July was defined by the latest iteration of an old meta-game, Blizzard versus Players. The community had an almost universally hostile reaction to Blizzard's announcement that the use of one's real name would be required for posting on the Battle.net forums, and the controversy raged to newspapers, magazines, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), and third-party sites very quickly. Predictably, it only took 4chan about 10 minutes to publish the names, addresses, phone numbers, profiles, blood types, and favorite movies of every prominent Blizzard employee it could find.
The sad thing is, the issue may not even be over despite Blizzard's backing down; the best that players could get from the company was language indicating it could be a temporary reprieve at best. Quoth the dime-store movie villain, this isn't over -- and it's not going to be, as long as Facebook's making serious bank.
On the lighter side, the above scene from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (NSFW due to language and violence) started circulating among several WoW communities during the controversy as proof that the loss of online privacy didn't have to be a bad thing, as long as you were the one capitalizing on it.
Official forum changes: Real names to be displayed The announcement of the new intended policy was greeted with almost universal shock and anger by players and spawned an 11,000+ reply comment thread on the official forums.
Rumor: Blizzard employees' real names will not be displayed on the forums And things just got worse when Blizzard seemed to equivocate on whether or not official forum posters would be obligated to use their real names as well.
Breakfast Topic: Real ID or Real Bad Idea? Our straw poll on the issue? 84% against Real ID being required on the forums.
That scary GearScore Real ID screenshot is fake, guys In the firestorm surrounding the Real ID issue, a prankster circulated a picture showing the apparent ability of a new GearScore version to display peoples' real names. Sacco took the time to shoot the rumor down.
Mike Morhaime: Real names will not be required on the official forums A few days later, Mike Morhaime himself came to the forums to announce that the policy has been rescinded "at this time." I have a bad feeling about this.
ESRB unintentionally exposes real names of people who filed privacy concerns Really, could this have been a bigger fiasco?
Curse acquires MMO Champion Curse continued its conquest of gaming sites by buying MMO Champion. What did that mean for World of Raids, another Curse property with a similar focus on WoW news? Stay tuned.
Opinions and editorials
Officers' Quarters: Destructive criticism and Officers' Quarters: Destructive criticism, part 2 We've said it before, and we'll say it again: It's how to manage people that distinguishes a merely decent guild leader from a great one.
Ventrilo vs. Mumble "I started this article with every intention of making a pros-and-cons comparison between the two programs, but in truth, I had a hard time coming up with pros for Ventrilo."
Nonstandard loot systems in WoW Most players are now familiar with the basic rules of DKP systems, but that doesn't mean they're the only option. Tyler gave readers a thorough look at three additional options with notes on their strengths and weaknesses and how these relate to different guilds.
Arts and entertainment
WoW Moviewatch: Azeroth -- Land in Chaos A beautiful, cinematic look at what would shortly become a shattered landscape.
WoW Moviewatch: Nub Tales Episode 6.1: Real ID Even machinamators got in on the Real ID issue. Yumfries promised "rainbows everywhere!"
Wowathon 2 has begun playing WoW for charity Wowathon makes an annual event of raising money for Child's Play through marathon WoW sessions (and, we hoped, a repeat of last year's "Dramatic readings of bad fanfiction").
WoW Moviewatch: Icecrown Gunship Battle, Now in Real Life! "The creation of WoW movies -- whether it is machinima or live-action -- stems from the author's love of game, cinema, or just raw creation. It takes a lot of love to create a WoW movie. And sometimes, just sometimes, you manage to do something unique. Sometimes, you can do something so completely awesome that it nearly defies description."
Classes, raiding, and PvP
The Art of War(craft): PvP in the new Azeroth So what can players on PvP servers expect in the reordered version of Azeroth set to go live in Cataclysm? As Zach says succinctly, "Death from above."
Totem Talk: Enhance me Rich tackled an email from a fellow enhancement player who wasn't satisfied with his DPS and broke down how to wring as much damage from this very complicated spec as possible.
Shifting Perspectives: Thoughts on the "new" Eclipse The Eclipse mechanic has been problematic for balance druids since its inception in the Wrath beta. Tyler examined Blizzard's efforts to fix it in the run-up to Cataclysm.
Everything I need to know about raiding, I learned in Karazhan To this day, it surprises me how frequently I can compare raid or dungeon boss mechanics to one of their Kara counterparts. It was actually Gray's last point in this article that reminded me of the Bill and Ted maxim, "Be excellent to each other" for the recent Shifting Perspectives: The unbearable suckhood of pugging.
Raid Rx: Identifying and avoiding insane applicants "The following guide should prove useful to any player who wants to know when someone can be comfortably incorporated into an existing healing team, and when an applicant should be shuffled in the direction of the nearest KFC selling two-piece and a curb stomp."
Odds and ends
Drama Mamas: When connecting online seems like a real bad IDea This actually had nothing to do with the Real ID fracas on the forums, but rather a knottier social issue in game, given that friends of your Real ID friends could see your email address too. Robin came up with a pithy, but accurate, comment on the issue: "Real ID is like unprotected sex. Just as you are only as safe as the other unsafe encounters your partner has had, your real name is only as private as the Real ID friends of your Real ID friends."
Breakfast Topic: Why don't you RP? A thoughtful Breakfast Topic -- why don't more people RP in a game that's essentially built around it at the most basic level? 252 comments later, there's no real consensus reached, but: a.) people dislike the lack of support from Blizzard, and: b.) they hate the drama that so often crops up with people who want to control a storyline, and: c.) the game doesn't seem to support it nearly as much as you'd think.
Drama Mamas: Racism and setting social standards Hate speech in WoW is taken very seriously by the GM team, and you have an outlet for dealing with unsavory little assholes that's not restricted to trying to school them yourself.
The urban legends of Warcraft: Ashbringer A wonderful article from Anne on the history of the legendary Ashbringer sword and the rumors that have swirled around it since its first in-game mention.
Drama Mamas: Friends behaving badly A great Drama Mamas about the uncomfortable situations that develop when friends behave like jackasses.
Gold Capped: The Undermine Journal WoW's conquest of real-life culture continues apace with its own version of the Wall Street Journal. Sadly, the Journal may not be able to continue due to technical difficulties related to Blizzard's transition to Battle.net.
15 Minutes of Fame: Psychologist and game researcher John Hopson A wonderful interview with a behavioral researcher who plays in Microsoft's "semi-official" WoW guilds and notices the various mechanics that game designers use to get us engaged: "Psychology informs game design the same way anatomy informs furniture design."
2010's drawing to a close, and we're wrapping up the most interesting articles we've published all year, one day at a time. Join us every day for the next 12 days with this year's best of WoW Insider!