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My Console Pet Peeve - Checkpoints


Parrish
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As I was playing Metal Arms tonight, I was again reminded of something that I really, really hate about console games - checkpoints. Specifically, checkpoints in lieu of letting you save the game, so if you turn off the box before you finish the level, your progress is lost.

 

Coming from a mostly PC gaming background, the inability to save at any point frustrates me to death (particularly on the Xbox, where storage isn't an issue). Is there any valid reason for these to still exist in a game today, or they just a mechanism to stretch out the gameplay?

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This is one of my pet peeves as well. Often, if the option is available, I'll just use the old "pause and leave the console on" method if I don't feel like losing all my progress up to a point. But still, it's an annoyance. The point is underscored on portable games, where I often like to play in short spurts, and leaving it on paused isn't really an option, so games that let me save whenever I want to are a godsend (i.e. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, minus the cutscene portions).

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Halo shows the correct way to do this, by the way. Checkpoints interspersed at the range required to 'balance' the gameplay far enough away from the quicksave-shootonebadguy-quicksave bane of PC games, but the 'save and quit' option is available for when you need to stop for the evening.

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While I agree that it is annoying to not be able to save at a checkpoint such as in Metal Arms, I don't agree that developers should be required to allow people to save whenever they want. Doing so, in my opinion, ends up making a game way too easy.

 

Take, for instance, Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox. Now this game doesn't have any checkpoints at all, so if you die, you get sent back to your last save point and have to re-do all the progress you just made. And just because the people behind this game are such mean bastards, there are several periods in which you will go an interminable length of time between save points.

 

As annoying and frustrating as this is at times, it does serve a purpose. It makes the game more intense. Imagine if you were able to quick save whenever you cleared out a room full of enemies. If you went into the next room and died, it wouldn't be any big deal, because you could just load from the last room and try again. No big deal. However, if you go for 20 minutes without saving, you realize that you've made some real progress, and that if you die, you'll really be punished for it. So, you fight your ass off, averting death at nearly every turn until you get to that next wonderful save point. Once you get there, you feel a sense of accomplishment because you made it, and you didn't die at all. You wouldn?t feel that if you could save all the time.

 

My point is I'm not interested in quick saving if it makes the experience of playing a game less interesting. But that's just me, and I happen to come from a predominantly console gaming background.

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The thing is, quicksaving and stopping play until next time should be two different things. As much as I understand the idea of making things a bit more tense by stopping people saving their position at every little corner, if I've got to stop playing (particularly on a handheld, where you're more likely to get interrupted) I've got to stop playing then, not have to battle onwards for the next 20 minutes to reach a save point, just to avoid losing what I've achieved in the last 20.

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Actually, the way this is implemented in most hand-held games that I play is a pretty good solution: you have the option to "suspend" the game at any time, but once you restore, that suspended game is gone. So you can't restore, die, restore, die, etc. But you do have the option of leaving whenever you wish.

 

I believe Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Tactics Ogre worked that way, and I know Fire Emblem does as well.

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To counter the 'too easy' argument - it's not that a game like Metal Arms punishes you for dying by dropping you back to the start of the level. It punishes you for leaving the game before you finish the level (otherwise you just go back to the last checkpoint, which isn't that big a deal).

 

My worst checkpoint experience was with Buffy:Chaos Bleeds. Not a great game, but I was playing through it until I hit a level where, after thirty or forty minutes without a save (and seldom even a checkpoint), I got my ass kicked by the end level boss. Then the game crashed. I haven't put the disc back in since.

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Originally posted by PoisonJam@Apr 5 2004, 05:40 AM

Actually, the way this is implemented in most hand-held games that I play is a pretty good solution: you have the option to "suspend" the game at any time, but once you restore, that suspended game is gone. So you can't restore, die, restore, die, etc. But you do have the option of leaving whenever you wish.

Heck, the Palm OS has it down in this regard, since you can turn the thing off, or leave a game at any point and the exact state is saved until you open it again. I love this aspect.

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In games like Ninja Gaiden, the developers spent a lot of time crafting and composing a controlled gaming experience that would be unpredictably manipulated by save-anywhere functionality.

 

I am not saying check points are a better save model than save-anywhere. I am just saying that save-anywhere relinquishes some of a developer's creative control over the game experience, for better or worse. This sort of reminds me of the fixed-camera debate (Resident Evil games). In RE, the developers craft visual drama by maintaining complete control of the camera. I think this is a similar type of discussion.

 

As long as a game's save system works with the game design, I think either can be beneficial. Half-life, Halo, and Ninja Gaiden are three of my favorite games of all time.

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In games like Ninja Gaiden, the developers spent a lot of time crafting and composing a controlled gaming experience that would be unpredictably manipulated by save-anywhere functionality.

 

I'm not sure how it would be manipulated except in the sense that the game could be completed quicker because chances could be taken without fear of severe negative consequence (getting set back in the game).

 

This reminds me of the early days of DVD, when directors didn't want chapter points in discs of their films so folks would have to watch their films straight through from start to finish. Taking the general concept even further - can you imagine books that wouldn't let you stop reading until preordained spots because the author didn't want you to stop in the middle of what they thought was an important passage?

 

I can appreciate the author's intent, but at the same time, this is *my* experience, not theirs. Let me play the way I want to rather than the way they want me to. Having to spend several minutes rewatching a cut scene or walking back to the point where I died the first time does nothing to enhance the experience for me.

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All games should be "save anywhere" or atleast a "quick save" option. If I have friends dropping by and I'm in the middle of Prince of Persia, I really, really dont want to have to just shut off the XBox and "do it all over again". No patience for it. Let me save anywhere. Anything could happen at anytime. Storms come through and I like to unplug everything since I've had quite a few electronics fried in my time. Don't make me sit there and play past the point where I should and have lightning knocking at my back door because of it, or worse, have the power go out.

 

Especially GBA games. If they don't have atleast a 'quick save' I'm like WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE THINKING???? Mario and Luigi, while a great game, made you go to certain points to save. WHY??? Its a portable game, I'm playing this for a few min in the doctor's office, I'm playing it at work, its with me every place that I might be detained for a few minutes yet it will not allow me to save wherever I want. This is ridiculous.

 

Checkpoints should go the way of the dodo. They are as archiac as not being able to save at all! If you want to spew the "controlled gaming experience" excuse, then atleast give us quick saves. After bleeding $50 we atleast deserve that much consideration.

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I can appreciate the author's intent, but at the same time, this is *my* experience, not theirs. Let me play the way I want to rather than the way they want me to. Having to spend several minutes rewatching a cut scene or walking back to the point where I died the first time does nothing to enhance the experience for me.

 

The only part of that I agree with is the part about having to watch a cinema scene every time you die. I don't care if you make me watch it the first time (I'll usually want to watch it to find out what's happening), but I don't need to see the same scene over and over again.

 

However, I would argue that video games are in fact a controlled experience, and the developers do have a right to tell us how we can play it. That includes when and how often we can save. If we had complete control, we would be able to jump to the final boss fight right away and not worry about the rest of the boring old game. After all, it's our experience not theirs, right? Who are they to tell us which order we have to fight the bosses? While we're at it, who are they to tell us that our characters have to die when they take so much damage? Don't they know that I don't want to have to keep fighting the same battle over and over again, because I'm busy and have better things to do?

 

For the record, I don't object to a quick save function either (at least in the way its built into many GBA titles). You never know when you may need to stop playing a game, and it is a pain in the ass to have to leave a console on overnight just so that you don't lose your progress. I do, however, think that there should be some penalty for dying in a game, and that includes being sent back to a checkpoint or a previous save. Otherwise, the quick save just becomes a crutch.

 

This reminds me of the early days of DVD, when directors didn't want chapter points in discs of their films so folks would have to watch their films straight through from start to finish.

 

I actually think that this was more of an issue with Laserdisc, which is where the whole chapter skip function came into being. Forrest Gump didn't have any chapter breaks at all on LD (thankfully, the DVD version does).

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