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Warsong

Does a game name really matter?

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I would think some would be interested in the info and the site which is at http://dukenukem.typepad.com/game_matters/ One thing that they seem to explain well is about the game but if some happen to disagree then why? The site says this: "Short names are better than long names... Avoid punctuation in the game title... Avoid sequel numbers.... Oh, and before people ask me, the original name for the Max Payne sequel was going to be simply, The Fall of Max Payne. But, after we sold the brand to Rockstar, they decided to change the name to Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. A silly mistake, IMO. But hey, they paid us the big bucks to name the game whatever they thought worked best. But, I see this akin to changing the well named "The Mummy Returns" to the unnecessarily burdened "The Mummy 2: The Mummy Returns." See how titles can so quickly go from cool to crap! o Have a meaningful title. Avoid titles that have practically no meaning, like Zone of the Enders, Allegiance, Far Cry, Syphon Filter and XIII. As one developer friend recently remarked, "I thought a ''syphon filter'' might be something used to change a car''s oil." Sure, these titles might mean something to players of the game, but they mean nothing to potential buyers, and those are the people you should care about most -- assuming you care about your game being a success. This is one of the reasons I think Doom is a great name, while Quake is merely average. Yes, they''re both short, which is good, but Doom communicates the frightful, nightmarish nature of the game, while Quake is quite meaningless as a name. Even after playing all of the Quake games, I''m still not sure what connection this name has to the games. o Avoid generic titles. Examples include: Universal Combat, Brute Force, Dungeon Siege, and Eternal Darkness. In short, these names are banal and forgettable. They do practically no work in selling the game within the box. Their generic quality makes them more difficult to standout from the pack, and more difficult to remember. These names also show a lack of creativity. With permission from developer friend Rich Carlson, I''m including his recently updated list of generic words, all of which should be avoided if at all possible. He breaks them down into three categories of avoidance (and quite honestly, I''d group them ALL under the "Felony" heading, as I have no mercy for generic game titles):" More info and examples on the site on what to avoide and have.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Great post.

An example of a good game name is Total Annihilation. When I first saw it in the stores it immediately made me think "this sounds compelling, let''s see what this really is about". And indeed, that''s what it was all about : totally annihilating the adversary of a 4000 year long war. I bought the game.

I am not a professional game dev, so please tell me, who does game name attribution really work ? In my uninformed mind it''s done by a bunch of overpaid unimaginative marketing blokes that eventually end up with a name chosen by a process of consensus, when instead someone with a bit of imagination and common sense could come up with something better, but there''s so much money and effort involved that the "risk" can''t be taken. So please do tell me the truth about all this

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I think I remember the maker of the Pretty Good Solitaire game saying the game''s title is worth half the value of the game (it sold above $1M - you do the math ).

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I think in today''s industry and market it really does.
In the past,as programming was still in a prohistoric age games were created simple,with no much to offer in story,just a maze of pixels scrolling up,down,left,right (not diagonically ,lol) killing other similar creations in a world that created for simple fun ,so in the end,a title like,Dragon Killer was all it needed,there weren''t many games then,so it was original and new(as the game itself)
But today,as programming has evolved greatly and almost every game has excellent graphics,sound and all that,story was also got some more attention,so titles have,somehow,to mirror the mood,overall story and concept of the game itself than just dragon killer. If anyone goes to a gameshop and sees a game with dragon killer on the title will surelly look for something more nice sounding than this,he might even say,"What''s that,a dos game?Let it dust on the self",he might even not look on the backcover to see if it''s worth something.
If Resident Evil was called Evil Zombies it might never get the attention it had to day.The only exception is games that have kept a number or series in time like like Phantasy star,Ultima,Final Fantasy etc etc.
Well,of course,this is not absolute,some games with not so interesting titles still exist and come out but if a good title is on the cover the game might also get more attention than it should,or at least make some kind of "show".

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Some good points here. Also to see wether or not a title is unique you can do a google search, the less you find, the more unique a titel is. You could make it unique by misspelling it on purpose, for example "Mortal Kombat" :D exchange K or C for Q, CKS for X etc. Then again that trick has been used a lot, so something like "Blockz" will make it look cheap/uninspired.

Some time ago I created a small freeware game and named it "UrthWurm" because at the time google gave zero matches for that term.. check it now :D

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@Warsong: Great post!

Naming is more than simply selecting an identifier; it is branding, and everybody knows that brands are powerful magnets in contemporary culture. Some brands are so powerful that they take over the entire product category (many people use "Hoover" as both the verb and the noun!) Other brands have such primacy that they merely need to allude to their presence (any one of the following yields the same reaction: a swoosh on a t-shirt/bag; the words "Just Do It."; the name "Nike").

Why do we cheer wildly whenever we hear that a certain classic game is getting a reincarnation (Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi, Metroid a few years back)? Because we''ve come to associate the brand with a certain experience - no longer necessarily cognitive, but often even emotional.

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne may be long, but it''s actually not bad given the game''s film noir ethos; a much worse title is Nightshade, because nobody realizes it''s a Shinobi game upfront.

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Personally, I want sequel numbers. I''m sure they''re a bad idea from the point of view of marketers, as they imply you need to have played the prequel first. But personally I look at it the other way around; are they ashamed to be associated with the previous game? Have they deliberately attempted to make the new game totally separate from the prequel, thus destroying the continuity and my attachment to the world and characters within it?

I think names are more subjective than many aspects of game design. Dungeon Siege did pretty well despite the generic name, and Quake did wonderfully despite the eventual game bearing little or no resemblance to the original Quake storyline from which the name was taken. I would rather see sequel numbers as a mark of honesty. And meaningless names probably draw in as many people through curiosity as they lose through lack of a hook. I think you''d have to go pretty far to cripple sales through poor naming.

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Well, I do agree that a game's name can have a significant effect on it's initial appeal but your suggested rules seem a little too fluffy. Fluffy to the point that you are forced to generalise, and even contradict yourself.

quote:

I think Doom is a great name



That's fair enough, so do I. However, you then say...

quote:

Avoid generic titles.



In all honesty 'Doom' is about as generic as they come. However, you state your reasons as...

quote:

Doom communicates the frightful, nightmarish nature of the game.



Once again, I agree, but is it not fair to say that the name Eternal Darkness is equally suggestive of it's content? 'Eternal' suggests a lengthy adventure whilst 'Darkness' alludes to the scary and foreboding atmospehere.

Admittedly, I do think the name could have been a little more creative, but I would be wary of branding certain titles as generic, when in actuality, they are just functional. I can agree that Brute Force is a bad name, not because of the stoic and limited info it provides but because the game itself isn't really about using brute force. Had the game been about bare-knuckle fighting against mulitple opponents then the name would actually be quite appropriate.

And this is my point. What you put forward as bad names (generic titles etc) may actually just be badly assigned. When tied to an appropriate game, their genericism is of little concern. After all, you said you liked Doom.

Furthermore, the accesibility and delivery of a games title is going to be different depending on the games content. You suggest we avoid meaningless titles such as XIII but I suggest you think about it again. XII is about an undetermined identity, secrets and conspiracies. What better way to depict that than with a title that leaves the intitial viewer guessing whilst still alluding to a key part of the players role (the number 13 tatoo).


So what's my point? By and large, you cannot put forward rules for a naming convention as it depends on, not just the product, but the audience you are aiming for. Instead of focussing on what is a 'good' name, we should perhaps focus on what is an 'appropriate' name.





[edited by - m_wherrett on March 22, 2004 4:44:52 AM]

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I think generic names are good for games big enough that everyone knows of them from one source or another. Doom doesn't have to _mean_ anything, it only needs to sound cool and be short enough and easy to remember. The meaning behind the title is offered through hype (Doom, Quake, Black and White, The Sims).

On the other hand, for a game most people only read it's title and _perhaps_ the 40 words in the short description on some download site to decide if they'll click on the screenshot link, the title is immensely important - it needs to offer information; it must give a (big) clue about what the game is about. I feel this is more important than the cool ring to the title - I wonder whether "Star Risk" isn't better than the more abstract "Pax Solaris" (though I'd be afraid to have "Risk" in the title of the game)

[edited by - Diodor on March 22, 2004 5:24:23 AM]

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If memory serves, XIII is actually adapted from a comic so the name wasn''t really a free choice by the time it got to the game... After all, no-one criticised the game GoldenEye for its name - though it seems pretty generic and has no obvious relevance to the game (yes, I know it''s the name of the satellite, but you need to know the plot pretty well to get that)

If a game ties in to an existing universe or brand, then the name really should reflect that somehow - preferably in a way that people with only a peripheral interest in previous products in the range can pick up on.

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Names are important because they will in some cases be the first thing that a consumer will notice. For instance a gamer is trying to decided what new game to buy, and so they look in a magazine or online and see a list of maybe 20 games coming out that month. Their initial interest will come entirly form the games title, from there they may learn more about it then again maybe not. Titles are espically important in franchises since that companies know that if people enjoyed Final Fantasy then they more likly to purchase a game with final fantasy in the title, since they recognize the brand and know what to expect form a final fantasy game. In that way the new final fantasy game even though it has nothing to do with prievoious games just has to be released as Final Fantasy XII and people will buy it.

Arguabably without that recognizable brand name of final fantasy the series would not have been nearly as successful. Would calling the each by their own title sold as many copies? probably not.

In short, a title should be recognizable, appealing, and intriging enough to make the customer want to learn more about the game.

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Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
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Ah, so this is what the DNF crew have been spending all their time doing

quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Naming is more than simply selecting an identifier; it is branding, and everybody knows that brands are powerful magnets in contemporary culture. Some brands are so powerful that they take over the entire product category (many people use "Hoover" as both the verb and the noun!)


There''s a flip side to this level of name recognition. ISTR that if a trademarked brand name becomes part of the language in this way, you lose control of the trademark. Adobe is currently trying to protect the Photoshop brand name from this happening.

As for the original post: I''d agree with most of it, although there are a few comments I''d like to make.

quote:
Avoid sequel numbers....


I don''t think sequel numbers are necessarily a bad thing, at least not from a marketer''s point of view. It''s an easy way to associate a new product with an existing brand, which can be very powerful. People seeing the name "WarCraft III" immediately associate the game with the other *Craft games from Blizzard, and they rush out to buy it in droves. If it had just been called ''Reign Of Chaos'', noone would really know what to expect. The subtitle is a token effort to differentiate the game from it''s prequels, although it isn''t really very effective - the game is invariably referred to as Warcraft 3. Hell, I couldn''t even remember what the subtitle was off the top of my head, I had to go and google it.

quote:
Have a meaningful title.

Yes. I''m inclined to agree with this one. There seems to be a trend to make game names as cryptic and mysterious as possible, usually by combining two or three words that make absolutely no sense together. Of course, the name might make sense in the context of the story, but can we at least try not to be so cryptic?

Also I''d like to suggest Divine Divinity as being one of the worst game names in recent history. It manages to be generic and meaningless, in addition to be stupid and redundant. Apparently (I''ve not played it) the game itself is actually quite good - but it''s let down badly by a horrible name.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
Also I''d like to suggest Divine Divinity as being one of the worst game names in recent history.



I''ll second that. Mind you, the first game I ever programmed I called Super Go Go Chaos Warrior Fight World Deluxe: Episode II - Knees Of Steel.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
Ah, so this is what the DNF crew have been spending all their time doing
Heh.

quote:
quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Naming is more than simply selecting an identifier; it is branding, and everybody knows that brands are powerful magnets in contemporary culture. Some brands are so powerful that they take over the entire product category (many people use "Hoover" as both the verb and the noun!)
There's a flip side to this level of name recognition. ISTR that if a trademarked brand name becomes part of the language in this way, you lose control of the trademark. Adobe is currently trying to protect the Photoshop brand name from this happening.
Nintendo has also sent letters to publications informing them of the correct way to refer to the GBA - never abbreviated, never pluralized as "Gameboys" or "GBAs" but rather as the "Nintendo® GameBoy Advance™" in singular and "Nintendo® GameBoy Advance™ systems" in plural.

Sheesh!

[Edit: Typo.]

[edited by - Oluseyi on March 22, 2004 10:32:50 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
quote:
Avoid sequel numbers....


I don't think sequel numbers are necessarily a bad thing, at least not from a marketer's point of view. It's an easy way to associate a new product with an existing brand, which can be very powerful. People seeing the name "WarCraft III" immediately associate the game with the other *Craft games from Blizzard, and they rush out to buy it in droves. If it had just been called 'Reign Of Chaos', noone would really know what to expect. The subtitle is a token effort to differentiate the game from it's prequels, although it isn't really very effective - the game is invariably referred to as Warcraft 3. Hell, I couldn't even remember what the subtitle was off the top of my head, I had to go and google it.
An alternative to that is to come up with a different name, but put the original name inside the new name. "The Fall of Max Payne" has Max Payne in it. "Metroid Prime" has Metroid in it. "Duke Nukem Forever" has Duke Nukem in it. We all conciously know that those are sequels of the previous games. So that extra number attached to the end is actually unnecessary.

However, for titles such as WarCraft, you can't pretty much do anything to it. You can't add The Chaos of WarCraft because that really means nothing. What is "WarCraft" anyway?

It actually depends on how you name your first game. If you name it based on some elements in your game (Max Payne and Duke Nukem is the name of the main character, Metroid is the name of the galaxy?) you can pretty much add something to it; for example, The Return of Max Payne.

People associate WarCraft with the whole game. The name WarCraft has nothing to do with the game; it's not an element in the game. Same thing for Doom and Quake. When they hear WarCraft, they will think an RTS with grunts and footmen. If you name it The WarCraft Returns. What is returning? Grunts and footmen? In that case, you need the sequel number. Or, you can take out the number and add subtitles. For example, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is redundant IMHO. You could just call it Warcraft III, or Warcraft: Reign of Chaos.

[edited by - alnite on March 22, 2004 6:31:47 PM]

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One thing people seem to have missed in this thread is that generic titles allow a certain flexibility when one designs the sequel. For example, Might and Magic had the tie-ins to previous titles tacked on in later games. M&M I & II were not related (took place in different worlds with different rules). With a name taken from some key element of the story (the usual method of choosing a name), one is committed to having games take place in the same world. An even better example of this is Final Fantasy, which is rather generic. You''d think the name would imply there wasn''t going to be a sequel, but they obviously overcame that, and "Final Fantasy II" implies nothing more than this will be a fantasy.

A popular mechanism for choosing a name these days seems to be "Brand Name: story-relevant subtitle" (ex. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time or Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

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quote:
Original post by alnite
An alternative to that is to come up with a different name, but put the original name inside the new name. "The Fall of Max Payne" has Max Payne in it. "Metroid Prime" has Metroid in it. "Duke Nukem Forever" has Duke Nukem in it. We all conciously know that those are sequels of the previous games. So that extra number attached to the end is actually unnecessary.


Not entirely; what about when there''s more than 1 game in the series? Quick, how many Wolfenstein games are there, and in what order?



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Well i may be the only person to do this but the first thing i look at is the box art or the game Genre.

Second thing i look at is features then multiplayer and singleplayer features.(im getting mad that games now days are skipping the whole singleplayer area.)

Next i check the good old SS's

After that third i check the price.

4th I check the company. (i wont buy some games from some companys without demo.)

5th after getting home and playing the game i read the name to tell my friends to go buy or to not buy.

edit i look for sequal numbers of games I like.

if it just has the title inthe name i dont want to buy it thinking there are using a good game name to sell a bad one.
EQ= good Lords of EQ= Bad

They used EQ to sell therelords of EQ which was a cheap cheap clone of WC3

[edited by - Sansui on March 22, 2004 12:42:51 AM]

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@Kylotan> "Not entirely; what about when there''s more than 1 game in the series? Quick, how many Wolfenstein games are there, and in what order? "

mmh.. do you name a game so people can remember how many episodes you made and in what order? O_o
and honestly, I only remember two: wolfenstein 3D and return to castle wolfenstein. obviously, return to castle wolfenstein comes afterwards :D

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Another thing about sequel numbers, i think it you risk of making the game look cheap. I can't help but think of B-movies when i sequel numbers ("Nightmare on Elmstreet 5", "Friday the 13th Part VIII").

When i look at some of the playstation series, even though there are some pretty good games amongst them, i can't help but get the feeling they've just been pumping out games, while they could have also concentrated on 1 higher-quality game -> "Twisted Metal 1, 2, 3, 4" "Cool Boarders 1, 2, 3, 4" "Jet Moto 1, 2, 3".

Then again back in the day, when Super Mario Bros 1, 2, 3 came out, you knew it was good because it was from Nintendo

btw i think the "Brand Name: story-relevant subtitle" is used more often now, because then you don't see that a certain game of the series is older or newer than another. When a customer who has already bought a newer game, and sees the older version in a store, this is not perceived as older. In videogames, the general public regards "older" as "inferior".

[edited by - BdR on March 23, 2004 4:12:13 AM]

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quote:
Original post by sBibi
mmh.. do you name a game so people can remember how many episodes you made and in what order? O_o


If I''m interested in a game that I know is the not the first in the series, I want to know how many of the others I have to play first. If I''m not sure, I simply won''t buy it. But I might be interested in buying the previous games, if I know which ones they are, and what order they come in.

quote:
and honestly, I only remember two: wolfenstein 3D and return to castle wolfenstein. obviously, return to castle wolfenstein comes afterwards :D

There is a 2D wolfenstein by a different company. Not really a true prequel since someone else made it, but it illustrates that a few people don''t know that there''s a predecessor.



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I agree that short names with easy phonetics are easier to remember. That people remember the name of your product is super-important, most of the sellings are done between players, mouth to ear.

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