Over at Gamespite, one of the blog's writers put up a rather interesting discussion on saving in videogames.
Here was my thoughts on the matter, with my usual "taking a forum/blog reply and tweaking it for content on my own blog" thing.
For those of you who don't know, most video and computer games limit where you can save your progress. From games that make you go for HOURS without a save point, games that let you save anywhere you want (usually destroying all immersion and danger to the player should they have the lack of restraint to save every few seconds), to games with a Quicksave/Suspend function that allows you to make a temporary save that is usually erased when you return, keeping the desired challenge, but allowing for people with limited free time to actually play and enjoy a game on their schedule.
The article poster brought up how it should be more player friendly given the increasing average age of game players and how the 35 year old average person doesn't have the amount of free time a 15 year old no life kid on summer vacation does. (I was one of those people even with my mother having tons of pointless chores and home maintenance to do. Only one car in the household, and my father worked 2 jobs. Most of my friends had sports, 2 divorced parents to split their time with, or other activities to do. I did not. I still do not have much of a life and thanks to my job I generally have a decent amount of free time, but I still have plenty to do, and lots of interests, as this blog and my endless pile of unplayed games and unfinished projects attests to.)
I pretty much agree. I don't have the time or interest for many 50 hour epics anymore, much less ones that won't let me save whenever I damn well feel like it. With multigig SD cards and 20 or more gig hard drives (20 being TEENY now. And I remember when 120 meg HDs were the stuff of kings..) there is no excuse for at least a quicksave slot.
We got into this "save when we tell you its ok to save" thing in the early computer years when developers were either trying to save disk space or attempting to put in some challenge. And even back on the C64 some games had generous save areas (like Ultima which pretty much let you save whenever you were on the overworld map), or savestate cartridges that allowed you to snapshot. And as we all know, Japanese creators are nothing if not hidebound traditionalists who will happily regurgitate the same idea even if its a bad one provided "its the way things have always been done", which lead to the designers telling us when we can save.
I would prefer more fair hard saves than an instantly erased quicksave though. A 2+ hour dungeon in Breath of Fire 2 on the GBA CRASHED at nearly the end of it. I just could not go back after that.
Yes I know hardsaves just cause some players to cheese their way through a game, but so what? It makes Fire Emblem games playable instead of the endless frustration in playing it perfect they would otherwise be. It allows players to explore and take risks they otherwise would not in fear of a game over. (Hi Wizardry and Etrian Odyssey!)
I think the lack of an in mission save is what hurt Operation Darkness on the 360. I think its a wonderful game, but so many people and reviewers seem to loathe it. The fact most missions are 40-90 minutes long with no save and a VERY small margin of error (usually 1-7 members of your team cannot die or its Game Over, even if you have a way to revive them...) is probably the reason why. Add in the fact many battles seem to have surprise reinforcements that can totally hose what was a winning battle until that point and it just leads to player frustration.
Developers keep designing games for the no life teenager who is happy to spend dozens of hours playing a game and going for 100% unlock.
The problem is the market has evolved where a sizable percentage of the playerbase isn't interested in this style of play, and they can't be due to time restraints even if they might be!
Give us the choice. Even make save types an option for the game like difficulty level is. I can save anywhere I want in Doom, but to kill some time (because I had 40 minutes after a disastrous Operation Darkness mission) I decided to play an Ironman mode game on Ultraviolence to see how far I could make it before dying. I CHOSE not to use saves outside of one when it was bed time. Why force it on the player?
I made it to Episode 1 Level 6 before my Space Marine finally fell to a room packed with monsters. Got trapped in a double sized alcove and some Spectre Demons ate me. It was freaking awesome. But would I love Doom the way I do if it only played Ironman style? Hell no.
But I CHOSE to play it that way as a challenge, and thus had no irritation and frustration about it.
Its 2009. The PLAYERS deserve to choose how to play the game, not some overworked and underpaid developers.
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