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Post news RSS Design Table: 9. The Name Game

Characters, items, trinkets, weapons or gadgets, naming things in games is not only essential it is indispensable. With that, let us launch this year’s first Design Table!

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Naming, the art or transforming seemingly simple icons, statistics or commonplace virtual models into valuable virtual items, desirable objects or legendary characters. It seems like a tall order to take on at first, especially if you start thinking about all the good names out there that are already taken. I get asked all the time “How can I create a good name for my character, environment or item, that tells a great story?”

This can be a good perspective but the aim of game design is often not to tell a story. A far more powerful and better experience in my view, is allowing the player to imagine their own story for a character, environment or create their own desired usage for an item. It will not only provide multiple dimensions, it will most definitely makes even seemingly “worthless” items a thing of scarcity and desire. Just feel secure in that everything we do is aimed at providing the best experiences for our gamers. It might be contradictory as ones experience is imaginary but as we talked about in Design Table Episode 1, game designs are judged by the quality of imaginations that they create.

Let me exemplify what I mean. Imagine I offer you three characters to choose between with different ranks. “Seasoned Leader”, “High Master” or “Dominator, The Master Ruler”. It’s evident right from the get go, that even if all three names fires of one’s imagination, the latter seems to be in a higher hierarchy. It not only sounds more official, it seems to almost play a bigger role. Please keep in mind that in any game, players will try to structure the world, environments, characters, gear and items. It can be very powerful to use this to your games advantage and build your design on creating experiences on these sorts of rough hierarchies.

Many games sadly miss out on the great value naming can provide. I suggest considering it because it also requires very little development time. Value in a game is not only in it’s innovative mechanics, in fact many games people might consider mediocre would become absolutely legendary and brilliant with just a slight tweak of their naming. So what is my suggestion? Is there a way to train up ones naming ability?

Absolutely! Valve, Riot Games, Blizzard, Bethesda, Gearbox and others have plenty of games with legendary and solid naming regiments, often accompanied by a color system. Try to rename each item, character or environments in your favorite game! You will be surprised how much fun it is and how easily you can change the experience with the naming. How easy it is to evolve from one type of an experience into another.

This summarizes this week’s Design Table. Next week, our topic will be about Cooperative Games. If you would like to send in a question or write us feedback on today’s session, you can either do it via Twitter, Facebook or email and will try to make them part of the next series!

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