Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Defense of the Suspend: A Respone to Yourself's Last Post

at 2:21 PM
In his post, Yourself draws a line betwixt fixed save points in games and save states, or the ability to save at any time and reload the save ad infinitum. Fixed save points are good because they create a structure for the narrative and provide stopping points. They suck because sometimes its really freaking hard to set aside four hours so that you can beat a dungeon. Save states have the opposite effect in that they weaken the structure of the narrative (e.g. the save states in Phoenix Wright), but allow you to pick up and play a game and quit as soon as you need to do something. Like go to work, finish that paper, or meet a girl for a date. 

Just kidding, no one will ever love you. Especially if you read a blog. 
The Suspend feature that the GBA ports of Final Fantasy games as well as the newer Fire Emblem games offer is a nice middle ground between the two systems Yourself described. For those unaware, a suspend lets you save your game and then turns the system off, and only lets you load up that save once. That way your suspend cannot act as a save state, keeping the integrity and importance of actual save points in the game intact. The narrative's structure is preserved and it has the same level of convenience as save states. For portable games a suspend system is pretty essential, but it could easily be transferred over for console games as well, it just has not been done yet, to the extent of my knowledge (maybe the Ike-era Fire Emblem games? They were really forgettable though, so I cannot be certain). It does not seem hard. Get on it all of the many game developers who read this blog. 

This miniature post is also an excuse to announce to all of the Ezio fans out there that I should be blogging significantly more in the future. Get excited to read something other than the grand total of the four posts I have made on this blog, which clearly you are reading over and over again in anticipation of more of my posts.

[Ed. Note: Sorry, I had to correct your terminology from "quick-save", because you meant "suspend". Quick-save is almost universally used to refer to what Oblivion or any other PC game has, where you can save anywhere, anytime, usually mapped to a keystroke. Suspends are generally popular in cartridge games (you can see how they manage space by allowing only one suspend slot) and rose to popularity in the N64 era with, you know it, Ogre Battle 64! So contrary to what you said, to my knowledge they existed on consoles before handhelds.]


  1. Less a response and more an addendum, since the last post was kind of just a history/observation. Suspends, like the pause screen, are more of an artifice to support the reality that we don't all go to a movie theater to game. Their presence is more of a "justin case" than an artistic decision.

    While artistically speaking I can understand the allure of removing these features to provide some kind of clarity of vision, in fact the result is just annoying. Every player *knows* that when they're pausing/suspending, that isn't what the devs wanted. So a game like Dark Souls that takes away the pause is just as fucking irksome as those olden four hour drags between save points.

  2. I feel like having a "save anytime" feature doesn't have to take away from games being chunked out. Games such as Alan Wake and RE4 do a great job of breaking things up into "episodes."

    1. As I said:
      "This has led to the abstraction of narrative chunks from saving; instead of a play session with a beginning-middle-end, we have a quest or level."

      Maybe my last post wasn't clear because it seems like you guys took away some kind of commentary about save systems. All I was saying was that once upon a time, save points defined sessions. Now that we've mostly moved beyond those, the concept of a session has been abstracted from saving. The conversation ceases to be about saving. I couldn't care less whether a game uses save points or quicksaves, as long as it successfully defines sessions. Then I gave some examples of common flaws in defining sessions, illustrated by Oblivion and Prototype.

      Also, RE4 does *not* have save-anytime, it has classic-style save points. Which, as you've noted, and as was my point, doesn't dictate the way it defines sessions.