I just might server change to Alexina if it'll be emptier. Y'all are lucky.
The old servers were small enough that they were merged together, while Alexina was considered big enough to not be merged. What you are experiencing now is nothing new for us. Still it must be coming as a shock to you; that's understandable. Marians are on a twice as big server, Ruairians three times, and Tarlachites four times. It may not be easy to see right now, but you will get used to it and adapt; you all will. Consider this, all that you are now experiencing is nothing new to the folks on Alexina, yet in spite of all that, we'd all like to be merged too.
It's most likely a limitation of the game engine itself. Remember, given the amount of problems we're seeing, a server merge was never envisioned, and the data was not designed to be merged like this. If I had to explain it, the game probably requires a fixed user name as reference for some of its code so if it detects a collision, its not designed to handle it by renaming. From my understanding it seems like even the name change isn't a real time service, its a request, as in they have to turn the servers off to change the name in the database (with massive limitations) at set intervals (server maint).
The +server tag solution is clearly a kludge. I bet it was as obvious to you as it was to me that it was so. It's too bad that they use the name as the key field as we now see the consequences of that. I've called for them to use another field in this roll to free up the name field for variation. I suspect the problems we are seeing are by inconsistent applications of this name field in other objects. In some cases, they seem to be populating a reference field with the data copied over from the name field while in others it holds a kind of pointer. Those used as pointers ideally should handle name changes without a second thought, whereas the ones populated directly with text will be the ones that can be accidentally overlooked. I think you're right that name changes would have to be done during maintenances as they are, in a sense, mini-versions of the server merge that happened just now.
While I understand you have a good idea on how to avoid it, understand that different people have worked on the game code itself. From my experience in the industry another programmer on the team might be writing code for a different feature and used the character naming field as a key since the thought process at the time was "These will serve as unique identifiers" in which a server merge was not even considered possible. Then compound all of these over time where newer programmers on the project do not have time or the resources to investigate code written by an older programmer and use different fields in the database for their features since at the time, they were unique keys within their own servers. This is the result, a machine so complex that many of the parts are black boxes, working away fine but a small change or misalignment will cause failure and damage. The merger was not elegant, they had to delete problem items (I'm still getting them to look into a bunch of issues I have), the web shop is broken for a server, the auction house was broken from the get-go, as well as a magnitude of account/character specific problems.
This is not including some of the social and economical issues this has introduced. But that's another thing entirely.
Of course making something new in game, with staff turn-over, and the industry practice of not commenting the source code sufficiently produces the issues you describe here. Of the term "black box" were just gonna disagree about its definition. Overseas they have the server change options, this merge was an application of just that but on the largest possible scale. The issues we are experiencing are due to either name change, or issues with items that were not cleared out of places that they should have been.
But anyway the merge is in the past now. Having the key field not be based on the name, if accomplished, I think you'll agree is a good idea. Will it be work? Of course but so is adding a new generation, or in the past when they changed the combat system. The conditions that the dev teams may have to work under is pretty much how things are in the industry, they'll work on it, and they'll get it done.
Good talk BTW. If we can identify and propose solutions to potential issues they may be experiencing then I can't see that hurting them.