NaGa DeMon: What’s In a Name?

icon-speak-150x150 One important part of any game design is coming up with fitting terms, names, et cetera. Alas I have to admit I am really bad at this aspect of game design. I have pretty cool ideas on how a game setting is supposed to look like but when it comes to naming things, the trouble usually starts.

The most important name to come up with is the title of the game itself. The project I am currently working on for NaGa DeMon will be a Scifi roleplaying game set into the 26th century. One aspect of the game that’s very important to me is that space exploration and a sense of wonder should play a major role in the game. A large portion of our galaxy is still undiscovered, there are mysteries behind every other corner. For quite a while I wanted to create a game called “Galaxy Rising” and I think it might actually be a good fit for what I have in mind. The name is inspired by a quote by Carl Sagan. In his TV series Cosmos he said the following: “A still more glorious dawn awaits, not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise. A morning filled with 400 billion suns. The rising of the milky way.” (Check out “A Glorious Dawn“, a musical tribute to both Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking!)

In my opinion “Galaxy Rising” is a great name and conveys the same sense of wonder I want to convey with the game itself.

In the small piece of fiction I published last week I included some of the names of alien species that will play a role in my game. But since then I have pondered whether I should use plain language names for the alien species instead of “Valar” and “Arelians”. Or alternatively I could use names from mythology that fit what the aliens look like or behave. The problem with names you’ve come up with is that you may pick something that actually has a meaning in another language. Perhaps you heard about the issues Mitsubishi had with their Pajero, which is actually an offensive word in Spanish. I’ve not come to any decision yet, so every name I post here on the blog is subject to change.

By the way, what’s your stance on the subject? And how do you like “Galaxy Rising”? As always every comment is highly appreciated.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

5 thoughts on “NaGa DeMon: What’s In a Name?”

  1. the name sounds great, and you’re right, it does evoke a sense of wonder. I know what you mean about names in general though. Took me a couple of days to realise that I could just use the word ‘Expedition’ to describe a unit of things that join the Explorer on their Adventure.

  2. “Galaxy Rising” isn’t as immediately trite as “Ad Astra”, but unfortunately it returns a few hits on a Google search, including a sci-fi novel by a man named John Otto. You could use the name, but I think you’d end up running up against that book, at the very least. Names are indeed hard.

  3. I like Galaxy Rising. It’s a good name for a game
    I am however of the opinion that when it comes to inventing names for species, cultures, countries etc the best approach is to go for a descriptive name in the language you are actually writing the thing in. This is because making up random names for places and groups in say a fantasy setting just opens up lots of questions about the linguistic history of the setting, and most of us are not Tolkien (who made up the linguistics first and then had to invent a world for it to exist in). It’s all fine and well calling a kingdom Gesperia or whatever, but why is it called that? What’s the history behind that name? And presuming the people of Gesperia don’t speak English then what do they call their country? How does the -ia suffix apply if they are speaking a fictional language that’s not even related to English?

    This problem is even more pronounced when it comes to aliens, since realistically speaking any extraterrestial means of communication would be beyond humanity and completely… well, alien. If the species in question refers to itself by excreting a cocktail of chemicals into the atmosphere or subtly manipulating electromagnetic fields then why are the humans calling them the Kollani or whatever?

    I find it’s much better to call the kingdom Sunland and the aliens Squids (because of superficial resemblences to a terrestial species), for example. Aliens you could also call by their system of origin (Centaurians, say) or some other purely descriptive nomicker. Sci fi does allow you to borrow from established scientific languages like Greek and Latin, so you could make up some kind of Linnean-style species designation of sorts if you want a name that sounds cooler.

    The point is that names don’t just come out of nowhere. They all have a reason and a linguistic origin (sometimes lost to history), and this is something to take into account when creating a world.

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