Save anywhere

Forum: 

So John Carmack mentions that there won't be a 'save anywhere' option in Doom III, causing a bit of an outcry from some gamers. What's your opinion on 'save anywhere' vs 'strategic save points' ? Which do you prefer, and why? Does it matter that much to you either way? Or has there been any certain games where you just wished they had used the other save system?

Blitz's picture

It depends on the game, and how the save system is used. It also depends on how enjoyable the game is. If it's a really fun game, strategic saves will probably work, because the user won't get quite so annoyed at having to replay the same bit over and over...however, if too much room is left between strategic saves, it can be extremely frustrating having to play through some part of the game over and over, just to get to the bit you're stuck on.
If a game level takes a great length of time (say, more than 5-10 minutes) to complete, and/or if there is multiple ways to achieve the objective (such as RTS's) i prefer a save anywhere. For games where the levels are short, such as your average console action title, strategic saves are fine, as you generally don't have to replay too much of the game to get to the difficult bit.
I personally am of the opinion that strategic saves (or no saves) aer used in a game to make the game seem longer. Unfortunately it seems some developers/publishers consider that how long a game takes is what makes it enjoyable, rather than the content in the game.
CYer, Blitz

lava monkey's picture

i think "save anywhere" would completely ruin the suspense of Doom3 if there is any that is...
And "save anywhere" makes it too easy, what u wanna do is have a total save game time limit, like fade to black (i think it was that) so if you've been playing for too long u cant complete the game.

redwyre's picture

I feel that "save anywhere" cheapens the gaming experience. You can save before something tricky, and just reload if it doesn't work out in your favor. Also, when saving you break the player out of the game.

Strategic save points hold the player in the game, and hold consequence to the player's actions within the game.

Although it really depends how they are implemented, strategic save points that aren't well thought out and designed would suck.

In "Better by design" (a regular column in gdmag) there was some discussion about anywhere vs strategic saves, it's worth a read.

Blitz's picture

As a small note on which games implemented strategic saves well, i thought Halo's checkpoints where quite well implemented, although this also stemmed off the fact that many of the levels were designed with "bubbles" or pockets of enemies, and the strategic saves happened in the breathers between those bubbles. Most of the bubbles only took say 5-15 mins to conquer, so if you failed, you didn't have to spend an hour replaying boring bits you'd already passed etc.
CYer, Blitz

Major Clod's picture

As much as I won't like it I'm all for strategic save points. I have a bad habit of quick saving every 10 seconds in a game... I think its my 3DS Max habits kicking in. :P If I lose health when I know I shouldn't, I find myself repeating it over until I'm satisfied. Ugh it annoys me, but I can't help it! I am the worst when I comes to old Snes and Megadrive ROMS, with their quick save, I'm forever pressing that button!

redwyre's picture

Blitz: They use Halo as the better example in the column :)

Major_Clod: Yeah, same :)

It's funny how everything relates back to System Shock (original), but it had normal saving, but you didn't really need to use it because of how the game is set out. On each level there is a bio-reconstructor-thingy that you have to activate, if you die before it's activated you *DIE*. When it's activated, you basically just re-spawn at it when you die with low health an energy (you still have to manually save the game before you quit). This works brilliantly with the game, you find yourself working harder in the game then saving all the time. But of course this is very specific to the game, but the concept can be applied in different ways.

Daemin's picture

Well if you can't save it everywhere then you should be able to pause it anywhere, so that you can quickly go for a toilet break, or phone call etc.

Major Clod's picture

I absolutely despise games without a pause feature, its completely stupid not to have that. I also hate console ports onto PC that don't properly use the keyboard. For example, entering your name in the game by selecting each letter with the arrow keys! :P

Daemin's picture

Selecting each letter by the arrow key - that's just lazy programming by the people that ported it...

They should be shot.

Maitrek's picture

I've thought about saving in the past, and I have to say that it's one of those things where you need to consider carefully on a game-by-game basis...

You can go either way, you just have to approach the gameplay differently depending on what you choose. Strategic points needs to be considered carefully. How much time will the player lose if they die in between a save point - will the game be in easy enough to digest chunks if the player needs to go somewhere - how much skill do we require from the gamer to make it through most of the sub-sections successfully without having to frustratingly re-do a whole bunch of stuff.

However if you make saves available anywhere you have to worry about maintaining suspense, you have to worry about keeping the player away from the save screen and in the game, you also have to think about what is going to make this game hard? Imagine if you made the game 'harder' to beat because you made it easier for the gamer to save...then you'll have sections of the game where the player loads the game again and again, having to irritatingly wait for the correct roll of the die to get past some particular goal. Or they spend so much time trying to get each section perfect just in case they need full 'health' or something like that around the next corner.

It's tricky, but it can work either way depending on what you think is missing from the game, and what needs to be the focussed more on. It's a compromise like anything in game design.

The big problem with save 'points' is that it does require a more "elite" gamer to get good flow throughout the game, and it requires patience when you blow it - however there is satisfaction/relief when you complete a section. The problem with save-anywhere is that it allows the player to break up the game for themselves, sometimes too much, but the freedom is often appreciated anyway.

Pros and cons to everything - *sigh*...my personal preference is save anywhere, as long as the game is measured well in other areas.

sho nuff's picture

i agree with maitrek. I can't be stuffed righting long posts here cuz u get hurted for it. So imma just agree with the dude above.

BUT! i must say, that if u do feel like save anywhere is cheating, then why don't you just use it less, instead of saying that save points should b implemented to counter this problem?

You could be in the game, and think "hmmm, maybe the devs would put a save point here, so this is where i will save" or sumthin like that. That way everyone wins, and nobody needs to go online and be moody bitches and flame on forums for having 'save anywhere' as opposed to 'strategic save points'.

souri's picture

Save points are just tricky to get right though, because you're kind of expecting the player to fit into your expectations of what they can accomplish. It's pretty unreasonable to think that everyone will be able complete a portion inbetween saves without having trouble at some point, and so begins the dreaded "repeat everything again to get up to the point you died". Do that for over 5 times, and I'm sure you'd want to kick the monitor in. :) I've had that kind of frustration with certain games, like GTA3, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 2, and Parasite Eve. I guess good game design would prevent that, but it's still tricky to get right, I think. (Grand Theft Auto 3 is a bit different - saving whilst in missions wouldn't be the best choice, even though that goes against what I'm saying about save-anywhere. But failing missions, driving back to the mission point, and going through the mission brief again is just unecessary. Let us save right before the mission!)
I do have a preference to save anywhere though.. - sure it's open to abuse (saving every 2 minutes), and yep, it'll reduce the thrill of the game (I'm sure your tactics change dramatically knowing that if you don't have to be so careful ingame), but at least give the player the option if they want to save where ever they want. If I had to choose between retreading the same ground over and over from an old save point, or losing a little suspense, I'd choose the latter. I don't think save-anywhere has ruined any game experience for me, counting Half Life, Quake 2, Metal Gear Solid 2 to name a few titles I can recall off the top of my head right now..

GooberMan's picture

Back in my day we didn't have save points, we had to play the game from start to end... well, OK, the games usually only lasted for an hour from start to end... :P

bloody footy's picture

Third option - 'Save everywhere'
This is where the game is constantly saved; i did use it on my simulation sports game. The reason for this is that I play soccer management games and the temptation was too great to save before a game that you had to win, i think this really took a lot out of it.

Barry Dahlberg's picture

I am the worst abuser on save anywhere so it's probably good they're not using it. From a programming perspective I can see the advantages of strategic save points too. Either way id has a reputation for clean and efficient systems which let the user get right into the action with minimal fuss, I expect no less from them this time around.

unknownuser1's picture

Like most people, I am for the pros and cons for both systems.

Halo did strategic saves well, but as it was mentioned, mainly due to the way the action was set out. It worked well as when you died it instantly loaded up again and made you want to keep on playing. Although it was irritating if you completed a hard area, and then you didn't know where the next checkpoint was, you could always just run back to a previous point :) It is nice to know that the game is saving for you, so that you can just play continuously without having to press extra keys or go through menus.

Save anywhere can be useful, as most games are predictable as to where harder parts will be. You can save before walking into that new room after a minute of silence and know that a big demon will jump out at you. Saving every two minutes can ruin it for a gamer, but that is where laziness is a massive plus :)

Bloody Footy has a good point as well. I still remember Syndicate Wars' 'bastard' mode. It would only save after a mission was finished. Completed or failed. Made it a real challenge :)

I have no problem with Doom3 going down that path, and I think it may help out the flow of the game more than it will destroy it. I think that it is still a better option than 'no saving', where you have to play a level from the begining if you die :/

Morphine's picture

I agree with Aven, using both can be an advantage and a disadvantage.

Save Everywhere.
Advantages:
Saving before a really hard part in a game.
Saving before a part in the game you have yet to venture into.
You save when YOU want to save.

Disadvantages:
A form of cheating, especially in Warcraft III *grins*

Checkpoints.
Advantages:
Forces the player to be more careful in their decisions.
More challenging for skilled gamers.

Disadvantages:
Somebody else but you chooses when you can save.

There are more ads/dises for both but my brain isn't working at the moment.

Doom III Checkpoints, all for it. Doom III without PC Co-Op? BOOOOOOOO!

unknownuser4's picture

I'm a big fan of constant saving. I still play Diablo 2 because it's still challenging. Knowing that everything you do is saved, every mistake you make etc. Of course it would be different if dying meant the end of the game (unless you play hardcore, now that's a challenge).
But the anticipation when you use your imbues, and staying up till 4am knowing that if you dont beat Diablo now you'll have to fight your way through the river of flame, and the arcane sanctuary again tomorrow. It added a whole new dimension to the game.

Stu

Jigen's picture

I find that in games. RPG?s definitely I get a certain feeling of tension when I do something and can?t save. It adds to the game in my opinion and the feeling of relief when I actually find a save point is really cool. On another note I can?t recall the amount of times when I was younger the excuse ?I just have to find a save point? got me a extra half an hour of game play. (Even though I found one in the first few minutes)

unknownuser2's picture

Hey Jigen glad to see you joined up man :) hopefully youll find the place helpful and inciteful - flex your designing muscles :)

My 2 cents on saving anywhere - im pro for both completely dependant on the game.

for RPG's i like to save at any time and anywhere - its not often youll find an RPG thats built with the save spheres / points position so well as to not be too far apart but then again not be too close - thus i say remove it all and save whenever you like.

for RTS's i say mission saves are cool. Cant finish this mission ? too bad keep going until you beat it.

same goes for FPS's - unless of course the level is massive - maybe id be happy with waypoint saves.

for platform games - i think save points are definatley the way to go, but once again placing them appropriately is quite the task. perhaps waypoints is a good one here also.

souri's picture

I haven't played Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but the rewind feature sounds pretty interesting [:)].. although it's perhaps most suited to that type of game in particular, where crucial timing for jumps are required, plenty of traps etc.

Prema's picture

Okay guys,

I'm new in here so go easy. Let's open this discussion back up...

I'm currently writing a research dissertation on how game narratives are constructed. I'm really interested in the way that time is created for the player- I'm not just talking flashbacks. As Ben noted, save points "break the player out of the game" just like menu bars and pause screens it's a whole other gameplay mode.

If any of you guys could shed some light on how much these other game/ time experiences get considered when writing and designing games it would be much appreciated. I think by discussing things like auto save functions we begin to question whether the player should be broken from the gameplay at all...

Do you think games should develop to just exist in a single gameplay mode? They'd auto save, and rather than non-interactive cut-scenes have action sequences embedded into the gameplay. Instead of a suspended radiating array of guns in a seperate menu mode should Lara Croft throw her rucksack down and rifle through it on whatever game level she's moving through?

Prema's picture

Oh, and Happy Birthday for Friday JT!

unknownuser2's picture

Firstly, Thanks Prema! [:D] Secondly, Welcome to Sumea [:)]

Interesting notion, im a firm believer in the immersive 'whole' of a game experience, however, to take things to a non-menu type situation with the lara croft example you mentioned, i think would indeed create a new 'element' to gameplay, but lets not forget the fun factor, imagine having to rummage through your non-organised rucksack for that piece of the puzzle, taking care not to impale your fingers on the many knives and other pointed objects that one would hold in their 'menu' inventory.

I think while definately in some areas, it could be done, as long as it doesnt take away from the whole experience, personally, back to the lara example again, it would have to consider things like for instance the diablo / baldurs gate type inventory where players can 'stack' items and carry 5 melee weapons, 3 shields, and countless other pieces required to go forward. But really, could you see a brave warrior(ess) wading into battle, carrying all this stuff strapped to him/her [?]

All in all my personal preference is that development in this area, would be a fine line to tread indeed, as taking it to far could so easily ruin a good game. In saying that though, with a careful approach i think some interesting things could come of it.

Prema's picture

Thanks for your response JT![:I]

Let's assume then that multiple gameplay modes are a given- menus, save screens etc (cos lets face it- 60 hours of FFX is gonna require some bathroom breaks)

So is there a focus in game narratives to make the timeline a logical progression so that the player isn't confused about how far they're progressing through the game?
Films used to be like that- telling a story from start to finish- and any flashbacks fitting easily and logically into the linear storyline. Contemporary films now play more withe the concept of time.
Take for example films which can distort the timeline and make you unsure of which events happened when- so then the different scenes and images become about the experience of time they give. If you've seen "Run Lola Run" where Lola learns from reliving the same 20 mins, or "Mulholland Drive" where the story is a paradox, you'll know what I'm talking about... If not- "the choice is ezy"

Do you think it would be possible for a game to make the same leap to a non-linear narrative? Somehow I fear that it would require for gamers to want to just EXPERIENCE the game. But let's face it- as it stands games are there to challenge us, and we want to feel that we are making PROGRESS through the levels. We want to reach the end.

The only example I can think of that has really broken from this model is Silent Hill- where you have a letter from your dead wife asking you to go to silent hill. By the end of the game the letter has faded to nothing because it was a hallucination. The letter turns the game timeline away from a simple progression of reality. IF you notice it fading you can be clued into the fact that your actions should take on a different tone. It's almost like Lola's intuitively knowing how to turn the safety catch of the gun off. She's done it before, and yet she hasn't. She, as the character, can't know that she's done it before, just like our avatar in Silent Hill doesn't realise he is hallucinating. But by playing with the timeline both of these experiences let the viewer oversee strange connections between events and timeframes.

Personally I think this made Silent Hill stand out from other games. Do you think this kind of approach to gaming has a future? (ie where it is more like a dream of related experiences than a set of levels to be completed?)

unknownuser2's picture

Ahh I see, yes definately I think that area of development could be pushed. But more-so with RPG and action-adventure genres.

Memento, is another movie that kind of mucks around a bit with the timeline. If you have a ps2 - I suggest trying to find and old game called Shadow of Memories, it came out when the ps2 was released, and has a few of the tampered timeline elements you speak of.

Now that I've had a chance to think about it a bit more - I don't think alot of game designers have taken things that far, or that they have, but found that it changed the entire dynamic of the game, to something that doesnt look much like the original plan at all!

I think this discussion deserves its own thread!! [:D]

Sadly ive never played Silent Hill, not that I havent wanted to, I have the entire Resi Evil Series, and Project Zero, but there was always a new RPG sitting on the shelves when I went to get Silent Hill [:)] and an RPG takes priority im afraid! [:D]

As for Square, with the entire Final Fantasy series, I think they definately take the logical progression route, although the shorts I saw of FFX-2 about 6 months ago before it came out, led me to believe that maybe they were trying to really twist the timeline etc, but after finishing it with 100% [:D] it was more just several minor tweaks here and there.

I think for any story driven game, logical progression is simple and thats why its been done for so long. It costs less to implement, shortens dev time and applies to a wide demographic. However times are changing, so maybe its time to think more along these lines as well. [:D]

An interesting topic. [:)]

Maitrek's picture

I'm surprised this is still a hot topic.

quote:


If any of you guys could shed some light on how much these other game/ time experiences get considered when writing and designing games it would be much appreciated. I think by discussing things like auto save functions we begin to question whether the player should be broken from the gameplay at all...

Interesting you mention that, the current game I've got in the boiling pot has no 'save game' feature at all...of course it has profiles so it knows who is playing the game so it knows where the player was up to, but basically it is progresses through from start to finish in one continuous narrative/timeline. The fact of the matter is, save games are part of the gameplay mechanic, they serve to add to difficulty, tension, relief, reward etc etc. Anything that has a 'rewarding' effect is immediately part of the game and should be *careuflly* considered in the design process.

In the context of the game I'm currently still sorting out, there is no need for that kind of device, and hence it is completely removed from the game. The fact of the matter is, by having no 'going back' feature the choices and things the character does are, timeline wise, irreversible. Further, if the player desires to repent and make up for a bad decision, they will have to do so in the 'future' - it adds a sense of consequence and reality to decisions/choices.

I could go off topic and answer some of your other Qs, but I won't... :)

rivit's picture

Hmm I did not read all threads but I would assume the save any ware is meant to be a convenience for players
But [1]it takes a goal achievement away
[2]when 1 restarts the game are the still in same location and enemy still in same location or is it a fresh start so if player is about to die you can save and exit like Diablo 2
(Once again removing a achievement goal from the game )

So the overlying point do we design games as designers or do we design games to please people and at the end of the day kill the last ability and the art of game design..
I don?t believe in this ?if you make a good game people will play it ??
Not like battle field Vietnam were they give you 1 game then patch it up so its nothing like it was and in reality give you a different product to what you got in the first place
That game went into the bin for me [8]

lsdod's picture

I'll be the first to admit that I 'ride' the quicksave key. However, Im definately PRO 'save anywhere'. I dont have a whole lot of time to replay tough bits of games over and over and will more likely just stop playing a game alltogether if this is the case.

Also, I like to be able to quit a game when i feel like it. It doesn't go down great with the GF if she wants me to get off the comp and I make her wait an hour while I attempt to reach the next save location without dying.

It is certainly a form of cheating though, especially when there are events which trigger something random. For example, saving before a treasure chest in game X which contains random items varying from useless to extremely good items. And continually reloading until you get the item you want. However, with some trickery, programmers can get around this by preserving the random seed in memory for the next reload.

I didn't mind how GTA:VC saves were. It never took too long to be able to get to a save location. Only annoying when i had to shut down the computer during a long mission..

I think it also comes down to a deeper issue which is that people have a certain resentment for the fact that while they're doin it tough, someone else is breezing through with cheats. For example, when i played Morrowind i found the game far to easy, but when they released a patch which gave you an on-the-fly difficulty slider, I always left it as default, because it annoyed me superficiouly that my achievments would be under-rated by someone else who has gone through the game on an easier setting. As stupid and petty as that may sound, I think its deep down in many of our competitive natures.

Ultimately, with a save anywhere feature it comes down to your own will power not to abuse it. And the ability to accept that other people will play the game at their own pace, skill level, advantages, etc and really not care whether or not you are the most hardcore player out there.

Unfortunetely, due to the nature of games consoles, it is more convenient to have save points and as more games are released for multi-platforms, so will more games have save points.

I will always be Pro "SAVE ANYWHERE"

Maitrek's picture

lsdod - I agree its up to the player as to how they use the save anywhere feature...but alot of the time game designers get slack with how they should present a challenge. This is why the save point system exists, so they just make something that is incredibly difficult that you will have to repeat over and over and over again in order to fill out the game so that the gamer gets their 20 hours of 'gameplay'. That's when the save-point system becomes tacky.