At the end of the Second World War, Europe realized that their hold on their colonial holdings was slipping fast. Most of them began to draw up plans to gradually grant independence. The people within these countries however had different priorities. They saw their chance to break from the colonial masters and took it. In 1950, only Egypt, Liberia, Ethiopia, and South Africa could be considered independent, by 1965 the vast majority of nations were on their own. Some flourished, some languished, but almost all improved with their newfound freedom. At this time, the world was locked in a struggle between Western Democracy and Communist Dictatorship. With little warning, a new theater opened in the Cold War. Africans were given the decision of who to side with. As an enemy of their former masters, the Soviet Union made a natural ally, and Socialism's anti-imperial (theoretic) stance appealed to people in post imperial regions of the world. Since independence, seventeen African nations have had a government which self-identified as socialist, six of those as Marxist-Leninist. Like Africa itself, socialist movements in the continent were varied and diverse. Ranging from self described socialist Nelson Mandella becoming celebrated world wide for his devotion to peace and equality to Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose violence and economic mismanagement killed thousands. The purpose of this post is to describe the ideological origins and tenets of African socialism, with a look at what makes it distinct from mainstream Communist movements. On this map red shows those states which identified as Marxist, yellow shows those which identified as with a variety of other forms of socialism, and green shows those which more closely fall under the Arab Socialist movement and will not be discussed here.
Broadly speaking, African Socialism drew inspiration from two main sources, the traditional body of socialist literature and that of the Pan-African movement. Socialism Both the ideological tenets of socialism and the practical concerns socialist nations played a role in African nations adopting socialism. Most of the nations of Africa were in a struggle for freedom from capitalist European countries and found a natural ally in the Soviet Union. Following WWII, it was in many ways a binary choice to side with the US or USSR. Those who led rebellions or coups against US backed leaders had few options other than the USSR. Political concerns aside, there were many reasons why socialism was ideologically attractive to educated Africans. Socialism is at its base revolutionary. "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite!” With even a cursory glance at Marx, it doesn't take much imagination to see why people oppressed for decades would turn to him. The anti-Imperial rhetoric of socialism (regardless of the actual aggression of the USSR and PRC) was another motivating factor. In this case, I point to Vladimir Lenin's Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this work, Lenin points towards imperialism as a symptom of the capitalist system. However, one of the reasons this work remained applicable after the collapse of most overseas empires is due to his characterization of imperialism. One example he gives in the book speaks of US domination of the Argentine beef industry. According to Lenin, though the US never carved out a concession area or installed a governor general, they used economic power to dominate the industry and exert control over the country. This characterization rang true for many people who looked at the efforts taken by former colonial powers looking to retain their economic stakes in their old colonies. One of the problems socialists face in implementing their policy is that Orthodox Marxism is heavily based on the conditions of 19th century Western Europe, and when applied outside of those conditions, thinkers need to reconcile the inconsistencies with the conditions on the ground. While we will look at how various African leaders adapted the ideology, one sub-ideology which played a major role in African Socialism was Maoism. Orthodox Marxism focuses heavily on a revolution based around industrial workers. Early 20th century China, much like post-colonial Africa had little in the way of industry. Mao re conceptualized the idea of the proletariat to include peasant farmers and made the revolution as agrarian as it was industrial. For example, the first president of Socialist Madagascar released an ideology book heavily inspired by Mao's Red Book. China also served as an alternative source of support in the event of a conflict with Russia; Somalia received aid from the PRC when they were at war with Soviet aligned Ethiopia. Pan- African Movement The Pan-African movement did not solely influence the African Socialist movement. In fact, almost all post-colonial governments took inspiration from many of the tenets of movement. Nor were all the central figures socialists, indeed Emperor Halie Salassi of Ethiopia was about as far from socialist as could be. However there was a degree of mutual influence in a number of places. The start of it can be traced to Jamaican thinker Marcus Garvey. The Pan-African colors and the icon of the Black Star both came from him. Kwame Nkrumah mentioned him directly as an influence. This remained on the nationalist and pan-nationalist side of African socialism. This and racial empowerment remained a constant theme in African socialism, with many African thinkers rejecting class reductionism. African's tended to be acutely aware of the role of race in world politics and used it in conjunction with class and capitalist interest to explain the world. Another major thinker was American W. E. B. du Bois. One of the founding members of the NAACP and author of one of the first sociological works about African Americans, Du Bois is one of the most important figures of the American Civil Rights Movement. Du Bois was in reality a Social Democrat, who often saw world communist governments as a means to an end for black people. In Socialism and the American Negro, he referred to the New Deal as a America's foray into Socialism. Though a stalwart supporter of democracy he visited Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin personally. He was a strong opponent of colonization and spoke to young leaders in the 1945 Pan-African congress. There he met future President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. He would become a mentor to Nkrumah and move to Accra in his final days.
Many of the most interesting and successful movements in Africa were non-Marxist-Leninist. They took local beliefs and attitudes and molded socialism to fit them. These were incredibly diverse, ranging from forms of social democracy to far more authoritarian structures. The leaders ranged from educated elites to guerrilla leaders. The first socialist governments sprang up at independence and continued through the Cold War. These are some of the more notable ones. Consciencism Few other thinkers have had near the lasting influence on African politics and philosophy as Kwame Nkrumah. Born to a poor family in the British Gold Coast, Nkrumah was sent to school by his family where he excelled. Interested in Politics and Philosophy, he saved money to pay to visit the United States. He worked menial jobs to put himself through school at Lincoln University and University of Pennsylvania. In the US he became close to expat and American leftists as well as enjoying African American culture. After graduating he went to the London School of Economics. This is where he began political organizing. He returned to the Gold Coast where he founded the Convention People's Party. When the British began increasing local rule, his party swept. When the British did not meet the demands of the Ghanian people, he became a champion of the people with his down to earth nature and organization of general strikes. When Ghana was given full independence, he was the overwhelming choice. A strict empiricist, Nkrumah sought to make an organic political philosophy that was designed to change as the material needs of the country changed. He determined that the welfare of the individual was the most important concern of the government and society. It was from this lens that he criticized capitalism, contending that it reduced man to a means to achieving the goal of profit. He pointed to traditional African values, Islam, and European influences as the three ideological tides that shaped Africa. The latter two he condemned, though admitted their merits where he saw them (such as the French education system), and gave qualified approval to the first. African society was to be, in spirit but not practice the driver of society. This meant that pan-Africanism and historical study were to be focused on, but the actual institutions such as tribalism, traditional monarchy, and class hierarchies were to be abandoned. This is where socialism came into Nkrumah's Consciencism. It was not out of devotion to Marxist thinking, but out of a belief that socialist economic structures would be the most effective way of leading the country to prosperity. In a 1967 address he gave in Egypt he stated "Socialism is not spontaneous. It does not arise of itself. It has abiding principles according to which the major means of production and distribution ought to be socialized if exploitation of the many by the few is to be prevented; if, that is to say, egalitarianism in the economy is to be protected. Socialist countries in Africa may differ in this or that detail of their policies, but such differences themselves ought not to be arbitrary or subject to vagaries of taste. They must be scientifically explained, as necessities arising from differences in the particular circumstances of the countries themselves." To Nkrumah, Socialism was not prescriptive, but rather a process where one used communal ownership as needed to create a better society. He was a believer in the idea of scientific socialism in believing that socialism came from the natural needs of the people, rather than an ideological devotion. Ujamaa If Nkrumah was a product of the study of Philosophy, Julius Nyerere was a product of the study of anthropology and history. Unlike Nkrumah, Nyerere was the product of elite lineage. His father was a chief who earned the favor of both the German, and later British Administrations in Tanganyika. He was chosen by the British to receive education to be a local leader and studied at Makerere College before finishing his post graduate work at University of Edinburgh. Upon returning, he founded the Tanganyika African National Union, which pushed for independence from the UK through non-violent protest. His philosophy of Ujamaa, meaning familyhood in Swahili, became the guiding ideology of the party and independent Tanganyika (and Tanzania after their unification with Zanzibar). In this ideology, Nyerere posits that socialism is the natural state of African people. Before the introduction of Western influences, African people lived in an equal and communitarian society. While he admits the existence of elites he countered that the relative equality of means meant that there was no comparison to modern economic structures. For Africans to be prosperous, they had to return to the social structures as well as the spirit of pre-colonial Africa, while accepting modernizations that would benefit the common man. He posited that African society had a natural social value attached to work, and this work was done, not to the benefit of a capitalist elite, but to the benefit of society, thus with the fruits of labor belonging to society, they could be considered socialist. Through a return to these structures, they could have a socialist society that was structured on the needs of Africans, rather than those of 19th century Europeans. He regarded Marxists as rigid and dogmatic, stating that, "The works of Marx and Lenin are regarded as holy writ… We find them condemning others actions because they do not accord with what the 'priests of scientific socialism' have decided is the true meaning." His ontology marked the community as the basic unit. He believed in socialism through consent of the people, but not necessarily through democracy.
Marxist-Leninist nations in Africa tend to fill a different niche that those of non-Marxist states. Non-Marxist states tended to grow from movements within the countries with a locally based variant of socialism guiding the development of government structures. Marxist states on the other hand tended to come from the geopolitical needs of the nation. They tended to lean heavily into the support of the Soviet Union or People's Republic of China. These governments tended to be criticized by Orthodox Marxists both within the countries and abroad for simply slapping a Marxist aesthetic on a run of the mill authoritarian state. This is not universal, and depended on the leader and movement. Thomas Sankara (referred to as the African Che Guevara) is celebrated by leftists for his attempts to organize Burkina Faso, whereas his successor Blaise Compaoré simply co-opted Marxist symbolism until the end of the Cold War when it was dropped entirely. The two states I will profile show a best and worst case for African Marxists. Benin Nothing I write would be complete without me mentioning Benin somewhere. The Republic of Dahomey gained its freedom from France August 1st, 1960. At that time Hubert Maga, a school teacher turned politician from the North was named first president. Benin is divided into three broad super-cultural groups (though there are a total of 64 ethnic groups). The Fon in the South, the Yoruba in the East, and the Bariba and other Muslims in the North. The Maga government was soon overthrown and the country rapidly switched between a number of governments, each dedicated to giving as much as possible to their constituent area before being removed from office. This changed in 1972 when a young army officer named Mathieu Kerekou led a successful coup. Kerekou was different in the sense that he had no real ties to any of the political families that had been competing for power. He also ended the system of clientism that had defined Dahomeyan politics to that point (though some contend he showed bias against the Fon. Strongly nationalistic, Kerekou made his hatred for the French clear early on, pointing to them as the cause of many of the country's problems and the patron of the old regime. In 1974, Kerekou changed the country's name from the Republic of Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin and formally adopted Marxism-Leninism as the guiding ideology of the nation. Oil reserves and refineries as well as the banking system were rapidly nationalized and Kerekou made overtures to international communist nations for aid. Austerity programs were also quickly ended. The North Koreans were particularly close allies. Curiously, Kerekou worked to retain warm relations with the United States. Peace Corps remained in operation through his entire presidency and working in the American embassy was considered a strong stepping stone. The practical effects for the average Beninese person varied from urban to village. Local leaders were required to be members of the People's Revolutionary Party, and extreme corruption and inefficiency meant that few resources radiated outside of population centers. Instilled with a strong labor union tradition during French occupation, the national labor movement was consolidated into a single approved union that was basically mandated to follow government orders. Unionized workers as well as students were the chief opponents of the regime and faced significant surveillance and harassment. This started to change in the mid 80s as it became clear that the regime's economic reforms weren't working. Benin was lagging behind its neighbors Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria. On top of this, student groups and workers in unofficial unions were demanding change. Simultaneously, the election of Francois Mitterrand in France opened a new era in Franco-Beninese relations, shifting the nation back to Western alignment away from the moribund USSR. Under mounting pressure, Kerekou agreed to a constitutional referendum and free elections. Upon his loss, he gracefully stepped down in 1991, but was reelected in 1996. Having dropped Marxism, he led his second term as a moderate liberal, doing little to harm the economic and political reforms of the early 90s. Ethiopia Ethiopia, on the other hand, faced the fullest horror of Communism and likely suffered to a similar extent to Ukraine and China. In 1970, the Solomonic Dynasty leading the Empire of Ethiopia was one of the oldest royal houses in the world dating back to 1270 and drawing its lineage back to the Biblical King Solomon. Their last Emperor was Halie Selassie, celebrated among Pan-Africanists as one of the only African leaders to resist colonization. Though celebrated by the diaspora, Selassie's rule was authoritarian and secretive. In 1973, a famine hit Ethiopia. Rather than petition for aid Selassie covered it up, and only accepted aid on the contingency that it was given in secret. The inaction of the Emperor prompted a revolutionary council known as the Derg to take over. This council quickly moved to numerous industries. Eritrean, Tigre, and Somali nationalists took advantage of the situation to launch offensives against the government. When the Carter Administration warned the Derg to cease the human rights violations they were committing in the crackdown, they cut ties with Washington and invited East-German and Soviet military advisors. In the Tigre region, the Ethiopian military embarked on a scorched earth offensive to quell the rebellion. Using such tactics in a nation with food security concerns was probably ill-advised. The offensive in the North consumed around two thirds of the national budget. The problems the Derg had created were compounded in 1983. In 1982, the rains failed and there was risk of another great famine. Having become an international pariah due to the extreme violence of Derg forces, the international community was reluctant to give aid and the Reagan administration lobbied heavily against it as part of his campaign to halt Communism in the Horn of Africa. When the famine hit in earnest, the Derg mobilized to create collective farms. These farms were incredibly inefficient, consuming 82% of imported fertilizer while contributing only 15% of grain production. To staff these farms, people from offending areas, particularly Tigre were forcibly removed from their homes and shipped to location. Africa Watch estimates that around 50,000 people died on these farms alone, comparing conditions to the Ukrainian farms in the days of Stalin. In total, as many as 1.2 million people were killed, 2.5 million displaced, with Human Rights Watch estimating that around half could be attributed to government actions.
Socialism is a phenomenon that struck the African continent in many ways across the Cold War era and beyond. Its incarnations were as diverse as the groups it affected. This is by no means an exhaustive look at African socialism, but simply a chance for the reader to find a starting place for further study and give context to an under studied part of the world. Indeed, there were many important people and thinkers left out, such as Cheikh Anta Diop, Walter Rodney, and Siad Barre. Please let me know in the comments what if anything you would like to learn more about. If you found the philosophical analysis or historical fact more interesting, I would be happy to write more about it. Sources African Socialism Revisited- Kwame Nkrumah Ujamma – The Basis of African Socialism- Julius K. Nyerere Drought, War, and the Politics of Famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea- Edmond J. Keller Applying the weapon of theory: comparing the philosophy of Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah- Tomáš František Žák Three African social theorists on class struggle, political liberation, and indigenous culture : Cheikh Anta Diop, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah - Charles Simon-Aaron Socialism and the American Negro- W. E. B. Du Bois Benin- Chris Allen
Selling your Covered Call - Thoughts on How to Select Your Strike and Expiration
Congratulations! You are a bag holder of company XYZ which was thought to be the best penny stock ever. Instead of feeling sorry, you consider selling covered calls to help reduce your cost basis - and eventually get out of your bags with minimal loss or even a profit! First - let's review the call option contract. The holder of the call option contract has the right but not the obligation to purchase 100 shares of XYZ at the strike price per share. This contract has an expiration date. We assume American style option contracts which means that the option can be exercised at any point prior to expiration. Thus, there are three parameters to the option contract - the strike price, the expiration date and the premium - which represents the price per share of the contract. The holder of the call option contract is the person that buys the option. The writer of the contract is the seller. The buyer (or holder) pays the premium. The seller (or writer) collects the premium. As an XYZ bag holder, the covered call may help. By writing a call contract against your XYZ shares, you can collect premium to reduce your investment cost in XYZ - reducing your average cost per share. For every 100 shares of XYZ, you can write 1 call contract. Notice that that by selling the contract, you do not control if the call is exercised - only the holder of the contract can exercise it. There are several online descriptions about the covered call strategy. Here is an example that might be useful to review Covered Call Description The general guidance is to select the call strike at the price in which you would be happy selling your shares. However, the context of most online resources on the covered call strategy assume that you either just purchased the shares at market value or your average cost is below the market price. In the case as a bag holder, your average cost is most likely over - if not significantly over - the current market price. This situation simply means that you have a little work to reduce your average before you are ready to have your bags called away. For example, you would not want to have your strike set at $2.50 when your average is above that value as this would guarantee a net loss. (However, if you are simply trying to rid your bags and your average is slightly above the strike, then you might consider it as the strike price). One more abstract concept before getting to what you want to know. The following link shows the Profit/Loss Diagram for Covered Call Conceptually, the blue line shows the profit/loss value of your long stock position. The line crosses the x-axis at your average cost, i.e the break-even point for the long stock position. The green/red hockey stick is the profit (green) or loss (red) of the covered call position (100 long stock + 1 short call option). The profit has a maximum value at the strike price. This plateau is due to the fact that you only receive the agreed upon strike price per share when the call option is exercised. Below the strike, the profit decreases along the unit slope line until the value becomes negative. It is a misnomer to say that the covered call is at 'loss' since it is really the long stock that has decreased in value - but it is not loss (yet). Note that the break-even point marked in the plot is simply the reduced averaged cost from the collected premium selling the covered call. As a bag holder, it will be a two-stage process: (1) reduce the average cost (2) get rid of bags. Okay let's talk selecting strike and expiration. You must jointly select these two parameters. Far OTM strikes will collect less premium where the premium will increase as you move the strike closer to the share price. Shorter DTE will also collect less premium where the premium will increase as you increase the DTE. It is easier to describe stage 2 "get rid of bags" first. Let us pretend that our hypothetical bag of 100 XYZ shares cost us $5.15/share. The current XYZ market price is $3/share - our hole is $2.15/share that we need to dig out. Finally, assume the following option chain (all hypothetical):
Purely made up the numbers, but the table illustrates the notional behavior of an option chain. The option value (premium) is the intrinsic value plus the time value. Only the $2.5 strike has intrinsic value since the share price is $3 (which is greater than $2.5). Notice that intrinsic value cannot be negative. The rest of the premium is the time value of the option which is essentially the monetary bet associated with the probability that the share price will exceed the strike at expiration. According to the table, we could collect the most premium by selling the 110 DTE $2.5 call for $0.95. However, there is a couple problems with that option contract. We are sitting with bags at $5.15/share and receiving $0.95 will only reduce our average to $4.20/share. On expiration, if still above $2.5, then we are assigned, shares called away and we receive $2.50/share or a loss of $170 - not good. Well, then how about the $5 strike at 110 DTE for $0.50? This reduces us to $4.65/share which is under the $5 strike so we would make a profit of $35! This is true - however 110 days is a long time to make $35. You might say that is fine you just want to get the bags gone don't care. Well maybe consider a shorter DTE - even the 20 DTE or 50 DTE would collect premium that reduces your average below $5. This would allow you to react to any stock movement that occurs in the near-term. Consider person A sells the 110 DTE $5 call and person B sells the 50 DTE $5 call. Suppose that the XYZ stock increases to $4.95/share in 50 days then goes to $8 in the next 30 days then drops to $3 after another 30 days. This timeline goes 110 days and person A had to watch the price go up and fall back to the same spot with XYZ stock at $3/share. Granted the premium collected reduced the average but stilling hold the bags. Person B on the other hand has the call expire worthless when XYZ is at $4.95/share. A decision can be made - sell immediately, sell another $5 call or sell a $7.5 call. Suppose the $7.5 call is sold with 30 DTE collecting some premium, then - jackpot - the shares are called away when XYZ is trading at $8/share! Of course, no one can predict the future, but the shorter DTE enables more decision points. The takeaway for the second step in the 2-stage approach is that you need to select your profit target to help guide your strike selection. In this example, are you happy with the XYZ shares called away at $5/share or do you want $7.5/share? What is your opinion on the stock price trajectory? When do you foresee decision points? This will help determine the strike/expiration that matches your thoughts. Note: studies have shown that actively managing your position results in better performance than simply waiting for expiration, so you can adjust the position if your assessment on the movement is incorrect. Let's circle back to the first step "reduce the average cost". What if your average cost of your 100 shares of XYZ is $8/share? Clearly, all of the strikes in our example option chain above is "bad" to a certain extent since we would stand to lose a lot of money if the option contract is exercised. However, by describing the second step, we know the objective for this first step is to reduce our average such that we can profit from the strikes. How do we achieve this objective? It is somewhat the same process as previously described, but you need to do your homework a little more diligently. What is your forecast on the stock movement? Since $7.5 is the closest strike to your average, when do you expect XYZ to rise from $3/share to $7.5/share? Without PR, you might say never. With some PR then maybe 50/50 chance - if so, then what is the outlook for PR? What do you think the chances of going to $5/share where you could collect more premium? Suppose that a few XYZ bag holders (all with a $8/share cost) discuss there outlook of the XYZ stock price in the next 120 days:
Person A does not seem to think much price movement will occur. This person might sell the $5 call with either 20 DTE or 50 DTE. Then upon expiration, sell another $5 call for another 20-50 DTE. Person A could keep repeating this until the average is reduced enough to move onto step-2. Of course, this approach is risky if the Person A price forecast is incorrect and the stock price goes up - which might result in assignment too soon. Person B appears to be the most bullish of the group. This person might sell the $5 call with 20 DTE then upon expiration sell the $7.5 call. After expiration, Person B might decide to leave the shares uncovered because her homework says XYZ is going to explode and she wants to capture those gains! Person C believes that there will be a step increase in 10 days maybe due to major PR event. This person will not have the chance to reduce the average in time to sell quickly, so first he sells a $7.5 call with 20 DTE to chip at the average. At expiration, Person C would continue to sell $7.5 calls until the average at the point where he can move onto the "get rid of bags" step. In all causes, each person must form an opinion on the XYZ price movement. Of course, the prediction will be wrong at some level (otherwise they wouldn't be bag holders!). The takeaway for the first step in the 2-stage approach is that you need to do your homework to better forecast the price movement to identify the correct strikes to bring down your average. The quality of the homework and the risk that you are willing to take will dedicate the speed at which you can reduce your average. Note that if you are unfortunate to have an extremely high average per share, then you might need to consider doing the good old buy-more-shares-to-average-down. This will be the fastest way to reduce your average. If you cannot invest more money, then the approach above will still work, but it will require much more patience. Remember there is no free lunch! Advanced note: there is another method to reduce your (high) average per share - selling cash secured puts. It is the "put version" of a cover call. Suppose that you sell a XYZ $2.5 put contract for $0.50 with 60 DTE. You collect $50 from the premium of the contract. This money is immediately in your bank and reduces your investment cost. But what did you sell? If XYZ is trading below $2.50, then you will be assigned 100 shares of XYZ at $2.50/share or $250. You own more shares, but at a price which will reduce your average further. Being cash secured, your brokerage will reserve $250 from your account when you sell the contract. In essence, you reduce your buying power by $250 and conditionally purchase the shares - you do not have them until assignment. If XYZ is greater than the strike at expiration, then your broker gives back $250 cash / buying power and you keep the premium. Early assignment - one concern is the chance of early assignment. The American style option contract allows the holder the opportunity to exercise the contract at any time prior to expiration. Early assignment almost never occurs. There are special cases that typically deal with dividends but most penny stocks are not in the position to hand out dividends. Aside from that, the holder would be throwing away option time value by early exercise. It possibly can handle - probably won't - it actually would be a benefit when selling covered calls as you would receive your profit more quickly! This post has probably gone too long! I will stop and let's discuss this matter. I will add follow-on material with some of the following topics which factors into this discussion:
Effect of earnings / PR / binary events on the option contract - this reaction may be different than the underlying stock reaction to the event
The Black-Scholes option pricing model allows one to understand how the premium will change - note that "all models are incorrect, but some are useful"
The "Greeks" give you a sense about how prices change when the stock price change - Meet the Greeks video
Position Management - when to adjust, close, or roll
Legging position into strangles/straddles - more advanced position with higher risk / higher reward
Open to other suggestions. I'm sure there are some typos and unclear statements - I will edit as needed! \I'm not a financial advisor. Simply helping to 'coach' people through the process. You are responsible for your decisions. Do not execute a trade that you do not understand. Ask questions if needed!**
This article provides insights into the ethnicity of people employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s publicly-funded scientific workforce, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika scientists. We show that between 2008 and 2018, Māori and Pasifika scientists were severely under-represented in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and crown-research institutes. Despite espousals by these institutions of valuing diversity, te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori research, there have been very little changes in the overall percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists employed for a period of at least 11 years. Notably, one university reported having not employed a single Māori or Pasifika academic in their science department from 2008 to 2018. We highlight the urgent need for institutions to improve how they collect and disseminate data that speaks to the diversity of their employees. We present data that illustrate that universities and crown-research institutes are failing to build a sustainable Māori and Pasifika scientific workforce and that these institutions need to begin to recruit, retain and promote Māori and Pasifika scientists.
In 2018, Dr Megan Woods (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation) launched the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) diversity in science statement, which states that ‘Diversity is vital for our science system to realise its full potential’ (MBIE 2018). Whilst this statement is a step towards raising awareness of the importance of diversity in science it needs to be followed by institutional changes, targeted programmes and directed responses from institutions. A vital component of achieving the aspirations espoused in this statement includes open reporting on diversity of ‘applicants, award holders, and advisory, assessment and decision making bodies’ (MBIE 2018). In two recent papers, McAllister et al. (2019) and Naepi (2019) spoke to the lack of diversity in Aotearoa New Zealand 1 ’s eight universities and provided evidence of the severe under-representation of Māori and Pasifika scholars, who comprise 16.5% and 7.5% respectively of the total population of Aotearoa. The authors showed that Māori and Pasifika comprise 4.8% and 1.7% respectively of academics, despite the espousals by universities of valuing diversity and their obligations to equity as outlined in te Tiriti o Waitangi (McAllister et al. 2019; Naepi 2019). The data used in these two studies, obtained from the Ministry of Education (MoE), provided information on the ethnicity of academic staff university wide and was not disaggregated by faculty. Consequently, data on the number of Māori and Pasifika academics in each faculty or department is currently not openly available. Previous research has shown that very few Māori academics exist outside of Māori departments and it remains difficult to access quantitative data on their lived experience as universities continue to silence reports (Kidman et al. 2015; UoO date unknown). To ensure that the aspirations championed within MBIE’s diversity statement can be met, we first need open and accurate reporting on the diversity of people employed within Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce and there is currently a significant gap of openly available data that investigate this. Some annual reports and equity profiles of crown-research institutes (CRIs) and universities do contain selected ethnicity data (i.e. MWLR 2018; UoA 2018). However, these reports do not always present data in a meaningful and consistent way and are not always publically available. For example, the University of Otago’s annual report does not contain any information on the ethnicity of staff and instead focuses only on gender of staff and the ethnicity of students (UoO 2018). Instead, the ethnicity data for staff is presented in the equity report, which is only available to staff and access must be requested from the Head of Organisational Development (UoO date unknown). A survey of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientists and technologists in 2008 provides the most recent quantitative indication of the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce, despite being conducted 12 years ago (Sommer 2010). The author indicated that there was very little change in ethnicity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce between the 1996 and 2008 surveys, with ‘European’ scientists making up 82.3% and 80.9% respectively (Sommer 2010). According to the author, there was a ‘modest increase’ in Māori scientists from 0.7% (1996) to 1.7% (2008) and this increase ‘represents a glimmer of success for those who have sought to develop policies to bring more Māori into the science and technology workforce’ (Sommer 2010, p. 10). However, an increase of 1% over a period of 15 years (i.e. an average increase of 0.07% per year) should be viewed as a significant failure. The percentage of Pasifika scientists also increased very slightly from 0.5% in 1996 to 0.6% in 2010 (Sommer 2010). McKinley (2002, p. 109) provided an insight into the extremely low numbers of Māori women employed by CRIs in 1998: ‘Of the 3,839 people employed by seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) in New Zealand, 57 women or approximately 1.5% of the total identified as Māori women. At the time these data were collected in 1998 there were no Māori women in management positions, two were categorised as scientists, 15 as science technicians, and 40 as ‘support’ staff that includes cafeteria staff, administration staff and cleaners’ The data presented by both McKinley (2002) and Sommer (2010) highlight the urgent need for institutions and government to move away from ‘business as usual’ and make a serious commitment to firstly collecting data on diversity, openly and transparently presenting it and secondly increasing the hiring, promoting and retention of Māori and Pasifika scientists. The present paper aims to begin to address the gap in knowledge by collating data and investigating how diverse Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce is. An intersectional lens must be applied when thinking critically about diversity and equity, however policies, actions and research often privilege gender (i.e. Bhopal and Henderson 2019; Brower and James 2020) over ethnicity whilst ignoring other intersectional identities that go beyond white, cis women. Here, we focus on the intersectional identities of Māori and Pasifika scientists, while acknowledging that people who have other intersectional identities including those with disabilities, LGBTQIA, non-binary and women of colour are likely to be disproportionately affected and disadvantaged within Aotearoa New Zealand’s science system, which like universities, was arguably created by and made for white, cis men (Ahmed 2012; Osei-Kofi 2012; Naepi et al. 2017; Akenahew and Naepi 2015). This paper examines the current diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s scientific workforce, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika. We will address the following questions:
How many Māori and Pasifika scientists are employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and CRIs?
How has the percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists in these institutions changed between 2008 and 2018?
Data was requested from universities and CRIs by emailing key individuals within each organisation in 2019. Data from 2008 to 2018 on the percentage of scientists, relative to both the total headcount and the total number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) for each recorded ethnicity employed was requested from CRIs and universities. Both the nature of responses to this request and the time it took to receive a response varied among institutions. Responses from institutions ranged from an openness and willingness to contribute data to this project to hostility and racist remarks. Several institutions did not respond to multiple email requests. A subsequent email sent by a Principal Advisor from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor elicited a prompt response from all remaining institutions. After initial conversations with staff from HR departments and university management, it was agreed that all institutions would remain anonymous and we believe that this contributed significantly to increasing the willingness of institutions to contribute data. Overall, data was obtained from 14 out of 15 of Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and CRIs. At most of these institutions staff self-declare their ethnicities and are given multiple choices, where data was provided for multiple ethnicities we used the first reported ethnicity,
Data from universities
Seven out of eight universities contributed data directly to this project, whereas data for university B was extracted from annual reports. Ethnicity data in the form of FTEs and headcount data was provided by most universities. Māori and Pasifika academics are more likely to be employed on contracts of less than one FTE compared to Pākehā academics (unpublished data). We therefore present the percentage of FTEs of staff for each recorded ethnicity, rather than headcount data as it is likely to be a more accurate measure of diversity. Recorded ethnicity groups differed among some universities, mainly in the fact that some distinguished between ‘European’ and ‘NZ European/Pākehā’, whereas at others these two ethnicities were combined. It is important to note that the data from universities presented in this paper includes academic staff and excludes research staff, including post-doctoral fellows and laboratory technicians. Data on the number of scientists employed at universities also only includes scientists employed in science departments (i.e. excludes Māori scientists in health departments). However, a recent paper published by Naepi et al. (2020) showed that in 2017, there were only 55 Māori and 20 Pasifika postdoctoral fellows across all faculties in all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities. The number of Māori and Pasifika postdoctoral fellows employed in science faculties is, therefore, likely to be very small. Academic staff includes other academic staff, senior tutors, tutors, tutorial assistants, lecturers, senior lecturers, associate professors and professors. Previous research has shown that a large proportion of Māori and Pasifika academics are employed as tutors and other academic staff rather than in permanent senior academic positions (see Naepi 2019), so this is also likely to be the case within science faculties. Concerningly, two universities (university E and H) were unable to provide data for the requested 11-year period (i.e. from 2008 to 2018). Upon querying this with human resource (HR) departments, their reasons included but were not limited to the following:
Issues with data quality as ethnicity and nationality were incorrectly used interchangeably
Changes in HR systems
Some data (including ethnicity) are overwritten each year (i.e. so there was no historic record)
Staff ‘change their ethnicity’
Changes in the way FTEs were calculated
Data from crown-research institutes
Data, in some shape or form, was obtained from six out of seven of Aotearoa New Zealand’s CRIs. Obtaining accurate and consistent temporal data from CRIs was, despite their willingness, much more difficult than from universities. The MoE requires certain ethnicity data from universities in a particular format (see MoE date unknown), however the diversity of staff employed at Aotearoa New Zealand’s seven CRIs is currently not required by an external organisation. Most CRIs were unable to provide FTE data but were able to provide headcount data, consequently we present the headcount data in this report. Because the data from CRIs was highly variable, we were not prescriptive about how they defined a scientist, however at most institutions this included post-doctoral fellows and scientists. Data on the percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists employed from 2008 to 2018 could only be obtained from four out of seven of the CRIs. CRI F could only provide ethnicity for staff that were recent hires from 2016 to 2018, meaning we are unable to differentiate between science and non-science staff and data on staff employed prior to 2016 was unavailable. CRI E could only provide data for 2019, the year that we had asked for it, due to their HR system overwriting data and therefore having no historical record of staff ethnicity. The ethnicity data from CRIs, with the exception of CRI B, can only be viewed as indicative due to inconsistencies in how CRIs collect data. Data from most institutions was therefore not conducive to any temporal or statistical analyses. For example, at CRI A over the 11-year period, the ethnicity categories offered to staff changed four times. Māori and Pasifika were consistently given as options, which provides some level of confidence in CRI A’s ethnicity data.
Māori scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities
Before even considering the data presented below, we must acknowledge and highlight that science faculties within universities are generally not safe and inclusive environments for Māori and Pasifika academic staff. Reasons for this include that being the only Indigenous person in a faculty puts that one under extreme pressure to help colleagues, indigenise curriculum, support Indigenous students while also advancing their own career (Mercier et al. 2011; Kidman et al. 2015). It is well established that the job satisfaction of Māori academics is influenced by their proximity to other Māori academics (Mercier et al. 2011; Kidman et al. 2015). The interdisciplinary work of Māori scientists also often does not align with what the academy and their Pākehā counterparts define as ‘science’ and many scholars have explored this (see for example, McKinley 2005; Mercier 2014; Hikuroa 2017). Consequently, of the few Māori scientists that exist and survive within academia, several are employed outside of science faculties (see for example, Mercier 2014). This data therefore is likely to very slightly underestimate the numbers of Māori scientists within the academy. Furthermore, in the present paper we focus on Māori and Pasifika scientists in science faculties but there will also be Māori and Pasifika scientists in social science and humanities and health faculties, which will not be captured by the data reported below. Māori are under-represented in science faculties at all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s eight universities (Table 1). University A had the highest level of representation, which may be attributed to the science faculty being combined with another discipline at this particular university (Table 1). From 2008 to 2018, University D has never employed a Māori academic in their science faculty (Table 1). Māori comprised less than 5% of the total FTEs in science faculties at all other universities between 2008 and 2018, the averages were 4.3, 1.4, 1.6, 3.7 and 0.6% respectively at University B, C, E, F and H (Table 1). Importantly, there were no significant differences between the percentage of Māori FTEs in 2008 and 2018 (paired t-test: t10 = −0.24, p = 0.82). Thus, meaning that over 11 years there has been no improvement in Māori representation in science faculties (Table 1).
Table 1. The percentage of Māori and Pasifika full-time equivalents (FTEs) of academic staff in science faculties at each of Aotearoa New Zealand’s eight universities. University A and G both have a combined faculty (i.e. science and another discipline) whereas all other universities have separate faculties and data is solely for science faculties. University E was unable to provide FTE data prior to 2011 and university H was only able to provide data from 2015.
Māori scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s crown-research institutes
Promisingly, and in contrast with patterns of Māori scientists at universities the percentage of Māori scientists (i.e. of the total headcount) employed by CRIs has increased from 2008 to 2018 at half (2/4) of the CRIs that were able to provide temporal data (Table 2). At CRI A, Māori comprised 1.8% of the scientists employed in 2008 and this steadily increased to 3.8% in 2018 (Table 2). Similarly at CRI B, the percentage of Māori scientists have increased from 3.4% to 7.8% respectively (Table 2). At CRI C, Māori have comprised between 0.01% and 0.03% of scientists employed over a period of 11 years and at CRI D it has varied between 0% and 0.6% (Table 2).
Table 2. The percentage of Māori and Pasifika scientists of the total headcount employed by each of Aotearoa New Zealand’s crown-research institutes. CRI E could only provide data for 2019 and CRI F only had data for new recruits from 2016–2018. CRI G did not contribute data to this research.
CSVDisplay Table Certain CRIs are doing better than others, it is however important to note, particularly given CRIs outward espousals of commitments to and valuing ‘Māori research’ and mātauranga (i.e. GNS 2018), that Māori remain under-represented in all CRIs in Aotearoa New Zealand, including CRI A and B (Table 2). Additionally, the fact that three out of seven of the CRIs could not provide sufficient data suggests that these institutions have a lot of work to do in collecting data on the diversity of the staff that they employ.
Pasifika scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and crown-research institutes
There is currently an absence of research into the experiences of Pasifika scientists in Aotearoa-New Zealand’s science system. However like Māori scientists, Pasifika scientists are likely to be marginalised and under-valued within the current science system. Pasifika scientists in both universities and CRIs are extremely under-represented (Tables 1 and 2). Notably of the 11 institutions (inclusive of universities and CRIs) that provided data only three reported having Pasifika representation exceeding 1% of either the total headcount or total number of FTEs in more than one year (Tables 1 and 2). Four institutions (one university and three CRIs) reported having employed zero Pasifika scientists for 11 consecutive years (Tables 1 and 2). Importantly, there were no significant differences between the percentage of Pasifika FTEs in universities in 2008 and 2018 (paired t-test: t8 = 0.36, p = 0.73). Thus, meaning that over 11 years there has been no improvement in Pasifika representation in science faculties (Table 2). The patterns in the percentage of both Māori and Pasifika scientists employed at university G were very different from all other institutions (Table 1). Firstly, university G was the only university that in some years employed more Pasifika than Māori scientists (Table 1). In 2008, 7.4% of FTEs in the science faculty of university G belonged to Pasifika scientists, which was the highest recorded in all eight institutions over 11 years (Table 1). However, Pasifika scientists in this faculty had only 4.4 FTEs in 2008, meaning that 7.4% equated to five Pasifika staff (data not shown).
The diversity of scientists employed in science faculties in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities
Between 2008 and 2018, the majority of academics in the Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Engineering and Science departments at university D were European comprising between 58.7% and 85.2% of the total FTEs (Figure 1(A)). University D distinguishes between ‘European’ and ‘New Zealand European/Pākehā’ and the data presented in Figure 1(A) suggests that not many academics in these departments associate with the latter group. Thus, suggesting that most academics employed within these departments are from overseas. In these departments (i.e. Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Engineering and Science) between 2008 and 2018 there was a consistent increase in the percentage of FTEs of Asian ethnicities (12.3% increase in Computing and Mathematical Sciences, 6.8% in Engineering, 2.4% in Science; Figure 1(A)). Figure 1. (A) The percentage of full-time equivalents (FTEs) for each recorded ethnicity in three science faculties at university D in2008 and 2018 and (B) the percentage of Māori and Pasifika FTEs in those three faculties for academic staff from 2008–2018. Note: In both the Engineering and Science departments there were no Māori or Pasifika employed between 2008 and 2018. 📷Display full size The data provided by university D clearly illustrates a severe lack of Māori and Pasifika academic staff representation in sciences faculties (Figure 1(B)). It shows that in two of the three departments, there have never been any Māori academics employed (Figure 1(B)). Furthermore, in those three departments no Pasifika academic staff have been employed in 11 years (2008–2018). Māori academics have comprised 4.1%–7.5% of the total FTEs in the Computing and Mathematical Science department (Figure 1). NZ European/Pākehā formed the majority (52.8%–63.6%) of academic staff employed in the science faculty of university B and this percentage has decreased by 11.8% between 2008 and 2018 (Figure 2). People who did not declare their ethnicity (unknown) comprised a small percentage (average = 3.2% of the total FTEs; Figure 2). European academics made up on average 20% of the total FTEs employed in this faculty between 2008 and 2018 (Figure 2). Māori and Pasifika scientists were under-represented, comprising on average 6.0% and 2.6% respectively (Figure 2). The percentage of Māori FTEs has decreased from 7.3% (2008) to 6.4% (2018), whereas the percentage Pasifika FTEs has increased from 2.0% to 4.8% over the 11-year period (2008–2018; Figure 2). However, there was no statistically significant difference between both Māori and Pasifika FTEs over time (p > 0.05). Figure 2. The percentage offull-time equivalents (FTEs) for each recorded ethnicity at university B from 2008 to 2018. Note: University B has a combined science faculty (i.e. science and another discipline). 📷Display full size The importance of department by department analysis of universities ethnicity data is highlighted when comparing the percentage of Māori FTEs university-wide and the science faculty (Figure 3). The average percentage of Māori FTEs university wide at university F was 4.7% from 2008 to 2018, whereas it was consistently lower within the science faculty (Figure 3). Similarly, representation of Pasifika academics in the science faculty at university F was much lower compared to the entire university (Figure 4). The average between 2008 and 2018 was 1.5% of Pasifika FTEs across the university whereas it was only 0.4% in the science faculty (Figure 4). Figure 3. The percentage of Māori full-time equivalents (FTEs) of academics in both the science facultyand across the entire university at university F. Note: y axis is limited to 15%. 📷Display full size Figure 4. The percentage of Pasifika full-time equivalents (FTEs) for academic staff in both the science faculty across the entire university at university F. Note: The y axis is limited to 15%. 📷Display full size
The diversity of scientists employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s crown-research institutes
CRI B was the only CRI that was able to provide relatively good quality, temporal data. Data from this institution indicated that African scientists made up approximately 1% of scientists employed from 2016 to 2018 and both Asian and Australian scientists have made up on average 5.4% and 5.0% respectively of the total headcount from 2008 to 2018 (Figure 5). The percentage of European scientists has increased steadily from 16.1% in 2008 to 23.5% in 2018 (Figure 5). The percentage of Māori scientists employed has also increased from 3.4% in 2008 to 7.8% in 2018 (Figure 5). Although this increase is promising, Māori remain under-represented within this institution. Interestingly, the percentage of NZ European/Pākehā employed at CRI B has decreased from 64.9% (2008) to 45.3% (2018; Figure 5). This may speak to the increasing value the science system places on international expertise, whereby scientists from overseas or with international experience are valued more than those from Aotearoa, which is driven in a large part by global ranking systems that value international staff recruitment (Stack 2016). This is driven largely by the increasing importance placed on international university ranking systems. Importantly, scientists coming from overseas will likely have very little understanding of things that are highly important within the context of Aotearoa (e.g. te Tiriti o Waitangi). Considering the data presented, urgent action is required to address this apparent selection of international scientists over Māori and Pasifika scientists. Rather than copying and pasting a blanket statement in job advertisements of empty words like the following: ‘The University of Canterbury actively seeks to meet its obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi | Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ (UoC date unknown), CRIs and universities need to be actively recruiting Māori and Pasifika scientists and hence need to consider the following questions when hiring new staff:
How is this person likely to contribute to the uplifting of Māori communities in a meaningful way?
Do they have any experience working with Indigenous communities?
What is their understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi?
How do you see your role as supporting our institution's commitments to Pasifika communities?
Figure 5. Percentage of the total headcount for each recorded ethnicity at crown-research institute (CRI) B from 2008 to 2018. Note: Ethnicity groups in this graph differ from previous graphs. 📷Display full size CRI E were only able to supply data in the year that it was requested (i.e. 2019) due to their HR systems. In 2019, this particular CRI employed zero Pasifika scientists and 1.6% of scientists were Māori (Figure 6). The majority of scientists employed at CRI E in 2019 were NZ European/Pākehā (55.0% NZ European) and 21.5% were ‘European’ (Figure 6). Figure 6. The percentage of the total headcount of each recorded ethnicity at crown-research institute (CRI) E in 2019. Note: Ethnicity groupings differ from previous graphs. 📷Display full size CRI F only began collecting ethnicity data, despite previously collecting gender data, in 2016. Their data was also only collected for new recruits. We were, therefore, unable to disaggregate science staff from general and non-science staff. From 2016 to 2018 the majority (59%–66%) of new recruits were ‘NZ Europeans’. In 2017, 14% of new recruits were Pasifika whereas in 2016 and 2018 there were no Pasifika recruits. Māori comprised between 2% of new recruits in 2017 and 2018 but 8% in 2016 (data not shown)...."
Found this write up on Kilocorn Aragon Court $ANJ A decentralized oracle protocol that handles subjective disputes which require the judgment of human jurors. These jurors stake a token called ANJ which allows them to be drafted into juries and earn fees for successfully adjudicating disputes. Launched on February 10, 2020
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Aragon Network Jurisdiction token (ANJ) will be created and an Aragon Court instance will be deployed using ANJ as its token. During the pre-activation period, ANT holders were able to convert ANT to ANJ on a 1:100 basis (1 ANT = 100 ANJ) In phase 1, ANT holders could start being able to get ANJ to become jurors. There was a period of time during which all ANT holders that stake could get the same amount of ANJ per ANT. After this period of time, an Aragon Fundraising bonding curve was initialized and allows for staking and unstaking at a variable rate. Notable figures: Luis Cuende (founder of Aragon) - hacker and free culture lover who founded various startups since he got involved in free software development at age 12. - He was awarded as the best hacker of Europe under 18 at age 15. - He was also an Advisor to the Vice-president of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, who is in charge of the EU's Digital Agenda. - Authored a book that reached the #1 in Amazon's Business category when he was 19. - Founded Stampery at 19 (digital certificates) - Founded Asturix at 13 (open source software) Tim Draper (investor in Aragon) - Bought $1 million of Aragon tokens OTC for $1 per when ANT was only $0.70 when he found out about Aragon Court. - Governance maximalist (early investor in Tezos when they were building governance mechanism directly into the ledger) - Billionaire VC investor that helps entrepreneurs drive their visions through funding, education, media, and government reform. He has founded thirty Draper venture funds, Draper University, Bizworld, and two statewide initiatives to improve governance and education. - Founded DFJ Venture which was involved with helping launch/scale many startups such as: Twitter, SpaceX, Ring, Baidu, Twilio etc. - One of the current largest crypto whales in the world Competition: Kleros Elevator pitch: The Aragon Court is a decentralized oracle protocol developed and maintained by the Aragon Network and it can be used by organizations to resolve subjective disputes with binary outcomes. Proposal Agreement disputes rely on the court where jurors stake tokens in order to earn the right to perform these services so they can earn a portion of the fees. Deeper Dive: Futarchy The premise is that if you have a decision which needs to be made, and you can relate that decision clearly to some objective success metric, you can use prediction markets to pick the option which is predicted to be more positively associated with your success metric. Anyone can participate in the prediction market, but attempting to manipulate the outcome of the decision by manipulating the prediction market represents a large cost so long as the success metric used to settle the market cannot be easily manipulated. High-level flow * Jurors deposit ANT into a bonding curve to generate ANJ (likely using Aragon Black’s implementation) * Jurors stake ANJ to the Court contract and schedule their activation and deactivation for the time period in which they can be drafted to rule on disputes. * Court fees and configuration parameters are controlled by a governor (the Aragon Network), but can only be modified for future terms to ensure that the rules can’t change for ongoing disputes as much as possible. * The creator of a dispute must pay fees to cover the maintenance gas costs of the Court and the jurors that will adjudicate their dispute. The governor of the Court gets a share of all the fees paid out in the Court. * Jurors are randomly drafted to adjudicate disputes. Because the Court isn’t sybil resistant, jurors chance to be drafted is proportional to the amount of ANJ they have activated. * When drafted, jurors must commit and reveal to a ruling. Failure to vote or reveal, results in a penalty for the jurors. * After a ruling is decided, it can be appealed by anyone a certain number of times, after which all active jurors will vote on the last appeal, providing an unappealable ruling. * When the final ruling is decided, all the adjudication rounds for the dispute can be settled taking into account the final ruling for rewards and penalties. DYOR: https://etherscan.io/token/0xcD62b1C403 ... B51780b184 https://github.com/aragon/aragon-court/tree/mastedocs https://forum.aragon.org/t/aragon-netwo ... dates/1263 https://github.com/aragon/whitepapebl ... /README.md https://aragon.org/blog/aragon-court-is-live-on-mainnet https://blog.aragon.one/aragon-chain/ https://blog.ethereum.org/2014/08/21/in ... -futarchy/
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( Download PDF here ) https://people.cs.uchicago.edu/%7Eravenben/publications/abstracts/fawkes-usenix20.html https://people.cs.uchicago.edu/%7Eravenben/publications/pdf/fawkes-usenix20.pdf Frequently Asked Questions http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/ --------------------------------- Скачать ПО Fawkes: Downloads and Source Code - Version 0.3 (July 2020) http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/ Download the Fawkes Software: Fawkes.dmg for Mac (v0.3) DMG file with installer app Compatibility: MacOS 10.13, 10.14, 10.15 https://mirror.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/files/0.3/Fawkes-0.3.dmg Fawkes.exe for Windows (v0.3) EXE file Compatibility: Windows 10 https://mirror.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/files/0.3/Fawkes-0.3.exe Бинарник для Mac Fawkes Executable Binary https://mirror.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/files/0.3/fawkes_binary_mac-v0.3.zip Бинарник для Windows Fawkes Executable Binary https://mirror.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/files/0.3/fawkes_binary_windows-v0.3.zip Бинарник для Linux Fawkes Executable Binary https://mirror.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/files/0.3/fawkes_binary_linux-v0.3.zip Инструкции по установке Setup Instructions https://github.com/Shawn-Shan/fawkes/blob/mastefawkes/README.md Исходный код Fawkes на GitHub Fawkes Source Code on Github, for development https://github.com/Shawn-Shan/fawkes --------------------------------------------------------------------- Клоакинг фотографий для защиты от систем распознавания лиц https://habr.com/ru/company/itsumma/news/t/512122/ 23 июля 2020 Информационная безопасность, Open source, Обработка изображений, Киберпанк Современные системы распознавания лиц представляют угрозу личной приватности. Уже сейчас такие системы ежедневно сканируют миллионы лиц в Китае, Великобритании и России без их согласия. Поставлена задача, чтобы в следующем году 100% пассажиров в топ-20 аэропортов США незаметно подвергали этой процедуре. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states-2/ Исследователи из Чикагского университета придумали любопытный алгоритм клоакинга, который позволяет защититься от распознавания лиц. http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/ Дело в том, что системы распознавания лиц берут фотографии для обучения своей системы из ваших открытых данных — в основном, из профилей в социальных сетях и других открытых источников. Например, крупнейшая система распознавания лиц Clearview.ai для обучения использовала более трёх миллиардов фотографий из интернета и социальных сетей. Clearview.ai демонстрирует, насколько легко построить такую систему распознавания на снимках из Facebook и «Вконтакте». https://clearview.ai/ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/18/technology/clearview-privacy-facial-recognition.html Так вот, новый алгоритм Fawkes эффективно подрывает базу обучения «вражеской» нейросети. Перед публикацией каждой фотографии в ней делаются незаметные попиксельные изменения, после чего она становится не то что непригодной для использования при обучении, а буквально портит систему распознавания лиц. Схема работы Fawkes https://hsto.org/webt/vu/r2/ao/vur2aoiyij6hcfibjxpfo8-q9b8.jpeg Программа Fawkes работает локально на вашем компьютере и выполняет клоакинг фотографий. После обработки вы можете использовать фотографии как угодно — публиковать в социальных сетях, передавать друзьям или распечатывать на бумаге. В любом случае, для распознавания лиц они уже бесполезны, как показала проверка в ходе научного исследования чикагской группы. Интуитивно понятное пояснение в 2D-пространстве из четырёх признаков A, B, U, T, почему модель, обученная на искажённых фотографиях, не распознаёт лица на оригиналах. Слева — границы принятия решений при обучении на оригиналах, справа — границы принятия решений при обучении после клоакинга https://hsto.org/webt/gc/bq/f1/gcbqf1bgswyycpjzszuirvgjv6w.png Тестирование показало, что эффект клоакинга трудно распознать при обучении нейросети и он не вызывает ошибок при обучении. Другими словами, операторы системы распознавания лиц не заподозрят ничего неладного. Но просто если кто-то попытается выполнить распознавание на вашем оригинальном изображении (например, с камер наблюдения), поиск по базе не найдёт совпадений. Fawkes протестирован и показал эффективность 100% против самых известных моделей распознавания Microsoft Azure Face API, Amazon Rekognition и Face++. Алгоритмы сжатия изображений тоже не портят защиту клоакинга. Исследователи проверяли материал на прогрессивном JPEG, который используется в Facebook и Twitter для пережатия картинок, на уровнях качества от 5 до 95. В общем, сжатие немного ослабляет защиту клоакинга, но при этом ещё более значительно снижается качество распознавания лиц. То есть нашей задачи помех в классификации это не мешает. Как ни странно, заблюривание фотографий и применение разных графических фильтров тоже не снимает защиту, поскольку по своей сути клоакинг происходит не на уровне пикселей, а на уровне пространства признаков, то есть пиксельные измененимя на самом деле имеют глубокую природу и не стираются в растровом редакторе. Техническая статья с описанием алгоритма (pdf) будет представлена на ближайшем симпозиуме USENIX по безопасности 12? 14 августа 2020 года. http://people.cs.uchicago.edu/~ravenben/publications/pdf/fawkes-usenix20.pdf Кстати, название программы позаимствовано от маски Гая Фокса из фильма «V — значит вендетта». Скачать программу Fawkes: http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/ Open Source Обработка изображений Информационная безопасность Киберпанк Fawkes распознавание лиц клоакинг V — значит вендетта Информационная безопасность Обработка изображений Киберпанк -------------------------------------------------------- How to Setup Fawkes Binary https://github.com/Shawn-Shan/fawkes/blob/mastefawkes/README.md This application is built for individuals to cloak their images before uploading to the Internet. For more information about the project, please refer to our project webpage. If you are a developer or researcher planning to customize and modify on our existing code. Please refer to fawkes. How to Setup MAC: Download the binary following this link and unzip the download file. Create a directory and move all the images you wish to protect into that directory. Note the path to that directory (e.g. ~/Desktop/images). Open terminal and change directory to fawkes (the unzipped folder). (If your MacOS is Catalina) Run sudo spctl --master-disable to enable running apps from unidentified developer. We are working on a solution to bypass this step. Run ./protection-v0.3 -d IMAGE_DIR_PATH to generate cloak for images in IMAGE_DIR_PATH. When the cloaked image is generated, it will output a *_min_cloaked.png image in IMAGE_DIR_PATH. The generation takes ~40 seconds per image depending on the hardware. PC: Download the binary following this link and unzip the download file. Create a directory and move all the images you wish to protect into that directory. Note the path to that directory (e.g. ~/Desktop/images). Open terminal(powershell or cmd) and change directory to protection (the unzipped folder). Run protection-v0.3.exe -d IMAGE_DIR_PATH to generate cloak for images in IMAGE_DIR_PATH. When the cloaked image is generated, it will output a *_min_cloaked.png image in IMAGE_DIR_PATH. The generation takes ~40 seconds per image depending on the hardware. Linux: Download the binary following this link and unzip the download file. Create a directory and move all the images you wish to protect into that directory. Note the path to that directory (e.g. ~/Desktop/images). Open terminal and change directory to protection (the unzipped folder). Run ./protection-v0.3 -d IMAGE_DIR_PATH to generate cloak for images in IMAGE_DIR_PATH. When the cloaked image is generated, it will output a *_min_cloaked.png image in IMAGE_DIR_PATH. The generation takes ~40 seconds per image depending on the hardware. More details on the optional parameters check out the github repo https://github.com/Shawn-Shan/fawkes/tree/maste ------------------------ Usage Fawkes https://github.com/Shawn-Shan/fawkes/tree/maste Fawkes is a privacy protection system developed by researchers at SANDLab, University of Chicago. For more information about the project, please refer to our project webpage. Contact us at [fawkes-team[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]). We published an academic paper to summarize our work "Fawkes: Protecting Personal Privacy against Unauthorized Deep Learning Models" at USENIX Security 2020. NEW! If you would like to use Fawkes to protect your identity, please check out our software and binary implementation on the website. Copyright This code is intended only for personal privacy protection or academic research. We are currently exploring the filing of a provisional patent on the Fawkes algorithm. Usage $ fawkes Options: -m, --mode : the tradeoff between privacy and perturbation size. Select from min, low, mid, high. The higher the mode is, the more perturbation will add to the image and provide stronger protection. -d, --directory : the directory with images to run protection. -g, --gpu : the GPU id when using GPU for optimization. --batch-size : number of images to run optimization together. Change to >1 only if you have extremely powerful compute power. --format : format of the output image (png or jpg). when --mode is custom: --th : perturbation threshold --max-step : number of optimization steps to run --lr : learning rate for the optimization --feature-extractor : name of the feature extractor to use --separate_target : whether select separate targets for each faces in the diectory. Example fawkes -d ./imgs --mode min Tips The perturbation generation takes ~60 seconds per image on a CPU machine, and it would be much faster on a GPU machine. Use batch-size=1 on CPU and batch-size>1 on GPUs. Turn on separate target if the images in the directory belong to different people, otherwise, turn it off. How do I know my images are secure? We are actively working on this. Python scripts that can test the protection effectiveness will be ready shortly. Quick Installation Install from PyPI: pip install fawkes If you don't have root privilege, please try to install on user namespace: pip install --user fawkes. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Image "Cloaking" for Personal Privacy http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/ Original Cloaked http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/images/shawn.jpg http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/images/shawncloaked.jpg Original Cloaked http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/images/emily.jpg http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/images/emilycloaked.jpg 2020 is a watershed year for machine learning. It has seen the true arrival of commodized machine learning, where deep learning models and algorithms are readily available to Internet users. GPUs are cheaper and more readily available than ever, and new training methods like transfer learning have made it possible to train powerful deep learning models using smaller sets of data. But accessible machine learning also has its downsides. A recent New York Times article by Kashmir Hill profiled clearview.ai, an unregulated facial recognition service that has downloaded over 3 billion photos of people from the Internet and social media and used them to build facial recognition models for millions of citizens without their knowledge or permission. Clearview.ai demonstrates just how easy it is to build invasive tools for monitoring and tracking using deep learning. So how do we protect ourselves against unauthorized third parties building facial recognition models that recognize us wherever we may go? Regulations can and will help restrict the use of machine learning by public companies but will have negligible impact on private organizations, individuals, or even other nation states with similar goals. The SAND Lab at University of Chicago has developed Fawkes1, an algorithm and software tool (running locally on your computer) that gives individuals the ability to limit how their own images can be used to track them. At a high level, Fawkes takes your personal images and makes tiny, pixel-level changes that are invisible to the human eye, in a process we call image cloaking. You can then use these "cloaked" photos as you normally would, sharing them on social media, sending them to friends, printing them or displaying them on digital devices, the same way you would any other photo. The difference, however, is that if and when someone tries to use these photos to build a facial recognition model, "cloaked" images will teach the model an highly distorted version of what makes you look like you. The cloak effect is not easily detectable by humans or machines and will not cause errors in model training. However, when someone tries to identify you by presenting an unaltered, "uncloaked" image of you (e.g. a photo taken in public) to the model, the model will fail to recognize you. Fawkes has been tested extensively and proven effective in a variety of environments and is 100% effective against state-of-the-art facial recognition models (Microsoft Azure Face API, Amazon Rekognition, and Face++). We are in the process of adding more material here to explain how and why Fawkes works. For now, please see the link below to our technical paper, which will be presented at the upcoming USENIX Security Symposium, to be held on August 12 to 14. The Fawkes project is led by two PhD students at SAND Lab, Emily Wenger and Shawn Shan, with important contributions from Jiayun Zhang (SAND Lab visitor and current PhD student at UC San Diego) and Huiying Li, also a SAND Lab PhD student. The faculty advisors are SAND Lab co-directors and Neubauer Professors Ben Zhao and Heather Zheng. 1The Guy Fawkes mask, a la V for Vendetta In addition to the photos of the team cloaked above, here are a couple more examples of cloaked images and their originals. Can you tell which is the original? (Cloaked image of the Queen courtesy of TheVerge). Publication & Presentation Fawkes: Protecting Personal Privacy against Unauthorized Deep Learning Models. Shawn Shan, Emily Wenger, Jiayun Zhang, Huiying Li, Haitao Zheng, and Ben Y. Zhao. In Proceedings of USENIX Security Symposium 2020. ( Download PDF here ) https://people.cs.uchicago.edu/%7Eravenben/publications/abstracts/fawkes-usenix20.html https://people.cs.uchicago.edu/%7Eravenben/publications/pdf/fawkes-usenix20.pdf ------------------------- *** Вступайте в наши сообщества - Join Us: https://www.reddit.com/1_News/ и https://www.reddit.com/True_Russia/ Делитесь со всеми, распространяйте информацию! *** Революция в России. 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Fixing KotFE Part 4 - What's An Alliance Without Allies?
Special thanks again to these two sites for summarising the expansions so I don't have to watch hours of youtube videos or fights thousands of Skytroopers to remember what happened in some of the chapters. They were incredibly helpful and I honestly don't know if I would have bothered finishing this if I didn't have them on hand. Also, if you want to compare and contrast my story to the original, these will probably come in handy.
Welcome to Part 4 of Fixing KotFE! Here, I'll be looking at the story after you take over as Alliance Commander which, in my version, occurs in Chapter 6. The story up until this point can be found in Part 3 here. This is the section where I usually write out my aims but these carry on from Part 3, so I'll save everyone some time there. I'm really happy with some of the changes I made and I think we get some cool concepts that aren't explored in the original so I hope you like it too. However, there is something I'd like to explain that I never really got into. Technically, I guess it would go into the gameplay section but it feels more story-based. I'd add a prison to the base on Asylum where you can place characters who you decide to capture or imprison. At this point in the story, that would only allow for Senya, if you chose to imprison her, rather than allow her to join the council, however there are other characters in the future who can be held there. I think the prison would be an optional area that you can visit and talk to your prisoners, if you have any. They would say different things depending on your last completed chapter. This would obviously add more voice acting but I think it would help to create a sense of continuity when you can see and talk to these characters you chose t capture. It would also allow Senya to continue being a part of the story, even if you chose not to allow her onto the War Council. It's also just a fun idea that plays well into you being the big boss if you can interrogate your prisoners. With that little bit out of the way, we'll start with:
Chapter 7: Twin-Tailed Scorpion
Some time has passed since you officially joined, and became the commander of the Alliance. You are called to the war table to discuss a strange broadcast that Theron had picked up. He refuses to tell you more without meeting in person. You join your war council, who are already in place. As a reminder, this includes:
Lana Beniko (Chief Advisor)
Theron Shan (Head of Alliance Intelligence)
Aric Jorgan (Republic Representative)
Moff Pyron (Imperial Representative)
Dr Oggurob (Hutt Representative)
Koth Vortena (Smuggler Representative)
Hylo Visz (Koth's more cool-headed second-in-command)
And Senya Tirall (if you allow her to join the council)
Theron reveals that he received a distress signal from the very prison you had been imprisoned in for 5 years. Even more peculiar, the signal was only broadcast on channels used by Imperial Intelligence before it was disbanded. Theron warns you that this was probably a trap but Lana points out that you could use some allies on Zakuul. You decide it's strange enough to investigate regardless. The scene shifts to you being discreetly dropped off within the Old World district of Zakuul, with Hylo explaining that it would be impossible to get you any closer without being spotted, with Arcann having increased security after your escape, increasing the production of the prototype Skytroopers. You make your way through the Old World where your radio signal is lost. Instead, you are greeted by a strange, robotic voice that begins directing you to a service door in the Old World. You go through the door which shuts and locks behind you and begin making your way back up to the prison, fighting through maintenance and industry droids as you do, all the time being directed by the synthesised feminine voice. Eventually, you enter the prison once more. However, you are in a different part than before. You continue to receive directions, with doors closing to cut off Knights and allowing you to pass. You are eventually brought to a room. The door opening to reveal SCORPIO, hooked up to a machine and wired into the wall. She speaks to you, introducing herself and explaining the situation (or simply explaining what had happened if speaking to an agent). SCORPIO explains that, after Arcann's takeover of the galaxy, she allied with him, quickly rising through the ranks to become one of Arcann's most trustworthy allies over the 5 years. However, this was all a ruse so that she could gain information. She planned to sell Arcann's secrets to the highest bidder but was caught before she could leave Zakuul. She was imprisoned and wired into the prison security system, trapped both physically and mentally. However, the Zakuulians underestimated her and within days, she had taken over the system completely. She'd even snark that this wasn't the first prison security system she had taken control of, referencing Belsavis. She explains that she had discovered your location while in the system and had managed to send a message to Lana, allowing her to enact your escape. SCORPIO goes on to add that she had used the security systems to aid you, in the hopes that you would return the favour and free her from her own imprisonment, since the prison was a closed system and she was locked inside. In return, she would join the Alliance, if only to get revenge on Arcann. You agree to free her and are sent around the prison to deactivate various systems, allowing SCORPIO's escape.As you do so, you see snippets of SCORPIO's most recent memories, showing Arcann ambushing her as she attempts to leave the palace, sadly admitting that he had hoped she wouldn't try to betray him, even after the Scions warned him it would happen. SCORPIO, being her usual self, would respond snarkily, leading Arcann to angrily sentence her to be implemented within the prison security system. You then have to defend SCORPIO's body from Skytroopers and Knights while her consciousness downloads into it once again. As she is freed, explosions rock the prison and SCORPIO smugly explains that it is time for you to leave. Before you can ask how, another explosion causes the cell to break away from the prison complex, letting you freefall towards the planet's surface. You are saved as Hylo's dropship swoops in managing to catch the cell within the cargo bay. Returning to Asylum, SCORPIO begins to brief everyone on what she knows; to get to Arcann, the infrastructure of Zakuul must be taken down, starting with the Old World, where he has the weakest grip. Arcann rules over the Old World thanks to a shaky alliance with the Scion cult. The Scions essentially rule over the sector by providing Arcann with access to Heskal's prophecies. In turn, only a minimal security force of Skytroopers exists in the Old World. She mentions that the best way to dethrone Heskal and the Scions is to work with one of the rival gangs. Lana adds that she had already established contact with two of the Old World's gangs and that she would need time to set up meetings with the gang leaders. At this point, you see your first newsreel. It shows two presenters, a male who introduces himself as Adorus Bell and a female, Zelia Myker, sitting at a desk and recounting an act of domestic terrorism by the cell calling itself the Alliance. The Alliance, led by a radical extremist who is believed to be serving Vitiate destroyed a secure complex, killing a number of knights who were protecting the area and almost killing Princess Vaylin, who has been moved to a more secure facility. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Knights, no civilians were injured in the explosion. They then broadcast a message from Emperor Arcann himself, reassuring the people of Zakuul that he will personally capture this Agent of Vitiate and stop the Alliance. My aim here was to establish SCORPIO with a clear character that fits her personality, keep her selfish amorality and also provide her with a motivation to actually help you, even if she's still secretive and coy about it. She wants revenge on Arcann for pre-empting her betrayal and imprisoning her. she simply thinks that you and your Alliance are the best chance at fulfilling her revenge. SCORPIO's weakness was always her pride. We don't really see that In the proper expansions. Instead, we just got a series of convoluted double crosses and fake outs which were just more confusing than anything and made it seem like she just bounced from one side to the other. I hope to create a more straight forward story For SCORPIO that is still true to the character. I also liked the idea of SCORPIO ending up in a similar situation to when the agent first meets her. As an extra note, I added the idea of you escaping via SCORPIO ejecting the cell And hylo catching it at the last moment and I Just really think its a fun, silly concept that gets to show off SCORPIO's unique problem solving while selling Hylo as a great pilot. Lastly, this is where I introduce a new narrative technique. In the original game, we often jump to conversations between Vaylin and Arcann that we, as the character, are not privy to. I think this is a problem since we, as the audience, now know more than our characters do which creates a narrative dissonance to the choices. I understand that the purpose of this was to develop Arcann and Vaylin as characters while we couldn't meet them but I think a better solution would be the newsreels. It lets us see Arcann, in character, and gives us an understanding of what the population of Zakuul are getting in terms of how our actions are portrayed.
Chapter 8: Friends In Low Places
You receive a message from Lana who has contacted two gangs within the Old World. She asks for you to accompany her to meet with the gang leaders and choose which one you'd want to work with. As you travel, you learn from Lana that the Scions are practically untouchable, due to Arcann's aid. The local security chief, Captain Arex, secretly protects them from other gangs in return for Heskal providing Arcann with visions of the future. The two of you shuttle to the Old World and go to meet with the gangs. The first is a group of anarchists led by Kaliyo known as the Firebrands. They have a plan to blow up a Skytrooper factory and need your help. Theron argues over the radio that the factory is too close to civilians while Lana points out that destroying Arcann's source of troops would hurt the war effort. You then go to meet the other gang, a group of thieves known as the Old World Kath Hounds, led by Vette, who steal from the rich living in the Spire to give back to people of the Old World. While they have the favour of the people of the Old World, the gang members aren't fighters and wouldn't be able to help much with the war effort. Vette proposes a plan to steal intelligence from the Old World security depot. However, they need your help to distract the security chief and his Skytroopers. At this point, you have to choose who you will ally with; Kaliyo's Firebrands or Vette's Kath Hounds. Depending on the one you choose, you are sent on a different mission. For the Kath Hounds, you create trouble, attracting the security forces and fighting off Skytroopers. While they chase you, Vette keeps you informed on the mission's progress as they sneak into the security depot and take what you need, before you are tasked with escaping from the Skytroopers and meet back up with Vette. Meanwhile, if you chose to aid the Firebrands, you are tasked with placing bombs around supports beneath the droid factory, since the factory itself is too well secured. As you go, you are met by security forces that you have to defeat. As you finish, you rejoin with Kaliyo and watch the bombs go off, causing a section of the Spire to collapse down, much to Kaliyo's delight. With the mission complete, your chosen gang agrees to aid you against the Scions. Both groups managed to find information on Arex that he was extorting money from civilians within the Old World in return for protection. If this was revealed to those in the Spire, they would demand his imprisonment. However, before you can set up plans, the base is attacked by Captain Arex and a prototype skytrooper design. You and your chosen gang leader fight the two of them. You can then choose to kill Arex, report him or blackmail him for his corruption to either leave his position or work for you. With your new allies firmly established and Captain Arex dealt with, you join up with either Vette or Kaliyo to assault the Scions' fortress. Without Arex and his skytroopers to defend them, you are able to fight through the Scion forces and reach Heskal. Upon defeating him, you are given the choice to imprison or kill him, leaving your new ally to take control of the Old World. Another newsreel with the same presenters rolls. The presenters discuss a gang war that had begun in the Old World district, followed by a video of Arcann alongside a woman he introduces as Knight-General Vendryl. Arcann apologises to the people of the Old World for this terrible tragedy and explains that Vendryll will be personally dealing with this new menace. Speaking to Senya, either in her cell or the war council, will reveal that Vendryll was her second-in-command before her defection and that she is a ruthless individual completely devoted to Arcann. So, the aim of this chapter is to provide a big choice that actually affects the story, this choice being whether you have Kaliyo or Vette as your advisor for the Old World gangs. There's an obvious light side/dark side binary with Vette's Robin Hood-esque antics obviously being nicer than Kaliyo's terrorism. However, I wanted to make it a bit more complex with Kaliyo actually being the more competent choice, pragmatically. While Vette has the favour of the civilian population, Kaliyo's gang are more competent combatants. This adds a different dynamic than just "Good choice" and "bad choice" but still allows that morality for those who wish to choose it. The second notable choice is what you do with Arex. I think this is a fun one, since there isn't really a 'nice' answer, with you either handing him over to Arcann, blackmailing him to leave or work for you, or just straight up killing him. I like this as there isn't one 'right' answer.
Chapter 9: Mercy Mission
Koth asks to meet with you privately to talk. You oblige and he explains that he received a message from one of his contacts on Zakuul about a group of anti-Arcann refugees who are high profile targets looking to escape the planet. He planned to go pick them up but wanted to check with you first. You agree to go with him to meet these refugees. The two of you take a shuttle to meet up with the refugees. There are 5 in total, all with different characters:
Minister Gilbar - A long-time advisor to Valkorion who had grown disillusioned with Arcann's rule. While he admits that he doesn't know much of Arcann's military affairs, he does know of domestic issues and agrees to provide whatever expertise he can if you take him with you.
Marto Kimkae - A rich socialite who dislikes Arcann's rule due to the increased security, preventing him from importing illegal luxuries from around the galaxy. He agrees to provide you with additional funds from his off-planet accounts if you take him to Asylum.
Chaaile Veist - A peace-loving diplomat who wished to discover and build relationships with other planets. She worked closely with Arcann when the two were younger but is horrified with what he had become. Chaaile still has contacts with many species around the galaxy and believes she can increase support for the Alliance on these worlds, if you take her off-planet.
Nova Ducroz - Zakuul's premiere celebrity singer, Nova was forced to endorse Arcann's regime in order to continue performing. Sickened by this, she hopes to leave, offering to create anti-Arcann propaganda if you help her off-planet.
Adorus Bell - The male news anchor who has been providing the reports on your activities. He apologises for what he had done, explaining that the news was controlled by Arcann . He admits that he fears being imprisoned and replaced if he speaks out against Arcann and hopes you will help him escape, admitting that he cannot provide you with anything and that he wouldn't blame you if you did leave him.
However, while down there, you receive word from Theron who has been tracking your movements, believing that he had to be careful after the disappearance of Marr and Satele. He informs you that he received intelligence that one of the refugees is a spy working for Arcaan. You are then tasked with speaking to each of the refugees in an attempt to discover who, if any, is the spy. After speaking to all of them, you are given a decision: you can bring all of them back with you, accuse one character of being the spy or abandon them all. If you choose to leave the one you believe to be the spy or all of the refugees, you are given the choice to kill or imprison them. If you choose to imprison them, you can also have them tortured for information. Killing or torturing one or all of the refugees will negatively affect Koth's Alliance Influence to varying degrees, while allowing them to come to Asylum with you will positively affect it. After returning to Asylum, we receive another news report. This time, Zalia is joined by a new host, Brennon Brosnee. The report explains that someone believed to be the Agent of Vitiate kidnapped many of Zakuul's greatest minds in a clear attack on Zakuulian society. Adorus Bell is not mentioned in the report. This is what I'm calling a 'chill out chapter.' It's pretty short and doesn't have any combat but is more about player choice and character interactions. Your decisions in this chapter also have long-reaching effects as, in later chapters, Koth may leave the Alliance due to your choices here. If you do allow the spy onto Asylum, this will also affect the story later on. I think, overall, this is a fun, short chapter which mixes things up from the longer ones that come before and after. It's fun, it's interesting. It's different and you don't even fight any Skytroopers! It would also be a good way to get a different perspective on Arcann's rule from the people of Zakuul themselves. On a technical side, this sort of 'bottle episode' type concept would allow the developers to spend more time on later chapters while still keeping a consistent schedule.
Chapter 10: The Lost Masters
Theron is finally able to decipher the information he took from the gangsters when you rescued him (see Chapter 6 for more info). He explains that they are coordinates to a remote planet called Odessen within Wild Space. Lana adds that the planet seems to be unpopulated but shows all sorts of strange readings. She agrees that you should go investigate the landing coordinates with Theron. When you land on Odessen, you find it to be a lush, fertile and wild planet. However, you also find a campsite and begin to investigate. You are met by Satele who explains that they had been awaiting your arrival. She invites the two of you to sit down and talk. As you do, she explains that she and Darth Marr had sensed a strong dark side presence on Odessen and had come to investigate. What they found was an entire compound controlled by the followers of Vitiate, hoping to revive him. The two of them realised at this point that Vitiate's forces were more numerous and covert than either of them had believed, and resolved to stay on Odessen until the compound could be destroyed. Satele explains that they had learnt from their experiences with the Revanites and agreed that they could not trust even those in the Alliance in case it was compromised. However, Satele did leave a clue, saying that she knew Theron would be able to decipher it and bring you here. When you ask of Marr's location, Satele explains that they take turns keeping watch before noting that he should have been back by now. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by dark side beasts and the three of you fight them off. Once they're defeated, Satele states that Marr should have seen them coming and that he must be in danger. You head into the forest with her, leaving Theron to protect the ship. You travel with Satele through the jungle of Odessen to reach the compound, fighting through local wildlife as well as mutated Sith beasts. As you approach, Satele suggests you sneak in while she distracts the cultists. You agree and Satele splits off from you as you make your way into the compound that seems like a fortress. You fight through a mixture of sith beasts and cultists loyal to Vitiate, mostly Sith. As you go, you hear Darth Marr and approach his location. A member of the (former) Emperor's Hand, Servant 11, is interrogating an unmasked and kneeling Marr who refuses to give up any information on Satele, surrounded by members of the Emperor's Guard. As you enter, Marr takes the chance to attack the guards, taking one of their pikes and impaling them upon it. He grabs his mask and lightsaber before the two of you fight the rest of the Emperor's Guards together until only Servant 11 is left. Marr starts interrogating Servant 11 on the cult's activities with you being able to act as the 'good cop' to his bad cop or reinforce Marr's bloodthirst.. Servant 11 smugly declares that there are plans in motion that will bring a new era of Vitiate's power. Marr then kills Servant 11. Sidenote: I think this scene could go a couple of ways. We could finally get a Darth Marr face revealorthe scene could be shot in such a way that we never actually see his face until he retrieves the mask and puts it back on. I prefer the second because I just think it's a really fun concept for the scene. You plan to escape with Marr but he refuses, stating that all remnants of the Emperor's filth must be cleansed from this place. You agree and travel with him, killing more cultists and making your way to a large room with a strange Sith holocron on it. Marr informs you that the holocron is a Reliquary, an artifact containing a fraction of Vitiate's presence and an item of Sith Sorcery. He explains that it absorbs the Force released by beings as they die and would eventually resurrect Vitiate if given the chance. With this said, Marr draws his lightsaber and impales the Reliquary, causing purple energy to blast out from within. The two of you then meet up with Satele and Theron to talk. You discuss with the three of them on whether Satele and Marr should return to the Alliance. Satele agrees to join you but Marr states that he must ensure that the cult is completely destroyed before returning. You agree and leave the planet with Satele and Theron. You return to Asylum and get the usual newsreel. However, since you haven't actually done anything that they know of, the news is instead about preparation for an upcoming event: Liberty Day, a yearly day of celebration in honour of Valkorion's forces defeating Vitiate and his Sith long ago. The two hosts discuss what Emperor Arcann could be planning for this year's Liberty Day, which would be happening in the coming months, and point out that the increased security provided by the Knights and Skytroopers will stop the Agents of Vitiate from stopping such an auspicious occasion. So, I wanted to do a few things in this chapter: Firstly, I wanted to bring back Satele and Marr and, with Marr not being dead in my version, have them both do some cool stuff and show off a bit. In fact, my sequence with Marr is heavily based on his moment in the original story, shortly before he gets fucking gutted. I also wanted to be a bit fan-servicey with Marr's whole mask thing and I really love the idea that we never actually see him unmasked. On a slight tangent, I've just realised that, in the original expansion, Marr is just… left in his armour after being captured. Surely if you wake someone prisoner, you'd take their badass, technologically advanced battle armour off them, right? I suppose it's because they wanted him to be recognisable asDarth Marrstill but it seems strange, not only from a literal point of view but a metaphorical one too. Stripping Marr of his armour signifies that he isn't some unstoppable machine but a man, and when he then fights back and kills Valkorion/Vitiate's minions, (in either version of the story) it shows that, as a man, he is able to overcome these greater odds. I'd also want there to be some honest interactions between Theron and Satele, maybe having Satele actually show pride in Theron and what he's become. In the original story, I don't think Theron even meets her in these expansions, since you go to see her alone and then she just leaves. It honestly is just bizarre to me that you have two characters who are mother and son with a strained relationship (in an expansion that revolves very heavily about family ties, none-the-less) and theyneverinteract. I think having Satele and Theron repair their relationship a bit would be good story progression and an interesting route for both their characters, especially if Satele is going a bit AWOL from the Jedi teachings, which she already was in the original version. Secondly, I wanted to implement the Cult of Vitiate as antagonists. Since Valkorionisn'tjust Vitiate in a meat suit in this version, he should definitely have his own thing going. I also want this to be more of a thing later on, so I think it's good to plant the seed here. Thirdly, I wanted to introduce Odessen as a location. Asylum being the home of the Alliance gives us a chance to make Odessen a little more interesting than 'the place you decided to just make a base'. Again, this will come back later in the story. Lastly, I think this newsreel is a fun one. It's something light-hearted and unrelated to you and has the irony of Arcann pushing this 'Liberty Day' when he has taken over the entire Galaxy.
Chapter 11: Twists of Fate
With Satele back in the Alliance, things are running more smoothly. She calls you to join her to talk. When you meet with her, she is alone in the council room. She asks you to join her on a walk. Satele explains that she has some errands to run on the station and asks you to help. Regardless of your answer, she begins leading you deeper into the underbelly of the station to meet a friend of hers. Before you reach your target, you are pickpocketed by a young boy who runs into a back alley. The two of you follow the thief and catch him. He explains that he has to steal in order to make enough money to feed himself and his sister and that if he doesn't return with something, his boss will throw them out. You are then given a choice to take your credits back, kill the boy or recruit him to the Alliance. Whichever choice you choose, the boy pleads with you to save his sister who is being held by a gang known as the Engineers. Satele admits that the Engineers have caused problems for the Alliance in the past, but are the only ones able to keep Asylum running. You decide to go and deal with them. As you make your way down into the lower levels of Asylum, you are split off from Satele and are contacted by Valkorion once again. He apologises for possessing you and explains that doing so used up his energy and he was forced to retreat into your subconscious to recover. The two of you discuss the Alliance and your plans for after Arcann is defeated. Valkorion admits that he doesn't know if he will remain in your mind forever or eventually fade away. As the two of you talk, you arrive within the Engineers' territory. You fight your way through until you reach the Engine Room which is set out like a treasury. In the middle of the room is a rotund twi'lek man, Ral Ekval, sitting on a throne made up of scrap metal. He sends his goons to attack you and you fight them off. You then speak to Ral, who smugly explains that only his people can run Asylum. Without him, the station would fall from orbit and be sucked into the gas giant. You then have a choice:
Order Ral to work for you
Whichever you choose, Satele makes her way inside with Alliance back-up to help you. If you chose to kill or imprison Ral, Satele notes that it will be hard to find anyone who could replace him and that she would ask Hylo to talk to her contacts. As this happens, you get an emergency broadcast from Theron, stating that Koth and the Gravestone have gone missing and have been spotted in the Spire. You return to the Alliance base to meet with the War Council, deciding that a major assault would be too costly at this point. Instead, you will lead a small strike team into the Spire to retrieve Koth and the Gravestone. At this point, you're able to choose from the companions you have acquired to join you on the mission by performing different tasks:
Lana, Theron, Senya (if she's not imprisoned) or Satele are able to join you as your companion. The ones you don't choose will remain on Asylum to keep things running and provide mission support.
Aric Jorgan, Vette/Kaliyo or Moff Pyron would lead a second team to escort Hylo to the Gravestone and defend it, in order to gain an escape route
Lastly, SCORPIO would interface with the Spire security system in order to allow you through
Depending on who you pick to lead the distraction team, you gain Alliance Influence with the Republic, the Underworld or the Empire. With the positions set, you start your assault, landing within the Old World and fighting your way through to an elevator that leads up into the Spire. This is the first time you get to actually see the splendors of the Spire but it doesn't last long as alarms start to blare out. As you go, you receive reports from the other members of your team, with SCORPIO providing overviews on security movements and Jorgan/Vette/Kaliyo/Pyron and Hylo providing updates on their conflict. You make your way through the streets of the Spire, fighting through Skytroopers as you approach the palace. You fight through knights as you make your way through the palace towards the throne room. You reach the throne room where you are met by Arcann, alongside a group of Knights. You also see Vaylin, standing at her brother's side and Koth in manacles. Depending on whether Koth's Alliance Influence score is above or below a certain amount (heavily affected by your choices within Chapter 9 but also affected by other choices within the story), Koth will either have been captured while trying to pick up more refugees or he will have betrayed you, attempting to join forces with Arcann, who believes him to be a spy and had him locked up. Either way, you speak with Arcann, who seems strange. He is angered by your presence, claiming that you were an agent of Vitiate come to destroy him. He demands the Knights execute you and draws his own lightsaber, ready to fight. If you have Senya with you, she will attempt to talk him out of it, but this only enrages him further as he claims you have turned his mother to the darkness. You ready yourself for a fight, but before you can, Vaylin suddenly screams and the entire room begins to shake and shudder, windows smashing and the thin bridge to the throne collapsing, taking some of the knights with it. The throne room begins to fall apart and you are forced to retreat, bringing Koth with you. You receive confirmation that the others have captured the Gravestone and you make your way towards the ship. You get onboard the Gravestone with your companion and Koth while Hylo takes off, escaping Zakuul. No one seems to know the cause of the sudden damage to the throne room. With the danger passed, you're able to turn your attention to Koth. Regardless of whether he betrayed you or simply got captured, you're given the choice to let him go, imprison him or kill him. If you let him go after he betrays you, he agrees to exile himself. Otherwise, he will return to the Alliance. You return to Asylum and speak with the War Council who have mixed feelings. While some are happy about the victory, however minor, others believe that this will only harden Arcann's resolve. This is where Part 4 will end, since I've already massively surpassed my 5000ish word limit for these posts. I felt like this worked as a pretty good 'midpoint' for the story. The theme of this section of Chapters is about building up the Alliance into a better fighting force. The next section will delve into deconstructing Arcann's powerbase some more and then getting to the grand finale. Laughably, I thought I could get away with 4 parts when I started writing all this but that clearly isn't the case. This last chapter is fun because it gets you your first real look at Arcann since the start and you get to see his deterioration as he becomes more paranoid and cruel. It also includes the first seeds of Vaylin's storyline. I've also included a trope I really enjoyed when it was used in the class stories where each of your allies is doing something, with the twist of you picking and choosing for a few roles. There's also the whole bit with the Engineers which is more throwaway, but I thought some light adventure would be fun and I felt like I should bring Valkorion back for a bit. I've already gone on long enough though, so I'll finish with a TL;DR.
You receive a mysterious distress signal from the prison you had been frozen in carbonite in
You make your way to the prison and fight your way through to find SCORPIO hooked up to the security system
SCORPIO explains that she had worked for Arcann in order to acquire and sell his secrets, however Arcann found out and had her wired into the security system of the prison
While imprisoned, SCORPIO had taken over the system and helped to orchestrate your escape
You break SCORPIO out, heavily damaging the prison as you do
SCORPIO agrees to join the Alliance
You then go to the Old World in order to recruit allies to aid you against the Scions who are protected by the local security forces
You choose whether you would rather support Kaliyo's Firebrands, dangerous radicals, or Vette's Kath Hounds, a gang of Robin Hood-esque thieves
You complete a job for whoever you choose to aid and, in doing so, find out about a corrupt security chief named Arex
You fight Arex and gain the choice to blackmail, kill or report him, leading the Scions to lose their protection
You then team up with your chosen gang leader to storm the Scions' fortress and defeat their leader, leaving your ally to take control of the Old World
After returning to Asylum, Koth asks for your help in retrieving some high value refugees from Zakuul
You accompany him to meet with these refugees but Theron informs you that one of them may be a spy
You then have to speak to each of them and decide if you want to take them all, try to discover who the spy is or simply kill/imprison them all
Theron discovers that Darth Marr and Satele Shan had disappeared on a remote planet known as Odessen
When you arrive, you meet with Satele who explains that they were hunting down a cult attempting to resurrect Vitiate
You are attacked by Sith Beasts and realise Darth Marr must have been killed or captured
You assault the cultists' base with Satele distracting them while you look for Marr
You find Marr being tortured by Servant 11, one of the members of Vitiate's former Emperor's Hand
You free Marr and the two of you fight through the compound to find a holocron
Marr explains that the holocron is a reliquary which contains some of Vitiate's presence before destroying it
Satele agrees to return with you to Asylum while Marr hunts down any remaining cultists on Odessen
Satele asks you to join her on a walk around Asylum
You are pick-pocketed by a young boy
After following the boy, he reveals that he works for a gang called the Engineers who keep the station running, meaning they are considered untouchable
You decide to make your way down and fight them
You are given the option to kill, hire or imprison the Engineers' boss
As this happens, you receive information that Koth and the Gravestone have been captured by Arcann
You concoct a plan to lead a small team into the Spire, with one half retrieving the Gravestone while you find Koth
You find Koth in the throne room with Arcann and Vaylin
Koth either came willingly or was captured while trying to ferry more refugees
Arcann orders both of you to be executed but, before he can, Vaylin begins to scream and the throne room begins to collapse in on itself
In the chaos, you grab Koth and run, making your way to the Gravestone
Despite judge’s order, migrant children remain detained by ICE
This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 68%. (I'm a bot)
LOS ANGELES - Nearly a month after a federal judge ruled the Trump administration must release migrant children "With all deliberate speed" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers because of COVID-19, 346 parents and children are detained in facilities with outbreaks and court filings show releases remain rare. When U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the release of children detained with their parents in late June, she was explicit in her reasoning. They say the government and Schey should not be negotiating a waiver deal that would let parents choose between remaining detained with children or releasing the children separately, and that ICE should instead release parents and children together and implement strict COVID-19 safety measures in its facilities. In 2015, amid a court challenge to the agreement by the Obama administration, Judge Gee ruled detained children must be released after 20 days. Binary choice, as NBC News reported in April 2019, was developed as an alternative to the Trump administration's systematic family separation policy that took more than 5,000 children away from their parents after it was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in 2018.In an August 2018 email produced as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed News, as the policy was being dismantled, Gene Hamilton, a Justice Department official and Stephen Miller, the Trump senior advisor, e-mailed about binary choice. In May, NBC News reported ICE presented detained families with a form that would allow them to release their children in lieu of remaining detained together, but not a single parent from the hundreds of families then detained in ICE custody agreed to be separated from their children when presented with the option.
If you think billionaires (OR ANYONE) knows where the market is heading
For weeks I've been hearing the same thing from friends as well as here in this sub: People who know about stocks can get really rich now. The billionaires know where the market is heading No they can't. If ANYONE with $1200 cash on their hands knew, they'd be the richest person alive within 28 trades - within hours. Let's say someone was fully confident that he knows. He would put $1000 on binary options (either double your entry or lose everything) and get $2000 in return. He'd do it again to get $4000. Fast forward being right another 26 times and with gains of $268,435,456,000 they would be the richest person alive. You could do that in a single day. Of course this thought experiment is a simulation that doesn't account for fees, risk-assessment (you'd probably save some on each trade so a loss doesn't result in a total loss) and the fact that no bank on the planet would want to play with billion dollar options (I guess). But it demonstrates how you shouldn't trust any analyst or advisor that doesn't share their 8 figures tax return forms after they've been in the market for a few years. Of course these people have a general idea of what is happening on the market but no one knows how the market reacts - the latter of which is what matters.
Spoilers up to and including Onslaught!! As always, there is a TL;DR at the bottom. This is Part 1 of my 'Fixing KotFE' series. This will probably lead into a 'Fixing KotET' series afterwards but I thought I'd keep the scope relatively small for now. Rather than being a single post like my other 'Fixing' posts, this will be a (hopefully) small series focusing on different areas. As well as this first section on gameplay and mechanical changes, I plan to do another on characters and then finally one on story (although that may be split into two or more, depending on the amount of depth I go into.) So I don't go too off-the-rails, I want to apply some rules to this.
I want to stick to the story to a reasonable degree.
This means I keep most of the main plot points and concepts of the original expansions. I might tweak certain sections to flow better, but it's still going to be a story about Valkorian and Arcann and Vaylin in the end. I may add or alter some points in the story, but in broad strokes, the same things will happen.
I want to stick to the characters
This is sort of similar in that things can be tweaked but I'm not changing the character's personalities hugely and I'm not going to take away any of the main characters (although I may move them around in the story, change what they do or add in new characters where necessary).
I want to stick within the confines of SWTOR
This is both in a lore sense and a mechanical sense. I'm not changing the game into a hack-and-slash or a point and click puzzle adventure. We still need to keep to the SWTOR formula. I'm also not breaking the universe. I might change things to better fit what I think would fit but I won't make the Sith the good guys or give someone the power to Force Time Travel or whatever. With those rules out of the way, I'd like to explain what problems I'll be trying to solve through my mechanical tweaks. Now, these problems are personal issues I have and you might not agree, which is fine. However, these are what I'm aiming for. Also, I don't expect the changes today to completely solve these issues. They will be in conjunction with the other sections that I have yet to write. I also might come up with more problems in other sections, so this isn't a definitive list.
A lack of new characters
I think this is one of the biggest problems with this whole part of the game. There are next-to-no original characters, which seems silly, since they threw us 5 years into the future to create a fresh start, yet almost everyone in the game is carried over from earlier in the story and there aren't really any antagonists, outside of Arcann and then Vaylin later on
A lack of variety
I think they actually do a pretty good job of mixing up the environments in these expansions. However, that is only half the story because, no matter where you are or what the story is doing, 90% of the time you are just fighting hordes of skytroopers and/or knights which isn't very engaging.
A lack of complex choices
The choices you get through these expansions are very binary and not very interesting or complex. They basically all amount to either: > Help Civilians Or > Kill Civilians Or occasionally > Pick one of two companions to let die These are fine on occasion but are used far too often and there isn't really anything that would let your character feel unique, rather than generically good or generically bad.
Too many companions!
You get a lot of companions, some new but most old and, frankly, they might as well not exist for the most part. Personally, I have never used more than 5 of the companions I get on a single character, meaning that the vast majority just sit in my base, gathering dust. The other problem is that, since most companions have either optional recruitment or the ability to die in the story, they are all in a weird state of limbo where they cannot appear within the story and are practically useless. As of Onslaught, the only characters who are confirmed alive and with you are Kira, Scourge and Lana, which vastly limits what can be done with them.
You never feel like a commander
Lastly, but certainly not least, I think this really holds everything back. As of KotFE, Bioware made a conscious effort to homogenise the classes with the same storyline, the same companions and even the same title as 'Commander of the Alliance'. However, you never feel like a commander. You make the odd choice, but for the most part you are just going on whatever mission Lana tells you to go on, doing everything yourself and not actually commanding anything. So, those are my main issues that I will be addressing with today's fixes. I don't expect to fully cover them all so they may appear again in later posts. This would be just one part of the overall fix. I've spent enough time introducing the concept now, so I'll start to describe my solutions.
The War Council
This would be my big change, mechanically. It would take the conversation mechanics of the base game and ramp them up. What is the War Council? The War Council is a council of advisors and leaders aiding with the Alliance. This would be more varied than the base game as, instead of just having your companions and the heads of the various divisions, you would also have representatives of groups like the Mandalorians, the Empire, the Hutt Cartel and other Underworld organisations, the Republic or even delegates from Czerka, the Chiss Ascendancy or the Houses of Alderaan. The members of the council will change depending on choices you make in the story. How it works The War Council would be on Odessen, within the solo instanced section of the map. It would trigger after each mission and would essentially function as a conversation where you pick responses, same as usual. The difference is that different responses will award you with Alliance Influence. Alliance Influence is a new mechanic, similar to Companion Affection but for various NPCs. Instead of helping in combat, the Influence alters the Alliance base and grants you various bonuses and customisations. For instance, taking a lot of actions that grant Alliance Influence with the Mandalorians would change your base to have a contingent of Mandos and maybe even develop a Mandalorian Conclave. This, in turn, would provide benefits, such as Mandalorian scouts being able to discover more Strike opportunities or even providing unique armour or mounts. On the other hand, if you lose Influence with the Mandalorians due to making choices with negative influence, they may leave the Alliance all together. Outside of these rewards and alterations to the Alliance base, you will also get different dialogue depending on who is on your advisors council and how they feel towards you. What does this mean? The whole 'War Council' and 'Alliance Influence' system is designed to promote customisation, choice and replayability. The idea would be that, through your choices, you would be able to choose a council of advisors who fit your character and through dialogue with the council, your choices will have a tangible effect on the story while still being reasonably contained within the Alliance Base Instance.There'd also be a greater sense of progression as your advisors grow and change and your decisions alter the base and it's occupants. This brings me onto the second benefit, which is the system allowing character individuality. With the War Council system in place, an Imperial Agent could end up with a very different council to a Jedi Knight, which would help to minimise the homogenisation of the story. The system forces complex choice. You can keep everyone relatively neutral but then you won't be able to get any of the high end influence rewards or you can push heavily towards one faction at the risk of losing the support of other factions completely. This allows complexity beyond a binary 'good' and 'evil' choice. Lastly, this system would allow us to introduce a lot of new and interesting characters from a variety of factions, increasing the original character roster without bloating the companion list further. Example Below I have included an example of a possible scene implementing the War Council system in an attempt to illustrate it in action. You are in a War Council meeting with a representative from the Hutt Cartel, a representative from the Empire and a representative from the Mandalorians. You must acquire data about a planet before the Eternal Empire takes control of it. > Request an Imperial Intelligence dossier on the planet [+Influence toward the Empire -Influence towards the Hutts and Mandalorians] > Send Mandalorian scouts to provide reconnaissance [+Influence to Mandalore, -Influence to Hutts and Empire] > Infiltrate the planet's criminal underground [+ Influence to Hutt Cartel, -Influence to Mandalorians and Imps]
What are Strikes? Strikes would be missions you can send your companions on. Each Strike would have unique rewards and allow you to send multiple companions, providing a larger war effort that you manage. Each Strike grants experience, and reaching the end of a series of Strikes, a planet would be liberated. How it works Strikes would work similarly to Crew Skills in execution, however they can only be managed from the War Table (where you meet with the War Council). Strikes allow you to send companions out on various missions without your supervision. They take much longer than Crew Skills and provide greater rewards. Each Strike can only be completed once but can be attempted multiple times. Strikes would allow players to send multiple companions out together, gaining bonuses to completion if they form Squads. Squads are specific teams of companions that would provide benefits. For instance, a Squad made up of T7, SCORPIO and HK-51 could have a benefit of 'Droid Efficiency,' lowering overall mission time while a Squad made up of Aric Jorgan, Akaavi and Lieutenant Pierce could have a benefit of 'Black-Ops Tactics' which increases the damage they deal in an 'Uprising' Strike. There would be three Strikes for each planet, each with their own challenges. They would be:
Recon - Strikes focused on stealth and would use abilities like Treasure Hunting and Investigation, these would be the first in each planetary campaign in which team members would investigate the planet for defences and possible leads without getting caught.
Intelligence Gathering - Strikes focus on either Diplomacy, Slicing or Underworld. These would be the second Strike in each planetary campaign and would involve team members making contact with underground groups or sabotaging facilities
Uprising/Invasion - Strikes that focus on either inciting a rebellion or invading a planet. These would focus on dealing damage and leading troops.
Different companions would succeed in different areas and each set of strikes would have their own modifiers to mix things up. The management would come from weighing up squad bonuses against abilities and modifiers to pick the team with the greatest chance of success. Failure would lead to the Strike having to be repeated while success would allow you to move on to the next Strike. Liberating a planet would get you a unique piece of loot alongside an XP reward. Strikes would be unlocked through story progression and further Strikes could be rewards for reaching certain Alliance Influence levels with different factions or unlock them through supply crates or Star Fortresses. Really, it would depend how they'd want to implement the system. What does this mean? I designed Strikes to fulfil two purposes:
Fulfilling the leader fantasy by actually letting you send your troops out on missions and liberating planets, creating a sense of progression and of actually leading an army, rather than doing everything by yourself (which is how it currently is)
It gives you a use for all these companions you're collecting and gives you a reason to collect more in order to create different teams with different squad bonuses to fulfil different roles.
Example After gaining influence with the Hutt Cartel, you have unlocked the ability to liberate Hutta, but first you must send a Strike Team to the planet's surface to see what we're up against. You would then choose which companions you would send to Hutta. In this example, we are sending a team made up of Gault, Vette and Kaliyo. Their Squad Bonus is "Underworld Connections" which gives them a bonus to Investigation on planets with a heavy criminal presence. Hutta obviously has the Criminal Underground modifier, making them a good fit for the mission. Through the various abilities compared to difficulty, the Strike Team has a 75% chance of success. As you send them off, they become unavailable to use for the duration of the Strike but they succeed and return with the information you need to send an Intelligence Gathering Strike Team next. For completing the Strike, you gain Alliance Influence with the Hutt Cartel as well as a selection of illegal weapons you can pick from as loot.
I didn't really design either of these concepts to wildly change the gameplay of SWTOR. In fact, I purposefully made it so both of these new mechanics were completely divorced from the main gameplay loop of shooting/slicing bad guys. My intention wasn't to revolutionise how the game is played but rather to create ways in which some of the problems with the story-telling of KotFE could be fixed through gameplay integration. I'd love to hear any questions, criticisms or comments about these concepts because there is undoubtedly something I missed or a way to improve them in some way. I hope you like the ideas and Part 2 will probably come out at some time. I think it will be discussing characters, both in terms of changes to characters currently within the story and the addition of new characters to flesh out the cast more and especially fulfil the roles of the War Council, but that will be in the future.
A mechanic called 'The War Council' is introduced, in which you manage different factions allied with the Alliance which either generates or takes away Alliance Influence.
Gaining Influence with a specific faction will grant you benefits and unique items while losing too much influence may cause the faction to leave the Council permanently.
Factions could include but are not limited to: The Empire, The Republic, The Hutt Cartel, The Chiss Ascendancy and The Mandalorian Conclave
Gaining influence with factions alters your base design by adding or changing rooms to represent different factions, allowing customisation and progression within the base through natural choices
A mechanic called 'Strikes' is introduced, in which you send companions out in Strike Teams to liberate planets under control of the Eternal Empire
There are three Strikes needed to liberate a planet and all require different skill sets to complete
Certain companion combinations will create 'Squads.' Squads provide unique benefits that can aid in specific Strikes.
While on a Strike Team, companions cannot be accessed
Liberating a planet provides unique rewards from that planet
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