Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Name Game

When Publish 57 notes came out, I got a few flames over the names of some of the new stealable items. Which frankly I accept because to be honest, I wasn't fond of some of the names either. So why didn't I change them? Well, I couldn't come up with something better. Yup, it's that simple!

Naming things or characters is probably one of the worse design challenges for me. First of all, I will think about a totally cool name in French but that sounds unbelievably cheesy in English. I also like the names to actually mean something and be relevant to the item/character they will be attached to. This translates as a lot of time spent searching name databases or trying to make up names that sound badass.

What actually got me posting this was watching our new flock of EMs going through the pain of trying to name their EM and RP characters. Some of them were ICQing me, banging their heads on the wall saying how they had spent hours/days just trying to come up with "the right name". And I could totally relate to that pain because every time I write a new quest or create a new item/reward, I go through that same headache.

Added to this is the fact that many players have a Ph D in nitpicking and will eat you alive for naming things the wrong way. I wish I could remember the details of a case a few years back where a certain resource used for crafting was the source of major flaming. Turns out the Dev had named it the wrong part of whatever the resource came from and players gave him hell saying this is not what is used to make this. This other part is! I thought it was silly to fuss over that, but that stayed in the back of my head.

While I don't believe in allowing ourselves to be bullied into basing content on fear of flames, I do believe that gaming can have educational value. People memorize the names of their "cool" items in game and it's well worth putting a little extra effort in appropriately naming stuff.

And so when I added the resource to the cocoa tree, I ended up spending quite a bit of time reading up on chocolate fabrication and cocoa trees to find an appropriate name for the resource and what it would look like. Same for the appearance of the tree itself. Ditto with the spider webs from the Halloween event. I didn't want to just plop a web deed as loot, that seemed a little lame. But paying a visit to my best friend wikipedia, I learned about gossamer and spinnerets and the rest is history.

Sometimes though, the names have hidden meanings, are meant to give people a smirk or are little winks winks. In UO, you will from time to time run into known characters such as the famous Barton who became legendary thanks to a very bratty Atlantic player. Many of you also ran into slimes named "a j wilson" after a game critic that had given UO bad reviews. Some are a bit more subtle, such as the Warren, the upset ghost (specter) of Ultima Underworld (Stygian Abyss) which was a wink wink to producer Warren Spector.

The problem is how much time spent picking names is justifiable? If you're half as picky as I am, an hour can have gone by and you're still nowhere near having found a suitable name, especially for characters. I shudder at the thought of ever trying to come up with a name for a baby! So sometime, when you see a lame name in any game, know that there are 3 probable reasons: a) the author has bad taste, b) the author gave up trying to come up with something l337, c) you have bad taste :P


Demorde said...

"Warren, the upset ghost (specter) of Ultima Underworld (Stygian Abyss) which was a wink wink to producer Warren Spector."

And where exactly is this ghost? ;)

Regine "Sakkarah" Abel said...

He's in level 6 of the Stygian Abyss (the Ultima Underworld game from the Ultima Series). That one isn't in UO :)