Aggro Me: The Name Game
The Name Game
Important Edit: Scott has since made a clarifying post on the whole name issue which I highly recommend you read. There is, in fact, a logical system being implemented for the name change procedure. So, I hereby withdraw my objections to the merger and you don't really have to read the following lengthy discourse. I'm really glad to see my faith in the EQII team was justified. Well done. GamerGod did an interview with SOE's Director of Corporate Communications, Chris Kramer, which you can read here.
This post is not about that interview, though it was originally intended to be. I started writing about it when a quote about the NGE in SWG struck me:
"The main thing that we learned was that we need to begin talking to our communities much earlier whenever there are huge updates coming to a game."
Is that true?
And now we have the Server Mergers in EQII: a test of post-NGE SOE communication regarding a major game change. And I think that test was failed.
Now, I happen to be a Hartsman fan. I like his Producer's Letters and posts and I think the game has been headed in a terrific direction. I could have gone on in a somewhat boring post about the Kramer interview as originally intended. I had already made some strong points in my Server Merger post. And honestly, I am not even opposed to the merger idea on principle. I am supportive of it, if done right.
Frankly, I thought about taking a pass on this one. But that's just not my way.
I have to take issue with the communication that has taken place with the community on the merger issue. As I stated, I think merging servers, regardless of whether it is a good idea, is a traumatic event for players. With such a large and emotionally volatile issue, communication is all the more important.
And the communication on this matter has been sub par. Scott's original letter stated that:
“some may be automatically renamed (with one or more 'x's appended to their name) in the case that their name is already taken by an older character.”
Note the word “older.”
Then in a later post, Scott stated that:
"At the moment, the person coming over will be the one renamed if the person blocking it doesn't end up cleaned up in the pass of removing placeholders.
We're looking into more desirable alternatives to this that favor the more recently active, more established characters, but I don't want to get into specifics until we've tested them. Once we have something that verifies out, I'll make sure everyone hears about it."
First of all, the two statements are contradictory. So where is the clear communication?
Second of all, when embarking on such a difficult and emotional project, it is important to have clear systems in place for the players to understand when they hear about the project. All the details should have absolutely been worked out prior to the initial announcement.
The miasma of uncertainty on the name issue has resulted in hundreds of angry message board posts. And it has spilled over into the game too. People are arguing in chat about what the name policy is (and they're usually both wrong because it doesn't seem to have been finally decided yet). Then you have people being very upset over losing their names (and believe me people are very upset).
And the amazing thing is that some of these people who are upset may not lose their names in the end. People are being put through an emotional wringer for possibly no reason. And I don't need that negativity, in-game and out. A clear FAQ would have been nice, but actual finalized procedures would be the proper way to start.
If SOE couldn't have accurately communicated with the community at the time the mergers were announced, they clearly should have held off on that announcement and pushed the date of the mergers back. It is unfair to make such an announcement without clear and final information in place.
You had to have known the name issue would be the first subject players wanted information on. And that information was just absent. That is not successful communication. Putting aside the whole communication issue, we all know that simply changing the names of the people based purely on their server and not on any logical method such as date of creation, playtime, level, amount of activity in recent months or some combination thereof is unfair and wrong. I know it, SOE knows it and the players know it. We all know it. There's no point in me crafting careful arguments about it because it is simply common sense. Player A: Player A bought EQII the first day it was released. She started a character on a random server, using the same name she had used in 7 previous MMO's. She is now max-level and logs in at least once a day.Player B: Player B bought EQII two months ago and started a character on a random server. Player B has logged into his level 8 character, an alt, a total of 3 times over the last two months.Should Player B get to keep the name simply because he had the good fortune to roll on Befallen instead of Faydark?
I understand the desire to get things done prior to the expansion. I understand that there may be huge technical hurdles. But I have to say on an issue of this magnitude I can't be understanding. It should have been done correctly.
Listen, server mergers are never an easy thing to sell to your players. I'm not saying all would have gone over easily in a happy festival of ice cream and confetti if the correct systems were in place and were clearly communicated to the customers. Some people would have still been upset. But the list would have been a great deal shorter and this period of uncertainty would not have occurred.
You've had the lessons. Learn from them. You can do better than this.
This is a rare weekend post I'm leaving up until Tuesday. As of now I still hope and believe SOE will come forth with a suitable name policy. Moorgard did post that they were working on it. I've checked the dev tracker frequently hoping for an update. But the clock is ticking rapidly towards merge day. If they go through with the merge with the current absurd policy in place it will be a huge hit to player morale which might even outweigh all the good things which are happening. I truly think SOE is underestimating the massive negative impact this will have on their players. As I've said before, people invest a lot of meaning and emotion into their characters' names.
It bears repeating that I'm not even against the mergers. But I am certainly against the mergers taking place without a suitable name policy in place.