Saturday, November 2, 2013

What will save you?

Getting talked about combat for a couple of weeks I will now move onto anything else: Save systems in horror games. I will briefly talk about the various save systems obtainable and how they affect the scare factor. But just before performing that I would like to give a swift overview of objectives of a save program.

Save systems come in many varieties and essentially fill two functions:
  1. Record progress when the player chooses to turn off the game.
  2. To give the player some a beginning point following "dying" (or what ever constitutes failure).
Note that in virtually all new games the two are connected. But in a lot of older games, the "death save" happened at the start off of the level, but the progress was never saved when the game was turned off. Instead, turning off the game meant restarting. The explanation for having this program is to boost difficulty in games and the place of the "save" is as such a measure of the penalty for failure. It is this penalty save (sort no 2) that I will concentrate on in this post, and not saving as a progress recorder (kind no 1) .

Now for a quick overview on the diverse varieties:

Save Anyplace
This type of save is fairly considerably self-explanatory - players can save anytime they want. Ever given that PC's had large sufficient difficult drives (at least Wolfenstein 3D days), this have been the de facto save method for Pc gamers, and games not utilizing it have typically gotten harsh critiques simply because of it. One of those games is Penumbra, but I consider that we did proper point to not use this save method, on the grounds that saving anywhere severely lowers the worry element.

Our reasons for not making use of the save anywhere program are a number of. The two top motives are:
  1. The saving becomes a portion of the gameplay and breaks the mood. Unless you can perform the save program seamlessly into the game world, then the immersion is broken each and every time the game has to be saved and significantly less immersion will imply significantly less fear.
  2. The worry of death becomes virtually non-current considering that it is so simple to undo mistakes. Alternatively we want players to consider prior to acting and not be in a position to save proper prior to entering a unexplored area.
One may well argue that the save anyplace feature can be combined with some other technique, but the dilemma here is that as soon as 1 start utilizing the simpler anyplace-method it is hard to go back. Possibly players only have themselves to blame if they turn to the other technique? The issue with that is when players get really afraid, they might really feel urged to use the save anyplace function, even although they know it will break the mood. We for that reason felt that it would best to force the player into playing the game like we intended it to be.

Auto Saves
Games that save without the player possessing to do anything are all in this category. This indicates that the autosave program might only save right after the completion of every single level or each five minutes.

The very best point about an auto save program is that it is entirely transparent and never interfere with gameplay (at least until the player dies). This implies that it is quite excellent at maintaining up the immersion. Auto saves has difficulties though. One main is that unless you only save after very specific events (like completing a level) it is very challenging to know when to save. For example, the game should not save when the player has 1 health point left and is about to get hit by an enemy. Also, if only a single save slot is utilised, this can lead to the player getting stuck in an unwinnable state and wants to restart the game.

To compensate for its difficulties, auto save is generally combined with some other type of save system.

Save spots
What began as a storage limit on consoles, has become one particular an crucial mechanic in numerous horror games. Some games, like Resident Evil, even place limits on saving and additional make it a element of the atmosphere. Normally save spots are accomplished by some kind of object interaction. When employing something fitting for the environment (like personal computer terminals, typewriters, and so on) this can make save spots much less intruding on the immersion, but regrettably most games insist on utilizing some cumbersome file systems, taking the player out of the game planet.

Save spots overcomes the second save anyplace problem described above and lessens the first a bit (but does not eliminate it). Some other troubles arise although, especially if limits are imposed or spots are badly placed. The main dilemma is that if one particular dies with no saving for a while there may possibly be many frustrating of minutes of gameplay that demands to be redone. This dilemma exists for autosaves as well, but to a lesser degree because autsaves are simpler to spot (but comes with other issues, as explained above).

Yet another dilemma is that even although save spot are a portion of the game world and therefore should lessen the immersion breaking, it might encourage the player to run to a save spot whenever some purpose is accomplished. This not only breaks immersion but also add a unneeded backtracking to the game and makes it a far more frustrating encounter than it demands to be.

Now that I have gone more than the 3 various "death penalty" save systems employed in game I would like to reflect on these by briefly discussing the saving in Penumbra.

We decided early on that we wanted to have some kind of save spot technique, since we believed it would maximize the scare factors. However, we felt that we did not want to break the immersion the way most (if not all) other horror games do by adding a file system anytime the game is saved. As an alternative we chose to just have some type impact upon interaction and then use a certain amount of slots that exactly where cycled whenever the player saved. This way there would still be older (than the most recent) saves to choose from and immersion would be kept. I think this worked great and am very surprised that I have not seen a single other game use it.

Early on we also determined that save spots would not be sufficient, especially if we wanted to decrease the aggravation of redoing and backtracking that came with the save spot system. For this reason we added auto saves and tried to save anytime some thing dangerous was about to come about. At initial we thought about not giving any hints when the game was saved, but later on added a vibrant flash so that players knew they could breath out at some moments. We are nonetheless not positive if this was a good choice even though and by keeping it more transparent we may possibly have created players feel more unsafe and scared in some circumstances. On the other hand, some players in no way understood what the vibrant flash was about, therefore getting scared when getting into a new area even though the game just saved.

Finally, we have been internally discussing the possibilities of skipping a save system altogether and what this would imply for the horror and immersion. A discussion about that will be for a later weblog post though.

Until next time: What is your favorite save system for horror games? How did you like the method in Penumbra?

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