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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

The Market For Minions


Garrison Minions are going to be the sleeper hit of Warlords, mark my words.

Oh, that picture? Doesn’t have anything to do with the post, but it’s my dwarf monk that I’m having fun playing, and any post with dwarf monks init is like music with rocks in. It sings.

I don’t know if you’ve really thought about it yet, but in Warlords of Draenor, we are getting a new collectible, the Minion.

This collectible will work JUST LIKE PETS, with two key differences.

First, these minions will not challenge the masculinity of the average overly-sensitive prepubescent that isn’t sure if they should have something to prove in the trousers department or not, so they err on the safe side with a chip on their shoulder the size of the local lumber yard.

I like the word prepubescent, as it so accurately describes boys that are too young to have grown a thatch of pubic hair thick enough to weave a rug out of yet.

Minions will not challenge a boy’s image of manliness. They’re not collecting plush dolls to display on the bed, they don’t have to worry we’ll think they actually hold feelings for cute, cuddly little critters, even digital representations.

Oh no, far from it. These aren’t pets, these are your MINIONS, to command, to dominate, to send on tasks for you, to order into battle, to throw as grist for the mill. To task with a mission. “Minions, your orders are as follows; go out, raid, burn shit down, kill baddies and BRING ME BACK THEIR LOOT.”

This collectible will be far safer for the teen boy psyche to get into.

Second, I refer you to my last point, these minions can be sent out to bring you back shit from their raids. There will be a tangible use to them in gear or loot, and a new way to get your rear-area general dreams fulfilled.

You think rare pets sell for a lot on the auction house? You think the raid drops sell for ludicrous sums?

I swear to you, when minions drop with Warlords it will be a whole new level of amazeballs.

Right now, the pet collector market is only a portion of the total playerbase.

But Minions, OMG, this will make pets look like an untapped market RIPE for exploitation.

Auction House Mavericks and Gold Making Masters, START YOUR ENGINES.

Surprise Achieves Are Surprising

This post was going to be quite a bit different.

I had this thing? You know, the thing with the Cub? And I was totally going to report it.

Then this thing happened.

Trajar wasn’t able to make raid tonight, so I got called up off the bench. That’s what I asked for, to be put on idiot reserve, and so I warm a bench. Happily, I might add. Progression raiding is awesome fun, but requires a massive time commitment.

Anyway, so I got called up, and the first order of business was a first time raid attempt on heroic General Nazgrim.

A few tries on him, and we defeated him. HUZZAH!

A few words on Heroic General Nazgrim.

Heroic Iron Juggernaut is down, and we’ve tried on Heroic Dark Shamans, and the healing and AoE damage on that fight, even splitting with three tanks and managing Iron Tombs sucks.

Let me say that for posterity. FUCK Heroic Dark Shaman. Crazy out of control RNG timer bullshit URRGGGHHH.

A fight that will feel good once we are able to improvise on the fly for any weird ass timer combo. Until then, chaos.

But Heroic General Nazgrim? Completely controllable. Things are on a set schedule, and as long as you control adds properly and kill them like RIGHT NOW in the RIGHT ORDER, and face the sniper towards the wall away from the group, it felt very smooth.

Anyway. After that, we switched to normal, cleared the rest of Siege of Orgrimmar, and there was a ton of time left for the scheduled raid night.

The raid team has been working on old raid achievements when there is free time, so we went off to go after Heroic Lei Shen in Throne of Thunder.

The raid team worked on it a little last week, when I wasn’t there.

This week, boom, down goes Heroic Lei Shen. Titles for all! Satisfying boss kills, TWO new bosses down! Yay!

And then the secret chamber was unlocked and this happened;

Raden chained

Wow. The big one.

I mean, you only get to see this boss once Heroic Lei Shen is dead. Cut scene! RP text! Neat chamber!

We start talking about the fight, none of us remember shit about it. I barely remember seeing videos showing the world first kill team doing it in the center of the room. And balls, big balls everywhere hitting everyone in the face.

The raid leader yells, “We’re doing it live!” and in we run.

We died about ten seconds later to this interesting cataclysmic amount of damage, something like 10,000,000 each.


So folks read some spell stuff, and we talked for a few minutes, and the decision was made… we have ten minutes left in the raid night, so screw it, pull it and go great gonzo. And kill the blood adds, ignore the vita. And something something heroes.

So we did that, and every once in a while a lightning bolt would come out and zap someone and they would drop dead. Boom! Face, floor, floor, face. Have fun!

In fact, once Ra-Den hit 40% and went into ‘burn phase’ with all the balls, or whenever he started that phase, we were down quite a few people, but screw it, dig in and see.

Down Ra-Den dropped in health, but so did our members, until there were only three left; Pankration the monk tank, Pumpken the shaman healer and Callaghan the paladin healer.

One tank, two heals. 20% left to go.

Then 15%. 10%.

We counted down, and down, and down, and DAMN IF THEY DIDN’T TAKE RA-DEN ALL THE WAY!

So this happened;

Raden Unchained

Pretty amazing, and a testament to how awesome our tanks and healers are on this team. Never even came close to being in trouble, and Pankration put out some amazing DPS, ignoring all the adds and letting him just take the balls all by himself.

To be clear, it was Ra-Den taking all the balls, not Pankration. Thought I ought to, like, be more specific.

So we were excited. Our second pull ever, and Ra-Den is down? Wow!

And then this happened;


That… was a huge surprise.

All I can say is, way to go Band of Misfits on Azuremyst for kicking ass, and continuing to surprise me with how a bunch of people who are successful raiders can still be so nice, friendly, and fun without becoming flaming egotistical drama-queen asshats.

It can be done. It CAN be done.

It’s something special to have a place where when you log in, there is no stress. There is never a worry as to what drama may have happened while you were logged off, because there wasn’t any. Or if there was, it wasn’t between any of your friends. How incredibly, indescribably relaxing.

Plus successful raiding!

Also, bonus quote of the night; “So the way to do it is to ignore mechanics and go all-out on DPS.”

I do have one more thought.

Damn, I feel sorry for Trajar not being there tonight.

Good news is, they’ll do it all over again when he’s back! And even easier, because his DPS? Woo, puts mine to shame, everything will go that much smoother once he’s back on board.

Started the night thinking “I wonder if we’ll be able to get this boss down” and ended on a heck of a special surprise guest boss appearance.

I love this game.

Oh yeah, and seriously. Screw Heroic Dark Shaman.

Ooh, bonus quote of the night.

Lynn; “I wonder how many other guilds are wondering why they haven’t gone back and killed heroic Lei Shen and Ra-Den before now?”

Tom; “All of them.”

Quoted for truth, get your butt in Throne of Thunder in your fancy new gear and get you some Ra-Den thunder god mojo, man.

Lets DO Be Hasty!

When Warlords of Draenor comes out, we’ve been told that the existing stat system is getting a pretty big overhaul.

Reforging is being removed, taking control over the fine tuning and balancing of our stats away from us.

I keep hearing cheers for this. I don’t understand it.

Yes, I do understand that they are removing Hit (and I believe Expertise) from modern gear.

Without a ‘hit cap’ or expertise cap to reach to eliminate misses, we will no longer have to depend on reforging our early gear to reach a hit cap at the expense of other stats.

That simplifies things, certainly, but it doesn’t remove the benefits of having reforging available.

Every class and spec has some stats that are preferred over others. And with Haste in the game, some classes have certain ‘break points’ where reaching a set amount of Haste will give one extra tick of a Hot or Dot.

I don’t understand why I would WANT to give up the capability of choosing a stat I want to prioritize over others, and reducing other stats to get more of what is truly valuable to me.

I can see why Blizzard would do it, I’m saying I don’t understand why I’m supposed to be happy about it.

World of Warcraft is easy to learn, and requires some effort to master. Right? Of course you CAN play your characters without reforging, optimizing stats, reaching hit caps, etc. Just as you can queue for LFR without enchanting or gemming your gear.


I like having reforging available as an option.

I once played this game without reforging being in it. Did you?

A lot of us did.

You may recall, during Burning Crusade, when there was no reforging but there WERE gem slots and gem cutting.

As a Bear Druid Tank, I made quite a few posts breaking down the benefits and how-tos of ‘reforging’ your stats using gems to get the most benefit in damage mitigation and avoidance. Because we wanted to be the best we could at our role, and the only tool we had at the time to adjust our shit was doing the math on stats from gems.

I rejoiced over the addition of reforging because it meant MOST of my fiddle-fapping around could be done at the reforger instead of by using expensive gems.

If you’re going to remove reforging and expect me to actually be happy about it, then the core reason why we wanted reforging in the first place has to be removed entirely.

Our gear would have to dynamically shift stat weights to favor the most optimum stat balance for our current spec FOR us.

Either every leather-wearing agility-using class would need to share the same stat priorities, or the agility leather chestpiece that drops would have to adjust it’s own stats so that when equipped by a Guardian Druid it has more crit but when equipped by a Rogue it has more Haste.

Those are not to represent what those classes/specs want NOW. It’s just to illustrate that we know that ain’t gonna happen, so I am unhappy reforging is going away.

As far as I can tell, the reason we shouldn’t mind that reforging is being removed is because they are royally fucking gear stats.

Our gear will now have main stat and stamina, and those other stats on it are, well, a bonus. We should consider ourselves lucky they have those bonus stats, and what bonus stats something has may be made up at random, so you never know what gumdrop will pop out from the loot dispenser next.

So now Normal, Heroic, Mythic and Warforged get a new variable added to the mix; stat roulette. What will we get this time? Will it be useful, or crap for my class? Oh boy!

I’m still not seeing how this system is going to result in anything other than our keeping every damn piece of loot we get so we can swap pieces in and out to balance our stats that way. Yes, keeping three different chest pieces in my inventory is far better than visiting a reforging vendor.

Okay, I’ve gotten that out of my system. It’s not live yet, and since I occasionally play on a heroic raiding team I might be unusual in my desire to squeeze every drop of capability out of my character that I can get to offset my lack of skill.

I don’t know, I can’t see the future. Maybe when the new stat and gear system comes out, we’ll be so excited at the way our gear changes from healing to tanking to DPS as we change specs that we won’t care about stat maximizing anymore. Maybe we’ll just let it go and stop sweating it so much.

While I’m talking about stats and changes to the system in Warlords, I’d like to hit one more topic.


I would like to see the removal of Haste as a stat from the entire system.

I am playing a lot of characters, swapping back and forth right now. And for the first time I can recall, I am playing multiple characters of the same class.

I am playing my heroic-geared Warlock, and then I switch over and immediately play my son’s LFR and Timeless Isles geared Warlock.

I raid with both Warlocks, I make the same effort to gem/enchant/reforge both, they both have the same spec, it’s apples to apples.

Don’t check Wooffie on the Armory today, I got two new pieces of gear late last night and I haven’t gemmed or reforged anything to accomodate them yet. Normally, he’s the bees knees.

I’ve noticed this before, a LOT, but the Wooffie to Ursinerate swapping has really shoved it in my face.

Haste as a stat SUCKS FOR GAMEPLAY.

The other stats all increase or decrease potential damage or survivability. Bigger numbers, smaller numbers.

Haste is the only stat that actually changes how your character feels to play.

The more Haste you get, the faster those buttons can be clicked, the faster your energy regens, the faster you can DO SHIT.

When your Haste is very low, as it is at the start of your gearing journey, fighting and using your abilities in combat, and waiting for energy to regenerate can feel like punching under water. The moves are there, but they’re sllooooowwwwwwww and have no sense of oomph to them.

As you improve your gear and your baseline Haste increases, abilities get faster, your character gets more responsive.

This is not fun.

Sure, if you’re raiding and your gear improves constantly so you’re running hot, it’s fine. Your character feels slicker than a greased otter in a jello-wrestling pit.

But what if you’re not raiding at the front of the curve? Most of us aren’t.

What, so we get to play characters that aren’t as responsive or nimble as others do?

Gameplay is the feeling we have when we play our character, how responsive it is, how quickly we can react and move and perform our abilities.

Stats that increase the power of our abilities makes sense, but stats that change the flow and frequency of how often we can USE those abilities change our impression of our characters, how they feel to handle and control, and can give a new player the feeling that this character with long cast times sucks to play because slooowww, while this other character with lots of instant casts is far more fun because buttons.

I would like to see all characters have the ‘good’ Haste rate be standard. Characters should always be responsive and quick to play, we can have our power gated by some other tool than by limiting how often you get to push a button.

My hunter, who I began to play a bit the last week (I blame Rosin) won the trinket in LFR Siege that reduces the cooldown of a lot of abilities.

Totally transforms the character play flow, things feel faster, more responsive. A LOT more fun.

Why not feel like that all the time? Why stand around twiddling thumbs, or waiting for glacially slow cooldowns spamming the same shot cause that is the only option up?

You don’t need Haste to reduce the effective power of a character. That greased otter feeling ought to be there all the time.

Thus ends this morning bear bullshit break. Have a great day!

I’m the Bomb!

This post is about crafting and reputations, but mostly about the unexpected generosity of the people we know.

As part of my “Pandarian Wish Checklist”, I’ve been going around doing all sorts of stuff.

I figure, once Warlords hits, I am not going to go back and farm things, level or hunt rare pets or seek out mounts or kill world bosses in Pandaria much.

If I have a pet that isn’t leveled or collected when Garrisons and Minions go live, I don’t foresee them getting much lovin’. They’ll be my established buddies, but they better be more cat than dog, if you get my meaning. They best expect to see me when they see me.

One of the things I’ve been doing is crafting stuff every day, using materials gathered on my farms. A few Sky Golems, plate armor for alts, working on the 28 slot bags and cloth armor on my Tailor, and weapons on my blacksmith.

Currently, I’m in the middle of daily cooldowns crafting Pierre, an Agility Sword (for my monk alt), cloth pants for my son’s warlock, and a 28 slot bag.

Plus seeking out Zandalari Warbringers to destroy. I love them, I get such a pirate rush from finding them, killing them, and stealing their big bag o’ plunder.

PLUNDER. No feeling quite like ganking a Warbringer, taking his big sack and finding it FULL of stacks of cloth for your tailor to use.


I was looking over my to-do list, and it occurred to me that one of my top, I mean TOP OF THE CHARTS to do items when Pandaria was first announced had gone undone.

When the buzz over Mists of Pandaria as an expansion first went viral, people were talking pandas, islands, whispers of legendary quests for everyone, all sorts of exciting stuff.

Me, I read Wowhead’s breakdown of the proposed engineering profession, and went nuts over one thing.

The Depleted Kyperium Rocket mount.

When I chose to have my warlock be an engineer, I specifically went Goblin for this mount. I don’t like Goblin engineering usually, because it’s all PvP bombs. Gnomes have fun gadgets like the Poultryizer. Where I come from, being able to turn your friends into chickens is a big draw. Only thing would be better is a Big Bessy Pig-O-Matic. You were once my friend, now you’re potential breakfast bacon.

Here we are waiting for the next expansion, and I’d never made the bloody rocket mount!

As I recalled, the big gate on those were three Orbs of Mystery, which had to be bought from a vendor in the Vale. I couldn’t remember much more, other than they were bloody expensive, and some folks were using them to bypass gold limitations on server transfers by buying them up and then flipping them on the AH of their new server.

So, how much are they stock before I go check for AH discounts?

What they are, is 18000 gold. Each.

The Depleted Kyparium Rocket requires three.

This reminded me why I never made any of the Jewelcrafting mounts either. Each one requires an Orb of Mystery. And you need one of all four chromatic mounts to make the insanely beautiful Jeweled Onyx Mount. That means the Jeweled mount is a minimum of 72,000 gold in Orbs, before you even count in anything else. Like living steel, or stacks of rare gems. 20 rare gems per mount. Plus Serpents Eyes.

18000 gold each. Three of them for a rocket mount.

You know, I could have had 56000 gold for a rocket a long time ago.

At least, I could have if I hadn’t spent EVERY DIME I’VE EVER HAD ON PETS.

Hundreds of thousands on pets. I checked once. Never again, some things we’re not meant to know.

But that’s okay. I can watch the auction house, I can maybe craft Sky Golems and armor pieces to sell to make the gold to craft the rocket. There is still time.

So there I am, bitching about the price of Orbs in guild chat because, hey, that’s a thing, when Rosin whispers me that she happens to have brought a bunch of Orbs with her when server transferring over. You know, to avoid that pesky gold cap. If I wanted to buy some at a discount, they’d let me have them for 15000 each.

For the record, I am referring to Rosin as her because her character in our guild is female. No disrespect intended. 🙂

I want to stop, and take note of this. That is 3000 gold savings off what they had to pay for the Orbs in the first place. That’s a big, BIG discount, since anyone wanting one of these mounts will buy an Orb off the AH for any price less than the full 18000 gold. There is no need to cut the price that much. This is a huge offer.

Of course, all my riches are in pets. I had to thank Rosin, and let her know that I’d be working at saving for that day, but it probably wouldn’t be soon. 🙂

Well, Rosin had a counter offer.

She’d always wanted a Jeweled Onyx mount. Did I have a jewelcrafter with the recipes for them?

Well, no, no I didn’t. My Hunter is my Jewelcrafter, and I’d stopped doing the Cloud Serpent reputation quests at honored. My Warlock and my son’s Death Knight were both exalted though, so I had the Commendation for double rep.

So I said I didn’t right now, but if she’d like the mounts made, I would be happy to go finish the rep off. Give me a week to get my Hunter through and we’d be all set.

I love having a reason to pursue a goal. Someone wants me to make something? Whoopie! I get to go do something for ME (learn recipes) and help someone else too!

Being able to fly a serpent on more than one character is a plus, too.

But Rosin wasn’t done.

See, her offer was, I go grind the reputation and learn the recipes… and she’d let me have her leftover Orbs of Mystery and some Living Steel when we were done.

Enough Orbs to, coincidentally, craft a rocket.

I certainly wasn’t going to hold her to that, that’s a ton of money for something lots of people can craft for you. On the other hand, friends do crazy things sometimes because they can, and they know it’ll really make your day.

Regardless, I had a goal. Get Cloud Serpent to exalted.

Did you know that the Crimsonscale Firestorm serpents that fly over the Timeless Isle can drop Quivering Firestorm Eggs that are worth a core 1000 rep to turn in with the Cloud Serpents? With guild rep and Commendation bonuses, that makes each egg worth 2200 rep. More if you’re a human.

That is twice the rep you get from the Onyx Eggs you can discover in the Cloud Serpent area, Onyx Eggs that I found out are heavily farmed. STILL.

Nobody was farming the elite Crimsonscale serpents, though. Not until I came along.

Wowhead lists the eggs as a 7% drop, and that feels about right. I killed quite a few Crimsonscales, and by the time I went from zero to 39 of the 50 weekly hourglass charging embers, I had 5 of the Quivering Eggs.

Those, plus doing every single quest available and all the flying quests actually got me from midway through honored to exalted in just one day.

I let Rosin know that I had the recipes, so did she really want the mounts made?

Yes, she most certainly did.

Time for the next hard decision. Quantity or quality?

See, there are five jewelcrafting mounts, the four chromatics and then the fifth epic mount. The fifth mount is made by combing the first four. The first four cannot have been learned to use them this way, and once combined, they’re gone.

So if you want one of all five mounts to ride around on, you actually need to craft TWO of each of the four chromatic mounts.

That there be a lot of Orbs of Mystery.

I had all the gems needed, the Serpents Eyes, the Living Steel, so the question was if Rosin wanted all five at once, or just the crowning Jewel of the mounts.


jeweledonyx - Unnaa

I think she chose… wisely.

Damn, that is one pretty mount. Just, really pretty.

Can you imagine a hunter with that mount, and the metallic cat pet? I know I can.

Rosin turned around, thanked me, and yep, gave me three Orbs of Mystery and a passel of Living Steel, too. She told me she had wanted to do something to be nice for my having written about bear tanking all those years ago.

That goes a good ways past being nice, and I really appreciate what a wonderful gift it was…

Because that means this is the mount that Rosin built.



I’m sorry, but I look at that, and the rocket mount still lights my fire.

I want to make machine gun noises while I strafe fields of sheep doing flyovers.

This is the mount that Rosin built, and the funny thing is, I know myself too well.

A couple years from now, we’re going to be at the tail end of Warlords of Draenor, and I’m not even going to be able to remember the name of our current expansion, or any of the bosses in the raids before Siege of Orgrimmar. I’ll have flushed most of it down the old age drain.

But I’ll remember Rosin and her generosity every single time I mount up and ride that rocket down just like Slim Pickens, and you can bet this mount is on my new short list of must-ride mounts.

At this rate, my only complaint is I’m running out of Wish Lists.

I gotta come up with something to keep me busy!

Maybe I should learn Cloud Serpent riding on every character? But who needs a serpent when I’m THE BOMB, BABY!

Yeah, that’s the last time I say that. Ever.

Rosin/Unnaa, thank you very much for your overwhelming generosity. Thank you ever so much. I hope you enjoy your Jeweled Onyx Panther and ride it in very good health. 🙂

Me, I have to find me a field of sheep to strafe.

Keep Us Coming Back For More


Most things we do for fun are short. Get in, get fun, get out.

Sledding in the snow, dancing at the club, watching a movie, playing cards, target shooting, whatever. Short.

You get in, get your blast of fun and get out.

World of Warcraft isn’t about a short blast of fun. Blizzard is selling us a virtual world. Everything about WoW has to say, “Come join us, move into your new life in Azeroth. There is so much to do you’ll never want to leave. Or unsubscribe.”

The income expectations are all based on keeping your butt in that seat, resubscribing every month.

So the design goal has to be wrapped around things to do in Azeroth when you’re bored.

What I want to do is look at how the game design has changed while the player base continues to evolve into cynical flibbertigibbits that equate subscription models with grind models.

We have seen pet battles and collections added, and supported with daily quests and even a tournament. We’ve seen collectible pets added throughout the game, tied as drops to old and existing raids, and all BoE so the avid collector doesn’t have to be a progression raider, they just need to have sharp gold making skills.

This keeps you out there in the world looking for rare pets, doing quests, trying to get improved quality versions of pets you already have, a lot of activity to do. All short term, fill in kind of fun. BUT, there are so many pets that the process of seeking out rare versions of them and leveling them can take years. It’s not something that you can just grind out in a day. It’s a small rock that you push a little ways up that hill each day

Old raids were changed to make them easier to solo to officially add those into content you do when you’re bored. Alongside the old pets and the achievements you can unlock (many with mounts tied to them and even potential legendary weapon questlines), there are also old gear items to seek out for the fashionistas among us wanting a specific transmog set. With weekly lockouts per character, again, not something you can grind out. You can push that rock on one raid clear per character per week.

We have seen professions updated so there are incredibly powerful gear recipes (and pets, and mounts)… but you have to discover the gear recipes by doing a profession BOP daily cooldown. The mat cost is not the gate, no rare materials are needed. But you need a LOT of basic mats to make your daily cooldown every day. The gate for your crafting an item is time. Blocks of time in 15 to 30 day increments per day. You can easily make your own Sky Golem if you have a farm, an Engineer, a Miner and an Alchemist (for Living Steel cooldowns). You just need lots of time.

We have seen that farm system added where you can slowly unlock plots on a farm, then plant and harvest your own crafting materials to feed your professions… if you don’t want to grind for crafting materials, you can harvest your own, but only so much each day. In this case, an alternative to grinding. You can either grind your mats by flying around looking for nodes/sprouts, or you can get a small harvest every day, on each character that goes through the farming.

We have many, many factions, most with mounts, gear and tabards. Some with profession recipes. We’ve seen their reputation gated behind daily quests, which again gates you not by grinding but by time. Do a little every day and push that rock just a little bit further.

The Timeless Isle seems to be something new that is an anti-gate. Lots of sudden, instant gratification. Just pop on over to Loot Isle at level 90, plunder the chests and get geared up! Except your experience killing mobs can vary wildly depending on your class (hint – tanks and pet tank classes have a much easier time of farming elites) and of course those wonderful rare mobs die so fast that you pretty much have to be right nearby to get tehre in time. Still, it’s a lot of fun and a great change of pace… and once that initial burst of plunder is gone, there are still tons of rares to try and find, special loot, pet drops and other reasons for us to keep coming back day after day. And oh yeah, a reputation grind if you’re dedicated and want the Emperor’s mount.

Even in the most current raid, there is a reason to keep logging in and trying to clear the final wing every single week; Heirloom weapons that scale from level 90 to 100, gear that will be useful into and through the entire next expansion. They can drop from Flex as well as Normal, so for anyone that can raid with friends this is a strong incentive to keep coming back every single week for another shot. And if you don’t have alts, only one main, it’s still an incentive because your first Heirloom drop will be a weapon for your mains spec and class. Something you can use yourself when Warlords drops.

And finally, the big one. The grand ‘keep coming back’ path. The legendary questline that spanned the entire expansion, timed and paced perfectly with drop gathering and reputation grinding to reward a player that logged in and completed his objectives every single week for the entire expansion. The grand culimation of all of our efforts gave those of us who completed it a massively OP cloak, a special boss only we get access to that can drop warforged gear, and access to an isolated area that has a chest with a guaranteed Burden of Eternity to upgrade something instantly to 535. Rewards that are good right NOW, while there is still plenty of time to get use out of it while we wait for Warlords.

I like all of these things, but they paint a clear picture of what we can continue to see down the road.

I like how the farm gives you an alternative to grinding for crafting materials, as long as you are cool with the pace you harvest those mats. I expect the Garrison to continue this metered material pace, and give us a new collectable to seek out everywhere, our minions. Everything we’ve seen in pet collecting and battling we will see with our Garrison minions. More to seek out, collect, farm from instances and raids, rewards as quests, drops from rare mobs.

We can expect more factions to gain reputation with, and mounts and tabards at the end. I would expect more daily quests, but possibly with a difference. Right now, you can choose to champion a faction, and as you do a dungeon you get bonus rep with them. I would expect this system to be used for a daily quest hub somewhere, or with all reputation based daily quests, where you can champion a faction, and all daily quests done will cound to that faction.

I believe we can expect a new legendary questline, one that again unlocks over time and gives us an incentive to keep coming back and pushing the rock a little further each week. I would do it just becauze of how much I enjoyed the story development and the way it tied what I did through the entire expansion. The items and special boss? BIG BONUS.

I think we can expect more craftable special items, like the mounts and pets. But this time, less of the super-rare materials and more of the daily cooldowns using cheap materials. It puts the reward in the hands of anyone with patience and a dedication to log in every day to craft, instead of being exclusive to those that can save tens of thousands of gold.

I also expect more big ticket expensive items, to continue to give the big gold makers a prize to strut their stuff. Making gold and manipulating the market ALSO requires constant logging in and managing auctions week after week.

What all of these activities share is that there is an end goal to work towards, but you really can’t just grind it all out in a day or two. There are things you CAN grind if you like to, like Emperor reputation (or Black Prince rep), but most are designed to let you push the rock further towards each goal and then move on to something else, each and every day. Lots of different minigoals, with so many to choose from that there is something for everyone.

I really liked the pace and flow this expansion. I LIKE having a lot of little things I can do, and I’ve enjoyed having the farm to supply me with materials to feed my crafting without having to spend an hour or two flying circles for ore, and especially grind mobs for cloth.

Last expansion, at this exact same time, my main activity was circling through the Abyssal Depth endlessly, farming herbs on my druid while swimming like a dolphin. I swam for many hours, mostly listening to Lewis Black comedy albums while I gathered my herbs. I enjoyed it, but I can’t really say it gave me something I was excited to log in and do every day.

Say what you will, I feel things are a lot different now.

We do seem to have a very long wait ahead of us until we see Warlords of Draenor.

There is a new Diablo expansion that will release soon, as well as Hearthstone, and Blizzard would not release an expansion in competition. They stagger their title releases so each one has their fans undivided attention when products go on sale. Who knows when we might see Heroes of the Storm in there as well.

In the past, it has seemed from timing that Blizzard expects the release of a Diablo game or other property to occupy us as if it were a content patch for WoW. I don’t know if that is intentional, but there are gaps in WoW content to match the releases of other games.

Instead of just swimming around farming herbs, I have daily farming for mats, crafting, leveling pets, seeking out rares for ones I’ve got, old raids to solo for transmog gear, raids to do with friends for achievements, raids in Flex to try for a heirloom off Garrosh, leveling with Recruit a Friend, Timeless Isle wandering, Zandalari Warbringer hunting, and STILL so much more.

It’s a lot different. There are things to do, rocks to roll just a little further, and all of it is just different enough that each one stays kind of fresh.

I’m not excited at the idea of four more months without new content, but they are getting better at spreading things out.

Once we’ve got Garrisons, and our minion raid teams to begin to manage? Yeah, I can see that whole structure adding a lot more depth to ways we can fill our time.

Are You A “Try Hard”?

I’m gonna start with some facts, then veer wildy off into the weeds. You’re invited to come along with me, and point at the pretty aminals just before they eat us.

Last night our guild leader Tom went looking to kick off an open Flex run.

He filled up the raid list with folks who wanted to go that weren’t already in the other main raid team slapping Sha around in Siege normal.

He thought we were a might light in our loafers where tank and healing was concerned, so he brought in a warrior offtank and a druid healer from Oqueue.

Sounds familiar? Seem pretty normal? Ask around with your friends first, and then move to a more open platform where strangers roam the arid plains.

Off we go to flex-mode Siege sequence two, the Galakrasical Wonders of the Flappy-Winged Age.

Kill all the trash, try like heck to pull everything on the beach at once to pad AoE DPS, fight to set off cannon bombs while players are still in them, the usual shenanigans.

We get lined up, set up a tower team, make the pull and midway through lose the new tank and healer down below in the valley and it all drops in the pot.

No worries, right? Most of us are on alts anyway.

Being on alts means, we HOPE to pull it out since we know what we’re doing, and get gear on our alts that could use it.

BUT… if the bosses aren’t dying, we swap alts out and bring mains in until bosses start dying. It’s the natural order of things.

Sometimes, you need bigger guns.

Ah, but then comes this gem. This was a first for me, a high point in the week, nay the month.

What happened, though incredibly minor, is the kind of thing I’ll remember long after I forget what raid we were even doing back in this expansion.

Two things happened at the same time.

Tom was driven to check what happened to the tank that he died so fast. Squishy, or standing in bad, or what? He was from Oqueue, maybe there were performance issues.

I hear a lot of people suffer from performance issues. They make a drug for some of them, but not one you can take that helps your raid. And how do you bring the subject up with your flaccid tank? “Hi, we’ve noticed you’re kinda… squishy… lately. We think this will help.” [presents bottle of ARMORALL armor polish]

So Tom does a quick look to see what happened, and at the same time Pumpken, the most incredible healer that plays a Shaman ever in the game, and who happens to be on her main at the time, gets a whisper from the Oqueue druid healer.

The whisper is as follows;


So Pumpken shares that whisper with us at the same time as Tom finds the problem. No heals coming from the OQueue Druid healer, who has low gear, no gems, no enchants, and apparently, no “try”.

Tom let the druid go, removed him from the raid. Told him, “Go get gemmed and enchanted, and we can take you some other time.”

The Druid called Pumpken a “Try Hard”. Like, as an accusation.

What, was he afraid she was making him look bad?

This is the great lie. Someone else does not make you look bad. Only YOU can make you look bad.

You, by not performing, by not moving out of bad, by not bothering to gem or enchant or reforge your gear.

By not trying.

YOU make you look bad, by not giving a shit. By not trying.

Others do what they do. Has nothing to do with you.

We were laughing about that “try hard” stuff in vent and in guild chat for a long time after that. Mostly ’cause I couldn’t let it go. That attitude is fascinating, I keep circling it like a dog smelling shit. It’s horrifying and yet I can’t stop looking at it.

Someone else in guild, not one of the progressive raiders, saw us basically mocking him for being upset at Pumpken for, what, healing too well? Giving a shit? And asked, legitimately not wanting to ALSO be mocked some time in the future, “What iLevel should I be to join your Flex runs? I’d like to start going too.”

Tom answered “Meh, whatever. It’s Flex, come join us.”

It’s not about being an elitist. It’s about whether you can do the best you can with what you’ve got, and that you try to be prepared. Basically, that if you’re putting yourself out there to join a bunch of others, that you’re going to give a shit, try to do your best (and raid utility!) and not tank the raid.

Unless you’re a tank. You know wtf I mean.

Listen, when all of your mains gear is 561 or higher, then everything else looks undergeared. You stop expecting the best possible gear, and instead you look at what seems reasonable for what you’re running at the moment.

And for Flex, what matters most is you are going to give a shit, you’re going to try, you’re going to care.

Since we can’t read your mind, we have to look at how you take care of your stuff.

Just like I, when interviewing someone for a job, will take a look at what they drive in to the interview, go out and look in the front seat while they are inside filling out the application. I hire service techs that will be out in the field all day long, given their own company truck. It’s reasonable to me that if I’m giving you a truck and I’m never going to see how you maintain it, then looking at how you take care of your personal car right now might clue me in as to whether you naturally give a shit and take care of your stuff, or just throw whopper wrappers and half-full pop bottles in the passenger foot well. It ain’t perfect, but it provides a clue.

Same with the character you’re bringing to the raid. If I look at your gear and see that it ain’t gemmed, enchanted, reforged, whatever. If you are missing major glyphs. If you forgot to take your level 90 Talent. If you never pop a flask, eat a food buff (even when given by a feast!) or cast your own raid buffs? None of that tells me whether you WILL try or not, but if some of it or all of it is missing, it’s a good clue that you don’t give a shit.

Or that normally you do give a shit, but this is an alt you don’t care about, so you haven’t paid it the attention a character you bring to a team raid deserves.

We have to look at these things, because now more than ever each player has to try hard.

When you get out there on the field of battle, you move your butt, you attack what needs to die first, you follow the flow. You interrupt. You move stuff away from others. You focus on the adds instead of padding the meters by burning the boss when it’s doing nothing to help us. Raid utility, whatever you brought, use it. It’s a force multiplier. Interrupts? CC on the trash before Garrosh? Big honking force multiplier.

This is what I love about the modern raids, and what increasingly irritates me about LFR and random person picked up from a queue.

These raids are designed so that every boss has a Lich King Defile.

Old school ‘get out of the bad’ meant if you stood in the bad, you died.

Modern ‘get out of the bad’ means, if you stand in the bad, the RAID dies. Or has a big pain in the butt to deal with.

It’s a shift in raid design. We had some special ones in the past. Remember Shade of Aran? “I will not move when Flame Wreath is cast or the raid blows up.” It was special and unique enough that there were monk chants on Youtube about it, it was infamous, because it was so damn simple… but if you had strangers in your raid group, somehow they always moved!

Now the fights are all like that!

Maybe it’s because of Deadly Boss Mods. Communication addons that, if you have them, clearly communicate in big honking letters, “pay attention naow!!!”

Maybe Blizzard feels if people are told what is happening that easily, then there needs to be more piled on top of it to strain your ability to process it all and react properly.

I dunno, but I like it.

At the same time, this is the biggest challenge I see in LFR and when I join other Flex runs, especially in OpenRaid with strangers.

It is not enough for the raid leader, tanks and healers to know what they are doing, move out of the bad, and by being awesome carry everyone else.

Each and every member of the team has to be a try hard. One person blindly attacking General Nazgrim during Defensive Stance, and endless Ravager axes come to eat you. That’s all it takes. One DPS who doesn’t act properly, and things go very wrong, very quickly.

Sure, you get enough really strong, solid raiders who outgear the stuff, and it compensates for a few that are in starter gear. Absolutely.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a blind carry. Those players in starter gear still have a profound impact on the flow of the fight. You don’t need mega-gear to interrupt a Shaman before they can get off a chain heal. You don’t have to do 300k DPS to pop a defensive cooldown and jump on a ticking time bomb before it blows and does damage to the entire raid.

Just, amazes the shit out of me. “Why are you such a try hard?”

There is a group of people sitting here beside you, thinking you give a shit.

The better question is, “Why aren’t you?”

Confessions of an Inveterate Bouncer

Once upon a time in a magical, far off land there was a bear.

The bear liked to growl and dance, and talk, and eat heaping piles of bacon.

But above all else, the bear liked to bounce.

From dragons and dungeons to instances and invasions, his big brown butt could be seen happily bouncing to the beat of nations.

Times change, talents were added, tweaked, moved and were lost, but the bounce went on.

Damage was mitigated, reduced, dodged and avoided, but the bounce went on.

Finally there came a day when mitigation became active, and something had to give. The bear could either be bouncy or be beat on, but not both at once.

With sadness, the big brown bear realized that if he gave himself over to being the most active, properly defensive bear he should be, he would have nothing left over to bounce with.

The bear felt his world turning quite gray and cold. Bearing on the bounce was what prevented feeling old.

“A bear without bounce, that just will not do! Oh bother,” the bear thought, “bouncing has gotten too hard to do! Perhaps it’s time to leave tanking for the fast-fingered crew.”

The bear settled down and his days turned quite slow, for he had no more oomph and no particular place to go. He rested in his tree and ate bacon all day, and wondered through the hours what new games he should play.

“I loved being a bear and bouncing all day, and swiping my paws in the enemies’ face. I wonder what’s out there, what else I could do to bring the good times bouncing back with a good swipe or two.”

The bear looked around, and read through the lists, of character creation and leveling kits. Monks and Pandaren, Priests and Paladins too, so many options to choose from but none that ring true!

But wait, what am I thinking, the choice is quite clear! It’s a pandaren hunter that can bounce it’s butt near. I’ll grab a big gun and have a funky dance, and when it comes to bouncing just watch that groovy ass!

Off the bear went, and felt his soul on the mend as he hunted Isle mogu with his dinosaur friend. Growls and stomping, leaps and chomping and a fat feast of feathers flew, the feral spirit was returning with a bear bouncing through.

The hunter tried raiding while shaking his fluff, and bouncing around goofily soloing stuff. The Island of Thunder got smacked with a bow and a gun shoved quite rudely where no gun should go.

It just wasn’t the same, some essential something was missed. Did he make the wrong choice in the character class list? The bear felt himself sitting in front of the screen, wondering “Should I keep logging on in, or start shopping on Steam?”

He didn’t know what to do, was his time over in WoW? If there was no more joy, stick a fork in it now.

He finally decided to make no sudden rash moves. “My father procrastinated, I’m going to too! Why act right away to decide what to do? I’ll putter and potter and mutter and ramble, and mess with some alts while I chat and I scramble. In time I’ll find out if the magic’s all gone, or if theres still some fat spark lurking deep in the wand.”

The bear played with his Pally, his Warrior and Priest, but though they were okay none of them bounced like a beast. The paladin felt clunky, the warrior lacked range, and the priest looked all awesome but couldn’t move worth a damn.

Then he tried something new, something he’d always abhored; he rolled a slimy warlock (but at least it wasn’t a Horde).

The Warlock seemed crappy, it had pets without style, everyone summoned the same with random names from a file. If you’re going to have pets, at the very little least you could let us enslave them for a variety of treats!

Why isn’t this Warlock the same as the Hunter I know, but with red and green fire and a staff not a bow? I want it all different, but also the same, because I want it new but still different, yes I’m completely insane.

Why not give it a chance, why not try out the specs, see what demonology is like, I hear it’s a tank with a pet.

I tried all the specs out, and was flabbergasted to see that the more that I played it, the more it was ME!

The warlock could leap and could bounce and could hop, all while spitting red fire and sending pets out to chomp.

Demonology meant you could leap forward quite far, be tough as a tank and chew bad guys like sharks. You grew giant bat wings and great honking horns, and the ground at your feet swirled with purple arcane forms.

Affliction meant you were a poisonous beast, and it was everything I hated in my original priest. I didn’t want to drop DoTs on a bunch of bad guys, and sit watching as they took forever to die.

Then someone suggested I give destruction a try if I wanted to bounce and tear around on the fly. “You get to rain fire and dance all about, lords a leaping and chasing and shooting green dragons up the snout.”

I gave it a try, it all seemed pretty cool, but I’m a bear in my heart and this warlock felt crude. I’m not about evil cackles and eating your soul, a chomp on some bacon’s as far as I’ll go.

I know it’s all fun and I’m having a blast, but do I really want to play some evil asshole in a mask?

Turns out yes I do, I just pretend I’m not evil, the fire is quite nice and doesn’t REALLY burn people. I’m a sleek deadly warlock that destroys all evil in sight, I like long walks on the beach, provided there is a warbringer to fight.

Yes, I know it’s not proper that a bear turns to fire, but the DESTRUCTION LETS ME BOUNCE WHILE I SET THING ALIGHT!

I can fire and torch baddies from morning til noon, and all the while bounce like a big fricken loon.

The pet thing turned out to be fine in the end, there is something reassuring about a dedicated tank friend. When my blueberry is out I know right away that it’s tanking he’s doing, I don’t have to respec a thing. If I want to shoot fire I whip out the imp, and when it’s time to turn freaky I bring out the whip.

The more I wanted to hate it the more my love grew, this Warlock all bouncing and in sweet evil clothes.

Now I spend all my time in the game like I should, bouncing around having fun like a happy bear could.

I may be purple and green and throw red fire about, I have a blueberry for a pet and scare things when I shout, but I can solo warbringers and kill DeGei with a portal and I can bounce all I want while I rain fire upon you.

I know it’s not proper for a bouncing bear butt to say, but in the heart of a warlock I found a reason to stay.

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.


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


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

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!


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.


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.


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.”


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?”



“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.


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.





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.