You got questions about Blizzard's Real ID system and privacy issues? We've got answers, in a Q&A issued by the company covering everything from Facebook integration to World of Warcraft plugins designed to steal your info.
Now that the dust has settled over Blizzard's discarded plans to use players' real names in the World of Warcraft and StarCraft II forums, the company has posted a Q&A covering its present and future plans for Real ID.
The main news to take out of the Q&A is the fact that Blizzard does plan on allowing players to opt-out of being displayed on the Real ID friends of friends list in the future, the company is working towards making sure third-party add-ons can't steal your information, and Blizzard is still working out possible solutions to add accountability to the World of Warcraft forums without letting everyone know your first and last name.
The following Q&A is reprinted from materials sent to us by Blizzard:
Q: Do you have any plans to allow players to not show their real name to friends of friends while using the Real ID system?
A: As with any new feature we add to our games, we've been evaluating how Real ID has been used since its release to identify new functionality that would help improve our players' experience. The in-game Real ID "friends of friends" list is designed to give players a convenient way to populate their Real ID friends list with other players they know and trust in real life, allowing them to quickly and easily send Real ID friend requests to these people without having to enter their Battle.net® account names. However, we recognize that some players would prefer not to be displayed on friends lists in this fashion, so we plan to include an option that will allow players to opt out of appearing on their Real ID friends' "friends of friends" lists. We're anticipating this feature to be available for StarCraft II shortly after release of the game, and World of Warcraft at around the same time — we'll have more information for you in the coming weeks.
Q: What are your plans for Facebook integration?
A: With regard to Facebook, our goal is to help Blizzard gamers on Battle.net more easily connect to their real-life friends and family. For the launch of StarCraft II, we are introducing an optional Facebook friend finder feature to help achieve this goal. The friend finder enables players who decide to use it to easily populate their Battle.net friends list by sending Real ID friend requests to the people on their Facebook friends list who have Battle.net accounts. We hope players will find this feature convenient, but it's completely optional. In the long term, we hope to give players who use Facebook some fun, and also optional, ways to share what they're doing in Blizzard games with their friends, similar to the optional World of Warcraft Armory integration now available, but we don't have any specific plans to share at present.
Q: How does the friend finder in StarCraft II work? What's sent to Facebook?
A: When you use the Add a Friend feature in StarCraft II, one of the options you'll see is to search your Facebook friends list for people who also have Battle.net accounts in order to quickly send them Real ID friend requests. When you click this button, you'll be asked to enter your Facebook login information, and you'll then see a list of your Facebook friends who also have Battle.net accounts. You'll then have the option to send any of these Facebook friends a Real ID friend request in-game. (Keep in mind that for someone to appear on the list, their Battle.net account email address must match their Facebook email address. In addition, you'll see the names of any Facebook friends who have registered Battle.net accounts, regardless of whether they have Blizzard games attached to their account or just, for example, created the Battle.net account to make a purchase on the online Blizzard Store.)
It's important to note that Blizzard Entertainment does not share any personal information with Facebook as part of this process. Keep in mind that as with other Real ID features such as the "friends of friends" list, our goal with the friend finder feature is to create convenient options to help players easily find people they know in real life on Battle.net without having to remember email addresses or account names. We hope players will find the feature easy to use and convenient.
Q: How can I prevent World of Warcraft add-ons from accessing Real ID first and last names without my knowledge?
A: As always, we recommend that you get your UI add-ons through reliable sources. It's important to note that without installing a UI add-on specifically designed to retrieve that information, there's no risk of it being accessed. On our end, we're looking into the issue and are at work on some changes that we can make to help protect against these types of add-ons. We'll provide further details as soon as we have more information to share.
Q: Are you secretly trying to build a social gaming platform with the new Battle.net?
A: It's no secret — as we've discussed openly since we first started sharing our plans about the new Battle.net, one of our goals is for it to serve as a social gaming service for Blizzard gamers. This was a deliberate and open design decision, driven 100% by the desire to create an even better online experience for our players by giving them powerful tools to compete with and stay connected to their real-life friends and family.
Q: If my account was compromised, what information about my Real ID friends would a hacker have access to?
A: We take account security very seriously, and we offer a number of ways to help players keep their account secure, including the Battle.net Authenticator and the free Battle.net Mobile Authenticator app, available for a wide range of mobile devices. Aside from your friends' first and last names, no other personal information is shared through the in-game Real ID system.
Q: What's a StarCraft II "character code"?
A: When you first log in to StarCraft II, you're prompted to choose a single character name. This is the only name you'll use on Battle.net, and it's tied to your StarCraft II license. In order to allow players to select any name they wish regardless of whether another player is already using the same name, we then generate and assign a three-digit character code that uniquely identifies the player. When posting on the forums of the new StarCraft II community site, players will be posting using their StarCraft II character name and character code.
Q: Will the new StarCraft II forum posting name format (character name + character code) carry over into the forum communities of other Blizzard games?
A: Following our recent decision to no longer use real first and last names on Blizzard forums, we're still evaluating how we'll move forward with our other forums. Our ultimate goal is still to promote constructive conversations and improve the overall forum experience for our players, and we think increasing accountability is an important part of achieving that. StarCraft II already uses a character name and character code combo in-game, which serves as a unique player identifier and fits well with our goal for the forums. World of Warcraft handles player identification differently, so we still need to determine whether adding a character code system like in StarCraft II is the best solution. Ultimately, we want to come up with a system that makes sense for each community and fits our long-term vision for the forums.
Q: Are there any plans to change the in-game Real ID system so that players will have the option to display an assigned user name instead of their real names?
A: The Real ID system is designed to help real-life friends and family who decide to use it keep in touch with each other across Blizzard games, and our goal in using real names is to ensure that players will be able to maintain long-term, meaningful relationships on the service for years to come. One way it helps make that happen is by eliminating the need to remember who, for example, "Thrall123" really is when you see him or her pop up on your friends list again after months — or years — of being offline. Ultimately, we think this is the best way to ensure players who use Real ID are able stay connected with the people they enjoy playing with most in the long-term, and we don't currently have any plans to change the system so it can be used with character names or alternate handles instead. That said, Battle.net is a living, breathing service that we will continue to evolve over time as we evaluate how players are using it and identify new ways to improve the experience.
Q: What plans are there to improve moderation since the use of real names on the forums has been changed?
A: Our new community sites' forums, beginning with the StarCraft II site, will have an improved moderation system as well as a post-rating system which will help our players promote the conversations they find the most constructive, as well as help forum moderators identify quality discussions. This, coupled with the unique StarCraft II character name and code, will help us to create a more positive atmosphere based on community interaction and accountability.