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Article - 'Mastering the Art of Names' by Deonic

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Deonic gives some good advice on creating names for characters and items in your games.

Body

Names, whether for characters, items or skills have a profound effect on the style and quality of your games. Whether the game is a light hearted fantasy RPG based on Nordic mythology or it is a post-apocalyptic point and click adventure game the names you give to everything will be one of the most important things in your game. Thus naming them appropriately can mean the difference between quality and failure.

Why Are Names Important?
For a start they are one of the first things you find out about a character, object etc. A character with a catchy, interesting name will create a good first impression for the player. Secondly they create a sense of individuality for the object, person or place. If you create names for important NPCs then the player will probably remember them if they are referred to later on in the game, besides this, it helps to flesh out your world and make it seem more real.

Bad Names
If you search around on the Internet you will find no end of fantasy stories with characters with names that you can neither pronounce nor remember. This is one of the worst things you can do with a name. Though you may think that it looks good to give a character a name like this, what is the point if the player forgets the name? This means that you can’t refer to the characters later on in the game without lengthy and annoying recaps. Another problem that arises with names occurs particularly in items and attacks. Many members of this community are anime fans and when they are trying to name their items or skills they often name them in this style. The problem with this is that the items often make no sense due to this. A skill named in this style makes your game look very unprofessional and amateurish.

Good Names
The best way to name characters is to use online baby name books. This is not just good for characters with ordinary names; it is also good for those with more individual names. There are a great abundance of aesthetically sounding, suitably obscure names available. Another great source of names is mythology. Though names such as this are becoming ever more clichéd with the increasing amount of people using them. However, if you dig deeper you should be able to find names that sound interesting, yet are seldom used. If you are set on creating your own names do so with care. The reason why the two methods of naming characters above are good is that those names are usually easy to pronounce and interesting. Naming items suitably is slightly harder, especially so for normal items. Mundane items like swords and spears can be boring to name. Creating item names involves more research; usually the starting place for this is medieval weaponry books or websites. If you know a wide variety of names and types of armour for example, creating names for them becomes that much easier. Another source is mythology; usually the more obscure the better. Names like Excalibur, Masamune and all of those used in popular commercial video games are usually not a good idea. Naming futuristic items is a similar process though your research should involve looking into technological books and websites instead of Mythology websites look at Science (especially physics) websites. The other things that you will find yourself frequently thinking up names for are skills and attacks etc. The temptation for naming these is to simply combine two random words together (e.g. Chaos Break). This technique can be highly effective if used properly, but you should avoid using clichéd words in combination. The best thing to do is to find one word that describes the attack perfectly (e.g. Tornado).

I hope this article will help those struggling to find inspiration for names of things and also help to improve the naming technique of those who already have inspiration. Also, thanks to Krinsdeath for correcting THE HORRIBLE grammar in this article.