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About Multiple Endings

November 23, 2014

I’ve been trying to put together a post focusing on the time where I was less active on the blog/online, and as a bit of an overview for the past year…but writing it out in a way that fits the nature of this blog has been difficult.  It’s a lot of material, so it’s a bit hard to decide how to organize it, and it’s a bit of a departure from game development.  Meanwhile, the days keep ticking away, so I thought I’d give an update on the game just to get a post out.


I’ve been more active than ever in development, and things are moving along quite well.  After taking a lot of time over the past several months to update visuals, add support for game options/configurations, and work on Rebirth, I’ve returned to filling out the game’s story.  Over the past month I’ve added in all of the art, dialogue, and scripting for the game’s story, all the way up to the ending.

The ending is done?!

Well.  One of them.  As I’ve opted to have multiple endings for Why Am I Dead At Sea, I’ll have to finish the “ending” to the game several times before I can say that it’s actually been completed.  However, what I have finished is the basic framework that the separate endings switch off from, which means that the remaining work is a bit simpler than what I’ve already done.

Given that all of this progress takes place at the game’s finale, it’s hard to show things I’ve worked on without immediately and blatantly giving away important details about the ending.  Like its original, there are some revelations and plot twists at the final hour – and they can vary, depending on the ending you get.

But I can speak in generalities and talk about the structure of the endings without giving away details.

Lifeboat

An object used in one of the epilogues.

I can be a very compulsive person.  As a result, I am all too familiar with player paranoia: when a player feels anxious about if they’re missing some content.  If you’re walking through a maze and find the exit, only to turn around and check every last dead end so you know you didn’t miss anything – that’s player paranoia.  When a game overwhelms the player with choices and gives them a clear right/wrong answer, it can be an unpleasant amount of pressure.  I recall playing the acclaimed Metroid Prime for the first time.  I was having a lot of fun with the game, until I learned from somewhere that there were multiple endings, and that they were determined in large by the amount of hidden upgrades you collected throughout the game.

…I never played it again.  That knowledge turned the game, for me, from fun exploration into obsessive item-hunting.  It’s exactly the kind of system I don’t want in my game – I don’t want to burden the player with the worry that they made the wrong choice or missed things early on and unwittingly doomed themselves.

Admittedly, there is a lot of story-telling potential to having the game remember the things that you do.  And I plan for that to be an element in the game.  However, the factors that influence the game’s ending will follow this pattern:

1) The more drastic a factor changes the story, the later in the story it occurs

2) Conversely, the earlier a factor occurs in the story, the less significant it is to the overall direction of the story

Some more objects used in the latter parts of the game

Some more objects used in the latter parts of the game

What this means is, essentially, there will be two types of variables that change the ending/epilogue that you see.  Conversations that occurred in the early/middle parts of the game could change additional, flavor dialogue at the end.  It would give a nod to some of the choices you made earlier on, but does not itself decide the direction of the story or the resolution of the mystery.  On the other hand, there are larger revelations and clues you can find, which will be available all the way up to the end of the game, which will decide the ending you get.

To reference what has to be probably my (and many other peoples’) favorite alternate ending design to date, the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2 has lots of smaller factors that decide who amongst your crew lives or dies – but ultimately, that isn’t what decides the climax of the story.  At the end, there is still a big choice you can make at the end regardless of what you’ve done beforehand, which means you don’t feel shoehorned.  It’s a good blend between acknowledging the player’s previous choices and allowing them to make new ones, and the ending of Why Am I Dead At Sea attempts to achieve that effect.

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