What should the ending be in an adventure game?

Introduction. There are many examples of endings in adventure games – both good and bad. I think that we may sort them into “types”, what I will do in this article that is designed to help all developers.

         Main types. The main types of endings are two – a single ending and alternate endings. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, which I will try to describe, but let us now proceed to the

         Subtypes:

                     I. Of a single ending:

                                 1. Happy end. This is maybe the most common type of ending. Use with caution though, the happy ending should not look like it is in a nursery fairy tale (Sam and Max). It should leave the player really satisfied with playing the game (Runaway: a road adventure, King’s Quest VI), which of course, applies to all the endings. This type of ending seems inevitable only for comedy games like Day of the tentacle.

                                 2. Wicked/Violent ending. A rather disappointing ending in my opinion. The wicked ending leaves the player astonished with what he have seen which was not at all what he had expected. The most popular wicked ending is maybe that of Monkey Island 2. As for the violent ending, it is something like “and ka-boom! The world explodes” or “He gets the machine gun and kills all”. It can only be used in a dark humorous game, but with extreme caution. Or it will seem like Flashbax. I advise you not to use these two endings though.

                                 3. Bittersweet ending. This is the ending that is most satisfactory in my opinion. The most common one is when the big quest is completed, but the character sacrifices something from himself – a woman, his life or love. When well made, it provokes the player to think whether he (the player) would make such thing if he were in the main character’s shoes. The brightest examples of bittersweet endings are Loom and Gabriel Knight 3. To use a bittersweet ending you will have to make the player really care for the character, or else the player will not care what the character has given up.

                                 4. Open finale. This is when the current game ends happily, but there is danger hinted to in it, like in Kyrandia 2 or King’s Quest II VGA. Note that when making such finale, you are obliged to make a sequel (Hello Tierra!). It is often used as a commercial trick to increase the sales of the follow-up.

                                 5. Sad ending. This one is used to show the drama in a game. Do not mistake is for bittersweet one though. I think that it is best to have a sad ending in a game, but it to be alternate. Not just a simple animation and a death message, but a true ending, like in Larry 1 or King’s Quest 6. If you’d like to make the sad ending the one and only, you will have to be really careful not to spoil the game, and it is advisable to be quite experienced with plot writing.

                     II. Of alternate endings

                                1. Bittersweet/Happy end. This is a quite rarely used combination, but in my opinion, it is satisfactory. It was used in Gabriel Knight 1 and King’s Quest 6.

                                 2.”Reflective” finale. In this rarely used ending, all things made in the game reflect to the ending. Maybe it is rarely used because there just aren’t many really non-linear games. This climax was used in Conquests of the longbow. Another variation of a “reflective” ending was used in Laura bow 1, where you had a smart hint system.

                                 3. Sad/Any other ending. See above.

         Conclusion. There are many types of endings, which I tried to describe. Use the one(s) that you think would suit your game best. I hope that article will help you do it.

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