Vista SP2 Compatibility Mode Builds Character... on Windows 7

The kids have gotten to the age where they’re pestering us to play Dungeons & Dragons with them. Well, my oldest son is and he’s dragging his sister along (kicking and screaming, metaphorically-speaking). Heh.

Unfortunately, this isn’t his Grandpa’s D&D anymore (or his Dad’s). We didn’t have none o’ them crazy software gadgets when we played D&D! We had slate tablets with chalk to write on, just like Abe Lincoln and Gary Gygax. And we were grateful for it!! Heh. As my beard gets grayer, people seem to expect old codger stories...

Wizards of the Coast seems to have turned out a great little widget in the Character Builder. A little paranoid about copyrights and DRM, for my taste but once I got it working, I like it.

However, like most small companies that outsource their software development and technical support (I don’t know that to be fact, it just seems that way from the outside looking in), they’re not exactly on the cutting edge. It is a .NET 3.5 SP1 application (according to their website), which is a good start, but...

Their Character Builder FAQ wasn’t any real help, since I’m running Win7. And I get really irritated when the answer to a badly implemented application is “run it as Administrator”. Grrr. But I tried that first anyway... to no avail.

Right-click | Run as administrator didn’t change the symptoms: “Logon Failed. You do not have access to this application.” whenever I tried to update the content for the first time on a fresh install of CB. Maybe that worked on Vista, but it didn’t seem to solve the problem on Win7.

WotC technical support verified that I’m a paid up and member in good standing for D&DI, so I tried forcing it to run in Vista compatibility mode. Hooray for backward compatibility. Good job, Win7 team! (I’m still working on forgiving you for removing my “restore folders at logon” option from Explorer, though.)


Just for giggles, I watched the directory in Program Files as Character Builder was updating, and sure enough they’re writing directly to the privileged directory during unelevated execution. Bad form, guys. That’s sooo Windows 95. Time to get with the modern development paradigm!

Attention WotC developer types! You should have the downloader dump files to a temporary folder, kick off a new process and prompt for elevation using Windows Installer to patch your app properly!! Otherwise you’re going to suffer breakage and other problems at uninstall time... and it’s just wrong anyway to write to a privileged directory without explicit user permission AND even then only during setup or patching!

I shudder to think how they’re probably ignoring the multiple users problem, among other things. Yup, no Vista-certified logo to be found. Doh.

But now I’m up and running and building character! All so that I can use my children as guinea pigs to prove my nefarious theory that roleplaying has therapeutic benefits for children with autism toward learning appropriate social interaction. How else are my little aspies supposed to learn what to do when they actually meet a dragon?