From as long as I can remember, "Multiple endings" have been a selling point or something praiseworthy in adventure games, but I've never quite understood why. The ways I have seen it done didn't seem to be good methods. Honestly, the only only "good" way I've seen it done isn't in adventure games; it is in those open-ended free-roaming RPGs that essentially give you total freedom anyhow, and I'm not sure how easily that could be applied to adventure games. The way adventure games do it seem to fall into 3 groups:
The first way, which I'm sure everyone can agree is a bit silly is everything going the same, and then right at the end, you have to make some sort of choice (through dialogue or some such thing), and then depending on that, your end cutscene/text is different.
Similar to the first way is one where the choices are in the middle of the game, or littered throughout, or hinging on something like whether you got a particular inventory item, or used it or such, and then depending on that, the end cutscene/text is different.
Finally, there is where the game forks out before the end, and you play a bit (or a lot), and then depending on which path you took, you get a different ending.
Now in the first and second case, it would be pretty silly to try to make it a selling point (although a number of non-adventure AAA games do just that even today). In the third case, perhaps it is because I've never seen it implemented properly, but it annoys me somewhat. The way I've seen it used is to provide "lesser endings" alongside the optimal ending. I've even seen this suggested (even on AGS) as a useful method of allowing variable puzzle difficulty: Someone solves the really difficult puzzle, they get the best ending. If they are unable to solve it, they get one of the secondary ending. I don't know about anyone else, but I am really not fond of this...it feels like a form of punishment, especially in some games where after the game is finished it gives a message like "You have completed the game on easy, you should now try completing it 'properly' for the 'proper' ending!".
Again, I can only speak for myself, but having just completed a game, being told (or seeing) that what I did was something lesser, I'm not usually in the mood to restart and go through most of the same game all over again till I get to the point of the fork to choose the different fork (this becomes an even more annoying problem when the fork is something like not having picked up a particular inventory item at one point, or not using it properly...something you might not even know).
The way I end up having to deal with this becomes an incredibly immersion breaking thing...if something pops up that appears to be a fork, usually in the form of a dialogue choice like "Do you want to do X or do you want to do Y?", I usually save (or more often load a slightly older game, get right before that point and save, because you can't save during dialogues), and then proceed. If I'm seeing signs of this being a "lesser path", I load and try the other. I realise fully that this isn't the way the game is supposed to be played, but why should I continue down a path in a game that I KNOW is going to be one of the lesser paths, and probably end with a less than optimal ending?
How do you deal with these multiple ending games? I've got to admit, replayability itself in adventure games isn't something that's worked on me, so I might not be the intended target for "multiple endings"..it took me almost 9 years, with long gaps inbetween to finish all three paths in Fate of Atlantis (although that was an example of multiple solutions, not multiple endings).
Perhaps I have missed out on some major adventure games that had proper multiple endings that didn't have one or two be the "good" ones and the rest be lesser endings. If so, please enlighten me, I would appreciate it.
Also, in the interest of honesty, I'm actually using the 2nd method I listed in my game
, where a number of totally optional items, if picked up, will very superficially change the ending, but none of them in a negative way, unless you don't find any of the items at all, which would be difficult to do.