I have been a fan of the Elder Scrolls, Bethesda, and ZeniMax (ZOS for short) for years. When I first heard they were making an Elder Scrolls Online game, I rushed to sign up for the Beta, even though the computer I had at the time couldn’t really handle running Oblivion, and even Morrowind had to be at its lowest settings.
Thankfully, by the time the beta started, I had a new computer, a Mac this time, and eventually I was happy to join in the beta, get invited to the Psijic Order, and play to my heart’s content.
All of that to say, this is probably one of the few posts you’ll ever see on here that’s not favorable toward ESO and Zenimax. To be honest, I think they dropped the ball on this issue, and in my opinion, it’s something that needs to be addressed soon.
How It All Began
5:00 AM EST – Early on the morning of March 30, the Psijic Order (the group of beta testers who played on the permanent testing server) was buzzing with people waiting for 7 AM EST, when ZOS was scheduled to open the live server, in order to claim the names that they had used throughout testing.
The Live server was a clean version of the beta server, using the same download (plus an upgrade or two) as the beta server that so many (over 5,000,000 registered to beta test) had helped to test. All the beta characters were gone now and everyone was starting with a clean slate.
6:07 AM EST – ZOS had a habit of opening betas earlier than advertised, so people had been checking periodically to see if it was up yet. This time, someone comes back to the group to share that the game is finally open.
6:14 AM EST – 46 minutes before the game was supposed to be open. Wykkyd came back to the group to share that someone stole his name. He wasn’t the only one. With 40 minutes still to go before the game was supposed to be open, person after person came back to the group to share that their names have been taken. Although a few are names that someone might have taken by accident, several, like Wykkyd, are unique names that are well known either across the gaming world or through the social media one.
My Personal Thoughts On How This Should Have Been Handled
Keeping our beta account name wasn’t enough.
- At the very least, our account name should have been reserved as a character name – and I think that is true for anyone, whether they were in beta or not. Account and character names should be linked so that there are no duplicates across both game and forums.
- As soon as ZOS started allowing and sharing live steams, those names should have gone into a reserve that could only be accessed by having the right account or proving you were that player. Even if you had to wait a week, until things calmed down, for one of the devs to help and accept your proof of identity, it’s still better than knowing someone else is running around with your name and doing who knows what. For many of us, our main character names were not created just for this game, but they are names we are known by in many places.
- While starting early was appreciated during the beta, it was part of the problem when the game went live. Name-grabbers were able to take several well-known names before most people realized that the game had even opened.
- Most social media sites have rules for well-known names precisely because they’ve gone through this before. For instance, Facebook allows you to change your Facebook address once (after you’ve set one address) for this very reason. When they first started allowing personal addresses, you were supposed to be stuck with them for the life of your account, but in the first 10 minutes or so of allowing people to claim them, some of the most well-known social media names had their name claimed before they could grab it.
When you have had a nickname for years and across sites, the name becomes an extension of yourself. This isn’t just a playground issue of having another child take your toy, but more of an identity theft issue – the more well-known your nickname is, the more harm someone can do to your reputation by taking the name and behaving in ways that don’t reflect your character.
It’s even worse with ESO because of the way they use account names. When you talk in guild chat, you see the account name, not the person’s name. You see the same account names if you talk with them in the forums. And then, if you’re exploring and run into someone with the same name, your first reaction will be that you know that person.
What about if you first ran into someone in the game and they were behaving badly, shouting over chat, repeatedly asking you to join their guild, or even gold spamming. Then, you see the same name in a guild that you’re part of, or someone with that name shares advice or even asks a question on the forums. Now you’re likely to respond to that person as though they were the character in the game that got you so frustrated, even though it’s actually two different people.
@Alucard just informed me that it gets even worse. Having a friend request added by the person who owns the account name also adds the person with the in-game name!
The majority of the Psijic Order testers who had their names taken have not been able to contact anyone by that name in the game. So the characters were created, not by someone wanting to play that name, but by someone purposefully trying to hold the nickname of someone whose name is well-known.
It reminds me of back when the internet was so new and all, and people rushed to claim business names so they could then turn around and sell them back to the business at a significant price increase. The companies took the name claimers to court. The court listened to their case and decided that the companies had a right to own their name online.
Thoughts From Others
To close, let me share some of the discussion from the Psijic group after I asked for anyone to share their thoughts and experiences in preparation of writing this post:
@Alucard – I am frustrated that my main characters name was taken by someone who isn’t even playing that char (I was able to speak to them ingame and they confirmed this). This name is the same name as my account name for both Beta and PTS. I am beyond frustrated at this because I logged into the server at 6:10am the morning of early access only to find out that the server has been up for at least 10 minutes prior, a whole our earlier than we were told by ZOS. When I asked why this happened and no one was given notice of the early server start time I was given this response:
You absolutely may! We advertised that our game would be live by 7 am, and we were fortunate enough to have an incredibly smooth launch, which resulted in the servers opening a little earlier than advertised. Our goal was to have the servers open by the specified time, which is what we accomplished. If you have any other questions, i’d be more than happy to help!
@Wykkyd – And of course many people in Psijic know that my character name Wykkyd was stolen, and presumably parked by the person who did so. I’ve been waiting on a response for over a week now on the status of getting it back. Sometimes people go to absurd lengths to ruin things for others. Considering how “in the open” my name has been prior to launch, and even moreso afterward, I can’t expect to be anything short of intentional.
@Wykkyd – I’ve not received any response […] in over a week on my name issue. Email, forum PM’s… all seem to go to an empty cloud. Yeah, I’m sure it’s busy there. It’s busy here too and this is very important to me. I spent 2 hours defending who I was last night (loosely, I was trying to avoid most of the troll baiting) because my char name isn’t “Wykkyd” in zone chat.