April 12th 2013
What’s in a name? The answer, it seems, is trouble! There are a lot of popular callsigns: Viking, Maverick, Iceman, Killer, Hotdog… the list goes on and on. But if we let everyone share the names they want, how do you maintain accounts… or identify each other on the forums or in space? We actually run into this problem every day here at CIG. Our growing development team is already rife with Chrises. “Talk to Chris” could mean you need to see Vehicle Artist Chris Smith, Chief Visual Officer Chris Olivia… or the man in charge himself, Chris Roberts! To illustrate this issue, here’s a list of the top ten most commonly shared “display names” registered through Roberts Space Industries:
Display Name / Count
That means that 100 people would prefer to be called Chris! Quite frankly, we’d prefer that were possible: Star Citizen is about making your own way in the galaxy and to limit you right off the bat would be unfortunate. But can we have so many “Chrises”?
Another issue is that many users are concerned about security, especially since their “login name” shows on the forums making it theoretically easier for someone to hijack their account. The original forums included a ‘display name’ which obscured your account, but this was lost with the transition to vBulletin. Many have written to us concerned about what impact this will have on the finished game.
A third long-term problem is that we just don’t want the game world to look trashy. You’ve seen this in every multiplayer game ever: one lucky person got “Maverick” the first day the game went live and so you invariably end up fighting to the death against people like “Maverick 54,” “xXx Maverick xXx,” “Da Real Maverick” and, worst of all, M@v3r1ck. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but a fighter pilot kind of stinks. All these simple tricks to bypass the one-name-per-customer system end up taking everyone out of the reality of the world. And Star Citizen is all about allowing that reality!
We’re happy to announce that we have worked out a system that we believe solves most of these problems… but we want your input before proceeding down a path that will take us directly to the game itself!
To begin, you’re going to be asked to provide new information when the new site goes online. You will be asked for two key pieces of information: a unique login and a unique handle. Then, when the game goes live, you will be prompted for a third point: your character name. In addition, you will select a variety of security questions and alternate contact methods which will be used to protect your account from hackers and little brothers.
Your login is yours and yours alone and will never be displayed or shared. You will be allowed to continue using the login you have at the current site or change it if you wish. It will never be seen by anyone and will be used for logging in to both the new RSI website and Star Citizen when it is released.
Your handle is absolutely unique and will be displayed on the forums and through the in-game messaging system. This is your public-facing unique identifier, how you will be known on the forums and elsewhere. In the world of Star Citizen, your handle is equivalent to your social security number. It’s a designation issued by the UEE that’s unique to your account. The most important addition to the current system is your character name, which is NOT unique. Since your handle is unique and used by the system to identify you it can be attached to a character name which is not unique.
The benefit to the game is that can be thousands of “Mavericks” flying around the galaxy. As far as the inner workings of the game are concerned, you’re “handle.character”… but only the character portion will display to other players during combat. If you were to observe “Xane.Maverick” and “Chris.Maverick” in space, your HUD would simply show them both as “Maverick.”
Think of it as being like Skype: the service could be full of people named “Chris Roberts”, but you would need to know a specific username, like “croberts42” or “chris.roberts” in order to contact the one you want.
However, handles will still have a gameplay component! Players will have the option of either hiding their handle or broadcasting it in the clear. A range of optional ship sensor upgrades will better obscure or spoof handles… while others will improve scanners, making it possible to discern a target’s handle with a deeper scan. If you want to hide the fact that you’re the man behind “The Dread Pirate” then you’ll have to work to keep your handle hidden! And if you’re on the side of law and order and want to track that pirate, you’ll have to work to identify his handle.
In many cases, the game will not need the handle for interaction. When you sign a merchant contract or put out a bounty, the game will know which player you’re referring to without needing to reveal their handle. In the first instance because you’re both present for the contract… in the second, because you will have a record of who attacked you and incurred the bounty in the first place. Similarly, players who are asked to hunt down “Maverick” for a bounty will have the specific pilot marked as hostile in their computer systems without needing to know his handle.
Handles will also form the basis for the in-game instant messaging system. In order to message another player outside the restrictions of information travel time in the universe you will need to know their handle and have it on your comm system’s contact list. In this respect, think of it as being like knowing a phone number! Players can choose to share their handles with friends… or block players who might be bothering them.
We would also like to clarify a point that has been discussed a great deal in the forums: you WILL be able to have multiple characters belonging to the same player, each with their own name. Chris.Maverick might be my dashing explorer while Chris.Bandit is my pirate! Our reasoning is that there’s no way to stop this: someone who wants to have multiple players would just register multiple accounts… so why not support the players when we can?
(We have also received many questions from fans wondering if they can name their spacecraft. The answer is a simple: of course! If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of the Millenium Falcon or the Serenity, you’re going to need to be able to give a personal name to your ship. These names will not be unique, but they will display in-game.)
Which just leaves one major and potentially contentious issue: awarding unique handles. With the understanding that in the game itself you will be seen as whichever character you create, no matter his or her name… how do we fairly decide who gets which handle that will be used when posting to the forums or interacting with confirmed friends through the in-game messaging system. And in the grand tradition of the funding campaign, we’re putting the question to you.
We have come up with two options: either have one first come, first serve free for all registration session when the new site goes live… or sell access to register specific names earlier. This would be designed for users who want a particular handle.
The advantage of the sale is that it would be less stress on the server during the rollout and it would be fairer to users in different time zones! No one would ever be MADE to pay for a name as everyone will get a shot for free when the site opens. And to make this completely fair, the first, most expensive registration times will actually be before even the development team… so if you wanted to be “Wingman,” you’d have a shot!
In the system we’ve devised, you would be allowed to check whether or not a handle is available before proceeding to buy it… so you’d never be paying money and not getting the name you want. The cost would be a sliding scale, less money as we approach the free registration period.
We’ve discussed it in-house and think it sounds like fun and would be beneficial to the project… but we’re not going to do it if the community opposes. So: what do you think? Please answer these poll questions to let us know how to proceed in the next month as we start to bring the new site online and build the system that players will use to log in to the game!