Tag Archives: Battle.net

Blizzard Customer Service Just Giving Away Authenticators

In my further adventures with Twitter and trying to figure out exactly what it is good for, I decided to follow as many MMO company Twitter accounts as I could.

I wanted to see what companies were doing with Twitter.

A lot of the game companies are very quiet most of the time, which I appreciate.  They save their tweets for something special.

SOE, is more verbose and occasionally talks about game status, but has been mostly promoting DC Universe Online of late.  Heck, even John Smedley is suddenly quite active on the DCUO front.

TERA Online talks a lot about… well… TERA Online.  Too much, I think.

LOTRO announces flash lotteries and community related items.

But BlizzardCS seems to be unique in that they give actual customer service status, like the in-game petition queue duration. (Which went from about a 3 day wait to about a a 12 hour wait in the course of a day at one point.  Somebody turned on the steam there.)

But they also give away Blizzard Authenticators by the hundreds.

No, really.  I’ve seen a couple of tweets like this already.

I was curious enough about this that I responded and won a free authenticator on the first try.  And they sent it to me, for free.  No shipping or anything.  I didn’t actually need an authenticator, but I know enough people who play WoW that I’ll find somebody to pass it on to.

But I thought it was interesting that the organization within Blizzard that probably benefits most from people having authenticators actually has budget to send them out to people who know where to find them for free.  It is one of those things that seems logical, but which I hardly ever see.

Enlightened self-interest or some such.

[Addendum: You can read a more clearly worded and detail description of the Blizzard Twitter Authenticator Give Away contest here.]

Are You Buying StarCraft II?

StarCraft II comes out next Tuesday, and it is almost assured to be a best seller from day one.

I mean, it is a Blizzard product, right?

Or is it really the first Activision-Blizzard product?  Hrmm…

Anyway, it is coming out in a few days and I am trying to decide if I should buy it.

Part of me, the part that really enjoyed StarCraft when it came out in 1999, the part of me that wants to shout, “Jacked up and good to go!,” that part wants to go out and buy it on day one.

But then there is the part of me that is annoyed by the absence of direct LAN play features in the game and the fact that you will have to log into Battle.net even for solo play.  And then there is the whole Facebook integration and the Real ID question, which has been shelved for the moment, but which I am sure will return.

And finally, there is the part of me that played in the beta.  Whee, I got in the beta!  Okay, I got into it roughly 6 weeks before it ended, but I was there.  That experience left me with a few impressions:

  • The game looks really nice
  • The game play and controls are as crisp and as sure as expected
  • They took almost no risks with the game, so if you’ve played StarCraft, you know what you are getting
  • I suck at it

The last came from me getting smoked regularly in matches.  I’ve lost my build order and unit control skills over the years.  And since single player wasn’t available to me in the beta, I have no idea if that is at all worth the price of admission.

So I am on the fence about buying the game.  Nostalgia and the fact that Blizzard does make good games is pressing me forward.  But the Battle.net requirement and the fact that it is the same game most of us have played already makes me want to pass, at least until I hear how the single player campaign play.

How about you?

Battle.net Parental Controls Get Tweaked

This week’s Tuesday WoW/Battle.net maintenance  (which went until almost 5pm Pacific on some servers, compared to the usual noon-ish wrap up) included an update to the parental controls page.

They did not fix many of the issues that came with the move from it being part of World of Warcraft to being part of Battle.net. (see past rant on the subject)  They fixed one, to be exact.  And the whole thing still bypasses the Blizzard authenticator, which annoys me.

But there were a few other minor tweaks.

One was the color.  I guess that midnight blue was too dark for some.

Now in shades of gray

And they also added the ability to clear the schedule for a given day.  Previously you could only clear the whole schedule.  That fixed the “once you have a time slot on a given day, you cannot undo it without clearing everything” issue.

But more interesting in view of the whole Real ID in the forums blow up of two weeks back, is the addition of an option to allow forum posting. (Real ID still lives, btw.  Just not in the forums at the moment.)

One new check box

Previously there was only a check box to enable Real ID.  And, since Real ID was going to be required to post on the forums, the two actions were effectively controlled by a single control.

Now, however, in the wake of the “No Real ID in the forums” outburst, there is the new check box for forum posting access.

But what does it mean?

Was this planned to be there all along?  Is this a reaction to Blizzard having to yank their Real ID in the forums plan?

And what will it mean when StarCraft II comes out in a week?  The press release about Facebook integration with SC II seems to indicate that there will have to be additional factors to consider for parental controls.

I guess we’ll find out about that in a week.

As Real ID Oozes Forward, More People Lose

I must admit, my first gut reaction to Blizzard announcing that their Real ID initiative would be applied to their forums and that everybody would be required to post using their real name was a  Nelson Muntz, “Haw-haw!”

After all, I don’t post to the Blizzard forums.  Why should I care?

And I could see the same point which Darren did, that this whole thing would certainly put a few people on better behavior.  And I am sure there were others who could see some merit in that.  Wasn’t abusive customer behavior one of the reasons that Mark Jacobs opposed having official forums for WAR?

Of course, after that initial flush of schadenfreude, holes began to develop quite quickly in the Utopian forum in my head.

There will always be people who doesn’t care if others know their real name and who will continue to behave like an ass-hats regardless of what sort of information about them is made public.  And then there are those with names common enough that knowing their name tells gives you no information whatsoever, some percentage of whom are jerks. (I wonder if there is a correlation between having a common name and bad forum behavior?  Is somebody name John Smith more likely to mouth off?)

Out of a population of a couple of million subscribers, I am going to guess that there will be enough such people as to make the change in the tenor of the forums smaller than one might hope.

Then, if you add in the people whose accounts do not actually carry their real name (whoops, did you sell your account to a forum troll?), you begin to wonder if this is going to make any real difference in the war for public decency.

After all, this Real ID in the forums plan is likely to stifle the voices of a lot of average users while being unlikely to hinder the two groups I mentioned above.  The signal to noise ratio in the forums will likely stay the same or perhaps even get worse.

So you will be hard pressed to get me to believe that end users will see much benefit from the imposition of real names in the Blizzard forums.

Blizzard will though.  I am sure forum posting will drop dramatically.  That will make community easier and less expensive to manage.

But unless that is going to cut my monthly subscription price, I’m not sure I care.

The cost of Real ID though, that is pretty steep.

After all, the fundamental principal of a game like World of Warcraft is to deliver an escapist fantasy, to be someone or something you are not in the real world of your every day life and to be a part of a community of others who also seek a similar escape.

Only, suddenly, we really can’t be a part of that community unless we’re ready to link our in-game persona to our real life.  Today it is the in-game friends list, tomorrow it will be the forums, what will it be next week.  It could be your Real ID associated with your Armory pages if people do not complain now.

And while some declare worry on the subject to be irrational fear, I think they are living in a fools paradise.  Certainly there are some people for whom Real ID will make no difference.  If you are male and have a reasonably common name and are not, say, looking for a job, then who cares what comes up when people Google your name or look at your Facebook page.

But what happens when your name is a unique search on Google, so all your information is easily obtained once somebody has your name? (That’s me, by the way.)

What happens when you’re a woman and you want to just fit in and enjoy the escapist fantasy without being hit on or treated differently?

What happens when you’re a guy but you play all female characters?  Ready to explain that one to all and sundry?

What happens when you have kids who play and they want to be part of the community?

What happens when your last name happens to come from a region that the politicians and news media have declared “bad guys?” (Historically, that has happened to my family.  And while it is unlikely to happen today (too many Irish in the country, for one thing) it does make you think when it happens to somebody else.)

Are we all that ready to share?

WoW is entertainment.  I’m not sure I’d want a public record available listing out every movie I’ve seen, every television show I’ve watched, or every book I’ve read.  So why would I feel differently about video games I’ve played?

Finally, there is the security aspect.

And this is what kills me.

Blizzard goes on and on about account security.  They want us to buy authenticators to keep our accounts secure.  Fine, I’ll play ball in the name of security.  I bought an authenticator.

But I expect Blizzard to be holding up their end of the bargain as well.

And Blizzard cannot say they are doing their best to protect account security on the one hand while proposing to give out our real names on the other.

They made us change our account IDs to an email address.  Now they want us to use our real names, so you can now get the email address/account ID of a large number of WoW accounts without much effort.  And any hacker can now associate account IDs with all the information about us that is available on the internet.  And since most people make up their passwords based on things like names, birthdays, and such of children and spouses, hacking accounts just got that much easier.

All of this is making me wonder what things are going to look like in StarCraft II when it comes out at the end of this month.  Is it going to be real names, Real ID, up front from day one?  Is everybody I play going to know my real name?  There is no way to play StarCraft II without Battle.net (no LAN play, remember?), so if Blizzard is going to display all our names, I won’t want to go there.

All paranoia?  Maybe.  People who have been victims of loose information tend to be more concerned about it being contained.

But this is light entertainment.  If it is engendering paranoia, then it is doing something wrong.

And other have written more clearly and eloquently about this topic than I have.  You should go run through the posts, and the comments, at Terra Nova and Broken Toys.

Heck, even SynCaine has an unusually calm, logical, direct and to the point poke at Blizzard.

But I just wanted to put my own thoughts down on this.  One of the purposes of this blog is to record what is going on at the time so I can review it later and see how I have changed or not.

And I wanted to complain.  Loudly and quickly.  If we all say, “Whatever, it doesn’t apply to me,” then at some point the changes will apply to you, and you’ll wish somebody had spoken up earlier.

Addendum – Additional reading on the subject:

April Fools at Blizzard – 2010

[This is about the 2010 Blizzard April Fools. 2011 is covered here.]

As usual, Blizzard has a series of April Fools items around their various sites.

There is the Battle.Net Neural Interface.

A new way to connect!

On the WoW front, they have announced the Equipment Potency EquivalencE Number (E.P.E.E.N.), that includes a graphic measurement of who has more.  Not quite up there with last year’s Battle Dance System, but okay.

Now we know whose really is bigger!

The Blizzard site also has some fantastic announcements around two mobile games, Blackthorne 2 and Queen’s Quest.

Over at the Diablo III site there was the X-treme Gamer Blanket.

That is all I have spotted up to this point.  There wasn’t anything obvious on the StarCraft site, but they might be too busy with beta and launch plans to play the April Fools game.

Did I miss anything in my morning run through the land of Blizzard?  Did they announce that the change of relationship between Blizzard and Activision was just an April Fools?  One can only hope.

Addendum

A reader comment from David pointed out that there is also a Deckard Cain GPS Voice Pack page, the old Two-headed Ogre player character story brought to life, and a new Battle.net Matchmaking service to add to the Blizzard April Fools list.

Battle.net's April Fool Page

Such fun.  Anything out there exclusive to the EU Blizzard sites?

The Battle.net Conversion

I’ve been down with the flu for much of the last seven days so haven’t been keeping tabs on the gaming blogs as much as usual, but it seems that more than a few people have been getting themselves into a huff over the security implications of Blizzard making people merge their World of Warcraft accounts with Battle.net.

The argument has been made that using an email address is less secure than using an account name.

Which I would grant as true if we all just had one email address.  One we used everywhere, every day.  One displayed, perhaps, on the front page of one’s blog.

Honestly though, I have to think a bit to come up with somebody with just one email address these days.

My mom has more than one email address. (She reads this blog! Hi mom!)

My wife has more than one email address. (Another reader! Hi sweetie!)

And me? Don’t get me started.  I have a domain and essentially an unlimited supply of forwarding email addresses that can be as complex as I can stand but which will still show up in one of my in boxes.

The only person I can think of for sure with only a single email address is my daughter. (Not yet a reader)  But she does not use it, because it was only created to use for her Battle.net account so I could merge her WoW account.

Email addresses are plentiful.  Creating one that you don’t use regularly is simple.

And if you are itching at this moment to write a comment telling me the you have but a single email address, let me save you the trouble and direct you to Yahoo! and Gmail where you can create a new email address for free.

But I did think of one possible flaw.  What would happen if you decided to use that email address at a later date?  Or maybe you accidentally used that “everybody knows it” email address for Battle.net and now regret it?

So I went to the Battle.net account site.

I merged my account months ago to get on the StarCraft II beta list and to use the Blizzard Authenticator.  If you’re going to make security and issue but don’t use the authenticator, I’d have to question your commitment to the proposition of security.

And you don’t even have to buy the authenticator. (Which appears to be in stock as of this writing and on which  I doubt Blizzard makes very much margin at all, to bring up two things I’ve seen mentioned more than once.)

They make versions of authenticator for phones, and not just iPhones.

Really!  There is a version for my crappy old Kyocera phone on the list.  I was surprised when I went and looked!  The list of supported phones is pretty big now.

But I digress.

I went to Battle.net because I was pretty sure I remembered an option.  And I found it.

BNet
Oh, look, you can change your email address.

So you can change both your logon and your password as regularly as you like if you are security conscious and still find reason to eschew the authenticator route.

That would seem to me to actually offer more security options.

And, because somebody is going to ask, yes that option actually changes your logon, not just the email address at which you receive notifications.

A look at the email address change screen

A look at the email address change screen

So some of the rants on the security implications seem a bit over blown in my opinion, if you are concerned about security.

That last bit is the key.  If you are not concerned about security, your current account name probably falls into one or more of these categories:

  • The name of one of your characters
  • Some common variation on your name and initials (jsmith, johns, jsmith74 and you were born in 1974)
  • The name of a pet or loved one
  • A name (and probably a password) you have used on other sites (your standard web logon)
  • Your current, most commonly used email address minus the domain name and the @ sign

And if that is the case, the move to Battle.net is probably just maintaining the status quo for you when it comes to security.

So did Blizzard blowing the lid off of security with this move?  I don’t think so.

On the other hand, Tobold’s prediction of general support line mayhem on November 11th is about as close to a sure things as I can imagine.

And it will be a double disaster.

Not only are people going to swamp the phone lines and bring down the forums, but Blizzard is forcing people to actually THINK about their accounts.

When companies make their customers do that, some non-zero percentage of those customers will up and cancel their subscriptions.  It always happens.

So this is going to cost Blizzard.  I hope their plans for Battle.net are worth the pain they are going to have to endure.

I’d even worry about how Battle.net is going to behave come November 11th.  What is going to happen when a few hundred thousand people suddenly create accounts and try to merge their WoW account.

So, mom, go merge your account over this weekend.  Give me a call if you have any questions.  When you do merger your account, you’ll get a pet penguin in game.  I already got mine.  Your granddaughter has one now as well.

Mr. Chilly

Mr. Chilly

Mr. Chilly is some sort of northern Kalimdor penguin I think, and should not be confused with Pengu, who is from Northrend and a hatchling of the race of King Ping.  Pengu can only be bought when one has exalted faction with the Kalu’ak.

The Majestic Pengu

The Majestic Pengu

I understand that Pengu is going to get some red-eye reduction in an upcoming patch.  I just hope he doesn’t end up looking like his distant cousin, Mr. Chilly who has the potential to become the most ubiquitous pet in the game.  Everybody who converts to Battle.net gets him, and everybody has to convert.  Only those who delay too long may not get him according to the Battle.net FAQ:

However, please note that we plan to remove the ability to get the penguin pet at some point in the future.

I’m going to guess that the “point in the future” is reasonably far out, lest they get yet more support phone calls about why people didn’t get their penguin.