Posts Tagged ‘forums’

Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 5

And we’re back to another Blizzard Developer Q&A – this time the questions and answers focused around achievements! As usual, you can find the full thread here, and we’ll take a look at some of the questions and answers that I found most interesting. Ready? Let’s go.

Q: Will we ever be able to spend our achievement points on something? Or will there be a feature where it will be required to have x amount of points? – Nordicberry (Europe [English]), Hogosha & Wulkuhr (Europe [German]), Neroth (Europe [French]), Kularia (Northa America/ANZ), Trafalgarlaw (Latin America)

A: We want Achievements to remain as an optional thing you can do as bragging rights, or to challenge yourself. As soon as we add any kind of player power, or use them to gate anything, then they feel mandatory for a lot of players. In fact, we think one of the reason achievements are fun is that the drive to complete them is totally up to you, which keeps them (hopefully!) from feeling like a chore. If you want to go after some achievements that’s a choice, and choosing not to care about achievements doesn’t mean you’re making your character less powerful.

We do offer pets, mounts and titles for specific achievements, and we’re unlikely to ever do anything much more “mandatory” than those.

So essentially, this translates to “Don’t hold your breath.” Which I don’t entirely mind, honestly. I think that there are enough must do things in the game without making achievements one of them – enough point systems and enough things that you do to earn other things to spend on more things. Achievements? I’m fine with achievement hunting being something you do to get titles, or something you do a lot of and get a special award. Sure that means achievement points aren’t terribly useful right now aside from being a status symbol, but you know – I’m okay with that.

Q: Currently, the achievement rewards are more focused to common tasks, such as raids, events, PvP. Have you considered creating achievements with rewards that ask to do crazy things around the world, like for example, soloing bosses or mobs, or more achievements like the “Jenkins” one, that are meant to do crazy things. – Thodyr (Europe [Spanish]), Khaelthas (Europe [French]), Assmira (Europe [German])

A: We like for achievements to be fun, but we don’t want for players working on achievements to have a huge negative impact on other players. At first glance, soloing a boss mob might sound like a decent achievement. But consider that if the achievement is very easy to do then hitting all those dungeons may just feel like a chore. On the other hand, if it’s challenging to do then we suddenly have to go back and worry about class balance in a way we never had to before. Blood DKs for example excel at soloing older bosses because of their self-healing mechanic, but the same isn’t true of most other classes and specs. We try not to have achievements that require you to ask your group to do something really bizarre or not fun. “Run a dungeon without picking up any loot,” would just be frustrating every time you had to debate with your group whether you were going for the achievement or not. “Jenkins” is fun for a silly achievement, considering its history, but too much of that sort of thing would get tedious pretty quickly.

Wow – that’s actually a really interesting answer to a question that a lot of players have had. It’s difficult to walk the line between giving people really fun and interesting achievements based on fun and interesting things to do, and then giving someone something to do that winds up being a bore or a pain in the neck for other people you may be playing with.

I think there’s more of a dividing line though – Blizzard could very easily make some solo achievements that reward really amazing feats – like many of the ones that already exist – without upsetting gameplay for other players, so there’s room to maneuver. I like to think they’ll take it, but we’ll see.

Q: There are still no Achievements beyond “Collect 75 unique companion pets”. Can I expect a reward for 100 companion pets in the future? – Whitewnd (Korea)

A: Patch 4.1 has achievements for 100 and 125 companions. Those particular achievements don’t reward pets, but we’ll probably do another reward at some tier in the future, perhaps 150 or 200 pets.

Oh crap. I know some pet collectors that are going to freak right out with this news.

Well then – that does it for this round! There were tons of great questions this time, although many of them seemed to expound on one another and essentially come down to limitations of how the game was designed. We’ll see how Blizzard adapts or changes those features in the future.

What about you? Any questions about achievements you would have asked the devs that weren’t included? Let me hear them in the comments!

Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 4

The fourth round of questions and answers with the Blizzard developers on the official forums just wrapped up: this time the theme was centered around topics including weapons, armor, and overall gear and goodies. As with the last three, you can find the full thread here.

Weapons and armor tend to be pretty controversial topics, so the questions this time around are…uniquely interesting, although the devs picked some good ones to answer. Some of the ones I thought were specifically interesting:

Q: Is there any chance we could have caster weapons involved in casting animations? It would look cool to be holding a staff and casting a spell through it, at least as a customization option. – Dromanthis (NA/ANZ)

A: This is something we would dearly love to do. We agree that melee specs get to see their weapons a lot more often in combat while it’s easy for casters to forget about them. It’s definitely on the list, but understand that we have so many races now (and two sexes for all existing races) that the animations take more time to do right/well.

Okay, I know this one was the first question, but it’s one that I absolutely adore. Clearly one of the things that a lot of people love about other MMOs like Guild Wars, Rift, and even one of the things that less notable free-to-play games like to tout is their beautifully animated casting graphics. In some of those other games, you’ll see runes and symbols appear around the caster while they cast a spell, you’ll see their wand actually glow based on the spec they have or the spell they’re casting, you’ll see different looking spells emerge from their weapons – it can be pretty amazing and jealous-making.

Even so, in almost all cases, it’s one of those things that you love seeing but doesn’t really bring you anything new and interesting to the game. Still, it would be nice to have, and clearly the devs have it on their “want to do” list.

Q: Would it be possible for city quartermasters to sell the same equipment that guards wear? Stats wouldn’t matter. – Pokemonmasta (EU|English), Tajit (NA/ANZ)

A: Cool idea. We’ll talk about it.

Methinks someone just wanted a Night Elf wearing sentinel gear. Seriously – the sentinels were all over the marketing for Vanilla WoW, but that three-bladed weapon they’re seen with just doesn’t exist in the game!

Q: Will enchanters be getting back the ability to make wands? – Trustybee (Taiwan)

A: We have been discussing what role in the game wands are supposed to fill. We generally consider it a failure these days if a caster ever wants to wand for dps instead of using their spells. Working the wand into the cast animation (as in the question above) is one idea. In any event, we want to figure out what we want wands to do before we give them any more prominence.

Now THIS is interesting. While they stopped short of just saying that wands were failure, they did point out that it’s a failure if a caster has to resort to using a wand. That implies that there’s a “wrong way to play” a caster class, and that generally involves running out of mana to the point where you’re out of options to regenerate enough to remain effective. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty solid failure, but not necessarily on the dev side.

Even so, it’s almost like they’re saying wands are pretty much stat sticks that you use early in the game when they’re still effective per level and then afterward you’re so busy using your actual spells and abilities that they’re worthless for anything but a stat boost. I agree – that’s not a good place to be. Let’s see what they choose to do though: it looks like they want to rework how wands factor into the game before doing too much else with them.

Q: Do you have plans to make is so that the tabards don’t suddenly cut off whenever we wear long vestments? – Hôwl (Latin America)

A: This is a technical issue that’s fairly nasty to fix and ultimately trimming the tabard ended up looking better, at least as a short-term solution.

Hah! I used to explain to guildies that I was very sure this was technical and not a design decision – a tabard just moves and waves differently than robes and kilts do – if they tried to layer them on top of one another right now, you’d see – depending on the race, gender, and stance of the character, a tabard sticking out from under robes, or a corner of a kilt sticking out over a tabard while you run. It could be pretty nasty.

Q: Can we see gear won via need rolls become soulbound? – Lorinall (NA/ANZ)

A: Yes. We plan on implementing a system where winning an item via Need (when using the Dungeon Finder Need Before Greed loot system) will make a BoE item soulbound. We hope to have this working for the 4.2 patch.

To expand on that idea in case it’s not obvious, we don’t think players should be able to claim certain loot drops based on their class if their only intent is to sell the item. If you want to use the item yourself, awesome, go ahead and roll Need on it and you’ll get preference over players who can’t use that armor type. But if all you want to do is run to the Auction House, then everyone should have equal dibs.

Finally, finally, finally – a fix for people who roll on epic BoE items just to be able to sell them at inflated AH prices. It’s clear that Blizzard has heard the players loud and clear on this one, now let’s see how well its implemented. At the same time, this will put a dent in some of the high-end profits that some AH fans adore (go raiding with friends who are overgeared, pick up all of the BoE epics, auction them all, deposit profits into guild bank) and some lazy raiders (I have more gold than time, let’s see what purples are on the AH) but overall it’ll be a good change.

And there we have it! This one was a long one, and there were a number of other questions addressed in other Q&As or that yielded very “we want to do this someday” kinds of answers, but it’s clear that the Blizzard devs also play the game the same way we do, and want to see the game improve the same way we do. It’s really refreshing to see.

Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No.3

The third round of Blizzard’s developer Q&A just finished, and most of the questions and answers this round focused on UI elements and usability changes. The questions and answers this time were really good for those folks who are passionate about the look and feel of World of Warcraft, and how players play and interact with the game. The full thread is here.

Here are a couple of the highlights, especially some of the questions and answers that I’m particularly enamored with, starting off with the “is it possible to raid without add-ons/are add-ons making the game too easy” question we hear all too often:

Q: Some Addons are so powerful they simplified the game content to a degree (e.g., boss fights). Do you think that when the majority are using these Addons, the original reasoning behind the game design is violated? And isn’t it unfair for players who don’t use Addons? – 冷影幽光 (Taiwan)

A: This really deserves a long answer. It sounds like a good topic for a future developer blog. To tide you over until then, we can say that some addons do a great job of providing information we really should be providing (and have long-term plans to provide).This includes information like threat, the distance you are from other players , when you have a killer debuff on you and things like that. On the other hand, when addons are too helpful, they are playing the game for you and you’re just doing what the addon tells you to do. When the mod tells you so much information about the fight that you don’t even really need to pay attention to what is happening in the world at all, then we feel that crosses the line. I don’t know that we could put the djinn back in the bottle at this point though. It would feel really harsh to prevent addons from tracking some of that information, and in some cases we’re not even sure how we would prevent it.

We continue to try and come up with new mechanics that ask players to pay attention to the fight itself instead of just pushing whatever button the addon tells them to push. You might be alerted to when Atramedes emits a Sonar Pulse, but you don’t know where it is going to be. Sinestra’s Twilight Slicer requires you to look at the battle field and not just your UI. To be fair, we are also trying to do a better job of telegraphing to players when bosses will use predictable abilities. The Conclave of Wind and Nefarian for example do their special abilities at predictable intervals along their resource or health bar.

It is a fine line to decide when an addon becomes mandatory. Ideally you could raid without any addons, and some players do. Information is often power in complex raid encounters though, and we agree that in some cases we don’t provide enough information yet. Does that mean Blizzard needs to replicate some of the screenshots produced by players who install thirty mods and completely overhaul their UI? Probably not. Our raid UI is a good example of what we are going for. It provides enough information for many players (and we have plans to add more to it overtime). It’s not going to incorporate the favorite feature of every raider out there, and for them, a very customizable third-party addon is a perfectly reasonable solution.

That’s fabulous – although unlike the devs, I don’t know anyone who raids without add-ons. In fact, I know more guilds who require them than that don’t, and the only people I know who raid without add-ons are the kind who are too stubborn to install them, simply don’t know how, or are perfectly okay skating along and letting other guild members carry them through raids and dungeons instead of contributing, but I’m sure there are some people out there who are more naturalist and prefer to simply play the game the way it was designed.

Q: Would you please implement a feature that allows players to change the order of their characters on the Character select screen? – 흑풍육손 (Korea), Fanahlia (North America/ANZ), Perle (Latin America)

A: Sure. Does 4.2 work for you? :)

And boom goes the dynamite!

That was the bulk of it – there are a couple of questions that I seriously can’t believe people asked, much less wanted: like the topic of being able to buy things directly from chat (an attempt to circumvent the limitations of mail/auction house location/player location in order to quickly buy things) and the whole “I’m tired of paging through mail to get items one at a time,” point.

I can identify a little more with the latter though, I understand how frustrating it can be, especially if you’re sending yourself items, to have to load up your bags and then mail items to yourself one at a time. At the same time though, there are add-ons (like Postal, for example) that allow you to streamline the process – and the people who know about those add-ons and use them are likely the ones who will get the most benefit: eg, the people who use the AH the most, or mail themselves lots of things frequently. Everyone else probably doesn’t care so much.

So what do you think? What would you ask the devs if you had an opportunity to ask them about user interface and gameplay questions?

Blizzard Unveils New World of Warcraft Community Site

Blizzard unveiled the new World of Warcraft Community Site yesterday, which completely revamps the interface, updates the look specifically for Cataclysm, and among other things completely revamps the forums and the software that back-ends them.

The new community site looks cleaner and is definitely more up to date and interactive, includes more features and links to featured news, is easier to link to, and all in all performs much better than the old site. The site has a blog embedded on the front page with links to news that you can get from the front page and link around the Web more easily.

Perhaps most notably though are the changes to the forums. Take a look here:

The new forum layout is definitely different, but it’s much more well spaced and has a number of hover-over features that allow you to see recent posts in a specific thread and visual cues to let you know if the thread is active or has been posted in recently.

All of these new previews herald the eventual lock and removal of the old forums and the decommissioning of the old community site. Don’t worry, change may be difficult, but I don’t think you’ll miss the old site very much when you see the new one.

Have an Authenticator? You’ll Need it for the Forums

If you have an authenticator (and if you don’t, you should probably get one! Here’s what they’re all about.) you’ll get a special treat in the coming days, as Blizzard changes the forums to require that, for players that already have authenticators only, that they periodically authenticate using their authenticator to the forums in order to post.

Essentially, all this means is that if you already have an authenticator, that level of account security will extend to your activity on the forums the same way it does to the community site and your Battle.net account.

The change is something of a non-issue and I would leave it there if there weren’t some needless confusion about the topic of authenticators and the forums. For example, over at the World of Warcraft livejournal community, one frequent poster took this to mean that if you don’t have an authenticator you can’t use the forums, which is absolutely false. (That same poster seems to have a resistance to authenticators in general, whose concerns I addressed in a column last year called Why the Resistance to Authenticators?)

So before everyone goes off terrified of authenticators and complaining that Blizzard is moving to a model where authenticators are essentially required to play the game (which frankly, I think they should considering the number of people who play and the economy around hacked characters, gold farming, and account sales – the problem is that if an authenticator is essentially required for Battle.net games, they should give them away to anyone who wants one free of charge…they’re already close by making the apps available for the iPhone and Android for free) keep in mind that this is a change that applies only to people who have an authenticator, and means nothing will change to the people who don’t have one.

And if you don’t have one, seriously, you should get one.

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!

New Recruit-a-Friend Mount Coming: Two-Seater Rocket!


(thanks to Wow.com for the image!)

Word made its way around yesterday that people using the Recruit-a-Friend service to bring in new players to the game (or just sign up for additional accounts) will have a new perk on the way soon, in the form of a shiny new 2-seater rocket mount!

Bashiok says on the official forums:

Beginning in just a few days, players who participate in the Recruit-A-Friend program will receive a whole new reward for showing a friend the ropes in Azeroth: the X-53 Touring Rocket, a two-seater flying mount that automatically increases its speed as your mount skill improves (up to 310% speed if you already have a 310% mount). The X-53 will be replacing the current Zhevra mount reward, which is retiring from the Recruit-A-Friend business after a good run. If you’ve already claimed a Zhevra (or claim one prior to the change), you’ll be able to hang on to it, of course. We’ll have more details on the new Recruit-A-Friend mount once it becomes available.

I’m a self-admitted unashamed mount fanatic, so this is great news to me – and while the Zhevra mount that everyone got in the past for signing up through Recruit-a-Friend was shiny as well, this is a bit more useful! I mean, after all, you can ride it alone AND you and your friend can head out into the wild and level together on it at the same time! How cool is that?

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