, whisper me a line..." - a key light is used in cinema and photography to not just shed light on the subject, but to do so in a way that provides form and dimension to the subject and the scene. So Darrow is asking for the director to literally give her form and definition, to tell her what to say next. This ape, though, isn't so Romantic as ol' Kong though, and is much more direct. It hands Slothrop an anarchist's bomb straight out of the comics pages, and takes off. Slothrop freezes and is saved by a helpful transvestite who takes the bomb and flushes it down the toilet. But it explodes anyway, sending geysers of water up out of all the toilets. A Voice comes out of he Loudspeaker informing everyone that it was, in fact, a sodium bomb that explodes upon contact with water. Tellls everyone to get the "dangerous maniac" who threw it. That was supposed to be Slothrop, but he was saved by his indecision and the kindness of a stranger, who is now set upon by the other occupants of the toilet. A Moment of Fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes We now jump to a pair of comically-mismatched Kamikaze pilots stationed on a remote island well away from any conflict. One flies a Zero, the other flies an "Ohka device" which is basically a rocket-bomb with a pilot's seat. They get moonshine from their radarman, Kenosho, who mocks them daily for the lack of opportunities to fly to their deaths and who comes up with haikus that, while in the right format, really miss the heart of what a haiku is supposed to be. Streets Back to Slothrop, now, and a catalogue of the streets he's traveled down and what he's seen. We get a meditation on the absurdity of army chaplains, who worked for the Army and "stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation." (693) And it does seem a bit absurd when you consider that the Army that employs the chaplains is the same entity sending the men off to die. We see a bus driver (perchance our maniac bus driver from earlier?) driving through town in the night, his passengers looking out the windows, their faces "drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt..." (693) Going back to the Waste Land, the phrase "I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water." is symbolic of a death without return (drowning) contrasted to the sacrifice/return symbolized by The Hanged Man. These poor passengers, it seems, aren't to expect any return. Slothrop also, at this point, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima from a discarded Army newspaper, the photo of the atomic blast placed in poor taste next to an image of a pin-up girl. The bomb's mushroom cloud is compared to the Cross, to a capital-T Tree. But which tree? Is this a meditation on the deadly, unforgettable knowledge of how to split the atom, or of the tree of life, with the citizens of Hiroshima as a sacrifice made... but to what? I'm honestly not sure. Would love your thoughts. Listening to the Toilet As others have noted, this book in many ways is about the drug counterculture and hippie movement of the 60s/early 70s. This is the most overt in this section, in which we learn that listening for the cessation of the flow of water to the toilet in the pipes is a cue that a police raid is imminent - shutting off the water being a way to prevent the flushing of illicit substances. But it takes a special ear to hear the cessation of a subtle, pervasive white noise. What if the sun, in fact, massive furnace that it is, emits a constant, low-level roar that is so incessant we don't even hear it? What if eddies in the current of the Soniferous Aether cause rare spots of true quiet, where the noise is no longer transmitted and anyone in that spot can hear their own heartbeat it's so quiet? Interestingly, there are "quiet rooms" designed to absorb nearly all sound, used for precise sound calibration. I remember reading that most people can't sit in one of those rooms for more than 30 minutes or so because it's literally so quiet that you can hear the blood flowing through your veins, and people have even reported auditory hallucinations as a result. But why this digression? Maybe because we need to be asking what other white noise is out there that we've become completely deaf to? I think Roger and Jessica found a pocket of this quiet, early in the book, where the "noise" of modern society and all its associated obligations was muted by the War. Witty Repartee A return to our Komical Kamikazes, and a meditation on the ubiquity of the Hotchkiss machine gun across nations, independent of alliances. We get an image of a false King - an inbred idiot lying naked in a dumpster, attracting the attention of potential revolutionaries. But they can't decide if he's "a diversionary nuisance planted here by the Management, or whether he's real Decadent Aristocracy to be held for real ransom" (698). While the would-be revolutionaries are debating in the alley, sentries with the aforementioned Hotchkiss guns take positions on the rooftops, aiming down... Heart-to-Heart, Man-to-Man A dialogue here between Slothrop and ol' Broderick, with dear old dad interrogating his wayward son about a modern electric drug. Slothrop reassures him that he'd never shoot raw electricity - no, they dope themselves with waves. Major pre-Cyberpunk vibes here, with Broderick warning "Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back?" to which Tyrone replies, "What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? .... Maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever.... We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified Electroworld-" (699). Matrix, anyone? Not to mention the waves of radio, TV, etc. and the simple, episodic, controlled reality they offer. Pleasantville also comes to mind, with all its commentary on the shows of the era. Some Characteristics of Imipolex G We learn that Imipolex G is the first erectile plastic, stiffening in response to certain electronic stimuli. The potential of a layer of controlling wires just under the outer layer of Imipolex, making it a second skin - a synthetic interface. Alternately, there's the potential to control it via a projection of "an electronic 'image; analogous to a motion picture." (700) My gods, I made it through this section... Section 68 Tchitcherine now, dealing with a spook, Nikolai Ripov, from the Commissariat for Intelligence Activities. His pal Džabajev has run off with "two local derelicts" (700) and is impersonating Frank Sinatra and wooing the ladies of the Zone. We get the line, "While nobles are crying in their nights' chains, the squires sing. The terrible politics of the Grail can never touch them. Song is the magic cape." (701) - Seems another example of folks recognizing the game, the Grail quest, for what it was and checking out - deciding not to play and just enjoy themselves while the Elect lose sleep over the endless searching. Ripov explains to Tchitcherine how "the basic problem... has always been getting other people to die for you." (701) Religion used to serve as an effective control for that reason - death isn't quite as scary if you think you're going to heaven. But modern society has moved on, and needs more secular sources of control, like a commitment to "History" as if you're part of some great narrative, sacrificing yourself for some imagined end-goal of what society is "supposed" to be. Seems Tchitcherine was doping on Oneirine theophosphate. Wimpe, his dealer, argues that a man is "only real at the points of decision. The time between doesn't matter." (702) Points man again - the moment of decision, of choice, that splits the future in two. Points of control. Contrast that to:
"Datta: what have we given? / My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this, and this only, we have existed." (The Waste Land, Part V: What the Thunder Said - emphasis mine).
Both are arguing that it's these key moments, irreversible junctures in our lives that make us real. Not what comes next, not what people say about us, just our moments. Integrate those moments, run them fast enough (say 24 frames per second) and you might even approximate something close to a person... We learn that Oneirine apparently leads to "the dullest hallucinations known to psychopharmacology" (703) - hauntings of the mundane, the almost-normal. Tchitcherine's Haunting Tchitcherine hallucinates that Ripov is interrogating him, and he becomes fixated on the question of whether or not he was supposed to die. Seems like part of him wants to believe in life after death, in some hope for meaning, which goes against the Soviet doctrine and thus isn't exactly endearing him to those above him. Thankfully this is just an Oneirine haunting, except... wait, it's too real - no subtle violations of reality. He tries to escape, but is outnumbered. But no execution for him here - just a reassignment to Central Asia. A cold and operational death. Section 69
"The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I, a common movement at the mercy of death and time: the ad hoc adventure." - Resolutions of the Gross Suckling Conference (706)
In other words, they seek a nation that does not function independently of its citizens - one that is not some separate identity with a quasi-personhood (much like how corporations are legally "people"). Rather, a nation that is inextricably linked to the people and that will die when they do. No immortality, no denial of the cycle or death. But poor Roger's still dealing with Jessica, and now with Jeremy, too, who he's at least amicable with. But he's struggling with their acceptance of the System, their embracing of it. Jeremy's all about reassembling the rockets and firing them, asking "What else does one do with a rocket?" (note how disassembling it or at least not using the weapon isn't even an option...). Jeremy's even so kind as to invite Roger to a fancy dinner with a bunch of corporate bigwigs, including folks from Krupp, ICI, and GE, and hosted by one Stefan Utgarthaloki, whose name should be a giant red-flag that something's amiss with this shindig. Roger picks Seaman Bodine as his date, the two having struck up a rather theatrical friendship, dress in their absurdist best (Bodine in the mother of all zoot suits), and join the party. We get some insight here into the nature of rebellions, and the danger of them not only fizzling out or failing, but of being co-opted as a tool to "help legitimize Them" (713). Of either dying or "living on as Their pet" - it brings to mind the corporate branding of "rebelliousness" as cool, as "a phase" that it's normal to go through and eventually grow up from. Treating the idealism of youth, the desire to make the world better and to fight against the problems of the system before you become numb to them, as a normal phase of life is such an effective way to neutralize it culturally. How many people have heard the phrase "you get conservative [i.e. more resistant to change] as you get older"? How many of us have seen youth-led movements being dismissed as examples of immaturity, for example? Between that and companies stamping their logo on it (hello, Hot Topic), it's a way to change the cultural narrative around any movement against the status quo to one that's dismissive, just accepting enough to let people burn off their energy and eventually fall into line. Because how else can you continue to live a decent life in a society that refuses to change? You either go build a shack in the woods somewhere, die, or acclimate to the system and just focus on being comfortable yourself, not constantly fighting for change. It's a depressing thought, and I'm sure Pynchon saw a lot of that attitude in the 60s. I have to wonder - do non-industrialized societies have "teenage rebellion" as a normal part of life? Is that a part of human nature, like we tend to think, or is it an explicit reaction to reaching maturity in a system that is anti-human and anti-nature? Anyway, back to the dinner party - between the depressing, anti-social music (kazoos?!) and the lavish dinner, things seem fine, but there's a plot against the Roger and Bodine. Fortunately a journalist, Constance, tips off Bodine that they might just be the main course of this feast, so Bodine cues Roger to begin the evening show - an absurd gross-out session that they planned in advance with the aid of now-deceased Pudding communicating via medium Carroll Eventyr. The pair recite an increasingly disgusting list of alliterative dishes, triggering "well-bred gagging" and guests to flee, though a few find it all quite entertaining. But it's enough to break up the dinner party and allow our heroes to flee. Note: If you made it this far, actually read all this,thank you. Bloom warned me this was a longer section, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I think this is longer than some college essays I wrote... Damn fun, though, and I hope you've found my thoughts informative, interesting, useful, or if nothing else, sufficiently diversionary for a spell. I truly look forward to seeing what you other fine foax have to say on these labrynthine sections. Questions
In the lightning-aficionado's "A Nickel Saved" excerpt, are there any other references or hidden ideas you can find? I have to think there are.
What is the meaning of the windmill reflected in Blicero's eyes? How do you interpret the imagery in this scene in general?
175-Stadt. Oven-State. Hund-Stadt. Rocket-State. Factory-State. We've seen numerous examples of specialized micro-states across the Zone, experiments in different forms of society. What are your thoughts on these? Are they hints at ways to find alternate societies, or manifestations of humanity's tendency to divide by category and put of fences?
In the "Shit 'n' Shinola" subsection, Pynchon connects Jack Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Tyrone Slothrop. What do you make of this intersection?
In "Streets," the bombing of Hiroshima is presented as being similar to the Cross, "it is also, perhaps, a Tree..." - the capitalized "Tree" here could be the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the tree from which the Hanged Man dangles, or perhaps something else. What's your interpretation of this imagery?
In Section 69, we see references to the Albatross, famous symbol from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's presented that Slothrop is the (now-plucked) albatross, but it's not clear who killed this bird, or who's wearing it around their neck. They? Any ideas?
Space-time rippled as the Horns of Glory snapped into real space. The normally smooth transition from FTL subspace travel back to the laws of relativity was instead dangerously jarring, as the inertial dampeners struggled to hold the innards of the massive warship in their proper places. After straining mightily for the briefest of moments, they failed, throwing Admiral Halon Va and the rest of his bridge crew violently into their restraining harnesses. The ship shuddered under the immense stress, then settled, drifting silently through space on minimal power. “Tactical, get me a status report for the fleet on screen now. I want updates the instant ships jump in.” The Admiral’s voice was still firm and authoritative; it was taking every last shred of resolve he had to keep it that way. “Lieutenant Roshin, put a detail together and work with medical. I’m sure that re-entry caused more than a few extra injuries. Get as many of the crew patched up and ready for emergency action as fast as you can. I want a full casualty report as soon as possible. And if you find Science Officer Lentith and he’s still alive, send him to the bridge immediately.” Admiral Va settled back into his command chair, drawing creaking sounds from the over-stressed frame as it absorbed the weight of his massive form. The bridge was completely silent now, the command crew entirely focused on the tasks at hand. Or they were too afraid to say anything; Va couldn’t be sure. He was thankful for their silence, though. He didn’t have any answers for them about his failure. Keying in a few commands on the command panel at his station, the damage report for his ship popped up, the bridge lights flickering from the extra power draw. The Horns of Glory floated before him in hologram form. Long and slender, the ship was over two kilometers from bow to stern. At least, it had been a few hours ago. The forward 20 percent of the holographic ship was flashing red, indicating heavy damage. This was inaccurate, however, as the forward 20 percent of the ship simply wasn’t there anymore. The graceful lines and carefully crafted angles of the ship's armor were an unrecognizable slagged mess, and deep gouges had been cut into the inner decks all over the ship. Whole sections were missing amidships, two of the main reactors were offline, all the primary weapon batteries had been completely destroyed, and most of the critical systems were barely functioning. It was a miracle that she had survived the jump. That morning, Horns of Glory had been the greatest feat of Arien’Ra engineering, and it was now a barely functioning hulk. And it had all happened under my command, thought Va. He had no time to wallow in his failures, however, as at that moment tactical finally reconnected to the fleet command systems. The hologram of Horns of Glory quickly scaled down, appearing as a small, flashing, red point of light floating in loose formation with several other points of light. Most of them were flashing red as well. A constant stream of data and various reports scrolled down the right side of the hologram, listing in no uncertain terms the doom that Va had subjected his command to. If Va had thought that the bridge was quiet before, it was nothing compared to the complete stillness that now settled over them. No one so much as moved a muscle, as they all sat in stunned silence, reading the reports. Occasionally, the hologram would flash, and a new point of light would join the formation, adding more data to the pile spelling out their damnation. After 30 ticks, new points of light had stopped appearing. Admiral Halon Va had lost over 60 percent of his fleet, and not a single other dreadnaught had survived the slaughter. His defeat was total, and the Federation navy was crippled. Science Officer Beredarin Lentith had been the first member of his family not to enroll in command school in eight generations. They had been some of the finest members of the fleet the Vorqual race had ever contributed to the Federation. His brothers and sisters had all enrolled, which meant that as far as he was concerned, his family had more than fulfilled their duty to the Federation. Military life wasn’t for him, anyway; he wanted to explore. The Federation had been around for over 3000 years, and there were still vast swathes of the galaxy that they knew nothing about. They were still encountering new species every few hundred or so years, and there was nothing he wouldn’t give to find the next one. That had been the dream that directed him away from the military and into academia. The odds of actually finding a new race were so small, though. There were still at least 200,000,000 unexplored systems in the galaxy. There just wasn’t time to visit them all... He snapped out of his reverie as he stepped over the body, or rather, what was left of the body, of a Zelnassi marine. Most of it was just a green stain on the corridor wall at this point, though there had been enough of the chitinous armored torso to partially obstruct his path. The young lieutenant quickly continued on towards the bridge. If he was being honest with himself, becoming an expert on the area of unexplored space directly between the Federation and it’s largest military rival wasn’t the smartest of ideas. Between his family reputation and his unique knowledge base, he was just asking to get pressed into service. Which was exactly what had happened immediately upon the recent outbreak of hostilities. And now here he was stepping over corpses, marveling at the fact that he had somehow survived this long. He still couldn’t believe the insanity of the Dominion forces. Boarding an enemy ship MID-COMBAT. It was like something out of a youngling’s tale from before space travel. It was pure madness, but there were the bodies to prove that it had happened. He gingerly stepped around the remains of yet another Zelnassi. The signs of battle continued all the way to the bridge, where he found security forces still holding quickly fortified positions around the bridge entrance. There were more Zelnassi bodies at their feet. Berendarin shuddered. He had been closer to death than he thought. He quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He could only imagine why he was needed on the bridge so urgently. The door slid open, and Lentith walked into a completely silent room. Admiral Va was slouched at his command station, his enormous arm propped up on the chair arm and supporting his massive, horned head. Lentith didn’t even know that Arien’Ra COULD slouch. Nevermind that the fastidious Admiral could or would ever do such a thing. Maybe things were somehow worse than he thought. No one seemed to notice him enter, so he announced himself to the Admiral. Though he didn’t shout, his voice echoed in the deathly silent room, startling most of the bridge command. Two of the other Vorqual officers swore, and the tiny Jezren manning the com station let out a high pitched sound somewhere between a squeak and chirp. Berendarin would have found it quite funny if the situation wasn’t so dire. Admiral Va immediately snapped back to being the hulk of muscle and horn that imposed his will on a room just by being in it. His booming voice only added to his authority. “Science Officer Lentith. I’m glad to see you’re still alive. Are you seriously injured?” Berendarin had almost forgotten that he had walked the entire way to the bridge holding a bandage to his head just above his left eye. The drop out of subspace hadn’t been kind to him. He pulled the bandage away, revealing a dark orange stain on the bandage and a crack in the bone plate above his eye. “I’m fine, sir, just one of the outer plates, and the bleeding has already stopped.” “Good. Commander Vortith is currently overseeing the emergency repairs. Take his seat. You are going to help me find a way back home.” “Sir? I’m sorry I don’t understand. Why don’t we just go back the way we came?” “That’s not possible. Most of our supply ships and tenders were destroyed when that third wave of Dominion ships hit our flank. Almost all of our pre-prepared fuel reserves are gone. On top of that, some of our ships are so damaged that they don’t have another long jump in them. And if we run into any enemy ships, the whole rest of the fleet is done for. We barely qualify as a fighting force in the state we’re in.” “Is it really that bad?” “It’s worse, but we don’t have time to get into the details. You’re the expert on this section of the galaxy. I need you to find the fleet a hiding hole. Somewhere away from the known jump routes through the Spur. Any system where we can use the few miners we have left to scavenge up some fuel, and get some critical repairs done while we’re at it. And from there either wait for reinforcements or get ourselves patched up enough to limp home. Wherever it is, it needs to be close. I’m not leaving any ships behind because they can’t make the jump.” “Oh. Just that?” The lieutenant knew that Arien’Ra were strict herbivores, but with the look that the Admiral shot him, he couldn’t help but think about the fact that his head would easily fit into that giant, molar filled mouth. “And away from any known pirate hideaways. Like I said, our fleet can’t take any more fighting. And find it quickly. It won’t be long before the Dominion fleet locates us.” “I. Uh. Sure. I’ll see what I can find.” Berendarin shrank into the commander’s chair next to the enormous Arien’Ra, desperately wishing he had been more professional. If he had acted like a proper soldier, it might soften the blow of telling the Admiral that what he wanted was next to impossible. If he had a few weeks, he might be able to find something. So much of the Spur was still un-surveyed. The odds of there being anything useful to the Admiral in the databases was absurdly low, and there was even less of a chance he’d be able to find it in time for the information to matter. He began pouring through his notes anyway. It was better than waiting around to die, which, if the situation was as dire as the Admiral made it sound, was the only other option. He spent the next hour lost in his notes, finding nothing, while the bridge crew went about piecing the ship and the fleet back together. The young scientist had all but given up on the Admiral’s impossible request when a raucous cheer went up from everyone on the command deck. “Sir,” The coms officer called out, “The Consul’s Pride just dropped out of subspace and is hailing us, sir. The main communication screen lit up, and Berendarin Lentith looked to see the face of his oldest sister on screen, strapped into the captain’s chair of her dreadnaught. He let out a sigh of relief; Baraquen was his favorite sibling. Her uniform was drenched in a deep orange blood stain at the shoulder, and she was covered in what looked like flecks of green gore from a Xelnassi. The artificial gravity was clearly malfunctioning, as the captain’s restraining harness was the only thing keeping her from floating around her bridge. But the bone plates of her jaw were turned as always into her calm, self assured smile “My apologies for the delay in joining you, Admiral Va. We had some… guests shut down our drive mid jump. We had to deal with them before we rejoined the fleet. I assume there is a plan to get us back to federation space?” “It’s good to see you in one piece, Captain Lentith,” the Admiral responded. He was barely able to keep the relief from his voice. “And there is indeed a plan.” Berendarin returned to his research as the two ranking officers in the fleet went over the details of their current predicament. He was glad his sister had survived, and not just because they were close. It would have been a terrible blow to the whole family to have lost not only their future matriarch, but the ship she commanded as well. A member of his family had been commanding that dreadnaught uninterrupted for the last 5 generations. Military service had never appealed to Berendarin, but his family history was certainly still important. And then the solution to the current problem hit him like a driver round. He let out a gasp and tore into his notes with a fervor. Both Admiral Va and his sister’s projection turned to look at him, but he didn’t notice. After a few seconds of curious silence from the rest of the onlookers, Berendarin practically jumped out of his seat. “Admiral, I think I’ve got something that will work.” The young Lieutenant punched a few commands into his datapad, and a set of stellar coordinates popped up on the navigation terminal. “It’s a main sequence star, about 500 light years from us, fairly close to the edge of the Spur. It’s not anywhere near any established jump routes. The Consul’s Pride made me think of it.” He nodded towards his sister’s face on the ship's screen. “Our great, great grandsire took the Consul’s Pride through the system on her shakedown run a little over 300 cycles ago. Chased a band of Qorthi slavers out of the system. The outer four planets are all gas giants. If we can’t find Helium 3 there, I don’t know where else we should look.” On screen, Captain Lentith looked impressed, but Admiral Va clearly didn’t seem too sure. “We’re supposed to be going away from Dominion forces, not into them. What were the Qorthi doing there?” “There are also four rocky inner worlds in the system, Sir, according to reports from the encounter. Apparently, the third planet is a Class 7 Deathworld, and the Qorthi were running some experiments on the primitive lifeforms there. They were caught completely by surprise by the Consul’s Pride, and it was the first time that she fired her weapons in anger. I can’t find any reports of Dominion ships in that section of the Spur since.” There was a long pause before Va responded. “Good work, Lieutenant. I knew my trust in you wasn’t misplaced.” Admiral Va replied, before turning to the rest of the bridge and booming “Coms! Tactical! Get those coordinates to every ship in the fleet. I want every ship we have left formed up and ready to jump as soon as possible. Any captain who feels that his drives can’t make the jump is to focus all repair efforts on getting their drives functioning immediately. I will transfer repair crews from less damaged ships to more damaged ships if that means we jump even a tick earlier. Get to it everyone. I’m not losing any more of my fleet today.” The four revolution long jump to Science Officer Lentith’s newfound sanctuary had done wonders for Halon Va’s mental state. The initial shock of his fleet's terrible defeat had worn off, and he had been able to focus on what came next. Repair crews were able to stabilize most of his ship's core systems, and he was no longer worried about the life support systems cutting out and killing the rest of his crew. There had also been time for him to visit with the wounded. To thank them for their sacrifices. He had expected it to be an act of contrition, maybe even a chance to start begging for forgiveness. But there had been no anger in his crew, and no blame hung on his horns. Most had just been relieved that he had survived, and had expressed as much. He would be forever grateful to them for that. Most importantly, the four revolutions in hyperspace had given the admiral time to really think about what had gone wrong in the nebula. He had barely rested in the preceding four revolutions, spending every scrap of spare time in his office, pouring over records from the battle. That’s where he found himself now, tucked behind his massive ceramic and titanium alloy desk of Tellarim design. It had been custom made for him upon his promotion to this command, a gift from the high admirals and the council. It was the only luxury that Va allowed in his office. The rest of Va’s space he kept strictly utilitarian. There were no trophies adorning his walls, as was customary for other members of his species. The plain bulkheads of his office were instead lined entirely with screens, and each of them were now filled with footage and reports from the battle, running on loop. Va soaked it all in. The more he watched, the more a singular conclusion crystallized in his mind. He had done everything right; he was sure of that now. 1000 years of doctrine and theory for fighting the Dominion had gone into his preparation for that battle, and he had followed it to the letter. And he had been winning. Then that attack on his flank by the Zelnassi had blown all of that out of the airlock. Something significant had changed in the way the Dominion fought... Commander Vortith’s voice rang out over the com system. ”Admiral Va, we’ll be transitioning back to real space in moments.” “Thank you. I’ll be there shortly. And get Science Officer Lentith to the bridge. I want him nearby just in case. He’s the only one who has any idea of where we are.” The Admiral pulled himself from his desk. He would have to leave the rest of his analysis for later. There was just enough time for him to reach the bridge and settle into his command chair before the Horns of Glory snapped back to real space. This time, the inertial dampeners held. “Tactical, status report.” “All ships accounted for, Admiral. Though the Consul’s Pride, several cruisers, and three of our escorts are all reporting massive failures in their Drive Cores. They won’t be jumping anywhere anytime soon.” “Wonderful.” Va wasn’t sure if he meant that sarcastically or not. “Get scans up and running and deploy the pickets that aren’t crippled in a standard scouting formation. How close are we to the nearest gas giant?” “We’re approximately half a light tick from the system’s innermost gas giant, sir.” “Excellent. Deploy the rest of the fleet. Put us in a high orbit around the planet in a defensive formation, and get our miners working immediately. Once our orbit is stable, I want every hand, paw and hoof in the fleet working on repairs.” “Yes sir.” Admiral Va settled into his command chair for a long shift. It would be a drawn out, boring process to refuel the ships. With his fleet limping along, and only two functioning miners, it would take far longer than it should. After all the chaos of the last few revolutions, boring would be a welcome change of pace. Va started to relax, sinking into his chair’s acceleration padding. His fleet and his crews were finally safe. The first priority would be to get one of the subspace beacons repaired and to get word back to the Federation that the fleet still existed. And hopefully call for aid. He was sure to be stripped of his rank as soon as contact was made, but hopefully he would avoid a Tribunal. That was an unpleasant prospect… “Sir, we have unidentified ship signatures appearing from around the planet we’re approaching.” Va had never heard panic in the voice of his young sensors officer before, but it was certainly there now. Va understood the sentiment, though. He found it difficult to keep the panic from his own voice as he started issuing orders “Bring the fleet up to combat status immediately. How many ships are there?” “I’m showing 35 individual signatures. All approaching us at combat speed and still accelerating. At current speeds, they will intercept us in just over 30 ticks, sir.” “I want details as soon as you have them, Lieutenant. Size, make, estimated firepower. Who they are. And keep scanning the system. Find out where they came from.” The panic had partially subsided for Va. 35 unknowns was not too terrible a threat. He still had almost 240 warships under his command. Still, if there was a way to avoid combat, he had to try. His fleet couldn’t suffer any more losses. “Coms, any attempt by these unknown ships to contact us?” “I”m not sure, sir,” the diminutive Jezren at the coms replied. “There’s nothing on standard communications channels. The ships are transmitting something, but I can’t figure out what it is.” “Admiral,” the Lieutenant at the sensors station called out. “I think I might have an idea of where these ships came from. Preliminary scans show there is extensive urbanization on the third and fourth planets, as well as what appear to be habitation sized artificial satellites around the second and sixth planets. One of the moons of the gas giant we’re approaching shows signs of habitation as well. All of them are emitting significant signal pollution. This system clearly already belongs to someone, and they’re broadcasting everywhere.” Halon Va, High Admiral of the Combined Federation Fleets, turned, slowly and with as much composure as he could muster, to face the young science officer seated to his left. Berendarin sat, mouth agape, staring transfixed at the sensor readouts in front of him. Va had never seen a Vorqual more confused in his life. “I want answers, Officer Lentith.” “I… I don’t.. This doesn’t make any sense,” the young science officer stammered. “There shouldn’t be anything here.” “Admiral,” The comms officer cut in, “The signal that we’re picking up from the unknown ships is definitely some kind of communication. I managed to put together audio from it.” “Play it,” commanded Va. A series of short, guttural, and completely unintelligible sounds came over the speakers in reply. There was a short pause before the sounds repeated themselves again. “Coms, what was that?” “No idea, sir, but it’s being transmitted on loop. If it is intended as a communication, our translators have no idea what to do with it.” “Admiral.” The voice came from Va’s left, and was barely audible. Va turned yet again to look at the young science officer. His gaze was locked on the tactical readout, and there something in his eyes that Va couldn’t recognize. A mixture of pure terror and something else. Was it wonder? The young Vorqual’s voice was still barely above a whisper when he continued to address the admiral: “I think we should run the transmission through First Contact Protocols.” Captain Benjamin Alvarez-León slammed against his restraining harness as the USCS Aurora started it’s decel burn. He had pushed the engines on the outdated cruiser to their limits, and the ship groaned in protest as it started counteracting his rather zealous acceleration orders. He hoped that his mad scramble with his small squadron of outdated ships had been an overreaction. The alternative was something he’d rather not think about. All Ben had was the reserves; the rest of the fleet was on maneuvers at Sirius. The Admiralty had wanted to test the new, fully modernized fleet’s maneuvering abilities in the gravwell of a binary system. And, in their infinite wisdom, they decided they needed ALL of the new fleet assets, leaving nothing in Sol except for the handful of cruisers and escorts that couldn’t match the capabilities of the modern ships. A handful of cruisers and escorts that were now hurtling towards more than 200 unknown contacts. It was the unknown part of all of this that was unnerving Ben. There were no familiar energy signatures. No familiar scan data. No IFF. No signals coming off the contacts of any kind for that matter. Two of the contacts were too big to even be ships. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were moving towards Jupiter in formation, Ben wouldn’t even think they WERE ships. “So what do you think, Alexi?” Ben asked, turning towards his second in command. “You and the rest of the bridge crew are always making inane bets. Have you whipped up an over-under for what we’re throwing ourselves at yet?” “Haven’t had time,” came the quick reply from Ben’s right. The short, stocky man from Vladivostok was missing his trademark joviality. “Though, my money is on them being Ithacan, sir.” Ben bristled at Alexi calling him sir. They’d been friends for twenty years, damnit, and had been practically joined at the hip since going through the Academy together. Outranking him still felt a little off. Now was hardly the time to worry about formalities, though. “What makes you think they're from Ithaca?” “It’s the only thing that makes sense. The locals have been getting increasingly radical, and Ithaca is the only sector where reports of piracy have been increasing.” “Yeah, I could see a rebellion coming from Ithaca,” Ben added slowly, turning over that scenario in his head. “But there’s no way they could swing something of this magnitude. There aren’t even any shipyards in the sector. And even if there were, there’s no way they could keep the construction of over two hundred ships a secret.” Alexi could only offer him a shrug in response. It was at that moment that the coms station informed him there was a transmission incoming from the unidentified ships. Ben instructed the ensign to play it, and the bridge was suddenly filled with a stream of grotesque bleating noises and strange grunts, with the occasional recognizable syllable interspersed throughout the transmission. Ben thought he picked out ‘dentify’ from the mess, but he wasn’t sure. There was a long moment of silence on the bridge. “What the hell was that?” When no one had any answers for him, Ben tapped his command console and recorded a new message to broadcast. “This is Captain Alvarez of the USCS Aurora. Unidentified ships, please clarify. Your transmission is badly garbled. We did not receive your identification. You are still trespassing in Commonwealth space and are on an unauthorized course towards Jupiter. Begin decelerating immediately and re-identify yourselves.” He wouldn’t admit it to the crew, but Ben was profoundly unsettled. Something was deeply, deeply wrong about this whole situation. Not only was he vastly outnumbered by these things, but they were unwilling to communicate properly. He was almost believing this whole thing was some kind of bizarre prank. “How much longer before we can get a decent visual on these things? “Any moment now, sir.” A new transmission arrived just then, and Ben had it played back immediately. This time, instead of almost bovine bleats and grunts, the sounds coming over the speakers were mostly intelligible. Or, they would have been, if any of the syllables were in the right order. It was almost like a toddler was rattling off all of his new favorite sounds, spitting them out in a random order and not knowing how they went together. There were still a few heavy grunts sprinkled in, just for good measure. Before Ben could process this new joke of a transmission, the contacts finally started slowing. In a matter of moments, the strange wall of contacts was hanging lazily in Jupiter’s orbit, barely moving fast enough to keep their orbit from decaying. They were still in perfect formation. “Huh. Well, I guess that’s something.” With nothing to do but sit back and wait as his ship closed the distance, Ben tried to relax and began running over all of the possibilities in his mind of what the new contacts could be. He came up with nothing. Well, nothing feasible, anyway. He took a series of long, calming breaths, trying to clear his mind and focus. This was no time for his imagination to be running wild. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that logic was failing him. Something was off. Something… “Captain, bringing visual of the unknown contacts up on screen now.” Ben actually felt his jaw drop. Every contact on his display was clearly a ship. Most were long and spindly, wrapped in layers of some kind of highly reflective armor; a fleet of crystalline arrows hanging in the darkness. The two largest contacts, which Ben had just moments ago thought were too big to be ships, were large enough on the screen for him to clearly see details. In addition to their immense size and strange armor, both ships were dotted with what were clearly weapons platforms, though what kind, Ben couldn’t tell. Noticeably, almost all of the ships on his screen were heavily damaged. Chunks were missing from some ships, and most had deep lines gouged into their hulls. Any form of decorative paint or markings had been burned away. Something had put these ships through absolute hell. But still, the damage could not take away entirely from the elegance of the ship’s designs. They were graceful and sleek, completely different from anything Ben had ever seen before. It was all so different. So strange. So very, very… Alien. Despite every effort he had made to avoid the word, it finally forced itself to form inside Ben’s mind, and forced him to acknowledge the reality that legitimate, extra-Solar life was hanging in the darkness in front of him. It forced him to acknowledge the screams he had been suppressing in the back of his mind. The screams of his imagination crying out in glorious triumph over reality. And with those screams came a deluge of accompanying thoughts and emotions. He was a child again, staring up at the stars above Armstrong and wondering what else, and who else, was out there. He was a teen again, signing his name to the Academy enrollment paperwork, determined to get out there between the stars and see the galaxy himself. He was a young officer again, screaming and pleading with the Admiralty to at least consider a modern First Contact scenario. He was sitting in his command chair now, hurtling towards honest-to-god aliens, all of his dreams made manifest in an instant. He was overwhelmed. He was terrified. And he had never imagined that he could feel such elation. It was the young warrant officer at the coms that snapped Ben out of his reverie. “Sir, the contacts are hailing us on all standard channels, requesting a video feed.” She sounded very, very nervous. Ben immediately stood up, straightening his uniform as best he could. “If they’re anything less than genocidal monsters, I’m going to offer them aid and repairs. As long as they’re peaceful, there’s no reason not to extend them the full hospitality of humanity.” “Ben,” Alexi asked, clearly choosing his words carefully, “Are you sure that’s the… Wisest course of action? How will the Admiralty respond to Goddamned alien ships docking at Hephaestus?” “Alexi, in the 250 years the Commonwealth has existed, the First Contact protocols haven’t been updated since the charter was signed. No one has cared. This has been nothing but a fantasy for most people. I am NOT letting this opportunity get away. Every child that has ever looked up at the stars and wondered finally got an answer, and I will not waste this moment. We’re making friends, the Admiralty and the government be damned.” “You do realize you’re potentially deciding the fate of our entire species on a whim, right?” “Is there someone else you’d prefer to have making this call?” Alexi, apparently deciding that there was not, stood up and straightened his uniform, standing next to his friend as he ordered the connection of the video feed. The channel connected, and the human bridge crew found themselves looking at the bridge of a ship crewed by not one, but three alien races. The largest alien in the center of the screen opened its mouth to speak. This time, instead of bleats and grunts, a choppy, mechanical voice that didn’t sync up to the alien at all proclaimed from the bridge speakers in broken, stuttering English: “I. Am Admiral. Halon. Va. Of the Federation of. Sentient Races. Greetings and. Welcome. To the. Galaxy.” Ben couldn’t suppress his smile. “On behalf of the United Solar Commonwealth, and all of Humanity, greetings, and welcome to Sol. Your ships look like they’ve had a bad time on your way here. If there’s any way we could aid with your repairs, we’d be happy to help.” Slave 782 slammed his right appendage onto the control console hard enough to rupture his outer membrane and smear ichor over the panel. It had been four days since the battle in the nebula, and with the latest round of reports, he finally had to admit that the rest of the Federation fleet had escaped him. It was a minor frustration, all things considered, but the escape prevented this from being a total victory. Still, he had proven his worth to his owners in this battle, and his experiments with the Zelnassi had paid dividends beyond his wildest imagination. He had earned a command today, and with every success in that command, his ability to bargain for his people's freedom only increased. For what he would be asking, it might take the total defeat of the Federation to earn that kind of leverage. Also frustrating, but not a task that he couldn’t handle. It would be a long war, he was sure, but like his owners, he was patient. He would earn his freedom, even if it meant reducing the entire Federation to glass. Author Wiki Series Wiki NEXT
Customer retention is a goal every business owner should be obsessed with. At the end of the day it's cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. But how do you ensure that your customers keep using your service? Are there any simple, yet effective ways to reduce or even prevent churn? As it turns out there's one simple strategy you can use to keep your customers around even if they're about to leave your platform. Let's explore what it is and why it works.
Why you should obsess over customer retention
As already stated in the introduction it's important to focus on customer retention when building a sustainable business. Acquiring customers can be an expensive endeavour. If you're not (yet) in a position where your product grows through Word-of-Mouth you're likely spending a good portion of your revenue on paid ads and marketing to drive traffic to your service. Only a few of your thousands of visitors will eventually try your product and convert to become a paying customer. Optimizing this marketing and sales funnel is a tricky and costly activity. Think about it for a minute. Who finances your learnings and tweakings of such funnel? Correct, your existing customers. That's why keeping your users happy and around is one of the most important business objectives.
Why customers are churning
If you think about it, there's really only one reason why your customers are leaving your platform:
Your product isn't a crucial part of their life anymore
While this sounds harsh I'd like you to think about all the services you're currently subscribing to. Now imagine that you can only keep one. What would you cancel? Probably everything except the one you can't live without. Of course, the preferences are different from person to person and they change over time. And that's the exact reason why people cancel their subscription with your service: Their preferences have changed and they might want to take a pause from your service or need something else entirely.
"Churn Baby Churn"
Now that we know why your customers churn, it's time to get into their shoes and think about ways to keep them around. One of the "industry" standards is to send out a survey once they're about to leave to gather feedback and convince them to stay. Some services offer coupon codes if for example the user has clicked on the "it's too expensive" option in the survey. Other tactics are more on the "dark patterns" side of things. Hiding buttons, asking double negative questions or using other techniques to make it nearly impossible to leave. Needless to say that customers of businesses practicing such tactics aren't the ones who spread the word on how awesome the product is. Quite the opposite. But let's take a step back for a minute and ask ourselves why this "should I stay or should I go" question has to be binary in the first place. Isn't there something "right in the middle"? Something where a user can stay but somehow go at the same time?
"Wait a minute... or a month..."
The solution to this dilemma is dead simple and obvious, yet rarely used: Make it possible to pause the subscription. Yes, it's that simple. Just offer a way to pause a subscription and get back to it once your users current circumstances have changed. Now you might think that it's a really bad idea to let users pause their subscription. They'll pause and never come back. So essentially it's a "passive churn" as they haven't left the platform yet but might never use it again. The stale user data is sitting in the database and your dashboards are still showing hockey-stick growth. Furthermore it's a huge implementation effort as pausing and resuming subscriptions isn't something considered business critical and hence wasn't implemented just yet. Those are all valid concerns and some of them might turn out to be true even if you have a "pause- and resume your subscription" system in place. But let's take a seconds to look at the other side of the equation.
Why pausing is a good idea
They very first thing that comes to mind is the COVID-19 pandemic we're currently in. A lot of business scaled back and hence had to cancel subscriptions to their favorite SaaS tools to cut costs. A common "save the customer tactic" used here was to get in touch with the business owner and offer heavy discounted year long subscription plans. That way businesses could reassess if they should really quit and leave the huge discount on the table or just go with it and double down to benefit from the sweet, discounted multi-year subscription deal. Letting business put their subscription on hold would be another strategy that could be used to help retain and eventually reactivate your users during this pandemic. Put yourself into your customers shoes again for a minute. Wouldn't you want to pay it back in the future if your supplier lent you a helping hand and wasn't "forcing" you out the door? Even if your customers pause their account you still have their E-Mail address to reach out to them and keep them informed about your product. In fact you should use this opportunity to stay in touch, ask them how they're doing and providing something of value along the way. That way you keep the communication "warm" and your business stays on "their radar". There's a higher likelihood that they think about your service when times have changed and they're about to scale things up again. Having a way to pause a subscription is an action that's usually taken with some level of consideration. If your customer wants to quit (s)he'll just cancel the subscription anyway. Offering a way to pause for the time-being is another option your users might just not have right now, so they're forced to make a very binary decision and therefore they just quit. What you should also think about is that pausing a subscription doesn't necessarily mean that you'll lose revenue for sure. There are different and very creative ways in which you can implement the pause. My gym for example simply extends my membership for the amount of months I put my membership on hold. In the summer I make use of this feature since I do my workouts outside anyways. However those 3-4 months I "save" are simply "added" to my contract. I just have a little bit more control about how and where I spend my time with sports. You can get really creative here and invent other ways for this mechanism to work if you really want to ensure that you don't lose revenue. A last, important point is that you can use this functionality as a competitive advantage and "marketing material". Be sure to add the fact that people can pause their subscription to your list of product benefits. Add it to the copy right next to your "Subscribe Now" button. Addressing objections and concerns right before the call-to-action is about to happen will drastically increase your conversion rates.
Things to keep in mind when going down that path
Now you might be excited and eager to implement this strategy in the near future but before you do so I'd like to call out a couple of things you should keep in mind when implementing it. First of all: Keep it simple. There's no need to jump right into code and implement this functionality end-to-end. Do it manually in the beginning. Update the database records and the subscription plans for people who want to pause their subscription by hand. Maybe you find out that very few people want to make use of this feature. What you definitely want to put in place is your new copywriting. As discussed above you should ensure that your marketing website is updated and reflects the recent change you just introduced. Next up you want to have an automated follow-up E-Mail sequence / Drip campaign setup for pausing customers. Keep in touch. Ask for problems they had with your software and help them succeed in whatever they're up to right now. You might want to jump on a quick call to gather some feedback as to why they paused and understand what needs to be in place for them to come back. If you do this, please ensure that you're genuinely interested in the communication. There's nothing worse for a user than composing a reply and shooting the E-Mail into the marketing void. A very important, yet often overlooked step is to have a tool in place which deals with "passive churn". Such a system ensures that the credit cards on file are up to date and chargeable. There could be an overlap between your users pausing their subscription and their credit cards expiring. You don't want to make them look bad because of that. You could even think about a "concierge service" which onboards them in person once they'll come back. Combine this with a quick update on all the new features / updates they missed and are not yet familiar with. Lastly you absolutely don't want to make it hard for your users to pause their subscription. As mentioned above, avoid dark patterns at all costs. And more importantly: Don't penalize them for pausing. Messages such as "We'll retain your data for the next 60 days" are inappropriate in the day and age of "Big Data" and access to Petabytes of storage for a nickel and dime.
I'd like to challenge you to think about adding the possibility to pause a subscription. Is it suitable for your business? Would it help you retain and reactive more customers (especially in the current situation we're in)? If you're about to add it, keep in mind that it doesn't have to be complicated. Start with a simple E-Mail form your users can fill out to let you know for how long they want to pause. Just make sure that you follow the best practices outlined above and that you advertise that it's now possible for your customers to pause their subscriptions.
Customer retention is one of the most important metrics every business owner should focus on. It's the existing customers who finance the Customer Acquisition Costs that are necessary to bring new users into the door. It's almost always cheaper to keep your existing customers happy than to lose them and acquire brand new ones. Unfortunately a lot of SaaS services only offer a very binary option for their subscription plans. As a user you're either in or you're out. You stay or you leave. But what if a user wants to take a pause for a few months because of current changes in life circumstances? Offering a way to pause a subscription is a simple, yet effective way to retain and eventually reactive your existing customers. Remember that a pause is temporary. If you follow-up with them on a continuous basis and help them succeed they'll eventually come back. Maybe even as a raving, more loyal fan of your brand. I hope that you enjoyed this article and I'd love to invite you to subscribe to my Newsletter if you're interested in more, action-oriented posts like this. Do you have any questions, feedback or comments? Feel free to reach out via E-Mail or connect with me on Twitter. This post was originally published on philippmuens.com
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