Perfect Ten: 10 tips for crafting a unique MMO character name

Tell me if you’ve ever been here: You just finished spending way too much time pouring over options in the character creation screen and have finally settled on a race, class, and visuals for your upcoming hero. But then you draw a blank on the character name field — or worse, your usual nomer has already been taken and you’re in the 98% of MMORPGs that don’t allow for duplicates.

What do you do?

Because I’m not one of those players who is content to slam my head on the keyboard and accept the letter soup as an acceptable name for the next 200 hours of my gaming career, crafting the perfect name is very important to me. I have roster of names that I typically use, but those aren’t always available, especially in older games that have witness the passage of thousands of players before me.

So I’ve come up with several tips and techniques to create a fun names that exude personality, charm, and style without falling into stale tactics. And because I am your oldest and dearest friend, I’m going to share these tips with you today.

I'm so drunk I can barely see, but it helps be get through another day!

1. Can’t get your first choice? Don’t force it.

I feel responsible for a brief public service announcement about the potential mistreatment of names. Yeah, it’s a total bummer when someone else snipes your name, because you really, really had your heart set on ShadowMoon. You’re always ShadowMoon. So you get fixated on it and start bending the laws of physics and punctuation to make it work.

Maybe you misspell the name (which makes you look like a third grader). Perhaps you change that “a” into an “å” (which makes it impossible for people to send you tells or invites from the chat window). Or you get so desperate that you start slapping random characters and numbers at the start and end to sandwich your choice in the middle, creating some unholy Frankenstein monster of a name.

Just… please don’t do that. It’s low-grade annoying to everyone around you, and you could do so much better.

2. Consider a theme

When I played Star Trek Online, I would always name my starships after famous battles in the Revolutionary War. That gave me a huge list from which to work, taught me a bit more about history, and got me hooked on the idea of “theme” names.

When you pick a theme — colors, flowers, rivers, deadly insects, obscure Mega Man bosses — you will almost always have alternatives from which to choose if you get stonewalled on the character creation screen. Plus, you’ll have a roster of characters that sound absolutely awesome.

3. Buy a vowel, Vanna

While I’m obviously not a fan of torturing a name to get it to unique status in an MMO, I think that vowel alternatives are worth pursuing. Changing that “i” into a “y” (or vice-versa) is an obvious move. As is “a” to “ae” or “e” to “dizzle.” Sometimes it ends up looking ridiculous, but you can be surprised.

Even tacking a vowel at the end can make a beautiful name. The other month I was aiming to make a character with a flower name, but most of the attractive flowers had already been taken. So I experimented with vowels and turned “lilac” into “Lilaca.” I ended up loving that so much that she became my new main.

You made it sing, all right.

4. Suffixes are your friend

Recently, I’ve become really fond of the idea of using suffixes to spice up our “main” names that get a lot of use between MMOs. I’m typically some derivative of “Syp,” but I got tired of doing Syppi, Syppy, and Syperstar (although, c’mon, that is totally boss). So I went over to a list of suffixess and started trying them on. The best result? “Sypsophy,” which is now one of my all-time favorite name variants.

5. Portmanteau it

Single, common words found in the dictionary or in pop culture are going to be overpicked on the naming screen. But you know what offers almost infinite options? Slamming two words together or even blending them into a pleasant mix. Our ShadowMoon there is one example (although not a terribly good one). Consider dissecting two words and taking the best parts of each to meld together. Cerulean Slicer could become “Sliceru.” OK, that’s not terribly great either, but I’m sure you can do better.

6. Remember the three-letter rule

For decades now I’ve followed what I call the three-letter rule. It’s a rule drawn from my observations of how players address others in chat: that no matter how long others’ names are, most players typically shorten it down to the first three or four letters when addressing them. It’s why I went with a three-letter word for my characters, although I’m not saying that you have to do that. Just look over the first three or four letters of your character’s name and make sure you’re OK with the potential nickname that it could produce.

7. Puns are permitted

I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m a total stickler for names; I would rather be remembered as one who encouraged others to aspire to do better. That said, I am 100% OK with diving into the well of puns when you’re drawing up your name.

As long as you’re fine with wearing that pun for the lifespan of your character, go for it. Anyone who played City of Heroes is well-acquainted with the one-upsmanship that that game created in the name-punning department. If you could make someone laugh and groan when reading your name, you’ve won part of the game.

8. Pretend you’re expecting a little one

I don’t think that there’s any shame to treating your newbie character the same as an expectant parent would their bundle of joy, at least in the realm of naming. Parents give a lot of thought (well, usually) into what name their child will don, and the go-to method for that is a good old fashioned baby naming book or list. Sure, you might feel silly plowing through yuppie names for that perfect title for your Gnome Wizard, but you’d be surprised how many cool and interesting names are out there. Plus, so many baby naming websites have organized names into thematic lists, aiding people into finding exactly what fits their personality or notions best.

9. Dive into the lore

One thing that I love about Lord of the Rings Online’s character creation screen is that the description of each race shares tips about what kinds of names and naming constructions are used for such beings. You can disregard that, of course, but I think there’s merit in seeking out the lore of the game and your chosen race in particular.

10. Say it out loud

I’ll end with this tip, because I feel it’s pretty useful to help weed out the silly or weaker ideas that we brainstorm. When you get a name that looks interesting, say it out loud. Does it have a punch? Is it memorable? Or does it slither out of your lips like some slimy, half-born abomination and then fall splat on the floor? Usually if you hear it and like it, you’ll know it’s the one.

What are some of the great names you’ve come up with and what are your naming tips? Let us know in the comments!

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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44 Comments on "Perfect Ten: 10 tips for crafting a unique MMO character name"

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KryptonianGL

Syp, you missed the most important tip to make things super-easy for anyone looking for a good to great character name –>

As a couple of others here have already pointed out, go to:

http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/

Names (even lore-specific ones) for some of the most popular MMOs can be found under the “Pop Culture” dropdown menu.

Emily has done an amazing job with this site!

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Alex Willis

I almost always use existing fantasy or SF languages and then build portmanteaus.

So, Tolkien’s Elvish. Let’s say I want to name my character…Golden Star, but only in meaning.

Gold = laurë
Star = elen

So Golden Star is Laurelen. Vary as necessary with vowels, or reverse and play with the portmanteau: Elenaurel sounds better, I think.

There are so many resources for this. Sindarin/Quenya (Tolkien), Klingon, Huttese, Mando’a, Na’vi, Dothraki, Dovahzul…you should never really run out of ideas.

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Tia Nadiezja

Dear all MMO designers everywhere,

Please use character@handle naming. When Cryptic is getting something WAY more right than anyone else in the industry, you are all doing something terribly wrong.

Names:

Erika Marie Tatsu, Eden Enigma, Teratra: Star Trek Online
Minthrievel: Lord of the Rings Online
Darth Ixazi: The Old Republic
Samantha “Hera” Reilly: Secret World Legends. Yeah, I nabbed a four-letter nickname. I’m full of joy at that.

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Melissa McDonald

The solution, of course, is to allow name duplicates. That’s real. Even in fantasy worlds people have son-of-dude names, and they weren’t the only people in the universe to ever bear that name before.
Why games don’t consistently embrace that is totally beyond me. Would love to be in those design meetings and bop them on the heads, Homie The Clown-style.

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connor_jones

I use Emily’s extensive name generator a lot. Even when it doesn’t give me an exact match, it gives me a lot of ideas. http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/

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KryptonianGL

Again, this!^

Specus
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Specus

Once I’ve exhausted my list of previously used names, I’ll usually go with a baby book or foreign languages, then perform character substitution/doubling until it is unique.

I’m not hung up on specific names, but I do try to find some kind of inspiration when selecting a name.

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Bruno Brito

Biggus Dickus, the centurion.

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mistressbrazen

Foreign language works for me. I have my stock names, but if they don’t work I try to see what might be the foreign equivalent.

quark1020
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quark1020

I almost never have to worry about my name being taken (Its not quark and I’m not telling, you bastards!) . The few times that it has been taken, almost all of them were accounts I once made with a previous email I had when I was a kid.

Other than that, I do make use of the 3 letter rule a lot. Ill usually make the first 3 letters be something like “Bil” or “Jo_”, something that I know is easy to not only type but also say in voice chat.

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Toy Clown

Nearly everyone shortens character names to the first several letters, so that part made me laugh, as I’ve developed some names around making sure other people called me what I wanted to be called. I’d think up a short, 3-letter nickname and build a name around those letters. Even works when the three letters are in the middle of a name.

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pathayne

I found a good naming convention a few years back. Take your full name (Michael Peter Smith) and make short combinations from those names (Maerth). Then for the surname, take something you really enjoy, like cheese for example (Roquefort). Now you have Maerth Roquefort. Sounds pretty unique and you shouldn’t run into any duplicate problems.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

I thought that STO allowed duplicates in both character and ship name.

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Tia Nadiezja

It does and that’s wonderful. Though its allowance of long names and spaces also helps with making names that feel really unique.

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NeoWolf

I have read fantasy and sci fi novels since I was able to read, also from 7 onwards every week I would GM PnP RPG games for my friends (im now 44).. I have had to name entire Worlds..
So i’m lucky I have little issue drawing upon my background and familiarity with the genres to come up with appropriate names with applicable prefixes and suffixes and conventions.

This is also likely why I HATE comedic or noonsense names in MMOs when I find them on RP servers.

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Castagere Shaikura

I use the fantasy name generator site for my names. They even have the lore names of the races now for most games. So now i can mix first and last names to come up with something unique.

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KryptonianGL

This^

bereman99
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bereman99

The vowel rule and the lore rule are the two I end up using the most. A number of years ago I decided that some form of Nikita was what I wanted (I believe it was for a character in Tera) but that was taken…

So I dropped the first I for a Y, and the second I for an E, and landed on Nyketa…which has the bonus of working with the three letter rule.

So now I’ll take a name I like and work the vowels to something that looks right for the character and is likely to be pronounced the way I want (works with puns from time to time as well – a hunter named Aemlyss, for example).

For a few games, though, I’ll do my best to stick with the established lore type for the setting. Bonus points to FFXIV for making the random name generator actually spit out lore appropriate names to make that job a bit easier (my main in FFXIV – Celie Lothaire – got her name this way, and the name works in a variety of other settings pretty easily, isn’t often taken, and can work with the vowel rule pretty easily to boot, on top of being what I consider to be a wonderful sounding name when said out loud).

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Schmidt.Capela

Try other languages; you can put a word related to your character concept in Google Translate (or your translation program of choice) and start clicking through the languages until you see something that sounds cool. My SWL characters, for example, use as their names Romanian words for gemstones whose attributes mesh well with their intended personalities and the colors matches their faction.

hurbster
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hurbster

I generally go Gaelic.

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Armsbend

I usually use common household products or food if I can get the name these days. It makes me smile. My name in WoW is Jollytime – after the popcorn. And Jolly Times in general.

if not that I roll with something I just invent or really obscure literature references – favorite characters or divine characters not well known in the west. Lately I’ve been using the Hindu pantheon as a go to.

Aldristavan
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Aldristavan

When I came up with Aldristavan, I wanted (a) a name that was a complete or at least partial anagram of my own name, and (b) absolutely and relentlessly fussy. I think I hit solid gold on both counts!

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Nick Smith

Use your initials with vowels tucked in between. It really makes you feel like your a part of your character.

Robert Nicholas Smith becomes…

Noros
Ranis
Sereen

Etc.

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Hirku

Short & simple is my biggest rule. Meaning is nice, but not necessary. My name was the result of everything in TSW being taken, so I just mashed together parts of my character’s full name “Hiro Kusanagi.” I thought it fit the world, like a code name or email (hirku@dragon.net).

Funny thing, I’ve never actually said it out loud, but according to the voice in my head the correct pronunciation is HUR-koo.

Duey Bear
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Duey Bear

I often use diminutive forms of Russian names as at least in the west they have a foreign flair.
Example, Ilya (Russian form of Elijah), becomes Sasha, Ilka, Ilyuk, Lyusik etc.
It’s like how William becomes Bill, Robert becomes Bob and Richard becomes Dick in English.
I use this nice list of names here: http://www.doukhobor.org/Russian-Masculine-Names.html

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Rheem Octuris

Syppery Wenwett.

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Bryan Correll

Making the perfect name is easy. Just start with the word Ninja and add x’s to the beginning and end until you get to one that isn’t taken.

Spoiler
Not really. Don’t do that.

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Armsbend

xXxxxTooLateIAlreadyDidItxxxXXxx

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Legend Of Vinny T

Sorry, that name is already taken. Suggested alternatives:

xXxxxTooLateIAlreadyDidIt420xxxXXxx
xXxxxTooLateIAlreadyDidIt69xxxXXxx

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Bruno Brito

xXxS3ph1r0thxXx

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Paragon Lost

I’ve been a gamer for so many decades that names are never a problem for me. I have a list of about fifty names I tend to use that date back to the 1970’s from my earliest tabletop rpging days and continuing into the start of the 1990s and my online multiplayer rpg gaming days.

Great advice though Justin, many players really do stress about and are quite frustrated with coming up with names. I think part of why some players actually come up with really lousy names is due to that frustration and stress. It then becomes a in everyone’s face sort of mentality/comment when they just decide on really piss poor names. Daring others to say something.

flatline4400
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flatline4400

I like these. My first name from EQ way back when was semi-random… I hit the generator a bunch of times, then modded one it came up with, and there it was for the next almost 20 years. Since then I’ve just gone with small random variations, or one based on the race or theme of the character.

But all my ships in STO are named after Everquest cities or zones of note!

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Darthbawl

“Syperstar” — OK I was laughing so hard that made me nearly spew my water all over the place. :P

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Celebrity Name + Class / Race Name mashup FTW.

Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.

On a more serious note, every game should work the way STO does, where your account name or handle is the only unique tag, and character names only need to be unique within your own private account / handle namespace. No extended ASCII needed.

Games that don’t work this way, you have no excuse, and I have no sympathy for you when you inevitably have to cope with naming collisions during merges and etc., and the fallout from them.

And while you’re at it, include SPACES and APOSTROPHES from the start, with sensible limitations on frequency and adjacency. The rest of the computing industry left behind stupid no-spaces rules only about 30 years ago now, it’s well past time time games caught up and made this the default rather than a luxury.

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Legend Of Vinny T

I’ll just leave this here.

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Zora

I would add

11. online name generators are your friend. There’s many for nearly every race and culture, imaginary or not, and if you are hitting a roadblock with creativity those can provide a new starting point to work with.

Perfectly agree with letting it roll on your tongue for a while, it saves you from finding out later on how your name might easily be misspelled into something… not overly flattering in english or other common languages.

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Alex Malone

I’m pretty terrible at name picking.

When I was younger, my go-to method was to look through my albums and pick interesting names. I used to listen to a lot of metal, so there are some great names, both of bands and songs. They usually sounded quite aggressive too, which matched my typical choice of melee DPS.

These days, I tend to rely more diverse methods.

If I can play an orc, my favourite name is “Spit”. It’s a bit aggressive, disgusting and simple, so fits with the orcish mentality. If that is taken, I go for similar types of words. “Scab” is what I aim for with goblin-type characters as it’s similarly disgusting and simple, but without the aggressiveness.

I often fall back on popular fantasy book franchises, particularly Raymond E. Feists work. They are packed full of interesting characters, so you not only get a lot of names to pick from but the personalities can be matched to your character so it feels “right”.

Right now, I’m somewhat obsessed with the TV series “Vikings”. I’m growing my hair like the main character (3.5yrs and counting…), Ragnar, and already have the beard. So, I like to create characters with similar names and appearances. A general Nordic theme has always been good inspiration for fantasy character names.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

Back in the MUD days if you were playing a tanking class you wanted a three or four letter name because otherwise you might not get healed during a fight unless your cleric had your name macro’d or in their auto-complete table.

One of my favorite naming alternates is to use the auto-generator to spawn ideas if not straight up usable names. Of course about half the time I find that said generator doesn’t filter names already in use or forbidden.

One time on TorilMUD the generator (which would let you auto-complete character creation without admin approval) gave the option of the name Toril. I took it and got jumped on by an admin within 20 seconds and had to change it… but not before I sent tells to friends with that name.

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Paragon Lost

Good healers had macros/scripts set up so that they could target anyone easily to heal them. ;)

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donvweel

Usually I am in a game early enough to reserve my usual names, then reroll as neeeded. If I get stuck, I will go to the web and search for names from various lore, for that type of character. I got stuck for a new warlock name so I searched for alchemists names and came up with one Fulcanelli.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulcanelli

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Rumm

Always some variation of my main and the name that I’ve used for 10+ years in multiple games. Rumm, Dumm (my favorite), Bumm, Humm, Yumm. I’m pretty creative, eh?

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BalsBigBrother

I tend to do the vowel swap thing when I have trouble finding an open name in an mmo and that works more often than not. Only other thing is I try to keep my names short simply because personally hate typing really long names.

Sue – Invite to group
Jo – Invite to group
Sid – Invite to group
Fred – Invite to group
Sir Smiley Twinkletoes Junior III – OH HELL NO!

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Bryan Correll

Sir Smiley Twinkletoes Junior III – OH HELL NO!

At least it doesn’t have non-standard characters.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Dandy McFoppish is my go-to name for PVP.

Never had a problem getting it.

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