The Cub Report: Narrating the Apocalypse

Penny Arcade had a little news blurb up a week ago or something, where Mike Krahulik talked about some games he was digging.

One of those games was for the iPhone, called Battleheart Legacy, and it like costs real money so OMG.

BUT.

Mike Krahulik loved the game, and it’s an action RPG, and the screenshots looked cute as heck. Also, I don’t generally see people talking about great iPhone games they’re playing. I’m starved for recommended options.

Okay, game looks good, love the art style.

After seeing it and knowing I like what I saw, I was still left with a burning question. “If I drop $5 on this game, is that it? Am I done? Can I enjoy the whole game now without any nickel and dime bullshit?”

Welcome to the new age of gaming. What I look for in a game is, “If I buy the game, can I play all of the game or not? Will there come a point where it’s getting really good, and then I’ll hit a paywall where if I want to keep playing the game for even more awesome fun, FORK OVER MORE MONEY BITCH.”

This is what I look for now. Not how many classes, or what level you can reach, or how many hours of entertainment. I look for micro-transactions to tell me if the company hopes to suck $30 a month out of me on the average.¹

I did a little research on Battleheart Legacy, and it was hard to find any review that mentioned anything other than content. I never did find a review that explicitly stated whether or not there were in-game purchases after you buy it.

I sucked it up and dropped my $5 and bought the game.

I won that round of micro-transaction misery. NO IN-GAME PURCHASES! Once I bought the game, by God I owned the game and I could play it without worrying about paywalls.

It’s been so long. It feels weird to have a game on my phone that is really fun, without being pestered to buy stuff all the time.

I’ve been playing it, it’s great. I love it.

This isn’t a review about the game, I’m just saying I love this little RPG hack and slasher. It’s so fun to mix and match skills and abilities and gear to be whatever the heck combo of character I want, and if I come up with some insane OP mish-mash hodgepodge it’s okay, because there is no PvP to make losers whine about getting crushed OMG nerf Monk/Ninja PLZ.

I can take my character and mainline Knight/Barbarian with Colossal weapons, and toss in some sweet Ninja and Monk moves with a little Necromancer raising skeletons from the bones of the dead thrown in and ain’t nobody to tell me that’s wrong.

The point is, we’re driving around and the Cub is bored in the back seat, and I hand him my phone with Battleheart Legacy up and running.

Did I mention the game lets you make multiple characters, swap between them easy, copy them for multiple options, and even upload saves to the cloud and play your saves on multiple Apple devices on your account? No? Huh. Well, it does.

So he could make his own character without worry, and I let him go to it.

He’s got over seven hours logged into that thing now. He plays this iPhone game at home a few nights this week instead of playing the computer games. He played three hours last night! Only stopped because he killed my battery stone dead.

His character is nothing like mine. He’s running a dual-wield Ninja with a side of Witch powers, life draining enemies and, yeah, some Necromancer skeleton army stuff. Okay, so we both like skeletal minions.

Here is the hilarious bit.

He narrates everything he does.

It’s got to come from spending the last year watching Let’s Play videos on YouTube.

All these Minecraft video makers like the Yogscast spend their time doing Let’s Play videos playing games, and the whole time they’re narrating everything they do while they’re playing.

His favorites are the ones with Yogscast Lewis and Simon, and also Yogscast Duncan.

They all do the same things (but with various degrees of awkwardness). As they play games, they narrate everything.

Now my son does too.

It’s freaking hilarious.

See, he only does it while playing video games, and it seems to be automatic. He doesn’t do this at any other time, but if he starts playing a video game, the mouth starts narrating. Constantly. CONSTANTLY.

It’s wonderful.

Normally, he sits next to me all the time so I don’t think Cassie even knew he does this as much as he does, but it’s summer break now, and he’s home with her.

All day.

While she tries to focus on work.

Cassie works from home as a contractor making twice as much as I do because she’s smart and has an education, and I’m an idiot wage slave.

There she is, all day, working away in her home office…

…and there is our son, sitting in the living room playing video games and talking non-stop, describing everything he’s doing and how cool things are and this sword is awesome and I can totally kick that green slimes’ butt and on and on. ALL DAY.

It’s great, I heartily encourage him to share with me everything he is enthusiastic about. I figure I’m about three years away from him realizing I’m the enemy because I’m a parent, and never wanting to talk to me again. I’m going to enjoy every sweet moment of this I can, even when I really wish he’d be quiet for five seconds and let me focus on this chapter I’m trying to write, focus Bear, FOCUS.

We’re not going to discourage him from being happy and gushing and chatty.

But oh my, the look on my wife’s face at the end of the day yesterday when I came home, and she shared with me her true joy at spending the last eight hours listening to the narration of whatever games he happened to play that day.

Priceless. Just priceless.

¹Seriously, look it up. Marvel Puzzle Quest’s CEO makes it clear their goal, and the goal of all game companies in the sector is to use micro-transactions and clever content gating to net $30 out of each player per month on the average. $1 ARPDAU (Average Revenue Per Daily Active User). If the idea of paying $30 a month to play a phone game because of content gating a buck at a time so it’s hard to notice the real cost doesn’t sicken you about the direction of games publishers, I don’t know what will.

The Cub Report – Building a Better MMO

I asked my son this afternoon if he wanted to continue having an active World of Warcraft subscription.

He just doesn’t play anymore.

He’ll log in to mess around on his mounts, he loves flying and swimming and riding. The game doesn’t hold any other attraction for him, though.

He tries, and I think he mostly tries to make me happy. He sees how much fun I take in the game, and wants to like what I do.

With the pre-order for Warlords of Draenor out, the question needs to be answered. Does he want the account to stay active? Is this something he wants enough that we continue spending a monthly subscription for it, and pay the $50 for the expansion to come?

He didn’t really answer it, and I didn’t press him on it now. I know he’ll want to play the expansion when it does come out, but I think we might be safe in letting the subscription lapse until then.

From our discussion came, wholly unprompted, his wish for changes to World of Warcraft.

It started as what he wished WoW was like, and became his idea for making what he thinks would be a whole new MMO even better than WoW. Yeah, I know.

The more he talked with enthusiasm about what he wishes the game were like, the more I found myself agreeing.

This is MMO Design by way of an eleven year old Minecraft devotee and once-upon-a-time Warcraft player.

First, the game world you play in, the questing and villages and NPCs, everything that makes the normal leveling experience should be single player. No other active players in the game world at the same time you are playing your character. The world has one active player, just like Skyrim or other big RPG games.

This way, you don’t ever have to worry about accidentally tagging a bad guy someone else was sneaking up on or farming or trying to skin or any of a hundred other reasons people get angry with you for killing a creature in a zone. Anger that results in foul language and harsh words directed at you, and griefing behavior, all while you’re just trying to have fun and complete a quest.

It also means you can gather herbs and ores and other materials at your own pace, without competition, or fear of someone training a herd of mobs on top of you and vanishing, or swooping in and mining the node while you are busying fighting the bad guy standing on top of it.

The game world, according to the Cub, should be unique and persistent only to you, and should react to your choices and decisions.

It should have terrain that is affected by what you do, terrain that you can manipulate and adjust similar in concept to how Minecraft allows you to change things. If you have a shovel, you should be able to dig a hole. If you dig a deep enough hole, and put a rug over it, an animal could walk over it and fall in. By being your own World, what you do only affects you. If you kill all the NPCs in a village, the consequences only affect you. If you tear down the buildings of an enemy, raze the ground and build a new Alliance village, it only affects you, and the change can be a lasting one. Trees you plant stay there and grow over time, dig a trench away from a lake and it fills with water for a moat, build a castle within what you’ve decided is your demesne and rule as tyrant or benevolent dictator however you see fit.

His biggest complaint about World of Warcraft is that it does not allow for player creativity. You can’t even dye your clothes different colors to make a unique outfit. You can’t cut down or plant a tree, you can’t do things outside of incredibly narrow limits, and the reason for that is everything has to be the same experience at all times for every player that comes along.

Even instanced and phased zones don’t help in his opinion, because they are scripted encounters on rails that you can only play one way, and is reset as soon as you leave and cannot be revisited later. He wants to fight an incredible battle, and if he cannot save his pet and it dies, plant an apple tree at that spot that he can come back to and visit over time, and leave flowers beneath it as it grows in remembrance of his pet and it’s favorite food.

But what about World of Warcraft being an MMO? The whole point is that you play it with friends, it’s an activity you can do with lots of people.

His answer to that one surprised the heck out of me. I hadn’t thought of it this way before.

He said that, really, all I do in the game with others is chat with my friends in the guild and cross-realm with Battle Tags, and do instances or raids with them that are zoned in from wherever I am anyway. I don’t ever just meet up to quest, or beat down a random orc. Oh, sure, I’ve leveled with other people in the past, but leveling is so fast that it’s literally only a day or two, maybe a week and then it’s back to the end game grind. When compared to a year of bumming around solo, that week or two of shared leveling ain’t much.

But still, meeting other people in game is huge fun, you still want to be able to do that. You just need to plan for it, form a group and queue to zone into a public meeting space.

Separate the public meeting parts of the game out. Add in a cross-game chat for battle-tag friends so you still have the private whispers, and add channels to sue for your group of friends and call them guilds or clans. Boom, same experience you have now.

And for group activities or public meeting spaces, how would it be any different than now if the multi-player shared servers still existed, but only for instances and raids, but you add a few new types of ‘raids’ to queue for and zone into.

You form a party with your friends wherever they may be, someone queues the group up for a raid or instance, and when it pops everyone gets moved into one shared multiplayer server to play together just like with Flex runs cross-server right now.

Once it’s done, you leave group and return to your own world hosted on your PC.

If you want to just meet and greet with people, you could set one special ‘city’ raid as something to zone into through queuing, just as if it were an instance. Basically, an instance without enemy NPCs for the sole purpose of having a city to visit with other people, use an auction house, pick up your mail, and /dance with a friend.

He started gushing about how you could have raid instances that were non-combat, the way you could use a mole machine to go to the nightclub at the Grim Guzzler in BRD. Dedicated raid instances without combat, designed around role playing themes like a night club so the group could have a dance night, and there could be a juke box where the raid leader set the music to play and acted as DJ for the night and chose songs. I think that idea came from him watching the TV show The Amazing Race this week, where they had a DJ challenge at a nightclub.

His biggest thing about having your own world was that you should be able to influence the way the story in your world worked, that you should have choices and they should change things, and you should be able to build stuff and do things you’d expect to be able to do. Simple things like dig a hole, or pick up rocks and stack them into a wall around your campfire to keep out wolves. And, since it was your own world, the only thing that had to stay locked by a central server would be the cahracter you use to play in groups with other people. The world itself could be changed and even, if totally hosed up, rebooted to plain starter vanilla.

If you wanted to carpet the land with wildflowers, use animal husbandry to breed unicorns and purple dragons, create a fairy tale castle and live as a princess, that’s your world. But if someone else wanted to go nuts as the evil overlord undead destruction Wizard, they could explode volcanoes on villages and rain down lava on their poor, charred cinder of a world.

Each world could be changed, and would be changed, to entirely reflect one person’s play choices and creativity, without hurting anyone else, and without ever getting griefed.

But if someone wanted to raid it would work just the same as now. Level requirements, gear requirements, whatever. You’d still be able to chat with the friends you only saw in raids.

And then each person could take video tours of their world and post them on YouTube for other people to see.

I’ve thought about his ideas.

I’ve been thinking about them the entire time I’m sitting here writing this down.

I’ve decided I want to play his game. For all the things you’d worry about losing like the auction house, you could place those things in their own instanced world/server that you joined through the queue system, that central city idea of his, and use that place to queue into to retrieve auctions or in game mail.

You could make it work, and about as well as you do now.

The only thing I can see as being the bone of contention is how to have a world resident on someone’s computer that isn’t subject to hacking to duplicate items or create stupid stuff that let’s people cheat on gear for group raids. I don’t know enough about the actual programming of games to know if single player worlds like Skyrim have ways already built in that secure your system so being logged in live to a central computer ensures you can’t hack your system and still link to the servers for shared play with others. I just don’t know if it’s possible. I’d think it could be.

I like it. I like the way it combines both things that I love most, the ability to play creatively in the world my way and change and affect things in meaningful ways like I can when I play Minecraft, and also allows the camaraderie of playing with my friends in group activities, and I also love that he gave thought to using the system to have dance parties and guild meet and greets.

Which brings up my next thought…

Is there any reason why we can’t have a raid instance RIGHT NOW to queue into that was without combat? A peaceful raid environment cross-server to queue for that IS a disco party with jukebox and disco ball? Imagine the RP possibilities if there were a range of non-combat raid instances to queue for as a group.

Meeting halls for guild discussions, even banquet halls with NPCs serving many courses, the possibilities are almost limitless once you kick over that non-combat instance idea.

And when you think about the possibilities of scripted events in a non-combat raid instance, like having those banquet servers wait to bring food out until every player zoned in sits down at the table, or the tank/raid leader ‘pulls’ the majordomo bell signalling the start of the meal, and servers begin bringing platters that you can interact with to get food or drink the way you can with Fong during the Legendary quest line with Wrathion…

The roleplaying possibilities with friends, bringing the world to life for things other than getting together just to kill shit broadens my entire conception of playing with people on a multiplayer world.

Excuse me while I go think for a bit, and wonder why my son sees the possibilities of these things so much more clearly than I do.

Adventures of a Derp Knight

Hailsword the Derpknight

Ever have one of those days where everything seems to be going too well, and you just know something is wrong somewhere but you don’t know what?

Before Mists of Pandaria launched, my son’s favorite character was his Death Knight, Hailsword. His favorite spec to play was Unholy, because permapet. He loves him his pet ghoul.

He just didn’t stay with it.

My son loved the look and feel of the zones in Northrend. That was where he felt at home. He liked the frozen cold and forbidding saronite walls of Icecrown, surrounded by undead and delighting in the opportunity they gave him to Control them and use them as his minions.

He did fall in love with the look of the giant Sha of Pandaria. He liked that there was an achievement for finding them all and killing them, he liked the mystery of who was the unknown Sha and where could it be hiding, he liked all the lore behind it.

He just didn’t like PLAYING it.

Basically, playing in Mists sounded great in theory, and looked cool, but in practise kinda sucked. Too many tough mobs traveling in packs to level quickly unless you were a tank.

So I set him up with a Blood tanking offspec to take on those mobs and not end up half dead every fight. Mostly for when he reached the last two zones.

I can’t remember how far past level 90 Alex continued playing Hailsword. I think he played enough to attain Exalted with the Cloud Serpents and raise his cloud serpent from a baby to an adult, but not much further than that.

Once he realized it would be months, if EVER that he would be able to join a group that could defeat the Sha in the Terrace of Endless Spring for the achievement, he lost his enthusiasm. He was excited until he realised that he had to be in a committed raid team to ‘catch ’em all’. Not going to happen.

Time passes, though, and while he loves his Portal and Minecraft, he still misses his Death Knight and the golden age of Burning Crusade and Cataclysm.

Most especially he misses the more melee-friendly raids of LFR Dragon Soul, where melee didn’t have to master a doctorate in avoidance and dancing to survive five seconds without wiping a raid.

I decided, you know he really misses his Death Knight, so why not just spend my time playing Hailsword a little, try and get him some better gear? Get him set up so he could go into LFR alongside my Warlock main, and maybe we could get him having fun on it again.

Queue the bear playing a melee Death Knight, a class I know nothing about. I have one at level 85, and he’s very skilled at pet battling. Wears a pith helmet full time. Stylish!

I approached this project with all the skill and wisdom I show for all new projects.

I loaded it up, glanced at the buttons and figured it looked okay, figured yeah a lesser mortal might research it first, but screw it, how bad could it be? Faceroll Death Knight, toss some timeless gear on him and go kill some shit.

Granted some time far in the past I’d set him up as an Unholy Blood crossbreed, but I’m sure it’s all fine. He’s in Unholy spec, button bars are full, go for broke. It’s not rocket science, right?

I crafted a 553 belt and pants, made sure he had a decent weapon (a 510 weapon from some ancient ToT LFR) and we’re good to go.

I took Hailsword to Ordos and the Celestials. Got a season 15 neckpiece. Score! Gear getting better already.

Oh, maybe I should change my loot spec from Blood to Unholy. When did that happen? Wierd.

Then I decided to queue for LFR. Reforged, gemmed and enchanted per Ask Mr Robot so we MUST be good to raid, RIGHT?

RIGHT?!?

The first boss I get in LFR is the Sha fight, boss 4. Okay, big hit box, not too bad.

We won, and I was still alive at the end thanks to Death Strike being on my bar, man that thing does lots of self-healing. How OP is that? I get to do DPS AND heal myself.

Geez, unholy is kind of a pain the butt though, amiright? I’m always having to refresh my diseases and I’m spending FOR-EVER waiting for runes to refresh, standing around twiddling my furry thumbs. What a drag.

I queue again and get the first boss this time, all the trash packs and Immerseus.

WTF is it with tanks not keeping aggro on packs of bubbles on the trash? A few Blood Boils and here comes a black bubble or two to munch on me. Well, at least it’s not on a healer, so I’m providing raid utility. I’m helping!

Get the boss down, not bad, working my butt off I pull 85k DPS, but still, lots of downtime waiting for runes to regenerate, and I hate not having a button to click.

After all that, I just don’t have it in me to go on. 85k, working hard, and all the melee chasing to do in the Fallen Protectors? I don’t have the energy for that shit. Blech.

It occured to me as I left the LFR raid, maybe I should visit Icy Veins, see what they recommend for Glyphs and Talents, make sure I’ve got the right stuff. I haven’t looked at any of that stuff except to make sure I had some, maybe there’s something better.

Hmm, talents selected looked pretty good, might be a good idea to put some of them on my bar so i actually use them.

Glyphs, wow my glyphs were messed up. I had that leveling glyph for refreshing Death Grip, didn’t have Festering Blood, I DID have the no taunt Glyph for Army of the Dead though, so pro all the way.

Then I moved on to the page at Icy Veins that discusses optimizing DPS rotations for Unholy. maybe I could learn something there. When should I be Blood Boiling? Before or after Death Strike?

Hmm, okay, so… Death Strike doesn’t seem to be on here. What is this they have here instead? Festering Strike? What’s that?

Festering Strike. So, that’s supposed to be on my bar, then? Oh, it’s an attack that automatically extends the duration of diseases so I’m not always blowing runes on other shit.

Gee. That might help.

Oh, and I wonder which presence I’m supposed to be in? What presence am I in now, I guess I should have checked that earlier.

Oh, I’m in Blood presence, is that good?

Oh.

Oh, so Blood is for threat gen and health, for a DPS Blood would be bad.

So, I’m guessing that would be bad to have on for the entire duration of LFR boss fights and add phases?

Unholy presence is the one for Unholy spec? I never would have guessed.

At least my transmog is looking good. If I’m going to derp, do it in style!

I guess it could be worse.

I suppose I could have gone into LFR naked, wearing only a cock ring and a smile.

The Cub Report: Portal to Parenting

When Portal first came out, it was the game that led me to install this Steam thingie that all you young whippersnappers gush about. ‘Digital downloads of games’, pfah!

Why, in my day, not only did we buy our games in a store, and it came in a box 40 times bigger than the disc, but it came with a map of the game world too. In full color.

MADE OF CLOTH WITH LITTLE GOLD TASSELS!

I miss my little gold tassels. [sniff]

BTW, anyone know wtf a whippersnapper is? What kind of whip, and why does the hooligan snap it? What does he snap it AT? I could Google it, but I prefer to live in a world of mystery and adventure.

A world where I envision a wild creature called the whippet, and those brave souls who hunt it entice it to them by cracking their special whip over their heads, a whip made of string and clackers, and they have to snap it over their heads to simulate the sound of a whippet in heat.

But I digress.

Portal.

If you continue to read, I warn you, there will be spoilers. It’s a 7 year old game, and yet here I am, warning you of spoilers as if you intended to rush out and buy it tomorrow, and here am I, bastard that I am, RUINING this special moment for you.

The cake is a lie. THERE I RUINED IT HAHAHAHAHA.

Portal is a brilliant game. I’m a cheap bastard, but even I had to buy this game. The humor! The physics! The evil dark mean streak of that bitch of an AI, GlaDOS.

Great game. Played it all the way through, beat it, and counted myself fortunate I still had the reflexes to manage some of those long multi-portal falling leaps. At least eventually.

My son saw me playing it, and inevitably he wanted to try it, leading me to install Steam on his computer so he could give ‘er a go, guv.

He was very good at it, and this is a game that came out several years ago so he played it when much younger.

He liked playing with the radios, and using portals to take cameras off the walls, and he liked talking about to the computer as GlaDOS told him he couldn’t succeed because a test was impossible and tried to trick him, etc.

Somewhere along the way, his computer died. I bought him a new computer and installed Steam on it, but it was more so he could play games like Terraria (which he doesn’t like) and Scribblenauts Unlimited (which he does like, very much).

I don’t even know how it happened, but earlier this week something made Alex think of Portal, and he was sad face about us not having it anymore.

I told him we do, it’s on Steam.

“On your Steam though, right?”

“On both our Steams, we only have one Steam. You play on the same one I do. If you want to play Portal, we just install it on your computer again. But we lost all the save files from your old computer, so you’d have to start over.”

This did not seem to deter him.

Now, when he played Portal before and was a few years younger, I did not let him play through or past the test filled with automated sentries.

Give the developers of Portal their due credit, they did a fantastic job of making the machine guns and impacts of those little sentries realistic, in a ‘gets you in the gut and makes you anxious to run like hell’ type of realism.

Likewise on those times when you stray into the line of fire, and they nail you with a stream of lead.

I didn’t want him having that in his head at such an early age.

Since then, he has become a Minecraft fanatic, and one of his favorite mods for Minecraft lets you have a working Portal gun in Minecraft… and also automated sentries. With laser sensors and machine guns, too. He likes making maps in Creative where he places them in a big perimeter, and then puts something like a cow in the middle.

The world of making deathtraps in Minecraft takes me back to when I was his age, and Grimtooth’s Traps were the best books in the entire known universe. And I used them as a GM, too. There is just something about designing a trap, and making sure there are specific rules for how to get out of it.

Like the universe has rules. How cute!

With his newly won experience in the Portal sentries (and his increased maturity), I installed the game and let him actually play it as far as his skill and patience would take him.

There is a point to all this. There really is.

I played the game and beat it once myself, and had a great time doing it.

I’m also more than a little cynical, but there were still moments in the game that tugged at my heart and my sense of the romantic, and one of those moments was your forced pairing with the Weighted Companion Cube.

On the one hand, you’re being told by GlaDOS to love and protect this cube. It’s part of the test, and for an old cynic like me there is an element of cold amusement that you’re being manipulated by an insane, twisted AI that wants to kill you.

There is also a good bit of fun feeling that in some small way, JOSHUA from WarGames is the ghost of this machine, heartbroken that daddy is gone and damned well intending to MAKE you play this game with him, and screw chess.

On the other hand though, the cube itself is really cute, and as you play the game you keep coming across all these little graffiti left by previous testers (presumably not as resourceful as you) that show their increasing love for and dependence on the Companion Cube. You see the cube drawn on walls, surrounded by little Valentines’ hearts, etc.

To me, this was a fine example of games as art, where the story and the presentation and all the little touches are pulling me into the game world, making me experience some feeling of what the world is like.

My son, as I said, returned to the world of Portal with an enthusiasm that I didn’t quite expect. Always just settled for puttering around in the early levels before.

We had a snow day here, where it was less than -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Schools were closed, and being an adult, I went to work anyway.

When I get home, Cassie gave me THE LOOK.

“What?”

I wasn’t home, so what did I do now?

“Alex came upstairs sobbing because the game made him destroy his Weighted Companion Cube.”

Aw, geez.

“He got to a part of the game where he had to throw the cube into a burning pit of fire, destroying it forever, just to keep going.”

Aw, geez.

“He made me come downstairs to be with him and watch so he could show it to me before he threw it in, and see the pit, and then he spent some time crying afterward.”

Aw, geez. I totally forgot about that.

I went to check in on him, and he seemed okay, and was playing Portal and working his way through the puzzles.

Later that night, he made a few comments that let me know he was still really sad about it. But he was dealing with it.

Then, during raid, as I fought with Band of Misfits against Heroic Iron Juggernaut, I heard some distinctive GlaDOS dialogue.

WTF?

I turned around, and sure as shit, he was fighting GlaDOS in the final battle. Like, the real final battle. And he one shot it.

Damn if he didn’t clear the entire Portal game from start to finish, clean run, in two days.

And there at the end… after the song that he really liked… there was a cake. The cake was not really a lie. (Real spoilers this time! Muahahaha!)

He defeated a game I swear it took me a week to do. He is a little sadder, and a little wiser, but I know he feels very proud. He did that, and he did it on his own. No videos, no cheats, him and a game and he kicked it’s ass.

He’ll never really lose that small piece of sadness, I know.

But I have a plan. A plan for a surprise that I think will bring a little fun into his life, cheer him up a touch, and earn a space on his bed. It might even join his revered Creeper plush!

a9e0_weighted_companion_cube_plush

There are no instruction manuals for raising a child, but I sure as hell wish someone would give me the cheat codes.

Mentoring Minecraft – Tour Guide

As I said in my last post, I’d show you how to get to the sand village and temple from the Minecraft survival map I’m playing on.

The first part is to generate the same world.

To make this world in Minecraft 1.7.4, I named it whatever you’d like, started with Game Mode: Survival, then went into More World Options and chose;

SEED -5263306753596067336

Generate Structures: ON

World Type: Default

Allow Cheats: ON

Bonus Chest: ON

What I saw when I logged in was;

1 - spawnpoint

I then turned, and looked to my left. I was among some trees, and I found my bonus chest to the left of me, surrounded by three torches. Inside it had a few stone pickaxes and some wood. I grabbed the stuff, equipped the pickaxe, then harvested the chest and the three torches.

Hey, free chest and torches, come on. What, the bunnies and sheep need to see at night?

Still looking towards that left direction, I saw an interesting mound or hill in the distance. It looked like some of the new biome stuff I’d read about, so off I went to investigate.

2 - turntoleft

I aimed a little to the left of that mound, so I would be traveling through woods to chop down for torch sticks, and some of those cows I’d find on the grassy plains.

3 - aimtoleft

I left my high point, cutting down a few trees along the way and, um, convincing some cows to offer some meat for future fine dining.

4 - advancetohill

Visiting with the cows led me over the short rise, only to find a nice set of cave openings in the ground before me. Pretty big ones, too, once you peek inside. caves full of coal and some iron to get started on your armor and iron pickaxe.

6 - caveofgoodies-cont

I stopped in the cave for a little bit, gathered up the easy to get iron ore, lots of coal, walled myself in for the night and made my traveling furnace and crafting table. Made some stone swords and more pickaxes, torches, cooked some steak.

Continuing on in the morning, still heading to the left of that interesting rocky hill, I came across a river with a sand biome on the other side. I saw a sand hill right ahead, but there was also a funky looking tree off to the right of it.

7 - sandbiome

I decided to cross the river, and start heading kind of to the right edge of that sand biome. I wanted to get up on it to see what was around, but I was also curious about that tree.

8 - onthesandhillgaze

Getting up on that sand hill and looking a little to the right, behind where the big rocky mound was, I saw more funky trees. Also, cactus! I found some pumpkins around this area too. Pumpkins, I was told, were a necessary ingredient in making Iron Golems to protect villages someday.

I decided to head over towards those funky trees.

9 - overtheriverandtothewoods

Okay, so a river runs through it. Say what you want, this is a fertile land, filled with things for me to cut down to make torches. Also, I see sheep!

Time to cross the river and get in those woods to get me some wool. Three wool are needed for a bed, advance!

10 - whatthesandhill

So I climb up on the hill and get some wool, gather some more wood, and I notice off in the distance in front of me a peculiar sand hill formation. It’s almost like a pyramid… or, is that like a sphinx? A head on the left with tall pointed cat ears, and a sloping butt? Let’s find out!

11 - andanotherriver

And… another river. Technically, the same river, meandering about. I can see it ain’t a sphinx, but it still looks weird.

12 - okaywhatisthatsandpile

Seriously, what is this thing? Is it a sign from the gods? A marker left by traveling aliens to help them navigate through the stars?

Or a random pile of sandy bits?

13 - onthesandpile - adoublehill

I finally reach the sand pile, climb it, and find… well, it’s sand. In a pile. Go figure, right? But from this high vantage point, I see even more interesting natural landscape features, including a saddle between two hills, with stone and a cave entrance visible.

And is that, right over the saddle, some kind of building peeking out?

It’s worth mentioning that from where I’m standing in this picture, seeing the saddle between two hills, if I had turned to my left I would have spotted a sand pyramid and orange markings on yellow sand towers letting me know there was a temple over there. A temple with a nearby lava pool!

But I didn’t look over there on this trip, instead I decided to proceed ahead, and check out that building or whatever it was.

14 - ontopofthathill

I climbed to the top of the rightmost hill of the two, and there below me were an entire sand village filled with people, and just past it some orange markings on a sand tower and a pyramid indicating another temple of riches to be plundered.

And are those farms? Fresh food! Villagers! Subjects just waiting for a benevolent evil overlord to take over and make some trains, then get them to run on time. Awesome!

Seen from a height, it’s a heck of a place.

begindaylight

One tip I have for you. If you check out that pyramid over to the far left, there is an entrance at the top.

SandTemple-entrance

Now, if you enter that, you will find inside a single room and you’re supposed to drop down, then move off between some pillars and dig a hole down away from the center. Under the floor is a hidden chamber filled with TNT, with a pressure plate trigger, and a BUNCH of treasure chests. If you dig straight down to it, you land or set off the pressure plate, blow up the TNT and ALL of the chests.

All that lovely treasure, gone for good.

The idea is, you should dig down off to the side, go down some and then come in on the hidden chamber from the side where you can find and capture all the TNT first.

I had excellent guidance from the Cub… but when I dug down there, there was nothing but one hell of a deep hole. Some zombies spawned in that dark hidden chamber, and stepped on the damn pressure plate, blowing themselves and my treasure to kingdom come.

The Cub says what I SHOULD have done was have the game set to peaceful before I ever even approached the temple, so mobs couldn’t spawn in those dark places.

Live and learn.

Ah, but there was a surprise!

Since the damn thing was all blowed up, I jumped down in the hole to see if anything was exposed.

What I found were openings to naturally-occurring underground caves that kept going down and around and following tunnels and shafts until it all opened out in a massive underground chasm filled with bad guys. I put torches all over the place, came back to where the exploded shaft was, picked a side and began tunneling some stairs up. I ended up with a place right next to my village where I could quickly descend to the depths in search of massive amounts of coal and iron, which I found there in abundance.

Truly, a plethora of riches on this map. Everything I could want to make anything is there. Even lava pools and lots of water so I can capture them in buckets to make obsidian for enchanting tables and Nether Portals!

Basically, I can bunker down and build, instead of running around wondering where all the cool stuff is.

If you enjoy Minecraft and were looking for a nice world to tinker around in with plenty of materials to build from, this is a nice one. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Cub Report – Mentoring Minecraft

Things have taken a surprising turn.

When he left me, he was but a learner, but now he is the master.

I spend my free time puttering around World of Warcraft. My son has mostly abandoned WoW for the (sometimes) greener fields of Minecraft.

He has a routine. He watches some videos about Minecraft on Youtube (I set him up with his own age-gated Google account), then he plays some Minecraft. He watches mod reviews, then asks me to install ones that intrigue him. He sees maps explored, then has me download them so he can Parkour.

I didn’t know what Parkour was before Minecraft. Now I do. We live, we learn. In my day, we called it jumping. And in a game, we called them jumping puzzles. Sometimes we glided, and called it Spyro. Whatever.

It is what he does for fun. He studies Minecraft, he tests builds, he watches reviews and laughs at some of the truly amazing music video spoofs and fan-made animated Minecraft movies. He’s made working redstone lighthouses and imitation Japanese fortresses with incredible detail work.

I’m going to tell this story two ways. Tonight, I’ll post the story, and tomorrow I’ll post directions (with screenshots) on how to get to the exact same place in the seed so if you felt like it you can go visit these places, explore, enjoy the scenery too. Minecraft is like that, you can share.  

The Cub has been playing Minecraft version 1.6.4 with the Forge loader and a few of his favorite mods, including TooManyItems and Flans Mod.

The game itself is updated to 1.7.4, but the wonder of their new system is, if you want to run a mod that was stable with one particular game version… you can run the game at that version. No problem at all. It’s brilliant. Eternal backward compatibility with old mods and maps.

He plays 1.6.4 with mods, but only in single player worlds, and on maps I download for him (or he makes himself). No multiplayer.

I have never allowed the Cub to do multiplayer in Minecraft. We’ve done some LAN games together, but I’ve never let him go out into the wild jungle of Minecraft servers, and his friends at school apparently aren’t savvy enough to share server IPs with each other in 5th grade.

He’s been perfectly fine with it, never asked to. He understands our objection to the language of, well, your average Microsoft Live user.

Last weekend, all that changed.

One of the things we gave him for Christmas was a book about Minecraft from Amazon that got pretty good reviews, The Ultimate Player’s Guide to Minecraft by Stephen O’Brien

We were operating under the principle that anything worth doing was worth obsessing over. He’s already got the Youtube and game down, why not add books? This way we can sneak in some reading practice by giving him something he WANTS to read. This is what being a parent does to you; makes you think of ways to trick your kids into learning whether they like it or not.

We were right. Of all the presents he received for Christmas, he loves that book. The book, and his plush Creeper, which he has named Creepy and carries with him everywhere in the house. He loves that damn thing. You’ll be walking around the corner, and hear “Sppshhhh…. BAM!”

Anyway, the book.

The book is current up to the most recent game version, and in the back goes into pretty good detail about multiplayer options . The book gives suggestions on server communities, where to find them (like Planetminecraft), how to make sure you can log in safely, and even referenced a server with mini-games aimed at kids, The Hive (at eu.hivemc.com).

Hmmm. Perhaps, just maybe, with my constant supervision in the room with him, I can unleash the beast onto an unsuspecting world.

Off he goes into the world of multiplayer servers, and a Spleefing champion is born.

For those of you poor souls that don’t know what Spleef is, it’s a game of player versus player combat.

The catch is, you never directly hurt the other players. Instead, you’re playing on a snowy field… and the snow is a thin layer one brick thick, suspended in the air over lava. You are armed… with a shovel. You try and dig the snow out from under your opponent’s feet so they drop down into the lava and die, while they’re trying to do the same to you. Much running, super scurry, call the troops out in a hurry.

This is a gameplay type evolved by players from a game with destructive terrain. Destructive terrain can be a gameplay mode all on it’s own. THIS NEEDS TO BE A THING, DAMNIT.

So, he’s playing multiplayer Minecraft, I’m in the office with him, what the hell. I’ll fire up Minecraft, update it and go for a spin in vanilla 1.7.4, no mods, just mess around in Survival with it set to Easy.

For those interested for later, I created a new world in Vanilla 1.7.4, without mods, set to Creative/Easy, with chest enabled, cheats enabled, and default world type on seed -5263306753596067336

If you’ve never played Minecraft, that means nothing to you. If you do play, then armed with that data you can perfectly duplicate, to the very last brick, the entire world I am playing in as it was in it’s pristine state.

I started walking around, ooh look over there, pretty stones, ooh, what’s that, a river? I saw a nice rocky mound in the distance, and headed that way.

The Cub sees that I’m in Minecraft, and immediately abandons his multiplayer gaming to come coach me.

I am now the old man with the VCR, while the young boy tries to teach me how to program it. How did this happen?

He calmly pointed out that I could kill the cows for meat, but I’d need to build a furnace to cook them into the more nutritious steak.

He reminded me that the sheep I found would give me wool, and three wool with three wood would give me a bed, and I could reset my spawn point to wherever I put my bed.

I holed up in a handy cave midway towards that interesting rock mound just as night fell, and I used the time to mine up some coal for torches and got lucky with some iron. Ten minutes in and I’ve got plenty of wool from sheep, food from cows, wood sticks, coal, a handful of iron for some good picks… wow! Okay, this is a nice world.

My son sees I’m having fun and getting lots of materials, so he creates a brand new survival world. Suddenly, it’s a competition. Who can gather the most cobblestone, find the most diamonds, make the nicest house, etc.

I reach an interesting pyramid-shaped sand sculpture, I look over, and he’s already got a house. With fence and gate. A garden. He hoed a garden and planted carrots already, just wtf.

Fine, you know what? I’m gonna be a traveling man. Let’s see what lies over the next ridge.

Oh, another hill. And a river. And a desert.

My son, who is surreptitiously watching my every move, is instantly jealous.

“Sand biomes have the best chance of having a sand village!”

“Is that good?”

“Yes, you can trade with them!”

“Oh, okay, I’ll look for a village.”

I look over at his screen. He has raw data scrolling like the Matrix down the side, and is mining a tunnel down, lining it with torches. He reaches some goal as I watch, because he mutters to himself, “Okay, layer 11 on the Y coordinate, this has the best chance to find diamonds in a 16×16 chunk. Now to dig a tunnel along the X!”

Really? Really, dude?

Then I recall… holy shit, this was me with Bear Druid tanking for five years. I’m so proud! He’s gonna be a min/maxing geek just like his daddy.

Me? I got a stone pickax from the bonus chest. And some torches. Coal and wood, made a crafting table, made a furnace.

Let’s go look at that weird double-hill thingie. It’s like a patch of raw cobblestone in the middle of the desert, and I swear I can see a cave.

And what is that, just over the hump… is that a building?

13 - onthesandpile - adoublehill

Let’s go find out.

I come up on the top of the right-side hill, and what should I find but a village. A sand village!

begindaylight

Don’t try to duplicate this shot yourself in the plain game, I made a 20-block high tower on top of the left hill to get a nice view.

The Cub looks over, and he abandons his game to come look at my village. He has, by the way, acquired 10 diamonds in the short space of time it took me to walk over to the hill. Apparently, he knows how to find dat diamond.

I thought I was playing the game, but the Cub is now in full-on mentor mode.

“Look, you’re so lucky! They already have farms so you’ve got unlimited food, and there is water, and houses, and OOOH! A library! And you can trade with the villagers, and, and…”

“Breathe, Alex. Breathe.”

It is getting very dark, so I find myself a nice, cozy cottage to call my own, close the door… and realize I never made a bed, and don’t have any wood to make one. All I have are sticks.

Well, waiting out the night.

I watch as bad guys roam freely through the darkened village, but they never come close to endangering me.

beginnight

There are a few torches around the village, but evil spawns anywhere a shadow can be found, until they are vaporized like real vampires in the cleansing light of day. Zombies, skeletons and spiders are abundant.

Just as it’s starting to get light, the Cub says, “I hope your villagers are okay, the zombies will break down doors to get them at night.”

Wait, what?

I burst outside, just in time to see a pack of zombies entering a house.

I run around like crazy, taking on everything, but I get overwhelmed and die.

I didn’t have a bed, so I respawn where I started. Shit! All my stuff is back where I died. Double shit!!

I start running like a madman across the zone to get back and get my stuff.

I return to the village, only to find that of all the villagers, only two have survived the night.

Two.

I turn to my son, who says to me with great sadness, “They were fine until you came to the village. Your coming caused the monsters to spawn nearby. Now they’re all gone. They’re all gone.”

OMG.

Will they… will they, like, respawn?”

“No… no, it’s just those two. And when night falls again…”

Oh, HELL no.

No, kiss my butt, we are NOT playing Mexican Vampire Standoff with me losing the whole town to the blood suckers. This ain’t a John Carpenter flick, this is Groundhog Day!

I turn back the clock, copying the world as a fresh spawn. I am John Connor. I can fix this. I just have to go back there to the eighties one more time, stop Skynet’s plan.

This time, I stop at my little cave and burrow in like a tick. I carve out a sizeable chunk of cobblestones, hundreds of blocks. I chop down a forest for wood, I find me lots of coal. I prepare over several days, there in my little hidey-hole.

Then, when I felt fully prepared, I tore out of my burrow at the crack of dawn and beat feet across the rivers and the desert, following the landmarks as I remembered them, until there it was. The village, alive, vital, with the sand temple behind it full of treasure to plunder (according to the Cub, I ain’t been inside yet so I have no idea what is in there).

Immediately, I spring into action. Every second of daylight is precious.

I put Operation De-Maginot into effect. I start laying down a wall of cobblestone around the village.

I am going to build a wall two blocks high around the entire village. No villager gets eaten on MY watch, damnit! I can save them, I can go back in time and do it right!

I work like a beaver on crack to build my dam wall, and as I get within spitting distance of linking them together, darkness falls across the sands.

Two zombies rush me, but I quickly cut them down with my stone sword, link the wall together, and start running around inside putting torches EVERYWHERE. The monsters can spawn anywhere there is a shadow, and that means they are going to start spawning inside my wall!

I get torches on the inside wall, torches on the loose sands, torches on walls and buildings and even on the well.

Then two spiders come OVER my wall and eat me.

Oh yeah… I never DID make that bed.

The Cub says, “If you go to sleep in a bed, nothing happens while you’re asleep.”

“So… if I made a bed and slept in it, monsters wouldn’t spawn and eat the villagers?”

“Nope.”

Sigh…

“Also, spiders can climb up walls.”

“I think I caught that, but thanks for clearing that up for me.”

“They can’t climb upside down, though.”

“You mean…”

“Put a one-block overhanging parapet along the top of your wall, and spiders won’t be able to climb over it to get at the village.”

“So then they’ll be safe?”

“Yep! But you need more torches too, you have to have the light of a torch within 7 squares to prevent monsters.”

Okay, I can see this is going to take some work.

Through the last three nights, he has coached me on making an enchanting table, how to make an anvil to repair really precious stuff once it’s enchanted so it doesn’t LOSE that enchant, how to harvest and plant vegetables in the gardens, how to make a bucket, capture water, and splash it on lava to make obsidian blocks.

He’s taught me a lot. And he’s jealous as heck, because this world has it all.

Plentiful coal, iron, emeralds, wood, a sand village, lava near water, lots of interesting biomes, not one but TWO sand temples to eventually plunder, a library, just… everything.

He spent an entire night trying to find sugarcane near water in his world, so he could build an enchanting table. You have to have a book to build the table, you need paper to build a book, and sugarcane to make paper.

My sand village came with a library. A quick swipe with an axe at one of the bookcases would have given me a book… if there wasn’t a pond 5 feet from the village with a bunch of sugarcane growing right there.

The greatest advice he gave me, though, came tonight.

I was miles down deep, hunting for diamond along Y 11, just as he directed. I had no idea where I was, how to ever get back home, and my bags were full of diamonds, redstone, iron, coal, emeralds. I had no room for anything more.

There was no way I was going to survive to make my way back. I’d already taken down a dark witch, multiple creepers and skeletons and survived a fast dunking in lava. My luck was going to run out, and I would appear, naked but alive at my bed in the village. All my loot, gone forever.

The Cub says, “Type in a /, then type gamerule keepInventory true, It’ll say your game rule was changed, and then when you die you’ll keep all your stuff. You do have cheats enabled for this world, right?

YES! Yes, I do!

About 5 minutes later, I tried to maneuver a creeper to fall into lava, fell in myself, it blew up, and I woke up in my bed.

WITH ALL MY STUFFS.

I was able to use all the coal I gathered to finish off stage one of the De-Maginot Line.

You’ve seen the before shots.

Now for the after.

begindaylight

Finaldaylight

beginnight

finalnight

Nobody is coming into MY village and eating MY citizens.

Not on my watch!

I hope you villagers like those houses, because you’re never leaving here again. Give thanks and welcome to your new Supreme Overlord, for I shall keep you safe from all harm, whether you want me to or not. I have claimed this village in the name of yankee imperialism, and I’ll keep you damn savages safe with my civilized ways. And my wall. And torches. Lots and lots of torches.

And my diamond sword with the level 7 enchant, Knockback 1 and Sharpness 2.

I call it my BOOMSWORD.

Seriously, if you don’t have one of these kids that learn everything about video games and teach you what to do, you gotta get one of these. This is great. It’s almost like I knew wtf I was doing!

Tomorrow, he’s promised to teach me how to make a concealed-switch automatic piston door for my gatehouse!

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Cub Report: Adventures in Account Merging

I have merged accounts. The power has been unleashed!

It’s kinda funny how this all came about.

I was online the other day farming more endless ore in the quest to make Engineering pets and mounts.

As I character swapped to Farmville part IV: The Reapening, I was bitching about the character swapping to Tom.

See, I have access to two Engineers. Three soon, when my Warrior hits max. One is my Warlock, and is almost up to making another pet. Probably Pierre this time, since it’s about time I make one for myself.

Then there is Hailsword, my son’s Death Knight. He’s six days away from making me a Sky Golem.

Of course, then there is my Blacksmith, who is a few days away from making my Warrior a new 553 plate belt, and 6 days away from upgrading the two handed axe to a level 502.

Sigh. So many professions, so much farming…

I can tell you straight up, if I had to fly around Pandaland mining for all this ore, there is no way, NO WAY I would have such ambitious goals.

As it is, with my Hunter Alchemist farming Motes of Harmony to have extra cheap Living Steel Transmutes, and with extra procs, I can just about stay caught up with everyone’s needs. God bless that damn farm.

So I’m bitching to Tom about the sheer drudgery of character swapping to farm and farm some more, and then I have to log out of my Battle.net account, switch over to the one I set up for my son, log in and then do the crafting on his characters, and all that. Plus, the crafting seems to be going forever because first I make him all the pets and mounts, and then I can start making them for myself.

And then there is helping him tame new pets, level them, someday do the Celestial Tournament…

Tom says to me, “Well, why don’t you just move your son’s WoW account onto the same Battle.net account you’re on?”

Umm. What? The whole point is we play together. Like, online at the same time. So he has his Battle.net account, and I have mine.

“Oh no”, he says, “You can both be logged into World of Warcraft at the same time on the same Battle.net account. You have to have two fully activated WoW accounts on the same Battle.net. I do it myself to swap Heirlooms back and forth.”

Umm.

Wait, so let me get this straight. If I had a second fully paid WoW account on my own Battle.net account, it could be logged in on one computer while I’m logged in on mine. AND I could mail Heirlooms to it?

“Yeah, anything that is ‘bind to account’ like Heirlooms, pandarian treasures, all the pets and mounts are shared…”

WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU SAY?!?!

How may years now, and there is always something new to be surprised with.

So I investigated. I emailed Blizzard support. And I asked flat out if I could move a WoW account from one of my Battle.net accounts to another.

I wasn’t worried about being suspected of selling or buying a WoW account. Both of them have had the same recurring billing info forever and a day. I just didn’t think they’d let me move an entire account.

And if they did, what would happen? The Cub has mounts I don’t have (like the Sky Golem) and I have many, many pets that he doesn’t, and mounts, and some of my pets I have three full ones of.

What would happen to the mounts? Would his get lost? Would MINE?

What about pets that he has, that I have three of? Would he get them in cages in his inventory or game mail, or would they just vanish?

Would his lower level pets replace my max level?

I got a reply back from Blizzard after two days.

I was told they certainly could move that account from one Battle.net account to another, no charge, no problems. I was provided a link to a three page PDF form I had to fill out, and I was told to attach a picture of my photo government-issued ID and the form to the ticket and they’d take care of it.

So I did that thing. Three pages, easily filled out, quick scan of my state driver’s license, attached them to the ticket, sent it in.

Less than 6 hours later, I went to login and the Blizzard Battle.net beta game interface had a new feature; a drop down box right over the “play” button that let me choose between my original account, and the newly named “WoW1″.

I logged into WoW1, and there was my son’s character list, just like normal.

I’ve been playing with this for two days now, and I have discovered some interesting things.

I have merged a World of Warcraft account that was played in it’s entirety on another Battle.net account.

Both of my WoW accounts now share mounts. Mounts he had, such as the Sky Golem, we both now have. Likewise, everything I had he now has access to. Perfect mount merge.

Achievements he earned I got credit for, like parts of the Explorer meta. And all the achievements and titles I had earned, he now has access to.

The pets… the pets didn’t go quite as I’d hoped, but about exactly as I expected.

It turns out, every single pet he had vanished in the merge. All of my pets, and the quantity of them, remain unchanged. He has my pets as his own, now, including the names I gave them.

Where we had both had max level Minfernals, we do not have two of them after the merge, just the one. His is gone into the Twisted Nether. Likewise any pet he had, regardless of level. They were not merged; they are simply gone.

Now, like I said, I had hoped I’d log in and find two Minfernals, you know, that kind of thing. But I anticipated that, worse case, his pets would vanish.

So just in case, before I sent off that ticket with the attachments… I caged every single pet in his list that I could, and mailed the cages to my Warlock. I figured worse case, all of his pets would be gone but he’d have mine, and we’d have his caged pets to mail to Cassie to see if she was missing any.

That was a lot of cages. Many, many cages.

Good thing, because if I hadn’t of done that, all those pets would have been lost too.

It makes me wonder… he had a trial account (the free to play to level 20) on that old Battle.net email. Did the pets all stay on that account, left behind? If we were to login to that free trial account, would all those pets still be there, patiently waiting to be played again?

I like to think so. Given that situation, I consider it a gift that he brought his Sky Golem with him. After all, I didn’t have it, and it would have been so much fun to have it just vanish silkily into the satin darkness.

Tested the logging in; yes, we can both log in at the same time, on our two different WoW accounts.

Drawback? We can’t BOTH be on Battle.tag chat for both transmit and receive. Someone could send something to me, and I won’t see it if he is also logged in, and vice versa. That is a big drawback, because there doesn’t seem to be any warning to someone that their messages aren’t getting through to me. After all, Alex can see them fine, he just ignores them.

Mailing Heirlooms back and forth between accounts does indeed work. All those Heirlooms I spent so much time earning and upgrading? All now have a use once again! Now the Cub can use them!

And then the biggest drawback of all hit me between the eyes.

After logging in and out for about 20 minutes, showing the Cub how it works, my account got locked.

Locked hard.

Why?

Changes in my logging habits.

Really? Something changed in how I’m logging in? You’re kidding! You don’t think it had anything to do with, oh, I dunno… adding a whole new second account I’m swapping between now, do you?

I was locked.

I was told to check my email to find out what to do. I mean, locked. Cannot access Battle.net or any Blizzard game in any way, period.

So, let’s see the email.

The email gave me a link to follow to begin the process of unlocking my account.

I had to provide my Battle.net email address, my first and last names, and enter in one of those CAPTCHA graphic codes.

I hate CAPTCHA codes, because the damn letters frequently blend into each other so I can’t make them out. I suppose I should be grateful English is my native language, so I can recognize mangled versions of the English alphabet.

So I enter that in, and I’m taken to another screen where I have two choices.

One, I have to answer my account security question, OR…

I have to enter in the first 6 digits of any of my Blizzard game authentication keys that are actually on my account. And it has to be the first 6 digits of a key from a physical game, NOT a digitally purchased game. Like, the code from a store box bought game.

Oh, holy crap. OMIGOD.

So, what is the security question? I don’t remember setting that up.

“Who is your childhood hero.”

Wait, what? Really? I set that up nine years ago, and I expected myself to remember that? Shit, that’s exactly the kind of question whose answer changes from week to week. I look back and have no idea who I would have thought was my childhood hero.

What did I answer, Robert Heinlein? JRR Tolkein? Gandhi? Margaret Thatcher? Han Solo?

Think, think…

Shit, I have no idea.

I try Heinlein, it’s the most likely choice… no.

Casca?

No.

I know!

Remo Williams…

No.

Fine, go back, this is doomed.

The first six digits of an authentication code… of World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, any of their expansions…

Shit.

I have purchased three copies of World of Warcraft and all of the expansions over the years, one for me, one for Cassie, and one for the Cub. Since the Cub’s accounts are now on my Battle’net account, I’ve got a 66% chance of having that code, right?

Yeah, fuck no. Tried ’em all, nope nope nope.

Okay, so what else might I have considered a childhood hero?

Maybe it was Robert A. Heinlein…

Shit. And I wouldn’t have picked Sten or Steven Brust, I didn’t get into them until I was in the Marines.

WAIT!

I only bought Starcraft II once, for my account! Alex has been playing it on my account, so if I have the disc, I have the code!

Search my desk… there it is, shiny and new as the day I bought it.

Hands shaking, I enter the code…

YES!!! I’m in! I’m in, thank you, thank you, I can play the game, I haven’t lost it all, and seriously what the fuck, another CAPTCHA?

I enter the CAPTCHA, choose a new password… and I have to enter another CAPTCHA.

No, I’m not kidding. THREE of them throughout this process.

But finally, I’m logged back in. Access is restored!

Okay, note to self. Don’t ever, ever get rid of my Starcraft II game disk case, or the code. Ever. Like, EVER.

Adrenaline is a bitch. Ten minutes later, ooh, feel the burn. Where were you when I was freaking the hell out?

You can have my World of Warcraft account when you pry my Starcraft II disc out of my cold, dead hands.

This will certainly bring much fun in the days ahead, but for now, I note that my son is delighted at the expanded options for mounts and pets. DELIGHTED.

He tells me, “Now we can send each other messages in pet names!”

Yes, you can indeed.

Whew. Scared the shit out of me.