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Oluseyi

The Autosave Approach

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Oluseyi    2103
Abstract Every game should have seamless autosave, such that the player doesn't even have to think about it. The only justifiable reason not to have autosave is the lack of capacious storage, as in consoles relying on memory cards. Even if you have a branching storyline, all paths should be autosaved, allowing the user to return to various branches in the narrative as desired. Before I go ahead and write an actual paper of Wavinatorian length, what do y'all think? I came to this conclusion comparing my experiences playing NBA Live 2004 and RalliSport Challenge 2. The former, being a multiplatform title, didn't take advantage of the Xbox's hard drive and required me to explicitly save my progress (which is infuriating in a sports title). It didn't work particularly well, either. The latter, on the other hand, transparently autosaved my career progress, updated my stats... It was a joy to play, and I got to focus on playing the game! RalliSport Challenge 2 does a lot of other cool things, too, all of which allow you to get to playing as quickly as possible. Data loads from disc are cached so that if you decide to rerun a race (or if you exit because you didn't make the qualification group you wanted, as I do), you don't have to sit through the entire load again. And so on, and so forth. Essentially, I think it's time that games eliminated as much administrative duty as possible. In fact, I would go as far as to say that every game that doesn't do so is a poor product. Over to you.

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GreenToad    320
I completely agree. XIII on the gamecube did not feature auto-save, it is annoying to have to save after every mission, or come back to the game and realize you must replay 2 hours of progress because you forgot to save.

I like the idea of a continuous auto-save. The player has no choice but to load up the game where he last left off and has no way to go back before his most recent progress. Of course, this makes it more punishing if the player messes something up (like expends all his ammo shooting walls), but he wouldn't be able to run around like a madman (death, among other things, becomes meaningless then, because the player knows he can easily reload back to a point before his death).

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orionx103    138
I don't agree. I prefer save points in levels or lands or whatever. Recently, I've been playing Vice City. In certain missions, I've screwed up and lost so much money because I had to re-purchase all my weapons that I've had to restart my game. If I didn't have that ability, I'd be oh-so-screwed right now, and I think players deserve that ability.

I guess the argument against this would be that, in real life, you wouldn't be able to restart a go back from your last save. Thing is, why sacrifice fun for realism? Doesn't make sense.

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by GreenToad
I like the idea of a continuous auto-save. The player has no choice but to load up the game where he last left off and has no way to go back before his most recent progress.
But that wasn't what I suggested. Halo (Xbox) has continuous save, yet it allows you to go back and replay any previously attained checkpoint/sequence at will. Ditto Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which additionally gives you the overall "stage count" (a total of 49, IIRC). Both of them also indicate the level titles in the resume screen, which is cool because it ensures a consistent vocabulary when talking about it with other players ("I'm stuck in The Library" vs "I'm on level 9, I think... right after those big exploding things...").

Quote:
...(death, among other things, becomes meaningless then, because the player knows he can easily reload back to a point before his death).
Which is, IMO, a Very Good Thing™. It's a video game, Mr. Designer, so there's no reason for you to "punish" me. I paid for it and I'm playing it in my spare time; spare me your ideologies as to how I must play it.

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The Lion King    115
One of the things that I am putting in my game is applying both these things in the game at the same time.

I mean ... by default the games will be saved automatically ... on several checkpoints ... which are not known to the player only known to the application ... and I am also giving an option in options settings if the player wants to disable this autosave. It will be turned on by default.

Personally ... when ever I played some huge hours consuming game ... and I forgot to save my data or something happened with the machine ... I never bothered to play that game again unless or untill it was very appealingl. I never prefer to go through one thing again and again. HALO is one of the best in this. There are lots of checkpoints in the game ... if I do something wrong or loose my health a lot ... I can reload the game from the nearest checkpoint ;)

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Telastyn    3777
Depends on the game.

Absolutely games with "campaigns" should auto-save after each mission.

Other games like RPGs I prefer to pick and choose my save games, as it's fairly difficult to have auto-saves save at a reasonable point. Auto-saves in awkward points are worse than just burdening the player.

Mainly though, I've seen far too often where auto-save was used as a band-aid for games that commonly crash and lose your progress...

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
The Lion King
One of the things that I am putting in my game is applying both these things in the game at the same time.
Don't forget the little screenies to go with checkpoint titles. If you have a branching storyline, show the user the branches. RalliSport Challenge 2's Career Mode has a graph-like race selection screen that is very effective, including which races are currently locked, what each race unlocks and which races are prerequisites for other races. To the side you also have career progress and stats.

Iconography is invaluable.

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Other games like RPGs I prefer to pick and choose my save games, as it's fairly difficult to have auto-saves save at a reasonable point. Auto-saves in awkward points are worse than just burdening the player.
A game with autosave can still allow user saves. The point here is that users should have this convenience so that they don't have to think about it if they don't want to. If a game wishes to provide the opportunity to think about it if the user desires to, that's absolutely no problem.

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cornflake    150
Although I like the auto-save idea, and agree with most of the arguments, I do like the Vice city approach. Although you can save whenever you want, you actually have to drive/walk somewhere to do it, which discourages people to do it all the time. Especially at the beginning, when you only have one save place in the entire city. I think though not all properties should have been save areas, so that having to save before going and doing something that might result in severe loss of assets or death would have required more time and effort.

which of these two options I prefer depends on the gameplay. In a FPS, most of the time if it autosaves and you've run out of ammo, you can still get further - it just takes a bit of careful playing for a whie to build up your ammo. Plus it's a linear story most of the time.
In Vice-City, i.e. free-roaming, it would be difficult to decide where to put the autosaves.

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Pxtl    354
Best savegame system ever: Abuse. Save-points are real, in-game objects that occur about once every 1-5 minutes in a map. You have 5 save slots. To save, you just touch a savegame point and click a slot. No muss, no fuss, but you don't have to overwrite old files if you don't want to. You always reload with your old ammo, but 100% health.

Why not "save anywhere?" (the engine was capable of it) - it leads to stupid gameplay. Most "save anywhere" games end up being "save before entering each room" - Serious Sam is terrible for this. Alternately, if save points are too far apart or once per mission, then you endup over-replaying.

The Abuse approach leads the level to be thought out as a series of short "episode/puzzle" areas. Playing the game becomes like eating popcorn "just one more section!". It would work well for co-op - if your teammate dies, he'll respawn when you hit the next savepoint or when you die and reappear at the last one.

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Telastyn    3777
Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Other games like RPGs I prefer to pick and choose my save games, as it's fairly difficult to have auto-saves save at a reasonable point. Auto-saves in awkward points are worse than just burdening the player.
A game with autosave can still allow user saves. The point here is that users should have this convenience so that they don't have to think about it if they don't want to. If a game wishes to provide the opportunity to think about it if the user desires to, that's absolutely no problem.


Oh indeed. I'm just saying that a user that never uses the auto-saves is more likely to be annoyed by the slight interruption they generally cause since that's the only effect they have upon the player. Usually these players are only a few, and they can deal with the annoyance for the benefit of those who do use the autosave [or better yet turn it off]. There have been a few cases I've seen though that the auto-save was so awkward or poorly implimented that nobody used it, and it only served to provide periodic interruption of actual gameplay.

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Inmate2993    222
All things considered, having a game that autosaves everywhere implies that the game itself allows the player some degree of control over the 4th dimension of the game's play. I.E. The player can rewind and alter time. Now, perhaps this shouldn't be a focus of the game neccessarily, but its entirely possible to perform.

First thing to note of course is that the purpose of a Save File is to allow the player to return to the game later. It doesn't always mean it has to be a complete freeze of time in the gameworld that is completely restored to normal working function. For example, an AutoSave at the start of each level means that we can draw the initial state of the world off of the CD/DVD/HDD and not need to store it in the save file. That means the save files can be significantly smaller and the game can have more freedom with saving all over the place.

Lets think for DataCard saving mechanisms for a second. The space is limited, but a little intelligent design could maximize the use of that small space. For instance, in an RPG, you could have a "Chapter Mode" which would start you at a given place, and during the chapetr you could save "Bookmarks". If its irrelevant what items the player is carrying around (for the most part), then you would only need to store that information once, and the bookmarks are just a record of location and progression in the story.

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Pxtl    354
There's the problem - a save system serves quadruple purpose - to come back to the game later, to handle a crash/power-outage, as a system of "extra lives" when the user dies/fails, and as a "rewind" feature incase the user needs to backtrack their game. Imho, save anywhere is the best for the first two, but stupid for the 3rd, and allows the 4th (which I consider optional and kinda stupid).

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Ajare    174
Beyond Good & Evil has an excellent system. You can only save at certain points, but these are copious, and intelligently-placed. The only way you can screw up (barring things out of your control, ie crashes) is by dying. If this happens, you are 'rewound' to a suitable spot just before. This gives the game designers a clever way of varying the difficulty - to make a section harder, put the restart spot further back. If done carefully, it's very rarely frustrating.

Another very good way is to allow the player to manually rewind time, and in theory be able to start playing again from any point, any time they like. I think one of the Prince of Persias had something like this. Only practical if your game logic is completely deterministic, though.

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by Ajare
This gives the game designers a clever way of varying the difficulty - to make a section harder, put the restart spot further back. If done carefully, it's very rarely frustrating.
How often is it done carefully, though? And doesn't it break the suspension of disbelief by making save points corporeal? I mean, you're introducing extremely extra-diegetic elements in a blunt and obvious way.

Quote:
Another very good way is to allow the player to manually rewind time, and in theory be able to start playing again from any point, any time they like. I think one of the Prince of Persias had something like this.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. You possessed a glass dagger that could be filled with the Sands of Time, convienently retrieved from enemies in combat, which allowed you to rewind time up to a full minute. As you progressed in the game, you got more sand tanks for your dagger, in effect allowing you to rewind time several times in succession. You could also slow time down, allowing for complex gymnastics or combat manouvers.

Blinx, an Xbox title which I haven't played (and which has an interesting looking sequel due out soon), made this even more explicit. You can pause, rewind, advance and even record sequences of specific objects in time - using rewind and pause to reassemble a collapsed bridge and cross over it, for instance, with the bridge collapsing again once you un-pause. But this has little to do with save games.

The Sands of Time presented you with a save screen between each chapter (and had just enough save spots for all the chapters), but internally autosaved checkpoints within the chapters. You can then revisit any checkpoint at any time thereafter, which is useful if you haven't unlocked all the game's secrets, such as the original Prince of Persia game or PoP 2.

Quote:
Only practical if your game logic is completely deterministic, though.
And if it is consistent with your game's story.

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Pxtl    354
Save points don't have to be giant glowing crystals like in FF7 - in Abuse they were nice big control panels on the wall - graphically they fit well, the save GUI fit well with game graphics, and there was this wonderful mechanical "tape rewind/eject" sound when you saved. IMHO, frequent save points (or invisible automatic checkpoints if teh game is very linear) are much better than "press quicksave every 5 seconds".

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falkone    444
I enjoy an autosave feature because I don't always remember to save (or don't expect to die soon). The thing that irks me is like what FarCry does, where you have to rely on the autosave. It wouldn't be bad if FarCry didn't have cheap deaths.. but it does.. I think both forms of saving should be present.

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Ajare    174
Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
How often is it done carefully, though? And doesn't it break the suspension of disbelief by making save points corporeal? I mean, you're introducing extremely extra-diegetic elements in a blunt and obvious way.


BG&E proves that it can be done well. As for suspension of disbelief, you have to compromise somewhere - how realistic is reloading in the first place? The terminals that you use to save at allow you to read data discs. One of the discs has a 'savegame' function, so it's integrated reasonably well. A dictionary couldn't help me with 'diegetic', so I'm not sure what you meant exactly, though.

Quote:
And if it is consistent with your game's story.


Not necessarily. It may be better to use an unapologetically obvious savegame system, than it is to use an strongly-contrived gameplay device to integrate it 'seamlessly'. It depends very much on the scenario and genre of the game. I should have made it clear that my observations were directed at a specific genre, though.

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superpig    1825
Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Quote:
...(death, among other things, becomes meaningless then, because the player knows he can easily reload back to a point before his death).
Which is, IMO, a Very Good Thing™. It's a video game, Mr. Designer, so there's no reason for you to "punish" me. I paid for it and I'm playing it in my spare time; spare me your ideologies as to how I must play it.
Incentive and disincentive are basically the only tools we have to propel a player through the game; without them, the player has no reason to move through the game. (I'm not just talking about progression - GTA has incentive/disincentive without necessarily making you get 'further' in the game). You can take one of those two tools away over my dead body. [razz]

The facts that "you paid for it and are playing it in your spare time" are irrelevant. I could pay for a TV and watch it in my spare time, but if I throw it out of the window it will do something that I do not want it to do; that's not so much ideology as much as it is the nature of the object, the rules governing the system. The manufacturers could have made it titanium-plated with extensive padding such that it *wouldn't* break when I throw it out the window; that would be a different object, though, a different set of rules.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: You don't like it? Buy a different game. Death is how we do things around here. [grin]

Now, returning to the topic... I think we should consider the reasons for saved games once again. Primarily, we're trying to allow the player to stop playing the game (whether they're going to do something else, or whether they're forced to by a power cut) without losing their progress.

As such, I definitely agree that seamless autosaving should be present. Whenever I have progressed a significant distance beyond the last time the game was saved, it should save again. That would allow for situations like a system crash without making me re-play chunks of the game. (Of course, if those chunks are interesting then it may not be an issue anyway...)

I reckon it's important to allow us our disincentive tools, though. So, how about this.

The game is autosaved at very regular intervals, and autosaved whenever the player exits the game. When the player loads the game they can only start from the autosave. (Thus we establish 'seamless interruptions;' we also prevent the player from "reloading a room" if they fuck up, because the game autosaves inside the room before reloading (because that implies a game exit), so they don't get anywhere).

Then we establish 'spawn points' throughout the course of the game. This is much like Prince of Persia's approach - implicit checkpoints from which the player starts upon death. When the player dies in our game they are sent back to the most recent spawn point - or maybe, even, given a choice of returning to any of the spawn points they have visited so far.

The result? The player can't 'room reload' because the autosave won't stay obediently outside the doorway. They have to take the hit, die, and return to the spawn point. However, if they have a system crash at any time, they can load up the game and continue playing from the most recent autosave (maybe one or two minutes behind where they were at the crash).

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Scint    355
This thread is probably going to become like the previous long save-game thread...

I think autosave really depends on the type of game, and is more of an issue on consoles. On the PC the only autosave games are single player first person shooters (for the most part). Games with statistics (like sports games) do autosave, but it is seamless, or it should be as mention in the OP. That is, it is not as if you see a "Load Game" option in the menu screen -- it autoloads the statistics when you start the game.

For consoles, autosave can be incredibly annoying, because some games save all the time and it really slows thing down.

A game like Diablo II autosaves when you exit the game and reloads when you enter the game. I think this is a pretty good way of doing things, and ought to be done in FPS games as well.

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Kylotan    9861
I'd like to see a lot more autosaving, and to facilitate that I'd like to see developers paying more attention to efficient data storage mechanisms. Loading screens are often a sign of laziness.

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
I'd like to see a lot more autosaving, and to facilitate that I'd like to see developers paying more attention to efficient data storage mechanisms. Loading screens are often a sign of laziness.
YES!

Did I mention that RalliSport Challenge 2 caches its data reads? It even appears to read ahead and perform asynchronous loads, ensuring that you get to the game faster. For instance, when you select a race you see a screen that describes the race's mechanics; the game is already loading during that screen. On the next screen you have the opportunity to tune your car characteristics rather extensively. The game continues loading through all of that.

The game simply rocks, both from a creative/aesthetic perspective and from a mechanical one.

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James Trotter    432
I was just playing Neverwinter Nights, and thinking about the same thing. I've only ever played it once before, so this time I sat down for about two-three hours straight and had fun walking around killing some bandits, and stuff... Until they killed me. Then I remembered I hadn't saved since I started, so I was quite relieved to find out about the autosave-system.

But, they also have something of a compromise as well. Basically, when you die, you get three options. The first is to load a game, the second is to quit the game. The third is interesting: It allows you to continue the game, with the world just the same as you left it, except your character suffers certain penalties...

Also, seamless loading is important. I find myself getting pretty irritated every time I need to go back into a house because I forgot something, and everytime I do it, the game loads for a long time.

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Boku San    428
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before (I'm sure it has), but my ideal save system would be a bit like:

A.) Level-by-level saving. This would allow the player to go back and replay individual levels.

B.) Checkpoint resumes. Only the last checkpoint can be reloaded -- Chronicles of Riddick's method, which allowed you to reload at any checkpoint in the game, actually took away from this short game's replayability.

C.) Temporary save-anywhere. This way, you can save (say, after the room you're in has been cleared or something) when you "really gotta go". This save file would be erased upon being reloaded.

Not all games could adopt these methods, but a lot could. It would make games more difficult, interesting, and, if there are branching story paths, endlessly replayable.

Again, sorry if this has been said before.


...Hey, my rating went down by...a lot. I feel sadness.

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by Ajare
A dictionary couldn't help me with 'diegetic', so I'm not sure what you meant exactly, though.
Sorry about that. [smile]

"Diegesis" is the entire world of the story. If you hear music in a film that does not originate within the scene - it's not coming from a radio or an orchestra - then it is extra-diegetic.

Quote:
Not necessarily. It may be better to use an unapologetically obvious savegame system, than it is to use an strongly-contrived gameplay device to integrate it 'seamlessly'.
Perhaps. Personally, I consider explicit saves to be a relic of antiquity, an anachronistic technique based on the approaches of yesteryear - just like explicit saving in any other application. The difference between autosave in games and general desktop autosave is the fact that game autosaves are unambiguous - there's no question of being able to reference the correct save, particularly if all possible paths for a given profile are serialized.

Quote:
Original post by Superpig
Incentive and disincentive are basically the only tools we have to propel a player through the game; without them, the player has no reason to move through the game. (I'm not just talking about progression - GTA has incentive/disincentive without necessarily making you get 'further' in the game). You can take one of those two tools away over my dead body.
I fail to see how the inclusion of autosave erodes your ability to use incentive and disincentive, including in-game death. For instance, Splinter Cell presents a checkpoints at regular enough intervals (none of which a user would choose to skip saving, so they might as well be automatic), yet it still uses the full range of design tools available.

I think those issues are, in fact, orthogonal to each other. Oh, and I think your TV analogy sucked :-P

Quote:
The result? The player can't 'room reload' because the autosave won't stay obediently outside the doorway. They have to take the hit, die, and return to the spawn point. However, if they have a system crash at any time, they can load up the game and continue playing from the most recent autosave (maybe one or two minutes behind where they were at the crash).
This is an acceptable compromise. Autosaved progress with implict checkpoints for reload.

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