Josh and I Discuss Names

In case you missed it, we wrote a huge post about the changes for the game's PNP and graphic layout. Check it out! Lots of pictures.

Post by: Joshua Buergel and Grant Rodiek

In this week’s Wozzle post we discuss the very name of the game. Shall it remain Wozzle, or change to something even better? If you have a name suggestion, TAKE OUR SURVEY to cast your vote and enter suggestions!

Grant: What should we call Wozzle? The game began its life as Wizard Poker, but I really didn't like having the work “poker” in the name. Too many STRONG preconceptions. It scares some people away, when they are the ones we are most trying to attract, and sends the wrong message to actual poker nerds.

Josh: I will say this about the name Wizard Poker: it attracted me enough to take a closer look at it, so to that extent, it did the job. But it was at very best a utilitarian name, the sort of thing that should be in black-and-white on the box with a bar code.

Grant: I tucked the bar code name aside and I tried to come up with something fictional and weird. I was inspired by names like Whist, Euchre, Pinochle, which are all weird names when you think about it. The first thing that came to mind was Wazzle. Alas, a quick Google search revealed that was a “Dora The Explorer” film. Don’t want that.

I changed a vowel and it become Wozzle. Which I like. But, there have been dissenting opinions.

Josh: Any Dora association is way beyond the pale for me. Speaking as a serious nerd for traditional card games, I’m 100% on board with looking to them for inspiration. That said, I don’t totally love the name. I think it’s OK, and certainly better than Wizard Poker, but it sort of comes across as a little too fuzzy-wuzzy. And some of the playtesters have been lukewarm. So has my play group as well. It’s not a world-beating name.

Grant: Lukewarm is always a high mark.

Josh: We've sat down for a brainstorming session. Well, virtually sat down, anyway. We looped in the artist that we've engaged with and tried to think of some ideas. Which naturally brings up the question: what’s a name for, anyway? What criteria should we be using to evaluate things?

My own history of naming my games isn't awesome, honestly. I have a series of games played with my own deck (a Foresight deck), and while I like the name of the deck and the flagship game, the rest of my game names kind of suck. I’m working on a dungeon crawler and I couldn't figure out anything to call it that wasn't awful, so I've taken to calling it Killing Monsters and Taking Their Stuff, which is at least cheeky. But I think it’s clear that I’m not the strongest game namer on the planet. Anything namer, honestly. Two of my kids share an initial, and the other one usually goes by a nickname with the same initial. Which is in turn shared with my wife.

What I’m saying is that I don’t trust my judgement on games.

Grant: I’m almost prouder of the name Farmageddon than I am the game itself. And if I’m being honest, I thought of the name before the game at all. I think what we want to establish in the name for Wozzle that the game is:

  • a card game
  • playful
  • light in throw weight

I generally also like names that are short, easy to spell (for search engines and such), easy to remember.

I’m willing to assign bonus points for something that conveys that it’s a classic game. Our game is, more or less, a hyperbolic take on Texas Hold ‘Em Poker where betting is replaced with wild hand management and card manipulation.

What about Pokus? Perhaps it’s too close to the slightly uncomfortable phrase “Poke Us.”

Josh: Uh, perhaps not. Junior Pokus is, well, unfortunate.

Grant: Indeed.

Josh: The best non-Wozzle game we have on the table right now is Hocus Poker. While you can certainly go wrong with a pun, it has its charms: it does evoke our inspiration, it’s silly (conveying the less-than-serious nature of the game), it brings in a corny classic magic phrase. The problem with it, mostly, is that we need to be careful with poker connotations, because of the expectations players bring to the table.

Grant: You know, Arcana and Tarot have become such a big part of the game. Should we be looking there for inspiration? We've had so much fun coming up with names for the 36 Arcana cards (Ornithopter!). Are we missing an opportunity here?

Josh: Possibly? The thing with those is that they’re mostly nouns, and concrete things. A lot of them are mysterious, deliberately so, but mystery in a title (especially from a lesser known publisher) is going the wrong direction. So, again, what is the purpose of a name? Is it to get a player to pull a game off the shelf or look it up on the internet? Pique curiosity? Spark discussion? Look good on a Kickstarter page?

Grant: I’d go with get it off the shelf. And, paired with a nice cover, they’ll get the feel that it’s set in a magical setting and has to do with cards.

Ideas: Hokus, Wiz Poker, Wizum...

Josh: Ultimately, the biggest first decision on the name is: play off of “Poker” or not? It’s kind of a big fork in the road. Do we want the title to be associated directly with Poker or not? I sort of lean towards yes, but could be talked out of it as well. I think it might be a stronger pitch to someone who knows nothing about the game. “Poker with spells” is a really good elevator pitch, and having it encoded in the name is probably helpful.

Grant: Okay. Let’s just go for it. Poker with Spells.

To go on a slight tangent, I think originally, when the game was much more like Poker, I was worried having Poker in the name would hurt people’s ability to see through the changes. I also worried, from a marketing standpoint, it’d scare people away. This is how we arrived at Wozzle.

But, more and more, the game’s foundation is Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. We’ve built an entirely different home on top of this foundation, but the notion of collecting sets of different rankings and racing against luck, deduction, and probability are all there. I look to Steve Jackson’s Knightmare Chess as an example. They didn’t call it Knightmare Wozzle or something abstract. No, they said “this is Chess plus.” So, I think “This is Poker plus” is the right path for us.

Going from there: Charm Poker, Hex Poker, Spell Poker, Magician’s Gamble, Sorcerer’s Pitch, Wizardly Hold ‘Em…

Josh: I do feel like I have to bring up my friend Jarrett’s appalling suggestion of “Texas Hold Person” here.

Grant: To quote every Japanese RPG: "…"

More Ideas: Wizard Shuffle, Magic Shuffle, Wizard’s River, Wizard’s Flop, Wizard’s Turn...

Josh: What about looking at terminology in the game. Poker has a rich set of jargon, not to mention a lot of colorful variants. Anything in there to mine? Flops, turns, rivers. All-in. "The nuts". Variants like Omaha, High-Low, Stud and Draw.

Nothing is jumping out at me of course.

Grant: Wizard’s Nuts?

More seriously, what about Cursed Omaha, Path to Omaha, Magic River, Cursed Turn?

Can we leverage fiction here? One of my favorite books is The Once and Future King by TH White. It’s based on Arthurian Legend. Perhaps we can reference Archimedes, Merlin, or the Questing Beast?

Josh: Let’s face it, nut puns are funny but not going to happen. “Omaha” is also not the most mystical of names on the planet. I’m hard pressed to think of much gambling done by wizards in fiction, which is not very helpful. I've mentioned Dragon Poker in Robert Asprin’s “Myth Adventures” series, but that’s not especially helpful because Dragon Poker is about as prosaic as Wizard Poker.

Grant: What about Elemental Poker?

Josh: It’s OK? I’m not sure what I’d expect pulling a game like that off the shelf, or if it would get me to do so. Here, of course, I have to roleplay someone discriminating, as I personally am essentially interested in all games. But to me, Elemental Poker would involve some kind of game where you’re gambling with the elements themselves, trying to construct hands of this many parts fire, this many parts water, etc. It doesn't really fit with the hogde-podge of stuff in the game today, which I think has its charms.

It strikes me that I’m coming across as really negative here, but I’m certainly not trying to do so. I feel like the perfect name is probably out there for this game.

Grant: Yeah, the gambling of the elements is a good point. And you’re calling it like you see it, which is useful.

Both of us are fine with Hocus Poker, and it accomplishes a lot of things. It’s short, it’s easy to remember and spell. It conveys the gist of the game: Poker with some sort of spell-themed tomfoolery.

Is it really that simple? Is that our perfect name?

Josh: Maybe it’s time to throw a poll on it or something?

Grant: To the poll!

Click Here to take our name survey using Survey Monkey. Thanks! 

Comments

It's Hocus Poker. Stop the pussyfootin'.

Maybe it's not important, but I'm curious about why you chose to spell it "Hocus" instead of "Hokus." It has the advantage of mirroring the word poker better with the K.

I totally second Hokus Poker! Until I actually typed it out. Not pretty. :-( Nevermind.

I think it's traditionally spelled Hocus. It's what we liked. That's about as much reasoning as we put to it.