"Added good ending," read a recent patch note for the sci-fi Souls-like Immortal Planet. The game's small community was thrilled. They had a new goal, a reason to put on their sleuthing caps. But after weeks of struggling to unlock this secret ending, the game's developer revealed it was all a big joke.
Image credit: teedoubleuGAMES.
Immortal Planet is inspired by the boss fight-heavy, often obtuse stylings of Dark Souls. Its default ending nets players a "bad ending" achievement and unlocks a "nightmare" difficulty mode. Players, then, found the idea of a secret "good" ending appealing, given that hidden lore is a huge thing in the Souls series' community.
So, taking designer Tomasz Wacławek at his word, players banded together to solve the mystery. They completed the game in multiple different ways, taking on bosses in specific orders. They meticulously sifted through lore, hunting for obscure, coded clues. Some spent dozens of hours on this pursuit, egged on by one of the game's developers, a writer who goes by the handle Shard, who would drop hints into a popular Soulslike Discord channel from time to time.
"Like in Dark Souls," Shard wrote, "just reading the descriptions doesn't mean you have all the details: it's a puzzle, you need to put it together, and remember that the sources of information are limited by their perspective."
It was a compelling breadcrumb trail, but after more than a week of fruitless effort, players started to get fed up. Some decided to datamine the game, only to discover that there wasn't any indication of a good ending in its files. Shortly after this information came to light -- nearly two weeks after the "good ending" patch note first appeared -- two things happened: First, Immortal Planet's developer added a new patch note that read "removed the Good Ending due to popular request". Then Shard fessed up.
"I just wanted to post here and apologise for all this," he wrote in Immortal Planet's Steam forum. "Beyond the writing that's directly in the game, I had no influence on the text in the achievements or patch notes concerning Immortal Planet, and opposed the erroneous inclusion of 'Added Good Ending' to the latter from the beginning."
He added that he had been dropping hints in an attempt to lead people to an authentic lore secret, as opposed to a fabricated good ending. "I regret that discussion on this subject will likely be overshadowed by the controversy that my employer's actions caused, and again apologise, especially for all your wasted time," he said.
Players, one of whom claimed they'd "doubled" their play time in the hunt for this mythical conclusion, were not pleased.
Some speculated that it was a bad-faith attempt to game the Steam data -- to make it seem like people spent more time playing Immortal Planet than they actually did. Others wrote it off as a mean-spirited joke. One looked upon it a bit more favourably, comparing it to the time that Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki led players on a months-long wild goose chase involving a pendant item. But others countered that a handful of obscure Dark Souls rabbit holes actually lead to payoffs, so it wasn't quite as bad when one did not.
"Whether it was to start up a hype for being the 'first' to get the ending, or some form of mean spirited prank, or just as 'bait' that he'd added more content to the game for unwary buyers, no such thing was added," a prominent community member who goes by the handle Arlyeon told me in an email. "Considering it's players and reviewers alike that wasted their time searching for this content? This is super not cool."
Arlyeon claimed that when he spoke with Wacławek in private, the game's designer just chided him for being gullible.
"I didn't realise that there are people who take these things so serious, and it kind of got out of hand," Wacławek told Kotaku in an email. "I never intended to trick anyone into playing the game longer than they wanted, and I honestly did not imagine that anyone could take it to such lengths."
He explained that the joke was actually a reference to his previous game, Ronin, which had a good ending and bad ending. He added that, before pulling the prank, he'd been hoping to add an actual good ending to Immortal Planet "eventually", but ultimately tossed that idea in the stylish, pseudo-cyberpunk scrap heap due to the game's poor sales.
Arlyeon and players like him have accepted that there won't be a good ending to Immortal Planet, but they'd really appreciate if this whole ordeal could at least conclude on a brighter note. "At the end of the day? Yeah, I guess I'd like to see Tomasz actually directly apologise to his community and take ownership," said Arlyeon.
Despite the outcry, Wacławek was adamant that he doesn't believe he has anything to be sorry for. "I do not feel like I owe anyone an apology," he told me. "Frankly, I find it ridiculous how serious some people are taking this thing."
Players are disappointed that this ill-considered stunt has tarnished the reputation of the game they enjoy. "This situation doesn't do the game justice," wrote one player on the game's Steam forum. "[It] deserves recognition as an interesting take on [the] Soulslike formula, not as the attention-seeking child of [an] evil game dev mastermind."
Or, as another player, Soro, put it in the form of a poem:
"By Gaben's sales and Steam's walls
We Steam users will never fall
Though fake ending will fade in time
Teasing nonexistent content is a crime
For proper ending we shall wait
Many bodies, yet one fate:
A sour face on frozen skin
Life shorter by 10 hours and no ending within."