Route Endings?

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Shinoki
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Route Endings?

#1 Post by Shinoki » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:49 pm

I've seen a few threads around addressing the topic of generally how people want their games to play out and reach character routes and whatnot. My question is not about the playing style or how one gets onto a character's route, but rather the routes themselves after the common route.

(Of course what I'm talking about in the context of romance games--galge, otome games, etc. It probably applies to other stuff too.)

I have seen various styles of character routes done:

1) Upon entering the character's route, you keep going like a kinetic novel to the end. (I think HoshiMemo is an example of this?)

2) Upon entering the character's route, there are still various choices along the way. They may lead to short bad endings or extra CG scenes, but all in all, the actual ending of the character route is still the same. (Ex. Little Busters!)

3) Each character route has more than one route. Rather than the idea of having one 'true' ending for a character and a bunch of short bad ends littered around or something, the depending on the way you interact with the character, the endings can diverge into different stories just like a common route diverges into different character stories.

Which one do you prefer? And also, what are the positives to the one that you prefer and the negatives to the ones that you dislike?

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Re: Route Endings?

#2 Post by HiddenCreature » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:28 pm

In terms of games overall, I always prefer the second one, minus the bad endings. To me, bad endings are "game over" screens that don't play until it's too late to reload and try again.

I think too many writers underestimate the complexity of branching dialogue, and branching routes. There's so many possibilities to consider and write. It's not necessarily difficult, but it definitely takes some time to do properly.

When done improperly, it becomes obvious by your second playthrough how meaningless and cosmetic many of your choices are. A lot of endings simply boil down to the following conditions:

* Which person you decided to date
* Your approval rating with someone
* Which faction you aided
* Who you killed/spared

And these conditions are decided only by a handful of choices, making the potential dozens of others feel irrelevant.

I don't mind kinetics, as it allows the writer to focus on the story, without having to accommodate player decisions.

Honestly, I prefer games with more choices. And while I'm aware there's only so many unique endings you can write, I'd wish the journey felt more organic along the way. For example:

* I don't want characters to say the same line, regardless of which response I pick (this happens a few times in games, because it's less unique lines to write.)
* I want people to remember more of what I said in previous conversations.
* When I make a reply, it should elicit more than just one sentence.
* I don't want relationships boiled down to a popularity contest (approval rating/friendship and rivalry/love meter)

That's only a handful of things I have to mention. Hope it helps contribute to the discussion.

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Re: Route Endings?

#3 Post by Biomass » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:44 pm

[1] and [2] are generally done for simplicity reasons. Complex relationship webs rapidly become intractable to human writers. Of course [3] is the most interesting but isn't easy to do at all.

The most interesting setups are where you can get the characters to mess with each other or interact in some way.

I don't quite remember which game it was, I'm tempted to say it was Tokimeki Memorial, but basically there was a mechanic where if you didn't spend time with a particular girl, one of your guy friends would instead and THEIR relationships would get better each time it happened. At the end of the game, any girls you didn't chat up enough would end up dating one of the other guys and they would get their own endings. The flip side to that was the developers put in a route where if you spent time with your guy friends every weekend instead of dating the girls, at the end of the game NO ONE would have a girlfriend and you would get the "everyone's a loser" ending. It was actually pretty funny.

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Re: Route Endings?

#4 Post by HiddenCreature » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:59 pm

That's certainly interesting. It helps show that they're not just waiting around for you to talk to them. If you don't engage them, they'll move on and establish other relationships.

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Re: Route Endings?

#5 Post by heartfragment » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:30 am

I've always preferred the second option, though the third is interesting as well. I like some kinetic novels, but all in all the reason I like visual novels so much is the player integration into the story through choices; a sense of "I get to become this character". So the more choices the better, in my opinion.

I actually really love games with bad endings. Sometimes it can be frustrating to get stuck in a loop of bad endings but to me, bad endings can be some of the most interesting parts of the game, especially when they show sides of a character that you wouldn't see otherwise.

For the VN I'm writing, my focus is one good ending, one better ending, and one or two (or more for one of the characters) bad endings for each character's route. So I think it fits along the second line, though the differences between the "normal" and the "good" might make it enough to fit into the third option, as they take the player into two completely different endings from each other. The thing that makes the "good" one more, well, "good" is that they have a happier romance at the end.
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Re: Route Endings?

#6 Post by Quelcezot » Sat Nov 28, 2015 6:44 pm

I quite like when endings can differ subtly within a single route.

Also, I just want to offer my opinion on what a few people have touched on - the idea that having choices that don't ultimately impact the ending makes them purely cosmetic.

I think that's a strong term that isn't necessarily deserved. Even if making a certain choice has ultimately no effect on where you end up, if it gives you even a single line of dialogue you would have missed if you chose the other option I think that's a valuable opportunity for a writer.

For example: If your story involved a lot of characters, and you are given a choice to speak to different secondary characters the player would be able to expand their knowledge of the world through the character they felt most drawn to out of the selection you give them. It may even alter how you interpret future events - even if nothing technically changes.
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Re: Route Endings?

#7 Post by Cirrocumulus-Cloud » Sat Nov 28, 2015 9:18 pm

I think each type of story can be great! It truly depends on the narrative and what you want to accomplish through your chosen method.

I am currently working on a game that is none of the given options. I think it is really interesting and offers a lot of replay-ability through a small arrangement of choices that change different things entirely.

My game (Once a Day, can be found in the idea sub-category) gives you an ending which is put together by three different sub-endings.

Character
The game features two potential relationships - either with Ko or Junji. Both have separate routes from each other after the common route, but they come back towards the overall plot towards the end. Both guys have 3 endings each - a bad end, friendship end and lover end.

Pet
The game features a really important animal character - a hairless cat named Matcha. Her fate can vary in 2 sub-endings that deal directly with what happens to her.

Story
There are 2 ways how the story can end - basically, it determines the fate of the player character as the story is central to her.

Through this approach of endings I can give players a vast amount of unique experiences. Even though those endings are achieved through only a couple of choices overall, they create a broader horizon of possible outcomes without sacrificing the developers sanity. Basically: I don't have to worry too much over hundreds of flags because those endings are independent of one another, but they end up creating a neatly tied complete ending for the player. In the end the player will experience 1 of 24 possible combinations.

This does not take into consideration that the characters do approach the player differently based on other choices that they make. They adapt to the player and are kind of intelligent in a way - but that is because this game deals with asexuality and aromance and the player has freedom over the MC's sexuality.

The endings themselves are all combinations of sub-endings, which just really allows for heavy roleplay and unique experiences. Think Dragon Age, just on a smaller scale. :)

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