Now that I have consumed my morning coffee from my trusty skull mug… I am going to try really really hard to focus on a topic that I had kicking around my head. It all started with a rather simple announcement yesterday that the Microsoft store had Gears of War: Ultimate Edition available for Windows 10 computers. We will talk about the bullshit of making games Windows 10 exclusive some other day… but the discussion for this morning is game accounts. Right now I feel like I am deluged with account systems that serve no value to my life, and only serve to make shit more complicated when I just want to play a game…. and even worse when I want to try and play with friends. For a period of time my life was all nice and Zen, and pretty much everything I purchased went through the Steam interface. Sure Steam does some shifty shit, but it provided me a nice clean interface to play my games… and also a decent account system to keep track of which friends were playing which games. When a game integrated with said steam account system, and used steam servers for multiplayer… shit just worked and worked beautifully. Then Electronic Arts got pissy and spawned the Origin store, forcing me to deal with yet another store front with a significantly worse in every possible way interface. The worst bit about this whole thing is just how annoying the account system and trying to get everyone that I might want to play with “re-friended”.
Over the years I have picked up a number of these extraneous accounts that all do different stuff, and I need all of them for some reason or another. Just to rattle off a few of the multi game accounts: Steam, Origin, GOG, PSN, Xbox Live, Nintendo ID, Google Play, Amazon, Apple Store, Battle.net, Direct2Drive, NCSoft, Funcom, and now I am having to care about UPlay in my life as well. Then there is a whole other tier of things that are game social media like… Anook, Player.me, Raptr, Xfire, Discord and a couple of dozen other accounts that I am forgetting about right now. Then to even further confuse things you have Twitch, Hitbox, Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, GPlus, and all of the other social trappings that folks want to interact over. Trying to maintain some semblance of the same group of friends among ALL of those platforms is complete and total bullshit. Sure some of them throw you a bone, by allowing you to either import friends or link accounts… but the end result is just pure madness. So this got me thinking… about all of the things that work well and all of the things that fail miserably. The challenge is that no two companies want to play together nicely… and everyone seems to revel in their proprietary crap. I think the problem is that they simply don’t want to have to comply to essentially their competitors designs, which makes everyone trying to re-invent the wheel and doing a piss poor job of it.
In my perfect scenario there would be a single account that is portable and disconnected from any one manufacturer, that could be integrated with all of the existing services and act as a glue to allow players to share their connections between all of the platforms. The idea is that there would be an open standard, that was designed for social gaming. My idea is to start with something similar to LDAP, where you have an authentication core that then also has a metabase with different security bits that allow writing of data to different segments of a user account. This would allow PSN Trophies for example to exist in the same structure as XBox Live Achievements… but otherwise stay separate. The idea would be to divide up the social aspect of gaming from the structural requirements of running a game network, so that the friends list lives on its own… and all of the technical bits get buried in the segment of the account that folks don’t really need to look at anyway. Having a single game account would also go a bit towards solving some of the issues with anonymous access to gaming, and having disposable interactions. I don’t like the concept of real names being thrown around in the ether, and I think that is absolutely the WRONG idea to go about fixing that problem. However I do think that Belghast#1752 for example my Battletag is just as unique as knowing my real name… and so long as this is a piece of data that I cannot shed without a lot of effort it means you can track my actions across multiple platforms. If you see that a given “OpenGame” account has been flagged by Microsoft and PSN for abuse… then maybe it is time for Battle.net and Twitch and Steam to investigate their actions as well?
The problem with my idea is that it sounds great on paper… but the challenge is… who exactly would run such a system and who would administer it? If it is just an open standard and the individual companies are responsible for running their own servers… then where is the buy in and where is the cost savings. If it is a third party company… where is the monetization to make it work? I don’t have all the answers, but this is just the course of a “wouldn’t it be cool if” sequence that I had yesterday throughout the day. I would love to see someone fix this problem, and I would love to see things work in a way that is pro-consumer and not necessarily pro-company. We’ve reached a point where you can pretty much play any game on any console you like… and most of those also end up coming to the PC. I just wish we could get a point where you could also end up playing with PSN friends on your PC, and Xbox friends on your PS4. Considering we have examples like Street Fighter 4 and FFXIV that allow PSN and PC players to play freely together…. I have to assume that the roadblock is Microsoft, and even with an “OpenGame” system they would probably still remain a problem. This mornings post will not help in any meaningful fashion.. but I just wanted to get my thoughts out there. I welcome anyone with the right entrepreneurial spirit to come along and steal this idea… because I would rather have it be a thing than have credit for doing it. I’ve had a mantra for awhile now: “Anything that gets in the way of playing with my friends is bad” and this sort of “OpenGame” system would go a long way to fixing some of that. Here is some ideas for what a system like this would have to have.
- Fixed ID that stays with a user between game systems and networks.
- Not Real Name based… too much bad shit can come of this.
- Systems in place to change that ID in case of dangerous shit like stalking and such… but enough friction to keep it from happening often.
- Ability for each game system/network to update only their segment of the total account.
- Friends lists are free floating and work regardless of what system you happen to be in… so cross pollination between games.
- Thorough Privacy Settings… so you can say “this user can play with me in this game, but not in this one”.
- Ability to go 100% stealth mode… because sometimes you’ve had enough interaction and need quiet time.
- Linkages to social and other media platforms to allow folks to interact freely (but should also follow above privacy rules).
- Cross Game/Platform/Whatever chat (again privacy aware).
- In server based games, would be awesome to have suggestions as to which server most of your friends are on.
- Ability for services to log account actions against the OpenGame ID.
- Sign-Up process difficult enough to make it challenging for folks to keep spawning new IDs.