Real ID – Killing Immersion In Patch 3.3.5

Real ID: Making stalking more rewarding than ever before

Real ID: Making stalking more rewarding than ever before

As a lot of sites are reporting at the moment, Real ID has hit and will be coming to World of Warcraft very shortly in it’s next patch. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, it’s basically a cross-game chat system that lets you keep in touch with, well, anyone you want to really (provided they’re playing either WoW or Starcraft 2… for now). Initial reaction seems to be quite negative as folk aren’t very keen on the idea of fellow players finding out their real names (Real ID is linked completely to your Human Name and has nothing to do with character name or nickname) or tracking them wherever they go. I don’t blame them.

To me it’s all seems a little strange and unnecessary. Do I really need to be inter-connected with everyone I’ve ever met all of the time? Nope. Just because the Internet is great at facilitating these things doesn’t mean they should. I sometimes feel like I’ve suffering from information overload and that my brain is going to explode if I signed up to another social networking site or hooked myself into another chat system. But then I’m probably being a little over-sensitive to it all and blowing this side of things out of proportion.

The big issue that I do have with Real ID, and what I’m not blowing out of proportion, is that it completely, totally and unequivocally destroys every last drop of immersion left in World of Warcraft. No longer shall my friends be greeting me with calls of “Hail, Kilgour, Mighty Warrior!” but instead I’ll be interrupted by welcomes like “Yo, Gordo! Wassup m8!?”. Fan-freaking-tastic.

I have to wonder if Blizzard are even aware that WoW is being marketed as a massively-multiplayer-roleplaying game. Note the italics on the world roleplay. I don’t play MMORPGs to exist in a virtual world as Gordon, rather I play them to exist as a huge, stonking Warrior who’s going to smack up opponents black and blue and silly-upside-down. I play them to escape from the reality of my normal life and so, for a brief few moments, I can exist as someone else without any worries or concerns. And that’s going to become a lot harder to do when people are constantly viewing me as, well, me and not the avatar that I inhabit. Imagine paying for a bondage BDSM session and referring to your dominatrix as ‘Cindy Smith’ instead of Mistress Guinevere. It’s. Just. Not. The. Same.

Top it all with the fact that this chat system is cross-realm, meaning we can now effectively community between Horde and Alliance players, utterly defeating the point of any sort of faction divide, and we have a mechanic that has done the roleplay quality of WoW a heck of lot of damage. That is, of course, if there was any left to be damaged.

I can understand why Blizzard have added Real ID but the issue is that it’s solved a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Yes, it’s added convenience… but at what price?


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  1. Longasc says:

    A lot of stuff has been said about this already, and I just want to say I do not like it either.

    Does really every game/company/digital publisher have to shove me his very own social network down the throat?

    Besides that, privacy usually goes down the drain as well. It should be left entirely to me if people can see what I am doing at the moment.

    • Psynister says:

      It is left entirely up to you. Don’t give anybody your email address and you’re golden.

      • Longasc says:

        I have taken a look at your promo for Real ID on your blog. It is amazing how you managed to spend so much time on explaining generic add/block/ignore features and concluding that you love this feature and that it is full of win. Oh my! I found the parental control thing very interesting, to say at least something positive.

        That’s not the point. You are about as blind on the social side of the issue as is Blizzard and many users that have no problems to share everything possible on Facebook and similar networks. Privacy settings? Where? I already can see people looking for non-real-id requiring raiding guilds.

        OK. So no real id for me. ON/OFF, nothing in between. Why must my real id be my email address? Is it not a problem for you that your friends will share it with their friends?

        You left the really interesting questions out and I wonder how it comes that you have trouble to communicate with the people you would share your real id with through a ton of other social networks and messengers you probably know and use. You even use a dual monitor setup, I really don’t get it why you need and love Real ID. ICQ, Steam, Raptr, Twitter… works for more than 2 games and hey, they don’t need your “Real ID”.

        • Psynister says:

          No, I really don’t care that my name is shared with friends of friends that I don’t even know. My name’s Jason Griffith, and it’s on my blog for the world to see. The email address that my account’s tied to? Yeah, that’s on the blog for the world to see too. It doesn’t bother me.

          Why does your RID have to be your email address? Because Blizzard said so. If they could use something less “intrusive” then I’d be fine with that as well.

          I don’t have any trouble communicating with people through other networks. I do use a dual monitor set up and I have twitter open on the second one the whole time I’m playing. I don’t use any other social sites or apps, but I do have Twitter up all the time. Why do I need both? Because of all the people I’m RID friends with, barely half of them use Twitter. Of those that doe use twitter, less than half of them use twitter while they’re playing and instead only tweet when they’re bored in game or taking a break for something.

          RID offers conversation options that I don’t get from Twitter. I can pull multiple RID friends into a single conversation window and have a private conversation with just those involved. No direct messages, no using a 3rd party site/app to do it, and we don’t have to leave the game to do it.

          It’s like you’re asking me why I want cheese on my burger when I can just have a slice of cheese on the side instead. I don’t want just a single slice of cheese on my plate, and I don’t just want it on my burger. I want the side of cheese, I want it on my burger, and I want it on my salad too. My appetizer is probably going to have cheese on it too. Why do I need all that cheese? I don’t need it at all, I just happen to love cheese. And I love my cheese like I love my socializing, various flavors and varieties but in the end all melted together.

          Why do I need it? I don’t. Why do I love it? Because of what it allows me to do in the game and who it allows me to interact with that I can’t reach through other means. People broadcast messages on RID that they wouldn’t otherwise bother with on sites such as Twitter or Facebook because they’d be considered worthless spam there. Being able to chat with my buddy on another server about how he’s handling a situation right now in game when I’m in the same spot but different server is great.

  2. Psynister says:

    That’s only assuming you give your Real ID info to everyone you meet.

    Am I using RID? You’re dang skippy I’m using it! But am I going to give it to everybody? Not at all.

    That being said, I’m handing it out like candy on Halloween when it comes to Twitter and my blog because for the most part none of those people are on my server, and of those that are they already know who I am and can contact me easily enough anyway.

    As an officer I have shared my RID with my fellow officers and GM so that I can be reached when something critical comes up, but for the average person that I play with? Bah, they can /who me or /join Twitter if they want to find me.

    My guild has a sister guild on the same server, op-faction, so it gives us an easier way to communicate raid times or impromptu gatherings or events of whatever type we happen to be doing.

    I don’t need another communication system for my server, but I fully embrace cross server and cross faction communication channels. Real ID is amazing, Gordo! ;)

    But, immersion also means next to nothing for me. I don’t play for the story, and I think the whole Ally vs. Horde thing died the second Shatt was put into the game. Move on to Northrend where we’re actually teaming up to take on Papa Arthas and it’s completely obliterated. Either we’re at war, or we’re not. And we haven’t been for a very long time now.

    As long as the game is entertaining, has a sense of progression, is rewarding in more ways than simply wasting time, provides social interaction, and lets me kill things then it’s all good. Real ID only helps to improve all of that for me.

    • Tesh says:

      I’m with you on the crossfaction chat. Whatever rationale was behind the initial implementation of the limitations, things have changed. The *War* has changed.

    • Gordon says:

      I will probably end up using it with my brother but I don’t think I’d use it with anyone else. The friends system is good enough for me :)

    • Dàchéng says:

      Actually, Psynister, the game doesn’t let you kill things. You’re tapping keys on the computer. It is your sense of immersion in the game world that lets you believe that you’re killing things; so when you say that immersion means next to nothing to you, well, I think you’re exaggerating a little. That suspension of disbelief is what immersion brings, and when it ceases, you are just clicking buttons in a dark room while the sun shines outside.

      • Gordon says:

        Very, very well said Dacheng!

      • Psynister says:

        Actually, I click keys in a bright room while the sun is down and every business in my little Texas town is closed except for convenience stores.

        When I say immersion means next to nothing to me, I mean exactly that. Gordon said having this communication kills immersion and that’s the topic here. I’m the one clicking the buttons to tell that little avatar to kill things, and I’m the one using the RID feature; the two aren’t separate for me because I’m not immersed in the game where I’m no longer me. I don’t become my characters, I just play my game. Am I engaged with the playing? Yes. Am I immersed in it? Not really.

  3. Pitrelli says:

    hmm I am one of the folks who dont see the big deal in this……. only because (as far as Im aware) you have to actually opt in i.e. accept a friends request for it to effect you personally.

    So yeah I can see why people are against it but unless you are forced to do it then I honestly dont see the harm, if anything its just adding a bit more utility for users who want to use it, my one worry would be that guild leaders or raid leaders will make it mandatory and therefore force it on to players.

    • Psynister says:

      I’d gquit the day they put that rule into effect, and I’m in full support of Real ID.

      For matters of security, I can see guild requirements. Case in point: no gbank access w/o an authenticator. Perfectly understandable if you ask me. But requiring something like this is total BS in my book.

      And yes, it’s completely optional. You can even completely remove the ability for Real ID to even be a part of your game or your interface by turning the Real ID option off in your Parental Controls settings. If you do that then even if someone does know your email address, if they try to send you an invite it will tell them that the player doesn’t exist.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, ultimately, it is optional so it’s not that huge of a deal. I guess it does show how MMOs are changing though and becoming more about the instant social aspects of gaming and less about long term roleplay immersion.

  4. Pitrelli says:

    also I’d like to add I agree with Psynister about faction vs faction and shared cities destroying the war between the two, Blizzard themselves have admitted they perhaps made a mistake with both Shatt and Dala and arent planning on a shared city in Cataclysm so hopefully we will see some of the hate return and with it some world PvP.

    • Psynister says:

      No shared city in Cat? It’s about freaking time!

      Any chance Deathwing can do us a favor and destroy Shat/Dal while he’s doing the rest of the world?

      • Pitrelli says:

        I didnt actually think Shatt was too bad, maybe because of the weird design and the fact i didnt spend a lot of time at max level in TBC.

        Im pretty sure TBC will remain untouched (cause its safe through the portal) however it will be interesting to see what they do with dalaran if anything.

    • Gordon says:

      Unfortunatley by allowing people to use Real ID cross realm they’re kinda killing the point of the faction divide in itself! It’s the one move I can’t really understand.

  5. Larísa says:

    Yeah, the immersion breaking aspect has been in my mind as well. But on the other hand: it’s optional. And I’ve read about people worrying that guilds will require it, but come on, I haven’t yet heard a single guild actually saying that they will. It’s so easily avoidable. Just don’t leave out your address – problem solved. If others want to break their immersion chatting away doing the social-babble-nonsense that loners like me just don’t understand, well it’s up to them, isn’t it? Doesn’t harm my gameplay in any way whatsoever.
    Can’t really understand why so many seem to be upset. Or maybe they aren’t for real, but rather enjoying the writing excersise of angry ranting?

    • Gordon says:

      “Or maybe they aren’t for real, but rather enjoying the writing excersise of angry ranting?”

      Hehe, life wouldn’t be as fun or interesting if we didn’t find things to rant and complain about on blogs :D

  6. Crabs says:

    “Imagine paying for a bondage BDSM session and referring to your dominatrix as ‘Cindy Smith’ instead of Mistress Guinevere. It’s. Just. Not. The. Same.”

    lmao that just made my morning. top form sir, top form

  7. Klepsacovic says:

    I’m entirely opposed to it. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s talking with people. I’m a bit of a reclusive shut-in.

    More seriously, I dislike it because of privacy concerns and as you’ve said, the total wrecking of immersion. It’s bad enough having people argue about politics in trade chat, but at least with that they’re factually inaccurate enough that it COULD be Azerothian.

  8. I’d be willing to argue that WoW had lacked immersion for a long time. The only people I really talk to in game anymore know me by my real name. I don’t have people say, “Hey, Lesser” when I log on. Instead, I get “Sup, Beej?” That doesn’t bother me.

    In UO, it did. I hated when my friends called me B.J. in UO. But these days, I prefer to be “me behind an avatar” rather than just being my avatar. And since Real ID is optional, I don’t see the problem. If I don’t want someone to know me as B.J., they won’t. I’ll still be Lesserheal to them. I can be both immersed and connected in my mind.

  9. kaozz says:

    Very well put. I’m not a fan of it at all currently. I didn’t think of the cross faction communication… yeah you have a point there!

  10. Stabs says:

    I’m confident Blizzard won’t really screw the game. What does concern me is the trend. Just like cash shops paved the way for sparkle ponies and f2p Lotro the trend here is towards less anonymity.

    At some point in the future I’m half-expecting to have to buy a separate computer to run my false name games on. Then they can spyware the hell out of what I’m doing and it won’t access anything too personal. Senor “Smith”, coming to a pug near you soon!

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe yeah. I’m very much considering setting up a new email account just for WoW. I’m not sure I like it all being linked to my proper one anymore. Apart from anything, it’s becoming even easier to hack!

  11. nugget says:


    Richard Bartle wrote some stuff extremely similar to what you did up there – only in the context of voice chat in MMORPGs.

    I don’t have the exact link on hand anymore. :( But I do remember he got ’shouted’ down as being too old, too out of touch, too to count.

    I remember it clearly because I shared his sentiments. I feel that voice chat takes away more than it gives. That with voice chat, and without extremely advanced voice changing options, the ability to really sink into being *someone else* is taken away.

    As someone with a MUD background, I can appreciate that. But people who come fresh to MMORPGs, without ever having the option of being able to build extremely rich alternate identities… they lose things without ever knowing what it is that they’ve lost.

    And so… I find it amusing that RIDs are ‘lack of immersion’, but voice chat isn’t. I don’t disagree with you, by any means… but I do have a feeling that some of those who held that Bartle was out of it for his view on voice chat… would also object to RIDs for their linking of the game-world to the physical one.

    Rambly nugget is rambly. :( Again. Sowwy!

    • Gordon says:

      I was against voice chat for a long, long time and, in fact, I still kinda am. I can see the benefits of voice chat and it has allowed me to get to know fellow players more as people than as avatars but it is a shame that it’s removed that veil of immersion and mystery. It’s also a lot harder for me to roleplay an Ogre’s voice over Skype than it is to type in one :)

  12. Scott McMillin says:

    I don’t believe that anonymity is necessary for immersion (which you appear to define as “escap[ing] from the reality of [your] normal life”) or roleplaying.

    In fact, before the advent of CRPGs, roleplaying was something that was done in real life with real people who you knew sitting around a table, rolling dice and telling stories. It’s still done that way by many people all over the world, and I think many of those tabletop roleplayers would say they do it to “escape from the reality of their normal lives” too.

    Now, I totally understand the desire to retain your anonymity — to keep your gaming life in WoW separate from your real life. The reasons for that are numerous. I’m just not convinced by the argument that immersion and roleplaying are “completely, totally and unequivocally destroyed” by RealID, especially since it’s voluntary.

  13. Joe Osborne says:

    While I totally agree with you, I don’t really see this as an issue for one reason. Immersion in WoW was killed for me long before Real ID. This goes for just about every MMO: it’s the complexity of the UI that kills immersion.

    Yes, we’re in Azeroth — under seven layers of chat boxes, health and mana pools and ability bars. Not to mention yellow text literally appearing on the outermost layer of the camera to tell me, “Hey! That dragon is about to breathe fire!”

    Is it poor game design? No, not really. Just a limitation of the technology we currently have. No one really has figured out how to communicate such complexity without a clunky UI (let’s be honest, any UI that interrupts the intended experience is clunky).

    So, if I want to chat with my best friend who happens to be commanding the Terran army while I’m healing my comrades as we battle Halion, I think I can suspend my disbelief just a little bit further. I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say that the previous sentence is what has kept us around MMOs for nearly 20 years.

    • Gordon says:

      I think a lot of the immersion factor is a game design issue and something that has change over the years. I certainly felt a lot more immersed in Everquest than I do in WoW or any other current MMO.

  14. boatorious says:

    Why all the fuss when it’s an optional feature? This is something I’ve never really grasped about this or the remote AH or the paid mount.

    I mean, I would agree with people that they were bad if I couldn’t opt out. I have little interest in my fellow players knowing my name and game-related whereabouts, or paying for a remote AH, or paying for a mount. They would hamper, rather than enhance, my gaming experience. So I don’t _do_ those things. That seems like it should be the end of it, but I guess it’s not.

    • Gordon says:

      I agree it’s not really the end of the world :) There’s nothing wrong or terrible going on here and I’ll be moving forward with my life as if nothing has changed. Still, it’s fun to chat about in the moment :D

  15. Numtini says:

    I’m sorry, is there some immersion that wasn’t killed by random anonymous cross server dungeons where nobody talks because it’s assumed you’re 200% geared and the encounter is trivial?

    My guess is that Bliz is in a long term strategy to do away with servers and the entire MMO shared world concept in favor of something like Guild Wars that’s 100% instanced. Except you can bet that there will be a subscription fee. This contributes because you will need a way to find friends that doesn’t rely on whatever character and game lobby you’re in at the moment.

    • Gordon says:

      “I’m sorry, is there some immersion that wasn’t killed by random anonymous cross server dungeons where nobody talks because it’s assumed you’re 200% geared and the encounter is trivial? ”

      Indeed, it’s probably all gone already. This is just another nail in the coffin I guess.

  16. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    Do people really know what they are complaining about here? Ok, so I can understand about Real ID using your real name being off putting, it was for me at first too. But it’s my understanding that your email is needed in order for someone to send you a Real ID request and as far as I know it’s just a cross server/game friends list. If there is more to it than I would love to know.

    More power to those who still feel some immersion in the world of Warcraft, but for me any immersion died out long, I just continue to play because I enjoy the game.

    • Gordon says:

      I feel sad for WoW’s lack of immersion. In fact, I feel sad for that in all MMOs because I feel less and less like I’m escaping into a virtual world and more and more like I’m just playing arcade console games.

  17. On the one hand, it doesn’t really bother me. I liked being able to communicate with my friends across factions and even across games when I played Star Trek Online, for example. It didn’t matter if they were on the Klingon side or in Champions Online, getting a hold of them was a snap. Yeah, in a way I can see it breaking immersion, but I can easily block that out. What does bug me a little bit is that I can’t hide on an alt anymore! I love my guild and I love my in-game friends, but a girl’s gotta have some privacy every now and then, you know? I’ve made “secret” alts in the past before to escape, and that’s going to be harder now. Oh, I also think that new “tell your friends what you’re up to now!” feature a la Facebook is horrid. That’s what I take issue with more than anything :P

  18. [...] except for the the little moments of schadenfreude. Which is exactly what Gordon’s post on WoW’s 3.3.5 patch is. Man, I’m sorta glad I’m not playing that game – to a completely ignorant and [...]

  19. SeriouslyAngry says:

    To show Activision-Blizzard’s contempt for those who value their privacy:

    Some of us actually still value our privacy – it is our right, and the above link shows how truly nasty, vile, corrupt, and arrogant this company has become – clearly they feel no need for any semblance of diplomacy or neutrality, or at least appropriate silence – and blatantly flaunt their actions by outright making fun of those who are against this new travesty.

    It is time people woke up to their addiction and began questioning these people, instead of fawning all over them and accepting everything they do. Unfortunately most will continue on oblivious, while here and there some will suffer the consequences.

  20. [...] for the nearest exit. That was until today when Dàchéng (blogger of The Dàchéng Diaries) made a very poignant and powerful comment on the subject in my post moaning about Real ID: “…It is your sense of immersion in the [...]

  21. [...] are remedies to this situation though that I think are worth exploring. Real ID, although I have my issues with it, does actually got a long way towards solving the problem of being friends with someone on another [...]

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