Blizzard, Why Do I Still Have to Talk About This?

Dear Blizzard,

I have been playing your games, in some fashion, since the original PC version of Diablo. I played Diablo II, as well as at least one expansion. I eventually found my way to World of Warcraft in October of 2005 and the rest is basically history. I played until November of 2012 and then took a break for approximately 17 months.

I came back to the game shortly after the Warlords of Draenor pre-purchase came out. I pre-purchased Warlords, then four hours later, I resubbed to the game.

As I write this, I have about 68 hours on my current game card and, to be honest, I’m not really inclined to fork over another $15.

It’s not because of the sexism and even homophobia and misogyny that I have seen in the game — although those exist.

It’s not because you nerfed my class to the ground — although my main raiding character was a paladin for the majority of my playing time.

It’s not even because it’s going to take over a year between content patches — although that’s a truly abysmal production schedule and if I had been raiding this whole time, I would have surely quit in disgust by now.

It’s because @YAWoWB on Twitter said this:


I wasn’t exactly sure what Rooster was talking about, until I opened up my own desktop app. Now, let’s be clear: I have precisely 0 BattleNet friends and my RealID is turned off. But I still clicked on “Add a Friend” and was rewarded with this piece of nonsense:

addafriendblog

 

Now, to be fair, because I have RealID turned off, those are all BattleTags. But that’s my brother’s BattleTag, my friend Majik’s BattleTag… and the guy above Majik? That’s one of his friends. Something like two years ago, I played Diablo III with Majik and his friend, for a period of approximately THIRTY MINUTES.

Then, Blizzard, I gasped out-loud at the possibility that my BattleTag is floating around out there like that. See, you have a flag in the BattleNet account options to not show up like that… except that it’s for RealID, not BattleTags (click for a bigger version):

friendsoffriends

Now, one might think that, possibly, since there are no preferences for one’s BattleTags, that perhaps they follow the rules laid out for RealID, but, honestly, I have no idea if this is the case.

As my brother is the father of a newborn and I don’t actually know Majik’s friend, my thought was immediately to get him on his computer and then have HIM click “Add A Friend” and see if I showed up. Unfortunately, he was asleep when I texted him (multiple times), since he has to be up at 5am and I think I might have woken up his wife with my constant texting…

So I’ll have to post again with the results of this test.

But, honestly, Blizzard. It’s 2014. Why do I have to be angry with you about your complete and utter lack of social controls?

It’s been nearly two years since you posted that “Appear Offline” was “coming soon”. TWO YEARS, Blizzard. That’s longer than Mists of Pandaria has been out! And your inelegant (to say the least) “privacy” controls are still absolutely laughable. I say this as someone who has been in the online community industry for over a decade. In this day and age of Facebook privacy screwups, of cloud hacking, of nations spying on their own citizens, you’re really going to continue to deny your users the ability to properly manage their online/offline statuses? You’re going to make it easy to find people who don’t want to be found?

Look, I get that community makes your product stickier. Believe me, I do. People come for the games and stay for the people. I know! And you want to compete with Steam, I’m guessing, right? Guess what? STEAM HAS AN OFFLINE MODE. And a variety of ways for users to manage their privacy. And Steam hit the 75 million active user mark last January.

Why, why, why do you continue to eat away at the privacy of your gamers? Why don’t you understand that, when I play your games, I don’t really want to announce to a dozen people that I’m on a rarely-used alt on a server I never visit? Why don’t you understand that I don’t want people to know all of my alts? That I don’t want prospective recruits to know all of my alts? That I don’t want people to necessarily know that I’m in one of your games?

These are fundamental questions for me. I am increasingly disturbed by each and every privacy issue that comes up when it comes to BattleNet and Blizzard’s games.

You know, Blizzard, there was a time when I loved BattleNet. Those times were back in the late 90s when I was playing Diablo. Ever since RealID came out, I have learned to loathe BattleNet. I resent it. I resent people expecting me to share my RealID/BattleTag with them. I hate that people I barely know are all “hey, whats ur btag???” because “lol its just ur btag”. I hate that I can’t even post on the Hearthstone forums without my BattleTag being exposed for all to see. I cannot believe that I cannot remove a BattleTag from my account and I am just as incredulous about the fact that there are no distinct BattleTag privacy options available to me.

Blizzard… it’s time. It’s time to fix this mess.

Yours sincerely,

Kurn

9 comments

  1. Amy says:

    I don’t know how I forgot about this, but I was definitely surprised at the amount of real names I saw when I clicked ‘add a friend.’ I must have fixed it at some point, perhaps when I added Parental Controls (whew!)

    I do wonder, if I sent a request to one of those, would it be a Battletag request, or would they have my real name too.

    Thank you for the reminder, you’re not alone in caring about this.

  2. Jemmy says:

    Yup, in game if I go to someone on my friends list, if they are a realid or bnet friend then I can see all their ‘friends’. It’s really poor.
    My other concern is that my daughter plays on my second account from time to time, mostly we play together but sometimes I leave her to explore a safe town while I go do something else. She’s 8. I would prefer to be able to put her into an ‘offline’ mode so she doesn’t have people chatting to her that may think she is me, but I dont’ have that choice.

  3. Redbeard says:

    If there was ever a reason for my kids to NOT play a Blizzard game –outside of all the crap that you see in Gen Chat or Trade Chat, that is– you just provided it. No way in hell would I let them play a game where they didn’t have complete control over where their name pops up in a system like Battle.net’s.

    This and the “always on” nature of Battle.net is like throwing fresh meat to stalkers.

  4. Markus says:

    This is all spot on. A thousand times yes. Why Blizzard can’t do a better job at protecting the privacy of paying costumers is beyond me.

  5. Kurn says:

    Just a note to apologize to everyone for taking so long to get to these: I’ll be responding to comments later this evening.

    If your comment has been held for moderation, please rest assured that I’ll look through those tonight and approve those which follow my comment policy, found here:

    http://www.kurn.info/blog/comment-policy/

    If your comment has not been approved by the time you see my responses to others, understand that while I welcome disagreements, personal insults are not welcome.

    Feel free to re-submit a comment that has not been approved, so long as it follows the above-linked comment policy.

    Thanks! :)

  6. Kurn says:

    Amy – Thanks so much for the comment. It’s kind of shocking how many people don’t think this is remotely important. While I agree it’s not life-and-death important (for the most part), I have to wonder why all the retorts about it not being important are so visceral…

    If you ever end up testing out a request to someone suggested to you, I’d love to know if it’s a BTag or a RealID request. My gut says “RealID” unless you’ve disabled it entirely…

    Jemmy – One would hope that opting out of the friends-of-friends feature would carry over to the BTag, but my instinct says no…

    Not being a parent myself, I hadn’t even considered the idea of young children playing, and being able to be contacted through this mode of communication… An offline mode would certainly help out parents with younger children! Thanks for this perspective and for your comment. :)

    Redbeard – “complete control over where their name pops up” — sadly, friend, I feel this is a dream. I don’t think we’ll ever have the amount of granular control over our own statuses unless we simply choose not to play their games. For me, that’s kind of ridiculous. It seems ludicrous that I can really enjoy playing a game but feel forced to leave it due to the half-assed systems they connect to the game, like BattleNet…

    Markus – Thanks for your comment — and I wonder the same thing myself. There are other ways to encourage a community to engage with one another apart from forcing them to do so. It’s only the lazy (or the misguided) who do it this way.

    To those few commenters whose comments are being held back from public posting, please note that it is not due to the fact that I don’t welcome dissenting opinions, but due to the tone and various phrases that go against my comment policy: http://www.kurn.info/blog/comment-policy/

    If any of you would like to try again without personal attacks, borderline accusations, trolling or questionable language, please go ahead.

    Further, for all of those who don’t think it’s a big deal, please do consider my perspective: I’m a woman who’s been a gamer my whole life, who has been harassed IRL by creepy dudes (as such, my number has been unlisted for 15 years), who obviously enjoys games (including Blizzard games!) and just wonders why the price to play Blizzard’s games is the potential lack of privacy. I think it’s great that people can share BTags and chat across realms and factions and games, but I think it’s shameful that, in this day and age, the “controls” we have for BTag/RealID use are laughable. Even Origin, which is probably the worst modern gaming platform ever, has an offline mode. That Blizzard refuses to implement even basic privacy controls means that I don’t want to use those systems. So I opt out by not using them. But if people are seeing me on their “People You May Know” list, that’s more than a little creepy to me, given that I go to great lengths not to share my BTag with anyone.

    Understanding that not everyone is in the same situation as you and, thus, doesn’t feel the same as you, is an important tool in life. Whether or not you understand why I’m unhappy about this doesn’t really matter — what matters is that you respect that’s my opinion. I’m happy to debate the merits thereof, as long as it’s done without personal attacks and the like.

  7. Jemmy says:

    My husband and I had a bit of a play with RealId tonight. Our lists are a mix of RealId names and battletag names.

    On my list of ‘People you may know’ when I hit ‘add a friend’ was someone I had removed a while back, but my husband still has on his list. Except, at some point the guy has changed his battletag to something new. So even if you change your btag to try and hide from someone, you’ll be found.

    My husband decided to disable his RealId to see what would happen. He doesn’t play WoW any more and I’m the only active RealId person on his list, everyone else is btag. So I disappeared off his list, and he cannot add me back on using my email. So far so good. So then he sends me a btag friend request, which I accept. My RealId name appears on his friends list. Not my btag, my RealId name. He shows up only as his btag, but I show up as a RealId name.

    I’m planning to disable my RealId later tonight and write to Blizzard to ask them why my RealId is showing up to btag friends.

    • Jemmy says:

      I wasn’t clear about one bit – the guy I took off my list wasn’t suggested because we had X mutual friends. He was the only person on the list that didn’t have a listed number of mutual friends. That’s how I twigged it was him. He’s someone I was friends with and it’s suggesting him to me based on that. We confirmed it was the same guy by checking my husband’s list.

  8. Cyranor says:

    One of my biggest complaints with the battletag system is that after playing diablo 3 I was constantly getting battletag friend request from gold farmers at one point it seemed like I had 12 pending requests everyday. It seems to have gotten better but I haven’t been playing as much do to work so I don’t know if it has went away or if i’m just not noticing as much.

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