You might have settled for a name and logo since day 1 (for both your company and your game). Or maybe you’re still struggling to find them.
I’m sure there are multiple methods of coming up with names and icons, but I didn’t really do research on that topic. Instead, we just used our own knowledge and experience. Today I’ll share what we did for both Insular Games and Gravitators. If you’re still shopping for names and logos, perhaps reading this will help you.
We originally had a different (tentative) name for the company. I had searched for the term online, not finding anything relevant, so that remained the unofficial name while we started working together. However, I did not write “NAME + Game Company” while searching on Google. I just searched for that specific name.
So one day, when it was time to start thinking about settling for a name, I searched the term that way and discovered that there was a company with that name. It had released a couple of games at the beginning of the 2000s. The company didn’t exist anymore, but of course we wanted to avoid any kind of confusion, so a new name was needed. It wasn’t a big deal though, the name was a placeholder anyway.
The first thing I did was to write a small list of words that I liked (for various reasons). Some just sounded nice or cool, others were some tongue in cheek related to the gaming industry. However, much to my dismay, I found that most of them were already in use by other Game or Software companies. Back to square one.
This time, I took a more exhausting approach: While working on other things, I started writing any words or combinations of words I could think of on a spreadsheet. Any name that popped up was good, sometimes when taking little breaks I also checked out a letter on a dictionary. Basically I tried to come up with names by using the following criteria:
– Related to the company.
– Related to the types of games we were set out to do.
– Funny names.
– Interesting words, either by how they sound or what they mean.
By the time I said “OK time to decide”, I had accumulated a total of 435 names.
Then, I did the following:
– Sorted them by their “Like Value” (personal preference): Very High, High, Mid, Low.
– Checked if the “Very High”, “High” and “Mid” names were in use by other Game or Software companies, or if they were game titles. Then added a Yes/No value to a “Taken?” column (plus the link to the company’s website to check further if needed). I didn’t bother with the “Low” Like values (around 70% of the total) because I was sure we were not going to use them.
– Wrote logo ideas if I had any. I only added a dozen or so, as I didn’t want to spend too much time thinking about logos for all the names when I was only going to pick one. I just wrote the idea if I immediately think of an image while writing the name.
– Added additional words to the names using the CONCATENATE function, to check if the name was better alone or some additional word. So using “Insular” as an example, I had the following values in different columns:
Insular Game Studios
This is a really easy way to see all the variants for all the names.
We had 13 Like Value “Very High” names, but 6 of them were already in some form of use. So that left us with 7 finalist names. However, I must admit that ever since I came up with “Insular” (one of the last additions), I sort of knew that it was the one. In fact, I probably stopped searching for names after that one came along. We just added the “Games” at the end and we were set.
Something else you should do is double check your chosen name/s for their meanings. Sometimes, a word in one language is a swearing in another. Or it can have bad connotations. This might be a bit tricky to check, but you should at least give it a quick search.
The best example about this is with our own company name:
When I think of “Insular”, I think “from an island”, because that’s the only definition in my native language (Spanish). That definition works great because Indonesia (where the studio is located) is usually referred to as an “Island Nation”. I did know that the word also existed in English, and that it could also mean “isolated”, which was fine.
However, when I searched its definition on Google, I found the following:
1. Ignorant of or uninterested in cultures, ideas, or peoples outside one’s own experience.
. Lacking contact with other people.
2. Relating to or from an island.
. Relating to a form of Latin handwriting used in Britain and Ireland in the early Middle Ages.
. (of climate) equable because of the influence of the sea.
3. Relating to the insula of the brain.
That first definition didn’t sound nice at all. When this happened, I was a bit hesitant to use “Insular” even though I really liked it. But then I thought about how many game companies have ridiculous or self-deprecating names, and they are doing just fine.
The worst case scenario was someone thinking about the “bad” definition when reading the company name. But even if that was the case, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. That aside, little did I know that we were going to have a major world pandemic and the definition “Lacking contact with other people” would take a whole other meaning.
While we decided to keep the name in the end, at least we knew about it when we decided. Imagine not knowing, and then receiving some comment or complain later, and then finding out.
This is why you should double check for potential unforeseen meanings.
With the name chosen, it was time to search for the logo. Considering the name was related to “island”, we thought it would be a good idea to continue with that train of thought and try to come up with a related logo.
The first thing I thought when the insular word popped into my mind was an image of a palm tree on a little island, with the sun behind. Or some variation of that. Alternatively, if that kind of logo felt overused, I had also thought that a pair of sandals could be fun too.
We ran a little internal contest for everyone to chip in and make different quick proposals. Here are some of them:
I still liked the idea of the island with the palm tree, but at the same time, I prefer single-color logos, which are cleaner and easier to print.
So one of the artists created a variation of that rough palm tree island idea, using the negative space of a white moon to outline the palm tree. This is the result:
It just looked perfect. Love at first sight. I never considered removing the island from the logo, but it looked so much cleaner this way. As a plus point, the font was created in-house, so we didn’t require any licensing.
Just in case, we tried a more colorful variation, plus one palm tree with little coconuts:
The original was still better, but we weren’t entirely sure.
So we cleaned the logo first, added “GAMES” and then tried different colors again:
While the blue and the cyan/turquoise are quite nice, the gray background still looked better, so we kept it as our final logo. Nonetheless, because the logo is a single plain color, it’s very easy to change either color.
And so we reached the final version of our logo:
While the company’s name could really be anything, the game narrowed the possibilities a lot. We knew that we were doing a twin stick shooter inspired by classic cave flyers, that you control a ship, which can thrust, shield and shoot, and that gravity is a major part of the game.
The first name I came up with when doing the game design proposal was “Earth Defenders”, which was a bit of a joke name because the story goes like this: “Space Invaders” are attacking our planet, so “Earth Defenders” will fight back. This was the project’s folder name when we started (and still is actually).
Even if not final, I was quite fond of the name. But it was missing a bit of connection to the game itself. You couldn’t really tell what the game was about, other than you’d be defending the Earth. Where did it take place (ground, water, air, space)? Was it a FPS? A TPS? Strategy? Space Sim? It could be anything really, and that didn’t feel like the right choice for a name.
Additionally, was Earth the most important thing about the game? Because many missions will be located far from our planet, and the Earth itself is more related to the story, but the game is heavily focused on gameplay.
The final nail in the coffin for Earth Defenders was when I discovered the existence of the Earth Defense Force video game series.
Considering the game is a homage to classic games like: Thrust, Gravitar, Asteroids, Solar Jetman, etc., we were thinking it would be nice to have a related title name as well. On the other hand, there are so many Thrust clones out there with the word “Thrust” in it, we were afraid of people thinking our game would be yet another one.
Given the game’s main theme is Gravity, it seemed like a better choice of a word to base our game name from.
These are some of the names we quickly brainstormed:
– Related to Earth or the Alien Attack: The Invasion, Invasion, Space/Home/Earth Defenders, Invasion Repellers, Elite Squad, Air Squad, Earth Squad, World Alliance, Earth Defense/Defenders Squad.
– Related to Thrust: Thrust Force, Thrust Squad, Thrusters.
– Related to Gravity: Gravity Squad, Gravity Defenders, Gravitassault, Gravitors, Gravity Boosters, Gravity War, Gravity Thrust, Graviton, Gravitation.
Most of those are awful, but that’s the point of brainstorming names: to take the bad stuff out of the way. From that list, my conclusions were:
– Anything related to attacks or invasions made no sense, it just didn’t feel like our game.
– A single word seemed better than multiple ones.
From all of those, I liked “Gravitation”. A single, elegant word that provided some insight on what the game was about. But that word still felt too broad. The game could be about planets in motion or something like that. So I wanted to take the word and apply it to the player avatar: the ships.
And that’s how I came up with “Gravitators”. It felt connected to the classic games, it gave you an idea that the game was about gravity but at the same time that it was about the ones exposed to it. The ones doing the gravitation. Additionally, the “tators” at the end of the word also made it a bit cheesy and sounded rather funny, which is in line with the game’s art style and overall lighter tone.
So the name was settled. Time for the logo.
Ever since starting with the game design, I started collecting reference logos and images.
Here are some of them:
You can probably notice some patterns within the reference logos: the use of simple geometrical shapes (triangle and circle), and lines on the sides, which is very associated with wings/flying.
There’s a reason for that. Pretty much since the beginning of the project, I already had the idea of using a simplified version of the Fighter ship as our logo. The Fighter has a triangular shape, so it’s a great starting point for a logo. Surrounding it by a circle looked exactly like the Fighter while shielding in the game. In its most basic form, the logo I had in mind looked like this:
And while I love its simplicity, it kind of looks like the triangle button of a PS controller. So it couldn’t be like that. If you check the reference logos again, you’ll see that the “Aviation Appraisal” logo has the arrow over the circle, and the circle is being interrupted / cut out by it.
So I tried exactly that, then added the “wings” lines, and achieved a good first rough version of a logo:
You might notice that this logo plays a lot with the negative space. There seems to be a circle in the background (around the black circle), which acts as a separation from the three wing lines. Likewise, the triangle has a similar space between the black lines from the triangle ship and from the circle shield.
As I said before, what you’ll be doing in the game with the ships is: thrust, shield and shoot. We wanted the logo to fully reflect that. We already had the ship (which implicitly means you’ll shoot) and the shield. The wings felt more like a militaristic logo though, instead of the thrust we were looking for, but it could be considered good enough.
From that logo, we tried a few quick variations:
The first one seemed a bit too focused on the ship, with the shield lost in the background with the wings. Additionally, the ship itself looked too detailed, while I wanted to have something a bit more generic. I liked it, but it looks more like an in-game logo, something characters would wear on their chest or their arms.
The second one directly didn’t have the shield, and I didn’t like the wings. They reminded me a bit of the Silverhawks. The ship also looks too much like an “A” (which could have worked if the game’s name started with A).
We tried other things too:
This set wasn’t any better.
The left one seemed more like a phone icon. However, the overall ship shape plus the thrust fire looked pretty good. This logo had the ship, the shield (though it looks more like a button) and the thrust.
The right one was supposed to be Earth, but ended up looking like a basketball.
In the meantime, we started searching for a font. We wanted to have the full set, given we would probably be using it for other things (store page, website, marketing assets, etc.).
We simply browsed tons of fonts until we hit the right one. It didn’t really take that much time, though perhaps I think of it that way because we took ages to find and choose our in-game font… that one was so hard and time consuming that this one felt like a piece of cake.
A word of advice: unless you create the font yourself, you should triple check the font’s license (free or paid), to make sure you can use it everywhere you plan to.
While still discussing the graphical part of the logo, we thought to try a few variations integrating the logo into the font (like most modern games):
Perhaps having the logo as just a name would have been possible, but the original idea of the triangle inside the circle was too stuck in our heads.
One interesting thing from this set was the 5th logo. The thrust going outside the circle gave it a nice touch, breaking a bit the “confinement” of the shield while allowing the ship to remain relatively big.
So we went back to the original idea, and applied that:
As we were using yellow-orange for the thrust fire, we tried using it elsewhere. But somehow it looked off outside the thrust.
Additionally, you’ll notice the cockpit area has different sizes as well.
Before moving forward, we wanted to discard other ideas first. For example:
1- What if instead of using actual fire for the thrust, we just use different coloring instead (keeping the circle whole)? And so we had this set:
The ones on the right could be interpreted as the direction of the firing.
Overall, they looked a bit confusing. The different coloring for the circle just felt off.
2- What if we use the negative space for the ships instead? Or what if instead of using different coloring for the thrust, we use 4 colors to hint the 4 playable ships in the game? This is the result:
While not plain bad, they looked more like buttons to press or pins to put on your jacket than a game logo.
With these ideas discarded, we could move forward fully knowing we were not going to change our minds later.
We did like the idea of having the 4 ship colors within the logo, but we were afraid it was going to be a bit too much. So the next set included one variation with it:
We were right about using the 4 colors, they seem a bit too much and you lose the idea of a shield.
The orbit behind wasn’t a bad idea, but added asymmetry, and made it too complicated.
The bottom left one though… that one had simplicity and elegance. The little fire thrust kept the overall shape of the shield (except for that one little tip), making the logo very consistent. We had a winner.
With that decided, we tried a few variations of cockpit sizes, lighting, gradients, bevels, etc.:
The ones on the right looked great, but somehow had a bit of more serious tone, which wasn’t in line with the game’s art style. So we decided to keep it simple, using plain colors with a bit of glow.
Our last decisions were on the cockpit’s size and whether or not use gradient in the font:
But again we decided to keep it simple.
The end result, with glow and plain colors:
Overall, it seems like a huge amount of work, but if I remember correctly, they took around one week each, working on other stuff at the same time as well.
But given the names and logos are among the first things players will probably see of your game, they seem important enough to be well thought and executed. My biggest advice is to start thinking about them from the beginning of the project, and start saving references, ideas, etc. So by the time you need to decide, you have a bunch of things to choose from and to inspire other ideas.
I hope our names & logos story helped you with yours in some way. If that’s the case, we’d love to hear about it! Feel free to drop us an e-mail sharing your story and images, or if you can’t decide between some options and need external opinions.
© 2019 Insular Games. Gravitators, Gravitators Logo and Insular Games logo are trademarks of Insular CV. All rights reserved.