Alex’s Analysis – Display Name Change

posted by on 7th October 2009, at 9:47pm

Being a programmer myself, I have begun to understand why this update took so long to do through the physical standpoint of a processor. Of course, this is merely a hypothesis, since I don’t actually know the game code, so bear with me. If you are not a big-time computer person, I suggest you skip ahead to below the line.

… wow, you’re a brave brave person. All right, here I go.

Assuming the Runescape engine to run just like Javascript, a player’s display name is saved as a string object. To create a new type of display name, each player object would need to store a new string. Sounds easy enough. In fact, it is.

However, implementing it directly into the game is a whole different story. There would be two different approaches to creating a player’s interchangeable display name. Either create a new name that is used as the display name throughout Runescape, or replace your current name with the new display name and create a new string object that holds your original name for logging in. Both pose a problem.

For the first method, Jagex would have had to go through their entire game code and replace each instance of their original user-name with a call to the display name. With such an incredible, complex game like Runescape, they would mean a long period of time doing the same thing over and over, because your name appears everywhere.

The second method, the login screen would have to be shifted around to account for this new string which stores a player’s old name. Easy enough, except this would have to account for every player’s name. Not just that, but there would need to be a way for the player to change their username and send their old display name to this new string as well as ensure it won’t be overwritten by the new name should another display name be chosen.

That’s only half of the problem. The other half originates in the fact that there are millions of accounts out there, and each name absolutely MUST be unique. Upon changing the display name, it will have to cycle through the entire database of names (which i imagine must be automatically alphabetized) to ensure that this name is not yet taken. Using recursion, this wouldn’t be too much of a problem as you would think, but there still are 12 letters to cycle through an entire database of names. Then it must go through the database again to insert the name and shift all the others over to maintain its order.

And if it’s not ordered, then it must shift through every single name there is. Then it simply plops the new one at the end of the list. In some cases, this is faster, but in others, it’s not.

There was also the fact that players must still be able to identify each other with these changed names, and that they don’t crash the servers with excessive name-changing. What they came out with was not only a brilliant solution, but one that involved as little abuse to their servers as possible. Remember that the name-changing is a program within the game which too must run flawlessly, repeating steps over and over without lagging anybody (to the best of its ability).

Even if the names list was in a different server (which it appears to be, since it doesn’t happen in Runescape), it still needs to transfer the list of strings over to the game itself. Millions of players, millions of names, with other statistics like item count and levels. That’s a lot of data per player.

Again, this is my interpretation. While I’m familiar with Java and ActionScript, there may be differences as to how the programming really goes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody from Jagex reads this and thinks “OHH!”.

Now that this is off my chest now, the update:


You are given the option to change your display name. Sick of MePerson345? Sick of having numbers in a name? Now you can change this! Not just change the name, but add capital letters and punctuation to it! Brilliant!

To do this, go to your Account Management menu (where you’d appeal to your 9 black-marks for calling a gentle-lady a “person” [Nice going, Dex …]) and you’ll find the option to change your display name. Simply enter the name you want, it will do a scan-through (read above if you dare) to see if its available, and if it is, hurry and press that button!

BOOM! You are now known as Bigganoob. Have fun living in public.

Now HOLD ON! BEFORE YOU DO THAT, you need to understand the conditions.

First, upon changing your name, you will not be able to do so again for 28 days. TWENTY-EIGHT! That’s like half a year! … well, on some planets I know, anyways, but you get the idea.

Secondly, if you want to change your name back, your old name will be held in reserve for 7 days after. Should those days pass, your name will no longer be reserved, and your display name shall become permanent. You can still change it, but somebody else might take your old name during the period after. Perhaps a jealous friend?

That’s about it for drawbacks. Should you change your name, your friends will be able to highlight your name in their friendly list and see what your name used to be so they’ll know who you are. If only we had that in real life …

So yeah, a nice simple, easy, and effortless update for us that we’ve wanted for a long time! You’d think that there’d be no possible way to rant this one off?

… apparently not. Some silly players apparently have made it a career to speak their minds as negatively as possible.

For example: a rant by Trakalszeks:


You realize that the whole concept of an MMORPG is player-wide unity? At no period of time should you feel “separated” just because of people’s names. Make new friends, say “HI” anyways, and who knows, you might make friends with somebody you’ll have a lot of fun with in the future! Ever heard of judging books by covers? Incorrect.

A rant by Angelchained:


I always thought it was public demand that players get more flexibility for their accounts. Heck, this was a desired update long before the Grand Exchange existed.

And … really. “Angelchained”? Sure people aren’t changing their names to anything better, but I daresay they’d beg to differ. I think Allezyamos is a cool name compared to “Alex 43”. You probably don’t, but I do. If you don’t like the update, just leave it.

Lastly, a rant by plasmadragn:


Why can’t any of the critics type properly? They sound like whiners with this then professionals. You think anybody’s even going to read that? If you want to critique, you need to earn respect before doing so.

Unfortunately, good buddy, names like that are almost too popular. I would make up something more original, and then you’d get a good name you can proudly call your own.

And if the name stinks, then why, for goodness sakes, did you click that button? You were given warning after warning that you will NOT be able to change your name for 28 days, so make ABSOLUTE sure it’s a name you want.

Lastly, the reason updates take so long is because a big mess takes a long time to clean up. Upon creating an update, it must be thoroughly tested and tried, manipulated, and finalized. Then they must be tweaked thanks to critics like you. I’d rather they take the time to clean things up and look nice before starting a new project, or else Runescape would be a real mess.

Well, that’s all I can say. It was an excellent update. I am now known as Allezyamos, so don’t be alarmed when you hear this strange name pop up here and there.

Cheers, cannoneers!

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  • Spoc77 Says:
    8th October 2009, at 2:23am

    I think its a good update and well worth while but without ranting i would like to point out a few kinks in this update. 1 Why can anyone who has added you see your name change many high profile players might want a little privicy for a while. 2 ever see the film 28 days later slightly ironic, 28 days after this update a lot of people will want there names back could this lead to a crash? Well thanks for your time 🙂

  • xx2hstrxx Says:
    16th October 2009, at 2:08pm

    Hey guys i listen to your show all the time and still dont know what the cc is please say on update/om me on runescape

  • lucas Says:
    7th November 2009, at 1:18pm

    i think that runescape should be easyer and they shoul bring out diferent kinds of wips like rune and bronze adament and iron and steel they should bring back the old runescape trade anthing and no price.

  • joe Says:
    30th November 2009, at 2:32pm

    i have a question about name changes… i have a name… but it would look better if i capitalized the other letter sense they are lower case… is it possible to just keep my name…. but change it to have cap letters… like Unf0rg3t4bl3……. to UNF0RG3T4BL3 ? or will it not let me do so? please message back

  • Goldy Says:
    10th June 2010, at 12:06am

    Why cant they make It So that u can pick anyname instead of them saying u Cant like i wanted to do Creaping Nite But it didnt Work 🙁 i have to do creapy nite