Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Checkpoints done wrong, Checkpoints done right

Regardless of whether you prefer checkpoints or saving anywhere there are a number of features that every checkpoint save system absolutely should have.  This isn't a PC versus Console issue any more. Plenty of console games have excellent save systems. It is simply a matter of good practise in game design.

Checkpoints done right:
*No more than 5 minutes game time between checkpoints.
*Checkpoint IMMEDIATELY before every tough encounter / boss fight.
*Have a chapter select so player can replay any section without having to go back to start of game.
*Allow player to stop game at any time and resume from where they left off.

Checkpoints done wrong:
*Arbitrary spacing of checkpoints sometimes more than 20 minutes.
*Long  section of tedious trash mobs between checkpoint and boss fight.
*Only one save and no chapter select. You want to see it again - start a new game. You just hit a bug? Tough luck, you have to start a new game.
*You want to go to bed? Well keep playing you should reach a checkpoint in half an hour or so.

With regard to the philosophical question of whether checkpoints are better than save anywhere I am somewhat neutral. I like the automatic nature of checkpoints and I think they increase immersion. I also like the flexibility of save anywhere.  I do think however that it is far easier to mess up a checkpoint save system than a save anywhere system.It is hugely disappointing how many other wise excellent games mess up their checkpoints. Recent examples of bad practise I have come across:
Darksiders 2: No chapter select.
Bioshock Infinite: Arbitrary spacing of checkpoints with many long gaps.
Far Cry 3: No chapter select (Want to replay that sublime drug fuelled mission in the marijuana field, tough luck).

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