The best MMO names in my opinion are single words that sound cool or conjure up a strong association. I'm less fond of ALL CAPS ACRONYMS and any game that can't be more inventive with its title than to put "Online" after it. For the most part, MMOs play it safe and boring with titles, with only a few outliers in the awesome or terrible fringes. Today, we're going to examine the latter.
I want to make a couple of quick qualifiers here. I'm not judging these games by their names; an MMO can be good or bad independent of how silly its name is. And while I know that some of these names make more sense in context, I generally feel that if I have to have it explained to me, then it's a fail.
I like puns as much as any middle-aged dad -- probably more so as I'm a journalist. I have to fight hard not to twist every news title on Massively into heavy-handed wordplay. But when you're creating an MMO, with all of the inherent risks, financial pressure, and tough competition, throwing a pun into your title is an epic facepalm moment.
The thing with puns is that they've got a funny lifespan of about a half a second. Perhaps that translates to a slight chuckle or an upward tug on the corners of the mouth, but that's it. Then you're left with a name that quickly overstays its welcome and points out how lame it is every time it's mentioned. Yes, "feudal" sounds like "futile." I don't really get why that's worth the effort to bungle this title so badly. Plus, it's a sentence. Should game titles be full sentences? No.
2. Ever, Jane
This title's been called out many times before as one of the dumber ones that we've seen, and every time someone bashes it, he's hit with a wave of unnecessary support in defense of it. Yes, we get it: It alludes to the ending of letters in Jane Austin novels. It's also terrible.
For one thing, you don't put commas in the middle of game titles and then expect people to take them seriously. Second, it doesn't convey very well what the game is about. Third, it's always given me the impression that some words got left out of this title, leaving us with a cryptic sentence fragment.
EverJane would be better, and I am totally serious.
3. Prius Online
It's a car. Prius is a car. Prius Online is not about that car, but just try to stop the brain from making an instant association to the well-known vehicle instead of this far lesser-known game world. That game lost the second it tried to go toe-to-toe with a hybrid sedan.
At least the game's owners realized how bad that title was and decided to rebrand it as Arcane Saga Online, which while dull and devoid of meaning at least isn't a car.
What, this famous MMO? How dare I! For shame, Justin! For shame!
I wouldn't have even thought of this, but Massively reader Chris made a very convincing argument about the idiocy of this title back in 2013: "Frankly, I don't believe any of these are as flat-out, unforgivably bad as EverQuest. Imagine if Call of Duty were titled ShootMans or if Diablo had been titled ClickLots. That's how bad it is."
It's hard to argue with that. EverQuest's been around for so long that we stopped seeing the title for what it truly is.
5. Das Tal
Am I the only one slightly befuddled over this name? OK, so it's a German company that wanted a German title. That's perfectly understandable. But then everything else on its website and in its press releases are in English, so obviously the company is promoting it to an English-speaking crowd. So why stick with this name?
Das Tal means "The Valley." Tell me, what the heck does naming your game after a random geographic feature tell you about that game? It is doing itself no favors in either language. Might as well be The Glade. Or The Fjord. Or The Hillock. Movies can barely get away with such minimalistic bland names. Games certainly can't, not if they want to establish an identity.
6. Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen
Pantheon, by itself, is a serviceable if bland title. But it's this expansion-style subtitle that gets me. My rule of thumb when it comes to these "of the" titles is if you can swap the words around and have it make as much sense, it's an automatic thumbs-down. Rise of the Fallen. Fall of the Risen. What difference does it make?
Maybe we should all agree to a law that says an MMO can't use a colon and subtitle until it actually produces an expansion? Star Wars: The Old Republic, I am so very tired of typing your entire name. You should have been Jedi and Friends Online. And Pantheon should have been Panthers: Pounce of the Stalkers.
What the flappity flippers went so wrong in the universe that this game got saddled with the most awkward Z in linguistic history? Every time I read that title, my eyes get stuck -- and then crossed -- on that last letter. It's bad enough that there's a randomized capital letter tucked into the title (a serious pet peeve of many of MMO writers who are forced to memorize spelling abominations), but at the end? Why? No, really, why?
And the whole use of "z" instead of "s" is befuddling as well. All I can think of is that some country in Asia is only now getting late 1990s commercials and a studio dev there wants to catch the eXtreme vibe with such unconventional spelling. Yeah man, that's right up there with misspelling club as "klub" to draw in the kiddies.
8. Elite: Dangerous
I've heard this title defended by fans of the franchise, to which I'll point to my notes at the beginning of this column. It's not adding a lot by drawing from the context, but it most certainly is damaging the initial appeal of this game for players who are ignorant of what this means in the Elite games.
It... just doesn't work. Either scrap the colon or add some more words toward the end, but as it is, it's as awkward as me asking Lisa Schwin out in 7th grade via "do you like me? Check [ ] yes [ ] no [ ] maybe." Elite: Armed and Dangerous. Elite: Dangerous and I Know It. Elite: Dangerouser. OK, I'm probably not the guy marketers should go to in order to fix bad titles. I just identify the problem.
Reversed, this title would make sense, especially if launched somewhere around Arbor Day or Earth Day. But as it is, a colorful-looking MMO is saddled with a name that honestly comes off as a translation error. I feel bad for it. It's like saddling some little kid some unwieldy name that she's going to have to struggle with until she's 18 and can legally change it. Hang in there, little North West, and just pray that callous insanity skips a generation.
10. Dragon's Prophet
Most of the titles on this list are dumb, but this one just makes me angry. Like, inexplicably angry toward the game to the point that I want to punch it right in its apostrophe. It's bad enough there are dozens of MMOs with "dragon" tucked into the title (hey, I should do a top 10 list on why dragons are bad for MMOs... nah, that would only get me hate mail), but what does this title even mean? There's a prophet who speaks for the dragons? A dragon owns a prophet? I HATE YOU TITLE SO SO SO MUCH.
Dofus? Always looks like "dufus" to me. Flyff is the most bizarre semi-acronym ever, with the added aspect of coming off as "fluff." H1Z1 takes way, way too long to say in conversation, especially considering it's just four letters/numbers long. Greed Monger sounds like a garage band that 8th grade boys would use. Star Citizen is the lamest title ever involving the prefix "Star" (Star Raiders for the Atari 2600 sounded so much better). And TUG? A name that points out how you have no name hurts my head. Pick something else.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.