Systemic endings (Spoilers for Map, Midnight. Swordfight.)

So these two games, Map and Midnight. Swordfight., were two of my favorites this year.

Something I really liked was that they both give the player a systemic level of control over the story, a kind of control that is often reserved, in parser games, for object manipulations that solve puzzles.

In Midnight. Swordfight., there are a finite number of costumes and props, and a finite number of ways you can arrange those. As you play, though, you start to understand how those props can be arranged in order to produce different sorts of final outcomes. Make the countess fight me with a giant sausage! Make it possible to fly away to the moon instead of being stabbed! And I find that really satisfying.

Because it has a longer, more linear structure, Map takes a bit more work to replay. But here again, you have a sequence of past choices, and you can alter or leave unchanged any combination of those choices, with results that play out in the endgame through a combination of vignettes. I played Map a couple of times until I’d engineered the outcome I most wanted, and when I got there, I felt a really satisfying level of agency over that outcome: it was something I’d thought about, decided on, and intentionally constructed. I didn’t feel I’d just jumped through the author’s hoops to one good or one bad ending, either. I felt like I’d actually come up with my own ideas of what the best ending looked like, and executed it.

I really like that effect. So I guess I’m interested in how those components worked for other people, whether there are aspects that could have been even stronger, etc.