Should upgrades have names?

I was thinking about Kronos, and some feedback I’d gotten from a friend who very much didn’t like how the upgrades were named. For those unaware, in the current mechanical prototype (which has none of the story) the upgrades are all quotes from different pieces of literature - a specific text for each job.

References are neat and all, but its very unclear what’s going on. The upgrade names have close to no correlation with their effects, and just serve as identifiers. At least, that was what I intended them to be. However, since they are glimpses into other stories unrelated to the game, it can cause confusion. I’ve had multiple people ask me who “Weena” is, a character referenced in the first job, who is from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

So I have other plans of including fun references to relevant media that will be more transparently a reference. That means I now have to decide what the upgrade names should be. They could describe the effect (although that’s a bit redundant). They could be simple identifiers: e.g. “Gather Upgrade 1”. Or they could be some other irrelevant unique term that serves as an identifier, like choosing a random latin word for each one or something like that (just not something that references characters that don’t exist and stuff like that). Or even just not give any of them titles!

I figured there are reasons people have for choosing any of those different approaches, and this isn’t a unique problem to Kronos. So I was wondering what other people thought about this. How do you name upgrades? What kind of names do you prefer to see when playing a creation? Under what contexts does one approach seem better than the others?


Personally, I do think that all upgrades should have a name - you can get by without it, but then identifying the upgrade becomes a pain (and well, we are creatures of habit, the norm is definitely to have upgrade names, so it feels weird to not have them). There’s two bits that I’ve found that make upgrade names feel right, though:

  1. Consistent naming scheme across that group of features - doesn’t matter what kind of grouping you use, as long as it’s an obvious one
  2. The upgrade names need to be (at least somewhat) related to the upgrade itself

The first point you’ve got pretty well, with those upgrade names all clearly being quotes from something - the average player won’t have read even half the books you’re referencing, but it’s not hard to tell that the lines mean something.

The second is where your naming scheme fails in Kronos. Thing is, while the player is going through the game, they’re building up a “world” inside their head, figuring out the rules and logic by which the game works, where things came from, what might happen next. Having upgrade names be irrelevant to the upgrades (or at least unrelated to the stories in the game) is going to cause a break in that for sure, as every name, quote, effect, feature, etc. is something that builds on that internal world of the game. Having unrelated information in the upgrade names creates a bit of dissonance, of the player trying to build that internal model, while you’ve actively defined that model as “not existing”.

The names of features don’t need to be directly related to the feature itself, though - as long as there’s a consistent naming scheme and the sense that the name means something for how the feature works. You can even break away from #2 for a couple features here and there - if most feature names fit that pattern, then a couple are just unrelated to the feature they name, the human mind will fill in the blanks and create a connection where none exists. If you do it too much though, well, you get people asking who “Weena” is, cause they’ve subconsciously just given up on putting that name in their version of the story.