[p]If there is one issue, one single decision a mmog operator can make that will dictate the entire flavour of the community for all time, it is the naming policy. Setting and enforcing the guidelines that determine what an acceptable name for in-game characters is a major issue that many mmogs gloss over or ignore, much to their detriment. [p]A character’s name sets the entire atmosphere and attitude a character (and their player) is likely to have. In a mmog, you have a limited set of information about a player to determine how you will behave towards them, with their chosen character name being a huge component of what their personality is like (especially in mmog where everyone basically looks the same). Star Wars Galaxies is a great example of this – as far as I know, SWG only alters names where they are offensive. In SWG there are hundreds of players with Luke Skywalker variants, Chewbacca variants or joke names that really aren’t that funny after the first thirty seconds. Would you really want to team up with Lemon Squeezy or Wehadababy Itsaboy to fight against the rebel scum? [p]Taking a look at the CoH forums, it’s obvious that the community does take names more seriously than on other mmog forums I’ve seen. This makes sense – for a superhero, having a catchy moniker is everything. As fans of superheroes and in following a superhero game, we’ve generally followed those conventions. But names occasionally crop up that are questionable for how they would fit into Paragon City for their associations (just from scanning the current active list, ExtraJoss and Iggytheborg fit this category) or just do not belong (thanks for being an example, ieatpoop).* [p]I recognise that names members pick in the forums will not all be the same as the ones they pick for playing CoH. But I perceive a huge risk in allowing mmog players to pick their character names in an uncontrolled fashion. There have already been discussions about players who choose to emulate existing characters with names such as W0lv3r1n3 or B@tm@n. Using variations on already existing characters may be looked down on by the community proper, but when CoH hits the mainstream, it is something that will happen unless controlled – Vegeta0001 through to Vegeta2265 are just itching to enter Paragon City. [p]Greater problems could arise from joke names that could technically meet general naming requirements – does LesbianMan belong in Paragon City? Does the Incredible Stink? Or how about Openwide SayAhh? Names in similar veins are very popular in other mmogs and I doubt CoH will be exempt unless steps are taken. For the majority of players, a character name is less important than their achievement, but it has a huge impact on the ‘feel’ that the world for other players. I’m not saying that players must remain in-character at all times (and this is less of an issue due to CoH’s modern setting) but that talking things over with fellow hero Yankee Daring is much more meaningful than crossing paths with Luka Skyywalkaa. [p]I understand that a naming policy is a difficult thing to enforce. Players get very unhappy when their character is re-named right from under them while customer service representatives have an onerous task in ploughing through thousands of characters to determine those that break naming rules. But it is a hygiene factor of enormous importance. It is the thin edge of the wedge in that players who disrespect the naming conventions can drag down other standards in CoH. Having hundreds of hero characters with names that designate them as anything but heroic is not a good way to build an online community that will last in the CoH environment. The argument that since you are paying your money you should be able to name your character what you want doesn’t hold water; it’s a game, but you have to follow the rules if you are going to play. [p]A character name is a small thing, but it is one that will have a great impact on CoH. Having the right name is something vital to the spirit of the superhero genre and I would hate to see CoH undermined by being filled with characters who don’t make the grade name-wise. I am looking forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other heroes in fighting supervillains; somehow I just can’t muster the same enthusiasm to fight crime next to J-Lo B-Aff and LinkinPark RoXX. [p][font size=-2]* To those community members I named; nothing personal, but I needed examples.
Reading List[p]Stormwatch: Team Achilles is another Wildstorm title that I look forward to every month. It deals with a crack squad of (mostly) unpowered soldiers who operate as an anti-superpowered being unit for the United Nations. Led by Ben Santini (who has a bit of history in the Wildstorm universe, but this generally doesn’t get in the way) Stormwatch takes on superhumans and wins through the use of better tactics and by outwitting them. It was nice to see the Authority beaten by being out-thought rather than being out-fought in one issue. [p]S:TA is a team book that thus far has done a good job in distinguishing individual soldiers from one another – I usually find I can tell different soldiers apart through both look and behaviour. Some people have complained about the art in some of the issues; I’ll agree that it isn’t conventional comic book art, but the finely-lined style did add a kinetic quality to the page. I do believe that the art has improved as the artist has been changed a couple of times; take a look across all issues (up to issue #15 currently) to see if you accept the artwork. [p]Overall, I enjoy S:TA for the strong character focus it has; sure, there’s lots of action, but characters behave intelligently and follow their ideals. Santini has to think two moves ahead of everyone else if he wants to see himself and his team get out alive and its nice to see his plans work out and tie together without relying on a deux ex machina to save him issue after issue. [p]This comic is aimed at mature readers and contains realistic violence, some coarse language and smattering of sex. Generally this doesn’t get in the way; rather it serves to show the Wildstorm universe is a harsh place where only the smart survive the superpowered game. I hope they start releasing S:TA in tpb form as it is a strong series that deserves to be popular (imho, of course :-).