Names and titles fascinate me. While sometimes they have no deeper meaning than to sound pleasant and be memorable, a label can indicate purpose, history, and connection. MMORPG names are, of course, as varied as the stars in the sky, with many of them slapping “online” or “age of” somewhere in there to designate their category. But every so often, we witness a game that changes its name as part of its development and business evolution.
Today I wanted to run down 10 MMOs (well, nine MMOs and one expansion) that received notable name changes over the years. I’m not going to talk about games that created a weird rebrand for a business model shift but mostly stuck with the original title afterward (such as DDO Unlimited or WildStar Reloaded), but instead games that had vastly different names than what they ended up using.
1. Middle-earth Online to Lord of the Rings Online
The history of LOTRO’s development is fascinating and spans over a decade from conception to launch. The short version is that the project began under the name Middle-earth Online in 1998 under the talent of Sierra On-Line. Then Vivendi took over the project in 2001, after which the license and assets were transferred to Turbine, which then rebranded the game as LOTRO and reworked it substantially from its sandbox origins.
2. Heroes of Telara to RIFT: Planes of Telara to RIFT
With two name changes to this MMORPG as it barreled toward release, it got a little confusing to keep track of what RIFT was being called any given week. I’ve given Trion Worlds a lot of good-natured ribbing about this over the years… a habit that I’m still doing, I guess. Honestly, I think it was a good move to shorten the name, even if the ALL CAPS thing is one of my personal pet peeves in game titles.
3. RIFT: Starfall Prophecy to RIFT: Prophecy of Ahnket
Speaking of RIFT, I really couldn’t pass up using this as an example, because the whole story is so dang bizarre. About a half-year after the MMO released its third expansion, Starfall Prophecy, Trion abruptly announced that it would be renaming it to the less-catchy Prophecy of Ahnket. The reason? A trademark lawsuit with a children’s charity. Seriously.
4. Das Tal to The Exiled
I made no secret that I thought that Das Tal was a questionable name for this PvP MMO. I have nothing against foreign language titles, but its German translation — “the valley” — didn’t really tell you much about this game at all. Its switch to The Exiled was nominally better, but still, it doesn’t seem to say much more about the game or its personality.
5. Shards Online to Legends of Aria
When the team behind the upcoming Shards Online decided to go bigger and become a true MMORPG, they rebranded the name in the hopes that it would de-emphasize the private server nature of the original version. Weirdly enough, I liked the former name more; “legends” in a game title is really overused these days, and I always prefer one-word titles to two, and two-word titles to three. Short and punchy for me!
6. H1Z1 to… everything under the sun
In the beginning, there was simply H1Z1, or “Hizzy” as I liked to call it. Then Daybreak fractured the game into two games, calling them H1Z1: King of the Kill and H1Z1: Just Survive. And more recently, the latter has dropped the H1Z1 branding to become Just Survive, leaving King of the Kill to gloat that it gets special child status. It raises the question: Is Daybreak changing the names so that people will eventually lose track and give up on these games?
7. TERA: The Exiled Realm Of Arborea and TERA: Rising to TERA
I’ve always understood that TERA’s name was an acronym, and I’ve generally applauded the decision to condense it from the rather unwieldy The Exiled Realm of Arborea. From the perspective of someone who types out game titles in news every day, I am deeply grateful I don’t have to write that out any time I mention this MMO.
OK, I’ll admit that this one always confused the heck out of me. Somewhere along the line, the badly translated Dungeon & Fighter was retooled and renamed into the much better (if somewhat childishly called) Dungeon Fighter Online. It did befuzzle those of us on staff covering the game, since none of us played it and weren’t 100% sure if these were two different games or if someone was pulling our leg.
Sometimes when a transfer of ownership occurs and the new studio wants to signal a fresh start, a name change is ordered. This is what happened with Horizons: Empires of Istaria, which in 2008 switched over to Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted after the game changed hands. The name change subsequently became one of two things anyone ever knows about this game, the other being “playable dragons.”
With all of upheaval around this reboot and relaunch, the shift of the name to Legends seems like the most insignificant part of it all. Obviously, it’s a way for the team to distinguish a new format (such as Marvel Heroes did with 2015, 2016, and now Omega), but in my opinion, the new name is trying a little too hard. The Secret World’s title focuses on the titular world, while Secret World Legends’ name seems to be more about these legends, with the secret world downgraded to adjective status.