Random Rants: Consistent save systems

Having nothing particular to do tonight, as TF2 has been royally screwed up for the moment, I decided I would have a go at Mass Effect.
I had a level 31 soldier that I’d already played through with once, had high everything, and was playing through on hardcore, the hardest difficulty level I could play. It’s incredibly fun, because it’s method for making the levels harder is not making the indiviual enemies more difficult, rather making a lot more of them. There’s something magical about clearing a room full of 50 geth armed to the teeth with 2 AI compainions.

I WAS thinking of talking about the harder diffulty settings in games, how sometimes they’re totally unfair and sometimes kick arse, as I would have suggested for Mass Effect.

Then I died.

Now normally this wouldn’t have been a problem. I die in games a bit, as everyone does, and could just load to a earlier save, right?

Unfortunately the last save was half an hour back.

Singleplayer games are something I can relax to, something I don’t have to beat other players and just have fun. Very rarely do I become frustrated at them or even decide not to play them anymore. This particular incident made me crush the V can I was holding and bite on my bottom lip. I had just done half an hour of what ammounted to zero and while yes, it was fun, it means that if I want to continue I’ll have to redo the same half hour again, which effectively becomes work.

Terrific.

So now I’m going to write about save systems, and what they should and shouldn’t be.

Save systems have been around forever. You have 2 different types of saves, Autosaves and User Saves.

Autosaves are when the computer makes a save for you at certain different points. They’re the most common method of saving in console games, I can’t recall a console game that has included usersaves into it’s gameplay the way PC games have.

User Saves are just that, the user decides to save. The most common for of this is the quicksave, which is usually activated by pressing F5 or F6. Some little white text fades in saying “…saved” or something similar. This is a nice addition of autosaves, it means the user has more control over when to save.

Now, as much as I like quicksaves, I and most PC gamers I know have the tendency to quicksave every minute or some, almost compulsively. It’s something that becomes annoying after a while, even if I’m the one doing it. So if I can I try to rely on the autosave system if it’s good.

A good autosave system is something that is really nice for a game, particularly if it has no quicksaves in it, but it means that I can just relax and not worry if I’ve saved recently whenever I die.

Now, I’ve been playing more multiplayer games recently, and obviously they have no quicksaves. So I go into Mass Effect, knowing it has an autosave system, and play happily for half an hour, not pressing the magical F5 key after combat. Normally the autosave system is pretty good in ME, so it didn’t immediately come to mind as quickly as it would have in say Fallout 3. So I played for said half hour, until I got swarmed by some fast moving oversized bug things. Then a thought came into my head, “Oh shit, I didn’t quicksave, did I get an autosave since I started?”

The problem with this situation is that Mass Effect often autosaves pretty regularly, starting out as an Xbox game. So why would it leave a gap of HALF AN HOUR? It seems like a horrible design choice, though the 360 version had plenty of those, the biggest being both squad mates being ordered as one entity, so one squad mate could be profficient at shotguns and one at sniper rifles, but you couldn’t say “You  shotgun, You sniper.”, you had to say “Both of you, shotgun.” which was rather thick.

But back on point, save systems shouldn’t punish the user because the design team decided not to put a save point between 3 dialogue sequences, 2 elevator rides, and a hard combat sequence (This does happen, took me a long time to get through it), or a autosave after the 10 minute driving sequence or the 15 minute combat sequence. They should save between sequences, or offer an alternative. Assasin’s creed had you come back alive pretty much wherever you died, which isn’t as stupid as you think, and Bioshock had the vita-chambers, though that kind of screwed up hard, because there was no penalty for dying, you just run back and mindlessly attack whatever you were attacking before.

Bad or inconsistent save systems can ruin games that are otherwise terrific. While this isn’t something I’d stop playing Mass Effect for, becuase I can just quicksave every now and then, it was enough of an annoyance to make me quit the game for tonight, and it could be another week before I do the stuff I just did again, if not more, but if I was playing on the 360 and this happened I’d CERTAINLY not play this again, it’s just not fair on the player. I did quit Prince of Persia: Warrior within because I had to spend 2 hours on an unituitive puzzle and a incredibly unfair combat then parkour sequence that often killed me, otherwise it was a terrific game, but I’m not going to play if I haven’t got much of a change of completing the game am I?

Then again maybe tonight’s incident was just god punishing me for not updating on time 😛

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