SWTOR: The trouble with surnames

As the launch train rounds the bend and heads into the station to pick up a few million passengers, one recent reveal by the Star Wars: The Old Republic team has a few people scratching their heads.  I’m referring to the Legacy system, which was unveiled the same day as the NDA drop and a few other things, which has had the effect of burying it somewhat.

I’ve been mulling over what little info BioWare’s given us on this, and found that I’m siding with the folks who are a little (or more than a little) unsettled by it.  Basically, the Legacy system is a way for all of your characters to contribute to a single XP pool that will eventually be rewarded with… uh, we don’t really know that.  I’m guessing social items and whatnot.  It also allows for the use of a single surname across all of your characters on that server, which does the double duty of providing a consistent identification for people who are alt-crazy and gives you a last name.

With me so far?  Generally, I’m cool with this, but there’s a few problems lurking in the shadows as have been pointed out by several fans.  To whit:

  1. Some people don’t want that single name of identification yet do want to enjoy the benefits of the points system.
  2. Roleplayers and others have a hard time figuring out how people from different species can share one last name (and they don’t necessarily want these people to be “related”)
  3. Because surnames are unique on a server, it’s going to be a race to get to them first (and if you come late to the game?  Good luck!).

My beef is with #3, because all of the sudden BioWare’s turned my launch day plans from a leisurely exploration of the game into a rat race as I keep muttering prayers that nobody else will pick the last name I want before I get to the point in the game where I can grab one.  So now there’s a layer of stress where it wasn’t before, and I’m not thankful for it.

Obviously, I could either just eschew the Legacy system outright (but I, like you, am fond of rewards) or just have a page full of last names at the ready and go with whatever.  These little things matter, because whenever there are rewards and ways to grab a unique customization for your character, people are all over it.

I’d much rather BioWare give us a way to either (a) reserve our surname in advance or (b) strike the “unique” condition from it so that we don’t have to compete with others.  Or, how about just being able to create that surname at character creation like other MMOs?

It’s just a name.  It shouldn’t be stressful.

26 thoughts on “SWTOR: The trouble with surnames

  1. Werit November 30, 2011 / 12:01 pm

    I thought it was game wide, not server.

  2. rowan November 30, 2011 / 12:13 pm

    Agreed, I have a much smaller problem with someone beating me to a name at the start of the game than them beating me to it at the middle, because they rushed, and I wanted to enjoy the journey. And let’s face it, the journey is the key to this game.

    If they want unique identifiers across alts, they should take a page from Cryptic and add @handles.

  3. Syp November 30, 2011 / 12:20 pm

    Werit — The statement says “server”, so that’s what I’m going with.

  4. Warsyde November 30, 2011 / 12:21 pm

    My take:

    1. You don’t have to display the name if you don’t want to, so people can get halfway there, there’s just no option to have two different surnames.

    2. I agree that sharing across races is pretty silly. Many of those same people have been complaining about sharing surnames across sides though, because “it makes no sense that someone on the Sith side would share a name with someone on the Republic side”. Right, because Darth Vader and Luke were totally on the same faction. /facepalm The race thing is a real problem, but I fear it will be lost in the faction kerfuffle.

    3. Whether the name is reserved at character creation or reserved at level 20 (or whenever) doesn’t make much difference, either way it’s a race to get there first, the only difference is the length of the race. They need to make them non-unique.

    I’m really not too stressed about it. Years of making alts on various games has taught me that I’m almost never going to get the name I want, so there’s no use in investing a character name with much value. The name is just another tag, and people probably won’t really use it anyway — they’ll abbreviate, shorten, or acronym-ize your name in short order, so why worry about it?

  5. rowan November 30, 2011 / 12:40 pm

    @Warsyde I think the difference between someone beating you to a name at character creation and the same thing happening 30 levels later is significant. In the first case, you’d lost before you even started running. The second affects gameplay style and possibly enjoyment, if you feel you need to rush through the story to snag that name.

    I agree the surnames should be either non-unique or not part of the Legacy system at all. We could still have the Legacy title and it wouldn’t have to be a surname at all, could be an object (i.e., The Frostmourne Legacy, to borrow from WoW). Of course, now that I think about it, there’s nothing stopping people from doing that now.

  6. Scarybooster November 30, 2011 / 12:40 pm

    I think they should stop calling it a family name or surname and just make it a Legacy name. That would get rid of the multi-race/ faction complaint. The name doesn’t need to be displayed so that gets rid if the “I have to” complaint. I do agree racing to the end of chapter 1 is silly. I don’t see why a 1,000 people can’t be Skywalker Legacy. It is still your legacy and your experience points. I heard rumors they want it unique so people can identify you easier, but I haven’t heard that from BW.

    It sounds like a great system to keep people playing longer, but they need to tweak the announcement so people stop freaking out.

    1. You don’t need to display the name and there are several options on how it is displayed

    2. It is a “Legacy” name not a family name

    3. Everybody can be Skywalker if they want. If you want to be original BW should make a check system that says, “Skywalker”- taken are you sure you want to proceed? Yes/no. “Skywalker” -Name has not been used on this server. Do you want to proceed, Yes/No

  7. Rer November 30, 2011 / 12:58 pm

    I completely agree. Having it across all of your characters (the name, not the exp) is dumb, and putting it at the end of Chapter 1 is even stupider.

    Either make them non-unique, or put them at the character creation phase. (Even the having the same surname on all of your characters still sounds silly.

    It’s an extremely trivial issue yes, but the point is that it doesn’t need to be.

  8. Rer November 30, 2011 / 12:58 pm

    Bah, smartphone typos 😦

  9. Yeebo November 30, 2011 / 1:39 pm

    I’m not worried about being able to come up with a surname whenever I unlock the system. Random noun plus random verb, instant Star Wars surname:

    Starkiller

    Moonstalker

    Mouselooker

    Fruitslapper

    It’s easy!

    😉

  10. Yeebo November 30, 2011 / 1:40 pm

    More seriously, as long as there is an option to not display surnames I really don’t mind them being across my characters.

  11. rowan November 30, 2011 / 2:20 pm

    Anikiin Fruitslapper, FTW!

  12. Buhallin November 30, 2011 / 2:41 pm

    “It’s just a name. It shouldn’t be stressful.”

    That could be taken as insight for both sides of this…

    While I agree with the concerns over how Bioware implemented this, I’m continually amazed at the MMO community’s ability to take even the most minor things and turn it into an epic catastrophe if they don’t get exactly what they want.

  13. Harper Jayne November 30, 2011 / 4:02 pm

    Just one more reason I’m not sold on TOR.

    I don’t see what it offers beyond what I can get from other games, and with a $60 price tag (and the invariable monthly charges of course) I’m highly iffy already. (Any game we buy costs twice as much of course: we get two copies.)

    The thing which might save TOR from itself is that my wife does like it. If she opts in, I will as well.

    But beyond that after a weekend of testing and a bit of reading on various systems, I have to admit that I am honestly not really impressed, and would rather spend my money on a good single player experience (which TOR is, but others are better) . . .

    Forcing a unique surname on all characters across an account is, to me, lame. I’m a writer, I don’t name all the characters in my stories the same thing. I’ll be damned if I want to do so in TOR.

  14. ScytheNoire November 30, 2011 / 4:06 pm

    It is only single server, not cross-server. They made an error when they first announced it, but later corrected themselves.

    I agree completely about the Surname part, that is just dumb to base that on the Legacy system. Surnames should be some quest reward, maybe dealing with a questline involving finding out about your characters past.

    I have no problem though with “The Legacy of NAMEHERE” method, although it adds yet another name under the character.

    Personally, I’m for the option of just turning it off, not displaying anything. You still get the rewards without having to deal with the hassle.

  15. thade November 30, 2011 / 4:39 pm

    “Personally, I’m for the option of just turning it off, not displaying anything. You still get the rewards without having to deal with the hassle.”

    Honestly I find that acceptable too…and I’d be surprised if they don’t go that route. Then again, should they be more restrictive with it, well, kudos to them. Maybe they’ll make it hip to be a lil’ old-school-restrictive on us in even this little sense. 😉

  16. AFK November 30, 2011 / 8:37 pm

    I’m starting to get a bit distraught over this whole surname business. As a recovering altoholic, (RIFT being the first game where I didn’t have 800 random level 11 characters on each server) I’m a little scared. I mean, Bioware is giving me a reason to create as many characters as possible. We don’t know what the Legacy rewards are going to be yet, but I’m sure it will be incentive enough for me to fall off the wagon. Thanks Bioware 😦

  17. MrStrange December 1, 2011 / 3:02 am

    I’d just change a letter in your last sentence :
    “It’s just a Game. It shouldn’t be stressful.”

    Be happy 🙂

    (And while I’m at it, I like your blog a lot, congrats !)

  18. muckbeast December 1, 2011 / 3:04 am

    How about one of the even more obvious problems:

    If your character is “married” to another character, you’d want the same surname.

    My wife and I often give our characters the same last name in game. We’ve done this ever since Dark Age of Camelot. Obviously this wouldn’t be possible.

    Basically, linking the legacy system to your last name is a horrible idea and really makes no sense. There’s no good reason for them to be connected as one is an “OOC” game system (which I actually think sounds cool) and the other is an “IC/RP” type feature.

  19. Rackham December 1, 2011 / 3:04 am

    After spending years in WoW without the option of having a last name (unless you get a plugin), I like the idea. – but the restrictions are somewhat of an obstacle.

    For RP reasons, I’ll be rolling both a Jedi Knight (Kylun) and his “sister” a trooper (Torren), which you may recognize from my webcomic series. So in terms of the Legacy system that makes sense for a roleplayer like me.

    However I do plan on rolling a Bounty Hunter as well and I’m pretty sure he won’t have the same last name. So if I do want him to have a last name I’ll have to roll him on another server in order to gain the Legacy title with my BH. Thankfully the Legacy name is only tied to a specific server.

    Part of me wonders if this is what Bioware was intending? To almost “force” those to consider the story element more behind their characters? For me, that process seems to be applicable.

  20. Dolnor December 1, 2011 / 3:43 am

    I see the surname issue as being another factor for the “You better hurry and pre-order…someone may take your desired surname and you are out of luck!” ploy.

    TQQdles™,

    Dolnor Surname
    Eternal Newbie

  21. Ayane December 1, 2011 / 5:06 am

    For those that aren’t aware, they’ve said that there are three ways to display the legacy name:

    – As a surname
    – As “The Legacy” below your name
    – Not at all

    With those options I think most of the concerns go right out the window. Don’t like is as a surname? Show it below your name instead. Don’t like it at all? Then just don’t display it.

    And as a roleplayer myself I have to scratch my head at why roleplayers would have trouble with putting different species/factions under the same legacy name. Are other roleplayers really that uncreative?

    Anyway, I do have a couple of issues with the legacy system so far.

    One, it’s the only way to have a surname; I’d really like to see something else allowing surnames (that also allow friends to share the same surname) in addition to the legacy system. Heck, maybe even something showing two surnames.

    But more importantly, this system discourages people from playing on other servers (because then you don’t get points to your legacy and have to start a new legacy instead). This means that there’s yet ANOTHER obstacle towards playing together with friends and family. At this point it’s really feeling like TOR is going out of its way to prevent you from playing with your friends/family. This, to me, is by far the biggest issue.

  22. Ayane December 1, 2011 / 5:07 am

    That’s supposed to be “The *name* Legacy” above.

  23. Syp December 1, 2011 / 11:28 am

    Another thing with last names — If I know my character is going to have one, I have completely different first names to compliment the last ones (such as in Guild Wars). So it’s not just a question for me to pull a last one out of a hat later on, but to have one in mind during character creation.

  24. rowan December 1, 2011 / 1:56 pm

    Agreed. I have to map out all my character names to match my planned legacy, then still be flexible enough in the chance that it’s taken when I reach the right point in the game.

  25. Leah December 1, 2011 / 9:48 pm

    you know, the only thing that came to my mind when I heard about Legacy system was – yay, shared titles! I already had a reason to have multiple alts – unique class stories. I don’t care too much about specific surnames, especially if I can hide them from view. I don’t mind if it takes me longer to get some title or some last name, I only care about the first name. and those I will reserve the moment the game is active.

    /shrugs

    sorry, just ..don’t really see why one has to rush for an achievemnt

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