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I'm so very tired of games still limiting saves the way they do.

When it comes to video games I'm a frequent saver. I grew up in a time where autosaving was far from the norm, and playing my share of dastardly early PC games that were more than happy to kill you out of nowhere or drop you into an unwinnable situation meant that I got into the habit of saving frequently and keeping at least a few backups around in case surrendering an hour of progress was a more appealing prospect than bashing my head against a problem I didn't have the resources to solve.

Of course after the 7th generation, when hard drives became standard and games didn't have to take half a minute to save to a memory card on console, I got used to autosaves like everyone else, but I didn't stop manually saving in any game that would let me, nor leaving a trail of prior states I would likely never return to just in case. Get to an important inflection point in the story? Drop a save and check out one option, then switch to the other if you don't like the result. I remain a committed save scummer to this day, and I make no apologies for it. I played Bioshock 1 in 2021 without Vita Chambers but with plenty of save scumming and I cannot imagine a better way for me to enjoy that game.

The thing is that over time it seems more and more that developers want to control how players save their game along with everything else these days. Back in the console days when battery backups or passwords required saves to consist of tiny bits of data there were a lot of restrictions on saving made in order to accommodate that. If you restricted saves to in between levels or specific points you could very efficiently store a player's location in the game, allowing you to cram in additional info like inventory or EXP within the few bytes of data you had available. PC games generally didn't have such restrictions, at least not after the widespread adoption of hard drives (yes I am old enough to remember when not every PC had a hard drive.)

Of course the console restrictions did come with benefits, chief among them the risk/reward of spacing out save points, giving real tension to gamers as they fought to get to the next place to record their progress before running out of health or lives. Video games often struggle to create true stakes, and one of the ways they do this is by forcing the player to bet their time against the game, taking away chunks of progress if you aren't good enough and forcing you to replay segments multiple times to get them right. I'm not a fan of this mechanic and in some ways it has disappeared (think how few games actually have limited lives at this point) but there is value to it.

Over time as hard drives became standard in consoles saving became more liberal again, with many games allowing you to save whenever you wanted (at least out of combat) and others at least allowing frequent and unlimited saves. But it seems like in some ways this is being rolled back now.

The worst is when games offer absolutely no control over saves at all, not even multiple save slots. Not having multiple save slots is, frankly, inexcusable in 2023. Beyond the obvious fact that a parent might buy a game for their children to share (especially in the days of digital distribution when there might be no physical cartridge at all) or two spouses or roommates might share a game, even solo players might at least want a late game save and an early game save. Games without save slots are made by thoughtless or predatory developers (thinking this might somehow sell more copies.) To some degree they are offset because usually saves will be tied to one account, so you can have effective slots with multiple console accounts, but this practice sucks.

Then there are games that may or may not have multiple save slots but give the player no control over the saving, just autosaving whenever they feel like it. Sometimes this is acceptable, such as in a game that's intended to be hardcore and wants to discourage save scumming, though I actually think it's generally bad and anti-consumer. If a player wants to save scum...why not let them? They're having more fun that way and who, exactly, is getting hurt? Some developers love to micromanage how their players engage with their games, like whiny little authors standing over your shoulder telling you how to read. I really don't like this and I generally do not like punishing game design. But there is at least some thought put into it.

There are also games that limit your saves for what are likely reasons of developer resources. Garden Story only allows you to save between days despite being a light, simple, affair. I think this is probably because it's easier to limit the amount of data you have to track that way. I don't like it but I do understand it and I get that when you're a tiny indie you need to make careful resource allocation decisions and spending one or two weeks of developer time to implement a better save system might not be possible.

However games like Horizon: Forbidden West should let you save at virtually any point. This is a huge, sprawling, affair with a budget in the 9 figures. It is almost incomprehensively massive. Now this game makes the decision to autosave frequently and also let you manually save at specific points, of which there are many. This was probably done for technical reasons (again it's easier to save progress if you can just spawn a player at one of 100 fast travel points than save them literally anywhere on the map, especially in an open world game where they might save in the middle of an area full of enemies so you'd have to track what was dead when they saved) and also to create a bit of tension. Horizon isn't a hard game but it wants a tense atmosphere and limited saves do help with that.

What doesn't help with that is limiting me to five manual save slots. Why? This is a very long game. I think any limits are kind of shitty but a limit that low is just irritating. There are some minor choice points in the plot and missions someone might want to replay and I just don't see the reason for it. Even worse is AI: The Somnium Files, which limits you to 3. This game has a lot of very touchy trophies/achievements that require doing silly things, so save scumming them makes sense. Now you can chapter hop, so that ameliorates things somewhat, but why limit to 3?

I think 99% of the time where technically feasible games should let you save whenever you want, at least when you're not in danger. I think they should let you save whenever and wherever you want unless you are in mortal danger at the time (and sometimes even then, especially with an autosave backup at a safe location.) I think that not having manual saves is shitty for the most part, not having mid-game saves on lengthy Roguelites is very shitty, and having only one or a few slots is shitty. There's no reason for it 99% of the time.

Of course the shittiest of all are live services games. When it launched Marvel's Avengers not only didn't have any save slots but it didn't let you replay the single player game unless you deleted all your progress (including multiplayer) They did fix that, but it really shows how little developers cared about their players on that game. Save options are often a sign of how much developers considered their players' needs and wants when making a game. A game with crappy save options is often a game made by people who didn't care if you had a good time.

Now don't even get me started on pausing, which is even worse in some ways. There's NO excuse for not letting me pause when I'm playing single player. NONE!