Archive for the ‘Jane Public’ Category

More on Real ID: Who’s Behind This? What Should I do?

In the past few days, the controversy over Real ID and the changes to the forums that require real names to be displayed next to posts has all but dominated the WoW-community and then some. Major news outlets have covered the changes, Blizzard has come under fire from players and non-players alike, and while most of it has to do with both the fact that the changes to the forums (especially the customer support and technical support forums, where users come for help) are unwanted, some of it has rightfully become a larger discussion about Real ID and what Blizzard’s intentions were when they announced it.

Some people have gone so far as to assert that Blizzard isn’t behind this at all. From the World of Warcraft Livejournal Community comes this story about how at least one person on the inside has said that Blizzard employees are as angry about the change as players are, and that this is a directive coming down from Blizzard’s Activision overlords:

“Got in touch with my ex-flatmate, whose sister works as a GM for Blizzard, to see what the internal buzz on this was. Apparently, at the moment the employees are largely as pissed as the players, and she stated that despite attempts to keep it hushed, it has become known that the big creative players within Blizzard are pretty much as unhappy about this as we are. Everybody has been told they are not free to comment on this situation outside of specially prepared statements.

It’s still going ahead, however (and here’s where in-house rumours and hearsay really start coming into play): from what they’ve picked up, the Blizzard leads have been told in no uncertain terms that the non-gameplay-related direction of the game is working to a different blueprint now. GC and company are free to play with shiny new talent trees all they like, for example, but for the first time the decisions regarding Battle.net implementation, Real ID, and plans for the general acquisition of new players for the business are no longer in Blizzard’s own hands, and that’s not going down too well.”

I would buy this, actually – although Blizzard has made some pretty unpopular moves in the past, this is by far the worst, and Blizzard would have to know it. It’s also likely that this is why they took so much heat when the rumor (not confirmed to not be true) arose that their employees may have been exempt from the new forum rules. It’s possible that the idea was floated that Blizzard employees would be exempt, and then due to the already simmering backlash, it was retracted quickly.

A number of people have taken to the torches and pitchforks, and a few other people have already cancelled their accounts due to the change. While I tend to have a more metered approach to things (and I don’t actually plan on canceling my account,) I applaud the dedication to conviction that those people are showing.

The problem I see here though is that Blizzard and Activision both know how to ignore the forums by now – they probably assumed they got all of the value they could get from the complaints on the forums in the first 24 hours, and now people are just piling on – they may be discounting a great deal of player anger due to the echo chamber of the web. From the cancellation perspective, we have to keep in mind that over 12-million people play World of Warcraft worldwide, and if even 120,000 people quit over the Real ID fiasco, that would only amount to ONE PERCENT of the global player base.

So, you’re likely thinking, am I defending them or throwing my hands up because it’s all hopeless anyway? Not at all. I say vote with your voices, vote with your feet, and vote with the tools that Blizzard has given us. Over at Wow.com, there’s an excellent post about how to opt-out of Real ID that I think everyone should at least read, if not follow directly if you plan to continue playing.

I would suggest players that simply can’t play the game anymore because they can’t stand this kind of Facebook-style data exposure should, without hesitation, cancel their accounts. And not just through the Web form, although that’s the easiest way to do it – I think they should call Blizzard’s customer support line and let them know directly that the reason you’re cancelling your account is because of the forum changes and the intrusive policy changes made with regard to Real ID.

In fact, even if you decide you want to continue playing, I think you should lodge your complaint with Blizzard about the changes and about the policies, and let them know that while you will still play the game, your support for them has diminished significantly (as mine has.)

A number of posters at the Livejournal Community have taken it a step farther, which I can’t really oppose: Hit Activision/Blizzard where it hurts: in their shareholder’s wallets. Sell their shares, whatever little you may hold, and make your complaints about their policies public.

Many people are comparing Real ID and these changes to Facebook’s infamous policies and dodging questions around the integrity of personal data that users trust with the service, deriding Facebook and Zynga (makers of Farmville, Fishville, and all of those other games I can’t really stand) for similar practices. As much as we may hate all of those entities, the fact of the matter is that Facebook and Zynga’s partnership is a multi-million dollar deal in a multi-billion dollar “social gaming” industry, and Activision/Blizzard is bound to want to get in on that kind of action. Similarly, for all of the fuss over Facebook’s privacy policies and “Quit Facebook Day” and the massive Internet echo chamber around all of it, a ridiculously minute number of people actually left Facebook for it, the Diaspora Project is still nowhere near off the ground, and the furor has all but blown over. Activision/Blizzard is hoping, as will likely happen, that this will all blow over in a few weeks.

Finally, whatever you choose to do with your wallets or your accounts, vote with your voice and make it clear that you’re concerned deeply about the changes on whatever forums you choose, in whatever manner you choose. Again, I wave people off of the Official Forums because Blizzard is used to ignoring them by now, but the fact that the blog community and the gaming community are in the middle of a firestorm about this and even the mainstream media has picked up the story (albeit their take on it is largely “accountability first, Blizzard is cleaning up their forums, and oh yeah some people are mad about it) mean that there’s traction to the story, whatever your take on it is.

All of those things are small things that individuals can do, but collectively Activision/Blizzard will (if they’re not already) pay attention to the concern of their customers. I’m optimistic that the concerns of the community and the players will actually be heard, but I’m also a stark realist when it comes to technology and privacy. Away from the game, I work at a company whose business is information, and on the side I’m a technology writer. I know how these things play out, and the power of the echo chamber for the minority doesn’t always overcome the apathy of the masses.

Even so, that shouldn’t stop any of us from doing what we think is right, and at the very least what we think is best for our personal privacy and our personal data that we’d like to keep private.

What do you think? Will you be cancelling your account over the changes? Have you already done so? On the other hand, do you think this is all overblown and the “what-if” of the changes have been overstated? Perhaps you’re just planning on opting out of Real ID and moving on?

Some people have said that the breaking point for them is when/if Real ID makes its way to the Armory and characters will be rolled up under people’s real names – what would you do then? Let us know in the comments!

WoW.com :: Rumor: Blizzard Employee’s Real Life Names Will Not Appear on the Real ID Forums

Wow.com has reported this afternoon a number of disturbing pieces of information that have come to light around the whole Real ID means real names on the official forums controversy.

While I don’t think that anyone can debate that Blizzard employees can’t have their real lives disturbed or intruded upon by in-game issues (the last thing a community moderator or GM needs is to be followed to their home or be contacted personally because they locked a thread or didn’t provide an answer sufficient to someone who takes the game entirely too seriously) the rumor that Blizzard employees will be exempt from the changes implies that Blizzard definitely understands the severity of what they’re doing, but simply haven’t decided to extend that concern to their customers as well as their employees. Here’s what WoW.com had to say about it:

So here’s what we know:

  • Bashiok / Drysc posted his real life name yesterday, and had his privacy violated by people posting maps to his house, his parents’ names, and (potentially incorrect) cell phone numbers.
  • We have seen multiple reports of WoW players who have called up Blizzard’s support line and spoken with representatives who’ve told them blues will no longer be using their real names in the new forums.
  • Josh, a Blizzard phone rep said that Blizzard employees “cannot risk having their personal lives compromised by in-game issues.”
  • Blizzard blue representative Rygarius locked, but did not delete nor deny, a thread on this.
  • WoW.com has emailed PR contacts within Blizzard for comment, and have not heard anything back.

As with the previous post, I’m of two minds of this – first, it’s unfortunate that it’s clear to Blizzard the gravity of this change. They know it, but they’re moving forward with their player-base anyway. It’s also likely that Blizzard employees will be exempt from other Real ID concerns, like the friends-of-friends feature. On the other hand, I completely empathize with Blizzard employees, who are more likely to be targeted because of who they are and who they work for.

So while I’m not saying this should go forward and Blizzard employees should be left out and the rest of us forced to comply, I am saying that Blizzard should (and they likely will if the uproar continues) come up with a middle ground where people’s privacy can be protected to at least some degree, instead of taking an all or nothing approach.

We’ll wait and see what WoW.com turns up in the way of confirm/deny of the rumor, but in the meantime, the controversy is still simmering (especially in this massive thread), and more and more stories like this one are appearing, where people are able to use such limited information like a player’s real name, whatever associated information there is about them, and the powers of Google to dig up a lot of personal detail about them.

UPDATE: According to Blizzard, they’re sticking to their guns and their employees’ real names WILL be used on the forums. From the original WoW.com post:

According to Nethaera, they’re going to stick with their original plan and have blue posters use their real names. As to why other parts of Blizzard are saying something different (WoW.com has verified what other parts of Blizzard has said), it appears they’re having some internal communication issues.

Blizzard Announces Changes to Forums: Real Names to be Displayed

Blizzard announced some sweeping changes in conjunction with its Real ID system today, most notably that they’re changing the official forums for World of Warcraft and all of their other games so that a player’s real name is displayed next to their forum comments when they post to the general forums, class forums, customer and technical support forums, and elsewhere. That’s right – when you post to the forums, your first and last name will appear.

This has already caused some more than significant uproar in the World of Warcraft community, but before we dive into that, here’s the announcement, thanks to Wow.com:

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic Battle.net forums, will remain unchanged.

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

Now, if you’ll remember the open letter and passionate piece written by our new author (say hello to her!) Lee Olesky called Real ID and Real Concerns, you’ll see that some of the things she mentioned not only apply here too, but are very relevant.

I’m of two minds of the changes: first of all, and as much as I’ve seen some folks decrying it, this is not a legal matter and this absolutely will decrease the forum trolling that’s rampant on the official forums and has for several years now made people unwilling to use them for anything. The fact that so many forum users would hide behind their level 1 alts to bolster their own points or troll others without having to reveal their level 80 mains is proof that they needed that anonymity to say the things they wanted to say. When they’re stripped of it, as they will be, they won’t troll. That’s just fact.

I know, there are Facebook trolls who use their real names too – I’m not saying it’s the end of trolling on the official forums, but we have to remember that most rational people avoided the forums entirely because it was a cesspool of trolling and nonsense largely, and entire cottage blogs and tools that tracked blue posts only without the fluff of all of the other posts on the forums grew out of the fact that the official forums were all but unusable otherwise.

Forcing a player to have their real name associated with the things they say will definitely force them to watch what they say, or not say anything at all.

At the same time, this does have a chilling effect on people who have legimitate privacy concerns. I’m not talking about privacy concerns of the legal nature – playing World of Warcraft, you are subject to their terms of service. Your full name is not considered “private” information, and if someone requires you use your real name in order to use the service, you have to provide it. Your options in this case, legally, are to either provide your real name, give the service a compelling reason not to (that they will accept or decline,) or not use the service. I know that we’re really hung up on privacy in our Web-connected society (which we should be – there are many very real privacy threats out there) but there’s little legal basis for an opt-in service like World of Warcraft.

This is where the chilling effect comes in. Because Blizzard is well within their rights to do this (even if we don’t all think it’s a good idea – and trust me, I don’t think it’s a good idea…I would have gone for first name last initial or something a little more personal but a little more private as well) I really empathize with people who have stalkers, bullies, or other people on the Web who follow them everywhere they go, keep track of everything they write or say, or people who need anonymity to protect themselves somehow.

People with stalkers, or players with obsessive bosses who’ll search the WoW forums for any evidence that the person posted during work hours, or people who play the game to escape reality, roleplay, or otherwise not be themselves for a moment, will all find this change chilling enough that they’ll likely never use the official forums again. They’ll all be an unfortunate casualty of what are likely good intentions but have gone overboard.

The other likely side effect is that it will drive valid and valuable conversation about the game away from the official forums and to unofficial forums on fansites, like MMO Champion. That can be a boon for those sites, but it’s unfortunate for Blizzard, as they’ll lose some of the capability to shape their message and interact with people who are sharing their opinions and thoughts first-hand.

Like I said, I’m of two minds obviously – I more than empathize with the people who need their anonymity to play the game the way they want to play or keep themselves safe and private, but I also acknowledge that something like this can go a long way to making the official forums much more usable and worth visiting. Regardless of either point, I doubt that Blizzard will retract this move unless the community is really really roiled against them – and I mean people who already use the forums, not just the offended masses who play but don’t use the forums for anything.

What do you think? Do you think the decrease in trolling (if any) is enough reason for Blizz to do this, and if people don’t like it they should just not use the forums? Alternatively, is this the worst idea in the history of World of Warcraft and will likely drive people away from the game entirely? Sound off in the comments!

Couples that Raid Together Stay Together!

Over at WoW.com, I found one of the most adorable and sweet posts I’ve ever seen in my life: Breakfast Topic: Things my wife and I have done in WoW – Matthew Rossi, one of my favorite authors at WoW.com, outlines how it was actually his wife that introduced him to WoW.com (which was WoW Insider at the time) and that he plays WoW with.

I can echo the sentiment – the lovely lady I’m seeing also plays WoW, and while we used to play on the same server, she left for a more interesting place for the way she plays and I hung around mostly because I liked the raiding I was doing at the time. Both of us have been away from the game for a while, but it’s hard to imagine that she got started in the game when I had just signed up for an account back in the vanilla days and I bought her a copy for Valentine’s Day of all days, because she really wanted to play it.

Between Rossi and I, we’re proof positive that couples that raid together stay together – that is to say, if you share interests and likes and dislikes with your partner, you’re likely to stick together through the hard times, even if it doesn’t always seem so.

So what about you? Does your significant other play WoW? Do you think they ever would, or would you try to get them into the game? Let us know in the comments!

Blizzard Announces 2010 Global Writing Contest

If you think you have the chops to be one of the people to help craft lore for not just World of Warcraft, but other Blizzard games, Blizzard is looking for you. The 2010 Global Writing Contest is open, and here are the requirements:

Blizzard Entertainment is proud to present the 2010 Blizzard Global Writing Contest! Once again you’re called to action, to use your wits and strength, to compete for the ultimate prize.

Your weapons? They seem to be but a musty tome and quill*, but know that their power is far stronger than the armies of the Scourge, far craftier than the zerg Swarm, and far mightier than the Burning Hells. Ready your tools, scribe, and prepare for combat with the inky beast called fiction!

Whether you’re an accomplished writer or you simply fancy writing as a hobby, we encourage one and all to submit their creative works to our judges of official Blizzard writers and masters of lore. Their eyeballs are glistening and ready, their ocular fortitude intensified by the 2009 Blizzard Global Writing Contest.

Yes, last year’s contest was a marathon for the retina. After poring over story and ballad, adventure and romance, the judges ascended from their drool-covered keyboards to proclaim that they had succeeded in their charge: the 2009 winners had been chosen. News delivered, they then heroically passed out.

Do you dare test our judges’ optic mettle, laying your ideas and dreams beneath their unblinking gaze? If so, submit a 2,500- to 7,500-word short story written in English and set in the Warcraft, StarCraft, or Diablo universe by August 23, 2010, and earn your chance to visit the Blizzard headquarters and meet the writers and staff behind the lore of Blizzard’s games and books.

See below for details about prizes and frequently-asked questions. You can also check out the official rules for more information.

The contest itself is pretty straight forward, but the rewards are even more interesting:

Grand Prize: The grand prize winner will receive a trip to Blizzard’s headquarters in southern California, where you’ll meet and eat with the Blizzard writing staff. You’ll also receive your choice of a Diablo III “OVERTHROWN” barbarian diorama or a Frostmourne sword.

Runners-up: Seven runners-up will each receive a prize package of the Diablo Archive, the Warcraft Archive, the StarCraft Archive, and the Warcraft: War of the Ancients Archive, all signed by Chris Metzen, the cover artists, and Blizzard’s writing staff.

Tempting? Go ahead and enter, and head over to the contest site for more details and the FAQs!

Today’s the Day: Patch 3.3.5 is Live!

So today’s the day: Patch 3.3.5 is going live, what many people think is going to be one of the last few patches before the release of Cataclysm. Still, this patch brings more to it than just some bug fixes and updates – there are two big reveals in 3.3.5, the new Assault on the Ruby Sanctum dungeon, and the implementation of the Real ID system, which brings Battle.net further into the game and allows you to integrate friends from across realms and factions into your friends list, stay in touch with them, and find out when they’re playing – even if they’re not playing on your server.

Here’s the lowdown:

World of Warcraft Client Patch 3.3.5

The latest test realm patch notes can always be found at:
http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/patchnotes/test-realm-patchnotes.html

The latest patch notes can always be found at:
http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/patchnotes/

Assault on the Ruby Sanctum

For ages the red dragonflight and its noble matriarch, Alexstrasza the Life-Binder, have dedicated themselves to preserving all life on Azeroth. Recently, the very heart of this virtuous dragonflight has come under threat.

An eerie silence has settled over the Ruby Sanctum, the red dragonflight’s sacred lair within the Chamber of the Aspects. This troubling development has led to fears that the sanctum, home to Azeroth’s largest clutch of red dragon eggs, has been breached by an unknown, sinister force. If these claims are true and immediate action is not taken, the benevolent red dragonflight might be crippled forever.

Real ID: A New Way to Connect With Your Friends on Battle.net

One of our goals for the new Battle.net is to create the framework for an online gaming experience that is even more accessible, more engaging, and more entertaining than the previous Battle.net. The newly released Real ID feature, available to World of Warcraft players as part of patch 3.3.5, is an integral part of this effort, providing you with advanced ways for forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with your friends on the service.

Real ID is a completely voluntary and optional level of identity that keeps 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. Go here for more details.

General
* The Ruby Sanctum, an all-new 10- and 25-player raid dungeon featuring normal and Heroic difficulties, has been added! Players will find the dungeon entrance below Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight. Please note due to the way this patch is being applied in all regions, this dungeon will not immediately be available in North America. Stay tuned to our General Discussion forum for an official announcement on the opening of the Ruby Sanctum.

* The functionality of the Vote Kick feature in the Dungeon Finder will now behave differently according to a player’s history with the system. Players using the Dungeon Finder who rarely vote to kick players from a group, or rarely abandon groups before a dungeon is complete, will find that the Vote Kick option will have no cooldown. For players who frequently abandon groups or vote to kick other players, the Vote Kick option will be kept on a cooldown. This functionality will adjust itself as a player’s behavior while using the Dungeon Finder changes.

User Interface

* Chat Frame

  • Players can now right-click on any chat type (Whisper, Trade, General, Party, Raid, etc.) and choose to move conversation types into separate windows. This will move that chat type to a separate tab in the Chat frame which can be undocked and moved anywhere on the screen.
    Using the Move to Whisper Window option on a Whisper will place the conversation with that player in a separate tab.
  • Any time a conversation with another player is put into its own tab, the tab will glow when a new message is received.
  • Hovering over the Chat Frame and using the mouse wheel will allow players to scroll through chat text.
  • Players can select Classic Mode under Interface Options to keep the Chat Frame functionality closer to what it was prior to patch 3.3.5.
  • The Simple Chat User Interface option has been removed.

* Friends List

  • A new icon has been added to the top left of the Chat Frame which will open up the Friends list.
  • In addition to its current functionality, the Friends List will now allow players to add Battle.net accounts (Real ID). Players will have to confirm that they are friends in order for a Real ID to be added. Once Real ID friends, players can communicate cross-game, cross-faction and cross-realm.
  • A new Pending tab has been added where players can accept or decline a Real ID friend request, or select the Report Spam or Block Communications buttons.
  • Players can now select from three statuses which will be visible to their friends: Available, Away and Busy.
  • A Broadcast window has been added to the top of the frame. Players can use this to broadcast a message to all of their Real ID friends online. This message will also be displayed under the broadcaster’s Real ID information in each friend’s list.

* For additional notes on Lua and XML changes please visit the UI & Macros forum.

It’s always fun to see what interesting little tidbits Blizzard sneaks into the patches for us. For example, the chat frame mods may very well make add-ons like Chatter completely useless for those of us who actively use them, but we’ll have to wait and see what the effects of the patch really are before I can call that.

Even so, RealID is the big story of the day, and once the servers are back up and everyone has the patch installed, I’m sure we’ll see the fallout from RealID very very quickly – whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. So far it looks like Blizzard is putting the right privacy options in place to keep just anyone from knowing who you are on every realm you play, but it’s still going to be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Video: Avatar Days

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/9157869[/vimeo]

The beauty of Avatar Days (it’s been making its way around lately) is that it kind of speaks to the point that behind every character moving on a screen that we see when we log in to World of Warcraft is a real person, who has friends and a life off of the computer and likely a family and a real world that they live in.

This came up in conversation with a dear friend of mine when she tried to explain that she only seems to be interesting online. I pointed out to her that she’s pretty damned interesting in person, and that her “persona” online is no less her than her “persona” off the Web – she’s the same person in both places, and I referenced this video, partially because it goes to prove the point that your avatars aren’t some stand-off thing that’s not really you – you put yourself into everything you do, even your forms of entertainment.

Heavy for a silly little video, I know – but hey! I thought it was telling considering the video!

12-Year Old Uses World of Warcraft Skills to Save Sister’s Life

Over at io9 (and a couple of other sources, namely Next Nature, which first reported the story, to my knowledge) I’ve caught wind of an amazing story about a 12-year old boy who used skills he picked up in World of Warcraft to save his sister from a moose that was attacking them.

We so often hear stories of people being killed and video games getting the blame instead of the actual person who committed the crime or their mindset that I think it’s more than worthwhile to highlight a story where some of the tricks that a child picked up in a video game wound up saving his — and his sister’s — life.

Here’s the scoop:

Hans and his sister got into trouble after they had trespassed the territory of the moose during a walk in the forest near their home. When the moose attacked them, Hans knew the first thing he had to do was ‘taunt’ and provoke the animal so that it would leave his sister alone and she could run to safety. ‘Taunting’ is a move one uses in World of Warcraft to get monsters off of the less-well-armored team members.

Once Hans was a target, he remembered another skill he had picked up at level 30 in ‘World of Warcraft’ – he feigned death. The moose lost interest in the inanimate boy and wandered off into the woods. When he was safely alone Hans ran back home to share his tale of video game-inspired survival.

Absolutely incredible. I’ve never been more proud to play a hunter. Now granted, it could have backfired and the child could have died, but from a wilderness and survival perspective? The kid did exactly what you’re supposed to do. This kid wins at life, and is a hero – I just hope he gets word of how far and wide his popularity has spread.

Questionable Content: No Tips for Alliance Scum!

The venerable Jeph Jacques, author and artist of the Webcomic Questionable Content penned this masterpiece above (click to go see the strip in all of its glory) yesterday – I read it from bed (because he announces new comics at Twitter the moment they go up) and giggled my way to sleep. You’ll love it too.

Although I love me some Marigold (the female character) I gotta admit, my main is alliance too. Guess that shows you – you wanna pick up Warcraft-playing ladies, you’d better be rollin’ Horde-side.

Ars Technica Tours Blizzard HQ

The fine folks at Ars Technica recently had the opportunity to visit Blizzard Headquarters and tour their magnificent offices. While this doesn’t have to do specifically with World of Warcraft, there’s no coincidence that after 5 years of service to Blizzard, each employee gets a sword, and after 10 years they get a shield. The one shown in the article just happens to bear the crest of Lorderon.

The offices are amazing, and complete with life-size sculptures of figures like Illidan and a massive bronze Orc wolf-rider out front of the building. Head through the photo tour (and even note the “artists representation of Blizzard’s datacenter -although I’m sure they have many- that they weren’t allowed to take pictures of) and see the gloriousness for yourself!

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