Pixels by any other name

A while ago, Zernebog talked about MMO character names, and shared the thought process behind his SWTOR ones. Names being a big deal to a roleplayer like me, I thought of doing likewise.

He nailed it when he pointed out that he doesn’t do backstories and roleplay. I’ve always held that character names are such a fundamental part of the MMO experience, even those who ‘do not partake’ should have proper ones that at least try to adhere to the setting.

Nothing kills my immersion like them Xbox Live-ish, for-the-lulz names. Oddly, in many cases, I’ve noticed that the more accomplished gear- and achievement-wise the character, the more ridiculous the name tends to be (perhaps this warrants a study). As a friend once told me, “I don’t want a ‘proper’ name. I want a ‘pro’ name. Like ‘zergsmash7331’.”

My favorite response has always been this post from an old thread on the LoTRO forums:

It says all over the screen and all over the guides, pick a NAME. Not a name and a title, nor a LOLNAME. Just choose a name and stop complaining. It’s not hard, no matter how difficult people claim it to be.

I think a certain anime character has the best rejoinder to that.

Now, on to the characters. I’ve too many for a single blog post, so here are six from two MMOs – each set of three as different in flavor as the games they’re from!

The Lord of the Rings Online

Naturally, the creation of my LoTRO characters got the most thought out of my entire MMO menagerie. Gotta love lore-heavy games – and Sindarin is such a precious language to work with!

Redwine (Man Champion)

He now roams Middle-earth in exile, carrying arms in the service of the Free Peoples, awaiting the day he returns to the Riddermark and redeems his name. Until that day, he is Eardwrecca, the outcast one.

Redwine in Imlad BalchorthOld English for ‘counsel-friend’, which I thought an ironic name for a Rohirrim warrior more apt at counseling with his blades than his mouth.

The fact that it is also a type of alcohol led to an in-joke that he was ‘the son of Goldwine’ (also a proper Rohirric name, anyhow).

And more than one joker asking me if I loved to drink in real life (I don’t).

The Ye Olde English continued when it came time to name his Legendaries, of course: his swords are Heregild (‘price of war’) and Wyrdgild (‘price of fate’).

Elvedui (Elf Warden)

They were there when the Havens were built, and they will be there mounting guard over the harbor when the Last Ship sets sail into the West.

Elvedui in the homesteadsSindarin for ‘Last Elf’. The idea behind this cool cat was that he was a member of the Círdanrim (the Shipwright’s Own), an honor guard protecting the Grey Havens and keeping the roads to the Sea open for departing Elves.

To that end, his destiny was to be the last of the Elves to sail west – the rearguard of his race, if you will.

He was originally to be named Mithon, ‘Grey One’, in keeping with his color motif (Grey Warden, I know), but it was taken.

So was Eärendur, ‘Sea-Servant’ – although that became his surname. Alliteration for the win.

Annúnion (Man Guardian)

Son of the sunset, blood of the West,
no charge too heavy, nor any quest.
White Tower’s servant, ever watching,
awaiting the return of the King.

Annúnion's challengeSindarin for ‘Son of the West’ or, more literally, ‘of the Sunset’. Clear Númenorean references, apt for a Gondorian soldier loyal to the vacant throne.

His surname changed over time as his story evolved: Arantir (‘King’s Guard’), Arandili (‘of the Royalists), and Arradon (‘the Path-less’). Yes. A.A. Pity he wasn’t a Lore-master.

But I had the most fun sourcing Gondorian and Númenorean themes to name his Legendaries. His swords were called Magolwest, the ‘Oath-blade’ of the House of Andúnië, and Gilmegil, the ‘star-sword’ of Osgiliath.

Neverwinter

In contrast to LoTRO, I didn’t put much work into character development here, the state of the game’s RP being what it was. My only concessions were a name and a few lines of biography, based off the origin I chose during chargen.

But the thought process behind those names wasn’t always screwed on straight…

Darc Murdos

‘Dark Murder’. Geddit? Haw haw haw. I’m murdering myself here.

Mossie Pettihild

‘Mossie’ as in mosquito – because what else would you call a hobbit in a fight? And ‘Petty Hilt’ as in those not-so-petty Buster Sword knockoffs the game insists on sticking GWFs with.

Artyna Autumn-Born

There’s a lot of layers behind this one. When HRs were released as Neverwinter‘s first ranged class, I wanted mine to be a pure distance nuker – like artillery, or ‘arty’ as the military calls it. (The military short-forms every damned thing.)

Also, HRs use bows, so I thought at once of a certain Greek goddess who was also a badass archer: Artemis. Roman name: Diana. ‘Arty’ being already a short form for Artemis, I MacGyvered the two, and voila! The ‘Autumn-Born’ was bolted on for alliteration’s sake as well as a reference to the HR’s nature-oriented abilities.

Then there are Artyna’s companions…

Man-at-Arms

Infarn Summer-BornHe’s infantry – which goes before the artillery. Just like, being a tank companion, he goes before my DPS.

And what goes before autumn? Oh, yes.

Infarn Summer-Born it is. Infarn, in front. Haw haw haw.

Frost Mimic

Winter-BornSeems weird to give a fanged ice cube a ‘civilized’ name. You know, any kind of name you would give a… wait, ice? Winter-Born it is.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a tank companion, and though I live in a tropical country, I know my seasons. Closing one eye here.

Damaran Shepherd

AffoRunning out of ideas here. Already plumbed the seasons angle twice, so back to something artillery-related. Dog’s a DPS companion. Who helps the gunners take down targets?

The forward observer, of course. In military parlance, F.O. ‘Affo’. Hey, looks like a catchy name for a pup…

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7 Responses to “Pixels by any other name”

  1. Back in the day I played in one of the earliest TESO campaigns and the first Emperor our faction was able to help crown was an Argonian named Whispers to Ravens. I could easily get behind this Emperor , despite the fact that he was an Argonian leading the Daggerfall Covenant, which is ostensibly a political association made up of Bretons, Redguard and Orcs. The name gave him heft and weight, and it was obviously embellished by the fact that he was always fighting in Cyrodiil.

    Then he took a break from the game, and our next Emperor was named Johny Hammerstix. No amount of wishful thinking could make that game palatable role-playing wise in my head, and since that time I’ve just accepted that we’re always going to get pro names, leetbro names, and variations thereof and stopped worrying about it.

    • Great anecdote – thank you for sharing. Shame it happened, but if I had been a contemporary of yours then, I suppose I would have tried my darndest to justify Emperor Hammerstix’s existence by assuming he was a devotee of Sheogorath or something.

      That’s one thing Tamriel (and Faerûn) has that Middle-earth doesn’t: a little leeway for silly names. In the latter, unless you’re a hobbit, silliness shatters immersion like a truck plowing into a glassware shop. But when even silliness crosses the line into “xxxlegolasxxx” and “Whatdafeckusay” (both names I’ve actually seen before; I reported the latter), my blood pressure rises.

  2. I loved reading about your LOTRO characters. Like you, I really dislike “lolz names’: they totally break immersion. I never saw that many of them in LOTRO. Maybe some people with unimaginative names, such as ‘Bjeorn’ or ‘Lagolas’. In SWTOR there’s a lot more people with lolz names. I also see the trend that the more hardcore PvE raiding people more often use these kind of names, but I think this is even more the case for PvP.

    I really feel like writing something like this for my own characters now. Maybe I will!

    • Glad you liked it! Breathing life into our pixels is such a fulfilling process. You should totally do a feature on yours as well – make each one more detailed than mine!

      Yes. Hardcore PvE and PvP types don’t play MMOs for immersion – they play to win. And winning is pointless if nobody knows who you are, hence the inappropriate names.

      I’ve always held that the random name generator is not just for people stuck at the naming part of chargen – it’s also for people who would otherwise settle on lolnames. Neverwinter is an odd ball regarding this, though. Despite the lax naming system – toons can even share names, as long as they’re on different accounts – you’ll see a great many toons with names easily identifiable as random-generated. Either they’re all newcomers on their first test drive of the game, or Neverwinter players just give up way too early.

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