April 15th 2013
What’s in a name? Apparently a new record! 670+ Responses on the post along with the various threads on the forums, and over 16,000 people have made their opinions clear on the polls!
We want to thank everyone for their various ideas and passionate feedback, and considering my own feelings wearing my “gamer” shoes, I’ve decided to revise the system proposed in Friday’s post.
While more than half of the voters (56%) indicated that they would be fine with the ability to pay for a handle early, it seems unfair that people would be at risk of losing their current username in the transition to the new site. The good news is that we’ve worked out a solution that will let everyone keep their display name while keeping the migration to the new site a relatively smooth transition.
First, a bit of technical background on the current system:
On the original setup, the intent of the username field was that it would be used for login purposes only and was meant to be kept private.
The intent of the display name field was to act as your front-facing moniker in all community interactions including the forums, chat, and post comments.
The intent of both of these fields became inconsistent however when we switched our forum software to vBulletin as it requires that the public usernames be unique. Since the site’s display names were NOT unique, our only choice was to use your login username as the vBulletin username. As a result, many complaints arose regarding identity mismatching as well as the security issues.
We take the concerns of the community very seriously, which is why we decided that the new site, and later, the game, would feature a public “handle” that would be completely separate from your login username. The difference between this “handle” on the new site and the old display name is that it needs to be unique since we also need to use it for the numerous social features we plan to implement in the site/game (e.g. your profile URL, friends list, personal messages, chat, and in-game mission tagging). This is precisely why we can’t have handles conflicting with each other.
The problem is that display names on the current site are NOT uniquely constrained! There are over 20,000 users who have a display name that conflicts with another user. This poses a serious challenge for user migration into the new system. How do we resolve the many conflicts in trying to port this non-unique data into a new unique field? Who should get to keep a particular name when many others want it too?
Our original thought was to have everyone create a new “handle” that conforms to a unique constraint, which lead us into thinking about how to give that process some order, with one option to allow people to pay for an earlier “window” to get a jump on a desired name.
Thinking about it some more, there is no reason why we can’t just give people the option to take their current login username as their website / game “handle”. The current login usernames are unique, which means there will be no collisions in the migration process, and also since we have already pretty much compromised the privacy of this field by having it display publicly in vBulletin as the forum name.
But even if we decide to map the current login usernames as the new handle, most people will still desire for their current display names to be used instead, which would still result in a free-for-all type of scenario where some people would still lose out.
In order to have everyone retain their current display name and keep the intent of this field consistent in the new site, what we’ve decided to do is introduce an additional non-unique field called the “Community Moniker” which will act as your main identity in the community on the new site. Your Community Moniker will be accompanied by your unique handle in order to differentiate any duplicates there may be. What this does is it scales down the importance of your unique handle to mainly determine your profile URL, as well as being something other users can use to add you to their friend list.
Once in the game itself, the Community Moniker is replaced by the Character Name of the character you have chosen to play in your current session. The constant between the website and the game is your unique handle – which in the game is your United Empire of Earth identifier, which serves as a way for people to tell that “The Dread Pirate Roberts” is actually “Christopher Roberts” on the website.
In closely studying the community feedback, we believe this is the best solution to move forward with considering the challenges we face on our end.
Our proposed solution also eases the transition process, but there are still some challenges at hand. Here is how we plan to tackle user migration:
First by default, we will take all current display names and map them to the Community Moniker on the new site. We will also take all current login usernames, and map those to the unique handle on the new site. This leaves one additional field to be specified when logging into the new site: your new Login ID.
When first logging onto the new website, you will be asked to specify a NEW Login ID for obvious security reasons resulting from the current site and forums.
At this point, you will also have the opportunity to change both your Handle and Community Moniker. For the handle, we will allow you to check to see if the new handle you are considering is available before you give up your migrated login username as your handle. Your community moniker doesn’t have to be unique and is separate from your character names, but similar in concept. When posting on the new website, your community moniker will be shown with your handle below it. For example, my community moniker would be Christopher Roberts and my handle would be croberts68. To friend / PM or generally interact with me, you would need to click on my handle or use it to look me up.
In order to ease the inevitable load on the new site, we will spread out access to register for the new site during its testing phase. What we plan to do is send out email invites to the community in daily batches that are based on your original sign-up date and modified by your pledge level as well as your subscriber status. Roughly, the idea is that the first 3,000 people having signed up back in September AND are backers would be the first batch invited to test the new site. The second 3,000 the next day and so on. Having a higher pledge level or being a subscriber will move you up in priority. For example, if you’re a Vice Admiral, you would get bumped up two slots (think of the level as a + modifier). Being a Centurion subscriber is also a +1 modifier, an Imperator a +2 modifier. If you don’t respond to the email until a few days later, then the world moves on. You won’t lose your reserved handle / user ID, but someone may have taken the new user ID and / or handle you wanted.
We think this process is the most fair and allows the most flexibility in transitioning to the new site and setting up your eventual game account. Hopefully you will agree, but if not, I’m sure we’ll hear from you!
Finally, I would like to address a few concerns that some had about the handle system being “immersion breaking”. As you all know, I’m very big on immersion, and for me, I think it’s very likely in the future that identification would be similar to how we propose. You already have user IDs for various websites / online sites that are exactly like the system we propose – things like Skype, but also more official sites and accounts – your local electric utility… or much more on point – my local Department of Motor Vehicles. None of these insist I enter a series of numbers, and while a US Social Security Number may be all numerical today, who says that your United Empire of Earth ID will be all numbers? Almost all license plates or aircraft tail numbers are a combination of numbers and letters. I think the Skype handle analogy is probably much more likely than a purely numerical one like the US Social Security Number, mainly because it affords more variety and can be easier for an individual to remember. I also think that this handle would be something you could broadcast or hide, or other people could try to ferret out – again much like a Skype handle. I think the nuance of this will afford a lot of possibility and challenges in gameplay which for me is exactly the kind of system I am looking to bring to Star Citizen – I want to blur the boundaries between the Roberts Space Industries website and 2942 in the United Empire of Earth.
As a small gesture of my appreciation for helping us through this seemingly “unsexy” process, I’d like to share with you some of our latest and more exciting concept art. This depicts the approach to Prime, the capital city of Terra. Prime will be a major player in the overarching story we hope to tell in Star Citizen. This conceptual ‘look and feel’ piece will be used by the team to create the ground levels you will visit when you land on Terra. Please note that it isn’t quite finished: we just sent notes back to the artist for laying out the buildings differently and adding some additional air traffic around the city… but it was impressive enough that I thought it worthy of sharing with you today:
— Chris Roberts