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I'm really bad with words, especially with English words. Currently I'm struggling to make a good weapon names for my game, it needs to display the weapon functionality (weak/strong/fast/ballistic etc) correctly as well. For example the best weapon in a (futuristic) game cannot be called just with the name "Laser", it's just too boring, right?

Are there any tools, websites or anything that helps me finding good names for weapons? (or anything else similar).

I was thinking to use scientific names, but noticed that they are really hard to write, and they get very long, and I also lack information about science, I only know I could use the atomic sub-particles names in the weapons for example.

How do I get started with becoming good with making up names? (this could apply in generally to any naming problems).

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What is wrong with "Laser"? Aperture Science (Portal, Valve) gave the name "Edgeless Safety Cube" to a ball!! It all depends on the style of the game... –  NemoStein May 30 '12 at 16:25
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"Edgeless safety cube" is pretty clever/funny though, they didn't call it a "Sphere" or "Ball", which I think is the point Rookie is making. So a "Laser" would be have to be something like "Pew Pew Producer". –  Byte56 May 30 '12 at 16:55
    
google.com/… –  Cypher Jun 28 '12 at 15:39

6 Answers 6

Hire a writer.

There really is no way around this. You need creative names for stuff? You need a creative person who can name stuff for you. You can try to learn how to be a writer yourself, but if you aren't clever with words then you won't be clever at naming things.

But in a general direction, remember: If you want to make an apple pie, first you must create the universe. For the names of things to feel right, they need to fit with the rest of your game. They need to be part of a cohesive world. The fastest way to make your game generic is to assume the world is our own world. Do some world building. Design how the universe your game takes place in works. This is easier than thinking up names in a vacuum.

Once you know that your game takes place in Sanctuary, a world torn apart by the endless battle of Godly Angels and horrific Demons, you can start to get a feel for what your weapons should be. If your world is "generic scifi #35406" your weapons will be generic "Laser Gun." That's just how it's gonna be.

This is why freelance writers exist.

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I could solve every problem by hiring, yeah, but do i have the moneys? ;) –  Rookie May 30 '12 at 19:39
    
@Rookie you could partner with someone and cut them in of the profits. Maybe find someone that does design+writing? –  DampeS8N May 30 '12 at 20:25
    
I dont think i need one. I just need to know all the scifi words, then just use some of my brain to combine by random and take the best names that feels good. Where to find such a list, though? edit: chaos found one: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Science_fiction_weapons –  Rookie May 31 '12 at 9:36
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@Rookie : you're missing DampeS8N's point here. If you only build a list of weapon names then your list will, inherently, feel slapped-together. Good names are more likely to come out of an organic process that (along the way) creates quite a bit more than just weapons. 'Combine at random and take the best names that feel good' will leave you with no coherency; they'll feel made-up. –  Steven Stadnicki Jun 28 '12 at 20:42
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@Rookie "You can try to learn how to be a writer yourself, but if you aren't clever with words then you won't be clever at naming things." I didn't say you couldn't be the writer. I was saying that what you need is a cohesive world to decide on names. World first, item names after that. Otherwise you'll name all your weapons "laser-rifle 8000" when later on you decide your game really should be more steampunk. Oops, gotta rename all the items again. And they will never feel like they are part of the world. Because they weren't and aren't. Simple as that. –  DampeS8N Jun 29 '12 at 13:28

Most tools are simply designed to combine existing words. Like this one:

http://www.wordlab.com/gen/acme-namemaker.php

That sort of thing may be helpful. But as someone who comes from a theater/playwriting background, there's a real art to coming up with a good name. A good character name includes some onomatopoeia, where the name sounds like the item or its effect. A lazer gun probably has a 'z' sound or something similar. A slimy bad guy's name often has 's' noises in them, something that just makes them sound.... icky. Think of the stereotypical hero with a name like Dash Headstrong... that's a pretty blatant example, but it's the idea I'm trying to get across.

I know that may not be much help. Professional playwrights and writers and even designers often spend months on final decisions like this.

Another possible option may be to look at a Wiki for the game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. It's the spiritual successor to Civ 2 and has seven distinct races that all have distinct sounds to their weaponry and culture. Maybe that would give you some inspiration?

Good luck!

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good idea about the letter sounds in the names and their meanings! didnt think about that aspect yet. –  Rookie May 30 '12 at 19:51
    
Checked the Alpha Centauri names: Psi Attack, Laser, Particle Impactor, Gatling Laser, Missile Launcher, Resonance Laser, Chaos Gun, Fusion Laser, Tachyon Bolt, Resonance Bolt, Plasma Shard, Quantum Laser, Graviton Gun, Singularity Laser, String Disruptor. is that all? pretty much what i thought, theres not much more names i could use than those prefixes/suffixes. Maybe i should get some military weapon names list somewhere and mix with laser/quantum etc scifi words in it :D –  Rookie May 30 '12 at 19:57
    
Maybe that wasn't the best suggestion.... how about the book Dave Perry on Game Design? That book is geared towards helping game programmers brainstorm, you may find something there... –  Philip May 30 '12 at 20:59

This isn't much different than the generation of any other content. It takes creativity. If English isn't your first language make up names in your native language and translate them or get someone to translate them. You can create lists and combine them to form new names. For example:

Fantastic    Pew Pew      Hand Gun
Scary Good   GigaLaser    Rifle 
Weak         Boom Maker   Chest Cannon
Average

Pick one from each column to make a new gun name and type. This can make your job easier, but you would also have to ensure that it's a logical name that's produced. Additionally, it's really only the center column that is special, the other columns are just modifiers. But it does give the perception of a larger pool of names.

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i think its harder for my native language since there doesnt exist any games that use weapon names in my language, they are basically loaned from english, and if not they sound really dumb. –  Rookie May 30 '12 at 19:42

There's lot of good general advice in this thread, but in specific advice, for some solid base material in helping name weapons in a futuristic game, you can do a lot worse than to go buy a copy of GURPS Ultra-Tech and read it cover to cover.

Because it's intended as a genre sourcebook, much of what it contains is workups of well-established science fiction tropes that you need not concern yourself overmuch with stealing, as opposed to concepts specific to the GURPS system or any particular setting. (An exception would be "electrolasers", which are a very-particular-to-GURPS way to avoid saying "phaser".)

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I wonder if anyone has made a list of scifi weapon names... when i think about the scifi TV series i have been watching, i can remember surprisingly little about the weapon names... zap gun comes to my mind for now, and phasers indeed. what else? photon torpedos... umm... death ray? doesnt fit my game very well though. –  Rookie May 30 '12 at 19:48
    
    
nice find! that'll be useful. maybe put it into your answer too? –  Rookie May 31 '12 at 9:37

For some game with fixed equipment, we used wikipedia to find good names: choose a category of animals or plants and select the good latin names you see. Like for big armors I think we used the elephant family (Proboscidea) and started browsing from there. We also used a lot of different mythologies for weapons and equipments.

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Probably not a good idea for a futuristic game, not to mention, i find latin names very hard to write and remember. names should be easy for everyone to handle, simple but clever. think about all that non-english community who suck at english, most people do, by my experience. i know by experience that people will shorten every name possible. in your game people will call it "Prob" probably. "send more probs!" (if its an unit name...), thats what i want to avoid too; the name should be good as is, without modifications. –  Rookie Jun 5 '12 at 16:00
    
We did not use the Prob, but following links got to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuvieronius which mentions a "hyodon", name of one armor. For long names get the first 2 or 3 syllables and it make it easier. –  Arkh Jun 5 '12 at 16:19

You clearly need a wave motion gun.

(Actually, if you browse through the long list of examples on that page, I'm sure you can find some good inspiration for ultimate weapon names).

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