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The impact of bad endings in games

(Note: contains no spoilers, but does include my opinion on the quality of Fallout 3's ending. Also I wrote this a few days ago and have since gotten over it and started a new character up.)

Games with bad endings have always baffled me. Much like a novel with a bad ending, I donít see why someone would pour so much work into the bulk of a piece of work and then botch the ending. Obviously, not all endings can be simply called ďbotchedĒ - some may feel right to the author but not take off with the general public. This happens a lot with movies, and we end up with directorís cuts.

With games, it seems that most developers just donít care about the ending. It may be a bit harsh to come out and say it like that, but I honestly canít see the reason so many games have such terrible endings aside from simply a complete and total lack of effort. I donít know if itís because itís at the end of the game, where budget or time constraint is most likely running the thinnest; or perhaps (although doubtful) itís that once the player is done with the game their enjoyment doesnít matter anymore to the developers, so as little time as possible is spent working on the ending. Or possibly that gaming is such an obscure, new form of entertainment that we simply havenít found a good way to end a gaming experience, especially when itís a good game. After all, in movies and books, having closure is good - but in games we often do not want the experience to end, which could feasibly impact our otherwise unbiased opinion.

In either case, I think having a good ending to a game is pivotal. Games with bad endings - even ones that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire way through - will leave a bad lasting impression on me, to the point of ceasing my recommendations of the game. This happened to me with STALKER, a game I enjoyed a surprising amount while playing, but the ending was so hideously insulting that I could do nothing but go into long rants about the game after beating it. It was so bad that I started picking on faults that I would have let go otherwise.

Fallout 3 has just done the same thing to me, and as a much more ďhigh browĒ game it really surprised and disappointed me. Whereas before completing the gameís main quest I was actually anticipating finishing and starting a brand new character, now after having finished it I donít really have the initiative to go and actually do it. Iím not sure if this actually matters or not in the grand scheme of things as itís a single player game, although it certainly must have some kind of effect. Something about Morrowind made me play that game on and off for almost a year, and I would pretty consistently bore my friends with new tales from ďthat FPS RPG with crappy combatĒ. Unfortunately, I donít think Iíll be pestering them to such an extent with Fallout 3, although it almost has the potential to be there - although the gameís longevity is mostly to do with off-topic items (such as dungeon repitition, something much improved in Fallout 3 if you compare it to Oblivion), the ending remains the primary reason Iím not back in Vault 101 right now playing with facial hair options. In any case, Iíll definitely be looking forward to any Fallout 3 mods, expansion packs or sequels.
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About twincannonone of us since 10:30 AM on 07.16.2007

Older gamer-turned-developer. Currently working on Dystopia, a Half-Life 2/Source modification.

Xbox LIVE:tncn
Mii code:1617 1124 20-ah, fuck it.


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