When Morning turns to Midnight: an adventure in name-changing
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Naming a game is often tricky. And itâ€™s always emotionally charged. Itâ€™s like naming a child. However, unlike naming a child where you can avoid telling anyone the name until after the baby is born (soÂ everyone has to say they like it), a game requires youÂ to tell everyone the name in advance to gainÂ interest and recognition of that name so you can try and create demand. Also, if the name sucks, people can tell you right away.
At Industrial Toys, weâ€™ve been working for over a year on a title that has been fortunate to receive a lot of attention, excitementÂ and scrutiny. Itâ€™s also been a bitÂ unfortunate-- we learned that its name is already spoken for.
We became aware of a trademark application for the name â€śMorning Star," and it was in prior to ours. That means weÂ had three options--Â find a way to â€ścoexistâ€ť (agree to avoid confusion about the name and stay out of each otherâ€™s way), create an agreement that would transfer the trademark to us orâ€¦ change the name of the game weâ€™d already announced. After the first option was ruled out, we started exploring the ramifications of two and three.Â Did we want to spend money to acquire the trademarkâ€”money thatâ€™s super precious given weâ€™re a start-up making our first titleâ€”or upset the momentum we had behind a name with awareness and a following (not to mention a history, strong social channels and a heckuva Google footprint despite the existence of a major financial website and delicious garden burgers of the same name)?
In the end, we chose Door Number Three, but it wasnâ€™t just about theÂ caysh. It was about the creative challenge. When we sat down and contemplated what to do, the solutions we started to talk about werenâ€™t just â€śacceptable,â€ť they started getting usÂ excited. There were threeÂ solutions that led to more:
1)Â The Logo
Our UI and graphic designer, Sarah, is a stickler for brand, look-and-feel and styleâ€”all the things you want from someoneÂ when creating the identity for aÂ project. She spent a ton of time developing the gameâ€™s logo, and yet we realizedÂ that we almost never use the words â€śMorning Starâ€ť with it. 99% of the time, we display the mark by itself, because of its vertical design and because-- well-- we like it. We were moreÂ attached to the logo thanÂ we were to the game's originalÂ name, so we started throwing out alternatives that could preserve the mark. â€śM Star?â€ť Nah, thatâ€™s a Korean dance game. â€śMourning Star?â€ť Too close, wonâ€™t avoid the confusion. â€śMorticant Star?â€ť Câ€™monâ€¦
2) The Fiction
Our fiction is based on an Earth 120 years from now, where several governments of the world have agreed upon a secret set of protocols that dictate how weâ€™ll collectively respond toÂ an intelligent signal from outer space. This â€śMorning Star Protocol,â€ť from which we got the original name has all sorts of ins and outs, not all of which we had defined. What we had created wereÂ some ideas around what to call the signal if it was in our solar system, outside our solar system, friendly, hostile, etc. It was from this pool of ideas that the name change was born.
Under the Morning Star protocol, an alien signal is referred to as a â€śMorning Starâ€ť signal if first contact turns out to be friendly. If itâ€™s hostile, itâ€™s a "Midnight Star" signal. Guess which one it turns out to be in our game? It's not quite that simple, but...
3) The Trailer
Weâ€™re getting closer and closer to the release of theÂ game, so weâ€™ve startedÂ work on theÂ launch trailer withÂ our friends over at Zoic Studios (who also made our kickassÂ announcement trailer). Weâ€™ve been going back and forth about it, and we centered on a line that our main character, Charlie Campbell,Â delivers during a key moment in the game:
â€śThis is 2nd Lieutenant Charles Campbell of the MSRV-17 Joplin. Â Service number X101373. Â Morning Star is a myth. Â Midnight Star rises over Saturn. Â Morning has turned to midnight. I repeat-- morningÂ has turned to midnight!â€ť
Not only does this line tease a key plot point in the game, it also (basically) sums up the name change. And it stuck out to us as we thought about the trailer, because of the naming situation. It served as the finalÂ â€śding!â€ť and sparked discussion about the trailer'sÂ key points, aside from the "pew pew pew itâ€™s a shooter yay!â€ťÂ As the trailer comes together, Charlie'sÂ line has ended up becomingÂ itsÂ cornerstone and after anÂ audio static and effects overlayÂ were placed on it, it's gravity comes through on multiple levels. Without going too deeply into spoiler territory, the EarthÂ gets a message from a guy who isn't born yet, warning them about "Midnight."
And thus, "Morning turns to Midnight." The name of the game isÂ Midnight Star.Â We revealed the name change to IGN in a recent preview, and changed all of our URLs, backend services, social media outlets, video titles, and anything else we could think of to reflect the new identity. This includes theÂ John Scalzi-written graphic novel application that we're going to launch alongside theÂ game (now named Midnight Rises).Â
The number of titles players see every year continues to grow, and with that comes stories like ours. It's not easy to come up with a name that you love. And it's harder to come up with two. But when faced with an obstacle that's beyond your control, it just might open you up to interesting creative choices you wouldn't have considered otherwise.Â