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A Nameless Dread - Naming a Character in an MMO

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Quick thought, and hopefully a bucket of change as I collect all of your $.02.

Let us imagine an MMO in which the PCs can get world recognition. Perhaps through some rare feat of awesome, they get a statue built of them and their character's name inscribed on a plaque. Another player rescues a town and actually becomes part of the lore, and the NPCs of that town speak of her for ages to come.

"The mysterious sorceress saved us, her name was... XxePiCLootErGirlxX5¥55!s. Yes... that was the name of our hero."

Now ignoring for a moment that this kind of NPC/player interaction is hard to do, let's assume an MMO where you can be incorporated into official game lore.

Question: What do you think the typical MMO player is willing to put up with as far as "naming conventions" in order to maintain good lore? Would they mind, or would it strike home as a big issue?

Some ideas (not necessarily good ones):

A. Starting a PC, you have to pick from a list of 400 or so pre-defined first and last names, resulting in a unique combo.
C. Some regular expression or algorithm that determines the 'coherence' or 'lore-friendliness' of your chosen name, and makes you choose again if it's too ridiculous.
D. A blacklist of inappropriate or lore-unfriendly names.

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A is viable
C can be circumvented
D can be circumvented

You need to implement A in such a way that it is expandable, though.

For player satisfaction, consider having a Gamer ID and a Character Name. Your character name will be your interaction label for all NPCs, but your Gamer ID is your interaction label for all system related things such as friend adding, etc.

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B. use a configurable name generator much like an appearance tool to generate a user name.

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Lol, I forgot to include an option B. Just assume that option B is the perfect solution, everyone, and I'm just testing you biggrin.png


Another thought is a somewhat modular version of option A. Pick a name out of components. WoW follows a kind of formula to NPC names, like:

- CoolName NounVerber
- EpicName AdjectiveNoun

And perhaps the name itself doesn't have to be unique. There can be a couple dozen John Smiths running around, as long as they all have some UID code under the hood.
Any other issues with duplicate names I wonder? 'Identity Griefing'?

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I must admit that naming conventions in MMO's as well forums somewhat interest me. If you asked me to define a basic set of rules for allowable names it would go something like this:

  • No obscenity based names
  • No use of Trademarked names
  • No names of God from any religion



    Beyond that I wouldn't really have an issue. My personal opinion on lore based names is that by pre-defining a type of name that can be used you are in effect creating an artificial reality which is confined by a set of rules decided upon a limited set of opinions which doesn't necessarily bear up as natural even in a lore-type of existance. In real life, some parents who are frigging weird and will name their children the most bizarre names you can think of, some people also change their names legally to unusual and downright strange labels (I am looking at you "The Artist formerly known as..." and you "Sony Playstation 2"). In our current environment the use of unusual appellations has become commonplace for example: Stormynature, Humble Hobo etc.

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Would it be worth limiting how someone could write their name, instead? So there is a forced initial capital letter, and all others are lower case. Only two words at most. No numbers, symbols, underscores, etc; just letters, and perhaps letters with accents. And you could still include your black list of swears and such. This is kind of a combination of C and D (perhaps it's that elusive B?).

If someone wants to be called Arthur, that's fine. If someone wants to be called Franglobinjit, that's great! If someone wants to be called _Xx_a55a55in_xX_, they are IP banned, and perhaps a squad of black ops soldiers are deployed to deal with the issue.

Also, what if the player got given a title by the game, too? If the player uses the sword as their main weapon, they may become known as "Arthur, the champion". Or if they are thieves, they may become known and "Hiratylbin, the cunning".

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d'Artagnan, M'de Treville, McPherson, and John Smith should all be valid user names IMO.

Personally, I'd like:

  • No consecutive capitals (NAme = no)
  • No more than two capitals per 'word' the entire name. ('JoHn SmiTh' is allowed)
  • No more than two spaces or hyphens, and they can't be consecutive. ('Bob-the-awesome' is allowed)
  • Each 'word' no longer than 12 characters, with a combined total of 20-ish. Each word no fewer than two characters, with a combined minimum of four.
  • No underscores at all.
  • No numbers at all.
  • Only certain symbols are allowed, they can't be consecutive, and you can only have two symbols total.
  • Accented characters are allowed, but no more than three total.
  • Blacklist of names (common swears and etc...)
  • Whitelist of good names that fit to the theme of the game auto-suggested to users (five randomly chosen names are displayed, but user can still enter a custom name).

    If a user's name is reported as "Blatantly stupid or offensive" by other users, he will be contacted and told to change his name, and in the meantime will be given a generic name. If he again chooses something stupid, he will be given one more chance. If he violates that chance, his name will be assigned by a mod and permanently locked in place. Any name reported is brought up before the mods, and if the mod disapproves of it, with one-click it gets automatically added to the blacklist.

    I'm also a fan of separation of 'user name' and 'display name'.

    If, as luke2006 mentions, players can also earn titles, they ought to be able to select from their unlocked titles, or choose to go without a title, to fit the theme of their name and roleplaying (or non-roleplaying).

    For example, I'd allow names like "Gandalf the White". However, that user might not want, " the wise" appended as a earned title to his name, if that means it'd ugily display as "Gandalf the White the wise". If it was, "Gandalf the White" with under the name, "Wiseman", or "Master wizard", that'd be fine (but users should still get to choose whether it displays or not). In the same way, if a user is in more than one guild, he should get to choose what guild name he displays (or whether he wishes his entire guild alliances to remain hidden). Edited by Servant of the Lord

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Excellent solutions.

I've been working out some designs of a pre-defined name list (or combinational component list), and there just aren't enough names to go around if the game expands beyond the anticipated playerbase. That, and many people have a 'favorite' MMO name that they use for all of them. The inability to use it in a predefined list might be obnoxious.

As Servant of the Lord, Luke2006, and Stormynature suggested, a solid set of rules, backed up by an additional blacklist would probably suffice.

The important thing is to actually show the naming rules to the player as they create names (instead of a message that just says, "Sorry, you have to choose a different name"). It's a lot easier to color within the lines when you know where the lines are.

So,
1. List of rules and expected conventions (shown to player if they mess up at first)
2. Blacklist check for common offensive or inappropriate terms
3. In-game option to flag, sends approval note to a mod. Some poor intern gets an email each day with a bucket of flagged names, and approves or blacklists them.

The reason I'm concerned with this, is because I really want the players to become part of the history, the lore, and the news. Wouldn't it be amazing if some of the game's blogs and podcasts discuss some portentous plan that (so-and-so) is up to? Or if a player could gain recognition from others as the leader of (such-and-such) guild, identifiable on sight within the game world.

<Change of Direction>
Personal Opinion - how much care do you put into your MMO names? Does it take half an hour of painful struggle before you can decide? Do you have a favorite name that you use for all MMOs? Or do you just hit 'randomize' and roll with it? Edited by Humble Hobo

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<Change of Direction>
Personal Opinion - how much care do you put into your MMO names? Does it take half an hour of painful struggle before you can decide? Do you have a favorite name that you use for all MMOs? Or do you just hit 'randomize' and roll with it?

When young, I'd use the 'randomize' and alter it some.
Now, I just use one of three names and go with the first valid. One's really common, so it's often rejected, but the others are unique.

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Maybe if game incorporates some systems using the player names, players may digest the predefined name list concept easier. For example if you can trigger a quest reward if you have a "Barbaric Surname". Or if you can create lineages like guilds and carry some reputation with your surname. Of course if you are going to go with a predefined name list you will definitely need a Gamer ID

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