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SonicSilcion

Save Games : "Experience"-Based & Objective-Based

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Yes, here we go again with The Quest for the Ultimate Save Game Method. After reading nearly all of the threads here dicussing how "saved games" (that is, the recording of a players progress in a game) I''ve come up with a few ideas of my own (which I believe have yet to be mentioned, I may be wrong.) An "Experience"-Based Save Game System: Everything action the user performs is noted by the game. Each action would be weighted with a value based on how much of a difference it will make on progress though the game. When the user has earned a high enough value by performing actions such as Defeating an Enemy, Throwing a Switch, Using a Key, etc. the user will have "generated" an item that may be used to save the game. This way there will always be a save for people who are accomplishing tasks within the game but will stop the "saveaholics" from clearly not playing the game as intended. I leave it to the designer to judge how to value actions and wheter or not to reset the accumulated value to nothing or to meerly subtract the value of one save (the latter should calculate the number of saves remaining.) An Objective-Based System: Many games have Quests, Missions, Tasks, and whatnot. Usually they are comprised of smaller objectives, of which can be kept track of by the game. This is already done in some of those games (to notify the player of success,) so no code really would need the be added in those cases. The difference is that the state of said objectives is monitored by the save game code. When an objective is accomplished, the game is saved. This allows for many options: the save criteria can be location based (Got to the Sand Castle,) time based (Didn''t move from That There Spot until Noon,) or item based (Retrieved the Medallion of Stench *phwew!*,) or action based (Dressed in Drag (which seems to be gaining popularity in a few RPGs.)) It also rewards the player for progess and they most likely will never have to think about it. I leave it to the designer to judge how many levels of sub-objectives to account for. For instance collecting five items doens''t sound difficult, but are they all in the same room or spread out over an area? In each case would you want t he player to get all five items before a save occurs, just get one, or maybe even hand one out just for reaching a location along the journey.

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The only problem with such systems is some unfortunate accident that could end up alienating the player (making the game less fun). If, for example, we''re working in an RPG with one of the systems, and the player isn''t very good at watching HP, he could die in a random battle right next to an event save point. Or... he could die in a boss fight that IS an event or exp save point. This would have to be designed around. However, if done correctly (and such a save state is done in action scrolling games all the time), it could probably work, so long as the designer is good enough to realize how to balance the system.

Something that is used really often and might work just as well is a once only location based save. If you''ve ever played Klona(s?p) 2, there are save spots at given locations that can only be hit once. This might work, so long as you provide saves coming into, and coming out of, hard areas.

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AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can we please stop thinking about this?? How the heck did game saves ever go from a simple continuation method to a gameplay element?? I''m sure we can think of better things to focus the player''s attention on rather then whether or not he has enough points to save his game!
quote:

This way there will always be a save for people who are accomplishing tasks within the game but will stop the "saveaholics" from clearly not playing the game as intended


yet another example of designer dictatorship. I want someone to try and give me an example of a "savaholic" who was unhappy with his gameplay experience because he saved to much. Come on, I dare you.

The Ultimate Save Game Method
Letting the player save whenever he wants!!!

yes, this was a rant. Please excuse my abhorrent behavior *storms off*

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Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Staff Member, GDNet
Public Relations, Game Institute

3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)
Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate

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Although I can see how it might be interesting in some ways to limit saves, the term "clearly not playing the game as intended" gives me a bad feeling. I decide how I write the game: they decide how to play it. People who want that tense feeling of imminent disaster if they make 1 wrong move will willingly play on Expert level or will only save at the start of a level anyway.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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*raises hand* I''m a savaholic who has his game ruined by saving too often. I didn''t used to be so bad, but with the amount of horrifically buggy RPGs being released these days, with solutions like "If you accidentally talk to the people in the wrong order, go back to an earlier save", i feel like i need to keep about 20 saves and save every 5 minutes. This in itself is annoying, but it also takes all the tension out of a battle if nothing bad happens when you lose (You just do it over and over from the save until it''s done right). Let''s take Baldur''s Gate, etc. for example. I could have only saved every 20 minutes and done it all over if i got killed, but why should i when the game lets me save constantly? And as long as i''m saving constantly, i might as well not bother detecting traps or scouting out with a thief, i''ll just run headlong through the dungeon and reload if i step on a trap or encounter a battle. Now, the problem is that BG seemed to be designed to be played that way (maybe not with a save every 2 minutes, but at least one save every 10 minutes), in that the only way to develop a strategy for a difficult battle was to have experienced (and been killed in) that battle first. On the other hand, if you think of Nethack, which has no reloading at all (unless you cheat), i would be on the edge of my seat in every battle. Of course, that was also designed to be much less repetetive than most RPGs when you have to restart from the beginning....

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quote:
Original post by makeshiftwings
Let''s take Baldur''s Gate, etc. for example. I could have only saved every 20 minutes and done it all over if i got killed, but why should i when the game lets me save constantly? And as long as i''m saving constantly, i might as well not bother detecting traps or scouting out with a thief, i''ll just run headlong through the dungeon and reload if i step on a trap or encounter a battle.


Okay, so you say that by saving your game a lot you effectively ruined the gameplay experience. That''s nice. So does this also mean that you are so irresponsible that you need this option taken away from you in order to play a game to your enjoyment? Fool! If saving a lot obviously ruined the game and you had the option to save only every so often so you would be more cautious and "on the edge of your seat", then your argument falls flat on its face to the fact that you deserve what you did to yourself. Next!



_________________________________________________________________

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Staff Member, GDNet
Public Relations, Game Institute

3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)
Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate

NJ IGDA Chapter - NJ developers unite!! [Chapter Home | Chapter Forum]

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*raises hand* Savegames are evil. Because of them games have to become very hard, if they are to challenge a player. Because they are so hard it becomes impossible to not use savegames. It''s a vicious cycle and the next thing you know you use the auto-save button more than the reload weapon one. I remember with horror playing Panzer General and reloading again and again and again and again because the enemy kept killing one of my units.

Text games like nethack are _very_ good without savegames: you must be carefull at all times, you must make a lot of decisions that would simply be skipped with savegame cheating, like makeshiftwings mentioned. Thief without savegames is a wonder. Thief with savegames becomes boring pretty fast.

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Diablo and Diablo II have great savegame systems. You choose the character that you want to play, and the game enters where you last left off. If you want to save the game, you must exit the game.

I personally like the idea of procedural-saves rather than event-saves; the main question that arises in my mind is, how do you manage often-changing data (such as movement) Save this state upon every change in movement? Take a snapshot of the character''s current position once per 100ms?

Great ideas though.



MatrixCubed
http://MatrixCubed.cjb.net






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quote:
Original post by Gaiiden
Okay, so you say that by saving your game a lot you effectively ruined the gameplay experience. That''s nice. So does this also mean that you are so irresponsible that you need this option taken away from you in order to play a game to your enjoyment? Fool! If saving a lot obviously ruined the game and you had the option to save only every so often so you would be more cautious and "on the edge of your seat", then your argument falls flat on its face to the fact that you deserve what you did to yourself. Next!


Whether or not he deserves what he did to himself, I''m willing to bet he was dissatisfied with Baldur''s Gate for allowing and actually encouraging him to save so often. This would mean less sales for Baldur''s Gate.

You can''t count on players to be so responsible that they will play a game to their maximum enjoyment. It''s like having a popup window every time a monster turns up in an RPG - "Would you like to fight this monster or just skip the battle and get experience anyway? Fight/Skip". Not everyone is going to choose the option that will make the game satisfying for them.

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quote:
Original post by Gaiiden
So does this also mean that you are so irresponsible that you need this option taken away from you in order to play a game to your enjoyment? Fool! If saving a lot obviously ruined the game and you had the option to save only every so often so you would be more cautious and "on the edge of your seat", then your argument falls flat on its face to the fact that you deserve what you did to yourself. Next!


The player == the customer. The customer is NEVER wrong. Having a save option CAN and DOES ruin the ultimate "edge of your seat" feeling, because at a certain stress level, you will simply save because you can''t take it. If you can''t save, or at least not the way you want to, you will have to face that stress level.

That being said, some games completely miss the mark. I remember playing the first level of Soldier of Fortune, and doing it without saving. At first, it was great - I snuck around, being very careful, taking clues from the way characters acted, thinking the AI must be very good. I mean, you shoot this guy, and wound him, and he gets on his knees, cowering, begging for mercy. First thought: the moment I turn my back, he''s just going to grab a gun and kill me. Turns out there''s no such thing in the damn game. Any time you get a character that far, he stays that way. BAH. Finished the game on nearly NO saves, until the final baddy. Final baddy == the kind of "challenge" where even if you empty a full complement of EVERY weapon you can carry at full ammo, it''s still not dead. Sorry, but that is just a pure waste of my time. That''s not even a challenge, that''s just a slugfest. I saved before that fight the second time, and had to reload several times before actually "winning" (HAH!) the game. Because of a VERY badly designed challenge.

That is particularly why games with NO saves would be even more annoying. Just one badly playtested challenge, and you''d lose 90% of the players. Not much room for error! Save games make the designer''s job easier.




People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

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Well, I took twenty-five minutes last night writing a response, but the good ol'' MS software died whe I tried to post.

"Experience"-based saves : This was intended as an extension/improvement of hwo save games are handled on consoles. I personally don''t think it''s that good, but console games tend to adhere to precedented conventions far more frequently than personal computer games.

"You messed up, so, hah!" : Saving in the Objective-based system is only supposed to happen when a certain group of events have occured and or items have been retireved. Do something out of order which gets you stuck should not become a trap since a save should not occur unless the order is correct. It becomes a responsibility for the designer to take care of, but I feel that if the sequence is created properly the save game check will simply become an extension of the process. (I''ll explain in further detail if you want, I just felt this was become long-winded.)

Saveaholics Annonymous : *raises hand* Yup, I''ve done it too. My first addiction? Tomb Raider. (No, NOT because of her!) There were far too many jumps that required perfect execution, too many hidden ammo stashes and weapons, and just too many enemies that make cheap-shock horror movies look like a barren wasteland. In short the design became excrutiating rather than entertaining to me.
I mistankingly equated the act of saving more often than the designer intended as the reason why the gameplay experience became bad. What I chould have said (and what I meant to say) is that if the person feels like saving wherever and whenver that''s fine, but to feel like they need to or actually needing to save that often ruins the experience. The reason is that most likely they die often and retracing prvious steps will be tedious, boring, and time-consuming.
Of course there are people who will save literally every 15 seconds, not because of real-world time constraints or difficuly of the game, but beacuse they want to achieve perfection (personally I don''t think it should be rewarded in most genres.)

Which brings me back to Objective-based auto saving. My idea is that the game can be picked up and put down at any moment because the saves will happen at logical breaks. Also, I feel the saving should never have to be truly initaed by the player as that can break the immersion of playing. The only time they should think about a saved game is when the come back to the game.
Lastly I completely forgot one huge chunk of the Obhective based saving system. It is supposed to generate a new slot in a list of saved points. All of the points would be part of a single save game file or folder (I think a folder would be prefereable for integrity reasons.) That way multiple players on one system need only change the file/folder to resume their own quest.

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Why is a save method needed?

When reality calls, I don''t want to let the good times I had with my current game of choice go to waste. I want to be able to save my progress and continue where I left off next time.

What is the ultimate save method?

The best way to design a save method is to give the player the ability to save at ANY time at ANY PLACE.

What is the most important aspect of a save method?

It''s not the way you save the game that''s important, it''s the way that you load that saved game. What happens to the save game after I load it? Does it remain there for me to be used, giving me the option to endlessly use it? Does it disappear immediately upon use, giving me only the option to continue where I left off?

----------------------------

I think the best save game design is one that let''s a player save any time, any place, but if needed restricts the way a player can load that save game.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Gaiiden
Okay, so you say that by saving your game a lot you effectively ruined the gameplay experience. That''s nice. So does this also mean that you are so irresponsible that you need this option taken away from you in order to play a game to your enjoyment? Fool! If saving a lot obviously ruined the game and you had the option to save only every so often so you would be more cautious and "on the edge of your seat", then your argument falls flat on its face to the fact that you deserve what you did to yourself. Next!

Look at the terminology here: saveAHOLIC!
Obviously this guy (and many others) has a problem, and you are being quite insensitive.
Say that to a heroin addict and you''ll end up in an alley dead and with no shoes.

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quote:
Original post by SonicSilcion
*raises hand* Yup, I''ve done it too. My first addiction? Tomb Raider. (No, NOT because of her!) There were far too many jumps that required perfect execution, too many hidden ammo stashes and weapons, and just too many enemies that make cheap-shock horror movies look like a barren wasteland. In short the design became excrutiating rather than entertaining to me.
I mistankingly equated the act of saving more often than the designer intended as the reason why the gameplay experience became bad. What I chould have said (and what I meant to say) is that if the person feels like saving wherever and whenver that''s fine, but to feel like they need to or actually needing to save that often ruins the experience.


The dilemma you are experiencing here is attributed to bad game design, not the ability to save whenever you want. *reads it again* I''m glad you realized this. Your last statement I agree to wholeheartedly - finally some sanity!! Let''s not all make the mistake of blaming bad gameplay on the ability to save whenever you want.

This brings up an interesting topic of game designers who use save games the other way around. Instead of implementing restrictions to make the players do things the way he wants them to, the designer makes tedious puzzles and bosses based on the idea that the player can save his game anytime beforehand and keep playing till he emerges victorious. This is just as evil and any designer who thinks like this should be whipped.



_________________________________________________________________

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Staff Member, GDNet
Public Relations, Game Institute

3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)
Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate

NJ IGDA Chapter - NJ developers unite!! [Chapter Home | Chapter Forum]

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quote:
Original post by makeshiftwings
Now, the problem is that BG seemed to be designed to be played that way (maybe not with a save every 2 minutes, but at least one save every 10 minutes), in that the only way to develop a strategy for a difficult battle was to have experienced (and been killed in) that battle first.

Poor design. Success in this sort of game should be through skill and knowledge, not trial and error. Let''s fix this by making the puzzles require that skill or knowledge instead of treating life and death like a sport that you just need more practice at. Let''s not sidestep this poor design decision by compensating for it with savegames.

quote:
Original post by Diodor
Savegames are evil. Because of them games have to become very hard, if they are to challenge a player.

But the player chooses how much they want to be ''challenged''. If they don''t want to save, they won''t. And again, if you design your game properly, trial and error won''t be the way to win it.

quote:
Original post by MatrixCubed
how do you manage often-changing data (such as movement) Save this state upon every change in movement? Take a snapshot of the character''s current position once per 100ms?

In RPGs and so on, you probably don''t need to save more often than every few seconds, since the distance moved is unlikely to be critical. In an FPS it might be a bit more demanding. I''d say once a second would be enough. Given that you''re only writing a few bytes each second to a disk that can probably handle more than 33MB of data a second, you''d be ok.

quote:
Original post by MadKeithV
The player == the customer. The customer is NEVER wrong. Having a save option CAN and DOES ruin the ultimate "edge of your seat" feeling, because at a certain stress level, you will simply save because you can''t take it.

Or stop playing. Or give up on the game because you can''t progress. Let''s bear in mind that most games bought by customers do not get completed. It''s probably not even 20%. So I''m sure there are more people who have trouble getting far enough on a game than there are people who find it too easy.

Back to the suggested compromises and work-arounds again, then:
i) Allow the player to choose any restrictions on their saving up-front
ii) Allow the player to change difficulty levels 1/2 way through the game if they find it too difficult or easy
iii) Allow free-saving, but make the reload take a long time, or only allow loading when the game starts.
iv) Allow free-saving, but only when leaving the game (variation on (iii)

I think I would choose one or more of the above to try and encourage the player to do without saving/loading, without totally removing that option from them as a practical tool.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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Yeah, i think some of the above people said what i was trying to say. It wasn''t that i "chose" to save all the time in Baldur''s Gate... you HAD to save all the time, because the game was designed that way. One character fails his saving throw while battling mind flayers... BOOM, you have to reload. One badly timed fireball spell.. BOOM, you have to reload. And replaying through the same exact thing once you know what''s going to happen is not fun, it''s annoying. Especially in a game with 90+ hours. I can garuantee anyone who played that game was saving at least every 10 or 20 minutes. And you can say, "Well that''s just poor game design", but if you allow the player to save and reload whenever he wants, the only way to keep it challenging is to make the battles hard enough that you need to save right before each one. Also, i think the problem isn''t whether you''re allowed to *save* whenever you want, but whether you can *reload* whenever you want. Nethack lets you stop and save whenever you want, but you can''t reload back to an earlier save.
If the game had options at the beginning like "Reload anytime" or "No reload anytime", then that might be ok, but if you design your game to be playable with "No reload anytime", it runs the risk of being extremely boring if you choose to play by reloading any time. Nethack is boring if you cheat and copy / reload old save games when you die.

One save system i''d like to see is maybe to combine Nethack''s save with Legend of Zelda (old school NES) save... in that you could do a nethack-save whenever you want (so you can stop and go to the bathroom), but if you reload from an old save (other than your one-slot nethack-save), you start outside the dungeon/ at the beginning of the mission/ etc, like in Zelda. That way you''re not tempted to save/reload constantly, and you will be on the edge of your seat as you get further into the dungeon/mission, but you can still reload an earlier save if you screw up or the game crashes, and only have to go through that dungeon/mission again. Plus, you have the nethack save if you suddenly have to go leave to do something in real life, and you can start right back where you left.

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quote:
Original post by Kylotan
(Original post by MadKeithV
Having a save option CAN and DOES ruin the ultimate "edge of your seat" feeling, because at a certain stress level, you will simply save because you can't take it.)
Or stop playing. Or give up on the game because you can't progress. Let's bear in mind that most games bought by customers do not get completed. It's probably not even 20%. So I'm sure there are more people who have trouble getting far enough on a game than there are people who find it too easy.



Probably true! Reading through my post and the subsequent posts, I'm more and more convinced that saving too often is probably more likely a product of bad game design than a product of having the option.

Time to design games better, so you don't need to save every ten seconds!

*runs off into word processor*




People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

Edited by - MadKeithV on December 20, 2001 4:54:21 AM

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quote:
Original post by makeshiftwings
. . . One save system i'd like to see is maybe to combine Nethack's save with Legend of Zelda (old school NES) save... in that you could do a nethack-save whenever you want (so you can stop and go to the bathroom), but if you reload from an old save (other than your one-slot nethack-save), you start outside the dungeon/ at the beginning of the mission/ etc, like in Zelda. That way you're not tempted to save/reload constantly, and you will be on the edge of your seat as you get further into the dungeon/mission, but you can still reload an earlier save if you screw up or the game crashes, and only have to go through that dungeon/mission again. Plus, you have the nethack save if you suddenly have to go leave to do something in real life, and you can start right back where you left.

Sounds like how saves are handled in some Real-Time Strategy games. You can save at any point in the battle, but it always allows you to start the entire battle over again. (Too bad it isn't in all RTSs, I might actaully play them. Then again, if I actually liked them I would be.) In fact, now that I think about it, it sounds like a polished final version of my fairly roughly outlined Objective-based system, without all of the rambling on . Guess that proves that simplicity in design is always best.

Edited by - SonicSilcion on December 20, 2001 10:08:21 AM

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quote:
Original Post by Kylotan
Poor design. Success in this sort of game should be through skill and knowledge, not trial and error. Let's fix this by making the puzzles require that skill or knowledge instead of treating life and death like a sport that you just need more practice at. Let's not sidestep this poor design decision by compensating for it with savegames.


quote:
Original Post by MadKeithV
Probably true! Reading through my post and the subsequent posts, I'm more and more convinced that saving too often is probably more likely a product of bad game design than a product of having the option.


They see the light!! They see the light!!
quote:
Original Post by Kylotan
But the player chooses how much they want to be 'challenged'. If they don't want to save, they won't. And again, if you design your game properly, trial and error won't be the way to win it.


Whoohoo!!! A beleiver!
quote:
Original Post by makeshiftwings
Also, i think the problem isn't whether you're allowed to *save* whenever you want, but whether you can *reload* whenever you want.


hmmm.... I'll have to give this some thought, my brain was traumatized this morning by a test I did horrible on. Ack.



_________________________________________________________________

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Staff Member, GDNet
Public Relations, Game Institute

3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)
Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate

NJ IGDA Chapter - NJ developers unite!! [Chapter Home | Chapter Forum]

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