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save spots=carrots?

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For a while now I had been of the opinion that save spots were an unnecessary relic of the time when games didn''t have the power or memory to let the player save anywhere. Certainly we all have felt the agony and break in immersion of dying far from the last save spot and having to replay that part of the game again. I also feel that a game is poorly designed if it allows you to become stuck in such away that you must revert to a previous save and do things differently to ontinue playing. Not to mention that in many games the worldbuilding explanation for what save spots are is hopelessly cheesy. But, I was thinking about the idea of save spots today and I realized that in sme way they''re better than being able to save freely. I think that one of the major reasons people play games is to feel that they are making measurable progress, and I remember rejoicing when I got to a save spot because it was a milestone meaning that I had conquered a difficult area - kind of like getting to the peak of a mountain when hiking. Also, it''s kind of like having a periodic autosave feature in a word processing program - the very act of encountering a save spot reminds you that you should save, because otherwise you might be too engrossed in playing the game to remember to save, and you''d be a lot worse off if you dies in that situation. So, what do you all think about save spots, or save times like the end of a game day for that matter? What purposes do they serve, and what''s the best way to implement saving?

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Argh.. Not again! You Sir, as a moderator you should know never to bring up this topic again.. The last time we almost started a war.
Unfortunately I don't remember the topic nor the forum of that particular discussion, and since the search is.. hrm.. slightly buggy.. I couldn't find it there either. There are however a lot of topics on savegames if you search on "save" in the game design forum.

I don't know what "abilities" you mods have, but if you can look at my posting history you'll find the thread I mentioned there. (It has scrolled off the list I can access, and I don't know how or if it's possible to get my complete posting history)

My opinion is that the player should be able to save anywhere at any time. That said, I enjoy Final Fantasy games and XIII and all of these had save spots. It depends a lot on how the game is designed. If there is a hard area with no ability to save and the player dies after 5 minutes, and the same happens over and over he'll get annoyed. If it's a easy area and there's a save spot in front of a cave it can signify that something hard is waiting inside, thereby spoiling some of the effect.

If you're implementing save spots to help the player remember to save, you can include both. If you want to stop the player from trying to perfect something (or savescumming) you can do something to restrict loading. Not being able to load the previous save until 5 minutes have passed or the player has died is a good option here.

Remember that the player may not be able to wait until he can find a save spot before quitting. The wife's water broke or something, and it'd be annoying to loose the time since the last save just because of that pesky brat .

[edited by - frostburn on April 21, 2004 4:45:18 AM]

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I absolutely hate quicksave/quickload features. I really destroy games with those buttons and I hate myself for it. I just find myself quicksaving before or after each and every room and I''m sure plenty of other poeple do it too.

I certainly feel a save point is like a carrot on the end of a stick and rightly so too. I have found memories of playing Prince of Persia: SOT and saying to myself, "just one more save point, and then I''ll go to bed". Likewise, I remember the save chrystals of Tomb Raider and how ecstatic I was to find one after a tough collection of puzzles and combat.

To really appreciate the value of save points in a game you should play a Japanese scrolling shooter in an arcade. When you have a single credit (priced at an extortionate 1 pound sterling) every bullet heading your way leaves you flinching and twisting in front of the screen. As soon as you play it on an emulator, with no concerns for cash/credit, the game becomes a chore. The whole point of the game, the excitment of dicing with death, is compeltely negated. I feel the same applies to save points. The more we look-after the player, the less emotions we are going to generate.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I agree with frostburn. I think the player of a game should have the freedom to stop the game whenever he or she wants to.
Being forced to reach a save point before quitting a game, makes me wonder who controls who.... the game controls the player? Or the other way around.
I certainly do understand the argument, that a savepoint can be like a milestone and a great relief with all its emotions of success and so on, but people who got to work or do other things besides playing all day long - and I don''t mean to sound rude here, I for myself also did play for days almost without interruption (sleep, eat, drink, loo...) - those working people must be able to plan the time they are investing in playing games.

On the other hand, I believe as well, that it strongly depends on the game design, whether savepoints are good or evil.

I was playing Far Cry lately and was quite annoyed that I couldn''t save at any point I wanted to. Therefore I looked for some quicksave hack and found one. But after that, the game wasn''t as much fun than before and even worse, quicksaving brought the script of some stages of the game into troubles and concluded into visiting a "ghost version" of the level I quickloaded...

Well... shortly - I''m voting for quicksave feature... at least for longer games.
Those games with short playing time, may have these savepoints :-)

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Original post by frostburn
Remember that the player may not be able to wait until he can find a save spot before quitting.

In every save or not save discussion I''ve participated in so far, there was general agreement on a robust auto-save feature that saveguards progress on exit (and on crashes). I.e., as long as you don''t lose the game, you can always continue from the exact point you stopped playing last time.

The question is what to allow after the player does lose the game.

Perhaps a combination of saves/save spots can be found. For example:
- Saving allows you to continue from that with the character/stats/items at the time of saving.
- Reaching a save spots allow you to start over from that spot, with the items and stats you would be expected to have at that point. I.e., allowing you to do a part of the game with a different character without having to have done all the previous bits. For extra detail: the amount of stuff you get when restarting could be related to your "score" at the time of reaching the save point, or the number of saves you needed to get there, etc. etc.

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Ok, it''s a long post, but it solves all problems relating to saving and probably starts a flamewar or two...

No, I really don''t want a flamewar, and it probably isn''t really the holy grail of game saving, but it does try to consider game saving from an abstract (or even philosophical) point of view.

I consider the whole concept of game saving problematic mainly because it really is (at least) three concepts hidden behind the word save.

Consider first that the keyboard, mouse, graphical user interface etc. are in a different level of abstraction from the actual game world. The game world doesn''t have the guild of resolution changing or the knights of the polygon rendering, for instance. However, game saving can be considered to be on either level - tool or a gameplay element.

Personally I would categorize the uses of the concept of saving into three categories:

1. Taking a long pause. This should never be limited by time or location in the game world, but the game should also quit when saving (and vice versa) and you could load that save only once.

This should be considered a tool, something in the abstraction level of the user interface. It''s like pushing the pause key. Therefore, there shouldn''t be any kind of limitation or punishment regarding this.

2. Preparing yourself for the future. Every now and then, you want to have a sort of a safety net before continuing the game, so that if you die you don''t have to start from the beginning.

However, if you allow this by actually saving the game any time or place, the game difficulty will be zero. It should be limited and if the player''s character dies, there should be some sort of penalty.

Do note, however, that I never say here that there shouldn''t be some sort of way to be prepared - all I''m saying that this "saving" (as opposed to (1)) is in the abstraction level of the game world; it really has nothing to do with saving as in (1).

The ability to (2)-save is really a game rule. Just as you can''t walk through walls (at least, not usually...), you can''t use the in-game safety-net option without limits. So before saying "Hey! Why not allow the players decide when to save? Then those who want limited saves could just not save etc." , you are practically saying "Hey! Why not allow the player decide whether he takes damage from the bad guy at all times? Those who want a challenge could then choose to take the pain" . What I didn''t say was that there can''t be a rule that allows you to save with no limits. Indeed there could be a rule allowing the walking through walls as well.

The main point is really that arguments based on "the long pause"-save (1) are not really valid when discussing whether (2) should be unlimited. Even if you have save spots (on level (2)), you still should have unlimited (1).

3. Savescumming. This would mean abusing the saving system to duplicate items, saving before winning a boss-fight and then reloading until you get good drops etc.

The saving system shouldn''t be used like this. Again, the game might well have replicators for unlimited item duplication, but since it really happens in the game world and game saving (as in (1)) is not on the abstraction level of the game world, using the saving system for this would be abuse.

But how about autosaving?

This should be a lot like (1), in a way that you could only load the save if the game has really crashed.


Saving the game for pausing and saving the game so that you don''t have to start again after dying are VERY different concepts from each other.

Keep the (1) saving strictly OUT of the game world, do not limit it by the game world and above all, do not punish the player from using it.

Keep the (2) saving strictly IN the game world, feel free to limit it as you see fit, but do not break the immersion by asking filenames for the save etc. It should be a gameplay element for being prepared, not really saving in the traditional sense (do note that (1) isn''t traditional saving either).

If you want to keep savescummers happy, put an in-game element for (3), so the saving system will not need to be needlessly abused. (3) shouldn''t really be possible.

As for save spots, they are a good alternative to the tedious quicksave-quickload in both punishing the player for doing something wrong and rewarding the player by giving a sense of achievement - however they should really fit in the game world; calling them save spots wouldn''t really be immersing.

That''s all this time (and there was much rejoicing; "Yay!").

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I think a combination of limited quick-saves (per area/time interval) and "unlimited-with-truncation" is not such a bad idea.

In order to allow for people with less time (or unpredictable time allowances), a quick-save, quick-load feature is benefitial. I have played games where the interval between save points was long enough that I just couldn''t quite make it to the next one before I had to leave (for legitimate, non "cheating" reasons). That is a frustrating element and unfairly penalizes the player.

Quick-saves/quick-loads is necessary for those players who cannot guarantee enough time per gaming session to avoid un-needed repetition. However, its effectiveness should be limited to provide little or no benefit to a player who wants to "play it safe".

Perhaps a you can quick-load/quick-save once per hour interval. This eleminates the benefit of playing it safe and forces players to be more cautious about their decisions.

However, the maximum punishment that a player will sustain by using this system is 1 hour. This allows a reasonable amount of saves with quick-loads (starting up exactly where you saved) without becoming a crutch for gamers.

However, this does not solve the problem of saving before a difficult area or boss. I believe that bosses and difficult areas should, in general, be clued in to the player. If not explicitly, they should be aware that they are getting into a dangerous situation beforehand unless you are teaching them that they should be more careful about their inventory and health status. Now, levels generally have natural checkpoints (because most levels are not a constantly intense-experience. There should be peaks and valleys so players do not become numb) and any permanent saves that are made in certain areas are truncated down to those checkpoints.

This prevents the player from saving in areas right before a boss and it means that players (who are not aware of these checkpoints - they are not stated explicitly) will be more cautious about their situation and less likely play by trial-and-error. The benefit that it gives over tangible checkpoints is that it allows players to save at any point without having to backtrack t the previous checkpoint if something should arise that they need to quit suddenly.

In summary:
Allow players to quick-load a limited amount of times per area of the level or time interval

  • Allows players to reduce overlapping gameplay because of emergencies or time constraints
  • Prevents "save&load" cheating

All saves are truncated to invisible checkpoints

  • Players cannot abuse the ability to load a game anywhere and any time
  • Allows the developers to control load-points
  • Invisibility does not give players comfort in knowing where they will re=load the game, but gives comfort in knowing that they will not have to start from scratch

Basically, the idea is that players can save anywhere, but only load at certain checkpoints - as well as a temporary but very-limited re-load option for the legitimate players (allows a small degree of "safety saving", but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, prevent "abusive saving".

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I love ringing in with past examples of decent save systems, but I''ve used the BoF5:DQ Save-On-Quit example to much, so I''ll use another example.

Wild Arms 3 (PS2) had a save-anywhere system that was limited by a special item, I think they called them Gimel Coins. In dungeons, where you''d figure a normal save-system would place the save points, they''d place the gimel coins. I thought it worked great, just save where you found the coins, and find a few extras in case you ever wanted to save on quit.

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You missed one...

4) Fast-Forward Replay. This isn''t quite the same as preparing for the future. It''s more along the lines of "I''d like to come back here some day". This applies right before a major decision point. By keeping a record, the player is able to see what happens if they did things differently. It let''s them explore other options without having to restart the entire game. For example, let''s say I ran through a conversation being fairly nice, but I want to see what would have happened if I was a real bastard about it. It''s a little thing, not really worth restating the game about, but fun enough to try if there''s a recent save.
Granted, this option is open to abuse, but it doesn''t have to mean "savescumming". For those who like limited saves, it just means put save points before major plot points.

Let''s take a look at "savescumming", while we''re on the subject.

3. Savescumming. This would mean abusing the saving system to duplicate items, saving before winning a boss-fight and then reloading until you get good drops etc.

If they can duplicate items, that means your save system is flawed. It''s an in game cheat, and should be dealt with as such.
What''s wrong with saving before winning a boss fight? Do you mean before battle or during it? Quite a few save point systems put them right before boss battles. I usually take the appearance of save points in a dungeon as a warning sign. Is the boss really so easy that you need to face a horde of other critters before there''s any challenge? I don''t really see much of a problem with saving right before a boss battle. As for saving during battle, I admit it can get a bit cheesy. There 2 major reasons for doing this: difficulty adjustment and time saving. I don''t have a problem with there being some challenge in the game, but I don''t like having to spend days beating one scene just so I can see the next part of the game. Take Knights of the Old Republic. The final boss had a 1 in 3 chance of paralyzing me per hit, and could finish me off in 3 to 4 hits. This was when I had a maximum level character (granted, it was the scoundrel / power heavy combo). I ended up having to use mines to take him out, hardly heroic and kinda disappointing. The point is if he hit me once I could be paralyzed, at which point he''d hack me to death before I could recover. Imagine an entire boss fight without being able to be hit once. I think in battle saves are kind of justified there, especially since I couldn''t just adjust the difficulty level. Actually, this also ties into the time saving reason. In an extended battle, it''s kind of nice to be able to save your progress on reaching a breakpoint. That way if you have to start all over again, the setback isn''t so great. I know that may sound cheesy, but I''ve seen some battles take a solid hour. I''d hate to be a couple points from victory and them have to replay another hour of the same battle to back to that point. Maybe if you stuck a save point in between transformation sequences... Granted time saving is more an issue for people who have a limited amount of gaming time.
Reloading for good drops isn''t the greatest motive, but how much worse is it than engaging in random battle until you get the drop? The second player will get a load of items and experience in the meantime. Granted, that''s a crpg approach to it. In action games it''s cheesier, but more justifiable if you only have an item that can can gotten from that drop. Honestly, if you want to discourage this, just don''t use as many rare item drops.

However, if you allow this by actually saving the game any time or place, the game difficulty will be zero. It should be limited and if the player''s character dies, there should be some sort of penalty.

First off, difficulty doesn''t drop to zero. Even if the person saved before every action, there''d still be the difficulty of that action. Granted, this is more relevant to action titles, where a number of actions can take place in matter of seconds. The point is that while anytime saves may decrease difficulty, they don''t eliminate it entirely, even when horribly abused.
Second, noone answered my question on why you have to punish people for dying. This implies that dying is somehow desirable, or least very minor. Otherwise, why would you need to remind then it''s a bad thing? How''s this for a penalty: make the speakers whine at them or do something similiarly annoying.

Sorry if I''m getting a bit edgy here. It''s just these debates usually wind down into challenge-oriented types saying they make the game too easy, while explorer types complain it''s makes it more frustrating than challenging. I think what the challenger need to realize is that explorers don''t really care that it makes the game easier. I went through this in my post on replay value in the thread on 1 time only secrets in rpgs. Some people just want to experience new things, and will inevitably get frustrated/bored if they have to face the same thing over and over again.
I think what happens is challengers want the game to be more difficult, but this keeps explorers from enjoying the same, since they focus more on taking things in than honing a set of skills. This makes the explorers upset because their play style is portrayed as somehow wrong. On the other hand, just toning down the difficulty across the board doesn''t work, because many player do get their enjoyment from overcoming the game''s challenges. The thing is that this feeling of challenge depends on the overall difficuly as well as how strong the player is in the skills called for by the event. Also, different people will enjoy different levels of talent at different times. Some people like to push themselves more, while others like to experience things. Exactly what you want depends on a combination of personality and mood.

Man, this post got long winded. Btw, the earlier board was "A proposal to make every game instantly better", based on thread by the same name on another site.

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