Saturday, October 24, 2015

(No Longer) Untitled Game - DevDiary #5 - Title Time

Okay, it's time to figure out a title for this project. I've worked nearly twelve months on this project, restarted the script once, I have a clear idea of where it needs to go, and what needs to be done to improve it. I need a damn title.

I used to be quite good (I felt) at titles for projects, and would usually come up with a title before principle work began - although, I'm still a little annoyed that I could never find a different title for "The Dublin Man." I was quite proud of The Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses, despite being long; and Express Line Number Seven, despite being shelved, is still a perfect title for that narrative. This one has eluded me for some reason.
Very early on when I first came up with the game, I filed all of the ideas under Talisman; however, I have two problems with that title. The first being that Talisman has very little to do with what's going on in the story. Currently, the Clave (an antagonistic tribe to Auryon's), uses very old talisman from a war long ago in order to cast spells. During the Old War, these talisman acted as a type of "ready-made" spell for the rabble, so the more powerful sorcerers wouldn't have to risk themselves on the battlefield. While Auryon uses one of these talisman in her adventure, and has to deal with several of her opponents using them, they don't really serve as a central theme; merely a world-building tool.
The other problem with the title Talisman is quite simple: I don't like single word titles. They sound like advertisements for perfumes (Obsession, Memories, Talisman - from Calvin Klein). So, Talisman is out.
A title should do one of two things (ideally both). The first is to capture the central themes or ideas from the story in a single, memorable phrase. This will, hopefully, get the audience to think a little bit more about the narrative. The other is to describe the story in a way that informs the audience what they're about to interact with. If a title captures neither of these elements, then it really doesn't serve the narrative at all, and, in fact, can do quite a bit of damage to the narrative that it's trying to support.
The adventure is a tale of Auryon (pronounced as Orion for those who might be unsure), a young woman who is part of the Bandog tribe, that were charged with protecting a city during a war long ago - know as the Old War. Nearly two centuries later, the Bandog are struggling to survive. Resources are running low, the Clave (their opponents during the Old War) still fight them from across a river, and all contact with the heroes of the Old War was long ago severed. A brutal attack from a member of the Clave, known as Possl Tall, leaves the Bandog leaderless and vulnerable. In her dying order, the Bandog Capsman (the leader of the Bandog) tells Auryon to find Possl Tall and stop him. Now in their darkest hour, Auryon strikes out into forbidden territory to stop Possl Tall and his grab for power.
In this description, there are a few ideas that I might be able to turn into a title. The Tales of the Bandog comes to mind quickly. It's a bit silly with the made up word, but the there are allusions within the narrative as to where that word came from. It's also a bit too generic, but it is a start. The Old War has the same problem of being a little too generic, however, it will work with some of the themes going on. I have in my notes The Empty City (the city that the Bandog protect is largely abandoned). This does draw the reader in as an interesting idea, but is a little misleading because the city in the story - while important - is really only a portion of the events that lead Auryon and the Bandog to their current situation.
I work with several themes in the game that could lend additional ideas to a prospective title. While describing the story I mentioned the Old War and the Clave. The Bandog and the Clave represent two much larger opposing cultures from the Old War; both tribes being descendants of battalions or companies that fought in a single battle of a much larger war. Certain events occurred to cut both tribes off from their respective commands. Without news or orders, both continued with their mission to defeat the other. This results in two tribes with a very long-lasting blood feud that neither really fully understand. This idea of culture clash repeated over time, and the scars produced there of, is a central theme.
The theme of language is also currently playing a heavy role. The Bandog and the Clave speak in very different languages from each other, making communication between the two old enemies difficult. To compound this issue, neither come from a particularly educated people. Their ancestors were soldiers entering a war that had already been going on for at least a decade or more. The respective cultures wouldn't have risked the most intelligent on the front line of a war that had essentially become a meat grinder. The two tribes can barely understand each other, and both of their languages have changed in the face of isolation.
There are other themes within the story, but these are the two (three if you count culture clash and old wounds as being separate) themes that I'm mostly focusing on. The challenge with themes is that they are usually very abstract concepts that are difficult to capture in just a few words. With a little bit of thought, the word "echo" comes to mind, capturing both the idea of the remnants of a very old conflict, as well as the sound of spoken words repeated. Added into the previously mentioned titles I get Echoes of the Bandog or Echoes of the Old War.
I think I like the latter a little bit better than the former, if only because it does get the player to think a little more about the themes going on, and it does describe to a degree what the game is about - particularly taking into consideration Possl Tall's motivations.
The problem is, the word "echo" conveys a bit more modern of a setting than I would like. As a word, "echo" means to repeat or copy. Nominally, it is a sound that bounces off a reflecting object to be heard again. It captures the idea of a fading copies of an original. A synonym like "reverberate" is too long and clunky, and "ringing" doesn't quite resonate with the rest of the title.
"Memories," while not a synonym with "echo," invokes the idea of a fading, inaccurate memory, which could work well with the themes. It does have the the drawback of being, perhaps, a little too melodramatic. "Reflection" could work in the place of "memories," but it seems to suggest that Auryon's journey is similar to the events of the Old War, which it really isn't.
I feel that "echo" and "memories" are the strongest words to use in this situation as most of their respective synonyms don't really fit the rest of the title or might convey an incorrect meaning. Of the two, I think I like "echo" a bit better, despite it's drawbacks. Memories of the Old War seems to indicate a little bit more precision in remembering the Old War as well as a little bit more focus on that event. The Old War is really only a very distant backdrop to the events in the story. Echoes of the Old War seems to capture much more of the theme of a very old and dramatic conflict, that is still causing pain today.
No title is ever set in stone. Sometimes, despite a project having been released for years, the creator will still change the title. I'm still just in the first draft of the game at this point, and so much has already changed from the original idea. I'm still not really settled on the "Old War," so that could still change - as could the title. That being said, Echoes of the Old War is certainly better than simply calling it the project. Now that I finally have that out of the way, back to writing the first draft that just won't seem to die.