Endings and the Nature of Epilogues


#1

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the endings of stories. How they diverge from one another depending on the choices and how the games either tend to leave the story on a “and so your life continues, changed from X, Y, and Z actions” note or wrap it up with an epilogue that directly dictates how said life was continued.

I’m curious which people tend to sway towards as their preferred ending. Do you enjoy epilogues? Would you rather the open-ended ending? Does it pertain to the type of story? (If so, how? What kind of story constitutes an epilogue and what kind of story begets a more open ending?)


#2

I prefer en epilogue when it is the end of a complete story. An epilogue at the end of episode one, two and three would not work for me. An open-ended cliff-hanger in episodes one and two with an epilogue in part three to end the story would be preferred.


#3

I have no specific preference, but I believe many people don’t want the epilogue to directly state what it assumes your character would be doing.


#4

Do you like the epilogue in Zombie Exodus?


#5

I was fine with it, but had issues with it at the same time. It wasn’t my favorite epilogues out there is the best I can word it.

Some of my characters I imagined them taking charge and leading settlements, while others would prefer to be in the background (normally my military ones are the ones who want to be in the background). I’m fine with what happens to the other NPC’s, because you can’t directly control what they do, but for some endings for my characters they just didn’t feel right.


#6

I like epilogues. I like things to be wrapped up nicely. I’d rather an epilogue than a to be continued sequel which never surfaces.

BUT I hate when they either ignore what I thought were important decisions.

Or they undo choices I made.

Like if you spend an entire game romancing a character, having them split up in the epilogue just leaves me feeling bad about the game at the end. Or if that character never gets a mention.

I also like to know what’s happened to the other interesting characters, how their future has unfolded for them.


#7

I generally prefer (both here and in standard fiction) the “one year later” style of epilogue, which just give a look at a single scene in the future, over the “Biblical list of descendants” style of epilogue, which go over everything in far too much detail. I should point out that “one year later” could easily mean several generations later, with new characters discussing the events as history.

I think that this can be done, for example, if an RO has a specific subplot which might not have been activated, even though they are technically “being romanced”. In this case, it might make sense for them to drift apart, even if they were still together at the end of the main plot. Obviously, though, in this case, there would still have been a way to keep the RO in other playthroughs; if there’s no way to have made it work, it does seem rather cruel.


#8

I really liked the epilogue in Tin Star. It was pretty close to what I hoped my characters would be doing, and even though I initially got a kinda sad one the first time, it motivated me to play the game again to get a better one. (First time was Yiska being sad that his tribe was being steamrolled by white culture, second time I was able to get more leverage on the old rich guy and got them more land plus mineral rights and they flourished).

The epilogues in Zombie Exodus were okay I guess… I only saw two so maybe there’s a happy ending out there that I didn’t achieve. The ones I got were a hilltop civilization but Mindy became a bandit and Devlin died, and another where I was a scientist working on a cure but because of that she was an absentee mom. I guess being an absentee parent to save the world is better than raising the kid alone after her best friend and husband are both gone, but geez. I just don’t like huge plot developments like that happening as a post script to the main story. (I overall did love that game, hope I don’t sound too critical)


#9

Oh dear, we used an epilogue at the end of So, You’re Possessed! a little differently, to provide a stronger bookend to that game (because it is a series, so the first game serves as a segue and not a final conclusion), while also–and, to me, more importantly–giving the reader some insight into the goings on that their MC is not yet privy to. It was both an open-ended and concluding ending?

I’ve elaborated on why we deliberately chose to break up the story that way on other threads, so I won’t beat that dead horse here, but I am interested to read the responses here. Seems like not only are we in the minority, but that maybe players don’t like that? Whoops! (Given that we have already established this as part of our style and I’m still subjectively partial to how we did it, we will probably do it again, anyway. I’m sorry!) :confounded: :sweat_smile:


#10

I like epilogues, but I don’t want them to take place TOO far in the future. I liked how Heroes Rise concluded - with everyone sitting together after the world has returned to normal(ish). For me, epilogues shouldn’t dictate what the player character does twenty years from now, but it should hint at how their life might continue.


#11

Actually this and @MizArtist33’s answer made me think of something else: What exactly constitutes an “epilogue”? Does it have to be in the future? Or could an epilogue be something as simple as “the day after” and show the beginnings of the end?

Could a ‘to be continued’-esque ending be counted as an epilogue? Say… for a mystery story, if the entirety of the story is centered around one, wide-spread, dramatic case. By the end, the case is solved, but say the epilogue involves the character getting a new case and the story itself wraps up with the detective going off to solve this new case.

That could technically be a “to be continued” ending, as the “sequel” would’ve revolved around this new case. But… couldn’t it also be a final ending? Doing what most have suggested is best here, the whole “here’s a hint on how your life goes on” kind of ending?

So what exactly draws the line between the two?


#12

Epilogues generally tie up the the story into a “satifactory” ending of sorts. They don’t have to be final. Some can hint a a sequel story line or suchlike.

This page has a reasonable summary :slight_smile:
http://literarydevices.net/epilogue/


#13

I’ve written several “rest of your life” epilogues, based on the assumption that if I was interested then my players probably would be too.

In “Attack of the Clockwork Army” I had relationships end, continue, or thrive depending on stats (and my own parent-y bias came into play with “children” born/adopted if stats were high), and I amused myself far too much by specifying career based on stats (everything from governess/tutor to inventor of penicillin).

If someone survived in “Scarlet Sails”, they could still die from a few longer-term stats (such as “Likelihood of being killed in your sleep”), relationships could fail or thrive, and there were various lifestyle things (do you settle down or continue pirating? etc).

Everything was based on stats, always (either directly or indirectly). One thing I’ve learned over time is that I need to communicate better what effect various stats have, eg if your fatal flaw in “Clockwork Army” was “Easily Distrace–ooh! Shiny!” and you didn’t fix the flaw in-game, then your relationship stat suffered in the epilogue. But if you had magical gold, it was improved.

I really like it when other people’s epilogues are satisfying both in the sense of having no plot threads hanging, and in the sense of feeling right for the character.


#14

@RenaB In general, I would say that an epilogue is a nice thing but it shouldn’t be too long.
If it is a stand-alone game, I expect it to have an epilogue, while games that are part of a series usually have an open ending that allows a sequel.
The scope of the epilogue should depend on the scope of the main game. For example, if the whole plot was one adventure/job/mission hat happened over the course a few months, an epilogue describing the rest of the MC’s live would look odd. But if it was a long-term game where the MC grows from child to mid-aged person, such an epilogue would be appropriate.


#15

I thought this was a great breakdown! Definitely answers @RenaB’s question of just how diverse they can really be. And relieved to see that our approach (different character POV, set a few hours into the future, etc.) qualifies as legitimate! Whew. :grin:


#16

Writing epilogues is usually one of the more fun parts to write of a story since you can be satisfied in the knowledge that your vision has at last been completed.

In general, epilogues should somewhat represent the results of what the protagonist accomplished. Some divergence of that is okay, after all what your character might have thought was a good thing during the actual story, didn’t work out so great after all in the long run.

I do agree that the scope of the epilogue should tend to match the scope of the story, however, you can even get around that depending on how much is being written overall and what exactly is going on.

For example in Suzy’s Strange Saga, it takes place in the course of a week, but each day is broken down into several passages, choices and A LOT goes on each day causing a lot of change to the protagonist’s life. It made sense to take the multiple epilogues a decade or so in the future to see how much she had changed and was getting along in the new world.

Meanwhile in Eternal, it’s a whole “womb to the tomb” story. So the epilogues in that only applied when the protagonist made a big enough impact in the world to be remembered for generations and by history.

I’ve always seen epilogues as sort of “winning” endings so I see them as the “final” wrap up of lasting accomplishments of the protagonists. Other endings might not all be bad though. Hell, some of the “lesser” endings I’ve written even with stories with epilogues I’ve actually liked better.

Epilogues can work no matter what the scope of the story is; however they typically work better if that story is still self-contained. If you’re planning on a sequel, you get the problem of which ending is the “true one?”

Of course as the writer, you can handle this several ways. The easiest one being you just pick the one you like the best and works for you as far as writing the next story is concerned.

One thing I don’t like are cliff hangers, though you can still have “weak” cliff hangers which work if you want to leave things open for a sequel. Like perhaps an indication that potential trouble/struggles/etc. still loom out there, but for the story purposes all the immediate threats/problems have been solved or taken care of.