Worst Idea Blizzard’s Ever Had

This is bad enough for me to come out of hiding. According to a post on the official forums, Blizzard will begin displaying everyone’s real first and last names with their forum posts. This is not only an invasion of privacy and something that will lead to stolen passwords and accounts even beyond the scope of Blizzard’s products, but it’s an incredible risk and will likely result in major real world problems (such as people being murdered because of who they are on the forums… and no, I’m not exaggerating). I’m linking the original post by Nethaera below because I assume they’ll get wise to how bad this decision is and will rescind the post eventually.

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

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.

We also plan to add a number of other features designed to make reading the forums more enjoyable and to empower players with tools to improve the quality of forum discussions. Players will have the ability to rate up or rate down posts so that great topics and replies stand out from the not-so-great; low-rated posts will appear dimmer to show that the community feels that they don’t contribute effectively to the conversation, and Blizzard’s community team will be able to quickly and easily locate highly rated posts to participate in or to highlight discussions that players find worthwhile.

In addition, individual topics will be threaded by context, meaning replies to specific posts will be grouped together, making it easier for players to keep track of multiple conversations within a thread. We’re also adding a way for Blizzard posters to “broadcast” important messages forums-wide , to help communicate breaking news to the community in a clear and timely fashion. Beyond that, we’re improving our forum search function to make locating interesting topics easier and help lower the number of redundant threads, and we have more planned as well.

With the launch of the new Battle.net, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment — one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID — including these forum changes — have been made with this goal in mind.

We’ve given a great deal of consideration to the design of Real ID as a company, as gamers, and as enthusiastic users of the various online-gaming, communication, and social-networking services that have become available in recent years. As these services have become more and more popular, gamers have become part of an increasingly connected and intimate global community – friendships are much more easily forged across long distances, and at conventions like PAX or our own BlizzCon, we’ve seen first-hand how gamers who may have never actually met in person have formed meaningful real-life relationships across borders and oceans. As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure Battle.net is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come.

For more info on Real ID, check out our Real ID page and FAQ located at http://www.battle.net/realid/ . We look forward to answering your questions about these upcoming forum changes in the thread below.

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26 Responses to "Worst Idea Blizzard’s Ever Had"

  1. I concur. Bad idea all around.

    http://elysianonline.com/game-design/blizzard-s-piercing-the-alias-veil-is-a-bad-thing-tm/

    I outlined it on my blog as well so I won’t repeat why but as you suggest, there’s real world ramifications to the decision that I don’t think they’ve thought through.

  2. OnyxRaven

    Continuing with the links http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=2614

    I don’t quite understand how they came up with this – the potential for harassment and abuse would not only be on the forums and in game, but would be able to extend out to facebook and further. I assume their lawyers didn’t look at the plan before they came up with this, because I can’t imagine it would pass most privacy rules.

    What are the age situations on forum usage, realid usage and even account signup? COPPA is still active, but only applies to 13 and under, which is probably still too young of a cutoff here.

  3. As a game developer, I will never be able to post in the WoW forums. I don’t think I ever have, but that option is removed. That makes me sad because my only outlet is to become a troll in other game forums since I can’t do them in my own! Okay, not really… I just PvP people as an outlet.

    They’ve apparently confirmed that this will not be retroactive, which is good so you can just shut up from the change on.

    A problem I didn’t point out initially (or even think of because I was nerd-raging) is that this also removes one of the final layers of mystique from World of Warcraft. You can no longer be the timid teenager in real life acting with bravado in the forums. You can’t leave your dead-end job and become a legend of the WoW community. You can’t escape your real world handicaps and imagine yourself a hero, amassing a cult following on the forums while never being given a second glance in real life. The escapism of the game that usually carries over into forums is gone.

  4. Dreagan

    LOL. That’s a terrible change.

  5. Wow, that’s pretty bad.

  6. Official forums are for support. Community forums should be run by the community. I have no problem at all with using real names for support, but I like immersion and role play. My favorite period of MMO gaming was when EQ killed most of their official boards and every server ended up at IGN or some other fan site, or they started their own community forums.

    Official forums suck.

  7. Sheer insanity.

    Next time I go to the movies I’ll be sure to let everyone in the theater know my name. You know, so that I’m not taking advantage of that awful anonymity to throw popcorn on someone or cough or laugh out of turn.

    This is so nuts it’s *almost* funny.

  8. Frawd

    I’m more excited by this than anything. Of course the excitement is based on the fact that a large company has decided to try a major social experiment (with their money and their users) which has an uncertain outcome.

    It will be fascinating to see whether they stick firm (you have to move to a battle.net account for WoW), modify the plans (welcome horde paladins and alliance shamans), or abandon it entirely (Warcraft Adventures).

    My personal view is that they are using a massive hammer to address a moderate problem. I suspect there were other less-intrusive methods they could have gone with first, from user-moderated comments (fed back into your own rating), some first name/last initial system, or any of the many other things they likely considered but decided were ineffective. Folks who care will figure out a way to game the system within the next day, and if they don’t care enough I suspect they will simply stop posting on the forums all together (everyone: they will simply stop posting on the forums. Thank you Airplane).

    Now consider this – players have the choice not to post on the forums, problem solved. Blizzard forum moderators do not. I would hate to be a forum moderator, especially a woman, come change time.

  9. I agree that this is just incredibly stupid on Blizzard’s part. As I mentioned in my blog post (here) I work on keeping my online persona and my real name separate. I even use the same online alias in whatever I do (as common as it may be), so people can know me and relate my online persona to what I am saying.

    I don’t want employers, enemies, crazy exes or people that I pwnt in PVP to try and track me down. Real names wont stop the trolling anyway – no more than a single alias attached to your battle.net ID would.

    This is a huge privacy issue, I really don’t see it being implemented. And if it is, I will either cancel or since I plan on rerolling for Cataclysm anyway I might just create a new account under an alias.

  10. The big issue is of course the privacy exposure, and the really haven’t thought it through. Anyone with even a vaguely female name, or ethnic name, or uncommon name, or non-out members of GLBT guilds, or persons with professional reputations, or celebrities … None of those dare post even innocuous posts now (let alone trolling ones).

    “Players will have the ability to rate up or rate down posts so that great topics and replies stand out from the not-so-great; low-rated posts will appear dimmer to show that the community feels that they don’t contribute effectively to the conversation”

    Do they seriously think voting will be done on the merits of the post and not on how well it matches the voters position? Pity the Mage posting in the Lock forum, and vice versa. Solid theory-crafting will get downrated by the RP crowd, and vice versa, even if the post is in neither domain.

  11. [...] spoken bloggers usually weigh in. I usually refrain from joining in because those people say it so much better than I could and usually have it covered. This is different, and I think it requires every [...]

  12. Chas

    FRAWD: “…a massive hammer to address a moderate problem…”

    But does it address the problem at all?

    I’ve posted on MMO gaming forums with entirely anonymous usernames that are much more civil than WoW’s… despite the anonymity. I’ve also seen plenty of people that are more than proud of acting like jacktards to everyone around them… in public… in person. So their real life name appears. So what? These people still won’t feel any barbs sent their way.

    On the other hand, we have people that DO care what people think…. that are sensitive to other’s opinion of them… that are capable of empathy. they would be good, positive, CONSTRUCTIVE community members, if they’re encouraged to speak up and participate…. except RealID took away yet another security blanket from them…

  13. A Blizzard employee was the first to make the mistake of posting his real name. Let the hilarity ensue:

    http://wowriot.gameriot.com/blogs/Americans-are-bad-at-games/Real-Names-on-the-Official-Forums-New-REAL-ID-function?gr_i_ni

  14. [...] More from Ysharros, Spinks, BBB, Copra (as cited by Longasc, he’s right that this is about building a brand and a business… the concerns of the little people aren’t relevant), KIASA, Lum, Chastity, Gnomeaggedon, Melfina (yay for a rational feminist perspective), br3ntbr0 (with a video, no less), Jason and Tobold.  This even teased Ryan Shwayder out of his slumber. [...]

  15. JuJutsu

    Why do people assume that this is about saving money on forum moderation? I’d think the big bucks would be selling info.

  16. 38 Studios better not do this on their forums, they might find out your real name, Ryan!

  17. It’s so crazy it’s mind blowing. Really makes me wonder who made the decision. What is truly the developers and designers or a beaucratic commitee? I honestly couldn’t see avid gamers and developers thinking it’s a good idea.

  18. We Fly Spitfires: I can’t speak to this particular case, but this type of decision generally has nothing to do with the in-the-trenches developers and would be a decision made above them or, at the very least, outside of their jurisdiction.

  19. Bryan

    Pretty incredible.

    Ryan, on that wowriot post – Blizzard claims that’s not Micah Whipple. Except that makes it worse. Because now they’ve put someone who HASN’T signed their EULA at risk, and if something happens to that Micah Whipple, they are definitely legally accountable.

    Got a better link, though:
    http://seewhatyoudidthere.com/2010/07/07/realid-changes-the-very-real-ease-of-stalking-in-the-internet-age/

    Someone with a relatively common name posted that it was no big deal and posted their real name, saying to call them. Shortly thereafter, they received a call at work telling them what their character/server were, address, phone number, parents’ names, color of their bedroom, appearance of their dog, where they went for their 4th of july celebration, etc. Suffice to say that person changed their mind.

  20. And, as they should have (though this situation should have never come up), they’ve backpedaled and won’t be requiring real names to be displayed.

    http://www.wow.com/2010/07/09/mike-morhaime-real-names-will-not-be-required-on-official-forum/

  21. Vald

    Late to posting (summertime fun!) but wow, terrible Blizz – demerits2u. : :x Sadly when I saw the Real ID option come up I wondered if they’d try to ‘enhance my gaming experience’ by doing this sort of stuff. A big scoop of failsauce to those who allowed such an idea to go public.

    Vald

  22. Wow! That’s all I could say….

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