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Subject: Game Naming Conventions and Guidelines rss

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Jason Beck
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Rather than just flat-out ask, "Hey guys, what do you think of my game's name?" (uhhh, I might do that in a bit, though), I'm curious as to how people come up with names for games. Are there any "golden rules" you try to apply? I try to keep mine as short and topical as possible, and generally prefer when other games do that.

For example, although it's a great game, I'm not a huge fan of Settlers of Catan's name, since people invariably refer to it as either "Settlers" or "Catan", thus making the name kind of cumbersome/irrelevant, and aside from the implication of "Settlers" (you get to settle! on things!), it doesn't convey much.

I've been working on a game for about two and a half years now; it's a card-based game wherein the players construct their own cathedrals from various components while managing their resources and dealing with random events. For a while I just called it "Cathedral", but there's a game out there called "Cathedral" (that has vexingly little to do with them), so I've taken to calling it "Cathedrals", which leads me to my second general question:

How close is too close, when it comes to game-naming? That is, is "Cathedrals" too close to "Cathedral" to be a good name?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions
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Scott A. Reed
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I don't think there is any problem with calling your game Cathedrals, but it might be a little confusing to some. I can say from personal experience that people will associate a lot with a game name, and any prominence that the game of the same name has works against your game. Just this morning I was trying to clean up an issue between Polarity and Polarity that comes from users thinking the latter is the former.

My personal advice is that perhaps you should call your game a synonym. I can't think of any game called Basilica, so that's one's open for you. Depending on your theme, Sacellum is also open, or Chantry.
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Hammock Backpacker
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Cathedrals, in my opinion, is too close to Cathedral. Hives, Shoguns, Samurais, El Grandes, Twlight of the Imperiums...yep all too close.


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Kevin Brown
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A traveler came upon a group of three hard-at-work stonemasons, and asked each in turn what he was doing. The first said, "I am sanding down this block of marble." The second said, "I am preparing a foundation." The third said, "I am building a cathedral." The question? Do you have a vision for what you are doing, or are you just doing time where you are?


Why not call it Cathedral Builder?
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Ben Smith
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I don't like it at all when different games have similar names. I'm also fine with long names, as long as there's a good way to shorten it. I like calling Settlers of Catan "Settlers". My in-the-works game is called "Hive-Mind Nature Fight" and I figure that if it gets huge, people will just call it "Hive-Mind" which is still a fine name.

You could call your game "Stone Upon Stone," "To Reach the Heavens," "Magnificence," or something less dramatic like "Cathedral Builder" (al a pilight), or "Big Churches Get Built." Yeah, that last one is lame.
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J. Atkinson
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Spires in the Sky
Heavenly Spires
Holy Stones
Gothic Towers
Stairway to Heaven
Cathedral Calling
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
Why not call it Cathedral Builder?


thumbsup

You could add a jazzy subtitle if you needed a little more impact, but I like that name.

 
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marc lecours
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I don't like the game of settler's of catan but I think it is a good name. Especially the catan part. Catan is more or less a unique word. It only conveys one thing in my mind which is the game of settlers of catan.

A good name can suggest what it is about but a good name can also be a unique word that suggests nothing but itself. I am always impressed by the toyota car company that chooses meaningless unique words for its cars (corolla, camry, prius) with the exception of the echo. When you see the word prius you think of the car. When you see echo you might or might not think of the car. You have to sell a lot of Echos before it becomes associated with the car rather than the sound wave bouncing off a mountain. With a name like Prius you don't have to sell so many cars before you get to brand status.

Using unique meaningless names costs you early sales but leads to earlier brand identification status. A confident company like Toyota can do that and profit from it. Other car companies tends to have less confidence in their cars. They gives their car names that already have positive associations to foster early sales.
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Mikko Mentula
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Quote:
Using unique meaningless names costs you early sales but leads to earlier brand identification status. A confident company like Toyota can do that and profit from it. Other car companies tends to have less confidence in their cars. They gives their car names that already have positive associations to foster early sales.

A name can also be at the same time unique and "meaningless" and still carry positive associations and thus enforce the brand. For example Toyota has a high-end brand "Lexus" that itself does not mean anything and cannot be identified with any product category. Still instantly people think of luxury when they hear the name.

Similarly traditions and expectation may lead peoples interpretation. For example "Settlers of Catan" feels familiar as a name to those who have read fantasy novels or know fantasy worlds. So based on the name alone, people could expect certain things from the game. There is a conventional phonology for fantasy worlds that makes a name/game credible. Tolkien's influence is easy to spot. Also word "Catan" functions as an identifier for a whole family of games even though I'm not if expandability was though much when naming the original game.

In general there is a clear trend for longer titles (plus subtitles) which can be seen in the movie industry as well: "Pirates of Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" etc... Many boardgames from the recent years share this naming method even though board game names express more the action (Race for the Galaxy) than the actors or the scene. I suppose using this kind of names make it easy to avoid possible trademark issues as well as allow better sequel branding.

I'm not a huge fan of long titles and I like compact names better. They feel proper names instead of vague descriptions and it makes speaking of games a lot easier (especially in a language other than English).
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Simon Nevill
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I think there are a few good naming ideas bouncing around. I think you need to consider whether the name of the game wants to immediately convey what the game is about... in which case including Cathedral in the title may be way forward. Games in general will go one way or the other - obvious or obscure. I suppose another key question would be if you intend to use the same system in the future for OTHER games building different structures - in which case a name like Architect may be more generic, but still tells you what the game is about.
 
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James Hutchings
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I think it depends on what kind of game it is.

I associate names of cities, especially European cities, with eurogames. I'm not sure whether this is accurate, but to me "the Cathedral at York" and "Masons of Bremen" for example sound like eurogames.

Dates sound like American-style games, particularly wargames. '1080', '1200: Construction in England'

Flippant names usually sound like family games. 'Build or Bust!' and 'Crazy Cathedrals' for example...

...unless the joke is something a bit risque or obscure, in which case I guess I think of them as being lighter American-style games, like Munchkin. 'Holier than Thou!' for example.

Fantasy-themed games seem to usually go the very obvious route and put 'dungeon', 'magic', 'dragon', 'talisman', etc in their titles.
 
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Jason Beck
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Thanks for all the feedback

I don't think the game is quite light enough for "Holier than Thou", but I really like it, haha.

It's set in Medieval England, so I had considered "Minster", but I didn't know if that was a widely-used enough term to be viable.

I had also considered Vaults of Heaven.

I'm not sure making up a term would be very applicable here, but that was an interesting example (re: Prius, etc.).

Are there particular reasons that people like specific names (Puerto Rico, Diplomacy) vs more abstract ones? I mean, I guess on some level this isn't really a huge deal, and might just be a matter of taste, but I'm wondering if there are concrete reasons why one style of naming format might be preferable to another.
 
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Mikko Mentula
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Colonial One wrote:

Are there particular reasons that people like specific names (Puerto Rico, Diplomacy) vs more abstract ones? I mean, I guess on some level this isn't really a huge deal, and might just be a matter of taste, but I'm wondering if there are concrete reasons why one style of naming format might be preferable to another.

Well for me it's much easier to speak of games with my friends when the names are compact and not too fiddly. In Finnish words are inflected and case suffixes are added to words itself instead of using separate preposition and other syntactic constructions. Compact single word names are much easier to fit in the system naturally than more complex multi-word names.

I'd say it's always better for global market if a name does not contain too much language specific information, because these names can be fitted easily within any language. Of course names can be translated for local markets but that's not good for the global brand and can make it harder to infiltrate to smaller markets. In my opinion it is better if the same name can be used in almost all markets (just one Puerto Rico) than having separate names for most markets (Alta Tensión, Alta Tensione, Funkenschlag (Second Edition), Hoogspanning, Reteaua Energetica, Vysoké Napětí, Wysokie Napięcie, Power Grid...).

Of course the above is not an issue if you're designing the game only for the English speaking market.
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