Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Post About Bad Endings

So...another question for all VN developers out there.

How do you feel about bad endings?

The other day, while working on "Project O" (which, by the way, is getting closer and closer to having a completed script), I got to a point where a bad-ending could be very easily written in. I said to myself, "Sammy, this would be a really good point to have a "rocks fall, everyone dies" ending". It would be organic, it would make sense, it would function well within the story.

But somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to write it.

I don't know, I've been writing these characters for so long, I just don't have the heart to write a bad ending for them. They deserve to be happy, and an ending where things don't work out just seems so upsetting and un-fulfilling.

But to have NOTHING but happy endings seems like a cop-out. There are some people who enjoy their bad endings, and even more enjoy the thrill of the fact that they MIGHT get a bad ending. After all, if you end up happy despite your best efforts, where's the fun in that?

How do you muster up your courage and write a bad ending? Do you think bad endings are necessary? Share me your thoughts, if you please. :X

(Pretty Clannad picture is partially gratuitous.)


  1. You probably know by now that I lean naturally towards bad endings. :) But it depends a lot on the sort of game you're making.

    If there's a point to your story, then bad endings are very helpful in driving that message home. "Trust your friends. See, if you don't, it all falls apart!" And of course, the good ending goes with it to be compared and contrasted.

    Bad endings that are just a matter of turning left instead of right, OOPSDED, are less fulfilling. And lots of romance-driven games don't have good/bad outcomes for each character path. I'm an angst junkie so I enjoy endings where everything goes horribly wrong, but they aren't necessary in every game. (After all, most stories that aren't in VNs only have one ending, and most of those endings aren't bad.) There have been bad ends in games that I felt were unfair and unnecessary from a plot perspective, even as I enjoyed the delicious crunchy doom.

    OTOH one of the benefits of the branching, multiple-ending plot is that you can explore other possibilities and see what could have been, so it's a perfectly good chance to have your cake and eat it too. And games that are thoroughly littered with horrible bad ends can make your eventual triumph taste sweeter for having to work hard to get to it.

    Sort of waffling, aren't I?

  2. Personally, I've never had trouble writing bad ends.

    Then again, I have no soul. ;P

  3. Sometimes you have to kill what's precious to you in order to achieve success as a writer. "Bad" endings tend to be more normal and realistic, because that's what happens in reality more often; good endings aren't non-existent, they just turn out to be rare.

    You can take them from a different approach. Ask yorself, why do they happen? It may be a way to bring a message to the reader (aesop-wise), or to share something with them (If your life made you learn things faster and in a less comforting way from the others). The truth is, that bad endings exist is that because no writer would be truly happy with them; there would be no story. They have to struggle and overcome the differences, because that's what compels readers the most. Of course, that doesn't mean we don't want to see them somehow happy or victorious at the very least.

    If you're feeling down about this, maybe try to find something in beetwen? :)

  4. All I can say is that my first experience with a bad ending was in a "choose your own adventure" novel. All I can say is that I used to expect good endings often, and getting a bad one shocked me. It made me try hard to think about what decisions to make when I know there are bad endings involved.

    I think a realistic bad ending is the way to go, not something that somehow happens that makes the reader go "sheesh. What the heck? That makes no sense whatever!"

    With your everyone dies ending that you can't write, maybe the best way would be to make it less horrific on yourself? I was imagining rocks falling on them and they go "squish."