A Tale of Two BioShocks: Why 'Save Anywhere' Matters

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BioShock InfiniteBioShock

We spend a fair amount of time discussing "the save game" here at Busy Gamer Nation, and with good reason. The save system has the biggest impact on whether a busy gamer can enjoy and ultimately complete a game. It determines how easily you can put your game down when family, work, and other aspects of real life interrupt your venture into a virtual world of play.

Games that cause too much suffering and loss are more likely to be tossed aside than those that let you easily preserve your hard-won progress. That's pretty obvious, but it goes deeper than that.

Checkpoint systems aren't inherently busy gamer friendly, but they can be fairly tolerable when they're frequent enough - particularly if they allow the gamer some degree of control. In the Halo games, for instance, if you're observant and remember where the game last saved you can double back to cross an invisible checkpoint whenever you want. Many titles autosave like this - when you enter or exit a room or new area - so if you can remember where the nearest save trigger is, you can generally get out of a game within a few minutes when the baby awakens from nap or you need to end your lunch break and get back to work.

But did you realize that the save system can greatly impact your overall attitude toward a game? I didn't understand the degree of this until I had a little epiphany recently while playing BioShock Infinite. I believe it's a valuable insight worth sharing and, hopefully, game developers will consider it when deciding on how to implement save systems in future titles.

BioShock: The game I couldn't put down for long

If you read my Busy Gamer Review of the original BioShock, you'd know that I played the game through faster than most despite my intention to take it slow and draw out the experience:

"I went into a sort of fugue state where all I could do for about 8 hours was play. I'd save and shutdown only to reboot 10 minutes later. Normally I'd try to savor a game of this caliber, like I have with the Elder Scrolls and Halo series. I found that impossible here. No matter how hard I tried, I just had to soldier on."

BioShock lets you save your game anywhere, except in a couple of places such as right before the finale. So while quitting was easy, letting go was not.

BioShock Infinite: The game I couldn't wait to quit

  I resented that the game was holding my progress hostage and was ecstatic when I could finally stop. This was the opposite feeling I had with the original BioShock, where I would quit with the intent of saving some gameplay for later and then come back far more often than I intended.

Take away control, and gamers may resent you for it, and those feelings carry over to your game and whether they feel inclined to ever pick it back up again.

BioShock Infinite gives you only one save slot. It uses an autosave system that you can't consistently influence by simply crossing a threshold or backtracking to a previously explored area. Sometimes entering a door conveniently triggers a save, and other times you can go MORE THAN AN HOUR without a save opportunity.

This happened to me while I was revisiting an area of Columbia that you explore early on, but the place has changed quite a bit. No, it was not a final boss battle by any stretch, just lots of exploration and some smaller goals building up to help me achieve a larger one.

Normally I like to take my time, explore and find secrets, take down waves of enemies, and move the story forward only when I'm good and ready. But I had more than exhausted my lunch break when I realized that it had been nearly an hour since my prior save. It took me an additional 20 minutes to find a place to activate the autosave so that my extensive game progress would be preserved.

This is a dangerous practice for lots of reasons, but it my case it made me feel like I could not wait to save and quit the game. When I finally did, I was excessively relieved. I had worried that the place that triggered the save was going to lock me in to moving irrevocably forward (leaving behind exploration I still wanted to complete), but I had been fooled and could have saved considerably sooner if I hadn't been so intent on exploration. At that point, I no longer cared either way. I was just thrilled that I could finally put the damn controller down.

This is the opposite feeling I had with the original BioShock, where I would quit with the intent of saving some gameplay for later and then come back far more often than I intended. Here, I resented that the game was holding my progress hostage and was ecstatic when I could finally stop.

I did complete BioShock Infinite but, unlike with the original BioShock, I am not in any rush to revisit that world.

The lesson? Let your players decide when and where they stop and start. If your game is compelling enough, they won't be able to put it down for long. And when they do walk away, they will be entranced.

Take away control, and gamers may resent you for it, and those feelings carry over to your game and whether they feel inclined to ever pick it back up again. This happens all of the time with lesser games than BioShock Infinite.

Can you guess what happens? I bet you can, but let's not leave any room for doubt: We busy gamers toss those aside, often without a second thought.

2 Comments

1.

amen to that. The technology is there. We've been demanding it since 2007. The VERY minimum for every game should be a quicksave even if it's one slot and gets erased when you load it. But every console, every game at least one quicksave per console account.

2.

I was debating passing on commenting because we are starting to sound like a broken record. Some of my all-time favorite games (New Vegas, Mass Effect, Dragon Age..) all have a save ALMOST ANYWHERE feature. So when a game comes along and it doesn’t have it I do get quite frustrated. If that happens to be a Gamefly game, then back goes as opposed to buying it. (Dragon Age Orgins I received it one day, then purchased it the next day on way home from work!)

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This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on May 1, 2013 4:39 PM.

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