Archive for the ‘Unsavory Deviates’ Category

Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 2

Blizzard held another Q&A session with its developers recently, taking forum questions from interested parties, just like last time. Same as last time, you can read the whole set of questions and answers on the official forums, but we’ll take a look at some of the new and interesting ones:

Q: Why can’t we have a pure, straight up, unadulterated Death Match style Battleground? – ???? ???? (Taiwan), Gulantor (North America/ANZ)

A: We think Battlegrounds work better when there is a goal that the team can work towards. Huge melees with lots of players tend to be chaotic by nature so there is less room for skill to influence the outcome. It feels more random, and the more random the system is, the more arbitrary the rewards will feel. It might be something we try someday.

For example, emergency buttons are balanced around the assumption that only a few players are ganged up against you. Even in the 5v5 Arena bracket, it’s very difficult to survive being focused by so many players at once, so you feel like you don’t have many options. There is a reason that most of our Arena attention is on 3v3 – it just feels the best.

You know, I had been wondering about this one too back when I was spending more time in battlegrounds – some people would love the “in and out” nature of having a battleground they could hop into and hop out of just to grab some honor in a short period, and in a game that’s perpetually ongoing that they could play for as much free time as they have without worrying their departure will negatively impact a team.

At the same time, the sheer number of empty multiplayer game servers in the world kind of tell the tale that when there’s no one interested in playing that all-out deathmatch style game, the few people who do want to play would have a horrible time doing it – or worse, they’ll just give up because it’s not the epic experience they’d actually want. After all – I’m sure the people asking the question are thinking of massive 25 v. 25 battle arenas with fast re-spawning, not a 3 v. 3 match.

Q: CC used to be the big thing for arena, but now it’s all about damage. Is it the direction you are taking at the moment? – Thatis (Taiwan)

A: If crowd control really was as weak in Arenas as you’re claiming, then Holy paladins would be the healer of choice and Resto druids wouldn’t have much of a role. But the Entangling Roots and Cyclone of the druid make a huge difference in Arena, and we see a lot of healing druids.

Ultimately, we think there has to be a place for both crowd control and damage. It can be just as frustrating to be chained from a fear to a poly to a stun without having an answer as it can be to die to two dudes killing you in a few GCDs without an answer. We don’t want Arena in particular to be all about which comp has the best layering of crowd controls that don’t share diminishing returns, because that greatly lowers the number of viable comps out there (and why rogue-mage-priest dominated in earlier seasons). We have taken steps this season already to nerf both out of control damage and excessive crowd control for some classes.

The best thing you can do is just keep providing feedback when you think something is broken. Many other players will disagree with you, and at times so will we. The signal to noise ratio for PvP balance is frankly always going to be bad, and the design calls are extremely subjective. We are constantly amazed that some players playing very powerful specs perceive themselves as weak or interpret very gentle nerfs as soul-crushing. That doesn’t mean that we’re never going to listen, but it does mean the burden of convincing us something is broken is going to be high, probably higher than it is for PvE.

Ouch – holy blowoff, batman! Although I can’t say I disagree here. I think Blizzard is acquising the point that they’re paying more attention to damage, but they’re trying to strike the balance between damage and crowd control. I disagree that seeing a lot of resto druids somehow means that holy paladins aren’t the healers of choice in battlegrounds (that’s like saying “hey, the fact that a exists means there must be less of b,”) but I see their point. Balance is what’s important, and they’re always open to your feedback.

I hope the person asking the question got that same message, because I could see how the tone at the beginning is kind of a diss. A loving one, but a diss nonetheless!

Q: Can I hear your thoughts of the survival abilities of the Warlock on PvP? – Mccoll (Korea)

A: Overall, we think they’re fine. Warlocks in PvP often compare themselves to Shadow priest, and to be fair, Shadow priests have some very potent emergency buttons, particularly Dispersion. Warlocks have good self-healing (which also to be fair, was nerfed recently), abilities like Demonic Circle and fears that are good for both offense and defense. Once Shadow priests lose their defensive dispel capabilities, we think they will be less versatile and their entire package will be more comparable to warlocks.

I love this question only because it was asked. I remember the days when warlocks were unstoppable damage and destruction machines in arenas. If you had a lock on your team, you were pretty much guaranteed to win, and if you had one on your team and another on the other team, it came down to who had the most resilience. Thankfully, no more.

So – this set of Q&A questions were pretty heavy on the PVP side of things. If you’re a heavy PVP’er, what do you think of Blizzard’s responses and the questions they selected to respond to? What would you have asked if you had the opportunity? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Blizzard Unveils New Account Security Guide

Blizzard took the wraps off of a new account security guide yesterday, designed to give players both new and veteran a simple place to go to see all of Blizzard’s reccomendations on how to keep your account safe from the people who would – and they very much would – exploit it and snag your characters right out from under you.

The basics are clear: you know, use a strong password, make sure you don’t give out your account information, don’t use shady gold selling services, things like that. Then of course, the guide goes into exactly how badly you really do need an authenticator bound to your account, even if it’s the new free phone-in version. There’s absolutely no excuse not to have an authenticator at this point.

The guide goes the extra mile too, with a few handy tips on keeping your computer safe in general by making sure your operating system is up to date and all patched up, that you have some solid anti-malware utility installed and that it’s up to date.

Blizzard’s tips are good, and well worth reading even if you already know what you’re doing when it comes to account security. At the same time though, it takes more than reading them to make sure you’re safe – make sure you apply them. Use a solid password and get an authenticator for your account. Make sure you keep your computer safe from threats as well as your game, and make sure you never give out your account information, no matter who emails you asking for it.

Blizzard to Address Dungeon Finder Abuse

Apparently there’s been some pretty heavy abuse of the Dungeon Finder system that I wasn’t aware of – mostly because I’m still making the long slog between 80 and 85 on my main and leveling some new alts to see the new content. I caught the story over at WoW Insider, here’s what they had to say:

Anyone who’s read the official forums lately has probably seen a raft of complaints directed at players abusing the dungeon finder and vote to kick features. It’s a reminder that people will always figure out a way to twist a system to their own benefit. The most upsetting technique I’ve read about is two hybrid DPS in cahoots with a third DPS queuing as a tank/healer duo, getting an instant invite to dungeons, and then pressuring the two other members of the party to shoulder the tank or healer job. If they don’t or can’t fill these roles — kick ‘em after the 15 min grace period and requeue themselves as straight DPS. Voilà — they are now at the head of the dungeon queue for the next tank or healer! Is it any wonder that players find this enraging?

Yowch – that’s…brilliant and horrific at the same time. Well, the folks at WoW Insider had some ideas on how to avoid dungeon finder abuse, mostly suggestions Blizzard could take to improve the system and make it a bit more equitable for everyone – things like “invisible” rep, or performance based rights to vote/kick.

The same day, Blizzard said they were looking at options to improve the system and remove the kind of abuse people have seen, but admittedly it’s going to be difficult – after all, designing a system to try and manage people’s behavior, especially in something as potentially inflammatory as removing someone from a pick-up group, is bound to be difficult.

Is This a Leaked Blizzard Product Slate and Schedule?

You can click the image above to get a larger view.

So this image comes to us courtesy of a post at MMO Champion who report is was posted at a Chinese game site called MMOGameSite.com, and they offer the same warning that we’ll offer here, blockquoted so you can’t ignore it:

This document, even if it is real, is already outdated. It is very likely that it is not real at all. Even if it is real, Blizzard will never acknowledge it as such, and you should not – not now, not ever – go posting on the official forums claiming there’s a “timeline” according to this image and that you’re “wondering where XXXX title is.” Got it?

Now then, the slide itself, if it is real, likely comes from some internal presentation of product strategy, but I even have a difficult time believing that – most companies have a standard template for presentation slides, and this really isn’t it. Then again, it could be a template-stripped export, so who knows – anything is possible, and a lot of people are concluding that it is the real thing.

The timeline however, especially as it pertains to World of Warcraft isn’t anything special – the expansion schedule looks solid and makes sense. Based on this, we would be looking at a new WoW expansion every year and a half, give or take, and that jives with previous release schedules. I’m a little put off as to why Blizzard would have the timeline of the World of Warcraft Movie on their internal documentation for anything but planning – as far as I know, it’s Blizzard’s IP, but they’re not controlling the filming or production schedule.

I also have to say – I’m really interested in the “WOW/Mobile” inclusion there. Mobile? There’s no way to tell what they mean, but Blizzard has been pushing in the direction of mobile devices, but how far they’re planning to go we’ll have to wait and see.

“Titan,” which everyone is assuming is Blizzard’s so-called “Next Generation MMO,” is undoubtedly going to be pushed from that date, but the biggest thing I’m interested in is that Diablo 3 release date: I would be a very very happy boy if we saw Diablo 3 at the end of next year. Although I’ll be interested to see if Blizzard really does take the tack of releasing “expansions” to Diablo 3, the same way they’re stretching out StarCraft 2 content – which is also reflected on the slide.

What do you think? True or false? Real or fake? Or does it not matter at all?

Blizzard Reverses Course, Real Names to Not Be Required on Official Forums

Blizzard made an announcement this morning I thought they wouldn’t make. Here’s the meat from Nethera’s post on the official forums about it, where she’s reposting a message from Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime:

Hello everyone,

I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it’s clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you’ll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard’s success from the beginning.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

I didn’t think Blizzard was going to retract the policy this way, but clearly the demand got to them and they decided that this was a bad idea.

So, now let’s see if the people who threatened to or went ahead and canceled their subscriptions return to the game, or if the spectre of Real ID in other forms and implementations is enough to keep people away from the game for privacy concerns. What do you think about the reversal? Sound off in the comments!

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!

The Story Behind Blizzard’s Account Management Policies

OrcRoll

So wow.com blew open a pretty big story today, namely that Blizzard’s account reps have been instructed to offer players a “care package” of sorts in lieu of doing more lengthy and time consuming account rollbacks when there’s a report that a player’s account has been hacked. Now, clearly that’s not the entire story, but here are the posts over at Wow.com in time order from earliest to latest, since Blizzard caught wind that Wow.com broke the news and promptly made a public statement about it:

The last post is the most recent, and contains some information from Blizzard about the “care package” and why they’ve begun offering it at all. While I have to agree with Wow.com’s perspective on this — namely that it’s firmly against the best interest of players to try and sub in something like this instead of actually doing the restoration, even if it’s just an “option,” — I would say that this is an excellent time to run out and pick up an authenticator for your account.

I can completely see the benefit of giving players an option like the care package, which essentially says to them “wow, sucks you got hacked, here’s some stuff to get you back on your feet, is that okay?” instead of “wow, sucks you got hacked, let’s get you back to where you were,” since the former takes a couple of minutes (maybe hours) and the latter can take days upon days of research to find out what the player’s state was before the hack and when the hack occurred, even if the player knows. Restoring characters is significantly labor and time-intensive for Blizzard, and with the subscription rolls getting larger and larger, it makes sense to have other options in mind for players who would rather take the gold and badges and get back to business instead of wait for possibly weeks to get back to where they were before the whole thing started.

That being said, and even though the offer can be “declined,” which is kind of an “opt-out” kind of thing, it still rings kind of hollow to me, and if I were the one who’d been hacked, I would probably want to get back to where I was in the first place, even if it took a while to do so.

It seems like the real problem with the system here isn’t so much how many hours and how much work is required to restore a character or account to pre-hack state, but with exactly how time and labor-intensive it is. This carrot just says to me that Blizzard account reps simply don’t have the tools to quickly track down and recover from a hack, and probably don’t have the tools required to identify a hack in a clear way when they are looking at an account’s play history. The other downside to this is that while it’s a good thing Blizzard’s focus is on getting players up and running again, it also says that Blizzard isn’t really investigating hacks perhaps to their fullest, and are opting instead to just fix them and drop them.

I could be wrong here – there could be a process where hacks are passed along for investigation after the player is taken care of, and I’m sure the most egregious of them indeed are escalated to a development team or higher-tier of analysts, but I’m betting that with the frequency and end-user nature (eg trojans, malware, etc) of most hacks, they probably chalk it up to a bum add-on or a careless user and move on, especially if the symptoms start to all meld together. That’s not a bad thing, by the way – it’s just how technology support works; when you see the same symptoms frequently, you apply the same treatment and get used to just “knowing the root cause.”

At the same time, it does raise the question to whether Blizzard’s development teams know exactly how much of a security problem they have on their hands, and what kind of priority it is for them. I’m sure it’s a high one, but when you work in an environment that’s high pressure and fires on all cylinders all the time like I imagine Blizzard does, everything is a high priority. It makes me wonder whether or not Blizzard’s approach to incident management is drawing the curtains on a recurring problem that also needs to be examined and addressed.

In any event, in the meantime, you can pick up the scoop and decide for yourself what you’d like to do over at Wow.com’s articles – no need to rewrite them here. What I wanted to do on the other hand was bring up some of the more behind-the-scenes technology points around what might cause Blizzard to make a decision like this. It remins to be seen whether this new option will gain any kind of popularity though, even if it’s designed to make the recovery process technically easier.

Would you take the care package, or would you opt for a full restore? Let me know in the comments.

Find Jackasses on Your Realm with WoW Jackass

WoW_Jackass

Looking to do a little research and determine if someone’s a loot ninja before you invite them to your run? Maybe you’re just as afraid of PUGs as the rest of us and you want to make sure that you’re not grouping with someone that everyone else on the server already knows is going to make your run miserable. Thankfully you can run their name through WoW Jackass, a community-fueled site where players report loot ninjas, bad tanks, horrible healers, hapless DPSers, and other all around assy players who are known to steal nodes out from under you when you’re mining or tag all of the quest mobs in the area just because they see you coming.

There’s a flip side to this kind of site though – because it’s all community generated information, you have no real guarantee that the person listed is the jackass or the person doing the listing is the jackass – there are always two sides to every story. So keep that in mind when you go hunting for jackasses – it’s one thing to be a ninja known across the server, it’s another thing to read someone’s personal account of when another player wronged them. But if you do come across some genuine jackasses, it’s worth getting their names up there so the rest of the world knows to avoid grouping with them.

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