The Cub Report – Sax and Violence

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.

11 thoughts on “The Cub Report – Sax and Violence

  1. One of the interesting points about the number of options in Mists is that it made things even harder for our small guild that was already struggling with numbers (due to people being busy with other real life things, and also moving on to other games).

    Specifically, when you’re all working on different sets of dailies to grind different faction reps, there’s not a lot to go and do *together*. And if you’re playing WoW mostly as a solo game, then there are *much* better solo games out there – I think it really needs that excitement of a fun dungeon or raid with a group of friends to stay compelling compared to pure single player alternatives.


  2. I had reached that point myself, a few weeks ago. There just wasn’t anything in WoW that was able to hold my attention for an extended period of time. Oh sure, I could find something to do for an hour or so… but then what? I’m pretty much burned out on LFRs, dailies, professions, etc.

    Salvation arrived in the form of another game. Defiance. It was billed as an MMO, but it really isn’t. It’s more of a FPS with other folks running around. Sure, you play online with other players, but there is almost no interaction. Almost no chat (chat system is a bit too limited in my opinion), no auction house, no need for co-operation, etc. You don’t really NEED someone else to help you kill things. Now, if someone just comes along and stops to help you kill that Monarch (big bug), then it’s shiny. But you don’t NEED it, it’ll just take you a while. There are TONS of quests to do, or you can just whip out your Runner or Roller and go zipping around exploring and encountering random events that have been sprinkled all over.

    Defiance can be picked up and played for 10 minutes and then put back down. First game I’ve ever played that you can do that. So far, there is no gear-flation. If you are EGO level 10, you are almost as effective as someone EGO level 1000. The higher EGO person just has a few more tricks and slightly better weapon than you. So you don’t feel out-matched. If you hustle you can beat the higher EGO person on the leaderboard at the arkfalls.

    Speaking of billing….. this is a buy to play game. No monthly fee. Sure, you can spend money to buy extra stuff. But in no way do you need to. The game is quite viable as is. You just have the opportunity to buy cool outfits, exp boosts, skill boosts, vehicles, etc. Except for the boosts, there is plenty of that in the game itself, you just have to work to get them.

    To top it all off, Defiance is the first game that is also interactive with a show on TV. That’s right, you can watch the TV show Defiance, follow the story line and then see some stuff that might be occurring in the game soon. Or, as just announced, have a chance to see YOUR OWN TOON on the TV show if you win the contests they have set up in the game.

    Now, as a warning, this is a BRAND NEW GAME. And it’s online. So they are having issues with bugs. They are trying to fix them as fast as they can. And when a bug gets you it’s quite annoying. But it’s still a good game that I find quite enjoyable. Which is what I was losing in WoW. I’m sure I’ll go back to WoW, but maybe not quite so much thanks to having found a new way to occupy myself when I just can’t take one more LFR.


  3. Two things that might be fun (if he hasn’t tried them already): Isle of Giants — dinosaurs, more dinosaurs, battle pets that drop, chance for mount and best yet, turning yourself into a dire horn. The other is maybe installing Silver Dragon or NPC Scan and just hunt rares. There are some pretty fun trinkets that have a chance to drop (I want that crate of puppies!!).


  4. Awesome that he plays in the band. Love it!

    Interestingly, I completely understand what he’s going through in WoW. I came across the same problem and couldn’t get past it and I’m an adult. You would think my attention span would be better. Apparenly it’s not.

    For a game where he can explore I do highly recommend GW2. The jumping puzzles alone can keep someone occupied for a long time. It’s also a little more kid friendly in that kill stealing and node stealing are just not possible in that game. Neither is ganking. There is player vs player but only in the WvWvW zones. If you go there expect to fight. Otherwise, you never have to worry about it. I have seen a lot less bad behaviour there. Loot is another item, if there is loot on the mob for you it’s there for YOU. Grouping is not required for that. If you helped fight you get credit, group or not. No rolling, no chance for someone to steal something you want etc. Just more relaxing in general.

    Lol..I sound like a commercial. Didn’t mean to. I’s awesome that you are so involved! And the cub reports are some of my favorite posts here. I haven’t played WoW in ages, but still come here to read up on your adventures. 🙂



  5. Yet another reason I say WoW is not an RPG…

    I have a problem with Minecraft in that there’s so much I CAN do, I can’t choose… I can’t decide what I want to do. I’m not artistic, so building pictures would be mainly copying someone else’s work, and why bother with that when I can just go look it up online. 😛 The closest I’ve come to artistic is on a friend’s server, I once built two of the Space Invaders out of white wool way up in the air so if you stood in the right place on top of my house, they looked ‘real’. (I spent over an hour and a small graveyard’s worth of bones getting giant trees growing on top of the house and trimming out just the necessary leaves…) Any chance of putting the cub’s world up somewhere for download so we can see it?

    So sick of dailies in wow… you spend weeks doing them and your reward is more dailies. Yay. At least the shieldwall gryphons look pretty good, if boring. Working desultorily toward the fourth character getting enough golden lotus rep to start the dailies for the faction she actually wants, the august celestials, to get the 28 slot bag.


    • They’re actually removing the Shado-pan and August Celestials rep requirements in 5.3, if I remember correctly.

      Yay, no more grinding Golden Lotus!


  6. Glad he picked vanilla Minecraft up knowing that you were having problems getting FTB installed and not able to run it.

    At least he can look forward to horses coming to basic in 1.6.

    I too find it hard to stay focused in WoW lately, what with helping run a Minecraft server.

    Iron man 3 tomorrow too. SO MANY DISTRACTIONS!


  7. I’ve been going back with my priest and doing rep grinds. Finished Cata (sans Firelands) last week, primarily with tabard rep. Now I’ve been doing Northrend – finished the 4 bigs and smalls, still have Kalu’ak (about 5 more days of the three dailies to finish) as well as getting Argent Champion by doing the 25 tokens with each faction. I realized as I started that, that I never bought the 100 Crusader token mounts, so now I’ve got 3 toons earning tokens daily to expedite the mounts… I’m at 137 – the 5 (plus Argent Charger and Horde dragonhawk) will make a nice dent into getting to 150.

    I’ve found a lot of nifty things (including spotting, but not catching the TLPD) in Northrend I hadn’t encountered before.

    Having extra time because I’ve done everything in MOP outside of ToT rep grind, has been really nice.

    Oh, and F Halls of Origination. I was all ‘I’m 90, I can solo this!’ Yeah, water boss said ‘Narp’. Jerk. 🙂


  8. “Go forth and explore all the things!”

    That’s what I do. When my exploration is stymied by the noninteractive Potemkin world, I tend to go back to Minecraft as well. I think it’s that game design that contributes to the “Disneyland” feel of the game, more than the art style. Sometimes that’s exactly what I want, of course, but it’s not really something I want all the time.


  9. Interestingly, they have started going back and working on old Dungeon Journal stuff! One of the Devs was tweeting last week about how he was writing the Hellfire Ramparts and Auchindoun journal entries, and coming up with lore and stories for the bosses there. Pretty cool stuff, so hopefully all the older content is in the queue and will be finished eventually!


    • If that is true, my son is going to be a deliriously happy little boy. I think his favorite thing in the game is the Dungeon Journal, and likewise I think he’d love to have an actual book of it, with pictures of ALL the bosses and text describing them and what they do ont he facing page.

      My God, I just realized, it’s the same thing as having some of the other books he has with Transformers, where he can look at a nice picture portrait of the good or bad guy, and a detailed description of what they can do and a brief synopsis of their history.


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