The verdict is in: people really liked Guilded Youth (it just took 3rd in the Interactive Fiction Competition, and 1st in the Ms. Congeniality competition) but hated the ending. Of the fourteen or so reviews I’ve seen over half of them expressed being disappointed by the ending or finding it abrupt.
A previous novel of mine, Everyone In Silico, also had an unconventional ending. I figured it’d be irresponsible of me to tie everything up with a neat little bow, given the complexity of the politics. Depriving readers of their resolution and catharsis made some of them upset, but it was by design and I stand by it.
Not so with Guilded Youth. I just kind of dropped it when I was done. Me and Matt considered it a lark, a nostalgic trifle, so much so that we didn’t anticipate people would care what happened to the quickly sketched characters. But of course we’re delighted. And because it’s not a physical book like Silico — and the digital format allows it — I decided to add two more scenes to give people more time with the awkward adventurers. It’s still charmingly low resolution, but with more of a resolution!
So now you can play version 2.0 of the game, with a better ending. (If you’ve already played it you can start with the command “skipthru” to get to the dining room scene.)
It’s funny, while I didn’t intend for the ending to be irritating I was concerned with a lot of other things that, so far at least, didn’t seem to bug people. I was worried about appropriating voice with a trans character… depicting BBS culture in a technologically inaccurate and unresearched way via my hazy memory… having a kinky scene with teenaged characters… giving the impression of pandering to a retro gamer crowd. People did call me on the lack of implementation depth, for instance not really being able to talk to your friends — but for me it wasn’t a conversation game, it was a looting game. The “on-rails” linearity that was noted, on the other hand, bugged me too — originally I’d planned on the characters would be modular and you could choose what pair to bring with you on each mission, but that killed the dramatic build towards the weird confrontation in the dining room. The new version gives the player a single choice of consequence at the very end, so I’ll see if that impression remains.
I think my anti-linear feeling comes from the fact that I have other mediums — movies and books — to work with a linear structure, and I’m somehow not using the medium to its fullest potential if it’s not dynamic. However, based on the fact that the last game I wrote and co-produced (Unmanned, a very linear game) won the Indiecade Grand Jury prize in Los Angeles last month, it seems that the rest of the game community is more accepting of it than I am. Lucky for me!