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Blizzard Made Me Change My Name 1691

My Azgalor Paladin is running through Stormwind when I get a message from a GM proclaiming that my account is in violation of Blizzard policy and I must change my nickname. I try to find out more information, but I am kicked from the game. I have been CmdrTaco since April, but when I log in, I choose the new name: Violated. This experience has brought up a host of feelings on matters of virtual identity and virtual worlds.

First of all, the reason that my account is in violation is that my name contains a title prefix. It took dozens of inquiries to get that explained. 'Cmdr' is the problem. I'm told that since the game has an internal honor system with titles, my name is not allowed. Never mind the fact that 'Cmdr' is not one of their titles. Never mind that countless other titles abound in the game: Mr, Sir, Sensei. Am I in violation of their policy? Probably. Is the policy stupid, meaningless, or inconsistent? I think so, but that's not really why I'm writing this.

I've been using 'CmdrTaco' online for around a decade now. It predates the existence of this website. It has followed me from game to game, both local, networked, and massive. My only problem with it is that as Slashdot grew in popularity, I started finding places where an impostor has taken it. I was excited when I was able to get it in Warcraft. It's like a warm blanket. It's stupid I know, but it's mine.

But Blizzard chose to take it from me. Now let me be clear: this is certainly their right: They own the dice and the board and the rulebooks, and I only play in their world. But If the US Government told me to change my name... let's say Congress passed a law making it illegal to have a first name that is a verb (Don't laugh, the White House cease and desisted The Onion!) Well I guess 'Rob' would have to go. My friends would still recognize me: I'd still have the same face, address, and social security number. I'd just have a cool new name like "Captain Fantastic Malda". With a name like that, the auto mechanics would never try to rip me off!

In this virtual world, two levels gives me a couple new pieces of armor, and suddenly I am unrecognizable to anyone who may have run an instance with me. In guild chat, I am a total stranger to people I may have chatted with for months. My history with other players has been erased. It almost makes me wish that I spent my first 45 levels ninja looting!

It's not like Blizzard decided to change gameplay dynamics. I spend a lot of time working on the Slashdot moderation system, and I never have any problem changing any "Rule" in the system if I believe it will improve the overall functionality of the whole system. If blizzard wants to make my mace have 5 less DPS and 3 less stamina because it's unbalanced, well I can accept that. Balancing gameplay is really hard. But in a massive multiplayer game, your name is different- that isn't about balance, it's about identity.

A friend of mine actually quit Everquest over a forced name change. His name was Marilyn Hanson and while fighting something he was disconnected without warning. When he returned, his name had been changed to a randomly generated one. When he asked GM, he was told that he could not have celebrity name. When my friend asked who Marilyn Hanson was, the GM could not answer, but instead just said arguing wouldn't matter. My friend quit EQ that day.

I don't think I'll quit WoW over this, but I will take away some lessons. The GM I talked to had a nickname of something like Lathanian. I found this disconcerting. If you were arrested by Officer Snuggles or found guilty by the honorable Judge Lawtron, it's hard to take that seriously. In this case 'Punishment' is being dealt. A real human is wearing a shroud of anonymity and handing out the bitchslap to a total stranger. That really makes the whole experience even more dehumanizing. In a massive virtual world, we're still people.

You don't see names and faces, which is why you'll see a 60 corpse camp a 30. When you don't see the real person on the other side, the tendency is just to forget. You expect it from opposing factions- but it feels different when it's the GM. Personally this is something I struggle with in my work too. You deal with a hundred support requests and it starts becoming abstract. Unreal. Virtual. I doubt it's much different if you work at the support counter at a retail store, but I think it's easier to forget when the only communication is chat.

Second, the GMs at blizzard really have no power. I asked for contact information. For email information. For names. For an appeal. To talk to a supervisor. And the best they would give me was the generic help phone line or a mailing address. Like with a stamp! I was told that almost every question I asked was unanswerable in game. I gave an email address but they never emailed. They wouldn't even tell me what was wrong with my nickname until after a half dozen inquiries of why. You have really no recourse against a GM. That scares me.

Lastly, I didn't really realize that I was so attached to my nickname. It's not because I'm "Famous"- We have a lot of readers, but these days very few actually know who I am. And of those, the percentage of people who play warcraft, and are alliance, and on azgalor... well it is very tiny. As CmdrTaco I probably had a total of 5 people actually recognize my nickname (and nobody ever gave me gold because they read Slashdot!). As Violated, nobody ever will recognize me for my day job. But that's really not what bugs me. I was really attached to my name. This character bounded through Azgalor slaying monsters and meeting new people. Now that character is erased and another character stands in its place. Same armor. Same class. But different somehow. I like my nickname. I wish I had it on every system I used. I'm annoyed that someone else registered my nickname on gmail before I could. It's always the first name I try when a system asks me to create an account. I feel strangely possessive about it. I doubt I'm alone in being attached to a pseudonym. And I feel kind of stupid admitting it.

Anyway, I've said my piece on the subject. And just to be clear, I'm not really mad at Blizzard. I think what they did was needless and inconvenient, but not evil. Their policy may be silly, but I still was in violation of it, so I guess I got what I deserved. But I wonder about others. And not just in Warcraft, on any online forum. I wonder about our attachment to virtual names. And if nothing less, it will make me take changes in Slashdot a little more seriously next time.

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Blizzard Made Me Change My Name

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  • Taco? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MullerMn ( 526350 ) * <andy AT andrewarbon DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:01AM (#13880559) Homepage
    This is all spelt and punctuated correctly, and contains no duplicated paragraphs!

    Who are you, and what have you done with the real Taco?
    • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Elad Alon ( 835764 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:05AM (#13880595)
      Heis got me loked up in teh basement! Help me! Heis got me loked up in teh basement!
      • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Funny)

        by bradkittenbrink ( 608877 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:41AM (#13881105) Homepage Journal
        You totally needed to create a spam account called "Violated" or "Captain Fantastic Malda" to post that from. What a missed opportunity...
    • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:18AM (#13880763) Homepage Journal
      This is all spelt and punctuated correctly, and contains no duplicated paragraphs!

      Who are you, and what have you done with the real Taco?

      Yeah, this new style makes me feel... Violated.
    • My name... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:23AM (#13880863)
      My troll is called "Slashdot" and I have had a couple of comments so far. But not from GMs as far as I know.

    • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Funny)

      by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:37AM (#13881062)
      Just guessing but I wager there is a GM at Blizzard who also happens to be a Slashdot reader and saw CmdrTaco running around the server he was on and ....
      light bulb flashes ..... that name technically violates Blizzard naming rules. He stops and thinks about all the dup articles on slashdot, and the articles that the editors don't fact check or ... you know .... edit. And then there is the articles that are really badly disguised infomercials like the ones for Roland Piqapille. And Then their is the IP address banning and the suspicious instant mods by editors on posts that the editors don't like, and the FAQS that basically tell you if you don't like something about Slashdot that you can pretty much go to hell because thats just the way it is, and that if you ever try to complain to the editors they probably aren't going to answer, and if bitch in posts about you get banned.

      The GM slowly gets this warm fuzzy feeling inside, an opportunity for sweet revenge. A chance to hit CmdrTaco where he lives, by stripping him of his name, and he can do it arbitrarily and anonymously and CmdrTaco can't do anything about it and Rob will beat his head against an anonymous wall just like Slashdot users do. How sweet it is.

      This anonymous GM just read Slashdot this morning and saw Rob's rambling screed and he laughed all the way the way through. He obviously nailed Rob where it hurts and its totally eating him up inside. There is just some total karmic justice here.

      Revenge, a dish best served cold.
      • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Informative)

        by IsoRashi ( 556454 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @12:22PM (#13881632)
        This got modded up funny, but crap like that happens all the time in WoW. It's not uncommon for someone's name to be reported just because someone else is mad at them or felt like being an asshole. On my server we had a guy whose name violated the policy (it was considered gibberish, i.e., unpronounceable) but he was fine for months and months... until he killed our server's forum troll and douchebag in-game and then all of a sudden his name was reported.

        Anyone who's played the game and had a real issue that required GM contact knows that they are completely impotent. I've had at least a half-dozen issues where the GM ticket menu specifically says they'll help with something and then the GM gives you a blow-off answer and tells you to write to the GM feedback email address. I don't know why taco treats this like big news.
      • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Funny)

        by FrostyWheaton ( 263146 ) <mark.frost@gmail . c om> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @12:45PM (#13881884) Homepage
        And now the circle may close as Taco takes his wrath out on an innocent bystander with the guff to mock him.

        I hope you enjoy posting at (Score:-1, pissed off CmdrTaco)
    • Re:Taco? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:43AM (#13881129)
      You can have your name back. Just create a new character with the name "cmdrtaco" or whatever it was that just got changed. The folks at Blizzard will happily abuse their power, but they're too stupid to be consistent. Case in point:

      A friend of mine was forced to change his name. He was a paladin named "HolyWarrior". After some amount of chafing and resistance, he found it was because someone complained that it was offensive, invoking terroristic imagery or something. Two weeks later, he has a new name, and sees a newbie running through the Auction House named "HolyWarrior". Note the past tense, he did quit the game over this.

      Suffice to say, they'll make you change your name, but they won't do something intelligent like implement a database of names that are illegal. Hence, you can keep creating your favorite illegal/offensive name, and just use it until someone notices, rinse and repeat.

      Of course, that is probably what happened. Someone complained about your name, because they wanted it. Now it is free, since you don't have it; so anticipate seeing someone using it in the near future. This is worse than someone beating you to your own nick on gmail... They actively stole your nick, by skillfully wielding the incompetence of others...

      P.S. If you want to see if your
      name is in use, instead of not
      permitted, try sending mail to that
      name in game... Game Mail will let you
      know if there is no such character.

  • bitchslap (Score:5, Funny)

    by flynt ( 248848 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:06AM (#13880601)
    A real human is wearing a shroud of anonymity and handing out the bitchslap to a total stranger.

    When did the topic become the moderation system?
    • Re:bitchslap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) <malda AT slashdot DOT org> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:09AM (#13880635) Homepage Journal
      Believe me the irony of this experience was not lost on me. As it happened, and while I wrote this article I thought a lot about the similiarities of what I do, and what the Blizzard game designes, and what the GMs over there do.
      • by bziman ( 223162 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:35AM (#13881029) Homepage Journal
        Rob, I feel your pain -- I know there are many many bziman's out there (including both of my parents), but I still feel possessive about it. It also irks me when I see people using handles that clearly don't belong to them, like Slashdot's CommanderTaco. What a dumbass. But rest assured, the dorks at Blizzard probably read Slashdot, and unlike most of our petty whining, your arguments will probably be heard.

        Oh, and don't listen to anyone who compares WoW's GMs with Slashdot's moderation system. Tell me, does WoW have meta-GMs??? If one GM slaps you down, can two more GMs bring you back up? Slashdot is really the only discussion site on the web worth looking at, despite the occasional misspelling or duplicate post, and it is all due to your moderation system.

        Party on!


      • Re:bitchslap (Score:5, Insightful)

        by earthforce_1 ( 454968 ) <> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:37AM (#13881050) Journal
        I am sorry for this pettiness, but not too surprised. GMs can become "little Hitlers" who relish in their power, much like the shift manager in the local burger joint who gets off on bullying the wage slave high school students.

        Besides, how do you think the BNet.d creators feel after Blizzard tried to screw them out of their hard work?

        I enjoyed Starcraft and Diablo 1/2, but I am not buying the kids another Blizzard game until they soften their policies. Besides, I get more work done without these crack-addiction games anyway.
      • Re:bitchslap (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TGK ( 262438 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:38AM (#13881081) Homepage Journal
        Reading over your story though, it doesn't sound like it's the same thing. There are supraficial similarities, but ultimately it's just that. Supraficial.

        I think the difference between moderation and Blizard's rules enforcement system is the concentration of power rather than the diffusion of power. When someone mods down one of my post because they disagree with my politics, I'm annoyed - but not angry. If what I said is well thoughtout and relevant, the bad moderation will be canceled out. Many people can moderate - and so the odd jerk is canceled out by the weight of numbers.

        Blizard has very few GMs -- which isn't really so much of a problem. But that the GMs are really the last level of appeal in the game and (more often than not) the last level of appeal at all makes the lack of oversight all the more troubling.

        You go to great pains in your recounting of events to point out that this whole thing is probably silly - but I disagree with you there. Sure, WOW isn't your social security card, but it is a service you're paying for. Clearly, the name you chose is not confusing, nor does it in any way supplant any of the promotions that the game hands out. In any sane customer relations system, you would be granted an exception to the rule. That's what customer care is supposed to be about -- saving the individual from the system.

        • by greg_barton ( 5551 ) <> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:59AM (#13881369) Homepage Journal

          You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
        • by happyemoticon ( 543015 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @12:22PM (#13881638) Homepage

          Disgruntled-looking plainclothes GM, his hair ragged, storms into the office of the Blizzard CEO.

          "Sir!" he pants, "We've got a problem on US Nathrezim. A bug is preventing an alliance guild from running Molten Core! They've got 40 living, breathing people with families and jobs who've set aside an entire day to get leet loot, and they've been bamboozled!"

          "Great scot!" cries the CEO. "Did you reset their raid IDs? Talk to the server admins? The programmers? Metzen?"

          "No sir! According to the GM Code, Article 3, Section 6, I am not allowed to do anything useful whatsoever, anything which may be construed as a favor, renumeration, or a meaningful and intelligent action!"

          "You snivling little shit! Do you know what this means? I'm going to be up all night making phone calls to those people, apologizing and begging their forgiveness. These wounds don't just heal by themselves. We've gotta do something now, before this situation gets out of control."

          "But sir! The code!"

          "Damn the code! You mention that pile of marketing bullshit to me one more time and I'll have you flaggelating yourself with a rusty scourge til next month -"

          "- I thought that was just a rumor -"

          "- with no overtime pay! Now, go down there and grab the lead programmer by the scruff of his neck and tell him he's got to fix this pronto. In the mean time, get your ass out to GM Isle and start farming epics for these guys. Anything they want. [Perdition's Blade] or [Eschander's Right Claw]. Hell, give the main tank the full Wrath set. You don't go home until they have everything they want."

          "Sir! Yes, sir!"

          "And if I ever hear some shit on the slashdot forums about you not responding like a human being again, I'll bust your ass down to QA monkey for Ghost so fast your thumbs will fall off! In fact, you should consider every day I don't an example of my generousity and mercy. Aren't I generous and merciful?"

          "Sir! Extremely, sir!"

          "Now, get moving, GM!"

      • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:57AM (#13881339)
        As Violated, nobody ever will recognize me for my day job. But that's really not what bugs me. I was really attached to my name. This character bounded through Azgalor slaying monsters and meeting new people. Now that character is erased and another character stands in its place. Same armor. Same class. But different somehow.

        A hard pit began to form in the depth of my soul, and I began to realize that my life as I knew it was gone. I had been cut off from everyone who knew me, from who I was. I was faceless, nameless, alone in the world. Now I would wander the shadows of the worlds, a piercing invisible wind, striking terror in the hearts of the GMs. Not just for me but for all who are Violated.
  • by fuzzy12345 ( 745891 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:07AM (#13880602)
    So they screw you.

    You could a) take your money elsewhere

    b) keep giving them your money, and give them some publicity on /., too

    With enemies like you, who needs friends?

    • by wormbin ( 537051 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @12:44PM (#13881866)

      What Taco says:

      ...could not answer, but instead just said arguing wouldn't matter. My friend quit EQ that day. I don't think I'll quit WoW over this, but I will take away some lessons. The GM I talked to had a nickname of something like...

      What Blizzard hears:


    • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @12:58PM (#13882024) Homepage Journal
      CmdrTaco, you can't take what you dish out? I've submitted articles in the past that have been rejected and then when I write to Rob, he says that his policy is to not discuss why articles are rejected. Well, that's VERY helpful. Think about your own processes before your condemn others.
      • by Emmettfish ( 573105 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @06:03PM (#13884616) Homepage
        As a former Slashdot author, I can speak from 'beyond the veil' about Slashdot story selection. The truth is that Slashdot only carries maybe 14 stories a day, and people submit hundreds if not thousands. It's a big-ass queue. Some things are overlooked because there's a hell of a lot of things to sort through. From my experience, that is the top reason why your story probably didn't get picked up.

        Second, some things are old. Know how many times I deleted 'funny' posts submitted with Bill Gates' mugshot? Probably at least two-thousand.

        Third, some things are boring. I don't mean that they're obscure or uninteresting, I mean that they are boring in the sense that they aren't interesting or fun to talk about or discuss. There's not a whole lot to talk about when the subject is something like, 'Gosh, Microsoft Outlook really blows, and a study says so.' While it may create a lot of funny schadenfreude, it's pretty obvious to a whole lot of people. The people that it's not obvious to probably aren't reading Slashdot anyway.

        Fourth, you might have a history of being a pain in the ass, and I might have rejected your story because you called me a jerk one time on IRC.

        There are a lot of other reasons, but the primary reasons that people complain about getting stories rejected are usually untrue. There were conspiracy theories all over the place that somehow we were gaining financially through the spread of Linux (ha!), through adoption of perl over python, pretty much everything including phase of the moon. Totally unfounded. See points 1-4 above.

        I would venture to guess that the reason Rob doesn't discuss why stories are rejected is because it's more than just him. I got very little top-down direction when it came to picking stories from Slashdot from Rob or Jeff. Rob and Jeff are totally different people, I'm very different than CowboyNeal and Jamie, and anyone who knows my politics knows that I am very different than Pudge (though Pudge and I seem to get along fine).

        I think Rob's not trying to be secretive or coy, he's just being aware that there are more people behind Slashdot than just himself. Do you really think Rob wants to be in the position of having to chase down Slashdot authors every single time someone wants to know why their story was rejected? He'd have to send an E-mail, ask why, get a response, and then reply to the submitter. Also, he might have to do this two-hundred times a day. Not fun, and totally fruitless.

        Anyway, there you go. Hope this helps, etc.


  • by sebFlyte ( 844277 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:07AM (#13880603) Homepage Journal
    ...if you're playing a Paladin, you deserve everything you get.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:07AM (#13880606)
    Geez - Get a job Taco.
  • by ChrisF79 ( 829953 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:08AM (#13880621) Homepage
    I'm surprised in your story that your friend on EQ was disconnected and had his name changed. I had a druid on EQ quite a while back named Girlon and everything was fine until I made the surname Girlaction. Anyway, they just sent me an in-game message saying my surname was going to be changed and asked what I'd like to to be. It was really pretty simple.
  • by SamSim ( 630795 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:09AM (#13880633) Homepage Journal
    I don't know who you are, but you might want to pick a different username. CmdrTaco is the guy who runs this website and he'll be mighty upset.
  • Lol (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zebra_X ( 13249 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:13AM (#13880697)
    Now we know why Taco has so many dupes. He's play WoW all the time!
  • by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:13AM (#13880700) Homepage Journal
    I see violations of the naming policy all the time on my "Normal" server, Eonar. Frankly, there are too many to realistically enforce on all servers everywhere. Those that do get picked out feel (rightly so) that they are being picked on.

    IMHO, only Role-Playing servers should have a strict naming policy. The only enforcement on other servers should be for profanity/crudeness. No "IfckedUrMom" or somesuch.
  • by Joehonkie ( 665142 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:16AM (#13880742) Homepage

    It disgusts me how little sense of real community /. folks have. CmdrTaco has been a major force in keeping this place together for years, and you constantly make use of the fruits of his labor. Now he wants to let off a little steam and all you can do is insult and yell at him? What's most interesting is that at least one of these posts are telling him he has no right to bitch, then in the same paragraph complaining about the quality of slashdot itself.

    The "abuse of power" charge doesn't hold well, either. He's not asking for any action to be taken. We have plenty of basically editorial articles posted here every day, and many are much more trivial, biased, and/or political. If you can't stand it, maybe you should take your time and energy somewhere else instead of telling him what he can and can't post here.

  • by Mattwolf7 ( 633112 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:19AM (#13880785)
    Everyone, take a second to look past that the submitter is Taco...

    This article fits the requirement to be on slashdot even had it not happened to Taco.

    1.) It is about technology
    2.) It fits into the Games category
    3.) It is a legitimate technology concern as to what you can and cannot do on someone elses network
  • Hypocrisy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Palin Majere ( 4000 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:21AM (#13880813)
    "The Editor I talked to had a nickname of something like 'CmdrTaco'. I found this disconcerting. If you were arrested by Officer ScuttleMonkey or found guilty by the honorable Judge CowboyNeal, it's hard to take that seriously."

    I find it hard to take Taco's complaints seriously when he and the rest of the /. staff go about their business in exactly the same fashion that the WoW staff do. Feels different when it's someone else with the pseudonym, eh?

    • Re:Hypocrisy? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pitr ( 33016 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:37AM (#13881049)
      Wasn't that the point of the article? I mean yes, there was some preachyness, but the "moral(s)" appeared to be that there needs to be accountability for people who make these descisions, and that these descisions shouldn't be handed out lightly, or without consideration.

      "And if nothing less, it will make me take changes in Slashdot a little more seriously next time."
  • It's fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:29AM (#13880956)
    This has also been a rule in EverQuest for a very, very long time.

    In response to Taco's claim that "Cmdr" is not one of the PvP ranks, I would just mention that "Commander" is, in fact, such a rank - it's the third highest rank, and the server I play on only has five of them at the moment.

    In other words, whine more, noob.

  • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:37AM (#13881052) Homepage Journal
    But when I was asked in Dark Age to rename my Infiltrator ("Sofonda Cox"), my Cabalist ("Flaymin Nainus"), my Cleric ("Dawn Keebawlz"), and my Minstrel ("Grabbin Mcgroyn"), I wasn't really that put out. I drew the line when my Mercenary, "Meatmissile," was told that his name was inappropriate. That's when I bailed. I've since learned my lesson and my WoW Shaman is called "Jamin," which is actually just part of my real name ("Benjamin"). I only know one person in WoW whose name was changed, and it was done after he omgwtfpwned the hell out of Alliance in AB for a month and people got sick of it and reported him. His name was "Boodah" which was too close to "Buddha," a deity/religious figure, and thus a rule violation. He changed his name to "Dahboo" which I thought was rather clever.
  • by smileyy ( 11535 ) <> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:37AM (#13881064) p#titles [] Titles Fantasy titles should be earned through the mechanics of the game, and should not be recreated through character naming. This category includes names which: * Consist of any title prefix attached to a character's name be it fantasy-based or not (i.e. Kingmike, Presidentsanchez) If a player is found to have such a name for their character he/she may: * Be prompted to select a new name for the character upon next login
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:43AM (#13881131) Homepage
    How did I feel when the clerk at the airline check-in desk told me that I was on the "no fly" list? He then corrected himself and said someone with my _name_ was on the "no fly' list.

    You have been using your online name for ten years. I have been using "Daniel P. Smith" for, uh, my whole life.

    The airline ticket clerk takes my driver's license away from me, along with the driver's licenses of my wife, son, and daughter-in law, and he and another airline ticket clerk took them to some inner sanctum and did something mysterious, and after about five minutes came back and said we could be issued boarding passes.

    On contacting the TSA I'm told that I can submit a form called a PVIF [] along with notarized copies of three forms of identification (driver's license, birth certificate, passport, etc.). This will accomplish... well, it's not exactly clear what it will accomplish. "Please understand that the TSA clearance process will not remove a name from the Watch Lists."

    So what does it do? "Instead this process distinguishes passengers from persons who are in fact on the Watch Lists by placing their names and identifying information in a cleared portion of the Lists."

    And what does THAT do? Well, here's what it doesn't do: "Clearance by TSA may not eliminate the need to go to the ticket counter in order to check-in. While TSA cannot ensure that this procedure will relieve all delays, we hope it will facilitate a more efficient check-in process for you."

    You're upset because some online game doesn't like the name you've chosen for yourself? Please.

    _I'm_ upset because my government doesn't like the name I was born with. And, yes, I'm upset because I can see the look in the clerk's eyes... and in the eyes of the notary at my local bank stamping the notarized copies (yes, of course I caved... what do you think I am, someone with principles?)... thinking "Well, he's probably OK but, gee, he's on the TSA's list..."

    I think I'm going to get a court order to change my surname to Cmdrtaco. Hopefully there aren't too many people on the no-fly list named Daniel P. Cmrdtaco.

  • by @madeus ( 24818 ) <> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:49AM (#13881232)
    Sadly this comes as no surprise to me. Due to a bug I was kicked from the server (while my net connection was fine), on immediately reconnecting I found my my WoW character lost tens of thousands of XP (de levelled!), lost gold and had the quests I'd done still marked as completed (so I couldn't repeat them to get back the XP).

    I very politely contacted support 4 times over next week and a bit about this issue, including contacting GM's in game and via the site, pointing to there AUP/EULA agreement which explicitly says they will try to reinstate character data, items and gold in such an event (which was clearly due to a software fault) [ unless, it states, the rollback was part of a forced server roll back, which it was not. ].

    Eventually, each time the GM responded with a poorly written reply which made no sense (as if he didn't speak English particularly well and / or hadn't read my ticket at all) saying they 'Don't reinstate characters when there has been a server roll back'. Though I got no response back from interim support query I had made via the web site. I indicated they hadn't done a server roll back at all of course, but they kept replying with the same old canned response.

    Faced with the choice of grinding mobs for XP to re-level, re-rolling or quitting, I quit.

    Bizzard, like SOE, employ some (not all, I'm sure) very poor quality support staff and GM's, that act seemingly randomly (enforcing rules on a whim, merrily ignoring some blatant abuse - even if it's reported multiple times by different players) and abuse customers in a way that, if they behaved like that in any other industry they'd be fined by watchdogs and/or have legal action taken against them by consumers and consumer groups.

    Some of the customers are rude, abusive punk kids I'm sure (and I have very little sympathy for them should they get kicked off - which sadly they rarely seem to) but if you treat customers like scum by default, they will abandon you for the competition the first chance they get.

    You'd think, given what we've seen happen to SOE, Blizzard would have noticed that (and how much gamers distrust and dislike SOE - the antics of some of the support staff there are legendary, with repeated tales of abuse by GM's and players calling for them to be sacked following repeated abuse).

    You'd think, at the very least, they could employ support staff who can actually read and write English.

    Of course the network performance (particularly for some of the servers, the ones in a separate data server in Paris) really, really sucks here in Europe - after ~6 months away I just rejoined so I could play with people I knew recently as that's what every one is playing and it's poor for everyone on our server (to the extent you just can't play sometimes - not helped by the fact that if it goes south on Friday afternoon, you're screwed till Monday morning). That's assuming you can log in (not due to server queues - due to the unreliable login system we seem to have).

    I'm sure if the Penny Arcade or GU guys had a problem like this on the US servers there would be a huge stink about it, but the media don't cover it and we don't really have any gaming community representatives of our own to draw attention to it.

  • by truffle ( 37924 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:51AM (#13881257) Homepage
    Problem #1: Players are negatively impacted when their character names are changed. Since the name is the major way in which individuals in MMOs identify one another, and differentiate themselves, this impact is real. This is in itself a problem, in the real world if you change your name everyone recognizes you, in an MMO they don't.

    Problem #2: These games require naming policies of some kind that are non trivial to automate. Since they are non-trivial to automate, there will always be people who slip through. Even if you have a human monitoring each new name (Everquest used to do this), Borisyeltsin may slip through because the human monitoring name approval that day happened to not known who Boris Yeltsin [] is.

    In this specific case the core issue wasn't that CmdrTaco was not a valid name, or even that it was changed, it's that it was changed at level 45, after 100s of hours were invested in the character. This makes the impact of #1 very real.

    In WOW name petitioning is basically a form of griefing. There is no review process for names. I've seen people who have petitioned and spoken with GMs (who obviously saw their names) and then weeks later their names were changed because someone petitioned them, their name was reviewed, and then changed. All name petitions come from players essentially. Why did the other 10,000 people who saw Taco before not petition? Probably because they weren't jackasses, and the guy who petitioned was.

    I don't have a perfect solution but it seems like the best one is a combination solution:
    • Developers should try and improve heuristics for flagging potential "problem" names
    • All names should go though a reviewed-by-a-human process within several days of being created. This is a pretty serious proposition, we're talking about spending $0.25 - $0.50 of human time on reviewing each name + followup cost
    • There need to be two versions of the policy:
      • The strict initial policy
      • The more lax grandfather-clause plicy

      The grandfather-clause policy would apply to a player's name after some period of time (say 48 hours of play time and one week of real time have passed). It would basically say, by this point a number of humans have seen you and have not complained about your name. Your name was reviewed by customer service. At this point while we can still change your name, we recognize the social impact, and as thus will be more lax in applying the policy.

  • by ankhank ( 756164 ) * on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @12:30PM (#13881718) Journal
    I've used my family's "nickname" -- rather than a long cumbersome Southern three-part name with a Roman numeral trailing it -- since about age five. Nothing in the world except my Social Security card and birth certificate had the long form.

    Until this year when the PeopleSoft company took over my employer's staff database, and had to change everyone's name on record (they say because it has to match the Social Security database).

    So Blue Cross simply terminated the health record file (close to three decades worth of records) attached to the name I've been using, discarded it, and created a new file under the Social Security file name -- with of course the same SSI number.

    So they bounced a bunch of medical bills reporting "that subscriber terminated his health care coverage." Although they claim they do use the SSI as their internal identifier so they shouldn't have thrown the files away. And they told my medical practitioner's office to discard the old files as well -- and they did, the pea-brains -- and opened new empty files for the new SSI-official name Congress now insists I use.

    Keep your own medical history as I have done -- else I'd have no health records.

    You worry about an online game? Trying to get your life back after your identity is stolen by your government. Or maybe it's not the government, but PeopleSoft claims that's the reason they did it. Or maybe it's Blue Cross, but they blame PeopleSoft.

    It's happened to other people I know too -- blindsided them as well when their files went away.

    War of Worldcraft, I think this is.
  • by kafka47 ( 801886 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @01:14PM (#13882180) Homepage

    Since Bliz made him change his nick he wanted to make damn sure that everyone on his server knew his new name was VIOLATED.

    Now he can continue to reap the in-game fruits of his fame. ;-)


  • outsource it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ggwood ( 70369 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:10PM (#13882722) Homepage Journal
    All these games WoW, Eq, etc. Could outsource the name validation system to a third party who would allow people to register specific usernames across all such (participating) games. Ask people to pay US$1/month (US$12/year) to maintain a username, password protected, on all participating systems. That way, people who *really* want their names get them. Any violations (copywright, foul language, famous people) would be dealt with by this 3rd party - at the time of creation of the name. Perhaps it takes two weeks, or whatever, to reserve the name - and maybe there is some kind of setup fee I don't know - but once you have it, they stand by it. Appeal to them. If they reject your name, you pay nothing. If you don't want to pay for a reserved name, you deal with (a) your name not available, (b) your name accepted then rejected later - but you pay nothing (extra) and it's handeled by blizard/SOE/whomever.
  • by RomulusNR ( 29439 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:48PM (#13883056) Homepage
    Nobody ever thinks that *they* need to be held accountable for how their actions affect others. It's always *other people*, people with "real power", who need to be challengeable or redressable.

    Accountability is an inconvenience, and a threat to the target's power. Few people *want* to be accountable; it means that you can be penalized for doing something wrong, and people always do wrong things, so its inevitable that accountability will lead to penalty of some sort (however minor); the fear is that an irrationally vigorous redressing will over-penalize you (and this does happen).

    The point is... Everyone says that those with power need to be accountable for it, except when it comes to the power *they themselves* hold. GMs aren't powerful -- not *really* powerful -- so they don't see any need to be accountable. Of course, they *do* have *some* power, but it's never "enough" to require accountability. (I'm using GM here as a relevant example, but it's hardly the only valid one -- insert the term of the agent of power you most love to hate here -- site admins, police, CSRs, etc.)

    There's an annoying norm of disproportionate contraries, particularly in the online world. A GM making a bad, misapplied, or abused decision on another player will retort to complaints with "it's only game"; in the grander scheme of things (and there is *always* a grander scheme of things, in everything, which most people forget when they apply this adage) it "doesn't really matter". Well, if the actions of a GM aren't such a big deal, then accountability of the GM shouldn't be a big deal, either. But clearly, it *is* such a big deal, to the GM. The use of their power is not important -- but the fear over the questioning of that use *is*.

    There's always a touchy-feely reason not to challenge the admins, either. They're volunteers, or they work really hard, or they are really good people, or they "could have done worse". All of these are provided as reasons why the individual should not be able to challenge the people who exert power over them. What this implies, of course, is that being a volunteer, or working hard, or being lenient (while still being wrong) all become licenses to abuse or misapply power.

    I guess I can't entirely blame the unfortunate empowered individuals for treating accountability as a personal insult or unfair restriction on them; they for whatever reason don't recognize that they have power and that any power should come with appropriately proportional checks on it. Of course, the people above them, both within the paradigm and within society, are always looking to avoid accountability as well. Sometimes the people succeed in compelling accountability upon them; but sometimes they don't. And rarely does it work in your favor to wilfully invite accountability. You have to do it due to principle and selfless benevolence, not entitlement and self-aggrandizement.

    What really is disappointing is that even intelligent geeks can't be expected to believe in the universal application of principles like accountability of power. They're just as susceptible to the allure of power, however minor, as the common masses. So much for geeks inheriting the earth.

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.