[Update: Sorry, I completely forgot to add Friend of Friend info in the original post. I have added that information in now, just look for the blue header instead of green.]
Time for the hot topic of the year as far as the WoW blogosphere goes: Real ID. Cataclysm is big, but if you want to talk about heavily debated, then this is where it’s at. A lot of people have concerns about it, a lot of others couldn’t wait to dive right in, and of course there are others couldn’t possibly care less one way or another.
I’m not here to convince you to use it or to not, I’m just here to show you a bit more about how it works just in case you don’t have access to it yet or in case you were a bit curious or skeptical and so didn’t get far enough in to test it out for yourself.
I’ll have some screenshots here showing some of my Real ID friends, but I’m going to hide their last names since I haven’t asked any of them for permission. While I couldn’t possibly care less if people know that my name is Jason Griffith, I realize and respect that fact that there are other people who would rather not have their names out there even if nobody would have a clue who they are.
What Is Real ID
Real ID is a social communication tool built into Blizzard games to expand your ability to chat with your friends online while they are playing Blizzard games that are included in the Real ID system. At this time (June 2010) the only games included in Real ID are World of Warcraft and Starcraft II. Real ID is completely voluntary and optional, and it offers no in-game benefits or rewards, except being able to talk to other players that you previously were not able to talk to.
Real ID allows you to connect with friends who also have battle.net accounts and have Real ID access (see below) regardless of which server they are playing on or which game they are playing.
Communicating with your friends can take place in multiple ways. You can have conversations with individuals which work similar to whispers, you can have an actual whispered conversation with them, you can Broadcast a message that is sent to all of your Real ID friends at once, or you can have a Conversation with multiple friends which is a separate chat window that allows all of the friends you invited to the Conversation in a single window where everyone sees everyone else’s comments in the discussion. More details on some of those down below.
Who Can Use Real ID
Not everyone can use Real ID, at least not right away. As my wife and I found out last night, Real ID is by default disabled for everybody who has ever used the Parental Controls options. Last year we decided that in order to limit our play time we would set up PC’s on each other’s account so that it would kick us off of the game at certain times of the day. Since you often lose track of time it was easier to stick to our guns by forcing ourselves than relying on our clock checking skills.
So, the only people who “can’t” use Real ID are those that do not have them activated in Parental Controls. If you’ve never used PC before, then you don’t have to worry as they’ll be turned on by default. If you have used it before, then they are turned off by default and you’ll have to turn them on yourself.
If you don’t want to participate in Real ID and never want to even see the friend requests, or more importantly you want to remain completely hidden even from those that do have your email address, you can set up your own Parental Controls and simply turn off Real ID. By doing that even if people do have your email address for some reason, if they type it in to send you a request they’ll get a message back that says “Player not found.” and that’s it. If you change your mind later you can always reactivate Real ID at any time by going back to PC and checking the box to allow it.
An easy way to tell whether you have it turned on or off is whether or not the “Pending” tab shows up when you bring up your Friends List screen in the game. If you have a Pending tab then it’s turned on, if you don’t, then it’s turned off. Parental Controls completely removes everything related to Real ID from your interface if the feature is turned off.
Real ID Options
There are some options and customizations that you can do to Real ID once you are in the game. You access those options as you would other Interface options, by pulling up your Options window and clicking the Interface button.
In the pop-up window you need to select the “Battle.net” option which should have a golden exclamation (!) mark next to it indicating that there are new options in that section. Once you have selected Battle.net you will see the following Real ID options:
All of these options, when selected, will trigger a pop-up from the Toast Window (see below) if it is activated. All messages and alerts are sent by a Battle.net Message, as they call it, which is a chat message that shows up in your regular chat windows with a special icon to the left and is by default a light teal/aqua color. (Don’t quote me on the color, to me blue is blue no matter what fancy label you stick on it.)
Online Friends: This option will play a sound every time one of your Real ID friends logs in, and display in your chat window who they are and that they have logged in.
Offline Friends: This option works the same as Online Friends, except that it alerts you when your Real ID friends log off.
Broadcast Updates: Displays any Broadcast messages that your friends send out into your chat log.
Real ID Friend Requests: Alerts you via sound and chat message that a friend has requested to use Real ID with you.
Conversation Notifications: Alerts you when a friend sends a conversation request or message.
Show Toast Window: When selected, any of the above Real ID options will display some of their information in a small pop-up window that appears for a period of time above the top-left corner of your chat window. The duration of the Toast Window is set by the slider bar that is below the Show Toast Window check box. You can mouse-over this window to see information about the alerts that triggered it.
Play around with these options a bit if you’re going to use Real ID and decide which ones you like or dislike. I did a lot of back and forth on all of them after taking that screenshot, but in the end I decided to leave everything on. I might go ahead and drop the Toast Window, but I haven’t decided yet for sure. The more friends I get, the more I consider turning off the Online/Offline options, but I found in testing them that I actually prefer them to be on.
Requesting Real ID Friends
Before you can use Real ID you have to find yourself some friends. In order to get friends, you have to either give them your email address or have them give you their email address. You add Real ID friends the same way you do other friends, but clicking the Add Friend button in your Friends List window, but instead of typing a character name you instead type their email address.
If you type a character name then it will add friends from your local server as it has done previously. If you type in an email address instead, then it will extend the pop-up window allowing you to also include a message that will be sent to that friend.
When sending a request to a person that may or may not know my real name or isn’t expecting me, I make sure I include a message to let them know who I am or how they know me. “Hey Jeff, it’s Jason. You know? Your brother…?”
That notification is then sent to the person and they can accept it, deny it, ignore you, or report you for spamming. They can also choose to select no option for right now and just leave it in their Pending window as shown here:
As you can see, I have the same options for my buddy Jerry’s request in the Pending window, allowing me to accept, reject, ignore, or report for spam. If I choose to reject, ignore, or report Jerry he will not be notified, though I would assume that if I ignore/report him that if he tried again he would be informed that I have him on ignore. I haven’t tested that though, so it’s just a guess.
Friends of Friends
There’s another way to add friends besides having their email address, which is to request to be friends with your friends’ friends. To do this you right-click your Real ID friend in the Friends List and click to view their friends. A list will then pop up showing you the First and Last Name of all of their friends as well as a little note at the end to designate ones that are mutual friends or ones that you have already send a request to that is still pending. Those friends of friends (or FoF’s) will also have their names grayed out to indicate that they’re already your friend or already requested to be one.
The friends you do not have in common will have their names listed in gold, and their names are all that you see. You can select a name and then send the request along with a message telling them who you are, but that’s all you see. You do not see character information or email addresses for FoF’s, only their names.
(screen shot will be added later when I have one)
Real ID Features
Now that we’ve got the options out of the way, lets get down to the good stuff and talk about what you can actually do with this wonderful new feature. We’ve already discussed the fact that it’s a tool for socializing and communicating with your friends, so we’re going to talk about the specific features found in the windows and how to actually use it.
Once you’ve managed to get at least one friend you’ll be able to see how they’re shown in the Friends List. You can see the friend’s real name, which is how you’ll know them now, and you can see when they were last online. You’ll also see their Broadcast message, if they have one and have not deleted it. You can see in this screen shot that my GM, Chris Schwalm (who doesn’t mind his name being known), has set his broadcast to “I am playing wow.”, Jenny has set hers to “Goodnight!”, Kris is “pants optional”, and so on.
You are able to send out your own Broadcast messages from your Friends List window. In my case, I let everyone know I was going to do some low level PvP.
When you mouse-over a Real ID friend you get a little more information as is the case with Sheri’s message. You see the full broadcast (since hers was long), how long ago that broadcast was sent out (8 hours), and how long ago she was last logged in. You may also notice for the following screenshot that my Pending tab is flashing with an amber/yellow color letting me know that I have a request pending.
In the screenshot above here you don’t really catch the status setting because all of my friends were logged out when the shot was taken. However, there are also three status settings that you can choose from that will change the small sphere to the left of each friend a different color based on their status. You can set your own status at the top of your Friends List window to Available, Away, or Busy which are color coded in typical traffic light style:
Psynister’s Thoughts on Real ID
I’m a social guy, so being able to chat with my friends is always a good thing. I have multiple blogs, multiple email accounts, multiple twitter accounts, so on and so on. I like chatting with people and I like doing it in a lot of different ways. I’m not necessarily talkative, I just like being able to hang out and chat whenever I feel like it. Because of that, I knew going into this thing that I was going to give it a shot and that I would most likely enjoy it.
I’ve got a lot of really great friends that play this game, most of which I’ve met on Twitter or in the blogging community. Being able to chat with my buddy on a completely different server that I never get to play with was really cool. I run a dual monitor setup at home so that I can have twitter on the left monitor while I play on the center/front monitor and I can be social in both settings, but not everybody can do that. Having to alt+tab (I’m a PC, can you tell?) to look at twitter every time you get an update gets old fast, so people without multiple monitors aren’t as likely to use social apps like Twitter while they play. And now, they don’t have to.
When I first started setting up friends I was a little bit annoyed by the notifications of people logging in an out. Of all the complaints, that was the only one I had. After turning the notifications off though I actually missed having them there because I no longer knew who was coming and going. So I turned them back on and soon after it just became another part of the game that doesn’t bother now. It was annoying because it was different and it didn’t belong in my game, but it’s all good now.
Being able to chat with friends of the opposite faction was great. Chatting with friends on another server completely out of my battle group and on the opposite faction was even cooler. Better yet, I knew their character’s name, class, level, and location within the game which, while seeming somewhat stalker-like, was really cool.
My guild has both an Alliance and Horde guild on our server and during raid times we always have one person relog to the other faction to call people over for raid time, but with this tool we can just chat away with a Real ID friend on that faction and have them send out the message in guild chat for others that aren’t our RIDF’s.
At this point I can’t say that there’s anything that I don’t like about it. I can say that I am not a fan of the new default chat windows so I’ll be sticking with Chatter for a while yet, but Real ID itself is just full of win. I absolutely love this new feature and fully recommend it to anyone and everyone who plays the game(s).