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Tycho / 4 hours ago

The kids on the server made their statues out of wool, presumably for the wide range of colors.  Their intense flammability was, we can guess, not conscious portion of the decision matrix.

Initial reports suggested that it might be Herobrine, who you might know of, or might not.  If you played Minecraft when many enthusiast gamers did, which is to say a thousand fucking years ago, and then went to Terraria or Starbound in search of untapped novelty your diagram would never have overlapped Him.  But… he’s not real, which simultaneously makes him the least likely and most likely suspect.

Interrogating your child is a novel experience, and we have many models in popular culture to inform us.  I was surprised at how exquisite the parallels were.  I could practically see the pattern of light from a lone and swinging phantom bulb.  He started out hard.  He didn’t do it, and I should be ashamed for saying he had.  But this wasn’t my first rodeo, and that’s an old trick.  I pushed the folder across the table.  “We have evidence that puts you at the scene,” I said.  I let that sink in.  “And there’s TNT in your inventory.”

“That was for something else.”

“You were the only one on the server when the crime occurred.”

“There’s no way you could know that.”

That got him.  He’s the admin for his server, and he’s familiar with the tool.  But he hadn’t seen the last update, where shit got granular.  And that’s more or less when I sent the mail to my partner. 

It used to be that you had to make a Nether Portal in a Very Specific Way, though you could technically lose the corners and it would still become a conduit to the hell dimension.  In 1.7.2, more dynamic portal shapes were made available.  You have to set them on fire to activate them.  And the story I received was that in an effort to see how weird the shapes could get and still work, a fire started that found its way to their effigies.  Gabriel says TNT.

You can determine under many conditions what you tell a person, but you cannot determine what they hear.  That’s not a matter limited to the age of the participants.  I had just read him Ozymandias, the Shelley one.  I want to believe there was poetry here re: universal forces.  Let’s say “entropy.”  But it doesn’t especially matter.

When people talk about videogames as a form, and further when they talk about the educational payload of such games, there are only a couple conversations you get to have, and that has to do with the kinds of people having the conversations.  They tend not to have kids, and the lives most people lead appear to be wholly abstract to them, so their Startling Insights are as relevant to me as Martian Weather.  I am on record as saying that all games are “educational,” it’s simply a matter of what they teach.

Minecraft is a game, and this game has rules.  You can give those rules more or less weight.  But it is also a one to one model of people and actions.  Which means that, among other things, they can learn about being human.

(CW)TB out.

Gabe / 6 hours ago

CSI: Minecraft

My son Gabe has a Minecraft Realm that he and his friends play on. It’s a service that Mojang offers allowing you to rent a private server. You need to specifically invite people to the server otherwise there is no way for them to join. As a Dad, I like this much better than having him out there playing on public servers. It’s not full weirdos who might be preying on kids, but it is full of 9 year olds and that presents its own problems.

These kids spend a lot of time on their Minecraft projects. I’ve been on there and seen massive statues, elaborate games and machines, sprawling castles and even a five-story hotel. On more than one occasion I have had my son come to me in tears because something on the realm was destroyed. In spite of the posted rules explaining that no dynamite is allowed it seems there was some mad bomber wreaking havoc. Unfortunately up until recently Minecraft Realms had no log of player activities. I had no way of determining who the vandal was beyond calling all the parents. Which is what we did.

My wife and I would reach out to all the various folks whose kids were on the Realm and ask if it was their special little angel who was blowing shit up. Now as the father of a 9 year old myself I can tell you that they are liars. So when you ask them if they did something they will just say “no” and in this case I really had no evidence so without someone taking responsibility I couldn’t do anything. That is until a recent update added a log that showed when players logged on and off. It wasn’t much but it was something.

The most recent attack took place a few weeks ago. This time a series of skyscraper sized statues was blown to pieces. The extent of the destruction lead my to believe dynamite was the culprit. The bomber had struck again. My son began restoring the Realm based on previous save files automatically created at regular intervals. We went back hours and then a full day before finally the statues appeared before us once again. Now we had a time frame for the crime but we still had no suspects.

My wife opened up the activity log and began cross-referencing the log in times of the various children with the what we believed was the time of the attack. A few names matched up as being online during that window but we still needed to narrow it down. I went back to the crime scene hoping it would give up a few more clues. These statues were actually massive recreations of specific player’s avatars. These kids all had custom skins and they had recreated them with blocks acting as pixels. There were three names on our list of possible suspects and I was looking at the ruined statues of two of them. Unless I was to believe that one of them was smart enough to destroy his own creation in order to throw me off the trail, I knew who my bomber was. Unfortunately it was the one kid I really didn’t want it to be.

There was no question, it was Jerry’s son Elliot. I felt like a cop who finds out that his partner’s son is the bank robber they’ve been hunting. Gabe wanted to ban him immediately but I stopped him. “Don’t ban him yet.” I said “let me talk to his Dad first.” We’ve been partners a long time, I figured I owed it to him to go to him first with the evidence. I sent Jerry an email and laid out the case I had against his son. I explained that Elliot wasn’t banned yet and that I was handing the case over to him. The mail I got back was just two words. It said:

Ban him.

I’ll let him tell you what happened after that.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 2 days ago

Just as in days of old, the resting position of my hand on the keyboard naturally conforms to the QWER required for at-any-moment League of Legends play.  It’s got that kinda cats paw thing dialed in and I’m ready to hit them in my warded brush with my E, pop W on my way in, and Q anyone else fancy enough to remain.  I don’t give a shit, that’s fine.  I can dig two holes.

I have no idea what’s going on around me in the physical world.  It’s just not where I spend my time, I’m sorry; there isn’t much to recommend it.  Grabarr often gets mad at me because this policy results in various accretions.  Nor is Kiko enthusiastic about my heaps, which I think evoke the natural, organic industry of a desert termite mound.  I’d prefer if we didn’t discuss the ossified lo mein.  That’s neither here nor there.  Plus it’s fucking gross, and mars the carefully curated narrative.  I want to be the weirdo with the novel observations, not the weirdo with a septic wound from a super sharp noodle.

Until the piles grow so large that I might be crushed beneath them, they don’t require any cycles.  I’m open to the idea that these things have a psychic weight I’m not aware of, that they thicken my cognition just by being there, which is sometimes called the Brenna Hypothesis.  By me.  Because that’s what Brenna always says.

So, those are the real things.  But if you orient your sight orbs to the bottom of the second panel, you can plainly see Gmail is there.  Gmail!  Because while I have an iPhone, my device is utterly colonized by Google; most of the time I spend with the device - from the browser, to the mail client, to the maps - are all owned by another company.  I can’t delete the Mail app, or I would!  I sent an image file like a thousand fucking years ago because that’s the only option from Photos, and now I have whatever you would call the opposite of stigmata.

So he’s right, but for the wrong reason.  Which means…  I win?

(CW)TB out.


We’re preparing the Thornwatch playtest adventure for PAX Prime and it’s going really well. At PAX East we had people play the game, but it was really just a combat scenario. It was designed to test our card mechanics and our Momentum deck which manages initiative as well as monster damage. It was a great test and we got a lot of really useful feedback. Now with PAX prime coming up we’re ready to show off a more complete picture of what playing Thornwatch will really be like.

(The map is only about half drawn but they’re still having fun!)

The adventure we bring to PAX Prime will show off how we incorporate story into Thornwatch. This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons. It’s not an open world where you can go off the rails and do whatever you want. These are focused adventures that have a distinct beginning, middle and end. Players have the ability to affect the story but they do it through play. We’ve designed the stories so that the decisions players make during an encounter will determine how the story unfolds. Do you protect the NPC who summoned you even though it will make the fight more difficult? Do you use your cards to power your own attacks or sacrifice them to counter some environmental effect? You’re always playing, you’re always using your cards and maneuvering your character on the board but how you do that and the choices you make will change the fight for everyone and ultimately determine how the story plays out.

(click on this one for the big picture. This is a good example of how Thornwatch maps are designed to feel like comic book pages you play inside. The cards in a row there are the Momentum Deck, the Judge (GM) uses that to track turns and also manage monster health.)

PAX Prime will be our chance to show off not just how this system works but how it feeds into character progression. There are no levels in Thornwatch. You start the game as a bad ass capable of kicking ridiculous amounts of ass. You are a member of the Thornwatch, you’re already awesome. There is no gear, there are no items. Thornwatch members do not kill a skeleton and then check and see if its sword is better than the sword they have. Your character does progress though. Thornwatch members do not collect gear but they do collect “experiences” and those experiences are what shape your character and in terms of game mechanics, they are what modify your character’s deck.

After playing Thornwatch for a while your deck will be a sort of diary. It will be a reminder of your victories and your defeats. The scars and boons of past fights doled out based on the decisions you made will live in your deck and change the way you play. All of this is what we are finally ready to show off this year at PAX Prime and I am so fucking excited for you to see it.

(Thornwatch takes place in the Eyrewood so you’ll see lots of familiar faces like Lookouts and even Daughters of the Eyrewood!)

We have been testing this thing like crazy and the game is in a really great place right now. Last night’s playtest with folks who had not played the game since PAX East was a real high point for those of us on the Thornwatch dev team. Kiko recorded a quick video on his camera showing the players going through part of the final encounter. They are playing on a map that is only half done. The tokens are placeholders and the terrain isn’t even drawn in, BUT it works!

Watching people get this into something you’ve worked so hard to design is just incredible. It’s one thing to see them having fun, it’s another to seem them so invested in a puzzle you’ve poured your heart into. This adventure we’re bringing to PAX Prime is finally a real slice of what Thornwatch will actually look like when it’s finished. It’s a complex series of encounters with (what we hope is) a cool story and I hope if you are coming to PAX you’ll get a chance to check it out.

(Players will need to work together and combine their skills to overcome many of the games obstacles.)

Getting this game made and in people’s hands is going to be a big task for us. We’re nearing the home stretch in terms of design and now we need to start thinking about what the audience for a Thornwatch game looks like. If you’re interested in Thornwatch and you’d like to stay up to date on its development, it would really help us if you subscribed to the mailing list. There is a handy little box at the bottom of the official page that makes it super easy to get signed up. I promise not to flood you with bullshit mails. Once or twice a month you will get a behind the scenes look at the development process and a peek into my Thornwatch sketchbook. I know signing up for mailing lists isn’t the coolest thing to do but like I said, it would help us a lot and we will try to make it worth your while.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 5 days ago

Playing as much Fates Forever as we did, those familiar lanes and interactions ultimately rekindled some kinda Goddamn LOL thing.  It’s sort of like how there are always collectible card games of one kind or another coming out, and they are good for whatever reasons that particular one is good, and then a new Magic release crops up and now you’re fucked again.  All paths wind up the hill, back to the Old Temple.

Getting back in has been a bumpy motherfucking road.  Getting back into Call of Duty typically involves securing the freshest release and then being pulverized.  But you can be pulverized immediately in League, once you update your client, and you might find that your champ has been altered or that the store has new items or that the items have changed.  There’s a skin that forms over the top of it, especially around tournament time, but underneath it the broth is always in motion.   

You have to adopt a kind of radical self-love to endure the treatment you will assuredly receive at the hand, or perhaps the raking scythe arm, of your competitors - some of which are huge bipedal insects.  You need to redefine victory as enfolding in its radiant arms “games in which I lost, but I did not comport myself like a mindless rodent.”  And we have endeavored to do so.

(I don’t want beef, but.  I believe League of Legends is more humane than DOTA 2 as a gameplay experience, to the extent that it represents an authentic sequel to DOTA.  We have a name for what DOTA 2 is, and it’s called an HD Remaster, a Director’s Cut, or a Remake.  It’s practically illegible as an eSport and the courier is dumb.  I believe all these things because I am even worse at DOTA than I am at League of Legends.)

The strangest alteration to our experience of the game is the ongoing professionalization of even casual matches.  I never bought a ward until a couple weeks ago.  Not once.  Jungling used to be optional, novel even.  Everybody ran 212, bought all their shit, and then collided with one another.  I wasn’t good before, but I could save you; I could make them regret it.  The pieces are all there, and the board is there, but the metaphysics have changed.  Typing it makes no sense, but I can’t wait to fail again.

(CW)TB out.

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