Game Development Reference
One Road, Many Endings: Multiple Story Outcomes
If further proof were needed that platform games aren't the limited story vehicles
some perceive them to be, then the fact that some claim the platform game Metroid
to be the first game with a multiple narrative ending should demonstrate this. Each
of the different story endings, including the reveal that Metroid's main character is
female, are reached by completing the game in faster and faster times. Abe's Exoddus
also uses multiple story endings triggered by completing the gameplay in different
ways. Here the two different endings open depending on how many Mudokons the
player manages to rescue through the course of the game.
Evolving the Platform Game: Open Worlds in Platformers
While Metroid introduced multiple endings to a linear game, other more recent de-
signs have presented free-roaming worlds incorporating multiple gameplay paths.
Such non- linear games are often controlled through hubs. Such hubs seen in games
such as Psychonauts and Earthworm Jim 3D use these central locations as a place to
tell the central story and as a way of linking the levels together. The new Prince of
Persia gives the player a wide choice of how to navigate through the gameworld but
requires the player to return to a central temple to gain the magical powers that open
the world up. Where the gameplay is open, central hubs such as these allow the
writer areas of safe ground within which to tell the story and also allow the writer
to maintain an element of linear control. In all such cases, the writer should find
ways to extend the story out beyond the hub so that it continues into the rest of the
gameworld, the writer but should also note that this design gives him an element of
control in the midst of a dangerous, broken world.
5.7 Safe Landings
Despite the perception of platform games as a genre that doesn't employ narrative,
its rich history disproves this. Knowledge of this history not only helps a writer to
see how other games have mastered the challenges of a broken world he is about to
tackle but also to put forward a case to gain the resources he needs to tell his story.
Knowing the challenges that exist in the design enables not only the development of
appropriate technology, such as companion AI or the triggers needed to start scripted
events, but helps the writer to position the story at appropriate places in the game-
world. What is evident in platform games is that early decisions can solve a lot of
narrative problems before they occur. So go forth. Fear not as you peer into the abyss
and hear the whirr of a sawblade, for the uneven, dangerous worlds of the platformer
do contain great opportunities for story and character, and platform games continue
to provide narrative firsts that other genres can benefit from.