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Why there should be restrictions on quicksaves


marbleman
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Hey all,

I'm doing a bit of research on save restrictions in stealth games, and I'd like to hear your opinions on the matter.

Basically, the topic of save restrictions has been gaining prominence lately, and some stealth games, including TDM, are starting to adopt this in some form. The explanation I always see in favor of it is, "It's just too easy to reload when you get caught!" which makes me think that the entire reason behind it is to inhibit the ghosting playstyle. However, I can't help but think I'm biased here because ghosting is my preferred playstyle. Thus, I want to ask: what other reasons are there for save restrictions?

Note that I'm not looking for reasons that quicksaves should be allowed. I don't want this to turn into a debate thread, I just want to see and understand all possible reasons against quicksaving.

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Ghosting is my preferred style as well. Getting through the level in first go, and minimizing the consequences of my less-than-good-enough decisions or execution - is why I love stealth games. TDM, with a mission done well, is the most immersive experience I have had since playing Chaos Theory's Lighthouse level at 11 years old.

53 minutes ago, marbleman said:

what other reasons are there for save restrictions?

I would imagine the same reason as why some games have only one difficulty level - it is giving player no other option than to play how the creator intended it to be played. And level of immersion in TDM, for me, feels the highest when you have no rewind button in a vulnerable situation. I imagine if people are used to saving in games, they are missing out on what brings the best out of TDM. But it is just how I see it and I'm also not lookin for a debate.

Besides that, I can't come up with any more reasons why it should be limited. 

 I only use saves when:

- I am done for the day and have to continue later.

- I have almost no interest in completing the level, but I also do not want to revisit it in future.

- I have been stuck for way too long, and the only way I see to proceed is making a potentially lethal jump to something I have no idea is meant to be possible or not. 

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I'm aware of those threads. I took part in some of those discussions. This is one of the reasons I created this thread: I only want to hear one, specific side of the argument. This is not about how to restrict saves or best implement these restrictions. I just want to hear what, in general, the ability to quicksave takes away from stealth games (all of them, not just TDM). Sorry if it seems redundant.

Edited by marbleman
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I am not really in favor or against save restrictions - I would only say if the designer deems saves should be restricted the game design should accommodate it. This is true of all mechanics in a game obviously. I also would not be of the opinion the game is too easy and save restrictions are a way to make it more difficult. Really the only reason in my mind is that they would be a tool to make the player engage with more systems in the game, but in return the expectation should be that these systems actually hold up.

This is not something to take for granted in terms of TDM which I do no think supports it well "out of the box", or other stealth games for that matter. I did not enjoy this mechanic recently in Gloomwood for example as navigating the large map already felt somewhat tedious and I wasn't inclined to take risks and lose progress. Options when you're detected in Gloomwood seemed to be to die (this is before you acquire the pistol, which causes the whole dynamic of the game to shift into something else even less interesting). While you open up more and more access to the save point as the level progresses - this also felt kind non additive as this usually comes after you have already navigated and cleared a certain route - contrast that with a souls game and this feels like a huge deal. That feeling maybe holds up better for ghosters. 

The one instance where restrictions are used in TDM works (in my opinion) because it consciously deemphasizes many of the elements that prompt me to quicksave, though it obviously hasn't worked for everyone. 

For example undead enemies make the blackjack irrelevant (the unreliability of which is a source of compulsive saving on my part - though this topic seems as controversial at times as save restrictions) and making liberal use of the lethal toolset doesn't weigh on my conscience in the same way. They are also easy to outmaneuver. This meant I was playing in a different way and using more of the equipment systems which are often ignored and letting the game systems actually play out in interesting ways that I personally really enjoyed, but I could see this causing real issues for your preference of play style on the other hand.

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A more critical take:
Quicksaving (at its worst) is a vile panacea that enables complacency and mediocrity from both players and map makers, by promising a lowest-common-denominator solution to every problem.

Want to a tough stealth, or platforming, or puzzle sequence in your mission?  Well there's no need to worry about things like the consistency or fairness of the challenge, or about providing alternate solutions to accommodate different playstyles. Anyone who is having trouble will just save scum their way through.

Having trouble with a particular section? Don't concern yourself with whether there might be a different solution that would suit your abilities better. Don't think about taking some time to polish up your skills somewhere else, and returning to the challenge later. Just keep banging your head against that wall. Eventually chaos theory and the law of large numbers will see you through.
Never-mind how that string of failures might sour your experience of the rest of the level. Never-mind how you've deprived yourself of an emergent story arc about using creativity and self-improvement to overcome adversity. At least you didn't have to "waste your time".
 

Of course, I understand there is a pernicious tradeoff baked into the above philosophy. TDM and Thief are often buggy. Their gameplay is also highly emergent, making it impossible for a level designer to anticipate every situation. Quicksaving pretty much guarantees players always have a way to backtrack and scrape a win out of what would otherwise be a labyrinth of unavoidable dead-ends. It makes these games far more accessible, both to the players, and to the map makers trying to create enjoyable experiences for them.

Without this panacea, there would be a much less content and a much smaller fan base for this kind of game. But after 20 years of experimentation and practice, I do think there are some level designers and players who are capable of surviving and thriving on that level in TDM and Thief--without the safety net of the quicksave. And being so firmly tethered to it is holding them back. 

While watching your ghost walkthroughs, @marbleman, I always shake my head when you'll occasionally take half a dozen reloads to nail a particular jump or stealth maneuver. "With your skill, couldn't you find a reliable solution to that section?" I ask myself. And on an intellectual level, I recognize that, no, you using this solution probably means there is no reasonable alternative. But on a visceral level it still bugs me. I feel vicariously let down by the level designers in those moments.

Edited by ChronA
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2 hours ago, freyk said:

I love my freedom.

The mission creator must not define how the mission must be played.

This.

And, the game must also not define how it is played in terms of saving. There should be room for every kind of approach.

You want to restrict yourself in the way you save? Then do it. You have the freedom to do it. As much as the people who want to save have the freedom to do it. Win-win.

Edited by chakkman
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1 hour ago, OrbWeaver said:

Quicksaves should be restricted because:

  • We want the game to be the exclusive domain of a small minority of hardcore players who are able and willing to spend 14 hours a day honing their Dark Mod skills, and we regard all other players as "scum" who should bugger off and play Candy Crush instead.
  • We assume we know best what gameplay experience will be most rewarding, and want to force our one-size-fits-all solution on every single player for their own good.
  • We want to encourage the development of unofficial forks of the game (since it's open source), and regard the resulting player confusion as just another part of the excitement.
  • We firmly believe that game difficulty should only ever move in one direction: upwards.
  • We are unable to improve any of the unpredictable and confusing mechanics which motivate save-spamming in the first place (like blackjack failures or hitting the wrong part of a light with one of your 6 remaining water arrows), and we consider removal of the save function as the easiest band-aid.

👍

Whenever I read "save-scumming", I have to wonder what kind of nazi vocabulary people are using to make their point bigger than it is.

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I honestly can't think of any reason for restricting quicksaves other than someone deciding they know the Only Correct Way to play the game and imposing it on others for their own good.

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{ 0 | 🞵 } = funk_tastic

My missions:           Stand-alone                                                      Duncan Lynch series                              

                                      Down and Out on Newford Road              the Factory Heist

                                                                                                  A House Call

                              

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2 hours ago, OrbWeaver said:

We are unable to improve any of the unpredictable and confusing mechanics which motivate save-spamming in the first place (like blackjack failures or hitting the wrong part of a light with one of your 6 remaining water arrows), and we consider removal of the save function as the easiest band-aid.

Sarcasm aside, you are absolutely on the money with this in particular. 🙂
The classic Thief game-design is built around a heavy reliance on save-spam. And it is the reliance that bothers people like me; not the occasionally needing to reload because of hitting an honest loss condition. We could all be very happy and play together in harmony, RPers and save spammers alike, if weapons and detection rules worked more reliably, and map makers were a bit more deliberate with how they designed their stealth and platforming sequences. But making any progress in such matters would require either splitting the community or forcing our one-size-fits-all solution on every single player for their own good. So its a catch 22.

38 minutes ago, chakkman said:

You want to restrict yourself in the way you save? Then do it. You have the freedom to do it.

To be clear, this is precisely the problem: people who want to play without saves currently do not have that freedom. The game is built around the assumption that every normal player will abuse the hell out of save spam. The difficulty is calibrated to that assumption. People who want to roleplay a normal thief who doesn't depend on unlimited, magic-precognition/time-reversal abilities to survive either need god tier skillz or the patience/masochism of a saint. 

Just imagine what a mainstream mission balanced around restricted saving should actually look like. It would have to pretty much hold the players hand at all times. No dangerous platforming. No blind or narrow corridors where enemies patrol. No guards with lanterns periodically visiting likely player hiding places just because. Inexhaustible water, moss, and rope arrow dispensers every few rooms. Carpeted chambers along every guard's patrol where they can stop and stare at the wall periodically, wondering what it would feel like to have a concussion. (Maybe give the player detective vision for good measure. And focus testing suggests the game would sell better if we just make this whole non-violent stealth thing kinda optional!)

... Oh! Oh dear! 😬

Okay. I admit I could be in the wrong here... But it must be possible to make a immersive RP stealth game without turning it into MGS/Batman:Arkham/Thi4f/Dishonored/Gloomwood. Right??

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Just now, ChronA said:

No guards with lanterns periodically visiting likely player hiding places just because.

They're guards. They're supposed to keep an eye out for intruders. From a practical standpoint you have to balance realistic guard behaviour with fairness to the player. It breaks immersion if guards never patrol the entrances to the mansion and never look in obvious thief hiding spots.

 

Just now, ChronA said:

The game is built around the assumption that every normal player will abuse the hell out of save spam. The difficulty is calibrated to that assumption. People who want to roleplay a normal thief who doesn't depend on unlimited, magic-precognition/time-reversal abilities to survive either need god tier skillz or the patience/masochism of a saint.

I think a lot of missions are built on the assumption that players will observe guard patrol routes and plan accordingly. That's been my approach. But it's easy to pass by those guards by save-scumming instead of observing.

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{ 0 | 🞵 } = funk_tastic

My missions:           Stand-alone                                                      Duncan Lynch series                              

                                      Down and Out on Newford Road              the Factory Heist

                                                                                                  A House Call

                              

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😅

I ask what reasons for disallowing quicksaves there are, yet half the replies are that they should be allowed.

Guys, I know. I am of this opinion myself. I also love my freedom of saving.

Here's the thing: my playstyle is very niche. I am not satisfied with the mission/game unless I get through it undetected. If I get spotted, I could roll with the mistake, sure, but I am no longer satisfied with the run and would rather reload, or, in the case of save restrictions, restart that entire section of the game.

So whenever I come across save restrictions, it seems like they are meant to either prevent my playstyle or just make it tedious, requiring me to practice the same thing over and over until I get it right. This is what I meant when I said that I feel like I'm biased here. Surely there are other reasons for these limitations, it's not just to mess with perfectionists, right?

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1 hour ago, marbleman said:

Surely there are other reasons for these limitations, it's not just to mess with perfectionists, right?

You got my main take: Limiting saves forces map makes to be more conscientious in their level design, and encourages players to be more observant and adaptive.
To my mind it is actually an extension of the perfectionist ghost-run mentality. A plan or approach that works perfectly every time is more perfect than one that depends on a favorable role of a die. (That's not meant as reproach to you for using quick loading, of course. I can't see how you or anyone else could complete most of those maps otherwise. But I assert that the spirit of a perfect ghost run on a perfect ghosting map would never need reloading.)

There are a few other benefits to restricted saves worth noting. It can enable the level author to amp the tension to much higher highs, with correspondingly magnified moments of catharsis. Think how it feels hitting a new bonfire after a deep dungeon dive in any Souls-like. I think Kingsal experimented with this technique in Hazard Pay, but never fully committed to it (which was prudent, as the mission was already riding the bleeding edge with so many of its features).

Another innovative thing Hazard Pay did with its save restrictions was to enforce a much more pressing health and ammo conservation dynamic in service of its survival horror theme. Ammo was generous, but every missed shot hurt because it could not be trivially recovered. Would you have enough left to finish the level without going full pacifist? (Yes, but you didn't know that.) If you got hurt, was it worth replaying the whole section for that extra safety margin? Admittedly this was sometimes annoying. But when it worked, it worked well.

One other use of limited saves is that if they are tied to items, it can gives a real reward to the loot hunt part of the game. Treasure is literally just a number that is only meaningful to completionists (or kleptos, or people who are regretting playing on the higher difficulty with that impossible loot objective). Weapons and consumables are only valuable if they are something you plan to use AND are running low on. Readables and dioramas are nice for lore fiends and meaningless for everyone else. And keys and MacGuffin are actually annoying; they clutter your inventory and waste your time. But an extra save... now that is something almost anyone can and will use.

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19 hours ago, ChronA said:

Don't concern yourself with whether there might be a different solution that would suit your abilities better.

This is what save scumming is for: To be able to try different solutions without having to reload the whole level. 

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@ChronA Thanks, this is the kind of answer I'm looking for. You are right on the money with your first point: if I could consistently achieve success in my ghost runs, I would never quicksave, and it would indeed feel more satisfying. Unfortunately, the only way to ensure that's possible is to dumb down the gameplay so much that it becomes hard to actually fail, and I don't think that's a good way to do it.

But the "tension" argument is something that opens my eyes a little. I got a similar answer on TTLG, and I will say, having no option to quicksave does make the first playthrough more engaging. However, this doesn't work on repeat playthroughs, instead making them tedious. So I can see a valid reason other than "screw perfectionists and ghosters": to enhance the first playthrough experience at the expense of replay value. Given that most people only play games/missions once, yeah, I can see the merits of that.

Though, even in this case, I don't think it works flawlessly because this approach pretty much guarantees that the player will fail at some point. Stealth heavily relies on trial and error, and it is unreasonable to expect the player to get everything right on their first try even in a piss-easy game.

Good discussion this. I don't know if I'm making the right conclusions but at least I can see an alternate point of view better now.

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17 hours ago, ChronA said:

To be clear, this is precisely the problem: people who want to play without saves currently do not have that freedom.

Yes they do. You can use the current save system any way you want. The problem is in the head.

Actually, by implementing a restrictive save system, you'd take freedom, not give it.

Edited by chakkman
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16 hours ago, marbleman said:

😅

I ask what reasons for disallowing quicksaves there are, yet half the replies are that they should be allowed.

Let me quote the topic title then:

Quote

Why there should be restrictions on quicksaves

You either forgot a question mark (which still implicates that you want to restrict quicksaves though), or you simply asked the wrong question.

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18 hours ago, chakkman said:

👍

Whenever I read "save-scumming", I have to wonder what kind of nazi vocabulary people are using to make their point bigger than it is.

My understanding is that the original meaning of "save scumming" is when people take a game which is supposed to have permadeath (typically by deleting save files when the player dies), and "hack" it by backing up and restoring those save files outside of the game's control. In other words, modifying the intended design of the game in such a way as to make it less challenging.

Like you, I can see no justification for using the word to refer to people who simply make use of a save feature which is exposed by the game and expected to be used by players.

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Sorry, but I don't see the contradiction. The topic title is accurate. I am looking for reasons why there should be restrictions on quicksaves. This doesn't mean I advocate for these restrictions, which should become evident if you read the first post.

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8 minutes ago, marbleman said:

Sorry, but I don't see the contradiction. The topic title is accurate. I am looking for reasons why there should be restrictions on quicksaves. 

But why? :) Asking the question makes no sense if you don't want to restrict the quicksaves.

And, be the way, the discussions were about a Resident Evil type save systems which was baked into a single mission, on the highest difficulty setting, not about disallowing quicksaves generally.

I highly doubt that there are serious ambitions to change TDM's save system, and, if there were, and the system really would be changed, I'd uninstall the game, and never play it again, because I hate when games don't allow quicksaves.

The people arguing for such a change are stupid anyway. Again, everyone who wants to limit himself from saving so often can already do it. The game doesn't have to dictate it as a gameplay option itself. It's radically changing the game, and, especially with a game which has so many custom missions, this would be a total catastrophy for existing missions.

Edited by chakkman
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Well, have you read my initial post, or did you stop at the thread title? I want to understand these reasons and make sure I am not seeing them exclusively through the lens of my own playstyle. Then, I can make better arguments in favor of quicksaving when I need to.

 

I am not arguing for this change. I am not even talking about save rooms in TDM. I am talking about save restrictions in stealth games in general.

Edited by marbleman
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@chakkman

Maybe it’s a translation thing, but what the OP is after was pretty clear to me.

In terms of “freedom” what about freedom of expression? Doesn’t a mission author have as much right to design their missions in a way that you hate as you then have the right to pan it on the internet? I think it’s worth discussing the merit or value of design decisions, but you lose at me the point we start saying authors “must” adhere to your preferences.

Spoonman, author of one the greatest and universally praised TDM missions of all time, now makes bizarre and divisive FMs for Thief that are not for everyone. Is something wrong with that? 

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