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Paying to save your game

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This has been discussed before, but I'm looking for fresh insight. I'm also trying to add a few twists to make it work better. The game is a single player RPG. The setting is serious. Dark, lonely, desperate, serious. I'm not wanting to "play God and have absolute control over my players" as I've heard some people describe this type of idea. I want cause and effect to really mean something in the game world. Cause and effect do not work when you can go back in time and change your mind. Shyte happens. No one is perfect, not even hereos. And that is mostly the point. Sometimes the best things that happen to us come from the result of a failure. So anyway, saving your game costs something. I haven't figured out what, but something. It's very difficult to tie a save feature to the game world, since saving the game is really not part of the game world. Yet if the player isn't spending something from the game world to save, it basically isn't costing anything. Other than that, the game will allow the player to save the game after any decent victory situation. Not a free point to save the game later. Just the chance to save it at that moment. Anyway, here are the problem areas and how I want to deal with them: - Death: There is no game over. If I don't end up doing something similar to GTA, I'll probably make the game auto-reload at a certain point. The GTA route shows more promise. If the player actually loses something, it makes the loss an actual loss rather than a waste of time to make it back to where they were. -Failure: Death is the only situation where the game can be "lost". So as long as you don't die, there is no chance of repeating events. It might be possible to repeat a 'mission'. But missions can literally be screwed up. The game will deal with it. The player will only have to (and be able to) re-attempt failed missions if the repeat makes sense. And the situations in these missions will change based on the fact that they have tried and failed before. - Quitting The current game state is stored in a runtime folder. When exiting (or crashing), the files in this folder remain. So the game can be exited and restored 50 times daily if desired. There is no cost. And you can exit from absolutely any point within the game. Any opinions? And any help on the cost of saving would be great. The world is set in a futuristic wasteland. So I can't exactly have the player buy a clone. I haven't been able to come up with anything decent yet.

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I really liked the resident evil take on this.
There are a number of Ink Ribbons arround the levels of the game. To
earn the right to save your game (using a typewriter) you have to actually be
in possesion of an Ink Ribbon. There are plenty of ribbons arround the game for you to save before every major event that you may be undertaking (ie boss fights, doesnt so much make sence in a RPG, but this could be before every Dungeon).
But there were not enough ribbons in the game for you to just save after you do each step in the puzzle. This ensured that you Had to make progress, or you would no longer be able to save your game (posibly leading to having too much to do before getting to save again, like having hours of play + a boss before you save again.)

So, maybe quest completions give you a Renown bonus. With that you can save your game so many times. But there is a lot of mini-work that you have to do just to make your charactor better, but since this only benifits you, not the world, it gains you no more save chances. Thus removing the "grind for 1 hour each day and never advance the story" mentality of the player.

My personal take on how death/quitiing should work. Death means you have to reload from the last point you were able to save at. Quitting is Death. This with a cost for saving
gives a balance of "death sets me back at LOT, i should try to live", but still gives feeling of
"I only have to redo this quest if I die".

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This is a really good idea as long as you keep in that "exit any time you want". I can't tell you how many hours I've had to replay in some games where I couldn't find a save point when I needed to leave the game and go have a real life. Making dying cost something and doing stuff in the game world is a really great idea, but make absolutley sure that the player can just walk away if he needs to actually do something in real life, and not have to replay parts. Although the number of games with "save points" or starting back in town just keeps growing, so maybe most people don't think like I do.

You can tie a cost for saving the game into the game in lots of ways. Having saving abstracted to some other, more realistic, thing in the game (a la Resident Evil) works great. You can also alter the game world just slightly and have saving actually something people are aware of. Maybe there's quitte literally "save shops" on the side of the road where people go in and pay money. Maybe it's placing part of your soul into a magical rune or something. If the characters are aware of saving, it could create a whole different dynamic.

A lot of this depends on the setting and style of the game. In a world far enough into the future, saving a copy of every atom in your body and having your body recreated upon death is definitley a possibility. Having a diety revive you in a fantasy setting is also a possibility, but if that diety has to revive you too often, perhaps he'll find another, more reliable, hero to champion.

Screwing up missions is also a really good idea, but that requires a lot more work on your part. I love games where if you screw up it has some effect on what happen, but remember how much more content you have to create for that.

Hmmm... well, I din't really add anything to your idea, so I'll shut up. But, yeah, all good ideas; I can't wait to check out your game.

Best of wishes,
-xy

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This is an interesting concept; I've always thought that saving and loading needs to be included into the set of possible actions available to the player; similar to having a magic power that can restart time from points in the past [smile].

Unfortunately I haven't got a lot of time to really go into depth with ideas, but have you considered using some sort of gameplay penalty to saving? Although I never played the game myself (unfortunately), I read that in the game Outcast the hero had a "save gem" that he could use to save at any time. However, using the gem took time, and generated a large amount of noise and light, attracting any nearby enemies to the hero's location. It would be fine to save in safe areas, but saving in the middle of an enemy base would have to considered carefully.

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You can do a lot of stuff if you have that option in your game. Like unlockable bonus content for using <= a number of saves and you beat the whole game. Games that had items needed to save like RE2 were cool. I didn't mind fidning ribbons just to save. What I really don't like however is not being able to save whenever you want to. It was bad in RE because I played the game alot and saved just about every chance I got but there are some games where I just like to play for 10-15 minutes than quick save and shut the console off. So I think it's a neat idea I just think that if you use it you should have save throughout the game or at regular intervals. Every 10 mins hit a save point.

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A system that attracts enemy attention is a really clever idea. But I'm afraid my game will have a lot of danger areas that are not related to enemies. Risks or decisions that must be made, which I want to be permanent. Not the direction they've chosen to be permanent, but the fact that they chose that direction at all to be relevant (to exist) to the game.

As an example, raiders are attacking a village. The player becomes envolved and can choose to help them fight, help them hide, or help them set up a trap. Hiding may sound like the best choice, but the raiders will destroy some of the village and take everything of value that they find. The player may not realize this (common sense, but maybe not in a game world). So the decision wasn't wrong. It just came with a negative side effect. In some situations, it may just be a different outcome, not really being better or worse. But the player needs to stick with his decision. Now a new mission may present itself. The player might feel responsible, and attempt to recapture the valuables. Something that wouldn't be possible if they reload to the decision in an attempt to be perfect. Somewhat of a bad example, but I guess it works.

As for content, it's all scripted. It doesn't take much more time to account for failure or refailure than it does to account for things like finishing quests or other game variables that we normally see having a change on the game world. But it is true that the game will be capable of being in many different states. Since some objectives can be completely failed or ignored, I have to watch out for situations where another part of the game is related to them. And so on. More complex, but not really a lot more work.

Also think about the different types of experiences you could have when it's possible to screw up. Game characters giving you a shoulder to lean on. Party members bringing up previous bad situations when facing similar challenges. Obtaining a reputation as someone who never gives up.

Another aspect that I forgot to mention is experience or temporary abilities from 'death' (the player cannot die, but I'll refer to losing all of your health as death). Although death will result in serious negative consequences, it could also provide experience. If the player is pounded down by a giant barbarian, his pain threshold increases and he becomes slightly tougher. If he gets put down with a large dose of venom, his immunity increases a small amount. He could even develop some temporary ability or bonus as a side effect of the venom. I'll need to make sure the consequences of death make it not worth dying on purpose, but I want there to be something that gives the player a slightly better chance at trying the same feat again. After all, if I take away something when they already couldn't succeed, I'm not exactly handing out hope.

I oppologize if my sentences are running together. Awake for a bit too long.
Thanks for all of the feedback :)

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Bad game designer! No twinkie!

Sorry, but being a parent/student/employee puts me squarely in the just let them save whenever they want to camp. If you do want to have some penalty, then go the GTA route, since at least you're never sent back to square one. Other than that, stop wasting time trying to come up with some fancy save system.

It's all about return on investment. No player is going to appreciate all the hard thought or effort you're putting into making the save system needlessly complex.

Yes, I understand, you want it to mean something when you die. Great, set the player back a little bit, especially with a fairly trivial penalty like GTA, and that'll do the job. But you must understand that some players just don't care. You can't make them care about dying. Some people just want to complete the game no matter what; so it's up to you, your ego, or their fun.

It's funny, because that's why games kick ass. Sure, books and movies can open the mind, make us laugh... but making games is about making fun. It's amazing that we can transform hours of typing and thinking away at our computers, into easily distributable, infinitely copyable, fun. I mean, go back 50 years ago, and you had to work for fun... call friends, set something up, you name it. Now, I can just spend 5 minutes and download fun straight to my computer, without even leaving my seat.

Wow, I don't know where that last paragrah came from, but I should probably stop drinking rev while I post.

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I totally agree with nuvem - "Bad game designer, no twinkie!" You are supposed to be creating an enjoyable experience your players will want to repeat by buying your next game, not torturing them. I don't see that it adds anything to make your player worry about whether they're going to be able to save when they need to quit - wouldn't you rather have them worry about the story and the actual gameplay? Do you really want your players to quit playing the game and maybe even throw it across the room if they get frustrated from dying have the game auto-reload to some point they passed hours ago?

Of course players want to complete the game. If they can't complete the game, especially a single-player RPG where you have to complete the game to see the end of the story, they will feel ripped-off. And this applies equally to games that are too damn annoying to finish as it does to games that are too difficult or buggy to finish. You might just as well consider anything that will cause the player undue annoyance to be a bug in your design.

Have you considered that dying is a penalty in and of itself? And that if your game is already hard enough the player is dying, adding a penalty which might make it even more difficult to survive is counter-productive?

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Instead of giving penalties, work the other way around.
We did it that way in sacred; As long as the player stays alive, he gets a "survival" bonus - which increases the chance of finding better items.
So in a way, you 'pay' when you die - instead of paying when you
save the game.

If you die, you lose the bonus. It's nothing essential to win the game,
but it's still rewarding to stay alive.
Anyway, players have the choice how they want to play (carefull
or agressive)

Regards

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In Dungeon Siege 2 when you save it sets a flag. When you die and load it still knows you have died, so you get the same penalty. (1/4 your gold is lost). This effectively prevents people from saving, failing, loading, etc. The reason that most modern games, as opposed to old school games, allow you to save whenever you want is because people have real life stuff to deal with. It is unrealistic to assume that most gamers will sit down and beat a game in one sitting.

If you do implement a sort of "no return" path, then that forces the player to restart the game to continue. If your game is really fun and they feel like there is more to be discovered, this might occur a few times. But if they don't feel that way, you may have just lost them forever.

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