Storytelling Mechanics Part 2 – Multiple Endings

Last week, we talked about the use and effectiveness of a silent protagonist as a story mechanic in RPG gaming. My examples showed how it can be made into a very positive experience for the player. This week, the storytelling method I want to talk about is kind of a mixed bag, filled with pros and cons.

Find out what it is after the break!

When a game developer decides to create multiple endings for their title, It means they have put extra care into the game to allow players different choices in their experience, thus making the experience more unique to them. Whether it’s two endings, or twenty endings, your choices determine your experience, and potentially your enjoyment of the game. Linear storylines can provide you some choice in your actions, but the end result will always be the same.

So what are some of the reasons that make this system successful?

The first one I mentioned above. It’s your story, so it’s your ending. Having more than one ending let’s you tailor your story the way you want it. For example, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis allows the player to spend their free time with one of your friends. Whoever you spend the most time will will determine the ending of the game. This lets you choose an ending that can focus on your favorite character. When I think about the choices I could make in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and the need to choose a moral reason for the world to be reborn under, those reasons were more based on my own moral compass, allowing me to end the game the way I felt was right for the world.

Another positive reason is replayability. Once you’ve gotten your favorite ending, you can take your time to go back and replay some or all of the game and get a totally different ending. Sometimes, it’s made easier with a New Game + option, potentially rewarding your next playthrough by leaving levels or obtained money intact. By allowing for this, it takes less time to get those extra endings. Games in the Atelier series typically allow you to keep your earned money, and recipes, meaning you can make some of your items a lot faster, and speed up the deadline requirements in the game.

Lastly, a game with multiple endings can end a game out of nowhere, surprising the player. I think back to Suikoden V for this one. Not even by the middle of the game, you are confronted with a conversation with another character. Depending on how you respond to the conversation choices, the game could end right there. Once you know that a possible end point is available there, it’s pretty obvious how the scene should play out, but it’s entirely possible to see an early ending of the game, without really getting into the meat of it (luckily, you can save early enough before that so you can go back afterward).

So these are the pros of having multiple endings in a game, so what are the cons?

First, some game endings are based on the amount of work you put in. The Atelier games are well known for this. To get some of the best endings, you need to do every possible side quest, max out the friendship of each of your party members, and more. Players may be put off by this and just be content with the ending they get, or just not put in the effort required to fully enjoy the game.

The next big con is replayability. This can be a con for games that have multiple endings. If you’re like me, you probably have a backlog of games that you want to get through. Having to go through a game a second time or more is something I either won’t be doing right away, or I will entirely forget about it and move on to the next game on my list. I did this with Mana Khemia. I completed the game with one ending, but left it to the wayside when five more games came out.

The last con to multiple endings is a double-edged sword: Your story, your ending. If you end up getting the ending you wanted in the game, you may not even care about the other endings. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, since you may have worked hard to get that ending. Maybe the others aren’t worth the extra work. Maybe they just don’t interest you. This is less of a con to a player than it is to a developer. When a player opts out of doing other endings, it means that the complete experience that is created by the developer is lost.

There are a lot of ways that players can enjoy games that have more than one ending, but it’s clear that not everyone will get that full benefit from it. We’re all different, and have different reasons we play the same games. Whether you’re a completionist who will experience every ending, or you’re a story driven person who is happy with how their one experience with the game goes, in the end, it’s more about how each different person enjoys the game.

How do you feel about multiple endings? Do you prefer one ending or many?

Storytelling Mechanics Part 2 – Multiple Endings

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