How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

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vociferocity
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How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#1 Post by vociferocity » Wed Mar 09, 2016 4:41 am

I've been working on a short game, and everything was going well until I suddenly realised I haven't planned any bad ends for the game.

As a player, I find it disappointing when I reach a bad end, but I know other players really enjoy them, and I feel like they're almost necessary for a visual novel so I would like to include some. But...where do I start? I'm not sure where to put them in, or really how to even start planning them out.

So I thought it might be interesting to get you guys' point of view. How do you plan your bad ends? Do you even have any in your games? What's your process?

(also a note for my specific situation: my game has a handful of different endings, including a "game over" if you die in battle. So it's not like you can only ever have a happy ending.)

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#2 Post by Impulse » Wed Mar 09, 2016 11:18 am

There are different kinds of bad endings. A bad ending in a Romance novel could be that you get rejected or don't end up with any guy/girl. Or, if the player can pursue several people at once, then a bad ending could be that you pursue too many/everyone, resulting in everyone getting mad because you cheated. A bad ending could also be that you fail a very important test and get kicked out of school/fired from your job. If your main character has any superpowers it could be she/he loses them. In a detective/mystery novel where the plot is to solve a case and find a killer, a bad ending can be that you're unsuccessful and the killer manages to get away.

You could also get a bad ending from one single choice in the end. Maybe there's a final scene where someone is attacked and you get to choose whether to help or not. If you decide to help your previous stats may decide if you succeed in helping them or not, but if you don't help that person dies - resulting in a bad ending.

It all depends on what kind of story you're writing.
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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#3 Post by gekiganwing » Wed Mar 09, 2016 11:44 am

Think about whether your story will benefit from including one or more bad endings. If it's possible that the main character will die in combat, then that's one possible justification for having negative endings. What other events could justify the story ending in a way which is not positive?

Sometimes a story can benefit from endings which are not clearly good or bad. Or by *not* including a perfect ending in which every character succeeds, or even survives. Think about your protagonist's goals and interests. What are they trying to do, and what would it mean if they failed to achieve their dreams?

Should a seemingly trivial choice make a difference in whether the main character succeeds? Generally, I would advise against this. I have read a few OJLVNs in which one decision leads to an ending that seems to come out of nowhere. (For instance, I had some complaints with surprise bizarre endings when I read Toradora Portable a while ago.) However, if your story presents a world of ambiguity or grey morality, then it might make sense if a small decision made by the protagonist leads to unexpected and perhaps negative consequences. Having some intentionally vague choices is sometimes appropriate.

For what it's worth, there are visual novels which only have good endings.

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#4 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Wed Mar 09, 2016 5:22 pm

It is pretty simple - whatever ending you write - good or bad, has to be satisfying to the player and pay off in some way. Players need to feel the ending was fairly earned on their part, and the ending must answer some driving question.

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#5 Post by Parataxis » Thu Mar 10, 2016 12:18 pm

I have only one really true "bad ending" for my main project. There are sort of short branches if you lose the combat minigame but those just take you back to the beginning of the fight. The true "Bad Ending" on the other hand is focused on the central existential threat of the game: Will the main character give into her anger and kill her friend's murderer for revenge or has she grown enough as a person to understand that revenge will not give her the closure she seeks? The Bad ending is thematically bad--it's the ending where the the character/the player didn't learn the lesson that the game was attempting to teach. It's also therefore, telegraphed all to hell that this is perhaps not the right thing to be doing. It really stands out among all other choices in the game which are designed to give you a path to move forward no matter what you do. However, I really felt when designing the game, that this choice was a huge and important one and that it was therefore a choice that I needed to give the player agency in, even if one answer is clearly the "wrong" one. (Note that this is the last choice in the game, so it's not like you could pick it early and just end the game there.)

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#6 Post by vociferocity » Sun Mar 13, 2016 11:01 pm

I guess I hadn't seriously considered having no "bad" endings, but now that I'm thinking about it, it's true that some of the VNs I've played haven't had any, & it didn't detract from the game at all. I definitely don't want to shoehorn anything in.

Thanks for all the advice, guys, it's giving me some new perspectives to think about my game from, which can only improve it. Time to get back to the drawing board :)

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#7 Post by Impulse » Mon Mar 14, 2016 5:22 pm

Good luck :)
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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#8 Post by MimirollCookie » Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:33 am

Well... A bad end?
I tried to remember some of my bad days... Then mix and match them in my brain. :)
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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#9 Post by Gaming4Hearts » Thu Apr 07, 2016 3:16 pm

I personally like death endings, but only if it feels deserved. Katawa Shoujo has death endings whenever you don't comply with what the creators want. Though it has some 'good' 'bad' endings. I agree with LateWhiteRabbit. It has to feel satisfying and deserved. So I think having no bad endings can work, but it might turn your VN more into a KN at some point.

For example, basically is your VN a KN at an option where you choose your partner? That's what's true with Katawa shoujo in the Shizune ending.

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#10 Post by Rossfellow » Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:08 pm

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#11 Post by MoonByte » Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:37 am

A bad ending could also be something that is based on personal opinion.
Breath of Fire 4 is often said to have a good and a bad ending. I played both as well as read the manga and have to say, for ME, both endings are legit (one is more dramatic and disappointing, but in no way bad, as the other is also very sad in my opinion).
So unless you kill a character or make the whole ending depressing as hell, it could be that a "neutral" ending feels worse than what you had planned for the bad one (I felt like that in NaNoRenO 2016 game Prince Caterpillar, I found the neutral one heartbreaking, the bad one was just...there).
Also, unless you have a dating sim with multiple good endings, it can easily happen that ALL endings but the golden ending turn out "bad" aka disappointing and sad. "Forest of Drizzling Rain" did that, since all endings but the best one will result in someone dying, forgotten, lost or possessed, making you just hate yourself for having doomed the characters.
And if you only make a bad ending for having it, then maybe leave it out. I personally think, a bad ending should have an impact, but you need to have a idea for that. Something that crushes the player or MC. If you just write something to be able to say "There is a bad ending", then at least I would assume it will probably turn out either overdramatic, boring or even totally illogical.
Ideally, everything that makes the best ending great should be turned around in the worst. Maybe even tease by first implying the player got a good ending, just to make it all crash down (ever played Undertale? A certain boss enemy does a good version of that, first getting beaten up to the brink of death, just to easily get up and mock you for having thought that you could actually defeat them). Rub in that the player failed, that they made bad decision. To make it burn extra hard, maybe imply that they got the bad ending because they didn't care (which is usually not true and thus will hurt their personal feelings).
For extra sadistic value, mention everything that they failed at. Look at Until Dawn (which shows you the moment you allowed someone to die in the credits), look at Tormentum (which shows you all your good and bad choices at the end). Stick it to their noise who they failed and how that makes them a horrible person.

What may help you would also be looking at actual bad endings of games.
Play some and go with intent towards the bad endings and see how it affects you and why.
Alternatively, you can look for "Downer Ending" on TV Tropes, it has a gigantic list of games, movies, TV series and literature that crush the audience with a horrible ending that leaves you empty and crying. You may get an idea there.

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#12 Post by Ash The Ryousei » Thu Apr 14, 2016 4:13 pm

Just a quick question. I want some bad endings in my LGBT-themed dating simulator and obviously I want it to reflect real issues LGBTQ youth face. But at the same time, I don't want it to be too depressing. So my question is: how do you make a bad ending depressing ,but not too depressing?

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#13 Post by Rossfellow » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:05 pm

Ash The Ryousei wrote:Just a quick question. I want some bad endings in my LGBT-themed dating simulator and obviously I want it to reflect real issues LGBTQ youth face. But at the same time, I don't want it to be too depressing. So my question is: how do you make a bad ending depressing ,but not too depressing?
I think Jim Butcher's setbacks advice is applicable to a lot of scenarios.

An "End" is the conclusion of the character or characters' story. It has to answer the questions presented earlier in that story.

"Does the character attain what he/she set out to do?" or "Do things turn out the way character/s want it to?" or similar questions. But it would be answered it in a variety of ways.

1. Yes, and furthermore-- (Something is achieved, and even better news await. This is very common for True Ends)
2. Yes, but-- (Something is achieved, but at the cost of something else.)
3. Yes. (Superman wins. The end.)
4. To Be Continued.
5. No. (Superman loses. The end.)
6. No, but-- (The character/s failed, but with a mitigating factor.)
7. No, and furthermore-- (The character/s failed, here's some salt for the wound.)

Hope that helps putting it in perspective.
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______2: (Psychology) A state of distress where the victim's sense of reality can no longer keep up with his or her imagination.
______Related: Madness, Paranoia, Despair

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#14 Post by MoonByte » Fri Apr 15, 2016 4:39 am

Ash The Ryousei wrote:Just a quick question. I want some bad endings in my LGBT-themed dating simulator and obviously I want it to reflect real issues LGBTQ youth face. But at the same time, I don't want it to be too depressing. So my question is: how do you make a bad ending depressing ,but not too depressing?
Well, you have two issues there:
Bad ending and "realistic bad endings for LGBT".
Let's be honest, when you talk to someone outside of the heterosexual, non-ace, cis spectrum, there are usually only two ways of a "bad end": homelessness/getting fired (in some instances apparently while under age 16) or death (suicide out of depression or murder aka hate crime). Usually depends on the specific characteristic of course.
Trans Women have a extremely high risk to get murdered, Trans Men, Asexuals and Lesbians have a high risk of getting raped, Gaysoften get beaten to the point of mutilation.
Plus the thing with those horrible "correction centers" where they traumatize young people with the insane idea to "cure" them.
And all of these horrible things only increase, if the regarding person is not white (most trans women murdered are black or latino, for example).

But as you have noticed yourself by the way you ask, these are EXTREMELY depressing (though, sadly, highly realistic).
You could try to go the route of the characters "only" being abandoned by their family, but at least having friends to back them up. Or by falling in depression, but with specifically mentioning that the character is not suicidal.
It is a difficult topic though. I mean, it has even become a stereotype (TV Tropes: "Bury your gays") about how your mortality goes through the roof the second you're not heterosexual, cis-gendered and sexual to begin with.
I am afraid, in the end you will have to decide: do you want it realistic or not?
Because if you introduce a violent father that hates "fags", then me as the player would be absolutely sure: the MC will NOT get out unharmed, if they out themself to that guy. And it is your responsibility to decide, if you want to make it a bit more easier to take by "only" throwing out the MC or by going full dark and have the father heavily brutalize their child and tell them to die.

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Re: How do you guys plan/write bad endings?

#15 Post by Klawzie » Fri Apr 15, 2016 6:17 am

A possibility that isn't very extreme is just to be withdrawn from.

Whether it's "just" in the workplace or school, or the more serious of a family member or friend, that's a definite "bad end" candidate and depressing, but not as upsetting as violence or verbal abuse. (Arguably, you can say it's worse though. Many people already feel alone enough before being "dropped".) There are also those people who are "out" about being one thing (for example, being bisexual) and have a significant other who is very supportive of that and then when they realize they are also something else (for example, being asexual or non-binary) can't accept the second thing and break up with them.

You might be better off going to forums specifically for discussion of this sort of topic to gather more first-hand accounts. (And be up front about why you're asking.) Not that I don't think people here have experiences of their own or those of friends, but I personally don't feel like I can share the thoughts friends of mine have expressed to me without feeling as if I'm breaking confidences. It's more real when it's raw from someone's heart.
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