Thursday, March 3, 2011

The combinatorial explosion

Does anyone remember Bethesda's promotional material about Fallout 3 before it was released? Does anyone recall the claim of "over 200 endings"? Now, this claim stemmed from the fact that there were "unique" endings in so much as a different slideshow was displayed to you to accompany the variations in voice-over based on several key decisions. The main reason there are over two hundred endings is because the choices, and thus various segments of the ending, are independent of one another. 

By simple mathematics, the number of possible endings can be determined by multiplying the number of choices in each decision together.  Pick one of two options, and one of three options - you've got six endings. Add in another choice with three options... 18. Each decisions referenced in the ending rapidly causes the amount of unique endings to increase rapidly.  Of course, for today's games this frequently means recording VO describing the outcome of each decision, and presenting this in a modular form, so that each decision is discussed in turn.

I imagine some of you might be curious as to why I'm discussing this concept.  It's because I'm happy to tell you that due to the decisions present in The Shattered War, and their effect on the epilogue given to the player, there will be several thousand different possible endings. Your decisions, the way you treat key NPCs, your choice of who lives or dies will all combine to give you a unique ending to your adventure. If you're looking for the power of choice, The Shattered War will deliver.


  1. Awesome :)

    How long is The Shattered War likely to be in play time? I almost think breadth of choice and play length are opposed forces; I loved Alpha Protocol for being short enough that you could compare multiple playthroughs in a reasonable period of time.

    If I did some math around the reputation system for Broken City I could probably claim a few hundred endings myself, though the actual difference is pretty minimal. I guess I could count the 13 different romance endings? It'd be pushing it though.

  2. Based on past experience, I'm not the best at estimating play time. I estimated Fate of a City to be around 6-8 hours, but most people reported that it took them around 10-15 hours.

    I'd say it's probably similar in scope to Fate of a City, possibly a little bit longer. That said, it's not possible to experience all the content in a single playthrough. While I've still got a reasonable amount of content to produce, I don't think a dozen or so hours would be out of the question for a single game.

  3. Nice. I always report my playtime estimates based on the clock on my test savegames; that should provide the average player with a nice bonus.