Ascendant vs. Accidental Cyclops

The process of naming Ascendant was much harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s quite difficult to find a small series of words (or just one) that capture the theme and play of a game, while being unique (and hopefully fun or clever) at the same time. This was a little more frustrating for me, because we were able to come up with and agree on Accidental Cyclops fairly quickly.

The email with the origin of Accidental Cyclops went something like this:

Me: Hey guys, we need a name for our board game stuff, so I can refer our get-togethers more easily. Here are 4 pretty terrible suggestions for names.

Jason: How about Accidental Cyclops and these three other less fun names.

All: Accidental Cyclops is awesome. Sold!

So, that’s paraphrased a bit, but that’s pretty much how it went down. It took us a lot longer to come up with Ascendant (it’s original title is a little NSFW).

Theme First

When we set out to make Ascendant, we had a theme already picked out, courtesy of Jason. The game was to be set in a world that Jason developed and created, and the game would occupy an important part of the history of that world. All of us were long-time tabletop RPG players (DnD, WoD, and more), so the idea of a strong theme and having the players “get into character” was well entrenched in our gaming experiences. That theme pretty much hasn’t changed a whole lot since we started designing Ascendant and has helped guide our design process.

Diverge and Converge

So, like many things that we do, we came up with a bunch of ideas first without making any judgment on the quality of the idea (we diverged), and then we started whittling down to the ones we actually liked and fit (we converged). Trying to do both of these actions at the same time is troublesome, so we keep them separate.

We landed on Ascendant for several reasons.

    1. It fit the theme. You are trying to put yourself in a position to take over for the dying emperor and ascend to the throne.
    2. It fit the tone that we were looking for. More on this later.
    3. It was short and simple.
    4. It wasn’t taken.

Striking the right tone

The tone of the game was more serious than tongue-in-cheek. One of the potential names we were kicking around, Passive Aggression, we really liked. It was funny, fit the experience of the game, but didn’t fit the tone. It was too cutesy, too self-aware, and at the end of the day, wasn’t the tone of the game. So, it wasn’t a viable option. That being said, I’m totally looking forward to making a game called Passive Aggression (Dibs!) in the future.

Making the call

We decided on Ascendant, and at the end of the day, the name fits the game we designed. I have this nagging feeling that there is a better name for it out there in the world, but I’m not clever enough to discover it. But maybe that’s just the perfectionist in me.

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