Save Scummer

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Save Scummer

Sometimes, you just have to resist hitting that quickload key to get the best experience out of a game.

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A lot of people still save scum and I used to do it for games that I wanted a certain result on. Now, I just go with the flow and keep playing, it keeps you on your toes rather than charge in and reload if you get caught. Like Deus Ex, the first time I did the first level, the woman lived, but the guy got away. Second time, I learned the way the take him out (without killing him) and saving the woman.

Not sure if this counts as save scumming, but for the "Whodunnit" Dark Brotherhood Quest in Oblivion, I constantly reloaded to see all the different reasons to people dying in a different order (one of my favorite quests in any game ever)

I think Yahtzee hit on the most important thing where save scumming is concerned: You have to be able to keep going if you muck up.

If the game mercilessly punishes you for screwing up, there is no incentive to keep playing. On the other hand, if screwing up simply opens up new challenges then it moves into emergent gameplay territory.

There are three examples I have with this. The first is Splinter Cell Conviction. Simply put, not a great game, but what I did like was that it actually encouraged you to keep playing when you got spotted. Hell, sometimes you'd let yourself get spotted just to lure the enemy into a trap or (in some cases) slip passed them while they're looking for you. I'm a shameless save scummer on old Splinter cell games, but I rarely ever reload on Conviction.

The other game that I like to bring up in this regard is Crusader Kings 2. In this case, if you reload when you screw up, you are playing wrong. This game is all about screwing up. Unlike many other Grand Strategy games, it's very hard to actually lose. As long as you have a single county, and a single member of your dynasty, you get to keep playing. That's not to say it's easy to do well, though. It's damn hard. However, because failing at anything you try is unlikely to lead to a game over, the game becomes as much about dealing with your own failures as it does responding to rival actions. This is especially true thanks to how much time it takes to bring a plan to fruition. I've literally had plans in the works for decades blow up in my face at the last minute. Sure, I could reload at that point, but it would mean years of work lost.

The last example is Crime and Punishment in the Elder Scrolls games. Being caught committing a crime imposes a bounty, which can be paid off, or you can go to jail. If you opt to go to Jail, that's not the end of it however. Every jail in the game can be escaped from. The challenge at that point is getting out of the town in one piece.

I guess the rule of thumb is that players should be punished for screwing up, but that punishment should only create more challenges for them, it shouldn't end their game, or make it impossible for them to win. When either of those happens, save scumming is not only acceptable, it's probably the only way to have fun.

I was having a lot of fun with FTL because the no-save feature meant you had to plod on through whatever choices you made. But the randomness got really frustrating, especially when an entire run could be ruined by some randomly-impossible encounter that no amount of skill could get you through (I'm looking at you, 20-mantis boarding party whilst disabling sensors and oxygen and my patience).

And I definitely did that thing with the Choose Your Own Adventure books as well. That goddamn space vampire kept drinking all my bloods.

I have to disagree that you can't make a comeback in XCOM. There are certainly downward spirals you can find yourself in, but even if you lose your whole team you've still got the new tech you've researched, and if you fall behind on tech you've still got your high level soldiers. The fact that there are two separate progressions of power mitigates a lot of problems. I know for a fact that I personally had a full party wipe or two or three in my Ironman Classic run, but then I just started abusing my SHIV technology to make up for the lost manpower.

Come on, Yahtzee, you gotta tell us what that educational game was.

I got into a habit in X-com of having a bunch of decently trained guys before I committed to training up my super-squad, which tended to soften the blow somewhat if I got TPK'd (Which happened more than I'd care to admit).

As for savescumming, I've always resisted the temptation for much the same reason. After all, if all I wanted was to see the ending, I could justlook it up on youtube or something.

Well, with one exception anyway.... that being, trying to get decent IVs and a good nature for this shiny gible that refuses to cooperate.

If losing a mission is a non-standard game over for you, then you need to adjust your tactics. While it is easier to plow through with 6 of the best soldiers in the world, you have much more leeway if you alternate your squad to allow new soldiers to improve. For me, I like to run 1 sniper, 1 heaver, 2 assault, and 2 support. I will generally take 3-4 of my best, highest ranked soldiers and then 1-2 scrubs who then gain levels and can pick up the slack if someone dies or is gravely wounded. Eventually, you get a well rounded platoon rather than a single squad of supermen.

Probably the best experience I had during XCOM was my first time encountering a Sectopod.

It wasn't too much trouble getting into the spaceship and I'd already killed 6-8 aliens so I was feeling confident. Then the Sectopod activated and fired 4 times in one round, killing both of my supports with it's opening volley. By the time I had downed it my other 4 men were all down to 1-5 Health each.

I had to finish the rest of the mission, killing something like 8 heavy mutons, 1 muton berserker and 2 sectoid commanders with no medkits..Somehow I managed it without losing anyone. Never had such a tense experience.

If I had loaded back to before I lost both my medics I wouldn't of had that really awesome feeling of glee when my soldiers made it back home alive after a harrowing mission..

If anyone knows anything about modding, let me know how one goes about replacing sound files in the game and I'll record a voice pack.

Given the mad glee when it was rumored Yahtzee did VO for Portal 2 (because there's only one person with that crazy accent, amirite?) I can already hear several someones coming out of the woodwork.

And whenever I read a choose-your-own-adventure book as a child I'd have all ten of my fingers marking previous pages just in case I was walking into one of the bullshit endings. And don't tell me you didn't do that.

Of course we did. A lot of us probably also skimmed the text more and more as we went on because it was uncomfortable to have that many fingers in that position and like hell were we dropping a page. (Stopped doing that after one particular skim (Space Mutiny or something) got my papery avatar executed. Went to tearing up an old newspaper for bookmarks.)

As for save scumming.... Meh, don't do it much. Occasionally when I come out of a fight with no ammo and 5% health or something I'll do it because I know that otherwise I'm just going to wind up scumming the next fight a dozen times until I can do it without getting hit once. Though I don't care if someone else does it at all. Same with cheats and warp thingys. If you want to alter your gameplay experience, none of my business. Unless you do something retarded like claim you beat the game without dying when you just god-moded the thing. Saw a Youtube vid of someone using a no-collision cheat in an Atari-era game and I was going "WTF? Why post this? Why are you still avoiding things when we just SAW you pass through something without being kille-oh, and NOW you're passing through the impassable walls to avoid monsters. Yeah, that doesn't look hacked at all."

But I do loathe hardcore modes. If I wanted something where a single run of bad luck can ruin all the progress made in the last month, I'd still be working at my old job.

A very excellent article indeed, Yahtzee, and I agree with your points; I don't know how much of a 'save-scummer' I've been (or are), but if I recall correctly, I've only really resorted to it in situations where I'm already close to losing/dying, and I'm at a part that's already kicked my butt in some fashion or another. Still, your point about being careful may be one I need to keep in mind. ;-)

Anyway, the reason for my particular reply was in relation to what was mentioned about training up new soldiers in XCOM, assuming your previous team gets killed... which, as I understand it, is a pretty common concept. Yahtzee mentioned some kind of 'VR training ground', and that reminded me of part of one of my favorite RPGs (and games in general), the first Valkyrie Profile on the PSOne. For anyone unfamiliar, it also has a similar concept of you preparing for/fighting a war (Ragnarok, unsurprisingly), so you're on a time-limit before the endgame starts, and you also have to give up party-members every so often, so you're constantly leveling up new people. However, the game has what's called an 'Experience Orb', which has points added to it as you complete certain objectives in the game's dungeons, and you can then later spend as, well, XP, for your characters as you see fit.

Needless to say, this is quite helpful, especially if you're playing on the Hard difficulty (which is required in order to view the game's best, or perhaps more accurately, 'true' ending), and all newly-recruited characters start at level 1. ;-) From what Yahtzee talked about, something like this would've been perfect for XCOM: either a specific allotment of resources, or just the ability to spend money, on training up your soldiers. That way, you're not completely doomed if your best guys get killed, but you also have to be smart in how you use it, since it's an finite resource. It also lets you decide how you want to use it too; want to dump them all into one unstoppable super-soldier? May be stupid, but hey, it's your choice!

Personally, I am usually someone, who doesn't savescum. I even when I mess up a bit (like the given example of accidentally blowing yourself up a bit). Should the game become unwinnable (e.g. I have only 5HP left but need at least 6 to survive the next fall because the game expected me to have 6 or more HP and might even provided a medkit shortly before to ensure that), then I obviously reload.

And I also don't mind games where you can't reload at all, like FTL. Usually, the game gives you a fair chance to make it, should you know how to play it and had a bit of luck before (and even without, it should be doable at least early on).

Now XCOM (please note that THIS version of XCOM is written without a dash as opposed to the originals, which were written X-COM. Just a hint), there I CURRENTLY still savescum a bit. I usually won't revert a single move if the game goes bad and even accept when a soldier dies over the course of the misssion.
But at the same times, I noticed that the game sometimes simply cheats you out of a fair win and, for example, lets an enemy spawn right in front of your face or decided to let a weapon of a Thin Men suddenly do 2 more damage than usual... I even had recently a mission, where one of my soldiers got freed from Mind Control and the game told me "this guy has two actions left" - alright, I thought, then I use "Run and Gun", hug the alien about to shoot my sniper to death and kill it. I clicked "Run & Gun" and then suddenly - round over. Somehow, "Run & Gun" ate up TWO actionpoints instead of the normal ZERO. Reload, try again - same result. Reload, decide to just walk up normally and shoot from a bit more distance. I send that guy ONE move (not dashing as it was just around the corner) and... that was it again. Round over.
In that case, reloading the game for a big screw up is clearly fine imo - and also the reason I currently won't play on Ironman Mode.

Regarding the alternative short-mode:
Well, one option would be a "Scenario Mode", where you can play on any map (all or only selected ones) and difficulty and can "buy" yourself a squad in similar fashion as in the Multiplayer (even a very simple squad made out of four squaddies - one of each class - is the default setting you start with). Would allow the tactical gameplay to be used whenever you like. No real "campaign", but it's close enough for what most people would be looking for if they wanted to play a quick round of XCOM.

And regarding the voice-acting:
Contact Firaxis, ask them if you can record a set of lines and they might release it officially as part of the game - why ask modders (in a game, that doesn't report that much of modding besides modifying configs to change settings), when the real deal would work better and reaches a wider audience, as well?

Catface Meowmers:
I was having a lot of fun with FTL because the no-save feature meant you had to plod on through whatever choices you made. But the randomness got really frustrating, especially when an entire run could be ruined by some randomly-impossible encounter that no amount of skill could get you through (I'm looking at you, 20-mantis boarding party whilst disabling sensors and oxygen and my patience).

And I definitely did that thing with the Choose Your Own Adventure books as well. That goddamn space vampire kept drinking all my bloods.

Hah FTL was the same for me, got really tense in places, blowing up on the second to last sector was always enraging. Also the random 'riot on space station should you help?' type missions which nearly always ended up with you losing a treasured crew member or taking damage to your already disintegrating ship.
Could have done with a '3 save tokens per game' concept on that game!

OT: Got a bit save happy with x-com too, it seemed in certain places that if you lost a mission 'via the domino effect of dead soldier -> panic -> shoot teammate -> panic -> all dead' the game was pretty much unrecoverable.

On the whole though I do like to try and keep the saves to a minimum.

I think achievements in modern games encourage this as they tend to reward perfection so why not reload your latest quicksave rather than start from last checkpoint for that elusive 'kill 37 swamp worms with your eyebrows' badge.

Anyhoo, I've pressed F5 before posting this so I should be able to change any typos.

I will pay for a Yahtzee XCOM voice pack.

Cuz who wouldn't want to send him out to get killed* by aliens.

We need a petition to send to Firaxis to make this happen.

Screw it, I'm bothering a friend who works there to get this ball rolling...

*(anal probed)

I'm a savescummer myself mostly because a lot of games like half life and the elder scroll games seem designed for save scumming often killing you for bullshit reasons for instance I honestly have no idea how you get past that part with the antlions without save scumming and in skyrim I have bosses killing me in 4 hits while the mooks can barely touch me the worst offenders are the Jedi knight games who are without save scumming some of the most stupidest unfair and cheap games ever created but if you do save scum they become some of the best games I have ever played.

Also like krantos already mentioned another big reason I save scum is because it keeps the game going its boring to have to do stuff over its why I tend to hate the first 2 - 3 levels in a touhou game accepting the fact that you fucked up and lost some health in half life is fine but having to do the level over again is boring and flow breaking not save scumming is only fun if you win.

also when it comes to x com in the old one I only reloaded when my best guy died or when reaction fire was involved when I finally buy the new x com I intend to only save before the mission begins meaning that when I lose my best guy I can either accept it and move or do the entire mission over again.

I get what you're saying, Yahtzee, but I just find it makes the story and subsequently the experience as a whole awkward when I make my character fuck up in a particularly embarrassing way, despite them presumably being an expert at whatever it is they do. I can't get over it and it ruins my enjoyment of the game. Thanks for patronizing me by saying you feel sorry for me, though. I appreciate that.

A fun game to play without save scumming is the Mount and Blade series (mostly excluding Fire & Sword because getting murdered by bandits is bullshit.)

A recent example: I was joining in a siege with my king and several counts. I lead the charge up the ladder with my dozen veteran nord warriors (some of the best infantry of the game.) We cut through the professional defenders like a hot knife through butter, only to get mobbed and killed by dozens of peasants. Afterwards, I was forced to flee with what little party I had remaining, leaving the king and the counts to finish the fighting. After they took the town, their armies were dangerously depleted, so I took my chance and staged a successful coup d'Ítat, overthrowing the king and installing myself as the queen. Had I save scummed and replayed the battle, I never would have had that chance.

So, Yahtzee, why didn't you like Dark Souls again?

I savescum. Not extremely, not for every tiny thing. But I do. And that's because for me the fun is "getting it right". For instance, take Dishonored. I CAN play with every fuckup that occurs, but you know what happens then? I stop taking risks. I don't go "Gee, I wonder what will happen if I try this?" and instead I stick to tried, true and boring. If I didn't savescum to try things out I wouldn't have had a ton of "I can't believe I just did that!" moments, but rather a ton of "Sit around and wait for optimal conditions" moments.

To apply this to XCOM, I don't reload every time someone misses a shot or takes a hit. I'll even tolerate an occasional casualty. But if I were to dispense with loading completely the game would devolve into me advancing an average of two squares per turn spamming Overwatch instead of a series of awesome battles with daring soldiers tempting fate. I would never have spent 20 minutes replaying the same turn to find a way for my top guy not to get killed, and learning a ton about game mechanics in the process.

I like to get things right. So I load my saves and learn from my mistakes. You might say "But you could also fail the game and then do better next time". But then I'd just get discouraged and bored. I'd be doing the same thing I am now (playing the same thing over and over again), only each attempt would take longer and attrition would set in.

Very good points, the whole concept of organically creating gameplay is intriguing, and got me thinking that most of my favourite moments in gaming where when things didn't go as planned. I think my favourite moment in Skyrim ever was screwing up a stealth mission in Markarth(I was playing a tank, so sue me), plowing through the mission, and then trying to get out of town. I vividly remember alerting apparently every guard in the city, running through the streets with arrows wizzing past my head, getting out into the wilderness still being pursued and finally losing them after I jumped headlong over a waterfall. It was awesome.

But its like you said, XCOM punishes you thoroughly for screwing up. Yes, if you lose your entire squad you can still come out on top, but the odds are stacked heavily against you. Its especially annoying in situations like when your last move point apparently alerts three separate groups of enemies, who all get to attack, and decimate half your squad before you have a chance. If my campaign is utterly stymied over such a minor mistake, it turns me off the game more than anything.

And whenever I read a choose-your-own-adventure book as a child I'd have all ten of my fingers marking previous pages just in case I was walking into one of the bullshit endings. And don't tell me you didn't do that.

As an ex scummer I did the same thing myself when I was a kid. (left hand to save the pages, right to die roll) I never realised that I was save scumming even back then.

ThriKreen:
I will pay for a Yahtzee XCOM voice pack.

Cuz who wouldn't want to send him out to get killed* by aliens.

We need a petition to send to Firaxis to make this happen.

*(anal probed)

I would also pay for a Yahtzee voice pack, especially if he included the Micheal Parkinson impression that he alluded to in the article. Maybe he could be persuaded to bring out his Slippery John and Barry voices as well...

On the subject of Save-scumming, I have to admit, I've done it. I've done it a lot in games. XCOM, though, I have one playthrough where I'm save-scumming, and the rest are Ironman runs. I agree that it adds tension to the game and makes it more fun, but I also agree with Yahtzee's point that XCOM could stand to be a tad more forgiving when it comes to screw-ups. It's true, if your primo squad gets wiped out late-game, you're pretty much done for.

If we could take more proactive measures in XCOM, and perhaps make it so that we have the capability to train some recruits up to Corporal (I'm not talking about an upgrade like the New Guy upgrade, I'm talking about something like the Psi Labs that you send troops to and they come back after a certain amount of time trained up to a set rank) or some similar system, it would lessen the deal-breaker status of late-game TPKs, and thus reduce our reliance on save-scumming. Plus, it would allow us to make all of those extra snipers that are stuck at Squaddie rank useful because we could train them up to get either Snapshot or Squadsight, and thus make them not wastes of Barracks space anymore.

What with Christmas coming up, someone said they were buying me Xcom as a gift...which I had already been planning to do that week, so I had a wait on my hands. As a compromise, I bought the original X-Com on Steam, and I have to say that going in blind, I made absolutely zero progress the first 4 or 5 times I tried. The only way Ive managed to start learning how to play is by save-scumming, so if things suddenly go tits-up I can go back and figure out why.

What Im basically saying is, yes, save-scumming radically alters the experience, and isnt really for me, but it does have its place.

(P.S. Screw psionics!).

ThriKreen:
I will pay for a Yahtzee XCOM voice pack.

Cuz who wouldn't want to send him out to get killed* by aliens.

We need a petition to send to Firaxis to make this happen.

Screw it, I'm bothering a friend who works there to get this ball rolling...

*(anal probed)

I wouldn't even want him doing accents, I'd just replace every voice pack in the game with Yahtzee talking in his normal voice.

I found myself save scumming a bit in Dishonoured because if you get spotted you usually have to fight about 5-10 dudes. I find it way too easy with all the gadgets and pistols and powers to kill them all and have no sneaking to do for the rest of the level. It's like bizzaro save scumming. I'd do the same in Deus Ex. I normally was so kitted to the teeth I would blast through them and make the level a ghost town. And yes I played on hard.

I still save scum, even though I hate it. But I do it because I have no idea if the option to press on is there or not. In Half Life it mostly was, tough fights would generally be preceded by health packs. On Max Payne it certainly wasn't, you not only had to get through some fights without getting hit, you had to make sure you were hit the exact right number of times in the exact right spots or it would ramp the difficulty to where every shot was fatal.

In Xcom at the very least if things are getting tough you can drop the difficulty back to normal, that should be enough to get you out of any scrape short of total save file corruption.

My current bane is Dishonored as not only does it not give you (or should I say me, my fps skills aren't the greatest) enough resources to get yourself out of danger, if you are (I am) ever spotted and don't save scum it completely fucks the whole game up spamming you (me) with dozens of the most irritating enemies and giving you (not me, I'm save scumming and hating it) a "screw you!" ending.

When they iron out some of the more ridiculous bugs in Xcom, then I will stop "save scumming".

Having one of my soldiers panic because an enemy unit being mind controlled by my side dies?

I don't bloody well think so.

I've actually... never done this. When I play a game I get way too immersed, I don't even think about a quicksave key.

Am I a good person for this? :D

Krantos:
I guess the rule of thumb is that players should be punished for screwing up, but that punishment should only create more challenges for them, it shouldn't end their game, or make it impossible for them to win. When either of those happens, save scumming is not only acceptable, it's probably the only way to have fun.

Beautifully put. When he brought up the ten-finger trick for adventure books, I thought, "Yeah, because it's the only way to finish one!" Too often those devolved into bouncing you along a preset path after you made a single choice (ex. If you choose to escape rather than rescue the princess, every path leads to your death/imprisonment). It's the same problem that adventure games have: if you don't follow the line of thought of the developer exactly, you're going to be unable to proceed.

A good game lets you mess up, shows you what happened because you messed up, and lets you try and work out a way to survive.

For the audio pack issue, aren't the localization teams supposed to do the VO, game audio and line producing (story edits) to fix content for regional context? I'm guessing it was subpar for this game?

I generally only savescum in XCOM when literally my entire squad dies, and reload to the start of the mission. If the squadsight sniper survives, it's all good. The thing is, unlike in the original if you abort or lose you get all your stuff back. Even squaddies can be effective when fully kitted out. Of course, it's also a matter of how tight your margin is. I managed to keep panic low enough one botched mission didn't push countries close enough to the red to force excellent performance on a terror mission.

greyghost81:
So, Yahtzee, why didn't you like Dark Souls again?

Because Dark Souls is akin to compartmentalized save scumming.

See, what Yahtzee is talking about is letting failures mold how progression plays out. In the example he used, accidentally taking his health down to 20 resulted in having to be extra careful going forward. It wasn't the being extra careful he was interested in, it was the fact that it's necessity was the result of something he did.

Essentially, he's making the case for games to let you continue when you fail at something (provided you didn't fail too badly) and allowing that failure to lead to emergent gameplay.

What happens when you fail at Dark Souls? You die. And have to reload. It's a game in which there is no room for failure, and therefore, no room for failure-induced emergent gameplay.

Dark Souls is a game about getting it right. It's about understanding the mechanics and figuring out enemy tactics and attack patterns. It's about repetition of a thing until you know exactly what to do. It's about trying again, and again, and again until you just nail it and the inherent rush that produces.

That's the exact opposite of what Yahtzee's talking about here.

Save scumming is most often used when people want to apply the Dark Souls method to other games. I do it all the time when I'm trying to do a ghost run on a stealth game, or when I'm playing a shooter and want to take everyone down in a bombastic over the top way. It's about getting it just right.

TL;DR Dark Souls exemplifies exactly the opposite type of gameplay that Yahtzee is talking about here.

I only play XCOM in Ironman mode.

Well, I'm not usually savescumming, but after 13 restarted games, I think I just might need to do that in order to beat the damn thing. (I probably could get back on my feet in most of these restarts, but the speed at which the difficulty rises in this freaking game always makes me think I'm behind the curve techwise)

Perhaps aware that save scumming has a tendency to make things unorganic, it seems save scumming is actually impossible in Dwarf Fortress. Whenever you load your fort, the only ways to quit is either to save and exit or abandon the fortress (the "I give up"-button, or as I like to call it, the "I'm a beardless shame to dwarven culture"-button :P), so barring a crash to desktop, you can't actually savescum, which actually works alot in the game's favour.

Yes, just quickloading when a magmacrab attack leaves the pumps unattended and the fortress flooding with magma (in the middle of a zombie whale siege) would be an easy way out of disaster, but it'd not be nearly as fun as either fighting for your life to get back on top of the situation, or just watch the hilarious doom spiral tearing the fort to bits.

If you just stick with it, you might very well end up in a situation where your city of 200 elite craftsdwarves and warriors have been reduced to a soapmaker, the fortress accountant and a suicidal toddler bricked inside the armory, but it'll be all the more satisfying if the trio actually makes it, breaks the spiral and allowing you to start anew. That would've never have happened if you had just gone "Bollocks, I'll just quickload" as soon as the events began.

While it isn't the most sturdy foundations, it can pay off to build on your mistakes.

It's taken me years to give up on the ideal of a perfect game. I used to have multiple saves along various points in time that allowed me to go back to any one if I didn't like the result. I would even start over if I didn't like the way things were turning out or if I felt I missed something in order to get a perfect result. I finally just stopped and started living with missing that uber secret item or living with an imperfect character build or a silly mistake I made.
I've actually found that playing this way is less stressful. I don't really care about being hardcore or anything, it's just actually more fun to forget about trying to be perfect and just play the game. You get so hell bent on being perfect you are likely to miss the fun of just playing. It does take some time and practice to get over it and I will say that in some games, like Xcom, it's still a good idea to keep a save in a good spot in case some random foolishness messes you up so badly that to continue going would feel like a chore but for the most part, just play and laugh at your mistakes.

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