A case for hugging turrets

League of Legend’s ARAM randomizer had me playing my old friend Garen. I died a lot, because I have this tendency of going berserker when I play a melee character.

Of course, I had to spend some Influence Points to unlock him after that. This is a sign. I also unlocked Ashe because she’s a fairly straightforward ranger, and I like simplicity when I’m in the mood to shoot things.

This match was also the first where someone talked trash: “u guys fucking suk.” From a teammate! The nerve. I still held my own once I got my bearings. And, given how well we did toward midgame, I’m sure that person felt bad about what they said. It was brash and ill-considered.

And we won.

New adventures in League of Legends

With the help of a very friendly commenter, I’ve made significant progress learning to play League of Legends. I figured out why I couldn’t pick champions: you either unlock them with real money, or you unlock them with the points you earn in matches.

A lot of people tell me to play against bots. This was one of the key points in Alexa Ray Corriea’s reporting from the headquarters of Riot Games, the developers behind the game. I’m sure this works for a lot of people, but I enjoyed chatting, boasting, and commiserating with teammates depending on how the match was progressing.

I’ve only tried a few champions, but I find my preference here is similar to my preference in other RPG-styled games. I like to shoot from a distance, and I like to do a lot of damage. This means rangers like Ashe and magic users like Morgana. I’m close to enough points to unlock the latter.

This is the first game where I really feel like it’s all well-balanced. When I lose, I can look back to key mistakes and say that was what did it. When I win, I can look back to champion kills, turret breaks, and moments of good targeting and see that it paid off and plan to do it again later. It’s very different from my long history with Korean MMORPGs, where success was measured in time spent grinding and knowing the one build each class was optimum at.

There’s one real downside of a game where everything is nicely balanced: it doesn’t respond well to shifts. When someone doesn’t participate, they throw that balance off.

We still held our own in this match, but it’s only because all four of us who actually did our part seemed to know what we were doing. I generally tried to stay behind everyone else while throwing AoE at minions and big single-target spells at champions while everyone else did their thing. Overall, we did well despite the missing player. My first ARAM match was different: I think I was the only one who wasn’t AFK. I got clobbered, but I had a fun time anyway.

What I really enjoy about this game is that I always know I can log in, press a button, and be in a match in a few minutes. Then I know I’ll be done in about 30. Going back to the MMORPGs, I reached a point where I didn’t even bother looking for parties. The games were dead by the time I got there, so without the steady stream of new players, I had to play solo until the very endgame. And that endgame was very rarely worth playing for more than a few weeks. This game is big, and it keeps growing. I’ve never had trouble starting a game, and Riot seems to know how to keep people from getting bored with the game.

For example, Team Builder is a solid idea. I usually know which lane and role I want, and I don’t really care which champion I play as long as it’s appropriate. This tool takes all the guesswork and tricky negotiation out of the mix and pairs people with compatible expectations and skill levels. I don’t know how well it works in practice due to the level requirement, but it looks good from here.

I don’t know how long I’ll stick with this game. My first attempt at it was back in 2013 with a few matches, but I stopped until recently. Most games lose my attention after a few weeks, so we’ll have to see how things go.

A nervous introvert’s second League of Legends match

I’m always nervous about getting into parties in MMORPGs, playing against actual people in first person shooter and real time strategy games, and just social situations in general. Once I get in though? I do okay. Unless people start screaming at me because I messed something up. That’s what’s kept me from games like League of Legends. Fear of judgement.

So far, I’ve seen no judgement. I even got a shiny for teamwork from the team in the screenshot below.

Here’s the first match where I had half a clue (web version):

That’s only my second match against other players. I was a bit nervous at first. People were calling lanes — top, mid, bot — and I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d heard top is best for newer players, and I was about to call it just as someone told me to take it.

I’d used the random champion button at the select screen because I couldn’t figure out how to select one, and I didn’t know anything about the champions anyway. I ended up with Garen, a brawler.

And I was a nervous wreck. Less so than my real first Player vs. Player match, but I still had a rough time early on. But I made a point of owning my errors in chat, so no one complained when I messed up. I also kept everyone apprised of the turret situation in my lane. If all the turrets fall, allied champions and minions are all that stand between you and victory, so they need to know if the only turret before the base is about to fall.

What I did:
1. Avoided turrets when I didn’t have minion cover.
2. Hit it with the hardest attack my champion had when I did.
3. Focused on stronger enemy minions so mine would last longer, helping me clear turrets and advance.
4. Recalled to the shop when I ran low on healing potion or HP. My intuition is that it’s best to just get the best armor and weapon I can afford, and use it to get more gold later. You have to get the last hit to get gold from enemy kills, and you’re more likely to do this if you clear a bigger chunk of the enemy’s HP bar. What seems to be more important is keeping the enemy from advancing in your lane, and that’s hard to do if you’re near death because you couldn’t kill a wave of minions fast enough.

At some point, the enemy champion covering top went AFK, so I played the hero for about 15 minutes, rushing to turrets and breaking them. I died quickly when the champion got back, and I had a longer recall timer due to the deaths on turrets. In retrospect, I probably should have taken it easy and stayed safe. The rest of the team was doing the hard work of advancing toward the enemy base in the other lanes, and I lost a lot of potential gold walking back from our base. So I didn’t really gain anything by pushing hard like that.

I’m sure that League of Legends’ infamous bad community will rear its ugly head as I progress, but people in the lower levels seem to be nice and helpful. I’m pretty confident that, by the time I reach the bad neighborhood, I’ll be good enough to know which angry critics are just angry people and which have a kernel of truth.

Some theoretical tips, derived from what I’ve seen so far:
1. Let the random champion button pick for you. You should get used to the way each levels and plays over the course of a match. Plus, if you ever get serious about the game, versatility is likely to be a benefit. I can’t imagine good teams like hearing that you only know how to play champion A, B and C when they really need D to complement everyone else’s abilities. You will probably want to specialize in a champion or two eventually, but it can’t hurt to know how the rest work.

2. Don’t be a hero. This game seems to have a very balanced design that rewards teamwork over brashness.

I’m considering a Moto G 3rd Generation

I have an aging Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G. This phone never quite worked for me. The keyboard was less useful than I expected. TouchWiz made it suck twice as much power and perform half as well as it should have. The Android never saw updates to versions it could handle if not for the hoggy and horrible TouchWiz.

After seeing the Moto G 2nd generation in action, and after seeing the positive reviews of the original, I have my eye on the upcoming 3rd Generation. Leaks, assuming they’re accurate, show what looks like my kind of phone:
1. 13 megapixel camera. My pocket camera is 16MP, and its images are already more than big enough. I barely use the zoom, and having a zoom means it’s nowhere near as sharp as the prime lenses in a phone camera. My current phone’s camera just…isn’t good. It’s more like the little $20 webcam I used as a pocket camera over ten years ago with higher resolution.

2. Quad core. Apps don’t like it when you multitask. Sometimes I want to, for example, take a picture while a web page is loading in Firefox. Two cores in a processor that was slow for 2012 just doesn’t cut it. Four cores on a far superior chip should do the trick.

3. 2GB of RAM. One was almost enough with my current phone. Two should be plenty.

As for the battery, I don’t know how to compare. My current battery lasts a day if I don’t do much. When I was out exploring the town with a friend, it was down to 35% after a few hours of use. Anything over that is an improvement, and I expect a newer Android without the burden of TouchWiz to do well.

New technology category

This category is three things:
1. An excuse to write daily. I have a lot of trouble doing this! This is a topic I seem to have the least trouble writing about, so it’s a good way to get and stay in the habit. With the habit formed, I should have an easier time writing about things I’m less interested in but see value in writing about.

2. A way to fill my blog with valuable content. It is surprisingly hard to promote what I really want to sell: fractal art, on t-shirts and other things. The cynic in me sees that people who are interested in technology like wearing interesting clothes, putting interesting art on their walls, and have the money for it. The optimist in me sees the same.

3. A way to keep my technology knowledge sharp and current. For example, I spent a while researching a new phone I thought about buying. Had I recorded my thoughts, I’d have a detailed and helpful post.

I put a few older posts into the category so it wouldn’t be so empty.

I learned to fight my depression by keeping a log

I’m lazy. A lot of it is depression, but I’m still lazy in the lucid periods. What I attribute it to, then, is a lifetime of depression making it all but impossible to learn how to plan and order my life productively.

But those lucid moments…

Life gets stressful when I find myself in a habit of laziness. It always looks different: one habit was not doing laundry. Another was not folding the laundry once I did it. And so on. At times these habits have led to a floor covered in junk, three baskets of clothes on the floor, almost losing a scholarship, and nearly running out of gas two miles from the nearest station.

I’ve worked hard to build good habits in my lucid periods. With each habit, I have a powerful force keeping me going in the down times. Of course, that’s me. My depression is usually mild. I have friends who have the deep, dark, grim kind. If that’s you, I know it’s real, and you wish you could do more. I don’t know if this will help you, but I hope it does.

I recently started a depression log. Every time I get grim, I write it down, along with a note about what preceded it, plus any thoughts I have. What I learned is that I have two major depression triggers.

The first was rumination. I ran circles around minor events in my past, more recent events, and even completely imagined events. Once I recognized that, I got better at cutting it off before it turned me into an emotional wreck. I can finally pull back from the rumination and see the thoughts objectively. I realized that, for the most part, these things I worried about weren’t that big a deal. For the rest, I recognized that the obsession always dragged me down and kept me from moving my life forward.

The other was, boringly enough, light. My depression really started to take over about three years ago. It took some work to pin it down, but I knew I had a fair amount of emotional stability around 2012. It’s when I was most productive and made the most progress in my life. This was also when I moved my desk from in front of the door where I could see outside, across the room to a wall. Where I had almost no light. So I moved it to a window, and now I feel so much better. But that wasn’t completely effective, because I kept getting spells in the evening. It was only when I could look at a long list of journal entries that I identified the problem. Every spell was around 8 or 9 PM…right after the sun went down. Now I know to turn on the overhead light when I get an evening spell, then transition to the lamp behind me.

That log probably saved my life. If you can’t come up with something else to start a habit on, or you just lack the will to do something more substantial, start with a depression log.

So that was roughly a month ago. My first entry is June 11, 2015 at 9:07 PM (Eastern). It was a rant about a guy who tailgated me, anger at myself for overeating, anger at a family member for what I perceived to be a lack of consideration. Each entry is more lucid than the last, leading up to last week.

I finally dragged myself far enough out of my lazy habits and depression to start socializing again. I met someone cool, we got pizza, hung out for a few hours, and gained a new appreciation for this little town we live in. I don’t remember a point in my life where I could think this clearly for such a long period of time.

The log is currently 3,821 words, or about 127 words a day, or a novel every year. As a writer, this is a huge motivation boost. All I have to do is write 127 words a day to have one novel a year, and I can easily do 1000+ a day in lucid periods. Which are almost normal for me now.

A collection of posts on making money online

I’ve written a tiny bit about the very small number of ways I’ve found to make money online. You’re not going to find get-rich-quick type stuff here. What you’ll see here are three things where I’ve made actual money. Not much, but it’s something.

1. I got a payout from Bing Rewards and promptly switched back to Google

When I wrote this, Bing had a long way to go. And, let’s be honest, it still does. I’ve since switched to Bing as my main search engine, but I still have to pass a search query to Google about once a week.

2. Is SwagBucks legit? I had to find out for myself.

Yeah, it’s still not so great. I’ve made a few dollars from actively earning Swagbucks. Like so much in life, the main money is in telling others how to make money. A few people signed up through the link in that post and are still active on Swagbucks. I get about $5 worth of Swagbucks a month from referrals, and I expect it to rise now that I’ve restored that post.

3. How to make money with Mechanical Turk without being scammed

This is one of those oddballs that can make you a lot of money, if you have the right skills and temperament.

Do you like taking surveys? You can manage a few hundred dollars a week if you get enough approved jobs and earn the right qualifications. Getting to that point is a a job in itself.

Do you know multiple languages? Translation can pay quite a bit.

Are you good at transcription? You can make bank if all these Mechanical Turk transcription people are to be believed.

None of these are the case for me. My thing is writing useful and/or interesting blog posts to draw people to the things I do to make money (*points at sidebar*).