Poll Question 055 – Should players control the storyline with an episode-ending vote?

2nd November 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1 and 2

I am posting this poll in the ideas category as well. I have been vocal in my opposition to episodic gaming. However, this week I want to propose an idea that can benefit from it.

This week’s poll question is:

Should players control the storyline with an episode-ending vote?

The Ending

Firstly, forget Half-Life 2: Episodes. This idea is not connected directly with those, just episodic gaming in general.

Now, image an episode ends with a number of vital story threads left in the balance. At this point the play has, for example, three questions and each question has a maximum of three simple answers.

The player is then allowed to vote. Perhaps it relates to the fate of a character or perhaps a possible location or level concept. The player is only allowed to vote once, not every time she or he finishes the game.

This type of idea has been used in many other media, perhaps even in games, I’ve just never heard of it. (Remember I am not an expert of FPS gaming or any other gaming, so please don’t assume I am saying it has never appeared. I’m just saying I haven’t heard of it.)


There could also be a basic feedback system built in; requesting detailed information about each level and story point.


The use of a system like this could easily be expanded to include simple competitions. Something like name the next weapon or location. The winner receives the next episode free.

What do you think?

Do you like the idea of being part of the writing team or do you think that those details should be left to the developers?

Would you participate in feedback or other uses of a similar system?

Do you think somebody could build it into a mod for Half-Life 2?

Do you have any other ideas for such a system?


  1. I don’t think I would want this because a large part of the fun in a game is finding out what happens during the game. Also a big part of it is speculating what will happen in future games. I think that if there were a contest and the winner was announced, people would be able to find out what that person’s idea was. Also, I’m sure that Valve (or any other company, for that matter) do look at things from the community even if they don’t take full stories from them.

  2. Splatzone

    Another interesting idea. Maybe, it could be a simple form with what you do *not* want to happen, just to give the developers a vague indication without spoiling the plot for everyone.

  3. Anonymous

    It would be better to simply include ALL the possible “choices” in the gameplay, as advertising certain features and then suddenly removing them for a majority vote is much to the disdain of any potential gamers.

    Plus, while it supposedly adds the specific elements that the ‘most” people wanted, it removes the rather important element of ‘surprise” or ‘suspense.’

    People would probably refuse to buy it anyways if their preferred choice was taken out of the game for being the minority.

    I’d really prefer that Valve would stop sending out “episodes” of things and revert back to the good ole ‘sequels” so we can have a decent-sized gameplay with an ending that doesn’t imply ‘to be Continued’

    As for an alternative, does anybody remember the good old-fashioned “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series? Why don’t game developers consider those multiple-ending routes of gameplay anymore?

  4. Developers do, and developers have been since the dawn of gaming. Multiple-endings have the problem that, regardless of what ending you get, there’s always a “correct” ending that you needed to obtain in order to really complete the game. Somewhat defeats the purpose.

  5. As for an alternative, does anybody remember the good old-fashioned “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series? Why don’t game developers consider those multiple-ending routes of gameplay anymore?

    I loved Choose Your Own Adventure. Anyways, I think that the only game (mod really) that implements this feature well is Causality Effect. Even though there was one “true” ending, the one that takes you back to the beginning to Half-Life 2, if the developer decided to do a sequel, it could go from one of the other endings. I think that a game like this that has a sort of alternate storyline would work for something like this though.

  6. Matt Glanville

    I know SiN Episodes: Emergence was originally going to include this feature until it was canned. I believe in that game it was going to collect data based on how the players proceeded through the game and base the next episode on that data, so there was no way of really knowing what you were submitting.

    However, should we really need such a device? Considering that it is a linear story, the developers should have designed the game in such a way that you would feel a similar reaction to everyone else anyway.

  7. Oopla

    What annoys me about multiple endings, is that there is normally just 2. A light and a dark. They are just there, and not nuanced in much any way. In the game Advent rising, It was promised to feature a “dynamic branching storyline, based on the choices you make.” your first choice was, who did the aliens kill? Your Brother or your fiencee? Aside from the fact that this was a completely unrealistic binary choice in the story. I found I could nullify the choice realistlicly with my game play stratedy. Of course 1 still died, and I promptly put down the game and have never picked it up.

    Multiple ending gaming can be done well, Like Wing Commander, where you had 4 options, ranging from Win big, to Lose big. It was based on the outcomes of the battles, with the ability of your battle record even being able to effect the outcome of the game in the middle of it.

    What would be an interesting concept for episodic gaming would be to have a multi episode series, each with it’s own choice in it. Light or Dark. and then the next episode is designed around what the majority of users chose in their first run through of the previous episode(which is counted as a vote) I am going to go on record as saying that I don’t see this as a successful episodic model. It would be hemorrhaging users, as people who made one choice would hate the fact that their choice for the character lost, and they are stuck playing the story path they didn’t choose.

  8. as people who made one choice would hate the fact that their choice for the character lost, and they are stuck playing the story path they didn’t choose.

    This is a good point but we end up playing somebody elses story anyway.

    Although we get no input in that case, so it is slightly different.

    I think it may work for a mod better than a full retail game.

  9. Yeah, there are a couple major problems with this idea:

    1) Appeasing the masses generally results in stale storylines and gameplay. Individuals are creative. Groups are predictable.

    2) Trying to guess at what comes next is 90% of th eenjoyment of ANY story. you don’t have to guess when you’re the one deciding.

    3) Episodes are already taking incredibly long when they know what the story is roughly going to follow from the very beginning. You will either end up with your individual episodes slowed down to a crawl, or you will end up with subpar storylines getting pushed out.

    4) Not everyone buys their games on day one. How long are the devs supposed to wait for feedback from the players? One year? 2 years? however long it is, after the choice has been made, your incentive to get the game further down the road has been slashed to pieces, if you don’t get it from day 1, you might as well not bother getting anything in the series.

    5) People are going to see those choices and want them all. So no one will be completely satisfied no matter what the choice turned out to be.

    Generally, it’s theoretically a cool idea, but not one that will ever work as well in practice as it is in theory.

  10. This might not be inline with the question, but I dood it anyway,lol… Choose your own ending is OK, but in view of playability? How about random endings..the game randomly picks the end. In fact that could really change games period. What if every time you played a a game you had no idea what I am going to call “the randomizer” was going to throw at you at any given point during game play, changes in map, enemies, monsters,terrain…environments?.. Appealing?.. It is to me.

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