My Ideal Save System

2nd September 2007


In this short article I want to discuss my ideal save system. I don’t claim it would be easy to implement, practical or even desired by others, it’s just how I want it. I’ve divided it into sections. Some of the ideas have been included in games before but not all. Read on to see if you agree with me.


I want each save to have a screenshot of when I saved. Yes, this has been done before and why it’s not included in all game saves I don’t know! It makes life so much easier for everybody.


Next I want some relevant statistics displayed alongside the screenshot for me to judge my health and ammo levels. There could be other statistical information displayed as well depending on the layout and game itself, perhaps a graphical list of weapons and other items collected. This might seem like overkill, especially if you have the screenshot but if the information is available I want it displayed.

Overlay of Surrounding Area.

As the main screen of the save menu I want an overlay of the level I am playing. Before you say that will spoil the game, the only the areas I have completed will be displayed. The rest will be invisible. Preferably this screen will be 3D and will allow me to navigate and see icons that are save points. By hovering over a save point the exact screenshot and other information will be displayed. The level of detail will be significantly reduce in comparison with the game, it’s just a basic £D map.

Automatic Saves

I want the game to automatically save under 3 specific scenarios:

  • When I recharge my health to full. This could be by collecting health items or at some sort of recharge station.
  • When my health drops to 10 percent or below. This is a simple precaution.
  • When I reach a place in the game where moving back to the previous section is impossible. Dropping off a cliff etc.
Other Autosaves

I don’t mind if the game or mod authors want to set points that automatically create saves. However, I would actually prefer not to know that this has happened because then I know that the bext part of the game is going to be difficult. Why else would the author have it autosave?

Timed Autosaves

I would also like a user-configurable setting that automatically saves the game every X minutes. X is set by me via the game options menu and can be changed at any time.

Saving Interface

I would prefer to save via the normal HUD, in the same way that I select weapons etc. I don’t want to come out of the game at all.


I also want to be able to hit one key and save a game. Not in the way that most save and loads work, i.e. they overwrite the last save. I simply want to press, for example, F6, and know that it has created a new save point.

Export and Download

The next thing I want is to easily export my saves. Next week I will be launching a new feature on called Save City. It will be a project to collect and sahre saves from retail games, plus perhaps a few larger mods. It would be nice if a user could easily import saves via the game menu, that can be separate from their own saves.

Things I hate

Games that don’t allow you to create you own save points really bug me. I stopped playing Pariah IMALAZYBEEOTCH. Why do game developers do that? At least give the player the option of turning it off and if anybody tells me you can turn it off in Pariah I will be one happy puppy!


I’m a save freak. I have more saves per game than you! It’s that simple. I save almost every 2 minutes. I want a really cool save system. Have I missed anything?


  1. I completely agree with you. I have found that the save systems for most games that I play either are not adequate for me, or they just plain suck for my playing style. For example, in Halo (which uses a completely checkpoint-based system) often had me playing the same area 5-10 times before I could beat it. In Half-Life and Half-Life 2, I would always save almost every 2 minutes, as you say you do.

  2. Anonymous

    This is something in games I usually don’t fret too much about. It’s more of a stylistic element than it is a flaw, and it breaks down into two general styles.

    The first is the game-generated save points. Autosaves and checkpoints fall under this category, my best example being the Resident Evil typewriter. First of all, this maintains a certain level of suspense when done right, placing the checkpoint a short time before having to fight a major boss or get through some major life-threatening scenario. Usually, the game would give the player some kinds of health, ammo, etc to maintain that suspense.
    Another feature is that the player has somewhat of a sense of replay, as well-placed usually pit these saves before a large event that the player might want to play again at a later time. Half-life 2 did this with it’s “chapters,” letting the player instantly replay Ravenholm, Nova Prospekt, and City 17 before and after.
    The major flaw to this style is that it’s time-consuming, and doesn’t go well with a schedule. With relying only on checkpoints, the player has to dedicate a certain amount of time to reach the next checkpoint, which some people don’t have.

    With the second style, player-generated saves, the game works with the player’s schedule by allowing the player to leave the game and return to it right at the point where they saved. The major flaw in this is in the limited amount of saves a player might have, in quick saves and regular saves. With quick saves, the player has no ability to keep the parts they want to replay because the player is already limited to two or three saves that are constantly over-writing themselves for every time the ‘save” button is pressed. Plus, there’s always the chance that the player will accidentally save seconds before death.
    With regular saves, it’s impossible to really predict if the next event was fun enough to replay, so the player can’t really rely on that.

    As for the other stuff, such as picture in saves, automatic timed saves, and stats within saves, those just seem like general fluff that aren’t necessary. Usually a date next to the save is enough.

  3. As for the other stuff, such as picture in saves, automatic timed saves, and stats within saves, those just seem like general fluff that aren’t necessary. Usually a date next to the save is enough.

    Not for me!

  4. senator33

    Agreed about the saves, Phillip….the simpler, the better.

    Slightly off that one, how about a Steam menu of .map files that reside in hl2/maps folder? That would certainly be a useful touch…

  5. AI

    For me I save,save,save, before I go thru a door, into an open area, ect. I don’t like the autosave in most of the games and agree with #1 above, it can be a hassel! After I found the modified “devmode.lua” file for FarCry, the F5 quicksave has a new meaning! If a file can be written for that game, I’m sure it can be done for these other “autosave only” games. I wish I knew more about doing this sort of thing.

  6. Manual_Monaro

    You have some nice ideas here! I’ll go through my opinions on what you’ve proposed:

    Yes, they should be in every game. It certainley makes life easier for the casual (Or even “hardcore’) player.

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl used BOTH screenshots and a statistic that showed your health. Useful, I must say. But the things like ammo count, weapons and items IS overkill. (Imagine something like Deus Ex or Oblivion (Yes, I know it’s not Sci-fi.) with that?) Maybe if there’s a little button on the save line and you hover your mouse over or click it, a pop-up appears with these statistics?

    Overlay of Surrounding Area:
    Very good idea, but it seems more practical for a squad-based or open-ended game.

    Automatic Saves:
    I agree with ALL those points 100%.

    Other Autosaves:
    Yeah, I guess so. Half-Life and the sequels don’t tell you when there’s an autosave. (Although mod authors seem to want to do so… One example is Leon’s first SP Mappack.)

    Timed Autosaves:
    Agreed, but you should still be able to turn it off. On slower computers, it was annoying playing the RTS Empire Earth, as autosaves would freeze the game for a few seconds.

    Saving Interface & Hotkeys:
    Yep, I agree.

    Export and Download:
    Good idea, but not entirely practical, since you can just go to the directory. (And some games create a folder in your main documents.) Save City sounds good, though, and importing saves from the main menu seems practical.

    Things I Hate:
    YES! I totally symphasize with you here! I like to save my game WHENEVER I want. It’s like I said in the “Hard Difficulty” discussion, I don’t think everyone is going to conviently reach a save point when, for some reason, you need to get off the computer. (Of course, you could PAUSE the game, but their are a tone of reasons you’d have to exit a game AS WELL as hop off the computer/console!)

    Same. Ages ago, I used to always save from the menu. When I finsihed Quake 4 I had about 50-60 saves! Now I’ve gotten used to quicksaving. (And doing so alot!) I ALWAYS find myself binding them to F10 for save, F12 for load! I just save from the menu when I enter a new level/map (Maybe. It’s more “important” for games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) or when I get off the computer.

    One thing I’d like to say is that ALL these features be customisable from an options menu. The player can also turn off certain features if he/she so desires.

    Also, let’s take something from SiN Episodes: Emergence. There’s that HARDCorp mode, where you can’t save! (Never tried it. I imagine it’s pretty damn challenging!) What if the player HAD a choice to have something like this, or a choice to have checkpoints only. This can be customised further with things like random autosave points and a tick box for whether the player wants to be notified of an autosave or not.

    Just some ideas.

  7. cubedude89

    game save systems can really make or break a game for me

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