Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ability Names

Something that Blizzard does extremely well, but goes uncommented on by most people, is the naming system for talents and abilities. The names for each class are extremely well-chosen, and do a superb job of reinforcing that class’s identity.

Take rogues, for example: ambush, mutilate, backstab, rupture, garrote, sinister strike, crippling poison, hemorrhage. Brutal, guttural words. Words which are perfect for the rogue.

Paladins have might, wisdom, justice, crusader, light’s grace, avenger's shield, vengeance. Blessing of Kings. Again, the words used are chosen for deliberate effect, reinforcing the class identity.

Warlocks have corruption, doom, agony, immolate, drain life. Words that evoke the dark nature of the warlock.

You can see similar effects for all the other classes. Attention to details like these is what makes Blizzard games so polished, and their Creative/Naming team has done an outstanding job with ability and talent names.

It's one of those things that I never really thought about, until I saw a different game which had just terrible names for abilities. That made me realize that coming up with good, solid names is not as easy as it seems, and actually goes a long way to making your game shine.


  1. I agree!

    Most people are always complaining about WoW's problems but never mention the other 99% of the game which they get perfect. I play a pally, when I started I felt like a holy warrior because of the spell names and abilities. When I levelled my warlock, I felt like a creature of evil who's only mission was to inflict pain.

    No other game out there has so many details and makes such an effort to ensure that the lore matches up with the game and it's players.

    That's why I love WoW.


  2. I love these kinds of observant posts :)


  3. Blizzard has done a great job with naming all around. Unlike some other games in the genre, there is a reasonably small number of unpronounceable or jaw breaking names.

    Naming is just another level of polish Blizzard put into the game.

  4. It's funny this post is made when Blizzard put in place Shard of Contempt giving "heroism" buff : that's right : same name as an alliance shamy ability....

  5. dude totally, and related to the naming of the talents, the backdrops of the talent trees are paintings that reflect the focus of the tree. the paladin in particular is very well done.

  6. I don't think small bits of polish can save a game in the eyes of someone who doesn't care for the necessity of the grind, gear requirements, and inability to access content for those who don't have time to put into raiding.

  7. Yes, it may seem as icing on the cake to most, but it really adds to the look & feel of the game.

    The best parts of game design are those no one recognizes first hand. All those small bits and thingies add up and form the complete whole.

    Blizzard is very good at those. ;-)

  8. I agree that the consistency and appropriateness of ability names, just like lore consistencies, add to the immersion and depth of a game.

    However, to be fair, many wow abilities are not new or unique to wow. WoW borrowed very heavily from the Warcraft and Diablo games previously made by Blizzard. There's nothing wrong with that, what I find interesting are abilities that they chose to change the names of or include with slight mechanics differences.

    Ex: The (as of TBC) newly updated and improved Prot Pally talent: Reckoning. While I think the name is most appropriate and cool (I loved reckoning while leveling my prot pally), it is very similar to Zeal from the Diablo Paladin.

    Another strange example: giving the demon-blood-free horde shaman the ability 'bloodlust' is questionable lore-wise (though it was the Warcraft 2/3 shaman defining ability - so they pretty much HAD to put it in).

  9. Good post. Glad to see you're still blogging!

    - Pallywithash