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Game saving feels like a fairly benign topic at first. However, if you stop to reflect on the issue, the mechanics of progress saving have a dramatic impact on your gaming experience.

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Game saving feels like a fairly benign topic at first. However, if you stop to reflect on the issue, the mechanics of progress saving have a dramatic impact on your gaming experience.

In the old days, a single-player game was a challenge to see how far you could get without dying. Games like Asteroids, Tetris, Mario and Sonic would throw a sequence of progressively harder levels at you until you either "beat the game", or you ran out of lives and failed. If you were lucky, there was a pause button you could use to take breaks along the way and if you did well enough a high score list might immortalize your initials, but saving was not an option.


Old video games were like free solo climbing. No rope. No harness. You either climb to the top and "beat the game" or meet your demise.

Since those ancient times we've seen a lot of developments in saving technology. Now games can save our progress after a level's completion, in the middle of levels via checkpoints and thanks to invention of quicksave some games let you save any time, any where, at your leisure. Aside from creating a market for overpriced and undersized console memory cards what impact does progress saving have on our gaming experience?

Saving can increase fun

-The solution space doesn't have to be smooth

With checkpoints and quicksaves you can push the player off a cliff in the solution space and know that he's got a climbing rope and harness to help him make a controlled descent. Obstacles in your game are allowed to be a lot meaner, because the player won't be expected to survive them all in a row.

-Noobs aren't left behind

Lets say we have a level with six obstacles and that each obstacle will either be overcome by the player or will kill him. Let's also assume that a skilled player has a 90% chance of overcoming each obstacle and an unskilled player has a 70% chance. If the level requires that all six obstacles be passed in a row, it is still probable that the skilled player will pass (.9^6=.53) while the unskilled player will have 1/8 odds of succeeding (.7^6=.12). By segmenting your levels with save points along the way, you avoid frustrating the players with lower skills.

-Stopping points are convenient

When players have already sunk substantial time for one day into a game, it's nice to have easy-to-reach save points that let them take a break. This has also allowed games to get much bigger without overwhelming players; like a good book you can put down after reading a chapter or two.

Saving can decrease fun

-Risk is fun too

When I played Unreal Tournament as a kid, I picked a difficulty setting that was a little too high for me. When I finally worked my way up to Xan Kriegor, the boss, he was extremely hard. During the deathmatch I could not save my progress after each successful frag or reload whenever he fragged me, I had to play out the entire level flawlessly. Whenever I developed a small lead my pulse would quicken and I would often find myself swearing at or taunting my computer as if it were a real person. After a series of close defeats, I finally got in the zone, had a perfect round and beat Xan. I think it might have been one of the most fun video game moments I've ever had.

-Quicksave is a dangerous option

It's not really an option. For a rational player trying to minimize the risk of failure, spamming quicksave is the mandatory dominant strategy. I definitely would have used it all the time in Unreal Tournament and it would have greatly demeaned my victories. A quicksave option is almost the same as building a God-mode directly into your game.

-There are no consequences

When saving and reloading is too easy, you are free to jump off cliffs and shoot the NPC that's supposed to be your best friend in the face. Some may argue that these random acts sound like fun, but they also destroy the atmosphere of the game and eliminate the chance for a deeper form of entertainment. I'm convinced that I get more emotionally attached to movies and books than to games because of the fact that every action is permanent. Perhaps we could use more games like this.

Conclusion

Quicksaving feels too easy while no saving options at all would be way too hardcore. The middle ground seems to be either saving progress at the end of each completed level or using checkpoints mid-level. Personally, I think the completed level saving method used in Lugaru, was just right. The stress of knowing that I had to make it all the way through a map without dying encouraged me to think about combat strategy. Also, each successive fight in a Lugaru level became more exciting because defeat meant sacrificing all the work done to win the previous fights. I think this level by level saving mechanic would work nicely for Overgrowth as well.

Do you agree with my observations about saving mechanics? What games have managed to handle progress saving elegantly? (permalink)


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Comments
formerlyknownasMrCP
formerlyknownasMrCP

Can't you do both? Like allow Quicks Saves, and then like in Fallout Tactics or JA2, allow a "HARDCORE" mode that makes it so you can't save mid battle/play.

I honestly think that should be an OPTIONAL guys, it'd be suicidal to not allow both.. if you allow Quick Saves the user should be punished- the game should reward the player for not using them and it should feel like the user should be playing the game without them because its more rewarding.

I understand what you guys mean though, it can ruin the experience if you can just quick load every time you screw up.. at the same time though it can also suck if you kill an entire room of guys just to have the game crash or the power goes out.. so I think you need to find a middle ground.. You can have both.. don't just limit yourselves to one frame of mind because not everyone is going to like the INTENDED way of playing.

That always happens, so you've just got to give people fewer reasons to bitch about the game. Because people always will.

I hope it all works out.

Also Mount and Blade handled this pretty fine- granted it sucked not being able to save mid-battle. They gave you the option of how you'd like to save. I demand more games do that.

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feillyne Staff
feillyne

Completely agreed. Saving should be optional or something.

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Jackson97
Jackson97

I agree as well. Sounds like a good thing choosing what save system you want to have. Then everybody would be happy

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SliderFF
SliderFF

well i don't know, its not TBS, its action game, maybe beter to create "saving" places, like GTA?

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formerlyknownasMrCP
formerlyknownasMrCP

except that sucked about GTA.. you'd have to keep doing missions OVER and OVER and OVER.. some of them were just ******** hard that you just couldn't do them in one sitting. Being able to save during a mission or quest would be life saving.. I for one hate wasting time on the same mission over and over and over. GTA did that to me, hence why I never really liked the GTA series.. well that and the story, missions and overall gameplay was just shallow.

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Hofstetter
Hofstetter

I agree. In Max Payne and Max Payne 2, you could save or quick save on the normal difficulty, but if you went to the hardest (Dead on Arrival mode) you could only save 4 times on the level, which meant that you really had to decide when to save, because there was no autosave in Max Payne.
I think that It would be cool to choose.

If you are definitely going to do autosave only, I would make the levels rather short, or I would autosave after a big battle. I think Call of Duty 4 did this well. For example, in the Bog level: I died so many times trying to save the tank my first time, but when I finally did, it autosaved, so I didn't have to save the tank all over again when I died trying to do the next objective.

Oh, and I would definitely include the ability to replay any level you'd like after you play through.

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SneakySoft
SneakySoft

saves at the end of a map sounds the best. you can be more proud of yourself if you make it, and you don't, you don't have to scratch your eyeballs out because you can just restart the map.

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matthewdryden
matthewdryden

I would have killed myself if I didn't have quick save in mods such as Research and Development.

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KerenskyTheRed
KerenskyTheRed

I personally spam saving when I play a game, saving at any 5 second break, or in the middle of a close fight. While I eventually beat the game, it actually kills some of the fun and even replay value for me. I like the checkpoint system, like halo for example, where they are pretty frequent to prevent frustration from long runs. But you have to find the right balance for every level with this system.

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formerlyknownasMrCP
formerlyknownasMrCP

well the other options would be an Auto-Save with Checkpoint Saves.. its sort of similar to quick saving but the user has no control over when it does it- and they can only save outside of combat manually. during combat the game auto-saves every 5-mins so that in the event of a powerfailure or crash, the player hasn't wasted a whole hour on a battle.. rather just a few mins.

You can also do the Arma2 style.. but I think that's a bad idea and you shouldn't do that IMO, Arma2 lets you save whenever you want.. but limits you to 6 saves at a time.. meaning if you make a mistake and have already saved 6 times.. you essentially have to delete old data to revert back to a better save game.. this is stupid.. so don't do that- because that's too much punishment. Arma2 takes too long to play for it to have such a ******** system.. this is why I play multiplayer, because it auto-saves the data per session.

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Joe_Shmoe
Joe_Shmoe

I tend to live and breathe any particular game I play, i realy get immersed, and even though i know about the quicksave, i hardly ever use it, like STALKER for example, infact it even reminds you to save, however that the reminder is a tiny icon in the corner of the screen, not very apparant to someone focussing on the game, and its so frustrating having to die everytime and redo that whole 30min everytime just to forget to quicksave again =\


However checkpoint saves work all the best, seriously autosaves at checkpoints just calm me down knowing i'll have less frustrating times, id think saving at the end of a level is okay, but then its a must for checkpoints inbetween, to continue from when you die during gameplay, however to actually save progress you have to finish the level/chapter =] not just die and start the level all over coz that reminds me of AVP1, i would be so close to the end, and then id just die and having to redo everything again, and eventually it just realy gets so frustrating, and games are meant to be fun, not frustrating

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Jackson97
Jackson97

I haven't played OG of course but I think you should have at least one checkpoint about halfway into the level. If you don't it might ruin the game for many people becuase they become frustrated when they get to the final battle and die. I personally hate the end-of-the-level save system that your talking about and I've missed alot of great games just because I don't have the patience to play the level all over again!

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DuckSauce
DuckSauce

Level by level save is pretty good imo.
Mount&Blade is a game that offers two options to the player, realistic(although not THAT realistic) would mean that getting yourself knocked out would mean losing your army, some money and some equipment and get dragged about as a prisoner several days.

There was also non realistic where you could save any time on the worldmap, but not during the actual battles, so if you were in a huge siege and got knocked out near the end, you can reload but you still have to do the whole thing again.

But I doubt overgrowth has a world map like that, a level by level save like that is similar to the second saving method of M&B though in my opinion.

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formerlyknownasMrCP
formerlyknownasMrCP

Don't you mean the first lol. the Second option was enforced Auto-Saves at the end of battles and on exit. The first was save any time you want.

I think a great idea would be have check points.. but just a DAMN lot of them- this way you can just jump back to a safe zone 3/4 through the level.. I think that would work pretty well.

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DuckSauce
DuckSauce

Nope just doubled checked, the top(first) is realistic saving.
the bottom(second) was saving any time you want.

At least it's like that for version 1.011 for me.
Not that it really matters whethers it's the first or second option :P.

Checkpoint saving is good with me, be it in level checkpoints or level by level checkpoints.(considering each level as a checkpoint...)

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aerozol
aerozol

Yeah, Halo did it very well.
Resident Evil also comes to mind, those save rooms really felt like 'save rooms' haha

This is pretty interesting also:
Benhem.com
Basically you play through as far as you can, and when you die, that's it. However, you get to pick ONE item from your inventory to pass on to the next char. It makes it really challenging, yet you don't feel like you've lost it all when you die... Felt like a really good solution.

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mollemannen
mollemannen

it's all depending on the game really. if you have a game without any variation in levels at all you could have after-level-save. though if one level is really tedious you would wish that you could save after the first time consuming puzzle part so you could easier tackle the instant death trap that comes afterwards. an example of this would be the indiegame gish. some levels are blazed trough wile in others you take 5-10 minutes solving a puzzle just to come to a lavapit were you have a 50/50 or less chance of starting the whole level over.

many games with quicksaves has a good balance called health. if youre low on health it's risky to quicksave if the next part is dangerous. it's better to just give it a try and if you fail you reload at a point were you have more health and thus a bigger chance. 2 examples of this is Half-life and max payne.

i my opinion big glowing checkpoints are the best save strategy. you feel rewarded everytime you see one and you know exactly were you will respawn if you fail. keep in mind that it's completely situational depending on the type of game. and finally an example of this is the game trine.

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Kasplatt
Kasplatt

Save games in mid-map are awesome in my opinion, I mean you don't have to spawn in the exact location you saved in, but I find it nice to have the creatures you killed before saving dead when you respawn from the original spawnpoint, as it doesn't make the previous fights useless, especially if it's a bunch of hard fights. But technologically speaking I'm amazed by the game Red Faction Guerilla, not really related but when you save the game, it seems to remember how you destroyed every single object in the game, or at least the important structures, as they are broken in the exact same way when you get back to them. Don't know how they manage to do it, but it's quite amazing. But gameplay-wise I find it incredibly handy to be able to save before you have to go somewhere or after finishing a hard fight, so you don't have to play the entire map over again, checkpoints work well for some games as well.

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Dra6o0n
Dra6o0n

The types of saving mode depends on the game. But ya, a lot of game needs to be able to save.

How do we revolutionize save game? Will someone end up making a joke game that's about saving game and continuing?

I got a weird idea for a game:
- Goal is to get to the end of the chapter
- Use save function to create a "hole" and save your progress
- The hole brings you into a alternate world in that position
- Able to "undo" and backtrack through those holes, re-saving progress in a few ordered slots.
- Kind of like portal but instead of making 2 points to make a portal, you just transfer yourself in first person to the other world, and it records your position
- both world can be interactive and will work at the same time (your warping between them to bypass obstacles)
- Can be a puzzle game?

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OldBoy
OldBoy

I loved it how they made the saving mechanism in a fairly old game called 'Outcast'. You took some sort of stone with you and if you wanted to save, you just activated the stone. You were encicled by an aura and it saved. This whole procedure took some time to finish.

I think, this was the best save mechanism I've ever seen in a game. It prevented you from saving during a fight and thereby kept the fights intense. It was always a pleasure to see the very beautiful particle effects during saving. Also, it was somehow put into the story.
Absolutely the best way to do it :)

Most older games just have more love put into them than most of the new ones :(

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Mularac
Mularac

If you're planning to do the "once in a level" save kindda thing, then I recommend you make the ai not at all predictable. For example, does anyone remember the game IGN? well, in that game you couldn't save, you had to play the whole level through. But, the thing is that the bots would always choose the same paths and do the same thing, so it was you knew before hand where to go and what to do to don't get spotted and don't get killed. Don't get me wrong, the mechanics was quite good and it was very satisfaying to finish one level, but on the end it wasn't so hard, you knew the level and what the bots would do by hard after playing it a few times. So, that's an idea.
The CoD series is also a good example of that. If you died on a level because of some guy hidden behind a door with a shotgun, the next time you pass by that door you'll shoot it first and ask question later, because you know there was a guy there that screwed you last time. Perhaps making where the fights aren't so challenging, but random. So that if you die when you do the battle again is a (well, not completely) new experience.

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Mularac
Mularac

Fé de erratas: Sorry, the game's name is not IGN, it's INI, as in "I'm Going In"

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DuckSauce
DuckSauce

You mean I.G.I? I've played it in my childhood. Was pretty fun game.

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dave_5430
dave_5430

"Atleast saving saves you from starting all the way ******' over again if you make that one tiny slip up or don't look at your screen constantly, like people who ACTUALLY HAVE LIVES."

-Zero Punctuation

I'm pretty sure it was something like that.

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symbolzzzz
symbolzzzz

Like Mr_Cyberpunk said you should have like 2-3 quick saves and then if you do more saves you get punished.
Like things cost more and stuff like that

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Kasplatt
Kasplatt

2-3 saves per map, that system works quite well, I've seen that in some game, just don't remember which one it was. That way, presuming you don't know the length of the map people will not depend on save games as much and pretty much removes the "save games ruin the fun" bit, and actually just become that useful feature it's supposed to be.

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wizard_
wizard_

Saving is for pussies!

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feillyne Staff
feillyne

Saving is for savers of precious time, not for wasters of time like you wizard_.

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salem5
salem5

Hey, dont forget those "You can save whenever you wan't, unless it is critical" and "Go and save, but it'll cost you". Like in Mass Effect and many JRPGs.

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Ziorich
Ziorich

Actually, I don't think it matters much if you have an endless saves system, as long as you have an autosave function at the end of each level. This way, people who spam quicksave can spam their quick save, and if they feel that the game get's less entertaining for it, it's their own fault, while people who actually doesn't save that often(or at all) can go about the game as if the function didn't even exist, whitout worrying having to replay 2-3 maps because they forgot to save.

I personally often neglect saving so much that I often end up replaying a ****-LOAD of maps because there isn't an autosave function, probably the fault of being to used to such games.

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Myloman
Myloman

You bring to mind a very valid and relevant issue to all gamers. I think it's possible to argue the merit within all these different saving mechanics; therefore I will put it down to it all being relative to each and every game. I think it depends on the flow of which is imparted on the said game, and whether it's gameplay needs to be governed in such a manner that requires the player to decide when to, or whether they don't need to. That said, different people have different demands, but at very least level checkpoints would be a necessity in my opinion. Yes, I agree about the quicksaves, and the challenge of getting through an entire level. So I vote either level-by-level checkpoints, or throwing in a mid level checkpoint if warranted.

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