Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Hello RealID, Goodbye WoW

Post soundtrack: “I’ll Say Goodbye (Even Though I’m Blue)” by The Exponents

Well, just I thought things were getting boring (more boring? boring-er? supremely snooze-worthy?) in WoW, Blizzard comes along and starts stoking that whole RealID fire again.

How better to describe it?

Their responses (all three of them to date) have been reported here, and what little they reveal is rather disappointing.  The insistence that they’re going ahead with this (and my concern that it will be expanded even further in-game, in some foolish manner we’ve yet to see) is something of a concern, especially considering how unresponsive they’ve been on the matter.

What it means for me is that I’m going to express my extreme displeasure at the new direction that Blizz is heading, in the only way I can.  I’m cancelling my subscription.  (Well, I’m not actually subscribed – I buy game time cards, because it’s nice to have the collection of boxes to look at as a non-virtual display of the amount of money I’ve spent on WoW over the years.  But I’m not buying a new card when my account expires on the 26th.)

My email to Blizzard, which explains my position, and why I’m letting my account lapse, follows:

I was trying to cancel my WoW account, and it ate my long, well written (or at least, fairly explanatory) screed on why I was leaving.  (It might be because I've been paying via game time cards, not sure)

But I wanted to pass on my dissatisfaction with, a) current game content, especially for non-raiders at the level cap, and b) RealID.  And the reasons why I'm letting my subscription lapse (as it appears I can't use the account management website to actively cancel it and pass on my reasons).

My guild disbanded not longer after ICC went live, and I found myself in something of a wasteland of level-relevant non-raiding content.  Seriously, aside from the three 5-man dungeons (which have long since been run into the ground) there hasn't been anything new since the Argent Coliseum, which was around 11 months ago.  Aside from a brief period raiding with a new guild (which didn't work that well), I've pretty much just logged on to put up a few auctions each day and that was enough that I could justify to myself that I was still making enough gold to justify paying my subscription (or game time card, as the case may be).

This justification was shaken with the implementation of RealID with patch 3.3.5, and the awful implementation of what was originally quite an appealing feature.  As it was originally announced, it would allow me to chat with friends on other servers or on the other faction, and who were playing other Blizzard games.  Unfortunately the actual feature set renders it useless for this for me, and is indeed actively unwelcome.

I choose to keep my WoW identity and real-life identity separate, and indeed I don't use my real name anywhere online in connection with WoW.  The fact that RealID is unable to use an alias or nickname, and will only display my real name, makes it useless for my purposes.  That the 'friends of friends' feature isn't something you opt into (or at least can be opted out of) is equally unwelcome; if I wanted anyone else to see my name, online status, or anything else via RealID, *they would already be on my friend list*.  Facebook implementation is equally unwelcome (although I'd hope that would be irrelevant, as I don't have a Facebook account).

If the ability to use an alias or nickname instead of my real name was offered, RealID could be personally useful.  As it stands, it's quite a remarkably poorly thought-out idea from an otherwise talented developer and is not suitable for my needs.

It's the news that RealID was to be incorporated into the forums that has been the tipping point from me.  While it's (currently) possible to not use RealID in-game, in future it means if you have technical issues that require interaction with Blizz you have no alternative but to post on the tech support sub-forum and put your identity out there.  The fact that this is the 'long-term vision' for the service (according to a blue comment on the forums, link here: linky) is quite unwelcome, and it's reached the stage where I'm not willing to pay to play a game with no respect for personal privacy, which is trying to redefine itself as a 'social-gaming service' - a combination that I find, quite frankly, repellent.

While I'm still likely to buy Cataclysm and put in a month or two trying out the new variations on a theme, if RealID continues to expand without any respect for the way real gamers interact, my return to the game will be a brief one.  I'm also no longer purchasing Starcraft II as a result of this.

The seachange that Blizzard is trying to implement with RealID goes against both common sense (yes, gamers *do* want privacy, and on *our terms*) and the basic idea behind computer gaming: escapism.  We play to get away from the real world, and I think the reaction to this growing insistance that we bring more of the real world (and accompanying baggage) with us will be a negative one.  It's certainly inspired a negative response from me, and I'm taking my entertainment budget elsewhere.

So for the time being at least, this won’t be a WoW blog.  (Admittedly it’s been some time since I’ve posted much that’s WoW-centric, but I blame the lack of ‘new’ that’s relevant to me as a non-raider – and as a non-raider, you can’t get much more irrelevant that the Ruby Sanctum).

(Actually, apart from the three 5-man dungeons in ICC, did you realise there’s not been any new non-raiding content (aside from holidays, which I’m no longer even pretending to express a facade of interest in) since the Argent Tournament, which launched in August of last year?)

Personally I’m trying to avoid a lot of the Cata spoilers (such as Cynical Brit’s probably awesomely informative and entertaining Worgen and Goblin starting zone videos), as I want to be able to enjoy myself going in with some small degree of ignorance when it goes live.  Sure there’s little things like the news that dwarves (and trolls) will also be able to roll Warlocks, on top of getting Mages and Shamans.  But once you’ve reported that they will be able to, you can’t really do anything with the news until Cata enables it.  Oh, and troll druid cat and bear forms should come with their own UV lights to get the most out of their DayGlo colour schemes.

So.  Back to LotRO and DDO, I guess.  Oh, and all the games I bought on the big Steam sale that’s just finished.  Cata shouldn’t be long, and then everything in Azeroth becomes new and shiny again.  Or at least, recycled.