Game Save Incorporation in Game Design, ch. 5

5 Analysis

5.1 Integration of save systems with gameplay

In this section of the analysis, several games’ save functions will be examined through the MDA framework from a player’s perspective, ADM. This paper will look into games that have incorporated game save into the design in a way that makes them a part of the game world. This analysis will be done by examining the aesthetics of the save functions, which will be determined by how a player perceives the dynamics that emerge through the mechanics, as this paper observes.

5.1.1 Last Express

Last Express (Brøderbund, 1997) is a point and click game, where the player interacts with objects and non-playable characters. The game is played through a first person perspective, where the player takes the role of a character that has a certain amount of time to make use of before reaching the end of the game. As game time progresses regardless of player action or inaction, the game can be finished by doing nothing. This is because the game is in real time.

The setting is 1914 and the game takes place on the Orient Express. The train is traveling between Paris and Constantinople. The player can move around, interact with objects and non-playable characters, who are governed by artificial intelligence and agendas that may change depending on the player’s actions . The player’s actions determine the outcome of the game, meaning that the player might lose before reaching the end destination. To avoid this , the player can turn back time using the clock at the main menu, if the player thinks that they are on the wrong path. The game provides a non-linear story, where players have several actions to choose from. The choice of action will affect the course of the story; players are, however , not told what is the right or wrong path of progress.

Last Express uses an auto save system with no message displayed when progress is saved, which makes players unaware of when saving occurs. The Last Express save system allows players to rewind to previously played game data by using the clock at the main menu. The player might rewind even further back by using a provided map in the main menu, which displays the events the players have passed along their path (see Appendix Fig. 1). If failure conditions are met or time reaches the end of the game before the player reach their last destination, the game automatically rewinds back to a previous save data, giving the player a new chance. This would allow the players to perform the correct action in order to successfully reach the last destination.

The Aesthetics of the save function are the real time and time traveling which is provided by the dynamics, persistent time flow and rewinding time. The dynamics of the rewinding relies upon mechanics of the auto save system.

In an interview with Jordan Mechner, the creator of the Last Express explains in the book Game Design: Theory and Practice, Second Edition that an ordinary save to file system breaks the experience of games (Rouse, 2005:335–336) . The game uses a system that keeps track of the player’s previous actions on a timeline, which Jordan Mechner refers to as an egg file. “An egg file isn’t a saved game, it’s essentially a videotape containing not just your latest save point, but also all the points along the way that you didn’t stop and save” (Rouse, 2005:336). The egg file is referring to the clock in the main menu screen, which players use to rewind time. The eggs come in six colors, representing different save points. Mechanically, Last Express uses an auto save system incorporated with the game’s design as it lets the player rewind to a previous auto saved spot.

The story of Last Express does not contain the theme of time traveling. Time traveling is a mechanic of the clock in the main menu which uses auto save function to time travel. Time traveling is an aesthetic that has been generated through the system of auto save. The clock is on the main menu, which means that the player has to exit to another screen in order to use it. The game could be divided into two layers of design, the top layer that is the design of gameplay, where the player is immersed in the game world with real time. The bottom layer that uses auto save system as a support for the time travel aesthetics of the game save. Even though the game save design is not a part of the game world, it is cohesive with the play and creates consistency with the game design, which is the core of immersion.

Fig. B. Demonstrates top and bottom layer design hypothesis. [Figure not shown]

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: real-time, time traveling

Dynamics: persistent time flow (regardless of player state), rewinding time

Mechanics: auto save


5.1.2 The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo, 2000) is played from a third person perspective, where the player takes the role of a child who possesses a music instrument, an ocarina, with various abilities. Among them are the abilities of controlling time, teleportation, weather and more. This is done by playing unique songs to each ability. The player can also find other objects such as combat items, funds or other useful objects. The player can interact with non-playable characters, battle or complete puzzles. Majora’s Mask imposes an in-game time limitation of 3 days (72 hours) in which players must save the land of Termina, before the moon falls to the surface and destroys it. If 3 days come to an end or the player meets failure conditions, the game will end and restart at the beginning of the 3-day time cycle.

Majora’s Mask uses a combination of save systems that store the player’s data to a save slot, which makes the save system a hybrid. Players can save at various locations by using owl statues, which also serve as a means of teleportation, where players can teleport by playing a specific song on the ocarina. The owl statues are scattered around the game world, the ones that have been found will be displayed on a map that the player has access to through an in-game menu. The owl statues serve as save spots that store all the player’s data, until the player reaches the end of the 3-day time-cycle or plays a song to rewind time. Owl statues therefore act as temporary save spots which makes them a quick save feature (see Appendix Fig. 2).

By rewinding time , the player loses resources such as cleared puzzles, minor objects, funds and non-playable characters (who will not have any recollection of meeting the player, nor of help that has been offered). This will be permanently stored to the save slot. Rewind time is necessary to progress, which also makes the game appear to reset itself back to the beginning of the game, which means the beginning of the 3-day cycle. Major accomplishments will however be stored, such as having retrieved new songs, won essential battles and having found significant objects.

Looking at the save function, the aesthetics are that of time traveling, as the player has to rewind time in order to save and teleport, and the player needs to find these save spots in order to teleport between them. Time traveling is provided by the dynamics of reversing time, which the player does with the dynamics of playing music. Aesthetics of teleporting is provided by the statues which are again triggered by the dynamics of playing music. These aesthetics and dynamics are supported by the mechanics of the save systems.

As mentioned previously, players will lose certain resources when they choose to rewind time; however players can deposit their funds at a bank. Deposited funds will be stored for player to re-collect them after rewinding time. When depositing, a non-playable character marks the player with a seal, as the non-playable character does not have any recollection of the player. The bank acts as an extra inventory bound to a location in the game, an inventory that saves a certain resource, which has the mechanics of a resource stock. The resource stock has the aesthetics of a bank as it is what the player perceives.

As some characters and side quests are only available at certain in-game hours, the save spots system supports the aesthetics of time traveling. The player can, if the day-cycle ends before completion of quests, restart the game at the last temporary save spot, which would be the same as the players rewinding themselves back to the beginning by playing the ocarina. The player can redo the quest after completion. These save spots are only temporary which means that if the player turns off the game after reloading once, the game will start from the last time the player rewound time. Players can at will travel back to the beginning of the 3 day-time cycle. When time has run out or failure conditions are met, player will automatically be returned to the beginning of the 3-day cycle. Returning to the beginning of the 3-day cycle is necessary for progression. The player also has the ability to slow down time and travel forward in time by using the ocarina. These save systems are cohesive with the game world as well as game design, as they support the aesthetics of the save function. Additionally , the temporary save spots offer players teleportation to previously found save spots, which add additional functions other than saving.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: time traveling, teleporting, bank

Dynamics: reverse time, play music, statues

Mechanics: save spots, quick save, resource stock


5.1.3 Last Window: The Secret of Cape West

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (Nintendo, 2010) is played on a double screen device, Nintendo DS, a handheld console with one touch screen, which in the case of this game the console must be held vertically like a book (see Appendix Fig. 3). Gameplay is divided into chapters such as the chapter of a book. Last Window: The Secret of Cape West takes place in Los Angeles, 1995 in an apartment building, where the player plays as a former police officer working as a salesman who lives in the apartment. The player must interact with the other residents to reveal crucial information by asking the correct questions and present evidence to solve the mystery surrounding the building’s past. The player can interact with and use objects that can be found in the surroundings. The player can meet failure conditions by asking non-playable characters the wrong questions, making untrue assumptions or presenting incorrect evidence

. Players have access to a journal and inventory at the touch screen. The journal serves as a note book, where players can write mementos, read about previously met characters, view maps, read a summary of different chapters and also access the save slots. The player can also read the gameplay story as a real book in the game that has the same name as the game, Last Window. Each time a chapter is cleared a new chapter is readable in the in-game book that elaborates the story further. Players can also affect the content of the in-game book by their choices during gameplay.

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West uses the save anywhere to a file system. The player can save anywhere expect for certain moments during gameplay such as when interacting with other characters and objects. The player saves by using the journal. The aesthetics of the save function is the novel as the game is an interactive book that the player takes part in . That is provided by the dynamics of the journal, which players may use to store their game data and to utilize in additional ways. The journal is available anywhere, except for certain moments of conversation, which supports the mechanic of the save system, save anywhere. As the game is played and handheld as a book and the story is designed as an interactive novel, it supports the journal as a save feature in the game design and is cohesive with the game world. In an interview, Taisuke Kanasaki, in charge of direction and character design of the prequel game Hotel Dusk: Room 251 at Cubed3 website, tells that “We chose the style where players hold DS vertically because this matches the style of game itself and its originality – something that has not been seen in the other games before.”

As players need to exit gameplay in order to access the journal, Last Window: The Secret of Cape West can be divided into two layers, similar to Last Express. The top layer is where the player is immersed in the game and the story of the novel. The bottom layer is where the player uses the journal to store their progress. Thus , as the handheld console provides two screens, players are still in the game world on the screen with no touch functions (see Appendix Fig. 3). Unlike Last Express and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Last Window: Secret of Cape West’s save system does not have any other purpose than storing the player’s data , but is consistent with the additional feature that comes with the journal.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: the form of a novel

Dynamics: journal entry

Mechanics: save anywhere


5.1.4 Resident Evil

The main character of Resident Evil 1 (Capcom, 1996) is a member of the Alpha team in S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Team) on a rescue mission to aid the other team Bravo that has gone missing. Team Alpha is forced to seek shelter in a nearby mansion after being ambushed in their search for team Bravo. The Player needs to obtain documents with clues that help them to solve puzzles within the mansion and uncover the mystery to escape the mansion that is filled with mutated monsters. The Player can find objects, investigate the mansion and battle for survival.

Resident Evil 1 uses a save spot system to a save file. The Player may save at certain locations by using ink ribbons on typewriters, which are scattered throughout the game world. The players have to carefully choose when to save, as there are a limited number of ink ribbons scattered through the game, like other resources such as ammunition. One cannot use the typewriter without the ink ribbons which also use up space in the player’s inventory as they also have a limited carrying capacity. Players have to carefully decide when it’s worth it to carry ink ribbons in the inventory, or to use that space for other objects, such as ammunition and health packages.

The Aesthetics of the save function is that of writing a document as it is what the player perceive of the game save feature in the game world. Writing a document is provided by the dynamics of using ink ribbons at typewriters which is also a limited object that has to be found. The save feature occupies inventory space that is a mechanics which aids the ink ribbons as a collectible object.

The Save function of Resident Evil 1 charges players with inventory space as the ink ribbons use inventory space and only a finite number of them can be found, that players need to use as payment to store their game data with. When approaching typewriters, the players are informed that they can save and the game asks whether they want to use the ink ribbon or not (see Appendix Fig. 4). The typewriter is consistent with the game world of collecting documents for clues as well as the resource limitation on other objects.

Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998) and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (Capcom, 1999) use the same save spots system with a limitation of ink ribbons. Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2005) uses a similar system, but without the ink ribbons, players do not need to collect objects in order to save. In Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2009) the save spot system was replaced with auto save.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: write documents

Dynamics: typewriter, collect objects

Mechanics: save spot, inventory space


5.1.5 Outcast

In Outcast (Infogrames, 1999) players take the role of a human character, a former U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea Air Land Team) that has to escort three scientists during a mission that is set in a parallel world known as Adelpha, inhabited by aliens to recover a probe to close a black hole. When arriving in the alien world the player is separated from his team. The Player must find the missing team and help the inhabitants. The Player may interact with the non-playable characters that will treat the player depending on how the player acts towards them. Other actions such as purchase combat equipment, sneak around, completing missions or other task can be done. Enemies will alarm when the player approaches and order nearby foes to attack. The Player may choose to sneak by instead of engaging in combat and can perform certain tasks for regions in order to weaken the enemies.

Outcast uses a save anywhere system to a file. Players can equip an object given to them at the start of the game, called “gaamsavv” and use it to save their progress (see Appendix Fig. 5). A non-playable character informs the player in an event in the start of the game, that one can squeeze the gaamsavv to imprint one’s essence, in case the player is reverted. By questioning the non-playable character further, the player is also informed that using the gaamsavv near enemies will alert them. The game does not explicitly tell the player that gaamsavv is used to save the game, which keep the immersion high with game world. Players can save anywhere by using this tool, which will make the gaamsavv glow and turn the screen white for a brief moment. If there are enemies near the character during the save progress, enemies will investigate the area.

As the aesthetics are determined by how players perceive the save function , the aesthetics of Outcast’s saving is the foreign technology, namely the gaamsavv. The player may use the gaamsavv anywhere which is the player’s input, the dynamics. Utilizing the gaamsavv creates an additional function, notifying enemies of the player’s presence.

Outcast has incorporated the foreign technology with the save function that captures the player’s essence. Essence is mentioned during the story of the game as something that the inhabitants use for many purposes. Save anywhere is represented with an object that supports the aesthetics but also the narrative of the game world.

Saving also features other game design elements, it can cause enemies to locate the player’s position. As the player can sneak past enemies, the dynamics is cohesive with the game world. Outcast’s save system does not only store the player’s data, it has consequences for gameplay and the game world. It can be compared to Resident Evil’s save system, where players are charged by inventory space and a finite amount of saves, thus causing disturbance in the gameplay. Immersion is also kept by not explicitly telling the player that the gaamsavv saves the game.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: foreign technology

Dynamics: use anywhere, affects surroundings

Mechanics: save anywhere, notifying artificial intelligence


5.1.6 Grand Theft Auto

In the Grand Theft Auto (1997–2013) series the player takes the role of a criminal, and completes missions to get rewards. When players commit crimes the player’s wanted level will increase. Wanted level is a scale that measures how much the player is wanted by the law.

Grand Theft Auto has used several saving systems throughout the series. Grand Theft Auto II (Rockstar Games, 1999) uses a save spot system, where player may enter a church with 50,000 dollars in order to save. Players may enter without the requirement but the game will not store game data. In the prequel Grand Theft Auto I (BMG Interactive, 1997) the game would only save after finishing a city that is made up of different levels. Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III (Rockstar Games, 2001) has its setting in Liberty City, where the player takes on missions, explores, commits crimes, drives cars, uses weaponry and more. Players may receive missions that are connected to the story and side missions. While it is necessary to complete missions to unlock other parts of the city, players can choose to complete the mission at their own pace as the game is non-linear. When the player commits crimes, their wanted level will increase. The wanted level is represented by a number of stars on the screen. Upon reaching a certain wanted a level the player will be pursued by various degrees of lawmen.

Grand Theft Auto III uses a save spot system to file, which in the game is referred to as safe houses. The player may save by entering a safe house. There exists a total of three save spots, which can be unlocked through progressing in the story. Save spots are shown as a green house icon on the map, which is available to the player on the screen.

The aesthetics here are the safe house, which the player enters to save their game data that is provided by the dynamics of accessing a building. The mechanics are represented by the save spots, which are the locations of the safe houses.

These save spots also serve as the player’s inventory for collectibles and rewards that the player receive from clearing missions. Save spots can also store vehicles, which is similar to The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask bank that stores the player’s funds. The Player needs to drive the vehicles into a garage and then save the game, which is the aesthetics of storing the player’s vehicles. The save spots have different capacity for storing vehicles, the last save spot may store up to three vehicles.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: safe house, garage

Dynamics: access building

Mechanics: save spots, resource stock Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Grand Theft Auto Vice City (Rockstar Games, 2002) has its setting in 1986’s Vice City and uses save spots as Grand Theft Auto III and has similar gameplay, however , unlike its predecessor where safe houses are used free of charge, the player needs to purchase their own safe houses . Grand Theft Auto Vice City is similar to Grand Theft Auto II as the player needs to use funds in order to save. Instead of paying each time as in Grand Theft Auto II the player only pays once, which is when they buy the safe house. After Purchase safe houses will then be accessible at all time. The players are able to walk around in safe houses and unlike the prequel game, saving also restore the player’s health.

One of the main changes is the floating cassette save icons that did not exist in the predecessor. In Vice City when entering a safe house, the player needs to locate the save icon in order to save. In the prequel, the player only needed to enter safe houses. There are a total of nine safe houses that are available for purchase, not all of them include space to store vehicles.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City uses floating icons to represent save spots, which does not support any immersion. However , the game does have several floating icons for other resources such as weapons, armor, health, funds and upgrades scattered throughout the world. It does then support the game design in which icons are used for other resources as it is consistent with other design elements. The aesthetics of the save function is the cassette icons which the player approaches in order to save. However , if Grand Theft Auto Vice City would not have other floating icons to represent resources, the game save would not have any consistency with the rest of the game’s design.

Additionally , Vice City takes place in the 198os , where save icons are represented by a cassette tape (which can be compared to the usage of cassette tapes as storage devices in real life). Other Grand Theft Auto games with save icon features have used floppy disks and compact disks and computer disks depending on the year in-game.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: icons

Dynamics: approach icons, garage

Mechanics: save spots, resource stock Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV (Rockstar Games, 2008) is set in 2008’s Liberty City and has a similar gameplay to Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City as it’s a sequel. Grand Theft Auto IV also uses the save spots system to a file. Additionally Grand Theft Auto IV offers an auto save system that may be turned on or off if not desired. Save spots are still safe houses; however , the player is required to go to a bed in order to save. In these safe houses the player can watch television and use the wardrobe to change clothes. Safe Houses have the appearance of an apartment which holds more functions than the previous safe houses in Grand Theft Auto III. The Garage that stored vehicles has been replaced with yellow lined parking slots outside the safe houses, with the text “residential parking only” on the ground. If the player is chased by the police, they will chase the player into the safe house until the player saves their progress at which point the police disappear. Accessing the bed in a safe house will reset any wanted level back to zero.

The aesthetics of this Grand Theft Auto game is sleeping that is provided by the dynamics of the player’s accessing the bed.

While the mechanics are the same for these Grand Theft Auto games, the dynamics and aesthetics separate them. While Grand Theft Auto III uses safe houses with limited use, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto Vice City offer more functions within the safe house than only saving. In Grand Theft Auto IV players accesses a bed in order to save, but it also offers an optional auto save system. By accessing a bed to save it does support the aesthetics as well the game world. Using a bed as a save spot is cohesive with the other gameplay elements of simulating the real life and immerses the player in the game world.

ADM of the save function

Aesthetics: sleep

Dynamics: safe house, access bed, parking slot

Mechanics: save spots, resource stock


5.2 Non-integration of save systems with gameplay

There are some games that incorporate game save as a part of the aesthetics of the game world, however there are more games that do not incorporate game save. This section will analyze briefly some games that do not.

The Call of Duty series (2003–2013 ) uses an auto save system. In the first Call of Duty (Activison, 2003) the player could save and reload at any time during gameplay, which means a save anywhere system to file. The sequel Call of Duty games use auto save systems, and while it is the same system as Last Express, Call of Duty does not have any aesthetics nor dynamics for the save game and does not have any other functions that incorporate the save system into the game world . The only purpose the auto save system serves in Call of Duty is storing the player’s game data automatically.

ADM of the save function in Call of Duty

Aesthetics: none

Dynamics: none

Mechanics: auto save

Jeannie Novak in Game Development Essentials: An Introduction, third edition, writes that auto saves offer the most immersion during gameplay (Novak, 2011:272). While auto save is purposefully the one that offers the most immersion than other game save options, games like Call of Duty do not support any aesthetics of the save functions . Some other examples of games that use auto save systems without aesthetics or any other functions associated with game save are Max Payne 3 (Rockstar Games, 2012), Diablo III (Blizzard Entertainment, 2012), Fallout 3 (Bethesda Game Studio, 2008), Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft, 2007), Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (Sony Computer Entertainment America, 2007), Super Mario 64 (Nintendo, 1996), Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Nintendo, 1995). The list could be longer, but the point is to demonstrate that auto save is a feature that is commonly used.

As with auto save systems, there are various games that use save anywhere systems without any support of the aesthetics in the game world for the game save or other functions. In Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo, 2002) the player’s mission is to collect sunshines by clearing levels. The player is rewarded with sunshine after completing a level; there are a total of 120 sunshines to collect. The player can also collect yellow, red and blue coins. While yellow is to receive health and clear bonus levels, the blue coins is to save the game and purchase sunshines. Red coins exist in certain levels and are collected in order to clear a specific challenge of that level. The player is also asked to save their game after a level is cleared and is also able to save by pressing start to access a menu. While saving after a cleared level or accessing a menu are not a cohesive design with the rest of the game’s design, saving by successfully finding a blue coins is consistent with the design of collecting coins . As collecting coins is not the main purpose of the game, it is not cohesive with the game world. This is similar to Grand Theft Auto Vice City that use save icons, that have consistency throughout the game’s design as other elements of the game uses icons. Super Mario Sunshine does not share the same consistency as coins are used to gain health and may be collected to retrieve bonus stars. Blue coins may be used to purchase additional sunshines, it is resource bound to sunshine collecting. However , there are other design elements that are not represented by coins, which make it less cohesive with the game world. Additionally , the save system consists of different save systems, saving by finding blue coins, access a menu and save after a cleared level. Only one of these save systems do have consistency with the resource system of coins.

In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time players can access a menu to save their progress. Often save anywhere systems are accessed through a menu, except from Outcast which does incorporate game save by equipping the save feature as an object. An older example of the save anywhere system is featured in Pokémon Red (Nintendo, 1996 JP), where the player accesses a menu during game play order to save their game data.

Quick save systems allow players to save instantly and reload at the latest quick save. In F.E.A.R. (Vivendi Universal, 2005) players can save by pressing F5 on a keyboard and reload from the quick save by pressing F9 on the keyboard. New Super Mario bros. Wii uses a different quick save system, where players can, when viewing the world map, access a menu that offers them to quick save (see Appendix Fig. 6). Players select a level on a board map to play, when players reach the middle of the board or the end a permanent save is offered to the players.

Games with save spots tend to create the save locations integrated with the visuals of the game world. For example, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask makes use of owl statues that blend into the environment of the game world. Final Fantasy X (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, 2001) and Eternal Sonata (Namco Bandai Games, 2007) use crystal orbs, although neither of them incorporate game save with the actual game design, it is still cohesive with the visual world. There are other examples of save spots that are visually cohesive with the game world, like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Interplay Entertainment, 2001) and Sudeki (Microsoft Game Studio, 2004), which use books on stands to present their game save locations.