Well, I started writing a post. It got to about 1700 words, and then I stopped, re-read it, and deleted it.

It wasn’t a rant or anything, I just thought it was boring. Talking about how the core gameplay rules are going to change, again, just like the core gameplay rules have changed with every expansion.

After deleting it, my thoughts turned to what about the expansion I’m actually excited about.

Raiding? Um, no. New levels for my characters? Um, no. New rules changes? Oh please. New instances? Meh, that’s nice.

I’d just gotten to the point that I’d realised that the only things I was interested in and excited for in the expansion were new starting zones, a revamped world to quest in from scratch, new tameable pets (the fox looks AWESOME) and new race/class combinations when my darling wife sent me a heads up that shut down my train of thought entirely.

See, right now the only thing I’m planning for the expansion is to make a new first level character with my wife, and we’re going to level up together from scratch. I’m going to have a Troll Druid and level as tank (with character name already reserved), and Cassie is thinking a Tauren Paladin. That’s still kinda up in the air.

But yeah, I was thinking of what to say that has me jazzed up for the expansion, when I got this email about a blue post made by Nethaera today.

Check this quote out.

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.

So. First question. Will this be made retroactive to apply to all existing posts?

I would assume that the existing forums would be wiped before implementing this change. But we all know about making assumptions. It makes an ass out of you and ‘mption.

Further down, more details are provided, including the ability of you, the forum goer, to vote up or down other people’s comments the way most forums do these days. Like WoWhead does, for example.

Still. Does this spell the death of forum trolls? Will this mean never again will we be able to laugh when a Blue Poster nails a troll by revealing that various comments posted by different character names were all the same person?

Seriously, though.

What the hell are they thinking?

You know, as much as I despise forum trolls, the last thing I would want is everyone’s real name being attached to any question or comment made in the official forums, most especially when that is our primary avenue of help we resort to if we need technical support and can’t get into WoW to flag a ticket.

As the threat of identity theft rises, and as incidents of predators stalking children increases, how is forcing the reveal of player’s real names a good thing?

Is it somehow intended to encourage civility in the forum community? Guess what, the Moderators already have access to that data. If there are comments and a tone of discourse they don’t like… they can do something about it if they choose.

If the Moderators don’t choose to act in the first place, well, the trolls are supposed to what? Feel ashamed of having their real name tied to their words? Shame? A troll? REALLY?

What benefits this supposedly would bring, to me, are greatly outweighed by the potential downside.

Remember, I’m saying this as someone who HAS posted their real name publicly right where I comment. I know what I’m talking about.

I mention a couple nearby shops and post a picture, and I’ve got two readers who clearly were able to use that data to identify exactly where I work and look at it from Google Earth maps.

Going much further back, and using nothing but my name and some clues about what city I live in, and probably a story about where I’d lived in the past, I had somebody post a link to my real street address, and threaten to come over to my house and kill my son because I love bacon.

Seriously. Blizzard. Take a step back and get a grip on reality. This is a bad idea. At the very least, remove any aspect of the forums that players may have no choice but to post in, such as the technical support section, from being forced to use your real name. 

I don’t go there as it is, I post things here. But I’m just dizzy with disbelief.

Is this April first? Did I enter the Twilight Zone? In what team meeting or brainstorming session did this come across as a great idea?

And as an addition, considering how Gold Sellers currently datamine email addresses for gold spam, how much would you love starting to get real mail asking you to buy gold? Do you love the idea of gold sellers and account stealers being able to identify you as a player by name? 

Of course, this is nowhere near as disturbing as the poor souls whose parents set up, pay for and maintain the accounts their children use, and who won’t quite understand why their 14 year old son might be embarassed to post a comment as “Martha Gimberly”.

36 Responses to “Planning for a Cataclysm”
  1. Averna says:

    “Will this be made retroactive to apply to all existing posts?” A Blue did post saying that it would not be retroactive, which is good – but I don’t have the source right now and I’m super busy at work >.< I'll try to pin it down later!!

  2. Aggrazel says:

    This change would effectively ban me from using their forums.

    As I understand it though, only posts made after their forum update will display the realID name.

    I honestly liked using the forums. They were fun. I never really had a problem with trolls, mostly just talked with the good people on my own server (only ever used my realm forum).

    I love playing WoW but that veil of anonymity is precisely what lets me escape after a hard days work. I don’t abuse it. Why should I be punished for the idiots who do?

  3. Shelly says:

    from the sound of it they want to try and make gaming more acceptable, I dont think you can do that from a gaming website though so cheers for the idea, jeers for the implementation.

  4. Manxome says:

    Source statement that they won’t be retroactively changing names: rhttp://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25712374700&sid=1&pageNo=34#667

    (currently Bashlok’s post is about 1/2 down the page).

    But this was posted too late for me, I’d already deleted my 12 posts. I am, however, done posting on those boards so long as this is the new policy. I’m not a troll, but I’m sure this isn’t going to stop them and I don’t want any transgressions (real or imagined) associated with my real name…

  5. Rowtan says:

    The confirmation that real id’s wouldn’t be retrospective is in this thread: http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25626289311&pageNo=1&sid=1 – just happen to have read it myself ;-)

    … and … “tameable fox” …. what!!! where!!! I missed that one …

    I’m looking forward to exploring all the changes .. I’m looking forward to levelling (yet another) new toon, in old areas that are now completely, almost, kinda, new areas. I’m looking forward to more “phased” questing (even if it does bugger up summoning stone use!), I’m looking forward to going through those “old” dungeons at level 85 and them taking an hour or more! I’m looking forward to the changes to the guilds – for guild rep and rewards, for them showing guildees skills even when they’re not online. I’m looking forward to not thinking “nah, can’t be bothered spending all THAT on something that is gonna be obsolete in a few months”. I’m looking forward to getting a similar feeling I had when I first stepped through the Dark Portal, and the first thing I did was lay my toon flat on her back (no jokes please!) and stare at the sky in Hellfire … I’m looking forward to finding another “favourite zone” like Shimmering Flats (*sob* all drownded); Nagrand; Sholozar – I’m looking forward to playing on the new race track getting installed in that nightmare of a zone that is Azshara … and being able to tell annoying people to “go play on the motorway” :P

    I suspect I’m getting a little carried away ;-)

  6. Minos says:

    Sorry if the Google Map comment pushed the boundary, but I couldn’t resist a fun bit of detective work.

    This new forum policy is almost a reversal from the “for real life friends only” line they’d been taking to the RealID friend system. If any schmoe on the internet can see that information now, why keep it from people with whom you’ve at least had a pleasant gaming experience?

  7. bigbearbutt says:

    First, my apologies to anyone nemaed Martha that felt I impugned the awesomeness of Marthas everywhere. I went casting through my mind for a matronly name, and the first thing I thought of was “Marthas’ Vineyard”, which isn’t even a person, it’s a place.

    Second… I find it interesting, in hindsight, how my first instinct is not to think with pleasure about how asshats may be hurt by this change, but instead I think of how innocent folks, young adults, or very young players on others account (like my son may someday be) would be negatively impacted.

    Sure, if we were idly daydreaming over a 6 pack of Iron Mountain Ale, we might laugh to each other how hilarious it would be if forum trolls were forced to use their real name when being dicks. That would lead to the inevitable internet fights, but with the added twist that truly stupid shits might get into a fight, googlemaps each other, find out they nearby to each other, and then go hunt the other person down and have themselves a good old fashioned nerd fight.
    “I’ll cut ya man. I’ll cutcha fer reals!”

    But that’s for daydreams. There are far more regular, reasonable folks that play than forum trolls, and I just can’t see this being a good thing for them. I’m sorry, I can’t.

    As one commenter here said… I’m not a forum troll, but I still enjoy my anonymity.

  8. bigbearbutt says:

    No Minos, I wasn’t offended by the detective work on your part, if anything I was flattered that anyone would bother following the clues to figure it out. Or astounded anyone would be that bored.

    No, that was just an example of how the tools exist for people to identify your physical location off of less intel than you might think, and how giving the entire world data about you and your interests on the internet should never be done without first making a conscious decision, knowing the full potential ramifications of the act.

  9. bigbearbutt says:

    And my brain just stopped remembering how to spell “conscious” properly. I can look at it, and I can see it doesn’t look right… and my brain still won’t come up with a permutation of letters that works.

  10. Lara says:

    This post by Bashiok seems to say they’re not planning to make the ID policy retroactive to the existing forum posts, which is I suppose a good thing. Even so, I do not like their proposed change at all, and I for one will not be posting on the WoW forum in the future. It makes me a little sad, because I enjoy being able to post there, but I simply can’t abide the loss of privacy.

    I feel a lot of sympathy with people who don’t like the trolling, the name-calling, and the pointless flamewars that show up on the forum. That stuff is unpleasant to read, and it detracts from what otherwise might be enjoyable conversations. However, I don’t believe you have to replace total anonymity with real-world identity in order to make things better. All we really need are persistent pseudonyms, that carry our community reputation. I love the idea of having a community reputation system on the forum, and a lot of their other proposed changes sound wonderful, but I can’t get past the Real ID problem. My real name isn’t unique, but it’s fairly uncommon, and there might be negative repercussions for my professional life if my real name wound up tied to a bunch of WoW related posts in a Google-searchable web forum. I don’t feel that playing WoW is anything to be ashamed of, but some people do think so. And some of those people make decisions about our lives outside the game.

    Sure, the world won’t end if I and others who are worried about this problem simply stop posting on the Blizzard forums. It’s not as if we have a god-given right to post there. But, I do think Blizzard is doing a lot of harm to the better parts of its own community by proposing such a heavy-handed “solution” to the problem of noise and grief in the public forum.

    Pseudonymity wouldn’t even be that hard to do. We already have to sign in to post on the WoW forums anyway, so why couldn’t Blizzard simply make all a player’s posts show up under his or her chosen character’s name. Right now, whatever avatar you chose when you made the post sticks with that post — and you can change to a different avatar for another post. Imagine, instead, that your chosen avatar shows up on all your posts, even the ones you made under a different avatar in the past. Sure, a troller still make a Level 1 alt named Douchenozzle and flame away, but if that troller also wants to post something more serious under his/her “real” characters, they’d have to reckon the consequences of their hot-headed diatribe, which would show up as written by the same level 80 character as posted in the Guild Recruitment forum looking for “serious, mature players” for their progression raiding guild.

    Sure, people would have to make some choices, but at least the results would be confined to the community they affect. Communities get better when we all have to live with the consequences of what we do and say. Tying our real-world identities to the things we post is one way to do that, but I really believe it’s the wrong way. Wouldn’t we be just as well off — and at less risk of unforseen consequences like identity theft, stalking, or out-of-game harrassment — if we could use reliable pseudonyms instead? For myself, I think that’s a much better answer.

  11. Rowtan says:

    “And my brain just stopped remembering how to spell “conscious” properly” – if in doubt .. use a smaller word or combination of words … “not asleep”? ;-P

  12. Lokyst says:

    Ah, Jemais vu. The opposite of Deja vu.

  13. Lokyst says:

    Dangit I meant jamais vu. Looks like I can’t spell either.

  14. Chawa says:

    I don’t use the forums but this is one thing I would have never predicted. The Real ID Friend list already bothers me by allowing my friends to see who exactly is on my friend-list. But if you don’t like it, you just don’t use it. I guess the forums will be treated the same way. I’ve never posted there and honestly, with this news, I guarantee that I will never post there. Dear other WoW-forum places of ID-safety, be prepared for more traffic!!

    PS. Bear, I am so sorry about the threats you and your family have received…. it shocks me to the core to be presented with the knowledge that there are some very messed up people out there. I like to hide my head in the sand but to know that you, a friend, has been targeted in this way really hits home.

  15. Lara: Completely agreed with everything you’ve said. Personally, my life is unlikely to be negatively affected by associating my real name with my playing of WoW — as I’m doing here anyway — but I realize that many people are in this situation… or might be now or in the future.

    In addition, do you know how many Christopher Schmidts there are? Probably many, probably even many playing WoW. Linking my posts to my real name doesn’t actually improve anonymity! It just seems silly, in the end.

    Anyway, just wanted to give you a big thumbs up on saying pretty much everything I would have. Clearly removing anonymity has some benefits, but trading it for real life identity is a significant loss.

  16. bigbearbutt says:

    Thank you for your concern, Chawa, but please don’t be sorry or feel bad for us. That happened a long time ago, and other than providing an object lesson as to the realities of using your correct information (or not having your internet domain privatized), it didn’t scare me off writing. It did show me that my blog was reaching a wider, and more diverse, audience than I was comfortable with, namely guide seeking asshats and trolls, which truthfully was one of the reasons I changed my blogging from content/guide driven to being of a more chatty, casual nature. I realised that if I only wrote guides and theorycrafting, than a certain type of reader would come that loved to bitch and argue all the time, and if I stopped… they’d eventually go away, leaving me with readers that just enjoyed hanging out.

    So, I changed my format, stopped the theorycrafting to a LARGE extent, stopped writing for WoW.com, and settled in to just chat and have fun, and wait for the jerks to drift away and see if I was left with any readers at all. :)

    It has worked beautifully, by the way. The number of pure contrary asshats and trolls, and people who want to comment just to promote themselves or call me a dick has plunged since I changed formats, while what I think of as the quality of the comments and emails I get has skyrocketed. Go figure. Sure I’m not as helpful to people looking for guides, and my posts aren’t theorycrafting based anymore, which I know disappoints quite a few people, but on the other hand… the assholes have wandered off. :) I am a happy, happy bear.

    In some ways, I am grateful to that person. It opened my eyes to what I was dealing with on a daily basis, and helped spur me to take action to be happy again.

    In other ways… it makes me fully awaqre of what’s out there, and intensifies my desire to keep my son’s name and info off the internet.

  17. Melpo says:

    You know, they talk about this being aimed in particular to cut down on trolls and flamewars, but I really see it as a cost cutting maneuver. they hope to have less time spent moderating the forums, which means less money paid to forum moderators.

    I know that I will never post again on the official forums (not that I was doing so frequently before).

    As a side note, it seems like RealID is really blowing up in their faces. They can’t decide if it should be for close personal friends or for everyone to see, they have issues with it being only for those you invite (see this WoW.com post – http://www.wow.com/2010/07/06/security-flaw-allows-addons-to-expose-full-real-life-names-witho/ ).

    While the intent behind the system is decent, I think they’ve failed with the implementation. They have tried to bring a sense of real life interaction to a medium that is at its core an anonymous outlet. Most people that use the internet don’t seem to want to freely share personal information with others that they aren’t closely tied to in real life. I believe that this actually follows how most people are when they aren’t on the internet as well (would you tell the cashier at the grocery store your email and home address, and then give them your full name? Not likely).

    meh….I think the backlash on this one will be huge. Maybe it will get backed out or scaled down.

  18. Thom says:

    Without getting into too much of a rant, I’m really concerned about this change.

    I work in a competitive professional field, and the last thing I need is some bean counter in HR seeing that I play WoW and shoving my application into the garbage.

    There’s also a huge possibility of stalking, especially IMO for female posters. There’s a layer of relative safety in the anonymity of a handle.

    I really hope that Blizzard reconsiders this change. In terms of discouraging trolls, an account-wide handle, a kharma system, and some moderation would already create a system WORLDS better than what’s in place.

    I don’t troll, and generally try to post useful things only. But I know with 100% certainty that if this change goes through I will never post on any Blizzard forum again.

  19. kattrinsaa says:

    Agreed bear, the realID system is good in theory, but they are trying to do too much with it too quick. and some things that shouldn’t be done at all.

    Good : being able to chat with your online friends reguardless of faction/server/game you are logged in on.
    Bad : forums, or , if you WANT to have a little alone time. Just you, your pet fox, and the trees of Elwynn Forest. which is why that 15th hunter alt was created.

    Blizzard, if you read these… please include in the signon pages of your games, a sign on as invisible checkbox for realid chat. that way you can see who is on and talk to them if you want, and can later make your presence known when and how you want to. (if you need help with that look at ICQ, Yahoo messenger, and a host of other similar things.)

  20. Faelivrin says:

    You love bacon? HOW CAN YOU????? Poor Pig…
    Ah wait a second have to turn around my steak ;)

  21. Nimizar says:

    Yeah, my initial reaction was “cool, that should cut down on the trolling”. But then I followed that up with “But, ya ‘know, I really don’t make a habit of linking Nimizar@Proudmoore with my real name” anywhere online.

    And all they need to do to resolve most of these issues with RealID is just add persistent pseudonyms to Battle.net accounts… you get the reputation system benefits without the potentially uncomfortable links between online and offline (or, in my case, gaming and software development) personas.

  22. Darth Solo says:

    This is a terrible, terrible idea. I don’t know what they’re thinking but I’m willing to bet anything it came from those douches at Activision. I can’t say I was using the official forums often before but I would surely as hell NOT be using them in the future if they go ahead with this ridiculous concept. This social bullshit is getting out of hand.

  23. Thrakin says:

    Actually, this has less to do with streamlining social networking thru the games and forum trolls than with advertising and partnership fees.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2010/05/blizzard-and-facebooks-friendly-social-networking-deal-launches-with-starcraft-ii-/1

    This is an article from May. Blizzard and Facebook are now partners.

  24. Fobok says:

    While I’m personally not one to worry about identity theft (seriously, what would someone want with my identity? No credit to speak of, bill collectors calling every other day, etc. My WoW account is the only thing I have worth stealing.), I too think this is a terrible idea. Nevermind that my name is out in public because of the fact I work in social media (I’m an Owner of http://chum.ly), I wouldn’t really want it on the WoW forums, especially linked to my character. With that community, (on the official forums, not WoW in general), I think it’s just asking for trouble.

  25. Eieloriana says:

    Does this mean we’ll get to see GM staff names as well? OOh goody:)

  26. Imalinata says:

    HR managers already google applicants to see what they get up that they’ve posted to Facebook/myspace, why on earth do I want a google search of my name to pop up that I was chatting with people from my server about random stuff, recruiting new people, theorycrafting, or just shooting the shit?

    I feel bad for all the people who do recruitment (my guild died so I’m off the hook for that responsibility thankfully) because it’s not like you can NOT use the WoW forums at this time.

  27. Veeka The Tree says:

    GM names will appear as real and there was already drama on US forums about a blue poster reliving his RL name and a group of blockers stalking him down.
    I feel sorry for him =S

  28. KiwiRed says:

    @Thrakin, I suspect you’ve seen through their cunning plan.

    I’ve cancelled my sub over this (and made sure to let Blizz know exactly why); I don’t think any other action will get the message through to Blizz that what they’re doing just isn’t acceptable.

  29. Of course there’s nothing like having your real name posted on the WoW forums so your boss can go google for you to find out exactly how much you post on the WoW forums.

    Now granted I almost never do it, but with our younger generations at work, its typical to have them connected to the Internet 24×7. So they wouldn’t even think twice about accessing Internet sites constantly from work. (Ooops… am I doing this during work hours???)

  30. talisien wandering druid says:

    so will blue posts now show the first and last names of the blizzard employees or does blizz think thats to risky?

  31. Sarabian says:

    I very rarely post to the official forums. And now I never will again. If they expand this and show real names for more stuff or make it non-optional in game- I’ll stop playing. I don’t want to because I really enjoy playing WoW. I enjoy not having my real info plastered all over even more.

    I honestly think they will change this due to the massive amounts of bad opinions being expressed so far.

  32. Rauxis says:

    As an IT EXPERT I have to add data safety and privacy are not considered important enough by many, if not most, Americans. Take a look at Facebook & Co. The only area where I’ve seen this topic handled with a little bit of care are banks.

    That being said my reading of this is twofold. For one Blizz wants to cut costs, because WoW is not growing anymore. Even though there is no real competitor in the Fantasy MMORPG market, they have reached their peak. But developing new content, even only keeping the current infrastructure, costs more and more.
    On the other side the big hope they see is to transform the Blizz Gaming community into a “Facebook for Gamers”. The games developed on/for Facebook have incredible growth rates. Blizz sees these games certainly as threat, and tries to counter it.

    That being said – if this change goes live the Forums will take a heavy hit, probably maybe even obsolete. I’ll certainly stop posting – cause I want to separate my real life from my WoW life.

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

  33. Strife says:

    It will not be retroactive for certain, because that would rear some pretty serious privacy law concerns.

    So I don’t really see the uproar, if people don’t like their name being shown, just don’t post on the new spec forums.

  34. ManaByte says:

    The ironic thing is that revealing any Blizzard employee’s in-game information (character, server, etc…) on ANY forum (not just Blizzard forums) is grounds for a perma ban from the game.

  35. Taeraresh says:

    I think this is an incredibly stupid move on Blizzard’s part.
    Their response to all the complaints so far has been ‘If you don’t like it, you don’t have to post on the forums’, which is a completely worthless thing to say. Most of the time, the forums are the only reasonable way to get technical support for the game, especially if you can’t actually log in. Hold times are usually in the three-hour range for phone support, if you manage to even get put on hold.
    We’ll see what happens. The megathread-of-doom on the Forums was at 28,000 posts last time I checked, almost all of them against the change.

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