It looked great until I actually read it.

Good morning,

Today we will be discussing what I consider to be the most important piece of news that has come out about changes to the World of Warcraft, far more reaching than any OMG THE ALPHA TESTING STARTED post.

Alpha data will change so much between now and launch I am hardly paying attention. I am talking about the upcoming changes to Battle Net.

Sometime soon we shall have the ability to link together with people across platforms, games, and even through social networking sites such as Facebook.

Instead of trying to paraphrase bits and pieces of what Blizzard has put out on this, risking taking things out of context, I will simply mirror their post here in its entirety. I will add my own thoughts in as we go. Blizzard’s text in blue, my comments in black.

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Battle.net’s Real ID system is a new, optional layer of identity beyond the standard in-game character level of identity that keeps players connected to each other across multiple Blizzard Entertainment games. When players mutually agree to become Real ID friends, they’ll have access to a wealth of additional features designed to enhance their social gaming experience. For information on these upcoming features, check out our Real ID page and read the FAQ below.

Real ID Friends

How will I become Real ID friends with another player?

Both players must first mutually agree to become Real ID friends. To send a Real ID friend request to another player, simply enter his or her Battle.net account name (an email address) using the Add Friend function in-game. The other player will see the pending request in their friends list, and if they accept, you will become Real ID friends with each other.

Well, that’s a good start. There is a grey area in its implementation though. Does this mean that I actually have to provide this friend with my account name? Is there a function to highlight a character and “Add as Real ID friend?”

So far it sounds promising, but there may be issues for me with how it’s implemented. Personally I won’t be giving anyone my login info (minus password of course) any time soon. More on this later.

Who should I add to my Real ID friends list?

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. When you become Real ID friends with another player, you will be sharing your real name and opening up new communication options with that player. In addition, players who are Real ID friends with that player will be able to see your name in a “friends of friends” list, which allows people to be able to quickly send Real ID friend requests to others they may know.

What, wait, real name? Not just to someone I friended but to everyone they friended?

Now this person (whom you had better trust mightily) has not only my login information but my real name as well? Worse yet, not my real name is known to everyone who is friended to anyone I am friended to?

Lets just say that while the jury is still out on this one they looked mighty cranky when they headed off to the back room to start debating.

What is the “friends of friends” feature of Real ID?

Similar to other social-networking platforms, when you click on one of your Real ID friends, you will be able to see the names of his or her other Real ID friends, even if you are not Real ID friends with those players yourself. If you happen to know someone on that list, you will be able to quickly send a Real ID friend request to that player. This feature is designed to make it easy to populate your Real ID friends list with people you might enjoy playing with.

Ok, at least the jury can see the logic now.

Then again, lots of things sound logical, and yet are simply a bad idea.

Ask anyone that fixes things for a living about things that had such promise. Perfectly logical designs that make us want to beat the designer about the head and shoulders with a sack of anvils because they don’t reflect reality.

We even have a term for it. “It looked good on paper.”

How can I remove a Real ID friend from my list?

Simply right-click their Real ID name and select Remove Friend. That player will no longer be on your Real ID friends list, and you will no longer be on theirs. To stop using Real ID, simply remove all of your Real ID friends from your friends list, and do not accept any more Real ID friend requests.

Ok, I don’t want you on my list anymore so I unfriend you. Seems like it makes sense.

Oh, wait, unless I also unfriend all our mutual friends you still have access to all the same info on me anyway.

Once again, I think this looks better on paper than the reality will look.

Will Battle.net inform me if I enter an invalid Battle.net account name when I send a Real ID friend request?

A player who sends a Real ID friend request will only be notified if the other player accepts the request. To protect the privacy and security of all of our players, the requesting player will not be notified if the email address entered is an invalid Battle.net account name or if the other player declines the request.

Ok, now this makes sense.

I was all wound up to go on a tirade about less than savory characters being able to spam the friends request until they hit on a valid login and then using that info to go password phishing. Apparently Blizzard thought of that as well.

Excellent, glad to see it, even if it caused one of my rants to fizzle.

What information about me will other players see when I use Real ID?

If you are using Real ID, your mutual Real ID friends, as well as their Real ID friends, will be able to see your first and last name (the name registered to the Battle.net account). You will also be able to see the first and last name of your Real ID friends and their Real ID friends. Your Battle.net account name (your email address) is not displayed to other players through the Real ID friends list. In addition, players with Real ID relationships will be able to view each other’s online status, Rich Presence information, and Broadcast messages, and will be able to see which character and game their Real ID friends are playing across supported Blizzard games.

Ok, the jury just called in the bailiff and ordered pizza and hot wings, looks like they are in this for the long haul.

While the door was open you could hear someone in the background screaming “They get your first and last name, even if you don’t know them! Plus anyone you have friended now has your login ID! Madness I say! MADNESS!”

Then the door shut on their deliberations.

I was going to try to come up with a crack about this looking good on paper, but I failed.

Oh, wait, it would look good on toilet paper.

Am I able to set my status to show my Real ID friends whether I am online or away?

You are always able to set your status to show whether you are online, away, or busy. Any Real ID or character-level friend on your friends list will see your online status. Beyond simple online status information, Real ID friends will see detailed Rich Presence information (what character the Real ID friend is playing, what they are doing within that game, etc.) and will be able to view and send Broadcast messages to other Real ID friends.

One setting is noticeably absent. You can set to Online, Away, or Busy. I don’t see any function to appear offline, a stealth mode so to speak. I’ll address this more later.

How does Blizzard safeguard my information?

We respect the privacy of our players and recognize the importance of providing a secure environment for them. You can find out how Blizzard safeguards user information by reading our Online Privacy Policy.

Except for that whole “You have to give out your login info if you want to have any Real ID friends, and while you are at it we will tell anyone with a passing interest your full real world name. Because we at Blizzard respect your privacy.”

What can I do if another player is contacting me through the service and behaving inappropriately?

If you feel that another player is behaving inappropriately when contacting you through the service, please contact a Game Master in-game or visit the in-game support contact page, and a support representative will be able to assist you. There is also an option to permanently block individuals from communicating with you in Battle.net and within the games themselves.

Now, this has a few interesting possibilities. First and foremost it appears that you will be able to block communication from an entire Battle Net account. Once again how it is implemented is key, but this could be a welcome change.

I have had friends that were getting harassed in-game by other players. Sick little monkeys who would simply roll a level one alt and start whispering them again as soon as the first ignore went though. The ability to ignore by account would be excellent, I just hope I don’t have to have their registered email address to do it. 

Will parents be able to manage whether their children are able to use Real ID?

We plan to update our Parental Controls with tools that will allow parents to manage their children’s use of Real ID. We’ll have more details to share in the future.

I can’t really comment on information that has yet to be released, but I do see a glaring problem with this that I will address in a later section.

World of Warcraft Friends & StarCraft II Friends

What’s a World of Warcraft friend or StarCraft II friend?

A World of Warcraft friend is any player you add to your friends list by World of Warcraft character name; this works just like adding friends works in World of Warcraft now. You will be able to add StarCraft II character names to your StarCraft II friends list in a similar fashion. If you add a character name to your friends list and are not Real ID friends with the player, you will not see the player’s real name in the game, nor will they see yours. Character-level friends such as these are specific to each game (i.e. World of Warcraft character friends cannot see each other in StarCraft II or communicate cross-game) and can see online and offline status information only, not Rich Presence details or Broadcast messages. Other characters that a World of Warcraft friend creates will not automatically be added to your friends list.

Ok, there will be two levels of friend. This makes perfect sense when taken with the rest of the system, well played.

What information about me will other players see in-game if I do not use Real ID?

If you are not using Real ID, only the in-game character name and online/offline status of the character you are playing will be visible to other players, and only within that game.

Excellent, unless I choose to actively participate nothing changes from the way it is now.

Can I use features such as cross-game chat, Rich Presence, or Broadcasts if I do not use Real ID?

Features such as cross-game chat, World of Warcraft cross-realm and cross-faction chat, Broadcast messages, and Rich Presence are only available if you use Real ID. For more information, visit the Real ID features page.

It makes perfect sense that in order to use the features of the Real ID system you must actually use the system. I suppose that someone would have asked had they not mentioned it though.

Can my Real ID friends see all of my World of Warcraft characters?

Real ID friends will be able to see all of each other’s characters across games; there will not be an option to hide specific characters from Real ID friends or to appear offline to them when you’re logged in. If you wish to communicate with someone through only a character, you can opt to use the traditional “in-game friend” system and add that player as a World of Warcraft friend.

Although I would like the “appear offline” feature for those days I just want to be antisocial I can understand not putting one in. I don’t like that it’s not there, but I understand it.

The one thing I do not understand, that does not even look good on paper not even toilet paper is the inability to mask certain characters from view.

According to the EULA that I click on every time we download a new sneezing animation for some NPC somewhere I am allowed to let my child under the age of 18 to play on my account. Whether I choose to or not, it’s in the EULA that I can do so.

This is not about the fact that I have alts on different servers, and in fact in different guilds, that friends of mine don’t know about. Alts I go hang out on when I simply want to be left alone. Being able to hide some of them would be nice, but is not a deal breaker.

This is not about the fact that I don’t really want every friend of a friend to know the name of my auctioneer. Particularly when I might have a thousand auctions at a time posted and be in direct competition with some of them. While being able to keep the name of my auctioneer from the friends of my friends would be nice, I can live without it.

This is about the inability (even through parental controls apparently) to mask my childs characters on my account so that they are not bothered when they are trying to just run around and goof off in game. The inability to safeguard my kids online is simply unacceptable.

All it would take is a “friend of a friend” to get one of their first names through a bit of social engineering and all of a sudden they have my childs full name. That is beyond unacceptable, it’s dangerous.

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I have been asking for cross real communications for a long time. I think it will be a great thing once all the bugs are worked out. I am greatly looking forward to it.

Up until now the jury has been out. Well, they just got back and returned a verdict.

While I would love the features they talk about, the system as described is simply too open and unsecure for me to feel comfortable.

Until they fix it, I won’t be participating. Unfortunate, but true.

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Now my daddy always used to tell me never to talk bad about something unless you plan to offer a way to fix it.

I see three things that I believe would be fairly easy to implement. Minor changes that would make for a much better end product in my opinion.

  1. Allow me to block Real ID on individual characters within an account, making them unavailable for the Real ID features. This would allow me to be more able to safeguard my kids while still enjoying the benefits of Real ID myself on my own characters.
  2. Give the option to show either first and last name or simply first name. Even if someone I have directly friended gets my full name at least let me keep my last name private from the “friend of a friend” tier of people.
  3. Allow people to send the friends request by selecting one of that players characters in game, that way the email address linked to players Battle Net accounts is not required to be compromised.

So how about it Blizz?

How about you add a side order of security to go with that plate full of awesome?

I would love to have some, but unless it’s made right I’ll simply have to pass.