230: Save Our Souls

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Save Our Souls

Save functions triggered a paradigm shift in game design by allowing players to complete games across multiple sittings. But innovation often has a price, and in this case, it's the prospect of losing days of effort due to one costly mistake. Peter Parrish investigates what we put into save files, and what we lose when they're gone.

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I like so many others have lost large amounts of data for saved games through crashes and corruption and i think that because of those event i am even more close to my avatars then i normally would have been.

I will often back up files two or three times if possible just to avoid losing the data, but it always makes me think, what is it i am exactly losing here, just time and effort? or perhaps something more, perhaps after all these years and all this data accumulated it has become apart of me.

I think i may even treat this data as if it were some sort of external memory system that can be retrieved and viewed for not only entertainment purposes but also to reminisce.

Then again it is 12:50am and i am very tired and i could be really over thinking this.

My favorite save feature was from the old game Autoduel (1985). While you had a save file, if you died without having purchased an in-game clone, your save file was wiped before the "You have died" message appeared on the screen. When I played it on my old C64, I never figured out how to backup the save file and still restarted and finished the main quest multiple times. I eventually got a copy for the PC and learned how to backup and restore the save file if I died, but I did feel guilty if I had to do it.

You know i'm one of those people who either abuse the quicksave button or keep only 1 save file and overwrite it everytime (and in some cases both 1 quicksave and a secondary file i save when i exit)

I once lost a whole CONSOLE to a lost savegame. Well, a handheld, but still... I had lent my (original, non-clamshell) GBA, along with my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, to a friend to let him try it. After all, it's a great game... why not share it? Well, when I got it back, through a bit of confusion on my and his part, it turned out he'd saved over MY save file...

My EIGHTY HOUR save file.

I was so distraught, I slammed my forehead into the screen... and pulled my head back to watch black liquid slowly spiderweb across the screen until it was totally black.

So yeah, save games? Kinda important.

three words, Torchlight Hardcore Mode. 18 hours, five dead characters

There is a certain truth to "Save abuse" leading to a seemingly less challenging game, but i'd happily refit all of my games with a quicksave function if possible...especially since i can and do afford so many games.

I'm talking about Metroid Prime here. 1 1/2 months in, i haven't even finished the first Game of the Trilogy on the Wii, because on the (very rare) occasions when i actually die, the game sets me back far enough to make me get up and play something else instead.
It's a great game, but seriously, you shouldn't have another games beside if if you want to play it through quickly or throughly (as in "100 %").

But to get closer to the topic:
Surprisingly, when i (freshly) installed Windows 7 at release, my loss of 3 months worth of emails wasn't nearly as frustrating as losing all my Save Data from "Defense Grid: The Awakening", although i was almost back to the most recent state of progress within one day...weird
(Note: Thanks to that i cannot really recommend Acronis Software as a backup solution)

Ughhh, I know exactly what the author is talking about. I nearly screamed when my Gothic save file was corrupted about 2 hours away from the ending. I've beaten it since then, but that nearly turned me away from it forever.

Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis goes down in personal history as the game that actually brought me to tears. I'd played for 45+ hours and reached Chapter 7... only to have the save file corrupt itself and wipe out EVERYTHING.

I later found out this is a problem with Gust games. The trick is to have one 'working' save and a back up save. That way, if you corrupt the working save, you're only out an hour or so. Frustrating as hell though.

And never EVAR trust auto-save in Dragon Age: Origins. I wasn't playing attention and thought the auto-save was covering me when I traveled. Nope. I lost something like two hours of game-play when I got jumped by a pack of Dark Spawn...

Words were uttered.

KoDOmega:
I once lost a whole CONSOLE to a lost savegame. Well, a handheld, but still... I had lent my (original, non-clamshell) GBA, along with my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, to a friend to let him try it. After all, it's a great game... why not share it? Well, when I got it back, through a bit of confusion on my and his part, it turned out he'd saved over MY save file...

My EIGHTY HOUR save file.

I was so distraught, I slammed my forehead into the screen... and pulled my head back to watch black liquid slowly spiderweb across the screen until it was totally black.

So yeah, save games? Kinda important.

So, just wondering... are you currently in prison? Because if my friend did that to me, there would be blood ;-)

I think it also depends on how good the game is. If you really like it, it might be worth it to start again from the beginning, just for the hell of it even. Then some games just never go back in the machine. Like Burnout Paradise: even after using the backup utility, my BP saves weren't recognized after replacing the hdd in my ps3. If it was Burnout Revenge or anything nearly as good as that, I would've happily started again from the beginning (as I did when the Burnout Revenge data got corrupted on my ps2 a while back), but Burnout Paradise just wasn't worth it. I ended up giving it to another fan of the series who in the end was very happy he didn't have to pay for it.

Heres a thought like a future rich button mapping standard why not have the option to configure saves as a standard. In the option menu you can tell it if you want check points and if you want time based check points(every 10,20,30,60 minutes) and if god forbid you want to quick save becuse you really messed with the AI this go around and you want to save that progression if just to boost your puny ego..... I know I would...because...my ego is puny and all.... god I would even buy these as DLC per game at 2$ a pop or 5$ for all of them in one package......you hear that you wanky suits!!!

It's become a common joke of mine that all the heroes in the games I play have the exact same superpower: the ability to go back in time to a previous save game when something goes wrong. Even Gods would inevitably fall before one with such great power at their disposal.

I know the feeling, I picked up Fifa 09 (despite not having played a fifa game since '98) for my PSP, did all the challenges and then went into manager mode looking for a challenge. Chester were the bottom-division whipping dogs before the mysterious "T. Wordsmith" joined the club. Despite only being 23 years old, Chester progressed immensely through the next three seasons, (9 cups/trophies, 13 games lost over the 3 seasons, including wins over Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and AC Milan) eventually qualifying for the Premier League. I scheduled training before the Premiership season started, and one sleepy Saturday morning I pulled my PSP out of my jeans to have a match, only to see "File Deleted".

I'd left it unlocked, and an unfortunate series of keypresses had wiped out 3 (real life) months of gaming, more than 200 matches (46 league x 3 seasons = 138, probably more than 62 cup matches) and with it any chance of Chester winning the Premiership.

It was such a weird feeling... It wasn't "work", so I couldn't feel annoyed I'd lost it. After all, I'd played for fun, and hadn't I had fun getting to that point?

I don't tend to save too often. This means I lose a lot of hours, but I am totally okay with that. Games are about the challenge for me anyway.

Btw a thoughtful and interesting article. Thank you!

1 word POWDER

I always say to my friends:

"If I was designing a game I would go out of my way to ensure choices at various stages of the game have both long term and short term ramifications, many of which would be either unforeseeable or reflect realistically handling a situation that normally would never happen in a game. That way whenever a player would make these choices the game would autosave over their current state (which they can only have one of) and make it impossible to go back and change their choice if they realized they made a bad one. The crowning moment of awesome would be that it could be entirely possible for a player to make it impossible for them to ever beat them game but it wouldn't become apparent right away."

Then I would say: "and it would be so awesome everyone would hate it and I'd be happy.

Otterpoet:

KoDOmega:
I once lost a whole CONSOLE to a lost savegame. Well, a handheld, but still... I had lent my (original, non-clamshell) GBA, along with my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, to a friend to let him try it. After all, it's a great game... why not share it? Well, when I got it back, through a bit of confusion on my and his part, it turned out he'd saved over MY save file...

My EIGHTY HOUR save file.

I was so distraught, I slammed my forehead into the screen... and pulled my head back to watch black liquid slowly spiderweb across the screen until it was totally black.

So yeah, save games? Kinda important.

So, just wondering... are you currently in prison? Because if my friend did that to me, there would be blood ;-)

Ah, I got confused on where he was keeping the file, and I saved it over mine without thinking. You know how it goes... you've got the motions to save the game so programmed into your fingers, you can execute it without knowing what you've done, so I couldn't blame him.

Now, SUICIDE... that idea got bounced around. :P

My favourite example of saving moments before death came from HL2. On the airboat, with an APC raining down missiles, a bunch of CPs firing SMGs, and a flaming blockade to leap across, I had 1HP left at the save. Of course, HL2 autosaves are frequent enough that going back to the previous one wouldn't have wasted much time. But dammit, I was gonna make it through this blockade with 1 health! It took a few tries, but somehow I snuck through. This was where a bad save actually made things more exciting (for a game I had already beat a few times).

Sometimes the "save anywhere, save anytime" mentality is a hinderance to excitement, though. I remember feeling that Tomb Raider 2 was ruined by removing the save points that the first game had used. It broke up the tension that would be caused by knowing that there's a consequence for failure at each and every trap or juump, and it extends beyond merely repeating that same trap or jump.

Otterpoet:

KoDOmega:
I once lost a whole CONSOLE to a lost savegame. Well, a handheld, but still... I had lent my (original, non-clamshell) GBA, along with my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, to a friend to let him try it. After all, it's a great game... why not share it? Well, when I got it back, through a bit of confusion on my and his part, it turned out he'd saved over MY save file...

My EIGHTY HOUR save file.

I was so distraught, I slammed my forehead into the screen... and pulled my head back to watch black liquid slowly spiderweb across the screen until it was totally black.

So yeah, save games? Kinda important.

So, just wondering... are you currently in prison? Because if my friend did that to me, there would be blood ;-)

there mite've been blood on HIS forehead. after all screens and foreheads don't mix well.

I never thought I would get quick save-blitzed on a console, then it happened while I was playing Fallout 3 on the 360. I had just installed several of the expansion packs, and I wasn't aware then that all of them are more than a little glitchy. So I just let the single slot autosave hold everything as I left the DC Wasteland for Point Lookout.

I'm tearing around the place for about 2 hours when the game/console freezes up. Coming back in, I find my autosave file is corrupt. The autosave that was my only link to not only Point Lookout, but the entire Broken Steel quest series I had spent the last two days working through.

Suffice it to say, I went back to Point Lookout, hard saving often, and it was awhile before I got up the nerve to go back and do Broken Steel again.

Granted, I'm not a starving kid in Africa. But damn, does that crap hurt.

copycatalyst:
My favourite example of saving moments before death came from HL2. On the airboat, with an APC raining down missiles, a bunch of CPs firing SMGs, and a flaming blockade to leap across, I had 1HP left at the save. Of course, HL2 autosaves are frequent enough that going back to the previous one wouldn't have wasted much time. But dammit, I was gonna make it through this blockade with 1 health! It took a few tries, but somehow I snuck through. This was where a bad save actually made things more exciting (for a game I had already beat a few times).

Sometimes the "save anywhere, save anytime" mentality is a hinderance to excitement, though. I remember feeling that Tomb Raider 2 was ruined by removing the save points that the first game had used. It broke up the tension that would be caused by knowing that there's a consequence for failure at each and every trap or jump, and it extends beyond merely repeating that same trap or jump.

I myself have gotten into such situations with an interestingly timed autosave. I'd either be low on ammo or low on health(but yet not low on both for some weird reason) and would have to do a serious Groundhog Day run to get through the big obstacle. Best groundhog day moment, I had low health on the final chapter of Half Life against the big fetus boss. I actually pulled it off and taught myself the best places to anticipate and dodge those damn tp-balls.
As far as losing single player saves, I don't get so upset over it, since the game I am playing is fun even from the beginning, and even starting over I can get myself into even better shape the next time around with what I learned. It is bad enough when people go batshit over material things, but when they do for non-material things, it's time they look at getting some counseling.

I could easily imagine a future where MMO-esque games are played using avatars and persistent worlds containing months and even years worth of save data. Where people don't just spend vast amounts of their time, but also make a living and basically live out their lives within the gamespace.

Imagine THAT getting corrupted. It would be devastating.

A corrupt save is why I uninstalled Arkham Asylum. It only autosaves to one slot, and god help you if something happens while it's saving...

After completing the story and doing all the Riddler riddles, I was going for 100% save completion by doing all the challenges, which I was 70-something % through. Then I pressed Esc one time to many while exiting menus before I quit the game. Result: Save corrupted. The only save the game allows you to have for one file can be killed by exiting a menu too fast! I still wonder why it could not simply have finished saving before allowing me to exit to that last menu, or even finish while on that last menu (I see no reason for it not to.)

I still can't bring myself to install it again.

Interesting article. Of course, losing a save can be just as frustrating even if you don't lose the entire character. The Discworld MUD recently had an unprecedented rollback of about 15 days, meaning anything anyone had done in the last 15 days was gone. Relatively few people lost an entire character, I believe, but the frustration for some was unbearable.

What's interesting is that I don't think it's the big characters who were worse off, it was the young ones who'd barely grown a commitment to their character. The problem is that, like many games, Discworld works on a diminishing returns basis- so it takes more xp to gain a single level as your level gets higher. Therefore, those with high up cahracters will have gained relatively little in that 15 days, maybe the odd fighting level or whatever, while younger characters might have learned entire skills like stealing, or their first spell, or something. While these abilities might be quite cheap in xp terms, they're a hell of a thing to lose when you were able to do them just the day before.

-Bimbley

About time someone wrote about saving! It is such an integral aspect to the gaming experience, and yet people let it stay all-too-invisible, even as the changes to how it works in recent years have caused untold stress to millions of gamers.

The thing with saving is that there are always huge flaws with each type of saving used by games. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. But there is a solution. It's costly, but not as costly as the loss of the life of some poor unbalanced soul who couldn't take it when they lost their level 80 Priest, or their Oblivion character made to kill things on Hardest with no cheats.

My solution, of course, is to include every type of saving possible in every game. That's right - have a default setting that makes sense for the genre, but allow players to change to another type of saving if they prefer it. This diverts blame from the company in individual cases of data loss, allowing the legal shield to come down a bit in the long term, and would save the frustration for the hardcore who often find one type of saving that they prefer and hate all the others. As for casual gamers? That's what default settings are for.

I realise that this would be somewhat costly to develop and troubleshoot, but what exactly, apart from obvious formatting issues, is so hard about finding even a small independent developer willing to design a mass production model of an all-purpose save system to be integrated in any and all games, at only a small fee to developers using it? Any such company could make millions of dollars over the years if the system was well-designed enough to impress. It would not take much to get such a project supported by a large community who point out bugs and other issues and get them fixed, either.

The mod scene could so get onto this. In fact, I'm astonished that it hasn't happened already. I suppose every developer likes to have their own "flash"-looking save system, but really that's just adding glitzy graphics to essentially the same spreadsheet, the core of which could be applied en masse. Why constantly reinvent the wheel? After all, Sony already has one of these in a lesser form; it is only a matter of making another that is more ambitious and reaches into the realm of PC gaming as well.

I'd be surprised if there isn't a website devoted to stories of corrupted saves. Every word of this article resonated with me.

I've lost *TWO* PSX memory cards, and one 3X memory card on my PS2. Since the current-gen consoles are all online capable, MS/Sony/Nintendo need to offer some sort of savegame storage for your profiles on their services. I've seen so many people with dead HDDs, tears welling up in their eyes.

I had all 150 pokemon on Red when I was like 13, my cousin (who was a year older) asked if he could play, I said as long as he didn't save the game. What does he do, saved the new game erasing the old.

I got over it as I was bored of the game, but from this day onwards I have always treated him like he's mentally disabled when he works my technology, for example showing him something but not letting him touch it and standing behind him hand hovering over mouse when hes on my computer. He always brings up.

Ah, yes, game saves. I am most paranoid about it. I'll leave a quicksave, keep switching between two different saves, and often create a third one in case there's a glitch. Despite that I've often lost my progress and/or got in an unwinnable glitch situation more often than I'd like. While I'm a huge fan of old games, I sometimes can't bring myself to negotiate their arcane save system. Earthworm Jim 2 is a great game, but being forced to find secrets to start from a level looks so retarded to me I can't bring myself to finish it. It obviously made sense at the time, when computer games had a more arcadey feel.

The good ol' times of renting N64 games and hoping no one had saved over your save. I remember talking to two of my friends, one of which complaining his save in an advanced point of a game or other was deleted.

"I always try to save over whichever save has the least done", I say helpfully.

"Me too", he replies.

"I just save over the first slot I see", the third friend adds.

"It's people like you who deleted my game!" And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Or losing all of your Pokémon when someone trips over your controller wire when you're saving your data in Pokémon stadium. I think I started over and got all 150. By now it's probably gone again, I think data files in Gameboy cartridges become corrupted if they're not accessed for long. Oh, the time wasted!

Well it wasn't file corruption that's given me the most sorrow over saved data. My house was actually robbed when my family went away on holiday for a couple of weeks, and among the things stolen were my Gamecube, all my 'cube games and... the two gamecube memory cards i'd left in the machine.

At the point before I'd left on holidays, I was probably a couple of hours away from finishing Wind Waker. A few hours from finishing Starfox Adventures. And I'd gotten gold medals on every course with every character in SSX Tricky.

I got almost all the games back through insurance, and a few new ones in place of the ones that couldn't be found in shops, but the loss of the memorycards left a bitter, bitter taste. I don't think I ever have finished either of those games, and I certainly haven't maxed out every character on SSX Tricky again (too much fun playing SSX On Tour instead). Hm, maybe I'll go back and do that these holidays...

I always keep a back up. I have my PS3 Fallout 3 saves on my USB just in case.

Take that data corruption!

Vierran:
I will often back up files two or three times if possible just to avoid losing the data, but it always makes me think, what is it i am exactly losing here, just time and effort? or perhaps something more, perhaps after all these years and all this data accumulated it has become apart of me.

I think i may even treat this data as if it were some sort of external memory system that can be retrieved and viewed for not only entertainment purposes but also to reminisce.

You ever wonder if they will diagnose some type of compulsive hoarding for the digital age?

I mean while the stuff you and I hoard are sooo many gigabytes, they physically take up very little space. But inside my computer, gosh, I have a lot of stuff bookmarked...some of which I'll never really revisit...

And the games...some I'll never play, but I'll keep the save files..."just in case"...

I've a real problem with RPG's on PC , where I decide I want to replay ones I've half finished , only to discover the save files long gone , and I cant be arsed starting again.
There definitely a Niche for a nice , easy to use save gamer repository site , one where you could go and look up , say , Planescape torment , and find a load of uploaded saves , and pick the one closest to where you were and what your party was...

starfox444:
I always keep a back up. I have my PS3 Fallout 3 saves on my USB just in case.

Take that data corruption!

Same with most of mine! I have had it happen to me before multiple times on PSX...god, the number of times I had to play some games was rediculous

Morrowind. All quests save the Temple completed. All but four important artifacts acquired. Then I accidentally saved after my character had been named as a werewolf while using Hircine's Ring. I did the only thing left to me: retreat to the lair of the Quarra vampire clan and commit suicide with a massive kill-everyone-in-the-room-even-me spell. Then I started the game over.

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