Monthly Archives: June 2010

June in Review

The Site

I posted a little bit more this month.  In fact, I posted about as much as a usually do in a given month.

I have mostly Blizzard to thank for this.  Their screwing up parental controls and bypassing security protecting them got me on a roll.

I think the biggest change to the actual site is that there is a link to my Facebook account way down the side bar.  My Facebook profile features this picture.

Wilhelm, circa 1988

I only mention this because my wife found the T-shirt I am wearing in that picture just the other day.  It is from the 1988 TimeCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention that used to take place here in Silicon Valley, apparently notable only for a rule it imposed during its spectacular 1991 flameout.

I also found the convention program for the event. (Michael Dorn was a guest!)  I’m trying to decide if I put these two items back in storage or try to sell them on eBay.

I also still have the flight jacket I’m wearing in the picture, a 1950s US Navy G1.  It is not for sale.

Anyway, if you need a neighbor in FarmVille, you can friend me.  I won’t guarantee I’ll go visit your farm every day, but I’ll send return gifts once in a while.

One Year Ago

People were upset about Blizzard not including LAN play in StarCraft II.  It looks like Blizzard stuck to that plan, as there will be no such feature when the game ships at the end of July.

The NeuroSky MindSet was released, but I still cannot cast fireballs in WoW using only my brain.

Then there was that Wii Bowling Ball controller.  Has that generated any lawsuits yet?

There was a new definition of hard core gamers.

I was complaining about the local newspaper being made up of 8 pieces of paper.  I think I finally received the last home delivery of the paper yesterday, when my subscription ran out.  I shan’t be renewing.

There was an attempt to get Age of Empires II: Age of Kings going while people in the instance group were on vacation.  We did end up getting connected via a service called Game Ranger.

And then there was World of Warcraft.  They changed when you got mounts in the game allowing people to (literally and figuratively) fly through the Burning Crusade.  There was that whole WoW/Mountain Dew cross promotion which, if nothing else, got me another in-game pet.  I spent all my gold on the artisan flying skill, and then they lowered the price with the mount changes.  I got the achievement The Explorer.  And I bought an authenticator.  Viva account security.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Random Site I Want To Mention But Don’t Really Have An Excuse or Category

Mogazine.

Mostly for the point/counter point articles on starting off in EVE Online

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Pokewalker Winner’s Path WiFi Event
  2. Blizzard Real ID vs. My Privacy
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  5. Hulkageddon III – Summer of Gank – Coming Soon
  6. FrontierVille is Educational
  7. Hulkageddon III – Dates Announced
  8. TTH Picks the Top Ten PvP MMOs
  9. World of Warcraft Gold For Sale!
  10. Blizzard Authenticator: New Tool for Bad
  11. Steep Learning Curve? We Meant to do That!
  12. Will it be Screws-ville in Middle-earth?

Search Term of the Month

future twike
[I’m not sure what that means]

Spam Comments of the Month

weak indian viagra
[I guess if you cannot handle the strong, US version….]

Can the WOW accounts be auctioned? Both for buying and selling of accounts. It would be an awesome idea. Are there any providers for this?
[A short sample of what you get when you do a post about selling WoW Gold.  The long sample was a post in and of itself.]

Deleted Comment of the Month

I had a hacker, now I have empty boxes, and I can’t send only a few gifts a day to ,my Mafia players. I need to speak with someone, why do you have no phone number?
[I do have a phone number, I’m just not giving it to you.]

EVE Online

Hulkageddon is coming, but I’m not sure that will do much for me.  I extended my subscription using ISK to buy PLEX, but the wormhole space station mission has not been a success so far.  All your wormholes are belong to somebody else already.  Or so it seems.  So I have mostly been playing the training game.

Lord of the Rings Online

I have been playing more LOTRO than anything else lately, trying to exceed my previous level record of 33 with a character on Firefoot.  That should be doable, if I can figure out which character on which to focus.  Always the challenge for an alt-impaired played like myself.

World of Warcraft

While the instance group has been out to play a couple of weekends, I have not played much outside of that.  Part of this is pre-Cataclysm malaise.  I can only do so many daily quests or battlegrounds.  The other part is that I have preferred playing LOTRO of late.

Nintendo DS

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are still being played regularly at our house.  As I said previously, I am ramping up for the final big fight in the game, at which point I think I can declare victory.  Then the long hard road to the National Pokedex awaits.  I didn’t manage to finish it in Diamond or Platinum, so the outlook is only “fair” for SoulSilver.

Coming Up

StarCraft II ships at the end of the month.  Do you suppose I will mention that?

Maybe.

I’ll probably write more about LOTRO though.  And Pokemon.

LOTRO Lottery Winner

Turbine has a site called My LOTRO, which is akin to The Armory in World of Warcraft, with some of what was once the EverQuest II Players site mixed in (SOE seems to have rolled their EQ2 sites together at this point), along with its own unique items.

So you can look up characters and kinships, see news and blogs, and enter the lottery.

The LOTRO lottery.

I had seen the lottery mentioned some place a while back, but had not really paid it much mind.  Then I was on the My LOTRO site to see the full list of my characters and noticed the lottery tab.

It is by itself, but it stands out

I clicked on the tab and it brought up the lotteries page which had quite a few events listed.  All you have to do is check the box next to a given lottery and click submit and you are entered.  So I did, entering for the whole list.

I did not really look at what they were offering, just some stuff.

Then I logged in a couple of days later and found that I had won some stuff.

The first item was a silver token.  Not a big thrill.  During some holiday events, tokens drop from monsters, the type of token being related to the level of the monster.  And since, like me, Middle-earth seems to be in perpetual holiday of late (we just transitioned from the Anniversary celebration to the Summer celebration), tokens are plentiful.

But there were other items waiting for me.  They get delivered to via in-game mail.

I picked up a couple of improved potions of Athelas, your basic healing potion with a boost in effectiveness.  Always useful but, again, not exactly scarce on the ground.  Heck, you get those for turning in the previously mentioned tokens.

But there was more.

The next item I opened up turned out to be pretty nice, an actual upgrade to my equipment.

Lottery Boots

Now there is a lottery payout that worked.  As usual, I haven’t been keeping up on my equipment as much as I probably should.  I always try to have the best weapon available, but if the shoes still fit….

Then I got to the last item.

Nice Cloak

As with other MMORPGs, the color of the name of an item in LOTRO is an indication of its value.

Grey lettering means the usual vendor trash, white are normal items, yellow are improved items, and purple, like those boots I previously won, are superior and somewhat rare.

But an item in light blue/aqua… I’m not even sure where that is on the scale of things.  I’ve never actually seen an item with a name in that color.

Okay, it is level 50, so I cannot actually use it yet… and it is light armor and my current characters wear medium armor at the moment… but still, that is pretty cool.

Sixteen Gym Badges Secured – Working Towards Red

I have now defeated all of the gym leaders in Pokemon SoulSilver.  There are 16 gym leaders in Johto and Kanto and defeating each of them is part of the path to completing the game.

Each town has its own Pokemon gym, and each gym has its own puzzle which you need to solve to reach the gym leader.  Once you defeat a gym leader, you are awarded some cash, a technical machine (TM) which is a device that contains a move which you can teach a Pokemon, a special ability, and a badge.


I need a way to take screen shots in Pokemon.  I had to borrow this “all badges won” shot, so I’ll link the site, Serebii.net as part of this post.

Of course, defeating all 16 gym leaders is not the end of the game.  I am still working on various bits of end game.  There is, of course, the whole “Catch em all!” National Pokedex aspect to the game, where you must catch each of the 493 different Pokemon, not all of which are even available in the game.

But the National Pokedex is a long term project.

One of the other events towards which I am working is the defeat of Red, the ultimate Pokemon trainer in the game.  Red looks remarkably like Ash Ketchum, and some people (kids are people too) I know just refer to Red as Ash.

Two things make the battle with Red tough.

First, he has a formidable selection of Pokemon at his disposal.  He isn’t a gym leader, so he does not focus on a single type.  Instead, his band requires quite a bit of breadth to take on.  And he will switch out his Pokemon mid-battle to bring out the one with the moves to which your current Pokemon is most susceptible.

Second, his Pokemon are all high level, ranging from the mid to high 80s.  To put that in perspective, the elite four and the Pokeleague champion Lance, whom you face at the end of the Johto segment of the game, has a single level 50, with everything else in the mid to low 40s.  Then the Kanto gym leaders cap out at 72 with the last one you face, Blue.

So there is a big of a gap between Blue and Red as well as the diverse nature of Red’s Pokemon.  You have to get to Red, who is hanging out at the top of Mount Silver with a full group close to, or preferably beyond, the level of his group.

Which means leveling up your Pokemon.

Unlike Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, there is not an area of wild Pokemon that progress into the 60s and 70s, nor is there that restaurant where you can fight the patrons daily.  If you want to actively level up your Pokemon, you have to do it through rematches with other trainers.

You can go back and face Lance and the Elite Four.  Once you have defeated all 16 gym leaders, their Pokemon get a boost in levels, so you are at least facing a range of Pokemon into the low 70s.

You can call up trainers you met along the way, or wait for them to call you, for a rematch.

You can also set up rematches with the 16 gym leaders.  That requires a bit of effort, as you have to track down all 16 of them and get their phone numbers first, then call them up on the appropriate day to schedule a rematch.  Fortunately, somebody has already put together the when and the where for that, which you can find here.

And, finally, you can put one of your Pokemon in the pokewalker for a level a day, which is slow at lower levels, but not so bad at higher levels, or place two of your Pokemon in the day-care center, which is also slow, but at least keeps going when you are not playing.

So I am slowly grinding up to face Red.  Defeating him is a must because once you do it, another rare Pokemon for the National Pokedex becomes available.

Possible Jirachi Nintendo WiFi Download

The Winner’s Path download event ended on Saturday, but not new event has yet been announced on Pokemon.com.  So I decided to check and see what was up.

I started up Pokemon SoulSilver, chose the Mystery Gift option, selected Receive Gift , and specified Get Via Nintendo WFC.

After a few seconds of checking, the screen came back and said it was downloading Make a Wish Jirachi.

Jirachi Arrives

It looks to be the similar to the Jirachi they were giving out in the GameStop download event back in March.  It is level 5 and holding the same item, a Liechi Berry.  The original trainer (OT) is listed as SMR2010, no doubt for Summer 2010.  It knows the moves Wish, Confusion, Rest, and Draco Meteor.

Having a Jirachi is Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver opens up a new Pokewalker route.

I expect that Nintendo will announce this as their current WiFi download at some point soon.  Right now, however, the site is focused on the Pokemon Video Game US National Championship, which took place this past weekend.

This download is only for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  It does not appear to work with Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum.  Instructions for setting up Nintendo WiFi on your DS are in the instruction booklet that came with your game.

More on this when Pokemon makes an announcement.

Advancing Two Instances

After a two week hiatus due to sickness and travel we were all back in the game last Saturday night.  It was time to let the dungeon finder take us away.  The lineup was:

62 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
62Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
62 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
62 Undead Deathknight – Maliverney (Skronk)
63Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)

And since we were all at least level 62, a new instance opened up to us.  We were now facing a range of possibilities.

So, it was time to roll the dice again and see where the dungeon finder would send us.

First pick: Blood Furnace.

This pass through ran almost exactly as it did in our last outing, including an almost exact replay of our fight with Broggok, which included Earl and Bigbutt dying on the last round of trash before the Broggok actually comes out to fight.  As with last time, Earl had his shaman revive handy and Hurmoo was able to use his combat ress on Bigbutt, so Broggok was defeated.

Broggok Coming For Us

And that was about it for drama in the Blood Furnace.  Broggok is the tough fight, being something of a multi-round event.  After that we sailed through to finish up and collect our goody bag.

Hurmoo overhealing for the win

With that out of the way, and with plenty of time left to play, we let the dungeon finder pick again.

Second Pick: Slave Pens.

Something new!

Hurmoo, in anticipation of perhaps getting into the Coilfang dungeons, picked up the only quest (Lost in Action) he could find that did not require a chain of lead-in quests, so we at least could boost our experience a little bit.  The quest actually required us to hit both the Slave Pens and the Underbog, but best to have it handy just in case.

I do not think any of us had been through the Slave Pens since we ran it together with the original cast of characters in the instance group.  So we had to relearn a few things.

For example, a minute or so into the fight with Mennu the Betrayer, we remembered that we had to put somebody on duty to take care of his healing totem.  Otherwise the fight just goes on and on as his totem heals at a prodigious rate.  And, after Mennu, you get to see some of the more spectacular scenery in the instance.

Ramps up to the drop-off

Then there was Rockmar the Crackler, a tough fight for us back in the day.  Now, however, he was just so much lobster to be harvested.  Still, delicious when dipped in melted butter.

Of course, feeling cocky after knocking down Rockmar without breaking a sweat, we managed to get in trouble with two groups of mobs who were, in turn, helped out by a wandering patrol.  Slew the boss, wiped on the trash.

We took a few with us at least

We almost made it.  In the screen shot, you can see the patrol that broke up the party walking… slithering… whatever naga do… heading away from us pretty much unscathed.  It pays to be fashionably late.

Once we recovered from that, it was a smooth trip to the last boss, Dame Helen Quagmirran.

Quagmirran caught in the tub again!

As before, the last fight went by pretty quickly and Quagmirran was defeated.

Quagmirran laid to rest

There was some worry as to whether or not everybody was in the screen shot.  I don’t think I’ve ever left anybody out.

And so the achievement and goody bag was ours.


While the Slave Pens took a while, we felt we still had another run left in us… maybe two if we drew Hellfire Ramparts… so we let the dungeon finder roll the dice for us again.

Third Pick:  Underbog.

Two new… well, new to these characters in any case… instances in one night.

Again, it had been a while since we visited the Underbog as a group, though I have actually been there more recently in a dungeon finder group with another character.  This meant we at least knew which direction to head.  Underbog has a few points where you can end up going the wrong way.

We were able to bypass a number of the trash groups and take out Hungarfen on our way to the first real fight, Ghaz’an, who happens to be a distant cousin of Ghaz’rilla.

Going after Ghaz'an

The fight really isn’t that tough, but it does have a danger to it.  It takes place on a platform and if you get caught in the wrong spot, Ghaz’an has a knock-back attack that will send you over the side into a pool full of hungry fish… elite, aggro, hungry fish.

Hurmoo was standing in the wrong spot and got knocked into the pool and died before he could get to the ramp.

Fortunately, as I said, the fight isn’t all that tough and we were far enough along that even with the healer down the fight was ours.

Ghaz'an defeated

Once done there, we remembered to go through the big crack at one end of the pool below the platform.  All of the hungry healer-killing fish die when Ghaz’an goes down, so the swim was safe.  On a previous venture into the Underbog, we spent a long time trying to figure out where to head next.  Even after noticing the crack, you have to jump down to a path well below it and with no way back up, so we were hesitant to commit.

This time we knew to just jump.

Then it was down the path to Swamplord Musel’ek and a surprisingly tough fight.

You face two bosses, Musel’ek and Claw (who also happened to be the last NPC we needed to find for our one quest) who have a habit of freezing the whole group and then setting in on the DPS.  At least that was what happened to us, which lead to a wipe.

All Down

In an attempt to save the fight, Earl used his revive right away when he got killed, but it was not enough, and so we had to do the long run from the graveyard to the instance.  It was a good thing that Hurmoo had gone to visit the instance earlier, so he knew the way.

Once back, we consulted a couple of sites about the fight to get an idea of what we were doing wrong.  The fight seems to rely heavily on the tank being able to get and keep aggro, which seems to get reset when the freeze trick happens.  With that bit of knowledge, our second run through was a success, though we did lose Bigbutt.  Being the only cloth wearing player in the group seems to make him a priority target… well, that and all the damage he put out.

Winning let us finish the quest and sent us on our way to the last boss, the Black Stalker, who I recalled giving us an interesting fight before, but who went down so fast this time that he only got to do his mid-air suspension trick just before he died.

That gave us the achievement and our goody bag.


And while we all started the evening around level 62, we ended up at, or very close to, 64 as a group.

Hurmoo, whom I had not played for two weeks, and who thus had a full load of rested experience to go through, exhausted his blue bar and got the dreaded “you feel normal” message part way into the Underbog.  Experience-wise, that was a pretty good evening’s work.

The quest turn-in put those of us who were close to 64 over the top, so next time around we may get to hit another new instance or two.

This also puts us four levels away from the big dungeon finder switch over.  At level 68, the random dungeon option will send us to Northrend.  Then it will be farewell to the Burning Crusade.

The Outland instance count so far is:

Hellfire Ramparts: 4
Blood Furnace: 2
Slave Pens: 1
Underbog: 1

We’ll see what we end up getting the next time around.

The Strangest Parental Control Default

I looking at the new and, in my opinion, screwed up parental controls page, I actually played with some of the controls I normally do not use, just to see if they changed as well.

One of the options allows you to select a pre-filled out time grid.  You have the options, that are kind of self-explanatory, of:

  • Weekends only (all weekend hours)
  • Friday and weekends only (which is really Friday after 3pm, so after school)
  • After school and weekends (3-6pm daily and weekends)
  • After 6pm and weekends (6pm to midnight daily and weekends)
  • After 3pm and weekends (3pm to midnight daily and weekends, i.e. sleep, go to school, play WoW life)
  • Break Time

None of those are particularly useful to me.  They would allow my daughter to play much more WoW than we would want.  But that is why I am annoyed by the new parental time control grid, because we dole out time in much smaller increments when we feel it is appropriate.

Now you will notice that I did not explain the option “Break Time.”  The others were, as I said, somewhat comprehensible by their description.  You knew what to expect, if not in full detail.

So I had to see what that last time template offered.

I've got your break time right here

Essentially, “Break Time” sets a pattern of regular two and a half hour play slots, each broken up by a 30 minute break.

This limits you to 20 hours of play a day and makes you step away from the computer at least every three hours.

I’m just wondering who would find this sort of schedule useful.

That is way too much play time to be allowed a child and way too regulated for any normal person that I know to follow and be aware of.  I would, I am sure, constantly be logging on to play about 10 minutes before break time.

Would you find this useful?  Do you know somebody who would?

Blizzard Screws Up The Parental Controls Interface

The third and final post in this week’s “WTF Blizzard?” feature.

Previously I ranted about how they compromised the security of the parental controls page and about the new Real ID feature that just launched this week.

Now I want to proceed to the actual parental controls interface, which have arguably suffered from this round of updates.

Not that the old version of parental controls was a joy to behold.

But the controls, and its center piece, the play time grid, were  clear, functional, and intuitively easy to use.  I was worried that I would have to describe it in detail, since it no longer exists, but Google images always provides! (Thanks to the similarly named blog, The Experienced Noob, from which I borrowed this image.)  So lookie:

The Old Play Time Grid

Green meant your child could play, red meant they could not.

You could easily click on any of the half hour increments to turn them on or off.  You could also click and drag your cursor across a range of increments, changing them all in a single pass.

It was simple, but that is what a tool like this should be.  No additional instructions were supplied or required.

Now there is the new grid.

The New Play Time Grid

At first glance you might actually prefer this new grid.

It looks a bit like one of the calendar views in Microsoft Outlook.  (That is familiar to far too many of us I fear.)

And it is easy to see the time ranges and durations once you have selected them.  The clarity of presentation is as good, if not better, than the previous grid.

Selecting the actual times though… you know, using the tool…

Here is a tip that you haven’t necessarily improved the user experience:  You need to explain things that previously needed no explanation.


I won’t quibble about the fact that the instructions, which are next to the grid, refer to “the time slots above.”  That is easy enough to fix. (I won’t pass up the opportunity to point it out however!  It supports my conclusion!)

No, it is the fact that time selection works in a different and not quite so intuitive manner that gets me.

Gone is the toggling on and off of half hour time slots.  Not that you would want to, since the vertical size of the time slots is eye-strain small.  You will miss your desired half hour increment often.

Now you have to click on the starting time and drag your cursor to the ending time all in an action that reminds me very much of pulling down a window shade.  It seems easy, but you often have to repeat it to get your settings just right.

And, if you are like me and sometimes set multiple play times for a single day, you’d better read that final tip.  Somebody at Blizzard decided that multi-select editing rules were appropriate, so you have to hold down the Ctrl key down while you select additional time slots for a day.  If you forget to hold down that key, your first time slot goes away as soon as you start dragging out the second one.  Oops.

Finally, make sure you don’t accidentally click on the wrong day.  Once you click on a day, you are stuck with a half hour selection that you can only remove by navigating away from the page without saving, then coming back to start over.

The half hour that would not leave

This also means that once you have a time slot selected for a given day, you will always have a time slot for that day unless you use the “clear schedule” option, blank out the whole grid, and start over again.  Ctrl-select was fine, but you couldn’t give me Shift-select for delete Blizzard?

Not a winning interface update.  Remember, they felt that having password protection for this page was too complicated, but somehow this grid selection method was just fine!

Okay, maybe you do not use parental controls and do not care.

And maybe “screws up” is an over-statement when referring to the whole parental controls interface.  Much of it remains exactly as it was before, with the time grid being the major change, even if the time grid is the major feature of the page.

But we are speaking of Blizzard, the company for whom “polish” is the alleged watchword.  And this interface update is clearly one that could have used a bit more thought before being released.

Blizzard Real ID vs. My Privacy

So part two in the three part series on Blizzard really cheesing me off this week has to do with another new offering called Real ID.

This is only tangentially connected to my initial screed on how Blizzard compromised the security of parental controls by bypassing their own authenticator scheme because I only became aware of Real ID as part of the email message announcing the new and improved parental controls.

That message had two new features listed, one was not having to remember a password for parental controls and the other was the ability to turn on Real ID for your child’s account.

And my gut reaction to that second item was, “If I wanted my child’s real identity out there, I wouldn’t be using parental controls, now would I?”

But then I remembered another “might be real” item in the big folder of account phishing attempts.  And there it was, titled “Real ID Coming to World of Warcraft!”

And who is the poster boy for Real ID?  Why, Arthas!

Arthas Commands It!

And really, I could stop right there, since Arthas trying to sell me on Real ID digs right at my streak of paranoia.  It would be like Darth Vader hawking the NINA mortgages… or becoming the new spokesman for the IRS… just a little too close to a natural fit.

I mean the great luxury of the internet is that we can all go out and play together and I don’t have to worry about you asking to crash on my couch when you’ve lost your job, wife, and home due to your being unable to stop playing online games.

Sure, there are costs associated with this anonymity, with only the most obvious illustrated over at Penny Arcade, but they are (mostly, in my opinion) worth the price.

Still, I should go forward and mention what Real ID is supposed to offer, quoting for truth and such.

Soon, World of Warcraft players will have access to a brand-new feature called Real ID, a completely voluntary and optional level of identity that will keep players connected across all of Battle.net.

When you and a friend mutually agree to become Real ID friends, you’ll have access to a number of additional features that will enrich your social gaming experience in new and exciting ways:

-Real Names for Friends: Your Real ID friends will appear under their real-life names on your friends list, when chatting, communicating in-game, or viewing a character’s profile. Real ID friends can also see who’s on each other’s Real ID friends list, making it easy for players to connect with other people they know.

-Cross-Realm and Cross-Game Chat: With Real ID, friends can chat cross-realm and cross-faction in World of Warcraft, and will be able to chat across future Blizzard games such as StarCraft II.

-Rich Presence: See additional info on your friends list about what your Real ID friends are up to in World of Warcraft and upcoming games like StarCraft II in real time.

-Broadcasts: Broadcast a short status message for all of your Real ID friends to see, whether you want to issue a call-to-arms or let your friends know about an important change of plans.

-Friend Once, See All Characters: Real ID friends will automatically see all of each other’s characters on their friends list – even characters created in future Blizzard games – helping players stay connected with the people they enjoy playing with most.

A nice feature set.  An attempt to go beyond what SOE has done with their Station Launcher friend’s list.

Of course, I should mention that they opened this up with a salutation that included my real name.

But why should I care about that, about using my real name?

I must admit is, in an odd turn for a blogger, that I do value my privacy and the privacy of my family.  And I care all the more so while involved in a job search.  Being a gamer carries a stigma which may not endear you to prospective employers, especially in a state where the unemployment rate is around 12%.

And it isn’t even that I write anything about which I would be ashamed.  My mother reads my blog.

But given a choice between equally qualified candidates, somebody who blogs about online gaming is likely to lose out. (It might help me with that SOE QA Manager position for which I applied.  Then again, it might not.  Wasn’t I just bagging on SOE marketing the other day?  Oops.)

So I get a bit squeamish when Blizzard starts talking about using my real name in the game in any way, and all the more so because I see the value in what they are offering.  Blizzard says, in the Real ID FAQ:

Real ID is a system designed to be used with people you know and trust in real life — friends, co-workers and family — though it’s ultimately up to you to determine who you wish to interact with in this fashion.

And certainly I wouldn’t share my Real ID with anybody I did not trust or know in real life, but this rings of the classic “drink responsibly” sort of message.  Who knows how this is going to develop.  Will people start exchanging IDs casually in game?  Will raiding guilds start demanding Real IDs from members?

I am going to watch this feature carefully.  Right now there are less than ten people with whom I would consider sharing Real IDs, and even then I like to have a secret alt or two stashed away for when I just want to run around solo and not seem like I am snubbing anybody.

Everything Blizzard offers has a price, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pay for this one.

And I am certainly not enabling this feature on my daughter’s account!

Blizzard Compromises Parental Control Security

Or such is my view of the recent changes they have made.

For previously, parental controls were a simple thing.

They were an option off of the account management page and thus secure behind the account login, which in the case of our household, includes a Blizzard Authenticator.

Roll Stock Authenticator Footage

Once in to the parental controls page, all sorts of options were available for controlling your child’s play time.

And all of this was kept from the child by a simple password.

My daughter would go log into the page and all I would have to do is make the changes, or review the changes she made (and often correct them to align with what I had agreed to allow), then type in the password and click accept.

The flaw in the system appeared to be the password.  I chose a password that was both complex enough to be secure, but one that both my wife and myself would remember.  And we keep tight enough rein on my daughter’s WoW account that we end up typing it in a couple of times a week, thus refreshing our memory.

Then came the email from Blizzard.

Dear World of Warcraft Parental Controls user,

We’re writing to let you know that World of Warcraft Parental Controls are now managed through our Battle.net Parental Controls system: http://us.battle.net/parents/.

This email is your new key to accessing Parental Controls for your children. Any time you want to make changes, simply click the link under the name of the child below:

[Account and URL Withheld]

Your previous World of Warcraft Parental Controls settings for the accounts above have been automatically transferred to Battle.net Parental Controls, so unless you’d like to make changes or explore the new tools, you do not need to take any action at this time. Be sure to hang on to this email for quick access to managing your Parental Controls settings in the future.

Battle.net’s Parental Controls features include:

– NEW! No more Parental Controls password to remember – just use this email as your key.
– NEW! Permit a child to use Real ID, an optional social-networking feature that allows players to interact and communicate using their real names. (Learn more about Real ID: http://us.battle.net/realid/)
– Set daily or weekly limits on the number of hours your child is allowed to play World of Warcraft.
– Create a custom World of Warcraft play schedule, or select from pre-set schedules such as “weekends only.”
– Receive weekly World of Warcraft play-time reports via email.
– Manage access to in-game voice chat for World of Warcraft.
– COMING SOON! The ability to manage future Blizzard Entertainment games such as StarCraft II, as well as additional access to Battle.net’s upcoming social features. We’ll share more info with you about these features as they become available.

For information on or assistance with Battle.net Parental Controls, visit the Parental Controls FAQ (http://us.blizzard.com/support/article.xml?locale=en_US&tag=PCFAQ) or contact our Sales, Billing & Account Services team: https://us.blizzard.com/support/webform.xml?rhtml=y&locale=en_US.

Sincerely,

The Battle.net Team

I initially ignored this email thinking that it was yet another phishing attempt.  Right, I’m going to click on a URL in an email from “Blizzard Entertainment.”

But then my daughter came to me asking to play for a bit, since the Midsummer Fire Festival was kicking off, and we noticed that the parental controls were missing from their usual location.

I went back, dug the one of two non-phishing attempts from Blizzard Entertainment out of my spam folder, and read the above.

So instead of easy access via account management, controlled by a password, I now have to keep a hella long URL handy if I want to make any changes.

I realize that some people are bad with passwords and that having held a job where I had to have 6 different passwords to do my job daily, each of which had to be changed every 45 to 90 days, might have trained me better than most in the fine art of mental password management (the company had heard of LDAP, but wasn’t really convinced it was time to jump on that bandwagon yet), but still.  This was one stinking password with almost no restrictions requiring special characters, numbers, capital letters, punctuation, or Chinese pictograms.

But no, passwords get forgotten and and I am sure that yields calls to Blizzard support, and support calls cost money.

So now I have a much less secure solution to the problem of parental controls.  Passwords may be as breakable, or much more breakable than the hella long URL Blizzard sent me, but at least the password entry made you go through the Blizzard Authenticator.  I bought into your security paradigm and this is how I get treated Blizzard?

Meanwhile, the URL is in a normal web mail account, the password for which can be phished for as easily as an account password.  And even if I copy the URL elsewhere, if you know that email address, you can just go to the parental controls page, type it in, and they’ll send you a fresh URL that will invalidate the old one.

All of this for access to a page that will let you lock people out of their account.  How does that scenario sound familiar?

Right, somebody gets the password to that email account, changes it, requests a new parental control URL, turns off all access to the account and there you go.

And you can say, “Well, be more careful with your email account,” but this sort of thing happens to people much wiser in the ways of security than myself.

Then there is the kick in the teeth following the boot in the groin, which is that this new setup is less convenient for our family.

Previously, my wife and I both knew the password, so either of us could manage our daughter’s account.

Now we need that URL.

Sure, I can forward that to her (another security hole, but what the hell at this point!), but there is a catch.

The URL expires.

This was probably the bit that let this whole “bypass the authenticator” scheme get past security review.  I’ve already had to renew the URL.

But the URL gets sent to an email account that is mine.  If the URL expires when I am not available to manage the parental controls, then the controls won’t get managed.  And I could switch it to a new account that we could both share, but that would be one more account and password to remember.

All in the name of not having to remember a password.

And I’m just getting warmed up.  This whole thing is a trifecta of annoyances, the security changes just being the first.

Look for a follow up post.

Meanwhile, the net result here is that if you used the Blizzard authenticator, your account is now less secure than before.