Experienced Points: Why We Have Checkpoint Saves

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Apr 23, 2013

Filed under: Column 164 comments


Here’s a little discussion on why making save-games is harder than you’d think. Based on the comments so far, I’m kind of wishing I’d gone into more detail. Since I don’t get to say nice things about Mass Effect very often these days, I will say that the franchise did a pretty good job of balancing save complexity against player convenience. The game allowed you to save outside of combat, which fixes 90% of the problem. It still leaves you with the problem of being unable to save if one of the bad guys goes on walkabout and leaves you stuck in combat and unable to save, but it’s a massive improvement over the checkpoint-only system.


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164 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Why We Have Checkpoint Saves

  1. Piflik says:

    When I had to develop a save function for my first game, I had exactly this problem. And my game is extremely simple compared to most games out there. No physics, no real AI, turn-based gameplay (more or less) and I still limited saves to the beginning of a level since I couldn’t wrap my head around saving everything.

  2. Nimas says:

    Replaying Alpha Protocol now (for reasons) and I must say the lack of quicksave is actually my biggest annoyance with the game. Over bugs, over timed conversations (which I understand why they have, just wish I could turn it off) even over the completely random stealth detection.

    Not being able to save when I want (even outside of combat) is maddeningly aggravating.

    1. Thomas says:

      AP is one of the places I enjoy checkpoint saves. Once you know what you’re doing it’s very easy to stealth through an area very quickly so reloading a checkpoint is sort of reinforcing the stealth badass that you’re becoming.

      Probably more irritating in straight combat

      1. StashAugustine says:

        Alpha Protocol’s checkpoints are pretty awesome for ghosting runs, because they have a tendency to make soldiers disappear for no good reason.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      By the way – Alpha protocol uses Unreal Engine 3. Only had checkpoints.
      Mass effect 1, 2, 3, Dishonored – also use Unreal Engine 3. Full saves, quicksaves, autosaves galore. Heck, ME2 came out in the same year as AP, so it’s not like the engine tech only got saving capabilities after the fact.

      So, I really don’t understand why Alpha Protocol doesn’t have a proper saving system.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        UE3 is just a game engine. It’s not a complete game that you just have to write tweaks and content for. The ME and Dishonored dev teams went through the effort to implement quicksaves, the AP team didn’t. From what I hear, they had the same respective approach to other details like fixing bugs.

      2. Keeshhound says:

        I’m playing through it again, and I think checkpoints were a conscious decision to try to prevent save-scumming and nudge players into just rolling with whatever came along. The real problem with them is that they’re not very well placed, and can easily screw you over if you walk through the wrong door before you’ve finished exploring an area. If they’d done something to mark where the cutoff points were more clearly they’d be much less annoying.

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Funny, to my mind, checkpointing ends up almost encouraging save scumming because that’s pretty much the default mechanism. That said, my definition of save scumming is “reloading from a save until you’re satisfied with the progress of a particular segment” rather than “picking and choosing from a stable of save states to backtrack”.

        2. Incunabulum says:

          I actually stopped playing because of a checkpoint bug.

          SOme mission where I planned to sneak through an airfield (I think – its been a long time). Spawn in the beginning of the mission and no-one is looking at me, have time to duck down and hide. While sneaking through I got caught and killed, respawn at the mission start, standing straight up in full view of three guards who were not in the same state here as they were when I started the mission the first time.

          1. Keeshhound says:

            Apparently you can avoid having that sort of thing happen to you by not choosing “load last checkpoint” and instead manually loading the checkpoint.

            It’s probably too late to convince you, but if you stopped at Saudi you really should give the game another chance; the first chapter or so of AP really is pretty terrible and doesn’t do much to show off how well the game manages to react to your decisions. I know “It gets better, really” is kind of a lame excuse for a bad first impression, but it really does become worlds better after you finish Saudi and get cut loose to go about things more freely.

        3. X2-Eliah says:

          Well, in that case the devs will have earned a big, rose-scented “eff you, a***ole” from me.
          If I want to save scum, then let me do so. And don’t punish me with a stupid saving system because you fear someone, somewhere, may save-scum. This is exactly the mentality of DRM-supporters: “Some part of userbase does bad stuff, so LET’S RUIN STUFF FOR ALL OUR USERS!”.
          Heck, people on these pages *love* to rail against developers that are trying to handhold the user and direct their experience (and rightly so) – overuse of cutscenes, for example, or invisible walls.. Well, how is a “you only get checkpoints because we don’t want to let you save at will” thing any different? It’s literally the developer limiting your choices and behaviour to provide a pre-arranged rail.

          1. Keeshhound says:

            I think you’ll find that using slippery slope arguments rarely adds to the legitimacy of your position. For what it’s worth I’ll say that it’s less about limiting your choices (you can always restart from the safehouse, if it’s that important; missions are usually no longer than 15 minutes) and more about encouraging you to roll with what happens. AP is big on encouraging replays, it’s kind of like a CYOA rather than an open world game. Just without bullshit “gotcha” deaths.

            Obviously, it’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              Basically this.

              Since you get a perk for just about anything you do, the idea of preventing save scumming is less “We don’t want you to go for a perfect run” and more “Hey, if you keep playing, we’ll give you this neat little bonus for how this turned out.”

              An example of where this comes up [Spoilers below]:

              There’s a mission where you learn about details of an attempted assassination to turn a place hostile. When you get the data, it turns out that the assassination is part of a two pronged attack, where another is to start a riot. But the data you got has a virus attacking it, and you’ve only got enough time to save half the data: Either the assassination plot or the riot. You can’t get both. Depending on the choice you make, you get a different cooldown bonus.

              And the game tries to tell you “No, there aren’t any wrong choices, just results.”

              Plus, ensuring you have a save file at a safehouse is a good catch for the imbalance the game has – if you don’t learn you need Chain Shot maxed out for bosses, you can always leave one mission and decide to do another to build up the stats you need.

    3. Earan says:

      Where the checkpoint system got really bad was when combined with the conversation system that obscured results. The example in my mind was the very last level in Moscow that was not accessible if you made the wrong dialogue options just before it. Thanks to how the save system worked I then lost a good eight hours or so and gave up on that playthrough.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        I actually found the forced autosaves after conversations a really good idea because it heavily encourages you not to save scum.
        It is very much a game about making (often quick) decisions and having to live with the consequences, and as Yancy puts it; there are no good or bad choices, just results.

        1. MrGuy says:

          Until, of course, you get to the end of the game and get the “bad ending” because the guy you lightly pushed out of the way instead of shooting accidentally fell down the stairs and broke his neck just as you passed the autosave point.

          That’s a bad result. Not just the bad ending. It potentially ruins the 8 hours you’ve put into a no-kill playthrough and makes you start again. Thanks, game!

          Autosaves also have the one of the exact same problems Shamus mentions for “save anywhere”:

          An argument can be made that save-anywhere is unbalancing and leads to playstyles that make the game less fun. If the player saves the game in an unfortunate state (low health, low resources) then they could spend half an hour slamming face-first into a hard fight instead of spending a few minutes reloading a checkpoint from slightly earlier when their resources were in better shape.

          Autosaves are notorious for punishing you for accidentally running into the savepoint, and with auto-save games, “reloading an earlier save” isn’t really an option.

          Autosaves definitely have their place – a game like The Walking Dead wouldn’t really work without them, but they’re not a cure-all to issues with saving.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Reminds me of that painful early episode of DXHR trying to get into the police station, where Josh overwrote the autosave by exiting the station.

            Would really like the number of autosaves a game makes to always be a user-definable setting, defaulting at, say, three to five. It wouldn’t make manual saves obsolete, but I could probably live with it and stop using manual saves mid-playthrough.

          2. Thomas says:

            We’re no longer talking about Alpha Protocol specifically right?
            (I mean worst come to worst you’d just load the safehouse autosave if that particular incident were possible)

            1. anaphysik says:

              Yeah, I too am baffled by any association with AP meant by that. Additionally, AP DOES have a manual save function (it’s just ‘store last autosave as a real save’), which anyone reasonable would use.

              And by ‘anyone reasonable,’ I mean ‘anyone not Aldowyn, who thought it was okay to not make a manual save after our first week of Moscow, then overwrote both autosaves, thereby making us replay through the entire first half of Moscow before we could record, after which Skype kept screwing up, thereby forcing us to abandon recording the next week of Disclosure Alert episodes.’

              1. Thomas says:

                Not more waiting!

                Also Knights of the Old Republic puts the delete button where most games put the load button and doesn’t ask ‘are you sure you want to delete this’ which turned out to be surprisingly annoying

              2. X2-Eliah says:

                But that manual save is NOT a true save, it just flags the checkpoint nearest behind you again.. You won’t re-load back into the place you were standing, you will reload in the checkpoint location. At least iirc.

                1. anaphysik says:

                  I *said* that it was a ‘store last autosave’ function. Remember, this was regards someone who acted as though there were no means of storing data besides the frequently-being-overwritten autosave slots (there’s two: last autosave, and last safehouse (which is an autosave of the state you were in /right/ before the current mission, and is the real way that you save-before-quitting)).

                  1. X2-Eliah says:

                    Sorry about that. I just tend to not view autosave and checkpoint-save as synonyms ;)

            2. Keeshhound says:

              That, and AP has two endings, neither of which are affected by your kill count, and neither of which could really be called “bad.” In the sense of “this was the wrong ending, go do it again.”

              1. Audacity says:

                AP has WAY more than two endings. I’ve discovered a half-dozen, not counting minor variations.

                1. Keeshhound says:

                  I thought there were two basic ways it could branch (ending spoilers, obviously: Accept Leland’s offer or don’t) and then there were like 50 different permutations of those branches. So while there’s more than two endings, they’ll all follow one of those two paths

                  1. Ringwraith says:

                    Or accept Leland’s offer, than backstab him, or accept/refuse Shaheed’s offer (if he’s around). There’s a fair few ways to mess with the ending in fairly major way, and that’s before you start clocking in the rest of them.

              2. Thomas says:

                And as far as I’m aware people can’t break their neck falling down stairs in AP =D

          3. Veylon says:

            That “1 looks like I looks like l” made me go back and work out how passwords work on paper a while back. If you’ve got 26 letters and 10 letters, you can kill 4 of them and have 32 combinations; 5 bits. So I killed Zero, Five, One, and Q to avoid confusion with certain letters. And then wondered why no game before had ever done this.

            Anyway, has anyone seen the NES Rambo password system? That thing was thirty-two digits long and used both upper and lower case letters, all ten numbers, and some punctuation besides. That was ludicrous. Faxanadu was at least a proper RPG that needed 24 bytes of storage.

        2. Zukhramm says:

          If I do something stupid and fail badly (i.e. die!) during the shooting gameplay I’m allowed to retry. Why should the same not apply to the talking gameplay?

          1. Keeshhound says:

            Mostly for the same reason that Mass Effect 2 and 3 default games start with Wrex dead; to make sure that people see content that otherwise might not get as much attention. But also because in AP there’s no way to screw up a dialogue to the point where it would end the game or make it unplayable (i.e. you can’t die in a dialogue sequence).

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              Also, because talking gameplay usually accounts for you being able to get out of any particular problems you get, whereas if you mess up in the shooting gameplay, you’ve got:

              skill cooldowns

              That you need to account for.

              Dialogue? You’ve got Professional/Suave/Agressive/Skill options. And you can’t run out of any of those.

        3. anaphysik says:

          I guess we can disagree about this next time we record ;)

  3. Thomas says:

    In the KotOR games, if you save after making an attack, the game doesn’t remember that it’s the enemies turn and lets you get the hit in first again (and often forgets the enemies are in combat altogether, bugging them out), so if you’re patient enough, it’s technically possible to beat a boss by never being hit once (although I’ve never tried it)

  4. TheAngryMongoose says:

    How is it that Emulator Freeze States work? They can be applied easily to any game the emulator can run, and can save the game mid way through, say, opening a menu, or loading a new map. Given that these work on, say, Gamecube emulators, I always figured that saving a game was simply a matter of “This is what’s on Ram… and…. pause”

    1. lettucemode says:

      That is how it works. The difference is that it’s the emulator doing the saving, not the game itself. The emulator is already providing virtual memory to the game, and since you’re using an emulator the game is likely pretty old and thus has a small memory footprint, so it can just box it up and you’re done.

      It’s trickier to get a game to save a copy of its own memory footprint, so it makes more sense to save a logical representation of the game state instead. Not to mention games use a lot more RAM nowadays – hundreds of megabytes if not a gig or more. Writing/reading a file of that size takes some time. That’s not something you want to inflict on your players.

      There’s more room to do saves on PC than on the current console generation, but like Shamus says in the article it’s a tricky problem. You figure out what you think the minimum acceptable save functionality is, then you do that and move on with developing the actual game.

      1. As someone who uses emulators, I can tell you from personal experience that errors can occur through save states. Basically, your in-game saves often don’t go into the naive ROM of the game, but sometimes they do, meaning that pairing emulator saves and in-game saves can lead to a host of weirdness.

    2. Primogenitor says:

      Emulators work by dumping the entire contents of memory (of the emulated hardware) to a file – similar to how windows hibernate works. It’s not a practical approach for most games because its technically challenging to work out how memory is being used by a program and how to restore it – addresses and pointers to other information, stuff in GPU RAM, etc

      1. Bryan says:

        Pointers are, I think, the super-hard part here.

        Not saving them, exactly, but reloading them later. If you just dump out all of your addressable memory (say, on linux, by iterating all the readable-and-not-executable entries in /proc/self/maps and dumping their contents to the file), then it won’t be possible to reload it when the game comes back up again. Because the base addresses of *everything* will be different, because of address-space layout randomization. (And if your kernel is not doing ASLR… it’s doing it wrong. :-) ) Although actually, even without ASLR it’s unlikely to work out well, because before the restore all the internal writable state of the game would have to be in the same state it was in before the saved game started, too.

        Because the game is going to keep a central chunk of data *somewhere* that points to all the other chunks of data required to (say) render the current scene. (The level data, the physics data, etc., etc.) In Project Frontier, for instance (or at least, the Linux port I have available to look at), this was the set of five gm_terrain, gm_forest, gm_grass, gm_brush, and gm_particle static objects, plus the il_{terrain,forest,grass,brush,particle} vectors that the gm_* variants were tied to. When the code iterated il_forest, for instance, it got a bunch of pointers out, each one pointing to a CForest object.

        Unless you can exactly line up all the writable chunks of memory of the second process with the first, you can’t just overwrite everything to restore a save, because if you do, the saved numbers in the addresses that the vector used to store CForest pointers above will end up pointing off into never-never land, and you’ll crash hard. If the vectors themselves are even in the same memory location (the linker does not guarantee that from run to run).

        An emulator doesn’t have this problem because its savestates replace the entire (emulated) machine when loaded. They don’t have to fit into a single virtual address space (heck, on half the platforms that emulators exist for, there *is* no such thing as virtual addressing…)

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      Current games can easily use a few gigabytes or RAM. If you want to write all of that to disk, it will probably fit, but it’ll take some time, and if you have a player who likes to quicksave, they’ll start to wonder where all that free space on the hard drive (or SSD?) went.
      Of course you don’t need to save all of the game data that is easily reproducible, like executable code, or really much of the graphics that will be recomputed on the fly anyway. But that means the game needs to sort save-worthy data from executable code and from data that can be reconstructed much quicker than reloaded. And that’s where the fun starts.

      That said: I think it should be possible for a well-structured program to keep these things separately, but that’s work again…

      1. The operating system tends to seperate program code and the data it’s using any way, so as long as the program isn’t trying to do anything crazy, then it should be easy to seperate.
        Seperating reconstructable and crucial data, however – that’s a fair bit harder.

      2. decius says:

        It’s also important that the patch and DLC don’t break existing savegames, something that a memory dump doesn’t help.

  5. Julian says:

    Emulators save the state by dumping the entire memory. This is guaranteed to get everything, but it’s relatively very large.

    1. TheAngryMongoose says:

      Oh, k. So, for a Nes or veen Gamecube emulator, 2k – 40MB isn’t too bad, but if you’re trying to dump… 16 gigs of Half-Life + everything in the background of the computer… you won’t want more than one auto-save lying around.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      The real difference is that an emulator creates its own controlled environment to run a game in, allowing it to cleanly dump the whole thing to a file, whereas a PC game will be running in Window’s environment, which doesn’t let you just set it to any state you want and where you have to play nice with other programs.

  6. Infinitron says:

    Let me guess – Shadowrun Returns?

  7. DGM says:

    The difficulty of making a good save-anywhere system is understandable, but I don’t like being lied to about the reasons for it. Back when I had a blog, one of the last posts I ever made was a rant about how we could save anywhere (outside of combat or conversation) all the way back in the original Phantasy Star. That game came out in 1987, so it’s obviously not a hardware limitation.

    What I’d really like to know is why developers can’t be more honest about these things and just admit it’s a lot of work that they think would be better spent elsewhere.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      This is precisely the problem however, as games have gotten more complex there are simply more things to save, which complicates getting the saves to work properly.
      You only have to see the ever-increasing save file size of an Elder Scrolls game the more you play it, which is what caused such problems with the PS3 version for so long.

    2. Humanoid says:

      I do remember that early MPS Labs games, and actually some pretty dang late ones, had an infuriating limit of four savegame files per physical disk. I had a couple boxes of floppy disks I rotated through to get around this, but it was maddening when my ~120MB hard drive would have stored the contents of all of those with ease.

      Incidentally, I miss the days of savegame interfaces that allowed proper interaction with your file system, or indeed just used the standard Windows save interface. I like being able to manage my saves into user-defined subdirectories.

  8. Primogenitor says:

    It’s good to see a technically-inclined article on the Escapist – bravo!

  9. Falcon02 says:

    I must say, the prevalence of Checkpoints now adays has caused me to forget to habitually Quicksave periodically. So when there are no checkpoints and I’m free to save whenever, I will often play for long periods without thinking about saving, and when I die, I’m kicking myself for not saving for the past 2 hours… This typically gets me when I’m replaying an older game.

    A decade ago, I saved every few minutes just out of force of habit and it was never a problem. And now adays typically gets me when I don’t realize when I’m about to encounter a “hard” section and need to save to maintain progress.

    1. Thomas says:

      Luckily I quicksave compulsively before every action I take, but I find it almost unnerving that games used to expect you to checkpoint manually

      1. decius says:

        I’m embarrassed to admit that I once tried to quicksave in real life.

        1. Thomas says:

          =D I can kind of imagine that happening, but please, I’m eager for details :-), what exactly did you do? Was it a thought process? ‘Right better save before I do this’ Did you try to press a button?

          1. Syal says:

            Was there alcohol involved?

            It sounds like there would be alcohol involved.

            1. Adam says:

              “Hey y’all!”


              “Watch this!”

              1. anaphysik says:

                And thus the grand keybinding war shall begin.

                It’s F5. Always F5.

                1. Thomas says:

                  Ha! You’re both wrong. It’s à¶

                  1. Paul Spooner says:

                    I tried to bind “quicksave” to “\”\’\); DROP TABLE Students;–” but it didn’t turn out well.

                2. X2-Eliah says:

                  F5 and F4 should both alternate between save/load in games. Frex, you load up the game on monday, F4 is quicksave, F5 – quickload. On tuesday, F4 is quickload, F5 – quicksave. On wednesdays quickload went out for a drink and you only get quicksave… On F9. F10 comes knocking on thursdays and works double-time to cover up for his absence as both quicksave and quickload. So, it does save, but it instantly also loads that save.

                3. Dave B. says:

                  S.T.A.L.K.E.R. got me accustomed to using F6 for quicksave and F7 for quickload. Since those are among the only games I use quicksave in, that is my strongest habit, though I’ve also seen F5/F9 bindings as well.

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          Aww, don’t be embarrassed. We all do it! Just like reaching for “Ctrl+Z” when your pencil slips. Your brain wants to use its new-found powers everywhere! No shame in that.

      2. anaphysik says:

        I’m so compulsive about it, I’ll often quicksave before I quicksave.

        1. postinternetsyndrome says:

          Yeah, I did that in Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. That game was one of the smart ones, having two quicksaves so you didn’t overwrite your last one when you tapped F5. Of course, if you double-tapped while falling into an abyss (a frequent occurence in that game), it was all for nought.

          Vampire Bloodlines had about 12 quicksaves before it started overwriting I think. That’s in addition to autosaves when entering a new map and at certain plot points. (Both with a couple of buffer slots.) Troika sure knew that accidents happen in the heat of gaming.

          Counterpoint: The saves in VtmB got _big_ towards the end of the game. In the beginning, quicksaving was comfortably snappy, but when the larger part of the game was behind you, it increased to several seconds and later to even more seconds. That game saved the state of most physics objects and NPC:s in all the hub areas of the game (which you could revisit at will), illustrating all the troubles outlined in Shamus’ article.

          Deus Ex also had huge saves (for its time), probably for similar reasons – large hub areas with tons of physics objects.

    2. Ringwraith says:

      This is why most games with save-anywhere’s tend to also have autosaves, so in case you forget you won’t lose too much.

  10. X2-Eliah says:

    Well, hard or not, I still very much want a form of save system that saves my character where and how it is, not just tags a flag on the nearest ‘checkpoint’. Yes, it is harder to do, but it is doable, and many many many games have proper saving. I don’t much care if it is quicksave or full manual save – as long as it is something that truly saves my char instead of respawning a clone at Cloning Facility Outlet Point CSADM-54.

    And, yeah, this brought back Alpha Protocol’s checkpoint save system to mind, which I hated.

  11. steves says:

    Dishonored. I know you have mixed feelings about this, but Christ, did that ever have good quick saves. Practically instant on a decent SSD.

    I like to reload the same fight and try it in different ways, or try to perfect a very tricky multi-kill move (ever try and neck-stab a tallboy and then blink to another one?). And this game lets me do so without any hassle, or needless repetition. Practically encourages it in fact;)

    The exact opposite of Bioshock Infinite, which I gave up on (found some video of the important story bits & ending) because of the awful, awful checkpoint system.

    “…If the player saves the game in an unfortunate state (low health, low resources) then they could spend half an hour slamming face-first into a hard fight…”

    Yeah. Screwed myself in Quake like that a few times. And I think ran into some un-fixable bug (looking at you, Neverwinter Nights 2) and had to go back hours to work around it. Either way, that problem would be very easily fixed by automatically rotating the last 20 or so quick saves in separate slots, although that is almost never done for some unfathomable reason.

    And the problem of “mastering skills they will need later” is not helped by forcing me to repeat long, tedious sections using skills I already have. Fuck you, Demon Souls – a potentially brilliant game ruined by the non-existent save system. I don’t mind repeating a hard fight, I do mind 10 minutes of the same old shit to get back to it!

    “Save-scumming”, to my understanding, is constantly reloading to maximize the benefit of something random. I may have been guilty of this once or twice, but that’s a different problem, and hey, if it’s single player game, who cares. really? Well, arrogant game designers I guess…

    1. Falcon02 says:

      I’ve seen quite a few people complaining in general of Bioshock Infinite’s save system. But I haven’t seen anyone discuss the specific issues and I don’t own it yet… so what’s the issue with Bioshock Infinite’s save/checkpoint system?

      1. It’s weird. There’s no save option at all, and you’re limited to autosaves. These are quite spaced out, and can take upwards of 10 minutes to reach, sometimes more (and sometimes, bewilderingly, a lot less). They often appear in unexpected places (say about a minute into the level) but not at some of the more obvious ones – for instance, the game doesn’t always autosave after a loading screen, even though it feels like it should.

        I initially assumed that this is because saving the exact gamestate would be too taxing, and that it only saves the approximate state (leading to re-spawning enemies, chests and whatnot upon loading). However, after a bit of testing with the autosave, it seems that the game picks up more or less in exactly the same state – all the containers have the same loot, and the ones I already looted stayed empty. Enemies don’t seem to re-spawn either. So as far as I can make out, the developers managed to circumvent most of the technical problems Shamus was talking about, but allowed saves only at certain predetermined locations.

        1. Deoxy says:

          the developers managed to circumvent most of the technical problems Shamus was talking about, but allowed saves only at certain predetermined locations.

          Emphasis added.

          By knowing where the save is, you can circumvent, or avoid, many of the technical problems instead of solving them.

          I never played BioShock (“Heresy! Heresy! BURN HIM!!!”), but I assume you there was never combat around the save points? That’s where the bulk of the difficulty lies, really.

          What’s in a box is a VERY small amount of data – it’s an ID number and a list of other ID numbers, some of them with quantity (or all of them with some of them always having a 1).

          ID 1637596 (that’s the first box you’re going to see) has 1 of ID 5663829 and 3 of ID 725729.

          That’s a very tiny amount of info – all the boxes in the entire game is still a pretty darn small amount of info.

          Even keeping a list of mooks that are dead is pretty easy, for the same reason: M1D, M2D, M3A, M4D, M4A, etc – alive and dead. Binary switches (or objects with a few distinct states) are VERY easy to keep up with. Even the HP of every mook in the game (with zero being dead, of course) would be a small amount of data compared to the stuff Shamus listed in the article for even one fight scene.

          1. That’s a fair point, and is probably the case. But I was still surprised they took the trouble to include items lying on the ground, dead enemies and content of boxes in the savestate, but NOT allow the player to save whenever they wanted to (outside of combat as a reasonable compromise). Instead, they went with randomly spaced out, unpredictable and not-quite-frequent enough checkpoints.

      2. steves says:

        It saves at checkpoints. That is it. They aren’t nearly as often as I’d like, and whilst you usually get one not too far before a big fight, it doesn’t take account of stuff you do afterwards (like backtrack to get more ammo, etc.) and you can’t control any of it. .

        If you clear an area and hit the next checkpoint, you can’t go back and repeat something a different way. This isn’t as awful as it could be in what is a completely linear story, but it stops you from trying different tactics.

        Also, you have no idea *when* it checkpoints, apart from a very quick animation that flashes up in the corner of the screen. That you’ll almost never notice ’cause you’re too busy looking at the (admittedly excellent) scenery.

        You can make use of a mid-combat resurrection (I think it’s a percentage of your money, so never runs out), and if that doesn’t bother you then you needn’t worry about repeating sections.

        It bothers me. I want to ace the fights, cleanly headshot everything and chain together tricky combos with the magic powers, and generally be a badass. Which (on hard anyway) needs practice. But if I go back to whatever the last mystery checkpoint was it can take ages to try again.

        Also, if you want to do something crazy like quit the game and do something useful ad then restart later where you left off…well, fuck you!

        1. Matt K says:

          Which is why Save points are quite useful. Same idea as the checkpoint (outside of combat, etc, ect) but allows players to save after backtracking, etc. No idea why games have seemingly dropped this idea (last I played was RE4) as it really is the best of both worlds.

          1. steves says:

            I’m not sure what the 2 worlds you’re choosing between are here, but the best of all worlds is good old F5 & F9*, along with the ability to keep separate permanent (and name-able!) saves. It’s not rocket science.

            A ‘no saving out of combat’ restriction is usually ok, as long as ‘combat’ state isn’t terribly long & drawn out.

            Even on (modern) consoles this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, obviously replacing F keys with an easily accessible menu option.

            Or maybe it is, because of the technical issues Shamus brings up, and there’s a tradeoff between save-on-demand and other features that are considered more desirable. So maybe next generation, we can but hope…

            *Do NOT mess with that as the default. Make ’em re-mappable, sure, but this is up there with WASD as a standard.

            1. Humanoid says:

              Even betterer of the infinite worlds would be having a continuous instantaneous save operating while you play, effectively allowing for a dynamic “rewind” mechanism in the game. The Last Express had sort of a primitive rewind system like this I guess. You’d still want manual saves for retaining future states of course.

              Of course, even being very clever about it programmatically it’d still be hell on storage and I/O.

              1. Robyrt says:

                The Souls games (Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls) have a continuous autosave, but you can’t rewind it. The goal is to reinforce that your choices matter, and it totally works.

                Just the other day I was showing off my fancy new katana to a friend, swinging around, and accidentally killed Princess Dusk before she could hand me the key to the DLC content. My friend gave a horrified gasp, did some quick math, and said, “Just restart the game. It’ll be quicker than getting her back.” The game, stifling an evil laugh, immediately autosaved.

        2. Mephane says:

          It saves at checkpoints. That is it. They aren't nearly as often as I'd like, and whilst you usually get one not too far before a big fight, it doesn't take account of stuff you do afterwards (like backtrack to get more ammo, etc.) and you can't control any of it.

          tl;dr: Not planning to ever buy Bioshock Infinite because of this account alone.

          Thank you. You just saved me money, time and anger in the future. I was planning on getting Bioshock Infinite at a later point when it drops in price (got enough games to play at the moment, so why pay more now to just have it sitting around?). I am that guy who backtracks heavily, who remembers where he did not collect ammo, medpacks etc. because I was full at the time. I quicksave often and especially before doing anything that might mean I cannot go back to what I did before, and if it turns out I end up in a boss fight, or the previous area just became unreachable, I reload and first restock myself on those left-over supplies.

          I utterly hate things going to waste when there is a finite amount in a game and I can use them. For similar reasons I am always conservative about ammo, get “carry more ammo/larger inventory” upgrades as early as possible, and excessively use melee weapons or special backup weapons (some games provide a basic pistol with unlimited ammo) and save the good stuff for boss fights and other tough situations. It also means that I used a significant portion of all the minigun ammo in the entire Deus Ex HR game in the final encounter, and even had few complete boxes left when I got to try out the four Pick Your Ending Cinematic Buttons..

          But here’s my most extreme example, for what it’s worth:
          The first time I went through Ravenholm in HL2, I literally carried every single sawblade with me, because I never knew how much ammo or more sawblades I might find. After a zombie encounter I would collect all those sawblades and transport/shoot them one by one towards where I was heading. By the time I had to climb the tower with the cable car to church, I probably had every single sawblade from the level in my possession. It took very long, was probably utterly insane, but it was fun and particularly satisfying to reach the church with almost full ammo.

    2. Ringwraith says:

      Re: Unwinnable save states, remember games where you could save while you dead if you hit F5 instead of F8/9? And had no auto-saves and only a single quicksave slot?
      Good times, good times.

      1. StashAugustine says:

        I once quicksaved in Doom literally half a second before the barrel I was next to blew up.

    3. IFS says:

      I like the Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls system, as its meant to be a hard game so it has an actual, unavoidable, system to punish you when you fail. Its not something I’d like to see in all games but I appreciate that there are still some games that do so.

      1. Raygereio says:

        The unforgiving combat system is what makes Dark Souls and its little brother difficult games.
        The checkpoint does not make the game harder, not does it really punish you. Yeah, you can die when you make your way to your bloodstain, but people make a bigger deal out of that then it really is. Souls and liquid humanity aren’t importent, nor are they finite resources for that matter: there are plenty of farming spots for both.

        Checkpoints do not make a game more difficult. I honestly do not uderstand where that notion comes from: being forced to do same thing over and over again just because you got stuck further along is not difficulty. It’s just tedious.
        In Dark Souls when I got stuck on a boss and had to do the same run towards the foggate countless times – evading or dealing with the same enemies, making the same jumps and turns, etc, I began to feel bored.
        An improvement on Dark Souls in my opinion would have been the inclusion of a soapstone that allows you to mark a spot and warp towards it. Shouldn’t have been hard to implement either, when you quit the game it already saves your location.

        1. burningdragoon says:

          It’s understandable why some/many people wouldn’t like the system, or would at least prefer otherwise. It’s also kind of the point. Your punishment for losing is to have to redo parts of the level, just like you are rewarded for exploring by (sometimes) finding shortcuts that let you skip parts.

          Though as much as I like how DS works, I’m still definitely glad it’s not the norm.

          You could still probably implement a custom checkpoint without making it too easy of an out by making it a rare or expensive consumable or have it affect how many souls you can get back after dying.

        2. IFS says:

          Part of the point of those bonfires is that they’re the one safe-ish place in an otherwise hostile/apathetic world, and it makes you (or me at least) about celebrate as you find and reach each one and get closer to your goal. Being able to effectively save before each room not only would pretty much remove what soul/humanity penalty they do have (which since I rarely farmed losing those resources did feel like a loss) it would also remove that element of the game’s atmosphere.

          1. Raygreio says:

            I’m honestly not comfortable with the idea of including punishment of any sort in a game’s mechanics. It goes againt my idea that a game should first and foremost be about having fun.

            I’d be perfectly fine if using the warp-soapstone I proposed removed your bloodstain.
            Like I said: loosing your souls and humanity is a symbolic punishment anyway. It may feel like you’ve lost something significant when you first start, but it really isn’t.

            And you know what the beauty of it would be? You would not be forced to use it. This is something else I honestly don’t understand about the proponents of checkpoint systems. When talking about implementing proper progress saving features alongside the checkpoint system, they generally act as if they’d be forced to use it. Or more hilariously: as if they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from using it.
            That’s just silly really.

            1. InternetCommenter says:

              “When talking about implementing proper progress saving features alongside the checkpoint system, they generally act as if they'd be forced to use it. Or more hilariously: as if they wouldn't be able to stop themselves from using it..”

              What is so hilarious about it? I know I’ve been guilty of save-scumming, just like I sometimes use cheat codes. It’s tempting to take the path of least resistance. Often, I ruin my enjoyment of the game doing such things, because once I start using these options I tend to become compulsive about it and go to such extents the game is broken, and by the time I’m done metagaming, the game isn’t a convincing and immersive environment anymore but a bunch of 0s and 1s.

              Not everyone has the willpower and restraint to use quicksaves responsibly, in a way optimal to their own fun. Those who do have plenty of games who cater to them, though; just like I have plenty of games with checkpoints. I don’t see why do people have to be so adamant EVERY game should be designed for people like them, while people like me should be barred from gaming altogether.

              (That said, I would have no problem with your actual Dark Souls suggestion. Saving with a cost and limited use, in a non-immersion breaking way, isn’t quite the same thing as unlimited quicksave/quickload spam. For that matter, your suggestion sounds closer to a teleport than an actual save.)

              Also, checkpoints can make a game more difficult to me. Sticking with the Dark Souls example, I’ve died numerous amount of times making the trek back to a boss. Navigating those environments and enemies forced me to adopt a different mindset than the one required for the boss, breaking my thought patterns and preventing “zerg rush” gameplay with me saving right before a boss and banging my head against it until the repetition lets muscle memory set in, or until I get lucky.

              If none of this fits your experience, more power to you, but at least try to respect other people may have a different perspective.

              1. Raygereio says:

                I don't see why do people have to be so adamant EVERY game should be designed for people like them, while people like me should be barred from gaming altogether.

                Whelp. Thank you for providing an example.
                I’m not saying checkpoints should go awway. I’m fine with you relying on checkpoints. As long as I have the option of using a proper saving system. Why do you want games to be designed solely for you? Videogames should be for the both us. It’s prefectly possible for checkpoints to co-exists with proper saving.

                I know I've been guilty of save-scumming, just like I sometimes use cheat codes. It's tempting to take the path of least resistance. Often, I ruin my enjoyment of the game doing such things

                Guilty? There’s nothing inherently wrong with save-scumming or using cheat codes in a single player game. If someone has fun walking around in godmode when playing Doom, they shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it.

                And if using cheatcodes or using proper saves ruins your enjoyement. Just don’t use them. Are you honestly saying you lack such basic self-restraint?


                If none of this fits your experience, more power to you, but at least try to respect other people may have a different perspective.

                I have no clue what this is. Is this a vague accusation of disrespect just because I have a different opinion or is it just a really mangled sentence?

    4. GM says:

      I noticed Dishonored has limited saves actually ,why no idea.
      you can only make so many new saves.

      I got into the habit of making a new save because i read that overwriting a save in skyrim was bad ,don´t remember why.

    5. ACman says:

      I always think of “save scumming” as being saving every five seconds to say get a ghost achievement in Deus Ex or exploiting the save state function of ZSNES to beat Mario 3.

      I’ve never save scummed to beat a dice roll. It’s a bit cheesy to reload a save so that my sniper can hit every shot in XCOM…. Games like that are about minimising risk so that you aren’t done if by chance you miss your saving throw.

  12. Neko says:

    Elder Scrolls games wouldn’t be the same with a checkpoint system, so I’m certainly appreciative of the ability to save anywhere with multiple slots. However, they’re also notorious for having subtle bugs in the Quick Save / Quick Load system.

    Basically, the game state doesn’t get properly cleared on Quick Load. If you abuse it a lot instead of doing a full load, strange things can happen like guards being hostile to you because of a crime you committed on the “alternate timeline”. It gets much, much worse if you’re playing through multiple characters’ savegames simultaneously, swapping between the two with an accidental quickload is a recipe for glitches and crashes.

  13. Spammy says:

    You know what game has ruined me? Fallout: New Vegas. Because Fallout: New Vegas saves all the time. And now I expect modern games to conveniently save all the time so I never feel like I lose more than a few minutes of progress. Mass Effect and Divinity II, by contrast, felt like they auto-saved just enough for me to trust the auto-save and then die and lose up to a half-hour of gameplay.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Yes, but F:NV just automatically makes full, proper saves – the kind that Shamus’s article describes as being very hard to create (granted, without the in-combat bits). It’s literally a quicksave with a remote trigger, not a checkpoint system.

      1. microwaviblerabbit says:

        Which is a good thing, because the game would be near unplayable otherwise. Not only from bugs, but also due to the fact Fallout New Vegas seems to suffer from a higher degree of save corruption than normal in the base game world. Though that may be limited to my case, as I bought the game when it came out and have yet to uninstall it, so am still using the save file error workarounds needed at launch.

        Skyrim really impressed me with it’s multiple auto-saves, giving the player more freedom. Plus it removed the problem of accidentally upsetting npc’s and then fleeing outside, only to realize you had just overwritten the auto-save.

  14. Deoxy says:

    An awful lot of that can be dealt with fairly easily simply by thinking about it ahead of time.

    For instance, instead of worrying about animation state, simply have a variable that holds current animation ID number and the start time (a universal official time, invisible to the user, would be cheap and facilitate a lot of this nicely). If you built that into everything up front, bam, problem solved. (I am assuming things like facing are already stored and solved… that seems safe to assume.)

    If you treat all projectiles as either new entities (for large and/or slow moving ones) or animations of the object firing or being hit, that problem is solved as well.

    I’m not as familiar with particle effects, but if you saved the random seed for any effect or other such event (and the start time), you could easily recreate it and run it the right amount of time to get the same result.

    These kinds of solutions would be a real pain to bolt on after the fact… but trivial easy to build in up front.

    1. Hieronymus says:

      It would probably be easier to hold the animation from an enumerated list and keep track of the current frame.

      And depending on how finicky the engine is: You could just freeze all of the objects and save them, then delete everything, restore the original objects, and then unfreeze them all.


      “Your comment is awaiting moderation”

      I’m curious as to what triggered this.

    2. Walter says:

      “An awful lot of that can be dealt with fairly easily simply by thinking about it ahead of time.”
      That nicely sums up almost any problem with programming, and a decent amount of problems with technology. Unfortunately, requirements always change with all but the simplest applications, and rarely can an existing framework deal with those changes (but when it does, boy does it make you feel awesome).

      I’ve always been a fan of text-based save files myself, specifically .ini-based systems that save a list of objects to create and have a list of variables to set on those objects. The engine then creates list.size number of objects with default values, and loops through each object in the .ini to set any recognized variables to a non-default value (depending on the system, you may decide not to store objects with default values in the .ini, that way they get the new default value if it changes). That way you never have to worry about save file incompatibility, just the normal version incompatibilities.

      1. Deoxy says:

        “An awful lot of that can be dealt with fairly easily simply by thinking about it ahead of time.”
        That nicely sums up almost any problem with programming, and a decent amount of problems with technology.

        Absolutely true! That’s why we should emphasize design before implementation… but that seldom happens, sadly.

        Unfortunately, requirements always change with all but the simplest applications

        True again… but largely because a) insufficient design time and b) lack of appreciation (or even knowledge) of the cost of said changes.

        If we took the time to design stuff properly, then we would catch most of the serious problems before hand, and the trivial stuff would, in most cases, either work in to the existing framework or be left out.

        But we don’t do that… partly because human beings are stupid, as a general rule, but mostly because management today is exceptionally short-sighted (for both stupid, lazy reasons and systemic encouragement by stupid, short-sighted incentives).

  15. Alan says:

    I’m impressed with Bethesda’s engine and associated saves, as seen in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. It’s tracking a mind-boggling amount of state and lets me save almost anywhere. Of course the down side is that individual save games can easily run 10 or more megabytes. While recovering from a virus at one point, I discovered that my Oblivion saves were more than a gigabyte. I’m currently playing Fallout: New Vegas, and I’m afraid to look to see how big my save directory is.

    Relatedly, Bethesda’s games are not quite as stable as one might hope. Frequent saving makes that instability something I can live with. It also saves me when I make a user interface mistake (accidentally picking someone’s pocket or lockpicking a door when I didn’t mean to and drawing aggro were common problems, as is accidentally selecting “Take All” in a meticulously sorted chest when I really meant “Take All of this one item”.

    As for arguments against save scumming: eat a dick. I don’t think anyone is save scumming and is happy about it. They’re coping with something too difficult. I’m drawing a blank on names now, but I know there are one or two games that I only finished because I save scummed. The better solution is cheat codes, but sadly no one puts them in anymore, probably because it endangers the “value” of achievements.

    1. Thomas says:

      There are definitely people who save-scum when they don’t need and aren’t happy about it. I do it out of stress and incredible risk aversion and then there are some people whose compulsion to win is greater than their want to be happy

      It’s about working out how large those segments of people are and if its worth dealing with our mental inadequacies in the realms of playing games

      1. Mike S. says:

        Thanks for linking to that– it was fascinating. (EVE is definitely the sort of game that makes for endlessly absorbing reading, while making me want to stay far, far away.)

        1. Thomas says:

          I’ve never actually touched EVE, but I’m addicted to following stories of it and even a couple of blogs and news website. It’s one of those rare games where the things that happen in it are special that they happen in any game at all, rather than just special in-game with context.

          If someone beats dungeon X in WoW you need to already know how hard the dungeon is, but if you’re following the politics of EVE or reading a story about how Goonswarm averted a war by manipulating the media to make the opposition leader look like an impetuous idiot, you don’t need to know about the game for it to be interesting.

          1. impassiveimperfect says:

            Any good sites or blogs you’d recommend taking a look at?

            1. Thomas says:

              So this is the main EVE news site
              Some of the articles are interesting and some are for insiders only, but it becomes easy to work out which after a while. Even better, this sites editor is the same Spy-master whose agents infiltrated the largest enemy in the game and disbanded it from the inside (the most famous spying incident in EVE), but he was also the guy who got drunk and said those things that got him fired as chief EVE politician and he’s also the leader of Goonswarm, the most notorious and scummy EVE alliance. And they do use the website as part of their metagame. There was going to be a war between Goonswarm (CFC) and the HBC and for some reason all the articles of The Mittani were about how wars suck for everyone involved :P

              And then there’s this one
              He’s the most popular EVE blogger and writes about absolutely everything, he’s going to be elected to EVE’s player representative council of Saturday which might change the type of thing he posts about, but hopefully means he gets even more good stuff

              EDIT: Oh and
              Whose editor has a personal grudge against the Mittani (the man) and mainly links to good blogposts by other people

      2. Mephane says:

        I know the feeling, when there is that one ultimate winning move which is the opposite of fun, but orders of magnitude more effective than any alternative, and you’re torn apart between wanting to do something fun and wanting to be effective. I find myself more often than not doing stuff that is effective but not fun, and try to change my behaviour then, but sometimes my urge to be efficient and effective is just too strong.

        Probably the only reason why I have not ever engaged in market speculation in any MMO (I have never played an MMO where this is not the absolutely best road to wealth) is that I have moral qualms about the practice: the money I’d get would come from other players, without me providing anything in return; I’d feel like a mere parasite. Plus it would be boring as hell, of course.

        The only situation where I have no trouble ignoring effectiveness when I have to decide between it and character style. I am going to wield an inferior weapon if I prefer its looks over something with higher damage that I find absolutely ugly. I hated WoW for constantly invalidating whatever I had at the moment and placing mostly ugly stuff at the top of the upgrade stairway, and transmogrification came too late for me, I left before that came up.

      3. Nidokoenig says:

        The sensible thing there, to my mind, would be to make quick saving a togglable option. If you have to get to save point, exit to the main menu, and go into the options menu to enable quicksaves, or even shut down the game and edit the config file manually, you’re probably going to stick to your decision to do without.

        That does lead to problems with balance, though. You’re forced to design your game to be robust enough that someone can’t make a quicksave somewhere where they can’t get out off or complete the game from, and solve all the technical challenges of quicksaving, AND make sensibly spaced checkpoints, which again are robust enough to not trap the player, all of which requires thorough testing. I can fully understand why pretty much everyone decides to pick one option and (try to) do it well.

    2. Ringwraith says:

      Pretty much all games with unlockable cheats or usable console commands and achievements prevent you from earning them while you’re using them. (Not completely foolproof, like in Half-Life 2, but honestly, you’re only cheating yourself out of the sense of achievement then).

      Job done.

    3. Hieronymus says:

      You know, I am a compulsive saver (and I have a problem) even though I don’t enjoy playing that way.

      The thing is, I’ve been trained to expect poor autosaving / checkpoints and a vindictive RNG from most games. And when I don’t save constantly, I usually end up paying for it.

    4. Bloodsquirrel says:

      “As for arguments against save scumming: eat a dick. I don't think anyone is save scumming and is happy about it. They're coping with something too difficult. I'm drawing a blank on names now, but I know there are one or two games that I only finished because I save scummed. The better solution is cheat codes, but sadly no one puts them in anymore, probably because it endangers the “value” of achievements.”

      Save scumming happens because there’s no clear point at which you can say “this is how often the game expects me to be saving”. The player is left to do his own balancing by deciding how often to save, and people will naturally drift toward saving more and more often until either they’re save scumming or they’re no longer challenged to any meaningful degree.

      And developers know that people will save often if they put quicksaving in, so if they want the game to be challenging they’ll adjust it accordingly.

      Being able to say “This is a discrete chunk of the gameplay that the player is expected to be able to get through without dying” allows for a far more reasonable game balance.

    5. Adeon says:

      “As for arguments against save scumming: eat a dick. I don't think anyone is save scumming and is happy about it.”

      I love save scumming, I’ll often load and do something again in a different way just to see if I can get a better result.

      I like it the most in games like the new XCom where loading a save doesn’t reset the random number generator. This turns it into a logic puzzle: I’ve got a particular string of random numbers coming up, how can I reorder my actions to get the best results given this input? I then spend a few minutes trying different orders and trying to figure out which of the numbers are “bad” and which are “really bad”. Of course sometimes the answer becomes “stick everyone on overwatch and end my turn so the AI gets the bad numbers” but i always feel sad about that.

  16. Zak McKracken says:

    Great article, but you got one thing wrong:
    In reality, only empty gasoline containers explode, not the full ones.

    This is because they contain that dangerous mixture of inflammable vapours and air where a spark will detonate the whole thing virtually at once.
    A barrel full of liquid gasoline will “just” burn, usually. Possibly with lots of smoke, because there won’t be enough oxygen for a clean combustion.

    But then, of course, we know that usually those barrels really contain explosives, because, you know, bad guys. It’s what they do, innit?

    1. Ringwraith says:

      I like the story of how they tried to have exploding barrels that were green in Bulletstorm, but it did not work as people rarely thought of them as explosive while glancing around, so just switched back to red so they actually got used frequently.
      Also made them stand out I would presume, that was actually quite a green game in places.

  17. Dev Null says:

    I disagree with the idea that you have to include all of those thing in a save-on-demand system.

    However, you still have to consider which of those things you do want to include and which you don’t want to bother with, and then work out shortcuts for dealing with the things you’ve decided not to bother with… so yeah; they’re all things that add to the complexity of the task, either way. Its simpler to just say “screw particle effects; we’re not saving their state” but you still have to make the decision.

    I wonder at what point game engines approach virtual machines, and a save game just becomes “dump the entire virtual memory image to disk now please.” Saving and transporting machine states is a problem the vm folks have mostly solved.

    1. Lalaland says:

      The “dump the VM” approach is rumoured to be used in Durango/Xbox720, so it might be possible at some point in the future but right now VMs require a host O/S loaded within them to run applications. Wastes a lot of RAM but I’m intrigues by the possibility of this giving rise to the return of the likes of DOS4GW.

      IIRC DOW4GW was a sort micro O/S to get around the janki-ness of MS-DOS memory handling (DOS=UMB anybody?). In my conception the VM would load it’s own micro O/S allowing the main VM, with Windows and your apps, to be swapped out allowing for more resources to be assigned to the game VM. Right now I/O virtualisation support in graphics cards is not very good but with the rise of ‘cloud’ GPUs this might filter down to consumer cards which would make the whole VM for games and VM for work more workable.

  18. mewse says:

    Your article hit all the right notes, but there are two other big factors you’ve missed, Shamus:

    Checkpoints are QA-confirmable, while save-anywhere isn’t. Before releasing a game, QA testers can verify that every single checkpoint successfully saves and successfully restores, and check off that everything — *everything* — saves and loads successfully no matter what. They can’t do that for save-anywhere. It’s just not possible to verify that every game situation save/restores correctly (or even successfully); there are too many possible game states.

    This, combined with the inability to patch games post-release, is why we always used checkpoint saves in the PS2 era — it was just too dangerous to contemplate using save-anywhere when we couldn’t be absolutely certain that game state saving would always work. The expenses of having to do a recall and manufacture a fresh run of pressed discs could easily destroy a studio.

  19. MrGuy says:

    Kids these days, with their save games. They don’t know nothin’

    In my day, when we were playing our Metroid (before “which Metroid?” was a sensible question), we didn’t get to save. We got a code. It was about 20 characters long. Sometimes that character was a 1, sometimes it was a lowercase l. You didn’t know. You could never know. To this day, it haunts me.

    We wrote it down on scraps of paper. We hoped we’d find those scraps of paper later. Sometimes we were fortunate. Sometimes younger siblings tore up/lost/ate them.

    Then when we wanted to pick back up, we had to go type in the code very carefully, using a D-pad and the A and B keys to type. Sometimes we had to go hit the shift button, then move, then hit a letter.

    If we were very very lucky, we got to play the game. Sometimes we weren’t lucky. Sometimes we made a typo. Sometimes “we must have written it down wrong.” Sometimes all we knew was “Invalid Code.” Where is your god now???

    Seriously, though, thinking back, I realize games were simpler beasts back then, but those “reduce the state of the entire world to a 8 (or 10 or 16 or 20) character code” was a pretty impressive feat. Especially since I’m fairly certain at least one character was a checksum to prevent randomly keying in codes “to see what happened.”

    1. Humanoid says:

      On the other hand there was the Aladdin game for SNES (amongst other platforms) where the password system had so few combinations (if I remember right, a sequence of three portraits of characters from the film, of which there are only maybe five or six) that it was trivial to brute-force it. I think before even firing up the game proper for the first time, I went to the password menu item, tried a few (literally, just 3-4 attempts) random combinations then suddenly found myself in what I would soon learn was the last level of the game. Yeah….

    2. Hieronymus says:

      I have fond memories of inputting that ridiculously long code (32 characters in length, each of which could hold one of 64 available characters) for Faxanadu, a game so long (and fun) that it would likely require several (dozen) saves to reach the end (especially if you were paranoid about power outages).

      Those were the days. :)

      1. MrGuy says:

        What’s remarkable is how small even that amount of data. Each character has 64 possible options, which is 2^6 options, or 6 bits of information. And with 32 of them, you have 192 bits of total information. 8 bytes. That’s the size of your “save game.”

        And that’s assuming every character is “significant” – if one represents a checksum, it’s even smaller.

    3. Veylon says:

      That “1 looks like I looks like l” made me go back and work out how passwords work on paper a while back. If you've got 26 letters and 10 letters, you can kill 4 of them and have 32 combinations; 5 bits. So I killed Zero, Five, One, and Q to avoid confusion with certain letters. And then wondered why no game before had ever done this.

      Anyway, has anyone seen the NES Rambo password system? That thing was thirty-two digits long and used both upper and lower case letters, all ten numbers, and some punctuation besides. That was ludicrous. Faxanadu was at least a proper RPG that needed 24 bytes of storage.

    4. False Prophet says:

      I remember those 20 alphanumeric character codes. With loathing.

      I much preferred the codes in the Mega Man games. Dots on a 5×5 grid. Very hard to typo.

    5. Nidokoenig says:

      “We wrote it down on scraps of paper. We hoped we'd find those scraps of paper later. Sometimes we were fortunate. Sometimes younger siblings tore up/lost/ate them.”

      There was a Mickey and Donald game for the Mega Drive. I still remember that the code for the final level is Diamond, Spade, Heart, Club. I was too young to know the suits, so I remember it as Diamonds, Aces(as in Ace of Spades), Hearts, Spades. What game it actually was? Haven’t the foggiest.

  20. AG says:

    Some people have pointed out emulators being able to save anywhere, thanks to their inherent ‘virtuality’.

    Now I’m thinking – id Soft games always had very robust save systems. At least the first 3 Quakes used ‘quake virtual machines’, basically separating the engine code from the game code. Could it be the reason why saves always worked so well in these games?

    I mean, from a non-programmer’s view, the main point of a save system is to save as much content of the memory as possible – but not stuff that’s pointless to save (such as textures etc). Same for reloading – same games/engines simply load the whole level again upon quickload. But if the game is strictly divided between engine code and game code, then all what’s needed is to dump the memory footprint of the gamecode (which is running in a ‘virtual machine’) and done… No?

    Even if it’s not that simple, I imagine that an engine which keeps good track of what’s going on in the game is more suitable for save-anywhere functionality.

  21. JanessaVR says:

    DM of the Rings?

    Sorry, I could not immediately find an e-mail address for the site administrator here, but the pictures for the DM of the Rings webcomic have been down for quite some time now. Is anyone working to fix this? I was hoping to read it again, but the pics are gone even if the pages are still there.

    Thank You.

    1. Hieronymus says:

      They’re showing up just fine for me.

      Have you tried using a different computer or browser?

    2. Nick Lester Bell says:

      Also, are you using an ad blocker? They’ve been known to do weird things.

    3. Zagzag says:

      I think you want “Shamus (at) Shamusyoung (dot) com” if you want to contact him directly.

  22. Hieronymus says:

    I always found Max Payne / Max Payne 2’s save system interesting (if annoying). It takes a significant amount of time to generate the save file, but loads instantaneously.

    1. Walter says:

      That reminds me of Shogo, except Shogo saves and loads instantly, though it resets animations. Combined with mashing save and load over and over again, you can make all the corpses continually fall over (it was from a time before ragdolls, so corpses were the last frame of the death animation). I doubt it worked so quickly on computers at the time (I gave up on the game halfway because it was way too hard due to the ridiculous speed of the enemies, then later found out that I had to enable the frame limiter, the game was not supposed to go so fast), but very few games make you feel like you can save and load instantly even a few years after their release, even within the same level (I always hate having to sit through a 30 second load screen because a game dumped it’s assets for Level A and now needs to reload the assets for Level A).

      1. StashAugustine says:

        I wasn’t a huge Hotline Miami fan, but I really liked how it’s a single button press and you’re back in the game with no loading screen at all.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well it may be understandable why they prefer checkpoints,but its still inexcusable.Especially for high graphics games.These are people that are ready to dump an enormous amount of resources into designing a thing that will be on screen for 10 seconds during the whole game,and we are supposed to forgive them for not including something as important* as save any time because its a lot of work?No.

    Not letting you save in a firefight is ok,but not letting you save after 20 minutes of peaceful level exploration and cutscenes is crap.

    *Yes,it is important.Not everyone has the luxury to dredge through 10 minutes of combats simply to reach the next checkpoint when they need to suddenly turn the game off.That is probably amongst the first things Ive noticed during bioshock infinite:I had to switch the game off mid unskippable flight scene,and then I was forced to listen to those damn bells again,simply because I couldnt save when I wanted.

    1. Thomas says:

      Even if you have checkpoints, there is no excuse for not checkpointing every 2 minutes at most. It should be one gameplay segment per checkpoint (and by gameplay segment, I don’t mean turret sequence, I mean one room of enemies). Alpha Protocol was pushing the upperbounds of acceptable lengths between checkpoints and you never lost more than 1-2 minutes worth of game with AP.

      There are naturally exceptions to every rule and Final Fantasy X and generally games about recreating the feeling of struggling to journey to points of safety are those exceptions (although the way Dark Souls did it was heaps smarter and in a remake of X that’s the sort of thing I’d expect)

  24. kdansky says:

    Dark Souls is always saved. You can always shut off your console (or PC, haha) and continue seamlessly from the exact spot where you were last time, because it incrementally saves every time you do anything relevant. For obvious reasons doing that mid-combat isn’t a good idea, but since enemies are relatively stationary, that’s not an issue. This is by far the best way to handle saving: It’s not even visible.

    This approach takes care of all the issues, including most technical aspects: Since the player can’t save whenever (s)he wants, any limitation (like “no projectiles in air”) are fair game, to help keep the complexity down.

    Quicksaves suck because they give you the power to rewind time, taking all the challenge out of the game. Play Contra on an emulator with save states to see how powerful they are.

    Checkpoints are annoying because they waste your time.

    But of course, first solve the issue with the dying protagonist in a game like Skyrim.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Quicksaves suck because they give you the power to rewind time, taking all the challenge out of the game. Play Contra on an emulator with save states to see how powerful they are.”

      So?Some people prefer playing that way.That doesnt mean you cant prevent yourself from using quick saves if you want a challenge.So why force that challenge on people that prefer it the other way?They arent forcing you to use quick save,after all.

      1. kdansky says:

        It’s the developer’s job to make a game fun and worth playing. It’s not my job to fix his shitty balancing issues by using cheat codes. Imagine you make a game like Starcraft, and you put in a unit for zero resource cost and 1 second build time that kills any other unit and is invulnerable.

        You literally have to not use it to enjoy the game. But according to you, it’s okay that it exists. Do you see the flaw in your argument?

        Saving should be for convenience only! Turning back time is a power that is fun for some games (Braid) and breaks others completely (Contra), and those are in the same genre to boot.

        Quicksaving was meant to allow the *player* to have a more convenient experience when play was interrupted by Real Life stuff. It’s not meant to be used as a power of the character. Take RPGs: Alpha Protocol is praised for its choices to have meaning. People like to forget that the choices do that by preventing you from save-scumming through them. Skyrim’s choices are meaningless, also because you can always cheat into the correct one with the F5 key that’s mapped to the most powerful spell in the game: Rewinding time.

        If you want to play with cheat codes, fine, do so. But don’t break game balance in the process!

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Again,who is forcing you to use the quick save?And how exactly does a quick save break the balance of a game that wasnt balanced around it in the first place?

          Ok,lets take rpgs as an example:Are the choices in planescape:torment meaningless?How about fallout?Or deus ex?Does the ability to save anywhere in those game make them inferior to alpha protocol?

          And thats a funny example you brought about starcraft because you can insert such a unit in there via editor.You dont have to,but you can.If it were placed there more conveniently and only the player could use it against the ai,what exactly would it detract from the game?Are you somehow forced to use every single option that exists in a game simply because it exists?

          And lets deconstruct starcraft some more,shall we:At any time you can slow the game to a cralw to make it much easier,but not everyone is doing it.So are those that fiddle with speed not enjoying the game properly?

          One thing you are right about is that save button is a convenience.But how you use it is your choice.If you find it more convenient to save scum through the game,thats your right.I sure wont tell you that you are doing it wrong.

          1. Nidokoenig says:

            “Again,who is forcing you to use the quick save?And how exactly does a quick save break the balance of a game that wasnt balanced around it in the first place?”

            It’s an ‘I Win’ button right there on the keyboard, asking me to avoid using is asking me to put mental effort into not using it. Best of both worlds would be to have it togglable on or off in the options like an Iron Man mode so people who don’t like it can play without and those who do like it can. Sure, I can download an editor and mess with the game that way, but I know that once it’s edited it’s effectively a different game.

            As for breaking balance, many games have to be balanced based on you depleting a certain amount of resources, and all games if you consider concentration a resource. Most roguelikes would feel absurdly generous if they allowed quicksaving to minmax encounters, and many action games would feel absurdly difficult without saves at all. Some games derive their difficulty from asking you to perform tasks consistently over a period of time, and that difficulty is undeniably broken by quicksaves.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              “It's an “˜I Win' button right there on the keyboard, asking me to avoid using is asking me to put mental effort into not using it.”

              Yes and that easy difficulty is so tempting I have to put enormous mental effort into putting it on hard.Plus why is normal the default?I want a challenge,so put it on the hardest by default because thats how I like it.

              “Best of both worlds would be to have it togglable on or off in the options like an Iron Man mode so people who don't like it can play without and those who do like it can.”

              In every game where you can bind keys it is toggleable.You can unbind it and thats it.

              “Some games derive their difficulty from asking you to perform tasks consistently over a period of time, and that difficulty is undeniably broken by quicksaves.”

              Yes,and?Why is this so hard to grasp:You are never forced to use it.Never.Not once does the game stop until you quick save and load from that point.Its an option that you can completely ignore,just like subtitles,sound volume,gamma slider,etc,etc.If you dont like it,you dont have to ever use it.And no,your mental effort doesnt count,because you need that same mental effort in order to remind yourself to safe often,plus the physical effort to actually press the key.So it takes more effort to use it.Not using it costs you nothing.Zero.Zilch.

              1. burningdragoon says:

                If someone has a compulsion to play optimally even if it impacts their fun, then “just don’t use” isn’t really a solution. Wanting their hang up addressed by at least offering more of hard toggle on different features or by having a handful of games that specifically appeal to people who like to not have certain conveniences sometimes isn’t exactly a bad thing.

                1. Thomas says:

                  ^Pretty much this. It can be hard for people who don’t feel compelled to do this sort of thing to understand it. You can say deal with it, but that doesn’t actually help anything because if it were easy to stop then they wouldn’t start in the first place. There’s only so much much mental strain worth putting into a game.

                  1. Paul Spooner says:

                    On the other hand, isn’t self-control more valuable than fun? If a game can force you to learn a commonly applicable real-life skill, that seems worth a lot more mental strain than the pursuit of easy entertainment.

                    1. Alan says:

                      If someone is looking for an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves after a long day, telling them that video games should be another source of stress seems counterproductive.

                      I’m a big fan of quicksaves, but it appears there is a sizable contingent for whom they represent anti-fun. A configuration knob, perhaps set at start, “Do you want to allow quicksaves?” seems a reasonable solution, and technically straightforward.

                    2. Thomas says:

                      Self-control is actually a limited resource. If you’re stressed or you’ve been using lots of it in a day you have less left. People have a certain ability to override their nature and no more.

                      Actually it’s a really cool subject, for example trying to memorise something uses up your self-control. People who were told to memorise a 7 digit number were more likely to try and drink and drive than people who didn’t =D

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Sorry,but no.

                  First:Im a compulsive hoarder in games,and my first run through new vegas involved hours of sifting through random worthless crap.But I managed to impose a rule on myself to never pick up anything that has below a certain value per pound,and it shortened my inventory management considerably.Did it require mental strain?Yes.Was it impossible for me to do?No.Did the developers including the option to pick up random crap ruin my enjoyment somehow?No.Did it improve the enjoyment of some who like collecting specific crap?Yes.

                  Second:There already are not only handful,but plenty of games that either have the quicksave key unbindable,or have a hardcore mode.

                  What is unreasonable is asking that everyone “plays it properly” all the time,simply because you dont like the convenience of the menu that you are never forced to use.

                  1. kdansky says:

                    The difference is: You actually made more money per time when restraining yourself to only carry the valuable stuff with you. In short: You played BETTER. And you enjoyed it, look at that! Now imagine if all that crappy loot had been ridiculously expensive and incredibly heavy, and there would have been powerful guns to buy with all that money (but it would have forced you to spend 30 minutes being bored vendoring crap). Could you have resisted? Because that’s quicksave to me.

                    It’s not about self-control. I completely have the self-control to not use quicksave, but

                    A: I don’t enjoy playing in a handicapped mode.
                    B: It’s generally not possible, because quicksave allows the developers to ignore proper balance, and you really must quicksave if you don’t want to replay half the game at some point because of an impossibly hard spot or a bug.

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “The difference is:
                      Because that's quicksave to me.”

                      Interesting how selectively you use your observations.But funny thing is:When you restrict yourself to not use the quicksave,you also play BETTER.You waste less time save scumming,and improve your skills.In fact,thats exactly what Rutskarn said about this subject(was it during half life spoiler warning?).So yeah,your argument still holds no water.

                      “A: I don't enjoy playing in a handicapped mode.”

                      Yet you ask for all games to have this “handicapped” mode for everyone.

                      Also,once again,is playing starcraft without touching the speed slider handicapped mode?Is not touching the gamma slider in dishonored handicapped mode?Is avoiding the easiest difficulty in games handicapped mode?(and preemptively:There are plenty of games that let you change the difficulty mid play)

                      “B: It's generally not possible, because quicksave allows the developers to ignore proper balance, and you really must quicksave if you don't want to replay half the game at some point because of an impossibly hard spot or a bug.”

                      While that is true,the amount of games that lack proper balance because of the quicksave is extremely low.In fact,I cannot think of a single good game that has quicksave as its hindrance.However,I can think of plenty of good games that are balanced even when you dont save scum:Half life series,deus ex 1 and 3,war/starcraft games,civilization series,empire earth,………..And yet,I can also think of a game that has checkpoints,but relies on poor balance and dias gameplay:Grand theft auto 3.

                      So just because a feature can let the developers misuse it,doesnt mean they will misuse it.If they know their job,they will do it right,if they dont,they will screw things up.

          2. kdansky says:

            Or put it on its head: Why do you insist on breaking every game’s difficulty by putting in a time machine power? Don’t ruin MY game! Go watch a movie if you don’t want to *play* the game. I’m trying to play and therefore win, and for winning to matter, it needs difficulty. Sure, I can play with a handicap and never save, but when I’m balancing the game myself, I might as well close one eye and put a plate on my head to add some more difficulty. If Quicksave is a power that’s in the game, it’s a legal winning method. Not using it is the equivalent of “playing badly”.

            That is why there is an Ironman-setting in XCOM, because quicksaving is more powerful than cheating in that game. If you don’t enjoy the tension of being able to lose, why would you bother with it? The cutscenes suck, the graphics are ugly, the plot is bull, the characters are boring. I claim you don’t actually want to play a game without challenge, but you delude yourself into thinking there is some. Or does it sound like fun to play a version of Thief where there are no guards, so you can’t actually lose?

            How often does “I do really boring stuff in games because it lets me, and I annoy myself doing so” come up in Skyrim-discussions? How often do people complain about zero tension because they retry every section until they get it perfect? All the damn time. Game-mechanics and balance are an important aspect of making and playing a game. You can’t just add a button that wins the game and call it a day without completely destroying all tension and sense of danger.

            Instead of mixing up technical details (getting a phone call while playing) and in-game powers (time rewinding) these should be separate, like they are in all board-games. You can’t take back your move in Chess, because that would be a really shitty game. Taking back moves should not be the default case. It’s the home-rule, that you can play under, but the actual game should not come with it by default. Currently in video games, this is inverted.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              How exactly does quick save ruin your game?By being there?And how exactly is not using something in the game “playing it badly”?I didnt use lower difficulties in bioshock infinite,so was I playing that one badly?I also didnt use time controls in starcraft 2,so was I playing that one badly?I didnt use the quicksave in baldurs gate enhanced edition,so was I playing that one badly?Ive also played countless hours of civ4 without reloading when I screwed up,so was I playing that one badly?

              Just because its there doesnt mean you have to use it.No one is forcing you.But your method of not including it just for the challenge of it is forcing everyone to play it your way.Thats the difference.You think your way is superior simply because its your way,but you are wrong.Its a matter of preference,not objective superiority.

              All that things you said about xcom and skyrim are just how you view them,but not how everyone views them.For example,I never touched hardcore mode in diablo 3 because to me its tedious to rely on hit and run so much and to constantly be tense while playing a game.But that doesnt mean no one enjoyed the mode.I also never bought anything in the auction house,but that doesnt mean no one did.

              Your chess analogy also fails because board chess isnt being played against an ai,but against a human.And when you play any game against a human,you cannot save and return at all.

              1. Syal says:

                For example,I never touched hardcore mode in diablo 3 because to me its tedious to rely on hit and run so much and to constantly be tense while playing a game.But that doesnt mean no one enjoyed the mode.

                You realize half the point they’re making is that there is a Hardcore Mode, and not just you deciding to stop using a normal character if they ever die. So make quicksaving a toggle and call it “elete mode” or something so people can brag about it properly.

            2. Alan says:

              So, yes, other people are enjoying games in ways you find unacceptable, so you want to stop them from doing so. kdansky has determined the one true way to play video games, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go watch movies instead.

              Since apparently you have less self control than a toddler, if it helps, I’ll mail you a sticker you can put on your F5 key labelled, “Cheat,” to help you avoid it.

        2. Alan says:

          Are you arguing that some people are enjoying games in ways you find unacceptable, and you would want developers to prevent those heretics from having non-kdansky approved fun?

          1. kdansky says:

            If you have to cheat, fine, do it. But don’t break a game’s balance by adding the ability to rewind time to everything, because that ruins it for me. Your way of having fun (aka cheating) ruins mine.

            1. Jokerman says:

              So…. Answer Daemian Lucifer’s points.

              Why does the mere presence of the “cheating” Quicksaves hurt the game balance in YOUR game and in what way does them having fun the way they like to impact your enjoyment?

              Why do you even care what other people do? If you don’t like a feature don’t use it…

              1. kdansky says:

                Other people have elaborated already, but I will add my own take on this. I like to be challenged by games. I enjoy beating them. Not “seeing all the content”, but winning. That means that want to go all-out. If the game expects me to kill bad guys, I want to be able to lure them around corners, to abuse their AI, to throw bombs at their feet when they don’t expect it. You know, all the things that everyone else finds fun too: Being clever.

                But if there is a totally OP weapon or spell in the game, I lose interest, because it becomes boring grind, as the optimal way would be to just abuse that power. I literally don’t enjoy using weak powers if I have a better choice. For me, the most/only enjoyment comes from figuring out which power is the best choice, and from becoming better at the game.

                If there is a “I Win” button on the keyboard, the game instantly breaks. I don’t have to get good at the game to win. I just have to press that button often enough. Sure, I can force myself to not use it, but then I’m not being clever, I’m handicapping myself. What was once the equivalent of winning a tournament (a contest of skill against the game) is now the equivalent of winning a tournament where you are the only person entering.

                And not only that: The existence of quick-saves removes a giant burden from the developer. They don’t have to bother with balancing the difficulty, because everyone can save-scum past bad spots anyway.

                Would you enjoy games if you had permanent god-mode enabled all the time? I don’t. It’s a matter of mentality. For competitive people, playing a character that is too powerful is worse than one that is too weak.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “Sure, I can force myself to not use it, but then I'm not being clever, I'm handicapping myself.”

                  Thats not true.Save scumming is the least clever way around any challenge.Just watch any spoiler warning episode and how Josh approaches the challenges without save scumming.Theres plenty of ingenuity involved.In fact,the rest of the cast have commented multiple times on different tactics that he employs in order to beat the game without save scumming through it.

                2. Dev Null says:

                  Every game has such a god mode; its called hitting the internet, finding the cheat codes, or downloading a crack, or reading a walkthrough or a guide. They’re out there. If you can’t cope with the existence of something that makes it easier – but that you are under no obligation to use – then you probably don’t want to play games at all. Just because hitting F5 is convenient and takes a few less keypresses than alt-tab and firing up a browser doesn’t make it any different.

                  You’re making the mistake of confusing powers _in_ the game with things you can do _outside_ the game. And while saving – quick, checkpoint, or otherwise – is in the game _engine_, its not part of the play of the game. If you choose to make it so, thats your perrogative, but thats not how most people design games.

                  Meanwhile, what everyone here is getting riled about is your insistence that a game should not be devised in such a way as to even allow anyone to enjoy it in any way except the rather peculiar way in which you choose to enjoy them. From a game production company’s point-of-view there is simply no point in designing a game for an audience that cannot tolerate anyone else enjoying the game differently. If they design for you, then they sell to you and anyone who thinks like you, and no one else buys their game. If they design for me, they lose you, but they keep all sorts of folks who disagree with BOTH of us, because I am not so inflexible as to insist that everyone else enjoy it my way or “watch a movie instead.” So while your way of enjoying games strikes me as a bit over-compulsive, I don’t actually have a problem with it; but nobody is ever going to design games for you, because economically it just doesn’t make sense.

                  1. kdansky says:

                    >Every game has such a god mode; its called hitting the internet, finding the cheat codes, or downloading a crack, or reading a walkthrough or a guide.

                    That’s obviously cheating. The rules of the game are given, and generally quite obvious: In Chess, you may only move your Knight in a certain pattern. Putting it anywhere else on the board is cheating. The same is true for downloading cheats, cracks, modifying the save files and so on. Isn’t this obvious? I want to win with all means given to me, without cheating. I want to compete.

                    Walkthroughs are fair game. If that makes the game trivial, it’s not interesting to me to begin with.

                    Saving is not outside the game. It’s on the F5 button, readily available. That’s my issue. You can always save your nethack character by writing batch files that copy your safe-game, but that’s clearly outside the game, because it requires your to write a program that changes the behaviour of the game. QS is in the menu. It’s a game-function.

                    Notable: Braid has time rewinding, and works great, because it was designed with it in mind.

  25. RTBones says:

    Oddly enough, I can say I havent really ever relied on quicksaves, largely due to my lack of luck with them. I almost always do a “full” save. The few times I have tried (I am looking at you, Morrowind), I have ended up getting burned by them.

  26. Anorak says:

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R is one of my favourite games, but it is deeply, deeply flawed in many ways.

    One of these is exactly the problem Shamus described: Savegame complexity.

    Stalker had it’s “A-life” ai system, that simulated potentialy hundreds of stalkers across different factions, each with their own goals/missions.

    Aside from that there was the wildlife, which roamed in packs and had territories.

    The levels were massive, and the simulation kept going even when the player wasn’t in a particular map, so other stalkers and wildlife could move freely between map boundaries. This meant that essentially the entire game state had to be saved.

    Saving a game and then loading it could have strange effects. Stalkers might teleport around the place, change allegiances, drop dead of radiation poisining, respawn in an anomaly. The weather might change, the number of animals in the area, the state of anomalies….

    The fact that it was even half way functional was something of a miracle.

    1. Zagzag says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking of when I read this article. I always found that the weather changing, or occasionally hostile NPCs turning passive were to be expected, though I rarely saved during combat so never really saw the latter.

      Didn’t stop me loving the game to pieces though.

  27. Thor says:

    Wow, fancy… This comment is off-topic and directed at Shamus, but this is the first time I’ve been back to the site since the current visual style. I’ve got to say that it’s quite stunning. You kept the feel of your older designs but made them.. um… better.

    If I had a small gripe it would be that the background is too bright. More grey please! I recall that many moons ago you provided the ability to change themes, but you had to get rid of this feature because… well, because of some reason I don’t remember. Any chance of switchable themes with your current website setup?

  28. Incunabulum says:

    While I won’t dispute that save-anywhere is difficult, the fact that PC games have been doing so often for over 20 years that its an *expected* feature of PC games kinda kills the idea that consoles don’t because its hard.

    I think its more a culture thing than difficulty of implementation – consoles have had the (legitimate) excuse that their hardware can’t handle save-anywhere, something that’s only really changed since the release of the PS3/Xbox. Their *customers* don’t expect save-anywhere so they have little incentive to include it (because it *is* more difficult) – why give yourself a larger headche than needed during development.

    It cuts both ways – PC games love to give you 6 toolbars fully of abilities that are slightly different than each other, rather than a few distinct and useful ablilities, stuff like that.

  29. andyy says:

    I haven’t been to the escapist in forever, nor read an experienced points for a while. So here goes: Why does it look like a 4 year old drew on your shirt in that picture?

  30. Sean Riley says:

    Bit late to the conversation, but I have to say: I think The Sims deserves a lot of credit for its save system. Even if it takes an interminable amount of time, it’s doing so because it is saving an ungodly number of variables. That it does this generally flawlessly is genuinely impressive.

  31. Danae says:

    There simply isn’t not a good one in its bunch. This can improve
    your worldview and give you valuable insight about other sorts of

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