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Restricting saves in creative ways


snatcher
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Dear all,

I know you all can contribute with hundreds of great/crazy ideas of all kind but, may I ask you stick in this topic to restricting saves in creative ways? Let's also please avoid heated discussions, chances are nothing of this will ever be implemented... Consider this a for-fun topic.

I failed to follow my own rule 😁, you can discuss whatever you like...

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I would personally like to have an "Options" section in the initial "Objectives" screen where I can choose special modes or settings for the mission. Thinking of "restricting saves in creative ways", here are some takes:

Chronos mode: Unlimited saves but you must wait 5 minutes - from the beginning of the mission or from the last save - for the next save to be available.

Lethal mode: Each time you save you hear a painful sound and health decreases by 1/5, to the point where you can die from saving. Health potions become a necessity.

Treasure mode: Saving is enabled as soon as you pick up a piece of loot. If you use your save, saving gets disabled and you must pick up more loot to save again. Get ready to backtrack a lot!

Ironman mode: You have a single save available throughout the whole mission. Will you use it?

You get the idea... can you think of other creative / challenging  / fun modes?

Edited by snatcher
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Just my two cents, but savegame mechanics are a rather fundamental part of game design, and missions should be designed around such fundaments. Just adding savegame restrictions on top of a mission that isn't designed for that is neither creative nor fun. And whether it makes the mission more challenging also depends on the mission.

In regards to implementation there are already means for mission authors to alter the savegame behaviour, and therefore players can, if they feel the desire, create mods to add such stuff.

On the examples you listed:

  • chronos mode: Having a timer that runs down may encourage the player to just wait. This will become tiresome pretty soon as the mission has to have elements engaging the player in moving forward. If the mission doesn't has this as it isn't designed for that...
  • lethal mode: This approach means that the amount of savegames is tied to the amount of health potions available. As they are mostly placed in a rather thoughtless manner (they are for example part of some prefabs), the changes in gameplay will be erratic.
  • treasure mode: Similar to the above loot placement is completely erratic in most missions. The amounts placed as well as the value normally don't follow any logical order and therefore saving tied to the loot amount found will have very different effects depending on the mission it gets used in.
  • ironman mode: Length and difficulty of missions differ heavely. Some also include parcour like parts or a high amount of verticality, both of which makes dying more likely. Restricting it to one save without taking these aspects into consideration is pretty erratic either.

As the person who both suggested as well as implemented the possibility for mappers to modify how saving in their fms work I may add that it was never my intention that this gets used to

  • increase difficulty (it's an artificial approach similar to kill or ko restrictions and no good game design imho)
  • added on top of existing missions

A specific game mechanic isn't good or bad per se, it doesn't guarantee you fun or challenge. It is a tool that has to be properly used. My impression is that due to the lack of stealth games many people relied on playing games like thief (or fms or tdm) over and over again, getting bored or aren't challenged after a while and started to invent house rules to get more entertainment out of it. This led to all those, I never kill, I never get detected, I leave everything behind the way I have found it etc... players. Players who restrict themselves to have fun, which basically means that the game as it is isn't fun anymore.

More tools (like the possibility to alter savegame mechanics) allow mappers to try to move away from the standarized gameplay, mix it with other things or other genres to get even experienced players out of their comfort zone and into an engaging experience (something that is very common in board games, but doesn't happen all too often even in professional computer game design). One that may cause them to make use of their possibilities again instead of restricting themselves by not using them at any means because they know the game would get boring pretty quickly if they do.

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Hi Obsttorte!

I completely agree with your serious and professional take on the matter. And I would never artificially alter my first play-through of a mission. I guess the topic is more about "replayability beyond the three levels of difficulty".

Think of "Mutators", if you like; in which case, I disagree with your criticism of the modes (technical challenges aside).

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I'm not that creative. I figure that you could be able to save in safe areas. Not save rooms, but in areas like the normal streets, where people won't be suspicious of you. Then once you trespass somewhere, you won't get to save, until your little raid is over and you reach the streets again.

Another take would make those green occult crystals be stationary through the level, and have them act as "soul stealers". When you die, you die, but your soul will imprint on the next guy foolish enough to touch the crystal, and you live on as possessed. At the end of the mission, you'll get a different ending, depending if you've ever touched one of those crystals or not.

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The very nature of saving during a mission seems to be important to many people. It's interesting how someone on the development team must have had thoughts regarding the "shame" of save scumming, given how the mission statistics screen after finishing a mission shows the number of times the player has both saved and loaded during a playthrough. Which I guess is useful - if you've aced a mission in both stealth and loot, keeping the saves to a minimum is another thing to try with a replay.

A word of warning, Agent Denton. This was a simulated experience; real LAMs will not be so forgiving.

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My recent opinion about this, is that that the mapper restrict the players freedom how he plays the level. and that doesnt feel realistic. 

Ok, no k.o's and no kills are realistic tasks for the advanced player. But is is not userfriendly for the beginners. So these the non-save and other tasks should always be selectable. 

But..love fiddle around with stuff >

Freyks iron man mode: 

 

Edited by freyk

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It's definitely something worth exploring imo. I played around with this in Hazard Pay- it was kind of a mixed bag of players that liked and didn't like it. To be honest, I learned a lot and made some mistakes, but I think it can be a lot of fun for some and gives the mission that extra level of intensity and survivalist feel. 

I did something similar to resident evil. Save rooms with save items that you collect throughout the level. I ended up only doing it on expert and to be honest it was difficult to test and balance. However,  I'm always up for playing missions with more options for difficulty, including save restrictions. 

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1 hour ago, freyk said:

My recent opinion about this, is that that the mapper restrict the players freedom how he plays the level. and that doesnt feel realistic.

Well, realism isn't really an argument here. Or do you quickload irl if you mess up something. ;) And in regards to this and

19 minutes ago, kingsal said:

I'm always up for playing missions with more options for difficulty

this, I may stress that utilizing a different savegame mechanic doesn't imply that players get restricted or the mission becomes more difficult. I would even state that currently players get restricted much more due to the current mechanic, where reloading a game if you get detected for example is always the easiest option and therefore the option the players will take most likely. It is extremely unbalanced if from all options on the table in such a situation

  • running away
  • use equipment or the environment
  • fight
  • quickload

one option provides a much higher usefulness then the others. This is also some kind of restriction if it doesn't make sense to take the other options into consideration.

And the increased difficulty that may come from a different savegame mechanic (heavely depending on how often the game safes, which doesn't necessarely has to be seldom) can be easely outweighted by a hugh set of parameters the mission author can adjust. So you can easely create mission of the same difficulty as an average fm or even easier, but in difference encourage a thoughful and tactical approach to the challenges provided in a mission instead of try-and-error-ing through a mission, which imho feels much more natural and in the end less frustrating (with my experience comparing games that use one or the other mechanic).

I don't quiet understand why everytime most people tend to assume that such mechanics are used to restrict the player. Why should any dev want that? Especially as a Thief fan, a game that came with a comparable high freedom in player choices to begin with?

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A different save system doesn't necessarely equal to less saves. We are not only talking about limiting the amount of saves to a specific number, which I am honestly also no fan of. But saving in specific situations or at specific locations for example.

How many saves are done when you can save at anytime also depends on the player. I am for example sometimes not saving for several minutes, which can also be annoying if I mess something up. And although one could state that this is my own fault then, I am not convinced that having to remember to press the save button every now and then is an improvement. At least it isn't very immersion enhancing.

On another not restrictions doesn't have to be bad per se. Each game has rules, and basically each rule is a restriction. So is it bad to have rules? And are games that have more rules worse then the ones with less? I think that is oversimplified.

 

As stated above, we are talking about a tool. If used right, it can be an improvement to both gameplay and athmosphere, otherwise it may gets you the exact opposite result. But the decision to let the player save at any time falls under the same category. People just got so used to it as they can do it in almost every game that they automatically reject the idea that a different approach could be good in some situations, as they felt drawn out of their comfort zone.

 

I may repeat that I never stated that fms would get better if they use restrictive savegame mechanics, nor did I say that fms get worse when you can save at any time. Actually I repeatedly stated that the mission design is tied to that mechanic.

Current fms are designed with the idea in mind that the player can always save, so they probably work best that way. A different mechanic would in return require a different mission design. So if mission authors would use this from time to time and really take the effects into consideration in their design process, we would actually get fms with a different setup, gameplay and athmosphere (or at least some of that).

 

I don't see how this can be negative. 😕

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That the existing save mechanics must not change is out of the question. Mission authors create their missions in a sandbox with specific rules, dynamics and restrictions (mods aside) and the engine must, by default, respect this sandbox faithfully. A different argument is whether a game could be improved by this or that mechanic, but we are talking TDM.

Restricting saves is just one way of providing additional, OPTIONAL, challenges. But we aren't limited to saves to provide alternate - use at your own risk - experiences. In example: a checkbox to alter AI and have each actor - individually - get random vision and hearing abilities, regardless of current global settings. Would this make mission X unplayable? Probably. But it remains optional.

The higher the replayability factor, the longer a game stays relevant. A layer of Mutators or Modificators built on top of everything can help in that regard.

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In my opinion restricting saves is not necessary, because everybody who wants to have that challenge should just stop saving themselves without forcing their way to play onto others. As Obsttorte said, I often forget to save myself if I am immersed in a mission, and in that case if I mess something up, I need to live with it. On the other hand I've seen more and more games that restrict the save system on purpose just to make the game appear longer and I really hate that!

Edited by wesp5
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9 hours ago, wesp5 said:

On the other hand I've seen more and more games that restrict the save system on purpose just to make the game appear longer

I don't know what games you are refering to but soulslikes for example wouldn't even work with free saving, as well as other genres. You normally can't save during a race in a racing game, you can't save in multiplayer titles during matches, you can't save during a match in pro evolution soccer. And I guess there are more examples. All of those games work flawlessy and nobody playing those consider this an issue or a restriction.

The point is that this influences the way a game, or a mission in our case, plays and feels. Why should mappers not be in control of that.

9 hours ago, wesp5 said:

In my opinion restricting saves is not necessary, because everybody who wants to have that challenge should just stop saving themselves without forcing their way to play onto others.

I am so tired of that "argument". It has no reference to the point I am trying to make.

  • it is not about adding a challenge
  • nobody forces anything on anyone. If you don't like it you are not obliged to play it. But others might find it entertaining and even refreshing.

And this whole, "you don't have to save if you don't want to". I never stated that there is something wrong with saving often nor that I want to save less. I explicitely stated (several times whenever this discussion arose) that a save mechanism not controlled by the player doesn't imply the progress gets saved rarely.

It's the same nonsense that I get to read whenever I criticised that in a mission the ai can be taken out to easely because of either the ai placement, the amount of gears handed to the player or both. "You don't have to take them out". Why on earth should I oblige myself on to not using the tools handed to me by the game. If I have a blackjack, I will use it.

It can't be that players are made responsible for fine-tuning a game or a mission for it to be good. That's the mappers job.

On the other hand, everytime some bigger change is on the table there is always the argument of not messing up with mission authors work and respecting their intellectual property. When one mapper however decides to use this specific gameplay mechanic in his mission there is immedetially a thread open "that the time for restriction removal mods has come."

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59 minutes ago, Obsttorte said:

I don't know what games you are refering to but soulslikes for example wouldn't even work with free saving, as well as other genres.

I was referring to VtM Swansong which is kind of a third person view visual novel game with no combat at all, so nothing like the games you cited. It's main problem is that sometimes you are forced to decide between different approaches and you can't really test them out because there is only one automatic save. This was obviously done to bring the player to replay either a whole chapter or even the whole game to experience the alternate way which in Swansong's case would make a short game much much longer! Of course you can manually copy the save and circumvent this, but even then you can't cut short any dialogue until you played the whole chapter which has basially the same result, forcing the player to experience the same stuff over and over without alternative.

As for the "just don't save" argument, this was targeted morer at snatcher and not yourself. I know that a lot of the players here already choose ghosting or whatever personal challenge they want, to make the game more difficult. I don't see them looking into an optional submenu somewhere to see what save-limitations somebody else might find interesting! Especially as I agree with you that this wouldn't work globally in many missions. But I agree with you too, that mission authors are free to implement something like this if they want it and can make it work in their mission. As long as there is still an easy difficulty mode left in which I can play like I want to ;). Regarding the argument "we can't mess up missions", you know pretty well that I would be the last one to argue in that direction!

Edited by wesp5
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I'm a simple man. I'm happy with only allowing saving/loading while hidden, and not allowing either when being hunted.

I think loading is more important to restrict than saving because only restricting saves means you can still just load back to whenever you last saved if you happened to accidentally get spotted, which doesn't solve the savescum issue at all, only makes savescumming slightly more tedious.

This thread reminds me of either the Arena or Daggerfall manual (probably Daggerfall), where the devs state they understand savescumming is a thing, but don't encourage it because you end up missing out on certain things like the criminal system if you do. Thief/TDM is like that, where if you savescum you do cut out aspects of the game when you do that.

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7 hours ago, wesp5 said:

This was obviously done to bring the player to replay either a whole chapter or even the whole game to experience the alternate way

I don't know that specific game but it doesn't seem to obvious to me. It is also a possibility that the developer wanted the player to decide for one approach and then life with it.

This is something I found tedious about the deus ex games, for example. There are alternative endings, but which one you get to see is decided within the last hour or two of the game. So you basically save there and once you get to see one ending you can reload that save and see the next ending and so on. This way on one hand you get to see all endings pretty easely, one the other hand this makes the whole decision absolutely pointless. It is a simple gotta catch 'em all approach with no deeper meaning.

It is the modern way of gaming, with the completionist, steam achievement, explore everything, find every piece of loot approach to gaming which bores the hell out of me. An occupational therapy for an adhd generation of gamers. Developers seem to think that their customers play games because they don't know how else to spend their time. And from the post I have read here and in other forums, I tend to assume they are right. 😕

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I still wonder why people want such restrictions. Everyone can restrict him-/herself, saving only when he/she wants. Don't wait for mappers to implement that kind of stuff. Choose for yourself how you want to play the game. Good games for me ALWAYS let the player design his way of playing it. Bad games choose and restrict the player's actions.

E.g., I think save rooms as done in Kingsal's mission are absolutely horrible. Even if it's only on expert difficulty. What if I want the expert objectives, but don't want to be restricted to only saving in save rooms? Yeah, bummer. 

Same reason as why "no knockout" objectives such in missions. It makes no sense, and restricts the player in the way he wants to play the missions. There's absolutely zero reason why a thief would be restricted not to knockout guards if he robs the whole place anyway. What could be worse than getting robbed of all that you have? No noble will give a crap on the wellbeing of his hired guards.

I really hope that mappers don't implement such restrictions. Just to please people who need such restrctions by "authority". These players can already choose how they want to play the game. There's no need to force their wishes onto others who don't want to play the way they are playing. So, please not.

Edited by chakkman
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1 hour ago, chakkman said:

I still wonder why people want such restrictions. Everyone can restrict him-/herself, saving only when he/she wants. Don't wait for mappers to implement that kind of stuff. Choose for yourself how you want to play the game.

Because you obviously didn't read my posts carefully. And I am tired of repeating myself. But maybe this equilibrium helps:

  • you can decide to not eat -> you fast
  • you may have nothing to eat -> you starve

So fasting and starving is the same?!

1 hour ago, chakkman said:

Choose for yourself how you want to play the game.

"Play the game the way you want it." Who invented that slogan? Ubisoft.

1 hour ago, chakkman said:

Good games for me ALWAYS let the player design his way of playing it.

Or developers in the creation of a mainstream title. If you don't like the game, change some setting til you like it. Typical modern game design. And as you write yourself: it's like that for you. Is it such a burden to accept that others have a different perception.

1 hour ago, chakkman said:

Same reason as why "no knockout" objectives such in missions.

You are comparing apples and pies. The ability to take out enemies is a fundamental part of the gameplay. A savegame system in full control of the player is not.

1 hour ago, chakkman said:

I really hope that mappers don't implement such restrictions. Just to please people who need such restrctions by "authority".

But it is ok for you to decide that they please you?!

 

I don't say that every mission has to implement it, not even that it would be good if the majority did. What I say is that missions designed around this could be different from what we have now, both in terms of gameplay and immersion. Of course it will not please everyone, but current fms do neither. And if there would be a few fms which you personally don't like, but which others may see as enrichment, you still think it is up to you to decide that those fms are bad and they shouldn't exist?! I mean, the whole point of your post is: "I don't understand you so you must be wrong."

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As a general rule, in my humble opinion, in TDM mission creators shouldn't mix up objectives with difficulty.

Normal / Apprentice / Custom

  • Main goal(s)

Hard / Veteran / Custom

  • Main goal(s)
  • Secondary goal(s)

Expert / Master / Custom

  • Main goal(s)
  • Secondary goal(s)
  • Extra goal(s)

No knockouts! and No Kills! are cheap tricks unless the story or the character requires so, in which case these options should be an integral part of a Main Goal.

But mission creators are not to blame here, I think. The problem is that the core game does not offer No knockouts! and No Kills! separately, as extra challenges the player can select if they wish. The fact that so many missions employ No knockouts! and No Kills! as silly extra objectives should have raised an alarm some time ago. By not having these two built-in, mission creators simply adopt them and stop thinking about alternatives.

Just my two cents.

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On 6/21/2022 at 9:48 PM, snatcher said:

can you think of other creative / challenging  / fun modes?

When loading, you get loaded into a different area. So if you load a lot you have to do the mission in a less linair way.

Another way at this is that  when loading, certain things change. So it's like you write a new story.

 

@devs: why are there only 3 possible difficulty levels available per mission in TDM?

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4 hours ago, Obsttorte said:

Because you obviously didn't read my posts carefully. And I am tired of repeating myself.

Relax. :) I was replying to the topic in general, not specifically to your posts.

And I stick with my statements: Imposing the way the player should play the game isn't the thing I expect from mappers. All missions on all difficulties should be - ghostable; KO-able; kill-able; save-able. If a mission restricts me in any of these things, I will play it reluctantly (if there is only a non-kill objective), or I won't play it at all.

Everyone who wants to impose saving restrictions on him is absolutely free to do so. Always. It doesn't need mission objectives or mission design for that. On the contrary, designing your mission like that will restrict it to players who want to play that way. Of course, mappers are perfectly entitled to do that. It's just that there will be fewer players which are fine with that.

Edited by chakkman
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6 hours ago, chakkman said:

E.g., I think save rooms as done in Kingsal's mission are absolutely horrible. Even if it's only on expert difficulty. What if I want the expert objectives, but don't want to be restricted to only saving in save rooms? Yeah, bummer. 

Well, guess its a bad mission then since bad games restrict players 🤪

EDIT: In all seriousness, I've had lengthy discussions about the save room mechanic. The only way to really do it is to commit to it and balance the level and objectives around it. Or find a clever way to make it optional- through items bought in the store, optional objectives, whatever. I like some of @snatcher's suggestions.

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