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Friday, April 16, 2004

Comments

jason

As I'm sure you probably already know, several of those clunky names are dictated by licensing terms. I doubt White Wolf would have let Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines go under the name Bloodlines.

Then again, Baldur's Gate was just Baldur's Gate, not Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms - Baldur's Gate or whatever.

Maybe Activision just needs better lawyers to negotiate these things. :)

Factory

"Rome: Total War (Are there half wars I don't know about?)"

To be fair on this title, as far as description goes it's pretty descriptive, with having 'Rome' and 'War' in the title, it pretty well describes what goes on in the game. 'Total War' is a military term, but the periods in which the games in the series are set in, are of course completely devoid of 'Total War'.

OTOH FarCry is not descriptive at all.

Special metion should be made of the new Rockstar game, 'Red Dead Revolver', is it me or is that title a bit of a pain in the arse to say aloud?

Anon

What you think about the new N-Gage name?

N-Gage QD
http://www.gizmodo.com/archives/ngage_qd_officially_released_015046.php

Tadhg

Videogames are like the anti-brands. The older they get, the worse the names get. Personally, I think FarCry is a rubbish name too, even though it is short.

John Beeler

Well, I think Far Cry was meant to insinuate that you can see far away. And, cry, sometimes in it, or something. Still, for all the game's technical achievements, I don't even think they tried with the plot. So if you're not going to name it on the plot, what else? The technology. Hence: Far Cry.

You know what title I like? Oasis (http://www.oasisgame.com/).

Brad Renfro

Lineage II, Creature Conflict, Shade, Anito, Flat-Out, and Spellforce come from foreign studios or publishers, which may account for those. It'd be interesting to know if Remedy originally had a different name for Max Payne.

You got to love those crazy European names...Soldner, Mortyr, Arx Fatalis, Europa Universalis. Hands down the best one has to be "Project I'm Going In!" :)

Walter

I kinda like 'FarCry' in that it's just ambiguous and abstract enough to make you wonder what it's about.

The thing that really pisses me off about "Thief: Deadly Shadows" is that the subtitle is so panderingly generic in comparison to the first two games': "The Dark Project" and "The Metal Age". Granted, there's 'dark' in one of 'em, but everything just fit artistically/thematically. "Deadly Shadows" suddenly makes the game seem like it was made for two year-olds, and breaks with the carefully wrought lineage.

But yeah, *wow* did you pick out some stinkers, there, Scott! I have this urge to list a few that I think are particularly bad, but that would basically mean listing all of them.

As for "Shade: Wrath of Angles", is that *really* supposed to be 'angles' and not 'angels'? If so, my head just exploded!

Richard Hamer

The way I see it, having needlessly long, tongue-twisting titles need not necesarily be a bad thing.

"Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magic Obscura" is just brilliant, frankly.

Jeff Mackintosh

As I'm sure you probably already know, several of those clunky names are dictated by licensing terms. I doubt White Wolf would have let Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines go under the name Bloodlines.

Then again, Baldur's Gate was just Baldur's Gate, not Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms - Baldur's Gate or whatever.

-----

Actually, though the game may (now) be marketed/thought of far and wide as just Baldur's Gate, I believe that all the packaging does have the D&D logo above the name (at least I can't find nor think of any instance of an official presentation of the logo that lacks the D&D logo though there certainly may be some I'm braincramping and forgetting). Thus, at least initially, I think it was thought of as AD&D (or just D&D): Baldur's Gate. Once the name got big enough, the D&D portion was dropped.

I suspect, should Bloodlines and Firewarrior both do well and exhibit any sort of longevity, the Vampire: The Masquerade and Warhammer 40,000 portions will exit the consumer vocabulary when refering to the games - they'll just be implied and understood. As was the case with Baldur's Gate.

Scott Miller

Walter, I fixed my spelling goof on the angles/angels thing.

Farcry, as I said, is not great, just good. That's one I could have put on the bad list, too, because, as Factory said, it doesn't convey any valuable meaning relative to the game's subject. But it's shortness and uniqueness just barely were enough to put it on the good list.

Jason, I know the license behind the The Masquerade game, but it's just not necessary to include all of this info built into the game's name itself. The game's lineage can be included elsewhere on the box, like in a starburst or call-out, both technical terms for highlighting key bullet-point information.

>>> What you think about the new N-Gage name? N-Gage QD

Here's my opinion: QD = Quite Dumb.

Seriously, another marketing blunder by N-Gage. These sorts of tech-drenched names just don't mean a thing to the non-hardcore market.

NicolasQuijano

Actually, the Baldur's Gate series real name(s) are "Forgotten Realms Baldur's Gate", with the forgotten realms part in much smaller type than the game's title.
The Dungeons and Dragons stuff is written in smaller type than Black Isle Studios or Bioware. (Looking at the Baldur's Gate II collection box, as I type this)

Anon

People love their ":" too much, it's becoming so overused (and it was never good to begin with). At least Tribes: Vengence needs the : to uniquely identify what Tribes game it is, but shame on the others.

Walter

Ah, okay. If the game was actually about angles I was either going to be seriously intrigued or...something not good.

Michael

What do you all think of my hobby company name, Frogtoss Games? (Pretend it's more than a hobby...)

Scott Sutherland

Bloodlines is already well used, you have castlevania-bloodlines, Sanctum:bloodlines plain old bloodlines and a while ago I recall seeing some sort of Zombie fps also called Bloodlines, which is still under development.

E-phonk

I always liked the naming of the "worms" games.. "Worms armageddon" because it had new superweapons, "Worms World Party" because it had internet support and a plain simple "worms 3D" for their conversion to 3D.

Scott Miller

I agree, the Worms games are well named.

Also agree about Bloodlines. Didn't realize it was overused. This makes the current name (Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines) that much more lame.

Overall, it's disappointing to see so many poorly, overly long game titles. The book (fiction) and movie industries have been around a LOT longer, yet their product titles have not been half as terrible, especially in terms of the dreaded colon.

Trevor

Vampire: The Masquerade is important to have in the title. Tons of people play those games, and will do searches on the name and such. Also keep in mind that most games are sold by people walking by and seeing them in shelves or on magazine covers. If not V:TM, it's just another vampire game. Snooze. But even if customers have never played V:TM, they might recognize it and tie it back in with WW's books.

Part of the goal there is to introduce fans of computer games to WW's tabletop and LARP games, after all. You gotta have the name. Warhammer falls into the same bucket too.

Nathan Peterson

One industry which almost always surprises me in the 'unique' department for naming, is porno. think about some of the great mags, and you'll realize the longevity of the magazine.

Playboy and Perfect 10 to name my 2 favourites.

simple short, easy to remember names. and unique.

the Empire that playboy alone has created on its name, can attest to a good name being a huge moneymaker. from clothing, to silverware, to cruises, to everything imaginable, they sell it, and it doesnt have to do with what people know them for.

if you can spend 6 months or more in development, you cant spend half an hour coming up with a decent name?

-TAPSniper

P.S. my favourite videogame name of all time is probably Half-Life.

Matt Hilliard

While of course I loved the game, I always thought Half-Life to be (like Far Cry) quite a mediocre name. Yes, it's short. But what is it supposed to tell you about the game itself? That it goes great for a while but falls apart before the end? OK, maybe it does describe the game...

Scott Miller

-- "Vampire: The Masquerade is important to have in the title. Tons of people play those games..."

Trevor, here's the weakness with this common argument: How in the world did people know that The World in Not Enough or Die Another Die were James Bond movies? After all, tons of people watch James Bond movies, right? Why can the movie industry avoid all the colons, yet the game industry cannot? (BTW, the movie industry is not perfect, either, but they're a lot better at avoiding overly long, punctuated titles than the game industry.)

Mr. Nosuch

So I guess my new game "Colons: Dark Punctuation" needs a new title.

Good thing we never released "Hyphenator - Dash To Destruction"

Ben Milstead

Generally speaking, why do the film and book industries, on the whole, do a better job with names than the game industry? Do they attract more creative marketing folks? Do they have a better (or worse) separation of church and state (development and marketing)? My experience has been that marketing probably has a lot less input than it should, and that designers and leads are usually less concerned about creatively communicating the game via its title and more focused on their blinders-on, grandiose vision for the project (not to be cynical or anything :).

Jose Zagal

"After all, tons of people watch James Bond movies, right? Why can the movie industry avoid all the colons, yet the game industry cannot?"

I think that, generally speaking, the movie industry tends to market their products on a lot more than just the title. For example, the characters in the movies (James Bond), the main actors, directors, etc. Heck, the movie industry even markets on the basis of studios! (the latest Pixar movie... from the creators of... etc.)

On the other hand, some games rely on the "numbering" to move units. In particular, when tied to seasonal release cycles where the core game remains. Sports games do this..with yearly variations on football, soccer, basketball, etc. In these cases, the "numbering" (in this case the year) is clearly in favor of sales.

Additionally, it is important to not confuse "the full title" of a game with the title to which it is referred to most commonly. For example, the Zelda games are all "The Legend of Zeld: ". Everybody goes by the though... (Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, etc.).

My personal favourite recent game title has to be "Painkiller".. :-)

Jose Zagal

Whoops.. I just noticed that my previous post had some stuff cut out.. the last paragraph should say:


Additionally, it is important to not confuse "the full title" of a game with the title to which it is referred to most commonly. For example, the Zelda games are all "The Legend of Zeld: #new title#". Everybody goes by the #new title# though... (Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, etc.).

Trevor

As mentioned, it's marketing differences. You don't see ads for most games. You generally have to go out of your way to learn about games news, which most people do not. As such, the box art and title is the best way to tell the customer what the game is about.

There are people who will buy the game based solely on the title. It also gets V:TM into the minds of potential new WW customers. V:TM is also only moderately popular; most have heard of it, but not that many have played it. It's a great way to spread the IP arouund.

Scott Anderson

Speaking of dumb names, I'm currently working on a vertical shooter similart to Ikaruga that is (for now) titled "Chroma Gun." We came up with this title after hours of conversation and we roughly followed your rules, but people just seem to not respond to it at all, a lot of people just don't want to say it. The title makes sense for the game (it has colors and shooting...) but I think people have trouble processing the word "Chroma", or something. Any suggestions?

Jeffool

Good to see you're alive there, Scotty! I worry about you bloggin' folk sometimes.

I'll agree with Factory that the name 'Rome: Total War' is fine to me, as I understand what 'Total War' is supposed to signify, even if it is an anachronism. Also, 'City of Heroes', which you pointed out as a good one, I completely agree with. It sounds prestigious, as it should, being centered around heroes. (I know, I know, the anti-hero is just as popular these days, but looking at the image they shoot for, I think they made an excellent call.)

Gallivanting around the net these days I'm reminded of older titles that I thought worked great.

Grim Fandango. A title with almost as much style as the game. And that's saying a lot.

Mortal Kombat. Sure it was gimmicky, but hot damn at what a gimmick it was!

Rocket Jockey. So what if I like to bring this game up any chance I get? Sue me.

Games I loved, but can't decide if I liked the name: You Don't Know Jack, Quake, Resident Evil.

Walter

Scott A.: hook us up with some screenshots/info (like, what colors are used).

Scott Miller

Chroma Gun sounds like one of those Japanese titles that didn't quite translate too well to English. It's also a hardcore tech-ish type name lacking in emotion or a sense of story.

It might follow most of the rules I mentioned, but it still falls through the cracks as a not-so-great name. But then, for a smaller, indie name, hey, take a chance and see if it works. My sense, though, is that's it's purely an average name for a scrolling shooter.

zeitgeist

Three essays on the subject of game naming:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/zeitgeist2k4/

Jose Zagal

"Chroma Gun sounds like one of those Japanese titles that didn't quite translate too well to English"

You mean...like "Radiant Silvergun"? :-)


Another thing that is important to bear in mind is localization. Some names sound "cool" in one language/country/society and are just stupid in another. The automobile industry is particularly good at working at localizing the names of their models for different countries.

Jonas

Hrmm I'd like to start branding a character "Ruckus Buck", so in my next game it's name is:
Dangerous Mines

Yet, I do put "Ruckcus Buck" above the title. Alternatively I've expressed it as Ruckus Buck: Dangerous Mines. And even as "Ruckus Buck's Dangerous mines"

Logo can be see here: http://www.dangerousmines.com/

I'm still in limbo a bit on this one. I want to not lock this character into the game, yet at the same time I would like him to have some recognition in the title. :/

Maybe I'm trying to round of the corners of a square to fit it into a round hole :)

Thoughts?

zeitgeist

I would go with "Ruckus Buck's Dangerous Mines". It will let you do multiple games across genres with the character. And who knows, maybe he'll one day star in a game of his own!

Akari

I disagree that Rome: Total War is a bad name.

It's short.

It identifies it as belonging to the line of Total War games, which people may well remember when hearing this name, without tossing on needless numbers to indicate sequels.

And in one word, I know roughly the time period and region where this war game is to take place.

All in all, a good name to me.

-Akari

Badman

Re: "Chroma Gun", it DOES sound like a badly-named Japanese game. In fact, it sounds a lot like "Chrono Trigger", which I missed when it was first released here in the States because the title made it sound like a shooter. (It is, of course, one of the best RPGs Square ever made.)

My favorite recent title that breaks most of "the rules" is Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal.

z

"Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal" is juvenile and insulting to my intelligence. as a gamer. Not only does it insult me, as an adult gamer, but it's also likely to insult adults purchasing the game for their kids. "Going Commando" was clever enough to slide by. But UYA is taking it too far.

Gabby Dizon

Hi Scott,

I've been following your blog for quite a while and have found your advice generally good (or at least the makings of great discussions), so it's with a lot of amusement that our game Anito: Defend A Land Enraged has come up on your list.

Just to give you a bit of a backgrounder on the game, it's an Asian-themed RPG that was simply titled "Anito" (referring to an artifact that the game revolves around) for most of development, until we went to the US and some marketing-oriented person said that it would be better with an english subtitle. Thus, the "Defend A Land Enraged" was born.

Since "Anito" is a Filipino term and would have no meaning to anyone outside of the Philippines, do you think putting a subtitle was the right thing to do? Or we could have just used a more powerful subtitle? Or used a different title for English audiences? We have no dollars to spend on marketing people to come up with a fancy name, it's just us devs and advice from other devs would be great.

Walter

Hm, I suppose "Finding Anito" is out of the question? :D

Gabby, I'd love to help out with name suggestions. I'm downloading the demo for the game now, so I can get a better feel for what's going on.

Walter

Whoops. Make that naming suggestions.

'Anito', for us non-Filipino folk, is definitely problematic, for precisely the reason you mentioned: we don't know what it means, and more subjectively, it's not particularly evocative. Also, the subtitle actually gives me the impression that 'Anito' is the name of the land. It's also just kind of generic sounding. There are plenty of games where you essentially "defend a land enraged": what you have to put across, at a minimum, is that your game is unique (not necessarily what makes your game unique). Advertising is almost entirely about making a semiotic difference in a world full of signs.

You should also ask yourself if a particular subtitle actually makes a game sound more enticing to you, personally. If it doesn't, think of something that does or don't use one.

I like the name of the tribe both main characters come from: 'Mangatiwala'. It's distinctive, evocative (even though someone might not know what it means), and has a nice ring to it. It's enough to perk my interest, pick up the box, click on the link, etc.

Scott Miller

Well, Gabby, I had a great response and then crash! Here's the short version: I'd just have gone with Anito, short and simple. Look at Diablo, which meant nothing to anyone before the game's release. Would it have been better for them to have named the game: "Diablo: Land of the Dungeons"? Would the original Duke Nukem, a meaningless name at the time, been better named: "Duke Nukem: Alien Invasion"? Would Ico have been better off named, "Ico: Saving the Princess"?

Obscure, meaningless, short names can have a distinct psychological advantage if they're attached to great products. Think Yahoo!, Jell-O, Google, eBay, Amazon, Xerox, Kleenex, & Quake.

Bottom-line: Names are brands, meaning they're meant to brand the customer's mind with a red hot image that then becomes the easily located file tab for all of the brand's attributes. Too often in the games industry, people use the game's brand name itself to store information that more properly belongs in the file itself, such as descriptive information. This descriptive info doesn't belong in the name, because it makes the branding process more difficult. Instead, this descriptive info is better conveyed as a tagline, a headline, or in descriptive text that's used in the game's marketing. It's counter-productive to a product's brand-ability to include lengthy descriptive information within the brand's name.

I'll depart with this last example...

Smart branding: "eBay"

Game industry branding: "eBay: Worldwide Auction Center"

Marek

Walter: I agree that based purely on phonetics Mangatiwala sounds better. Anito sounds sort of "quiet" or peaceful, like Ico. Mangatiwala evoces a more rough and possibly dark image. Judging by the screenshots on the site, it would be more fitting to this game. However, IMHO Mangatiwala is much too long and too hard to pronounce to make an effective title. If I had to tell a friend how great or awful this new game called Mangatiwala is, I would probably have to look up the name again.

Plain "Anito" is probably the best option for this game, since it is already known as such.

Marek

An interesting game name I just spotted for the first time (in today's entry at Penny Arcade). It's an FPS called "Black".

Not an amazing title, but it's definitely short and simple.

Jeff Freeman

> -Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
> (Since when did the Earth become a box?)

It's not a box, but there are many corners on the Earth, some of which are quite dark.

On the other hand, "Dark" is on the pants-down-spankin' list anyway. Are there so many Cthulhu games out there that they couldn't have just called it 'Cthulhu'?

But I'm working on "Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed" so maybe I should just say "Whaddya mean?! All those names sound GREAT!"

Walter

Marek: You're right that 'Mangatiwala' is definitely harder to pronounce, certainly harder to remember how to type up in Google. I guess this is just where subjectivity (and rabid speculation) comes in, though, because my guess is that more people who come across 'Mangatiwala' will click through to find out what it's about, as opposed to the relatively tame 'Anito'. I also think a bit of strangeness/difficulty is a good thing, because it sets up a slight challenge that the reader will want to overcome.

But, it IS a bunch of speculation on my part. And yeah, I wouldn't suggest changing the name of the game this late in the...um, game, either.

Gabby Dizon

Thanks for the discussion, guys. Scott, I wish I'd seen the longer version of your response, but the short version was great anyway. You're right, short, meaningless names work if they're attached to great products. eBay.com and Amazon.com (which does mean something, but is totally unrelated to the site) sounds a lot better than Auction.com and Bookstore.com (or OnlineStore.com).

But does it work for the small guy? Will it work for an indie game just trying to find its way into the marketplace? Just to let you guys know, the few sites that report about our game just call it "Anito" and drop the rest, so it's like what Scott said about Halo: the fans just dropped the "Combat Evolved" and it became a good name.

Walter, thanks for the suggestions. The tribe names are interesting too IMO, but too long for use in a title. Even our countrymen have a difficult time remembering them.

You're right, we're not going to rename the game, but it's definitely food for thought for our next projects.

Gestalt

"Are there so many Cthulhu games out there that they couldn't have just called it 'Cthulhu'?"

Call of Cthulhu, as well as being one of HP Lovecraft's better known novels, is also the name of a pen and paper role-playing game based on his work. So like Vampire: The Masquerade and Warhammer 40k it makes perfect sense to use that as a pre-title.

Anon

"After all, tons of people watch James Bond movies, right? Why can the movie industry avoid all the colons, yet the game industry cannot?"

Because movies have a greater ability to get your attention with trailers. Every time you go see a movie or rent a movie, there's a trailer, and the adspace devoted to movies is huge compared to games. These simple facts work against the games industry, which need a big name on the box to catch your attention as you wander through the store. You can see it happen at Best Buy all the time. "Oh! Look a Vampire:The Masquerade game! I didn't know about that! I gotta buy it!"

You almost never hear "Oh! A new Bond movie! I didn't know about that! I have to buy it!"

Part of that may be the oversaturation of the games market as it stands, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that game ads are still mainly aimed at the hard core.

I can't count how many game ads I've seen late at night on TV, compared to the relative lack of game ads on during daytime TV. Being privy to ad information from our last game, I can even see that it's true that way more ads are bought for late night TV.

Plus, EA has named all of it's bond games "James Bond: Nightfire" or "James Bond: Everything or Nothing" and it seems to be working well for them.

Scott Anderson

I think part of the name "Chroma Gun" comes from us wanting to emulate the names of Japanese shooters because we are trying to appeal to that crowd. The thing is, we obviously aren't Japanese, so it could backfire. Generally speaking these games have names that would be considered bad titles by Scott's criterion, i.e.:

Mars Matrix, Dodonpachi, R-Type, Ikaruga, Radiant Silver Gun, Gradius, Darius, Psyvariar...

These titles seem to appeal to niche gamers though.

Walter

I think it's totally fine to go with a Japanese shmup-ish name if you're looking to appeal to that crowd. And seeing as how shmups are relegated to niche status anyway, you could actually be hurting yourself by trying to go with a name supposedly more broadly appealing. No broadly appealing name is going to sell your game to a broad audience if said audience isn't even interested in the game type. Cater to your market.

Also, some alternatives to using 'gun': 'cannon' and 'buster'. Can't help you with larger alternatives or alternatives for 'chroma' unless you actually give us more info on the game (*ahem*).

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