Auto-Saving in Games

Jan 22, 2010

Earlier this week, I picked up a copy of the 2004 title Thief: Deadly Shadows from Steam. Last night, I found out the hard way that the game doesn't auto-save your progress; my character fell from a lofty spot, died, and I lost a couple of hours of progress. This got me thinking about the state of auto-saving in video games today, something that I now clearly take for granted.

Back in the day, games never auto-saved your progress. One of the earliest titles I recall using an auto-save feature was the original Far Cry, which (in actuality) used a checkpoint saving system. I'm sure there were titles before that which used an auto-save mechanism (the first Serious Sam might have used one back in 2001). Since that time, nearly every game I've played has had some form of an auto-game saving mechanism.

Take one of my current favorite games, Torchlight. With regards to saving your progress, it lies at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from most old games: you cannot, at any point, manually save your progress! In essence, it only auto-saves, nothing more. What a change from having to consciously remember to save every so often.

Going forward in Thief: Deadly Shadows, I'll have to remind myself to save every so often. Otherwise, I'll end up wasting more time like I did last night. Live and learn.



6:15 PM on Jan 22, 2010
I've never been a fan of the save-anywhere type of game saves, where you are saving the entire game state (it's much more common on PC games than console games). When it's unrestricted, it essentially amounts to invincibility: you just quick-save, then if you do something stupid, you just quick-reload and it's like nothing ever happened, with no penalty. It depends on the game I guess, but I prefer more of a checkpoint style of save system.


6:48 PM on Jan 22, 2010
Quick-saving does indeed give you an "easy out" in many situations. At the same time, it's frustrating having to replay through a long sequence again just because you did something stupid (or the game was buggy and screwed things up). There are definitely pros and cons on both sides of the fence.

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