Dramatic ending

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by hian, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    So, I'm almost done with the rough outline of the story, and the gameplay elements for my main project, and I'm toying with this idea for the ending, but I want some feedback, because I've got a feeling it might put a lot of people off(at least those who prefer happy endings).

    Essentially, before the last showdown between the protagonist and the antagonist, I plan to have each of the other party members fight by themselves in distinct battles against other foes to allow the protagonist to reach the villain.

    Now, each of these fights can be lost(without game over), which results in the death of that particular character.

    I.E, you can complete the game with all characters except the hero having died before the ending.

    Using switches and variables the ending will vary based on this(won't be that much work, since it's just the ending. I'll just make a scene for each party member that is either included or excluded at the end based on whether they died or not, among other things).

    To make sure that no member will be significantly underleveled compared to the main character, I have a swap member in battle script going, and fairly good rates of shared experience even for characters that don't participate in fights.

    What I am worried about though, are the emotional reactions of players.

    Do you think this is a clever way to create an emotional ending, or would it just piss you off?

    I'm counting on that most people will lose at least a few characters on the first playthrough, because I wish to send the message that in war, people die(not just insignificant people we dont know, but those close to us too, and that sometimes sacrifices must be made to save the day).

    In other words I'm going for a bitter sweet ending.

    So again, how do you guys feel about that?
     
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  2. AlphaSilvr

    AlphaSilvr King of the Wolves Veteran

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    Personally I am OK with that. I like games like Fire Emblem where you can lose you characters. (Mass Effect 2 kinda did this... if you lost that character, the character didn't show in the ending and that character didn't show up in ME3) - But I also like movies/TV with tragic stories such as:

    Gladiator, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games Trilogy
    To me it adds more emotion and for me as a reader/player/observer, I can actually feel fear that my favorite characters may die. I get pissed at first, but I enjoy every minute of it. :D
     
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  3. gvduck10

    gvduck10 Quacker Jack Veteran

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    I like it as a concept, and it does make it more realistic. In the suikoden games, there is always at least a hand-full of characters (out of the 108) that if they die in the "tactical battles" (ie, war battles), you get one of two message: "______ retreated" or "_________ fell in battle", if you get the latter message, they are DEAD. Their name gets grayed out on the Tablet of Stars, and in some of the games, I think it tells you which battle they died in. In some of the games, its all the characters except those vital to the story that can die for good. It's worth a soft reset to avoid!

    As a player, I would be bummed to see my characters "actually die", but if the game is good, it would just make me more determined to try those battles again, or playthrough again. Wild Arms 2 had the same set-up at the end, didn't it?
     
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  4. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    @Alpha

    Yeah, I'm like that too. I'm just worried about the scope of it.

    Losing a character early or halfway through the plot usually means that the player isn't all that invested yet, or is afforded time to process the loss.

    By putting it at the end, the shock value might be a bit overboard. Imagine playing through Final Fantasy 7 or something, and then suddenly having a large portion of your cast dying on you as you move through the final dungeon.

    I'm pretty committed to doing it, I just hope it(granted that anyone plays my game) won't be a gamebreaking moment for most people.

    @gvduck:

    I don't know, I never completed Wild Arms 2. Love that series though. Really wish I could play the remake of wild arms 1.

    As for suikoden, with exceptions of Gremio, Nanami, and other prominent plot characters in later games, I never really felt all that much about the battlefield deaths. Suikoden has great stories, but often many of the characters aren't afforded any real significant character development. I guess that's the downside of working with such a large cast.
     
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  5. AlphaSilvr

    AlphaSilvr King of the Wolves Veteran

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    If you are looking for an overall assessment of what the general people think, then you may be going overboard. The reason Hollywood doesn't do dark endings often is because the general public doesn't like it.

    This is what has me scared of the Hunger Game ending... I loved the book ending, but I am fearful that they will change it to appeal to the masses.
    I can only speak personally that I love darker endings like that. Even if I am invested in the character, their death can add that emotional journey to it. I do feel that pointless deaths (killing off a character for the sole purpose of trying to make the reader/gamer/observer shed a tear) is more maddening then it is tear-jerking. Example:

    FFVII killed Aerith suddenly, but it was part of the story, not just because they wanted the character dead. Gladiator was the same way. He "gave" up because he had avenged his family and come to peace.
    Mass Effect 2 was nice because it was usually something you did in the final battle area that got that character killed. That seems to be the way you are going. As gvduck10 stated, it's sometimes worth a soft-reset to get your character back, though.
     
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  6. gvduck10

    gvduck10 Quacker Jack Veteran

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    @hian: in some of the later games, some rather significant characters die. actually, in Suik V its all the minor characters who are basically guaranteed to retreat, and the more vital characters who are in danger of getting wiped out for good. and there is one point in the game (no spoiler) that you have to make a tough decision, and if you choose one option, an important character does die and you cannot prevent it... if you choose the other option though, it doesn't have to go down like that!

    One of the later wildarms game has a character that dies AFTER the game is over... during the epilogue... its kind of depressing, but also very heart-felt. again, it's realistic. anyone who's lost a parent, sibling, spouse, or child in real life knows that... and these are just CHARACTERS afterall. I say go for it... and I'll play your game!!! (as long as its in English or Spanish and not badly translated)
     
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  7. cabfe

    cabfe Cool Cat Veteran

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    If my party members were to die at the end of the game, I would be annoyed if it were just during a "classical battle". You fight, you lose, "xyz is dead, though luck ! And here goes another challenger !".

    I know this is not exactly how you plan to do it, but you get my point.

    At the end of a game, you develop bonds with your party members. If I could get a cutscene showing the last moment of some kind of heroic deeds (directly after the lost battle) that would be more acceptable (for me, at least) as I get some kind of reward.

    But if there is nothing just after it (and I don't know at that moment that the ending sequence will features differents endings accordingly) I probably will just reload my savegame.
     
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  8. gvduck10

    gvduck10 Quacker Jack Veteran

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    cabfe makes a good point: if the character loses their big battle, there should be a "Last Resort" cutscene, where the character heroically sacrifices themselves to allow the main story/protagonist to progress anyways. This would def add emotional depth, and leave the player feeling like maybe they were destined to lose that battle, and not just automatically reset the game to the last save
     
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  9. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    When you bring up the issue of "character death" in the way you describe, I'm always reminded (after reading a post here on the forums) of the Fire Emblem series and the behaviors of players in those games.  A player loses a character in Fire Emblem, they reset the game and try the fight again.  This, apparently, is fairly common amongst gamers (I don't think I've ever done it, but it seems like I would if given the chance) and is a good indicator of what might happen at your ending.  Unless, of course, there is no way to avoid these deaths with a reset.

    If there isn't and it's basically because the player didn't do something right, then these deaths are good and quite impactful.  Like, the Mass Effect 2 ending, if you didn't do the things you were supposed to, you could lose absolutely everyone in the final battle.  But, the game let you know ahead of time that you might want to complete the Loyalty missions or who you wanted to do which particular jobs during the last mission as well as which equipment you might want to invest in to survive the battle.

    If these deaths come out of nowhere and are a result of simply not having enough stats or not fighting smart enough...  These will result in player resets and likely irritation.

    At least, that's my understanding of how such a thing works.
     
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  10. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    Naturally each of these deaths would be meaningful, as each of these characters would ultimately die to provide the hero a chance at getting to the antagonist by keeping additional enemies out if the way.

    Each death will have its own cut-scene.

    I also plan on having each death add to a variable that will change the difficulty of the last boss.

    If you win each of the encounters that would imply a strong party and/or a smart player which will increase the difficulty.

    For each character you lose, the difficulty decreases somewhat.

    As for soft resets:

    A loss would usually mean that your characters are too weak, in which case loading to a point before the battle might not mean much. You'd have to load to before entering the dungeon and level up your characters for a bit.

    That being said, my game allows the player to allocate stats manually, so it is possible to make broken characters, in which case you'd have to load quite far back to correct your mistakes.

    I will be warning the player early on that choice you make might have heavy consequences later in game though, so hopefully people will bare that in mind as they play.

    In my games stats are awarded(appart from levels gained by fighting) from the choices you make in game, so that should make the experience more interesting.

    People who play nice, help people etc, gain support stats they can allocate freely to their party members, while people who play aggressively gain attack power etc.

    Of course it's not that black and white, nor easy to predict, and considering your stats are raised in general from leveling, you're not going to find yourself with 0 attack power etc, just because you played nice.

    However, this means that how your characters developed is deeply connected to how you play the story, and how you care for your characters. It was with this in mind I thought character deaths at the end might be an interesting idea.
     
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  11. Matseb2611

    Matseb2611 Innovate, don't emulate Veteran

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    I think if you're doing something like this, you should give the player plenty of warning and also plenty of choice in this. If each character will be fighting a separate battle, at the very least the player should be allowed to choose who will fight what battle, so that they can strategise it, but also, in case they aren't sure of whether their party is strong enough or not, that they at least get a choice to keep the characters they want to survive safe by perhaps matching them with a weaker of the enemies and so on, if you get what I mean. Usually in games like these you become emotionally attached to your party, and it can sadden the player if they were to lose someone out of the blue without being warned about it.  
     
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  12. Faerypixel25

    Faerypixel25 Where's Charles Lee!? Veteran

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    I find it quite great when there is a twist of sadness or drama in games like this because it makes you care more for the characters and lets you fall in love with them. If there was know dramatic part in the story, how would you truly learn to appreciate it? Thats why I love the rpg known as "Mad Father," SPOILER ALERT (If you haven't played the game DO NOT READ THIS!) When Aya goes to save her father she discovers (if you get a certain ending) that he was trying to turn you into a doll so your beauty never faded. (If you get another ending similar to this one) you will run away from him and his assistant will kill him before he kills you, and the assistance will become like you mother. That's why it's one of my favorite rpgs. It is crammed full with emotion and drama. And best of all A GREAT STORYLINE AND A DEDICATED MAKER.
     
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  13. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    For a variation on a theme, there is the game Asguaard, where you lose not one but two of the main protagonists in the final battle.  The way it is done fits the story perfectly so I've never read of anyone being put off by it.

    There is a way to save one character, but no one has yet found the necessary item in the game (it's exceedingly well hidden).  There are people who have re-played simply in the hope of finding that item.  This, IMO, gives a great plot twist.
     
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  14. aironneil

    aironneil Indecisive Creator Veteran

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    Personally, I could see this ending up pretty bad, whenever I play through a game and there’s a situation like this I always try my best to not get anything but the best possible ending. For example, in Fire Emblem games I never let anyone in the party die and it often forces me to restart a level again so that I can save a curtain character that died previously.

    HOWEVER, your situation is different since it changes the rules at the last part of the game; my suggestions are to make the fact that they permanently die a secret from the player until the very, VERY end (around the time you’re showing the ending that is changeable). I say this for a few reasons: if someone is blatantly told that if they screw up its permanent it just creates the attitude I mentioned earlier and they’ll probably just restart from a save point (auto saving after every battle would just create more irritation). Another reason I say this is because it just creates a lot more tension the whole time (an amount of tension you probably don’t want the player to have).

    The next thing I would suggest is to make sure the battle are REALLY fair…like more fair than most boss battles, so I’m saying no instant death, no confusion, and no sleep related states (they’re cheap when you have a one person party). This might sound obvious, but just keep in mind that there’s a difference between dying from a series of attacks and dying because you couldn’t do anything about it (i.e. the latter sucks major time).
     
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  15. kerbonklin

    kerbonklin Hiatus King Veteran

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    For these kinds of games, I always preferred either Auto-Saves (so players are forced to accept their choices, as long as they don't get stuck somewhere) or having each Save opportunity pretty far apart. Or both.

    Or maybe have a lot of early-game choices have late-game effects so that you can't Soft-Reset it.

    Also have multiple save slots if you do, like 10+
     
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  16. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    As I said earlier, the game is set up in such a way that the choices you make matter.

    It won't help people to load, unless they load way back, because the choices you make effect the stat-development and skills you get throughout the game. You cannot make a team of super powered rock stars who masters every skill, because there aren't enough skills and stat points to go around.

    The entire game is founded on the premise that you need to make a party that I well rounded as a group, and then you can compensate for any lack you might experience by changing party members in mid fight.

    That's why, when your party fights one on one, with the bad guys, you either succeed because you've made characters that fit, or you fail because you didn't.

    Now, it's not completely unforgiving, so you can backtrack and grind a bit.

    That being said though, you're not going to be able to for instance just turn around and turn a support character into a tank at the end of the game, so if your chosen support character lacks the necessary skills to take on his or her boss, he or she will die.

    And of course, this won't be revealed prior to the player gets to this point in the story - but I feel it's prudent to give the player heads up on the fact that choices have consequences you probably won't be able to just load yourself out of.
     
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  17. Espon

    Espon Lazy Creator Veteran

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    I don't mind if I have a way of preventing death through actions I took.  Similarly, if it fits in with the story and there's a solid reason for what happens.

    What pisses me off though is losing a character that I've grown quite attached to and there's absolutely no warning ahead of time. 

    I'm the type of person that will not accept defeat and will keep resetting until I get it to work, even if means using a healer to slowly chip away at some dude's health with her staff (ie using Raine inside the arena in ToS).
     
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  18. CRogers

    CRogers Veteran Veteran

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    I've always liked individual battles in RPGs when they are done well as they add a certain 'seriousness' to what is happening.

    However; if every character has an individual battle at the same time, it might be a little much. Not sure how many characters there are. It might make more sense if only one or two characters had to do this.

    You probably already know this, but before the battles/mission there should be a 'this is the serious fight, guys' type scene to convey the importance of what is happening.

    Also, it does increase the need/desire for players to use all of their characters throughout the game, which I think is generally a good idea in games.

    As for the characters dying if they lose the battle, I don't think there is a problem with that. You'll get the general reaction that happens in any narrative when a beloved character dies (anger, sadness), but if you think that is worth it to make the story better, then it is a good step to take.
     
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  19. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    It's not exactly at the same time, it happens as you progress through the last area. The cast isn't that big, and it's only applicable to the core cast. There are other characters, they aren't given the same exposure through the story, and do not join you permanently.
     
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  20. Erynn

    Erynn Villager Member

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    I think this can work very well as long as the player knows that it can be avoided when it happens for their next pay through. That way there is less bitterness. I would also make sure there are many builds which can succeed. A perfect build is unwise as it will frustriait players on multiple play throughs.

    It is also important that these characters be mourned;the player will need their emotions acknowledged. Their frustration, anger, and loss. It will need a wind down. I also agree with the heroic end cut scene. It prevents their deaths from seeming meaningless.

    If someone always may die, make that clear some how to your player and lay minute avoidable for the favorites. That is my advice. Allowing them to pick favorites could go a long way to preventing negetive reactions. Whatever you do, don't pretend they could get it off it alive. I think warnings are important. A lot of people wasted a lot of time reloading ff7 to try and save Aeris. This would be better avoided, too my mind. We are creating an experiance for the player and manipulating their emotions... Death of an emotional investment should be handled with care. I do agree it is doable, and I expect very effective, too.. With correct implementation.
     
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