Starting a new MMORPG is one of my favorite things, because this is a time when you get to be really creative if you want to. After selecting your perfect look, deciding between those last two hair styles or armor pieces that will top off the image you want to project of your brand new superhero, spy, bounty hunter, elf, or giant feline, is naming your character. Do you use the random generators? Not care much and just take whatever’s available? Come up with a jokey moniker? Reuse the name you’ve been using since your MUD days in 1996? Or are you like me and invest time and thought into each character’s name based upon multiple factors?
Like many others, I have been spending time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic in the weeks since release, and it is just about time for me to hit an important milestone: choosing a Legacy name. Legacy names in the game apply to all characters on your account, regardless of faction affiliation or race, so it has to be something you can live with across a few alts. The game is designed for alts, so it’s a bit of a tough decision. I usually roll alts in each game I play and often spend time carefully naming each one, so this Legacy decision isn’t one I’m taking lightly.
Some examples of Legacy names I have seen include SamuelLJackson, Kardashian, and Jones. Then there are the lore-related names like Fett and Tann I have seen players using in addition to original names that fit in with the lore. I can understand the desire to adopt a lore name if you’re a huge fan, but it’s a bit unoriginal. But names like Kardashian? Before you guys think I’m taking things too seriously, I’m not. It’s just a little bit jarring to encounter someone named Kardashian in a galaxy far, far away, and it would be equally jarring to encounter an elf named Kardashian in Lord of the Rings Online. Cleverly done humorous names are less so, such as the classic player city Mos Quito in Star Wars Galaxies.
But I digress.
I want to know how you name your characters, but before that, I’ll lay my own cards out on the table so you know just where I’m coming from. I am a bit of an old school MMORPG player, an explorer, an RP-er, someone that enjoys getting deep into the lore and plotting out a character’s background. I didn’t begin in Pencil and Paper games, but I would probably fit in with those that did.
Way back in my first MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, I named my character after the heroine of a novel I had in my head back then, a fantasy story in which a girl ultimately becomes a queen. I decided that my protagonist’s mother’s name was fitting for my Hibernian Druid healer, and so began a long tradition for me of using that same name for years. It’s only in the last three or four years that I started moving away from that being my default choice. They say you never forget your first…character name. I know that’s not quite how the saying goes, but let’s roll with it.
In The Matrix Online, I used my own first name as a placeholder in beta, which I then carried over into the live game. That was notable, however, because the name I originally picked out, Stratagem, was my first name based upon my character’s class. She was a spy, specifically an assassin, and thus, a hidden tool of subterfuge. The name also sounded like an appropriate code name in the Matrix universe. Ditto for Mongoose. Those were my first two big MMOs, and I took two wildly different newbie approaches to naming. I still use Stratagem once in a while for my rogues, so promise not to take it, okay?
However, The Matrix Online was where I cut my teeth on serious RP-ing, so when I started creating my first alts, I began to create back-stories for my characters that translated over. I created characters named Mongoose (who had awoken from The Matrix and later was the sole survivor after an ambush of her whole crew) and Chel, named after the mythical Aztec goddess Ixchel. Mythology is a frequent source for my own character names, sometimes with slight changes. Other factors for me include my character’s class or skill-set, the game’s lore, name dictionaries, and any RP backgrounds I create for myself. I most often play rogues, specifically assassins, but in Guild Wars for example, I chose to play a Monk to fill a group hole, and thus chose a first name that means loyal and a surname meaning calm.
I found those names via online baby naming sites, which are really useful when you want a name that has a certain meaning, sound, or cultural origin to fit your character. When creating my Hobbit Minstrel in LOTRO, I read the intro text that indicates female Hobbits most often have names of flowers or gems, pulled up the Wikipedia listing for flowers and got to work finding one that I liked and that wasn’t taken on my server.
As for choosing a Legacy name in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I still haven’t even made my list of possibilities. I’m prepared for the possibility that my choices might be taken and I will wind up back at square one. But this is also part of the reason that I often utilize different sources to choose character names. Not only do they help me shape the character I want, but it helps reduce the frequency (and frustration) of seeing “Name already taken” over and over and over. Ultimately, I’m not pleased with the way names are shared across characters and permanent. This makes race-based naming impossible. Chiss names are not T’wilek names are not Zabrak names. Naming customs are sometimes even different between males and females of a particular species. This is probably much more in depth than many people go, but for those of us who really get into lore these are the kinds of things we consider. It’s probably also why character names like BoobstheMagnificent befuddle people like me. MMOs had their share of silly names years ago too, so it’s not a new phenomenon, but with the greater number of players, the percentage seems to have increased proportionally.
The Legacy name for me is thus tricky, because I can’t choose it based on my character’s class as I did in LOTRO or something that’s personal to my alts of different species. While the Legacy system is made for the encouragement of alts, and the name intends to link your characters together and instill some sort of attachment bond in players, for those of us who prefer to create characters as individuals, it leaves something to be desired.
Maybe I’m one of those gamers who miss the old days too much, but whenever I see people (especially on RP servers) with names like Pizzadeliveryman or N00bkillar69, it’s an immersion breaker. I honestly wonder who those people are that give those characters names like that and what they’re thinking. I understand someone might give a mule a jokey name, but a main? Be honest, if this is you: why pick a name like that? And if you’re maybe a little too in-depth like I am, how did you start? This writer’s curious mind wants to know!