Friday, July 31

It's just a jump to the left....

OK, so this really isn't about the Time Warp. However, before this weekend is over, I will wish it were.

The family is headed out to visit relatives this weekend, where cell phone reception is spotty, the internet still comes over dial-up (if you have it) and there's one stop light that's always green.

It will be a nice trip, and long overdue. And for a change we are going to see relatives that we actually like, so that will be a soothing salve for our withdrawals.

No matter how nice though, before the weekend is over, I'll be wanting to take that step to the right, back into this millennium's technology.

We'll see you all on the flip side!

Wednesday, July 29

Update Your Passwords.

As there seems to have been a rash of accounts hacked/hijacked lately. I thought today would be a good day to remind everyone to update their passwords. It is a good idea to change your passwords regularly, and I use a 90 day cycle on mine, you just have to find what works best for long as that isn't never!

I would like to share some reminders about what makes a good password, and what doesn't.

Some Password Don'ts:
  • Common words or phrases: Things like, 'letmein' or 'openupandsayah' or anything along these lines.
  • Any private information: If your name is joe, using 'joe123' as your password isn't wise.
  • Any derivative of your user name: if you user name is 'billthemonk', then a password like 'spiritualgoat' should be avoided.
Some Password Do's:
  • Use a non-dictionary word, or random string: Something like "ttlsgen".
  • Use mixed case: This means use both upper and lower case letters in your password in random places, like "TtLsGen".
  • Add numbers in your password: "TtLs613Gen".
  • Add punctuation to your password: "TtLs6:13Gen".
You will need to check the rules for password generation on each account you have, because some will require password under 8 characters, and others will require more than 8 characters. Some will allow the use of punctuation, and others won't, however, the more of these you can apply the better.

I asked one young wizards what they thought about these guidelines, and their response was, "How am I supposed to remember that!?". Well, that is when I taught the young wizard the following trick:

Find yourself a mnemonic device to help remember it. For example use part of a book you are reading right now, or a memorable headline from your local paper. For the example above, I used a Bible verse. This verse:

Genesis 6:13
Then the LORD said....
Ok, so I only used part of the verse, but that is the beauty of it, you can pick what you want, and it's easy to remember. Just use the first letter of each word for the section of the verse you want to use. Add on the chapter and verse reference and then tacked on an abbreviation for the book.

Now all you have to remember is "Then the Lord said 6:13 Gen" to know our password!

Remember you could do this using any publication you want, but substituting page number and copyright year, or printing number. You get the idea. Use something to help you remember that awe inspiring password...and don't forget to change them on occasion.

And please...

Tuesday, July 28

Maintenance Alert!

Wizard101 will be using a maintenance window tonight for some PvP and Bazaar updates!

KI says: "Cards for Codes" not reportable.

A discussion thread on Wizard101 Central has sent us off on a tear. It involves an email response received by a forum member to questions regarding what is, and what isn't reportable. To view that thread and what Kings Isle (KI) lists as non-reportable issues, click here.

While most of what KI has in the list is understandable, the "Cards for Codes" item has left us at The Spiral Free Press scratching our collective head. While we understand that there may be a flood of reports on this, and that it may be a challenge to wade through and deal with those reports, we would prefer to see KI err to the side of caution on this issue.

A lot of the concerns originate with those who just want to see kids kept from being taken advantage of, and we feel that is a noble and worthy goal. There has been a suggestion by a separate member of Wizard101 Central in a way KI could empower its users to alleviate a lot of this issue, and you can view that thread here. We applaud fellow wizards who try to come up with solutions to issues in the Spiral and share those with everyone to make it a better place for everyone.

Though we feel that just protecting them for that reason is reason enough in itself, we feel there are more security and safety related issues with KI's stance on this particular topic. Our Editor, Ian Silverflame, while not practicing his magical prowess in efforts to save the Spiral, spends his time as a web applications developer on his home world. He deals with the issues of capturing and securing data, from children quite frequently, and how that should be collected, stored, transmitted and protected, to ensure that those who use the applications he builds are kept secure. Because of this security related view, he has contributed the following directly:

"The internet in general, and especially places such as the Spiral, are open season hunting grounds for predators of the most abhorrent kind. To take a stance anywhere short of absolute intolerance on this issue, is akin to posting directional maps for those persons looking to harm children. The 'Cards for Codes' type operations allow anyone with undesirable goals to help weed out the population of the game and find the more susceptible targets.

As a parent, I am heavily involved with my daughters game play, and she knows to ask me about anything that makes her uncomfortable, or she doesn't understand. We all have to realize at the same time, there are a lot of children who will be traveling the Spiral totally unattended and without an overlooking parent to help keep them safe.

When it comes to an issue like this, all reasonable efforts must be made to protect those wizards."
We at The Spiral Free Press would like to see KI change it's position on this issue. While we do agree that there are valuable life lessons to be learned in making bad trades, let that happen over time in trades with friends, not from being lured into what could potentially turn into a very bad situation. We are even willing to pay a bit more for our subscriptions to ensure KI has the staff available to deal with this. At least that's our stance, please let us know your thoughts.

Monday, July 27

The Arena can be a Fun Place.

There have been a lot of comments about PvP and the arena lately. Most have concerned bugs that cause problems with artificial rank and unbalanced match-ups, or about the attitude of some of the players. We at the Spiral Free Press have grown concerned that all of the negative might discourage new wizards from venturing into this area and testing their skills, or convince some of the advanced players to abandon it all together.

If you are concerned about those issues, or want a more structured environment, then we highly suggest that you head over to Wizard101 Central and get involved in the excellent tournament systems they have there.

The Tournament Masters have developed a easy to remember set of rules that keeps the spirit of honor in dueling, and they continually come up with twists for different types of tournaments. For example, currently there is a "No Resist" tournament underway, in which participants are only allowed to wear gear that is school specific and offers resist to their primary school only.

In addition to their tournaments, they have a ladder system as well, if a more laid back approach is your thing.

The group of duelists you will find in that community is amazing. Some of the top players in the game are there, and people are always willing to offer assistance if you have questions.

So don't let all the commentary about the arena problems keep you from venturing into its hallowed halls for a little sparring action. There are still a variety of ways available to have fun and friendly matches in the arena, and we hope to see you there.

Saturday, July 25

Having Friends is Painful

After some general banter about the game and friends list, we have come to the conclusion that maintaining a friend list across multiple wizards is just shy of torture. It is also complicated by having friends with multiple wizards.

To the left, you will see a screen shot of the current friends list as it stands on one of our accounts. We have added the green box to denote that everyone inside it are the SAME wizard. This brings up the main issue with the friends interface as it currently stands.

When we have such a limited friends list, you have to choose between having all of your good friends in the list multiple times, or just missing them when they are on another wizard. Why should we have to take up such a large portion of our lists like this? It hurts!

We do now have the ability to add them without porting to their locations, so that helped. At least now we don't have to spend tons of time changing realms, then waiting to change areas, to get our wizards into the same location. The Spiral Free Press gives that update five wands.

So after some deliberation about how this can be solved, we put our heads together and came up with the following. This is the best way we have devised to handle the multiple wizards for the same friend.

We had our graphical wizard twirl their wands to create the sample of what we are talking about to the right.

Here are our thoughts on how this interface improvement would work:

When you add a friend, that friend only takes up ONE spot in your friends list, but ALL of their current or future wizards on that account are automatically added.

When you move your wand over that friend, then a small window showing all of their wizards could pop out to the left of the friends name.

To deal with knowing when the friend is online, you can use color. In the example, we have used green to denote that our friend Ian Spiritflame is online, but he is on a different wizard. The pop out shows us that he is currently bringing order back to the Spiral on Ian Sunflame.

We would like to see our friends list globalized across all of our wizards. Then when we create new wizards, our friends are already intact, and we don't have to spend a ton of time trying to relocate them. Better yet, let us have a way in the Parental Controls to denote which wizards share lists. We know some parents share a single account with their children, or some siblings have to share accounts. This way, you can keep each family members lists global, but still unique to the player.

We think an improvement like this to the friends system would be a welcome change, and turn the issues of limited list size and managing friends into a much easier task. A task that is no longer a source of nightmares, but lets us rest comfortably in the joy that having friends should bring.

Friday, July 24

Wands at the Ready!

Originally, we were planning a Public Service Announcement for today, reminding us all to be pleasant and friendly to our fellow members of the Spiral.

Our discussions on how to present this lingered until we decided that action on the part of the responsible was a more effective approach. After all, our logic told us that the wizards of Wiazar101 who care will be the ones reading The Spiral Free Press, so why remind them to do what they normally do? That decision left us with the following:

We the Wizards of the Spiral, in order to preserve a friendly environment, insure justice, restore tranquility, provide for the defense of the mute, promote the general welfare of all, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves while in game, do ordain this call to arms.

We pledge ourselves to act when a bully is present; to discourage through the power of our wands, the mistreatment of others; to be decisive when language and innuendo are inappropriate; to use the report button with pride.

If you are willing to join our Call to Arms, let us know. We welcome the mature and responsible to aid us is getting the garbage out of the Spiral.

Thursday, July 23

Crafting Under Fire from Alchemists

Since the introduction of crafting throughout the worlds of the Spiral, there has been a cacophony of complaints from a lot of young wizards. So the Spiral Free Press has undertaken an investigation to see what issues are causing the uproar.

The most frequent cause for this appears to be related to the availability of reagents. We asked Master of Fire, Ian Sunflame his experiences when searching for materials to complete the crafting quests, unfortunately, at just them mention of this topic, he spontaneously combusted, leaving us a bit charred and starring at a pile of ashes. We can only take this to mean that the wizards that have reached a higher degree of education are finding it infuriating to meander the mountains and meadows of the Spiral in search of these elusive items.

After the reaction of Mr. Sunflame, we were hesitant to approach any other students, as we prefer to help protect these young wizards rather than cause them harm. However, after a bit of deliberation, we tossed those concerns directly into the void that exists between worlds and approached our next subject, Magus Necromancer, Ian Ghostrider. When asked about the difficulty in finding supplies to support his crafting quests, Mr. Ghostrider said "Heck, seems to me that I find everything I need at just about the right time thus far.". We asked him how long he had been training under the excellent teachers of Ravenwood and found out that he is a recent addition to the inhabitants of the Spiral. In fact, when asked about what he though about the new world that had been recently re-discovered, Grizzleheim, he said "I didn't know that was a new thing. That bear has been standin' down by that boat ever since I arrived. I kind of hope he offers to take me fishing in it someday!".

So, with the vast difference in responses we received from these two fine students, we can only conclude that for new arrivals, the rate of reagents spawn and the amounts you currently get them are pretty well balanced when working the quests along with their education at Ravenwood. But that for those that have already been well educated, this does in fact seem to be posing a bit of an issue. It seems the time to locate all of the necessary ingredients for a recipe in these quests will roughly equivocate to the amount of time it takes to complete each world individually. That is rough news for our star scholars.

There have recently been some grumblings in the Wizard101 Central community about maybe adding a way to recover some portion of the reagents from an item by reversing the crafting process. It seems to me that this may well be a new skill that Headmaster Ambrose and the other staff of Ravenwood should consider teaching. After all, we don't want the students to start burning out from to much homework.