Archive for the “Cub Report” Category

The post title is stolen shamelessly from @neowolf2 on Twitter. Titles don’t get any better than that right there.

Last night, my son had his first band concert at the school. He has been playing the saxophone since the school year began, and he did wonderfully. The band played several songs as a group, broken up with solos and duets. He had a duet with a kid playing a clarinet, and he had to totally carry the clarinet player. If it was a scenario, the clarinet player was trying to run it as a healing spec.

His band class is a before-school extra thing, it’s not part of the normal school curriculum, so he is in a class of about 20 kids, each with different instruments and spanning four school grades. There were three saxophonists this year including him, but next year the other two will be off in High School, so he’ll be big man on the sax circuit.

Seeing him up there, with his serious ‘business time’ face focusing on the sheet music… that makes everything worthwhile, I swear.

Enough of that, it’s time for some Cub news around the World of Azeroth!

Mists of Pandaria is turning out to be a difficult expansion for Alex.

In a pure sandbox game like Minecraft where you are given all the tools and left to go nuts, he has a wonderful time. Just a few nights back he opened up a world where he made a black onyx pyramid that stretches to the heavens, and added a series of roller coaster tracks over and through and under mountains, rivers and the pyramid itself. Including glass blocks so you can see the water you were riding under. He did this with powered mine cars, tracks and switches. Then he took some rides. With nothing but a bag of tools and an open world, he builds shit that knocks my socks off.

In other games, like the new Luigi’s Mansion game on the 3DS, he’s also having a blast. It is focused along one path, and you play the path or you don’t advance. The challenge comes in executing what you have to do each step of the way.

He’s very good at those kinds of games as well.

World of Warcraft is turning out to have too little direction to show him where he has to go next to find a small area filled with stuff to do, and if he does stumble on an area it’s hard to tell what it might be for, what the start or end is, and what the eventual rewards may be.

That would be fine if there was more pure sandbox stuff in WoW, but there simply isn’t enough freedom in the sandbox to let his imagination run wild. Have you ever tried to interact with the environment? They’re getting better at having things that can spawn you can pick up, but for the most part, the assumption is to not bother trying to interact with trees, rocks, sand, buildings, torches, windows, wild animals (except to kill them), etc. If they added sandbox tools, would we know? We’ve been trained to ignore the environment and focus on the critters to kill and people to give us quests or buy our trash.

It is what it is. He is still too young for the game, and I don’t expect a game designed for mature audiences to have to tailor its play to a ten year old. That WoW is as accessible as it is already amazes me.

I mention this because there are plenty of times I feel it, too. I remember when I first reached level 90 in Pandaria, and I felt adrift. I knew a lot of stuff was out there… but where to even begin? What would be the most fun? What should come first? I felt lost enough that I had a major disconnect with my character. It felt almost as if, there I am at max level, there aren’t any more breadcrumbs, there aren’t any obvious things to focus on… guess the game’s over, and I won?

Where things are now, with the scattered quest hubs and nothing to send you out there TO them, he logs in, flies around aimlessly, does a few pet battles, browses Mogit to look at gear sets, reads through the Dungeon Journal memorizing the fights and looking at gear, and then he tells me yet again that he wishes Blizzard would go back and add in entries for all the OLD raids into the Dungeon Journal.

I agree with him on that point. I’d really love to see the Dungeon Journal updated with pictures of bosses, spell effects and loot tables from all the old raids. Really.

He likes WoW, don’t get me wrong. He likes his Worgen Death Knight.

He’s just having a hard time finding a loose end of the sweater to start unraveling to reveal all the fun that is still to be had out there…. somewhere.

He needs some guidance. Something to say, “Hey, you haven’t done this, you wanna give it a try? You’re able to do it, you could handle it with no sweat. Go for it!”

I try to fulfill this role when I can.

For example. When Cataclysm was the fresh hotness, the Cub really wanted to run the Halls of Origination, play around in there. He wanted to ride a camel into battle against bone-winged undead.

It wasn’t so much that he wanted to run it, like go go go get valors get golds get drops get gone and do something else. He wasn’t on the progression treadmill where content is the job you do to earn the valor cash to buy gear.

U bai gear? Yes, we all bai gears.

No, he wanted to explore, to take his time, experience all of that celestial wonder. He wanted to, and this may shock the heck out of you, he wanted to go do a five person instance as a fun adventure, exploring all the little nooks and crannies.

Cataclysm was a long time ago, but all the content is still there. Much like Minnesota, it’s flyover country now, but it’s still there.

He was logged in, drifting along looking for something to grab his attention, and I mentioned to him that part of the joys of being so well geared at level 90 was that when it came to old content, he is now, to quote Goldeneye, Invincible!

Yes, that video is appropriate. It’s true, right up until the point where it ain’t.

I told him he could darn well go and solo the Halls of Origination.

Um what?

YES! Go forth and explore all the things!

So he did.

He had a lot of fun in the Halls of Origination… until he reached this one room with, I don’t if you’ll remember this, four elementals you have to kill in a room filled with fast-spawning groups of ads? Yeah, the frost elemental will ice trap you, freeze you in place. Fine if you’re Unholy with a perma-pet, but for a Frost or Blood DK, kind of a pain. When you’re soloing, it’s mighty funny.

Still, he got through it all and won, he rode a camelback, he fought and won against some beautifully constructed five person instance design. That place is begging for a revamp as a 10 person raid.

That inspired him to do more instances, and he had some fun doing them.

Still and all, that is where we are. The Cub is having a good time when he can find something that is fun to do, that is small enough that he doesn’t have to maintain enthusiasm for it over several weeks of dailies. If we can identify something that has a beginning, a middle and an ending over one or two days, he’s all over it.

When we can’t come up with something he can go out there and have fun doing that doesn’t require logging in and ‘doing your chores’ day in and day out, well, that is when we break out the Minecraft.

There is ALWAYS something to do short term in Minecraft.

Comments 11 Comments »

Okay, are you ready for the big reveal?

I bet you scrolled down to see the pictures first, didn’t you? You scrolled down, then scrolled back up. Shame on you.

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Pac Man? Is that you? Wakka wakka…

What was in the box is a Figureprints statue of one of my sons characters, Wooffie. Well done Andrew for your accurate guess, even if you talked yourself out of it immediately.

Figureprints statue of World of Warcraft warlock character Wooffie, a Worgen in purple robes clutching a staff

Wooffie the Worgen Warlock!

Yes… yes, it is a Warlock.

How Wooffie the Worgen Warlock became a Figureprint is fairly interesting to me.

I asked our son what he thought. If any one of his characters could be a statue, who would he want it to be?

I tried to ask in such a way that he never once suspected it might actually happen. This kind of questioning is usually the province of Department of Homeland Security gestapo, and spouses desperate for birthday ideas, but I did my best.

I expected the answer to be his Worgen Death Knight. That is the character he actually plays, the character he’s run numerous raids with, Dragon Soul, Molten Core, he has his bank with full 22 slot bags and his entire Void Storage choked with transmog gear.

Nope.

He wanted Wooffie, his Worgen Warlock to be a statue. And he was serious about it.

He knew the exact outfit he wanted to be wearing, as well as which weapon. How? Because he spends more time in game browsing the MogIt addon than he does actually playing.

Which reminds me, I really need to try and get enough people scraped together to get his Worgen Death Knight the Molten Core chest piece. He has the rest of the set along with the heroic mode chest armor, but that flaming red doesn’t blend well with the nice orange of the normal mode. Someday.

Anyway.

We made sure to run raids until he had every piece of the Warlock Tier, looked smoking hot, that Warlock was on fire, man. He also got the staff he selected as his transmog weapon.

I revealed that this was for real, we were actually going to do a Figureprints statue. His reaction was so cute, I swear he squeeed.

We went to the Figureprints website, where we were able to import his character and equipment directly from the Armory.

I was shocked to see Figureprints does Minecraft as well. I was quick to hide that from Alex, I shudder to think what could come from THAT revelation!

Our first surprise in browsing the character options was that you weren’t limited to gear you actually had equipped on your Armory page. You could also browse character sets, and choose from among them to deck out the character you wished you had instead of the one you were stuck with because that damn helm won’t ever drop.

After browsing sets for a while, he went back to ‘HIS’ Wooffie, and then chose his own pose, base, colors for his name, everything.

He got to bring his own character to life, and we placed the order.

What might have thrown you off in your guesses from the previous post is how big the box was that arrived. It’s a big honking box.

That is because the statue is HUGE!

I had in my mind that this thing would be, okay, bigger than a wargaming miniature, but not much bigger. Maybe as big as normal action figures in the stores these days, around 3 1/2″ tall.

Um, no. This thing is around 10″ or more tall, and very wide. The entire thing is sturdy as heck, and I’m not kidding about how big it is. This is a statue under glass, something extremely noticeable on your shelf. It doesn’t get lost among the clutter.

Wooffie the Warlock statue, with a noticeable matte 'dust' appearance.

Wooffie the Dusty Warlock

So, to the good. It looks great. I don’t know how these pictures will turn out, but holding the statue in your hands, it looks incredible. It IS Wooffie, right there, big as biscuits and gravy. I was concerned about the fine details of the armor and glowy bits, but in person it looks incredible. There is absolutely no question what this is, and he looks good doing it.

The one thing that isn’t a negative but is something you notice is… as you can see, the manufacturing process does leave the product with a slightly dusty finish.

I think, for a character wearing cloth, it looks great. It leaves stone spikes and skulls and cloth all looking very good.

Alex did notice the dusty finish right away, not so much as a complaint as in thinking that it may have gotten dusty before the glass dome was put on. “Can we take the glass off and brush it off?”, so it’s certainly there and does give the impression of a light coating of dust.

Again, looking closely at the staff and cloth armor, it doesn’t take away from the figure at all.

My only thought is, if I were a devotee of ‘slut plate’, or chose a character wearing shiny metal armors or lighter colored tones, would the dusty appearance have mattered more?

I have no idea. I’d love to get the opinions of others who have Figureprints of characters wearing colorful metallic armors, and especially pictures I could feature, to find out more.

I was talking to Tesh of Tish Tosh Tesh, the Master of Peep Mayhem and Marshmallow Mastication his thoughts about the dusty finish.

He thought it might be possible for someone to use a clear coat polymer over parts that are supposed to be metal to get a nice effect. He did point out it gives you more of an incentive to play a cloth or leather wearing class. :)

I agree with him, but when you’ve invested in something this special, it would take massive guts to experiment with paints and coatings. Or to breathe on it too hard.

Overall, it’s fantastic.

I know I teased you yesterday, but I hope the final surprise was worth it.

Thank you to Cassie, who took a lot of pictures and, to my mind, did a great job of getting details through the glass case. Thanks, sweetie!

Comments 13 Comments »

Before going further, I have an important (to me) announcement to make!

Tonight, my son will be attempting to play his Unholy Worgen Death Knight in his first Mogu’shan Vaults LFR.

I will be running with him and offering tips and encouragement, and Cassie might be able to go as well.

If you would like to join us, you would be very welcome! We’re planning on running the first half of MSV for sure, possibly the second half was well depending on queue times.

I know that quite a few of you have run with the Cub and his Death Knight in Icecrown Citadel, Firelands, Black Temple and Sunwell. I would be delighted to have you join us while he takes on what is in my opinion a hellacious step up in difficulty when it comes to getting out of the big bad.

I can’t really give you a specific set time when we’d be going. The best I can say is tonight, and we would probably try to start around 6 PM to 6:15 PM Central standard time.

It kinda depends on how long his homework takes. Such is life in the pint size bracket.

Oh yeah, and since this is Alliance side cross-server LFR, if you’d like to go and haven’t done the Battletag stuff with me before on the fun runs, just send me a Battletag friend request at BigBearButt#1737

I hope you’re able to make it tonight! It would be fun to chat with friends as we steamroll some LFR together.

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In other news, the Cub got a Key to the treasure trove yesterday, and went in for his first shot at the vault.

Up to this point I’ve done it for his character to ‘maximize’ his chances at Elder Charms.

Yeah… he blasted through the first room clearing more chests in less time than I usually do. And that is with the first BIG chest bugging out on him, lid opening but not giving him loot, just like you sometimes see with serious lag spikes in game while looting corpses.

I told him to leave it behind and keep going and all the rest opened fine. It was just that first big one that bugged. Go figure.

In the final chamber, he loves having Burial Trove keys to use. He loves the random element. He looks around, and says “That chest looks like it was being protected by that dead mogu, I’ll try that one.”

It’s fun seeing him create stories about what might have happened, and making his decisions based off of that. I know it must seem silly, but when you remember your children as the small little handful that could sleep on your wife’s lap while she played Spyro or Animal Crossing, to see him engaged in a fantasy game, thinking about what he sees and naturally imagining what might have happened and having fun…

It’s the best.

I just keep counting the months until he’s old enough or at the right maturity level to appreciate the things we love…

Like, on the edge of my seat waiting until he’s old enough to see The Lord of the Rings movies and enjoy them as exciting without being scary. Y’know?

I do have a sad, though.

I can’t convince him that The Princess Bride would be a cool movie to watch. He’s just old enough to need to be bedridden and unable to move before he’ll allow me to put any movie on that has the word ‘Princess’ in the title.

Damnit!

“But… but it’s the GOOD PARTS VERSION!!!”

I used to have that book years ago, the good parts version. Maybe I need to get another copy and read it to him to suck him into it. Grrr.

 

Comments 24 Comments »

We may have lost the Cub.

Alex had a birthday shortly before we left on vacation, and along with some toys he acquired a fistful of Target dollars. Er, gift card thingies.

So, armed with gelt we took him to Target and let him run loose in the toy department.

What he wanted more than anything was the Mega Bloks Goblin Shredder, which Target’s website showed was in stock.

Yeah. They lied. Nope, nope, nope.

Not anywhere in the toy area, the clearance shelves, hidden behind something else. Might have had one in another department, but none in Toys.

Standing in the store we called around to other Targets that showed it as being in stock. We got the store clerks involved. We networked.

Nope, nope, nope.

This isn’t a rant on Target, but what turned out to have happened is funny, and Target Corporate has sure paid the price.

See, the Mega Bloks World of Warcraft Goblin Shredder is a new toy priced at $24.99. And as such, it is at the same price point as the old Mega Bloks World of Warcraft Barrens Chase set.

The old Barrens Chase set, along with ALL the old Mega Bloks World of Warcraft stuff has been clearanced out. it’s the same at Walmart, I saw a Goblin Zeppelin for $22 at Walmart the week before.

Whoever handled the toy purchasing for Target at the corporate level made absolutely no distinction between old series toys and brand new cutting edge releases. And to make it more fun, the store doesn’t track inventory by SKU, or by name… but by ‘assortment’.

They put all Mega Bloks World of Warcraft ‘assortments’ priced at $24.99 on clearance, so they clearanced the Goblin Shredders. At half off.

Plus this weeks advertisement had a 30% discount coupon for Mega Bloks sets.

Yeah, Target took that one in the shorts. Well done, sir and ma’am. No need for me to rub salt in the wound by letting everyone know how badly you messed up… but what the heck, if you’re going to be that ignorant, so be it.

Next time, might want to make an effort to know the difference between older toys and newer toys and track by SKU or name. Us customers certainly know the difference, and we thank you for funding our eBay sales.

Well, not mine, but I’m sure somebody saw that one and chortled with glee.

Oh, and if you search Target.com, make sure and use the correct spelling. Apparently, it’s a “Goblin Schreder“.

Yeah, we can tell Target has their finger on the pulse of the toy market. Might be squeezing a bit tight, though.

We ordered the toy online, so no worries there. But that still left our son with cash in hand and no new toy to get that new car smell.

After he wandered the aisles with no result, because it makes a difference when the toy you buy is with your OWN money instead of momma moneybags, I mentioned that there were also video games for 3DS or PS3 or even the Wii he could check out.

Oh, boy.

Our son, blessed that he is, finds exactly what he wants, and it came as no surprise since he’s wanted it for two years.

Skylanders. In this case, Skylanders Giants.

Ah, shit.

Cassie has fought this battle for two years. Skylanders is another way of saying, “Parents, just hand over your wallets, you’re fucked.”

As Cassie began to explain first that we were planning on buying into the Disney Infinity version soon to be released (and thus if we buy Skylanders there would be no money for the Disney version) and second that there was no way his $50 or so was going to stretch to a $75 starter set, plus you need at least one of each of the eight types of power characters to unlock every area, which go for $10 to $15 A POP, I called a halt to the discussion.

That day, Saturday, the last day of the sale week… the Skylanders Giants PS3 starter set was $40. It was $35 off. That one day. And all sets were buy two get one free.

A huddle formed, because the truth was clear.

If this shit is getting bought, it’s happening today, because we ain’t paying $75 ever in the future. But $40… he could afford $40.

Cassie said Amazon usually price matched when a big chain did this kind of thing. I checked, sure as heck she was right as usual, they were price matching… and she said that if they did, again they would stop as soon as the big store sale was over.

Move your ass and decide now, or forever hold your peace.

But does he really want the game? Is he sure?

What it came down to, as we discussed it over lunch, was he didn’t want it if it meant he couldn’t get the Goblin Schreder (sic). He was almost in tears at the pain of this decision. Goblin Schreder or Skylanders Giants?

When Cassie assured him that his money, if he pushed it and used some allowance, would stretch to both… well, he went for it.

With that decision made, Cassie became directly involved.

I might not have ever mentioned this before, but I do not handle the family finances. Cassie does. She is a master at knowing when to hold ‘em, and when to go all in. It’s because of her diligent efforts that we have a house, because if it were up to me we’d have lost the mortgage due to a Battlemech miniature game addiction years ago or something equally stupid.

No, I’m not kidding. I grew up so poor you’ve got no freaking idea. Living in the ghetto poor. I have within me this destructive little thing that whispers to me, “Buy that. You know you want it. You’ll feel better if you have it. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it until you do. Go ahead, what’ll it hurt.”

I’m a lot better these days, but there are still those moments where I feel the yearning to impulse buy something to feel good. And for those moments, there is the Auction House, where I can blow my gold and ask Cassie for a loan until the cash from my dailies comes in, lol.

So she has the veto. She has the sense as well as the cents.

She took a good, hard look at the Target special, checked for price matching at Toys R Us, Walmart and Best Buy, looked at Gamestop, and ultimately decided on a course of action that had us purchase the PS3 Skylanders Giants starter set, three more Giants (Crusher, the Whale and the Cubs ultimate favorite, Eye-brawl) and three of the 3-packs.

One of the 3 packs had all series 2 characters that included a Gear and a Magic, the other two sets were adventure sets from the first Spyro’s Adventures game with the pirate ship and the Dragon Peak, which gave us a fire character too.

This careful balancing act left us with at least one of each type for maximum game unlocks, two adventure sets for expansion, and the most value for the money.

It also left our wallets weeping, but it was on sale! We didn’t spend money, we SAVED money! Yeah!

Oh dear lord what have we done… even I’m wincing at the memory.

Anyway, the Cub now has a level 10 Eye-brawl and is having a blast.

I asked him last night if he wanted to play some more Skylanders, or if he wanted to log in and do LFR on his Death Knight with me for the very first time before the reset.

He chose Skylanders, so, yeah. He might be gone.

On the other hand, I was watching him play, and he let me take the controls a few times…

That Cynder is pretty cool. I like the way he turns into a shadow to scoot along underground, and leaves a trail of ghosts behind.

And if you blast sheep with lightning bolts, they puff up like cotton balls and you can roll them around!

And, and, and…

You know, I might not be logging on for a while.

Take care of my alts, feed my dinosaur, and water my garden, okay?

And if you don’t hear from me after a month or so…

No, you can’t have my stuffs.

Comments 12 Comments »

As an addendum to the Cub Report, I present to you a pictorial journey through the first structures of Alex’s imagination.

Island - A Distant Shore

The journey begins, with a view of the island from shore. Notice the torches, and how he started with wood, then began upgrading afterwards to stone.

 

Island - A beacon to light my way home - first version

Here we see, close up, the first rough signal tower he built with torches to be seen from a distance.

 

Island - Upstairs bedroom with emergency trapdoor

Here is the upstairs bedroom of his cozy island house. And, like all proper bedrooms, there is a trapdoor emergency hatch so you can escape if cornered by bad guys… or homework.

 

Island - now thats a treehouse

Here we see, from the island bridge, his first forays into building a treehouse. Oh yes, those are stone stairs circling that tree. Yes they are.

 

Island - treehouse stairs

No, really, those are stone stairs to be proud of. Curious fact, chickens can and WILL hop onto and follow you up stairs all the way to the top… and if you then remove blocks from behind them, you’ve got a treed chicken.

At least, so I’ve been told by the under ten set.

 

Fortress - At night

And now we see the fortress that Alex has made in Creative mode. It started out as being open, and the most recent addition is that massive wall circling the whole damn thing. From this view you can see how tall the whole thing is, the two glowstone towers with trapdoors in the foreground that lead to the underwater viewing chambers, the lava and water towers, and the distant lighthouse with glowstone on top.

 

Fortress - visible lava and water towers

A closer view, easier to see the lava and water towers. You know, if enemies storm that courtyard and he opens the bottom bricks to release all that water and lava at once, I think they’d be pretty steamed up about it. You’d have to be half baked to even consider attacking it.

 

Fortress - Wolf followed to top of tower

Here you can see how, once landed on top of a glowstone tower (with trapdoor), Wolfie has decided to show up. How does that dog do dat?

 

Fortress - Dawn

From this view, you can get a better idea how tall the lava tower is, and how far down that grassy courtyard is. Those are double doors leading into the fully furnished multi-story redstone castle.

 

Fortress - petting Zoo

What castle would be complete without petting zoo? And yep, those are eggs. Lots of torches too, guess zoo critters don’t need sleep much.

 

Fortress - dummies

Here we see a lovely interior shot of the dog house, with low one block size entryway that the wolf can walk through, but not Alex, because as he put it, “Sometimes I bet Wolfie would like some privacy.” Also note the WoW-style training dummies in lime green, clearly marked with bow and arrow signs, so you know what weapons you’re supposed to use here.

And yes there are bows and arrows, and when arrows hit something, they stay stuck there until you brush them off. A nice touch, that one.

 

Fortress - Wolfie

And finally, a closer picture of Wolfie. He does seem happy with his home, doesn’t he?

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Comments 6 Comments »

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