Multiple Endings vs the One True Ending?

Yoraee

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Just thought it would be interesting to see what everyone's thoughts are on having branching stories/multiple endings in a game versus having only one ending?


My personal preference is having only one ending to the game, meaning that no matter what your path or choices are, the conclusion to the story remains unchanged. I'm not big on replaying games, because for me, the magic is in the first time and additional iterations of gameplay become too “going through the motions” to see an extra scene or fight an additional boss etc...


Also, for me, having the choice the end an adventure in more ways than one kind of breaks the immersion; if I don’t like an ending then no problem! I can replay and make different choices and get a different ending. It kinda deducts from the realness of the story.


But that’s just me. What are your thoughts?
 

Tyranida

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I think multiple endings makes the player feel more special (or at least me!). That way, it actually matters that was the one who played it, and not someone else who would choose a different path. My father once played a game called "Pandora's tower", where you had to bring monster flesh to your girlfriend so she wouldn't turn into a mutant. If you gave her meat all the time, she got happy, and if you waited she got angry. That way, in the end, all of the player's efforts to keep her happy payed of, because something happened where it mattered if she was happy with you, or angry. If the player had not cared for her, then he payed for it.


But if the "One true ending" game has multiple choices along the way, then I guess it's okay. If there are no real choices for me to make, then it could just as well have been a movie that I watched.


Interesting question by the way, looking forward to see the responses! :)
 

Kes

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You might find posts in, for example, here, here, here, (quite a lot in that last one), multiple mini-discussions in this thread (use multiple endings as your search term) and many other threads in this particular forum give you a range of ideas and opinions. 
 

Alexander Amnell

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   As long as they are actually separate, interesting endings it's alright with me, but 90% of the time I hate multiple endings in games for the simple reason that 90% of the time what you end up with is a canon ending and a couple of you screwed up the game endings. Having a bad ending for when the player is a minimalist and does the least possible to get through the game is okay I guess, but when your options boil down to 100% everything to get the good ending, do 85% of everything and get the okay ending, or do 84% or less and get a bad ending the game sort of stops being fun unless you happen to be a completionist anyway. Then there are the telltale-like games where on your first playthrough it might seem that you're choices really effect the story, but on subsequent plays/dying and choosing different options you realize that all roads are merely a few feet of unique path before converging again into the single, canon story path, and that your choices aren't so much choices as choosing between letting someone die outright or 'saving them' only to have them die in the next scene because that's what is supposed to happen.


   Probably the best example I can think of for games with multiple endings actually done right would be the Way of the Samurai series, which games consist of roughly a week of in game time and limits your choices on each play through (assuming you know what you are doing and maximize every moment) to around 1/5 of the game's actual content. Because you are so limited in what you can do in a day the games are fast paced and can be beaten within a couple of hours, but have dozens of possible endings ranging from your character's execution, instigating a bloody coup, watching supporting characters die because of your mistakes, uniting all the opposing factions together or just saying frick it all and eloping with a cute village girl while the whole village slaughters itself. They can be done well and be a lot of fun, but more often than not they aren't and would be better off being more linear as far as I'm concerned.


   Another important thing to consider in my opinion is that games that offer non-linear progression and multiple paths through the game should not have direct sequels, ever. Nothing ruins a good game with multiple endings faster for me than a sequel that comes along and retcons all of your choices into either canon or wrong choices, where the wrong choices are ignored as if they never happened using flimsy writing and derogatory remarks towards the choices you made in the previous game to further explain why those choices were wrong and thus didn't actually affect anything moving forward (Dragon age:Inquisition, cough.) That just leaves players feeling irritated, and replaying the original is never quite as fun once you know that your choices will all ultimately be ignored unless you choose the 'right' ones, better to leave the future and the ripples of player choices to the player's imagination than exploit their nostalgia and risk destroying everything that made the original great with a sequel that disrupts that vision with it's own story. Not to mention it's really hard to take the choices you are given in said sequel seriously when it keeps invalidating all of the previous games choices along the way.
 

Maidlyn

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I think I like multiple endings the best because in real life, you would get a different "ending" to your "story" based on the choices you made throughout your life. I like games (like Ib) which have bad endings, okay endings, and the one "true" ending (Promise of Reunion).
 

trouble time

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I think I like multiple endings the best because in real life, you would get a different "ending" to your "story" based on the choices you made throughout your life. I like games (like Ib) which have bad endings, okay endings, and the one "true" ending (Promise of Reunion).
It's all an illusion, everything you do is really manipulated by factors beyond your control. Free will is a lie, we're all puppets danceing to the music in an uncaring machine known as the universe. I have heard the music of the spheres, and I now know the truth!! (I've always wanted to try a rant like this).


Real talk, I myself have never really liked multiple endings myself, and most games with multiple endings actually. I don't think it's the concept of multiple endings that is bad though, I think it's just a coincidence on that front. I do think that if you're going to have multiple endings, it shouldn't be dependent on a morality system (I hate morality systems) or a single choice in the end.
 

Palin

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The only type of ending setup I dislike is when the ending is based purely on completion percentages. The reason this bothers me so much is because when I'm invested in a story, forcing me to do 100% just breaks me off that story anyway and I lose my investment/the reason I was playing in the first place. That being said, I don't mind arbitrary friendship mechanics or whatever, so long as they don't break me too far from the story aspect.
 

Yoraee

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@Palin That is exactly my sentiment. The moment the experience becomes less about the story and more about meeting a predefined quota, the immersion is lost on me.


Thank you everyone for your insights and links to additional discussions.
 

RHachicho

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It's not always bad. Suikoden 2 had an ending that followed along those lines. It's all about the payoff. If the payoff is worth it the grind makes the reward seem all the more sweet because you earned that. I think multiple endings are ok. But if you are going to go that route then go full on. There's nothing I hate more than half baked multiple endings *cough" Mass Effect *cough*.
 

BigToastie

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If you have multiple endings they need to be different enough to justify having them as a separate ending.


As I feel my game is planning on having 2 endings instead of one, which ending will depend on multiple variables within my morality system. 


Decisions in my game do alter events and what can happen to towns etc. so I feel that ultimately if your decisions didn't alter the ending, its cheating the player out of the ending!
 

LunarClassic

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I believe that multiple endings is perfectly fine.


As long as it does not get in the way of achieving the true ending.
 

Caitlin

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I don't have problems with games with a single ending, and my views are rather complex, so I am going to explain it.  If a game has a single ending, there shouldn't be too many choices and the side quests don't really matter, but if a game has choices to be made.  Let's take Final Fantasy XII, for example.  In Final Fantasy XII, you had side quests where the characters learned things, but no matter what you learned about X character, his path was the same at the end.  WTF!?  You learned that he didn't really want to be a sky pirate, and only sought freedom, because of his past; he still became a sky pirate at the end.  I don't think endings should be forced, if a game should have multiple endings you should do it, but it goes both ways, you can't force multiple endings on a game that should only have one.  A good example of games that had a lot of endings that did it well, was Chrono Trigger. You see, the endings depended on what you did and when you beat the main boss, Lavos.  Chrono Cross, the black sheep of the Chrono family, was the worse example, but I am not going to discuss that mess. 


The truth of the matter is when you have another game, you can worry about the 'true ending' at that point.  But realistically, you are likely only going to have two or three endings at the most.  A good ending, a neutral ending and a bad ending.  That's realistic and more believable in a game. 
 

Warboss74

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My personal opinion on multiple endings is don't have good, bad, or neutral endings. I think it railroads the player and removes all choice from the game. Because of this, I've planned my ending around which of the handful of factions come out on top with character epilogues, and the game is designed around how the player interacts with the world and these factions. That way their ending is very well tied up in what choices they make, and I'm trying not to treat the endings as good, bad, or neutral. Part of that is creating factions and characters that are grey.
 

RHachicho

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@Warboss74


That's certainly a nice way to do it! But .. isn't morality also a choice? Depends on what you want the games central theme's to be surely! It's all about theme!.


If Morality is a central theme of your game then a multiple ending that focused on Morality could well be really good and powerful. However if your game is more politically focused, Like yours sounds then I agree a choice based on morality would be strange. Like saying that only one political route was right! It's important that the endings convey the same feel as the game they come from I think. One of the reasons games like Undertale are so successful is a strong theme .. carried thought the story. In this case I don't think anyone could argue that the multiple endings present in that game .. endings based on morality where pretty much the games defining feature.


I think the important thing is the ending matches the rest of the game. If you make a game about grey areas and then give the player a good/evil/neutral choice it would feel very forced just as you say!
 

Warboss74

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@RHachicho


When I say good, bad, and neutral endings I'm not referring to moral choices. I'm referring to getting a greater (good/perfect ending) or lesser (bad) ending based on choices made while playing. It's railroading the player to go for the perfect ending, and that's why I dislike it. If it's a good, bad, or neutral ending based entirely on your moral choices, then I'm fine with it.
 

RHachicho

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I see, My mistake however I would still argue that this can give the player a sense of achievement rewarded. It all depends on what the achievement is. And what the reward is. No one wants a mass effect style ending. But something like Suikoden 2 ... Trust me when I say that the completion ending was worth it. The emotional payoff I got from that made it one of the best rpg's I have EVER played.


The point I'm trying to make is I don't think there are any real rules .. It's all in the execution.
 

Warboss74

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It's always in the execution, but I still think it clashes when giving the player choice. Why give me certain options if the result of them is going to give me a crappy ending?
 

RHachicho

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Because there's such a thing as a wrong choice. And failure to do everything you want to do is a real possibility.
 
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Warboss74

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I'm not against wrong choices. My issue with wrong choices is not being able to overcome them. Just as an example a wrong choice early in the game with no way to correct it as the story unfolds results in a bad ending. That to me is poor execution of a wrong choice. As long as a wrong choice doesn't result in death at the time the choice is made, you should be able to fix that wrong choice as the game progresses. Say a choice made in the early game results in your friend joining the oposite faction, but you need that friend in your party to get the perfect ending. If there's no way to reverse course throughout the rest of the game, you've lost the perfect ending before you really ever got started. I think that better illustrates my position about choice and those types of endings.
 

RHachicho

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I did say it was about execution didn't I? I will agree that making a bad decision really early and having it come back to bite you after hours of play is a ball buster. But once again .. it depends on the payoff. I'm sorry but I'm not with on this. That's how life goes sometimes too. Sometimes the results of the choices you make aren't always readily obvious. And you face the consequences later with no easy way out
 

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