Battle.Net Nerdrage Part 1

Blizzard recently announced that all WoW accounts must be merged into Battle.Net accounts by November 11th.  Failing to do so will prevent you from playing the game until you do the merge.

Predictably, a wave of nerdrage has taken over the official forums.  The breakdown seems to go something like this:

  • 50% are people complaining just to hear the sound of their own voice
  • 25% are people who can’t be bothered to read the FAQ before complaining
  • 10% are people who think they’re being principled but end up looking childish
  • 10% are trolls
  • the remaining sliver are people who have a legitimate question or concern and articulate it as such

I’ve been using Battle.Net for all of my accounts since April of this year, and I can speak directly to the lies and myths being spread.  This article is going to debunk those myths.  The follow-on article will talk about how to deal with nerdrage when it flares up in your guild (I had hoped to do it all in one, but the debunking alone was nearly 3000 words).

Fire up the Debunkifier

Let’s first hit up the popular myths and lies being spread both on the official forums and various blogs.  And do remember that these are all myths and lies – some born of misunderstanding, most of ignorance, but all untrue.

“Blizzard is springing this on us with no warning!”

Slow down cupcake.  You know how you just scroll through the Terms of Use whenever a new patch is released, never actually reading them?  Well, you screwed yourself this time.  Or rather, you screwed yourself six months ago.  On April 14th 2009, the terms of use were changed to read:

… To access the Service, you will be required to establish a user account on the Service. This may be either an account for the Service only (the “WoW Account”) or an account on Blizzard’s centralized account system for various online games (the “Battle.net Account”). If you do not already have a Battle.net Account that may be extended to WoW, Blizzard may require you to open such Battle.net Account; …

And later on there is a section about what you can do when the terms of use change:

… If any future changes to this Agreement are unacceptable to you or cause you to no longer be in compliance with this Agreement, you may cease to use your World of Warcraft account and terminate the Account in accordance with Section XVII herein. After expiry of one (1) month following the notification the continued use of World of Warcraft by you will mean you accept any and all such changes. …

So you were warned that this was happening six months ago and you had a chance to terminate your subscription.   Even if you had prepaid time, you could have requested that it be refunded due to material changes in the contract.  But you didn’t.  You didn’t read the updated contract, kept on playing past May 14th and in doing so agreed that you would open up a Battle.Net account when Blizzard asked you to.

Blizzard’s Legal Department crits you for over 9000.  You die.

“I’ll have to remember another password”

No, you won’t.  When you merge your WoW account into a Battle.Net account, your WoW password ceases to exist.  When you log into the game, the account management web interface, or the forums, you use your Battle.Net credentials.  The net change in the number of passwords you have to remember is zero.

“Battle.Net is less secure – my friend converted his account and got hacked”

Isn’t anecdotal evidence wonderful?  Statistically speaking, one or two people do not prove a system to be insecure, especially if those people were involved in activity that would have put their traditional WoW account at risk of being hacked.

Battle.Net offers more password protection than the WoW accounts because the mobile authenticator only works with Battle.Net accounts.  The physical key fob works with both Battle.Net and WoW accounts.  While the initial release of the mobile authenticator was only available for iPhone, it is now available for a large number of phones that can run Java applications.  If you have a capable mobile phone, there is no reason not to use the mobile authenticator now.

“Anyone who knows my email address will know my login”

If you choose to use the same email address for your battle.net account as you use to converse with, this is true.  But while your friends may know your email address, they don’t know and can’t guess your password, right?

RIGHT?

Your password should be sufficiently complex that it’s not going to be guessed by someone you send email to.  Or you should get an authenticator and attach it to your account.  Or you should go and sign up for another separate email address.  There are plenty of free web-based email services available.  Try to pick one that lets you forward your email to another account without paying a fee (Gmail is one that does).  That way you can have two email addresses, but you never have to check the second one for messages from Blizzard.

The thing to remember about security is that it should not hinge on something that is easily guessable or searched for.  My corporate email address is on my business cards, in the hands of hundreds of colleagues and clients around the world.  My network login can be derived from that email address, as is the case with many corporate networks.  I am not worried about someone that I’ve given my business card to hacking into my corporate email account because a) I use a strong password and change it regularly and b) the few places that you can attempt to access my company’s network over the public internet require that I use a key-fob authenticator, just like I do to get into WoW.

My company considers the data available via my network login to be important enough to pay €8 a month for me to have an authenticator (seriously, that’s what my cost centre gets charged – /sigh).  Likewise, I consider the data in my WoW account to be more than worth the £6 I paid for the keyfob authenticator.  The software-based one is free if you have an iPhone or iPod touch and something like £0.50 for most of the other mobile phones out there.  If you can run an authenticator, you should be running an authenticator, end of story.  If you can’t, use a strong password and use a different email address.  If that second email address is not similar to your personal one, your Battle.Net account will be just as safe as your WoW one is today.

If you need some hints for generating a complex but remembereable passphrase, I suggest you check out the Diceware method.  You might think that a passphrase like “purl haw owens grime puma”  is hard to remember, but believe me it becomes very easy when you’re using it regularly.

“People who are taking a break will have their account closed after November 11th”

Nope.  They’ll have to do a merge, after which they can play again.  There’s no difference between someone who hasn’t played for three years and comes back in December 09 vs someone who isn’t able to log in until the weekend after November 11th.  They both have to do a merge – the game client is already plastered with such notices, and I’m sure that attempts to log in via the old login will produce a suitable error message directing people to the Battle.Net website.

“If I get banned in WoW I’ll get banned in all Blizzard Games”

The obvious answer to this is “then don’t do things that will get you banned, dumbass!”.  But let’s assume for a minute that people are concerned about being caught up in unusual circumstances and having an account locked by mistake.  I’m sure it happens (though far less than people might suggest on the forums).

Zarhym has stated that this is not the case.  Even if you get banned on one Warcraft account, it doesn’t affect other WoW accounts on your Battle.Net account, let alone other Blizzard games.

But don’t do stuff that can get you banned, OK?

“I need two Battle.Net accounts to multibox”

Again, if you bothered to read the FAQ or talk to anyone who has been on Battle.Net and has multiple accounts, you’d realize that it doesn’t work that way.  For reference, here’s what it looks like if you have two WoW accounts attached to your Battle.Net login.  The first time you log in (or every time if you do not save your login), you get a selection box after entering your password (and authenticator code if you have one):

bnet_wow_firsttime

If you choose to save your details, you can select the account from a dropdown before you enter your password on subsequent logins:

bnet_wow_secondttime

What you should not do is merge two WoW accounts that are used by different people into one Battle.Net account.  If you and your spouse both play on separate WoW accounts, you both need separate Battle.Net accounts.  There’s just one password on a Battle.Net account, so if two people are using the one Battle.Net account that’s account sharing and subject to all the same risks and penalties that sharing the password on a WoW account is.

You should only have more than one WoW account associated to your Battle.Net account if you have two WoW accounts in your name today.  For anyone else, it’s pretty much a one-to-one conversion.

“This is just the first sign that Blizzard is abandoning WoW”

Wait … What?

People should realize that right now Blizzard has multiple authentication systems.  The traditional WoW one, the current Battle.Net, the systems for Diablo 2 and Starcraft.  It takes people to maintain and manage those systems.  By removing one of those systems, Blizzard can re-focus those people on improving Battle.Net and bringing new communication features to all of their games.

“Battle.Net is going to send me spam messages to my phone”

Again, this is completely made up.  I’ve never received anything on my phone from Blizzard, either before or after migrating to Battle.Net.  Blizzard has no vested interest in spamming their customers.  If they did, they’d have been spamming you already, as Battle.Net doesn’t require any more identifying information than WoW itself does.

“If I have four accounts and I try to merge my US and EU WoW accounts onto one Battle.Net account and two of the accounts have the same name, I won’t be able to manage my account via the web!”

Oh, if only had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that complaint.  Anyone?  Maybe it’s just me.

This is an actual issue, though you can probably count on one hand the number of people in the world affected by it.  Initially I moved both my US and EU accounts into one Battle.Net account.  I have four accounts, but only three unique account names.  I could log into WoW with all of them, but I found that the account management website didn’t work properly for the two accounts that have the same name.  The fix was simple, and I have to commend the Blizzard customer service rep in the US for helping me along the way – once we realized what the problem was he removed my US accounts from the Battle.Net account and I created a second Battle.Net account to house them.  I assume that in the future WoW account name uniqueness will be checked globally instead of just within your region, solving this problem.

“People on my Friends List are going to see my real name”

This rumor seems to have come from a screenshot in the Battle.Net panel at Blizzcon 09:

The WoW friends panel in Cataclysm

You can see how some of the names are real.  My understanding is that you’ll have two types of friends in Cataclysm / Starcraft 2 / Diablo 3: in-game friends (which will work exactly like they do in Wow 3.x) and Battle.Net friends.  While you can add anyone to your in-game friends list, letting someone become your Battle.Net friend will require you to approve the request, much like Facebook.  In addition, you will be able to choose a “Real ID” that will be displayed to friends regardless of the character you are on (e.g. Silver in the image above).

I assume your Real ID can be anything, and I also assume that you will have the choice as to whether people see just your Real ID or your real name and Real ID.  I would hope that this can be selectable on a friend-by-friend basis, so that you can easily group up for Starcraft 2 with your WoW arena buddy without exposing your real name, but still let your real-life friends see your name.  If not, that’s still fine – just turn off the option that lets people see your real name and people will get to know you by your Real ID.  I find that people tend to refer to each other by the person’s main character name at the time they met them, even years later when they’re playing a completely different character.  In the same way, you will get to choose your Real ID (I will use Karatheya for example) and build relationships with people using that ID that crosses character and game boundaries.

“Blizzard is going to spy on my PC”

It’s strange that some people seem to be reading the Battle.Net terms of use more closely than they ever read the WoW ones.  Part of the Battle.Net agreement contains the same language that was introduced when Blizzard added the Warden to WoW.  The Warden scans the running programs when you play WoW to look for cheats / hacks / etc.  It’s been doing so for a few years without major issue.  Warden is considered part of the authentication system, so the legalese surrounding it belongs in whatever agreement covers authentication.  With the old login system, that was WoW.  With the new login system, that’s Battle.Net.

For games like Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, there will be no game-specific authentication system, only Battle.Net.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the terms of use for those games when released don’t contain language about scanning for cheats on your PC – just a reference that in addition to the Diablo 3 terms of use, you’re also bound by the Battle.Net terms of use.

This is reorganization of legal terms, not a rights grab.

“I’m going to quit!”

Can I have your stuff?

Blizzard may lose a few thousand customers over this, at the most.  WoW is an addictive game, and most people will not stay away.  Some may quit until Cataclysm comes out, but given that they’ll still have to merge their account at that point, what are they really gaining over doing so now?

If you’re going to stand on principle, then you should have been all over Blizzard back in April when the first hints of this appeared in the updated terms of use.  Righteous indignation based on irrational fear now is a bit silly.

Those who do quit?  I think we’re better off without them.  I don’t think anyone rational can look at this change and truly believe that their rights are being trampled on or that they’re being victimized by Blizzard.  Anyone who truly holds those beliefs is too reactionary for me to want to play with.  Good riddance.

Could It Have Been Done Better?

People may have legitimate reasons to be upset or annoyed about this – the timeframe, the communication, etc.  Many of these things could have been done better.  But it’s Blizzard’s game to run in the manner they see fit.  The industry knows what massive changes can do to a MMO player base (SW:Galaxies New Game Experience for example).  Blizzard isn’t doing this blindly.  Once you navigate through the hyperbole and froth on the forums, this is a relatively benign change that many of us have been happily living with for months.

The Upsides

Free Penguin Pet

If you’re a vanity pet collector, this gets you one closer to whatever goal you’ve set for yourself.  If not, you probably won’t care either way.

Cross-Server Chat

Though we won’t see it until Cataclysm, Battle.Net will allow us to talk to friends between servers.  I’m hoping this will include between regions, letting me talk to my old US guild mates.  This also means that cross-faction chat will be sanctioned for the first time, though one hopes that you will have to approve a friend before they can chat with you in this fashion.  Otherwise, PvP trash talk may ensure even more than it does today.

Cross-Game Chat

When Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 come out, I know that we’re all going to lose a few guildies to it (if not ourselves as well).  Being able to ping them in another game if you need a raid spot replacement will be very helpful.

Nerd Rage

As you can see, most of the complaints people are raising on the forums are based upon a lack of understanding and an unwillingness to ask reasonable questions before jumping into a tirade against Battle.Net.  The same thing will happen in your guild at some point (“Your skill in hyperbole has increased to 450”).   In my next article, I’ll talk about nerdrage in your guild and how you can best deal with it.

Until Next Time

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