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Player naming of characters/towns

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I've been working on an action RPG design/idea for a while now (still looking for people to help make it too) and was wanting some opinions on something. One of the features that I like about RPGs is that usually the player is allowed to name their own character. I also like in Chrono Trigger how you are asked to name a few of the main characters. My question I guess is, how far can/should this be carried? I'm wondering if it would be fun/interesting to have players name the villian, the towns, the main characters, as they progress through the game. But does this interrupt gameplay too much? Would it be best to create names for places, yet give players the option to enter their own or even an option to disable naming altogether? Any thoughts?

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I think you run into a problem doing that that you see in MMOs a lot. What do players tend to name themselves? Something dumb, 90% of the time. How many things do you think the player could name before the names got really dumb? I think its fun to name something yourself, and I usually try to make good names, a lot of players are like this, and a lot are lazy and name something off the top of their heads or the same name they use for everything (I have a friend that has named every blessed character in every game he has ever played "Bojinkles") So the question is, is it more fun for the player to come up with a name for everything, or is it more fun for the player to see interesting, thematic and culturally cohesive names? I think the overall experience would suffer more for the loss of culturally cohesive names than it would gain from the player getting the option to name everything.

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Well, first off the game I'm thinking about applying this to is single player, so there if people want stupid L33T names and such it will only be amusing/annoying to them.

But, do you think that providing a name for something while allowing the option to change it alleviate the cohesiveness problem? Though this somewhat defeats my purposes.

The problem that I run into is that in my opinion a lot of the names that are given to things in games are really cliche and don't come off as being cool or interesting to me at all. And I realize that this is because it's harder than it seems to come up with something in a familiar setting without falling into the cliches that come with that setting. By giving players the naming responsibilties you eliminate the risk of coming up with cliche/stupid names yourself.

Thanks for the thoughts, keep em coming.

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I personally don't like to name things. I would rather just play the game, Maybe if there was a specific action could do to bring up the list of things you can rename and rename them. Though I do think that JasRonq, The player may rename things to be ridiculous names and kinda ruin the intended effect of a name. Another thing that could be a problem is two games discussing the game. If they each had a different name for a certain location, what are they supposed to call it when they want to talk about how cool the boss battle was?

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I agree having a custom character name helps immerse and personalize a game but naming villians, and towns seems like a weird game of MadLibs to me. I know for myself I rarely use the rename feature if a game has it.

I figure a player wants to hear the story the designer created, or wants to create their own, and thats what level editors are for.

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A few thoughts:

  • I, and I think most people, just keep the default name.
  • Having a default name, especially if players use it, helps people talk about the game.
  • Making a name user definable is a good way to make that thing stand out. If you're asked to name everything, they all start looking the same.
  • Names can be significant if they're predetermined. Mordor just wouldn't be the same Mordor if it weren't named Mordor. If you can name it, then the name is not important, so you'll encourage stupid names and make the places look the same.
  • Prompting for a name takes you out of the story. Even worse, if no default is given, it makes you think about what name you want this character in the story to have. I think stupid names are often a symptom of people just wanting to play the game.
  • If you're getting fancy, user definable names makes scripting voice parts more difficult.


I like how Earthbound did it. The user definable things were notable, it got all the naming out of the way at the beginning, and it provided defaults with alternative suggestions.

I think another system that I could like would be to make everything easily renameable, but just use the default name unless the player changes the name. Don't prompt for a name, just call the guy Bob until the player uses your name changing interface to rename Bob.

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As with many of these things, it depends how you implement it. Here's some of my immediate thoughts from the top of my head...
  • If you want to allow people to name things, I'd recommend doing it before it's mentioned at all in the game. If all the villagers are talking about someone called Reya and then I later get to rename her to Alice, then my memories of Reya/Alice will get confused.
  • ...but as a counter to that, it's annoying if you can't rename something if you gave it a stupid name you'd like to take back.
  • It's really hard to talk about characters in an RPG if you rename them (except for the protagonist). I renamed all the characters in Final Fantasy 6 and now I can't remember their original names when people refer to them.
  • Likewise, things can get confusing if you inadvertently rename a character to someone else's name. I named a FF6 character "Rachel", not knowing there was an important NPC with that name too - things got confusing later on.
  • However if a character's name is stupid people might like to change it (exanple: the original romanization of the main character in FF5, "Butz").
  • As has been mentioned by Way Walker, voice scripting is difficult if you can rename characters.
  • Also mentioned by Way Walker, I agree that you can't ensure meaningful names if you allow them to be user-defined. Often you want a name that inspires an emotion or fits in with the culture. That's one thing that always bugs me with most RPGs that start with you defining your own character - I don't know enough about the culture in the game to pick a name that sounds genuine.

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I really like your last statement. Give the option to rename everything but make it unobtrusive. I personally like the ability to name things because I haven't matured past 9th grade and like to name things Ass and have that repeated numerous time throughout the game in various sentences.

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Playing through the original Suikoden a second time, I named the main character Boy because of a specific reference in the game where one of the NPCs refers to the main character as so and so's boy ...., so he said "Boy toy."

I generally just use the default name, though. It is nice to be able to name/rename player characters when they are introduced, but that is about it. Also, as mentioned before, the option to change it back should be available somewhere as well.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I named a FF6 character "Rachel", not knowing there was an important NPC with that name too - things got confusing later on.

Yeah, I picked the name "Rachel" for Celes in that game. It was real "fun" trying to figure out just which one of Locke's love interests was being refered to when they were doing that whole part of the game. I probably spent at least 5 minutes (maybe more) thinking of names for each of the characters in that game. That's over an hour for 14 characters on a game which I'd have rented for 48 hours before it had to go back. (Back then, we didn't have these new fangled memory cards to save personal data to.)

Anyways, after that I came up with custom names for Chrono Trigger and Earthbound and then after that I found th e whole process tedious and just went with default names. On occasions where there is no default name, I tend to use simple names and go through the alphabet.

Although, I've been playing Civilization lately and I've been giving Canadian names to all my cities. It's a little tedious but I've still been doing it for some reason.

I'm thinking custom names aren't that desirable for more story based RPGs but probably wouldn't be a bad thing in other styles of games.

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Naming characters allows to personalize a game. The intent of this feature was originally to to give your character your own name so you can feel part of the game. Now, if you can change the main character's name, it's not a big change to allow renaming other party members so why not? Besides, if the main character is not of your gender, or if you just hate him/her, you may want to "be" someone else in the game. I think that character naming is a fun feature, and seeing it disappear because of voice acting somewhat saddens me.

That being said, naming villains and towns seem a bit too much. It doesn't really immerse you. My rule of thumb is... if you have control over the development of something, allow renaming. Otherwise, don't. So, if you want to implement a feature like that of Breath of Fire II where you found your own town and made it grow, then yes, please allow me to name my town. (Sadly, they didn't allow you to in BoFII.) But I don't see the point of naming already existing towns.

Another thing. I agree that having fixed names allows them to make them significant. However, there is an easy way around this. What I did in my game (which supports renaming) is that characters with "important" names go with a nickname or secondary name which is customizable. They are referred by their nickname by the main characters and the villagers, but in formal discussions, people use their real names. For a popular example, think of Dagger in FFIX, whose real name is actually Garnet Til' Alexandrios.

One last thing. Before prompting to name a character, I'd like to know what kind of character it is. You don't want to see a character appear out of nowhere, BAM! "please enter a name", then after you gave him a cool name, you discover that this character is a real pain in the rear, and that your boss' name would be more fitting. ^_^ More seriously, when I choose to give custom names, I like to take my time to use the best name, so I'd like to have at least an idea of what kind of character it is, both in a fight and in the story.

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Good thoughts all. I do like the nickname/birth name idea. The concept of naming only things you develop makes me think it may be cool to have the protagonist relating the entire story to someone else after it has happened (perhaps as a bed time story for example) and by having players name things (optionally) making the story more personal. Just a thought.

So the general consensus is limit it and make it optional?

Also, did anyone else here play FF Tactics Advance? There's a really cool system in that game where when a new town/area is unlocked you place an icon for it on any of like 19 preset points on a map and depending on where you placed towns in relation to each other you got different combinations of items. I thought this was really cool and allowed for some more replay as certain items were exclusive to different map setups. It wasn't integral to the gameplay, but added a certain level of uniqueness to each play through.

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If you are planning on making it a MMO, then i suggest you dont do that because it may cause confusion between other players that play the game also. I think you should only make it so you can name yourself, your pet, and/or your rival if you are making it an MMO. If it is single players then you should let the players name some of the main characters including themselves.

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Lord of the Rings Online had a great feature that told you what names suited what races. It told you what the races name normally started with and / or ended with. Obviously not everyone used this and still made stupid names, but the cause of most stupid names was not having ideas for proper names and just named themselves anything and everything. So giving the player an idea of what to name themselves should help the stupid names.

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Quote:
Original post by Bearhugger
Another thing. I agree that having fixed names allows them to make them significant. However, there is an easy way around this. What I did in my game (which supports renaming) is that characters with "important" names go with a nickname or secondary name which is customizable. They are referred by their nickname by the main characters and the villagers, but in formal discussions, people use their real names. For a popular example, think of Dagger in FFIX, whose real name is actually Garnet Til' Alexandrios.


Good example of nickname, bad example of how to allow renaming while keeping the name significant. Remember the scene where you get to name her?

"So this is called a 'dagger'... I've decided! From now on, my name is... Bob."

The name "Dagger" was more significant than "Garnet Til Alexandros XVII".

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