Microsoft recently switched the Zone.com login process over to use .NET Passport, Microsoft's central login system that's used for a number of other MSN sites and services. However, the transition hasn't been a smooth one for many who regularly play PC games on the Zone, especially Asheron's Call. In addition to problems with slow login servers, players have had concerns with the security of the .NET Passport system and with the move to further integrate the Zone with other Microsoft services. GameSpot spoke with Microsoft representatives about the decision to switch the Zone over to .NET Passport and the issues that players have encountered with the new system.
GameSpot: Microsoft is currently updating the Zone to require Passport logins from users, including Asheron's Call players. Can you explain why this is being done?
Microsoft: .NET Passport provides increased customer benefits such as heightened security and advanced ease of use for .NET consumers. It will allow Zone.com members to move seamlessly between all .NET Passport sites without additional login screens, user names, or pass codes. The MSN home page, Hotmail, Investor, and MSN Chat have all already adopted .NET Passport. Specifically, .NET Passport benefits for Zone.com members include:
- A unified log-in that allows users to move smoothly between .NET Passport sites without pop-up authentication dialogue boxes each time they enter a new Web site. Many Zone.com members are also MSN users, so this is a very important optimization.
- There are laws protecting children online with which Zone.com is proud to comply. Whilst the non-.NET Passport Zone.com was COPPA compliant, Kids .NET Passport provides a central location for administering and auditing site approval, giving parents a single access point, and making updates quick and easy. Also, Microsoft can rapidly ensure that all .NET Passport sites worldwide are up to speed with the latest privacy regulations, over and above COPPA compliance itself.
- .NET Passport brings greater security resources to Zone.com with the benefits of an added team focused on deep, rigorous security testing. Additionally, there is no correlation between a member's screen name and login name, which increases the difficulty of guessing passwords via an automated dictionary attack.
- A Zone.com member's nickname will now roam throughout the MSN network. For example, if a member chats with someone in a special-interest MSN chat room, he or she will be able to later recognize that person playing games on Zone.com. Shared nicknames will enable Zone members to further build communities and recognize friends while providing them with sustained and consistent online identities.
GS: Are there ways in which Passport can be used to improve the in-game experience for those playing current or future Microsoft games on the Zone?
MS: The integration of .NET Passport does not affect the in-game play experience offered on Zone.com. Zone.com will utilize .NET Passport to create a seamless transition between .NET Passport sites for members.
GS: Is the Xbox technically ready to tie into Passport services?
MS: The Xbox online experience will be made possible by several key Microsoft technologies. We will be announcing more details about the service and the experience in 2002.
GS: Some players have complained that they haven't been able to access certain parts of the site in order to complete the sign-up process. Have these problems been addressed?
MS: Yes, this has been identified and addressed.
GS: What do you have to say to those who consider the Passport system to be insecure? Have you had any cases of sensitive information being available to outside sources?
MS: We recognize that trust is an important part of providing .NET services. We are absolutely committed to earning that trust, through new technologies and, where necessary, best-in-the-industry response processes to deal with issues that might arise.
GS: Does Passport, as a .NET service, rely on any Windows XP features, or can any Windows user sign up for a Passport account?
MS: The .NET Passport service is compatible with any major operating system.
GS: Do you have any plans for additional Zone upgrades in the near future? If so, do you anticipate any of those changes to cause an interruption of service for your users?
MS: In order to provide users with the best online gaming platform, Zone.com will continuously update the site with new and exciting features, such as new games, ease-of-use features, and thrilling tournaments and events. Players can expect to see several new Asheron's Call quests and additions to the free single-player game selection in the coming months. We do not expect any updates or improvements to cause an interruption of service for users.
GS: Thanks for your time.