Philosophical Ranting of an Engineer

Response to Hiding From Justice

December 11th, 2007

One of the important topics discussed in the papers I read this week, particularly the one on Usenets “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community” by Judith S. Donath deals with online identity and deception. Your identity among your peers online is a tricky thing, partly formed from your digital identifier, in Usenet’s case your email, and your reputation based on your previous actions.

World of Warcraft benefits from a similar system. While each player may have multiple characters that are un-linked, each character can be considered a unique identity. One’s actions as that character could have long lasting reputation ramifications. Be careful who you cross or you could find yourself without any friends.

Until now. Recently Blizzard implemented a new feature that allows a player to change their character’s name. Some players rejoiced, for they were unhappy with their name and wanted to change it, while others were less pleased. A reputation is a morality check. When people are anonymous they do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, see Usenet article, but when their reputation is at stake they modify their behavior.

Unfortunately it didn’t take long before people began abusing the ability to change their name. This article on WowInsider titled “Hiding from justice” mentions a guild that had a member ninja (steal) a few items from the guild bank and then disappear completely. Most likely this character had changed his name. Blizzard’s official response on this was to be more careful about who you let access your bank. They chose to give players more control over their identity and through doing so, the ability to erase their reputation.

So what is your identity on World of Warcraft? If you have a good reputation, other people might treat you better, but if you have a bad reputation you can simply change your name.


2 Responses to “Response to Hiding From Justice”

  1. Razor Says:
    Very interesting issue, Raydenuni. I would think that a better implementation would be to allow character name changes up to level 40 or so. That way, a player could change their name on the basis of whether or not they like the name after having used it for awhile. All the while serious ninja offenses could be averted because acts of ninja are far less critical prior to level 60 or so.
  2. RaydenUni Says:
    The problem with limiting it to under a certain level is that most characters are level 70. And the people who want to change their names are probably people who have had their name since they started playing. The cost of re-rolling their epic equipped level 70 is much more than re-rolling a level 40. On the other hand it wouldn't hurt much to implement a sub-40 name change. This does give opportunity for humor though. Someone was telling me how a guild mate had changed his name to be a little shorter, so they created a level 1 character with a very similar name to his old name and brought it to their raid. Thus when the raid leader did a ready check this level 1 character didn't respond and they all yelled at the guy who had changed his name. Took him a half hour to figure it out.

Sorry, comments are closed for this article.