Continuing our series of looking at the shortcomings of some popular MMO titles, we're taking a look at some of the more poorly chosen names in the MMO genre. Judgment has been reserved for games that are at least mildly successful and/or published by some of the "big boys" in the industry. We've unfortunately left off gems such as the World of Kung-fu and Dark and Light : as fun as it would be to wonder why people would name their games this, it's better going with established titles.
Keep in mind that this discussion is purely for the names of the respective titles, not their success or how good the actual game is.
Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa
You have to love Richard Gariott, aka Lord British, aka General British, aka I have an ego complex and need to be the main character in every game I make. I don't want to go as far as saying he's the M. Night Shayalalalala guy of the MMO scene - but the game official game name "Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa" is a bit too arrogant douchebag-like for my tastes. It might work for Clive Barker - but you, sir, are no Clive Barker. You're not even Clive Owen. (Sin City MMO, how sweet would that be?) Anyway, with all due respect that is due from the Ultima series and Ultima Online - what the hell?
Like most gamers, we aren't fluent in ancient Latin, so we had to look up the actual meaning of this phrase "Tabula Rasa". While also learning that's it has been a Buffy and Lost episode title, and also a Neutral Zone in the Star Trek universe, we learned that it means "Clean Slate". The name Tabula Rasa is some sort of inside joke or double-meaning title having to do with, you guessed it, Richard Garriott. When he left the Ultima Online scene to pursue making unoriginal MMO's cleverly titled after himself, he wanted a "Clean Slate". Well, Tabula Rasa = Clean Slate in Latin. Obscure much?
Sick Boy: It's certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life.
Renton: What's that?
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: Richard Garriott, for example...
Renton: Some of his earlier games weren't bad.
Sick Boy: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it's all right, it's actually just shite.
What it could have been: The game, like its title, could have been so much more. Other than getting Clive Barker to produce your game (Clive Barker's Tabula Rasa - sweetness!) , stripping off the ego in the title is the first step. Tabula Rasa really isn't that catchy of a name. Using some sort of modernly popular Latin like Vae Victus or something would have been better if you were stuck on the Latin thing. I'd suggest some sort of game-related title if I wouldn't have fallen asleep playing before my 72 hour trial was up.
Dark Age of Camelot
Dark Age of Camelot was/is a great game. There are still plenty of players enjoying this game. I jumped ship like many others when Trials of Atlantis aka Trials of Endless Grinding came into play. That being said, though, when DAoC first came out, I was a bit confused on where/when/what the title was about, and this is because of the title.
Camelot, as most probably know, is the legendary castle or fortress held by King Arthur. Historians say that the word Camelot was actually invented by bards and storytellers and that the word "Camelot" is actually a metaphor for a place where justice and virtue were prized: Knights of the Round table and all of that jazz. Being an avid reader of Bernard Cornwell and his excellent Arthur series I was a bit hyped to play in the 300-500 AD Dark Ages period in what was now the United Kingdom.
Dark Age of Camelot, however, has absolutely nothing to do with Camelot. Perhaps the storytellers of the time left out the fact that little leprechaun Lurikeens were running about causing mischief with huge, ugly, placid giant friends, walking tree people, and Klingons and that the Viking secret weapon was the "The Thing" from X-men and Kobolds that were some sort of twisted Smurf variation created by Gargamel's more-evil twin brother with a goatee. It also seems the real power of Arthur and his Knights were Half-Ogres and some sort of shadowy undead people from the Underworld. The kicker is that the Albion faction was supposed to represent the valorous Knights, upholding justice and honor - and anyone that played the game can tell you that HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE AN ALB ZERG. Unless Arthur and his crew were a bunch of cowardly zerg-tastic kids, Mythic missed the mark on representing the Camelot name with any sort of credibility.
What it could have been: Dark Age alone would have been better (or even Dark Age Online - DAO, how cool is that?). In my opinion. DAoC itself isn't a bad name, it's more of a mis-representation of the name "Camelot". To put it on different terms, if World of Warcraft had been named "World of Old Middle Earth" people would have been screaming heresy. I guess Mythic was lucky the Camelot name and era isn't protected under copyright laws.
Lord of the Rings Online
Now before everyone gets upset about this one - let me say I'm a Tolkien fan - I adore the books, I loved the movies (though picking some actors to play the elves without 5 o'clock shadows would have been nice) -- and you know -- LOTRO isn't that bad of a game. I normally shy away from PVE only titles, but I must say LOTRO isn't bad. As an amateur musician myself, the music system alone is good for hours of fun. A hobbit playing Stairway to Heaven on his lute might not exactly fit lore-wise, but let's not get too picky.
The name, however, isn't great. For those that didn't follow the title, LOTRO was originally intended to be called "Middle Earth Online" which is, quite frankly, vastly superior in every aspect. When the monkeys at Turbine somehow argued that "Lord of the Rings Online" is somehow better, they were talking straight from their wallets and/or asses. This was a move that clearly said "We are milking the movie success!" with little regard for long-term vision or creative ingenuity.
What it could have been: Middle Earth Online was such a better name because it didn't force the game to be thrown into the specific time line of the Trilogy books. And honestly - we know that our little hobbits and elves in LOTRO can't be doing *real* epic stuff like Frodo and the crew are: they even throw it in your faces as you're playing the game. Here they are telling you of Frodo and his epic journey to Mordor and all the exciting stuff happening to him: the next minute it's back to grindfest as you go fetch 15 warg tails for some idiot NPC who is too lazy to go get them theirself. Middle Earth Online could have been an entirely different epic story, where players are *gasp* actually able to effect the game-world instead of playing minion to a bunch of a clueless NPC's who happen to like standing around with rings above their heads. Lastly, they've pigeon-holed themselves into following the LOTRO storyline, meaning when it ends (and it has to) - Sauron is gone, his minions scatter, and if they stick with the lore, your army of 500 level 50 Elf Hunters with some variation of "olas" at the end of their name are going to continue their epic battle playing clean-up around Middle Earth. And no, you can't go to the Grey Havens with Gandalf and Frodo. Their boat isn't big enough.
Vanguard, Saga of Heroes
In a perfect world, or more appropriately, in a world where all the cool words in English aren't already in use by either the military or trillion-dollar investment firms, Vanguard is a cool name. Its official definition is "a forward element of an advancing military formation". It's also the name of a bunch of naval Ships. Most importantly, it's the name of an investment company that has $1.3 Trillion USD in assets, also known as enough money and power to do anything in the world except stop a sub-par MMO being released with the same name as them. This inaptly chosen name is akin to having an MMO named "Microsoft: Legends of Warriors" or "Walmart: Epic Dynasty" -- that is, of course, assuming that Microsoft and Walmart both had an alternate, cool military meaning.
What it could have been: Saga of Heroes alone would have been better. It's also ironic that a game named after a successful financial company is in financial ruin.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Ending our list is the highly anticipated Age of Conan title. I'm looking forward to AoC - it might be second to Warhammer Online, but it's still coming out first and should offer at least a few months of some original gameplay before some jump-ship to the Mythic beast that will be WAR.
Age of Conan's biggest problem (other than catering to an already saturated fantasy MMO market) is its title. This problems lies in one sole fact: for me, and my generation, Conan = a half-dressed Arnold Schwarzenegger chopping heads off. When I first heard of AoC I thought to myself - damn, they're making a MMO based off that damn movie? Oh yeah, I think it was a book. (for those that don't know, the game is being based off the books/lore of this series)
This stereotype has been hard to overcome. Even now, as an avid follower of the game, I have problems with the name. "Age of Conan" just doesn't sound very epic. I like the lore and everything, and even Conan in the lore sounds like a pretty bad ass guy - sort of a mercenary, Chaotic-Neutral Warrior / Thief / King / Ladies-man / Gladiator type that kills who he wants for what he considers a good reason and could crush your head by just looking at you. I like the fact that they've taken a realistic approach to the game balanced with mythical beasts and some cool sounding races / classes.
The uphill battle that AoC is fighting against Warhammer Online started with this title. They are using a weird IP to promote an otherwise really cool game. I think that either a fresh/new IP would have been a better choice, or pick a more generic title that fits well within the Conan lore but sets it apart from other fantasy titles.
What it could have been: Age of (anything other than Conan). Age of War. Age of Kings. Age of Heroes. Age of Limbs Flying Off. You could still even use the Conan lore, if you want: just don't put it in the title. It's a tough job to find a good, catchy and marketable MMO name. The game and lore itself is not like the pansy 80's Arnold films, and is much more like a graphic comic such as Sin City / 300 and deserves an equally gritty and mean sounding name. Choosing one that doesn't evoke images of the Govenator would be a start.
This article was original posted at the r1ft gaming blog at http://www.r1ft.com and is copied here with permission from the author(s).