Best Game Endings (SPOILERS!)

After beating Mass Effect 3 and feeling the same disappointment that much of the internet is talking about, I thought to myself what some actual *good* endings of games have been like. And come to think of it, it's actually hard to think of any games that I've played that have had real, honest-to-goodness, GOOD endings. Here's a few off the top of my head that I managed to think of, in no particular order. Yes, SPOILERS are ahead!

Saints Row the Third

Ryan is right, you really need to play Saints Row. It has two endings, both of which are just absurd and gratifying. First you're on Mars fighting aliens, and while at first this is a shock, it becomes obvious that it's supposed to be a movie set. Either way, it's hilarious. But the other ending, the one that is probably "canon" is much more entertaining and finds the Boss is having to take down a massive flying aircraft carrier as it bombards the city, ending with the he or she calling for succession of his city from the entirety of the United States, creating his own little Saints Row country! I'm looking forward to the craziness that ensues in Saints Row 4.

Hitman: Blood Money

I love the Hitman games, but until Blood Money, they all were a bit janky. Blood Money hit it right on the head for sandbox-style assassinations for me and I played it multiple times through. The ending can be infuriating, but at the same time, seemed almost like an easter egg that you had to find out about which made it that much cooler. At first, the ending seems like such a downer, with Agent 47 seemingly killed and on a funeral pyre. However, Diana essentially cures you of your death-like coma. As a player, watching the ending credits roll as Agent 47's heartbeat slowly gets faster and louder, you await his ultimate victory... only to go up in flames. If you're like me and put the controller down for endings so you don't accidentally skip them, this can be jarring, but trying it again, tapping the controls to actively get Agent 47 to jump up, grab a hostage and, controlled by you, start killing every single mutha in the room... is SO epic! But hard as heck to achieve.

Sam & Max

The Telltale Sam & Max series have had great, funny stories, each subsequent series being better then the last. They accomplish call backs like no other.

Final Fantasy 6

Final Fantasy have gone down hill since 6 (in my opinion!). FF6 had a huge cast of characters with interconnecting relationships and problems that could be resolved through side-quests and missions, tons of secrets to find, amassing in an epic battle... that destroys the world! You then need to gather up the troops to make another final push into the final dungeon to conquer evil once and for all and rebuild the planet. Wow, very similar to Mass Effect, now that I type all that, but does it all right!

Red Dead Redemption

Where Mass Effect was trying to go when it comes to heroic sacrifice, Red Dead accomplishes in spades. This complete anti-hero who has committed so many atrocities in his life finally gets his family to safety at the cost of his own. He tries so hard to do what seems to be the right thing throughout the game (assuming you play it that way, of course) only to end up in the sights of a firing squad. For someone who avoided all such spoilers, this was an incredible moment! And to suddenly have control of Jack, years later, who can exact revenge. It's just great. Not to mention a fantastic use of a splash title at the end of everything.

Heavy Rain

I really enjoyed Heavy Rain's story. Again, avoiding spoilers made the big twist get to me with the best impact. It was one of these games with so many branching paths but because of how my particular game ended, I felt no compulsion to try to achieve a different one. In fact, I won't even spoil it here just in case you managed to go this far without it being spoiled for you yet!

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is a beloved RPG classic that I played the heck out of. It's main ending, while cool, isn't necessarily exceptional, however the fact that the game has 12 OTHER endings is what is so cool. Starting a New Game+ offers you a teleport to the final boss of the game right at the beginning, and allows you to defeat him at any point in the game's main story. Beating the end boss at different points nets you the different endings. Such as...

Beating the game without resurrecting Crono, the main character! Or right at the beginning, when you only have two party members! Or the ending where the royal family are all turned into Frog-People! Or the other where everyone on the planet evolved from dinosaur-like Reptile-People! Or how about when Crono takes Magus' place as an evil overlord? The craziness is too awesome and makes the game that much more fun!


Riven is the sequel to the original Myst adventure game. I was a big Myst fan back when it first came out (like many people were) and was really looking forward to the sequel when I heard about it. Playing through Riven was a big eye-opener for me when it comes to telling a story through an environment. I cite it as one of my main inspirations for wanting to be in the video game industry, and I found it's many, varied endings to be very satisfying. The methods the game uses to not just show you things but to actually teach you something, like the alien symbols for numbers and colors, are very dynamic and helps invest yourself in the world.

The variations in the ending are all very cool to see play out ranging from the player becoming permanently trapped in a prison Age, being killed by Ghen, or even doing everything right except... oops, forgot to let Atrus' wife out of her cage so she's trapped on Riven while it's being torn apart around you. Then of course the "good" ending where you save the girl, reunite her with her husband, trap Ghen, and save the people of Riven.

I'll add more later as I think of them. :) Any suggestions for good endings in games you've played?


Worst Games I Played in 2011

This list will be a short one, mostly due to my not usually bothering to play games that I'm not too interested in for one reason or another due to my minimal time and money. But these are the games I didn't care for for one reason or another in 2011.

Splinter Cell: Conviction

While not a huge fan of the Splinter Cell games, I do find them enjoyable. I like stealth gameplay (can't wait for Thief 4!) and was really looking forward to this one. After playing it for a couple hours, though, I just couldn't get that into it. The controls just didn't grab me and the prerequisite of having to do some sort of close-quarters-combat take down in order to be able to do a mark-and-execute action didn't sit well with me. It's been sitting unplayed for a while with the intention of getting back to it, but I've just got so much good stuff to play that I haven't bothered.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Ok, I got peer-pressured into this one. I've never been a fan of the console Call of Duty/Modern Warfare games due to the controls. May dad and both of my brothers had this game so I felt it'd be fun to play with my family. Only problem i, they were all prestiged and level 800 or something so, by the time I was around level 20, they were done with this game and moving on. I played the single player campaign briefly and haven't played it at all since. I just can't get into the controls... Yes, controls are very important to me and my experience of enjoyment. And I also realize I'm a minority on that point. :)

Fallout: New Vegas

I'm a huge Bethesda fan, a huge Fallout fan, and I appreciate what Obsidian does. And at first, I was gung-ho about New Vegas. But as it continued on and on, it just wasn't grabbing me in any remarkable way. It's not a bad game, it was just a "blah" game. Maybe I'll go looking for all the crazy mods and see if that helps any.

Dragon Age II

I LOVED Dragon Age. I bought that game twice, once on the PS3 and then again on the PC with the Ultimate Edition with all of the DLC. I bought Dragon Age II on day one and had huge expectations. And again, the game itself isn't bad, persay... but compared to the first Dragon Age, it's utter crap. If it had been called "Adventures of Kirkwall" or whatever, it would have gotten a pass. Is that fair? I dunno.


Just because I helped make it doesn't mean I can't hate it!

EDIT: People were wondering about this, so feel free to check out my other blog posts. Many go into my game development career, and Blackwater is mentioned in a few of the later ones!

So, there you go, short list, like I said. And I don't think these all actually came out in 2011 at all, but oh well. I still have a bunch of games I've not played through yet, but maybe they'll end up on my best or worst list of next year.


Best Games I Played in 2011 - Part 2


The Witcher 2

I'm not done with it yet (got side-tracked by Skyrim and now Saints Row), but the 24 hours or so I've played already definitely has it in the list of the best of 2011! It looks amazing, even on a mid-tier laptop and the story is interesting and nuanced. The sense of consequences to my actions is a big plus and so far, I'm not disappointed!

Batman: Arkham City

I loooved Arkham Asylum and was really looking forward to this sequel. And I was not disappointed! I'm still playing it, even though I've finished the main campaign, as I'm whittling away at Riddler trophies and Challenge Rooms! Even splurged on the Robin/Nightwing stuff just to have more challenge room stuff to do. That combat system is amazing; it never gets old! Just wish I was better at it! :)

Uncharted 3

I really enjoy the Uncharted series, even if it is "more of the same" with the third. I've not finished it yet (distracted by the Batmans!) but I'm enjoying it so far and am looking forward to going back to it to see how the story unfolds in this third installment.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Yeah, I know, I'm behind on this one. I fully intend to get to Revelations eventually, but as 2011 is concerned, I played through and beat Brotherhood and really enjoyed it, despite the massive cliffhanger at the end! I've heard the complaints about the new one not furthering the experience enough, but even if it is just "more of the same", like Uncharted, I'll probably enjoy it. But I can see this series beginning to suffer from sequel fatigue.

You Don't Know Jack

I have to agree with Ryan, YDKJ is an awesome game. I have the Steam version and really wish the DLC trivia packs would get released for it some day, but my wife and I would play a round of YDKJ nearly daily until we exhausted our supply of trivia questions that came with the release! C'mon, give me more of Cookie Masterson!


Some of this year's disappointments and stinkers.


Best Games I Played in 2011 - Part 1

Best Games I played in 2011

Hey, guys, thought I'd write up some thoughts on some of my favorite games of 2011, in no particular order. I will talk spoilers, so be warned ahead of time! Also, this list isn't limited to games that came out in 2011... just games that I played in 2011. I don't always play things right away. For example, if I were to do this list again for 2012, Saints Row: The Third could be in it, seeing as I just started playing it today.

Portal 2

Obvious, yes. There will probably be a lot of obvious in my list. But like everyone else, I think Portal 2 was awesome. That ending blew my mind and after it happens, it feels like it couldn't have ended any other way! I still haven't played the multi-player yet, as I want to play it with someone who hasn't already done it and it's difficult to find those people these days, but I gifted a copy to my brother for Christmas, so maybe I solved that problem now! ;) I also love the commentary mode and played through twice just to listen to it!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I loved the original Deus Ex and shared in the fan disappointment of its sequel from back in 2003 or whenever. I went ahead and jumped in to this one and was pleasantly surprised as how it felt like the original to me. It wasn't perfect, but I loved the sense of player choice and the challenge of a pacifistic playthrough. I played through several times to see different endings and choose different paths. Boss fights sucked though.

Alpha Protocol

Not quite as obvious. I knew going in of the problems many had with this game's RPGness, so it helped to prepare me for what the game was as opposed to what it looked like it was supposed to be. I really liked the different story paths and played through twice to see different ways things could happen. Gameplay could have been better, but it wasn't too terrible. It really was the story that propelled me through more then anything else.


I heard everyone talking about how great Borderlands was but couldn't understand it. Bought it on a whim when it was on sale on Steam and of course, loved it. Definitely scratched that Diablo-itch and I enjoyed the shooting. Didn't quite grab me enough to buy all the DLC (maybe once it's on sale as a bundle).


Back to the obvious pick. Skyrim sucked up over 100 hours for me and I did pretty much everything. Once the mod scene and DLC packs come out, I'll probably get back to it. But for now, I think everyone knows everything there is to know about this game from Giant Bomb's coverage.

More to come later!


Career Blog Part 28

Year 12 2011 (continued)

E3 2011 comes around and we officially announce Blackwater to the press. To those who played the game at the event, the response is generally positive. In 99% of the comments online, the response is "Blackwater, the organization, is evil and therefore, this game is evil." Had I not just discovered who Blackwater was, I would have been surprised, but once educated it is just disappointing. The game, for a Kinect experience, I believe has some value. Toward the end of Blackwater's development, I am getting tired of the controversy. I appreciate having a job, of course, but working on titles that consistently court controversy and the ire of others is a bit difficult.

There isn't anything on the horizon as we near the end, so I start asking around about what is next. Maybe I could get reassigned to the Blacklight Retribution team? No, they're not needing a new artist right now. The only things that seem to be brewing are Facebook and mobile games. While I'm not against that, I just feel disappointed about that direction.

Soon, I'm offered a job by my old boss way back from iWin! If you've been reading this, you may recall my short job there back in Part 18 of this blog series. The new job is very experimental and kinda not in the game industry (but also kinda is). I decide that it's probably a good time to take it. In July of 2011, I take my leave of Zombie Studios and join a small, 4-person start-up. It's scary. It's risky. It'll most likely fail. But just maybe, it'll be that job I have been hoping for since I began 12 years ago. Looking back, I don't have the most stellar career. I couldn't say I made the next Halo or Final Fantasy or Bioshock. Or even came close. I can say that I've had a unique career up to now that I hope continues for another 12 years and beyond. I don't know where the next years will take me but hopefully I will be able to say that I'm doing the job I love, the work I love, providing for the family I love. If that's the case, if 12 years from now, if I can say that... then I consider myself a success, just as I do now.

Thanks for reading my career blog. I don't feel right necessarily writing about the experiences at my current position. If I should ever part from this studio and move on, I'll probably pick up again at Part 29! But until then, I appreciate your reading and I hope you've gained a little bit of enjoyment from this series of posts. Feel free to ask me anything you'd like about any of my experiences and I'd be happy to answer to the best of my ability.

Thank you!

Link to Career Blog Part 1


Career Blog Part 27

Year 11 2010 (continued)

As I begin work on the Blackwater project, I make the concerted effort to NOT critique the game to the extent that I did for both SAW games. Going through and meticulously analyzing the game's design when, in reality, it wasn't my job to do so, was causing me unbelievable stress. To give myself a break from the gnashing of teeth, I did my work and didn't analyze a thing. I was given the assignment to create all of the weapons in the game, something I've not had a lot of opportunity to do before, so I took the assignment happily. Unfortunately, Blackwater wasn't a First Person Shooter, so there was no need to get too detailed. The weapons would all be seen from a relative distance, from a third person perspective. So while I would have loved to dive deep, making crazy detailed weapons, the time constraints weren't there to allow it. On average, I spent about 2 or 3 days on each weapon. For larger props, such as an enormous anti-aircraft gun, I got a couple weeks to detail it out, so that was fun.

Throughout the rest of the year, I never even played Blackwater.

Year 12 2011

Wow, 2 Christmas's in a row where I've kept my job! Woohoo!

Blackwater is still in production and it's the beginning of the year. Time for employee evaluations. I've not mentioned evaluations before simply because they've been uneventful for me. To put it briefly, despite my reputation as being a "negative nancy," I'm praised for my work ethic and dedication to quality, regardless of the actual results. This time, I'm working for a new producer who, of course, has heard of my reputation. He, along with my previous producer, meet with me for my evaluation.

Their biggest complaint? That I haven't been commenting about Blackwater! Funny enough, I always thought my opinions were something these guys hated about me, but turns out they like to hear my opinions because I don't just say something "sucks" without giving at least a couple suggestions for making it better. They even admit to the fact that, they might not implement my suggestions due to lack of time, budget, or manpower, but they've always appreciated my honesty. And now, my new producer wants that same honesty for Blackwater!

While I'm happy to think that my reputation isn't quite as bad as I originally thought, the idea of delving back into the design of this game and critiquing it full blast makes me remember how unhappy I've been at work these last couple years. Since starting work on Blackwater and ignoring the game, I've been able to actually enjoy the challenge of creating the weapons and vehicles I've been tasked with, completely divorced from the game itself. I've not even played it yet!

But, I make the promise that I'll try to meet them somewhere in the middle and make arrangements to play the game on one of the Kinect systems we have. To my surprise, or at least, to my lowered expectations from my experience with SAW, the game is actually kinda decent! I'm not a big fan of the Kinect idea, or anything, but if someone were to own one of these things and wanted this kind of gameplay, the game wasn't too bad. It wasn't Modern Warfare or anything, but of course, we have a fraction of the development team and an even smaller budget then those guys. Not to mention less then a year to do it in.

Encouraged by this, I start making mild suggestions here and there. Nothing like the lambasting I used to give SAW I or II on a regular basis, but enough that I feel like I'm contributing. Some of my suggestions are even done, which is always nice.

Later, around mid-Spring, we start talking about achievements and the desire to use the Blackwater identity more within the UI and such. They ask us to look into it and give any suggestions.

For the first time, I actually look up who Blackwater is. I am not pleased with the result of that Google search... Until now, I had no clue who they were or what their reputation was... just figured it was a semi-famous PMC that must be known for something. Little did I know.

And here I was thinking that I'd be working on something less controversial now that SAW was over with.



Career Blog Part 26

Year 11 2010 (continued)

Once again, we thought we'd have a betting pool for the review score for the sequel. This time, however, there was no money put on the table. I guess they got cold feet from the last time. Anyway, everyone is choosing their score and writing it up on one of the whiteboards. I walk up and put 50. Of course, my coworkers are flabbergasted, and no one else marks a score even close, opting more for 70+.

Reviews come out... the average? 45.

Ouch. That's too bad, I could have used the money.

Biggest complaints were again, atrocious combat, repetitive puzzles. Bad gameplay as a whole, really. Once again, art work and sound receive better marks, so I can be somewhat vindicated in that, but considering the game was done without a true designer, I'm surprised it even shipped.

So what now? And please don't tell me SAW III.... Luckily (I guess?) Konami seems to get the picture from the reviewers and opts out of whatever sequel they could have published. Plus, supposedly, the SAW films have now ended with their 7th release so there wouldn't be a movie to ride the marketing coat tails. To be honest, I still believe a compelling game experience could be done with the SAW franchise... it's just not something you can spit out in less then a year and expect to be any good. Anyway, back to work... but on what?

Zombie is a two-team studio divided by floors. The upstairs has been the SAW team while downstairs, they've been working on Blacklight: Tango Down, a first person shooter that saw release on XBLA and PSN the previous year. They've been working on a sequel ever since then. I'm hoping that, like I had hoped when I first got hired, that I might be moved on to their team. I don't. Our Lead Environment Artist does though, subtracting our art team 1 and leaving us with 4 people to work on whatever upstairs will be doing next.

There have been rumblings on a game based on Blackwater, a real-life private military company that served in Iraq and other places. And it'd be for the Kinect. I roll my eyes... to be honest, I had no idea who Blackwater was or their reputation. I just thought the idea sounded kind of dumb. However, there'd be a new guy taking charge of this project and he seems like a good producer. I shrug my shoulders and wait.

Sure enough, I'll be joining the Blackwater project. I guess I'll have to figure out how to use these Kinect thingies.

Next: I stay out of it...


Career Blog Part 25

Year 11 2010

I didn't get laid off over Christmas! That's a nice change of pace!

So, the sequel to SAW was being developed. Once again, I was tapped as the trap and puzzle artist. We still had no designer so our producer continued to act as designer. I contacted the studio heads asking if a designer was planned to be hired any time soon and they pretty much said, "If the producer wants to." which I took as meaning "No." Like I had mentioned previously, the producer's main job is to make sure the game is done on time and on budget. Remembering the issues we had with the ESRB with the first game, the decision was made to not push the envelope at all for the sequel. In fact, we didn't touch the envelope with a ten-foot pole... the violence in SAW II was pretty laughable, as far as SAW standards go. Electrocution seemed to become the preferred method of death as it was very gore-less.

So, once again, SAW fans were bound to be disappointed with their SAW game. Isn't that who were supposed to be making this thing for?

As the puzzle designs began to come across my desk, I lamented... they were all casual game puzzles again! Stuff you could find for free off of the internet! And not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different "pipe flow" maze puzzles... Ugh! Other then that, a matching colors minigame, a classic "lights out" minigame, and hardest of all for our testers... a math game. Really? A math game? Come ON!

Meanwhile, combat design seems to be spinning its wheels. The tiresome QTE combat "mini-game" has been in the game for months, and I'm begging for a different system. Yet every system the combat programmer is coming up with, the producer is shutting down and rejecting. As the months go by, it becomes very obvious that the game is going to ship with this awful QTE system for combat. So, we took the biggest complaint about SAW and made it WORSE in the sequel. How does that happen?

I start begging the animation department (all 2 of them) to start making more varied animations for the QTE combat so that it's not the same exact motion over and over again. I don't know if it's due to them not having time (they were animating for more then one game) or if the programmers didn't incorporate the change to allow for variation in the combat animation... but it never happened. You go through the whole game and each and every time combat occurs, it plays the same animation sequence.

And once again, the puzzles are over used, causing ever more repetitive gameplay. Weapons are neutered to where it no longer matters what weapon you have since it's all in the QTE. No more thrown weapons or ranged weapons (except for your enemies of course). To add insult to injury, the moment your character actually acquires a gun, it's out of bullets. This is despite the fact that the enemy you took it from had an infinite supply.

Again I'm seen as overly negative about our project. And let me take a moment here to mention, they're probably right to some degree. I got SO angry during the development of this game, that I even had a bit of an outburst with our Producer's Assistant WHILE Konami was visiting the office which caused me to be taken aside and have a talking to to calm me down. That's not a good situation. And it's something that I strive to change in future projects.

I should say here that, I wasn't alone in my views. Most everyone I worked with agreed that the game's design and direction was awful. But what could we do? We couldn't do anything to change it. Others at the company who were working on other projects saw us as a bunch of idiots. I remember the creative director (wish we had one of those for our project...) saw the math puzzle I mentioned before and commented "You guys are expecting your players to do math in your game?" It's a good question to ask as it was a very difficult puzzle. But it stayed.

In the final months of the project, I looked over the credit list for the game. There, under Designer was credited "The Entire SAW Team."


Are you kidding me?

NEXT: The gambler returns!


Career Blog Part 24

Year 10 2009 (continued)

SAW was in the bag and released and we all said, "What now?" Konami was interested in a potential sequel but only after getting the numbers on how SAW sold. We all knew we wouldn't be getting those numbers for months at the least, so we decided to go ahead and start cracking on a sequel now and if or when Konami decided to do it, we'd be ahead of the game.

The first thing we all did was write out proposals of what we wanted to do differently, what improvements could we make in the time we had, and what our "must haves" were. I dove into this, writing up a story-like proposal of what the first few minutes of gameplay could be like. No more quick-time events, no stupid "find key, open door" types of puzzles... more visceral experiences, more mood, more environment interaction. It was well received.

We did NONE of it. We still had no designer, so our producer decided to design the game himself. That's a problem, in my eyes. The job of a creative director or lead designer is to PUSH design forward. The job of a producer is to get a job done on time and on budget. These two jobs do not mix well and in fact, collide together.

One of the biggest complaints of the first SAW game was the melee combat. That was on everyone's list of "must have" improvements. Over the next few months, many different combat systems were mocked up and designed. In the meantime, a quick-time event system was used as a placeholder until a "real" combat system could be made. We had a year to get it done and get this game out the door before the next movie.

Actually, we only had about 10 months. Before a game ships, you need at least 2 months just for getting it all printed, so we needed to have this game done by, like, July or August of the next year. After working on the sequel for a couple months, we got the news: Konami has approved a sequel! Now we were really moving forward!

NEXT: Stepping backwards...


Career Blog Part 23

Pain in the ESRB

I forgot to mention a pretty crucial time in SAW's development that happened near the end. SAW was due to be released in a few months so it was time to submit the game to the ESRB for their rating. We needed to get an M. If we got an AO (Adult's Only) we'd lose far too much shelf space. We'd be dropped from the Walmarts of the world and unfortunately that is still a huge percentage of the market. Not to mention our publisher would probably scrap the game completely if we didn't ship with an M.

We submitted and got it back around a week later: AO.

We had to scramble. We weren't a big player in the game industry, so they didn't really share anything more about what exactly we were knocked down for except for "Gratuitous Gore." Gratuitous gore? It's a SAW game, what'd they expect? I didn't even think it was all that gory to be honest and had even submitted suggestion bugs along those lines... I guess it's a good thing those were sent back as "Won't Fix", huh?

We decided to focus on the trap failures. If the player failed to successfully disarm the traps in the game, the victims of the traps would be killed rather gruesomely. We toned down the cut scenes and changed camera angles. We also removed a few other gory elements. The traps were a joke now, I lamented. SAW fans expected a certain level of gore from this series and we were going to be short-changing them dramatically, I felt.

But, we were at the whims of the ESRB. We submitted again. A week later, we got the European results: M! (or Pegi 17 or whatever it's called). Success! American results: AO. What? You gotta be kidding me...

We started scrambling again, this time branching off a separate build of the game for North America... hey, if the Europeans were ok with the gore level, we weren't going to change it. Besides, if we did, we'd have to submit to the ESRB for another rating and that'd waste time. So, all of you Europeans out there have a much gorier version of the game then the Americas! For the North American version, we once again toned down the gore, toned down the sound effects, cut away camera angles, obscured the deaths until they were a shell of their former existence. We submitted: an M. Thank you! Sheesh!

Meanwhile, games like Mortal Kombat, Dead Space, and Resident Evil show FAR more gore then we ever did. That's the difference money makes. If you're a big-money publisher of a big-name title, you get special treatment from the ESRB. If you're a nobody, expect the same kind of treatment for a nobody. It's pretty despicable, really. But I digress. SAW came out and fans of SAW were disappointed and fans of good games were disappointed, so it was an all around disappointment. But I will say still that, I'm proud of the artwork I did and the style of the game. I do feel that that was something that was done right.

Next: SAW II???