Sunday, July 5, 2015

"All unsaved progress will be lost"

This is a very minor issue, but...

Automatic checkpoints (and sometimes even auto-saving) as opposed to manual saving have become more and more prevalent in video games. Oftentimes the fact that the game is saving at a checkpoint is made quite prominent visually, while other times it's not.

One extremely common feature of these games is that when you try to quit the game, it will give the warning "all unsaved progress will be lost", or some variant of that.

This warning always sounds much more ominous and important than it really is, especially if has been like 5 seconds since the last checkpoint. The thing is, in many such games the game doesn't actually make it clear at all what exactly will be lost by quitting now. It always gives the ominous and somewhat scary warning, but doesn't indicate in any way how much will be lost if I quit now. This is especially egregious with those games that don't make it very clear when they last saved. (There are, in fact, some such games. They aren't very common, but they exist. You have basically no idea where you will be spawned the next time you start the game.)

I think this is lazy programming. They could relatively easily make the game a bit smarter than that, and give the warning only if significant unsaved progress has been made. (This could be as simple as the player having moved more than a certain distance from the last checkpoint, or a certain number of seconds having passed since. A slightly more elaborate scheme would look if the player has done anything of any significance since the last checkpoint, like killed some enemies, acquired something, or reached a previously-unvisited part of the level.) If the last checkpoint was 5 seconds ago, giving the warning is just useless, needlessly ominous, and lazy.

There are, of course, a few exceptions to this. Bloodborne is a peculiar example that comes to mind. It doesn't have manual saving (per se) and instead auto-saves at regular basis. Also, rather interestingly, when you quit the game (from its system menu) it doesn't give any such warning, and instead auto-saves before quitting. The next time you start the game you'll start right where you left of.

Curiously, this is also a kind of peculiar semi-example of the trope played straight: If you just close the game from the PS4 system menu or by shutting down the console, without first quitting the game from within it, the next time the game is started, it will actually give you a message that the game was closed without quitting, and thus some progress might have been lost. This is the only game I know of that does this. (It's also slightly peculiar given the kind of game it is. Being a "spiritual successor" to the Dark Souls games, it's extremely hard and there's almost no hand-holding; basically you have to learn everything the hard way. But I'm not complaining; that message is a quite clever way of dealing with this auto-saving scheme. It tells you that you should always first quit the game properly without ending it.)

Another example I'm aware of is Alien: Isolation. If you quit the game very soon after having saved at a save station, the game will not give you a warning. Only if some time has passed, will it do so.

1 comment:

  1. Can't agree more.
    I haven't played Bloodborne, but what you describe sounds like something I would do if I programmed a game!
    It's these really odd quirks that can really detract from things (anything). They could be so much better without them.