Saturday, July 11, 2009

Champions Online and Unique Names

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.


  1. I was recently reading over some CO developer blogs, and that was talked about at one point. Hero names will only be unique *per account* -- there can be multiple players with a hero named Superdude, but you couldn't have more than one. A specific one can be whispered @accountname; like Superdude@whatsisface, or Superdude@otherguy.

    They're not going to have separate servers, as I understand it, either... though I don't know if that meant they will have only one server a la EVE, or multiple shards/"servers" but you can log onto any of them whenever you play, as RuneScape does.

  2. Another possibility would be to take some sort of title into account, but what if, like in LotRO or WoW, you can change your title at will.

    Definitely interesting, we will see :)

  3. Been following the blog for a while. I'm in the beta for CO, and how they handled it is that it's your "Charactername@loginname". In short, every character DOES have a unique name, but it's done by adding the persons login name onto their character name. This does make chat kinda awkward tho when you see "Heroguy@immaputz says:.... ". It is, however, a rather unique system and does allow different characters to have the same name (Restriction, you cannot name 2 of your OWN heroes the same name).

    - Polecat

  4. Well, what if you're given a sort of ID that identifies you that isn't your DISPLAY NAME per se. Phantasy Star Online/Universe did this. You could get any name you want, but you have your own "guild card number", which makes you identifiable from everyone else.

    Plus, consider the fact that most characters will dress pretty differently from each other (unless we're talking about a case like WoW where armor defines your looks, which is a discussion for another place and another time.)

  5. Interesting, Polecat. Does that mean that everyone knows your account name? And all your alts are tied together?

  6. That's correct on both parts. But then CO (and it's predecessor City of Heroes/Villains) allows you to friend people by account as well as by individual character (A feature I missed when I started playing WoW coming from City of Heroes). Before you worry, when someone tries to add you as a friend you have to allow it, so you have final say over who adds you and who doesn't.

    - Polecat

  7. Champions sounds better everyday. The name issue is a big deal, and WoW had the horrible limits which like many online places forces people to create unique versions of their names.

    With that in mind though, I hope people realize this before they set up their account, so it's not
    Superdude@EricSchwartz or

    In which case, what's the rating on the game, and are there language restrictions to creating an account name? That would be my question.

  8. I don't like account names being made public like Champions is doing (if what's being said here is correct).

    I do wonder whether their system will impede communication or not. Say I see 'HeroDude' and want to send him a message (say to group up for a mission or something). I try just a tell, but there are multiple versions of his name. How would I find his account name to send him a message? Can you right click someone and select 'tell' from there that automatically makes a tell to HeroDude@account?

    It kind of makes me wonder, why bother with character name at all and use the account for all forms of communication if you need to add it anyways?

  9. @Alindra: Imagine an entire group named HeroDude......

  10. Hoping they have some good friends list functionality because I can see it being a pain if you have to type out the full name every time you want to whisper to someone or invite them to a group.

  11. spinks, it seems that what polecat said pretty much means you can just do whatever is after the @, so if it's Herodude@lamename, you just do like /w lamename, or /invite lamename or whatever function they'll have. That way you befriend the entire account.

  12. Good Old Ultima Online allowed multiple people with the same name on the same shard.
    However UO didnt have in game mail or tells. You ended up using 3rd Party programmes (Mainly ICQ) to communicate across the world.

  13. What I always loved (sarcasm) are the players who just happen to get a name first (and not a very unique name at that) and then think anyone who uses a variation of the name (what choice do we have???) is "copying" them.

    "*I* was the first Arthas! I hate seeing all these wannabe Arthaz and Artas running around!!!!"

    Bravo to CO I hope it works.