Poll Question 267 – How do you feel about multiple endings?

24th March 2012

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

What’s all this obsession with multiple endings?

I don’t get it. Really, what is the obsession with multiple endings?

I understand that gaming can and probably should offer us something we don’t get in real life but this one just doesn’t make sense to me.

Perhaps there are special mods that require multiple endings for various reasons, maybe Stanley’s Parable is one of those, I don’t know, I haven’t made time to play it yet.

But for a regular mod I can’t see the benefit.

If you think about it for a moment all mods have an infinite number of endings. You could end with not killing any enemies, with killing one, with having 34 or 25 health points left. But that misses the point, doesn’t it? When you talk about multiple endings you mean you get to a new area, or see a different cut scene or escape or die or any number of things.

But life isn’t like that. In life you get one actual ending of any given situation. No saves, no replays, nothing.

To be able to go back to certain point in a game or mod and replay from there to get a new ending breaks too many rules for me.

Have you ever read a novel with multiple endings? I haven’t. Have I liked every ending of every book I have ever read? Hell, no. But that doesn’t mean I want to go back and read from a certain point just to get a new one.

Yes, yes, books and games are different. But are they? The author controls everything and so does a game developer or modder. game developers have just a little more freedom to make you feel that you control something.

The reality is that in games and mods, you go exactly where they want you to go but you have a little control over HOW you get there.

Occasionally, I have watched DVDs where they present multiple endings for the film and yes I do check them out. But I don’t rewatch the movie and them select a different ending. In those cases it’s no different from watching deleted scenes – it’s just for interest sake, not because I want to feel in control.

Years ago, I wrote an article about games that can only be played once (can’t find the link to it atm), the idea being that in this case multiple ending have a valid place in gaming. A game that you could only play once and one that you knew had multiple ending would mean that your actions have unchangeable consequences.

Choices mean nothing if you can simple go back a few saves and replay.

Imagine a game with no saves – just like arcade games. Each and every playthrough had a sense of importance. Perhaps it was because you paid for each one, or perhaps because there was no going back.

Make a PC game with no saves and players complain, I know I would! Of course, that’s different because games today are much longer than in the past. But how about a compromise?

Make a game that only has one constant save.

Shit that would be tough. You can stop the game at any point, but you must continue from there.

I do understand the desire for gamers and developers to create mods where the choices we make actual have important consequences, I am just not convinced that multiple endings are the ideal solution. Not until we have games with tens of ends, at least.

As I was drafting this article, I noticed something on the BBC about Mass Effect 3 and its ending. I sympathise with those players because if Valve screw up the ending of HL3 I would go crazy.

I would prefer that all the effort that went into multiple endings was put into telling a better story to begin with. Just make your ending great and tell the story well and I’ll be happy.

So, now it’s your turn to comment and/or vote


  1. WizardExt

    First of all, disable manual/quick saving.. It destroys the game too much. I really dislike quick saving.

    I like choices, especially if they are without interruptions. When they become as life-like as possible. I remember playing Heavy Rain on PS3 and I was so new to the concept of on-the-fly decisions that I felt so ill by the outcome. I had the wrong people dying because of me. I felt bad for what I have done. This is really a new concept and needs to be further developed and also, it needs to be featured in more games. The players, right now, are not ready for this.

    I would love to have more of this in First Person Shooters. Not as a pause-the-game-pop-up-question-kind-of-choice. Just different endings and progression because of what you have done. Someone in your squad dies? Someone in your squad dies because of you? All survive in your squad. These 3 different outcomes can have such a different impact on the game. Set of mood, difficulty and progression.

    Also the concept of time is interesting. If the game tells you that you have to hurry, but you decide to explore, this could have a big impact aswell. I find it frustrating to watch my girlfriend play games, because she starts to realize how they work/are built.. She always take the opposite path of what she think is the right way, just because she wants to see it all. Even though the game tells her to hurry up. So I really want to games to keep track of what the player does and make an outcome from that.

    In combination with the regular pop-up choices I think games in the future can be really interesting. People will really have their OWN story from the game. Much more than today.

    I find this to be a really interesting topic. It’s not solid for todays games, but I think it’s the way to go. Because today players have become too controlling of the game. They save whenever, they don’t like the outcome of things they just reload a different save and make the outcome better. I also think we need to put the players to a bigger challenge. They can’t just sit back and be casual all the time. Teach them that it’s for real, from the start. If you don’t pay attention, things can go really really wrong and there is no going back from that moment.

  2. Hec

    Heck that poll was tough, because sometimes i’m really indiferent to them and some others I just freakin hate them!!, why?? becasue im a lazy bastard!!!!

    I don’t want to replay the whole thing in order to get the “happy flowers ending” or the “sad rain day ending”, or the “psycho killer goes nuts and kill a bunny family ending”, for god sake!!!!! if modders do that please I ask them they give me an easy option to get to them in a snap!!, please dont let me replay the whole thing!!!

    Maybe AoM DC inaguurated that wierd multiple ending tradition in HL mods I don’t know, ut most of the times im just happy with the endning I got and that’s it, don’t tell me if I see the 1st or 2nd ending out of 40!!!! in youtube could ruin my experience because it contains spoilers!!!!!!!, because when a mod have multiple endings that’s exactly what I do!!! I go to YOUTUBE and watch the dam” “x” number of ending the mod has!!!, that’s what I did with CoF mod, and I absolutely don’t regret!!!!, whats the big deal???

    Indeed and deeply thinking on this interesting question, I think multipple endings, sometimes make a good mod a bargain, I know mods aren’t for sale but if u think well, great storys just are told ONCE!!! yep once and that’s it boy!!, that’s why I loved Heart of Evil, and many other master modding pieces in HL, and that’s also the reason because I love HL, imagine HL3 ending with a multiple end choice!!!!, WHAT A RIP OFF!! I would shout!!!, Gordon can marry Alyx or Barney because Gordie is gay!!! lol, just kidding on the last one, no, but getting serious imagine gordon die, or live??, what you choose!!, I prefere NOT TO CHOOSE!!, please close the story!!, not matter if makes me cry or happy or blue and destroyed!!, sometimes multiple endings are ok for some certain mods but if multiple ends would be the constant what a pretty boring and no sense gaming world we would have!!!

  3. Soylent Bacon

    I don’t like the multiple endings for the replay value. I usually don’t try to play through each and every ending.

    I like multiple endings for the unique outcome. I like getting an ending on my first playthrough that not everyone got. It’s a (somewhat) unique reflection of my choices. If I know people who have played what I played, I like the “What ending did you get” discussion. It’s sort of the same appeal as those silly internet personality quizzes, but with a story and gameplay along the way.

    In that sense, you could say multiple endings are more true to life, since all of our lives aren’t coming to the same conclusion.

    By the way, I recommend a Newgrounds game called One Chance. As its name implies, it’s a lot like the idea you described. You only get one chance.

    1. Okay, just searched and played One Chance. It’s definitely interesting, but I feel a little cheated. I went to the roof to see what was going on up there and I lost the chance to work.

      Still, it got me thinking. BTW, I don’t actually consider this a game, it’s more of a simple story with some choices.

      1. Soylent Bacon

        I see what you mean. It would definitely be more interesting if a full length mod with actual gameplay worked the way One Chance does.

        Then again, if the gameplay is too fun, it does further encourage people to cheat the “one chance” mechanic in order to play the game again. One Chance doesn’t even have real gameplay, but I still saw comments on the forum where I first saw it mentioned that people were clearing their internet cache or something just to play through other endings. I never wanted to do that, but if One Chance had some fun gameplay elements to it, I probably would’ve at least been strongly tempted to.

  4. Kyo

    I love multiple endings, but it depends on the game. If a game isn’t that long, but presents many options to the player, I will be inclined to play it again and take another route to see where it goes. As technology has progressed, we have become better about telling stories and players want to feel they have a say in how that story turns out.

    To me, the ultimate realization of the multiple ending game is probably Fallout 3. The entire ending is generated by your actions. There is no one scene to replay for a better outcome, it’s literally the whole game that the ending reflects on. On top of that, it made sure that choices had consequences. I felt missions like Tranquility Lane and Tenpenny Tower were very thought-provoking because, despite playing as a well-intentioned do-gooder, people died as a result of my actions and in retrospect, these may not have been the right actions. Let it be known, all the quicksaving and quickloading in the world can’t let you escape from a situation where the only outcome is the lesser of two evils. These missions stuck with me long after the game was over. The same with deciding Gil Alexander’s fate in BioShock 2 or the choice I made at the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Were these the right choices? I don’t know, but the fact that I’m thinking about them at all means the video game affected me on some deeper, personal level, the level that some people only think movies and books are allowed to go.

    Fallout: New Vegas took this a step further by all but removing the karma system from the player’s sight, so a player can truly play it as they would want to without feeling like they are appeasing one direction or another. I did not know that killing Vulpis Inculta would lead to Caesar’s Legion hunting me across the wasteland. I don’t even know if it was the “good” thing to do. What I do know is that I saw a town in flames, its citizens smoldering on poles, and a twisted man laughing about how they deserved it and telling me to spread the word about what he did here. “No, I’m not going to do that,” I said, cocking my shotgun, “This is my story. And I’m going to kill you.”

  5. zonbie

    I like the concept of multiple endings but I terribly dislike the idea of a game where the ending you get it determined solely within the last 10-30 minutes of gameplay (such as the new Deus Ex or, relating to the current topic, Mass Effect 3).

    I think a great example of multiple endings is STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl. There are seven endings in all. For five of the endings, your actions throughout the game and the amount of money you have at the end will determine what ending your character chooses (you do not actually get to choose from a “menu of endings” so the ending you experience feels more natural, and does not overtly scream “there are more endings to experience”). In addition to these five, there are two more endings that are more difficult to reach but they are much more satisfying and closure-providing endings than the first five. These endings challenge your ability to explore and find alternate routes, as well as avoiding traps and surviving incredible environmental obstacles (such as fields of radiation). So they are naturally discovered and experienced, instead of presented in a menu during the final critical moments.

  6. Multiple endings are fine in games if they are the result of player choices made earlier. Much better than an “all roads lead to Rome” approach and they do promote repeat playing to get every ending. I remember struggling to get all the endings in a “Blade Runner” game (which is now free to download) so there is extended gameplay value. Standard endings are fine also and even the sudden “The End” or fade to black are acceptable to me in the mod environment.

  7. I don’t mind multiple endings as long as it was determined by how I played throughout the entire game. I feel really cheated if the multiple endings are just the result of the final moment decisions of the game.

    I also prefer if the endings are some shade of grey when it comes to morality. Having a good end and bad ending seems too clich to me, considering the depth in story needed to generate multiple endings. Having an ending where you think you have done all the right things to find out that it has caused everything to go wrong, somewhat appeals to me.

    I think the best way for multiple endings to work is if you are completely unaware of the fact that there are even multiple endings. I feel that the way we play games is altered by the fact that we can go back and remake a decision. How would people play games if they knew they could only follow one path without ever returning?

    I would love to see a mod where every thing the player did had some impact on the end result. I think this would make it too hard for someone to see all the “endings” and so make the initial experience more memorable.

  8. Multiple endings mean a lot of work’s been put onto them. Therefore I’m indefferent. Bring it on!

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