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Article - 'Saving it!' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Learn about different methods of saving, and choose the one that is best for you.

Body

Saving it!
By: Mateui

Noo! I’m going to lose!

Every RPG has one, but maybe it appears in a different manner, and is used in a different way. What am I talking about? Saving the game!

You may have played a lot of different games, and no doubt, you have probably seen a lot of different manners of saving. But which manner should you utilize? Is there a difference between them? Which one is best for you?


Why Saving is Important:

Saving your game is extremely crucial. Think of it this way, you play the game for 5 hours, not being able to save at all, and the power goes out. You have just wasted 5 hours of your life, and you’ll have to start the game over again.

Now, that example may be a little distant, but many times other examples can crop up, in different means of saving.

We will now discuss different ways of saving, not only in RPGs, but other games as well.


Different Types of Saving:

Not every one of the following may be best suited for your game, so choose carefully, as saving will be one of the most used features in the game, depending how long the player plays.

The Fixed Save Point:
Used in many RPGs, prominent in the Final Fantasy series. The save point is a certain object/person (ex: Crystal/Book/Moogle/etc) that when stepped on/selected/talked to, you will be able to save your game.

The save point gives you, the creator of the game, 100% control on where the save points are placed, and when the player can save. Due to this fact, balance must be taken in mind when placing them around in your game.

Save points should be offered in specific areas in your game, and you should be able to find another save point 15-25 minutes after another one. If you find one sooner than that, that game may be suffering from over-placed save points. Longer than that, the player may be distressed to find one.

Save points not only are used for saving, but they may give the player a subtle hint of what’s to come in the game. There may be a boss fight coming up, or some important part in the story. Generally, as a rule of thumb, try to place save points before these important parts.

The Moveable Save Point:
Used less, and usually only occurs once in the game. (Example: FF VII). The moveable save point is the same as the above saving method, with only one difference – being able to carry that save point, and place it in one location – causing it to be fixed there, and unmovable afterwards.

This save point gives the player more control, but not too much, as he only gets one chance to place the save point somewhere.

The Inn:
The Inn save point was actually utilized a lot in the past, but has now declined in use in modern games, namely RPGs. The Inn is a pretty simple concept. If the player happens to die, instead of getting game over, he is teleported to the last inn he was in, and his stats, health are restored.

Also, a penalty may be given. For example, in the Pokémon games, when all your Pokémon are defeated in battle, you are said to ‘black out.’ You are teleported to the last Pokémon Centre (A place where Pokémon are healed) and now have 1/2 of the money you used to.

This method works because in the beginning the penalty is pretty small, as the player has not collected a great amount of money, and therefore the half money penalty does not affect him greatly. However, in the endgame, this penalty is severe, as the player has collected a lot of money at that point, and blacking out would deal a huge blow to him.

The Password:
This method is rarely used in RPGs, and is mainly employed in less statistical-based games, such as Fighting games, Adventure games, or Platformers.

After a level is beaten, or a new character is unlocked, the player is given a series of letters and numbers, and this is the password. After the game is turned off, the player can turn the game back on, and re-enter the password to return to the level he was last on.

There is one disadvantage to this: password guessing. I know that I used to do this. Go into the Password screen, and try to guess random passwords. It worked! I was sent to a level much further from where I was supposed to be. So, if you want to reduce the risk, add numbers into the passwords, and make them all different from each other.

For instance, if one password is: “Sharktime”, don’t have another called: “Dolphinswim”. If all your passwords are like this, then the player will discern that each password is 2 words put together, first one a type of fish, and second a descriptive word.

The Free Save:
Used in various RPGs. (Example: Pokémon series). This type of save gives 100% control to the player. He is given full control on when he can save, as he can save whenever he pleases.

In many RPGs, free saving is used on the World Map, but in other games, the whole game is free savable. (What a weird word, eh?)

The disadvantage to this manner of saving is that the difficulty of the game is reduced. Since the player can save whenever he wants, he can just restart the game at any point, in case anything goes wrong. This is like cheating, but that’s the way this save works.


Conclusion:

There are probably many other methods of saving that I have not mentioned in this article. Observe them yourself, and see what works and what doesn’t. Choose the best one you see fit and utilize it in your game.

Who knows, maybe you can create a new method of saving...

- Mateui