Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gabe Krahulik's account of trying to discover who was bombing his son's Minecraft creations

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.