A few months ago, World of Warcraft decided to make a drastic change in their Player vs Player matchmaking system: Russian players would be able to face off against non-Russian players on English realms.

This caused 3 major issues*, one of which was that Russian players use the Cyrillic alphabet, which doesn't share any letters with the Latin alphabet and is unreadable to most people in Western Europe. this causes communications issues on the English side of the battle, because indicating who to attack is nearly impossible if you can't call them by name. The Russians had a similar issue, but less pronounced since many of them know English from online interaction on English websites, and can at least pronounce them.

What methods can you use to resolve this particular problem?

*The other 2 problems were (still are):

  1. English realms are a melting pot of cultures, while Russian players are far more coherent, further widening the gap in communication;
  2. Russian players are more likely to join the matchmaking as an organized group than EN players, leading to a difference in skill level.

Neither of these 2 problems is solved through simple UX changes.

  • I thought that the Tower of Babel was the solution to the two other problems?
    – user67695
    Jun 7, 2017 at 14:15

4 Answers 4


In this case, I would argue that there's no benefit to knowing the names the Russian players have chosen for themselves. The characters are in a different realm, so you can't contact them outside of the battle. Even if you did create a good machine transliteration, half of the character names are probably going to be genital references anyway. All you really want is a unique identifier.

If it were my decision, I'd draw on World of Warcraft's lore and its random name generator. Automatically generate a random, race-appropriate name for each character and display that to the enemy team. This avoids all the problems associated with foreign-language character names without losing anything of value.


The best way that comes to my mind is by an automatic letter-by-letter conversion in both directions. Given your example with Cyrillic/Latin this would be possible, see this as an example. It gets a lot harder with other alphabets where letter-by-letter conversion isn't easily possible (e.g. most Asian alphabets).

  • 1
    That was my first guess as well, but I'm wondering if there's something that could give better results, maybe with more legible names with certain combinations of characters.
    – Nzall
    Aug 8, 2014 at 18:14

My spontaneous suggestion would be to use a pattern I saw in real life for people with names from different alphabets.

When I visited China last year, I met a lot of people named "John", "Cindy", "Sarah". This is, because most Chinese people which are in contact with foreigners give themselves a "Western name" additional to their "Chinese name" (direct quote) for easier communication.

I think this would be a solution for WoW. Every player would have to choose an additional nickname of the other alphabet just for PvP.
Because this could be difficult for people with no background in the other language and its alphabet, the game could suggest names or name combinations with their translations as their "Eastern name" or "Western name" (maybe other words then "Eastern" and "Western" would be better).

  • 1
    I knew someone named Harpreet who went by Heidi because she said people could not remember her actual name. I recognized the 'har' in her name but had to ask about the 'preet' part. Her name means "loving God". Heidi, as far as I know, means nothing.
    – user67695
    Jun 7, 2017 at 14:13

As a developer/designer of this kind of software I would either do one of the following:

1) I would build a system that translits the characters of each East-European, Far- or Middle-Eastern alphabets into the characters of a generally used alphabet (Latin for example), like @msparer suggested. This solution is however very difficult to build, but let's user pick the name in it's own alphabet.

2) With an upgrade of a matchmaking system I would enforce an upgrade of a username, which is easier to build, but can be experienced as annoying to players.

Russian is quiet easy to translit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translit

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