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Games Entertainment

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

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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  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:53AM (#27049633) Journal

    I'd go broader than games. Pretty much any mass market entertainment these days has to fail to get a real ending, and even then it doesn't usually manage it.

    When was the last time you went to the cinema to watch a major release that didn't end with a blatant hook for a sequel? When was the last time you saw a TV show end without some form of cliff-hanger? And yes... when was the last time you saw a game end without a plug for a sequel?

    I think TV has it worst. The push to wring as many seasons as possible out of a particular intellectual property has destroyed the capability of a generation of screenwriters to actually write an ending for a story. They write a strong beginning to get people going, then just sit down and churn out "middle" for season after season until the ratings drop and the network starts to swing the axe. Then, if possible, they write in an ending from whatever point in the story they'd managed to get up to.

    I remember when I got into watching anime, back in around 2001, the first thing that struck me was that many series did actually have endings. Sure, in some cases the endings were incomprehensible, but at least they were there. However, even with anime, as time has gone one, the classic stand-alone 13 or 26 episode series has fallen from favour in recent years.

    The problem is that we are creating a body of cultural products which will not stand the test of time. Now, ok, you can write off 95% (at least) of modern pop culture as ephemera, but it would still be nice to think that we might actually be creating a few things that will still be watched, read or played in fifty years time (and beyond). But unless things have ending, it just won't happen.

    Can you imagine if Hamlet never came to an end (ok, if you've ever sat through a bad student production, it might have felt like that) but instead ran on for 17 plays, with 8-12 comprising the little-loved Finland arc, play 4 introducing a new love interest who got written out in play 9 and then the whole thing stopped abruptly after play 17 because the Globe burned down? How many modern TV stories have been ruined by this kind of thing? The X-Files? Lost? Buffy?

    Ironically, given what sparked this discussion, MMOs don't actually need an ending. They're not usually intended as a story as such - more as an ongoing, but usually static, world that players participate in. They generally kind of exist in the same continuity-free zones as daily-gag comic strips in newspapers and the like. That they ended Tabula Rasa in the way they did is actually kind of cool and probably rather better than the shoddy game deserved.

  • by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:56AM (#27049661) Homepage

    It possible to end a story and still leave enough open for a sequel. A cliff-hanger doesn't end a story, it just stops it. And with the time it takes to create a sequel people will have forgotten about the cliff-hanger when they start the sequel.

  • by krou ( 1027572 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:37AM (#27049845)

    "When was the last time you went to the cinema to watch a major release that didn't end with a blatant hook for a sequel?"

    The only films this statement really applies to are the "Blockbuster" style of films. I would say that the majority of films don't end in this fashion (then again, I am rather choosy regarding the films I watch these days, so perhaps I just don't notice).

    What's perhaps worse are those films that are not expected to have sequels, but because they're successful, you end up getting a bright spark claiming it's time for a sequel.

    That small gripe aside, you're spot on. I remember an interview with Dominic Monaghan (from Lost) who was saying (around Season two or three) that the original script for Lost was intended to end after Season Three or Four, but the studio executives objected and told them to stretch it out much further. Funnily enough, this was around the same time I lost interest in the show.

    I find this approach alienating. It decreases the chance of new viewers being attracted to a show (how many people want to play catchup with a weeks' worth of viewing just to figure out what's going on), not to mention that the "indefinite" approach is likely to encourage a high fall-out rate as people either get bored, annoyed at the never-ending and increasingly more unbelievable plot twists, or simply fatigued.

    Oh, and yeah, kids, get off my lawn!

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:20AM (#27050081) Homepage

    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.

    Authors may also want to decide whether they are actual people who deserve to have a life of their own, or simply story vending machines which exist to provide people with a lfew hours entertainment and then fade away.

    Another one is GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, he's not a young man keeps pushing dates back

    And he has this to say on the subject []. Given the choice between hearing about how GRRM has been watching football all day, or reading a hacked up finale to an otherwise great series of books which he just felt he needed to put together even though he was miserable doing it, I'll be one of the first to order him some beers and pizza and hand him the remote.

  • Authors also have to decide whether or not they want to eat. Once one story has sold, it's a lot easier selling sequels to it than to sell something entirely new. If they don't sell stories, they don't eat. So sequels and long-running series are the norm.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:42AM (#27050871) Journal

    MMOs don't actually need an ending. They're not usually intended as a story as such - more as an ongoing, but usually static, world that players participate in. They generally kind of exist in the same continuity-free zones as daily-gag comic strips in newspapers and the like.

    This, in an nutshell, is the problem with MMOs. I love RPGs, but I have no interest in a perpetual grind.

  • Re:Like Seinfeld? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:49AM (#27050941)

    How did the Seinfeld finale fail? The characters were thrown in jail for doing what they'd always done: nothing. There was really no other way it could have ended satisfactorily. Typical sitcom endings where all of the stories are wrapped up (Jerry and Elaine getting back together, or Kramer finding his long lost father, for instance) would have been completely out of style for the series.

    Did you expect something else?

    I say it failed because, from what I saw anyway, a significant majority of the fans said the ending sucked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:20PM (#27053041)

    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. He should feel the need to put together the ending because a story teller acting with integrity knows how the story ends before they claim to be telling it. When the author of a work sells out and starts milking us for the middle after a good hook we become frustrated.

Real wealth can only increase. -- R. Buckminster Fuller