Internal Naming

While we are almost always introduced to the name of each area we enter, the official names for allies and enemies alike are commonly only listed in external sources like official guides or art books. However, characters and areas both typically have their own labels within the actual game files, and these internal names can be radically different from what official sources provide. This is because developers need to call the models something as the story and map layout go through the iterative process prior to the game’s release, preferably something memorable so that it doesn’t just become another bland string of letters or numbers in the code. And there can be a variety of reasons as to what standout names ultimately get chosen, some of them revealing about development history.

Sometimes it is a simple descriptor of the subject matter. The Valley of Defilement is internally named “Unclean” because that is the key word encapsulating the area. Other times it is a joke. The Mass of Souls from New Londo is internally named “Big Jelly” (ビッグゼリー) in obvious reference to its vaguely gelatinous form. Occasionally, it references the game role. The Primeval Demon’s internal name is “ore spirit” (鉱石の精霊) since its soul is used to help upgrade weapons like ores do. In some cases, it is a reference to the underlying inspiration from history or media. The knight encountered at the beginning of the original Dark Souls (DS1) has the internal name “Knight Ostra” (騎士オストラ) to reference Ostrava, who wears similarly iconic knight armor in Demon’s Souls. And often enough, it describes the original concept.

When discussing the designs for Ornstein and Smough in the Dark Souls: Design Works Interview, Game Director Hidetaka Miyazaki recounts that the latter was among the earliest concept arts for the game. Both his and another design were internally called “Four Knights C” and “D” respectively because, as he jokingly explains, the hope would be that this would eventually lead to the design of A and B. But while the Four Knights themselves made into the final game, their members ended up filled with later characters like Ornstein and Artorias. The design for Four Knights D instead became the generic channeler enemy while C became Smough. In Smough’s case specifically, he became a maverick to the overall image for Anor Londo, an unknightly executioner — apparently only because Miyazaki was partial to the design and wanted to make the character inside the rather alien armor more unique.

Clearly, there is a lot we can learn about the design process by how things were dubbed internally, with Smough’s troubled history with the Four Knights in the narrative now seeming like a lighthearted meta reference to his development history on Miyazaki’s part. In many cases though, the internal name is simply what ends up becoming the characters’ official name, such as the Darkwraiths. That said, the official English names taken from the game files can radically differ from their Japanese counterparts for that reason, at least in DS1. For example, the exploding head enemy encountered in DS1 is officially called a “grudge” in Japanese and a “wisp” in English — the latter clearly derived from the enemy’s internal name “wips”, (ウィプス) an obvious misspelling “wisp”. (ウィスプ) For that reason, it is important to know the official Japanese names and how they are labelled internally.

There is also the fact that internal names are commonly listed in both English and Japanese characters depending on where you look in the files. These English renditions tend to be loosely based on the Japanese, sometimes just romanizing specific portions with questionable spelling choices. However, some can have significant differences in the details. The evangelist in Dark Souls III is internally named “missionary” when the English is Valignano, the name of a famous Jesuit missionary in Japan. A more liberal example is High Lord Wolnir, who is “SkeletonKing” in English but “Dead Spirit King” (死霊の王) in Japanese. Yet an even more radical example is the giant slug, dubbed “DarkBloodSlug” in English while the Japanese reads “eclipse slug small“. These discrepancies presumably come from the Japanese developers, but the nature of cut content makes it impossible to verify some of the English translations. But even if this particular aspect is unreliable, internal naming as a whole can nonetheless play its own role in analysis.