How do you name your characters?

Jennavieve

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I was just spending some time coming up with last names for my main characters and it made me a little curious how everybody else here goes about it. Do you typically just give them first names or do you usually give your characters last names too? How do you pick the names you give them? Do they mean something to you personally? Do you go by traditional name meanings? Are character names something that is important to you or not so much? I'm curious to know what your methods and thought processes are.

I'm working on my first game still and I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to give them last names. One of my recently developed characters really felt like he should have a certain last name and that's what lead me to giving everybody last names.

As for my naming process, I come up with the character's appearance and general personality first and then I just reflect on that for awhile until a name pops in my head that fits them. I don't think too much about the meaning behind their first names but I will look it up to make sure it's not something too far off in meaning. For last names though, I do try to come up with something that has a meaning that ties into their general character. For instance, the last name Stone for my stoic, man-of-few-words Guardian.
 

TheGameBrewery

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When I need a name but can't think of one that fits a character I go to the MLB and WNBA list of players names and just jotting down all the ones I find interesting.
 

Jennavieve

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When I need a name but can't think of one that fits a character I go to the MLB and WNBA list of players names and just jotting down all the ones I find interesting.

Lol! That's a very interesting method. Maybe next time I'm stuck for something I'll try looking at Red Sox player names.
 

TheGameBrewery

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On their 40-man roster you have Darwinzon, Deivy, Xander, Yairo, and and Jeisson. :D
 

Milennin

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I don't really have any set method. Most of the times, it's in very random ways.
For the main character of my MV game that I also allow name input for, I found that filling Aeon as a filler name during playtests went super fast and so made it their default name.
Sometimes, I just base them on words related to the character gimmick and slightly change it. Like a healer character that can only heal 1 HP at a time, named Limida (based on 'limiter'). Or a time manipulator named Chronon. These names tend to be kind of cheesy, but they got their charm.
Sometimes, I mash random words together, change it a little, and use that as a name. Extra + Ammo to make Ekstramma.
Alternatively, you can just come up with something random that sounds cool on the spot, and use that. Not everything needs to have a special meaning, sometimes stuff just sounds cool on its own, and that's good enough.

Always write down names if you don't immediately got a use for them, so you can use them for future projects. I keep a .txt file with a list of names I made up over the years I can fall back on, if I need to name an important NPC, or make a new game with new characters.
I never really bother with last names. Maybe it's because I'm pretty bad with names, and I'm happy enough if I just remember their first name alone. It also just doesn't seem like a very important thing in a game, to me.
 

Jennavieve

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On their 40-man roster you have Darwinzon, Deivy, Xander, Yairo, and and Jeisson. :D

You mentioned my main man right there, Xander Bogaerts! I was toying around with the idea of having a sort of recurring character for my games, like Wedge and Biggs in Final Fantasy. Now, I think that character will be named Xander so thanks for sparking that idea :)


Sometimes, I just base them on words related to the character gimmick and slightly change it. Like a healer character that can only heal 1 HP at a time, named Limida (based on 'limiter'). Or a time manipulator named Chronon.

I love this strategy! Gives your characters meaningful but unique names that still sound like something that makes sense. You're right that it can be cheesy if you mishandle it but it can also work really well. I really like the sound of those two examples you gave!
 

Andar

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It depends on what I want to do with the character.

sometimes I invent a name, other times I decide which culture the character is from and roll through a fitting name generator (sometimes five or six times) until I see one that catches my fancy for the character.
 

RCXDan

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For minor characters I usually brush through baby name websites, and narrow down that research if they're supposed to belong to a specific culture.

But for major characters I rely on what's the most thematically appropriate for them.

Like my main protagonist is called Nero for the male choice and Aurora for the female choice. Nero wears black and Aurora wears white... plus the game revolves around a morality mechanic so it's a literal take on black-and-white morality.

Their last name, Harmon, is quite literal in how they have to balance different aspects of themselves to succeed in the game... and so on and so on.
 

Redeye

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I just look around name generators and naming websites. 20,000 Names is the first site I tend to go to, it's a compendium of names from around the world and their meanings. Behind the Name is another good option, but not nearly as extensive. Fantasy Name Generators is for when I need a quick name or when I don't really care about the meaning.

I try to give every character I make a surname, especially if multiple characters are related. Other times I just don't find surnames to be very important, like when none of the characters are related.

When it comes to party members, I always have the ground rule of don't have multiple characters whose names begin with the same letter. It's strange and restrictive, but it makes each name a little more unique. NPCs and antagonists don't follow this rule unless it becomes noticeable.

It also kind of bothers me whenever you have an array of party members with vastly different name lengths. Ex:

Rob
Henry
Alexandrius <-- well, that sticks out like a sore thumb.......
Lora

So I always try to keep their names relatively similar in length.

I don't think about meanings too much. When it comes to choosing a name, the only things I need to keep track of is making sure that the name is appropriate for the character. You don't want to name your gritty, badass, vengeance-driven hero something stupid like "Clive" (*glares at Final Fantasy XVI*). You also shouldn't name your Japanese-inspired ninja girl "Olga"; try to keep the name culturally consistent. If your character hails from the frigid north, go for German/Norse/Slavic names, etc. As said above, name meanings aren't too important, but you should probably try to avoid naming your seductive femme fatale "Chastity", unless you're trying to be ironic. ;)

When all other options are out, you could always just go the Phoenix Wright route and make puns out of everyone's names.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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Considering my game world is Byzantine inspired, I just pull names from there and adjacent countries. Greek, Egyptian, Persian, Swahili, Slavic, Italian, and sometimes more Western European languages like Gaelic work. I don't think too hard on why the names are given, as long as it feels good for the character. There's a lot of fantastical-sounding names in the real world already.

My main fantastical naming weirdness comes into play with my two most prominent beast-folk. Gnolls and Leonine may have standardized last names like humans, but often add to them culturally.

Leonine often add "of (X) Pride" to their names, signifying ties to a pride that includes friends as well as family. Some even include non-Leonine as their pride members! Unless well-off and picky about membership (nobles, traders, etc), Leonine don't have hard-and-fast rules or census citation of who's in which prides. As a social and passionate race, the lion-folk's only unspoken rule about prides is to beware a leo or leah that doesn't have one.

Gnolls use an "honored name" more often than a normal surname, given from loved ones at coming-of-age ceremonies. A hyena bar mitzvah, if you would, and this honored name reflects their aptitudes and ambitions. A "dishonored" name can be bestowed as a placeholder for truant, delinquent or feeble youths till they earn an honored one, and is oft a harsh stigma.

For example, my leonine main character's full name is Raziya Aviv of Ash Pride. And the gnoll lancer of the group is Nazreen Vipertongue Mohsen.

EDIT: Added more context to prides, to befit the depth to honored names.
 
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Elhijei

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For key names I usually dig into mythology or etymology of words, that I then pimp up a little to make it sound fitting. This can take a while researching synonyms until I find something that I like, only to realise the root of the words sounds ugly or vice versa...
For instance my main city is called Bucero, because latin bucca means mouth, and the city is located on the mouth of a river :LZSyum: I use a lot of german, old english, old german and a bit of irish. And of course, latin, I can't help it, but latin is too obvious for french so I usually decorate it more.

Same process for character's last name, but I usually try to use real names that aren't used much anymore or with a vowel off for their first name. Liesel, Ysaline, Cläre, Amadeus... For NPCs I tend to just mix the first syllables that come in my head together until it sorts of fits. I lost the paper I wrote everything on but I can improvise some: Artin, Elwan, Riste, Maneli, Iliva, Keirt, Hazil... Took one minute haha. Sometimes a name stand out and I really like, so I keep it for a more important place ^^
 

Dopan

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I mostly use single names, and in some cases i decide the names related to old other games/films/books as a kind of easter_egg

For example for the Jester i use the name "Chuck" which has 2 easteregg meanings
1. ultima 7 , the Jester there is named "Chuckles" (short named "Chuck")
2. in some cases i use phrases like "chuck norris jokes" related to the Jester
Screenshot_1.png
That makes my Jester "chuck" a Char-"fusion" of "chuckles"(the Jester from ultima7),
and Chuck Norris (because of the jokes that come up in the game dialogs)
Also in the case of another Project i call the "unbeatable state"(= cant get killed)
=> "Chuck Noobish Mode"
("noobish" because its like using a cheat what only noobs do,and because "noobish" is close to "norris".. i dont wanna get copyright Issues that way^)
=>also i dont consider beein a "noob" as something bad, we are all noobs in some cases^^
 
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Juanita Star

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I look for baby names pages or generators. If I find a name I like, I also go look for the meaning. if it fits the character, it stays.
 

Jennavieve

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But for major characters I rely on what's the most thematically appropriate for them.

Like my main protagonist is called Nero for the male choice and Aurora for the female choice. Nero wears black and Aurora wears white... plus the game revolves around a morality mechanic so it's a literal take on black-and-white morality.

Their last name, Harmon, is quite literal in how they have to balance different aspects of themselves to succeed in the game... and so on and so on.

I definitely approach minor and major characters differently too. I put more thought and emphasis on meaning into it with major characters. I love the names Nero and Aurora too!

I just look around name generators and naming websites. 20,000 Names is the first site I tend to go to, it's a compendium of names from around the world and their meanings. Behind the Name is another good option, but not nearly as extensive. Fantasy Name Generators is for when I need a quick name or when I don't really care about the meaning.

When it comes to party members, I always have the ground rule of don't have multiple characters whose names begin with the same letter. It's strange and restrictive, but it makes each name a little more unique. NPCs and antagonists don't follow this rule unless it becomes noticeable.

It also kind of bothers me whenever you have an array of party members with vastly different name lengths. Ex:

Rob
Henry
Alexandrius <-- well, that sticks out like a sore thumb.......
Lora

So I always try to keep their names relatively similar in length.

I've never hear of 20,000 names before, I'll have to try that. Behind the name is what I usually end up going to. I actually do have a couple of characters whose names start with the same letter, but their names sound different enough that I think it works okay. For instance, Liliana and Lucifer. They're also a couple so I think it's kind of cute their names start with the same letter. I definitely wouldn't want to have characters with names that sound too similar though like Laura and Laurel or something. I definitely agree with the name length thing too. Pretty much all my characters are between 2 and 3 syllables long.


Considering my game world is Byzantine inspired, I just pull names from there and adjacent countries. Greek, Egyptian, Persian, Swahili, Slavic, Italian, and sometimes more Western European languages like Gaelic work. I don't think too hard on why the names are given, as long as it feels good for the character. There's a lot of fantastical-sounding names in the real world already.

That's a really cool take on naming and very fitting for a game where culture is important. I always appreciate that kind of attention to detail.

I mostly use single names, and in some cases i decide the names related to old other games/films/books as a kind of easter_egg

For example for the Jester i use the name "Chuck" which has 2 easteregg meanings
1. ultima 7 , the Jester there is named "Chuckles" (short named "Chuck")
2. in some cases i use phrases like "chuck norris jokes" related to the Jester

Easter eggs are always fun! I especially love the Chuck Norris reference.

I look for baby names pages or generators. If I find a name I like, I also go look for the meaning. if it fits the character, it stays.

It certainly seems like the baby name pages are a popular way to name characters. I love that you check to see if the meaning fits your characters too :)
 

Marquise*

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I use my dyslexia often in naming my characters. Usually upon something thematic and distinct in their genesis. I had one inspired from a crustacean in French and mixed his name sound with an existing man's name that happened to be confused with a brand name with their tools always red. I ended up getting twins with two really brotherly sounding and spelling names.
 

Kokoro Hane

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Ah yes, naming characters, the most fun part of the process!

It's an important process to me to have the right name, but I hadn't really thought about my process. Lemme see if I can break it down...

It honestly depends on the story as much as it does their characters. The first rule I go for is that the name needs to fit the character, you can imagine that name to their face, it has a nice ring to it, and is memorable in some fashion. When I did my first RPG Maker game in Ace, due to its comedic nature, I didn't have to think too heavily. I even used a name generator to help along. For example, one name "Mona Kelsey" came up, but her voice actress often said "Kesley" so now I actually write her name like that lol. One name I chose wasn't even a name, but an insult, and basically matches his character lol. One name is completely made up (if it happens to be a real name somewhere, coincidence) which is "Amina" a name I made up a long, long time ago for various uses (dating back to when I began forum roleplaying in 2006).

My first MV (and its upcoming sequel) game I put a lot more thought in it. I have a specific naming convention for elves, where their names are stylized with a ' split, and of course are made up with fancy sounds; Leo'Dan, Ni'Ana, Ta'Naen. I do have obvious names too, like Mr. Assassin for the assassin character. And again, I also just chose names that I think fit without any special meaning, like Marvin, Layla, etc.

My most recent MV game I went for all obvious names. Biggest example being the heroine, Historia. I gave her that name since she is a history fangirl. The cat is "Rat Destroyer" because... well cats hunt down mice so lol (I cannot take credit for that name though, that all goes to my bro for the idea!) The only character that does not follow this naming convention is Historia's boss, Paprika. I just really like the sound of that name so I used it.

So my naming convention are a combinations of many factors. Sometimes I do go to random generators, but most of the time I either make up a name if the world calls for it, or pick something that matches who they are (which I call "obvious names"), or just names I think sound good often being ones I don't see used often or even if it's common just a name I really, really like. But the hard rule is the name must be memorable, have a nice ring to it, and feels like a perfect fit for that character. It must be easy to imagine calling that character by that name. I don't give my characters surnames often, but when I do, I usually try to match up with who the character is (so kinda obvious naming again) or I'll pick whatever flows nicely with their first name.
 

BK-tdm

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I pretty much follow an inverse Megaman X/Zero naming scheme :kaoswt2: first i go with whatever crosses my mind that fits the character as placeholder name, sometimes it sticks, sometimes changes, then as i develop them i start to take nationality, personality and even powers into account for the last name.

I like to give significant last names as a sort of spoiler for their abilities or some main trait they posses.

You can always Stan Lee it and have a naming quirk (Perter Parker, Otto Octavius etc...) :kaoslp:
 

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