Oct 29, 2011

Posted by in Blue Milk & Cereal | 10 Comments

Blue Milk & Cereal: Should Players Have A Choice In Their Story’s Ending?

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Some gaming companies are famous for their ground-breaking technology (id, DICE, Crytek), some for using a proven formula for success (Activision, Harmonix, EA Sports), and BioWare, as we all know, is famous for their storytelling; it’s what keeps us coming back again and again.

One of the best things about BioWare’s story-driven games are the fantastic endings that knock your socks off. Since the Baldur’s Gate series, I have always loved the choice that accompanies the story endings in BioWare games. Do you want to be the goody-goody protector of the innocent and save the world (and thus get to see the “good” ending), or do you want to trample all over those that are beneath your abilities and conquer the world (and see the “evil” ending)?

Usually these choices take place over the course of the entire game, with your character being as good or as evil as you want. Eventually, your moral choices determine the ending that you get to see, which makes the game much more rewarding. Part of the fun for me is playing through the game multiple times and seeing each possible ending whether it be good, evil, or neutral. But how will SW:TOR’s story end? Being an MMO, will it ever end?

As a complete guess, I would venture that SW:TOR would have several stories spread over the course of the games lifecycle, introduced by patches and expansions. So in that sense, the game will never end, but will players have their choices and lightside/darkside alignment influence the endings that they see at end of each chapter?

Personally, I think that would be really cool, but I can see the complications that multiple endings can cause for an MMO, the primary one being continuity. It’s OK to have different endings when your character is the only “important” person in the world, but in a world that many people inhabit, it might not make sense. However, SW:TOR is the first MMO to truly embrace story and I would hope that BioWare would go all out and have different endings based on morality choices. That is their bread and butter after all. What do you guys think?

Should player's choices have an impact on their story's ending?

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  1. I’m personally a firm believer that choices should affect your character.

    But I’ve always been a fan of the “canonical” story – the one that gets recorded and provides continuity. Even playing other BioWare games, and I know I’m a rare exception, I had no interest in playing them through more than once because I was satisfied with the “official” story and didn’t need to see about the “what if’s” because I knew ultimately they didn’t “matter”.

    At any rate, doing this in an MMO would be tough even on a personal-story level. For example with the Bounty Hunter on the Great Hunt, that’s the BH story at least for this part of TOR and splintering that so some win and some lose would have dramatic differences in the next chapter or expansion for every Bounty Hunter. It might be cool to do but it seems unmanageable over time!

  2. Grinstone says:

    I believe there should be story arcs which have different endings based on the choices made during the arc. In fact, I think this is inevitable since it would be counterintuitive, and ultimately meaningless, if someone who makes Light Side choices throughout the story has the same ending and result as someone who makes Dark Side choices. In other words, why present choices at all if, in the end, the impact of those choices is zero?

    In any event, playing through TOR will create a personalized tale. The content and the choices will be the same, but the interpretations and the reasons for making certain choices will very often be different. It also gives the world and the NPCs more life and depth if they respond differently based on the character’s actions.

    These would have to be largely self-contained story arcs since, as Cormeister points out, the potential complications could otherwise get out of hand very quickly. However, two or three such story arcs could be interconnected and provide an all the more varied experience based on choices made during earlier phases.

    Wouldn’t it be something completely different to have a quest giver hunt you down by the end because you’ve been such a completely evil bastard? Or perhaps the quest giver hates you because every one of his smuggled cargoes, or his associates, mysteriously end up in the hands of the authorities after you’ve been involved in the deal.

    • I think you’ve found a nice middle ground here. It is probably too difficult to have multiple endings to the overall story based on player choice and alignment when you get to level 50, but multiple endings for class story-arcs are almost necessary. From a continuity perspective, it’s probably best for the final story to have only one ending, but the class story arcs should be up to the player to decide.

  3. A couple of ideas occurred to me as I read through the post and the comments.
    I never considered the BH losing the great hunt as part of his/her possible story (but that would create interesting possibilities), however it would suck if you lost the great hunt due to choices you made at lvl 20. I always figured that the story choice would influence which type of winner you were (using the BH great hunt example). This would definitely more closely align to the BW style (the different endings in KOTOR for example).

    As far as “ending” in an MMO, well I’d view it in light of the other MMOs I’ve played (WoW and LoTRO). Once you complete your story quests at 50, you’ve viewed the “ending”, and now you run flashpoints/operations, warzones, and daily quests (btw it will be interesting to see BW cloth dailies in story). At the next patch, with the new subzone (Quel’Danas, or Molten Front for example), you can tag on more story quests and have Episode VII or maybe Episode VIIa or something. Assuming a WoW style development cycle (A big IF I know) it seems more likely to me that the story quests of each patch will revolve around the new content and defeating the last raid boss.
    And then at the new expasion there would be quest givers to start the next chapter of the story quests, with a new “ending” at the new level cap.
    One thing I wonder however, will I be able to begin Episode VI if I haven’t completed Episode V first? I remember LoTRO allowing that, and I wonder how SWTOR will hand it.
    That said, I did vote “yes”.

    • Agreed. I’m sure the folks at BioWare are clued in enough to provide such choices and endings for chapters or story arcs, rather than the game as a whole. That’s why I specifically avoided any mention to an overall ending. How do you end a MMO game? That’s tantamount to saying you can win at it, or ending a series after the first season.

      As you point out, using operations as a kind of ending has its own problems. For one, anyone who doesn’t operate (this new terminology is going to take some getting used to) will miss out. Secondly, once a patch lands people will never see those operations again unless they have friends or a guild who are into doing nostalgia runs. Thirdly, if the operations are such key elements of the story as a big ending/finale, expansions and the like will have to be built on the assumption that people have successfully completed those operations.

      • I agree with both of the above. What is the point of the decisions, if in the end the result is the same. I really like the idea of 2-3 different endings to the Class stories based upon your alignment at the end or your arc.

        • I agree with both of the above. What is the point of the decisions, if in the end the result is the same? I really like the idea of 2-3 different endings to the Class stories based upon your alignment at the end or your arc.

          • Damn it, I resubmitted comment with the corrected question mark. I thought it might have been an edit as it showed my original post…obviously not.

  4. supaman75 says:

    I believe because BioWare had done all these other great stories; so, they can find a way to change the chapters endings while keeping the story going. They have so much experience in the field, it should be a walk in the park.

  5. gamerladyp says:

    This is an MMO, so it complicates the whole idea of an ending. If you think about the extended Star Wars universe, there are prequels, sequels, and books galore. Unlike the single player titles that Bioware does, where you can have a very epic conclusion, this one has to maintain that sense of character relevance and epicness for an indefinite period of time. I think your choices should shape who you know, how others react to you, but not necessarily how you end.

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