About the ending
Feb 22 2014 - Posted by:
This will contain heavy spoilers about the ending, if you haven't finished Lost Echo yet, please do not read.
Lost Echo has gotten a variety of reactions. Most of them positive, which is something we are very happy about. But as we mature as game developers, one thing we need to do is learn how to gather whatever feedback and reactions we got and see what kind of mistakes we made and where we can improve.
Drawing conclusions is not easy though. Someone's favourite puzzle was someone else's worst puzzle. From the feedback we've got Lost Echo appears to be simultaneously too hard/very easy/just right. But there are a few things most people agree on: the ending was not exactly fulfilling.
We are in the process of redeeming that with Lost Echo: Resonance. But even then, there is still one thing that's bothering me. In all the press material we made and in our main page for Lost Echo, one of the selling points is : "An engrossing mystery with a satisfying conclusion.". Was it a lie? Should we remove it? How could we think that the ending was satisfying, when it now seems very clear that it leaves many more questions open than it should?
I won't try to defend it too much. I still stand by it. I wouldn't change it. But it's not as complete as it should be. I'm going to try and explain (or, depending on your perspective, offer a bunch of excuses) how and why I thought before releasing the game that the ending was "satisfying".
During the last few months of developing the story, I was more heavily invested in the more symbolic elements of the story, the themes if you will. I don't know if they come through in the game as clear as they are to me, so I'll just talk about some of the things that were in my head at the time.
Greg didn't need to travel back in time for everything to go as he wanted. He could actually do everything "right" the first time if he was somewhat more determined. That is why when you travel back in time, the things you have to do to set things up for the other Greg(s) are not that hard. It's not that the task before Greg was impossible to deal with, it's just that it was the tiniest bit more inconvenient or hard than his "limit" at the time, so he would have been discouraged and as a result, things would have turned out badly. That element is in there, because determination and resolve are things that have been on our minds ever since we started working on the game. Having started our fair share of projects that never went anywhere (for pretty silly reasons) and also seeing other people around us give up on things for also (at least seemingly) insignificant reasons, makes it a subject matter that is both personal and interesting to us. It also works as a game design metaphor, which is amusing, but that's another discussion.
But what about the ending? In the ending Greg's "sci-fi" adventures are over. He is left with reality. He loves Chloe, Chloe doesn't love him back. It's more complicated than that of course, but that's what it boils down to. These aspects of the situation are realistic and happen in real life all the time. The options he has are to keep trying to win her over, or give up. The first option probably won't work. She doesn't like him and she's not how Greg thought she would be. She's there, but she's not how he wants her to be. How she is in his mind (because, at the very least, in his mind she'd like him back). The other option is to move on. Moving on is tough, especially if you feel that you are denied your preferred option for reasons that are not really your fault. But still, those two are your options and there is nothing you can do.
But wait! In this world there are "fantastical" elements. There is science fiction in this. There is time travel. Chances for do-overs. Chances to resolve regrets. Maybe Greg doesn't have to face reality like the rest of us. Maybe he can keep believing in the Chloe in his mind and give up on the "realistic" options. Maybe withdrawing himself in a fantasy world, where things are how he wants them to be is a viable option. And what do you know, a Chloe that claims to be exactly how he wants her to be appears behind him.
So this is why I thought the ending worked. When I wrote it, having the metaphor in mind more than the actual logistics of what happens I thought "In the end, Greg rejects reality, he doesn't like his options and chooses to withdraw to his fantasy, he gives up on reality". It's not a happy ending. Greg had the option to mature at the end. And that would complete his arc. But he didn't because he couldn't. Because in his world there is time travel. Because in his world, second versions of himself can go back and help him, so that things are just convenient enough, so that his determination and resolve don't need to be tested. And if his resolve was never tested, how could he have a strong enough will to be able to move on?
Now, I realize that there are a lot of unanswered questions in the game. Why was the 2nd Chloe there? Why did the event at the park happen ("what" happened should be somewhat clear, I think). Rest assured those questions have answers and we're working on presenting them to you.
So we'll leave the "satisfying conclusion" in the game's page. We apologize to the people we let down with the ending, but we'll leave that in the game's description as a promise to make it true for everyone.