Friday, June 16, 2006

What's in a name?

Good grief, has it really been this long since my last post? I have been busy, that's all I can say.

I've been inspired to put fingers to keyboard after a posting on Hayden's blog about my review of Laser Dolphin. First, sorry for not mentioning Ecco (it was in my head throughout reviewing so I'm astonished it didn't end up in the text). Second, Hayden is quite right about the title. It's brilliant! It encapsulates the entire game in two words that you don't normally see together.

This has made me think about game names in general - how important is a name to your game? Actually, quite a lot. A game name has two main objectives - it tells people what the game is (marketing) and it gives them something to search for. For instance:

* It should be short, but not too short. "Blip" is a bad name for a game, since not only is probably already taken, but anyone putting "blip" in Google will give up long before they find your site. Similarly "The Adventures Of Harvey The Invisible Rabbit As He Escapes The Evil Purveyors Of Snack Foods and Dynamite" is a silly title in many ways, not least the unlikelihood that anyone will bother typing all that into a search engine. Try aiming for 2-3 words, though a one-word title is excellent if it's an unusual word.

* See if you can secure the domain name for that title. If I'm searching for a game called "Dynamite Dandruff" then my first guess would be, so make sure that site takes me to your game.

* Avoid non-letter characters in your name. Discussion in development forums led to a game called "Maggie's Garden" being renamed to "Maggie the Gardener" - because previous developers had encountered problems with customers searching for titles with apostrophies. If you release "Sixteen Soldiers", how many people are going to look for "16 Soldiers"?

* Similarly, make your game title easy to spell. "Flatspace" is good. "Zygoxicypher" is not.

* Make your title reflect not only the aim of the game but also the genre. "Caverns of [wherever]" instantly sounds like an RPG. "The Strategist" is a good name for a war sim, but would sell poorly as a shoot-em-up.

* Try to be unique. A Risk-style simulation of the First World War would have sold well five years ago if you named it after the Arch-Duke of Austria-Hungary, but now there's a popular group in the public domain called Franz Ferdinand and your game would get somewhat lost!

People will make their first judgement about whether they'll like your game based on your title - that's before they even glimpse a screenshot or read a review.