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What goes into a name?

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The game that I'm working on is nearing alpha release. Aside from cementing a couple of features and smoothing some rough edges, there's one thing that my game really needs: a title. I have a fairly clear idea of what the game is about, and a solid understanding of the mechanics at play, but I don't know how to turn all of that into a name.

So my question might be best described as this: Do you consider the name of a game to be important to the game's overall design? 

Perhaps I should give an example? Two games that I have spent very little time with (so I'm sorry for how incorrect I may be) but seem to be mechanically similar but with dramatically different name concepts are Enter the Gungeon and Nuclear Throne. Nuclear Throne suggests environment and might prepare the player for a particular mechanic (scarcity of resources, perhaps, associated with a peri- or post-apocalyptic setting). Enter the Gungeon, however, is a play on words that sets the player up for a game that takes itself less seriously than a name that conveyed similar information about the game (about everything, enemies included, being guns or parts of guns or ammo) such as Shooting Gallery might convey but without the slightly silly tone. 

Also edited for clarity.

Edited by NoAdmiral

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I think the name for a name should be:

  1. Googlable
  2. Easy to remember
  3. Distinguished
  4. Something that sounds nice

There's no hard and fast rule for how to come up with a name. I generally try to come up with names by using some sort of bizarre combination of words from various languages, or even just making something up. For example my current game, Hexoshi has a name which puts "hex" (six) together with "soshi", a Japanese word that means "obstruction". That has very little to do with what the game is about, but the important thing is that it's simple, easy to spell, easy to remember, unique, and it sounds nice.

One other technique I have considered is using natural selection to choose the name. :) Take a word related to the game, then randomly mutate it. If the mutated word is unpronounceable, reject it and mutate the original again. Otherwise, keep it and mutate it again. Repeat until you have something that sounds cool. Actually, I think I'll write a short Python script that helps with that.

(Writes a script for a few minutes...)

Here it is, if you're interested:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

# Copyright (C) 2017 Julie Marchant <>
# This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
# it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
# the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
# (at your option) any later version.
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
# but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
# GNU General Public License for more details.
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
# along with this program.  If not, see <>.

from __future__ import division
from __future__ import absolute_import
from __future__ import print_function
from __future__ import unicode_literals

import random

def mutate(word):
    word = list(word)
    word.append(' ')
    word.insert(0, ' ')
    i = random.randrange(0, len(word))
    if word in letters:
    word = random.choice(letters)
    return ''.join(word).strip()

if __name__ == "__main__":
    word = input("Type the word you want to mutate: ").upper()
    while True:
        mutated_words = [word]
        for i in range(9):

        print("Please choose the word you want to keep:")
        for i in range(len(mutated_words)):
            print("{} - {}".format(i, mutated_words))

        entry = input("Enter the number of your choice, or nothing to exit: ").strip()
        if entry:
            choice = int(eval(entry))
            word = mutated_words[choice % len(mutated_words)]

Edited by JulieMaru-chan

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18 hours ago, NoAdmiral said:

there's one thing that my game really needs: a title.

Moving to Writing forum. The wordsmiths can help you best.

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Hi and thank you for your responses, but I don't feel that they're addressing my questions, which boil down to whether or not the name of a game is part of its overall design, and how so (or not so)? I don't really understand how this is a writing question.

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Everything is interrelated. Game design is a venn diagram with everything else that goes into making the game. If I was wrong that you wanted help coming up with a name/title for your game, then I can move it back to Design. Yes, the name of the game can influence the design. But it's to be hoped that a game's name could be thought of early in the design process, if it's to have an influence on the design. Now that you're at Alpha, the changes you might make based on a choice of name/title are probably fairly minimal. And since you're now thinking about the title/name, writers can help you best.

You asked 4 questions:

1. How important do you think a game's name is to its reception and maybe even its success?

2. How much do you think that a game's name needs to reflect the game's story, mechanics, etc.?

3. Are there any games with names that you think fit so well that, if the game were named otherwise it would have made some amount of difference to you?

4. Are names really not important and am I overvaluing this decision?[/quote]


My answers:

1. The title can be extremely important to its success and reception.

2. The title should reflect the game's major features or tone or something. Can't give you a number to quantify how much it needs to do so.

3. Probably, but maybe someone else will want to take on that question.

4. You're not overvaluing it.




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As long as the name isn't bad then I don't think it will hurt your profits.

A memorable and simple name is good IMO and it doesn't have to be particularly representative of the mechanics of the game but it should be somehow evocative of the game.

One case study is World of Goo. It's a great name, simple and evocative. But they could have also called it 'Planet Goo' or 'Save The Goo' and I don't think it would have hindered their success at all. However had they named it 'Goo Game' or 'Goo Physics' or 'Ball and Spring Goo Simulator' then they would be facing an uphill struggle to get their game recognised.

Edited by dmatter

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2 hours ago, NoAdmiral said:

Yeah, I wasn't asking for help coming up with a name. Sorry if my original post wasn't clear.

Okay. Then you're asking a Marketing question.  ("How important do you think a game's name is to its reception and maybe even its success?")  Moving to Business.

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21 hours ago, InferiorOlive said:

which boil down to whether or not the name of a game is part of its overall design, and how so (or not so)? I don't really understand how this is a writing question.

It is marketing, and branding, and design, and wordsmithing, and legal, all at the same time.

"Doom" and "Dead Space" give a different flavor than "Five Nights at Freddies" or "Hello Neighbor". 

The name of a game helps build a brand, helps you sell an emotion.  The name relates to the design. The name requires wordsmithing.  The name requires some legal investigation into trademark and trade dress requirements.


Totally unrelated to games, look at other products.  You've got baby diapers brands like "Luvs" and "Huggies" and "Pampers", with marketing material showing cute, smiling children rather than diaper blow-outs.  Look at dish soap and you've got "Dawn" and "Joy", with subtitles like "luxurious" and "moisturizing" rather than the drudgery of scrubbing pans.  These products are selling positive emotions, not functionality.  They've had marketers review it for what appeals to their customers, and what can have great legal protections.

The same kind of wordsmithing is done on games.  When it was released, you didn't need a picture of a space marine to know "Doom" was going to be a violent fighting game, or a picture of a dragon in a castle to know "Adventure" would be running around trying to do something heroic. A game like "Dragon Age" better either be playing with dragons or fighting against dragons. "Tunnel Town" conjures up a playful world, and when you see it is related to bunnies you can expect some cute community interactions. "Fantastic Contraption" conjures up bizarre constructs, and Roller Coaster Tycoon brings up emotions of intense rides coupled with piles of money.

The name -- or emotion that is intended be conveyed by the name -- can have a big impact on the game design choices, the art styles, and music.  Those same elements can have an impact on the name that is eventually chosen.

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