Tag Archives: RealID

Invisible Option Arrives For Battle.Net, This Mage Rejoices!


And the rejoicing commences! Invisible option for Battle.Net is indeed good news!

The fear that we would all hide under the offline mark rests on some weird premise that people are not inherently social, but rather in need of a nudge to connect and communicate with others. If that was the case, how is society as we know it even possible?

I discussed earlier in relation to solo play how people used secret alts as a method to avoid burn out. Not having a show-as-offline function will not just mean that people do as they are told and stay online, it may also mean they don’t log on at all. We all need a break now and then. With this change, I now feel as if I am being recognized as a whole person by Blizzard, not just as the excitable guild mate they wish I always was, but also someone who occasionally needs to play WoW alone on a secret alt.

Originally posted on Manalicious:

Because sometimes you want to have a stag dance party in front of the bank, and sometimes you don’t want anyone to know you’re online.

Back in May when Diablo came out, I wrote a post  bemoaning the lack of an “Invisible” feature on Battle Net. Well, today I arrive with good news: They are going to be implementing an invisible feature for Battle.Net!

I’ve still seen a certain amount of naysaying or people who seem unhappy that this is a feature they are going to implement. First of all, I think it’s important to look at context. Most major chat programs have had this feature for the entirety of my time on the internet. I was using ICQ (I Seek You, remember, ahah) in 1996 or 1997. I can’t remember which, but my original number was seven digits. This is an invitation for all ICQ e-peeners to tell…

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Secret Alts, RealID and Obligations – Solo Play pt. 9

As is evident, WoW has great potential to turn even solo play into a social experience as we saw in the previous parts, depending on what level of sociability we tap into. However, solo play was also utilized as an escape from the social venue of the game, described by the players I interviewed in terms of taking a break or hiding:

Ironyca: You characterized playing alone as a break, what would it be a break from? (Just to make sure I understand you correctly)

Jefflindsay: People talking! haha. That constant scroll of bright green is a strain on the eyes :P

Here we are looking at the extreme end of solo play where the player purposefully wants to avoid contact. One of the more efficient ways to do this is to create a secret alt.

This particular topic is something I feel strongly about, I used to have a secret alt myself, my shadowpriest who later became my main through several expansions. While she was secret, it was a huge relief to play her, I could level and PvP in peace. I wasn’t trying to escape huge guild drama, I just needed a quick play session, some quiet time and no questions asked and my shadowpriest offered all of this.

Obligation and the difficulty of opting out

In T.L. Taylor’s book Play Between WorldsExploring Online Game Culture (2006), she documents how experienced players found themselves spending increasing amounts of time helping out friends or dealing with guild matters than actually playing themselves.

Saying “no” can sometimes be interpreted very negatively as rejection. Think about how a friend might react if you say “No, I’m sorry, I can’t attend your party tonight, I’m not in the mood”. I’ve tried it and usually people will think something’s wrong and won’t let you off the hook that easily. Why do you think everyone’s always busy? (whether it be offline or online) – Because it’s the bulletproof answer to every request, every question, every invitation! We aren’t always that busy, but saying so, stops the questioning and lets us move on.

The decision to keep a certain character secret illuminates that perhaps the social obligations that are connected to f. ex being part of a guild or more broadly online friendships, can be either too demanding, or just too difficult for the players to opt out of.

I used to frequent the Guild Management section on the old forums, and one of the recurring themes was guild master burn out.

Every thread about it was written by someone in a position of responsibility, it could be both casual but also more progression oriented guilds, and now this person was sitting in front of the computer, dreading to log in. The same topics came up: guild drama escalating, increasing workloads with recruiting and guild members generally expecting your attention and assistance at random.

Play had become work.

I have never been in a position, where if I took that break I actually really needed, my guild would collapse, no one willing to step up, no one there to continue raid leading, people would scatter – but I know people who have. In such situations they would push themselves, try and stick to it until they could possibly find help to sort things out instead of just vanishing.

The social obligations had them staying in the office working over time.

And so, avoiding the confrontation of having to reject your contacts within the game can be done by simply creating a new character and omitting this fact to others, without having to log off… or can it?

RealID as Secret Alts Prevention

The biggest outcry from the community regarding RealID came from concerns over privacy – that merging real life names with WoW characters was a lot to ask for a feature that simply allowed you to chat to someone regardless of what character/blizzard game you were playing. RealID could be so simple and convenient, but instead it forces you to share, not only real names, but also every character you will ever be online on. If you have anyone on your RealID list as it is right now, you cannot also have secret alts. Putting friends on RealID is for a lot of people, including myself, not a light decision.

But why is Blizzard so vehemently against adding a show-as-offline feature that practically every other social media has had from the onset?

“The second you can turn off your presence is the second everyone does it, and then it’s a weird situation where you appear offline but you’re secretly looking at everyone else who has themselves as online, but then they find out and start offline snooping.

We encourage that Real ID only be used with people you know in real life, friends, family, co-workers, school mates, etc. and for that reason it shouldn’t need to be a secret if you’re on your computer or not.

Also, when one of my Real ID friends asks me to run a raid or fill in a spot and I don’t feel like it, I say no. I realize that may not be a situation that’s reasonable for everyone at all times. I also don’t agree to be Real ID friends with everyone I know in real life in just the same way I don’t agree to allow my Grandma to be friends with me on Facebook (for fear of her seeing pictures of me at parties, etc.). [...]“ (community manager Bashiok – source)

I like how Bashiok in the quote contradicts himself by saying RealID is for RL family and friends, and then goes on to say that he wouldn’t want his “Grandma” on there. Apparently RealID was designed with such a narrow intent in mind that you should only add people who you know offline, who also knows that having a mana potion drop is not big news and who doesn’t run and create an alt when they see you logging on your new low level stealthed rogue.

What I get from the lack of acknowledgement about players asking for an offline function, is a strange fixation on making and keeping WoW social – “goddamnit people, CHAT, chat and play together ALL the time!!!!”.

I think this is social engineering gone wrong, the leash is too tight.

We hear about employees on the work market feeling pressured to keep their mobile phone on, even when they are on vacation, and that’s basically what RealID does. It puts a phone in your pocket and tells you it can’t be switched off, omitting to answer a text message triggers perhaps another message, and another. Everyone knows that when it has been switched on – it’s on, and there’s no switching back. Let me remind you that sometimes people play this game to get away from the drama real life throws at us, yet to find themselves unable to escape overly friendly friends, insisting siblings and demanding guild members.

When I did the interviews, I was actually fortunate enough to actually run into someone’s secret alt:

Fidell: No one knows I have this character or that it’s me! My hide away for the moment lol.

Fidell did specify that she did not intend her character to remain secret forever. It was a momentary choice for her, as she said she might reveal herself on this character in the future.

This series is unfortunately unable to say how permanent players consider their secret alts to be or how often they play them. A deeper investigation into the phenomenon of secret alts and how players utilize them could pose much richer information about the backsides of social gaming and the commitments to others, players can find themselves persistently abiding to and in the end wishing to escape.

This is something I don’t see RealID or the upcoming Battle Tags change, in fact, I believe they are worsening the problem.

There’s a limit to social play and it’s not necessarily something players want to engage in at every opportunity, regardless of the fact they are playing an MMO.

Black box quotes are from www.wowconfessions.org (although I think it’s now defunct). Yellow quotes are from my interviews, the remaining from the WoW forums.

Real ID Friend Parties for Free!

Inviting people to your party is now for free!


I think it’s important to celebrate when things turn out the way you wished, especially when you’ve been as critical of the premium Real ID party invite feature as I have – twice!

  1. The MMO Where you Pay to be Social
  2. False Consciousness and the Acceptance of Premium Fees

Blizzard has now announced (16th of August 2011) that this feature will not require some premium sub on a sub:

“For those who haven’t yet had a chance to try it out, the Real ID Party system allows players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a 5-player normal or Heroic dungeon, regardless of what realm their friends are on. This new feature makes it easier than ever for real-life friends to play together, and it’s available to all World of Warcraft players at no additional charge — all you need to do is have Real ID enabled.”

This is excellent news!

I frowned upon the original plan as put forward by Blizzard, that players would have to pay for this in one way or another, something I found to be very much against the spirit of an MMO even though I’m not likely to be using this feature myself.

I also struggled with how to engage the WoW blogging community about it. On one hand I felt stongly compelled to post on every single article on the subject, especially the ones I felt took no stance and would go along the lines of “well, if Blizzard charges I pay, simply because I like this feature”. When some put forward the opinion about the feature “being cheap and totally worth it”, I had to put myself in a straight jacket to not be overly critical of their view, bordering on trolling.

I understand why some people didn’t want to actively protest, most people just want to have a pleasant and positive playing experience without the hassle of being political about WoW. Not everyone wants to be a critical consumer, some people just want to play and I understand that even though it also annoys me.

So I had to decide how important this Real ID feature issue was to me and how far I was willing to go to get my opinions across. Staying cool when someone is WRONG-ON-THE-INTERNET is a matter of picking one’s battles, so I didn’t comment as much as I actually felt compelled to do for the sake of not obsessing about it. I can admit that I feel over the top trololol right now – How cheap do you think for free is then?.

The case also raised an issue I’ve had with the WoW community for as long as I remember. Reading the first bunch of comments on the MMO-Champion post about it reminded me of this.

“aww, what are the whiners gonna whine about now? “

I strongly believe the “whiner” and “QQ” tags are thrown about at a whim in dealing with WoW critically. I’m not saying people don’t complain about ridiculous things, such as not being overpowered anymore, but I hate how easily a lot of players brush off anything negative about the game if they don’t agree, by calling it “just QQ’ing”. Especially unsubscribe/goodbye-posts are infected with people telling the person leaving that no one cares about their opinion and that “the game is fine as it is, so STOP COMPLAINING”. I wonder if these same people who are so vocal on the forums would be less vocal if a change was brought on they hated to the point it made them reconsider even playing the game, for the sake of not QQ’ing – I think not and that’s a good thing!

Spinks posted an article at the time that I found to be carrying an utmost important message about how players as consumers deal with changes they are unhappy about. If players feel very loyal to the game and don’t see a feasible alternative, they are more likely to raise their voices about it instead of just silently unsubscribing and not “QQ”. Quoting from “Power to the players! The power of consumer voice, exit, and loyalty”:

“When we see a largescale player protest, all of these forms of confrontation come into play. And all of them are important. So it’s not true that companies only look to the bottom line and unsubscribing is the only action which ‘counts’. Attention grabbing antics like mass protests, huge threads, media coverage, and similar voiced excitement are at least as important to a consumer company as silent exits.”

I feel empowered as a player-consumer, I also feel taken serious by Blizzard and I trust the company more now.

My message is: QQ’ing matters, being critical matters, the opinions of other players matter even the one’s you don’t agree with. All of these opinions, from long forum threads, to blog posts, to large magazine websites, are amongst the reasons we avoided getting forced Real ID name exposure on the WoW forums and now also (at least for now) avoided this Real ID party feature becoming a purchasable premium.