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Tangireon

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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