Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Introducing BIM: The Blizzard Instant Messenger

I spent some time over the weekend waiting for various people to play Starcraft II with. In some cases they were already online in the game but busy, in others I had to wait for them to come online. In two cases I even had conversations with them that just had quite long pauses between responses. Either way, I found myself Alt-tabbing between the game and out of game applications constantly, just to check up on the in-game messages I might have received. I used to be known as Mr. AFK in World of Warcraft because I was tabbed out quite often and would miss people trying to talk to me. How cool would it be to have the chat functions of those games outside of the games themselves?

Sure, instant messengers already exist and I could just put all the interesting people on my friends list in ICQ, MSN, or Google Talk or even meet with them in IRC. The variety of names above already shows one major problem though – various people have various instant messenger types and use them differently. What’s worse though is that people don’t usually check their messengers while playing even though they have a perfectly useful chat tool available in the games themselves.

An early screenshot of the new instant messenger. Why shouldn't this be available as stand-alone as well?

Blizzard is already planning to combine the social functions of their various games, allowing you to chat with your WoW friends while playing Starcraft II or Diablo III for example. I can’t imagine that it would be hard to create a stand-alone application that plugs into the same interface. This instant messenger would be just like others of its kind, only that it will come preloaded with all your (Blizzard) gamer friends and actually allows communication between players that are in different states of play. (i.e. One player raiding while another is at work.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Blizzard had something like this planned already (possibly for cash, sigh) but if not I would quite like to see them implement it. Steam already has similar functionality (and I think Games for Windows Live does as well) and I have never really used it. For Blizzard, it would be different. Sure, if I add people to my friends list on Steam I can talk to them while they are playing Empire: Total War and I’m playing BeatHazard, but that doesn’t really matter. Most of the games on Steam don’t really introduce me to people, nor do I play them with people. Blizzard is different. Most gamers I deal with regularly play Blizzard games of one kind or another and all the Blizzard games foster the idea of socializing with other players.

World of Warcraft is the biggest example for this of course. While you don’t have to have friends to play the game, it gets quite a lot better if you do; the more interesting content is only available to groups of five, ten, or even twenty-five players. Other Blizzard games encourage having in-game friends as well, however. In Starcraft II you get the opportunity to test new strategies against a friend or to play with them in 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 matches. In Diablo you get to party up with people that you can trust to both do their jobs and not steal your loot.

In short, Blizzard games are made for socialization and it is a damn shame to loose contact to so many people when you switch games and they don’t. The Blizzard Instant Messenger can (and will, mark my words!) fix this. It would be even cooler of course if Blizzard used an open source transfer protocol for their messages or made an API available so that other messengers can join the network. Either way I’m fine though, just give me that program. (And hey Blizzard, if you like my idea – I’m still looking for a job you know ;))

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