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I have played through the Hogwarts pickup stop a dozen of times and I can't manage to get a good ending. I know that the game is all about

not being satisfied with the ending the game provides.

But I'm curious if it's possible to end the game in a good way anyway. The best one that I have encountered is to pick

"Actually, I don't think I want to meet up tonight after all." right at the start

, which after a few clicks through the dialog ends with

"On the balance, maybe this isn't such a bad place to end the story after all. ~The (or at least an) End~"

My theory is that there is no better ending than that, considering what the game is all about. But I still find it hard to put down the game since it feels like I'm very close to a good ending and that there is only a tiny loose end in my mind that needs to be tied up.

1 Answer 1

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Short answer: Not in the sense that the game tells you that you and the girl live together happily ever after.

Long answer:

I finally found an official statement by the author here, I'll quote that post here for the sake of linkrot:

There is a definite danger and temptation, when making a game like this, to want to play "guess the message." To not answer when people ask perfectly reasonable questions like "have I seen everything yet, or am I missing something obvious." To instead waggle one's eyebrows suggestively, and make exaggerated shrugging motions.

I was doing that. I'm sorry.

What makes it especially silly is that I made this game because I DID have a specific idea in mind that I wanted to convey. There was a conversation that I actually kind of wanted to have with people, either through the medium of the game, or after. So it's kind of the height of absurdity that when someone wants to have that conversation now, that I try to act mysterious and vague.

So.

I'm not pretending that my interpretation is any BETTER than the ones people come up with on their own. (As you might guess from the game, I'm tend to think that what the viewer feels is more important than what the artist intended)

I can, however, at least talk about what I was thinking when I made it. Obvious spoiler warning. To anyone else in the thread reading this, definitely don't read this if you haven't played the game yet. And to anyone who HAS played the game yet - I can't promise that reading this will give you any closure. All I can promise is that it will give you some insight into what I was trying to do. Smiley

First, the bad news. It might be as boring and hackneyed as it seems.

There are basically 3 things that I consider "good" endings. They are:
* Close the game, and think of your own ending. (There are a lot of variations on this one - people pick vastly different places to end it. Popular ones include "when she's chewing you out for not making your own ending yet" and "after saying goodbye before the aliens arrive."
* Hacker ending - modifying the files to get new options.
* Not going on a date at all. (It's the only ending where the game gives you a game over, without killing her. And if you go there after you've seen the aliens, you get a slightly different version.)

So. If you've seen all those, then yeah. Sorry, there isn't anything else. If you want to call it pretentious wankery, I won't really stop you. (Although I question 'cliched' - maybe I just play the wrong sorts of games, but I haven't seen this done before. Although I missed 'spec-ops: the line', so if I'm unintentionally copying that, that might explain it.)

That's WHAT I did. Now let's talk about WHY:

The theme of the game is "Storytelling is cooperative. You, the listener are not a passive content sponge." Especially in any sort of game, where the player has any kind of meaningful interaction at all.

It's easy to forget, but we already mess with the story ALL THE TIME when we're playing. I'll be playing ninja gaiden, for example, and the game tells me the story of "the ninja on a mission of justice, who totally hit a bird while jumping, and fell in a pit and died, the end."

And I'll be like "no, this story is balls, I want to hear about the one where the ninja totally kicks everyone's ass, including that bird who is a total dick" and so I hit continue. I'm actively rejecting the story the game told, and trying to get it to tell me another. Any time you reload from a save game after dying, you're doing that.

I wanted to try to make a game to highlight this, and to remind people that they change stories all the time. And that this is a GOOD thing, and that they can do it on purpose, to try to get the story that they want. So the way I did that, of course, was to give them a story that I knew their gamer instincts would make them want to change. ("your friend dies.") And then gave them even MORE tools than normal, to try to change things. (i. e. persistent knowledge across save games, and the ability to sort of do a 'reverse 4th-wall-break' and act on it.)

And then I made the ending refuse to budge anyway. No matter how cleverly you used the tools I provided, you still couldn't really get around the fact that she dies at the end. Every time. As long as you play by the game's rules, and don't question the assumption that I'm the ultimate decider of how the story goes, that is going to happen.

The goal, of course, is to nudge people into realizing that they only have to listen to the parts of what I'm saying that they like, and that they can change whatever they want. The hacker ending is one expression of this. It is a little sarcastic though, because while it's still a variation of "changing the story by rejecting some of the rules of the game", I'd rather people not need it.

(Not going on a date at all is another facet of this - she lives, but the game presents it like it's a bad thing. But if your goal is to keep her alive, it doesn't really require much effort to get yourself to believe that it's actually a good ending, since you did in fact set it up so she lives happily ever after. And if the game tells you that you're unhappy and should feel sad, well, there is no reason you have to believe it.

You ask "aren't I basically just saying that I'm not worth listening to?" That's a reasonable question, but I would say that I'm actually saying "Hey, don't forget, you only have to listen to me as much [or little] as you want to." It's a small distinction, but I think it's a crucial one. You can take the parts of what I'm saying that you like (the first half of the story, for example) and ignore anything you don't like. (Bad endings.)

Anyway, that's what I was trying to do. I realize it doesn't really work out for everyone though, and if you still find it boring, cliched, hippy-esque, or portentous, well, that's still your prerogative. I might even deserve some of it. Smiley

But I'm still pretty happy with how it ended up.

Anyway, thanks for playing, and double-thanks for the feedback! It's always hard, listening to people describe what they don't like, about something I'm creatively invested in. But much like eating my vegetables, it's still totally worth doing. So seriously - thanks for taking the time to write out specifically what parts you didn't like. It helps a lot. And even if I can't promise that I'll turn this project into something that you find more interesting, you're helping whatever my next project is get better.

Cheers!


A view messages further down:

Yeah, I've gone back and forth on the sexism thing a bit. But there are good (I think, at least) reasons why all of the "bad endings" had to involve Felicia dying:

One of the things I tried really hard to do in the game, was make it so that you don't have an extra protective layer of "your character", between you and the game. There is no "your character". There's just you, and the game. When picking dialog choices, you're not guessing "what would my character say here." You are (hopefully, especially by the end) picking what you want to say.

Which is a wonderful thing, for getting a point across! The player has no buffer - the game isn't talking to their character. It's talking directly to them. But it's a double-edged sword. It also means that the game basically can't DO anything to them, and they know it.

Sure, I can write an ending, "and then you died. you should feel bad." But it doesn't mean anything. The player knows they are fine. And if I wrote an ending like "and then you push Felicia out of the way, so you get shot instead of her, you die, but she lives" then people would just say "oh cool, I beat it." Because you dying in the game costs you NOTHING.

But Felicia on the other hand, doesn't have the same protection. If she only lives in the story, then if the storyteller says she dies, she's in trouble. (Most of the game is, in fact, about trying to get the player to take responsibility for the story in some way.) So putting HER in danger actually makes a legitimate threat.

So I basically HAVE to have all of the bad endings be her dying. I really don't think it would have worked otherwise.

I did wonder about the sexism thing. It's certainly possible to say things like "I don't like how the girl is the only one who dies here, why are there no men dying in this game?" (There's even a bit where Felicia discusses that, on the hilltop, because it WAS something I was thinking about during development.)

Ultimately though, I needed one character to die a lot. And swapping their gender to avoid complaints about "why does the [female] always die!" just means that now I have a male always dying now. And if the first one was sexist, I couldn't think of any reason the second one wasn't also.

So I left her Felicia, and hoped that the best thing I could do would be to ignore gender all together - She dies a lot, and happens to be female, but it's not like she dies BECAUSE she is female. The two are (hopefully) entirely unconnected traits.

One thought I've had for a while is that it would be nice to be able to play where the person you're going out with isn't female, if you want to. (Not all potential players want to date women.) So I may still make an update for that at some point. I just have to figure out how to present it in the right way, since I'm dead-set against having the game actually ask you "do you want to date a man or a woman".

So we'll see what happens.

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