Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monkeys And Sharp Things


So I've been playing this game at work lately, because it's relatively fun and strategy makes my brain parts happy.

I just ...

It seems like it is very, very excessive to use cannons to pop balloons. For that matter, it seems unwise to give the monkeys the cannons. In order to pop the balloons. I guess eventually they start throwing WAR BLIMPS at you, and then there's a bit of rationale behind it, because, y'know, cannon vs. blimp, all right. (Though I wouldn't imagine it would take five hundred hits of anything to take out a low-hanging blimp. How are the blimps constrained to just the linear path anyway?)

Ah well. There's something hypnotic about watching five or six hundred sun-god monkeys annihilating everything on their path with their laser beam eyeballs, missile launches blacking out the sun, stealth bomber monkeys, etc.

What it is:

A pretty standard tower defense game wherein the towers are all - or at least mostly - monkey owned, monkey operated, and also monkeys. With darts and high explosives. The creeps are all b(al)loons of various sizes, progressing through various mazes at ever-increasing densities, to the point where you might actually realistically need cannonfire to annihilate the onslaught - in part because they start unleashing the aforementioned blimps, filled to bursting with the bloons. The latest iteration includes premium (paid-for) powerups and an RPG-style level-up system. Grab the (free) cannon upgrade when you can; it is incredibly, incredibly helpful. (Goddamn Black Bloons.)

Where to play it:

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Gifted" is the Term

Or: Intellectually Gifted, Socially Cursed

They call it 'giftedness.'

It's a capacity for learning more effectively than those who would otherwise be considered your peers. It's a curiousity and a hunger for new knowledge, and an inability to be fully contented with incomplete or inaccurate answers. It's a talent for nearly every single thing you try, to the extent that there are so many options you become paralyzed with indecision.

It's not really just a gift, but also a curse. Being more intelligent marks you as different - and being different is generally considered a bad thing. Using the larger vocabulary you're 'gifted' with leads to a lot of blank stares. The same goes for any of the knowledge or trivia you've picked up along the way. People just don't care, and a lot of times they'll mock you for caring.

The standards are all higher. I remember as a child, I was actually embarrassed of my "A's" because nobody else really seemed to get them, and I did not have to try for them. A "C" was almost devastating because ... well, it's like getting an "F" if you generally get "C's." I never once actually got an "F" - the closest I ever received was a single "D" throughout my entire K-11 1/2 education (there was a bit of a dispute in my Senior year and I ended up graduating early to resolve it). In standardized testing, the one outlier among an otherwise nearly flawless score was in math - and even that, at about half the rate of my other abilities, was still an "average." My perception remains to this day that I am very, very bad at math, despite at least half of all other people being worse.

In a lot of cases, I tend to think, "I'm not really good at this, everyone else just sucks."

Mom has a funny story: after my first day of kindergarten, I came home and complained that I already knew everything they were trying to teach me. This didn't abate until I reached college. I never learned to study, or had to work to overcome challenges - which meant that in college, I actually started to get the C's, D's, and F's that I often overheard other people talking about, because I never had to work for anything. Even working my hardest, I was disorganized and frustrated with everything, because suddenly, things became hard. I couldn't read during classes like I tended to do as a kid, because I had to actually think about what I was being presented.

Giftedness also leads to social isolation - especially if anybody knows about it. In grade school, when I was first ... let's call it 'diagnosed,' what they did to determine this status was to pull a number of students out of their normal classes and put them through a battery of tests. I remember one of the tests involved a bunch of lines on a paper, and you were supposed to make pictures out of them. I drew some books. Even that early on, I indulged in too much escapism.

From there on, they continued to rip about six of us out of our normal curriculum in order to try and educate us at a level above and beyond our peers ... the problem was, it was ill-organized, ill-directed, and they didn't really try to teach us anything advanced, just different things than everyone else learned. I had a shaky foundation in my normal classes because I missed about half of the content. I was able to overcome what this did to my actual scholastic performance, but I wonder sometimes how well.

One of the other kids actually asked me for one of these noisemakers that I'd gotten - little packets of gunpowder that made a loud snapping noise when tossed on the ground. I gave it to him under the assumption he wouldn't do anything too terribly stupid with it. He got caught using them in the boy's restroom, and I got in trouble for 'taking advantage of someone less intelligent.'

I remember when we moved into the city, it wasn't a terribly large change for me, because honestly, I didn'thave that many close friends. There were two or three people I associated with, but they weren't really friends. The one person I would have considered a friend who could think on my level (some six or seven years older than I was, who made the wise decision to deliberately fail the talented and gifted testing) made it his life's ambition to get away from the small town and the psychic leeches that made up his family. I wonder where he ended up sometimes. He was the one who introduced me to the wider world of the internet, and online games, for that matter.

I don't really know what the point to writing this all was. Just needed to get it out of my system, I think.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Meant to post this earlier today but I'm actually developing a workload.
Trying out post by email, too. See how it goes.
Oh, this is another M$ paint doodle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

98 Posts, 2 Status Updates

Wow, so I made it this far without skipping an update. (Although technically I think 'Announcement' means this isn't really 100 "real" updates.)

And then I need to skip an update.

My motherboard decided that it is breaking up with my hard drive, in the sense that they're no longer on speaking terms.

I'm ... just a little bit devastated.

Writing from Mom's computer.

My baby. T_T

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crushing Defeat

(('nother li'l in-character post-dealie. I'm having fun writing these. In other news - why the hell does my computer keep going on these eight-hour-plus updating sprees? Seriously? What the hell? I know I need to clean it out (maybe reformat, but I'd have to look up how t'do that proper) but this is just silly.
Still don't really buy into the storyline going on over here, but it's interesting and I like Mystery. The bits about magic and charms speak to me a bit, too.))

Or: To Die A Dozen Deaths

She learned later that both of the enemy summoners were much stronger than she was - they'd completed their training and were soon to begin ranked matches, with hundreds of victories each.

That didn't really help her now, though.

She felt fuzzy around the edges, the world fading in and out around her, washed with gray.

"I don't want to die again ..." She wasn't really sure if she'd sent it, spoken the words aloud, or just thought it really loudly inside her own skull.

She was shaking, and it was all she could do to keep herself standing. She covered her mouth with one hand, heedless of the danger, to keep herself from throwing up her last three meals.

"Let's surrender, okay?" The other woman's words came in yellows and golds, like sunshine and warm honey melting into the cracks of her fractured mind. The pain was making her delirious.

Fire and hard stone followed, the man sounded confident despite their impending defeat. "We can do this, we'll catch up."

Warwick regained consciousness, his body regenerating completely from its ravaged state. Neither Olaf nor Cassiopeia were visible - Their base hadn't been invaded yet. She urged Him out to defend, shocked to note Their defenses were still standing.

"You're weak," he growled softly. The battle had taken a lot out of both of them.

"I - "

He cut off her reply. "You're weaker than they are, Summoner. I can smell your fear, girl."

The berserker and the Noxian temptress appeared down the lane. Olaf raised his massive axe, cheerfully reducing the horde of purple-clad minions into chunky red paste. Cassiopeia contented herself to watch, slithering through the spattered gore with a rather bored expression painted on her admittedly beautiful face.

"So," the wolf-man began, flexing his talons. Lux and Veigar walked up beside Them, waiting for the battle to resume. "Are you going to give up?"

"I - no!"

He grunted, but didn't reply.

The enemy reached the base of the stairs.

Veigar raised a mystical barrier there, temporarily halting their advance. A rain of magical turret-fire slammed into the barbarian, who barely seemed to notice.

They flung Themselves forward, claws splayed, intending to at least shred the snake-woman's scales. Blood ran freely from a multitude of cuts, but Cassiopeia managed a gurgling laugh despite the damage They inflicted.

There came a flash of pain, and then nothing.

Their body half-turned as it fell, allowing Them a glimpse of Their legs - His legs - and the axe that severed Them, before the world went dark once more.

"You have been slain."

She screamed, clutching her sides as the pain wracked her form.

"An ally has been slain."

One of the other summoners flinched.


Friday, June 17, 2011

This Space Reserved For Fanart

Pretty picture drawn in M$Paint at work. So bored. Brain is shutting down.

Still not drowned. Flooding hasn't reached my area yet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Summoning

She glanced at the other two hooded figures in the dim-lit summoning chamber, reaching up to adjust her own hood, nervously.

She'd just purchased the right to use the Eternal Nightmare in her League matches, and this was to be her first session with it. The summoners standing near her were her friends and classmates, long-time companions who wouldn't care if she made a fool of herself.

It was only a simulation anyway. Save their three champions, they would be sparring with pre-programmed constructs. They couldn't respond as people did, wouldn't talk or laugh or think as people did. Useful training dummies, but ultimately non-sentient. They wouldn't laugh as people did, and she was sure that she was going to make a fool of herself for this first match.

She always did, when trying out a new Champion.

The countdown began after all three of them made their selections. She wondered how people like Katarina felt, being dragged in to trial matches like this. What about Twisted Fate?

She might ask that of them directly, if she ever scraped together the influence to purchase the right to their presence.

Reaching for Nocturne, she steadied her own mind, calling to his unique signature. "Embrace the darkness ..." His voice murmured in her ear, tingling in the back of her mind. Calling ....

She pushed her mind outward, speaking the words of summoning. Every Summoner's ritual was at least slightly different, because every Summoner was different. It naturally took some Summoners longer than others to complete their rituals. She liked to keep hers short and to the point. It was almost effortless, flinging her mind outward like this - for her, the trick was keeping an "eye" on her physical body.

"Welcome to Summoner's Rift."

It had no legs. Odd that that should be her first disoriented thought, as she examined it - it floated, almost incorporeal, heavy blades hanging from its 'arms.' "Do I scare you, summoner?" She gave a headshake that only it could perceive, stretching her mind to try and fill the space it occupied. It was foreign, strange, but not any more so than Cho'Gath. She had mastered the Void Terror, and she would master this Nightmare.

 - awash with blood, the body in pieces, manic, dizzy laughter -

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to.

She covered her physical mouth, almost thrown out of the link. Her left hand held steady on the glowing image before her, holding its edge physically to reinforce it.

"You arrigh'?" One of the other Summoners asked it, gently, his mind pressing the words into hers. She responded with a sense of affirmation, tamping down the nausea.

"Drip, drop, the sound of blood ..." The Nightmare taunted, her full attention upon it again. She directed him, wordlessly, to collect the basic necessities - she'd done a bit of research on how to use his abilities properly. Dark 'hands' closed around the scythe purchased from the merchant. Just a symbol.

The scythe glowed brilliant for a moment, then evaporated, strengthening the Nightmare's own weapons. Its attacks would steal the very life from the constructs they would be fighting today.

"Yesss ... bring me more fleshbags to slice up." Anticipation, raw and eager, filled her mind, mingling with its. No - the other way around ... wasn't it?

The announcer's voice called out, dragging her attention to the upcoming match. "Thirty seconds until minions spawn."

"You comin'?"

"Solo mid?" She asked, distractedly.

"If you wan'." Three Summoners in a link - it was easy to forget who was talking. Easy to lose herself to the link. "Sure y'can handle it?"

"It's bots. I'll be fine." She waved a hand, dismissively, sending reassurance his way as well.

It came to rest just in front of the blue tower, staring at the human female just across the way. Images came unbidden in her mind - the female in pieces, just how He was going to end her pitiful life. Given His choice, it would be slow and painful. It would take days of unending nightmares. She'd heal up, in the dream, but only so that He could cut her open again. He would take any hope of escape and slowly rip it away - with his bare talons, even. Only in this world had He any need of true blades, after all - and those formed of His will.

It took a long moment to realize that the woman they were examining was a child - Annie. Annie had always been one of her favorite Champions, and she was briefly glad that this version was just a construct, with no Summoner behind it.

Amusement at her discomforted realization, a sinister laugh. "Weather forecast for tonight: dark, with a chance of pain."

She snorted a little bit at the joke, even as the Nightmare filled her mind with more images of death and dismemberment, sending back: "Only a chance? I had been given to understand you were better than that." Even minions felt pain. The constructs that wore Champion skins were little different.

"Minions have spawned!" The announcement cut off any possible response.

She drew first blood, the blades an extension of Their arms as They destroyed the golem in the image of a young girl. "Annie" screamed her agony, blood staining her stuffed bear as her golem was sliced in two. A blast of energy slammed into Nocturne's all-but-incorporeal back, pushing him toward the ground as they slid through a shroud of darkness, phasing through minions, into the woods, and out of the tower's wrath.

"Worth it." She grinned to herself. They hadn't even died this time.

Twenty-eight kills later - better than Katarina's twenty-seven! - and having sliced through an entire army of minions, her companions finally destroyed the constructs' Nexus just to end her fun. She found herself disappointed, pouting a little bit as she stared through his 'eyes' at the enemy's Soraka longingly. They hovered inches away from the kill, one blade pinning the ex-goddess to the destroyed inhibitor. The other hovered, magically paralyzed, just above her navel.

"That's right ... people are flames to be blotted out." His voice was soothing, contented from the slaughter, and she found herself nodding in agreement as she pulled away, finding her true body had fallen to its knees without her attention on it, an almost-lifeless ragdoll.

They both knew she'd be back.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Manic, Manic

There's a chemical in your brain
It's pouring sunshine and rage ...

Driving in the car.

You knew it was coming, could feel it building. Inopportune timing.

SHUT the FUCK up hate the sound of your voice don't talk don't say anything I hate you so much you and everyone you're so FUCKING stupid shut up shut up shut up - (we don't end up talking at all)

You aren't alone in the car, so you have no outlet.

Must drive safely.

Can't do anything.

But it's clawing up. You dig short, blunt claws into the steering wheel and barely notice.

Keep calm.

Keep control.

Every set of oncoming lights aggrivates it. Bright light RIGHT IN THE FUCKING EYES, FUCK.

(can she tell? I'm sorry about what I said before -)


Distracted as you pass road crews, the flickering lights at the tops of their trucks holding your eyes, until you catch your car in an unsafe swerve.

Keep calm. (she noticed that one. sorry.)

Keep control.

Every sound drags it to the fore. Everything grates.


There is a train in your path. You've pushed IT back enough to plan an alternate route, since the train ISN'T MOVING FUCK but that route takes you through Downtown. (where all the lights are bright)


Stumbling across the road in loose adherence to traffic law are crowds of people in twos and fours. Friday night. Time to fucking par-tay. (we trade vague disgusted words at this)

She's gone. Wishes you good-night and walks inside her own house.

Somehow you manage to make it home.


You want to scream your incoherent rage, but by this point it's turned in on yourself. You don't scream, furthermore. A strangled, shrill noise rips itself from your throat, you claw at the foam roof, slam your palms into it, into the steering wheel. You claw your own scalp, trying to regain control.

It's not really a noisy tantrum, for all that. You don't make a lot of noise. Rarely talk unless necessary, pride yourself on moving silently. You don't laugh, sob, or groan out loud - it all catches in your throat. Always has.

It passes.


Walk inside. Food's ready.

(Mom noticed something wrong. sorry Mom.)

Hit a wall for the noise it makes on the way to the kitchen.

Calm enough to function.

Words come in the wrong order and I can't focus and I need to do SOMETHING but I don't know what.

(I think there's something wrong with me.)

Friday, June 10, 2011


No, that isn't a date. It's a kill record! Against people! Score. Why is my top three comprised of 2/3 eldritch abominations, 1/3 creepy child? The world may never know.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rift Character Generation

Or: Look at the Shiny!

Long post. TL;DR: Gushing about/describing Rift. You should probably buy that. Or you can try it free. Y'know, whichever.

So, Rift. Holy crap, my Warcraft addiction has been completely displaced. If I ever feel the need to play an MMO, I reach for my Droid instead of my keychain (since I need one or the other to complete the two-factor authentication both games boast).

What is there to say?

What isn't there to say?

Rift is yet another popular MMO boasting the dubious reputation as "next potential WoW-killer." They even boast in their advertisements, "We're not in Azeroth anymore." Now, in my own humble opinion, no game is actually going to kill World of Warcraft. That honor rests squarely with Activision-Blizzard, whose various policies have elicited more than one rant that I'll save for another time. As it stands, however, if a game could kill off World of Warcraft, Rift would be it.

Let's start with the basics. Like Aion before it, Rift is simply beautiful, the graphics absolutely stunning, with almost as much control over 'how much death this will wreak on your graphics card' as the former. (The graphics have also, at least on one occasion, killed off one of my characters - I momentarily forgot I wasn't playing Aion and therefore didn't have wings to catch my fall.)

Rift has significantly more character customization options than World of Warcraft, but not quite as much variety as Aion, resulting in a marked absence of flea-people and deformed monsters with gigantism (and real-life celebrity copycats), yet still managing to offset the, "You ALL look alike!" feel of World of Warcraft.

There are ... four? ... ish? distinct races in this game, two of which are split into ethnic subcategories that totally don't evoke any unfortunate implications or anything.


The humans (every game has humans, even Aion had humans - in fact, Aion only had humans, even if some of them did have talons and manes) of Rift are split into two nationalities. The light-skinned Mathosians appear to be setting themselves up as the idealistic, gods-fearing "good guys" of the piece, while the dark-skinned Eth are the last remnants of a technomagical empire, and will do whatever is necessary to save the world from itself. With SCIENCE.

The elves (most every game also has elves. Aion didn't, but the 'pointy-eared willowy thing' look was an option) are also split along faction lines. On the Guardian (Mathosian) side of things, we have the High Elves, pale, nature-loving, also gods-fearing folk who, inexplicably, developed the powers of flight upon ascension ... or something?

On the Defiant (Eth) side, there's the Kelari, dusky-skinned, branching-eared, Uncanny Valley-eyed technomagical prodigies, with a side of heathen spirit ... uh ... negotiating. The Kelari believe themselves equal to the gods, not subservient. They strike deals with the spirits they work with, not prayers. Instead of flight, the Kelari turn into foxes, which in turn makes all Kelari foxy ladies, excepting the men, anyway.

Finally, the spares. On the Guardian side, we have Dwarves. All dwarves are alike. You don't really have to describe dwarves. But I will, anyway: short, kind of broad, generally bearded, scary fanatics who accidentally destroyed their underground cities by using the chained souls of their deceased for gasoline. Wait, what?

Anyway, their Defiant counterparts are the Bahmi, taller, broader, descendants of wind spirits, who gain by this descent a racial super-jump. They're big into ancestor worship, which given their ancestry, wouldn't be terribly different from the Kelari's practice, except for the whole I AM ALSO A GOD thing the Kelari sport.

Ultimately, choice of race and faction boils down to 'do I want to come off as a conservative judgmental zealot, or do I want to come off as an egotistical mad scientist?' Followed by 'How exactly do I want to get around the world faster, on foot?' (Unless you're a dwarf. And then it's WHEE FALLING.) And after that, y'know, actual aesthetic concerns. The +resists would be more distinguishing except everybody fights everybody else, especially all kinds of rift invasions, with more life and fire invasions in the Guardian starting zone, and more death and water invasions in the Defiant starting zone. (Although everybody always hates the death plane slightly more, so +death resist might be for the best, except for the recent influx of fire and earth, and ... yeah, it's basically irrelevant.)

So that's getting past the intro screens. From here on, either Arthas - er, the ... new leader of Mathosia ... guy ... is very, very proud that YOU. ARE. A. GUARDIAN! or Asha Catari is calling you Obi-Wan Kenobi, because you're everybody's only hope.

More on actual gameplay at an unspecified point in the future. Whee, non-permanently fatal gladiatorial deathmatches!

Monday, June 6, 2011


TL;DR: Rant about people being stupid in cars. Typed Saturday. Still not dead. Woo, triumph.


Who came up with this idea? Really? "Let's put two tons of fast-moving death in the hands of every irresponsible idiot who can answer a multiple choice test correctly. That'll end well!" Seriously.

"What? They're sixteen years old and their wee brains haven't yet fully developed (see 'coz that happens by the time you're twenty-five), so they're reckless and end up killing themselves and other people on the way to go get drunk at an underage party and/or on the way from getting drunk at an underage party? I don't understand how that could happen!" It's not that I don't have sympathy or anything, but seriously, this whole thing sounds like an accident (or several thousand) waiting to happen.

I bring this up because I have a half an hour drive to my work place, one-way, which means in practice I spend my share of time driving, which means I get to witness all kinds of stupid people behind the wheel. Especially since the people around here don't fully understand how to do the thing they're doing.

For an example: what the hell happened to signalling before changing lanes? I nearly got in a wreck today because this guy completely failed to signal that he was going to dive between me and the car in front of him. Not warning people what you're about to do is rarely a good thing, especially when it's going to be exceedingly dangerous to yourself and other people. Courting death in a major car accident on the highway is excessively dangerous, yes.

And this other guy, in a white van, did signal ... that he was going to drift across two lanes of traffic and nearly sideswipe me to get into my lane. Which is the only thing that kept me from getting into a wreck again, and that only because I deliberately gave him enough room to complete the lane change. I don't want to get crushed in a vehicular homicide, after all. This same fellow then went on to make a left turn from the wrong lane.

Am I the only person on the road who paid attention during driver's education?

Why are people stupid?


Friday, June 3, 2011


Not a lot going on upstairs.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

League of Legends

Or: Aren't Microtransactions Fun?

Side Note the First: I kept getting distracted so this is gonna be a long post. TL;DR, gushing and/or bitching about League of Legends. Go buy that. Wait, it's free.

Side Note 2: not feeling too good mentally today (Monday), so forgive any typos or anything. Woke up on the far wrong side of the bed, y'know? (By which I mean, I had this bizarre dream that ended with me waking up feeling like I had something or someone invading my brain that needed to die in a fire. Makes three times so far I've had that sense ... one of them long before hearing about the Mythos. Squicky. Each time they're met with violence - or at least the thought/impression of violent repudiation - of course.) Made me grumpy all day.

Side Note Three: Revenge of the Side Note: I got yet another search hit for "How do I leave Gilneas?" The answer is, you don't. You're stuck there for all eternity. All the other Worgen are hackers. The end. No, but seriously, just play through the storyline, that's your only option. Except for maybe a Warlock summon or something, I dunno. I don't even play WoW anymore, jeez.

Not my video, and you can't do this anymore. Got'cha!
Thanks to Soulsinger for finding this video, though.


I've been playing this game for a couple of days now (not as long as I've been playing Rift - sorry! I'll get to it, I swear!) and I think I've got a fair handle of what's going on with it anyway.

It's called League of Legends, and it's the genetically identical offspring of a very, very popular map named "Defense of the Ancients" from Warcraft III. It's also completely free to play ... in theory, anyway, we'll get to that in a bit.

So what you do, you download the game client, open it up, and play through the tutorial. It actually teaches you pretty much everything you need to know, which is handy since it's been ages since I've played WCIII, and I never really got into the online side of it when I did still play.

Let's be more specific though. LoL - and I love the acronym - is, like Plants Vs. Zombies and Gemcraft (another game I've been wasting time with off and on), a kind of Turret Defense game ... insofar as there are turrets, and it's generally wise to defend them. You can't really upgrade the turrets though. In fact, other than 'blow them up' and 'hide behind them like a sissy,' there aren't really a lot of other things you can do to/with/for the turrets, and, after they've been blown up, they're gone for good. So, basically, not like any of the other Turret Defense games on the market.

I'm going to back up even further and explain what Turret Defense means, since most of my followers are from the other 99,999 SM(TP, hahaha no, just SM) Blogs and the rest of my hits are from GILNEAS, WAT DO. Seriously, it isn't that hard.

Okay, so Turret Defense, generally goes thus: you've got a maze, or a lawn, or whatever, whereby the HORDES OF EVIL are trying to get at your goodies (townsfolk, brains, children, etc.). Your objective is, normally, to build turrets along the sides of that maze, which shoot down the HORDES OF EVIL as they come, at ever-increasing rates of speed and also DEATH.

In LoL, there are two mazes, pretty much exactly mirrored, facing one another. You play as a Champion of one of the HORDES OF EVIL, setting out to stab/burn/consume the entire other HORDE OF EVIL. In the face. At the end of each maze is a Nexus, which is essentially your/the other guys' townsfolk/brain/children/goodies/shiny things. Your objective is to blow up the other guy's Nexus while simultaneously preserving your Nexus from being blown up. Generally there'll be two to four other people/robots helping you out with that, along with the entire rest of your HORDE OF EVIL.

And honestly, gladiatorial matches where the combatants are made to fight endlessly without even the reprieve of a final death kind of makes both sides pretty evil, imo. I haven't given more than a cursory glance to the lore, what there is of it. Not exactly an RPG.

So that's awesome.

It's actually a really kind of cool game, and what little I've seen of it suggests that they're trying to constantly pump out new goodies. How are they funding that, if it's totally free to play?

Well, anything game-related is, technically, free to play. They give you a selection, which changes about weekly, of Champions to poke about with. It only takes six or seven matches to buy one with Influence Points (which is the currency you get from, y'know, actually playing the game). But the better Champions can only be gotten through a whole metric fuckton of Influence Points, translating into literally days of gameplay, especially if you get unlucky and lose a lot ... or, you can buy a handful of these Riot Points with real money, and play these awesome Champions now. So, exactly like real gladiatorial matches, only the Champions never get to buy their own freedom.

Which is how they get you.

Because, see, there are a lot of Champions, each with their own unique playstyle, ranging from 'set things on fire/death/NOMNOMNOM and hope nothing looks your way' to 'although you'll take five hours to kill anything, the same applies to your enemies hitting you'. So, you'll either be playing forever if you have any slight inclination to try out something new, or you'll be paying to play anyway.

In addition, everything cosmetic is bought through Riot Points, which is sad because there are a few skins I'd like but don't really want to shell out for. Good thing my two favorite champions' defaults are all right, I guess.

Oh, and Myk, if you're reading: so far I haven't seen much elitism in game, partly because I haven't seen much talking at all. The other part I think is that there are few to no barriers to entry, though. It's free, from a dedicated server that isn't going to tell you how tall you have to be for this ride, and the game really does its best to teach you what to do before you have to singlehandedly face down a horror from beyond or three. At once.

People get a kick out of denying you things that they have that you don't.

Because they're assholes.