Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rant Day: Blizzard, Usernames, and Authenticators Oh My!

I cannot tell you how much I have debated on doing a post about this. At first I was going to link a well known blogger who had come out and was feeling some unpleasant vibes towards Blizzard's announcement regarding all WoW accounts having to be linked to a Battle.net account. However, I got sick and it has been forever and a day since that post and to my surprise people are still ranting about this announcement. So what better day to discuss all of this than on my very own Rant Day? I am going to try to take this in a section by section look at things, but before I do this I just want to let everyone know that this is a good thing regardless of all the negative press (I guess bloggers could be considered press in a way) that this has received. I also want to say that I have not been payed for my viewpoints and there has been no incentive given to me from any organizations, but rather this is my own opinion based upon personal work experience, game experience, and one very large opinionated personality. You have been warned.

So how do I plan to back up my statement that this is a good thing? Honestly, there are a lot of reasons that I can say that this is a good thing, but the number one reason I am going to go with is that it will help secure our accounts much better. You have to be open-minded to this concept though. Set aside all of your complaints and worries. Trust me I understand that people do not like change. Wars are fought over difference of opinions because people will not look at both sides of the situation or simply because this is the way it has always been. The later is what applies to this situation with WoW and Battle.net. Most players have never played another Blizzard game and therefor the only thing they associate WoW with, is their WoW account name. However, Battle.net has been out much longer which means that it has been under the microscope (so to say) much longer than the WoW log in screen. Blizzard has even stated that this move is for the security of the accounts. Haven't many players screamed that Blizzard should do something to make sure that their account is not hacked again? Even though when we look at the root of the hack, it is typically from lack of security on the system, having bought gold, having power leveled, having bought someone else's account, or having shared their own information with a friend?

Now one could argue that they take care of their system and have never been hacked. I could even argue that point as I have never had my account hacked. I run daily checks on my system. I keep my network secured. I even run two seperate networks in my house. I use one for our systems that we run WoW on and the other for the rest of the house to use. My old account name was rather hard to figure out for most people. My password was alpha-numeric, meaning that it contained both numbers and letters. However, the flip side is that the particular name/password combination is used for multiple different things in my life. This means that I have a higher risk of having someone stumble upon my information and could then steal my identity. I could go a step farther and say that I rarely search the internet on this system, since I also use it to pay bills and access personal finance information, thus lowering my chances of clicking on a banner/add where there could be some malicious software (aka key loggers and viruses). So why would I then feel that being forced to merge with Battle.net would be a good thing? I mean it sounds like I am a pretty secure guy, right? This is true for all of the time that I am here at home with my computer system. However, I work ten hour days with a fifteen minute commute each way. I am married with a child, so you know I have to run errands and make trips for the needs of the family. This is all time I am away from my computer. During this time another member of my household could easily log onto my system and go to a site that could easily infect my system and thus gather my access information. You see that we can never be 100% sure that our systems are 100% safe.

Another point to remember is that even though we do as much as we can to safeguard our systems, hackers are constantly working to develop new software that can easily beat the best programs out there. Consider that most computer engineers who work on systems will tell you that there is not one anti-virus/malicious program out there that can catch them all. If they are being completely honest, they will admit that it is best to run a couple different types of software in order to try to catch all the nasties that could be festering on your system right now. So what? I mean this is all useful information and all, but how does this validate the fact that we are being forced into a system that we may not all want to be put into?

The simplest answer is that it is taking some of the control of the security away from us. I work for a large financial institution here in the US and when people go to access their information online, we know whether their computer is infected with a virus or not. When our system detects the virus, we lock their accounts. This creates some unpleasant calls I am sure, but what it does is safeguard the account. Is it 100% effective? Not always, like I said earlier there will always be hackers who are looking for ways to beat the safeguards of any system, but what it does is put the billions of dollars of Blizzard working for you. Like I said at the beginning, you have to be open minded to this view point. Is it a pain to be forced to change something that you feel is completely safe? Absolutely. Is it wrong to be forced to change? Unfortunately it is not. Another thing to remember is that you are basically renting your character from Blizzard. It is their property and they could effectively shut the game down tomorrow and there would be nothing any of us could do except get in line with hands held out demanding our monthly subscription fee back.

Some people had commented that they feel like their account would be less secure because of using an email address. I am sure the more sophisticated people out there are the ones who read our blogs. You have to be somewhat sophisticated to blog, whether we want to admit it or not. However, again I can go back to my days of customer service for another large financial institution that was into banking, credit cards, investments, mortgages, and every other financial tool you could imagine. I cannot tell you how many people would create a user name/customer ID/personal ID that would be their email address without the "@fillintheblankservice.com". There have been several suggestions about creating a dummy email address in order to keep your information secret. I would be careful how I coined the term dummy since if you need assistance or lock yourself out for whatever reason, Blizzard will ask you for the email address associated with your account. It is fine to set up a new email address strictly for your WoW account. I have actually set up several different email address for WoW, blogging, finances, friends, and many organizations, but the key thing here is to make sure that you either know that information by heart or write it down somewhere. I would recommend storing it with your account key information since this information is frequently used for assisting with an account.

Some people have gone on and said that this is a money making scheme by Blizzard in regards to the account authenticators. I cannot disagree more. We can squash that argument right there based upon some facts.
  1. The authenticators have been out for quite some time now. Sure if they were brand new, then you might have a point; however, they are not new and therefor this could not be a valid reason as far as Blizzard using this to make money.
  2. The price of the authenticator is relatively cheap. I am sure if this was a money making scheme they would have the prices set much higher. This is not the case. I believe they are in the nighborhood of $6 - $7 USD. That is not going to make them a lot of money since there has to be software that can respond everytime we press the little button for a new code. My guess is that it brings in just enough to make it profitable, but not enough to make them rich.
  3. Authenticators are not required. If you are not forced to buy the authenticator, then there can be no scheme to make money. We can end the discussion on that note for the financial scheme.
The final thing I have read recently is that the little vanity pet they are offering is not enough. That they should of spent more resources creating something special or making more of a variety out of it. All I can honestly say to that sort of thinking is get over it. I do not want to sound harsh (although I know I am quite grumpy when I am not feeling well), but they do not have to provide you anything at all for this. It is actually a simple choice that we all have. Do you want to play WoW or do you not want to play WoW? If you want to play WoW, then feel free to complain and say whatever you want, but know that in the end you will march onto the website and establish your Battle.net account. If you decide not to play WoW, then what are doing spending so much time on a subject that does not concern you?
In closing, I apologize for the length of this post, but I felt it important to shine a little bit of light on the situation from the other side of the railroad tracks. I know that people have predicted calamity and chaos, but honestly that will not be the case. In my own guild, a lot of members established the Battle.net accounts to get the Warbot. I also know of several people who had been hacked and when they went to restore account access, they were directed to establish a Battle.net account. I can even say that for a while here on several US servers, that at one point people were having problems logging into their servers and as soon as they created a Battle.net account, they immediately were able to log on. This actually happened to my wife. So relax, take a deep breath, get all the nasty grumbles out of your mouth, and then go back to raiding and playing the game because in the end this is one of thise situations that you really have no control over. All you can do is decide if you wish to continue playing or not.
PS: Did anyone catch the play on words of the title? Lions, Tigers, and Bears oh my!

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