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[Story] Motivation. Habits. Discipline. Identity shift.
I would like to share some of the knowledge and own experiences I gathered in the past ~6–8 months. It will be a long post (15-20 min), but I hope I'll manage to express all my ideas properly and I really hope it will be useful to you.
I always relied on motivation. I always was a procrastinator. I always had my share of both super productive periods and super slacking periods. I worked at a company where the first 1–2 years were extremely productive, but the next 2–3 not so much; without much details, I knew I was plateauing myself, yet I didn't leave until long after that.
I delayed personal projects time and time again, ultimately meaning some ended up never launching at all. I kept losing sight of my true goals and life-long desires due to meaningless daily struggles. But lately, I've been trying (and succeeding!) to rely less on motivation and more on willpower, habits and discipline.
As a small preamble about how an established habit works, at a macro level:
- A cue appears — a smell, a time of day, a visual, literally anything can be a cue, a trigger.
- The brain craves for the reward and anticipates receiving it. Weirdly enough, this is the moment our brain gets the shot of dopamine, not when actually receiving the reward.
- We perform the routine — smoking, compulsive eating, procrastinating, etc.
- The brain receives the reward and ties it even stronger to the cue — the relaxing sensation of a smoke, the sugar intake from whatever we ate, the pause from work, etc. The same goes for good habits, of course.
Before we being, there are three points I'd like to get through, in case this becomes too long and you won't finish it:
- Stop consuming time-wasting websites, at least at work; work when you're at work and do your best at it; no job is too unimportant as to not give your best; you give your best for yourself, not your employer; you deserve to do your best.
- This includes social media, and reason for this is that everyone puts online their best version of themselves and we tend to compare ourselves with others. People don't really put their failures on these platforms, so we end up comparing our real selves with a projection of others, a distorted reality of them. Comparing with others is detrimental in and of itself, but in this case it's much worse; the comparison isn't even real.
- Start reading. It frees your mind of your problems, at the very least; it occupies it with whatever you're reading, instead of your problems. And then, there's the obvious benefit of learning, exercising your mind and gathering information; good information.
The road of improvement started with reading Mini Habits, by Stephen Guise. His tip is to build your first mini habit by reading the book: read 2 minutes per day. And it worked: with one or two exceptions, I haven't missed a single day of reading in the past 6–8 months. And that goes for all other mini habits I created.
Now, what's a "mini habit"? As Guise puts it, it's something "stupid small", that you literally can't fail doing; it's too easy to fail. Want to work out? Do one push-up. Is that too much, sometimes? Lie on the floor. Is that too much, as well? Get down on your knees. Is that also too much? Go stand in the middle of the room. Make the step smaller and smaller until it sounds stupid; until it is stupid.
Why? Without going too much into details about the book, the hardest thing to do, generally speaking, is to start, so that's why you're doing something stupid small: to be easy to start and requires close to no willpower.
Say you start by lying on the floor: you made your first step. You'll now have two choices: you either do your push-up, because you're already in position and the "new" first step is now the actual push-up, or you either still don't feel like it and keep laying on the floor. That's OK. It really is. You made progress. As small as it feels, compared to yesterday, or the day before that, it's still progress.
Just do the same thing tomorrow; and the next day; and the next; and for however much time it takes for you to move onto the next step. Eventually you'll reach that point — be it after day or a month — but you've accomplished another step forward, your first push-up ... or more. The same logic applies for doing yet another step and another and so on.
Usually, after you do your stupid small step, you won't really stop there, so don't be afraid, and don't ask "where will 2 minutes of reading per day lead me?", because most of the time you'll end up doing more. Mentioned in the book as well, the first law of motion goes: "without external forces, objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest". The same applies to habits, too.
Going from doing nothing (being at rest) to stupid small (being in motion) requires very little external force; and after you're in motion ... it's much easier to stay in motion than to stop. On the other hand, take the "worst case" where you always read just the 2 minutes and never feel like doing more: that still adds up to 700 minutes, or 11.5 hours, or about 1.5 books per year. That's still better than 0. That's close to what I've read my whole adult life until last year.
- I decided to read for 2 minutes a day and I ended up listening to 8 books in 6 months. I found something that works for me (listening vs reading), and I kept doing it — listening has been found to be the same as reading, anyway (with slight differences).
- I decided to do 1 weightlift/day, which in time turned into 1–3 x 20/day and now turned into deciding to go x2/week at the gym on top of the daily routine.
- With very, very few exceptions, I haven't missed a day of neither.
The next book I read was The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. From this book I learned about how the brain works, how habits are formed, how habits work, why they work, why they're hard to change, why they never really disappear. This felt more like an "here's how things work" book, but I loved it just as much. I won't go into details about it, because there would be many intertwined things to express here.
I do want to point out one thing: keystone habits. What's a keystone habit? It's "just" a habit, but one that sparkles a chain reaction of other good actions/habits in our life. We all have our own keystone habits. For someone, exercising might trigger a desire to eat better, make them be more productive and crave for a healthier lifestyle altogether. For someone else, reading might trigger a desire to be more productive, to learn more, be more creative and crave for the same healthier lifestyle altogether.
The Last book I'll mention is Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It brought a lot of closures to concepts read earlier, it clicked with me and I learned a ton! Clear kind of continues where Duhigg left off, by explaining how to build new habits or lose bad ones by improving a tiny bit every day.
One of the ideas I took out so far was also present in the other two books: we shouldn't rely on motivation to act. Feelings and emotions are extremely volatile and can't form any basis for any long-term behaviour. Willpower and/or habits are much more reliable (once formed).
[My own example] For instance, most of the time we feel "too tired", we're actually not in the mood and the brain is trying its best to make us not do the task in front of us. How many times have you felt exhausted, started doing something (anything, even gaming), then ended up losing track of time for a few hours? That definitely means you weren't exhausted "enough" and still had energy. You just needed to push through your brain trying to convince you not to do it.
[My own example] As another instance, when we're not in the mood for something, that's just our brain craving for what it's used to, what's easier to obtain and what's more energy efficient — for example, working on our side-project means high energy usage compared to watching our favourite TV show. You'll find — at least sometimes — pushing through the initial "I'm not in the mood at all" feeling will make you get over it rather quickly; the brain has something to focus now and, as we saw above, objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
Of course we are all more productive when we're in the mood or motivated. But we should prefer to be even 20% productive when we feel crappy than ... 0%. Do not rely on motivation. Do not wait for motivation or the right mood.
Motivation boosts are helpful, for sure, but they're just patches; they don't address the real issue and don't help on the long run. Build better habits by starting small (so it can be easier) and let them drive your behaviours automatically, in the direction you want to. Habits require zero energy, they're automatic. That's their purpose: to conserve energy.
- I started trying to change my mind every time I wasn't in the mood for something. During the day I would sometimes lay down for a "quick nap", but I would actually end up forcing myself out of bed and, what do you know? I wasn't that tired. It started working more and more, until I wouldn't even think of laying down anymore.
- I started forcing myself to wash my dishes right after eating and to make my bed right after getting up; with time, this spilled over to other mundane things that I usually used to put off for later, but also into my daily working time.
One last argument against relying on motivation: ~45% (!) of our daily life is driven by habits and as much as ~90% (!!) is done subconsciously. I didn't quite believe it either, and it still baffles me, but just take the time one day to observe and you'll be amazed on how much of it goes by on auto-pilot.
Another idea from Atomic Habits is that small changes add up to big results. How so? Not in the way described in Mini Habits, but through compound interest. Starting at 100, 1% per day means an increase of 1 today, but 1.01 tomorrow, 1.0201 the next day and 1.030301 the next. It adds up to ~x38 in a year; you start with 100 and don't end up with 465, but with ... ~3800 (it depends on the programming language used to calculate it 😅).
Let that sink in for a bit: a 1% increase per day, every day, means reaching a total of 38 times the initial value in one year. So aiming to improve for "just" 1% in a day isn't "too small". Sure, do it once every few weeks and it doesn't add up much, but do it every day and it turns your life around. Heck, even once per week adds up to 69.5% in a year and 1340% in 5. At a "measly" 1% improvement per week, it takes just 5 years to improve 13.4 fold.
The main idea of Mini Habits, to start stupid small, is kind of offered by Clear as well, but slightly different. He calls it the 2 minute rule: any habit can be reduced to a 2 minute variant. Running turns into putting on the shoes, exercising turns into one push-up or changing into exercising clothes, reading every day turns into a 2 minute read before bed. The same reason applies: the force required to start is much smaller, but once this small routine is created, it will be much easier to continue doing the whole thing.
- Through my life, I tried quite a few times to lose weight, but it never really stuck. Last year I ended up reducing the requirement to "remove junk food".
- At some point long before that, I already had made the move to "only drink Cola Zero Sugar". It wasn't really a conscious decision towards eating healthier, it was just "at least it's better than normal one". Nonetheless, it was a step forward, which, ultimately, made the below easier.
- Then this year, I added "remove all sodas and any type of juice, only drink water". This, coming from a person that for 14 years "explained" over and over to his parents that he can never give up on Cola or other sodas/juices, like ever. And I truly believed this while I was saying it. It was my identity (more on this below).
- I then started removing as much sugar as I could from my diet through 2-week challenges. This turned into something that I tried to do on a daily basis.
- With time, I ended up removing most of the sweets and carbs altogether. Still not perfect, but it's huge progress.
- I still have my days when I can't help myself and eat sweets, junk food (very rarely) or meals rich in carbs, but I'm 100% aware of them and they keep getting rarer and rarer.
- Stopped buying sodas or snacks. If there aren't any in the house ... that apple or those almonds look quite attractive.
- At some point I "relapsed" and started drinking Cola Green, because it's sweetened with natural sweeteners and "hey, it's even safer than Zero!", I said to myself. Since the habit of not buying sodas was already formed, so was the one of only drinking water, we went back to buying just water. But it's a good example of how old habits are still there and can resurface.
- Started buying more almonds, nuts, vegetables ... having them in the house, a smoothie feels much easier to do.
- Stopped buying sweets, except no-sugar chocolates like Sweet&Safe. With time, I started eating less of these as well, limiting myself to 1 cube at a time and it's not a daily routine either.
- I'm now trying low-sugar, low-carb protein bars instead of the above. Not sure if that's better, but the point I'm trying to make is that I'm trying to find ways to improve even further. I'll probably stop buying them altogether, just like sodas.
Last idea I extracted from Atomic Habits is that habits are easier to change/form when we identify with them; when we identify with the person that would do those habits. A great example from the book: say you're trying to quit smoking and someone asks if you want a smoke. You can respond "no, thanks, I'm trying to quit" or "no, thanks, I'm not a smoker".
In the first response, you still identify as a smoker, thus it's harder to perform actions that conflict with your identity (not to smoke). But in the second response, there's an identity shift; you now identify as a non-smoker and it's much easier, it's natural to perform non-smoker actions (not to smoke). The identity matches the action.
- When I started reading, I actually decided I want to do this for the rest of my life; I wanted to become a reader.
- When I gave up on sugar, sodas & junk food and started lifting weights, I decided I want to live healthy.
It is also a scientifically proven fact that the chances of success are highly correlated with our perception of those chances. In other words, if we think we'll fail, the chances to fail are higher and vice versa. Duhigg writes about this in The Power of Habit, and, as Henry Ford (allegedly, but it's on the internet so it must be true!) puts it, "whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right".
I also encountered this principle in Jim Rohn's videos or Earl Nightingale's: we become what we think about; as you think, so shall you become; attitude matters tremendously; think of the person you want to become in 30 years and ... start doing it now, why wait?
All of the above express more or less the same message: change your identity; change your attitude (towards yourself, life and the world); work on becoming who you want to become, starting right now. And it works. It really does.
Whenever I feel unmotivated or out of mood I usually think "what would the 50 year old me I want to become do?"; "what I'm doing now, is it helping me become [imagine myself in 20 years]?"; and most of the time it works — I push through the discomfort. It's still there, it doesn't magically disappear, but the identity I'm projecting, the identity I'm trying to build helps in performing the needed task (making progress on my project), instead of the desired task (slacking).
Whenever I want to munch on more than 1–2 cubes of chocolate, I ask myself: "would a person living healthy eat more?". Sometimes I even think like that before eating any of it and I end up not eating at all. Result? In the past 2–3 weeks I ate close to zero sweets except fruits; I'd say absolutely, but I'm not 100% sure — which means something in and of itself, that it happened very rarely.
A short summary of these 6–8 months, wrote in a way to easily extract information:
- Without realising, I have been changing my environment and system, as Clear points out is required for an easier change. It helps tremendously to not have all the old & bad cues all around you.
- At some point, can't remember when, but towards the beginning, I stopped opening Facebook, 9gag or any time-wasting websites during work. I actually blocked them. I preferred looking at the walls than to open that tab. My excuse used to be "it's OK; while I'm waiting for [x to finish], I have nothing else to do anyway". This excuse turned out to be a very slippery slope that used to get out of hand (environment change). Man, this was hard; but so worth it.
- I rearranged my phone's home screen: only reading, meditating, journaling and writing on the first screen, most of the other stuff — including work — tucked in folders on the second, social media and time-wasting apps in a folder on the third (environment change). I still find myself scrolling to the last page for that social media (wow, this habit formed fast), but since it takes longer to get there, I have time to become aware of what I'm doing and I usually stop.
- I started taking cold showers every morning. This didn't really help with anything but building willpower and self confidence. It reinforced the feeling that I can, even if it's hard or undesirable.
- The identity change related to living healthy mentioned earlier made it much easier to adopt new habits that go hand-in-hand with this identity, like the two points below.
- I started meditating daily. I missed several days at some point, so the habit kinda wore off, but now I'm back at it. A healthy life means a healthy mind.
- I changed my sleeping time from 12 pm (sometimes later) – 8/9 am to 10/11 pm – 6/7 am. A healthy life means a healthy sleep.
- I changed my dressing style. Might not be that important, but for me, it was part of "who I want to become". And I think it helped me with my general attitude.
- I changed my mindset, discipline and reliance on motivation.
- I acted in small steps and I changed my identity in relation to the changes I desired, which made them more appealing, more natural, thus easier to accomplish.
I still don't handle everything perfectly. I still slack, procrastinate, eat unhealthy, go to sleep too late, or any other bad habit I used to have. But the catch is that all of them turned from "always" or "almost always" into "sometimes", "rarely" or "almost never". And this "sometimes" is getting rarer and rarer. And, ultimately, we're all humans, we can't be perfect. And that's perfectly okay. But be aware when you slip, and make it a conscious act and don't let it become a bad habit (again). The first rule of habit change is literally to become aware of your habit.
The topics of motivation, discipline, inspiration, taking action, habit forming and how the brain works in regards to them are vast and I haven't even scratched the surface — heck, not even the surface of the books above — but I think it's a good start.
I highly, highly recommend all of these books along with Unf*ck Yourself, by Gary John Bishop; The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins; The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson; The Seasons of Life, by Jim Rohn; As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen. There are many more on my list, but I haven't read them yet, though. I also highly recommend James Clear's website, where he writes a lot of good info related to motivation, productivity, habits, but also many other topics.
I can also recommend Jim Rohn's & Earl Nightingale's videos (any and all, so just DuckDuckGo them). But don't use them or any other motivational video as motivation boosts, although they might serve as that too; don't rely on them to get your motivation. Use them to extract and consolidate information; there's a lot of it in them, all motivation speech aside.
Although I'm aware of survivorship bias — and you should be too when watching this kind of videos! — there is a lot of great information in there; be sure to extract it, process it, form your own conclusions and apply them in your own way to your life. Don't blindly follow what you hear, even if it sounds great; each of us has his own path, but we can and should learn from others.
One of the suggestion on not losing track of your big goals and where you want to end up in life is to write your (big) desires on a sheet of paper and keep it somewhere you can see it every day.
It helps you to be constantly reminded where you should be heading and to not give in to petty annoyances. You envision yourself being wealthy in 20 years? Or maybe a public speaker? A great parent? A triathlon winner? Do not ignore your sheet of paper and do not read it hastily. Read it as if it was the first time. Put emotion into it.
Imagine yourself having obtained whatever goal you have in front of you. But don't stop there, or it would be pointless! Ask yourself, "do I act like that person"? Be completely honest with yourself and build up the identity change required, one baby step at a time; no step is too small to be unimportant.
Goals shine bright and have the power to pull you through. No matter the tactic you use, be sure to never lose sight of where you truly want to end up in life — but to also take action — otherwise it will get forgotten or buried amongst daily struggles. Change your environment; change your system; change your identity; change your life.
I'll be writing more about my journey, habits, mindset and all-around self-improvement; I want to touch & help as many people as possible, so if you liked my story so far, was inspired by it at least a little, or want to learn more, do keep in touch.
I really hope you never forget your destination, but also enjoy the journey!
When to prestige for maximum rate of relics
prestige when the boss takes you longer than the time given by the following equation:
time = (4.5 * sb / 3 * (1 - (sb/15 - 6)1.7 / (sb/15 - 5)1.7 ) - 22.5) / 4.3
where sb is the last stage where your shadow one shots everything. Or you can refer to this graph and choose the curve corresponding to how many stages per hour your shadow clone can clear: http://i.imgur.com/hYN8nTJ.png
I've always wondered when is the best time to prestige. Obviously pushing as far as possible will take too much time that you could have invested in the next prestige. So the question I wanted to answer is, when should I prestige in order to maximize the number of relics per hour (not relics per prestige). So here's my first take at it.
First, let's define s to be the stage and x to be the number of break points. Then:
x = s/15 - 5 and s = 15 * (x + 5)
Now, we can calculate the number of relics (r) at a particular break point (x) as follows (original formula from yatto):
r(x) = ((1 + h) * x1.7 ) * (1 + 0.05 * l_UA) * 2
where h is the additional relics from the heroes levels and l_UA is the level of undead aura. I assumed h to increase linearly with x1.7 which makes h very small (something like 0.00026) but we'll see that both h and l_UA and the 2 for having heroes alive will all cancel out later, so don't worry too much about them.
Now, I need to introduce time functions. As a base, I need to know time per stage while the shadow clone one shots everything which I'll call t_per_s_fast. For example, if you finish 800 stages per hour, then t_per_s_fast = 4.5. With that, we can define time as a function of stage and breakpoint during this fast pace period as follows:
t(s) = t_per_s_fast * s
t(x) = t_per_s_fast * 15 * (x + 5)
Now to the trickier part. Mathematically, the best place to prestige is when the average relics per second is at a global maxima. This will happen when the instantaneous relics per second crosses the average relics per second (from above). However, this is hard to know exactly if there are multiple local maxima (around walls). So, I opted for the laziest option. I will assume that the average rate monotonically increases until breakpoint xb. This breakpoint is basically the last breakpoint your shadow clone one shots everything after breaking the last wall you can pass. Notice that the average will actually increase slightly after said xb, however, if xb makes up for the vast majority of your breakpoints, then the error is negligible. With that, we can define a stopping criteria as:
stop when (r(x) - r(x-1)) / t_per_x = r(xb) / t(xb)
where t_per_x is time per break point. We can solve for that time as:
t_per_x / (r(x) - r(x-1)) = t(xb) / r(xb)
The problem here is that calculating the increment in relics per consecutive breakpoints at the optimum place to stop (i.e. r(x) - r(x-1)) would require an iterative function that need to be recalculated. Instead, I will assume that r(x) - r(x-1) is equal to that at xb (i.e. r(xb) - r(xb-1)). This approximation is accurate enough if the previous assumption is true (when (x-xb)/x is close to zero). Also, I tried to assuming that x is slightly larger than xb, e.g., 1.01 xb or 1.02 xb but it made no difference whatsoever on the final answer, so I kept the first assumption which results in:
t_per_x / (r(xb) - r(xb-1)) = t_per_s_fast * 15 * (xb + 5) / r(xb)
now move things around to get:
t_per_x = t_per_s_fast * 15 * (xb + 5) * (1 - r(xb-1) / r(xb))
now we plug in the value of relics to get:
t_per_x = t_per_s_fast * 15 * (xb + 5) * (1 - ((1 + h) * (xb-1)1.7 ) * (1 + 0.05 * l_UA) * 2 / (((1 + h) * xb1.7 ) * (1 + 0.05 * l_UA) * 2))
After simplification, we get rid of h and l_UA and we are left with:
t_per_x = t_per_s_fast * 15 * (xb + 5) * (1 - ((xb-1)1.7 ) / (xb1.7 ))
Ok, so that was the optimal time per breakpoint, or 15 stages. That is not very useful since no one wants to keep track of that. So, I decided to convert that to time spent at the big boss (multiple of 5 stages). To do that, I have to first convert it from time per breakpoint to time per 5 stages as:
t_per_5s = t_per_x / 3 = t_per_s_fast * 5 * (xb + 5) * (1 - ((xb-1)1.7 ) / (xb1.7 ))
Now I'll convert xb into sb since we want it to be a function of stages not breakpoints as:
t_per_5s = t_per_s_fast * 5 * ((sb/15 - 5) + 5) * (1 - (((sb/15 - 5)-1)1.7 ) / ((sb/15 - 5)1.7 ))
with some simplifications we get:
t_per_5s = t_per_s_fast * sb / 3 * (1 - (sb/15 - 6)1.7 / (sb/15 - 5)1.7 )
The next step is to split the time into two parts. First, the loading time, which is the time that takes monsters to load. Second, the time required to actually kill monsters in those five stages:
t_per_5s = t_load_5s + t_kill_5s
When the shadow clone one shots everything, basically it's all loading time. Therefor, I can calculating the total killing time per 5 stages as:
t_kill_5s = t_per_5s - t_per_s_fast * 5
Now I need to calculate the killing time for the big boss only. Let's assume that the dps doesn't change during the 5 stages, so:
t_kill_big_boss / t_kill_5s = health_big_boss / health_5s
t_kill_big_boss = t_kill_5s * health_big_boss / health_5s
The sum of the 25 monsters health plus the five boss is (weights taken from yatto):
health_5s = 5 * (1 + 1.17 + 1.172 + 1.173 + 1.174 ) * base + 2 * base + 4 * 1.17 * base + 6 * 1.172 * base + 7 * 1.173 * base + 10 * 1.174 * base = 79.92 * base
health_big_boss = 10 * 1.174 * base
health_big_boss / health_5s = 1 / 4.3
Now we just do some plug and chug to get:
t_kill_big_boss = t_kill_5s / 4.3
t_kill_big_boss = (t_per_5s - t_per_s_fast * 5) / 4.3
And finally to the last equation:
t_kill_big_boss = (t_per_s_fast * sb / 3 * (1 - (sb/15 - 6)1.7 / (sb/15 - 5)1.7 ) - t_per_s_fast * 5) / 4.3
And that's it. The best thing about this equation is that it only depends on two variable and nothing else (no dependence on UA, heroes levels, AD, etc). I know I made several assumptions but the final function changes very slowly, which makes me think that it is quite robust against all these approximations and error. Here is a table of different sb values if you assume t_per_s_fast = 4.5 (800 stages per hour):
That basically means if you are spending more than 3.9-4.3 seconds using shadow clone, you need to start tapping. If you are tapping and take that long to kill a boss, then you need to pop your CDs, go until they finish then prestige immediately. Let me know if you find any mistakes/suggestions.