Dialect Generation I: Name Generation

The time has finally come – we’re now onto the final push towards 0.8’s release, URR’s first ever (and quite extensive) gameplay release, which means generating dialects, and then adding in the game’s conversation system. Although this is the final coding task, this is still quite a substantial one, so I anticipate a few months of programming, but it will most definitely be worth it. The first part of this process has been figuring out how, exactly, the dialect system is actually going to work. I long ago decided that I wasn’t going to have nations actually speaking different languages that had to be somehow deciphered; this was just going to produce too substantial an obstacle, and I couldn’t think of any way to implement such a system in a way I’d actually be happy with, so all feudal and nomadic nations will wind up speaking English (with the assumption that the player character is multi-lingual and actually speaking multiple languages, much like many films have the actors speaking a single language whilst the characters implicitly speak several) – however, I am actually going to have tribal nations speak different languages. I think that would offer a small amount of interesting deciphering gameplay, without it overwhelming the rest of the game; I think it would also stress that these are quite isolated nations away from the rest of the world, without doing something to make them seem explicitly “primitive”. So: you remember all those extra font characters in the lower part of the URR font file? Those are going to be deployed for tribal nations, but once translated, they will also have their own dialects.

What all of this means is that the maximum number of possible dialects in one game – if every feudal, nomadic and tribal nation possible spawns – we need around forty dialects. To do so, I’m breaking down “speech” into several categories, with many many variations in each:

Name Style – how names for individuals in a civilization are created!

Phrases – how people from a culture greet others, how they say farewell, how they threaten others, and so forth, which are all dependent upon ideologies, religious beliefs, and the like.

Sentence Detail – how many clauses are usually in a sentence, how much detail people of that culture give when they peak, how descriptive they are, how to the point they are, etc.

Location References – how people in that culture describe locations, e.g. with reference to where people live, to historical events, to natural structures, etc.

People References – how people are described, with reference to civilization, sex, race, hairstyle, clothing, behaviour, weaponry, etc.

Information References – how things like historical events or artistic works are described, which breaks down into lots of subcategories.

These have some overlap, so Information Reference Style #24 will yield more detail if Sentence Detail Style is #21 than #46, and so forth. For this entry, however, we’ll be looking specifically at name generation. I’ve implemented a grand total of 42 archetypes so far, each of which will then vary massively according to the words it uses in its lexicon and the lettering in its consonants and vowels. For instance, if a particular name-type calls for animal words, it will naturally draw upon animal words appropriate to the geographical region the culture originates from; similarly, if it uses religious terms, then it will obviously use words appropriate to the particular religion, and same goes for everything else. Here are some nice lists of names generated for the same civilizations, to give you an impression of how some of these look. Most name-types can apply to any civilization, whilst a small number are specifically dependent upon there being particular ideologies present within that culture. Some of these are quite strange, but there have been some profoundly “strange” (by our reckoning) ways of naming people in the past, and I needed to maximize the possible variety as much as possible.

One archetype, based on Icelandic names:

Xornoka Arnoksdottir

Konnoma Numikssohn

Mollakor Koxxossohn

Onnorka Rommolsdottir

Another, based on “homeric” names:

Brave Hummanir

Strong Rukiomi

Bashful Hunnoruk

Wise Kiomirun

Another, with titles and only single names:

Jartinar, Quiet Fern

Nobboran, Soft Breeze

Ratjon, Red Sand

Bortjaan, Flowing Leaves

Another, with three short names:

Sorno-thu-suth

Tha-nov-surv

Noth-vorn-arn

Vorra-ath-sort

Another, with a kind of thematic ownership:

Zapotel of the Great Mountain

Latapota of the Open Sea

Ponzalot of the Winding River

Epolatoz of the Rolling Plain

Another, with animals, places and features:

Feather of the Hawk

Snow of the Peak

Howl of the Jaguar

Cry of the Wolf

Another, for an “exploration” ideology nation:

Crealorn Mountainfinder

Lonopleat Plaintrekker

Nucrea Grasswalker

Teanullo Hillviewer

Another, for an “isolationist” nation:

Highwall Wrattom

In-rampart Ryttoramow

Tallgate Tarroramo

Behind-the-castle Mowrat

And another, with declining lengths of names:

Mertohurtam Murri Mo

Huttomerra Hart Han

Muerhurtammo Mont Mu

Turnamortan Tunna Tor

And many, many other variations besides – naturally, as I say, the sets of consonants/vowels/syllables also vary every time, so even if you encounter the same overall name archetype again, the names themselves will be very different in a range of ways. I’m in the process of transferring these from my development file into the game proper, and so soon I should be able to go around the world map and get these accurate cultural names on every NPC (important and random-in-the-crowd) I encounter on my travels.

Next week: probably some AI improvements from the feedback my playtesters will send me, and then a discussion either of some more speech generation, or thinking about how conversations and styles of speech are going to work. See you all then!

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20 thoughts on “Dialect Generation I: Name Generation

  1. Would the names be actually dependent on the person’s history? While I love the names up there, it would be kinda mundane if almost everyone has words in their names that meant nothing. If one does not have any achievement (according to the nation’s standard), titles should not be on their name. Well, maybe hopes, as a saying in my religion: ‘Names are prayers’.

    Could the player have different names, introducing to the other as the player see as fitting? For example, while getting into a hostile castle…

    • Hmm… *titles* and *nicknames* will be history dependent, but their actual “names” – I think not. I’d rather explore titles and nicknames as a method for people getting titles based on their deeds, whereas I feel names should be a little more fixed. As for the player: *definitely*, the player will be able to lie, try to speak as if they come from another nation, etc, and I think that kind of deception will be really core, actually.

      • So, instead of Zapotel of the Great Mountain, it would just say Zapotel? Now that’s nice.

        Riiight, I forgot that *deception* is the main point in URR.

        • I am sorry, this is slightly off topic but in Russian “Zapotel” means a lot to sweat. It is certainly a coincidence, but I immediately imagined how his ancestor climbed on that Great Mountain =)

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  3. Those are some interesting archetype example names. I can see how they’re starting to give a sense of the values of the culture they originate from, particularly the explorers and isolationists.

    A few questions: Will there be “melting pot” cities or cultures where names are jumbled around even further, combining two or more archetypes? Also, what about the player’s own name in the final version? Will you be able to name the player, or will you be assigned a name based on the originating culture?

    For that matter, will the player be assigned a random culture/ethnicity (like in Rust, which has made a few headlines for doing so), or will you have to choose? Or perhaps ‘Random’ could be a choice…

    • Excellent! Yeah, I’m going to try to add in more value-name variants, but all the others will still vary based on geography, flora, fauna, etc.

      Melting pot: ooh, nice idea. Possibly! Very possibly. I keep toying with the idea of adding city states as a fourth “civilization” archetype, but I’ve struggled to figure out something that would make them distinct. Maybe a melting pot/fusion is just the thing! You’ll be assigned a name, but you’ll always be able to lie.

      Ha, great question. I’m 99% sure I’ll assign you randomly in the near future, even though you can choose nation currently. 99% sure…

      • Nice update, I love this kind of stuff. Just wanted to say I second crowbar’s idea on the melting pot cities. This is one of my biggest concerns that cultures become too distinctive from each other. It would be awesome to see them mix a bit more, maybe more the closer they are to a border (like irl)?

        Awesome stuff anyway 🙂

        • Thanks! Yeah, I’ve actually been thinking about this more in the few hours since I posted that reply, and this could actually make a rather nice “hook” for city-states, if I wind up implementing them at some point. I see your point about mixing, of course, but I’m instinctively reminded of the importance of making things highly distinct when you’re dealing in PCG, otherwise elements can blend into one another very easily, and that seems like a big issue in a game like this. We’ll see though – and glad you like it!

  4. Wow, a great idea, some great examples of names! I can see how even just the differing name styles alone would go along way to making each culture distinct from each other.

  5. This is really cool! That last one, Monsieur le Tunna Tor, cracks me up. The alliteration is a cool style.

    Really looking forward to .8 when the time comes!

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