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Subject: Is a name important for identification? rss

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Josh Zscheile
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I think the title already states it quite clearly. In a game where you play a civilization, is it important for you as a player to have name to it (like in Advanced Civ, Sid Meier's Civ, Nations) or are you indifferent to this (like in Through the Ages, Eminent Domain)? Especially, if there is no civ specific bonus you have, that others do not.

I think one might generalize this question to: Is naming the entity/subject you play important to you in a game, even if there is no specific bonus associated with the name to it?

Maybe a pro/con list would be nice here, but please also explain what you mean.

Theme: It helps transport the theme of the game, which, if well done, leads to better immersion through role-playing (you could also say identification) and therefore potentially more fun for the players.

Argument: Players might initially argue about which faction/character/etc. is played by whom, similarly to preference in player colour.

Other preference: If you have preference about the entity you would like to play, and this option is not even given by the game, it might hurt their opinion about the game before even playing. ("How is it even possible I cannot play xy! They are so important to history/the universe/...!")

Pro (for naming):
- theme

Ambiguous:
- argument about who gets what

Con:
- other preference about the given name domain


Thanks in advance for your contribution!

Josh 'Dagar'
 
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Yuliyan Kalaydzhiev
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I would be interested to see who doesn't think names play a role

The con "argument about who gets what" is not a con - it's a pro! The players have a bond with the game in their particular liking of a name because it brings up associations and thus feelings. The theme is engaging. Even without a theme - look at chess and the "rook". For me this has always been connected with the heavy guns. Hard to bring out, but once you do, they will rock! The word is loaded with power - Rook! And you mostly don't use it outside of chess.

I hope that illustrates my perspective.
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Josh Zscheile
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Hey Yuliyan,

thanks for your comment. You might be right about your engagement point. I'll change my first post accordingly.

So you are all on pro side. So how come many games in which you play a certain character or control (rule, reign, ...) a faction do not give explicit names? In your eyes is this always a bad design decision?
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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I see no point in calling players Athens, Rome, Babylon, whatever if they are totally abstract, totally symmetric, not even a map placing them.

But if there is some differentiation, yes, why not call the one with the army bonus Rome, and so on.
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Yuliyan Kalaydzhiev
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Dagar wrote:
Hey Yuliyan,

thanks for your comment. You might be right about your engagement point. I'll change my first post accordingly.

So you are all on pro side. So how come many games in which you play a certain character or control (rule, reign, ...) a faction do not give explicit names? In your eyes is this always a bad design decision?


It's not always a bad choice.

I wouldn't expect the chess sides to have names beside from "black" and "white". They are symmetrical and the game does not aim at theme, rather - the mechanics of the game

I am on the fence with factions, for instance, in Kemet or Cyclades. The games have a particular theme, but are still very concentrated on the mechanics (short rules, no complications in the name of flavor, relatively generic; euro-like). Since they all play the same way (no special powers) maybe it is OK to leave them "anonymous".

Having no name for the Henchmen in Claustrophobia was a bad design choice, since the game is otherwise so concentrating on thematic choices. Leaving them just bland copies of one another feels wrong (aside from making gameplay more difficult due to not being able to distinguish them).

So it pretty much depends on the priorities that you have. If your game is suppose to shine through mechanics, not theme, and the elements you are considering leaving unnamed play in the same way - I think it's O.K. to leave them nameless.

In my opinion a little effort to put a theme in a game goes a long way when it comes to enjoyment.
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E M
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You DO need a distinction between players - so color is the obvious choice. Other than that, you do not need to name them.

BUT: if I'm playing a civ-game and my civ has no name, like in Through the Ages, i'm disappointed. Not because of the missing name, but because of the missing differentiation. I WANT different powers and distinction between different civs - it adds greatly to replay-value. An asymmetric game is much more fun, although harder to balance.
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Josh Zscheile
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Thanks you two!

Christophers words exactly mirror what I think about it, but you might be right in saying 'It is almost never a bad design choice'.

Following are some thoughts about naming factions in my game design draft:

For now, the factions in my design are completely symmetrical and there is no map to identify them through starting positions.
Another concern I have with naming them is that the game is supposed to play over a long time period (from stone age to when I do not know yet). No civilization has existed in a time frame large enough to span maybe human history from forming settlements to the present, is was all more or less a constant disintegration and forming new cultures. However many games name their civilizations although they usually only existed in a small percentage of the depicted time frame and apart from me, maybe no one bothers.
 
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Josh Zscheile
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Brandigan wrote:
You DO need a distinction between players - so color is the obvious choice. Other than that, you do not need to name them.

BUT: if I'm playing a civ-game and my civ has no name, like in Through the Ages, i'm disappointed. Not because of the missing name, but because of the missing differentiation. I WANT different powers and distinction between different civs - it adds greatly to replay-value. An asymmetric game is much more fun, although harder to balance.


Thanks Brandigan,

my design for now has no differentiating starting conditions or special powers to each factions. Maybe I will decide to change that in the future, maybe not, we'll see.

Yes, different player colours for different factions is the usual thing to do in order to tell apart who plays what. This was so obvious to me I did not even bother writing it down, but for the grand scheme of things, it is definitely good to having said that.
 
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Russ Williams
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Dagar wrote:
For now, the factions in my design are completely symmetrical and there is no map to identify them through starting positions.

Then names seem superfluous to me.

E.g. in Hellas there are no names for the 2 sides, even though thematically you could arbitrarily call one "Athens" and one "Sparta", or some such, since it's loosely set in Ancient Greece. But they would just seem like unconvincing unnecessary labels to me and many players would probably ignore them as meaningless.

Quote:
Another concern I have with naming them is that the game is supposed to play over a long time period (from stone age to when I do not know yet). No civilization has existed in a time frame large enough to span maybe human history from forming settlements to the present, is was all more or less a constant disintegration and forming new cultures.

That too seems a good argument for not naming them.
 
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Charles Ward
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russ wrote:

E.g. in Hellas there are no names for the 2 sides, even though thematically you could arbitrarily call one "Athens" and one "Sparta", or some such, since it's loosely set in Ancient Greece. But they would just seem like unconvincing unnecessary labels to me and many players would probably ignore them as meaningless.


I guess not naming them allows the players to interpret the faction to their liking.
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Josh Zscheile
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Thanks for your views on the topic!
 
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Gary Boyd
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I'm curious about this as well. I'm hoping to do a game based on a specific period of history but I'm not sure I want to get bogged down with players representing specific factions.
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