Saving your game is such a mundane part of video games that we don’t think about it much. For game developers, that’s not the case at all. They have put a lot of thought into how their games are saved as this can affect everything from the difficulty level to the narration to the gameplay itself.
In the early arcade years of video games, game storage technology was expensive, not to mention gigantic. This wasn’t a problem though, as arcade games had one way to continue your game: just add another quarter! As games became home entertainment, the need for convenience became paramount. Eventually, developers came up with ways for gamers to save their progress, including plugging batteries into game cartridges to power solid-state memory chips.
Saving soon became a standard feature. Checkpoints, autosaves, quick saves: developers have many options for saving their game. In some cases, as in resident Evil and Dead resurrection, the developer made saving a part of the narrative, forcing players to find typewriters and toilets to save their game.
Eventually, the freedom to save created a new “problem”: saving the scraps. This consequence-avoiding exploit came about because the developers were primarily focused on convenience. The ability to save anytime, anywhere meant that players could easily repeat anything bad that happened to their character. This style of play was seen as so contradicting the idea of role-playing that the developers at The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall
When it comes to save scumming, few games are as controversial as XCOM. The combination of permadeath and weapons with a percentage chance of hitting their target is a perfect recipe for getting players to the loading screen. Rather than just encouraging players to roll their mistakes, the series’ developers have come up with some more subtle ways to keep the player away from the safe scraps. Or, in the case of Ironman mode, a way of relieving temptation.
Save Scumming can be used as an exploit in some games, but for others it’s a feature, not a bug. Desperados 3 and the Commandos series, from which she traces her ancestry, builds on this idea. These tactical stealth games require carefully crafted plans and precise timing and actually encourage the use of frequent quick save and reload. This trial-and-error style makes the genre almost enigmatic, as it allows players to experiment with different solutions to a problem, and this would not be possible with a game that literally encourages safe scum.
Check out the video above to learn more about how game saves affect game design. If you like it, we have a ton of great videos exploring video game design and the cultural forces that influence ours Youtube channel.