Corey and Lori Cole made an interesting Kickstarter update recently about their upcoming game in Hero-U. They talked about how even the RPGs that tend to offer the player choices in terms of plot (I’m thinking the typical Bioware RPGs) tend to only in reality have two paths: a good and evil path. The Coles conceded this is a step up from a linear, non-branching story (which tends to be the norm in the gaming industry) but they reckon they can do better, because in real life that’s how things work.
I think the best games so far to have meaningful endings or at least more realistic relationships are the original Fallout and Arcanum. Both of these split the game into different groups, settlements or factions which you can help or hinder. So depending on your actions in the game, the epilogue will change meaning a variety of different endings. Saved that village from their bandit problem? They hail you as a hero in the ending. Helped the mutants claim a homeland of their own? Well your character is actually a bit of a racist and doesn’t like mutants so he left them to their own devices. By making decisions about different groups or factions, you can create more interesting, complex and (most importantly) realistic characters. Most people in history aren’t heroes or villains but they usually sit somewhere in between. By having endings where some people you met prospered while others did not, seems to be a better way of creating an ending to a game – i.e. tying NPC relationships to the ending of the game, not a points spectrum.
It will be interesting to see if this is the approach that Hero-U will take however, what would make me ecstatic is if the Coles develop and even better model altogether. If anyone could do it, it’d be them.