Immediately end after unwinnable state?

I’ve been writing a simple game lately where a guy starts in his house then goes out to find items from the neighborhood. There is a possibility that the game can end in an unwinnable state, but I plan to make sure they HAVE to work to get there. First they have to close a window (thus blocking their ability to reenter from another path), later when they try to leave if they don’t have the key I’ll give them a warning message (and the key’s in plain sight in the next room).

So the question really is this: if they work at it and manage to get the game into an unwinnable state, should I just end the game there or tell them that they can’t win and let them wander around, maybe solve some of the other puzzles before they run of stuff to do?

I don’t think it really matters, as long as you give people fair warning that they’re about to make the game unwinnable. Most people would prefer the first option though.

It is usually considered more polite to find a way to end the game, or make it explicit that the game’s now unwinnable. Ending the game is a good deal tidier from the author’s perspective; but the important thing from the player’s perspective is that they know they’ve lost.

One advantage of ending the game as soon as it becomes unwinnable is that the player can then undo the last turn and then carry on playing.

Here’s how I’d do it:

[i]Walking along, you suddenly realise you haven’t been exercising appropriate amounts of vigilance or intelligence.

*** GAME OVER ***[/i]

I’ve come to the conclusion that real life is easy to get into an unwinnable state, so you could put a veneer of social realism on the game and call it at that.

It took me a while to realize how important this is, but it really shows in transcripts of my comp game. Future updates will have more death-endings and fewer unwinnable states.

In my ADRIFT game “Menagerie!”, there was not a real winnable state.

You could accumulate more points by successfully retrieving the video equipment, but literally I had a random that could kill the player at any given time, and even if that didn’t happen and you “won” the game, the player died in an auto accident or something like that at the very end. It was fun things like being trampled by an elephant, mauled by a lion, falling from a trapeeze or being shot by an insane clown with a machine gun.

I tend to find that games that can easily become unwinnable usually end up being played through using walkthroughs and the like, which can damage the overall experience of the game. It’s nice to to be able to do whatever you want in a game, knowing that you’ll always be able to win.