Just short of the release of StarCraft II, the website component of Battle.net has undergone yet another facelift, both in terms of look and basic functionality. Gone is the “bluish” motif associated with the StarCraft interface, now replaced with a chunkier black-and-white design, large icons, and all sorts of bits that slide in and out (which, I realize, sounds kind of dirty). Sign-in is now handled by a pop-up dialog and each of Blizzard’s franchises now has its own separate site in addition to the list of games you currently own (with the option to buy those you don’t have on the fly).
Only the StarCraft II Battle.net website is fully-featured (and it is different from the official site, though it looks like it could be set to replace it), but the others have placeholders and look to be fleshed out in due time. As it is, for World of Warcraft and Diablo III, there are simply a few links to community features and purchase options (for the former), along with other associated ephemera.
I’m not sure how this new design is much of an improvement over the old one, which seemed to work just as well. It just kind of feels different, and I think it may take some time for people to figure out where all the familiar features are.
If you read my otherposts on this topic, you probably know that I was pretty ambivalent about the announced and recently retracted requirement of real name usage on the official Blizzard forums. I was very disappointed in how the community reacted. There was a lot of confusion about RealID in-game versus using your RealID name in the forums, as well as a strange entitlement to the forums. Between the alarmist WoW.com article suggesting that addons have the ability to reveal your name, dozensofarticles and webcomics implying that your characters would be associated with your real name, and dozens of outraged comments, it has been pretty hard to have a factual discussion about this topic. I’m not surprised that Blizzard backpedaled on this issue, but I do think that this issue was way overblown and misinterpreted.
“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.”
There was absolutely no connection between posting on the forums and revealing your name in-game. The timing of releasing the new RealID features was ill-timed with the forum change announcement, and players got some of the features confused. Just as the Facebook features of Facebook connect, instant personalization, and global “like” confused some users, players assumed that the forum change and RealID in-game had more in common than they actually did.
The issue is that if you have RealID enabled, it is possible for interface scripts, and therefore addons, to obtain the name associated with your Battle.net account (your “real name”). The script that was used as a proof of concept used the fact that all players with RealID are friends of themselves to query the list of your Battle.net friends and then send a Battle.net tell to yourself. The chatlog then contains “whisper from/to [your name]” and can be obtained. As an example, try this script by Katinka in the official WoW forums:
/run for i=1,100 do if BNIsSelf(i)then BNSendWhisper(i,”RealID whisper from yourself..”);break end end
The idea is that players could potentially install a bad addon that uses this method to obtain your name. Your name could then potentially be sent to other players. However, due to the sandboxing in WoW interface coding, there is no way your name could leave the game.
This sort of thing has always been possible. There is information you might not want other people to know that addons have access to, like your friends list. A bad addon could potentially tell everyone who your friends are, or how much you play, or when you last played, etc. The fact that your real name is now accessible to addons that you choose to install is a small addition. I bet that it is also possible to obtain the email addresses associated with your account. Some rogue addon could potentially get the email addresses of you and all your friends and attempt to contact gold spammers.
Here are three big reasons why this whole “security issue” is not a big deal:
And now, Blizzard just announced new changes that will do away with anonymity on the official forums as Battle.net 2.0 closes in on its launch. Highlights are posted in bold.
Battle.net Update: Upcoming Changes to the Forums
Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.
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.
I was dismayed to find the new RealID feature was not working for me when I installed patch 3.3.5. There were a few others with the problem, but not many. After trying to log on from other computers and looking around the support forums, players have identified the issue.
There is a new Parental Controls option to disable RealID. If you have ever used Parental Controls, your account may have flagged to have RealID off by default. I played with it when it was added way back in the day just to learn about it, so my account is flagged apparently. The Battle.net Parental Controls are much different than the old World of Warcraft controls, so lets go through it real quick.
There is quite a doozy of a patch coming to Starcraft 2 in the coming weeks. It adds a lot of social features (including map publishing and Facebook integration), interface changes, and some pretty big gameplay changes. Check out the full text from our good friend Zarhym:
The first round of testing for WoW’s Patch 3.3.5 was, not unexpectedly, disjointed and, at times, impossible to even connect. But regardless of that, I had at least a little bit of luck logging in to get a quick first look at how the new social options are being implemented. Of course, these options may change or even be removed or delayed before they hit the live servers, but let’s take a quick look at their first appearance on the PTR.
In the video, you’ll see new friends options for adding RealIDs for cross-realm, cross-faction, cross-game chat. You’ll also see new status settings, and even a way for you to display a “broadcast” message — think FB status. Watch the video for all the juicy details! Set it to HD for the clearest look.
Blizz sent out a friendly reminder today that, if you care to participate in the upcoming Cataclysm beta, you better get your patoot over to your Battle.net account page and update your preferences for opt-ins, including checking the box for Warcraft universe products and submitting your computer specs. Both of these things are required for you to have a chance of getting into the beta and since they’re mentioning it officially now, it shouldn’t be very far off…
Get those opt-ins ready for the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm closed beta! The sundering of Azeroth is nigh, and you don’t want to be left out in the cold of Northrend when you could be enjoying the sun-drenched beaches on the goblin isle of Kezan. To ensure you’re opted-in and eligible as a potential candidate, you’ll need a World of Warcraft license attached to your Battle.net account, have your current system specifications uploaded to the Battle.net Beta Profile Settings page, and have expressed interest through the franchise-specific check boxes.
So get your opt-ins set up, updated, and ready; we’re worgen real hard to get the beta going soon!
And I’m goblin up the chance to participate (yes, I went there, deal).
But before I go, a little PSA, this is the only current avenue through which you can be accepted into the beta. That means that this is official and any other person or entity purported to give you access is mostly likely trying to scam and/or hack you. So please, for the love of Thrall, don’t fall for it!
Also, this should cover you for all phases of the beta, the first of which is likely to be small (and closed). So if you don’t get in, don’t get too upset about it, there’s always a chance that you will later on.