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I am developing a global real-time strategy game that uses Google Maps to represent the earth. I am cutting up the globe into 32 squares with each square exactly 45 degrees latitude and longitude. The squares are also aligned to the grid starting from 0,0.

I would like to give each square a nice name that meets the following criteria (in order of priority):

  • Every square name must be unique
  • Best representation of the land and water contained in the square. Any name is acceptable (country, continent, significant geology, significant body of water) but it must be the most prominent thing in that square
  • A combination of names is acceptable if there are 2 or more prominent / recognisable elements in the square
  • As short as possible so it can be easy to remember / type
  • Exacting precision is not important - this is a game, so the names should be major things in those squares that most lay people on earth would immediately recognise or at least be familiar with
  • If possible, the least offensive / non-contested / most globally accepted name of the main region in the square

I have come up with the following, but I would like to know if there is a system already out there that better meets my needs (note that I've accidentally swapped my lat/lngs - sorry!). Alternatively, if anyone has much more knowledge of geology/geography than I do, please suggest a better naming convention and names as some of the names are too long and many contain more country names than I'm happy with (I'd prefer neutral region names):

Suggested table of names

Here is a map of the world with the 45 degree grid squares shown to help you to visualise the problem:

The world in 45 degree grid squares

Edit: Influenced by Phillip's answer, I have revised the approach using continents and oceans to be as neutral as possible:

Continental approach

The only grid squares I'm not 100% sure about are "Middle East" (is this still PC, or is there a better term - Arabia perhaps?), and the Antarctic territories (but since no-one lives there permanently and most countries seem to dispute Antarctic ownership anyway, I think I'm less concerned about this one). Please let me know if this approach is now as appropriate and neutral as possible.

Edit: Further updated based on Theraot's comments:

Refined continental approach

Notes:

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried to recreate the map as per description, and define your regions in the order presented, starting with "Central Canada", which (if my recreation is correct) would be Western Canada, extending a little more to the south and the east, getting part of the Great Lakes, and Northern Canada except it cut at western of Hudson Bay. So, it has half Canadian Shield, it includes the north of the Interior Plains. And we want a clear, non-offensive, easy single name for that. \$\endgroup\$ – Theraot Jun 2 '20 at 8:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ In case it is not clear, or I got it wrong, here you can see what I think you call "Central Canada": i.stack.imgur.com/PqSpr.png (that is based on Adams hemisphere projection). \$\endgroup\$ – Theraot Jun 2 '20 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theraot Thanks for your comment. Let me try to create the map with the grid squares to make it easier to visualise and answer the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jun 2 '20 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember that not every question you come across when making a game is one that game developers will be experts in answering. It's entirely possible that no game designer on Earth has had to label a map like the one you're making right now, so we're not necessarily the experts you need to talk to. You might want to ask cartography experts instead, or writers. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Jun 2 '20 at 11:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory I actually posted this question originally on the GIS site, but the guys over there are extremely unhelpful. Apparently, "mapping" has nothing to do with their narrow definition of GIS, and they would not suggest an alternative site on the SE network that was better suited to answer this question. So unfortunately, yes, the "experts" in gamedev are all I have ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jun 3 '20 at 2:54
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The problem with separating the world into a geometrical grid is that neither geographical nor political borders care about geometrical grids.

Considering that your grid borders do not respect geographical or political borders at all, whatever names you choose, they will either be too long to handle or contain inaccuracies which might potentially cause controversy. And it is pretty easy to accidentally make controversial political statements while carelessly putting names on geographical features. For example, whether you name the water between Saudi Arabia and Iran "Arabian Gulf" or "Persian Gulf" can put you on an embargo list.

So the best solution might be to just refer to them by their grid coordinates. The letter-number system used on many maps might be better for that than using latitude and longitude ("Central Canada" would be A1, "Eastern USA..." would be B2). Not that immersive, but a pretty sure-fire way to dodge any controversy (can't argue with geometry). Your community will likely make up their own unofficial nicknames for some squares, but that's none of your business (as long as it doesn't escalate into harassment).

Alternatively, you could fudge the cell borders in a way which makes them follow real-world continent borders. That way you can name them more accurately and in many cases also avoid to use the names of countries in favor of the names of continents (which usually has less potential for controversies).

We can of course not know how that would affect your desired game experience, because we know nothing about it. But my intuition would tell me that being more flexible with regards to cell boundaries would widen your design space when it comes to redefining borders in order to solve game design issues which you discover while playtesting.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Philipp. The alphanumeric approach is very bland indeed - I used it in one of my previous games and no-one would refer to the grid squares as named. However, I completely forget about the continents despite having published a game that was based on the world's continents (how embarrassing for me). I've updated my question based on your influence. \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jun 3 '20 at 2:51
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This is the best I can come up with:

Refined continental approach

I have (retrospectively) applied the following rules / refined my original rules:

  1. Prioritise:
    • degrees over anything else
    • continents and largely ignore political boundaries
    • continents (landmass) over oceans (bodies of water)
    • oceans over other bodies of water (primarily seas)
  2. Name given must:
    • be unique
    • reflect the largest entity (continent, body of water) in that square
    • reflect only one entity, but breaking it up into northern/southern/eastern/western is ok
    • be as politically correct as possible

Specific callouts:

  1. According to my research, "Middle East", despite maybe not being 100% PC is still more politically correct and recgnisable than any alternative proposed. In particular, "Arabia" is a terrible alternative since many people in the Middle East are not Arabs
  2. Eurasia as defined in many places is far too large and broad. In my map, it would also encompass Europe, the Middle East and Asia, which would not be accurate/acceptable for most people in those regions (and makes for a less satisfying game experience). I think Eurasia as "Russia" should be acceptable
  3. I thought about naming "Western Africa" "North Atlantic Ocean" and renaming that square "The Caribbean" as suggested by Theraot, but it didn't sit well with my prioritising continents and oceans over other bodies of water, particularly over the -45th parallel
  4. A lot of the rules get thrown out when it comes to Antarctica as N/S/E/W doesn't reasonably apply. I also didn't want the word "Antarctica" coming up too often as it would seem to make the continent more prominent globally, whereas in reality there are very few resources and almost no people, so acquiring it is not that desirable. I'm happy with Southern Indian Ocean, Indian Ocean, Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea. I'd prefer better names for Queen Maud Land, Wilkes Land, Adelie Land and Marie Byrd Land since:

    • they don't follow my continent/ocean rules above
    • they are political names and some are disputed territories
    • most people wouldn't recognise those names

    However, given that Antarctica isn't that desirable in a global war game and that very few people would take offence from the names I've given, I think it's an acceptable compromise. Further, that's actually what those regions of Antarctica are called on the map of Antarctica (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctica#/media/File:Antarctica.svg), so maybe I can teach people a thing or two :)

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