A Mere Mention of Fatigue and Gaming Design Notes (Maps and Names)
Already, I feel beat. The past two weeks have worn me out a bit, but there’s no letting up. Orwell Industries has consumed a lot of time and we’re proud of it, and sincerely hope it continues to gain momentum. If you like M&M Superlink, spread the word will ya?
Okay, enough huckstering. I’ve done that all over the website this week, but that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for my insight into the industry, I suppose, and my honest opinion, good or bad, right?
Hmmm. Let’s see what I can muster up. Okay, maps. I mentioned them on another part of this week’s site, but they bear talking about a bit and while I’m at that, let’s hit names a little bit and then I’ll wrap up with a minor rant about something entirely unrelated to either maps or names. We’ll call the rant “my observations” and let it go at that, shall we?
Maps. You gotta have ’em. Moving on now. Hah. Had to do it. When you’re dealing with a fantasy creation, there comes a point where you have to have some sort of maps. For me, it’s early on. If it’s a straight up conjuration torn from my head, I want something substantial, something I can look at other than a white screen to focus my thoughts. A map is ideal. It doesn’t even have to be a good map. I’ve started with blobs and squiggles and then define where points of interest should be. Don’t worry about names yet. They’ll come when they’re ready, but should they be ready, be prepared to write them down. Never, ever trust your memory. One day it will let you down and you’ll not be able to remain that “really cool name you came up with”. I’d jot them down on a sheet of paper and shove it and your squiggle map into a file or scan them and then file them if you’re really paranoid or a bit challenged by the organization required to stave off entropy.
After you’ve got your map, you can then proceed to drop in names. Oddly, no one has ever asked me where I get my names or how I come up with them, which is odd because I’ve always been ready. Instead, I get drawn quite frequently into comparisons and contrasts of rules sets and mechanics of all things. Play balance has come to the fore and grown a lot easier for me over the years. Please remember I was a liberal arts major and I am a story-forward thinker. With that in mind, however, I want to reach the broadest audience I am able which is why, at present, I choose to align myself with established companies and license their mechanics rather than throw our endeavors willy-nilly into the wind.
Orwell Industries is an interesting experiment in that regard. It’s targeting the M&M Superlink audience which is bombarded with various products and no guarantee of quality assurance. To them, Reality Blurs is an unknown variable. Just another name? We’ll see how things shape up. Persistence, I imagine, is the key.
Well, I drifted way off from names tonight. I really should write this at the beginning of the day rather than the end, so here’s attempt two at addressing my initial commentary about the importance of names in a game context. Here’s a punch list that comes to mind:
1. Make sure to select setting appropriate names. If dealing with high space adventure, don’t go with mundane names like Tom or John for your NPCs.
2. Broaden your horizons. Anglo names aren’t the only ones in the world. Go to english to another language dictionaries and discover cool words for common things.
3. Smash words together. This is one of my favorite. Being a liberal arts major, I’ve got that whole “poetry in my blood” thing going for me, so I tend to have an ear for what sounds “right”.
4. Say the names out loud. When I mentioned ear, above, this is what I’m talking about. Some names look nifty on paper, but if you can’t say them out loud without tangling them up into a twisted verbal maelstrom of unpronounceability, they problem should be left to float amongst the flotsam of your mind.
5. Don’t be avant-garde. Sometimes, mundane is fine and possibly even preferred. My name is Sean, which is kinda weird considering how it’s pronounced and is something that throws some foreign people off to this day. It’s what got me interested in linguistics long ago, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, if people need a language key to say the word correctly, you probably can go with something else, especially if it’s common. However, this rule is often broken by some of the greats who opted to come up with some weird name which plagues readers to this day with the “correct” pronunciation whether it be Moorcock’s Melnibone’ or Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. Yes, I’ve heard them pronounced a multitude of ways. Yes, I know I probably are pronouncing them incorrectly even though I know the correct way, but forgive me this trespass will you?
That’s enough of that. I’ve wandered all over the map and named names and given you some more things to think about. Now go do something useful with this stuff, will ya?