Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

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Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#1 Post by Elmiwisa » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:03 pm

Basically, it is about when the story is wrapping up and heading for the happy ending. Then the game basically inform the player in some direct way that they should just stop now (and perhaps give an explicit button to quit). After that some sort of very cruel twist come up, and the story end in a downer ending.
One example would be Umineko 7 which basically said that "This game will not have a happy ending" (referring to ep.8), though the story is already depressing, and it just seem like thing are getting slightly better. Probably the best example I could think of (but I never read this book, just heard about it) is the final chapter of the The Dark Tower, where there is a direct warning to just close the book.
So what is your opinion on this sort of warning.
Are they a good idea to have?
What would you think if you are a player and encounter one?
How direct can/should they be? (for example, The Dark Tower's warning is directly the author's warning, while Umineko use red truth which is by the nature of the story is just as good in term of reliability and yet let a character speak it; I can imagine if a story is set in a medieval fantasy it an oracle character could also play such role)
What if at the point of the warning the player can choose to branch into a fully-developed happy ending and a fully-developed true ending? (by "true ending" it means it is stated canonically to be "true ending", or say something to that effect that that ending is what really happened and the rest of the endings are just what-if)

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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#2 Post by Greeny » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:30 pm

What's the point of having a twist if you're going to warn people explicitly? That seems like a terrible idea.
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#3 Post by BroAesthetic » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:36 pm

I think it's an interesting idea. The visual novel would have to be kind of sad to begin with (or at least drop adequate hints, like you mentioned) for it to work. You can't just pull a twist out of nowhere without preparation; that's cheating for a writer. Obviously not every VN can pull it off, but it can work.

As a reader, I would feel a little betrayed if there weren't hints at an inevitable bad ending. Normally in VNs, you KNOW when you messed up. You can tell just by noticing the change in mood amongst the characters, music, and tone of narration. That's fine. Sometimes I even hunt for bad endings just out of curiosity. But if I suddenly got one when there was no warning, I'd just be mad.

The idea of branching into a real true ending at the warning is good. It means there's a way to avoid the trainwreck, which is normally good news for players if they're emotionally invested into your characters.

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Greeny wrote:What's the point of having a twist if you're going to warn people explicitly? That seems like a terrible idea.
Foreshadowing. Just more explicit.
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#4 Post by Greeny » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:39 pm

There's a big difference between foreshadowing and basically saying:

"T-the ending may be a little bit sad, maybe you should... maybe you should turn it off, I don't want you to feel bad... >////< "

If you write a bad ending, it's because you want to evoke a certain feeling in your audience... so undermining that just makes no sense to me.
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#5 Post by Elmiwisa » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:54 pm

Maybe I should be a bit more clear. But the warning is something along the line of "Close the game now, don't read any further if you want to end on a happy note". Of course, the level of explicitness varies. This is not meant to be a foreshadowing. The foreshadowing are still there in the story (prerequisite of any sensible twist) but it might have been forgotten by the player. This is not a foreshadowing, it is a last chance warning before everything take turn for the worse.
And when I said there is a branch between true end and happy end, the true end is the one with the cruel twist, while the happy end would continue the happiness without any twist but canonically is only a what-if sort of end.

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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#6 Post by ShippoK » Thu Sep 05, 2013 3:09 pm

Greeny wrote:There's a big difference between foreshadowing and basically saying:

"T-the ending may be a little bit sad, maybe you should... maybe you should turn it off, I don't want you to feel bad... >////< "

If you write a bad ending, it's because you want to evoke a certain feeling in your audience... so undermining that just makes no sense to me.

I agree.

The best endings a creator can make are the ones that dig into the player's skin the most.

Don't be afraid to go all out on your audiences, they are suppose to have a feeling of depressing, happiness, indifference or madness towards an ending they just sow. Heck, all of the emotions if you can achieve that!
Maybe I should be a bit more clear. But the warning is something along the line of "Close the game now, don't read any further if you want to end on a happy note". Of course, the level of explicitness varies. This is not meant to be a foreshadowing. The foreshadowing are still there in the story (prerequisite of any sensible twist) but it might have been forgotten by the player. This is not a foreshadowing, it is a last chance warning before everything take turn for the worse.
And when I said there is a branch between true end and happy end, the true end is the one with the cruel twist, while the happy end would continue the happiness without any twist but canonically is only a what-if sort of end.
I actually have something like this as well, it's more for the whole of the game then the endings itself.
But it's done in a way that it doesn't detract from breaking the 4th wall because a certain character would say; 'Things will get worse so it's OK to turn back now' or a certain scene will play out to give the reader a warning of; 'Shit is gonna go down, yo! So you better prepare for the worse!'

Be subtle about it.
If you're so blunt about saying there's a bad ending coming up soon, it spoils the reader's expectations.

It's like if Clanned said to turn off the game once Nagisa and Tomoya were married because it was going to start getting a wee bit sadder.
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#7 Post by fleet » Thu Sep 05, 2013 3:24 pm

Make the game the way you want to make it.
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#8 Post by azureXtwilight » Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:12 pm

I will have to advise against that, it feels like a spoiler and will actually gives off a very different reaction to what you originally want us to feel. :<
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#9 Post by feathersnake » Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:54 pm

If you really want to do it, then I agree that it should be subtle and very carefully done. Of course, if there's something really offensive in the story, that can be warned before anyone actually downloads it on the main page. Such as the whole "Warning: This story contains gore" type of thing, but I'm going to assume you're not talking about things like that.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz does it in an interesting way without hindering the plot. In Odd Thomas's case, it's part of the character and tone.

If you put it somewhere or say it in a way that will spoil your plot or force a loss of interest or even a rejection from your reader, it's going to hurt your story. A reader doesn't like being told what to do. Worse than that, it can easily break reader immersion and flash red lights saying "guess what? You're reading a story right now!" when what you normally want (with certain exceptions with different kinds of stories, but even those take tact) is to make sure the reader is so immersed that they're part of that world.

Like ShippoK said, if you're going to do it, try to be subtle. If you can, give the warning in a way that creates interest to continue instead of breaking the reader out of the story. Or just slip in a bit of foreshadow again that might give the reader a tingle in their spine and wonder if something bad might happen. ShippoK's suggestion about the character dialogue is a good one as well, assuming it makes sense for the character and situation.

I know you were talking about trying to steer the reader toward the happy ending if they would rather see it, but there are much better ways to do so than a direct warning. And if you set up your plot right, it should be apparent that there was a better path. If that's the case, reaching the worse end could spur them to be even more interested in getting the happy one. (Or vice versa)

Personally I like to be surprised if the story is done well, so I'd rather not have a clear warning. Though when it's subtle, it is possible to raise the anticipation and make it better. Basically, I think the best thing would be to do some trail and error. Especially if you have people who can test and critique your VN to see if you get the desired effect. The best way to learn is to try out what you want and see how it goes. If it fails, you can take a good look at the story and find out why and/or look at the comments you were given and find out what threw people off. If it succeeds, you can likewise take a look and figure out what made the story successful. Many story elements and ideas can be done well in one way or another, but only if they're done right.

I hope that was somewhat helpful. >.> Good luck!
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#10 Post by SundownKid » Thu Sep 05, 2013 11:08 pm

If you have to WARN the player, then you did something wrong. If there's a twist, fine... but it has to make sense in terms of the story. If you did it right, readers will accept it, not want to skip it.

If you want to throw random misfortune upon the characters, consider making a non canon version instead of sticking it there and telling players to skip it. Or if there are multiple endings, give a sign that they screwed up somewhere. Making a "bad end" is perfectly acceptable.

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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#11 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Fri Sep 06, 2013 3:16 am

If you feel strongly about it, why not have an option to not show depressing endings in your VNs settings? That way players will get the experience as intended by default, but there is still a safety net for those hyper sensitive souls who may find the game as intended to be too much for their sensibilities to process.
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#12 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:45 am

Hi, thanks everyone for your comment.

@Trick: I think there are some differences here. First off, it give away the fact that there are such cruel twist right from the start, which is a pretty strong spoiler. Secondly, people would have different opinion on whether they want to see the twist or not when they have not read the story and when the story is heading to a very happy ending. I have a friend who claim to have no problems with reading downer ending...and then got upset over the Red Wedding episode anyway (I did not watch this series, but I heard it is a very gory twist considering it is all over the news). And there might be some headache with technical issue as well: at which branching point do you make check at the preference screen, and what if the player change their mind?

@feathersnake & ShippoK: ah sorry Tv Tropes was down when I made the thread, so I could not give any examples I did not know beforehand. Umineko can do it explicitly without breaking immersion due to the nature of the story. In The Series of Unfortunate Event and The Dark Tower, the books just flat out tell you directly, breaking the 4th wall, that the story will end badly and you should stop. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (which don't warn about the cruel twist but rather the boring part to skip) is also breaking the 4th wall, but it is already a wacky nonsense comedy. As for attempt that does not break the 4th wall, well I can't count on hand how many times I read something that have something to the effect of "I have a bad feelings about this" or "dark and stormy night". Sure they does not break the 4th wall, but is definitely not subtle in anyway. Not sure how much do they break immersion though.

@azure: it is not a spoiler really. It is the warning that is literally just 1 or 2 lines away from the twist. Though I think it definitely would have a different reaction. That is why I ask in this thread, since there are writer who do it (including famous one, like King, in his magnum opus no less) and I am not sure why they do that or whether it is a good idea.

@SunDown: it is possible for the twist to be properly foreshadowed, yet both the cruel twist ending and the happy ending both make sense. For a hypothetical example, the story might be about a princess searching for a prince. There are plenty of foreshadowing along the way the hinted at a foreign force preparing for a massive invasion; one of them might involve a wandering bard from foreign land who was severely injured and was sent to a doctor. If the player did not pick choice that would investigate these further, it might stay nagging at the back of the player's mind, begging the question of what could it be about; or it might get forgotten by those less attentive. So at the end of the game, the princess have found her perfect prince, finally convinced her parents to accept the prince, and wedding ceremony is being prepared. Then a warning screen come up and the player get to choose between the happy ending and the sad ending. In the happy ending, a time skip to the wedding, with all the happy scene, then another time skip to a year later when the princess have a baby, the king and queen retire and the couple get the throne, then roll credit. In the sad ending, we skip to a scene with the bard being assassinated with the assassin recover a scroll from the bard detailing the invasion scheme, then we skip to 2 years later when the castle is run over and everyone is killed. In this example, both happy ending and sad ending make sense, since happy or sad are defined only by what was shown. Another example (though without the warning screen, but the branching point is at the very end of the game nonetheless) would be from an actual video game, The Witch's House, though this one isn't called sad or happy. In the happy version, the protagonist escape and made it back home and the antagonist died. In the sad version, pretty much the same thing happen just with extra exposition, which reveal that the protagonist is the villain, and the antagonist who is innocent suffered a cruel death.

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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#13 Post by Greeny » Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:03 pm

...and then got upset over the Red Wedding episode anyway
Of course they got upset. That was the whole point.

I just don't get why you would even want to write a sad twist ending if you don't want players to feel sad?

By all means do what you like, but no amount of good writing can save your story from being hated because of a terribly unimmersive and uninspired choice at the end. Asking "would you like to see the happy ending, or the sad ending?" is basically akin to going "would you like ending A or B?" which is not really a meaningful choice at all, unless there's an underlying message in the choice itself, which there is not in this case.

Do I even need to bring up the massive outrage at Mass Effect 3? And this was Bioware, a producer almost universally lauded for excellent storytelling. The main point of that wasn't that none of the endings were happy. It was that which ending you got had nothing to do at all with anything happening up to that point, which is exactly what you're doing when you let the player choose an ending based on their personal sensitivities, instead of anything within the story.

Why does in one case, the kingdom live happily ever after, and in the other, everyone dies? What's different in the story?
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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#14 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:31 pm

Greeny wrote:
...and then got upset over the Red Wedding episode anyway
Of course they got upset. That was the whole point.

I just don't get why you would even want to write a sad twist ending if you don't want players to feel sad?
She get upset and do not want to watch the series anymore, because it has gotten too depressing, despite claiming to have no problems with downer ending. I think that if there were to be a warning screen right before the first death, she would have turned off the TV. My hypothesis here is that if the story is already in a depressing mood, it is more bearable to have a downer ending compared to when the story is leading to apparently a very happy ending. So asking the question of whether they want to see the cruel twist at the preference screen is probably quite pointless: people probably would have poor judgment on how much they can handle. Personal experience (not about cruel twist but rather horror, though related to the poor judgment thing): when my friend invite me to a horror movie, I would search for synopsis and review to see if I can take it, and I always think I can; yet once the horror scene happen, I end up burying my head somewhere anyway. :oops:
Greeny wrote: Why does in one case, the kingdom live happily ever after, and in the other, everyone dies? What's different in the story?
In term of what happened: no differences. In term of what being shown on-screen: everything. The happy ending show everyone at their happiest moment of their life and do not time skip to show their demise; the sad ending do not show the happy part, reveal the twist, and skip to the future where everyone meet their early demise. The difference is portrayal. :wink:

Also, I have not heard of Mass Effect before, but I just search for "mass effect 3 ending", and literally the first result immediately tell how upset people are over it. :D

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Re: Opinions on warning for cruel twist ending?

#15 Post by ShippoK » Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:45 pm

Elmiwisa wrote:Hi, thanks everyone for your comment.
Umineko can do it explicitly without breaking immersion due to the nature of the story. In The Series of Unfortunate Event and The Dark Tower, the books just flat out tell you directly, breaking the 4th wall, that the story will end badly and you should stop. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (which don't warn about the cruel twist but rather the boring part to skip) is also breaking the 4th wall, but it is already a wacky nonsense comedy.
Yes and these are all Dark Comedy or Comedy like things which go over the top or don't take themselves that seriously.

It does not work as well in a more serious story unless it's a form of Satire.
If you're making a VN with loads of Comedy, then it works.
As for attempt that does not break the 4th wall, well I can't count on hand how many times I read something that have something to the effect of "I have a bad feelings about this" or "dark and stormy night". Sure they does not break the 4th wall, but is definitely not subtle in anyway. Not sure how much do they break immersion though.
(I like to think those phrases are in a bad case of over usage over the years.)
People expect to see something go wrong when someone says something 'will' or 'will not' go wrong.
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