5.02.2007

Save Our Skills

I am a save addict. Let me elaborate:

Save points in games -- points at which you can save your current status and turn the game off without losing your place -- are one of the reasons that games make such a good escapism. In few situations outside of life can you just stop doing something important when you're tired and take a break to eat/sleep/do something else. In games, though, gamers live for the save point. Like milestones in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, they act as a cushion, allowing us to take risks, knowing that the consequences of failure aren't that bad. I love save points, and I save as often as I can, so I'd like to advocate the improvement of these objects of my affection.
The following is my basic rulebook of the situations where, I think, a save point belongs, and the situations where one does not, because save points, like chocolate, should be enjoyed in moderation.

After a Completed Mission or Boss
Nothing is more terrifying to a save-lover than a period AFTER a big battle boss fight...with no save point. If you have ever gotten past the hardest part in a game, only to accidentally back into some hole and die, you know what I mean. Save points belong in the denouement of a plot line. If I defeat Super Satan Omega, only to get infected by Minuscule Bacteria 3 two minutes after the battle and die...well, screw this game.

Near a Completed Mission or Boss
One of my biggest beefs with GTA: San Andreas was that, well, I don't have the patience to drive on roads, and I got punished for that. Say I've just completed some frustratingly difficult assassination mission. I now have to travel all the way back to my nearest base of operations, often a few minutes away, in order to save. Now, if I get impatient and decide to drive my motorcycle over hills and mountains instead of along a long, long, winding road...and I careen off of a cliff, should I really be forced to complete the mission again? If your answer is going to be "yes", please don't answer.

NOT Every 5 Minutes
I appreciate save points as much as the next guy (or girl), but having a plethora of them is too much for my own good. When I see a save point, either I have just accomplished something very difficult, or I am about to tackle something difficult. Save points in random places throw me off. I start to get paranoid, creeping around corners, just WAITING for this mystery challenge to confront me. I can lose a lot of time over the course of a game from my paranoia.

NOT Past a Point of No Return
Being able to go back to a save point is just Peachy...UNLESS that point is UN-Peachy. If I'm falling from a plane with no parachute, that is NOT a good time to save, so the game should either not offer it, or WARN me. Otherwise, I die, reload my saved game, and then just die againrepeatedly, unless I can figure out some magical way to survive. Final Fantasy XII has my full respect in this area. The game would warn you, at certain points, "Hey, you're in a tough jam here. If you're gonna save, better make sure you have a backup OUTSIDE of this dungeon/fortress/free-fall-from-a-plane!" At least, I think that's how the message went...

NOT After a Huge Cliffhanger
Some RPG games are infamous for this: you win the battle, but the building starts to collapse! You and your party run to the rooftop and suddenly see your pilot hovering next to the building, but you'll have to jump for it...so you do! --- [screen goes black] WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAVE YOU GAME?
I DON'T KNOW! Not if I missed! True, it's obviously implied that everything is okay, but doesn't that in itself ruin the cliffhanger? Plus, there's usually a save point right after this screen anyway.

That's it. Go, readers. Go forth and save wisely. If you need me, I'll be playing Catan, which hit Xbox Live Arcade today. Expect a post about it tomorrow, for sure.

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