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What do you define as a "happy ending" and how much does it matter?
I have a plan to do a game but it just dawned on me that the ending (if written well) might be unsatisfying, especially the ones that are so to say the Good ones.
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I sometimes have a tendency to design stories in which ALL the endings are depressing in different ways and have to graft a happy ending possibility on afterwards. Many players will then assume that the lone happy ending is the True Ending whether it's designed that way or not.
When playing games with multiple endings, people tend to want there to be a resolution to every problem. If there's a moral dilemma at the end of the game where you can only save your best friend or your love interest and both of those result in a sad end where the other one dies, players will probably grouse about not being able to take a third option, unless you make it clear that "you can't win without losing" is the theme of the game. (On the other hand, players would probably accept an ending where the protagonist dies in order to save both the friend and the love interest. It solves the problem but isn't necessarily happy.)
On the other hand, you don't have to make the players happy all the time, it is your story!
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It's just a rule of thumb, since there is no exact definition of a happy ending AFAIK. ^^
But bittersweet ending, If done right, can give such a large boost to the story's emotional impact...
I watched a couple of wonderful sad endings.
To me a bad/unhappy ending happens when the protagonist looses more than he gains throughout the story
When there is a really cool antagonist, cooler than the protagonist, only in those cases I really enjoy a complete defeat of the protagonist. Otherwise, I'm fine with well done bittersweet endings, and there are many different types of gain and loss. If the gains and losses of the protagonists (to me) feel somewhat equal the ending can still be great, but only if the story is really well made.
How much happy I want the ending to be also depends on the story. Usually the worse the protagonists have it throughout the story, the more I want for them to have a happy ending. If the protagonists don't have to work for anything on the other hand, then I don't mind an bad (for them, lol) ending.
After all, karma is a bitch
Now let's say, the protagonists meets a love of his life. If the whole world other than the protagonists gets destroyed, if everyone dies, as long as the lovers have each other I see that as a happy ending (just a little on the bittersweet scale).
If the world gets saved from the great evil, but the love interest dies leaving the other protagonist alive and alone, I consider that an very unhappy ending and usually very annoying one too.
If both the protagonists die together, to save the world, I'd consider that a neutral ending (or a bittersweet one).
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He could dead and feel happy because he saved the world (or his GF), but for me it's not happy and hence bittersweet ending.
Good ending is an ending where the good guy wins, though sometimes it must be paid with great price (sometimes even greater). The protagonist doesn't have to be happy in this kind of ending.
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