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Blizzard's APIs and You: Cool information and tools coming down the pipe


Recently, Blizzard disabled the WoWArmory Facebook application, signaling that the time of the modern WoW Armory is over and we will soon live in an age when new Blizzard APIs will transform our out-of-game experience. And change it, they will. These forthcoming APIs will change the way you interact with WoW outside of the game in ways you cannot even think up yet. How do I know this? That's the power of information facilitation, and some inventive hypotheticals will show you what Blizzard's APIs will do for you in the near future.

Over the past few months, Blizzard has been preparing to roll out a new set of APIs that will take internal information from the Armory, the new community site, and more, parse it into easily manageable data streams, and make those streams available to application developers. With these new streams of information, savvy developers can craft web applications, smartphone apps, social media plugins, and anything else under the sun to provide you with new and dynamic WoW experiences on the internet. I know that sounds horribly cliché, but hear me out -- this stuff is pretty cool, and the back end could bring about a new standard for information availability and MMOs.

I'm not a developer. In fact, a lot of us in the community are not developers. Writing this story felt like an exercise in obscurity because, frankly, all this back end information isn't in my wheelhouse. As I dug deeper and began to realize the potential of the systems being set up, I fell in love with the idea that Blizzard is opening up easy access to so much information. I thought it would be a good idea to illustrate for those of us who have no idea what APIs are capable of, to break through the programmer/developer talk and discuss what these APIs mean for us, at the end of the day.

APIs are no newcomers to the world of MMOs. EVE Online's creator CCP is no stranger to the power of in-game information being made available out of the EVE universe. Developer-players already use these streams of information within their own apps to provide services revolving around the game universe. Blizzard's APIs will make it easier to pull information from your characters, guilds, arena teams, and more into new applications that aren't necessarily Blizzard-focused.

How about a quick example? Everyone knows Breanni's amazing database of companion pets, When you create a profile at Breanni's site to track and maintain data about the companion pets you own, you have to individually select which pets you have available in order to build your collection. So what if Breanni put in a small widget that let you put in your character name and server, press a button, and call over all of your companion pet data, instead of having to input it manually?

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some of the reasons that I am excited about the new Blizzard APIs and their potentially widespread future.

Growing possibilities

Through the Blizzard API, developers will be able to pull character information, guild information, arena team statistics, and more. From the simplest Andriod app that checks the status of your server to a full character information pull for your guild's website, the sky is the limit. Guild web hosting companies can build into their systems APIs and widgets that can pull information from the WoW data feeds for recruitment applications, forum information and profiles, or players' personal achievement records.

You already see the magic being done with information parsers, World of Logs, information comparison websites, and more. Soon, all of those services can be augmented with data directly from Blizzard, on demand, adding more factors and variables to the equation. It is an exciting prospect that most of the things we already use every raid night for information parsing could be expanded on with what's coming down the pipe.

Tracking the arena season is going to be better than ever. Want to see two different teams and a detailed comparison between them, with gear, specs, and everything else ready to be viewed? Code it, and press a button.

Collaborative efforts

The ambitious information share is just the beginning. Developers are going to be able to access game information with the understanding that more features and support are coming down the line. Blizzard has opened a developer forum on the official forums specifically to talk about the APIs, and it's communicating directly with developers to iron out issues that become apparent. It's nice to browse the forums and see so many blue posts, with Blizzard working in tandem with fans to launch this service.

Helping grow player communities

Information availability helps to grow player communities by making information freely available wherever you go. Imagine if any WoW forum or fan site you used could accept and process your game information, facilitating your interaction with players based on your server, gear level, class, or anything in between. What if all of your information could be automatically filled in, your profile photo set based on your character's class and race, and your statistics displayed to show what best-in-slot gear you still need -- all on your guild leader's web interface?

You are more likely to join new communities if you are able to bring "yourself" with you. One of the biggest complaints about Facebook was that information exporting was (and still is) largely impossible. The walled garden approach to apps and services can kill a user base because everything you do is separate from the rest of the world. You don't get to take it with you.

Sites, apps, and tools using Blizzard's APIs essentially lets you take your WoW-self with you all over the place. Your character name and server become your handle, bringing your pets, mounts, gear, activity feed, and everything else along for the ride.

The auction house is coming

I am utterly convinced that one day we will see auction house data in API form, especially considering the existence of the mobile auction house service. This information is coming from somewhere to get to your phone, so once the pipes are ready, I'm sure it will find its way into the API framework. If you thought the applications for character and game data were crazy, imagine what people will be able to do with auction house prices and interaction. The Undermine Journal already works tirelessly at this type of information compiling, but once the pipe opens directly to Blizzard, we could see a renaissance in the way we interact with the auction house in game.

After enough time reading and learning about this roll-out, I've become something of a fanboy about it. Ideas are awesome; the implementation of ideas is even more impressive. Players are going to feel the power of all of this information in the near future -- first, in simple ways like pet collections and gear lists, slowly evolving into quality-of-life bonanzas and little tweaks and information plugs that you probably didn't think you ever needed.

Information is powerful in the MMO world. We accumulate so much stuff, talk about a million different numbers, and, over time, expect that the data associated with our characters to move around a little more freely than it usually does. MMOs are evolving into something we could have never really understood back in the Ultima Online or EverQuest days -- we want more information faster and in a million different ways, from simple lists to detailed comparisons. Blizzard is in a unique position to set a new standard for the information that MMOs should make available to their dedicated developer-player base.

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