Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Protecting Your EA Games From EA

Posted by Stropp on March 12, 2011

I posted yesterday about the player who was banned from playing his copy of dragon age because he made a negative comment about EA on the Electronic Arts official forums.

Fortunately, EA saw the light, the blinding light of negative publicity and outrage shone upon this practice, and relented by reversing the ban on the player playing his legally purchased game. The forum ban still stands however.

The reason EA could get away with this, is that they are requiring players to create an account when the game is installed. It also turns out that the game checks in with this account to make sure it is valid when the player loads it up to play. If the account status isn’t valid, in this case the player has been banned for whatever reason, you cannot play.

It occurs to me that this is one of the reasons why I opposed the Real ID Forum fiasco back in the middle of 2010. Back then I was primarily concerned with the privacy issue of having a real name linked both to forum posts and in-game characters, but the idea of all my Blizzard games linked to a single account didn’t make me feel comfortable.

Yesterday I said that the best way to get around EA locking you out of your legally purchased games is not to participate in their community, and to find a community elsewhere. I stand by that assertion. But there are times when you need to access an official forum, technical and gameplay support for example.

So here’s what you do. Create a separate accounts for the games you play, and your forum interaction. So in the case where you need to post, if you do happen to say something negative in the heat of the moment your gaming accounts won’t be locked out.

You might want to take this further by having separate accounts for each game you play. It’s more than easy to create as many gmail accounts as you have games. You can even have the additional gmail accounts forward to a primary email address to make it easier to manage multiple accounts.

Still, it’s a shame that so many game publishers are requiring players to create accounts in order to play single player games. Remember the good old days when you could defer registration as long as you wanted?

Power To The People

Posted by Stropp on July 10, 2010

Power To The Players

There were a few people who didn’t think that Blizzard would back down over requiring their forum posters to use real names through Real ID, but it appears that they, in fact, did. Mike ‘Nethaera’ Morhaime posted on the Blizzard forums saying that, at least for now, real names would not be required.

It does appear that the response from the World of Warcraft player base gave the folks at Blizzard quite a surprise. Up until this post the very few blue responses, from WoW Europe, were along the lines of, “Hey we hear you, but this Real ID thing is set in stone. Tuff cookies…”

I suspect that for once the number of players saying that they had cancelled their subscriptions over Real ID did actually match up with reality, or came close to it. My guess is that someone took a look at the account cancellation graph after three days and saw a spike far above norm. I’d love to know actually how many did decide to leave the game.

It just goes to show that the only real way that a consumer can effect change in a company policy is by voting with the wallet.

Now the big question for Blizzard is if they can regain the trust of these players enough to win them back.

Real ID Is A Golden Opportunity

Posted by Stropp on July 8, 2010

Blizzard’s completely insane move towards destroying their customers privacy might actually be a golden opportunity for other MMORPG publishers.

All they have to do is get all loud and vocal about how they’ll never violate your privacy and how they respect your right to be anonymous. Add a few humorous adverts poking fun at Blizzard, and I’m sure they’ll capture more than a few of the players quitting World of Warcraft over this issue.

Mr Developer, this is called a Unique Selling Proposition, something I’ve been learning while doing my business planning. It means that in order to do well in a market, you have to offer something that the other guy doesn’t. In this case, a respect for privacy and anonimity is something you can show that you do better than Blizzard.

Now You Have To Use Real ID If You Want To Post

Posted by Stropp on July 7, 2010

Wow! Just wow… and no that’s not a pun.

I get up this morning and check my feeds before heading out and what do I see?

Blizzard has decided to force users of the official forums to use Real ID. That’s right, if you want to post or reply to a post on a Blizzard forum (World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Battlenet) then your real life details will be available for the world to see. Unsurprising, the thread linked to above is huge, and the other on the WoW forums is the longest ever.

That’s a game changer to me. In a previous post I stated the reasons why I will not use Real ID when playing WoW, so there is no reason to go into them again now. But suffice it to say, this is making me think twice about resubscribing to WoW for Cataclysm, and even about buying Starcraft 2 in the first place. At the very least I won’t be posting to the official forums again.

There’s always a silver lining though. The owners of unofficial WoW and SC2 forums will probably find that membership on their sites improves as people who don’t want their personal details posted online migrate over. If you own such a forum, now might be the time to put a bit of polish and shine on it.

Hopefully the amount of people on the forums against this will bring Blizzard to their senses.

Why I Won’t Be Using Real ID

Posted by Stropp on June 26, 2010

With the latest patch 3.3.5, Blizzard introduced what could have been one of the best gamer friendly features that they have released so far. Namely, a way for in-game friends to keep in touch with others across realms and different games. But I won’t be using it. Here’s why…

I currently don’t play World of Warcraft.

Okay, a little facetious, I know. I’m quietly enjoying myself in Everquest 2, dungeon crawling and even doing a little raiding with my guild, The Halasian Empire. When Starcraft 2 comes out I’m not sure I’ll be buying it straight away anyway. However, even then I’ve gone on record as saying that I’ll be creating a separate Battle Net account for SC2.

But… I do intend to have a go at Cataclysm at some point. I expect that to release around November, so the Christmas break (not that running my own business affords break time, even over the holidays) might give me some time to whip up a Worgen. But even then I won’t be using Real ID, and these are the reasons.

  1. I don’t have any real life friends playing WoW. Blizzard themselves do not recommend Real IDing anyone who is not known to you in real life, from the Real ID FAQ. 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.
  2. The identifier for Real ID is the email address used for my BattleNet account. Okay… not really secure and something Blizzard also doesn’t recommend. This is from a Blizzard Support article, A leading cause of accounts being compromised is from players willingly sharing their account information, such as with personal acquaintances… Okay, to be fair they’re talking about login information here. Oh wait, your Real ID *is* one half of your account login info. Once they have your username, all they have to do is guess your password. BTW, you should also note from the same article, Please note that not being aware of the fact that sharing account information is a violation of the game’s Terms of Use does not result in leniency in the enforcement of the policy. The results of sharing account information can be severely detrimental for everyone involved, and Blizzard must enforce this policy consistently in all cases. So not only is giving someone your Real ID sharing half your account login info, it’s also violating Blizzard’s own terms of service. Now there’s a Catch 22 for you. (I love that book!)
  3. I want to maintain my privacy, or at least the illusion of privacy. I simply want to be known as Stropp, or Bargearse, or Phlebas or any one of the number of monikers I’ve chosen for myself over the years. (I’d probably choose the Stropp alias seeing as it has been the one I’ve given the most effort to ‘branding’ due to this blog.) While I have no illusions of the fact that anyone could probably find my real name out very quickly, I’d prefer to keep some boundaries between my gaming and ‘real’ lives even if a Google of my name shows no information about me, except for a couple of programming forum posts from years back and the fact that I share my name with a couple of actors and the inventor of a Formula One racing car engine.
  4. I also like, from time to time, to have some alone time. I want to be able to flip a switch on Real ID and become invisible to the rest of the gaming world. If I decide to devote several hours to a Horde character on a different server without being available to my guild for whatever, I want to be able to do that. That doesn’t seem to be something that Blizzard wants me to be able to do, even though other IM services offer that facility. In real life I can let my phone go to the answering machine if I’m eating dinner or watching a movie, and the caller doesn’t know if I’m home or not, so no offence. Let me do the same with Real ID Blizzard, let me choose to which characters and games that Real ID will apply.

Real ID, as I said at the start of this post, is a really promising feature to add to Blizzard’s stable of games. The whole social networking thing is going to be a big part of the future, not just of games, but communication and even business and government. However it has to be managed properly in order to win trust. It seems to me that someone at Blizzard, or perhaps above them in the Activision management chain, had the idea that some kind of social networking feature would be good and demanded it be implemented without giving thought as to the ramifications. Unfortunately, that gives us this half-arsed implementation of Real ID.

So come Cataclysm, or perhaps before if I get the urge to play World of Warcraft, if you see me in game and ask me to do the Real ID thing with you, please don’t be offended at a polite no. At least, until Blizzard addresses my concerns. Then I’ll reconsider my stance.

(BTW, during my research I noticed that there is an incredibly unpopular US government law called the Real ID Act. Why did Blizzard choose to name their social networking system after something that has generated such bad feelings? Like I said half-arsed, and badly thought out.)