After initially disabling World of Warcraft’s /follow command in both the Battlegrounds and Arenas, Blizzard are now at least partly reversing their decision after fan feedback warned them that it could penalise blind and visually impaired players.
The command was disabled without announcement, as part of Blizzard’s ongoing battle against bots and players who multibox (that is, play with several accounts simultaneously) but, as one poster on the Quarter to Three forums pointed out, it’s essential for WoW’s small but celebrated community of blind players. “I have a guildie who is is extremely vision impaired and uses this command to play the game,” says poster Hiredgoons. “With ventrilo and solid macros, he’s able to participate and contribute. He is in near tears over this.”
British Army soldier Ben Shaw, who lost his eyesight while serving in Iraq, plays World of Warcraft with the aid of his friend Owen and a few macro commands. Last year, Blizzard honoured Ben’s contribution to their community by adding two new items to the game, Hexu’s Amplifying Helm and Davidian’s All-Seeing Eyes, named for Ben and Owen’s characters. Unfortunately, for players like Ben, the /follow command is vital, as another WoW player yesterday explained in a post on the official forums:
“I have a blind friend that plays World of Warcraft. His character name is Refunki.
For years now, we have used scripting commands and voiced emotes like /yell, /cheer and /roar to communicate with him and other players. We purchased a Vent server so he could talk with guildies. He has a macro that he sends to players in battlegrounds letting them know he is blind and how he will contribute to the battleground. He is consistently in the top half of DPS in random BGs when someone leads him to the fight. Playing World of Warcraft has been the first time since going blind that he has been able to play a video game, and it has brought him many friendships and immense satisfaction.
Breaking /follow in battlegrounds effectively prevents blind people from playing. He literally can no longer play and it has made him depressed. It is just one more way the world around him refuses to welcome him into doing regular things that all his friends do.”
“Please don’t punish him for the actions of others,” concludes the post which, quite frankly, I find the most touching thing I’ve read all week. Here’s a video of Refunki kicking ass in a 2v2 arena match in just under two minutes. You can get on with watching it while I dry my eyes:
In a post on the Blizzard forums, community manager Bashiok explained the decision to remove the /follow command, stating that the developer “chose not to communicate it beforehand in attempts to catch as many bots unaware as possible” and adding that while the command is still disabled in Arenas, “we’re looking to revert that change as bots don’t typically exist in Arenas, and multiboxing in that kind of pre-determined group environment doesn’t tend to be as disruptive.”
Once this reversal is made, only Battlegrounds will be affected. Blizzard have not disabled the /follow command for dungeons, raids or the outside world. If you don’t mind me, I’m going to share a little more footage of Refunki in action: