Ever since the announcement of the server merges, my emotions have been on a seemingly neverending roller coaster. At first, I thought it was great that I'd be seeing a lot more people walking around beside me than I usually do. I was ecstatic that my destination world held a wonderful friend, Susperia, on it. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that I could soon lose something I'd had since November 2003. Something that has become more a part of my personality than the name I was given at birth: the name Pikko.
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When I tried to secure a mule on my destination world, Lakshmi, I found that the name Pikko was unavailable. I searched online and I searched PlayOnline and could find nothing about this person. The people I know on Lakshmi had never heard of the Pikko on their world. I suppose who that person is and what they did with their character doesn't matter, because the bottom line is, they have the name and I don't.
I didn't want to, but eventually decided to plead my case with Square Enix. In the end, they wanted to remain fair by not making an exception, a decision which, by itself, is commendable. What is not commendable, however, is the decision they made to have thousands of characters on source worlds give up what arguably defines them the most in Vana'diel without any say in the matter. I got to have my say, but what about everyone else? These server merges may have been needed, but not like this. This merging policy does a great many people injustice. It sounds hasty. It sounds thoughtless. It sounds cruel.
There are those of you out there arguing that it's "just a name". Presumably, you aren't in the same situation as me and other source world players. Or, perhaps you never liked your original name or were looking for a new identity anyway. I am not one such individual. Many of you who have played this game for years have known me for almost as long in the Allakhazam Final Fantasy XI community. You may have visited my gardening site. If so, you've probably grown food, cuttings, rocks, ores, nuggets, leaves, and rubbish based on my data. You know who I am and know that who I am doesn't change when PlayOnline prompts me to choose something else. I know this as well, but it doesn't change the fact that I feel robbed, heartbroken, and displaced.
The name Pikko has become the linchpin for my entire online persona. Through Pikko, I've grown so much as a person by the opportunities I've had to interact with people on a regular basis that I don't think I'd be who I am today without my character. My blog is written by "Pikko". My cookbook has an introduction signed by "Pikko". My publisher wanted to put "by Pikko" on the cover instead of my own name. My own mother calls me Pikko now. I could go on and on. Point is, the name means a lot to me and for that reason, so does the original character. I'm sure a lot of people out there can say the same for their own.
I can keep the name by transferring to another server, but I'd be choosing to leave behind all the friends I've made on Garuda and the ones that wait for me on Lakshmi. I have no doubt that I'd be fine anywhere that I went, but what really rankles my nerves is that I even have to. Why was I not given the chance to line myself up with the Lakshmi Pikko in contention for the right to the name? Why is it that ALL source world people with a taken name or linkshell have to give all their names up? This isn't right and I'm sure Square Enix knows it.
What's to stop destination players from griefing source world players by creating characters and linkshells specifically to force name changes? Excluding me, Garuda is no stranger to famous forum personas. Square Enix hasn't indicated that any policy is in place to prevent such actions. If such policies have yet to be made, why weren't they in place at the time of the announcement? More thought seems to have been put into the decision to do the merge itself than into the community fallout.
And what will the extent of the fallout be? With the age of these servers, it's likely that most common names were taken long ago. I've tried to come up with another name that I could live with and so far everything I've truly wanted has come back unavailable. I have no doubt that many players will find themselves with the same problem come March 23.
It could be that I'm a rare exception and only a handful of players will be upset by this forced change, but I suspect that's not the case. It's tragically wrong to make 8 source worlds give up everything while the destination worlds give up nothing but some walking space around them.
Final Fantasy XI isn't the first game to endure server merges. EverQuest and EverQuest II have both gone through a couple of merges, opting to award the name to the character either most recently active or with the most playing time. Just how hard is it for Square Enix to do the same? Does it just not matter to them? Do they just not care?
That being said, I don't want to make this editorial about solutions for Square Enix's problem. More, I want people to understand what is going on with such a careless policy and what it will mean for adventurers in the coming days.
For the past week, I've wrestled with my emotions, going from crushing disappointment to raging anger at Square Enix. Last week, I began to consider the real possibility that I would be retiring Pikko before Garuda went down forever. There would be a lot I'd regret. My favorite expansion, Wings of the Goddess, does not conclude until after the server merge (nearly three years after release, I might add). My Lu Shangs count would disappear, one that is 100% caught by my hands. I wouldn't get to play with my friends in Vana'diel the way I have enjoyed in the past.
Upon looking at all that I've achieved, it's been tough to actually finalize my decision, so I've decided to try and give my character another chance by finding a new name. My problem, as I've said, is that the ones I've wanted have all been taken. If the Lakshmi Pikko reads this, I hope that you'll consider giving up your character's name for me. It's been a part of me for over six years now; retaining it would mean so much to me.
If you have a name suggestion for me, I'd love to hear it. The ZAM team has been trying to suggest names for me, but to no avail. If nothing can be found, the original Pikko, the Mistress of Gardening from Allakhazam will go down with Garuda in two weeks time. As sad as it is to leave the game, I can't bring myself to walk around with a silly name like "Pikkox" or "Pikkopots" or "Peekoh". I just don't think I can do it. A Pikko by any other name just doesn't sound as sweet.
I hope that in the time between now and the server merges that Square Enix understands what a disservice they're doing to players with this so-called "merge" and changes things so that players can make a case for why they should have the name, whether it be through creation date or playtime or registration date. At this point, anything seems better than a blanket name-death sentence for every source world player.
Should nothing change, to anyone in the same boat as Pikko, I wish you the best of luck in finding a new name. I, for one, think you'll need it.