What counts as a different ending?

I’m pretty sure that my game Choice of Magics will want to advertise itself as having X different endings. But, it’s not super clear what constitutes a different ending.

There are 5 different climaxes. There is something big threatening the world or protagonist, and it’s different in each. Probably too coarse an ending count.

There are about 40 different resolutions to those climaxes - basically, the # options to those climaxes and success or abject failure for each. These tend to be pretty different even for the same climax, like shrink all monsters everywhere versus become a monster yourself.

There are getting to be maybe twice that many last lines to the game in the final chapter. The resolutions are modified by different stats and earlier decisions, so an ending might read differently if you have high Empathy versus high Calculation, for example.

Then there are all the ways these are modified by asides about romance and such, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t count as a different ending.

Then there are all the ways you can die in earlier chapters - not many, but they’re there. Most classic CYOAs counted deaths as endings, so I’d include these in a total count.

My inclination is to count all the deaths as endings, as well as all the different flavors of the resolutions as different endings. An immortal specter who goes to read books forever is different from an immortal specter who haunts houses forever, for example.

But I realize others may not be on board with minor variations counting as different endings, or may not consider early deaths to be real endings. And I want the advertising copy to be honest.

So - what does it take to count as a different ending? Or more pragmatically, what kind of ending counting scheme would not upset people who bought the game on the basis of it?


Is it possible for the advertising copy to make clear (or somewhat clear) what an ‘ending’ is in the description? I have my own ideas about how different is different enough, but it seems like it might be highly subjective…and what if readers have a 50/50 split?

I think fiogan’s right, it can get really subjective. I don’t love it when things say they have X number of endings but a lot of them are instadeaths or only have a sentence or two difference. Like if you get to a particular ending but it’s classed as 3 different endings depending on whether you ended up with A, B or C and the differences are only very minor flavor text. Other’s may disagree though. Maybe some examples with a poll?


Make as many achievements are you want endings.
Problem solved. :slight_smile:

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This is what I would be counting for “different endings.”

…so an ending might read differently if you have high Empathy versus high Calculation, for example.

Without an example my guess here might be off base, but I’d consider this type of change “the same ending, just with different words” or “the same ending, from a different viewpoint.” If something happens and different people interpret it different ways, it’s not multiple events, is it? It’s just real life. In the same way, from what you’ve described here, I’d say this is just different “people” (MCs with different stats) looking at a single event.

Then there are all the ways these are modified by asides about…

I personally wouldn’t count these unless “romance or don’t romance?” (or whichever aside you’re considering) is a major question the player must deal with throughout the game. That said, they very well might deserve an independent count.

Most classic CYOAs counted deaths as endings, so I’d include these in a total count.

My inclination is to count all the deaths as endings, as well as all the different flavors of resolutions as different endings.

Personally, like subplots and optional asides, I’d like these counted separately. Something like “You can die 53 ways, survive 44, and experience 35 romantic conclusions,” perhaps?


Trying to make clear what counts as an ending sounds good to me, but I’m still curious as to what the best thing to count is, if one is going to count something.

Also, advertising copy doesn’t get all that many words to explain itself, so I think I have to choose a scheme that mostly seems intuitive. Trying to get a sense for what that is.

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I remember hearing and liking the explanation that an ending can be summed up by two questions: Where are we? & Where can we go from here? So, I guess that if the answer to at least one of those questions is unique then it counts as a different ending.

That being said, I also remember disliking the endings of video games where the differences only seemed cosmetic so details like whether a side character still has their eye or not feel more like variants of the same ending rather than a new one. One could argue that’s because the characters are still in the same narrative position and still can go to the same directions (though some may trip over some things on the way because of poor depth-perception).


Personally I wouldn’t include death in the different ending counts. Unless there’s a lot of buildup or setup to this death most deaths just don’t feel like endings- they feel like game overs. Which aren’t the final act of a story but rather a ‘whoops, welp, you lost, time to start it all over again, eh?’ So they never feel like endings, just… failures(?)

There are, of course, exceptions to this but those deaths usually stand out from any other ‘game over’ death. It takes a lot of work and skill to make a death-based-ending feel like an ending instead of a game over. Personally, I can only think of one. In Study in Steampunk, you can essentially become a supernatural version of Jack the Ripper, and, should you decide to stay on this path, it will kill you. There are no happy endings here but it feels like you know that going into it. You can see the downfall and you’re fully aware that there’s no way to climb outta this pit. But the ending feels… satisfying, in a way. Not just because you knew what you were getting into so it’s not as if the author just bonked you over the head with a wooden panel saying ‘You Died’, but also because it’s almost it’s own self-contained story of one man’s descent into madness. That, I would definitely count as an ending, and not just a game-over.

However as for whether or not I would count small nuances like romance or friendship epilogues into an ending…? Well… hm… that’s a tricky question. While it doesn’t make the ending entirely different in and of itself it does definitely vary it up. I guess it depends on how the ending(s) are presented and how much these tiny facets change. If it’s built entirely upon them then one different puzzle piece can make a world of difference, but if it’s mostly the same save for the name of who it is that runs up to greet you at the end then I wouldn’t count it as a different ending.


Counting different kinds of endings separately sounds good to me, maybe splitting the deaths versus non-deaths.

I definitely hear the viewpoint not mattering to its being a separate ending; that makes sense. But how about if the villain could be X, Y, or Z in a scenario, and you get different text depending on who was defeated? Or a very common scenario is that a choice earlier in the game about how magic should be treated – made illegal, taught in schools, restricted to the Church – affects the long-term consequences of one of the resolutions. So it’s one ending split into four final few paragraphs based on an earlier choice. (I sort of doubt there’s a succinct way to signal this subtlety in advertising; I assume I’ve got to count it or not.)

“Where are we” and “where can we go from here” is really great. I might just go with that.

I really like @Minnow’s idea of listing the types of endings separately, because it does vary so much, what counts as an ending to a particular reader. The 40 climax resolutions and all the deaths would, to me, be different endings; the different flavours, not so much.

I do think a good death feels like a proper ending (even if we can’t go anywhere from there, necessarily). My favourite ending in one particular series, which I would consider my canon PC’s ending, was actually a very spectacular death at the end of the first book of the series. So quite early, but it was a smashing ending.

If I’m an immortal spectre, on the other hand, that would feel much the same whether I’m reading books, haunting houses, or terrifying soda jerks in Rasputin Falls, NY. Unless, of course, I have a few pages of doing whatever it is we immortal spectres do…but I assume from the spectre-point it’s a summary-style epilogue?


If you wanted to be specific, you could break it down into:

X Good Endings
Y Normal Endings
Z Bad Endings

How interchangeable within a given climax are the villains? Punching out a guy who stands six meters tall and wears flames as if they were clothes is quite different from grabbing a pint-sized manipulative schemer disguised a sweet old grandpa and tossing him off a tenth-floor balcony!

If you could swap one villain for another halfway through the climax, would your players notice? If yes, your players would notice, they may be different endings! If no, then it’s possibly the same ending?

I can see how, in some games, endings of “You killed them in solo combat,” “You killed them in combat with assistance from your followers,” and “Your followers killed them at your command,” would always be the same three endings shared across multiple villains. The same events and consequences, no matter which face or name the villain placeholder happened to be wearing.

Or a very common scenario is that a choice earlier in the game about how magic should be treated…affects the long-term consequences of one of the resolutions.

I probably wouldn’t count those as different, with a major caveat: If the MC’s personal answers to “Where are we?” and “Where do we go from here?” are going to be significantly different as a result. (Thanks to @LaughablyAffable for that description, it’s brilliant!)

As an example: If an MC was able to keep their magic regardless of legality, it should probably count as the same ending of the MC’s story. Even if things change significantly for the nameless, faceless masses off-screen. Off-page? However, if the MC’s magic is stripped away when the legality changes, that should probably count separately.

Random thought, possibly quite relevant: Players who feel the game includes more endings than it was originally advertised with are probably less likely to become upset or complain than players who feel the game includes fewer endings than advertised. As such, it may be wise to use the more conservative count in borderline cases.


I think you have to make a difference between endings and variations to the endings. One of my most liked games were Cinders which is basically a Cinderalla story. Now that had 3 or 4 endings.

  • Cinders marries the prince
  • Cinders become head of the family fortune
  • Cinders end up in exile
    (Some fail state where you end up in jail)

Now these ending all had variations depending on factors such as Cinders personality, Cinders relationship with the step family (all three members had their own variable), who if any Cinders romanced, (I don’t remember what the choice of god mothers did because I am a chicken and always chose the non-fairy one.). These variations read widely differently and it was hugely fun to unlock them all (the game kept track, so you could see what you had unlocked), but I would still say that the story only had three or four endings.

I also want to echo @Minnow and say that it is better to undersell than oversell here. Players who gets more endings than they expected won’t complain, but player who gets less will.

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I like how you emphasize “we” in “where do we go from here,” although I’m not sure I buy it 100%. If two endings totally remake the world in different ways at the cost of the player’s death, that strikes me as two different endings. Maybe not development of magic, but “everybody in the world is now a ghost” versus “the whole world floods and everybody’s on boats now.”

Not super sure I want to make those value judgments for the player, but maybe?

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I’m definitely now leaning toward explicitly numbering the endings with both numbers and letters, like “Ending 34B.” I think the variations are interesting but people are right that they’re not essentially different endings. Explicit numbering would help the player know what they got 42 of, and the copy could be like “42 endings each with an average of 5 variants” or something.

Hmm, I think “Endings” should be something concrete like “Red, Green or Blue” for Mass Effect 3. The flavour text should be akin to Bioware epilogues.

So endings should be concrete: did you defeat the evil villain and save the day, or did you overthrow the evil villain and take over as the evil vilain? Minor things that our choices along the way may have altererd should either be flavour text or wrapped up in an epilogue.

I think the best examples I can give as epilogues are Neverwinter Nights second expansion pack (hordes of undrentide) and the second NWN2 expansion pack.

Calling a changed bit of flavour text an “ending” is disingenious at best.

Good / Normal / Bad is just a way to break down a multitude of endings into easy-to-process categories. It doesn’t necessarily have to be these exact three things.

The main question I would have as a player is something like… "I’m going to have to replay this story 40 (or however many there actually are) times in order to complete this game?

A completionist’s psychology can vary greatly from the average player who just wants a satisfying ending or two. An average player might look at a game with 42 endings and be put off if these 42 all constitute “main” endings. However, that same average player can look at a game with 42 endings and if it advertises something like 4 or 5 “true” endings, a relatively small fraction of total possible endings, then that player may be motivated to find those “true” endings by engaging a pass/fail mindset.

In a pass/fail mindset, the “true” endings are a pass, as far as work and effort put into the game. The reward for sufficient effort is a “true” ending; one worthy of the player’s time. The other endings are “fail” in the sense that they don’t measure up to the true endings, aren’t nearly as satisfying, and are the punishment for less-than-perfect choices.

The pass/fail binary does not, and should not, try and act as a box to fit all endings (this limits creativity and variation). So with that in mind you have a third category… “average” endings. This is my take on how the Good/Average/Bad Ending umbrellas came to be.

Of course, if there are reasons why the author doesn’t want to, as you stated, “make those value judgements” for the player, then another viable method would be to, as I suggested in my first post, make as many achievements as you want endings. This may have been worded a bit poorly. I probably should have stated it something like… add one achievement per unique and satisfying ending.

Let’s see if I can make this analogy work…

Take a look at the color wheel. There are many shades of blue, for example. Blue can vary from the color that defines the spectrum, “blue,” to many and varying shades of this, that, and the other… but when “blue” goes too far, it may become yellow. Should we also account for green, and shades of green?

My recommendation is to see if you can classify the endings as if you were classifying colors. A variation on a “blue” ending is still a Blue ending; it hasn’t reached green yet. Just think about how many primary or secondary colors you need in order to have all the variations fit under each color.

Well, first off I want to say that I’m already really looking forward to this game, just because your other games are some of my favorites, and I’ve played them way too many times just to see what slight variations are possible, and they were always interesting.

Fawning over my favorite games aside, I think that the best definition of a different ending is one in which you experience basically the same amount of content but with some substantial difference in how it all turns out.

That definition is very broad, so to elaborate, take Choice of Robots’s (correct possessive?) endings. A great example is how in Chapter 7, which is of course the final possible chapter your character can have a living blood relative or not, based on their choices. That variation constitutes, to me, a different ending. As well as the fate of your primary robot creation, your own fate, and the fate of the many other characters. It probably helps to specify what is not, in my opinion, an alternate ending.

In Choice of Robots, if you decide to take action against a character in Chapter 3 and your robot is not suited for that, you can die. Naturally, at that point the game ends. While this does technically constitute an alternate ending, I would not call it such, as to me such an event would be a failure state and not a conclusion. A “Game Over” rather than a “The End” if you will.

In short, an ending has to be as long as a ‘normal’ playthrough but with enough variation that the plot is resolved in some unique way.

It seems sort of obvious now so uh

Well I hope that was helpful, somehow

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