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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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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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