by Max Barry

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DispatchMetaGameplay

by The Divine Star Empire of Dragonian Alliance. . 137 reads.

The Osiris Oracle Issue 21: The Oracle Returns, Who Saw That Coming?

Banner Credit: Arkadia Universalis

The Zombie Experience and Tales from the Frontline of the Great Zombie War of Osiris
By: Tiplomecja

Hey there! I'm Tiplomecja. I usually stay quiet and play Nationstates for the funny issues, but when Z-Day came around I could not contain myself. Despite being the MVP in zombie spreading (no not like that), I actually started out as an exterminator. I know, for shame.

I sent death squads to the leading cure nations to try to help "unconvert" them, as nations themselves can be "infected" and their orders overridden to embracing zombies until reset back to normal. But this did not go unnoticed by the undead denizens of Osiris, and soon I was locked in a death battle with Shakunik, trading blows until the bitter end but ultimately losing as my population was outnumbered 2-1.

Nations can send "superweapons" of death squads (kills zombies), cure missiles (turns zombies into survivors, or hordes (turns survivors into zombies) to other nations, their effectiveness depending on their population as well as the target population. Nations with many dead have stronger and more experienced exterminators, and nations with many zombies have stronger and more infectious hordes. Cure missiles, as the exception, "level up" over time based on research progress, not population counts. Each superweapon seems to try to affect about 10% of the target population, whether it be humans or zombies, if your population matches theirs. Otherwise, the effect gets smaller and smaller until you're chipping individual millions away from a nation you were previously infecting 100 million at once. The cooldown time is normally 20 seconds, but you can be stunned and have to wait 2 minutes if you yourself get hit by a superweapon.

In a Z-Day showdown between two active nations, the "combat" follows the rhythm of a duel; If both nations play perfectly, Nation 1 strikes Nation 2, stunning them for 2 minutes. Coincidentally, there are 120 seconds in 2 minutes and attack cooldown is 20 seconds, so Nation 1 gets 120/20=6 hits on Nation 2 until Nation 2 hits back, stunning Nation 1 for 2 minutes. Nation 2 gets 6 hits on Nation 1 until Nation 1 hits back, and this continues until they disengage out of boredom, one nation flees to another region, or one nation wipes the other out.

However, in practice mistakes (like this one) are made. If you try to launch an attack while the cooldown hasn't run out, you get slapped back to 20 seconds. The amount of hits each nation receives during each "phase" can vary from 4-7 depending on how alert they keep up with the countdown, and it can be very disastrous if you miss your slim window for a counter attack, as you'll have to wait 2 agonizing minutes and endure 6 more attacks before you get another chance, potentially tipping the balance in a fight between two evenly matched nations.

I said that nations can be "wiped out" if their desired population (survivors or zombies) reaches 0, and yes, having 0 survivors forces you to embrace zombies, but there is an automatic reset of sorts that happens every 30-minute tick, forcing nations towards a certain % of zombiefication, EVEN IF their survivor population was at 0! I was confuzzled as to why some exterminators kept coming back to distract me every 30 minutes, were they coming out of secret bunkers? Or maybe they were just *pretending* to be zombies? I mean it wouldn't be that hard to fool a zombie, right?

Anyways, after having the exterminating spirit beaten (bitten?) out of me, I realized the way the winds were blowing. My soon-to-be zombie comrades talked in the RMB about how they were targeting exterminators since they were trying to make Osiris the #1 most zombified region. I liked this idea, and as I didn't have any humans left anyways, I began spreading the blessing of undeath in Osiris, trying to make up for the damage I've done. I used the "Most Survivors" list to determine who I should convert next, as hordes are far more effective against survivor populations of equal or greater numbers.

While turning massive inactive nations into zombie embracers, an exterminator among them shot back, sending death squads against my zombies. And so I found myself in another death battle, but with roles reversed. Like me, they fought to the last man, killing half of my zombie population in the process. I was distraught, but just after I had concluded one of my longest and bloodiest zombie battles, the holy hand of Max Barry decided to REVIVE all of my fallen zombies! Happy yet exhausted, I went to bed.

A day later, I entered yet another zombie battle. A curer I was targeting kept shooting cure missiles at me, and 3 exterminators decided to join in! They were small nations of a few dozen million, but they pounded me on all sides, constantly suppressing me and limiting me to 1 odd counterattack every 2 minutes.

In a zombie battle between 2 nations, one nation attacks until the other retaliates and so on and so forth, the one with the most population/persistence wins. But when 3 or more nations get involved, then it turns into all-out zombie war!!! Even outnumbering a nation 2-1 denies the outnumbered nation their fair share of attacks, as they can only suppress one enemy, leaving the other free to attack and stun them.

Being outnumbered 4-1, I thought it was the end. If all 4 were completely determined, they could scratch away my population, million by million, while I could only lash out once in a while. Suddenly, the attacks slowed down, then stopped. I had tabs open for each attacking nation, and scrolling down, I saw zombie comrade Tethys 13 riding in outta nowhere, striking down on the exterminators, stunning and confusing them.
Now it was 4-2! Everything changed yet again. Not only do you have to suppress your enemies, but you also have to protect your allies. Still being outnumbered, I went on the defensive, watching for anyone who struck Tethys and stunning them.

The exterminators were clearly not prepared. After staving off an ineffectual retaliatory offensive, WE became the ones dishing out the pain, despite being outnumbered. After getting one of the exterminators down to 0 survivors, it became 3-2 and the rest began signing off in despair. Just like that, we had not only won the Great Zombie War of Osiris but come out with millions more zombies on our side! Yes, our populations completely dwarved theirs. But it was a great victory against what were previously hopeless odds, driving me to push on further.

I continued going down the "Most Survivors" list and began noticing that a lot of the countries I was infecting were mostly legions of puppets with seemingly random names and weird Chinese/Korean mottos. I asked myself, why infect them? Then I saw the difference between undecided and embracing nations; embracing nations have a much slower rate of zombie decay. The more puppets I infected, the more zombies I save from decay. I justified this in my head as selling them zombie freezers to keep them from decaying. I saw Mimi Mimikins carrying out this strategy tirelessly through the night as well.

Looking at the regions with the most zombies, Osiris was succeeding and keeping the #1 spot by a long shot! At the "11 hours ago" mark, Osiris had 15.99 trillion zombies, while the #2, Balder, only had 14.45 trillion. Seeing this as proof that my strategy was working, it kept me pushing even harder to cement and assure that our victory would be beyond all doubt, and my work would not be in vain.

While running through massive lists of puppets, I found a pair of powerful active exterminators on the activity board! One had about 400 million population, the other about 300 million. I had to approach this carefully. If they ganged up on me, it could mean game over. I decided to focus ALL of my efforts on the stronger exterminator, hoping that the weaker one wouldn't notice me. But they did. But for some reason, they kept trying to exterminate the zombies in the stronger exterminator, maybe hoping that I would give up...? I still don't understand.

After getting the strong exterminator down to a few million, I knew I had to take on the weaker exterminator, but from my previous experiences with 1v1s and getting ganged up on by 4 nations, I looked for any active zombie nations that could help me. The only one I could find was Northern Irish Freedom, but they unhesitatingly answered my call, and we converted all of the exterminators into faithful zombies while taking no casualties or retaliation. Perhaps the exterminator lost hope after seeing zombies coordinate so well, but that's just a game theory...

There were a few idealistic invaders who thought they could cure or exterminate the #1 zombie region, usually from one of the Pacific feeders or Forest or Equilism. Fearing that this would lead to much more organized and determined invasion forces arriving from huge regions like the Pacifics to slaughter my zombie comrades if these scattered raiders were met with success, I made sure they were met with a warm welcome of zombie hordes, which sent them running back to their region in a hurry for cure missiles!

After scaring off a few more naive human crusaders, spreading the love of undeath among several giant refounded nations, and selling endless amounts of zombie coffins, freezers, and preservatives to endless amounts of puppets, I signed off about 3 hours before the end of Z-Day and went to sleep almost immediately because god damn I was tired.

By the end, Osiris had won a smashing victory with a huge margin as the #1 zombie region. Osiris, 11.6 trillion. Balder, 9.01 trillion. Lazarus, 8.23 trillion. Rejected Realms, 7.41 trillion. Chicken overlords, 6.05 trillion, and it drops off sharply from there. Percentage wise, Osiris has 0.755% survivors, 30.546% zombies, and 69.698% dead while the #2 zombie region Balder has 0.974% survivors, 23.538% zombies, and 75.488% dead. The #3 zombie region Lazarus has 1.378% survivors, 20.076% zombies, and 77.266% dead. In comparison, a nation/region which does absolutely nothing would have around 1% survivors, 16% zombies, and 83% dead.

The strategy of infecting numerous puppets to slow down the rate of zombie decay combined with a loosely coordinated zombie effort that prioritized shutting down exterminators before curers and lending their undead comrades a hand when they needed one worked wonders! Balder put on a good show, but in the end many of their zombies rotted away. I dunno what the hell happened in Lazarus, they were probably having way more fun zombie wars over there with so many survivors left over and so many dead.

There is no doubt that I contributed much to the zombie effort, but I am just one nation out of dozens, and the most amount of contribution I can claim for myself in good conscience is 30-40%. But I would be happy to claim more or less if anyone proved me wrong.

Here is all of my Z-Day activity, copy pasted before it disappears into the void of nothingness forever: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dh5Sye1ZG4ML7dgJqZS5J6JBUDfBkO-Um2WoC3fn9uM/edit?usp=sharing

New Appointments Update
Malphe II

This article will quickly skim over the appointments, resignations and other shifts in the governance of Osiris in the last 270~ days since the last Oracle was released.

In this time we gained a new Pharaoh, Skies of Luna State, after the prior, Dak of Valerievna, resigned the position after accidentally moving their nation out of the region. Skies made a number of appointments upon coming to the throne at the 17th of June.

• Tethys 13, who was already thoroughly involved in Gameside, was appointed Vizier of Gameside Affairs with Hazel of Malphe II as a Sub-Vizier.

• Hasal-Pharaoh Rigel was appointed as Vizier of Community Affairs.

• Ark of Arkadia Universalis returned with a re-appointment as Vizier of Foreign Affairs.

• Draco Drake was appointed Chief Scribe, with Ren taken on as a deputy.

• The Council of Guardian's line of succession was set at Ark, Hazel, Tethys and Res in that order.

In the succeeding weeks Hasal-Pharaoh Dak was appointed as Priest by vote of the citizenry to replace an exiting Wymhondham, and deputy Ren succeeded Draco Drake as Chief Scribe.

Treaty of Tech Duinn & Cultural Learnings of Caer Sidi for the Benefit of the Glorious Region of Osiris
Ikania

(subheading:) "Two regions, both alike in dignity, in fair Tech Duinn, where we lay our scene."

Over the course of September, the governments of Osiris and Caer Sidi took steps towards the ratification of a new treaty affirming the two regions' friendship. The Council of Scribes officially ratified the Treaty of Tech Duinn on September 19th, with Pharaoh Skies giving their assent immediately thereafter. The vote, which took place in the sacred Temple of Thoth, was carried unanimously.

This diligent reporter was able to secure a quick comment from Skies, who said, “Osiris and Caer Sidi have been close for a good amount of time, so an official treaty was no surprise. I hope that this means further communication and festivals together in the future of both regions.”

We were also able to track down a denizen of Caer Sidi; when asked for comment, he mumbled something incomprehensible in his native tongue and disappeared into the forest. His attitude seemed cheery at the least, so it is our understanding that this treaty is being received well by residents of both regions.

For those not in the know, Caer Sidi is a well-established, mid-sized UCR with a fantasy-Celtic theme, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary. After checking out their Discord for a little while, I was impressed by the depth of the lore its citizens have created for their region, including a detailed, hand-made map that reads like you're playing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The region even has its own original pantheon of Gods, represented as the "Fae" who have inhabited Caer Sidi since the beginning. At a glance, Caer Sidi is a roleplay-focused region with something to offer to everyone, and sure to be a valued partner of Osiris going forward.

As a last, special treat, this wayward journalist was able to track down the Seasonal Queen of Caer Sidi: one Aynia Moreaux, who gave the Oracle a brief interview in her throne room, surrounded by masses of kittens. When asked for a brief summary of Caer Sidi for outsiders who may be interested, she had this to say.

"I'd sum up CS as a wholesome and accepting place, where you can always find good company. The region itself is a high fantasy medieval theme and we have always had more of a heavy focus on roleplay as opposed to gameplay, but we do have some gameplay presence."

And on the subject of Osiris-Caer Sidi relations:

“CS and Osi have known each other a hot minute, and I feel have cultivated a good relationship with each other. We're always happy to do more joint role plays, game nights or movie nights for joint collaboration, and I know that they would all go swimmingly, but I think that just the sheer amount of awesome people in both regions really compliment each other. Osiris has a very vibrant and active community, and it makes it easy to do things together when you know that your people mesh well together.”

I thanked the Seasonal Queen for her time and humbly made my exit, pursued by a cat. And so marked the end of my journey to Caer Sidi. I made my way back to Osiris, where every minute is a hot minute, and began to chronicle my findings. If there is any one thing to be said about this new era in Osiris-Caer Siri relations, it should be that there are good vibes all around.

Hello World
All Wild Things

On 25 August at 07:55 UTC, Kethania brought the first RMB bot into being. It posted:
test

This message was made by a bot.

An hour and a half later, FranKethania's monster Ink Cloud rampaged across The Communist Bloc's RMB, comparing the policies of various nations. Users could instruct the bot by posting:

[nation]ink cloud[/nation], compare policies [nation]<nation you want to compare yourself with>[/nation]


Kethania's mock up of a potential bot interaction

The day before, Kethania had opened a Technical forum topic, "I would like to make an RMB bot". Inspired by Discord bots, Kethania wanted "to make a bot that would react to certain RMB posts containing a command for the bot and post a response".

With a screenshot showing what a bot interaction might look like, and bullet points as to how the bot would avoid becoming out of control, the concept looked promising. But was it "legal"? NationStates has strict rules around the use of scripts. Would this one fall foul?

Moderator Frisbeeteria provisionally thought so. But the concept caught the imagination of the almighty [violet], who thought the idea "worth persuing". So much so, that within two days [violet] added a new API command specifically for posting to RMBs. API commands allow bots to interact with the site more efficiently than if they interacted with the regular html website. The RMB bot's future was secured.

August's Discord bot "The Moose" has been a feature on a large number of NS-related servers for quite some time now. At first, August was indifferent to the RMB bot:
"I thought it would be difficult to make something useful that could not be used to spam regions without their consent."
But after Technical forum regular Merni and [violet] herself made suggestions to Kethania for bot improvements, his opinion changed:
"When someone pointed out the potential use of the notification system and I realized the bot could post in its own region, I got a lot more excited."
"I got some inspiration from the thread and from talking with Aav offsite. Then it took another day to make it reality."

To allow the Discord bot to also function on RMBs, August set up nation The Moose in new region AugustinAndroid. Any player, anywhere in NS could then make a post like:
"The Moose region Osiris"
This triggers a notification to The Moose, which then reads the command. The Moose then posts the response on the AugustinAndroid RMB, mentioning the player's nation, and so triggering a notification like this in return:
"The Moose mentioned you in an RMB post in AugustinAndroid."
The then player simply clicks the link to view the response.

Adjusting the Discord bot to function on the RMB wasn't entirely straight-forward though. August explained:
"The same backend code powers both types of commands--the bot just takes commands from the RMB and feeds them to the functions underneath the Discord commands. There were some weird problems, like the fact that RMB posts contain newlines plus carriage returns. That broke everything for a while."

But would RMB bots take over the world?
"I hope so! Bots tend to be more polite than humans and have better grammar. It will be hard for the androids to blend into the crowd with that 'This is an automated message' tagline, though."

Other players were inspired too. The North Pacific's The Northern Light started using the function. TNP have long used scripts to control The Northern Light, automating the production of various dispatches. Now the scripts also post those dispatches to the RMB. For a while, both The Rejected Realms and The South Pacific had bots posting "the question of the day" on their RMBs.

Doge Land, creator of TSP Question of the Day found that:
"It was easier to use a bot for it than to have to go back and copy and paste the formatting over and over again. Instead, I would just have to come up with a question and throw it into my terminal."
"When I began making the bot, I was going in blind (I've never really worked with the API that much before the bot)".
"I've been thinking about developing another RMB bot for posting links to events; every Tuesday and Wednesday, we hold skribbl.io and tetr.io games respectively, and as minister of culture I've been trying to get more people involved in them."
"I think a lot of RMB bots will be made for the purpose I made it for - to make these kinds of routine RMB posts less time-consuming and just lets you set the content of the post and all of the rest of the content is just put there when it's sent to the servers."

Which leads neatly on to the bot that posts the most, The Pacific's New Pacific Order. At the time of writing, the bot accounts for over a third of all bot posts, sending out welcome messages to new nations each hour. But is this actually increasing player engagement? East Durthang revealed:

"The main objective of the RMB welcome posts is to encourage new players to engage on our Regional Message Board sooner than they otherwise would so they may interact with other players, receive answers to their questions about NationStates, and hopefully end up more involved in the game as a result. It does seem to get some new players to interact more and we have noticed an uptick in retention and people interested in becoming citizens, though some of this may also be attributed to my recent overhauling of our automated getting started telegram tutorial."

And what disadvantages had they found?

"We haven't found the hourly message frequency to be particularly obnoxious since during the more active times of the day there are generally one or several pages of RMB posts during that time span. Currently our biggest issue with it is how sometimes nations with questionable names or that have been deleted by moderation are mentioned. I've got plans for a second iteration which strips out deleted nations. That, of course, relies heavily on proactive moderation and we may decide to implement some automated filtering of our own to skip over unsavory nations, though it has been unintentionally beneficial for helping us find nations to report.

Overall I think it has been a beneficial experiment for the region that we can continue to build on top of. We're working towards making its messages more varied and supplementing it with some friendly helpful human posts when people are around to help create a more welcoming environment than just the bot ones."

Did they have plans to expand the number of RMB uses in future?

"I quite like Europeia and The North Pacific's World Assembly recommendation RMB bot posting. Automatically responding to certain phrases with helpful information is intriguing. I think there is also a lot of potential for automatically posting links to regional announcements and certain types of new dispatches on the RMB to better bridge between offsite and onsite."

And will RMB bots take over the world?
"Our robot overlords are already here. Resistance is futile."


See this dispatch for more information about The Moose. Anyone interested in bot development should read the API documentation, and the script rules. Other useful information can be found on the Technical forum.

The Question of the Day
Tethys 13

At first, Question of the Day was simply another chore, and in some ways it still is. I offered to take it over during the difficult transition that was the start of Skies’ reign, but long before that, I had been one of the primary sources of those questions, as I had submitted many over the preceding year or so. At first, after taking over, I just started working through those, occasionally dropping in an idea I had on the spot. Many questions originated from such idle thoughts, and only slowly did any kind of structure begin to develop. Later on (as I began to run out of ideas, with no new submissions in sight), I started delving more into my historical interests and expertise, finding events that occurred on a particular date and designing a question around them.

Eventually I settled into a simple pattern – one day I would ask a general question, the next one specifically about features of the responders’ nations, and then repeat. I had asked the latter kind of question many times before, but usually as an easy throwaway idea if I was in a hurry to get to work. It is the one shared interest I can be confident my audience has, after all, so a quick ‘Who is your nation’s leader?’ can be successful, but putting so little thought into unrelated questions would risk alienating those who have no opinion on, say, a ‘favourite Pokémon’. However, as I started to adopt more structure, I also changed my opinion on those ‘quick’ NationStates questions. Instead of throwing them out when I could not think of anything worthwhile, I began to see their potential.

NationStates is, by nature, quite bare-bones in terms of gameplay, and is not balanced towards imagination. You receive issues, and those issues assume you are a vague postmodern nation, largely indistinguishable from a western country of today aside from the occasional outlier such as AI Personhood. The issues might deal with television programmes, damage to roads, fashion, the sexual demographics of murderers, or hundreds of other things. The issues have to be generic, as they are sent out to hundreds of thousands of nations, and the results are limited and often negligible. The creativity of NationStates, at least when dealing with nations rather than regions, is in factbooks. Factbooks are time-consuming however, a creative grind. I realised that asking Questions of the Day might help. It is my hope that people will look through their responses to such questions (easily done by going on to the Board page, selecting ‘Search’, and looking for comments from themselves which include the keywords ‘Question of the Day’ and ‘Nation’) and use the ideas there, many of which were likely thought up on the spot, to craft their nation’s identity. Furthermore, for those who already have extensive factbooks, it gives them the opportunity to share their creation, one snippet at a time.

The Question of the Day segment has been doing quite well of late, to my frustration in some cases – now, if I cannot submit a question before work, or even sometimes if it is merely a little later than usual on a non-work day when I sleep in a little, people notice! I do not know how the segment will progress and change from here, as I begin to run out of ideas again (and it sure would be nice if people submitted some, on the form found via a link in the first pinned message of the Gameside Planning channel of the Discord server…), but I will endeavour to keep it interesting and productive, when possible, for as long as I can.

Hazel's Cooking Corner
Malphe II

Pan-Baked Frittata

This is a very simple, practical and versatile dish that you can cook up using any combinations of vegetables and proteins in your fridge plus some butter, oil and a single 6 or 8 box of eggs. It's a full meal, only occupies one pan and is one of my favourites for the simplicity of it! I'll be putting down distinct quantities and measurements for this recipe but so long as you stick to the general vibe you'll be okay. Approach it like a stir fry, you can eyeball it so long as you know the general method and cooking times of each ingredient.

Ingredients

6 beaten eggs (the healthier the chicken the better, if you know someone who keeps chickens at home ask them for theirs)
knob of butter
a solid wad of grated cheese, i use mature chedder or red leicester
4 slices back bacon, thinly sliced (any protein will work here, or even none)
1 large onion
2-3 bell peppers
200g~ mushrooms
a large, OVEN SAFE frying pan, i use iron but anything works
salt and pepper

Method

This is essentially a big omelette containing enough vegetables and other ingredients to be a full meal. You'll be sautéing the vegetables and proteins for about 10 minutes until they're all cooked before you stick the eggs in, but different vegetables take different times to cook. Broadly speaking this is dependent on the type of vegetable and how thinly it's cut, very dense rooters like carrots or potatoes will need to be cut quite thinly so they dont take too long to cook, and things like mushrooms will cook at basically the same rate regardless of surface area.

All of the vegetables in this recipe should be fully cooked by the same time.

Step 1: heat the pan on a medium-low heat and insert a glug of cooking oil of your choice, and start introducing your vegetables. If you're using bacon i'd do that first, they'll only crisp if they have the pan to themselves and you may want to temporarily turn the heat up to medium high to ensure that they do.

Step 2: after that you can put in the rest. I'd cut everything quite finely, especially the onions and bell peppers. I like bell peppers to be cooked but crispy in the middle, which should take a full 10 minutes. If you're not sure i'd just pick one out of the pan and taste it.

Step 3: both the mushrooms and the onions should look greatly reduced in size by the end of this. You cook them to get the moisture out so that their taste is intensified, never accept big pallid mushrooms, you want the small deeply coloured ones. If you notice moisture from the onions or mushrooms pooling in the bottom of the pan + no more of the distinct frying crackling sound then that's normal, it'll naturally evaporate after a while so they start frying again. You may wish to turn the heat up for a moment to speed this up.

Step 4: once everything is more or less cooked i like to insert a *lot* of butter. Butter works wonderfully with eggs, though i prefer not to insert it at the start as a frying medium cus im scared of it burning. At this point you may also want to begin preheating the oven at Gas Mark 6, or about 220-ish C.

Step 5: once all of these ingredients are cooked and the butter is mixed in you want to insert the eggs. These should be beaten finely and mixed with 2/3 of your grated cheese, and also seasoned with your salt and pepper. You're keeping the remaining 1/3 for later.

Step 6: the moment the egg mixture is mixed with the vegetables sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the egg and insert it on the TOP SHELD of the oven. If it's anywhere but the top shelf it wont crisp on the surface or cook as fast.

Step 7: keep checking it in the oven regularly. This should take 6 or so minutes, by the time it's done the surface will be browned and the entire frittata will feel firm. If you want to check you can insert an implement to the thickest part of it but honestly you can eyeball it quite easily, it should look like a weird pizza.

Step 8: once finished take it out of the oven and leave it to rest for a few minutes. You can do this in the pan but in my experience this can result in the bottom of the frittata burning, so i try to ply it out with a spatula and get it onto a cutting board to rest. It doesn't matter if you break it apart or whatever, ur slicing it up anyways

Step 9: enjoy!

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