Is an appear offline feature coming to Blizzard games?
Appearing offline is something players have been wanting for a long time — a very long time. What’s more, it’s something Blizzard has allegedly had in the works for more than five years now. Discussion surrounding the feature is to the point where it’s gaining the same notoriety as WoW’s totally-soon-to-be-here Dance Studio. However, some recently datamined Hearthstone strings indicate that the feature may actually be coming soon.
The strings themselves were datamined by Hearthhead and are as follows:
+GLOBAL_CHAT_SENDER_APPEAR_OFFLINE You may not send chat messages while you are set to appear offline
As you can see, there are only two strings related to appearing offline, but they are distinctly related to appearing offline and not just plain being offline. Now, before you get super excited, there are probably a few things to consider when it comes to appearing offline.
For starters, these strings have only appeared in Hearthstone datamining. That’s obviously not a deal-breaker, but given Jeff Kaplan’s remarks from last October, appearing offline isn’t trivial because it requires appearing offline in a cross-game ecosystem. In other words, it’s hard to imagine appearing offline coming to one game but not the rest. Granted, my tech knowledge is limited, so there’s definitely a bit of wiggle room on this one.
But for WoW players especially, things get a little more complicated. With Hearthstone, if appearing offline were to ever exist, the only possible interactions you could have with others would be via random match-ups — and even then, the chances of facing someone from your friends list are pretty slim. With WoW? You have a guild, and you have an in-game character.
If you set yourself to appear offline, what does that mean for your guild? Are you also offline on the guild list? More importantly, what happens if someone sees your character in a capital city or elsewhere in the world? Would they be able to talk to you, whether via /say or by targeting you and selecting whisper? At that point, what’s the difference from appearing offline and just slapping on a <DND> tag?
I realize a lot of people will read this and be perfectly happy with the ability to simply appear offline on
Battle.net Blizzard systems. But for everyone who is, there’s sure to be someone who wouldn’t be happy with appearing offline unless it meant fully and completely not having to worry about interacting with others. Ironic for someone playing an MMO? Maybe. But it’s still something that I’m sure most of us have desired at least once while playing the game.
WoW is certainly the toughest nut to crack here, but both Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2 also have guild-like systems that would require an extra layer of implementation were you to also appear offline among that social circle. I’m not trying to deflate anyone’s hope here, but I do think that a measure of reservation is warranted. There are a lot of factors to consider before an appear-offline feature would be able to make everyone happy, and some of those may not be within reasonable technical limitations for Blizzard.
Still, the fact that we’re seeing any strings at all is a positive step, and I really hope an appear-offline feature will make its way to all Blizzard games soon rather than Soon™. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to sit back, relax, and just play a game for an evening, uninterrupted.
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