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Article - 'Epilogues and Endings' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

In contrast to his recent article "introductions", TDZ takes a look at endings of games

Body

This is the End, My Only Friend, the End

Hey hey, the Drunken Zombie here! This is my fourth article, assuming GW posts my introduction article. Count ‘em, four. No seriously. Count ‘em. I’ll wait.

Now that you’ve sufficiently counted to four, it’s time to discuss the ending of your game! No, I’m not threatening to come to your house and shoot you so you can’t finish your game. I’m talking about creating the end of it. Even if you may not want it to, everything has to end somewhere. Coincidentally, RPG endings occur just around the end of it. Now that you have listened to me ramble on, I’ll explain why endings are so important.

Endings have many a use, and all are somewhat important to your game. The ending cannot (I repeat, CANNOT) be a let down. You may have spent months (or even years) perfecting your game’s introduction and main body, but if you rush together an ending, there is a small chance anyone will want to play another of your games.

There are as many endings as there are RPG storylines, but some you will want to steer clear of. However, some cliché endings can be good.

This article was not written to give you ideas for endings to your game. Rather, I am attempting to aid you with the tools you need to create an original ending for your game. Suitable endings for RPGs are easy to come across.

Firstly, you’ll want (probably) to depict what happened to the main hero of your game. If you don’t, well, the player may not be too happy. But of course, it’s your game. If you develop a love interest or a conflict between characters throughout the story, then give some plausible explanation to the end of it. Often, characters that had huge differences in opinion finally find some way to get along happily ever after. This often is a little odd, and let me explain why with a small example.

Imagine you were a Jewish rabbi. You’re journeying with a young hero for some reason. You travel to Germany and meet Hitler. Now, you’re probably gonna have some problems, but you’re forced to stick together to defeat the greater of two evils (the lesser being Hitler). But, when the bigger evil guy is dead, do you think you and Hitler will become the best of friends? I doubt it.

Next, the hero generally has a wisecracking best friend. You may want to show what happens to him. If he’s obnoxious throughout the entire game, you may want to make him die, just so the player has something to laugh at. Every hates obnoxious people, right? Well, I guess not if you’re the obnoxious person.

Oh, a good tip is not to have the hero/the hero’s friends revert back to their old lifestyle, unless they’ve been complaining the whole trip about wanting to get back to their shop. Even then, after defeating a huge demon guy they may find it boring counting a customer’s change every day for the rest of their lives. Similarly, the hero probably won’t want to go back to his/her village and live with their parents for the rest of their life. Face it; once you’ve experienced huge action, you don’t want to go back to farming.

Another thing you may want to avoid is the immediate recovery of the world. After Satan threatens the world, people won’t be instantly reassured everything is fine. Look back at 9-11 for instance. It was a huge event, (probably not as big as Satan rising, but meh), and people talked about threats of another crash for over a year. If Satan is banished into a celestial prison after nearly destroying the entire world, not everyone is going to be immediately secure that nothing bad will ever happen.

A variation of the above may be called the Apocalypse type ending, that is, everything is ruined. Only a few people survive, but they decide they will start a new perfect community. However, the threat of Satan bursting from his celestial prison (see above paragraph) still lingers. Will the last remaining bits of civilization dedicate their lives to having babies? Maybe, but a better chance is them trying to kill Satan forever. It’s much more dangerous but more noble.

-Multiple Endings
This is somewhat of a different topic so I figure I’ll give it it’s own subheading.
Multiple endings add a lot to your game’s replay value. Don’t make too many endings, because no matter how varied they are, no one is going to play through your game twenty times to see them all. Multiple endings are difficult to pull off if you plan on having a sequel to your game, though. I would at least try to make a couple of endings, because non-linear games are more attractive than linear ones.

Now time for my Final Thought. Enjoy.

FINAL THOUGHT

Endings aren’t about long boring dialogue-tastic read-a-thons. Endings should be long, interesting, and full of flashy and fun stuff. If you plan on going the way of multiple endings, have a reason for each ending, not just to boost the number of concluding sequences. Yes, the word conclusion suits well. The conclusion of your game is important. Showing off all of your “mad skillz, dawg” is also important when designing your ending. It should impress the player, but most of all give your game some sort of logical closure.

This is the Drunken Zombie saying ‘Join together in the band’ for some reason.