What's the point of Save Points; a discussion -

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Snake2557, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. Snake2557

    Snake2557 Villager Member

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    Hello everyone, I've been thinking lately about save points. I mean obviously their purpose is to save the game; but what practical purposes do they serve. Why not allow the player unfettered access to the coveted save menu? What does the developer gain from having this mechanic? Why do I care so much about this? All a mystery...

    As far as I can tell they serve only as a way to pad game time, by requiring the player to backtrack, or worse still, restart from them... Now obviously I want to know what you think about it, otherwise i would continue this painful self dialogue on my own terms (less to disagree about and all that).
     
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  2. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran Veteran

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    I've seen them used prior to entering areas where there are going to be a lot of battles, or tough battles - even if the save option in the menu is still available. In this case they serve as a warning to players that there's a tough area ahead, either giving them the option to restore if they press on and find it too hard, or letting them go somewhere else to level up a bit or get better equipment before entering. It's also a reminder to them to save, as sometimes they can get so engrossed they forget to do it.
     
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  3. OnslaughtSupply

    OnslaughtSupply Ssshhh... Veteran

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    In a horror game it adds stress or tension to the areas between saving and breeds more consequence in death. In a regular rpg its typically combined with a full restore of hp and mp and can be a warning to the player that a tough section is ahead, they had better save.
     
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  4. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Personally I prefer to just be able to save anywhere. I've played too many games that just go too long between save points and I have to leave for work NOW so I have to just shut down and lose progress. And don't get me started on the one game that had me go 1.5 hours without being able to save, then I got a Game Over due to a poorly explained fail condition. Deinstalled that game and never returned.

    Basically it is important to respect the players time, and I feel not letting players save when they want to how they want to is disrespectful to their time. But I also don't play horror games (just don't like them) so can't comment on if they might have a place there. But in an RPG, forget it. The original reason they existed in early RPG's was due to disk space issues with letting players save anywhere, and we are long past that being an issue now.

    With that said, all I can see Save points being used for is as reminders to save your game. Some players might use it as a challenge mode (only save at those points) too, but let that be their choice. Don't force them into that mode please.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
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  5. Storyteller-Hero

    Storyteller-Hero Veteran Veteran

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    A compromise would be to let them save anywhere but also make crystals that restore the party's hp/mp as well as saving the game, to give them additional meaning.
     
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  6. Snake2557

    Snake2557 Villager Member

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    I could not agree more, It's frustrating to have to redo entire sections because of a mechanic that is not explained in an easily digestible way. More over, it detracts from the overall experience.

    If that's the case though, I feel as though the save point is immersion breaking, could you not design your dungeon or area more intuitively to foreshadow the increase in difficulty (trails of blood becoming more frequent, bones, or if your setting permits it perhaps a common marker to establish an impending boss fight). Maybe this is just me but if I forget to save I feel as though Its my fault, as in the onus is on me to save if I have the option; whereas I feel cheated if I'm forced to redo larger sections simply because the save point was twenty minutes of dungeoneering before the boss fight.

    Now that is an interesting perspective, I haven't considered the implication of save points in horror games. The feeling of dread seeing a save point is one that I'm familiar with haha :oswt:.
     
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  7. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    This is a personal guess and not based on everything. Back in the old days, where you use save point instead of saving everywhere was to make you keep playing the game. The game will take longer to finish, little to no walkthrough, and if u died, you restarted at the last checkpoint. Making it reaching the next checkpoint could be an achievement. There was no internet, so you didn't have many references, or even complain. Making games took longer to complete might also contribute to making it memorable because you struggle on it. Additionally, one that could finish the game was probably people with a lot of free times, which are kids, and teenager.

    Today, the internet exists. Games are often taken for granted. Games with save points are sort of punishing, so you'd better off playing other games. Leave such games has no place to compete. Kids and teenager were grown up, but they're still carrying the torch of gamer, yet little time. They don't have much time to play as it used to be, so they despise the save points system. So the usage of save point system is changed.

    On the first paragraph, I know, I experienced it. I tried to replay the game I used to finish it in weeks back on my childhood. With the guide of the internet, and emulator (save everywhere), I could do it just within 2-3 days.
     
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  8. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    For my new game, I have save anywhere and save points. The save points serve as a reminder for people to save, because I know there are people who will forget, and then lose hours of progress if anything happens. They also provide a one-time full heal for those who are in need for a party restore.
     
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  9. kairi_key

    kairi_key Veteran Veteran

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    For me, a save point is where I actually feel safe and relaxed. Probably because that's how I grow up playing games, so I never expected or thought of how "what if you can save anywhere" before. I often think of save point as a landmark in progression as that is how I learn to expect from games. That way, it's easier for me to get back to the game knowing what I did and what I will be doing next.

    I get your point, tho. Inability to save literally anywhere can be frustrating as nowadays time is not something you really have plenty of. I really like it that way too. Still, I will somehow find a place that is "landmark" enough for me to save a game, lol. Personally, I think the point of having separate save point is to increase danger factor. For me, it is not that ideal to be able to save where it is dangerous or don't feel safe, especially in a random encounter situation. I don't want to load back a game and found myself in a space that is not safe. Having a save point rid me of that fear.

    I think recent game try to make a save point to function not just simply a save point, too. Like an actual place for a warp point, or a place for full recover or something.
    I think the point of ability to save is really not just everytime or from just some points in-game, but it's more of how you communicate with player. I can really get behind the fact that I can save anywhere but not the dungeon.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
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  10. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I think that there are some games that work better with Save Points and some games that work better with save-anywhere functionality. (Additionally, some games work better with Saves that are offered based on progress, rather than having a specific location where you can Save.) Since there have already been a lot of arguments in favor of save-anywhere, let me play the devil's advocate and make the case against it:
    • With save-anywhere, many players will continually visit the save screen and save their game (after every battle, etc.), which breaks immersion and also pads the game with a considerable amount of an unfun activity.
    • With save-anywhere in a JRPG, there is no sense of risk (assuming that you don't outright forget to save). You're never really playing for anything; you never really lose anything if you take a Game Over, because you can restart just a few seconds behind where you left off. There's less of an exciting sense of danger when your HP starts running low. With Save Points, you get more of the excitement that comes with the risk of losing progress (even though you also get frustration in the cases where you actually do lose progress).
    • With save-anywhere, it is very possible for the player to lock themselves into an unwinnable situation (e.g. deep in a dungeon with low HP, no MP, and no items), and there's little the designer can do to prevent that (short of sweeping system-wide changes to dungeoneering). With intelligently-placed save points, the designer can prevent the player from locking themselves into unwinnable states.
    Additionally, a Soft Save feature (saves that can be created anywhere but are deleted once loaded) can solve the very valid "real life calls"-type of problems that bgillisp and others brought up.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  11. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    Save points still have a place, I think. If you aren't healing players after every battle, they can be handy full-restore points. They can also grant shop access, or even act as a form of transportation which allows players to move from point to point in the same dungeon. You can also use them as waypoints as a fix for this:

    My solution here is to have save points also act as waypoints. The main character will get a 0-cost skill to teleport back to the last-touched "save" point. So, stuck deep in a dungeon with 3/4 party members dead, no MP, no items, and you salvaged all your gear for some absurd reason before saving? No problem, because this lets you port back to the last save point you visited to recuperate. Of course, it won't bring back your destroyed gear, but developers can't fully protect players from themselves. :)
     
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  12. BK-tdm

    BK-tdm Pixel Alchemist Veteran

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    They add to the difficulty in my opinion, giving a sense of desperation for the unprepared (perfect for horror games) to get to the next checkpoint, not every game will need it, some can do whitout limiting the players ability to save but being able to save anywhere will make any difficult or "random roll" (more on that later) a save-scumming target and you have to take into account how "free saving" could ruin the experience you want to convey.
    Ill dive into my specialty now: Exploiting scenarios.

    If you add casino like minigames or slots to get bonus gear or even a hidden weapon with limited or expensive coins, guess what, im gonna save before every roll, keep multiple saves and reload/reroll on every garbage result to save my resources.

    If you add visual novel like branching paths where decisions can make you lose something important or even a character/get you a bad ending, Im going to keep a save on every choice and reload if the choice i did was actually a slip up, so much for "decisions matter" when you can rewind freely.

    If you add complicated puzzles where there are dummy switches that reset everything, trigger traps or even lock a secondary path to a treasure, im gonna save and keep multiple saves on every step to ensure i get the good way, the treasure and skip your well thought resets and traps.

    If you add a difficult boss with a certain weakness i find out 3/4 into the fight, im gonna reload a save before the boss and exploit it from the get go to save my items/ expendable resources as much as i can.

    I've seen people quicksave on every turn on pokemon (emulator of course) so they can reroll their attack if they didnt pick the right choice.

    If you think save points are a disrespect to the players time, as a player, many are going to disrespect as much of the developers time as they can to skip unnecesary drawbacks if save scumming allows them to.

    Save points are not the go to and saviour of all, but sometimes, depending on your game and the experience you want to convey they will be a necessary evil of sorts, never underestimate the ability of players to break your game in any way they can.
     
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  13. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    In Dragon Quest/Warrior 4, there was a save spot near the casino, so you could still do this by taking a few steps. However, the main way to earn casino currency wasn't to save after every hand, but to try your luck with double or nothing after winning a hand. During the double-or-nothing draws, you couldn't "save on every roll" so there was still a sense of "will this get me a ton of coins, or will I lose everything with this next choice?" I mean, you could still reload the save if you failed to preserve coins, but you couldn't quicksave in between double-or-nothing rolls to guarantee the best possible payout unless you were using an emulator.

    This has been a thing since the days of the "choose your own adventure" and "lone wolf" books. :) It could almost be seen as a quality of life thing that allows players to explore multiple branch paths in your story without having to sit through dialog they've already read.

    There's no rule that says a game with save-anywhere enabled can't temporarily disable it, or handle its switch positions in a way that isn't saved until the puzzle is complete. What if you threw a few switches, saved to make sure there wasn't a trap/reset, and upon reloading, found your puzzle progress was reset?

    This is why I'm a huge advocate for having libra/scan type abilities available to players. Let them scan the boss, see its strengths/weaknesses, and plan accordingly. That said, "failing on the boss, then restarting the fight armed with greater knowledge on how to best tackle it" is pretty much a working-as-intended mechanic that's been a part of gaming since the earliest days. I see no problem here.

    That's emulator, which breaks all the rules. No game developer from that time planned around quicksaving because it didn't exist at the time the games were made.

    Save scumming has existed long before the days of save-anywhere RPGs. I did it in the original legend of zelda to have zero-death game clears. I did it in Wizardry (5 I believe?) to avoid characters being killed since it didn't save until after battle if memory serves. I did it in final fantasy tactics to avoid the permadeath from "[so-and-so]'s spirit turned into a crystal." Point is, people are going save scum to avoid punishing mechanics whether they're allowed to save anywhere or if their saving is limited to certain checkpoints only. The main appeal to saving anywhere isn't that it makes save scumming easier, but that it lets the player stop when they want rather than being stuck in a dungeon, wishing the next save point would hurry up and appear because they want/need to stop playing to take care of something else.

    In short, I believe we, as developers should weigh both the good and the bad surrounding a given system and not try to punish players by taking away something good unless the bad is overwhelmingly game-breaking. In the case of saving anywhere and save scumming, we have to ask ourselves if the "bad" is really all that bad to begin with. If someone gets enjoyment from my game by saving in between casino hands or before attempting a puzzle with potentially-dire consequences for failure, I say let them. As the designer, I'll try my best to make sure there's still some sense of meaningful choice to be made--uninterruptible double-or-nothing rounds after winning casino hand wins, puzzles reset upon reload, etc.

    I should also mention that I started off in favor of having save points over save anywhere, but after weighing the pros and cons of each, have changed my stance to save anywhere for all the reasons given in my post.
     
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  14. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    There's no perfect game that cannot be abused. Even those old games with permadeath I got around by creating a .bat file which I could run at the command line to make a copy of my save games in another directory. And if I died, I ran a different .bat file to get around that.

    Even Starflight, which was famously known as the game that saved everything permanently to the disk so if you ever died your disks were worthless could be exploited just by making backups. In fact the developers told you to do that at the beginning and only play on the backups for that reason. From there it was up to you how permanent you wanted the game to be.

    As for the whole saving before choices, we all need to remember that player's time is precious. Not everyone wants to play through a game 6 - 10 times to see all the different routes and figure out how they work out, and will instead want to be able to quickly save, experiment, and pick what works for them. And honestly, if you are worried about that, if your game has any popularity at all there will be guides out in no time on the internet telling players how to get the optimal choice. So honestly, choices don't matter, no matter what you do, as players can and will find a way to find the optimal choice regardless of what you do.

    And if you try to make choices away from a save point, then players will just see it as you making it inconvenient to let them try different options. Some might put up with it and reset then try another (and if you autosave to prevent that, some players I know will just say $%^& this and deinstall your game and go play a game that isn't trying so hard to mess over the player). But most will if you make it too hard for them to play the game conveniently as you are too worried about save scumming, they will just leave your game and give it a bad review and never touch it again and/or avoid the rest of your products. And that you can't afford to happen too often if you want to survive as a commercial indie.

    So I still suggest we make save points or limited saving a choice, but do NOT force it on the player. If a player wants to save scum the game, that's their choice. Plus, if you make it a choice, you could always add an achievement for those who save the game only x times in a playthrough to maybe encourage less saving? Or maybe you could do like Jagged Alliance 2 and Wizardry 8 did, and add an optional Ironman mode where the game is one save, can only save when you quit, and if you died your save game is erased. Then, it is a player choice to do something like that at that point in time, and those who don't want to do it, can just ignore that option.
     
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  15. KoldBlood

    KoldBlood Make It Better Veteran

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    Probably gonna get hate over this but personally, I've literally never had an issue with save points. Ever. If I felt the need to save RIGHT NOW I'd just backtrack to the last save point (in a well designed game this is usually no more than a couple of mins away (or less since you obviously know where to find it). Even as an adult with a busy life and work schedule I've had no problem setting aside time to play and managing that time to include a quick save run to finish up (I actually have more trouble finding time to make my own game than finding a save point in an RPG). On the rare occasion that a life emergency has come up I usually just close the game or pause and leave it running. I've never been upset for losing progress because of a life emergency either because, well, it was an emergency and not the game's fault. If I died and lost progress, that was my fault (unless the game employs cheap, unavoidable, insta-death that I understand). It sucks to lose but that's part of the challenge of a video game... or at least video games USED to be challenging, not so much anymore. Everyone just expects to win by turn it on anymore it seems.

    With my personal experience out of the way, I will echo some of the best responses I've seen here which are "it depends on the game". Save anywhere is great in casual games not meant to be very challenging at all or open world style games where the progress of the player is nearly impossible to predict, death can come at any time and any form, and it feeds into the "open" feel of the open world genre.

    But for a linear game with distinct "dungeons" and clear safe and dangerous areas I think save points provide a very good platform for challenging to player to complete a section of the game successfully in "one run", it's not a difficultly cop out it's a player skill check "demonstrate that you've learned enough to complete this area without a game over". Depending on the game, difficultly, etc. the developer can add/remove save points and move them closer or further from each other to increase the requirement from the player but care needs to be taken in how long it is between those points.

    As others have said as well, save points are very useful in horror style games for creating a fear within the player in the form of lost progress which I think translates the fear the game character is experiencing into something more tangible for the player. I would get a similar feeling when diving into a dungeon on Final Fantasy 1 on the NES. Since you could only save just outside the dungeon and dungeons were crawling with powerful monsters completing one and successfully making it back outside to save again gave you a really good feeling of accomplishment. Yeah, getting a game over would suck but most dungeons in FF1 weren't incredibly long bar Gurgu Volcano and the Sky Fortress. One thing I will touch on though is that FF1 had a bit too many surprise insta-kill monsters in the mid-game dungeons with no real way of preventing it until late game. On top of extremely limited revives outside of towns it could become very annoying to die in that way. I would strongly advise against this approach as it is one thing to get chipped down from 100 hp to 0 and be sent back to the beginning of a dungeon but it is another thing entirely to be insta-killed by an enemy you had no way of knowing could insta-kill you or even a way to prevent it if you did.

    In my game, I am currently placing save points at the beginning, middle, and end of dungeons. Also one in every Inn and at the beginning of each new area. There is a clear pattern and the player is never left unsure where to find a save point if they feel the need to save immediately. This also ensures that if they make it to the boss and die they can begin the fight again without having to re-trek a dungeon they just cleared. To me they proved they can get to the boss at that point, now they just need to prove they can beat the boss. The halfway point also acts as a relief point, giving them a since of accomplishment and to let the player at least retain SOME progress if they happen to game over after the 50% mark. This also allows me to make my dungeons slightly longer.

    With all of that said, I think that adding a temporary "soft" save is a BRILLIANT idea for games with save points. This preserves the point (no pun intended) of save points while allowing the flexibility of a save anywhere system.

    All in all, I don't think there's any one BEST save system. What save system you use is mostly personal preference and depends on the style of game you're going for. No matter which you pick it's going to be your game design that decides whether your save system works or not, not the other way around.
     
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  16. Countyoungblood

    Countyoungblood Sleeping Dragon Veteran

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    save scumming aside, save files exist in modern games to snapshot particular game positions the player might want to return to. Auto-save is the norm now for a reason and since its become the standard anything less shows lack of understanding. If I in my limited time are forced to redo something Ive already done because you as a developer decided I could only save once per hour of gameplay I will not purchase your product.

    easy logic is the people with money to buy your game have jobs/responsibilities and less time to spend playing your game. if you want to aim at the broke adults/kids with infinite free time who don't mind staying up till 4 in the morning and/or don't have children that might require breaking away entirely at any given moment. both can work but if there is any logic behind copying the big companies with big research teams who aim at making the most money they can as profit for a business then aiming at adult gamers who wont tolerate antiquated save points makes sense.

    practicing discernment to realize which features to emulate and which features to ignore can be tough though.
     
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  17. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I'm mostly in agreement with your analysis, but to touch on one specific point:

    For most styles of combat system, if the player can complete an area using any number of saves, they will also be capable of beating it in one run (with the only reason they failed being variability, randomness, or making a mistake they they learned from).

    The difference between the two systems, is that the Save Points system makes the player go back and redo some of the things they've already done. I feel this is usually not ideal in RPGs (making save-anywhere the better system in this regard), although in games where the experience will still be compelling when you have to redo it fifteen minutes later, it can be perfectly fine.

    The flip side, as I mentioned before, is that save-anywhere eliminates the sense of risk in battles (in addition to breaking immersion with frequent save screens). When you have something to lose, the experience feels more intense and more compelling, and in this regard save points are the better system. If you go for the Save Point design, then, I think the goal is to maximize the feeling that you could take a game over and lose a lot of progress, while minimizing the actual frequency of game overs and amount of progress lost to them.
     
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  18. Basileus

    Basileus Veteran Veteran

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    I feel like this is another area where Dragon Quest did something for a reason and everyone copied it without understanding what it was for.

    The director for the Dragon Quest series is pretty well-known for his love of gambling and he inserted aspects of gambling into the games. The method for building and releasing tension in gambling is risk. In order to create risk, Dragon Quest requires the player to save in a church/with a priest which generally means they can only save in town. This means the player will have to travel to the dungeon and get to the boss at the end without saving (or reviving fallen party members since that is also done at a church). The monster compositions even come in easy, average, and hard variants so each battle is a small roll of the dice. The risk doesn't come from each battle, but rather from the resource drain over dozens of battles. The devs want the player to have to consider whether they should press on or cut their losses and head back to town. They also made a bunch of quality of life improvements centered on making the limited save point system work, including quick saves which can do anywhere (that don't save over your main save file so you can't trap yourself) and the 0 cost "Exit" and "Zoom" spells to teleport to the entrance of a dungeon and teleport to any town previously visited, making it very easy to get to a church if you need to save right now.

    For a game that follows the DQ model, see Dark Souls. There are limited bonfires to save the game at, often only 1 per area, so there are big moments of rising tension as the player rushes to find a new bonfire or make it back to a previous one without dying. And just like Dragon Quest, the player doesn't game over when they die. They merely get sent back to the last save point they used and lose their money (all of their souls in Dark Souls, only half their gold in DQ) but keep any items and experience gained. So dying doesn't exactly erase progress. The player will have to make the journey all over again, but they have the benefits of any levels and new gear they gained last time so each attempt gets easier.

    Final Fantasy wasn't made with a sense of gambling or high risk in mind. While the first couple games can be challenging, they are still easier than Dragon Quest and the series has gotten much easier over time. Save points in dungeons exist. Items like tents can be used to heal just outside the dungeon. Tents can be used on save points to heal inside the dungeon. Healing items and far more plentiful and often more powerful. The games are designed more to have the player do cool things and fight cool bosses, so the devs have increasingly made it easier to just keep going. If it wasn't for technical limitations of the time, Final Fantasy probably would have worked with "save anywhere" from the start. Up through FFXIII the series still used save points but probably didn't need to.

    But it's the Western RPGs like Skyrim that I see as having some problems due to "save anywhere" baked into the design. Nothing in Skyrim is actually difficult and the ability to save before doing anything is certainly a cause. No surprises can ever be impactful or force the player into a corner because the player can pop open the save from a few seconds ago and either prepare for the surprise or avoid it entirely. Even worse is how it affects dungeons design. Without needing to consider save point placement, dungeons often feel like there is no real thought put into their layout. I feel like "save anywhere" is just a crutch so the devs can make dungeons with algorithms.

    I get that such big open world games need to cut costs. AAA studios need huge budgets for their games and many of their industry practices are to save money, not to make a better game. Not every RPG needs save points (obviously) but incorporating save points into map/dungeon design is a good way to break segments of the game into manageable loops that can take challenge and the player's time in account. Perhaps save points work better for a linear experience, to give that handcrafted, immersive vibe to each area and dungeon. I'm sure a linear game could still function with a "save anywhere" design but it's easy to make areas feel endless or repetitive when you don't have any kind of break points in your design. Even a book needs to have chapter breaks built in, so if you don't use save points you need to have something to take their place.
     
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  19. KoldBlood

    KoldBlood Make It Better Veteran

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    Yes, this is basically the argument for save points I was making, hence my reference of FF1 dungeon dives giving a sense of danger and accomplishment and my criticism of its over abundant and often surprise instant deaths. Maybe that is kind of an obscure reference material for nowadays though...

    To be clear, I'm not saying Save Anywhere systems are bad and should never be used. I'm just saying the just because Save Anywhere systems are popular and more convenient that doesn't mean that Save Points are null and void and can't be well designed and fun in their own right. With proper balancing and/or quality of life improvements like the "soft" save anywhere mentioned earlier, I think save points can be a benefit a game's experience. Both systems work and offer different experiences for different games, as with most things in game design; It depends on the game and the experience you wish to craft for your players.
     
    #19
  20. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    In a narrative story, a save point could mean the end of a chapter. The end of one part of the larger story
    In a gameplay-focused story, a save point is a milestone towards mastering the skills required to beat the final challenge.
    the final challenge requires the player to use the mechanics of the game in a specific way.
    the mid-term challenges test each and every one of these mechanics, and combinations of it, in preparation for the final challenge.
    saving in between is just confirming the player's knowledge of one.

    in a game with mixes of both gameplay and narrative load, you should allow saving on demand, because it's the player the one who controls what they progress and how.
    in a game with multiplayer *interaction*, you should allow no saving, because you won't be able to account for each player's disposition to save, skill progress to be saved, or failure to be restored, which should account for further interaction to be restored after the save point.

    there. "The Art Of Saving" by Fun-Tzu.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
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