By Any Other NameSeptember 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Posted in mmorpg | 20 Comments
Tags: Guild Wars 2, MMO, mmorpg
Names can be fairly integral to who we are but particularly in gaming. We imagine our alternate selves as perfect versions of us, and names are what give us our uniqueness and identity.
In online games if we’re aiming to be some perfect version of ourselves, why are we so rarely given the chance to have the perfect name as well?
Obviously the answer to that question is not particularly complex. Players need to have unique IDs for communication purposes, administration purposes, and rule enforcement. How else would we find and communicate with specific individuals if they didn’t have the only version of their name?
Still it seems like game studios don’t even attempt to solve this problem. Every game I can think of apathetically thrusts upon its users the same old naming system. If two people want to be known as Legolas, one of them will have to be LegolasX.
Strangely for me, not only am I annoyed when the name I want to be known as is taken, I’m annoyed by other peoples attempts to rectify that situation. XxLegolasxX is a very annoying name to read.
There are ways around this I suppose. Guild Wars tried to solve this problem by making each player have two names. Some games allow you to pay for a name change if you think of something better, and many games have more than one server where you can attempt to create a character with the exact name you wish to have.
Unfortunately, nobody really tries to solve the problem of several hundred people who want the name Legolas.
In real life many of us have names that others share. Even the combination of our first and last names is no guarantee that our names will be unique. We are issued social security numbers, IDs that note our birth dates, middle names, appearance, and of course birth certificates.
How would we solve this problem in an online game?
I think in general, you’d give the player a unique ID, but you’d also give them the ability to display whatever name they want. A display name that would be visible in chat, visible above my avatars head, and visible in the party window. To private message someone you’d need to click on their name in chat, the party window, guild roster, or the player themselves. This would bring up a short information display menu showing their unique ID. You could then proceed to message them, ignore them, report them, trade with them or invite them.
Of course all of this brings up problems. How do you tell people apart in chat? How do you message someone the next day if you don’t know their unique name? Just how lengthy is the list of ways trolls and thieves could exploit this?
There are a couple of fixes. You could have an option to only display unique ID names if it becomes a problem for you. Also a list of most recent party members, private message senders or receivers, or trade partners. It’s a social game so we’ll most likely have some of these options anyway.
Is this really that difficult to implement? I know some people would ask, perhaps even myself, how hard is it really to come up with an original name? Yet we all go into a game wanting to use the alias we identify ourselves with. Many of us spend large amounts of time customizing our avatar so that it is just so, why should names be any different?
I am of the opinion that getting the name we seek should trump the other problems associated.
It is one of MMOs most common problems but rarely do studios pay any heed to it.
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