Archive | October 2014

Preseason 5 beta jungle

So at the end of last week, Riot put a sneak peek into the new Summoner’s Rift of what the game is going to be like next year. I’ll put a little disclaimer here. I’ve only played two actual games of the preseason 5 beta. One of those was on the newly-buffed Quinn, whom I enjoyed very much. The added range(which has just be re-nerfed) and the ability to change forms more frequently(1 second at rank 3 of the ultimate) make her feel a lot more satisfying to play, but that’s a subject for another post. The second game was on Shyvana jungle, something I’ve played on and off since season 2.

My first time, I didn’t even know what times the camps spawned and I didn’t know the best order to clear. I was told at the last second by a teammate that the buff camps didn’t spawn at 1:55 like they did in season 4, so I quickly hurried over to the wolf camp and did that. Even with the new jungle item healing me somewhat, the wolves took more than half my hp and I had to pop my potion really early. Then, not knowing what to do and the blue buff having not spawned yet, I made my way over to the Gromp and killed it, nearly dying in the process. I was very low on HP despite my teammates helping me kill the wolf camp and I certainly did not have enough HP to kill the blue buff, so I went to the Razorbeak camp and killed it, barely surviving. I had to back without having taken any buffs. After upgrading my item, things went more smoothly, but make no mistake: the jungle hurts. It’s more like season 2 jungle in that way. In season 2 or so, before Machete was an item, I would have to back after 3 camps on Shyvana. I still jungled faster than a lot of other champions, but her early clear, without sustain, was pretty rough.

So after that experience, I decided to do some speed tests. Now, I wasn’t able to do as many as I had hoped. I was busy for the past few days and I left at a certain time today to go see a movie, and when I came home, hoping to do more tests, I found that they had pulled the preseason 5 beta stuff out of the new Summoner’s Rift. But here are some results that I found.

A few things to get out of the way first, just informationally. Machete can only be bought if you have the summoner spell Smite. That’s because all its upgrades change smite in different ways. I’m not going to go into it that much since I haven’t had a lot of time to experiment with it, but they all seem interesting. Smite itself has gone from the 40-second spell in season 4 to a 60-second version but still with the low damage of season 4. But, as I said, the spell can change in different ways when upgraded with the machete item. In addition, each camp grants a buff when the big creep is smited and killed. For instance, Gromp gives you a buff which deals poison damage to anything that hits you. The wolf camp creates a ghost wolf for about 60 seconds which acts like a visible ward in the intersection by the blue buff. The Razorbeak camp gives you a buff which alerts you when you’ve been spotted by a ward and gives you true sight temporarily. The Krugs give you execution damage on your autos. Blue gives you back mana and red gives you back health.

My first run through was with Shyvana. My goal was to go Krugs(formerly double golems) to Razorbeaks(formerly wraiths) to red. I had seen that the Brambleback(formerly red buff) granted you health as the smite reward and wanted to make use of that. Unfortunately, the Razorbeaks seem to hurt a lot more than the wraiths used to. On my first run, I died to the Brambleback. I tried a different route, from Krugs to wolves and then to blue. I survived, but my HP was low. I was level 3 by ~3:15. I tried another route. From the Razorbeaks to the wolves to blue. That was faster, but I didn’t hit level 2 from the Razorbeaks. I finished the run by ~3:10 and had probably around 40% hp left. Then I tried something different completely. I went from Gromp(leveling Q) to wolves and then to blue. I still had a decent amount of HP. I finished by ~2:55. That seemed very good. I tried one last route, from Gromp(Q first) to wolves and then to the Brambleback. Slightly slower at ~3:05, but I had a good amount of HP left(remember that the smite reward for Brambleback is bonus HP back).

So for my next few champions, I only tried 3 routes. My original route of Krugs to Razorbeaks to Brambleback, another run through Krugs to wolves to blue and then Gromp to wolves to blue.

I tried Udyr next. He was actually able to clear Krugs to Razorbeaks to Brambleback with some decent HP left by ~3:05, at which point I was able to go to wolves and then Gromp and blue by about ~4:20. I did another run from Krugs to wolves to blue, clearing by ~3:10, then continuing onto Gromp to Brambleback and then to the Razorbeaks, by ~4:25. I did a couple of runs from Gromp to wolves and then blue. First, with tiger, I made it through blue by ~3:05 and then to the Razorbeaks, Krugs and then Brambleback by 4:25. Surprisingly, even though Gromp is a single creep camp, it went faster with phoenix than with tiger. I finished blue by ~2:55 and Brambleback by ~4:20.

Khazix was next. On my first run, like with Shyvana, I was unable to finish the run from Krugs to Razorbeaks to Brambleback. In fact, I died to the Razorbeaks. My next run, from Krugs to wolves to blue, went better. I finished by ~3:15, but barely had any HP left. Surprisingly for me, the Gromp route took the longest, finishing by ~3:25.

I did some Eve runs, but none of them panned out. Maybe my runes and masteries were incorrect for the new season(remember that on the PBE the runes and masteries are still from the current season), but I failed to complete any of the three jungle routes. I should also point out that I don’t really play Eve, so maybe my lack of skill had something to do with it.

Next up was Elise. To my surprise, she actually did very well. As always you need to juggle aggro between your spiderlings and taking damage, but she did pretty well. On the route from Krugs to Razorbeaks to Brambleback, she was able to finish by ~3:05, still having enough HP to go to wolves, blue and then Gromp by 4:20. I did a run of Krugs to wolves to blue, finishing by ~3:10, then still had enough HP to go Gromp, Razorbeaks then Brambleback by ~4:30. On my last run, from Gromp to wolves to blue, I actually finished by 3:00 without smite. By the time my smite came up, I was too close to killing the camp already, so I also had low HP. But I believe that if I had waited a few seconds or smited Gromp even earlier that my clear time would have been around ~2:55.

I was only able to squeeze in 2 jungle routes with Maokai. My first run was Krugs to wolves to blue, starting with 3 pre-emptive saplings on the krugs, and I finished by ~3:15. However, my HP was fairly low at that point. My second run as from Gromp to wolves to blue, with the 3 pre-emptive saplings on the Gromp. That run finished very quickly, at ~2:55, almost too fast for my smite to be back up again.

So aside from these numbers, what I’ve gathered from my few experiments in the preseason 5 jungle beta is that first of all, some sustain is required. I know that a lot of the current jungle meta does have sustain junglers already, but these camps do a good bit of damage. First clears are going to be rough. The ideal route seems to be to start with Gromp or Krugs, which is somewhat helpful since those camps are at the edges of the jungle. However, these camps do spawn fairly late, so there won’t be anyone to help you with clearing your buffs. It also has implications on early buff stealing. Smite has become more interesting. Everything old is new again, for at least the third consecutive season.

What does this mean for junglers? I don’t know yet. And with junglers leaving NALCS teams like NA has the plague, it could mean another interesting new season for junglers to flex their mechanics. But for now, things look pretty promising. I’ll need more reps in with actual games and testing to be sure of anything, but either way, it’s going to be one hell of a season. And I can’t wait.

Gillian Flynn is a monster

As I am writing this, I’ve just gotten back from seeing Gone Girl. I had a lot of high hopes for Gone Girl for a couple of reasons. A few months ago, I downloaded the audiobook an anthology of short stories written by a few writers I had heard of and a few I had not. It was put together by George R R Martin, most well known for his Song of Ice and Fire books, now adapted into the Game of Thrones HBO show. Mainly, it was to hear the story written by Pat Rothfuss called The Lightning Tree. But I decided to listen to the rest of the stories in the anthology just the same. Partly because I didn’t know where that particular story was located and partly just out of common curiosity.

Some of the stories were good, some of the stories were less to my liking. But to my surprise, the most compelling of these was a story called “What would you do?” about a very interesting woman in a very interesting line of work. It’s a thriller and one with a few surprising twists. Immediately, I was enthralled and looked the writer of that story up. It was Gillian Flynn. I then grabbed the audiobook version of another story she had written. Gone Girl. Now, I haven’t had the time to listen to that audiobook, but I imagine that if it’s anything like the movie or her other story, then it’s probably fantastic.

The other reason why I wanted to see Gone Girl was because I had heard so much good about it. Word-of-mouth reviews do a lot more for me than reviews in print or scores on Metacritic or RottenTomatoes. And every single thing I had heard about Gone Girl was that it was great. A revelation. David Fincher’s best work yet. And so with such high praise I’m usually disappointed when I go to see a movie. But not this time.

Gone Girl was everything it sought out to be. The first third or so was everything you want it to be. A mystery, all tense and involved. You question everything. Or, at least, almost everything. But after the big twist, it becomes something else entirely. An exploration into motivations, lies, character. It’s fantastic. No, it’s amazing. And though people apparently don’t like the ending, I thought it was very appropriate.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is this: if something suspicious ever happens to Gillian Flynn, I’m going to question everything. Because Gillian Flynn is a monster.

Ramen, music and destiny

Most people love weekends. For a lot of people, it’s the time they have off work and can focus on the things they actually want to be doing. Hobbies, going out on dates and seeing their families. I like the weekends, too, but for a very different reason. I actually work most weekends, but those are really easy shifts where I have little supervision and can help people out without higher-ups finding out. But I didn’t work this past weekend. Well, that’s not true. I worked Saturday. But this past Sunday, I got to do what some people do with their weekends: I had fun.

My brother told me about a Ramen Festival happening in San Jose. He and I and our sister had gone to a previous Ramen Festival, hosted by those same folks, in San Francisco. The first one was actually a huge planning mess. A cluster of mistakes which hadn’t all been ironed out by the second day, which we were witness to. The stalls set up in the middle of the street, people were lined up hours beforehand and it seemed impossible to get what you went there to get unless you spent hours in line. But my family and I had a relatively positive experience there, and that’s where we found out about the travel agency which was offering a relatively cheap trip to Japan, so it all worked out pretty well.

I really like ramen. I’ve had it a lot over the past three or so years. I’ve been to every so-called “best ramen” place around. I found my favorite, which is Himawari in San Mateo. It’s not on many people’s lists, but I obviously have very different tastes than a lot of the people who wrote those lists. But I’m always on the lookout for good ramen. And at both festivals, the best by far was Tatsunoya. But quite appropriately, the lines at both festivals I went to were extremely long. I waited about two hours in San Fransisco and we would probably have waited for an hour or more if not for my brother running into a friend who let us ahead in line.

But this isn’t just about ramen. I’m not that much of an addict that I would write just about a festival I went to. It’s about an interesting set of circumstances which make for an interesting story. I was driving home on Saturday night after one hell of a shift and I was flipping through radio channels to catch or avoid certain songs. I settled on a channel playing the Echosmith song ‘Cool Kids.’ Now, I’m going to admit something here. I have the equivalent taste in music of a suburban teenage white girl. So, I listened to the song, and instead of changing the channel immediately like I always do to look for a different song, I listened for a little longer. Then I heard an announcement from the DJ that there were still tickets available to seem them in concert. I thought about going the next day. But when I got home, my brother told me about the Ramen Festival so I decided against it.

However, on the way to the Ramen Festival, we ran into a little trouble. There were several streets blocked off on the way to the convention center. Unbeknownst to us, there was a half marathon taking place in that area. So we found a parking spot a few blocks away and decided to try to cut through the half marathon venue. We were unsuccessful and had to walk all the way around. But in doing that, I heard a familiar sound. A voice like out of a dream. It was Echosmith. I looked over to see if it was some cover band, but nope, it was them. In the flesh. I had decided I wasn’t going to see them, and yet there they were. They played their last song as we approached the convention center. Then I had some ramen and my brother and I went home.

Except that isn’t the end of the story. I decided I was going to go see them after all. I drove for over an hour to the end of a familiar freeway and through the entirety of another freeway, but I found my way to the venue. It wasn’t really an Echosmith concert. Technically, they were the opening act. Them and the Mowglis. It was the “Honda Civic presents the American Authors tour.” But I wasn’t there to see the American Authors or any kind of Honda Civic. It was a pretty good concert, too. The drums were too loud during the first song, but they fixed that pretty quickly. And, they had the briefest of meet and greets, where I got my CD signed and my picture taken. Those were things that happened completely by chance. I don’t even own a camera, and now I have my picture with them.

Part of this post’s title is “destiny,” and I actually don’t really believe in that stuff in the sense where things are predetermined. I do believe what we think of as destiny is this small window of stuff through which really interesting things happen. There were a lot of factors which brought me to that concert and the great stuff which happened after, but it was so unlikely. I could have been working. I almost decided not to go. If we hadn’t seen them at the half marathon, I probably wouldn’t have gone. If the lines had been anything like they were in San Francisco, I could have made it home too late to go. And yet, I ended up where I did with a picture of me with the band despite me not even owning a camera. And a great experience. And some great music. And that, to me, is destiny.

Judging the Boxtrolls

Today didn’t exactly go the way I planned it. I woke up this morning with a bit of an idea of how I was going to spend the day. But throughout the day I got pulled in a few different directions and it didn’t end up the way I had planned. One of the things I did today which I hadn’t planned on was that I went to see a movie. I saw the Boxtrolls.

But this isn’t really going to be a review of the Boxtrolls. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the Boxtrolls. It’s a cute story about two very different worlds that live side by side and yet don’t understand each other. It’s about the consequences of rumor and fear and willful ignorance. It’s about the consequences of trying to be something you’re not. It never tries to be anything it’s not. There’s a lot to like about the storytelling, and it has some cute moments and interesting characters. But to be honest, I was expecting something more.

You see, the reason I went to see the Boxtrolls in the first place is because of how impressed I was with ParaNorman. When I first saw the trailer for ParaNorman, I dismissed it as every kid’s movie I had ever seen. It was going to be extremely predictable. There was a kid who could see ghosts, there were going to be zombies, and then the kid was going to somehow vanquish all these ghosts and zombies and everything would be right and they’d all accept him at the end. Except, that’s not the movie I got.

I kind of saw ParaNorman on a whim. It was part of this whole Anna Kendrick day I worked out in my head. I started off the day with Pitch Perfect, which I enjoyed immensely. Then I followed that up with End of Watch. A solid, if depressing movie. But Anna Kendrick was in another movie. An animated movie which I had already dismissed in my mind. I half wanted to leave the theater already because I had already sat through two movies, but I was determined to see my Anna Kendrick day through so I decided to see that third movie. I was the only person in that entire theater. No one else had gone to see ParaNorman on that day. I took that to be a poor sign. Oh, how wrong I was.

This isn’t going to be a review of ParaNorman, either. Nor is it really going to be a comparison between it and the Boxtrolls. In fact, I more had to compare it to Wreck it Ralph, which came out the same year, and I will admit I enjoyed more. See, Wreck it Ralph was a much more fun, enjoyable movie. But its message got a little muddled. For all its claims of “I’m bad and that’s good, I will never be good and that’s not bad,” a lot of what happened to him is in direct conflict with that message. The movie’s central message seemed to be accepting the role you’re given, whether it’s a glitch or being the ‘bad guy,’ but the characters end up much happier because they aspired to be something else.

Take Ralph himself, for example. He accepted being the ‘bad guy’ for years, and where did that get him? He lived on a pile of bricks and wasn’t invited to the game’s anniversary party. But just a short while of trying to be the ‘good guy’ and he improved his conditions immensely. He made friends, which he had never done before. He started a series of events which eventually led to him helping his newly-made friend out from a position where she was an outcast to one where she was accepted. So what was the point of the central message in the first place?

In contrast to that, ParaNorman takes a different approach. It never states its goal or message. And yet, it was clearer to me what that message was than with Wreck it Ralph. It was a message of acceptance of others. That these ‘others’ aren’t as scary as you might think. The zombies that the main characters spent their time running away from, and that the villagers were trying to fight off, were actually trying to help, in their own way. The little girl who talked to ghosts was not the scary witch the villagers were afraid of. It did its storytelling by showing you the message and what the results of blind fear can be. It did it in a way that was not patronizing and by putting you into the same state of fear as those falling victim to it. And while it showed those victims of fear the error of their ways, it tried to enlighten you, the viewer, as to why that is wrong. Why fear first is wrong. Why anger as a response to fear is wrong.

And yet, I enjoyed Wreck it Ralph more than I did ParaNorman. There were parts of ParaNorman which I thought were a little slow and parts which I felt weren’t necessary to the telling of the story. A lot of the parts played for comedy in the beginning and middle were a bit lackluster. Some of them were necessary to demonstrate the character development throughout the movie, but others seemed just put in to keep kids interested. But they just didn’t keep me interested. In Wreck it Ralph, the comedic and introductory moments were well-paced and just had this fun frenetic feeling. Like a roller coaster which didn’t stop. A lot of jokes played on multiple levels.

No movie is perfect. In fact, my favorite movie of all time, Beautiful Girls, is far from perfect. Most of it is very oddly-written and the pacing is also a bit weird. But the good moments in that movie are truly amazing. The acting in the bits of the movie I like still move me to this day. ParaNorman is also far from perfect. But the storytelling in the parts that I did like are, to me, a perfect example of the old adage of “show, don’t tell.” And that is the reason I was expecting so much more from the Boxtrolls.

I haven’t seen ParaNorman in a while, so it’s hard to say whether I enjoyed it or the Boxtrolls more. And the Boxtrolls does a pretty admirable job of telling the story it sets out to tell. Aside from the weird little quirks it has(like the White Hats caring so much about cheese) everything makes sense. I just wished it challenged me more. I wish it had more to say. Like the little girl expecting rivers of blood and mountains of bones, I was just a little disappointed in it.