Gamespy has an interesting video where Bill Roper demos character creation in Champions Online, an upcoming superhero game.
It looks pretty neat, but what struck me was an almost throwaway line at the end (at about the 3:10 mark). Roper states or implies that multiple player characters can have the same name:
Just like you see in comics, sometimes there are heroes which share a name or share a concept for a name. We know that's going to happen, but the important thing is that when I put that name on the character, I'm going to get the name that I want to really put the last finishing touch on my concept.
This is a radical concept. Most games enforce that each character on a server has a unique name. Thus that character can always be identified by that name. Sometimes it's annoying when you have a good name and it's taken, especially if it's taken by a low-level character that is never played.
But at the same time, can you imagine two characters running around on the same server with the same name? There would be mistaken identities and the possibility for identity theft. How would you send mail or whispers to a character?
Basically, you'd end up with all the problems and confusions of names in the real world. Except in the real world, most people are bound by the geography they inhabit, which you can use to be reasonably sure of identity. Joe Smith who lives at 11 Haro Street and works at 21 Bond St in Toronto is different from Joe Smith who lives at 32 Cordova Street and works at 944 Younge St in Toronto.
In a virtual world with multiple people of the same name, it seems like you would have a lot more problems.
I just don't see how non-unique names would work. Maybe you'd have a "superhero name" which is not unique, but also a "secret identity" which is unique. Of course, it's possible that I'm reading too much into that one line and that Roper means something else entirely.