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Does a Game Have To Fail To Get a Real Ending? 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the whatever-happened-to-pacman-anyway dept.
After the closure of Tabula Rasa over the weekend, the Opposable Thumbs blog asks if that's what it takes for a game to have an actual ending these days. Quoting: "It's no surprise that most games hope for a sequel, as it's the easiest way to get some of that money back while taking advantage of the staff, engine, assets, and other advantages you've banked while creating the first title. The problem? This has lead to a generation of cliff-hangers at worst, and endings that hedge their bets at best. ... As all the game's characters die, as the servers are shut down, as the data is erased or backed up and then boxed or whatever happens to MMO data once the game is done, it's hard not to be a little sad. The sights and sounds of the world of Tabula Rasa are gone, forever. All the memories written into those ones and zeroes will quickly be forgotten, and no one will walk those grounds again." Massively put together a few screenshots and videos to commemorate the ending of the game.
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Does a Game Have To Fail To Get a Real Ending?

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  • Single-Player Games (Score:2, Interesting)

    by troll8901 (1397145) * <troll8901@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:27AM (#27049789) Journal

    It appears that single-player games can afford to have real endings, yet be successful in a sequel.

    • In Monkey Island 1, 3, 4: LeChuck is defeated. Each one has a real ending.
    • In Leisure Suit Larry 1, 5: IIRC each one has a real ending.
    • Command and Conquer 1 GDI: Kane is defeated. Solid ending.
    • Wolfenstein 3-D. The sequels were Spear of Destiny, and later Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

    Not sure about Warcraft though.

    Others include movies (Indiana Jones, Star Trek) and books (Tintin, Asterix). Weird, huh?

  • Sadly this has even moved on into books. For instance, The Wheel of Time dragged on so long that the author died before he finished it. It is sad, and he was too sick to really write. I feel for Robert's family, but there are other examples. Another one is GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, he's not a young man keeps pushing dates back. Authors have lives, as do any content producers, but I think that they may need to look at maybe limiting their scope a little more so their projects can be finished in their lifetimes.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:19AM (#27050075)

    Star Trek Voyager also had a good ending where they made it back to earth (and beat the Borg as well IIRC, its been a while since I watched the show). I havent seen enough TOS to know how that one ended as a TV series. The real ending to TOS is where Kirk passes the mantle on to a new generation in the NCC-1701A in Generations and also dies in that film (and it was a proper ending at that)

    The Voyager ending was a lot of Deus ex Machina for an ending. TOS died without any ending. The "ending" in Generations was a rushed way to kill off Kirk so they could never make another TOS sequel. Tada, Prequel!

    The only passable ending I remember to a TV show that was not a cartoon is from Quantum Leap. They actually had enough advanced warning that they could create an ending. Live TV shows have good endings too. Since there's no preparation time, "this is your last week" means they can make the last day special, even if it's a video montage.

  • by Sobrique (543255) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#27050623) Homepage
    Thrawn Trilogy [wikipedia.org] + Ridley Scott [wikipedia.org]
  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:30AM (#27050727)

    TOS - canceled by NBC, revived by fan campaign, canceled again. Was intended to be "Episodic", such that Episode X being broadcast before Episode Y really didn't mean much. There was no "ongoing story" intended.

    TNG - A tad of ongoing story but not really enough intended to matter. The "ending" I thought was a pretty damn well-done episode.

    DS9 - one hell of an ending, especially after the "switch" from episodic (early seasons) to arc-driven (later seasons, cardassian/dominion war stuff).

    Voyager - only existed because it was Berman & Braga's toy. Also, Seven of Boobs. "Ending" was a fanwank from Berman & Braga

    Enterprise - could have gone on a lot longer, ESPECIALLY after Paramount execs finally got the message and kicked Berman & Braga off the franchise to get some real writing staff in. Sadly, they were too late and most viewers couldn't be won back.

    If you'd like a series that REALLY never ends, try Doctor Who.

    Now as for the rest of sci-fi and the rest of writing in general, you have a few different scenarios:

    #1 - "Drag it on forever" - arguably you can put shows like Cheers, Frasier, Simpsons (which has jumped the shark so many times the damn thing is just getting bored) here. Also, Dragonball/Dragonball Z/Dragonball GT, or InuYasha/Bleach/Naruto.

    #2 - "Oh crap the creator just left but it's still popular" - see West Wing (which got crappy within a season of Sorkin leaving but dragged on two more seasons), or Smallville.

    #3 - "Why won't they let it die?" - Lost, Heroes, etc. Caused by desperate networks that know damn well they have nothing palatable to replace it with and we're bored out of our gourds with so-called "reality TV."

    #4 - Last, but definitely not least, the rushed/tacked ending, personified by a number of tropes from anime such as the Gainax Ending [tvtropes.org], Mandatory Twist Ending [tvtropes.org], and similar. Basically where you have the writers "counting on" a 2-3 season arc, doing the 3-4 episode "premise and characters" intro, 16-18 episodes of happy silly fluffy slapstick, and then needing to "turn the show serious" at the end. Great examples: just about any anime out there, including (but not limited to) Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion (though that was also the result of Anno going off his meds)...

    Now if you want to see a series that had multiple seasons all of which had a real ending, and which kicked the ass of all of these conventions, pick up Slayers sometime.

    As for video games... it doesn't have to fail to get a real ending. Some games get an ending, some don't. The Baldur's Gate / Icewind Dale games all had pretty encapsulated stories. Legacy of Kain has a definite cyclical storyline - sure there was "room" for a game centering on Kain afterwards, but they wrapped up Raziel in a nice neat package and there's no harm in leaving the "what happens now" question behind: the focus of contention ever since Soul Reaver (given that the original Blood Omen had a "definite ending" pair and the rest of the series is premised on assuming which ending the player chose and running with it) has been resolved. Hell, we even got to take care of the unfinished business and kill Turel.

  • by Gulthek (12570) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:04PM (#27051895) Homepage Journal

    Where do you put Babylon 5 and Avatar the Last Airbender? Two series with definite, planned story arcs and seasons? Avatar was always going to have three seasons, and the story reflects that. Babylon 5 was always going to have 3, 4, or 5 seasons (JMS wrote hooks into the story that would have allowed for abortive wrapups, unfortunately he pulled the line too quick and ended the show with season 4 and it was unexpectedly renewed for a fifth)

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:25PM (#27052231)

    Let's not confuse MMOs with "normal" single player games here. MMOs have no ending. You are supposed to play (and pay) forever. That's what they're about. Single player games need no cliffhanger to spawn a sequel. Did Call of Duty have a cliffhanger? Or Command and Conquer? The big nasty warlord needn't escape your grasp in the end to allow a sequel, wars didn't go out of fashion just because Hitler was beaten in WW2, there's plenty of nasties to start new wars. And just because the princess was rescued in the first part you needn't let the bad guy escape to have her kidnapped for a sequel.

    MMOs continue for a simple reason. It's not about the game and "beating" its content. You can do that fairly easily and in relatively short time (depending on MMO). It's about items. What makes people play MMOs over and over is that they don't have the last item for their set yet.

    That's also why TR failed. No item hunt. You could actually "finish" this game. You have seen all the instances after a fairly short time and ... well, why bother doing it again, it's not like you need to get some ultra-super-duper-rare drop from some boss monster in a 8+ hour 25 people instance.

    MMOs today also do what single player games offered for the longest time: Different difficulty levels, for better rewards on higheer levels. You could play on harder modes for better scores for quite a time. Then single player games came equipped with "unlockable" goodies like concept art or better weapons or graphics. MMOs do pretty much the same these days, usually you can choose your difficulty to increase your chance for a drop or to unlock different, more powerful drops, on higher difficulty.

    TR failed to deliver any of that.

    And that's why TR failed.

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:21PM (#27054883) Homepage

    I think part of the issue here is that when a story teller says they are going to tell a story there is an implied obligation to tell the end of the story.

    And I think that the bigger part of the issue is that this so called 'obligation' is a load of crap. If you sign a contract with a publisher to write a certain number of books then you should fulfill that contract, but the act of reading a book does not somehow place the author in your debt.

  • by RoverDaddy (869116) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:54PM (#27056189) Homepage
    The Sopranos ended mid head-shot (at least that's my interpretation and I'm sticking to it!)
  • by DigitalWallaby (853269) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:07PM (#27059659)

    Buffy ended well, with Sunnydale disappearing into a hole in the ground, and Buffy being released from the curse of the Slayer. I believe that everyone knew that Season 7 was the last before it began. Angel, less satisfying because it was a cliffhanger ending; "I'm gonna kill me a dragon." And I think that was canceled late in the season.

    Deep Space Swine had a very B5esque ending, but it was a developed ending, not something that was sprung two episodes from the end of the season.

  • by Keen Anthony (762006) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:26PM (#27060313)

    Quantum Leap's finale definitely remains my favorite. But I'd like to add to that: Babylon 5 and Angel. Both productions had advance notice that the series were ending. In "Babylon 5", J. Michael Straczynski closed a major story arc and gave us a chance to watch some core characters remember the past in a very respectful way. It was actually a bit of a tear jerker for me. In "Angel" Joss Whedon ended on a cliffhanger, but it went out in style, leading you to believe that there was no way for the protagonists to win, and yet you were free to imagine that they could and did. I can't remember, but I think the "West Wing" story arc came to a natural conclusion as well.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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