I remember the days of original Nintendo where save points were almost nonexistent. You were occasionally lucky and got a game where you would get passwords at certain points in the game that you could later use to skip all of the stuff you’d already finished. Or, if you were a horrible non-environmentalist like me when I was a child (and kind of still am…), you simply left your console on for days on end so that you wouldn’t have to repeat the menial or the super difficult.
As the years went on, the checkpoint was eventually introduced. At the time, we were extremely grateful for this. Once you reached your checkpoint, you could safely exit the gaming knowing that you would be at that exact point when you started the game back up. And eventually, we got to the point where we could choose when to save. There are, understandably, stipulations: you can not save while in combat or in certain areas.
So why is it that game developers still opt for the checkpoint save system? Is it key to their game design? Is it indicative of a slightly lazy team? I don’t want to necessarily harp on teams that make this kind of design choice for their game, but it had better be well implemented and justified.
Without a doubt, a checkpoint save system amps up your difficulty. Why is that? You have to be a lot more careful with the decisions you make, knowing that the time spent between the last checkpoint and where you are currently situated will have to be repeated. Because of this, a tough situation seems even more daunting. You are facing possible frustration along with the need to remember what you did wrong at that point while remembering what you did right leading up to this point. When you’re facing 15-20minutes of gameplay between checkpoints, this can make it extremely difficult, especially for individuals who don’t play a game that often.
Here’s what I mean. You start up your game and play from your last checkpoint. You repeat 15 minutes of gameplay about 3 times because you can’t quite figure out how to get past a certain enemy or puzzle. This has just wasted roughly 45 minutes (+ loading times) of your gaming time. You get frustrated and turn off the game. You return to it about a week later, but you can’t quite remember what you did in those first 15 minutes of gameplay, so it takes you a while to then get yourself to that frustrating point you initially had given up on.
Now here is my question for all developers that choose to use a checkpoint save system. Would our experience in playing the game be undermined by a more modern save system in which we choose when to save? Or is having to repeat the same 15 minutes over and over again really the experience you wanted to achieve? [sarcasm]Oh, that’s right. We were supposed to get it all right the first time.[/sarcasm]
What do you think? Are checkpoint save systems ever justified? Are they necessary for linear gameplay? Or perhaps you believe that we should go back to having no saves? ;)