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Discovering Our Game’s Identity By Losing Its Name
by John Krajewski on 08/27/14 05:31:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

1
Half-way through development of our social drawing game Picture This (a social implementation of the party game telephone Pictionary), an iOS game came out with that name.  The disappointment of this event cannot be understated, we’d all grown pretty attached to that name, but one must adapt and soldier on, and sometimes things turn out better.

Over the next several months we started trying out new names that we’d brainstormed.  We’d rename our Skype chat room (where we have most of our development conversation) to various names over time, trying on different names to see how they felt.  Sketchpath (taken), Draw Together (was a cartoon), Super Draw It Ultra (a bit much), Drawzilla (not bad), Sketchtangle (too geometric), Picture That (meh).  We went through loads of them.

This was actually pretty helpful, and names that I didn’t like at first started to grow on me a little over time.  The team all had very different ideas about what the name should be, and we would pass the time away by arguing over their individual merits.  This too, while frustrating, was useful: we started to get to the core of what the game is, started to learn our game a little better.  We realized a couple of key things: the name needs to let the player know the game has drawing in it, but you can suck at drawing and still have fun.  It also needs to communicate that it’s about being clever with your friends.  It needs to feel like a destination, something easily accessible.  We started to use the things we learned about our game through this process to narrow down the choices.

It came down to a couple of finalists, Sketchcraft and Scribbly Wits.  Sketchcraft was my choice, though the team felt it was too much like Minecraft, whereas my response was that Minecraft was like Warcraft and Starcraft and was that such a problem? We started quizzing friends on what they liked the best, informal surveys to just see what people liked.  That led us to even more discoveries: certain names can sound forbidding, or have unexpected meanings. Sketchcraft felt like a hardcore game to people, like war craft, and the word ‘sketch’ implied a certain level of skill.  Scribble, on the hand, couldn’t be more casual, and Scribbly gave it even more personality. The name had a good combo to it, was unique (we got the domain!) and felt like something easy and casual to pick up, where being clever was a goal.

Scribbly Wits it became, finally. Rejoice! But our journey was not complete, we needed to develop a logo to support the name and everything it implies, bring it out in a single image.  To this effort we credit the exceptional talent of Robert Mangano, our UX and visual artist and Milenko Tunjic our art director.  Rob started off with a swath of logos, mixing elements and distinct things from the game:  a path, a pencil, ‘casualness’ like taped on paper, other drawing tools:
 

23b

From those the one that stuck with us the most was the path, it was such a great metaphor for the game, and if we could mix that in with a couple other elements we would really get somewhere.  We tried a few more focused explorations on that theme:


456b

Getting somewhere, and we liked the pencil as an ‘i’ with a star for the dot, that combined two crucial elements of the game in a single iconic frame.  Still, these logos werent feeling ‘iconic’, they were a lot of elements mixed together.  Rob took a stab at experimenting with the silhouette and bringing more symmetery into it.

7b

 

Perfect! A subtle ‘crown’ shape to the whole thing, which kind of just magically happened from the elements we were mixing together (the path, the star, the larger top and smaller bottom.  Lots of great logos have a hidden element to them (the arrow in FedEx), and this one worked well for ours, it had a good association to the game too where you get lots of stars from your friends to become a top player.

A little spit and polish and we’re almost there.  We experimented with giving it some bulge, making it feel ‘full’ and active, representative of a place with a lot contained it (all the user generated content), bursting with activity.  For this we needed to give some depth to the letters:

8b

Ship it!  From there we were sold.  We rigged it up in Flash, gave even more polish on the shading and positioning, and our new identity has been crafted.

9

Losing the name ‘Picture This’ was a painful process, but one that’s had an enormously positive effect.  I like the final result much better than where we started, and to think we never would have considered the change has that other game not came out.  It drove us to dive deeper into what this game was, examine what made it important, what were the key elements, and where it should end up.  This is all stuff that change during development, as the statue we are carving out of marble starts to take shape.  Creativity I believe is simply guided discovery, and by losing the name we were driven to discover deeper meanings about what we were created, and learn how to bring them out both in the name and the imagery.

John Krajewski (john@strangeloopgames.com) is studio head at Strange Loop Games.  Scribbly Wits is about to launch on web and mobile, you can join play the open beta here.


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Comments


stephan maich
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i've been working on a nearly 4-year long project with NO NAME other than it's project folder name. i know your pain - but from the other end. nothing we try seems to be able to sum up the project - other than names that are nearly a sentence long. don't wanna go there. or with a monosyllabic, "hip" or mysspelled word either. ugh...

thanks for the story!


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