Manual savepoints vs. automatic checkpoints: what is right and what is good.


Different games of different genres have different systems of saving progress. Some of them practice very reasonable approach of automatic save points, which instantly save the current state of the game. Other games allow players to decide by themselves when they want to save the current configuration of a game during the walkthrough of a mission or a level. Finally, there are games with mixed system, which can both save progress whenever a player wants it and at the same time can memorize events at certain points of a walkthrough.

All of three approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. The most convenient one is to use the mixed system, which lets you to save the game whenever you would like it and automatically collects the information about the walkthrough during the checkpoints. This design can be seen in Condemned: Criminal Origins and some other products. This system is very comfortable for a player because it allows retrying the same episode by this or that way, using different methods every time. In addition to it, it lets you to memorize some unique gameplay situations for further examination. This approach is very good but when a player relies on checkpoints too much this person may forget to save manually at all.

Condemned: Criminal Origins has a very comfortable system of savepoints

The system of autosave is very convenient, but puts players in very awkward situations when a game memorizes progress in tough situations for instance very close to a loss of a progress, like this one when the game remembers the player having one hit point and encountering him three or five enemies at once. In such situations a player can’t return to the previous savepoint and have to try to complete the mission in such circumstances, which certainly is not so good.

Another problem is that if a game has bugs and memorizes itself in a state when due to a bug a player can’t go any further it simply makes a player to get stuck there.

The system of manual saves is the most convenient for old-school players and for certain genres. It is often used in strategies or third-person shooters. You could see it in Max Payne 2, skirmish matches of Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 and many other products.

All of the three approaches are good. If autosaves are very well tuned, it’s even more convenient to use them rather than to save manually every time (see Outlast). However, some players prefer to save progress in a game on their own and they don’t want to see any autosaves and checkpoints.

The system of saving progress in Legendary is very good

It’s also important to note that a game may have a limited amount of slots for manual saves (nine as usual) or in opposite have a huge amount of them. Doom 3 for instance did not have any visible limitations – you could have thirty, forty or even fifty saves during the game and play them later, which is quite good.

All things considered, both manual and auto saves are needed. The first approach allows replaying the most interesting moments of a game later without loading the whole level and playing it from the beginning. The second approach saves time and pace of a walkthrough, which is also very important. Two systems are needed and can be using separately or together for a better experience coming from a game. Developers need to decide which system is the best for them and how to use it in full capacity.