Outro (video gaming)
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In video gaming, the term "outro" refers to a sequence of graphics and music presented to the player as a reward for successful completion of the entire game. Outros are also commonly referred to as the game's ending. They can range from anywhere between a simple text message congratulating the player for beating the game, to a full cutscene that serves to bring the game's storyline to a conclusion (similar to the ending of a movie).
The word "outro" is a portmanteau of the words "out" and "intro", short for introductory sequence. The term is also sometimes used in the demoscene to refer to the final part of a demo (the opposite of an intro).
Generally, the complexity of the outro correlates with the type of game. Games with in-depth storylines and characters, such as RPGs or adventure games, often have relatively long and complicated outros, which action-oriented games such as platforming games or first person shooters generally have shorter outros, sometimes being nothing more than a simple "congratulations, you win!" message. This is not always true, of course. Some heavily action-focused role-playing video games, such as the Diablo series, have a relatively short and straightforward ending, while some story-driven action games, such as No One Lives Forever, have a relatively long and complex ending.
Very often, outros appear to be of poorer quality than the rest of the game. This is especially true for games that are primarily action-focused rather than story-focused. Many times, a game will have a long, complicated introduction movie at the beginning, but will end with a much shorter and simpler outro movie. One of the reasons for this is that not all players actually finish a game, so it makes sense not to expend resources on an outro that comes at the end of the game and which only a percentage of players will ever actually experience. Most games have very tight development schedules, so game programmers often simply do not have time to create a satisfactory outro, even if they have developed a game with a complex storyline. First person shooters and similar action games (even ones that are heavily story-driven) are infamous for ending with short minute-long movies of the villain or enemy base exploding, followed immediately by the credits.
Unlike the conclusion of a movie on DVD or VHS, an outro is only presented after winning the climactic battle to defeat the main villain, at a point in the playing which it took days to get to. So it's often difficult to see again, even if the game had been saved just before this final battle, because the player has to "get back into shape" to be able to push all the controls in the right order quickly enough. Some games grant the player the ability to see all cut scenes once the game is won; others do not. Thus when viewing an outro, the player must be alert to catch all the details.
In recent years, an extremely popular trend among game developers is to have the outro be a cliffhanger that paves the way for a sequel to the game, rather than using it to satisfactorily tie up the game's storyline. This is true both for established titles where sequels are almost certain to be made, and for newly developed game series where the possibility of a sequel is still uncertain. Like any cliffhanger, this can create problems if no sequel is ever produced, as this leaves the game's story eternally unresolved. An extremely high percentage of American-made PC and video games use this strategy. It is significantly rarer in video games originating from Japan.
Some examples of outros
- Fallout: An innovative ending where the narrator would tell you the fate of each of several towns you visited in your adventure. The player's actions throughout the game had a direct effect on each town's ending, and ended up determining whether each town's fate was positive, negative, or extremely negative. Finally, the game would reveal your character's own fate, which turned out to be a bitter twist in keeping with the dark overtones of the game's story.
- Metroid: After getting the best ending, the player discovers that the protagonist, who is believed to be male due to the instruction manual and general stereotypes, is actually a female.
- Phantasy Star II: At the end of the game, the main group of characters are gathered in a spaceship called "Noah" after they defeat the final boss, a computer system named "Mother Brain" that had been keeping the citizens of the Algo star system in a state of luxuriant laziness. Suddenly several hundred people from Earth - a planet whose connection to the Algo system was never even hinted at in this game nor in its predecessor - emerge from another section of the Noah and challenge the player, revealing that they created Mother Brain to weaken the Algonians so that the Earthmen could take over. They taunt the player with the fact that - without Mother Brain - Algo's people are "too soft" to survive on their own. The playable characters each give a defiant quote, and get set to fight the Earthmen, apparently to their own deaths. (This has been ridiculed as "They all get run over by a spaceship.") Afterwards, the player sees a view of the planet Mota from outer space, with the quote "I wonder what the people will see in the final days..."
- Star Control II: After the "traditional" ending in which it is told what happens after the Captain detonates the Sa-Matra, the credits roll along with humorous "outtakes" of the various aliens acting as if they were actors talking about a movie they were in.
- Portal: After defeating the final boss GLaDOS, the credits roll. During which, the player is treated to the song Still Alive, sung by the game's main antagonist GLaDOS, declaring she is "Still Alive" and mocks the player for defeating her.
- Eye of the Beholder: Once the eponymous beholder was killed, the player would be treated to a small blue window describing that the beholder was killed and that the adventurers ventured into the surface where they were treated as heroes. Nothing else is mentioned in the ending and there were no accompanying graphics.
- Halo 2: A majority of gamers complained that the final cutscene was a cliffhanger that failed to resolve any of the developing storyline. Additionally, many stated that it felt more like a level-transition cutscene than a climatic ending, and were shocked when the credits began to roll instead of the game transitioning to a new level.
- Medal of Honor: Allied Assault: As soon as you exit the last level, the game cuts immediately to the credits.
- Xenon 2 Megablast: At the end of this rather difficult shoot-em-up game, the player is rewarded with a few lines from an alien who has sold you weapons through the game (and the only character in the game) to the extent of "Congratulations", and then screen goes blank except for a small white dot in the middle as a representation of a television screen being turned off. The game then starts again from the beginning, except this time the enemies take twice as many hits to kill. While there was no plot present in the game, many gamers felt they should have received some reward greater than a few white pixels, especially considering the artistic and creative talent of the The Bitmap Brothers.
- Infidel: Possibly one of the first anticlimactic, and among the first negative, gaming outros. Infidel's ending contrasted other games at the time by being both quiet and brutal: the game trapped the greedy player character in the depths of a forgotten tomb as a reward for completing the final objective.
- Mass Effect 3: The player character meets a godlike entity who offers him or her three choices, each of which will have profound effects for all life in the galaxy. However, the cutscenes following the player's final choice are all largely identical, regardless of the player's decision. In all endings, the player character's spaceship is seen fleeing the battle for no clear reason and crashes on an unknown planet. No information is provided on how the major characters are affected by the player's final choice, or whether they ever leave the planet or reunite with the player character. This outro was widely criticized for being nonsensical and out of keeping with the established tone and themes of the game, failing to show the consequences of player choices (as the game's developers had repeatedly promised), and failing to provide adequate closure to the story. In response to fan outcry, BioWare has promised to provide free DLC that will add "clarification" and "closure".
- Wizball: After completing all eight levels, the player gets to see a static backdrop with flashing colours, with the sound of Catellite meowing in the background. There is no congratulatory message whatsoever, and after a few seconds, the game restarts from the first level. In regard to the effort required to complete the game, many people have found the outro disappointing.