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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for how we feel about hard vs. soft endings in games. Also some discussion of gwent.

Butch:

Speaking of gwent, there ARE lots of players in Skellige. There really are. And watch: I’ll miss, like, one card, and it’ll cost me the trophy. I STILL don’t have Geralt, and there’s a “Gwent: Skellige style” quest that is “Get (somebody’s) unique card, and is there a quest marker telling me where he is? No. Treasure maps for things that have been lost for centuries? Clearly marked. Some 300 pound Scottish Viking who’s probably screaming “Who will stand against me in Gwent?” at the top of his lungs? Oh….don’t know where THAT is.

Feminina:

Mr. O’ missed the gwent trophy because he didn’t play the Baron, and then the Baron disappeared with Anna, so…opportunity gone! Doh! Maybe when he replays. Which if anyone does, he will, but I don’t know if even he’ll get around to it. It’s just…so big. There are other things to do.

I wish I could help you on Gwent: Skellige Style, but I never encountered an obvious person who that would be–not that I was ever looking, because I wasn’t, but, you know, if there had been a sign over his/her head I might have seen it. But with luck you’ll find it…gotta be out there somewhere. Maybe on a quest? I’m trying to remember if anyone I ever did a quest with/for had a gwent option…but no, I can’t think of anything.

Good luck, though. You deserve that trophy!

Butch:

Yeah, it was a little smarmy making a necessary opponent die/disappear. There was also one card you could only win in White Orchard before you even really knew what gwent was, and that was so silly they patched it so it turned up in Velen.

It is so big…. but as for other things to do, what ARE you gonna play next?

Feminina:

Well, I do have Uncharted on the Vita that I haven’t finished. It was actually pretty good, so I’ll probably get back into that as soon as I find and recharge the thing. And last episode of Life is Strange is the beginning of October, and then there’s the TW3 expansion. So I’ll probably keep busy for a bit.

That tourney at the Passiflora is YOURS, man! Just remember, gwent, horse racing and fistfight quests are still available after the main quest is finished (which, I guess, is kind of a spoiler that Geralt survives the game…sorry), so you don’t have to do all the card games first.

Although since you, like me, are not big on going back to games after the main story is over (significant new story/quest content excepted), I can understand that if you don’t do it first, you might not get to it at all, which would obviously be a shame.

It’s just not the same when you don’t have a main quest, you know? I could go back and loot some more smuggler’s caches, but…meh. Of course, I also didn’t HAVE to finish every single witcher contract, treasure hunt and sidequest before completing the main story, and if I’d left some of them, I might feel more inclined to go back. The only actual quest I have left (that is, not a gwent/horse racing/fistfighting mission) is Skellige’s Most Wanted, which last I heard was still broken. Maybe they’ll fix it by the time the expansion is out, and I can wrap it up then.

Butch:

HA! When I find it. Pretty much sums up the poor, forgotten Vita.

CDPR pretty much spoiled his non-death anyway. They said that the expansions could be played EITHER during or after the main story. So yeah.

I would’ve killed things if he had died, so that’s ok.

I’m not doing horse races. I AM winning that tourney.

I’m like you, but more so. I don’t even like that that is an option. If games are going to have narrative, they need to END. Stories END. I mean, you don’t have an hour after a movie where the characters are sitting around talking about the movie. That would be weird. And yet, that’s what games do. TLOU had it right. Finish, back to menu screen, you can start New Game +, leave it there. If you’re going to do it differently, then Devs have to think that the end is not the end.

And damn, guys, patch that. Skellige’s Most Wanted is supposed to be a good quest. Sigh.

Feminina:

It was a good quest! Interesting echoes of things you do earlier. Choices coming back to you. I did it up to the final battle (the broken part), and liked it.

I dunno, I guess one could argue that it’s true that stories end, but also life goes on. And stories end, but there are other stories to be told. Every side quest we do is a story that ends, but the game goes on. And so likewise, the main quest is a story that ends, but the game can go on (assuming you’ve got anything left to do in it besides sail to smuggler’s caches). The main quest isn’t the whole world, it’s just…the biggest quest from among a whole, enormous list of quests.

TLOU wasn’t open world and didn’t really have side quests, so it makes sense that once the main story is over, the game is over. What else are you going to do, wander around the one environment the game ends in, kicking cans? TW3 is a whole different style of game, with a lot more room for wandering around in general, so allowing you to continue wandering around once the main story is over feels less out of place.

I mean, there are whole levels of distraction and magpie opportunity that we just didn’t have in TLOU. You might find that something takes longer than you thought it would, but it’s because there were more infected, or more hunters, or more treacherous building to get through, or whatever, it’s not because you ran into 20 interesting things/people along the way to where you were going and got sidetracked.

I don’t object to the option to go back once you’ve finished the story, I just don’t tend to play that way myself.

Butch:

I dunno, though. A game’s gotta end SOMETIME. I mean, it’s not a life simulator. It’s a story, or a collection thereof.

I fear the option to go back. Where you’re right about the difference between TW3 and TLOU, it’s HOW it gets made that scares me. Buttons once said that a game is over “when the player doesn’t pick it up anymore.” They’re MAKING them to be open ended and infinite, and, as someone who likes a narrative, that isn’t good. Narratives have ends. So if you go into the creative process thinking the end is like a long fade out of a radio song, then you’re missing a third of what makes a narrative a narrative from the get go.

Now, people will point to stats that only about 30% of all players finish any given game as proof that people don’t really want endings, but I think that becomes self fulfilling. There’s so many games where the endings are such let downs, that people, I think, have given up trying. Devs say “Why make a good ending, no one gets there?” and players say “Why get there? Endings are never good.” That’s not a good cycle if you want to see BETTER narrative in games. That’ll make things worse.

Feminina:

Well, it is a story collection, I think, and you can ‘read’ the stories in whatever order you want, and if you want to read the ‘main’ story first and then go back and read some of the others…fine. I think both of us tend to want the main story to be the ‘focus’ story, and so we feel all the other stories should kind of wrap up before it does in order to allow the main story’s end to be the big climax, after which there’s no real reason to want to go back, but that’s a very traditional view of narrative. One could argue that a less traditional, but nevertheless not wrong, view of narrative would be “hook ’em with a big focus story, and then keep them coming back for additional, smaller adventures.”

Someone with a more realistic interpretation of time, even, might say that it makes more sense to urgently pursue the main storyline (after all, this is one on which the fate of the world hangs), and leave all those wandering magpie sidetracks for later, when, you know, the continued existence of humanity isn’t in doubt. We’ve joked about how silly it is that we have all this free time to stop and do random quests for every person we run into, considering we’re kind of trying to find our lost, probably endangered child and we maybe feel a little bit of urgency about that…and working on the main quest first takes care of this issue.

“I want to know what happens, I want to save the world first, and THEN I’ll wander the land slaying monsters and playing cards” is not an unreasonable plan of action.

Not at all MY plan of action, but a workable one.

So, yeah, stories end, but in a big collection, that doesn’t mean you might not want to go back and check out a few chapters you maybe skipped the first time, if you play that way.

Butch:

Well, if one looks to Bethesda as the architect of a lot of this shit in RPGs, then compare and contrast FO3 to Skyrim. FO3 ended. When you completed the main quest, your character (probably) died (there was a way to survive, but it was not really done, and even if you did the game ended). Finish, boom. Epilogue, credits, last (devastating) image, over, even if you didn’t finish the side quests. This got backlash, as the main story wasn’t very good, and people wanted to do the side quests. Compare to Skyrim, which had no end, and, after completing the main story, your wife doesn’t even seem to notice or care that you saved the world. I, personally, liked FO3 better. Sure, you missed a couple of side quests, but that’s what save slots are for, dammit. And the last image was one of the best in game history, which wouldn’t have happened or had any oomph had that not been THE LAST image you see.

Curious to see what FO4 does.

And true, there is that issue with having time for all the side stuff when you’re in the middle of saving the world, but that’s a symptom of open world games. I don’t think we can have narrative in open world games without some suspension of disbelief.

Going back to FO3, or even FONV, I think they got around that with a far less urgent main story. FONV was “find out who messed you up,” not “save the world.” Finding out who messed you up and why is not urgent. Sure, it’s a motivation, but it doesn’t have the same time constraints as, say, a skyhole. I liked that.

And as for wanting to go back and check on chapters you skipped, load a save then. Problem solved.

Feminina:

Wait, so you’re saying finish the story, leave it finished, but then go back and reload a save from BEFORE you finished, and use that to clean up side quests?

I’m confused as to how that’s a fundamentally different experience from finishing the story and then going back in the same save to clean up side quests.

I mean, in both cases you, the player, have already finished the story. You know how the big plot ends, and now you want to see how all the little plots end too. What practical difference does it make what save slot you’re using to do that? I mean, there may be differences in the character’s equipment, experience level, etc., but in most cases, assuming you haven’t picked up some Weapon of Instant Enemy Death in the final battle, I can’t see that this would really matter.

Butch:

Because take the last image of FO3. That image only works because you’ve died, you’ve seen your fall from innocence, you can compare how you were at the beginning of the story to where you are at the END of the story. If it’s not really the end of the story, the emotional punch is gone. If, after you feel said punch, you want to go back and chase trophies, ok, fine. But without an end, the punch of a good ending is impossible, and time after time, in every artistic genre, so much punch comes from an ending. So feel that first, then go back and mop up.

Feminina:

Well…OK, if you’re doing a story with an ending like FO3. Most stories don’t really slap you in the face with THE END quite that strongly. (Most stories don’t end with the protagonist almost certainly dead.)

And I think you’re saying that, in general, the tendency to let players return to the game after the main quest ends means that writers will tend NOT to write endings like that, perhaps to the impoverishment of the overall game landscape, since such ‘hard’ endings can pack a real punch and be very satisfying and meaningful. But…not every story ends like that, and if every story TRIED to end like that most of them would probably screw it up, so…if your story doesn’t end like that, I don’t see the issue with letting people go back to the game.

Obviously, if a story does end like that, then yeah: end it like that, and END it. I have no issues with that as a narrative choice, and would in no way argue that ALL games should let you go back after the main plot is done. But if you’re not working on a story with that kind of ending, if your main plot ending is only one of many endings within your game, then I don’t have any issues with that as a narrative choice either.

So, yeah…as you said at the beginning, we’re more or less in agreement about not personally going back into games after finishing the main story, but you feel more strongly about it than I do.

Butch:

Mass Effect? La Noire? TLOU had a hell of an ending.

And yes, that was the gist of my issue with this. However, in talking to Buttons, it seems that devs see a “soft ending” as the rule, not the exception, whereas I wish it would be the other way around. If you go in with assumption that your game won’t have an ending, it won’t. Better to go in assuming it will, then, if it doesn’t feel right, give it up.

I do tend towards passionate viewpoints, I do.

Feminina:

No doubt, no doubt, there are games with hard endings that are well served by them.

Mass Effect 3…did you have the option to go back into that game? I can’t remember. Hm…the internet says you can play after finishing the story, but you’ll be sent backward to before the endgame, so, effectively, this is your “load a previous save” solution–you’re not actually playing ‘after the ending,’ you’re just replaying before the ending.

I’m all for this! I just don’t feel strongly about the relative merits of hard vs. soft endings, I guess. I’m with you on finding a solid ending satisfying, narratively. I like a story to go on and have some interesting things happen and then come to the end and stop.

But I can sort of see ‘the game world’ as separate from the narrative, and so if the game world is a background state in which “Geralt roams around and fights monsters,” then having him continue to do that after one specific narrative comes to an end and stops is OK.

But as you say, you hold the passionate viewpoints, and I tend to seek the middle ground. This is a good point, but then, this is a good point!

In a shocking twist, it will eventually turn out that we’re both wrong.

Butch:

Yeah, ME3 you’re pretty much playing before the ending. And that’s ok. It is.

I’m also ok with the warning bits. The “Hey, man, if you go further it’s gonna end, ok?” I think that gets around a lot of “But I want to finish the side quest!” issues.

And, see, my beef with ‘game world separate from narrative’ is that we have games like that: MMOs. An MMO is, basically, a persistent game world where you live and do whatever. And if that’s your thing, fine, ok. But a single player thing? I dunno. I guess I would have been ok with Skyrim had it not even tried to have a story. A big world with infinite fetch quests….not my thing, but if people wanted to hang out and fill homes with wheels of cheese, ok. Good for them. But pick what your game is, dammit. Is it a world? Or is it a story about a character? Hard to do both well.

You are a mediator, you are.

Feminina:

It is! It’s totally OK to have the replay be before the ending. I’m also totally fine with the handholding “don’t go any further unless you’ve done everything you want to do!” warnings.

But I do try to mediate, it’s true. I just want everyone to be happy! I want to see the goodness and light in all things! Ha. Fair point about trying to be a world, AND a story about a character: attempting to do everything does often mean that many things are not done as well as they could be.

Butch:

Which is a problem in games. Trying to be everything to everyone. But, they are commercial products, designed to make money, so that’s gonna be true….

Feminina:

Yeah, you gotta make money. Gotta pay your people, buy your equipment. There are always going to be compromises between “purest artistic awesomeness” and “thing that a lot of people will want to pay money for.”

Butch:

Hey, they said that Witcher 3 had an 80 million dollar budget. That’s cheap compared to things like Destiny and GTA. Gotta make that money back somehow. That’s a lot of zloty (that’s really the Polish currency. Awesome, no?)

Feminina:

I know what a zloty is–I’m not a barbarian!

But yeah, you gotta make that back so you can make more cool games (one hopes).

Speaking of something only tangentially related, I saw some footage from TW 1 and 2, and good lord, it was terrifyingly ugly by comparison! And yet no doubt looked great at the time. Technology certainly marches on.

Butch:

TW2 was stunning…. in 2011. But doesn’t tech just march on?

And yet the interwebs is all still “Downgrades! Frame rate!”

Dude, I played on a Commodore 64. Step off, webs.

Feminina:

It marches on. It marches. Don’t even look back. Let’s just fondly remember the beauty of the games we played in the olden days of 3 or 4 years ago, and not tarnish the memories by actually re-watching any footage of them.

Butch:

It’s the hair. Never going back to helmet hair.

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