It was announced today that Blizzard will be implementing an “Appear Offline” mode (aka Invisible Mode) to BattleNet “in the coming months”.
Let me be clear, this is a great thing and is long overdue.
The RealID/BattleTag chat system is still clunky, clumsy and inelegant and “Appear Offline” is going to add to the clunkiness of it all, not remove the clunkiness.
It is a great thing that people will be able to go invisible, don’t get me wrong. I’ve very excited for everyone who will make use of it. However, rather than look at the system in a critical way, I feel as though Blizzard is using “Appear Offline” as a band-aid to the underlying problems inherent in the system.
With the information we’ve been given (which is, to be blunt, not a lot), it can be understood that people will be able to be seen as “offline” with this option, to RealID/BattleNet/character friends.
To begin, here are some of the immediate questions that came to mind concerning how this will work in World of Warcraft:
1) Will you have this option before logging in to a character? As it stands, you have to log in to WoW first (thus becoming “visible”) before you can edit your BattleNet settings.
2) Will the Appear Offline mode persist through different logins? Say I log in to Kurn and I set myself as offline. If I log out as Kurn and log back in (on Kurn or any other character, for that matter), will the mode persist in the same way announcements do?
3) What implications are there for guild listings? I presume I’ll still show up as online in my guild, which I think is fine — that’s part of the deal when you join a guild, really. But what if someone on my realm (with whom I am character friends) does /who Apotheosis and sees Kurnmogh online? Would they see me? Would they not see me? How would that work? Could they still whisper me?
– Social interaction between people is complex. The ongoing lack of any kind of personalized contact system for one’s RealID/BattleTag friends is antiquated. We are firmly in the era of social media and social networks. If Blizzard is intent on creating/using their own social networking system, they need to recognize that social interactions and relationships are extremely complex in nature and one-size-fits-all does not, in fact, fit the needs of most communities. Is it better than nothing? Maybe. But it can be a LOT better.
So how is it clunky? How is it antiquated? Aside from the points I’ve brought up (versus other solutions) in my other posts, let’s look at BattleTags. BattleTags are also “always on”, just the way RealID is and, worse, you have to have one if you want to play Diablo III. So I have a BattleTag, because I played D3 for approximately eight minutes. (Okay, level 50 or something.) And it’s always on, despite the fact that I have RealID turned off. I don’t share that information with anyone, but the fact remains that BattleTags are something we are forced to use (as in we are automatically logged in) in other games if we’ve played Diablo III. Really? How is that okay? And there’s no off switch, either. There’s an enable Real ID option, but nothing about enabling or disabling BattleTags. Why not? Let me turn off being able to communicate with me via BattleTag in a game that doesn’t currently require BattleTag use. Especially if I’ve already turned off RealID. (Follow-up question, why require BattleTags for D3 in the first place?) What if I wanted to chat with people in D3 but not in WoW? Why not be able to have an option to turn on BattleTags for each individual Blizzard game, rather than just opt us in without a choice?
Do you see how it’s inelegant? It could be so much better. It should have been so much better. And I would have been its staunchest supporter.
As it stands, the RealID/BattleTag system is, in my opinion, deeply flawed in a variety of ways. The “Appear Offline” option is definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not the panacea for the system. At best, it’s a quick-fix solution for a system that is invasive, persistent and not even as smart as a system that was built in 1996, namely ICQ.
16 years after ICQ, this is the best Blizzard has to offer?
Too little, Blizzard. Far too little for your customers and way too late for me.