There must come a time for any creative project, be it book, film or game, when the creator must finally give their work a name. For some they have a name planned from the start, for others the decision to call their labor of love something definitive, will be a bit harder. When coming up with a name it has to be a few words that perfectly sums up a creative endeavor that could have required thousands of hours from the creator. It has to be memorable and be able to draw wandering eyes. We’re all taught to not judge a book by its cover, but we all judge it on its name. So what judgements do you make about something called Titan Souls?

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 With its recent release, the name Titan Souls has been making its way around the web. Some are loving it for its rock hard yet simple gameplay, while others are hating it for the same reason. I haven’t enjoyed my time with the demo but I can certainly see the appeal. The one thing about the game that bugs me is the name. It’s not that it doesn’t have anything to do with the game, it does; you kill titans and take their souls, simple. It’s just that in a gaming context, one of those words is kinda taken.

Now when I say “kinda taken” I am of course not talking about legally copyrighted. Over the last few years we’ve seen various companies come to legal blows over the alleged ownership of a word or phrases, cases such as Mojang Vs Zenimax over the word Scrolls. Zenimax, owner of Bethesda the makers of the Elder Scrolls series was concerned that Mojang’s new game Scrolls was infringing on their copyright. The case was settled and Mojang continued using the name Scrolls. As a test case this shows that you can’t really own a word in a legal sense, but what about when you own it in the cultural sense?

 Since 2009, From Software have been making games such as Demon Souls and Dark Souls. Aside from their latest output of Bloodborne, their three biggest games have all ended with “Souls”. Thanks to their popularity and devoted fanbase, these games have developed their own lexicon and it’s become common shorthand to say ‘I’m playing a Souls game’ or ‘Which Souls game should I play?’ and ‘Fuck Blighttown’..So with Titan Souls we start to see a bit of an issue.

 But hey, it’s just a name after all. Titan Souls is all about being alone in a huge, mysterious world, with no context for your actions, only the knowledge that you as this lone figure must hunt and kill these huge and ponderous creatures, with some naive hope that by slaying these sentient behemoths you’ll get some understanding for what your purpose is in this silent land. Of course Dark Souls is nothing like that, not a bit, I’m not even sure why I brought it up…. holy shit, we’ve got a problem.

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To create a game with similar ideas as another is fine; interpreting one games concepts and reimagining them for your own game is great, it’s how this industry works, through constant iteration and improvement. It’s when you do this and slap a word that is accepted to be a byword for an entire series onto the end of your game’s title that things become troubling. To the cynically minded this could look like the creator of Titan Souls maybe knowingly co-opting a part of From Software’s established brand and using it for their own game. Now I’m sure this wasn’t the developers intention when they named their game Titan Souls. Both those words actually do mean something in the context of the game they created, and any relation they have to an existing franchise is unfortunate at worst.

 That isn’t to say this sort of thing has always been coincidental. For the last few years, looking on any android store and you’d find a whole range of games with the word “Craft” in the name. For instance when I typed in Craft into my kindle I found the following; WorldCraft, Survival Craft, Sky Craft, Run Craft and Shaving Beard Craft. Each one of these games was advertised with a little logo that was clearly designed to confuse it with MineCraft. These games were created and designed with the explicit goal of trying to draw from Minecraft’s sizable audience through misleading the customer. They’re the gaming equivalent of Atlantic Rim or Snakes on a Train, quick and cheap knock offs, riding on the coat tails of something popular.

 From Software doesn’t own “Souls” (it may own some souls), Mojang doesn’t own “Craft”. Those two words can be used by anyone for their game. But doing so in a way that creates confusion intentionally among customers is wrong. As I’ve said, I don’t think Titan Souls was named to confuse the audience, but I do think that when your game’s name leads me to write a 800 word piece about why it’s problematic, you might have an issue on your hands.

About The Author

Contributor

All round song and dance man. Best known for his use of expletives, casual quoting of Jeeves & Wooster and his love for all things Timesplitters. Host of the Played Out Podcast and proud victim of five different gypsy curses

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  • It seems to me like the name here was probably intentional, not just the Souls part, but also the Titan part. It seems like a very noncommittal little game, and so its author chose a very for lack of a better word, “ironic” name for it.

    I’m not sure why a game like this gets so much press in the first place. The fledgling indie/DIY scene is really barely existent, we’re just so desperate for something, anything to deliver us from this era of video games that we sense is dragging along on its last leg.

    But we have to get our acts together on all fronts. Journalism, game makers, audience, and tool makers, if this moribund age of gaming is ever going to arrive at its natural end. That’s probably going to take a lot more time at the rate things are going, so we should in the mean time not invest too much in little games like this. They are not nothing, but neither are they all game changing messiahs or a substitute for doing real work (developing open tools that are competent for their game types, revisiting all of the steps and opportunities for growth that industrial game designers grappled with in their own way, developing an understanding of those things and a competence for mastering them–which is something that has never even occurred to industrial game designers–and so on.)