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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | July 27, 2002
   

PQ Mailbag

Let's see. PQ Mailbag, reader mail, Dire Hamster as sidekick, swearing and ignoring reader mail. That about covers it, except for one thing. In an attempt to trade specificity for accuracy, the Friday Mailbag is now the "Weekend Mailbag." We apologize for the inconvenience.

?otW

Decent number of responses to the question about that little quicksave button. Does it screw up game design? Surprisingly enough, the responses were a bit one-sided.


From: "Brian VanGuilder"
Subject: Do you think that the "quicksave" button has screwed up single-player?

in all honesty, THAT is what I like most about quake 3. its refreshing to see a game that doesnt even NEED game save options. nothing but pure, 100% satisfying mindless gore up and running in 5 clicks or less and if you lose too ing bad (well that and theres some pretty hot nude skins for crash and hunter.... but lets not discuss that now)

a madman: Kids, please don't take drugs before writing your feedback. Because if this guy isn't real ing high on methamphetamines, I don't know what his problem is.

Dire Hamster: If you really think nude Crash skins are something to get excited about, you really need to stop ogling the underwear section of the J.C. Penny's catalog and get out more. And don't give me that "I'm too pasty and bloated to get a girlfriend crap." Unless you have a medical condition which renders you physically incapable of lying, you have all that is necessary to get laid. Here's a quick tip: there are lots of easy chicks that hang around at poetry readings, and no one can tell good poetry from bad as long as it's avant-garde enough.

a madman: Jesus. I can already picture his next email, when he learns what other nude things you can find on the internet. To avoid a discussion about what is and isn't still "new" in modern poetry (quick hint - non-rhyming poetry: not avant-garde. Spitting on the audience: still avant-garde), I suggest we try a change of pace and actually discuss the letter. For once.

So... I suppose Brian here thinks quicksaving is bad. That's good. Somehow, though, he doesn't strike me as a big single-player fan. Except maybe in the bathroom. But hey, at least he spelled everything correctly.


From: "Doug Black"
Subject: Mailbag QOTW

Quick saving and quick loading are a relatively new concept for me- the first FPS I seriously played, Marathon, was always very hard and annoying for me because I had to find a goddamn terminal to save. It made me edgy, and if I died after playing for 30 minutes without being able to save, I just said "f*ck it" and quit. No way I was going to do that again. Then, with more recent games, the thought hit me- I can save and reload any time now! Why shouldn't I do it?" So I did it, knowing it was cheap, and whaddyaknow, it ruined FPS singleplayer games for me.

I can safely say, it became an addiction I couldn't shake, I knew it made the game less fun, but I still did it. In Serious Sam, you know how many saves I had by the end of the game? 643. I basicly saved after every 5 guys I killed, or every gun I picked up. In Deus Ex, I saved probably ever 10 seconds. If I ran into a guy, and he shot me once, I'd reload and try again. Games just aren't as fun with constant reloads. It takes away atmosphere from games where there should be one of fear and pressure, because you can do it over and over. AVP2 wasn't nearly as scary when you could load and reload and rereload to find out things.

This has created a problem mentioned in the quesion- game developers have started taking this into account, and have started making games designed to be played with CONSTANT QUICK SAVING AND RELOADING. Case and point: Nar Shadda, Jedi Knight 2. All I can say is "Jesus !". It's like you're supposed to play the same spot 10 times to find where the sniper is.

a madman: I said something much like that myself during Nar Shadda, but more obscene. ing snipers. I feel I should note that I had a friend that used over 1100 saves getting through Serious Sam on hard, however.

Dire Hamster: Up until the last paragraph, I agree with pretty much everything he says. The problem with the "ten-minute saving scheme," is, not only is it too long, but people would just wait around ten minutes and save, then complain about what a crappy savegame system it has. I'd say that the problem isn't the quicksaving, though, so much as it is the entire single-player FPS design philosophy.

a madman: No, no, no. I agree with you that it's not quicksaving that's the problem. The real problem is the quickloading.

Dire Hamster: I'm not sure I follow. At any rate, your average FPS ever since Wolfenstein has been a zero-sum affair. You have a fixed amount of health and ammo on each level, and you can expect to come away from any encounter a bit weaker. This kind of setup encourages people to be more cautious, thus the constant quicksaving. Something as simple as making enemies drop health when they die could address this issue. Jedi Knight 2 wasn't a bad game and didn't force constant loading - once you got level 2 force heal.

a madman: That's just one way. Of course, making loading more difficult would, if not fix the problem, at least encourage people to play it straight. It would also piss nearly everyone off. Make omlette, break eggs, etc etc.

Let's see... some other systems: limited number of saves is a good idea on paper but sucks when you never know when to use them. In Soldier of Fortune I still ended up playing through the same ambushes over and over again. Oni had checkpoints, but tough luck if you crossed an invisible save point if you were 3/4 dead. Halo had one of the best implementations I can think of with its regenerating shield in addition to your health.

Dire Hamster: In Outcast you could only save outside of combat because you had to stand still and remain uninjured for 3 seconds, and it alerted nearby enemies. I didn't have a problem with that but it seemed to piss a lot of people off.

a madman: Of course, the simplest solution is still level design. Ambushes and traps that kill the player are only surprises once but they're irritations every time. Nevertheless, developers are constantly making challenges that virtually require knowledge from a previous life to solve. That should be a warning flag for bad game design.

Dire Hamster: We could go on, but we've already talked more than long enough about this.

a madman: So we'll go easy on the next letter.

Next: The weekly question continues


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