Today Blizzard announced some highly controversial changes to the format of the Official Forums. Players will post using their Battle.net RealID account (as usual) however the actual name attached to the account will be displayed alongside a character name.
This is a controversial proposal for obvious reasons; many players don't want their real name shared with everyone that reads a thread they post in. In this day and age someone's name can be used to find out a massive amount of information using just basic searches. Do you really want people finding out where you live due to information displayed when you post on a video game forum?
Here's the official announcement:
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 were making, and give you a first look at some of the new features were 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.
The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they havent been connected before. With this change, youll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.
We also plan to add a number of other features designed to make reading the forums more enjoyable and to empower players with tools to improve the quality of forum discussions. Players will have the ability to rate up or rate down posts so that great topics and replies stand out from the not-so-great; low-rated posts will appear dimmer to show that the community feels that they dont contribute effectively to the conversation, and Blizzards community team will be able to quickly and easily locate highly rated posts to participate in or to highlight discussions that players find worthwhile.
In addition, individual topics will be threaded by context, meaning replies to specific posts will be grouped together, making it easier for players to keep track of multiple conversations within a thread. Were also adding a way for Blizzard posters to broadcast important messages forums-wide , to help communicate breaking news to the community in a clear and timely fashion. Beyond that, were improving our forum search function to make locating interesting topics easier and help lower the number of redundant threads, and we have more planned as well.
With the launch of the new Battle.net, its important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment -- one thats highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID -- including these forum changes -- have been made with this goal in mind.
Weve given a great deal of consideration to the design of Real ID as a company, as gamers, and as enthusiastic users of the various online-gaming, communication, and social-networking services that have become available in recent years. As these services have become more and more popular, gamers have become part of an increasingly connected and intimate global community friendships are much more easily forged across long distances, and at conventions like PAX or our own BlizzCon, weve seen first-hand how gamers who may have never actually met in person have formed meaningful real-life relationships across borders and oceans. As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure Battle.net is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come.
For more info on Real ID, check out our Real ID page and FAQ located at http://www.battle.net/realid/ . We look forward to answering your questions about these upcoming forum changes in the thread below.
There's certainly a valid argument to be made about the negative effects of anonymous posting. However, this may not be the best solution to the problem. I was expecting a change more along the lines of being able to see all characters attached to the account of a poster by clicking their name. Giving out personal information about players is in my personal opinion crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed.
This brings up an issue that I'd been discussing with friends since the RealID system was first announced which is the difference between 'friends' and 'e-friends'. I think there's a real difference between people that you know in real life or communicate with outside of games. Friends in game might not be people that you'd be friends with otherwise, particularly in MMORPGs. MMOs are dependent on social networking in order to complete in-game objectives so you're naturally going to gravitate towards players with goals that are similar to yours. This can be the basis of great in-game friendships but that doesn't necessarily mean that you want them knowing personal details about your life.
This drive to turn RealID and the Battle.net network into a type of pseudo-facebook network is in my opinion a fundamental misreading of the nature of the 'e-friend' relationship. It's great being able to communicate easily through your in-game avatars and pseudonyms but people play RPGs to leave the real world behind. There's no need to bring personal information into it.
That's just my opinion! If you've got a better one head to the forums and let us know.