Tag Archives: Real ID

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.

The ESRB – Against Real ID, Befuddled by Reply All

As part of last week’s Real ID crisis, nearly a thousand people apparently wrote to the ESRB asking for help in the fight against the latest step in Blizzard’s Real ID campaign.

We know this because, as WoW.com has reported, the ESRB replied to all of those who wrote in with a supportive message… and just did a mass “reply all” to the whole list, not bothering to use the blind carbon copy (BCC) feature to hide the addresses and, in some cases, the full real names of the recipients.

Well, the ESRB certainly gets full points for irony in this situation.

I am sure that somebody in their office will be hearing about this for some time to come.  They have since apologized.

Of course, if you work with any sort of corporate email system, people mis-using the said system is probably a common sight.  The reply all button is a dangerous, career limiting weapon in the hands of the uninformed.

And coming from a company with over 70,000 people world wide… somebody once sent out an innocuous message and accidentally CC’d it to the “all managers, world wide” address list.  This was responded to via reply all by literally dozens of terse, unprofessional, and sometimes very angry, messages, all of which went to everybody on the email list, right up to the CEO of the company.

So the ESRB is in good (or bad) company at least.

Finally, as a complete tangent, how many people entering the work force today know that CC stands for carbon copy and is a reference to using carbon paper to make a duplicate or a typed document?  How many have even heard of carbon paper and know what it is?

Oh Crap, We Won. What Do We Complain About Now?

Cyanbane just pointed me to this post over at Kotaku, the meat of which is this quote from Blizzard:

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.

And I was just really getting warmed up on the subject.  There was a conspiracy to be uncovered.  I was just about to implicate Eurogamer and Halliburton in the whole thing.

I guess it is back to griping about gear score and dungeon finder groups.

The Biggest Lie About Real ID

Sometimes we get mired into arguing about minutia and miss the real point.  I’ve been going back and forth about the symptoms and ignoring the reality.  What forest, all I see are a bunch of trees.

Blizzard is not imposing Real ID on the WoW forums to clear out trolls or to make us responsible for our posts or to save money on forum moderation.  That is a load of crap. An excuse.  A smoke screen.  The post that set off nearly 2500 pages of responses (so far, including one from me) is just a side show, a distraction.

Seriously, are you telling me that after more than five years, suddenly Blizzard can’t take it any more?  Did Mike Morhaime suddenly crack and shout, “I’ve had it up to here with you damn trolls!  I’m taking you all down!” and start hurling murlocs around his giant office?

Not likely.

A big change like this, which is really a change in the way they do business, a change in the way they want to relate to their customers, always comes with a corporate press release.

So I went looking for one.

There is no corporate Blizzard press release out there about cleaning up the forums.

This is not the purpose of their grand stroke.

These are not the forum trolls you are looking for.

The people at Blizzard know that the forums are unlikely to get more civil.  And they also know that support issues diverted from the forums to email and the phones are likely to cost them more money, not save them any.

No, the only press release out there related to Real ID, and it doesn’t even mention it by name, is the announcement that StarCraft II will be integrated with Facebook.

Real ID is the result of that integration.

Because to integrate with Facebook, you have to use your real name.  So say the terms of service.

So if Blizzard wants to come play with Facebook, or is being told they have to go play with Facebook because somebody mentioned to Bobby Kotick that Facebook is where the money is, they have to go in with their subscribers real names in full view of the world.

Getting in bed with Facebook requires full disclosure.

“But wait!” I hear you say, “That press release only mentions StarCraft II!  We’re talking about the World of Warcraft forums!”

That is merely because we haven’t seen the right press release yet.

Prediction: New Cataclysm feature to be announce, Facebook integration with World of Warcraft.

I’m going to stick with that one until proven wrong.

You’re welcome for that blinding flash of the obvious.

You probably beat me to it by a few days.  I just haven’t made it to a post yet that laid it out quite like that.

What that means to World of Warcraft and the Cataclysm expansion… well… I think I’ll quote Robert Heinlein:

When in danger or in doubt
Run in circles, scream and shout!

You may now begin to panic.

If you wish to defer panic for a few minutes, go read this, laugh, sigh, and smile for a moment.

Then begin to panic.

We’re in the Summer News Doldrums Now…

When this is the main Yahoo headline, get ready for just about anything to show up in the news.

Octopus picks winner for World Cup!

Parakeet begs to differ!

I’ll spoil it for you, the mollusk picked Spain while the bird went for the Netherlands.  If you want the arcana on how they choose, you’ll have to read the articles.  Both of these animals have picked winners correctly in the past, but now one of them will have their reputation destroyed, while the other will appear with Jay Leno in an attempt to help him get the Tonight Show ratings back up.

Sure, yesterday Yahoo sank down to the whole Real ID thing with their usual eye for accuracy.  For example, spot at least two errors in this boilerplate at the end of the article.

World of Warcraft, which was launched in 2004, is the most popular multiplayer online role-playing game with more than 11 million monthly subscribers.

But today?

Today animals predict the outcome of a soccer game!

Meanwhile, NASA is looking into the balls being used for World Cup play.

Hey, NASA, if you want to look into something about soccer, how about figuring out a way to break a tie without that whole crappy penalty shoot-off.  Or just suggest some technologies that FIFA could look into to help them make a few less egregiously bad official calls.

Or, hey, here’s a novel idea… do something related to outer space.  The “S” in NASA stands for “Space,” not “soccer.”

Still, if you feel you have to ride along on the World Cup’s coat tails, at least tells us about what kind of reception they get in the International Space Station or throw out some theories to explain the apparent fascination cephalopods and psittacines have for the game.

(There are your vocabulary words for the day.)

What will tomorrow bring?

More Real ID Links Than You Really Want To See…

Dee over at a Azeroth.me has compiled, with quotes, one helluva long list of links to various sources discussing Blizzards Real ID.

You can find it here.

It covers a wide spectrum of opinions from a diverse group of sources, everything from bloggers to blue names to gamer sites to mainstream media.

If you want to immerse yourself in the discussion, look no further.  A lot of work went into that post.

Surprise! A Security Flaw in Real ID!

File under, “That didn’t take long!”

WoW.com is reporting that there is a security flaw in Real ID that allows addons to expose your information to… well… anybody.  It is all up to the addon.

I expect to hear this story repeated again and again because some part of Blizzard, the part that wants you to expose your information, does not strike me as very interested in security.

Again, as I said in my previous post on the subject, the whole Real ID things seems to go completely against the grain of what I am told is Blizzard’s biggest problem, account security.

When you are fighting a battle to keep your customers from having their accounts hacked and looted, something I am going to guess costs them more money than, say, forum moderation, proposing a system that exposes more information about your users doesn’t seem to be the best plan.

Anyway, I’ve turned on parental controls for my own account and dis-allowed Real ID.

Now I just have to hope there isn’t a flaw in that…

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:

Blizzard Real ID vs. My Privacy

So part two in the three part series on Blizzard really cheesing me off this week has to do with another new offering called Real ID.

This is only tangentially connected to my initial screed on how Blizzard compromised the security of parental controls by bypassing their own authenticator scheme because I only became aware of Real ID as part of the email message announcing the new and improved parental controls.

That message had two new features listed, one was not having to remember a password for parental controls and the other was the ability to turn on Real ID for your child’s account.

And my gut reaction to that second item was, “If I wanted my child’s real identity out there, I wouldn’t be using parental controls, now would I?”

But then I remembered another “might be real” item in the big folder of account phishing attempts.  And there it was, titled “Real ID Coming to World of Warcraft!”

And who is the poster boy for Real ID?  Why, Arthas!

Arthas Commands It!

And really, I could stop right there, since Arthas trying to sell me on Real ID digs right at my streak of paranoia.  It would be like Darth Vader hawking the NINA mortgages… or becoming the new spokesman for the IRS… just a little too close to a natural fit.

I mean the great luxury of the internet is that we can all go out and play together and I don’t have to worry about you asking to crash on my couch when you’ve lost your job, wife, and home due to your being unable to stop playing online games.

Sure, there are costs associated with this anonymity, with only the most obvious illustrated over at Penny Arcade, but they are (mostly, in my opinion) worth the price.

Still, I should go forward and mention what Real ID is supposed to offer, quoting for truth and such.

Soon, World of Warcraft players will have access to a brand-new feature called Real ID, a completely voluntary and optional level of identity that will keep players connected across all of Battle.net.

When you and a friend mutually agree to become Real ID friends, you’ll have access to a number of additional features that will enrich your social gaming experience in new and exciting ways:

-Real Names for Friends: Your Real ID friends will appear under their real-life names on your friends list, when chatting, communicating in-game, or viewing a character’s profile. Real ID friends can also see who’s on each other’s Real ID friends list, making it easy for players to connect with other people they know.

-Cross-Realm and Cross-Game Chat: With Real ID, friends can chat cross-realm and cross-faction in World of Warcraft, and will be able to chat across future Blizzard games such as StarCraft II.

-Rich Presence: See additional info on your friends list about what your Real ID friends are up to in World of Warcraft and upcoming games like StarCraft II in real time.

-Broadcasts: Broadcast a short status message for all of your Real ID friends to see, whether you want to issue a call-to-arms or let your friends know about an important change of plans.

-Friend Once, See All Characters: Real ID friends will automatically see all of each other’s characters on their friends list – even characters created in future Blizzard games – helping players stay connected with the people they enjoy playing with most.

A nice feature set.  An attempt to go beyond what SOE has done with their Station Launcher friend’s list.

Of course, I should mention that they opened this up with a salutation that included my real name.

But why should I care about that, about using my real name?

I must admit is, in an odd turn for a blogger, that I do value my privacy and the privacy of my family.  And I care all the more so while involved in a job search.  Being a gamer carries a stigma which may not endear you to prospective employers, especially in a state where the unemployment rate is around 12%.

And it isn’t even that I write anything about which I would be ashamed.  My mother reads my blog.

But given a choice between equally qualified candidates, somebody who blogs about online gaming is likely to lose out. (It might help me with that SOE QA Manager position for which I applied.  Then again, it might not.  Wasn’t I just bagging on SOE marketing the other day?  Oops.)

So I get a bit squeamish when Blizzard starts talking about using my real name in the game in any way, and all the more so because I see the value in what they are offering.  Blizzard says, in the Real ID FAQ:

Real ID is a system designed to be used with people you know and trust in real life — friends, co-workers and family — though it’s ultimately up to you to determine who you wish to interact with in this fashion.

And certainly I wouldn’t share my Real ID with anybody I did not trust or know in real life, but this rings of the classic “drink responsibly” sort of message.  Who knows how this is going to develop.  Will people start exchanging IDs casually in game?  Will raiding guilds start demanding Real IDs from members?

I am going to watch this feature carefully.  Right now there are less than ten people with whom I would consider sharing Real IDs, and even then I like to have a secret alt or two stashed away for when I just want to run around solo and not seem like I am snubbing anybody.

Everything Blizzard offers has a price, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pay for this one.

And I am certainly not enabling this feature on my daughter’s account!