Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘Battle Tags’

Invisible Option Arrives For Battle.Net, This Mage Rejoices!

Because sometimes you want to have a stag dance party in front of the bank, and sometimes you don’t want anyone to know you’re online.

Back in May when Diablo came out, I wrote a post  bemoaning the lack of an “Invisible” feature on Battle Net. Well, today I arrive with good news: They are going to be implementing an invisible feature for Battle.Net!

I’ve still seen a certain amount of naysaying or people who seem unhappy that this is a feature they are going to implement. First of all, I think it’s important to look at context. Most major chat programs have had this feature for the entirety of my time on the internet. I was using ICQ (I Seek You, remember, ahah) in 1996 or 1997. I can’t remember which, but my original number was seven digits. This is an invitation for all ICQ e-peeners to tell me that THEIR number was in fact only FIVE digits or less! (Vosskah does this every time ICQ is mentioned). Anyway, ICQ had an option with the little invisible flower face. You could see friends that were online and even message them, but you yourself appeared offline. Which was great, because there’s always that one person who is going to message you as soon as they see you come online. You don’t like them, you’re fine with them, you just don’t always want to talk. Or maybe you only want to talk to one specific person and you just want to check and see if they are online. Whatever your motivations, I think it’s important to make this really clear:

You are never, ever entitled to demand someone’s attention in this context. No one is obligated to talk to you. No one needs to sacrifice their privacy on the altar of constant availability. So that’s the first thing. Invisible modes are awesome because they give us more choice, and we like more choice. If I want to pursue a solo activity, I can do that. That doesn’t mean I’m avoiding the “MMO” nature of WoW. Let’s say, for example, I want to go outside for a walk by myself. I may meet people on my walk. That’s fine. The world has people in it, almost all of whom are not me. Likewise, I may sometimes want to play WoW in a way that isn’t specifically group-oriented, such as farming herbs, exploring, or just doing whatever I want. A friend was telling me yesterday that people message him when he is in BGs. People message me when I am on my bank alt. I don’t want to have to put up a status every single time: “THIS IS MY BANK ALT,” because even that clue might not be enough for some. They don’t necessarily understand that “bank alt” to me is synonymous with “I don’t want to chat right now.” Because banking is a solitary activity for me. It may not be one for you. So you can stay online with nary a care in the world! If you want to focus completely on what you’re doing, you can do that.

Other people might argue, “Well obviously you have rude/inconsiderate/oblivious people on your list. Just take them off.” No! It’s not some angry, Real ID grudge match. I don’t have anyone on my list I don’t like or who isn’t a friend. But just because I like you doesn’t mean I always want to talk to you. If you’re like me, it’s really hard to say ‘no’ or hurt someone’s feelings if they have missed already obvious signs. Perhaps this is just an introvert thing, but I like having a bit more control over this. What makes me laugh is the assertion that because this feature is introduced, no one will ever be online. I suppose I can eat my hat if this turns out to be true, but I’d be really, really surprised.

Most of us are playing an MMO because we do like people. We have friends on our Battle Net list because we like those people especially. Sometimes wanting to be incognito doesn’t invalidate any of those things. I anticipate I’ll use the invisible feature probably in the neighbourhood of 5% of the time. 5% of the time I am banking. Many of my solitary activities include being online and in-guild chatting anyway, so they aren’t that solitary, and I’d be unlikely to use this feature for those times. If I want to make an alt on an RP server or “tour” to an RP server and enjoy that style of gameplay for awhile, I might be inclined to go invisible at those times. I’m a little bit shy about RP (also incredibly out of practice and have few friends who do it) so I don’t know if I’d even do this but at least I will have the option to do so. There may also, I admit, be the odd time when I just plain don’t want to talk to anyone and I might be off-line those times. If I feel that way, it’s okay. If I have friends who are off-line sometimes (but actually online) I’m not going to take it personally. I think that someone who is always invisible is going to be the rare exception to those of us who want to be able to narrow and widen our availability and focus depending on the circumstance and our feelings and mood.

Kudos to Blizzard for hearing us on this one. Battle.Net is slowly shaping up to be the kind of service I enjoy using. Cross-realm grouping, Battle Tags (instead of real names), and now finally an Invisible mode! I may think that it should have started out closer to its current incarnations (screen names from day one, with an invisible option from day one) but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth here. When a company actually makes changes based on feedback it gets from customers, it makes me feel validated and listened to. It makes me happy. I won’t use this feature all the time. But when I do, I will be thrilled that it exists!

Solitude and the Advent of Battle Tags

I was a pretty late adopter of cell phones. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and phones at the time were just that – a bit big and clunky, nothing like the smart phones of today. They didn’t have games or any other distractions. I finally gave in to the cell phone trend when I moved away from home to go to college. My Mom insisted I needed one since I was moving to a larger city, as a safety measure. I got a “Pay as you go” type and hardly ever used the minutes on it.

Moving to the city was in itself a transition for me. I came from a town of about 70,000 people and moved to my city just as it was marking its millionth citizen. It’s not the biggest city, but it was a pretty large adjustment! As I made my way around my new city, exploring the downtown, taking the train and the buses, I was struck by a feeling: No one knew where I was. This wasn’t a scary realization, rather, it was liberating. In my old town, you couldn’t go to the grocery store without running into at least three people that you knew. This used to drive me crazy, especially because my mother worked at a school and knew hundreds of kids and their parents. It used to irritate me because I just wanted to go through the cereal aisle or whatever without having to always stop and chat. In my new city where I knew so few people, I could have a coffee, go draw in the botanical gardens, spend hours wandering around on my own and no one would bother me. I loved it.

I still carried my cell phone with me. But my distaste for it was driven home after an altercation with my father. Frustrated that he couldn’t reach me, he complained: “You never answer your cell phone! What’s the point of even having it?” I told him in no uncertain terms that I had a phone for emergencies and in case I needed to reach anyone. It was not a guaranteed way to get in touch with me. I wasn’t going to be at anyone’s beck and call. This was over ten years ago, mind you. Since I first reluctantly brought my clunky phone in my purse, smart phones and constant internet access have become an expectation. Twitter, e-mail, text messages, Facebook messages, instant messages and cell phones give people almost immediate access to each other. The introduction of Real ID into the Blizzard family of games lets you play with all of your friends – and don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic. But there are a few drawbacks.

The stoic refusal to introduce an invisible mode into Real ID (and now, I assume, Battle Tags within Diablo) has been a constant thorn in my side. Like when I first explored the city unattached, sometimes I want to play a game without someone knowing where I am. Suppose I wanted to roleplay on another server for awhile – all of my Real ID friends can see my character name, server, and zone. If I want to login to my bank alt and just spend some time auctioning, everyone can see that too. Even if I just want to make a silly lowbie alt and play quietly by myself, I can’t do that. I’m far from the first person to bemoan the lack of an “invisible” mode with Real ID. The counter-argument is, “Why are you playing an MMO if you don’t want to talk to people? Just don’t use Real ID if you don’t want anyone to bother you.” But that seems really ridiculous to me, and overly simplistic. A person might go to a coffee shop by themselves in real life and read a book or just sit. It’s not expected that anyone will just walk up and sit at their table and talk to them. “But why did you go to a coffee shop if you didn’t want to talk to people?”At another time, you go to a coffee shop with a friend to chat and catch up over a hot drink. You shouldn’t have to choose that you ALWAYS want to go for coffee only with friends, or that you always want to go for coffee always alone. If it wasn’t for Real ID, I wouldn’t be able to run five-mans and raids with friends from other servers and factions. I love Real ID. But there are times when I also hate it.

Because solitude doesn’t necessarily have to be anti-social. There should be room for stillness in every day life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes. I really struggle with this because I get messaged a lot in Real ID. And the people I have in Real ID are my friends, so it’s not that I don’t want them there. But sometimes I just don’t feel like talking – and this even applies in real life. Voss knows more than anything, because he is more extroverted than I am. Sometimes I’ll be reading something quietly and he’ll be talking to me and after a few minutes of “Mmhm,” or me not responding he’ll say wryly, “You’re ‘peopled’ out, aren’t you?” He’s usually right. Being social takes energy from me. It’s possible to overdose on it. At those times, I really wish that Real ID had an invisible feature. It’s possible to manage your status with “Busy,” and “Away,” but that requires that people pay attention to your status and also respect it. It can be hard to tell a friend, “I just don’t feel like talking now,” without hurting their feelings or making it seem as if it’s something to do with them.

Now that I’m adding Battle Tags in Diablo III, it’s my understanding that the tags will carry over to the Real ID system in WoW, and I’ll be honest, I’m wary. I’m not quite sure why I need to be able to connect to Battle.net to be able to just play Diablo by myself (as sometimes, I am going to want to do just that). Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to be able to play with a wider range of people than I had available to me on Real ID. I’ve met so many great folks via blogging and Twitter that I’d love to game with. But if I have you on either of those systems, don’t be surprised if someday I’m set to busy and I don’t respond to your messages, or I don’t tweet back at you right away, or immediately answer your e-mails. Sometimes I may deliberately let my phone go to voice mail, close my Twitter client, and sit quietly by myself. Since the days when I played Super Mario Brothers and Bubble Bobble, gaming has been an escape for me. I could sit for hours and play – and sometimes I’d play for hours with my Mom or a friend, too! I love shared gaming experiences, and I love solitary ones. With our current expectations of connectivity, it can seem radical or selfish to say “I’m not available at the moment,” but trust me – sometimes everyone needs a little space to get lost in the world, virtual or otherwise. Diablo III seems like it’ll be a blast to play with other people, and also solo. I promise to respect your “Busy” tag if you’ll respect mine, since it doesn’t seem like invisibility is on the horizon anytime soon.

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