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Choosing a project title

I’m working on the prototype of what will be the next game from Man O’ Kent and I’ve been kicking around the title quite a bit. I’d like to call it ‘Tale of Tales’ but can’t, the fact that I can’t and the trickiness of this simple and important choice has made me decide to write a blog about choosing your project title and the things I’ve learnt, for better or for worse.

Decide on your name early, your actual name.

Three things to remember here, building up a following, not loving a placeholder and picking one.

Building up a following – The earlier you find your name the better, because the sooner you can announce it at events, updates from previous successful projects, mailing lists and blogs. Its relatively minor but every little helps pick up your followers.

Not loving a placeholder – Eventually if you keep saying a particular name, especially over what could be a few years of development, you will end up preferring it over any other name. This is a bad thing because the reason you decided it was only a place holder will still be true, so don’t put off the job of choosing a final title or you’ll be stuck with one that people don’t like when they first hear it.

Picking one – Our first game is called SSO, for the Space Ship Omega that it is set on. This means that the game is SSO, but the ship is S.S.O, S.S.Omega or Space Ship Omega. Early on and for some time into the project we were using the terms largely interchangeably which was a mistake and may have led to some confusion for people searching it out. We should have just picked one and stuck to it consistently and clearly.

Say it, a lot.

Say your project title out loud, preferably over and over and until it has lost most of its meaning, and see how its sounds as pure sounds rather than words. There are a few rules to follow here:

Be aware of glottal stops – A glottal stop is a technical term for what happens to the human voicebox when two separate K, D or P sounds follow each other. There is a limit to how quickly these letters can be said, so we tend to simply skip or run them together. For example, try to say the name “Nick Crane” as fast as possible keeping the two words separate, the uncomfortable feeling when you go from the last sound of Nick to the first of Crane is a glottal stop, this is why when saying such a name would actually say Nick-rane or Ni-Crane. Avoid glottal stops just because they’re uncomfortable to say aloud, but be especially aware that the moving of letters that will naturally take place could change the meaning of the words.

Play syllable anagrams – This is a tricky one to explain, but try to break the work into parts that are not what was intended. For example, our company is called Man O’ Kent games, this is because I am from south east Kent and that makes me a man of Kent, were I from the north of Kent I would be a Kentish man. I did wonder about calling the company Kentish man, and the reason I didn’t wasn’t inaccuracy, but because after saying it a few times I started hearing Ken Tishman and I couldn’t help but wonder who this Ken was. There is a company advertising on UK tv currently called Car Guru, offering advice and repairs for vehicles. It is almost impossible for me not to hear that company name as Carger Roo, causing me to picture an Australian shipping company, this is because in English we tend to make ‘er’ or ‘ary’ noises into the ends of words, so try to avoid second or later words that start with them.

Search for it.

It used to be possible to come up with a collection of words or phrases that would lead to a single search result, but now no matter what you type in a huge array of results will be presented. Coming higher in those searches now has to do with SEO tweaking and richness of links rather than uniqueness of names, as an independent designer in order to rank ahead of your Board Game Geek page requires its own technical fiddling, but its less and less important to achieve it with a name no-one else has. More important is to ensure that nothing that could be construed as crossing over your copyright.

For example, when searching for SSO in relation to our first game Space Ship Omega there are multiple results for Single Sign On protocols and Star Stable Online, both of which I’m fine with since no one is mistaking one for the other. Our second game Moonflight shares the name of a late sixties prog rock track, again, not too much risk of crossover. Its for this reason that my first choice for our latest game, “Tale of Tales” is probably untenable since it relates a little too closely to the movie starring Salma Hayek, since both are about folk tales it would be a reasonable argument that our game is in some way trying to make people think that it had a connection to the film. Don’t fret over total uniqueness in a name, but do take reasonable care to both protect your copyright and respect that of others, which means avoiding similarity of name where there is a reasonable chance of confusion.

In conclusion, be sure to say your project name aloud rather than just have it written down, pick the name as early as reasonably possible, and search enough to make sure its not stepping on someone’s toes.

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