The claim that Baldur's Gate 3 has 17,000 possible endings made headlines yesterday from Larian Studio, but Adam Smith, who is primarily in charge of the game's narration, went on to further explain and clarify the assertion.
Adam Smith clarifies Baldur's Gate 3 17k endings
The number, as was readily realized, does not specifically refer to the number of distinct endings that can be reached in Baldur's Gate 3, but rather to the number of potential variations that can be overcome in the course of the narrative in order to reach the ending.
For the most part, Smith said, “You're going to get to the same point, but what happens before you get there can be very different” from game to game. In essence, it is the implementation of the “branched storytelling” approach that is typical of old-school role-playing games. Therefore, there would be 17,000 alternatives for Baldur's Gate 3 to create your own story, which will probably be unique from many others. This does not, however, appear to imply that there are really that many distinct endings from one another.
The count refers to the total number of variations and permutations that the story can experience as a result of the decisions made by the players. These variations and permutations can relate to whether a quest is completed in one way instead of another, or whether a character is encountered and added to the party or not. As a result, there are a lot of different combinations that could exist.
The story of Baldur's Gate 3 can be viewed as a spider's web, with the ending at its center, which is where everyone tends to go. However, all the different storylines that can be developed from the game's choices make up the outer web. The 17,000 endings are effectively reduced to 17,000 feasible routes that can get to the ending, which won't impact the ending itself that much. The fact that the 170 hours of cutscenes won't all be included in a single game and will depend on the paths taken is an example of this that director Sven Vicke has already provided.