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Join The Murder: Character Names and Identity in Crowfall

Join the Murder is a new series detailing specific systems in the upcoming Crowfall title that we think makes it unique. We are working with the developers to ensure that these articles are factually correct and contain as much up-to-date information as we can pile into them. This article, however, did not include feedback from them and is based on previous videos, blogs, and commentary.

In my travels in the MMORPG genre, I have always strived to make characters named Scree. This name dates back to my early days on AOL where “screelings” was simply far too long for the average gamer to type out in full (we’ve since seen an upward trend on typing skills since those days). In every game since, assuming it was available, I’ve been Scree.

Identity in MMORPGs, however, has changed in importance over time. The identity of a player used to be a critical component of your virtual reputation.  This was most obvious during the EverQuest era where it took enormous amounts of time and skill to reach any noteworthy achievement. People were known for being great tanks, friendly clerics who could save you from some of the penalties for dying, or even for being master crafters. This reputation was tied to that player’s name, and thus holding a unique identity was very possible in the early MMORPG space.

Fast forwarding through to today, a very different tale is being told. To increase accessibility to more players, reducing the time needed to achieve progress in a game was made. This reduction decreased the difficulty of accomplishing anything. One could say it became possible to do anything, given some amount of effort. The downside to this was that it reduced the need for interdependence with other players in the genre. Players could, in essence, solo the genre with few exceptions. There was no need for a unique identity because it was virtually impossible to earn a reputation for anything.

Crowfall is where this trend gets reversed. Several decisions made so far have already highlighted a significantly different direction in the genre. It’s worth noting exactly whats different, but for brevity, I’ll list these out in bullet points. In Crowfall;

  • There are no “character slots”. You play as a single entity capable of possessing vessels (race + class) of your own design and choosing.
  • The passive skill tree system could take a player real-life years of training to become a master of a class, crafting or of a gathering profession. Noteworthy achievements indeed.
  • Guilds and their membership rosters are now publicly available information on the Crowfall.com website.
  • Your in-game name, forum name, and account name are the exact same. 

That last bullet is a doozie. Take a minute and let that sink in.

Identity and Reputation in Crowfall

When players are forced to use the same name across all aspects of Crowfall, I expect a few behaviors will be modified. For sure the prospects of alternate-accounts exist, but the same rules apply to those accounts as they do the main ones. Potentially worse, considering you’ll probably need to have purchased the game at some point to reserve a name (speaking of which…). Trolling might still be a thing, but with the ability to track back a trolls behaviors to a guild (completely viewable on Crowfall.com), that has serious in-game political implications. Someone stirring up trouble? Your guild might suffer for it. The implications of this, now public relationship, is to a certain degree new to the genre. Never before in a PvP title is information like this so intertwined, fixed in place, and accessible to the public at large.

The upsides of this are numerous, and probably the best news for Crafters and people who like to be known as the “villain” of a game. Your name will carry with it the experiences others have with it, and that will translate over to the forums without the ability of any party to truly hide from it. If ACE ends up working on and releasing an API, it might be totally possible to know just how deadly someone is (or if they are lying…) and tie that into how the person is talking on the forums. Crafters have much to rejoice about in this design, as players being known for being an expert Alchemist, or Woodworker or Blacksmith is entirely a “thing” in Crowfall. Knowing the right people in this game will matter. Relationships begin to matter again.

Changing Names

When it comes to changing your name, players currently in early testing can breathe easily. Right now all players who weren’t aware that their forum/account name is permanently going to be their in-game name can request a one-time name change through the support email.

Will this service be offered after launch though? I reached out to ArtCraft to hear what they had to say on the topic, but unfortunately, they haven’t quite made it that far in determining an answer yet. Regardless of their decision, however, needing to change your account name will almost certainly carry a physical real-world cost (either in having to buy a new account, or paying for a name change service should one be offered).

Your choices will have consequences!

Conclusion

While it is possible to create alternate accounts, and thus potentially allow for alternate identities, having an in-game reputation tied to that personality would require time spent on it. The use of alternate characters, however, doesn’t necessarily undermine the accomplishments of the Crowfall design. Reputations do matter, in-game or otherwise. Should some attempt to conceal their identity, we must concede that it is entirely possible. Concealing your identity from others, however, is beyond the scope and purpose of this introductory article.

The real takeaway, however, should be that Crowfall’s system allows for you to be known for something. You get to choose what you want to be known for.  Villain? Hero? Crafter? Scout? Diplomat? The roles you can take in the game are numerous and undefined like in any true Sandbox. Yet it is clear that your choices in the game will have some consequences to them that could reach beyond the login prompt.

Heres to hoping we see this in other MMORPGs going forward.

Till next time!

Scree

Started playing MMORPGs back on AOL in Neverwinter Nights Online around 1996 and has been a passionate advocate for the genre ever since. Currently an admitted Crowfall obsessed-fan; leading a Crowfall-exclusive stealth-first guild Obsidian, managing a web-magazine Stealthed (@stealthedBlog). He is also the project manager of the Malekai Project; a community-driven open-sourced API for sharing Crowfall related content.

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