Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

Yub yub (that’s Ewok for “we won”)

The scene in the forums shortly after the announcement.

It hasn’t been a good couple of days in Panzercowland.  Last night I had to say good-bye to a long-time WoW friend who ditched their subscription due to Blizzard’s bait-and-switch on RealID, and how it would be required on the forums going forward.  Three of the Anvil’s core raiders either had pulled the trigger on cancellations or were about to.  And when I found out that Anna, one of my primary muses and the inspiration behind this blog, was bailing?  It was on like Donkey Kong, son. Trust me, Gentle Readers, I had the Mother of All RealID Rants cocked and locked to commit to electrons.  I had tankerloads of righteous indignation and a trunk full of snark mixed in with a couple of ammo belts of cusswords, fueled by a shitload of Diet Coke.  I’d driven right by Annoyed, passed the exit ramp to Pissed Off, and had the hammer down on the HOV express lanes straight into Nerdrage.

And then Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime had to go and be all reasonable:

Hello everyone,

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.

It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as conversation threading, the ability to rate posts up or down, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it’s clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you’ll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard’s success from the beginning.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

Shortly thereafter, celebrations erupted all across the known universe from Cloud City to Corusca…oh, wait, wrong game, that’s next year.

Anyway.  So what does this mean?  Well, this addresses the big immediate concerns with the proposed implementation of Starcraft II and WoW Cataclysm forum changes, namely the forced use of real names.  It sounds like they’re going to a single-userID “gamertag” style system.  That’s exactly what most of the posters in the now-locked megathread (final count:  2495 pages and almost 50,000 posts, around 5,000 of which were nuked) wanted.  Nobody (well, almost nobody) objected to the alleged reason behind the forum changes, which was to change the Blizzard forums from the electronic version of a truck stop bathroom into something a little more welcoming and friendly and a little less disease-ridden.  Removing the requirement of use of real names from the forums allays those security concerns.  It doesn’t really do all that much to clean up the forums, but Blizzard’s always had the tools to solve that–by more aggressive moderation with stiffer penalties, and the ultimate hammer for serious forum douchebaggery–repercussions to the poster’s actual WoW account.

But.  But.  Yes, a big “but,” like Jennifer Lopez’s.  This does not change anything regarding the well-known move by Activision to try and position all of Blizzard’s properties–WoW, Starcraft, and Diablo–as a “social networking experience” instead of, y’know, games. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick still gets wood every time he sees a hundred million Farmvillains cultivating their chickpeas, and he wants him somma that.  RealID still has a flaw that exposes your stored first and last name to malicious addons unless you go into Parental Controls and pretend to be your own mom to shut it off.  You still can’t fully opt out of the system.  And Mr. Morhaime explicitly left open the ability to expand RealID for “new and exciting functionality”–that’s corporate weasel-speak for “danger, Will Robinson”–in the future.  (The only thing worse than “new and exciting” in weaselspeak is “rich content.”  You hear that, run.)

So here is where we, the WoW playerbase, have to take our victory here and not rest on our virtual laurels.  Be vigilant.  The next time you see the Terms of Service or the EULA pop up, read them.  Don’t just scroll down and click “OK.”  Go dig around on Blizzard’s website and actually read stuff like the Privacy Policy; if you had, you would’ve seen that information on the RealID interface with the forums was actually added on June 30, six days before it was publicly announced.

More importantly, it shows that despite the somewhat unwelcome intrusion of the Activision “social networking” crowd into our little World of Warcraft, Blizzard does still listen.  It took a revolt bigger than all other class nerf revolts combined to make them come around, but hell, it worked, didn’t it?  Continue to make your opinions heard.  If you’re like those of us who don’t want WoW to turn into World of Mafiavillecraft, voice your feelings.  Stay involved.  Don’t think that it’s over, folks.  Like modern Hollywood, we may have had a happy ending here, but there’s always a sequel.

Quite honestly, I had a rather simple trust with Blizzard.  I pay them $15 a month, they give me a good game and let me go kill INTERNET DRAGONS all I want.  For five and a half years, that worked well.  But with this proposed bait-and-switch with RealID–and there’s no other word for it, guys, when RealID goes in one month from “share your RL name with just your closest friends!” to “you have to show your name on all you post on all our forums”–that trust is shattered forever.  I will continue to pay Blizzard that $15 a month, and as soon as I can afford it, I’m going to buy that windrider plushie I’ve had my eye on for a while.  (Shut up.  It’s cute.)  But rest assured that I will never take anything they say at simple face value ever again, and nor should you.  With their claim that “this is just to de-troll the forums!1!”, they insulted my intelligence.  I don’t like that.

Trust, but verify.  Actually, for now, I’ll settle for “verify.”

18 responses

  1. Zhavok

    I’m happy about this announcement, yet I find myself in a pickle. Long story short, in a thread about the blocking of the phrase “asnowstormbyanyothername” from the forums, I posted a link to a discussion on the blog with the same name. If I had looked twice, I would have noticed that the blocked site was linked in the discussion (which in hindsight is obvious). Despite this being my first infraction of any kind, I woke to find I had been permanently banned from the forums.

    I’m incredibly sorry to sour the happiness of this post with my whining, but would anyone happen to know the timeline of a response from “wowreportedpost”?

    July 9, 2010 at 14:07

    • Des

      I don’t know the specific timeline, Zhavok…but I’m willing to bet they’re also a little swamped at the moment. If you poke around a bit at the official Customer Service forum, you might find someone who could still post who might have received an answer that would give you an idea of how long you’ll have to wait to hear from them.

      July 9, 2010 at 15:22

  2. Excellent news and great post! I agree with you that this is really not over and there will be more fights to come. But lets savor this victory for now!

    …Aww I want a plushie too! 🙂

    July 9, 2010 at 15:10

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  9. Wow… you’ve put it in words 10x better than I ever could. Thank you. 🙂

    July 9, 2010 at 23:59

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  12. Kayla

    We won this battle. There’ll be more to come. My trust in Blizzard is gone and there’s not a lot they can do to restore it. They have burned their bridges with me and, I’m willing to bet, with a lot of other users. I wonder how many people who have done the same as I have to “opt-out” of RealID, which is to turn on Parental Controls, actually realise that, because it flags them as belonging to a minor, this means no chance of any Beta invites to those accounts.

    I’m still pissed off. The integration with FB _will_ go ahead. Ads will start to appear in-game. While I will keep my accounts active for now, I’m still going to be keeping my eyes open for something else to do with my time. I suspect I’ll be d’loading a number of trials of different MMOs to see if I like the feels of any of them. It is, to quote a friend, an real b*stard because I have seven level 80s and a large number of other alts that I like to pootle around on and have fun with. Starting from scratch elsewhere will be hard, but as I’ve always enjoyed levelling noew characters it will hopefully not be as hard as it could be.

    July 10, 2010 at 04:32

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  14. Constant Vigilance!

    July 11, 2010 at 01:33

  15. Thanks to Gnomeaggeddon for the link to this blog! All the Star Wars references! On a Wow blog! I’m a happy little geek tonight. 😀 (Oh yeah and I agree with everything you said. Just have talked about it WAY too much lately and am thoroughly sick of it. 😉 )

    July 11, 2010 at 04:07

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  17. frogi

    I’m an avid hacker of gamers and was really interested in the Glider vs Blizzard. How the two companies fought and arguments. In my opinion Glider should not have lost. Blizzard won and that was that. The point of this random ass comment is … Blizzard owns World of Warcraft. You pay to use World of Warcraft. So long as you pay, Blizzard own you. Thus being allowed to do whatever they want.

    Plus, the issue of trust? Guys and girls, it’s a business. It’s not old Achmed on the street corner who knows your name and your daily shoppings. It’s a company that want to make money, and lots of it.

    July 18, 2010 at 16:05

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