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How well do you think save systems are implemented in modern games? [roundtable]
 
Many moons ago we had no save systems in games, as you are all aware we simply played a game to completion in one sitting, paused a game until we got back or used cheat codes to get us near enough to the area we were at previously . Then came the save system and all was well, usually you completed a level and the game saved no harm done but today due to a games complex nature things aren't so simple.

Today we have all sorts of save systems from the usual end of a level/milestone savepoint, autosaving, pull up a menu and choose save, reach a specific safehouse and save progress, the list goes on. Is this all really necessary or should we have a one size fits all saving system? Does this even exist? Do we require a save system depending on the genre and then do we need multiple types within that genre? Does accessing a menu stop us from maintaining a truly immersive experience?

Another trend that seems to be becoming more popular on the DS is the inclusion of only one save slot per cartridge, examples of this would be Ghost Trick and Dragon Quest IX. Is this a ploy to sell more copies of a game and limit cartidge sharing. I for one hope that this doesn't become the standard. Do you think this is fair or should all games come with multiple save slots?

Feel free to answer any of the above questions and ask a few of your own

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Posted: 02/25/11, 03:16:31  - Edited by 
 on: 02/25/11, 04:20:43
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I do not think all games should have the same sort of save system. If you could save anywhere at any time in a game like Contra, Dead Rising, or (classic) Resident Evil, it would just make the game incredibly cheap. You could simply replay a single section over and over until you got it just right, and most of the challenge would be removed from such a mechanic. In a longer adventure-type game though like a western RPG, you should have more opportunities to save the game. It just depends on what kind of game you're trying to create.

EDIT: Opening a menu doesn't ruin immersion for me. Having a "gamey"-type of element like that won't ruin a game for me. I don't need games to remove HUDs and streamline cutscenes into the gameplay, etc. in order for me to enjoy a game. Changing/removing saving doesn't affect that either.
Posted: 02/25/11, 03:29:54  - Edited by 
 on: 02/25/11, 03:32:00
I'm playing Half Life 2 at the moment on P.C., and have been using quick-save a lot.

I hate quick-save.

It's so tempting, but at the same time ruins the pacing and immersion of a game. I wish it never had it.
Posted: 02/25/11, 03:30:24  - Edited by 
 on: 02/26/11, 00:08:42
With games being longer and longer (for the most part), the auto save or non password save is a godsend and I welcome it with open arms. Games like Ninja Turtles and Battletoads made me pause the game and turn the TV off for the night, praying that my parents wouldn't turn my NES off or worse, a small power outage that would mess everything up for me the next day.

As for the "how" we save games now... I guess my preferences change depending on the type of game. I didn't mind the typewriters at different locations in RE4..and the music that always played around those typewriters always made me feel safe and allowed me to take a breath. Saving the game anytime I want during a long adventure game is also helpful to me. I don't like being 'trapped' and always prefer the option to quit at anytime in case 'life' comes back calling. DS games are easier as you just close up the system for sleep mode but the Wii/consoles are different in that way. I'm a big fan of multiple safe slots as well so having only one safe slot in DQ IX really bugs me. I like having a save file at the ready after I beat the game so I can play the game again and if I wanted to see the ending..or beat the final boss, I can do that at any time.

There is one thing now though that we must consider - and that's battery life. The N64 cartridges (Mario 64 will be 15 in the fall) battery is still ticking. For how long though? Can you get a replacement easily? What about my cartridge versions of Ocarina, Majora, Perfect Dark and Conker? GCN memory cards are the same way..how long do they last?

S
Posted: 02/25/11, 03:38:22
Part of me feels that with certain games, there should be auto-save, no ifs ands or buts. I was very happy to see that Donkey Kong Country Returns just saved after completion of a level. At this point at where I am with life, I just want to be able to play a level and turn the game off without worry. I don't want to worry about collecting coins to be able to save or anything.

I always thought that was a horrible design choice of DKC2 and 3...why on earth should you have to pay to save the game? And also, there are some spots in DKC2 where you beat a boss, and by instinct, you move on to the next world. Then, you can't save until you get to Wrinkly Kong...and sometimes, you get to Funky Kong BEFORE you get to Wrinkly, so you'd have to go BACK to another world just to be able to save. It was always beyond idiotic to me, especially given how amazing the rest of DKC2 was.

In RPGs...I don't know. On the one hand, a lot of us live moment to moment. Things happen, and sometimes, you just want to shut the game off and then pick it up where you left off. On the other hand, RPGs often have a lot of decisions to make on the part of the player. If you don't make a good decision, it's sometimes nice to be able to boot back to where you were so that you can change the course of the game. For instance, maybe in Chrono Trigger, you make a wrong choice, and instead of getting a great weapon, you do some things out of order. In that case, it'd be nice to restart and make sure you do things right.

In long adventure games/RPGs, I think the best way to tackle it is to have the game autosave at certain checkpoints. Maybe they could just keep the last 3-5 checkpoints intact? Or just keep the last auto-checkpoint intact, and let you manually save at any time.

I also always liked the approach that Link's Awakening took, where (I think) the game always pops you back into the last door you entered, unless you were in a dungeon. You could save at any time, and you'd more or less be back where you were when you quit.

I've really, really disliked the idea of the "quick save" that has worked its way into a lot of Nintendo games. You know the mechanic where you can save exactly where you are...but if you load that save up, it disappears. I understand this mechanic in some sort of high scoring game I suppose, but in a Mario game? I suppose the mentality is "The challenge is completing the levels in succession," but in this day and age, it just comes off as more of an inconvenience than anything.

The first time I saw the "one save slot per game" was in Pokemon Blue/Red, and it always baffled me. When I saw that, it really just felt like a blatant ploy to make people buy multiple copies of the game. On the one hand, it makes the game feel more personal. Each copy of Pokemon is YOUR copy. On the other hand...sometimes you just want to beat a game and start a new file where you can do things really differently, without losing all the progress you made in your original play through.

That's my 60 cents on the subject.
Posted: 02/25/11, 03:46:57
Lots of good points so far guys keep em' coming.

The game that sparked this roundtable was Spirit Tracks. I died in a temple earlier today and all progress made within that temple continued on after I died. Later I died in the Spirit Tower and thought there would be no issue only to find that the towers floor at reverted back to square one, maybe if I had saved this would have had a different outcome but i assumed that a system that would hold true in one area would carry over to the next and it left me a little pissed off. I had to give it a break for a few hours due to frustration which I think should be avoided in these 20 hour plus experiences.
Posted: 02/25/11, 03:53:06  - Edited by 
 on: 02/25/11, 04:15:13
I think, disregarding the one save file limit, Pokemon does something that I wish more RPGs did.

If all your Pokemon black out, then you get kicked back to the last Pokemon Center you visited. However, you still have all of the XP that you gained before you died. Everything you accomplished up until a Game Over still remains intact. It's surely a good thing, especially if you spend hours leveling up your Pokemon, only to get KO'd by a surprisingly difficult battle. I wish other RPGs did this. I haven't played many newer RPGs, so maybe some of them do? I just remember being frustrated in older SNES games, where you'd work your way through a difficult dungeon and then die...even though you were making a lot of progress with experience.
Posted: 02/25/11, 04:11:15
PogueSquadron said:
I think, disregarding the one save file limit, Pokemon does something that I wish more RPGs did.

If all your Pokemon black out, then you get kicked back to the last Pokemon Center you visited. However, you still have all of the XP that you gained before you died. Everything you accomplished up until a Game Over still remains intact. It's surely a good thing, especially if you spend hours leveling up your Pokemon, only to get KO'd by a surprisingly difficult battle. I wish other RPGs did this. I haven't played many newer RPGs, so maybe some of them do? I just remember being frustrated in older SNES games, where you'd work your way through a difficult dungeon and then die...even though you were making a lot of progress with experience.

Dragon Quest IX does this also and it is a god send. The take half your money but this is a small price to pay expecially if you keep most of your money safe at the bank. One save file per cartridge though is such a sucky idea and reeks of trying to get more money from the consumer. I hate how the portable Zelda games (and Majora I think) only has 2 slots and not the usual 3. Having none at all is a disgrace.
Posted: 02/25/11, 04:17:53  - Edited by 
 on: 02/25/11, 04:18:13
I think save points or checkpoints are the way to go. Save anywhere defeats the tension the devs intend the player to feel while playing through certain sections.

On top of that, I do like the save anywhere function... but just creating a temporary save state and not one that can infinitely be reloaded. Once you load that file, it is deleted and is useful only when you have to leave in a hurry and want to shut down your console/portable. A combination of both is the best way to go and when it's possible to offer it. I do like that the PSP go has this feature that other models don't. I can just suspend date of any game wherever I want and resume it later without worry of losing any data. It works great and is even useful to bypass annoying and unskippable game intro sequences
Posted: 02/25/11, 05:16:19
I don't like when people reset a game to salvage their record or something. I especially have Save State things. Just horrible.

Some games I want a running save file so you can NEVER "fix" it or dodge a penalty. Its like life, baby! That said..I think Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn has something like this? I'm scared. I was one of those people who re-did Path of Radiance over and over again. Shame on me, right? Times are different now!

Different genres should definitely have different systems. And TWO save slots should be the absolute minimum. Do you think DragonQuest only has one because of space issues? That seems weird.. I'm ok with three save slots.

One family I know has 4 brothers though. Eek.
Posted: 02/25/11, 05:44:44
@Mr_Mustache

Heavy Rain was a game that I enjoyed for its actions having real consequences setup but the temptation was always there to reset when something didn't go how I wanted it to. Heavy Rain is a game should have autosaved constantly and if you wanted to go back then start the game over. The temptation should never have been there to begin with.
Posted: 02/25/11, 11:21:51
@achhibbar@Simbabbad
Count me in the 'exact same experience' category. Hate Quicksave/Quickload, especially in PC games and genres that don't need them. They really encourage the wrong kind of play. It's hard to resist the temptation, even if you realize that it's ruining your experience, because, hey, maybe there's a super-tough encounter around the corner that you'll NEED 100% health for. I feel like they've pretty much ruined a lot of PC gaming, and many are lobbying to have them ruin console gaming, as well.

I'm in favor of games that are designed to prevent that type of behavior. Regenerating health, challenging, but fair checkpointing, lack of retention of weapons/items from area to area...

That's why I enjoyed Shiren so much. It heartily mocks you for playing it like a hoarding PC gamer. You use all of the tools at your disposal or... you die. Refreshing. I also really respect games that kick you back to the last checkpoint for dying, as long as the challenge was fair. Screw modern gamers for wanting everything to be on auto-play. It has removed an important part of what gaming has always been about. The satisfaction of overcoming a tough obstacle. I love the way good checkpointing turns every gap between saves into a discrete 'run' that you can perfect, with practice. I don't want my games to feel like big amorphous blobs. I like discrete, concentrated, well-designed experiences.
Posted: 02/25/11, 17:55:41  - Edited by 
 on: 02/25/11, 22:59:44
Are there any PC-centric games (FPS, mostly) that reject the QuickSave/QuickLoad thing? That aren't console ports? There must be some now, in the post-Halo era. But PC gamers really do bitch when there is no QS/QL. I think games are actually designed around it now, somewhat, to the point where if you don't save between encounters and min/max each one, you will surely die. I mean, designers have to do that, right, if the majority of the audience plays in such a fashion (which I assume they do)?

It's so not fun. I went through Half-Life using only the Crowbar and pistol, restarting if I took a single bullet.

Health packs are also kind of frustrating, unless brilliantly balanced, because you never know when you'll get another. It especially sucks when your health isn't regenerated between sections/levels. When you can load up a game and have 20% health. Bleah.

I guess it bothers me less in fast, replayable experiences like DOOM.
Posted: 02/25/11, 23:05:27
I'm in exactly the same boat as you guys.

Pickup health? - quicksave
Shoot a few guys? - quicksave
Move to a new room with potential enemies? - quicksave

I feel like I'm playing a game about saving my file, with some Half-life 2 mini game attached to it.

I really want to rely on the autosave points of the actual game, but they seem quite widely spaced. Am I wrong about this? Or has quicksave completely destroyed my perception of saving?
Posted: 02/25/11, 23:07:13
anandxxx said:
I think games are actually designed around it now, somewhat, to the point where if you don't save between encounters and min/max each one, you will surely die. I mean, designers have to do that, right, if the majority of the audience plays in such a fashion (which I assume they do)?
I'm sure they do, and have been doing it since the first Half-Life at least. I admit I'm not too good at the game, but even on easy, the resources are so scarce and you take damage so easily, I don't see how they could expect "normal" players to make it through a level without using QS.

Even if it's just me sucking at the game, the part with the mine field is proof that they expect you to QS.
Posted: 02/25/11, 23:17:24
And in older titles, when you accidentally hit QuickSave instead of QuickLoad, you're fucked!

Isn't it weird how all of us came to this particular realization when playing Half-Life, a game that is legendary for its incredible game design (which I never quite understood, tbh)?

@achhibbar
Yeah, like we've been discussing, I'm pretty sure modern PC games are balanced for QuickLoaders. DOOM never felt quite so unfair.
Posted: 02/26/11, 00:01:30
Even the narrative style never won me over. It's an interesting approach, but the whole totally-mute-character in a talkative world thing seems weirdly artificial. I understand the decision, but it always feels kind of creepy and disconnected. That might also happen in Zelda if everyone but Link talked.

I think Half-Life AI was decent at times, though. Like the ninjas, or whatever. You could definitely accuse it of ushering in the whole cinematic, trigger-point movement in single-player game design, which I so despise in modern shooters like Call of Duty. I never even thought about that before. I don't think it was the first game to use those tricks, but it was probably the most influential.

I still wonder how Metroid: Other M's narrative would have worked with no spoken dialogue. Just dream-ish kind of scene fragments, like Zelda. At least for the flashbacks. That would have been artificial, too, but I think it could have worked better. On the other hand, maybe the Half-Life thing would've worked even better for Other M. Hard to say.
Posted: 02/26/11, 00:10:25  - Edited by 
 on: 02/26/11, 00:12:34
Quick-saving can, unfortunately, bring out the perfectionist in me.

"Hmm, I could have done that much better..."

I'm not completely against it, but it can make a game too easy, so it'd be ideal to have another system.
Posted: 02/26/11, 01:31:28
anandxxx said:
Even the narrative style never won me over. It's an interesting approach, but the whole totally-mute-character in a talkative world thing seems weirdly artificial. I understand the decision, but it always feels kind of creepy and disconnected. That might also happen in Zelda if everyone but Link talked.



Best machinima ever.

The only time a save system has bothered me recently is in Red Dead Redemption. It's weird. You can save at one of your properties in a town or at any time you want in the wilderness. But you can't just save whenever you want in a town unless you buy property. Also, one time I beat a mission, got an autosave message and quit the game. When I played the game again I started back at the last property I saved at, but the mission was still counted as being completed. Weird.
Posted: 02/26/11, 02:46:55
Pretty funny. But LONG.
Posted: 02/26/11, 19:38:42
I totally disagree with you guys about Half-Life and Half-Life 2's gameplay (I adore those titles despite my upcoming comments), but I 100% agree about qucksaving. It RUINS games. I literally use quicksave every ten seconds when a game offers the option and it kills a large part of the fun-factor for me. Like you guys said, most games that utilize this feature have horrible checkpoints, so if you don't save often, you're sent very far back if you die, so you HAVE to save all the time.
Posted: 02/26/11, 19:44:45  - Edited by 
 on: 02/26/11, 19:45:45
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