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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Faces and Names

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"Faces and names
I wish they were the same
Faces and names only cause trouble for me
Faces and names
If we all looked the same
and we all had the same name
I wouldn't be jealous of you or you jealous of me"
- Lou Reed and John Cale

Merecraft, Karinus, Udrath, Tobey, Fearillian, Thorney, Draszith and Draszithuss. I've been all these characters and more in my years of MMO gaming.

With the launch of Star Wars The Old Republic getting closer and closer (2 months and 17 days to go!) I've started thinking about what in the galaxy I'm going to call my characters. Normally this doesn't pose too much of an issue for me, as the vast majority of MMOs I've played before have been fantasy based, and I normally start off with a character called Merecraft. The only exceptions to that have been Karinus (in EVE) and Graille (in City of Heroes). The problem I have is that none of these names seem particularly appropriate for a Smuggler in The Old Republic.

Why should the name of my character be so important though?
Your character name is often the first thing people you encounter will see, either in the gameworld, on forums, or via tells and messages. It can immediately tell them what sort of player you are (roleplayer or not for example) and will be the handle you will become known by throughout the server community until the day the character is deleted (and sometimes even after then).

It's the name that will be broadcast when you achieve things, the name that will be feared in the pvp wargrounds, and the name people will go to to buy the best crafted equipment. Unless you are playing with real-life friends your character name is all your guildmates and groupmates will know you by. It is just as much your avatar in the gameworld as your character model.

I take the names of my characters pretty seriously as a result.

In an effort not to spend ages staring at the character creation scheme after making my first toon, and risk picking a name I'm not sure of, that I will then have to live with for the rest of the character's life, I'm trying to draw up a list of potential names beforehand. And it ain't easy!

In my experience there are quite a few different ways of coming up with a name for your character that people use. I've used most of these myself at one point or another. I'm sure there are more as well, but I thought it might prove useful to think about the different choices I have in deciding on a name.

Many people in MMOs pick names from literature, films or pop culture in general. This kind of name can immediately impart your character with a persona, whether you wish it to or not. A character called Jack Sparrow for example might immediately suggest a bumbling, risk-taking charmer (who perhaps imbibes a little too much wine), even if the player does not intend to play the character like that. Pop culture names will often run into issues with prohibition as well, and are sometimes disallowed at creation or changed by GMs afterwards. They do allow easy and generally good sounding names to be found however. Merecraft, my most commonly picked name in many MMOs, is derived from a literary source, though a rather obscure one!

Other people like to pick witty or funny names, and I'm sure we can all think of examples. This kind of name can really stick in the memory (the infamous Master Bates of Everquest fame springs to mind). For me personally though, I don't like giving my charcaters a name that may raise a wry smile initially but then become something of a joke in and of itself. The best witty names in my opinion are the more subtle ones (For example, Adurj... a dirge... a bard).

Another option is to use a handle that has been used in other games before. Many people do this so that others know who the player is if they have encountered them before in other games and communities. Whilst I could take this route, none of my previous names really sound like a Star-Warsy smuggler name (though Karinus might make a good Sith Warrior!).

My pet hate when it comes to character names is lazy and massively inappropriate names. If I meet someone in Lord of the Rings Online called "Leggolass" or in EQ2 called "Drizzzt" for example, it immediately prejudices me against the player. That may be unfair, but it's not an uncommon response to such names; another reason why names need to be picked with care.

My own preference for names is to use one that is appropriate to the lore of the IP and world the game is based on. So in Lord of the Rings Online I'd rather pick Fearillian the elf than Leetfeet the hobbit for example. But how do I come up with a decent name that is unique and appropriate?

Name generators are one idea, and they are now easily available online for most gameworlds. A quick search for "Star Wars name generator" quickly came up with this link and this one. These were the best couple I could find with a quick look, and some of the names are quite good, but as with all name generators the results vary widely and often have a rather forced feel to them. I find these name generators useful to get a feel for the right kind of sound, but if I ever use them it's normally just as a first step to start kicking off some ideas.

I also need to consider whether or not to give my character a surname. Surnames have not yet been confirmed as being in TOR, though Daniel Erickson, lead writer, gave the following rather cryptic response when asked about them in an interview at Eurogamer 2011:
Q: What about surnames?
SR: There's a very good reason we haven't discussed surnames yet, and that will be revealed before ship.
DE: Or not. Those are the only two possibilities.
SR: It's one or the other. I think it'll be revealed before ship. I'm hopeful.
I do like my characters to have surnames, but I then have to consider how it will sound once I start appending titles to my character as well. Darth Karinus may sound good, but does Darth Karinus Dhrak? How did this get so complicated!?

You may have thought that picking a character name would be the simplest part of creating your new avatar. For me at least it's the most difficult. Some people will spend an age getting the appearance of their character's eyebrows correct, but for me it's that blinking cursor in the name box that causes me all kinds of uncertainty!

So, my search continues. When I have a name I'm happy with I'll share it with you all. But not before the game launches; I wouldn't want anyone else to steal it! :p

1 comment:

  1. You've touched up on a subject that is a big issue for me too. I always find naming a character the most challenging thing to do during creation. I've been known to scrap character creation and return to it the next day after further in depth name research.

    Personally I have dabbled in many different strategies to get a name and sometimes they just pop in my head, like the one you mentioned of mine (thx btw) Adurj Le'Bard for my EQ2 Dirge.

    But overall, by far , my fave naming system is to forget all about names, and focus on words. It doesn't matter where it comes from. My famous Rat Ranger in EQ2 who had a blog written about him, was named after reading a book on fell walking in the Lake District by A Wainwright and realising that one of my fave destinations there, has a great name. 'Langdale' the Ratonga Ranger was born.

    Other names I use come from a desc of what the toon does (like Adurj) but then like you I try and make it genre specific and apt. Like my first EQ2 scout. I decided that Wraith was going to be his name, but I didn't want folks to think I was trying to be the dude out of the dodgy 80's movie about the car. So I thought about it and he was an elf, so how would an Elf spell Wraith? Wraethe was born.

    It's a nightmare getting the right name for all the reasons in your post above, especially when you are stuck with it (unless you play EQ2 and use the name change service).

    ReplyDelete

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