Text of Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 8: Multiple-Ending Stories Josiah Lebowitz Chris...
Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 8: Multiple-Ending Stories Josiah Lebowitz Chris Klug
What is a multiple-ending story? Multiple-ending stories are the most basic type of player- driven story. Theyre similar in many ways to interactive traditional stories. They allow the player to consciously or unconsciously choose between two or more possible endings. Theyre used in a large number of video games.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain Released by Silicon Knights in 1996 (PS, PC). Has a very dark and mature story. The hero, Kain, is given the choice between ruling over a dying world or sacrificing himself to save it. Its up to the player to chose which path Kain takes.
Ending Types and Where to Put Them Many games have a good ending, bad ending, and maybe a neutral ending. Some games endings focus on what-if scenarios or the different possible outcomes of an important choice. Adding additional endings just for the sake of having multiple endings is a bad idea. Its important to consider whether or not having multiple endings will enhance a given story. Each ending should fit naturally into and support the story and gameplay. Depending on the nature of the different endings, it may make sense to place them throughout the game, instead of putting them all at the very end.
CHRONO TRIGGER Released by Square in 1995 (SNES). Tells the tale of a group of friends traveling through time to save the future. Features a New Game+ mode. On New Game+, players can challenge the final boss at almost any time. Defeating the final boss at different points in the story will yield a variety of different endings. There are several joke endings but the majority are what-if scenarios showing what would have happened if the adventure had ended early.
How many endings does a game need? Most multiple-ending games have two or three endings. CHRONO TRIGGER has 12 or 13 (depending on the version). Other games have even more. Think about what you want your endings to show (the possible outcomes of a choice, what-if scenarios, etc) then work out how many endings are needed to achieve that goal. Keep in mind that every additional ending takes time and effort to create (and money to pay the people putting in that time and effort).
STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution Released by tri-Ace and Sqaure Enix in 2009 (PSP). An updated port of STAR OCEAN: Second Story (PS). Contains over 100 endings based on the heroes relationships with each other. Most of the endings are very short. Even with multiple save files and a strategy guide, seeing every ending would require playing through the entire game many times.
Determining Which Ending the Player Sees There are many different ways to determine which ending the player receives. Many games give the player a straight up choice at or near the end of the game (as in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain). Some games automatically choose the ending based on the players actions or performance over the course of the game (as in STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution). Other games end early if the player makes a wrong choice or fails to meet certain criteria at various points in the game (as in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow). Different types of endings tend to work best with a specific system, often making the decision a rather easy one.
Multiple-Ending Stories and Sequels If a game with multiple-endings has a sequel, which ending should the sequel be based on? Most often, sequels follow the previous games best or most popular ending. This is easy, but can upset fans who liked a different ending better. Some sequels dont follow any single ending, but combine elements of all of them to form a new non-existent ending to follow. This can be very confusing for players. Other games dodge the issue by having the sequel feature different characters or take place in a different location.
Mass Effect Released by Bioware in 2007 (360, PC). The start of an epic sci-fi trilogy following the adventures of Commander Shepard. Players can import their save data into Mass Effect 2, with the story changing based on their actions in the first game. This is an excellent way of showing players that their choices really mattered, but required a lot of extra design and writing
The Strengths of Multiple- Ending Stories They give the player a degree of control over the outcome of the story. The more endings there are, the greater the chance that the player will find at least one he likes. They increase a games replay value. They encourage the player to approach the game in different ways every time he plays. They can be used to expand the story by showing alternate outcomes and what-if scenarios.
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness Released by Nippon Ichi in 2008 (PSP). A port of the PS2 orignal. Follows the misadventures of the demon Laharl as he works to become the Overlord of Hell. Contains numerous endings, some based on what-if scenarios and others playing off of how well Laharl (and the player) have followed the storys key themes. The requirements for the best ending make it rather tricky to obtain with careful planning.
The Weaknesses of Multiple- Ending Stories At the end of the day, players want an ending that provides a satisfying conclusion to the story. Players can become upset if they finish with a bad ending and cant easily go back and get a better one. Many players only complete a game once and will therefor only see one of the possible endings. If the best ending is hidden behind a difficult and/or obscure set of requirements most players will never see it or even realize it exists. Highly shocking and/or emotional endings lose much of their impact when the player knows he can load his last save and get a different outcome. Due to time and budget constraints, the endings in multiple-ending stories tend to be shorter than those in interactive traditional stories.
Bioshock Released by Irrational Games and 2K Games in 2007 (360, PS3, PC). Has a very unique story set in the underwater city of rapture. Features three different endings based on how the player treats the Little Sisters. The bad and neutral endings are nearly identical. Harvesting a single little sister prevents the player from obtaining the good ending without restarting the entire game.
Things to Consider List five games youve played which use multiple-ending stories. Pick two of the games from your list. How many endings do they have? How do they determine which ending the player receives? In both games, were you happy with the first ending you received? Why or why not? Did you want to replay one or both games in order to see the other endings? Why or why not? Do you think that the additional endings enhanced or detracted from the games stories? Write a short explanation of your reasoning.