Would you be okay with a game having just a BAD ending and no GOOD ending?

In a word, yes.

I love tragedy. My lover dead in my arms. Me dead in his or her arms. Everyone just miserable. Real life me drowning in my own tears.

That’s the way to end a story.


Oh yeah, I would love that kind of ending too but only if I make bad or questionable decisions throughout the game.


Guidelines for the “Choice Of” label recommends that all endings must be “awesome” regardless of goodness/badness. To me, that’s the important axis here: awesome/non-awesome.


I can agree with that…

Planescape Torment for exemple had sorta of a ‘bad ending’ as in there was no rainbow unicorn ending . But it fit the story . It leave you satisfied somehow…

But the ‘you die’ no matter what you do ? Thats just awful .


I’m all for varying levels of tone in my media, so I wouldn’t mind a tragedy where all endings are some kind of bad. At least on the level of most non-Divination climaxes in Choice Of Magic; they’re usually “good” unless you screw up but you still have some kind of major catastrophe occur as a direct result of your own hubris like a proper Greek tragedy.

The thing that I consider an absolute no is when I feel like everything would’ve been better if the main character had literally never been born and/or stayed home and not participated in the adventure, unless I get there because I screw up; if I suck at hand-to-hand combat and try to avert Ragnarok by engaging Surtur in a sword fight I’m gonna have a bad time. Using Choice Of Magic’s automation climax for an example of the spread:

So first up there’s the straight lose condition, which I’d hate if it was the only option: You whip up the perpetual storm, get blasted from the sky by lightning, and die, soon followed by your entire civilization and it’s all your fault.
Semi-intermediary, you survive the crash, make a bid to destroy the storm, and fail and die in the attempt, but at least there’s an epilogue of people retreating into the caverns and living out their lives as cave people, though honestly it sounds like it’d have been better to just lose the war
Then we get into the fun ones where your plans work:

  1. Lightning rod plan; you withdraw your formerly agrarian surface civilization into caverns, becoming a subterranian technological Utopia, where you wield automation magic with casual abandon, the intensifying storms merely giving your people ever more power for their machinery with every lightning bolt.
  2. Ark plan: Your civilization shifts to wondrous floating cities and airships, shining gloriously in the sunlight as the storms you loosed upon the world rage below.
  3. Antistorm plan: You finally end the perpetual storm and the invasion in the same stroke; the only true cost aside from the destruction already wrought by the storms is that your automated factories fall inert until Negation reactors can bring them back online. And hell, ten years ago you didn’t have automated factories; you can just go back to being a preindustrial civilization.

So all of those are in a sense bad endings, because a lot of people die, but the success conditions ultimately come out to being a wonderous accomplishment as far as people will be concerned a thousand years later. It also helps that the game blurb straight-up tells you that you’re going to be using magic with disastrous consequences, so you know what you’re signing up for.

I also am pretty fond of games having a “golden ending” to go with mixed-to-bad endings, where you do everything exactly right and then you just win; every good choice you’ve made along the way locks together and all your allies come to your aid and you save yourself and the world. Partially on a philosophical level I think it’s good to have stories like that sometimes; the real world isn’t perfect, but to quote possibly the best speech Terry Prachett ever wrote (competition is stiff) “YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T REAL. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME?” Partially I think an ending where everything goes right is all the sweeter when you know everything could have gone wrong.

It’s a bit tricky to pull off in a Choicescript game style, though, because players will resent that sort of thing if they don’t agree on what the “right” choices are. At the very least each primary stat should have its own path to a golden ending for that stat; if you have Fighting, Sorcery, and Diplomacy there should be a golden ending where you battle and defeat , a golden ending where you conduct a grand ritual to achieve , and a golden ending where you form .

I would agree that you should absolutely have “awesome” endings, but I also think “non-awesome” endings can add to the overall quality of the work. It’s a delicate balance, but I always feel more satisfied by “winning” when I know I could have “lost”. So I appreciate having endings where it’s just a humiliating failure if you openly and blatantly screw up by repeatedly trying to handle key moments by using a skill you’re manifestly unqualified in. On the other hand, I also hate actually getting those endings except when I’m deliberately aiming for them; it’s just that knowing they’re out there makes it feel more satisfying when I make wise decisions.

Though even with those, if it’s not going to be immediately followed by “load checkpoint?” I want to get a follow-up epilogue detailing how this all plays out. Even a farce about an incompetent hero who screws up everything they try to do needs an ending.


That ending could totally be written in an “awesome” way. A really, over-the-top humiliating failure with far-reaching consequences could be great.


I would actually use Choice Magics as a reference here, because despite it having “good” endings, anyone who’s played it knows it’s pretty much nearly impossible to avoid something really bad happening- and the game makes it very clear through it’s themes that’s the case. It works, though, because the bad things that happen are your fault, and not in the “haha, a choice you made earlier was actually WRONG! Now everyone suffers!” but more in a “there’s no right way to solve this problem, there will be negative consequences- what consequences do you think you can live with?” You know basically the whole way that the path your walking down is going to end harshly for at least some characters, and the game even gives you a heads up if I recall correctly several times if you want to change your mind because you had underestimated the effects of a certain path.

So, I’m okay with a game having only bad endings, provided that they make logical sense, I know I’m getting into them, and they’re varied. Like, maybe one bad ending is the MC succeeds- at severe cost. Maybe they’ve become a shell of their former self, or died. Perhaps another is they straight up lose, but at least their morality or life is secure. I think those two categories of ending actually add a wide breadth of potential endings, while maintaining a grim theme all the way through. I know those endings might be more just darkly bittersweet than purely bad, but I’m always suspect of stories that have entirely negative conclusions. I don’t need good to triumph over evil all the time, but a story in which nothing really changes because everyone loses is… boring, more than it is depressing. Tragedies typically feature the high brought low, not the low continuing to be low, because that wouldn’t really be a story.


I think the key underpinning that makes Choice Of Magics work in the way it does is that you are straight up told that everything you do with magic is going to have some kind of disastrous consequence. If you don’t pay a price for it right away you’re gonna pay it later. So all of the bad endings aren’t “HAHA, you screwed up!” it’s “The bill has come due and you realize you should have read the fine print more carefully.”

It’s also pretty key that you know the kind of price you’ll pay but not how much; the player and the character are equally gambling that it’s going to be something you can afford, and then you lose that gamble. Then you get the climax chapter to do something about it, and you usually end the climax chapter better off than when you started.

Also, come to think of it, I’m less satisfied with Vivomancy and Glamour than the other climaxes, and I think I can pinpoint why for both.

Partially my impression of this one is colored by getting it on my first playthrough, where I really didn’t feel like I’d been using it that much, so it felt disconnected from my prior actions. Beyond that, it’s the one where I most frequently just fail and die of rot rather than escaping this hole my mad wizardry got me into by using mad wizardry to dig my way out. I never have successfully magicked my way out of death there if you don’t count the mitre. So my efforts in the climax chapter feel like a waste of time.

Here my main issue is that I feel like the Vivomancy climax breaks the rule that made me think this plan wasn’t totally insane to begin with; I only opted for it on the theory that Viviomancy only had direct consequences on the target, so if a warbeast went wrong we could put it down. That’s it’s side of the devil’s bargain that all magic is; the consequences are unpredictable but confined.


Well… nothing bad happened for my choice of magic ending, and i am very happy with my ending :wink:


If there is only one predetermined ending that is generally negative and unavoidable, then can it still be counted as an if-game?
Itd be fine in normal books but here…I’d feel ripped off.


I rather enjoyed Murphey escaping in Wayhaven Chronicles it felt more fufiling somehow like my detective may have failed in stopping the mad scientist but they and the vampires seemed closer than ever despite it.


personally, no. I avoid games with only bad or like bittersweet endings. you know?
I play games to get away from daily shit xD, that being said id on’t mind if there’s like a lot of angst or hurt as long as the ending is happy

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Isn’t that basically paradox factor?

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That’s why I said “pretty much nearly impossible” because there’s at least one path I know of where you only personally suffer for a little bit and everyone ends up fine, with only an unambiguous villain ending up failing.

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A lot of it depends on the game in question. If you are facing a major baddy, there is a war going on, etc. then you know the odds are good your character may die, or come to a bad ending.

However, if a game’s blurb doesn’t at least hint at that, then I personally get pissed if I feel something is disingenuous.

People have mentioned Paradox Factor. I will be the first to say it is a marvel of coding for what it accomplishes and its age, and I certainly found the game compelling. By the same token, where it seemed like every choice ended up as a bad one in the end…then yes, as a player I felt lied to. Please note that this is just a subjective feeling, and won’t apply to anyone else.

Paradox Factor’s blurb says, “What would you change? Alter your past and future in this thought-provoking and edgy time travel game. Are you willing to live with the effects that your changes may cause?”

So obviously I knew it was going to be grim at parts, or at least pessimistic. By the same token, it also felt like there would be some positive stuff at the end. However, when it feels all for nothing…then it makes me wonder why I even played at all.

This was part of what made me give up on Tell-Tale’s Walking Dead series. When I save someone, and they still die a scene later…let alone the whole ‘your choices affect story’, and yet the same people die, or are forced to die in the next season…then again, I feel lied to as a player.

Of course, not every player feels that way either, and this doesn’t make them wrong either. When something is subjective, then both can apply at the same time. However, if many people start viewing it as a complaint, then it might be something for a writer to keep in mind.


I sure hope people say yes. :zipper_mouth_face:

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Depends on the ending. Imagine being s canver patient playing a game to distract yourself from your illness and the message of the game is " why bother fighting you’re just going to die anyway." There shouldn’t necessarily be a “bad” ending. Take "The Magicians Burden’ Your dad is Dead, your bills is partially destroyed, war is coming. It’s not a happy ending. But that’s because it’s building up to the next book And technically it’s not an ending just a beginning to something new. A “Bad” ending is where nothing you did matters nobody cares and you and all your favorite characters die because why not. There’s melancholic endings like your quest to revive your lkst love being a failure but if you learned along the way and helped others maybe you can finally grieve. But a bad ending is just shitting in the rest of the game.

I can think of few scenarios where the story only has bad endings could work.

However they all require a deep and nuanced main character, with thorough and extensive background to puzzle out if you want decent replay ability.

It is a choice game after all. Your choices must have significance, so you as a reader can feel as though you have achieved or gained something in the course of making those choices.

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I will say, given certain themes in your work, I generally give stories featuring cosmic horror a pass on making me feel like I “won.” One of the cornerstones of that genre is the inevitability of failure in the face of something beyond understanding, so it’s to be expected the ending won’t exactly be a Disney resolution.

Depends on the tone of the game. If I’m playing a game set in, say the Vietnam War, then yes, because there was almost nothing good that came out of that, and the war itself was hell, so the game would have a dark and grim tone. However, if I’m playing a game set in wonderland, then I expect there to be some happy endings, because the tone would probably whimsical (unless it was a darker retelling of course).

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