Wednesday, May 16, 2012

[Diablo 3] Battletags and Invisibility

A lot of people want the ability to go "invisible" with the Battletag system. That is, to appear offline to everyone else, but be able to see who's online.

I sympathize with this desire. Sometimes you just want to play by yourself in peace. But it feels socially awkward to request that solitude when other people can see you online. As well, a lot of people don't respect the Busy status. They figure that means you are Busy to other people, and that you'd be fine if they contacted you.

However, does no one remember ICQ and the late 1990s? The arms race that was "I am invisible to most people, but these specific people can see me if I'm invisible, unless I'm really invisible." Honestly, the entire concept of invisibility just made things overly complex.

The thing is that in an ideal world we want things to be asymmetric. We want perfect opaqueness for ourselves, and perfect transparency for others. But this cannot work, because applies to everyone. There's no point to a friends list where everyone is invisible.

I think that a better option, instead of invisibility, is to allow the option to "go dark" as a status. No one can see that you are online, but you can't tell if any of your friends are online either. To others you would appear offline, and everyone in your list appears offline. This would preserve the symmetry of the Battletag relationship. It gives you incentive to appear online as the default so you can see if your friends are online. But it would also allow you to play privately by yourself in peace.


  1. While "going dark" is an interesting idea, I still think invisibility, particularly ICQ's version of invisibility, works well. One of the (many) problems with the current RealID/BattleTag system is that it ranks every single person you know equally. Sorry, but I rate my brother higher than a some random person I'm trying to recruit for the guild. (Well, most of the time, anyhow.)

    For example, if I'm out there recruiting and giving out my Real ID (which I'm not, but let's say that I am), the potential recruits are not people that I'd necessarily like to chat with while I'm killing things in D3 with my brother. Worse, I'd hate to have them ask to join the game. Awkward much?

    Interesting topic of discussion. Now you've gotten me thinking.

  2. Did they remove the option in WoW to logoff from That was basically your "goign dark".

  3. Most IMs allow you to be listed as "Invisible" to others, so why not ReadID?

    Also, the RealID tag defeats the purpose of playing anonymously via a hidden alt. Unless you want to create a free account twink or spend extra money for another account, you're kind of stuck.

    For me, the unintended side effect of the RealID dilemma is that I'll go play something non-Blizzard if I want anonymity, which probably isn't what Blizz would want me to do. Then again, if they're getting my sub, they probably don't care.

    @Kring-- I thought that D3 requires you to play logged into As I don't own the game (and am not interested in it), I wouldn't know for sure.

  4. No need to overcomplicate this: if you switch on "busy", people can't contact you, they get a "this player is busy" message.

  5. In a traditional sense, I'm not a fan of "invisible" and I think "busy" is more polite, especially if you have a ranked system like ICQ. It's not a nice way to find out that you weren't ranked as high as you thought by your "friend" when they suddenly message you though they had appeared to be offline to you.

    However, in this age of forced online social network where many acquaintances are added to your "friends" list on a whim or for other reason such as convenience, I do think having a ranking system system within your friends list and the ability to become invisible to certain people is a necessary option.

    Just like cell phones, it should be we who choose to socialize, when we choose to socialize. The problem is that when you give out your cell phone#, you can at least still choose not to answer every text or phone call. And the other party still won't necessary assume the worst of you (unless it happens all the time) because most people don't always have their cell phones with them.

    But, with these internet social networks, if you're online, people always assume you're "there" and available. So, if you don't answer a message, invite them to you activity, or accept their request to join your activity, you risk offending the other party. After all, you are there and available so why would you ignore and/or not play with them unless... gasp... you don't like them!

    Since companies like Blizzard decided to force their online social networks on us because they know it helps to retain the player base, they should at least give us the some options for flexibility and privacy so we can avoid social awkwardness. After all, not everyone is social, at least not all the time.

    P.S. Wow, I didn't intended to write a wall of text when I started. =)

  6. I wasn't happy about the 'always online' requirement - though I accept Blizzard's explanation that it's necessary to fight exploits. Blizzard's inability to keep the servers available validates my decision not to buy D3 at launch... and now with them playing with social networking *again* -- apparently they didn't learn the lesson I thought they did with the RealID fiasco -- I should never buy the game, it seems. I'll spend my time and money with other games/companies.

  7. It's interesting to me that MMO players cry out for a good "community", and then simultaneously seem to abdicate the responsibility to create one.

    What about the responsibility to communicate limits with people? Saying "thanks, but I don't really want to play in a group today" isn't that hard.

    You can't have it both ways. IRL you can go home to be alone, but people can still call or knock on your door. There is no magic way to get what you want other than communicating it, and that's not a guarantee, either.

    To expect social games that provide a playground to interact with people to also protect you from having to communicate with them seems a little strange to me.

  8. On a somewhat related topic, I find it interesting that this kind of conversation is emerging around what is essentially a single-player game. I think perhaps we are seeing the end of truly off-line, single-player games. Everything now has online verification, social components, achievements, leaderboards, etc. But as Rohan says, sometimes you just want to play alone. Is that even truly possible anymore?

  9. I was a little shocked to see adding a Battle Tag in Diablo basically gives RealID-level visibility (sans-real-name) in WoW as well.

    Now I played Diablo one time with the people I casually guild with one time and because we traded battle tags they will find out who my auction alts are and (by extension) that I'm one of the richest people on the server? That won't be awkward at all.

    Thanks Blizz.

  10. I like this. Steam does it and it works very well.

  11. Would anyone have a spare guest pass for D3, would like to try this out. If you do rumbarr at hotmail dot com is me . Thank you =)

  12. The problem is social interaction. Sometimes you don't want to deal with that disfunctional guildy or a needy friend and just want to play your game. Blizzard makes that impossible. I like the going dark idea it just lets someone play without being bugged by other people. That should be a default feature of any game.

  13. What are you talking about? I've had at least half my friends message me in Diablo 3 while they appeared to be offline in my friends list. There's definitely some way to go invisible, even if it's a bug.

  14. Why do my co-workers need to see how late I am staying up playing?

  15. Isn't it how it's handled on facebook ? If you want to pretend you're offline, you can't see the online status of your friends.

  16. The compare is inaccurate in some points.

    Anyone can contact anyone on ICQ. On Pidgin, I use a bot-sentry. If someone who is not on my list contacts me I won't read it. I will however auto msg them a simple question which they have to solve. This is not necessary on yet.

    In WoW, I add my competitors on my friend list. If I could get their BattleTags via social engineering I could even find out all their alt names. RIP bank alt on same account. But Diablo, being a single player game. doesn't suffer from this. So an offline mode for WoW wouldn't make sense since people would notice you are online.

    My suggestion: this type of feature is rather advanced for an archaic IM like However, once it advances I'd make it a clearance system with certain levels. The level possibilities are endless. E.g. level 1 is best friend (always sees you online), level 9 is ignore list. Then you can set yourself to level 1 which means only those level 1 and lower can see you online. If you set yourself to level 3, those peers and lower level would see you. Again, only works in single player game. It is quite versatile and powerful, but also complex.

  17. Going dark is an interesting concept and one I'm not averse to.

    But you overlook the fact that even if **I** appear offline, the only way I'll be able to see anyone else is if they, themselves, choose to appear online.