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Can saving/loading anytime actually ruin the challenge?

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Assuming there is a game that is out only for PC/Mac, and that game allows you to save your game progress and reload previous save files at any time during the course of your play, can such a feature ruin the challenge originally presented by the game? If the save/load game feature was limited, do you think this would boost the game experience or hinder it? Here are a few cases to look at: 1. First-Person Shooter games (say Half-Life, Doom, and other titles). Both Half-Life 1 and 2 allow you to save and load games at any time during your progress through the game. Would you enjoy these games more if they implemented a "Save Point" feature to which you could only save your game in certain limited areas in the game? 2. Strategy games (say X-COM, Civilization series, and etc). If you were allowed to save and load anytime, doesn't this defeat the original purpose of the strategy game, to which is to present a number of variables to the player and have them guess as to what the outcome would be? Wouldn't the save/load feature allow players to "cheat", in that they are able to get a glimpse at the various futures of their decisions and pick (or load a saved file) which they thought was better? Or, in the case of X-COM, keep reloading the game until one of your soldiers finally made an accurate hit? 3. Adventure/Puzzle games (say Myst, the Monkey Island series, etc). Many adventure games implement the save/load anytime, anywhere feature because "Death / Game Over" in these games may also involve getting stuck with a puzzle to which you messed up forcing you to reload a previous saved game. What if limited saving/loading were implemented here, in that only when you have completed a "level" or game area can you then save - would this decrease your enjoyment of that game? 4. Story-driven Games with Multiple Endings. Many story-driven games that have multiple endings have their endings branching off from something you did earlier in the game story, and as such, have the save/load-anytime feature to allow players explore multiple endings simply by loading a previous game file and then playing it differently. What if limited saving/loading were implemented here, in that right before the story branches off into one of its endings, players will be presented a save point in a manner how they are presented save points right before a boss battle - would this decrease your enjoyment of the game? If limited game saving were to be implemented in any of these games, would the frustration of replaying a portion of an already-mastered level far outweigh the enjoyment of having a greater sense of challenge due to increased risk of dying/getting a "Game Over"? Or would it be vice-versa? Or, do you think that the increased sense of challenge presented by having limited "saves" or "save-point" areas in the game would actually be the cause of frustration itself? Now, many platform games implement the "Save Point" feature and don't allow you to save whenever you wish like what a computer game does, such as Grand Theft Auto (only allows you to save in a house you bought) or Super Mario Bros. (saves after each time you beat a level). Do you find these games more challenging or fun to play with than a game that allows you to continually save and load previous games any time?

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Allowing a player to save whenever they want gets my vote. Why? Because I feel that a gamer should be able to play a game how they want to play it. A game should still have an autosave between levels/missions/whatever, but the player ought to still have the option to save in the middle of something. A more "hardcore" player may just rely on the in between saving, but someone who has other things to do in their life (or just want to have an easier time with the game) is going to appreciate being able to save whenever. I sure don't like having to replay through an entire level just because well, I have to go to work or get some dinner for my daughter.

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Original post by Tangireon
If the save/load game feature was limited, do you think this would boost the game experience or hinder it?

The obvious answer is that it depends on how the rest of the game is build around the save feature. If you just limit saving in a game that's been balanced for unlimited saving, then you'll end up with something substandard. However if you build the whole game around a limited saving scheme you can end up a different game experience.

This topic has sprung up before, so I'd like to point out at the beginning that there's a big difference between suspending a game; that is, saving and quitting in one action; and save and load anywhere, anytime. Suspending doesn't affect the challenge of the game as the player is merely offsetting their play time until later, and you'd be hard pressed to find a good game design reason to not include this (other than practical issues, of course). It's the ability to save a snapshot of the game at anytime and then load it, effectively rewinding the game to a past position, that's the ability to affect the game.

My opinion on the "ability to save a snapshot and load it effectively rewinding time" save issue is that you can have valid arguments for a whole range of policies on this, but whatever you choose is a big influence in your game design. It's effectively granting your players the ability to rewind time for no cost. This can be a big game breaker if abused, and unfortunately gamers have been trained to abuse it.

Personally, I think games should handle all the management of save games internally. I don't think players should have to worry themselves with save game mangement. If you want to give the player the ability to rewind time every couple of minutes, then aim to implement an extensive autosave policy or a huge bunch of close checkpoints. If you're worried about players getting stuck in a no-win position, design the game so that this isn't a problem, or that there's multiple ways around the issue, or scalable difficulty etc. Relying on player managed saves is a crutch that leads to sloppy game design.

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I prefer between level saving and check points in the level, myself. The segments between the check points being small challenges I need to get past. The checkpoint earns you the right not to start at the beginning of the level next time you lose a life.

If you lose all your lives, you use up a continue, and have to restart the level.

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Having to play the same easy bit over and over just to try the one hard bit you failed at last time is annoying. And if a player wants to neuter their entertainment by reloading until their guy hits, they're just going to get a trainer or some other cheat anyways.

Suspending a game anytime becomes increasingly important as you get older. Real life leaps upon you more often, and with less warning as you age.

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Original post by Telastyn
Having to play the same easy bit over and over just to try the one hard bit you failed at last time is annoying.
Only in a badly designed game. With a few minutes between checkpoints, it's not so bad. It's not like single levels take hours to complete.

I actually enjoyed playing Doom, Quake, and Duke 3D on my Nintendo 64 a lot more than I enjoyed playing them on my PC, where I just made maps. Because on the PC I would save all the time, especially before or after hard parts, or if I had played well and gained a significant advantage.

On my Nintendo 64, I actually had to rise to the challenge, and become good at the levels to beat them. On the PC if there was a hallway with 5 really tough guards, guarding a door to a boss, I could cheaply save after killing each one of them. On the console versions, I had to man up and kill them all at once, and then go lay the smackdown on the boss.

I tend to enjoy the content a lot more in the games where I can't save whenever. And the saving and loading seems to be a bad mechanic for people who just want to get through a game.

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Provide an option at the very beginning of the game to let players choose. Explain that the game has been balanced to work without save-anytime, and that enabling it is purely a crutch. Don't allow them to change the option during the game.

In addition, make sure a quit-and-resume feature is always available.

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To answer the question, I firmly believe saving at any time can ruin the challenge of a game. However, in today's day and age where people can't sit down for more than five minutes because of busy schedules, classic arcade style games are having save features.

While I understand the notion of the whole thing and why it's done and I too am appreciative of the feature, it still doesn't change the fact that it does ruin the challenge of a game. Call me old school but half the challenge was being determined to repeat parts several times to get to the one wrecking spot and beat it.

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Original post by Tangireon
can such a feature ruin the challenge originally presented by the game?
Yes. Does that matter? A player who wishes to be challenged can choose not to make use of this feature - you could even do as some other games do and allow an "iron man" mode which disables normal save features and (if appropriate) only saves/loads progress upon exit/startup.



One option is to avoid the issue altogether, or significantly diminish it through the introduction of mechanics such as the time-rewinding in the new Prince of Persia games where the majority of the time players will be able to rewind to before a mistake occured.



If you search the forums you should find plenty of older discussions on this issue, it's a pretty common one. I personally tend to side with the idea of allowing players to save/load and play your game as they wish.

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Original post by jbadams
A player who wishes to be challenged can choose not to make use of this feature

Isn't that like saying players can choose not to use a super laser cannon if they want to enjoy strategic combat? Or players can avoid capturing enemy cities if they want to keep the gameplay engaging? As the designer, it's your place to decide whether or not to include features that can reduce the quality of the game. If you give players some kind of power, they're going to assume they're meant to use it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't favor the idea of forcing players to repeat gameplay when they fail. But with many of the mentioned games, such as X-Com and Civilization, a lack of unlimited saving doesn't imply repeating anything. It simply forces players to accept individual losses. When it's impossible to revert from a poor decision, it makes the decision more meaningful, regardless of whether you actually use reload or not.

Consider leaving a city defenseless for a turn in Civilization as you use the defending unit to attack another unit to prevent terrain improvements from being destroyed. The odds of losing the city while the unit is away might be extremely small. But with absolute consequences, small is probably still too dangerous. The improvement is a necessary sacrifice for safety. In this situation, save/load probably wouldn't be used in either case, but it's availability changes everything.

Some things are worth reloading for, regardless of how hardcore you are. I, for one, would have a better gaming experience without the ability. If I can disable it at the beginning of the game, that would suffice.

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Original post by Kest
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Original post by jbadams
If I can disable it at the beginning of the game, that would suffice.
That was my actual suggestion, yes. Allow the player to enable/disable (depending on your faults) such things at their discretion, but not change that selection during gameplay.

Quote:
Original post by sirkibble2
While I understand the notion of the whole thing and why it's done and I too am appreciative of the feature, it still doesn't change the fact that it does ruin the challenge of a game.
It just occured to me that in some cases a game can be made more challenging by save/reload features. In Zuma it's much easier to work your way up to the high levels in one play rather than starting from too high up, and have you ever tried jumping into a game of Tetris that is already running very fast? For arcade or casual games it can sometimes be very difficult for the player to jump in at a point that is fairly advanced in gameplay.

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There are a few titles I havent bought because of a shitty save feature. As "hardcore" as some people want to make it by making you use save points vs save anywhere this pretty much completely limits the game for some people. Some people can only play 10 - 15 min at a time. (I am one of those people) and need the ability to save anywhere.

I say let the player decide but if you cant let them save anywhere. It makes the experience more enjoyable for those of us who do not get days off or hours off to play a game.

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Original post by Chrono1081
There are a few titles I havent bought because of a shitty save feature. As "hardcore" as some people want to make it by making you use save points vs save anywhere this pretty much completely limits the game for some people. Some people can only play 10 - 15 min at a time. (I am one of those people) and need the ability to save anywhere.

As mentioned above, though, theres a difference between save'n'load and "suspending" the game. You can have the game save and quite and automatically pick up where it left off, without allowing players to save and load whenever and however they want.


Personally, I think it often can ruin the challenge. And moreover, Im a big believer that most people arent actually self aware enough to know what choices will bring them the most enjoyment. Therefore, Im in favour of limiting saving as much as possible in games where it will affect the pacing or challenge.

Perhaps the best method would be a combination of "suspension" type saving and a sparse checkpoint system. Then players can stop playing at any time without losing progress, and they have a method to restart a section if absolutely necessary and the loss of progress is outweighed by the benefit (eg, getting inextricably stuck on a terrain feature, or encountering a bug in the main plot scripting), but theyre discouraged from reloading without a strong reason.

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All these systems have negative points:

Save wherever you want
The player may use the save/load system to cheat. For example, in a D&D RPG game, he may reload until he rolls a good dice, in a strategy game he might use it for reconnaissance, in a FPS to avoid surprise attacks, etc.

Save points
Are a reason of very frustrating repeat-5-minutes-of-gameplay loops. Each player has different strengths and you cannot predict exactly which situations are going to be challenging, so you will inevitably end up with these reload-loops that force the player to play through the same 5 minutes over and over just to reach the location he is having problems at.

Example: Mass Effect - the final boss has an emotional cut scene played. The first time you see it, it contributes to the atmosphere. If you fail, you are forced to watch it again. Next time, you see it again. At the tenth repetition, you're truly pissed of at shooting down the same bastard again and again and watching the same cutscene over and over.

Example: Rainbow Six Vegas 2 - the final boss flies in and destroys part of the house the player is in. The first time, its cool. The second time you're less impressed. The third time you are mildly annoyed having to sit out the cut scene. The tenth time it is highly frustrating having to watch the same stupid speech and shoting the same enemies coming from the same locations yet again.

Limited Saves
At least I start to get very careful using these saves. They're the only thing that could prevent me from having to replay the last 30 or more minutes a second time, so I try to use them right before difficult places. However, I don't know when a difficult situation is ahead, so I often end up having to replay even more of the game than I would likely need to using save points.

A second issue is if the player runs out of saves. In the extreme case, he might be forced to play an hour without saving, making no mistakes and no decisions that might turn out to be dead ends.

No dying
Takes away some of the suspense.

Example: In Prey, you could revive any number of times after dying. You would move into the astral plane, defeat some enemies that restored your health and then reawaken at the place you died.

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I always find these discussions to be based on a misunderstanding. Or at least I perceive it as that. The misdirection is basically the following: there's is absolutely no need to be "fair" to the computer. There is no need to forbid returning to a previous state because the player got some advantage that can't be undone, like having received crucial informations. It's ok to cheat on the computer. After all, it's a machine. No need to treat it with "fairness" like you would do with a human opponent.

For that reasons I'd say: give the player every control over the game world that he wants. I see the conflict of interest with the game having to pose a challenge to the player to keep him attached. But I'd say that in any case where you have to decide whether to give the player an option or to not give, vote for the additional option. It might be "unfair" to the game because it makes overcoming that certain challenge too easy, but it's the game that suffers this. And after all you made that game to be overcome by the player. It is far more frustrating for the player to not have an obvious option because of limitations perceived as "artificial". Saving/Loading a game is one core point of this little rant: it might be an out-of-context action for the game, it might not fit into the game world, it might even enable the player to bypass a certain challenge, but who cares? The player certainly not.

Of course this only applies to content-driven games. Arcade or multiplayer games are an entirely different area.

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Pretty much, while unlimited saves offer an easy way to "cheat" for the player, it is a necessity. In the real world, people work. They have kids, pets, unlicensed nuclear accelerators, and other issues.

Being forced to replay a section because I had to quit mid-game and had no option to save frustrates me. I doubt most normal people are much different, since it wasn't anything but a bad design flaw that prevented them from walking away.

In addition, on a market perspective, not everyone has the same level of hardcore gaming skill that another may have. I personally quit playing GTA:SA because of the DIAS airplane missions. Forcing a player to not only repeat those badly designed parts (and anytime you redo the same, single mission over and over is VERY bad design, worthy of being fired over)but a section before hand all the way to where ever the last save point was is also bad design.

In this, I prefer to give the players the option of what to do. They have the power to save as needed; and if they wish a greater challenge, they can do an Iron Man run. If you don't know, that is where you can save your game, but not reload it; games designed with this in mind delete the save on load, and when you die, it's truly game over. Many Rogue-likes and Wizardry 8 have the feature. But, you still have the ability to freely save.

Limiting saves has always turned out to be a design flaw, every time I played a game that did so. I ended up being more frustrated by the game than I had enjoyed it. The only exception was Resident Evil, which had a limited number of saves based on a single item up until 4. But, they wisely included plenty of ink ribbons to save with, and the game design itself meant that it wasn't an issue to go back to a nearby typewriter to save. If they had either reduced the number of saves or removed some of the typewriters, the fun would have dropped off significantly. RE4 was still a vast improvement over the prior model.

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Assuming there is a game that is out only for PC/Mac, and that game allows you to save your game progress and reload previous save files at any time during the course of your play, can such a feature ruin the challenge originally presented by the game?

I would say it depends on the player. If the player wants to maintain the intent of the designer, then they won't abuse this to cheat. However, if a player wants to cheat, they can use it, or they will use some other method to do so (so you will not stop a cheater this way).

However, by restricting saves, then you effect how a non cheating player can experience your game. Real life gets in the way of gaming, so if you restrict their ability to set aside your game when real life comes knocking, then they are not going to be happy.

So restriction saves does not stop those that want to cheat, and it annoys those that wouldn't abuse saving in the first place. It is a loose - loose situation.

But, if you don't restrict the saves, then those who wouldn't cheat are happy, and those that do cheat are happy. A Win - Win situation.

Remember, those that cheat will do so regardless of your actions, so you are not loosing out on your intent with them, but if people stop playing because they are annoyed, then you will loose your intent (the basic one being: that people play the game).

So the moral is: Don't make it hard for the legitimate user (this should also apply to DRM and copy protection as well).

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I vote for saving anytime, or possibly a system where you can save anytime, but only load it once. That would allow a player to save whenever they wanted, but not allow them to constantly reload to cheat.

My example is Phantasy Star Online for the XBox. In that game, you could only save was when you were in the "city." And if you saved and came back, you lost all your progress on the level you had open. This wasn't bad at first, as the levels were only about an hour, hour and a half long, but the last level could easily stretch 5 hours if you were playing it for the first time.

It did save the progress you made on your characters (items and XP), but it was a HUGE hassle to decide to lose all my progress after getting half way through a level or to push another 3 hours to finish.

Forcing the player to continue to play when he doesn't want to isn't good. As such, I gave up PSO, since I didn't have enough time to sit down and play it.

If you are concerned with people abusing save, I'd highly recommend implementing a save anywhere, load once feature. This would prevent abuse.

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Original post by Schrompf
I always find these discussions to be based on a misunderstanding. Or at least I perceive it as that. The misdirection is basically the following: there's is absolutely no need to be "fair" to the computer. There is no need to forbid returning to a previous state because the player got some advantage that can't be undone, like having received crucial informations. It's ok to cheat on the computer. After all, it's a machine. No need to treat it with "fairness" like you would do with a human opponent.

For that reasons I'd say: give the player every control over the game world that he wants. I see the conflict of interest with the game having to pose a challenge to the player to keep him attached. But I'd say that in any case where you have to decide whether to give the player an option or to not give, vote for the additional option. It might be "unfair" to the game because it makes overcoming that certain challenge too easy, but it's the game that suffers this. And after all you made that game to be overcome by the player. It is far more frustrating for the player to not have an obvious option because of limitations perceived as "artificial". Saving/Loading a game is one core point of this little rant: it might be an out-of-context action for the game, it might not fit into the game world, it might even enable the player to bypass a certain challenge, but who cares? The player certainly not.

The problem with this argument is that it also applies to any game breaking decision, like granting the player the Infinity Plus One Sword straight off the bat. The player doesn't have to use the game-breaking weapon just because you gave it to them, right?

It's the game designers job to balance the challenges in the game with the actions available to the player. If the game designer presents an action to the player that is clearly superior to the alternative, it's not the players fault if they use this and end up with little challenge to the game.

That's my main issue with save and load anywhere. It's presented as part of the action set avaiable to the player as part of the gameplay strategy. How many game manuals state "save often, save in multiple slots"? I think it's a cop out for a designer to then say it's the player's fault for spoiling the game through save game abuse.

I wouldn't have this issue if the saving process was clearly labelled as something the player wasn't expected to do, like if it was in through a cheat menu. That way it's shown to be an action that will lead to spoiling the game.

I'll have to note again that this has nothing to do with suspending the game. I don't see any reason why a designer would not want to add the capability in a game to save and quit at any point. It's bad design to make someone replay a section because they had to quit. Plus I also agree that games that force you to replay large sections of game after losin (or worse, watch unskippable cutscenes) are still bad design and should be fixed regardless of the save game policy. If a game is properly designed around a non-save-anywhere strategy it should not have these problems.

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Hey guys, thanks for the great replies, they're definitely some great tips/considerations that provide greater insight into the current game systems we have that we often consider standard. My apologies if there have been topics on this before here - I guess I not only wanted to see opinions about the topic but also to explore and interact with them further as well. I’m doing this because, well, I’ve an important question to be answered in one of my personal game projects involving saves as well as questioning the current and most common methods of implementing game saving that are out there.

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Quote:
Original post by zer0wolf
I sure don't like having to replay through an entire level just because well, I have to go to work or get some dinner for my daughter.

Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Having to play the same easy bit over and over just to try the one hard bit you failed at last time is annoying.

Quote:
Original post by Chrono1081
There are a few titles I havent bought because of a shitty save feature. As "hardcore" as some people want to make it by making you use save points vs save anywhere this pretty much completely limits the game for some people. Some people can only play 10 - 15 min at a time. (I am one of those people) and need the ability to save anywhere.

Quote:
Original post by domhnall4h
Pretty much, while unlimited saves offer an easy way to "cheat" for the player, it is a necessity. In the real world, people work. They have kids, pets, unlicensed nuclear accelerators, and other issues.

Being forced to replay a section because I had to quit mid-game and had no option to save frustrates me. I doubt most normal people are much different, since it wasn't anything but a bad design flaw that prevented them from walking away.


I agree that the leave-&-save-anytime feature is definitely something that one has to consider when making a game these days, especially now when more types of consumers (the old, the young, and everyone in-between) are playing them. I immediately thought of the ol’ analogy of comparing books/novels to games - because modern non-casual games now are so intertwined with story telling, it would indeed make sense to have some sort of "Bookmark" system to suspend your progress and return to it on a later date.

But, what if a FPS game such as Half-Life implemented such a bookmark/suspension system in their game, while also only providing limited saves in the form of checkpoints before every major confrontation (such as before every major battle), much similar to how some games give you save points right before a boss battle? Wouldn’t allowing you to personally quicksave each time you make a kill in such a battle and reloading those save files whenever you die ruin the entire cumulative battle experience? Wouldn’t this go against the original intent of the big battle itself, to which was to provide a challenge to the player to see how well they could cope in a situation with many enemies at once in a certain length of time?

Now I’m not trying to make a case of hardcore vs. “softcore” or even casual vs non-casual here with the issue of the save systems, for a game using limited saves can still have its gameplay be played by non-hardcore or even casual gamers, as long as the challenge was catered to them (to which is most commonly provided by the “Easy, Normal, Hard” difficulty level settings you see in games). What I am trying to see is whether or not having limited saves can bolster one’s experience with a game, to which part of it is caused by the tension/adrenaline or sense of survival provided by the increased sense of challenge, to which can cause a player to become more engaged with the game, much more akin with the level of tension/uncertainty you have with Multiplayer games.

If the fear of loss/death became more elevated in a game, wouldn’t that cause the player to become more engaged with the game? In this case, it is much more than digitally stored “lives” that decrement when you die, I’m talking about the player losing part of his/her labor (time and energy) to which he spent into the game, whether this is about achieving a certain amount of progress, or for the case of MMORPGs to which this sense is applied very similarly, losing a few character levels or items to which you worked really hard at.

[Edited by - Tangireon on June 25, 2008 1:23:38 PM]

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Original post by Telastyn
…if a player wants to neuter their entertainment by reloading until their guy hits, they're just going to get a trainer or some other cheat anyways.

Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by jbadams
A player who wishes to be challenged can choose not to make use of this feature

If you give players some kind of power, they're going to assume they're meant to use it.

Quote:
Original post by Schrompf
The misdirection is basically the following: there's is absolutely no need to be "fair" to the computer.

Quote:
Original post by Edtharan
I would say it depends on the player. If the player wants to maintain the intent of the designer, then they won't abuse this to cheat. However, if a player wants to cheat, they can use it, or they will use some other method to do so (so you will not stop a cheater this way).

I’d have to agree with the fact that if a game provided a certain mechanic, then using it to “cheat” wouldn’t be cheating at all, for the mechanic was designed and provided to you by the developers; so you are only perhaps cheating the original game design intention. And if doing so is indeed considered “cheating” the game experience, then what we would have is a contradictory (or a poorly designed) game in the end. Such as reloading your game whenever you come across a surprise attack to which takes away half of your health, so that the next time you try that scenario again by reloading a previous saved game you are prepared for them and thus walk away with full health. It wouldn’t become a surprise attack if you played the game all the way through a second time definitely, but the point is that when you come across the surprise attack on your first time, taking its damage to which weakens you should and could be considered part of the memorable game experience that you continue to keep and walk away with to your next in-game confrontation, not something you avoid with a save file reload.

This is perhaps what makes multiplayer games so popular – there are no save or reload mechanics, and every decision you make in a game you have to take its consequences and use them to adapt and launch new strategies based upon your new condition, for better or for worse. Everyone always wants to be successful and in tip-top condition in a single-player game, but there could be lots of good gameplay to be had when you are forced to cope with a loss or handicap and use it somehow to adapt and adjust your strategies appropriately. Many single-player games do just that – literally have a segment in the game’s storyline where they force you to become handicapped (such as taking all of your weapons away) to which could not have been prevented in a save-file reload. If a game has to create unavoidable instances in a game such as these just to provide that sense of challenge to which was supposed to be distributed throughout the game, then isn’t that just making up for a bit of contradictory game design?

Then you’d also have to address the issue about how players should treat their games – whether they should follow the design intention of the designers or not. Of course players would all treat the same piece of software differently, but I would have to say, in my opinion, that if a designer designed a game with a particular set of intentions and saw that his/her players played the game much differently from his original intent of use, I would say that he had personally failed despite whether or not the product he created became a popular success – how can you rely on the same person to design another successful game with specific goals unless he follows his same old formula that he established, rigidly?

People, IMO, will judge their experience with their product according to the purpose that the designer intended. If it is explicitly stated that a game is to be played like a software toy, then people will judge their game experience by playing the game like a software toy. If it is explicitly stated that a game is a single-player military strategic FPS, then that is what expectations people will bring into the game.

[Edited by - Tangireon on June 25, 2008 9:27:15 AM]

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Original post by jbadams
It just occurred to me that in some cases a game can be made more challenging by save/reload features.

I could definitely see this applied to other many other games and genres as well, or those that use incremental difficulty as you spend more time playing the game. For instance, FPS games might have harder enemies (faster agility much like faster falling blocks in Tetris) for you to kill later in the game. I guess the way to solve this is to implement some sort of “Practice Room” like the practice simulator provided by the Metal Gear Solid series to which you could use anytime to practice various skills that the main game sequence teaches to you.

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Original post by Cygon
All these systems have negative points:

Save points
Are a reason of very frustrating repeat-5-minutes-of-gameplay loops. Each player has different strengths and you cannot predict exactly which situations are going to be challenging, so you will inevitably end up with these reload-loops that force the player to play through the same 5 minutes over and over just to reach the location he is having problems at.

Example: Mass Effect - the final boss has an emotional cut scene played. The first time you see it, it contributes to the atmosphere. If you fail, you are forced to watch it again. Next time, you see it again. At the tenth repetition, you're truly pissed of at shooting down the same bastard again and again and watching the same cutscene over and over.

Example: Rainbow Six Vegas 2 - the final boss flies in and destroys part of the house the player is in. The first time, its cool. The second time you're less impressed. The third time you are mildly annoyed having to sit out the cut scene. The tenth time it is highly frustrating having to watch the same stupid speech and shoting the same enemies coming from the same locations yet again.

I definitely had in mind the Final Fantasy series when you gave out your examples. But, what if the movie cutscenes or dialogue were skippable? You could perhaps make it so that on your first run through, all things that you must read or watch are defaulted to “Show”, but if you died or decided to reload a previous game, these things are defaulted to “Hide” – or these things could be managed by the player under the Options section of the game’s main menu. If these things are skippable, then I can only see that Save Points have the least drawbacks out of all the other types of game save systems.

Also, if you made your Save Points more numerous, perhaps giving checkpoints before each and every major confrontation (not the minor ones), then that would perhaps solve the "repeat the easy parts" problem. The thing here is to remove the quicksaving/quickloading in the heat of battle to force players to adapt with their mistakes, while keeping the saving of their progress in the game.

[Edited by - Tangireon on June 25, 2008 10:28:55 AM]

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Original post by Trapper Zoid

The problem with this argument is that it also applies to any game breaking decision, like granting the player the Infinity Plus One Sword straight off the bat. The player doesn't have to use the game-breaking weapon just because you gave it to them, right?


Nope not at all related. Being able to save isn't a game play mechanic(unless you are talking about that penn and teller game). If I am odd enough to save after every shot fired in Xcom then so be it(they should have made the game deterministic so some shots would always miss). You still haven't explained why your game is so broken that some one running through the game playing perfectly disturbs you. Weather they do it a piece at a time or in one sit down. Saving your game is not cheating, it is not abusing a game play mechanic if saving and reloading breaks your game then your game is broken.

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Letting the player decide to use reload during play is just plain bad. In the real world, as mortal humans, we have an extremely limited capacity to change or control our environment, and things often don't go the way we want them to because of those limitations. This has lead to an unquenchable urge to employ everything in our power to set things straight.

That's why it's unsafe to leave it up to players to decide to use reload on a situational basis. You're going to let your ally die or your favorite gun explode just because you're too uptight to use a feature? The only way to be hardcore enough to not suffer because of the ability to reload would be to imagine that the option doesn't exist.

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Original post by stonemetal
Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
The problem with this argument is that it also applies to any game breaking decision, like granting the player the Infinity Plus One Sword straight off the bat. The player doesn't have to use the game-breaking weapon just because you gave it to them, right?


Nope not at all related. Being able to save isn't a game play mechanic(unless you are talking about that penn and teller game).

It is a gameplay mechanic. Otherwise, we could just implement a quit-and-resume feature and be done with it.

Quote:
If I am odd enough to save after every shot fired in Xcom then so be it(they should have made the game deterministic so some shots would always miss). You still haven't explained why your game is so broken that some one running through the game playing perfectly disturbs you.

You still haven't explained why your mojo is so broken that you need to play the game perfectly. For the record, rewinding the game to fix every one of your blunders is not playing perfectly. It's just being a sore loser.

And for what it's worth, this whole defensive perspective that designers want to employ magic evil to stop players from doing certain things is just bent. We don't have a problem with save/load as a designer, we have a problem with it as a player. It's a terrible crutch to fix a countless mass of other problems. We need to fix those other problems and get rid of unlimited saving.

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My personal opinion on this common issue is that saving/reloading should be avoided, as it does put too much unnecessary power in the players hands, thus unbalancing the game itself if it were to be played without using save/reload as an important tactic.

But I want to mention a counter-example.

Max Payne. When I first played that game, I absolutely loved the save/reload feature and how incredibly quick it was! It was nearly instant. This allowed me to Quick Save just before entering the room of bad guys, and then Quick Load many many times until I would get it absolutely right. Kill all bad guys with as few bullets and don't get hit one time.

However, I didn't do it because I wanted to get a 'perfect' save and complete the game with no health lost. That's completely not why. Instead, I did it because it was incredibly FUN! It was the first game I played with bullet-time and all that, so I was really having fun replaying the same 'scene' many times before I'd finally go on with the rest. The quick saving/loading allowed to me squeeze much more fun out of the game than if it didn't have the said feature.

Of course, it took away the challenege/surprises/etc., so it's not without negative consequences.

However, I felt that in Max Payne, at least for me, the Benefits of a very fast Quick Save/Load system were absolutely enormous, and completely outweighted the negative aspects.

Of course, later on in the game as I had gotten enough of the bullet-time, I would use the quick save/load a lot less frequently.

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Just something to consider. I guess the message I'm trying to get across is that having a save/load anywhere system in your game puts the player in a position of a Director rather than a Participant. He has more power to orchestrate his interactive experience the way he wants to. He has control over the game, if he wants to use it.

On the other hand, without the safety net of quick load/save anywhere, you end up as a more active participant of the environment, like you're inside of a movie, but with less ability to control it to suit your own desires. The plus side is things like surprise twists, scaring the player, putting him in bizarre and unexpected situations can be done more effectively by the Game Designer.

In a way, whether or not there is a save/load-anywhere system will decide if the Player, or the Game Designer gets the larger part of the 'game-experience-orchestrator' role. I guess some players would want to take on that role themselves (i.e. prefer save-anywhere), others might want to rely on the Game Designer to do it (make an enjoyable experience) for them (i.e. no save/reload-anywhere).

IMO, depending on the game, both modes can be fun in their own way. Maybe that's why it's so hard for us to agree on one approach as superior, because both have their up-sides and if you have to choose between the two, then you have to sacrifice some amount of possible fun in your game.

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