Tuesday, June 06, 2006


JP: Hey, Sean
JP: I'm making a Warrior/Ritualist for the Guild Wars MMORPG.
JP: Warrior is self-explanatory.
Sean: "Zankuro" comes to mind.
JP: A Ritualist is a shaman-like character who summons spirits, including ancestor and dead spirits
Sean: Right, right...
Sean: Male, right?
JP: Does Zankuro have any special meaning?
JP: Yes, male.
Sean: No specific meaning.
Sean: "kuro" means "black" in Japanese, though, or it can alternatively mean "ninth son".
Sean: "Zankuro" just rolls off the tongue pretty easily, and is a fair choice if you want to sound intimidating.
JP: He's not really an intimidator. just a noble but down-to-earth, soldier-minded LG or NG* kind of warrior.
Sean: "Isamu".
JP: A sincerely humble samurai, so to speak
JP: What does that mean?
Sean: "Isamu" = "bravery".
JP: Hey, thanks a lot!
Sean: If you're looking for other possibilities, though,
Sean: I'd strongly recommend just stealing something from L5R.
JP: okay, shoot
JP: Ha ha!
Sean: Seriously.
JP: I was thinking about that...
JP: Okay, thanks a lot, Sean.
JP: Gonna go and make that character now.
Sean: That's okay. It was fun. :)
* LG ("Lawful Good") and NG ("Neutral Good") are examples of personality alignment, usually referenced by players of Dungeons and Dragons and other similar storytelling games.

Honest, doctor. I really do run into conversations like this. :)

Now, I don't play Guild Wars like many other people do, but it's nice to run into a naming exercise every now and then. I have a tendency of naming characters on the fly, so this one happened to be right up my alley.

The catch, of course, was that JP was looking for a Japanese or Chinese name. While I like to think that I'm fairly good at transposing Western syllables into good names, Asian names are another matter altogether. With all the variances in pronunciation and whatnot, there's no telling what you might inadvertently come up with. You certainly don't want to name your character something embarrassing, or insulting.

So this is where the irony of the situation comes in: It's probably best to steal a name from somewhere, if it comes to that.

Yes, I'm aware that I'm a steadfast anti-plagiarist; My stance hasn't changed on that matter. But in cases like these, you're not looking to use the name for profit or any kind of commercial purpose. You just want a moniker that your fictional character can carry around in a fictional game world. "The Red Warlord Zankuro" certainly sounds better than "The Fair Maiden l33tb@be21", after all.

"Zankuro", for that matter, was the final boss in the Samurai Shodown III arcade game. "Isamu", from what I remember, is both a personality in the Legend of the Five Rings card game and a character from the Macross Plus animé. Both names had a fair bit of baggage associated with them, which made them easier to use -- I ended up having a feel for what their respective personalities looked like, based on this baggage, and I like to think that I was able to pass that on.

It's not stealing, no. But there's quite a fine line there, to tell the truth.

Assuming that we've all played a few RPGs here and there, it might be interesting to look back on the names that we gave our old characters. For my part, I remember using Elemen (Diablo II), Xinet (Neverwinter Nights), Zahn (Breath of Fire), Scythion (Zeus), Stryker (Wing Commander), Alexander (Final Fantasy Tactics) and Ming Xu (Vampire: the Masquerade). When taken as a whole, they'd probably say something about our own personal psyches.

Or they'd just look like a bunch of random character names all rolled together into one great big katamari. It's your call.

Then again, that's probably why I haven't gotten into MMORPGs yet: I have enough trouble keeping my current repertoire of character names straight.

I just hope that Isamu up there lives up to his well-gifted name...


Anonymous said...

hida isamu..the stone crab. very cool.

is the "jp" in your conversation play in hobby haven by any chance?


Sean said...

Jason: I'm not only surprised by the fact that the L5R designers haven't run out of names yet, but also by the fact that a lot of good names still crop up.

For that matter, "JP" doesn't play L5R, although he does play Warlord, mostly in the Robinsons Galleria area.