LOTRO and the glory of naming absolutely everything

The LOTRO devs understand that players like to name items in games. I agree, and I think this is a brilliant and utterly Middle Earth compatible mechanic which has the possibility to make a lot of player interactions both more immersive and more memorable.

Of course, like any player generated content, naming also has the possibility to throw up the craziest ‘wtf were they thinking’ moments. Fortunately on RP servers, the GMs are really good about dealing with complaints about names. I always wondered why companies claimed that a naming policy was too difficult or time consuming to implement. It really doesn’t take that long to scan through a list of names and bump any offensive ones. Free Realms, for example, impressed at launch by requiring all player generated names to be approved before they could be used, and they were dealing with huge numbers of players at the time. It’s such a simple thing that can make the game more vibrant, immersive, and RP friendly for all the player base, even the non-RPers.

So here’s a brief list of nameable entities in LOTRO — just to give a feel for how ubiquitous it has become.

  • Your character (first name and surname).
  • Your family tree. You can have “son or daughter of Y” as a title, where Y is another player. This does require the other player’s cooperation.
  • Your kinship (guild).
  • Social chat channels.
  • Your banner bearer pet if you are a captain. You can also name your banner.
  • Your pets if you are a loremaster.
  • Your gear — masterwork crit pieces can be named by the crafter when they are created. If you want a particular name and aren’t a crafter yourself, you will need to negotiate with a crafter to make it and name it for you personally.
  • Legendary items. These can be reforged every 10 levels and when you reforge a legendary item, you can also rename it.
  • Your mount. This was new in the latest patch.
  • Your skirmish soldier.
  • Monster players can also name their banners (Orcish Warleaders) and spiderlings (Spiders)

Things you can’t name:

  • Your house. Strange omission there, really.
  • Your lunch, even if it is a masterpiece of cooking.
  • Your title. You cannot have a custom title, although there are a very wide range of in game titles to collect and select. Especially if you want something that involves ‘orc slayer’, ‘slayer of orcs’, ‘orc massacre supremo’ etc.

That’s a long list of nameable items, especially in comparison to a game like WoW which hasn’t even advanced as far as surnames for characters.

But sometimes, an interesting or especially IC name is the only thing you’ll remember about another player when you have just met. An unusual guild name will catch people’s attention (I know I’ve had a few comments about The Ashen Rose Conspiracy, for example.) In games where so many people love to individualise their characters, it’s a shame that devs often ignore the most basic and fundamental way we make things our own in the real world — by giving them names.

In which I get probed

So I’ve been tagged by Regis and by Arbitrary for a 10 question meme that was kicked off by Jennifer@Girl IRL.

As Jennifer wisely notes:

And what is a meme if not good filler material?

But that’s not actually why I decided to press on with it (I do actually have posts lined up for the rest of the week this time ;) ). I like these questions, I think I can answer them in a way that might be interesting to read,  and I like  to see how the answers reflect my changing playing style/s.

1.  What is your current main character’s name (or names, if you play multiple games)?  Explain how you chose the name.

My warrior is called Mrs Spinks. I don’t know if I ever really figured out what her first name was. I don’t remember entirely how I picked it but we were sitting around during the WoW beta discussing what we were going to play in live, and I said ‘My character will be an undead warrior and her name is Mrs Spinks.’

It’s meant to indicate that she’s a Mrs Kray type of character (mum of the Kray gang). I liked it at the time because I thought it had a lot of personality. I have noticed though that she doesn’t fit in well to the sort of RP that goes in in WoW because that kind of character is unlikely to sit around emoting.

It’s great for a warrior though, I always wanted one of those rolling pin maces that drops in the Deadmines for her.

2.  What was the name of your very first character in an MMO?  Explain how you chose that name.

My first MMO character was a minstrel in DaoC. I called her Linnet because it sounds  like a name and also is a type of small songbird (which I thought fitted with a minstrel). Apparently it also means something in Swedish.

This  is something that crops up a lot on EU servers. If your name means something obscure in Hungarian, Portuguese or (in at least one case) Urdu, you can be sure someone who speaks it  will let you know.

3.  Have you kept a specific name through various games, or do you tend to change your naming habits based on the individual game?

It’s a mixture. If I’m feeling uninspired or I want friends to know who I am, I’ll pick an old name. But if the game and the setting has inspired me, I’ll think of a new name that fits into it. It’s because the old names are attached to characters who have already told their stories.

Amusingly, I always always think of new names for characters in City of Heroes. I can’t palm off a hero with a name like Mrs Spinks, although a better writer probably could.

4.  Do you ever reserve names, planning to use them for characters that you might play later?  If so, what are they and why do you hold on to them?

Yes, I totally do. It’s whenever I have a brilliant idea for a character name and/or concept. Many of them never actually make it into the game.

In WoW, I have one slot taken up by a level 1 undead priest called Nepenthe. I think it’s an awesome name, and only slightly pretentious. But never used it. It was inspired after a word-of-the-day post which referenced Poe.

Quaff, Oh Quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!

That’s so goth. I love it. Even though I’ve never been a goth, although I once did share a flat with one, and I loved playing the Vampire RPG.

5.  Of the three common archetypes in MMOs — tank, healer, DPS — which is your current main character?

My current main is a tank. And when dual specs go live later today, she is also melee dps.

6.  What archetype was your very first character in an MMO?  Why did you choose it?

I picked the minstrel in DaoC because it had the best run speed buff in Albion. Plus it did a bit of everything. But the runspeed was awesome.

7.  Are you usually attracted to one archetype over another, or do you play them equally?  Why?

I have played pretty much all archetypes in MMOs and enjoyed them. I like healing. I like support characters. I like tanking. I really like melee dps. The ranged dps classes I liked always had some support aspects (like crowd control, or healing).

Much as I like healing, I have realised that it’s only fun for me if I can either solo well also, or always be with another player, and/or be in very strong demand for groups. I like the groupability of it as much as the actual healing.

I think it’s because I’ve liked so many types that I tend to prefer characters that aren’t locked into one role. I have a fondness for the minstrel/burglar type which is more of a hybrid dps with lots of buffs or debuffs. But they never seem to really work out well in MMOs.

My favourite class ever was my old sorceress in DaoC, which was a crowd control class with good damage, and a permanent pet, and lifetaps, and a group speed buff. Crowd control is so fun in PvP when you are the one doing it and you have a nice selection of AE crowd control to choose from. In fact, it was totally overpowered and fun as hell :)

8. What is your favorite feature from an MMO you no longer play?

I loved that in Tale in the Desert that you could be in as many guilds as you wanted. It was really common to be in one local guild (ie. local to where you ‘lived’ that focussed on building stuff), one or more to do with favourite activities in game (eg. crafting, or acrobatics, etc) and some which were mostly chat channels or created to help organise temporary events.

I know you could do much the same thing with custom chat channels but it felt very different.

9.  Is there an MMO that you would play if it was free?  Which and why?

I’d definitely play more CoH if it was free. It’s such a casual friendly game. Any others … dunno. I like to get deep into my MMOs so there’s a limit on how much MMO time I really have.

Similar with WAR, my sub there isn’t up yet but I just don’t play enough to make it worth the subscription. Just I have fun on the odd times I do log in.

10.  How do you measure the success of a character in an MMO (total kills, titles accumulated, wealth, rare items collected, level reached, etc.)?

I think of my characters in two ways.

Firstly from a RP point of view: was I able to tell that character’s story? In an MMO, that usually means telling the story the devs want you to tell, and levelling to max level.

Secondly, the character is a tool for me to use to play the game. So was I able to explore the heart of that MMO. Did I try everything? Did I really grok how to play my character in different aspects of the game. Was I able to accomplish my in game goals for her?

So a successful character for me is usually one that reached max level, but also one which I became invested in. I have to care about the character, somehow, for it to really be a success.

I’m not tagging anyone but if you want to take part, feel free to get probed either in your own blog or in comments (if you aren’t a blogger ;) ). In particular, how do you define when a character is successful for you?