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Don't Be A Basic Bench: A Comprehensive Introductory Guide
Hello everyone! In an effort to keep the subreddit and its wiki filled with good and useful information, we are compiling guides for the main lifts (deadlift, squat, bench, potentially others). These guides will be added to the wiki and posted as posts as they are completed. The goal of these guides is to provide basic lift information, descriptions of some common variations, equipment considerations, related and complimentary exercises, additional resources for further reading, and to showcase incredible women (and non-binary folks) performing these lifts. This is the second entry in this lift series. Check out the first entry, The Deadlift Guide in the FAQ! If you have suggestions regarding things that should be added to these guides, or other subjects you'd like to see in the wiki, please message the mods!
The Bench Press
Bench Press Form and Variations
The main muscle group worked by the bench press is the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle in the chest area. The pectoralis major muscle has two sections that are named for the bones they attach to – the sternal portion attaches to the breast bone and makes up the bulk of the muscle fibers, making up the middle and lower section; the clavicular portion attaches to the collarbone and is the more superior (upper) portion. The bench press also heavily involves the triceps (back of the upper arm), and recruits the deltoid muscles (shoulder), and pectoralis minor to lesser extents. I’ll first be discussing the form for a standard, flat, “neutral/wide” grip bench press. Variations on this will be discussed below it. This guide is written for barbell bench pressing, but all of these variations can be performed with dumbbells as well. Flat bench – the standard/”default” bench press Start out flat on the bench with bar directly over your eyes (with spotter) or over your nose/mouth (without spotter), feet flat, butt and upper back planted firmly on the bench. Arching of the lumbar spine is normal, fine, and absolutely legal in lifting competitions. Scapulas (shoulderblades) should be retracted or “pinched together” to provide both a stable flat surface for your upper back to settle on the bench, and to minimize undue tension on your shoulder joints. Retracting your scapulae will also puff your chest up and put your shoulders in a safer position for the lift. The bar should rest in the heel of your palm so that it is stacked above the wrist, forearm, and elbows through the lift. A slight internal rotation of the hands will help with this positioning and will angle your elbows out slightly. For a standard flat bench press, your hands will be a bit further apart than shoulder width – about 1.5-2x shoulder width is the average position – position your hands so that your forearms will be almost completely perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the lift. Retract your scapulae (as if you’re trying to pick up a pencil off the bench between them), keep actively pushing your chest up, take in a big belly breath, and hold it before pushing the bar away from the rack and locking out at the elbows. Bring the bar down your torso so that it is directly over the line of your shoulders – this is likely going to be about the level of the middle of your sternum or your nipple line, but may vary depending on your individual anatomy and the degree of arching your back is doing. The bar should be directly above your elbows at all times during the movement of the lift. This not only increases stability during the lift, but also prevents undue stress on your triceps or your shoulders. It also is the most efficient configuration for using the majority of the muscle fibers within the pectoralis major. Speaking of efficiency in recruiting pectoral muscle fibers, let’s talk about arching your back during a bench press. This is a faux controversy like “sumo deadlifting is cheating” – the claim is that an arch will significantly decrease the range of motion for the bar, making the lift “easier”. While the purpose of the arch is to slightly decrease the range of motion, it also makes the lift safer at the bottom of the movement, which is the riskiest for your shoulder joints. It also serves to recruit more of your pectoral muscle fibers to the lift – this should increase the amount of weight one can lift and impact muscle growth when the goal is hypertrophy. Degree of arching is going to be up to personal preference and anatomy, but some degree of arch is natural and normal. Check out the natural position of the spine and you can see that the lumbar spine (lower back) has a natural forward curve (lordosis) which helps with loadbearing since we’re just hairless upright apes. An arch during bench press may be anywhere from your normal lumbar spine position to an exaggeration of your body’s natural lordosis. As you lower the bar, keep tension in your upper body by trying to “break the bar in half” or “rip the bar apart” until it touches your mid-to-lower sternum (depending on anatomy and degree of arch). After a touch (and brief pause, if you’re powerlifting), push the bar back upwards and slightly backwards towards your face to lockout. You can now exhale that big belly breath you’ve been holding for the duration of the rep.
Stronger by Science also has a very in depth How To Bench article. It is more in depth than this guide intends to be, and definitely worth a read. It also covers the anatomy and physics behind the bench press – things you should be interested in if your goal is to move weight safely (even if your goal does not necessarily involve moving a lot of weight).
Dumbbell bench: These are not only great when you aren’t yet able to use the barbell, but also for correcting muscle imbalances and general strength improvements that can translate into a barbell bench press. These also have more flexibility with grip positioning – if a barbell bench press irritates your shoulders, consider trying dumbbell bench press with a neutral grip (the dumbbells will be parallel to your body instead of perpendicular). Dumbbell bench press also allows for an increased range of motion, developing small stabilizer muscles in the upper body, and can be used to correct muscle imbalances.
Incline bench – performed with the bench angled about 15-30 degrees up from parallel to the floor. As you change the bench to a more upright position, the front shoulder muscle (anterior deltoids) will become more involved in the lift compared to lower degrees of incline and flat bench. The purpose of incline benching is to recruit more shoulder involvement and also more of the upper (clavicular) parts of the pectoralis major muscles. Bar will still track to be over your shoulders, about the nipple line/mid sternum. Grip width just wider than shoulder width so forearms will be completely perpendicular to the floor at the lowest point of the press.
Decline bench: There are benches and racks specifically for decline benching. If you only have access to a flat bench, you can potentially “make” your own decline by elevating the foot end of the bench. If you do this, make sure it’s very stable before trying the lift. The benefit of a decline bench is to utilize the lower portions of the sternal portion of the pecs more, and also decrease the amount of involvement of shoulder muscles. If you have a shoulder injury but are still cleared to lift, this can be a better option for you than a flat or incline bench press. In this position, the barbell will be over the lower part of your breast bone (sternum) and will touch the chest lower than in a flat or incline bench press.
Close grip bench: As the name suggests, this bench press variation has a more narrow grip width than standard or wide grip bench press. The purpose for this positioning is to increase the involvement of the triceps muscles during the lift. Proper grip width for this is over the shoulder joints – too narrow of a grip can internally rotate the shoulder joint which can lead to strain and injury. In this variation, the bar will touch your chest even lower than a decline or flat bench press – the bottom of the movement should still have your forearms perpendicular to the floor, with the wrists and bar stacked over the elbows.
Supinated/reverse grip bench: This variation can be very challenging, especially as weights increase. The benefit to supinating your hands so that the palm is facing your chin during the bench press is to reduce strain on the shoulders. It can be challenging to keep the bar in the fleshy part of your hands without dropping the bar on your face. Definitely practice with an empty bar or light dumbbells.
Floor press: Not just an exercise for when the benches are all occupied. Floor press is good in its own right or as an accessory for bench press. Set up is basically the same as a flat bench press, but you’re on the floor. Personally I prefer to have my knees bent and my feet flat, but one could also keep the legs flat out and completely remove lower body involvement/drive. These are especially great with dumbbells for folks with shoulder pain or issues, because you can use a neutral grip. These can help with lockout strength at the top of the bench press as well as if your sticking point on bench press is on the ascent.
Larsen press: The set up for the Larsen press is identical to a standard flat bench press. The biggest difference is that once you unrack the weight and have the bar over your chest, the feet are lifted off the ground, either straight out or resting on something else at the heel (toes up). “This forces athletes to really focus on maintaining their upper back tightness without the feet and legs compensating for poor bar path, set positioning, and inadequate force displacement.” The biggest benefit to this variation is to force the lifter to maintain a tight upper back during the bench press, though it also serves as a way to increase relative intensity/difficulty of the exercise without adding more weight to the bar.
Helpful Bench Press Cues
Try to “break the bar” while pushing it away from you. Imagine it is a big long dry spaghetti noodle and you are trying to turn it into two pieces of spaghetti by snapping it away from you. This will help engage your upper body muscles and ensure that your upper back is tight and flat, promoting a safer and more stable lift.
Grip the bar very hard, with special focus on gripping hard with your pinkies. This can help engage your latissimus dorsi for the lift!
Stack the bar over your wrists over your elbows. This means your forearm will be perpendicular to the floor and the barbell and increases stability, improves form, and reduces undue strain on your shoulders and elbows.
Push yourself away from the bar and push your body down into the bench during the actual press portion (from the bottom back up to the top) of the lift. This will help keep your upper body muscles engaged appropriately and keep you in place on the bench.
For leg drive, plant your feet and apply force down on the floor and towards your head. This will help keep your upper back planted so long as you aren't slick and sweaty and keep optimal form and tightness through the lift.
Push ups –Push ups are basically the body weight exercise version of the bench press – the movement and position is very similar and translate well into bench press gains. Succeeding in bench press will benefit your push ups, and succeeding in push ups will benefit your bench press. The bodyweightfitness subreddit guide for pushups is excellent and goes over a suggested progression program if you are not yet able to do full push ups on your toes. Note also that you can do a narrow width diamond pushup to increase involvement of your triceps.
MegSquats also recently posted a “3 tips for push ups” post that several of our users have already mentioned as being helpful.
Svend/pinch press - a great accessory exercise for pectoral muscle growth, especially right in the middle along the sternum. You’ll be squeezing a plate or other weight between your hands at mid chest level and pushing the weight straight out away from your body – make sure you’re squeezing the weight through the whole motion. This can be done either standing upright or lying flat on your back (supine). The supine version recruits your triceps more, and the standing version recruits your anterior deltoid more.
Chest flies - another favorite chest accessory. These also hit the pectoralis minor, along with pectoralis major. These can help your bench press by increasing the strength of the pectoral muscles, but are also great for changing the aesthetics of your chest muscles. Flys can be performed flat or at an incline – like incline bench press vs flat, increasing the angle away from the ground will increase the involvement of the upper aspect of the pectoral muscles as well as the anterior deltoid muscles.
Cable crossoveiron cross: Very similar to chest flies, but you’re using the cable tower and performing these upright. These engage the core and abdominal muscles more, but are still primarily for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The best part about cable flyes or cable crossovers is that you can adjust the height of the cables to target different aspects of your chest muscles – higher cable anchors target the lower pectoral fibers, middle (shoulder-ish) height target the middle fibers, especially along the sternum, and low cable anchor points target the upper pectoral muscle fibers.
Dips are challenging body weight exercises that can have either a chest or triceps focus. Essentially, these are vertical pushups – you will be suspended from a rack or pull up/dip ‘machine’. Start with your arms fully extended while you’re holding onto the handles. Bend your arms to lower your body, leaning forward slightly, until your shoulders are just below your elbows. Lift yourself back up while straightening your arms until you lock out at the top. You can also do bench dips which may be easier on your shoulders. Surprisingly good wikihow guide on bench dips.
Around the Worlds - an exercise for pectoral and shoulder muscle strength and development. Can be done supine or standing – supine will be a chest focus, while upright will be a shoulder focused movement (but don’t worry – both groups are definitely involved in both versions). Hold dumbbells or small weight plates with your palms facing forward throughout the motion. Start with your hands at your sides and, keeping elbows slightly bent, slowly move your arms away from your body like you’re making a snow angel until they are side by side over your head. Do the reverse movement to return to the starting position with the weights by your side – this is one rep.
Triceps Pushdowns are one of many triceps extension exercises that can help you get that stylish horseshoe muscle appearance, and improve your bench press. You can do triceps pushdowns with a cable tower, pull down station, or even resistance bands.
Triceps extensions encompass a wide variety of exercises aimed at isolating the triceps for hypertrophy (size) and strength.
Equipment, Tools, and Other Considerations
These items are not required to be successful in bench pressing, but can be beneficial to lifters that bench press at any skill or weight level.
Wrist wraps can help keep your wrists straight and supported during bench press. They can help keep the weight safely and evenly distributed through your wrist and thus through the entire forearm and elbow.
Slingshot: A device invented by powerlifter Mark Bell who can bench 545lbs without special tools and 854lbs “equipped”. It wraps around your elbows and can allow you to overload your bench press by “10-15%” with the help of elastic tension from the Slingshot. It can also be helpful in taking some of the stress off shoulders and elbows during a bench press but is NOT a substitute for proper form and safe lifting.
Blocks or boards - board pressing uses wooden boards or something like benchblokz between the bar and your chest during a bench press. This decreases the range of motion for the lift and can help lifters work through sticking points (relative weak points in the range of motion), which can lead to improved bench without tools (“raw”). Here’s another article, from elitefts on board pressing and its uses.
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.
EDIT: MAJOR UPDATE AT BOTTOM Welcome to the "Speculations" mega thread for the device possibly upcoming in the Oculus Quest line-up. This thread will be a compilation of leaks, speculation & rumors updated as new information comes out. Let's have some fun and go over some of the leaks, rumors, speculation all upcoming before Facebook Connect, we'll have a full mega thread going during Connect, but this should be a great thread for remembrance afterward. Facebook Connect is happening September 16th at 10 AM PST, more information can be found here. Leaks In March, Facebook’s public Developer Documentation website started displaying a new device called ‘Del Mar’, with a ‘First Access’ program for developers. In May, we got the speculated specs, based off the May Bloomberg Report (Original Paywall Link) • “at least 90Hz” refresh rate • 10% to 15% smaller than the current Quest • around 20% lighter • “the removal of the fabric from the sides and replacing it with more plastic” • “changing the materials used in the straps to be more elastic than the rubber and velcro currently used” • “a redesigned controller that is more comfortable and fixes a problem with the existing controller” On top of that, the "Jedi Controller" drivers leaked, which are now assumed to be V3 Touch Controllers for the upcoming device. The IMUs seem significantly improved & the reference to a 60Hz (vs 30hz) also seems to imply improved tracking. It's also said to perhaps have improved haptics & analog finger sensing instead of binary/digital. Now as of more recent months, we had the below leaks. Render (1), (2) Walking Cat seems to believe the device is called "Quest 2", unfortunately since then, his twitter has been taken down. Real-life pre-release model photos Possible IPD Adjustment From these photos and details we can discern that:
there will likely be at least one white model of Quest in the future.
The camera positions and angles have been changed slightly. This might be to improve tracking coverage overhead.
The tracking ring has become somewhat larger and has been angled backward, presumably so they face the cameras better at all times.
The thumb-area has widened significantly & the capacitive thumb-area seems to have returned from the original CV1 touch controllers.
The HMD seems to have become smaller in terms of depth. This could perhaps mean a severe decrease in weight; balancing the headset more.
The head strap is similar to that of the Oculus Go.
It appears there are two microphone holes on the bottom of the headset. This implies the headset might have stereo microphones. Getting two over getting one decent microphone might also mean the two microphones have better recording quality than the original Quest?
Further features speculation based on firmware digging (thanks Reggy04 from the VR Discord for quite a few of these), as well as other sources, all linked.
Additional Sources: 1/2/3/4 Headset Codenames We've seen a few codenames going around at this point, Reggy04 provided this screenshot that shows the following new codenames.
Oculus Del Mar - HOLLYWOOD
Oculus Seacliff - SEACLIFF
Pricing Rumors So far, the most prevalent pricing we've seen is 299 for 64gb, and 399 for 256GB These were shown by a Walmart page for Point Reyes with a release date of September 16 and a Target price leak with a street date of October 13th Speculation What is this headset? Speculation so far is this headset is a Quest S or Quest 2 OR This is a flat-out cheaper-to-manufacture, small upgrade to the Oculus Quest to keep up with demand and to iterate the design slowly. Again, This is all speculation, nothing is confirmed or set in stone. What do you think this is and what we'll see at FB Connect? Let's talk! Rather chat live? Join us on the VR Discord EDIT: MAJOR UPDATE - Leaked Videos. 6GB of RAM, XR2 Platform, "almost 4k display" (nearly 2k per eye) Source I am mirroring all the videos in case they get pulled down. Mirrors: Oculus Hand Tracking , Oculus Casting, Health and Safety, Quest 2 Instructions, Inside the Upgrade
[OC] Punt Rank 2020: Week 5 - Brett Kern Appreciation Club, the continued painful existence of Kevin Huber, PUNTERS THROWING TDs and the birth of Air Townsend. All this and the best video highlights of the week...
Welcome back, Punt Fans, to your slightly later than usual but there's no Thursday Night Football so what else are you going to be doing edition of our weekly hunt for the King of Punt – it’s /NFL’s own Punt Rank. If you haven’t been here with me before, the concept is both simple and fantastically over-engineered. Lemme break it down: Each punter’s performance against five vital punting metrics is ranked against every other punter in the league. Those rankings are combined into a weighted average ranking – the 2020 NFL Punt Rank. Punt Heroes rise to the top; Punt Zeros sink to the bottom. Last week’s post and Week 4 standings are available here for the archivists, and all of this week’s stats analysis and highlights and lowlights in video form are just moments away. As always I’m excited to get your perspectives on your team’s punter, and you can point me to things that I may have missed or overlooked, so please hit me with your feedback and questions in the comments!
Brett Kern (TEN, +1 to #3). Eh what do you want to know. If you’re reading this it means you like punting. If you like punting, you know that Brett Kern is a really, really great punter. And, Q.E.D – Brett was demonstrably great against the Bills on (the other) TNF. His three punts this week for the no-longer-significantly-infectious-Titans pinned Josh Allen and his shorts at the 9, 9 and 3 yard lines – covering 86% of Average Available Field which is GOAT tier punting. Here’s the pick of the bunch (his 41 yard precisiobomb corralled at the 3 yard line by Chris Milton) covering 93% of Available Field, and measuring in 7.6 yards better than an average punt from the opposing 44 yard line. Tidy. In addition to his really really really great punting, the Kerninator also wrangled at least two uttely horrible snaps into decent holds for Gostkowski to continue his kicking renaissance tour, which is a majorly underrated part of the punter job description... Logan Cooke (JAX, +12 to #13). SPEAKING OF PUNTER HOLDS AND THE EFFECT IT HAS ON KICKERS. Now I’m not saying that Chef had anything to do with the end of Stephen Hauschka’s NFL career on Sunday (0 for 2 within less than two minutes at the end of the first half, not called upon again, then cut PDQ after the weekend), but then I’m not not saying that either. Luckily for Logan (shoot I think I used that joke last week as well) the punting element of his game was without such ugly question marks. 100% of his three punts ended inside the Houston 20 yard line, covering 73%, 83% and 89%of Available Field, sneaking him up to 13th overall. Now let’s see if he can hold onto it. Geddit? Hold?! Pah.
Bad Week for
Kevin Huber (CIN, -8 to #24). On a game where the Bengals only managed the paltry total of 12 first downs (an average of one, yes ONE first down on their 12 offensive drives), K-Hub’s Bad Day was at least somewhat salvaged by the first half holy trinity of Turnover on Downs, INT and Fumble on consecutive drives (2, 3 and 4 – if you’re counting). Without that magical offensive incompetence, he could have been looking at double figure punts (I see you, Tress Way in Washington). As it was, he escaped with just the seven (!), but he takes a slide in the Punt Rank rankings as two of those (admittedly 57 and 60 yard boots) snuck for touchbacks, taking his season touchback percentage total to 26.1% which is second last in the league, just behind Tommy Townsend (more on him later). None of the magnificent seven made it inside the 20, wiping 13% off his season long percentage. However, in Kev’s defence, the first of his two end-zone-botherers this week was another case of coulda woulda shoulda from his coverage team. Alex Erikson heroically made up all the ground to reach the ball as it took a hop into the end zone, but his flailing scoopitty-scoop only managed to floopitty-floop the ball into the wrong side of the pylon. Bengals bungle. Football is a game of inches, and those couple cost Kev. And, after last week’s feature in Egregious Touchback of the Week where basically exactly the same thing happened, it’s entirely possible that Kevin Huber is stuck in some kind of awful groundhog day based time loop. That would at least explain this instagram account. Ty Long (LAC, -5 to #23). Ty Long was the victim of the binary brain of Saints rookie receivereturnerobot automaton Marquez Callaway this week. In Marquez’s awesome little computer mind, he’s going: IF punt_catch_loc > 15THEN SELECTReturn_Like_CraycrayFROMReturn.Options ELSEFair_Catch_That_MF Unfortunately for Ty, six of his seven punts were outside that 15 yard threshold and the big red light on Robot Marquez's head went off like WOO WOO, and he went HAM on bringing those suckers back. 69 (nice) return yards on the day with a long of 19 wiped almost ten yards off Long's Gross Average for the day and left him at just 53% of Average Available Field covered. The Chargers have now leaked 149 return yards for the season which is second worst in the league (behind those irrepressibly awful Jets) and almost three times the league average of 56 through five weeks. Ty will be hoping that they can turn that around before… long. Sorry.
Punt of the week – Week 5
Corey Bojorquez (BUF) continues his wild oscillation between the sublime and the ridiculous. It’s an odd-week so I guess this week it’s Sublime Corey, whose 71 yard scud missile from his own ten yard line in the second quarter of this week’s edition of Tuesday Night Football Bought To You By COVID-19 was an astonishing 28.3 yards longer than my Expected Net Gain model for an average punt from that spot. Look at this baby fly! Bojorquez booms one.
Punters doin’ shit – Week 5
Hey, it’s Corey Bojorquez again! Guess he can do sublime AND ridiculous in a single week now. It’s Puntception. Corey’s first punt of the day was coming alllll the way back for 6 until he decided to put his face on the line to put an end to Kalif Raymond’s 40 yard return. BLOOF. Look at him putting on his cap all swag afterwards like yeah I blew that dude up… Yeah I think tackling with your head is good form? But that’s not all for Punters Doin’ Shit in Week 5, oh no. We have a bonus double edition! and I include this clip with great enjoyment but also great sadness. Gentlemen and Gentlemen (just being real here), this week Riley Dixon (NYG) threw a Touchdown pass! For Giants fans reading this is when someone on your team throws the ball into the big painted area at the end of the field and a player (also on your team) catches it. I know this sounds strange and unusual, but it can happen. And it did happen for Riley on this awesome fake field goal toss to Evan Engram, brilliantly narrated by the incomparable Tony Romo in the clip below. Seriously, this call is outstanding… Nobody look at me, doo doo do, you cant see me... Jim Nantz, don't talK to.. IM OPEN, THROW IT Unfortunately, the play itself was called back due to a player not lined up on the line of scrimmage and the Giants had to settle for a 50 yard field goal. For Chargers and Jags fans reading, this is when your kicker kicks the ball and it goes between the two big tall standy uppy line things. I know this sounds strange and unusual, but it can happen. No TD for Riley, but we have the memories…
Egregious touchback of the week – Week 5
I might start calling this the Kevin Huber Touchback Memorial Column, after ANOTHER narrow miss by the Bengals coverage left Kev high and dry this week against the Ravens (see Bad Week). Outside of that shambles, there were only 6 touchbacks on the other 102 punts in Week 5, and most of them were fairly ordinary so there isn’t much egregiousity (not a word but I’m going with it) to discuss. Instead today we’re going to take some time to appreciate Tommy Townsend (KC) who has apparently got some kind of nuclear powered leg and is playing a game called “look how far away I can kick a touchback from”. For those who haven’t been paying close attention, here’s how Tommy’s rookie season has gone so far in touchback terms. Week 1 – 44 yards, modest. Week 2 – 55 yards, expressive. Week 3 – only punted once so gave myself a week off from this. Week 4 – fucken LOLs this is, how about a 60 AND a 65! Week 5 –hold my beer… Oh my god Becky, look at this punt. 67 yards! SIXTY SEVEN! And that’s from the line of scrimmage - that sucker went almost EIGHTY YARDS in the AIR. It bounced at the two and I think the returner just never even saw it. He probably thought it went into orbit or something. Absolutely ludicrous distance and hangtime here from Tommy. And, thus, I think we have our new moniker for the lad: Air Townsend. Which is also funny because it sounds like hair and he has got long hair. I’m wasted doing this.
Future of Punt Rank: desperate data plea
So part of my data collection for this analysis used to come from the brilliant Pro Football Reference gameplay finder. Which, as of this week, appears to have been absorbed into Stathead. And they’re now charging $8 a month for access to these individual play description tables, which is a massive punt in the balls. Without this data, I’ve got no way to calculate Average Available Field coverage, no plus/minus performance against the Punt Expected Net Gain, and no data on punts inside the 5 and 10 yard lines – all of which come from that analysis of the individual punt plays. Whilst this data doesn’t feed the actual rankings (which come from free NFL.com data tables), they are all metrics that really help add context to the basic stats, and are things that people reading have commented on in the past and said they found interesting. So, if anyone knows of anywhere else where I can access and download these play descriptions for each individual punt (without manually sifting the ESPN play by play reports!!), then please please let me know in the comments below. Alternatively if the eight people who read this each wanna chip in a buck a month on an ongoing basis so we can pay Stathead then that’d be cool too. A sad day for punt stat fans to be sure. Fucken big corporate… And on that note, all that's left is to say I will see you again next week for a likely more analytically constrained but still enthusiastically trying my bestest edition of Punt Rank. Yours, Eyebrows.
No gods, no kings, only NOPE - or divining the future with options flows. [Part 3: Hedge Winding, Unwinding, and the NOPE]
Hello friends! We're on the last post of this series ("A Gentle Introduction to NOPE"), where we get to use all the Big Boy Concepts (TM) we've discussed in the prior posts and put them all together. Some words before we begin:
This post will be massively theoretical, in the sense that my own speculation and inferences will be largely peppered throughout the post. Are those speculations right? I think so, or I wouldn't be posting it, but they could also be incorrect.
I will briefly touch on using the NOPE this slide, but I will make a secondary post with much more interesting data and trends I've observed. This is primarily for explaining what NOPE is and why it potentially works, and what it potentially measures.
My advice before reading this is to glance at my prior posts, and either read those fully or at least make sure you understand the tl;drs: https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/collection/27dc72ad-4e78-44cd-a788-811cd666e32a Depending on popular demand, I will also make a last-last post called FAQ, where I'll tabulate interesting questions you guys ask me in the comments! --- So a brief recap before we begin. Market Maker ("Mr. MM"): An individual or firm who makes money off the exchange fees and bid-ask spread for an asset, while usually trying to stay neutral about the direction the asset moves. Delta-gamma hedging: The process Mr. MM uses to stay neutral when selling you shitty OTM options, by buying/selling shares (usually) of the underlying as the price moves. Law of Surprise [Lily-ism]: Effectively, the expected profit of an options trade is zero for both the seller and the buyer. Random Walk: A special case of a deeper probability probability called a martingale, which basically models stocks or similar phenomena randomly moving every step they take (for stocks, roughly every millisecond). This is one of the most popular views of how stock prices move, especially on short timescales. Future Expected Payoff Function [Lily-ism]: This is some hidden function that every market participant has about an asset, which more or less models all the possible future probabilities/values of the assets to arrive at a "fair market price". This is a more generalized case of a pricing model like Black-Scholes, or DCF. Counter-party: The opposite side of your trade (if you sell an option, they buy it; if you buy an option, they sell it). Price decoherence ]Lily-ism]: A more generalized notion of IV Crush, price decoherence happens when instead of the FEPF changing gradually over time (price formation), the FEPF rapidly changes, due usually to new information being added to the system (e.g. Vermin Supreme winning the 2020 election). --- One of the most popular gambling events for option traders to play is earnings announcements, and I do owe the concept of NOPE to hypothesizing specifically about the behavior of stock prices at earnings. Much like a black hole in quantum mechanics, most conventional theories about how price should work rapidly break down briefly before, during, and after ER, and generally experienced traders tend to shy away from playing earnings, given their similar unpredictability. Before we start: what is NOPE? NOPE is a funny backronym from Net Options Pricing Effect, which in its most basic sense, measures the impact option delta has on the underlying price, as compared to share price. When I first started investigating NOPE, I called it OPE (options pricing effect), but NOPE sounds funnier. The formula for it is dead simple, but I also have no idea how to do LaTeX on reddit, so this is the best I have: https://preview.redd.it/ais37icfkwt51.png?width=826&format=png&auto=webp&s=3feb6960f15a336fa678e945d93b399a8e59bb49 Since I've already encountered this, put delta in this case is the absolute value (50 delta) to represent a put. If you represent put delta as a negative (the conventional way), do not subtract it; add it. To keep this simple for the non-mathematically minded: the NOPE today is equal to the weighted sum (weighted by volume) of the delta of every call minus the delta of every put for all options chains extending from today to infinity. Finally, we then divide that number by the # of shares traded today in the market session (ignoring pre-market and post-market, since options cannot trade during those times). Effectively, NOPE is a rough and dirty way to approximate the impact of delta-gamma hedging as a function of share volume, with us hand-waving the following factors:
To keep calculations simple, we assume that all counter-parties are hedged. This is obviously not true, especially for idiots who believe theta ganging is safe, but holds largely true especially for highly liquid tickers, or tickers will designated market makers (e.g. any ticker in the NASDAQ, for instance).
We assume that all hedging takes place via shares. For SPY and other products tracking the S&P, for instance, market makers can actually hedge via futures or other options. This has the benefit for large positions of not moving the underlying price, but still makes up a fairly small amount of hedges compared to shares.
Winding and Unwinding
I briefly touched on this in a past post, but two properties of NOPE seem to apply well to EER-like behavior (aka any binary catalyst event):
NOPE measures sentiment - In general, the options market is seen as better informed than share traders (e.g. insiders trade via options, because of leverage + easier to mask positions). Therefore, a heavy call/put skew is usually seen as a bullish sign, while the reverse is also true.
NOPE measures system stability
I'm not going to one-sentence explain #2, because why say in one sentence what I can write 1000 words on. In short, NOPE intends to measure sensitivity of the system (the ticker) to disruption. This makes sense, when you view it in the context of delta-gamma hedging. When we assume all counter-parties are hedged, this means an absolutely massive amount of shares get sold/purchased when the underlying price moves. This is because of the following: a) Assume I, Mr. MM sell 1000 call options for NKLA 25C 10/23 and 300 put options for NKLA 15p 10/23. I'm just going to make up deltas because it's too much effort to calculate them - 30 delta call, 20 delta put. This implies Mr. MM needs the following to delta hedge: (1000 call options * 30 shares to buy for each) [to balance out writing calls) - (300 put options * 20 shares to sell for each) = 24,000net shares Mr. MM needs to acquire to balance out his deltas/be fully neutral. b) This works well when NKLA is at $20. But what about when it hits $19 (because it only can go down, just like their trucks). Thanks to gamma, now we have to recompute the deltas, because they've changed for both the calls (they went down) and for the puts (they went up). Let's say to keep it simple that now my calls are 20 delta, and my puts are 30 delta. From the 24,000 net shares, Mr. MM has to now have: (1000 call options * 20 shares to have for each) - (300 put options * 30 shares to sell for each) = 11,000 shares. Therefore, with a $1 shift in price, now to hedge and be indifferent to direction, Mr. MM has to go from 24,000 shares to 11,000 shares, meaning he has to sell 13,000 shares ASAP, or take on increased risk. Now, you might be saying, "13,000 shares seems small. How would this disrupt the system?" (This process, by the way, is called hedge unwinding) It won't, in this example. But across thousands of MMs and millions of contracts, this can - especially in highly optioned tickers - make up a substantial fraction of the net flow of shares per day. And as we know from our desk example, the buying or selling of shares directly changes the price of the stock itself. This, by the way, is why the NOPE formula takes the shape it does. Some astute readers might notice it looks similar to GEX, which is not a coincidence. GEX however replaces daily volume with open interest, and measures gamma over delta, which I did not find good statistical evidence to support, especially for earnings. So, with our example above, why does NOPE measure system stability? We can assume for argument's sake that if someone buys a share of NKLA, they're fine with moderate price swings (+- $20 since it's NKLA, obviously), and in it for the long/medium haul. And in most cases this is fine - we can own stock and not worry about minor swings in price. But market makers can't* (they can, but it exposes them to risk), because of how delta works. In fact, for most institutional market makers, they have clearly defined delta limits by end of day, and even small price changes require them to rebalance their hedges. This over the whole market adds up to a lot shares moving, just to balance out your stupid Robinhood YOLOs. While there are some tricks (dark pools, block trades) to not impact the price of the underlying, the reality is that the more options contracts there are on a ticker, the more outsized influence it will have on the ticker's price. This can technically be exactly balanced, if option put delta is equal to option call delta, but never actually ends up being the case. And unlike shares traded, the shares representing the options are more unstable, meaning they will be sold/bought in response to small price shifts. And will end up magnifying those price shifts, accordingly.
NOPE and Earnings
So we have a new shiny indicator, NOPE. What does it actually mean and do? There's much literature going back to the 1980s that options markets do have some level of predictiveness towards earnings, which makes sense intuitively. Unlike shares markets, where you can continue to hold your share even if it dips 5%, in options you get access to expanded opportunity to make riches... and losses. An options trader betting on earnings is making a risky and therefore informed bet that he or she knows the outcome, versus a share trader who might be comfortable bagholding in the worst case scenario. As I've mentioned largely in comments on my prior posts, earnings is a special case because, unlike popular misconceptions, stocks do not go up and down solely due to analyst expectations being meet, beat, or missed. In fact, stock prices move according to the consensus market expectation, which is a function of all the participants' FEPF on that ticker. This is why the price moves so dramatically - even if a stock beats, it might not beat enough to justify the high price tag (FSLY); even if a stock misses, it might have spectacular guidance or maybe the market just was assuming it would go bankrupt instead. To look at the impact of NOPE and why it may play a role in post-earnings-announcement immediate price moves, let's review the following cases:
Stock Meets/Exceeds Market Expectations (aka price goes up) - In the general case, we would anticipate post-ER market participants value the stock at a higher price, pushing it up rapidly. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the positive move since:
a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worthless (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares, buying them, and pushing the stock price up. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of puts are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of calls are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares AND also buy more shares to cover their calls, pushing the stock price up. 2) Stock Meets/Misses Market Expectations (aka price goes down)- Inversely to what I mentioned above, this should push to the stock price down, fairly immediately. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the negative move since: a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worth more, and a lot of calls are now worth less/worth less (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell/short more shares, pushing the stock price down. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of calls are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of puts are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell even more shares to keep their calls and puts neutral, pushing the stock price down. --- Based on the above two cases, it should be a bit more clear why NOPE is a measure of sensitivity to system perturbation. While we previously discussed it in the context of magnifying directional move, the truth is it also provides a directional bias to our "random" walk. This is because given a price move in the direction predicted by NOPE, we expect it to be magnified, especially in situations of price decoherence. If a stock price goes up right after an ER report drops, even based on one participant deciding to value the stock higher, this provides a runaway reaction which boosts the stock price (due to hedging factors as well as other participants' behavior) and inures it to drops.
NOPE and NOPE_MAD
I'm going to gloss over this section because this is more statistical methods than anything interesting. In general, if you have enough data, I recommend using NOPE_MAD over NOPE. While NOPE in theory represents a "real" quantity (net option delta over net share delta), NOPE_MAD (the median absolute deviation of NOPE) does not. NOPE_MAD simply answecompare the following:
How exceptional is today's NOPE versus historic baseline (30 days prior)?
How do I compare two tickers' NOPEs effectively (since some tickers, like TSLA, have a baseline positive NOPE, because Elon memes)? In the initial stages, we used just a straight numerical threshold (let's say NOPE >= 20), but that quickly broke down. NOPE_MAD aims to detect anomalies, because anomalies in general give you tendies.
I might add the formula later in Mathenese, but simply put, to find NOPE_MAD you do the following:
Calculate today's NOPE score (this can be done end of day or intraday, with the true value being EOD of course)
Calculate the end of day NOPE scores on the ticker for the previous 30 trading days
Compute the median of the previous 30 trading days' NOPEs
Find today's deviation as compared to the MAD calculated by: [(today's NOPE) - (median NOPE of last 30 days)] / (median absolute deviation of last 30 days)
This is usually reported as sigma (σ), and has a few interesting properties:
The mean of NOPE_MAD for any ticker is almost exactly 0.
[Lily's Speculation's Speculation] NOPE_MAD acts like a spring, and has a tendency to reverse direction as a function of its magnitude. No proof on this yet, but exploring it!
Using the NOPE to predict ER
So the last section was a lot of words and theory, and a lot of what I'm mentioning here is empirically derived (aka I've tested it out, versus just blabbered). In general, the following holds true:
3 sigma NOPE_MAD tends to be "the threshold": For very low NOPE_MAD magnitudes (+- 1 sigma), it's effectively just noise, and directionality prediction is low, if not non-existent. It's not exactly like 3 sigma is a play and 2.9 sigma is not a play; NOPE_MAD accuracy increases as NOPE_MAD magnitude (either positive or negative) increases.
NOPE_MAD is only useful on highly optioned tickers: In general, I introduce another parameter for sifting through "candidate" ERs to play: option volume * 100/share volume. When this ends up over let's say 0.4, NOPE_MAD provides a fairly good window into predicting earnings behavior.
NOPE_MAD only predicts during the after-market/pre-market session: I also have no idea if this is true, but my hunch is that next day behavior is mostly random and driven by market movement versus earnings behavior. NOPE_MAD for now only predicts direction of price movements right between the release of the ER report (AH or PM) and the ending of that market session. This is why in general I recommend playing shares, not options for ER (since you can sell during the AH/PM).
NOPE_MAD only predicts direction of price movement: This isn't exactly true, but it's all I feel comfortable stating given the data I have. On observation of ~2700 data points of ER-ticker events since Mar 2019 (SPY 500), I only so far feel comfortable predicting whether stock price goes up (>0 percent difference) or down (<0 price difference). This is +1 for why I usually play with shares.
Some statistics: #0) As a baseline/null hypothesis, after ER on the SPY500 since Mar 2019, 50-51% price movements in the AH/PM are positive (>0) and ~46-47% are negative (<0). #1) For NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma, roughly 68% of price movements are positive after earnings. #2) For NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, roughly 29% of price movements are positive after earnings. #3) When using a logistic model of only data including NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma or NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, and option/share vol >= 0.4 (around 25% of all ERs observed), I was able to achieve 78% predictive accuracy on direction.
Like all models, NOPE is wrong, but perhaps useful. It's also fairly new (I started working on it around early August 2020), and in fact, my initial hypothesis was exactly incorrect (I thought the opposite would happen, actually). Similarly, as commenters have pointed out, the timeline of data I'm using is fairly compressed (since Mar 2019), and trends and models do change. In fact, I've noticed significantly lower accuracy since the coronavirus recession (when I measured it in early September), but I attribute this mostly to a smaller date range, more market volatility, and honestly, dumber option traders (~65% accuracy versus nearly 80%). My advice so far if you do play ER with the NOPE method is to use it as following:
Buy/short shares approximately right when the market closes before ER. Ideally even buying it right before the earnings report drops in the AH session is not a bad idea if you can.
Sell/buy to close said shares at the first sign of major weakness (e.g. if the NOPE predicted outcome is incorrect).
Sell/buy to close shares even if it is correct ideally before conference call, or by the end of the after-market/pre-market session.
Only play tickers with high NOPE as well as high option/share vol.
--- In my next post, which may be in a few days, I'll talk about potential use cases for SPY and intraday trends, but I wanted to make sure this wasn't like 7000 words by itself. Cheers. - Lily
Coredns for local DNS resolution and forwarding over TLS (with Adblocking)
Greetings all -- I know how much y'all love unbound and pihole, but I just wanted to throw out another option that I think is super simple...CoreDNS. CoreDNS is a single-binary DNS server written in GO with many plugin options. Use Case discussed here: A complete solution for DNS resolution of internal hosts that is easy to manage while still providing AdBlocking capabilities to the entire network, and forwarding all non-local DNS requests over TLS so my crappy ISP can't see what I am doing. Solution Overview: Configure DHCP to give out pihole address as the DNS server, tell Pihole that it's upstream DNS server is CoreDNS (running on same box on a different port). CoreDNS:
NOTE IN CONFIG BELOW: My original example remains, however DanTheGreatest pointed out that there are other cloudfare examples based on your use case. Repeating here: Cloudflare introduced 184.108.40.206 (and .3) back in April. .2 Includes a malware filter and .3 also filters adult material. .2 is a great upstream for this use case.
#Here is where you will want to put your hosts style dns entries for local 10.0.20.19 server1.mydomain.com server1 10.0.20.10 database.mydomain.com database 10.0.20.42 server2.mydomain.com server2
service restart coredns
Now configure Pihole to use your Coredns as upstream. Go to http://pihole/admin settings DNS. Uncheck any DNS servers on the left hand side. Check Custom 1, and enter 127.0.0.1 and port 5300 (assuming CoreDNS is installed on same server as pihole).
.:5300 -- listen on all interfaces and bind to port 5300.
cache 3600 -- cache entries for 5 minutes. Remove this if you do not want to chache
hosts /etc/coredns/home.hosts - Use the hosts plugin and read entries from this file. CoreDNS will automatically pick up new entries when this file is updated
fallthrough -- This is important. It tells CoreDNS to try the next forwarder if it doesn't find a hit using the hosts plugin. Essentially -- if not on the internal network, keep going.
forward -- This forward block is the complete configuration for forwarding DNS over TLS to cloudfare DNS servers using round robin. If cloudfare isn't your thing, you can use any other DNS over TLS provider such as Quad9, etc. Just change the config.
AMZN Trade Retrospective: Collecting a $.37 Credit for the Potential to Make Another $50
There are different ways to trade in a choppy environment. Here’s a deep dive on how I attempted to use weekly options to trade a potential bounce in AMZN, and collected $.37 initially, for the possibility of making $50 more, even though the trade ended up being only an $.81 winner.
Last Thursday, 9/24, when $AMZN was trading at about $3000 a share, I was looking for a cheap way to play a bounce in the stock. During that time, my bias in the markets had begun to shift to a more bullish stance after seeing how the market had difficulty grinding lower. With that in mind, I wanted to play a potential bounce in tech. But I knew I didn’t want to pay a debit at all to play for a bounce that might not even happen, given how uncertain and choppy the markets had been, but I still wanted to set myself up to capture some large gains if AMZN did indeed bounce. Therefore, the strategy that made the most sense to me, was a Call broken wing butterfly. Given that I’m a very short-term options trader who loves trading weeklies, I was trying to look for a cheap butterfly for the upcoming week that I could put on for a net credit. After exploring the options chain, I came across the +1/-2/+1 3300/3350/3450 call broken wing butterfly for the Oct 2 series. This fly, at the time (on Sept 24), was trading for a total of $.37 credit. Meaning, by putting on that butterfly, I would get paid $.37, and the following scenarios could happen:
If AMZN decided to tank or hang out sideways and never get up close enough to the butterfly to expand the spread in my favor, then I’d walk away pocketing the $.37 credit
If AMZN slowly crept up to reach exactly 3350 by expiration, I’d not only get to keep the credit, but also be able to sell the butterfly back out for $50. Of course, it doesn’t need to reach exactly 3350 by expiration. If AMZN slowly worked its way up to near 3300, then the butterfly would expand very nicely as well.
If AMZN blew past 3400 by expiration, I’d see a loss, up to a maximum of $50 / spread (if $AMZN moves past 3450). That’s because the 3300/3350 long call vertical of the fly provides 50 points of coverage before I essentially start losing money from the 3350/3450 short vertical, up until that 3450 kicks in to cap off further upside losses.
So that is a rough outline of the potential scenarios that would happen with this trade. Given the choppy market conditions, I was ok with risking $50/spread (point #3), in order to not lose money if I’m wrong on direction (point #1), while at the same time, keeping myself open to the possibility of the butterfly expanding in my favor (point #2) for some potentially very large gains. But satisfying point #3 is tricky. I needed more data points suggesting that $AMZN wouldn’t surge higher early on in the trade. Because if $AMZN did surge higher early on in the trade, then while the 3300 long call would rise in value, those two 3350 short calls would also rise in value, and because there’d still be some time value left, they could be very juiced up and eat away at the profits of that 3300 long call, so much so that the 3450 long call won’t even be able to offset those losses, especially given how far out of the money that 3450 call is. AMZN on 9/24, daily timeframe Looking at the chart above on 9/24, we can see that AMZN was trading at around $3000/share. In order to reach $3300 (where the first long call of the broken wing butterfly is), the stock would need to
Breach the 38% fib retracement (~AMZN=3131) of the move from the 9/2 high to the 9/21 low,
Breach the 20MA and 50MA
Breach the 50% fib retracement (~AMZN=3211)
Breach the 61.8% fib retracement (~AMZN=3292)
before finally reaching the 3300 long call. All of these levels, I felt, should provide some resistance for AMZN to have to chew thru over the following week, before it even gets to the long call. And by that time, if AMZN did reach 3300, then the 3300 long call would still have a lot of extrinsic value left (somewhere around $20 on the last day), while the 3350 short calls would be very cheap (each around $5), so the entire spread could be roughly worth $10. Which would be great, because that means I’d be getting paid $.37 to make another $10. So with all of the above considered, I chose to take on that upside risk, for a chance to make potentially $50 (realistically I try to aim for just half of the max profit: $25, and start harvesting profits and peeling off the flies at around $5-$10), and that day on 9/24, entered the Oct2 3300/3350/3450 call broken wing butterfly for a $.37 credit. After entry, on Friday 9/25 and Monday 9/28, AMZN made steady progress upwards, from 3000 to 3175, breaching the 31.8% retracement and tagging the 20MA and 50MA from below. AMZN on 9/28, daily timeframe but this move wasn’t large and fast enough to expand the value of the 3350 short calls. In fact, theta did a great job draining those short calls, while the 3300 long call did a good job retaining its premium, so the butterfly had already expanded a bit in my favor, and I was sitting at about a small $1.00 profit.
However, on Tuesday and Wednesday, AMZN began to stall out. By the end of Wednesday 9/30, when it looked like AMZN was putting in a topping tail, I decided that AMZN might not be able to make it near 3300 by expiration Friday, so I wanted to take in a bit more credit while I still could, before theta drained more of that 3300 long call. At the time, the spread was trading for almost $2. That’s when I made a slight adjustment to the spread and sold the 3300/3310 call vertical. AMZN on 9/30, daily timeframe This essentially rolled the 3300 long call up to 3310, and I was able to collect a small $.44 credit for it. However, this adjustment did open me up to an additional $10 of risk to the upside, because now, the long call vertical portion of the butterfly is only $40 wide (instead of $50). Still, with only 2 days left for AMZN to go higher, I felt comfortable taking on a bit more upside risk knowing that theta is going to be working hard to drain those 3350 short calls if AMZN did decide to surge higher. And at that moment, I actually wanted AMZN to move more towards my fly. My deltas were still positive, and the risk graph showed that a move towards the short strikes of the fly would expand it by another $4-5 by Thursday. So after this adjustment, the trade stood at a $.81 credit, and the profit potential on the fly was now $40 instead of $50. Which is still pretty good.
On Thursday, AMZN showed some strength and closed above the 50% fib (3211), which meant that if on Friday, AMZN worked its way up to around 3300, the fly could potentially be worth $5-10. Things were looking good (on any continued bullishness, the next target for AMZN was the 61.8% fib retracement at ~3300). So I left the trade alone without making any more adjustments. AMZN on 10/1, daily timeframe
Unfortunately, on Thursday night, news broke out that Trump was diagnosed with Coronavirus, and the market fell lower. By the open, AMZN was already trading at around 3150, roughly 150 points below the fly. The spread had instantly lost all of its value, so I basically let it expire worthless and walked away pocketing the $.81 credit. https://preview.redd.it/mpwrkjpk6xq51.png?width=4096&format=png&auto=webp&s=8dd7f4da7b000b2266ab57a3c23c1863f9423704 While the trade did not work out as well as I had liked, the important thing to note is that I was able to get paid even when the trade didn’t go in my favor. With options, there are ways to trade an underlying to a certain target without ponying up a debit, albeit at the cost of introducing tail risk, while offering the possibility of very large upside. This may be a style of trading that one can consider employing when the outlook of the markets is uncertain, as long as the trader is willing to make the necessary adjustments to control risk. Which leads me to the following section:
What if AMZN decided to surge very early on during the trade? What if AMZN had surged to 3300 with 4-5 DTE, hence juicing up the short calls and causing the butterfly to take on large negative deltas?
Even though the position would be very theta positive, I would pony up the debit to cap off the upside risk by buying the 3400/3450 call vertical, hence turning the 3300/3350/3450 broken wing butterfly into the 3300/3350/3400 balanced butterfly. From there on out until expiration, I would look for ways to reduce the debit incurred from that adjustment.
But what if AMZN tanked afterwards? You could end up getting whipsawed.
I’d rather be safe than sorry and make the necessary adjustments to avoid getting run over, because I don’t like playing the hope card. I could always undo the adjustment and look for ways to collect back more credit (at the cost of introducing risk elsewhere), depending on my new directional bias on AMZN at the time.
Your maximum loss is so large, $5000. I’d never make that bet, I would never risk $5000 to make $5000.
This style of trading is not for everyone. There are different ways to perceive risk. I don't really think of risk as binary as “max gain vs max loss”. If the trade goes against me, I’m not going to open myself up to the possibility of eating the maximum loss. I’m going to manage that risk and make sure that I don’t lose any money at all on the trade. Basically, I’m not going to just put on the trade, walk away to the prayer room, and come back at expiration and hope that AMZN expired at 3350.
Why not just join thetagang and slap on iron condors / credit spreads in this environment? You could’ve collected more credit by selling a 50 point wide put vertical with your bounce thesis.
Different traders have different styles. I personally don’t like pure premium selling strategies. I’d rather have long options in front of the shorts to open myself up for some large upside and convexity in the P/L curve, rather than limit myself to the concavity of pure premium selling strategies. Having long options in front of the shorts also helps me sleep better at night.
It’s hard to read this. Is there a more visual explanation?
Here’s a video on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uq76fZ3EME TL;DR - I used weekly options to trade a potential bounce in AMZN, and got paid $.37 initially to do so, for the possibility of making $50 more. While the trade did not pan out, I walked away pocketing $.81 for being wrong.
I have been lurking on this board for a few years. I decided the other day to finally create an account so I could come out of lurk mode. As you might guess from my id I was able to retire at the beginning of this year on a significantly accelerated timetable thanks to the 20x return from my AMD stock and option investments since 2016. I spent my career working on electronics and software for the satellite industry. We made heavy use of FPGAs and more often than not Xilinx FPGAs since they had a radiation tolerant line. I thought I would summarize some of the ways they were used in and around the development process. My experience is going to be very different than the datacenter settings in the last few years. The AI and big data stuff was a pipe dream back then. In the olden times of the 90s we used CPUs which unlike modern processors did not include much in the way of I/O and memory controller. The computer board designs graduated from CPU + a bunch of ICs (much like the original IBM PC design) to a CPU + Xilinx FPGA + RAM + ROM and maybe a 5V or 3.3V linear voltage regulator. Those old FPGAs were programmed before they were soldered to the PCB using a dedicated programming unit attached to a PC. Pretty much the same way ROMs were programmed. At the time FPGAs gate capacity was small enough that it was still feasible to design their implementation using schematics. An engineer would draw up logic gates and flip-flops just like you would if using discrete logic ICs and then compile it to the FPGA binary and burn it to the FPGA using a programmer box like a ROM. If you screwed it up you had to buy another FPGA chip, they were not erasable. The advantage of using the FPGA is that it was common to implement a custom I/O protocol to talk to other FPGAs, on other boards, which might be operating A/D and D/A converters and digital I/O driver chips. As the FPGA gate capacities increased the overall board count could be decreased. With the advent of much larger FPGAs that were in-circuit re-programmable they began to be used for prototyping ASIC designs. One project I worked on was developing a radiation hardened PowerPC processor ASIC with specialized I/O. A Xilinx FPGA was used to test the implementation at approximately half-speed. The PowerPC core was licensed IP and surrounded with bits that were developed in VHDL. In the satellite industry the volumes are typically not high enough to warrant developing ASICs but they could be fabbed on a rad-hard process while the time large capacity re-programmable FPGAs were not. Using FPGAs for prototyping the ASIC was essential because you only had one chance to get the ASIC right, it was cost and schedule prohibitive to do any respins. Another way re-programmable FPGAs were used was for test equipment and ground stations. The flight hardware had these custom designed ASICs of all sorts which generally created data streams that would transmitted down from space. It was advantageous to test the boards without the full set of downlink and receiver hardware so a commercial FPGA board in a PC would be used to hook into the data bus in place of the radio. Similarly other test equipment would be made which emulated the data stream from the flight hardware so that the radio hardware could be tested independently. Finally the ground stations would often use FPGAs to pull in the digital data stream from the receiver radio and process the data in real-time. These FPGAs were typically programmed using VHDL but as tools progressed it became possible to program to program the entire PC + FPGA board combination using LabView or Simulink which also handled the UI. In the 2000s it was even possible to program a real-time software defined radio using these tools. As FPGAs progressed they became much more sophisticated. Instead of only having to specify whether an I/O pin was digital input or output you could choose between high speed, low speed, serdes, analog etc. Instead of having to interface to external RAM chips they began to include banks of internal RAM. That is because FPGAs were no longer just gate arrays but included a quantity of "hard-core" functionality. The natural progression of FPGAs with hard cores brings them into direct competition with embedded processor SOCs. At the same time embedded SOCs have gained flexibility with I/O pin assignment which is very similar to what FPGAs allow. It is important to understand that in the modern era of chip design the difference between the teams that AMD and Xilinx has for chip design is primarily at the architecture level. Low level design and validation are going to largely be the same (although they may be using different tools and best practices). There are going to be some synergies in process and there is going to be some flexibility in having more teams capable of bringing chips to market. They are going to be able to commingle the best practices between the two which is going to be a net boost to productivity for one side or the other or both. Furthermore AMD will have access to Xilinx FPGAs for design validation at cost and perhaps ahead of release and Xilinx will be able to leverage AMD's internal server clouds. The companies will also have access to a greater number of Fellow level architects and process gurus. Also AMD has internally developed IP blocks that Xilinx could leverage and vice versa. Going forward there would be savings on externally licensed IP blocks as well. AI is all the rage these days but there are many other applications for generic FPGAs and for including field programmable gates in sophisticated SOCs. As the grand convergence continues I would not be surprised at all to see FPGA as much a key component to future chips as graphics are in an APU. If Moore’s law is slowing down then the ability to reconfigure the circuitry on the fly is a potential mitigation. At some point being able to reallocate the transistor budget on the fly is going to win out over adding more and more fixed functionality. Going a bit down the big.little path what if a core could be reconfigured on the fly to be integer heavy or 64 bit float heavy within the same transistor budget. Instead of dedicated video encodedecoders or AVX 512 that sits dark most of the time the OS can gin it up on demand. In a laptop or phone setting this could be a big improvement. If anybody has questions I'd be happy to answer. I'm sure there are a number of other posters here with a background in electronics and chip design who can weigh in as well.
The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill, Part 3
Okay, Wendy’s or Walgreens or whoever, I don’t care who you are, you’re listening to the rest.
Introduction to Part 3
Welcome back one last time to “The Challenges of Designing a Modern Skill,” a series where we discuss all aspects of skill design and development. In Part 1, we talked about OSRS’s history with skills, and started the lengthy conversation on Skill Design Philosophy, including the concepts of Core, Expansion, and Integration. This latter topic consumed the entirety of Part 2 as well, which covered Rewards and Motivations, Progression, Buyables, as well as Unconstructive Arguments. Which brings us to today, the final part of our discussion. In this Part 3, we’ll finish up Section 3 – Skill Design Philosophy, then move on to chat about the design and blog process. One last time, this discussion was intended to be a single post, but its length outgrew the post character limit twice. Therefore, it may be important to look at the previous two parts for clarity and context with certain terms. The final product, in its purest, aesthetic, and unbroken form, can be found here.
3-C – Skill Design Philosophy, Continued
3-12 - Balancing
What follows from the discussion about XP and costs, of course, is balancing: the bane of every developer. A company like Riot knows better than anyone that having too many factors to account for makes good balance impossible. Balancing new ideas appropriately is extremely challenging and requires a great respect for current content as discussed in Section 3-5 – Integration. Thankfully, in OSRS we only have three major balancing factors: Profit, XP Rate, and Intensity, and two minor factors: Risk and Leniency. These metrics must amount to some sense of balance (besides Leniency, which as we’ll see is the definition of anti-balance) in order for a piece of content to feel like it’s not breaking the system or rendering all your previous efforts meaningless. It’s also worthy to note that there is usually a skill-specific limit to the numerical values of these metrics. For example, Runecrafting will never receive a training method that grants 200k xp/hr, while for Construction that’s easily on the lower end of the scale. A basic model works better than words to describe these factors, and therefore, being the phenomenal artist that I am, I have constructed one, which I’ve dubbed “The Guthix Scale.” But I’ll be cruel and use words anyway.
Profit: how much you gain from a task, or how much you lose. Gain or loss can include resources, cosmetics, specialized currencies, good old gold pieces, or anything on that line.
XP Rate: how fast you gain XP.
Intensity: how much effort (click intensity), attention (reaction intensity), and thought (planning intensity) you need to put into the activity to perform it well.
Risk: how likely is the loss of your revenue and/or resource investment into the activity. Note that one must be careful with risk, as players are very good at abusing systems intended to encourage higher risk levels to minimize how much they’re actually risking.
Leniency: a measure for how imbalanced a piece of content can be before the public and/or Jagex nerfs it. Leniency serves as a simple modulator to help comprehend when the model breaks or bends in unnatural ways, and is usually determined by how enjoyable and abusable an activity is, such that players don’t want to cause an outrage over it. For example, Slayer has a high level of Leniency; people don’t mind that some Slayer tasks grant amazing XP Rates, great Profits, have middling Intensity, and low Risk. On the other hand, Runecrafting has low levels of Leniency; despite low Risk, many Runecrafting activities demand high Intensity for poor XP Rates and middling Profits.
In the end, don’t worry about applying specific numbers during the conceptual phase of your skill design. However, when describing an activity to your reader, it’s always useful if you give approximations, such as “high intensity” or “low risk,” so that they get an idea of the activity’s design goals as well as to guide the actual development of that activity. Don’t comment on the activity’s Leniency though, as that would be pretty pretentious and isn’t for you to determine anyway.
3-13 - Skill Bloat
What do the arts of weaving, tanning, sowing, spinning, pottery, glassmaking, jewellery, engraving, carving, chiselling, carpentry, and even painting have in common? In real life, there’s only so much crossover between these arts, but in Runescape they’re all simply Crafting. The distinction between what deserves to be its own skill or instead tagged along to a current skill is often arbitrary; this is the great challenge of skill bloat. The fundamental question for many skill concepts is: does this skill have enough depth to stand on its own? The developers of 2006 felt that there was sufficient depth in Construction to make it something separate from Crafting, even if the latter could have covered the former. While there’s often no clean cut between these skills (why does making birdhouses use Crafting instead of Construction?), it is easy to see that Construction has found its own solid niche that would’ve been much too big to act as yet another Expansion of Crafting. On the other hand, a skill with extremely limited scope and value perhaps should be thrown under the umbrella of a larger skill. Take Firemaking: it’s often asked why it deserves to be its own skill given how limited its uses are. This is one of those ideas that probably should have just been thrown under Crafting or even Woodcutting. But again, the developers who made early Runescape did not battle with the same ideas as the modern player; they simply felt like Firemaking was a good idea for a skill. Similarly, the number of topics that the Magic skill covers is so often broken down in other games, like Morrowind’s separation between Illusion, Conjuration, Alteration, Destruction, Mysticism, Restoration, Enchant, Alchemy (closer to Herblore), and Unarmored (closer to Strength and Defense). Why does Runescape not break Magic into more skills? The answer is simple: Magic was created with a much more limited scope in Runescape, and there has not been enough content in any specific magical category to justify another skill being born. But perhaps your skill concept seeks to address this; maybe your Enchantment skill takes the enchanting aspects of Magic away, expands the idea to include current imbues and newer content, and fully fleshes the idea out such that the Magic skill alone cannot contain it. Somewhat ironically, Magic used to be separated into Good and Evil Magic skills in Runescape Classic, but that is another topic. So instead of arguments about what could be thrown under another skill’s umbrella, perhaps we should be asking: is there enough substance to this skill concept for it to stand on its own, outside of its current skill categorization? Of course, this leads to a whole other debate about how much content is enough for a skill idea to deserve individuality, but that would get too deep into specifics and is outside the scope of this discussion.
3-14 - Skill Endgame
Runescape has always been a sandbox MMO, but the original Runescape experience was built more or less with a specific endgame in mind: killing players and monsters. Take the Runescape Classic of 2001: you had all your regular combat skills, but even every other skill had an endgame whose goal was helping combat out. Fishing, Firemaking, and Cooking would provide necessary healing. Smithing and Crafting, along with their associated Gathering skill partners, served to gear you up. Combat was the simple endgame and most mechanics existed to serve that end. However, since those first days, the changing endgame goals of players have promoted a vast expansion of the endgame goals of new content. For example, hitting a 99 in any non-combat skill is an endgame goal in itself for many players, completely separate from that skill’s combat relationship (if any). These goals have increased to aspects like cosmetic collections, pets, maxed stats, all quests completed, all diaries completed, all music tracks unlocked, a wealthy bank, the collection log, boss killcounts, and more. Whereas skills used to have a distinct part of a system that ultimately served combat, we now have a vast variety of endgame goals that a skill can be directed towards. You can even see a growth in this perspective as new skills were released up to 2007: Thieving mainly nets you valuable (or once valuable) items which have extremely flexible uses, and Construction has a strong emphasis on cosmetics for your POH. So when designing your new skill, contemplate what the endgame of your skill looks like. For example, if you are proposing a Gathering skill, what is the Production skill tie-in, and what is the endgame goal of that Production skill? Maybe your new skill Spelunking has an endgame in gathering rare collectibles that can be shown off in your POH. Maybe your new skill Necromancy functions like a Support skill, giving you followers that help speed along resource gathering, and letting you move faster to the endgame goal of the respective Production skill. Whatever it is, a proper, clear, and unified view of an endgame goal helps a skill feel like it serves a distinct and valuable purpose. Note that this could mean that you require multiple skills to be released simultaneously for each to feed into each other and form an appropriate endgame. In that case, go for it – don’t make it a repeat of RS3’s Divination, a Gathering skill left hanging without the appropriate Production skill partner of Invention for over 2 years. A good example of a skill with a direct endgame is… most of them. Combat is a well-accepted endgame, and traditionally, most skills are intended to lend a hand in combat whether by supplies or gear. A skill with a poor endgame would be Hunter: Hunter is so scattered in its ultimate endgame goals, trying to touch on small aspects of everything like combat gear, weight reduction, production, niche skilling tools, and food. There’s a very poor sense of identity to Hunter’s endgame, and it doesn’t help that very few of these rewards are actually viable or interesting in the current day. Similarly, while Slayer has a strong endgame goal it is terrible in its methodology, overshadowing other Production skills in their explicit purpose. A better design for Slayer’s endgame would have been to treat it as a secondary Gathering skill, to work almost like a catalyst for other Gathering-Production skill relationships. In this mindset, Slayer is where you gather valuable monster drops, combine it with traditional Gathering resources like ores from Mining, then use a Production skill like Smithing to meld them into the powerful gear that is present today. This would have kept other Gathering and Production skills at the forefront of their specialities, in contrast to today’s situation where Slayer will give fully assembled gear that’s better than anything you could receive from the appropriate skills (barring a few items that need a Production skill to piece together).
3-15 - Alternate Goals
From a game design perspective, skills are so far reaching that it can be tempting to use them to shift major game mechanics to a more favourable position. Construction is an example of this idea in action: Construction was very intentionally designed to be a massive gold sink to help a hyperinflating economy. Everything about it takes gold out of the game, whether through using a sawmill, buying expensive supplies from stores, adding rooms, or a shameless piece of furniture costing 100m that is skinned as, well, 100m on a shameless piece of furniture. If you’re clever about it, skills are a legitimately good opportunity for such change. Sure, the gold sink is definitely a controversial feature of Construction, but for the most part it’s organic and makes sense; fancy houses and fancy cosmetics are justifiably expensive. It is notable that the controversy over Construction’s gold sink mechanism is probably levied more against the cost of training, rather than the cost of all its wonderful aesthetics. Perhaps that should have been better accounted for in its design phase, but now it is quite set in stone. To emphasize that previous point: making large scale changes to the game through a new skill can work, but it must feel organic and secondary to the skill’s main purpose. Some people really disliked Warding because they felt it tried too hard to fix real, underlying game issues with mechanics that didn’t thematically fit or were overshadowing the skill’s Core. While this may or may not be true, if your new skill can improve the game’s integrity without sacrificing its own identity, you could avoid this argument entirely. If your skill Regency has a Core of managing global politics, but also happens to serve as a resource sink to help your failing citizens, then you’ve created a strong Core design while simultaneously improving the profitability of Gathering skills.
3-16 - The Combat No-Touch Rule
So, let’s take a moment to examine the great benefits and rationale of RS2’s Evolution of Combat: This space has been reserved for unintelligible squabbling. With that over, it’s obvious that the OSRS playerbase is not a big fan of making major changes to the combat system. If there’s anything that defines the OSRS experience, it has to be the janky and abusable combat system that we love. So, in the past 7 years of OSRS, how many times have you heard someone pitch a new combat skill? Practically no one ever has; a new combat skill, no matter how miniscule, would feel obtrusive to most players, and likely would not even receive 25% of votes in a poll. This goes right back to Section 3-5 – Integration, and the importance of preserving the fundamentals of OSRS’s design. I know that my intention with this discussion was to be as definitive about skill design as possible, and in that spirit I should be delving into the design philosophy specifically behind combat skills, but I simply don’t see the benefit of me trying, and the conversation really doesn’t interest me that much. It goes without saying that as expansive as this discussion is, it does not cover every facet of skill design, which is a limitation both of my capabilities and desire to do so.
3-17 - Aesthetics
I don’t do aesthetics well. I like them, I want them, but I do not understand them; there are others much better equipped to discuss this topic than I. Nonetheless, here we go. Since the dawn of OSRS, debates over art style and aesthetics have raged across Gielinor. After all, the OSRS Team is filled with modern day artists while OSRS is an ancient game. What were they supposed to do? Keep making dated graphics? Make content with a modernized and easily digestible style? Something in-between? While many players shouted for more dated graphics, they were approached by an interesting predicament: which dated graphics did they want? We had a great selection present right from the start of OSRS: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. People hungry for nostalgia chose the era that they grew up in, leading to frequent requests for older models like the dragon or imp, most of which were denied by Jagex (except the old Mining rock models). But which era was OSRS supposed to follow? Jagex elected to carve their own path, but not without heavy criticism especially closer to OSRS’s conception. However, they adapted to player requests and have since gone back and fixed many of the blatant early offenders (like the Kingdom of Kourend) and adopted a more consistent flavour, one that generally respects the art style of 2007. Even though it doesn’t always hit the mark, one has to appreciate the OSRS artists for making their best attempt and listening to feedback, and here’s to hoping that their art style examination mentioned in June 2020’s Gazette bears fruit. But what exactly is the old school art style? There are simple systems by which most players judge it in OSRS, usually by asking questions like, “Would you believe if this existed in 2007?” More informed artists will start pointing out distinct features that permeated most content from back in the day, such as low quality textures, low poly models, low FPS animations, a “low fantasy” or grounded profile that appeals somewhat to realism, reducing cartoonish exaggerations, and keeping within the lore. Compiled with this, music and sound design help that art style come to life; it can be very hard on immersion when these don’t fit. An AGS would sound jarring if its special attack sounded like a weak dagger stab, and having to endure Country Jig while roaming Hosidius suddenly sweeps you off into a different universe. But coming back to skill design, the art, models, and sound design tend to be some of the last features, mostly because the design phase doesn’t demand such a complete picture of a skill. However, simple concept art and models can vastly improve how a skill concept is communicated and comfort players who are concerned about maintaining that “old school feel.” This will be touched on again later in this discussion under Section 5-2 – Presentation and Beta Testing.
3-18 - Afterword
Now we’ve set down the modern standards for a new skill, but the statements that started this section bear repeating: the formula we’ve established does not automatically make a good or interesting skill, as hard as we might have tried. Once again, harken back to the First Great Irony: that we are trying to inject the modern interpretation of what defines a skill upon a game that was not necessarily built to contain it. Therefore, one could just as easily deny each of the components described above, as popular or unpopular as the act might be, and their opinion could be equally valid and all this effort meaningless. Don’t take these guidelines with such stringency as to disregard all other views.
5-0 - The OSRS Team and the Design Process
If you’ve followed me all the way here, you’re likely A) exhausted and fed up of any conversation concerning new skills, or B) excited, because you’ve just struck an incredible skill idea (or perhaps one that’s always hung around your head) that happens to tick off all the above checkboxes. But unfortunately for you B types, it’s about to get pretty grim, because we’re going to go through every aspect of skill design that’s exterior to the game itself. We’ll be touching on larger topics like democracy, presentation, player mindsets, effort, and resource consumption. It’ll induce a fantastic bout of depression, so don’t get left behind.
5-1 - Designing a Skill
Thus far, Jagex has offered three potential skills to OSRS, each of which has been denied. This gives us the advantage of understanding how the skill design process works behind the scenes and lets us examine some of the issues Jagex has faced with presenting a skill to the players. The first problem is the “one strike and you’re out” phenomenon. Simply put, players don’t like applying much effort into reading and learning. They’ll look at a developer blog highlighting a new skill idea, and if you’re lucky they’ll even read the whole thing, but how about the second developer blog? The third? Fourth? Even I find it hard to get that far. In general, people don’t like long detail-heavy essays or blogs, which is why I can invoke the ancient proverb “Ban Emily” into this post and it’ll go (almost) completely unnoticed. No matter how many improvements you make between developer blogs, you will quickly lose players with each new iteration. Similarly, developer blogs don’t have the time to talk about skill design philosophy or meta-analyse their ideas – players would get lost far too fast. This is the Second Great Irony of skill design: the more iterations you have of a lengthy idea, the less players will keep up with you. This was particularly prominent with Warding: Battle Wards were offered in an early developer blog but were quickly cut when Jagex realized how bad the idea was. Yet people would still cite Battle Wards as the reason they voted against Warding, despite the idea having been dropped several blogs before. Similarly, people would often comment that they hated that Warding was being polled multiple times; it felt to them like Jagex was trying to brute-force it into the game. But Warding was only ever polled once, and only after the fourth developer blog - the confusion was drawn from how many times the skill was reiterated and from the length of the public design process. Sure, there are people for whom this runs the opposite way; they keep a close eye on updates and judge a piece of content on the merits of the latest iteration, but this is much less common. You could argue that one should simply disregard the ignorant people as blind comments don't contribute to the overall discussion, but you should remember that these players are also the ones voting for the respective piece of content. You could also suggest re-educating them, which is exactly what Jagex attempts with each developer blog, and still people won’t get the memo. And when it comes to the players themselves, can the playerbase really be relied on to re-educate itself? Overall, the Second Great irony really hurts the development process and is practically an unavoidable issue. What’s the alternative? To remove the developer-player interface that leads to valuable reiterations, or does you simply have to get the skill perfect in the first developer blog? It’s not an optimal idea, but it could help: have a small team of “delegates” – larger names that players can trust, or player influencers – come in to review a new, unannounced skill idea under NDA. If they like it, chances are that other players will too. If they don’t, reiterate or toss out the skill before it’s public. That way, you’ve had a board of experienced players who are willing to share their opinions to the public helping to determine the meat and potatoes of the skill before it is introduced to the casual eye. Now, a more polished and well-accepted product can be presented on the first run of selling a skill to the public, resulting in less reiterations being required, and demanding less effort from the average player to be fully informed over the skill’s final design.
5-2 - Presentation and Beta Testing
So you’ve got a great idea, but how are you going to sell it to the public? Looking at how the OSRS Team has handled it throughout the years, there’s a very obvious learning curve occurring. Artisan had almost nothing but text blogs being thrown to the players, Sailing started introducing some concept art and even a trailer with terrible audio recording, and Warding had concept art, in game models, gifs, and a much fancier trailer with in-game animations. A picture or video is worth a thousand words, and often the only words that players will take out of a developer blog. You might say that presentation is everything, and that would be more true in OSRS than most games. Most activities in OSRS are extremely basic, involve minimal thought, and are incredibly grindy. Take Fishing: you click every 20 seconds on a fishing spot that is randomly placed along a section of water, get rid of your fish, then keep clicking those fishing spots. Boiling it down further, you click several arbitrary parts of your computer screen every 20 seconds. It’s hardly considered engaging, so why do some people enjoy it? Simply put: presentation. You’re given a peaceful riverside environment to chill in, you’re collecting a bunch of pixels shaped like fish, and a number tracking your xp keeps ticking up and telling you that it matters. Now imagine coming to the players with a radical new skill idea: Mining. You describe that Mining is where you gather ores that will feed into Smithing and help create gear for players to use. The audience ponders momentarily, but they’re not quite sure it feels right and ask for a demonstration. You show them some gameplay, but your development resources were thin and instead of rocks, you put trees as placeholders. Instead of ores in your inventory, you put logs as placeholders. Instead of a pickaxe, your character is swinging a woodcutting axe as a placeholder. Sure, the mechanics might act like mining instead of woodcutting, but how well is the skill going to sell if you haven’t presented it correctly or respected it contextually? Again, presentation is everything. Players need to be able to see the task they are to perform, see the tools they’ll use, and see the expected outcomes; otherwise, whatever you’re trying to sell will feel bland and unoriginal. And this leads to the next level of skill presentation that has yet to be employed: Beta Worlds. Part of getting the feel of an activity is not just watching, it but acting it out as well - you’ll never understand the thrill of skydiving unless you’ve actually been skydiving. Beta Worlds are that chance for players to act out a concept without risking the real game’s health. A successful Beta can inspire confidence in players that the skill has a solid Core and interesting Expansions, while a failed Beta will make them glad that they got to try it and be fully informed before putting the skill to a poll (although that might be a little too optimistic for rage culture). Unfortunately, Betas are not without major disadvantages, the most prominent of which we shall investigate next.
5-3 - Development Effort
If you thought that the previous section on Skill Design Philosophy was lengthy and exhausting, imagine having to know all that information and then put it into practice.Mentally designing a skill in your head can be fun, but putting all that down on paper and making it actually work together, feel fully fleshed out, and following all the modern standards that players expect is extremely heavy work, especially when it’s not guaranteed to pay off in the polls like Quest or Slayer content. That’s not even taking into account the potentially immense cost of developing a new skill should it pass a poll. Whenever people complain that Jagex is wasting their resources trying to make that specific skill work, Jagex has been very explicit about the costs to pull together a design blog being pretty minimal. Looking at the previous blogs, Jagex is probably telling the truth. It’s all just a bunch of words, a couple art sketches, and maybe a basic in-game model or gif. Not to downplay the time it takes to write well, design good models, or generate concept art, but it’s nothing like the scale of resources that some players make it out to be. Of course, if a Beta was attempted as suggested last section, this conversation would take a completely new turn, and the level of risk to invested resources would exponentially increase. But this conversation calls to mind an important question: how much effort and resources do skills require to feel complete? Once upon a time, you could release a skill which was more or less unfinished. Take Slayer: it was released in 2005 with a pretty barebones structure. The fundamentals were all there, but the endgame was essentially a couple cool best-in-slot weapons and that was it. Since then, OSRS has updated the skill to include a huge Reward Shop system, feature 50% more monsters to slay, and to become an extremely competitive money-maker. Skills naturally undergo development over time, but it so often comes up during the designing of an OSRS skill that it "doesn't have enough to justify its existence." This was touched on deeply in Section 3-13 – Skill Bloat, but deserves reiterating here. While people recognize that skills continually evolve, the modern standard expects a new skill, upon release, to be fully preassembled before purchase. Whereas once you could get away with releasing just a skill's Core and working on Expansions down the line, that is no longer the case. But perhaps a skill might stand a better chance now than it did last year, given that the OSRS Team has doubled in number since that time. However, judging from the skill design phases that have previously been attempted (as we’ve yet to see a skill development phase), the heaviest cost has been paid in developer mentality and motivational loss. When a developer is passionate about an idea, they spend their every waking hour pouring their mind into how that idea is going to function,especially while they’re not at work. And then they’re obligated to take player feedback and adapt their ideas, sometimes starting from scratch, particularly over something as controversial as a skill. Even if they have tough enough skin to take the heavy criticism that comes with skill design, having to write and rewrite repeatedly over the same idea to make it “perfect” is mentally exhausting. Eventually, their motivation drains as their labour bears little fruit with the audience, and they simply want to push it to the poll and be done with it. Even once all their cards are down, there’s still no guarantee that their efforts will be rewarded, even less so when it comes to skills. With such a high mental cost with a low rate of success, you have to ask, “Was it worth it?” And that’s why new skill proposals are far and few between. A new skill used to be exciting for the development team in the actual days of 2007, as they had the developmental freedom to do whatever they wanted, but in the modern day that is not so much the case.
5-4 - The Problems of Democracy
Ever since the conceptualization of democracy in the real world, people have been very aware of its disadvantages. And while I don’t have the talent, knowledge, or time to discuss every one of these factors, there are a few that are very relevant when it comes to the OSRS Team and the polling process. But first we should recognize the OSRS Team’s relationship with the players. More and more, the Team acts like a government to its citizens, the players, and although this situation was intentionally instated with OSRS’s release, it’s even more prominent now. The Team decides the type of content that gets to go into a poll, and the players get their input over whether that particular piece makes it in. Similarly, players make suggestions to the Team that, in many cases, the Team hadn’t thought of themselves. This synergy is phenomenal and almost unheard of among video games, but the polling system changes the mechanics of this relationship. Polls were introduced to the burned and scarred population of players at OSRS’s release in 2013. Many of these players had just freshly come off RS2 after a series of disastrous updates or had quit long before from other controversies. The Squeal of Fortune, the Evolution of Combat, even the original Wilderness Removal had forced numerous players out and murdered their trust in Jagex. To try and get players to recommit to Runescape, Jagex offered OSRS a polling system by which the players would determine what went into the game, where the players got to hold all the cards. They also asked the players what threshold should be required for polled items to pass, and among the odd 50% or 55% being shouted out, the vast majority of players wanted 70%, 75%, 80%, or even 85%. There was a massive population in favour of a conservative game that would mostly remain untouched, and therefore kept pure from the corruption RS2 had previously endured. Right from the start, players started noticing holes in this system. After all, the OSRS Team was still the sole decider of what would actually be polled in the first place. Long-requested changes took forever to be polled (if ever polled at all) if the OSRS Team didn’t want to deal with that particular problem or didn’t like that idea. Similarly, the Team essentially had desk jobs with a noose kept around their neck – they could perform almost nothing without the players, their slave masters, seeing, criticizing, and tearing out every inch of developmental or visionary freedom they had. Ever hear about the controversy of Erin the duck? Take a look at the wiki or do a search through the subreddit history. It’s pretty fantastic, and a good window into the minds of the early OSRS playerbase. But as the years have gone on, the perspective of the players has shifted. There is now a much healthier and more trusting relationship between them and the Team, much more flexibility in what the players allow the Team to handle, and a much greater tolerance and even love of change. But the challenges of democracy haven’t just fallen away. Everyone having the right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the democratic system, but unfortunately that also means that everyone has the right to vote. For OSRS, that means that every member, whether it’s their first day in game, their ten thousandth hour played, those who have no idea about what the poll’s about, those who haven’t read a single quest (the worst group), those who RWT and bot, those who scam and lure, and every professional armchair developer like myself get to vote. In short, no one will ever be perfectly informed on every aspect of the game, or at least know when to skip when they should. Similarly, people will almost never vote in favour of making their game harder, even at the cost of game integrity, or at least not enough people would vote in such a fashion to reach a 75% majority. These issues are well recognized. The adoption of the controversial “integrity updates” was Jagex’s solution to these problems. In this way, Jagex has become even more like a government to the players. The average citizen of a democratic country cannot and will not make major decisions that favour everyone around themselves if it comes at a personal cost. Rather, that’s one of the major roles of a government: to make decisions for changes for the common good that an individual can’t or won’t make on their own. No one’s going to willingly hand over cash to help repave a road on the opposite side of the city – that’s why taxes are a necessary evil. It’s easy to see that the players don’t always know what’s best for their game and sometimes need to rely on that parent to decide for them, even if it results in some personal loss. But players still generally like the polls, and Jagex still appears to respect them for the most part. Being the government of the game, Jagex could very well choose to ignore them, but would risk the loss of their citizens to other lands. And there are some very strong reasons to keep them: the players still like having at least one hand on the wheel when it comes to new content or ideas. Also, it acts as a nice veto card should Jagex try to push RS3’s abusive tactics on OSRS and therefore prevent such potential damage. But now we come to the topic of today: the introduction of a new skill. Essentially, a new skill must pass a poll in order to enter the game. While it’s easy to say, “If a skill idea is good enough, it’ll pass the threshold,” that’s not entirely true. The only skill that could really pass the 75% mark is not necessarily a well-designed skill, but rather a crowd-pleasing skill. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, the latter is far easier to make than the former. Take Dungeoneering: if you were to poll it today as an exact replica of RS2’s version, it would likely be the highest scoring skill yet, perhaps even passing, despite every criticism that’s been previously emphasized describing why it has no respect for the current definition of “skill.” Furthermore, a crowd-pleasing skill can easily fall prey to deindividualization of vision and result in a bland “studio skill” (in the same vein as a “studio film”), one that feels manufactured by a board of soulless machines rather than a director’s unique creation. This draws straight back to the afore-mentioned issues with democracy: that people A) don’t always understand what they’re voting for or against, and B) people will never vote for something that makes their game tougher or results in no benefit to oneself. Again, these were not issues in the old days of RS2, but are the problems we face with our modern standards and decision making systems. The reality that must be faced is that the polling system is not an engine of creation nor is it a means of constructive feedback – it’s a system of judgement, binary and oversimplified in its methodology. It’s easy to interact with and requires no more than 10 seconds of a player’s time, a mere mindless moment, to decide the fate of an idea made by an individual or team, regardless of their deep or shallow knowledge of game mechanics, strong or weak vision of design philosophy, great or terrible understanding of the game’s history, and their awareness of blindness towards the modern community. It’s a system which disproportionately boils down the quality of discussion that is necessitated by a skill, which gives it the same significance as the question “Should we allow players to recolour the Rocky pet by feeding it berries?” with the only available answers being a dualistic “This idea is perfect and should be implemented exactly as outlined” or “This idea is terrible and should never be spoken of again.” So what do you do? Let Jagex throw in whatever they want? Reduce the threshold, or reduce it just for skills? Make a poll that lists a bunch of skills and forces the players to choose one of them to enter the game? Simply poll the question, “Should we have a new skill?” then let Jagex decide what it is? Put more options on the scale of “yes” to “no” and weigh each appropriately? All these options sound distasteful because there are obvious weaknesses to each. But that is the Third Great Irony we face: an immense desire for a new skill, but no realistic means to ever get one.
6-0 - Conclusion
I can only imagine that if you’ve truly read everything up to this point, it’s taken you through quite the rollercoaster. We’ve walked through the history of OSRS skill attempts, unconstructive arguments, various aspects of modern skill design philosophy, and the OSRS Team and skill design process. When you take it all together, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the thought that needs to go into a modern skill and all the issues that might prevent its success. Complexity, naming conventions, categorizations, integration, rewards and motivations, bankstanding and buyables, the difficulties of skill bloat, balancing, and skill endgames, aesthetics, the design process, public presentation, development effort, democracy and polling - these are the challenges of designing and introducing modern skills. To have to cope with it all is draining and maybe even impossible, and therefore it begs the question: is trying to get a new skill even worth it? Maybe. Thanks for reading. Tl;dr: Designing a modern skill requires acknowledging the vast history of Runescape, understanding why players make certain criticisms and what exactly they’re saying in terms of game mechanics, before finally developing solutions. Only then can you subject your ideas to a polling system that is built to oversimplify them.
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