WoW Design Improvements: Friends & Foes

This article is part 5 of 8 in the series WoW Design Improvements
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I mentioned in a previous post in this series that the World of Warcraft client lets you put other players on a friends list, or on an ignore list.

The only feature of the ignore list is that characters on this list cannot send you messages via the game’s chat system. Even things spoken in a common channel won’t appear on your screen.

The friends list has two features:

  1. You get notified via a special message and a sound when characters on your friends list come online or go offline.
  2. Looking at the list, you can quickly determine which of your friends are currently online, as they are displayed in a different colour from the rest.

Today I’d like to discuss the shortcomings of these lists.

So what are the problems with this friend list? There is really only one: it’s limited in size. As I already mentioned in my post on the in-game mail system, that size limit fairly quickly becomes apparent.

For one thing, you’ll want your alternate characters on the list, so mailing them items that they could use becomes easier1. For another, this is the only really useful mechanism for figuring out whether someone is online or not – especially, if you don’t remember their exact name.

That’s not an unlikely occurrence. Due to the restrictions Blizzard imposes on character names2, people come up with unique names by being imaginative – or not. A fair amount of Tauren players call themselves Somethinghorn, figuring it makes them appear more horny, err, bullish, no, I mean cow-like. I’ve known at least one player who simply added a second ‘o’ to the ‘horn’ part of his name to set himself apart from another player that had already taken his desired name.

So you find yourself tackling this monster that’s really a bit harder than you had expected, and along comes this weirdly named character and helps you. You thank them, a conversation ensues, and you think to yourself that that was a nice person, and you should get to know them. So, in order to remember who they are, and to figure out when they’re online, you put them on your friends list.

And so it grows, until you can add no more. And then what? Weeding out the “better” from the “worse” of your friends seems like a horrible thing to do. But you have to make space, somehow.

  1. The mail system requires you to type recipient names, but has an auto-completion feature for people on your friends list or in your guild. []
  2. Some of which, like the fact you’re not allowed to use spaces, are pretty weird. That completely eliminates the possibility of setting yourself apart by adding a surname. []