One of the most annoying things about starting a new character in an MMO is trying to pick a name that isn't taken. All the best names always go in the first hour of the MMO game being released, and then everyone after that gets stiffed. I'm usually always left making characters with an obscurely spelt variation of the name I wanted, or have to pick some less attractive name. When I created my second character on Guild Wars, I tried to name her 'Crimson Starfire'. Unfortunately the name was already taken and so I had choose a variation of the name. I did however add that person to my friends list in the off chance I would see them online and possibly barter for the name. Four years went by and I've never once seen that person online! Me = annoyed!
I don't know who to blame more, the annoying guy who always takes the name I want, or the MMO game company for forcing over a million people to pick unique names. In a lot of the cases, games allow for multiple character slots and so one person can be holding on to 10 plus names. If that person goes permanently inactive, those names are lost forever into the ether of the interwebs. Seems like such a waste.
So as online gaming populations grow, it makes more and more sense to be able to recycle the character names floating around in this ether. If a player is inactive for more than 6 months, then I think their character names should be made available for re-use. If the player returns for some reason, then they simply have to pick new names for their characters. It does seem a bit harsh, but I think it's fair. If you choose to leave a MMO game for a large period of time, other players shouldn't be penalized for your abandonment. It's possible that losing a character name may cause the player to not want to return, so the inactive period would need to be made long enough to indicate that the player was never coming back anyway. The game company could even send out a courtesy email informing the ex-player that their character names are going to be recycled if they don't log in before a certain date.
Melf_Himself once comically said:
When I was born it was a very long labour. Apparently my parents had to switch servers until they found one on which there were no other 'Phil's...
It's quiet a funny joke, but sadly that's how MMO games operate. Seems extremely unrealistic to me, especially if the game was aiming to increase realism. This brings me to my other solution to the unique naming problem. Why not let the players name their characters what ever the hell they feel like, with no restriction on uniqueness. The player then also has to create a unique 'call-sign' which applies to all characters on the account. The call-sign can be made of tiny picture icons, different coloured text and what ever else would add to the uniqueness. When you add someone to your friend list, you add their call-sign. When ever they are online it shows their call-sign and the name of the character that they are currently playing. In PvP tournaments, it would be your call-sign that shows next to your stats. That way people can identify you even if you change characters. This would definitely solve the unique name problem and a few others at the same time.
I don't know... seems logical to me...