Conclusions: How Many and How Varied

Conclusions, endings, every story has one and Choice Games have several, but just where exactly does one draw line on just how many there are or how different they are from each other? Those were the questions on my mind earlier today as I was working through the storyboard of my latest Choice Game. The endings to which I thought I’d done pretty good. That was until I’d got them all together and read them back to back.

Four distinct Categories emerged.
Heart Wrenching.
Soul Destroying.

I’m going to have to go through again and create some “happier” endings. Though, considering that I’ve just watched 3 hours of reenacted American (US) child abuse, read several articles and polls on the subject. All of which has tarnished my soul forever and spoiled my view of California and the United States as a whole, not that my view on the latter was particularly high anyways, but I did kind of put the former on a fairly high pedestal.

So what are peoples thoughts on endings? How many should a good Choice Game have, how varied should they be and in general what kind of endings do you like to see?

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I like to have several “Ending Types” and then many “Ending Variations”.

Ending types are big distinct ending states. For example, one ending type could be that the player kills the king and takes the throne in victory, while another could be that they escaped the kingdom entirely and founded their own in new lands. Both are obviously distinct and give players the feeling that their choices had a huge impact. Plus, it gives players who have finished the game a new thing to work towards.

Ending variations are how those types vary. Perhaps you take the throne, but are beset by assassins almost immediately due to your own acerbic nature, or you take the throne by marrying the king instead of killing him. These are where you can finish telling the story in more detail, and typically, I like to have variations that range from happy endings to depressing ones, so the player can pick their poison.

I, obviously, prefer this method to more traditional types (static ending with only the prior context changing, ending choices, etc.) just because it is a good spread and doesn’t seem ridiculous or forced.

As for the actual content of the ending? I couldn’t care less, as long as it finishes the story the game started and isn’t some ridiculous out of nowhere ending. If it fits the game, I like it!


Thank you, that was excellent feedback, but if I could ask your opinion on something else. I planning on doing some aftermath endings that would take place several decades after the real endings, to help expand on some of the choices that the player made that might not have made it into the real ending. It’s mostly curiosity satisfying material to see what kind of adult the child (in relation to this thread Link) would become and what kind of life they’ve built for themselves. However, I don’t know if that would really be all appreciated or if it just left people wishing that I’d spent the time doing that to beef up the story a bit more. Thoughts?

I think that’s a good idea (especially for interactive fiction) as long as you make it clear structurally that it is an epilogue so people don’t expect more. And hey, if one of them becomes popular and people really want you to write more of whatever it is, then bam! You’ve got an ready made sequel. I would say that you should make absolutely certain that the story works without the epilogue first though.

That said, some people MIGHT be a little miffed about it, as some folks prefer stories without epilogues so they can imagine what happens afterwards on their own. Of course, those people can be easily sated by putting in a little choice asking if the player wants to read the epilogue or not.

@Farsight, I should think the game itself would affect the type(s) of endings. I know the game I’m working on, a static ending location doesn’t make sense.

See, in my game, you’re a newly-legal adult who gets kicked out of your home in the capital city of a fantasy realm, and having a set location you end up with variant endings doesn’t really fit that setup. I’m still early in, but already some choices will get you killed or will give you nowhere to go but back to your parents, never to practice magic again.

(Magic is dangerous to use in my story-world, where it can drive you insane—which is another risk that will end up happening in my game. Take too many risks with your magic, and you’ll end up a force of mass destruction, to be killed by the guards or hauled off to the Association for the Magically Creative [the insane asylum specifically for out-of-control magic users].)

So I’ll have multiple spots for bad or okay or great endings, which also depend on what your goals are. So far, there will be multiple endings that can be reached within…10 choices, I think it is, but if you choose right, you should be able to keep going for more like 100+ choices. That kind of variety fits the setup and game itself.

For a game that’s more focused on a specific plot/action, where your choices affect the outcome (like the ninja game), the “go to end and see how it’s diverged” setup fits better.

As for how many endings, and what tone should they have—whatever fits the story and buildup. Seriously. Whatever fits. You can get away with anything if you build it right.

I like the sound of the epilogue, but I agree with @SpaceLesbian that you’ll want to make it very clear that it is, in fact, an epilogue. (Have a header or something.)

You don’t have to create a happy ending if you don’t want to. It all depends on the intent of your game. I personally see the world as rather grey, so none of my endings are entirely happy or sad; they’re all more or less bittersweet. There is an advantage to providing something for every possible player, but I think if you stick to your vision and do it well it will draw players who appreciate it.

My game has five basic character classes (types of monsters) and each has a basic ending option to Fight, Ignore, or Negotiate. Various other things in the endings are changed by your decisions (creating more in practice) but my endings all stem from that. I think it’s a good idea to know what your endings ought to look like, then elaborate and expand on them in the epilogue.

It is hard to regain your equilibrium after your view of the world and the security you can expect from it is challenged. But as someone who has survived a number of traumatic things, I hope you can get to the point where I have, where you can express yourself about the horrors while still realizing that some people are good and the world can be a beautiful place.

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How come this 3 year old thread is suddenly under “recent”?

Anyway this reminds me of one of my favorite SMBC strips:

A father reads a fairy tale to his daughter.

“The prince and the princess got married and lived happily ever after! Unfortunately, everyone must go into death alone.”

The narrator warns authors not extend happy endings too far into the future.