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Game Endings Going Out of Style? 190

An article in the Guardian asks whether the focus of modern games has shifted away from having a clear-cut ending and toward indefinite entertainment instead. With the rise of achievements, frequent content updates and open-ended worlds, it seems like publishers and developers are doing everything they can to help this trend. Quoting: "Particularly before the advent of 'saving,' the completion of even a simple game could take huge amounts of patience, effort and time. The ending, like those last pages of a book, was a key reason why we started playing in the first place. Sure, multiplayer and arcade style games still had their place, but fond 8, 16 and 32-bit memories consist more of completion and satisfaction than particular levels or tricky moments. Over the past few years, however, the idea of a game as simply something to 'finish' has shifted somewhat. For starters, the availability of downloadable content means no story need ever end, as long as the makers think there's a paying audience. Also, the ubiquity of broadband means multiplayer gaming is now the standard, not the exception it once was. There is no real 'finish' to most MMORPGs."
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Game Endings Going Out of Style?

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  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @07:39AM (#30748906) Journal

    For MMOs, I think this is forgivable. After all, they're supposed to be persistent worlds. That said, a competent MMO developer will set up storylines for players to work through (either at their own pace, or a pace forced by in-game world events). The two MMOs I've played both do this; WoW and Final Fantasy XI. I understand that the real masters in this field are Codemasters, with Lord of the Rings Online, but a variety of other factors have always kept me away from that game. Interestingly, I understand that Blizzard will actually be adding a proper ending cutscene in the next WoW patch, for guilds that manage to take down Arthas. Given this will be the culmination of a major plot arc that kicked off years ago in Warcraft 3, I heartily approve.

    For non-MMO story-based, however, I do want a story with a definite beginning, middle and end. This isn't to say that the game can't continue after the story has ended; I much preferred the way the Broken Steel DLC allowed you to continue exploring the Capital Wastelands in Fallout 3, after you'd beaten the original game and the continuation story. However, if your game has a story, that story needs an ending, even if this ending is open enough to allow for continuation.

    My real bug-bear are the games which eschew a real ending because they're angling for a sequel (or even an entire franchise), but never deliver on this. In my opinion, unless you already have funding in place for a sequel, you should avoid tagging a cliff-hanger ending onto your game. Doesn't mean you can't continue the story later if you want to; look at the first Star Wars movie - it has a perfectly satisfactory ending in itself, but still allowed for sequels. Then with funding secure, Empire was able to have an appropriate cliff-hanger ending. But if your ending is "the real story is just beginning" and then you never do continue it, then I'm definitely not impressed.

    It's not just games that suffer from this. So many TV shows are developed these days with the philosophy that you should continue making series until your audience figures fall low enough to shut you down. If there's an ending at all, only a tiny number of ultra-hardcore viewers ever see it. We're being bombarded with stories that have a beginning and an endless middle, but no ending. Sometimes, ending a show can be the best thing that's ever happened to it. I understand this was the case with the original Mobile Suit Gundam, which flew completely below the radar (probably because it wasn't very good) until the staff were told that they were being terminated, at which point they gave it a proper storyline and ending. The result - the show got noticed and went on to become a genuine cultural phenomenon in Japan (and attracted a good bit of nerdly attention in the wider world), with sequels and reimaginings running for decades.

  • Inaccurate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @07:53AM (#30748972)
    All arcade, most Atari 2600 and some NES games had no ending and consisted of stacking more and more points, until your thumbs bled or the PCB fried. That was the whole fun of it. The old school-way to do it.

    It's when games started telling stories (example, Final Fantasy) that we had elaborate plots and game endings.

    But now with the MMORPG craze, every publisher wants a piece of the action (and profit). Game endings are out, micro payments, subscriptions, DLCs are in.

    It'll be a truly sad day when all we have to play are Disney MMO, Star Wars MMO, Warcraft MMO, Sonic MMO, Tomb Raider MMO, Halo MMO, etc.
  • Old games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:01AM (#30749022)

    Particularly before the advent of 'saving,' the completion of even a simple game could take huge amounts of patience, effort and time. The ending, like those last pages of a book, was a key reason why we started playing in the first place.

    I have a PSP with custom firmware and I went back and played some of those old games and, for me, the "patience, effort and time" needed to play the same damn levels over and over again (because I kept dying at the same key spot!) began to wear very thin very quickly.

    Sometimes I think we look back on old games with too much nostalgia. Whilst there are undoubtedly some really good games, a lot of them were just an exercise in frustration and slow methodical progress - something I don't derive much enjoyment from any more.

  • Resale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grr ( 15821 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:03AM (#30749026)
    What the article fails to mention is the underlying reason for this: resale. If a gamer finishes the game it is done, a coaster in a pretty box. If the game always has something left to do, whether in the form of downloadable content, achievements, replayability or open endedness, it will retain some value and not end up traded in for a new game quite so soon. The game resale market may seem pretty small (mostly because stores take a huge second profit margin on them), but add to that the number of copies lended to a friend or rented for the weekend. In the end significantly more people will buy their own box if it provides limitless enjoyment.
    In my opinion adding more value to a game is the most customer friendly way to do it. Far better than strong arming stores to not take trade ins or locking installations to hardware, creditcard and so on.
  • Modern endings (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lyinhart ( 1352173 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:18AM (#30749090)
    One big change in modern game endings is the fact that it doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment to finish a games. Games these days generally have mid-level checkpoints and infinite continues, so there's no satisfaction in reaching the end. You just feel like endlessly grinding to the end. Also, the concept of "completing" a game has changed. Whereas it once meant clearing all the stages in a game, completion might mean unlocking all the game content (e.g. 100% completion levels in Gran Turismo, or getting all the "achievements" in some titles).
  • Re:Inaccurate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlackBloq ( 702158 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:38AM (#30749200)
    Take Dragon age ... what a piss off! They have some douchebag standing around in the party camp screen. He looks like a dude with something to say but... when you speak to him you realize hat he is only there to get more REAL cash from you for the companies! Right from the start of the game they LOCK OUT content from the storey so you have to pay to play from the start! This is significantly different then making content post game development to add value or dimension or just fun (plate armor for your horse in oblivion) . Whats next is the Nexon model takes over. You can 'buy' all your content (equipment) in game and it expires! Not only that, Maple story sells kids cards that get you in game items and in game cash at 711 stores! I've seen an eleven year old blow $50 in one glee-filled spree of waste. That's like $500 to an adult! And all that stuff expires IE: gets deleted! Well I've got to go buy a tractor for my farm in farmville! see ya!
  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:44AM (#30749238) Journal

    I don't really think it's a big corporation thing. Square-Enix, who are really pretty big, usually take care to wrap up their stories properly. Yes, there are an awful lot of Final Fantasy games, but most of them are completely fresh stories. Occasionally, they'll revisit a story they've already created, such as with FFX-2 or FFVII: Crisis Core, but in each of those cases, the original story pretty much stands by itself, and you're free to ignore the new component if you want (in fact, FFX has one of my favorite game endings ever). Bioware are also very good at wrapping up stories; yes, there are often a few loose ends at the end of their games, but by and large, the plot has been resolved perfectly well (usually with a choice of endings). And then there's Metal Gear Solid 4; the plot is far from flawless (it's confusing, often badly told and massively over-convoluted), but the ending is as comprehensive an ending to both a game and a franchise as you could ever want to get.

    I guess the counter-example must come from a recent EA game: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, which had the worst ending of any game I've encountered for years. However, there are other EA titles with perfectly satisfactory endings. At the same time, I can think of low-budget indie-type games which have been blatantly angling for a sequel.

  • Credit roll (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeanLearner ( 1639959 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:54AM (#30749296)
    Whatever happens, even if they stop doing it right now... I could be playing and finishing games 50 years from now and I will still wait for the credits to finish rolling on the off chance there is something at the end. I will no doubt get that awkward, "so.... do I turn the console off now then or?" feeling as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:05AM (#30749356)

    On the reverse side of Gundam, there's Big O.


    Quite a good science fiction/film noir styleanime about a city where everyone's lost their memories. Toss in giant robots, an interesting cast of friends and villains, and a Bruce Wayne like hero and you've got Big O. (A common jokes about the show is that it's what would've happened if Bruce Wayne had created a giant robot)

    The original season was produced in Japan and ended on a cliffhanger with quite a few unanswered questions, but was still vaguely acceptable as an ending. A few years later Cartoon Network funded a second season (A rare occasion where a western company funds an anime). The second season was just filled with cliffhangers and pure confusion. The writer of the show was said to be angling for a third season, but funding dried up due to poor sales leaving fans with an acceptable, but question filled, ending.

    Greed is exactly it. Cliffhangers are written precisely to grab people and demand that a new season is given. Most of the times writers will go "Hey, if we could do it the first time..." But this philosophy can lead to fans being left with a highly unsatisfactory, rushed ending.

    Also, don't get me started on Code Geass. The first season ended with the protagonist and the antagonist (Arguable during all 26 episodes of the whole damned show as to who the good guy and who the bad guy is) standing face to face for the first time, the protagonist with a bomb strapped on his chest and a gun aimed at the antagonist. And then it ended. Had to wait a DAMNED YEAR to get the next season and learn what happened. Please, Jesus, I know the entire show was built on putting a cliffhanger at the end of each episode, but that was just purely ridiculous.

  • by PhotoBoy ( 684898 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:36AM (#30749596)

    I hate this too. I'm still upset Shenmue II ended on a massive cliffhanger with Sega clearly not intending to finish the story.

    More recently Ubisoft have been doing it in a lot of their games, and in the case of the Prince of Persia reboot, they've already abandoned it for a Sands of Time sequel to cash-in on the film coming out this summer.

  • Re:Inaccurate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krelian ( 525362 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:02AM (#30749826)

    The ones you should blame are those who pay for DLC.

  • Re:Old games (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheAndruu ( 1475165 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:30AM (#30750144)
    For a lot of us, we were kids in those times we look back at those old games, and as kids, we had so little other things going on that we could focus our determination on finishing those games. Now other items take priority, like work and family. Plus most kids I knew growing up only had a few games, since you had to wait for birthdays or other holidays to get those games you really wanted. And since our attention was divided among only a few games, we'd often pick our favorite and play it over and over. Now I can just go out and buy a new game whenever I want, cutting down the replay time of old games.
  • Re:Stargate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pnewhook ( 788591 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:23AM (#30750898)

    Love Stargete, and SGU is ok but I think it is trying way to hard to mimic the BSG look and feel.

  • Re:Modern endings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:16PM (#30751736)

    Games these days generally have mid-level checkpoints and infinite continues, so there's no satisfaction in reaching the end.

    For *YOU* there's no satisfaction. Other people have different attitudes about gaming. Me, I hate having to redo an entire level and by the time I get back to the point of fail, I forget what the hell I did wrong the first time.

    The archetype of that, for me, is the quadruple pillar jump in the first Tomb Raider. It was really twitchy, but doable as you figure out the precise sequence of moves. You fail and get sent not back to the entrance of the room, but about two miles away. You had to run back through a completely eventless set of corridors just to try the jumps again. I beat it eventually, but I wanted to hunt down every programmer of the game and punch them all in the face. That's fun? How can that, in any way shape or form, by even the loosest definition, be considered fun?

    Although even that can vary. With Batman Arkham Asylum, even if I beat an area successfully, I would sometimes think "I could have done that better" and go back and replay. But it's at *my* discretion. *I* decide what is fun for me.

    The end user should be treated as king by the developers. I want to save anywhere at any time. I do not want to be subject to someone else's Grand Unified Theory of Gaming Challenge, especially if it's someone whose career is games and they have forgotten what it's like to have a life and career where gaming is just a hobby and time is precious. If you don't like "save anywhere" then DON'T USE IT. Let those of us who have to answer a phone or go to the bathroom have things our way, too.

    I actually hope the next gen of consoles implement a system level game save, sort of like hibernate on Windows, where it just dumps the state of the machine to the hard drive, and it can power up back to that state.

  • duh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:37PM (#30752010)

    end of story = end of cashflow. pure and simple. mmorpg's have to be set up this way... keep people playing, keep them paying. only a matter of time before pretty much all games are like this.

  • Re:Inaccurate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:02PM (#30754268) Journal

    And besides, when did profiteering make you an asshole anyway?

    Since the first use of the word, I guess, since it's part of it's definition. Wictionary:

    "The act of making an unreasonable profit not justified by the corresponding assumption of risk, or by doing so unethically"

    Other online dictionaries seem to concur.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.