Saturday, June 30, 2012

Contextual Saving

It is rare for a game developer to give a contextual reason for the need of a save point. Often times the save point is only included because it is convenient for the player. Games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger use a shimmering light to save the player’s progress but do not indicate why there are save points scattered all around the world in various dungeons. There is an area in Chrono Trigger where the player is stuck in a room with four save points. If the player approaches the wrong icon, the player faces an encounter that uses the save sprite file as an enemy. However this type of incorporation is minor compared to how some game designers have approached the issue of contextual saving.

Xenogears has one of the most impressive storylines to ever grace a home console. While many found issues with the second disc feeling incomplete, the overall experience of Xenogears is spectacular. The save points in this game are called memory cubes. They aren’t actually cubes but something that looks similar to a dark yellow transparent Playstation memory card with an intricate design in the center. These memory cubes store the memory, emotions and thoughts of the person who accesses them. The memory cubes also have a role in the plot of Xenogears but since I believe everyone should really play or watch Xenogears, I won’t ruin it.

Metal Gear Solid is widely known for its impressive stealth action gameplay as well as its captivating story. The designers behind Metal Gear Solid also have a great creative mind when it comes to tackling issues of breaking the fourth wall. The protagonist, Snake, can use his codec device to contact a handful of specialists throughout his mission. You can contact the Colonel to gain advice on where to go or call up another member who will explain properties of a weapon you have equipped. These codec conversations have some really great moments and fortunate enough to have talented voice actors. The save system is disguised in Metal Gear Solid through the codec system.  Snake can save the game by contacting Mei Ling who will record all of the mission data for Snake. Another ingenious idea that the developers had for the original Metal Gear Solid was using Psycho Mantis’ psychic powers to read the players mind. When a player encounters Psycho Mantis, he tells you that he will do a few things. One of them is reading your mind which he then lists the other Konami games that you have played based off your memory card. He goes even further by commenting on how often you have saved, how many times you have been spotted, how you fare in hand to hand combat and how well you have evaded traps. The breaking of the fourth wall was successfully accomplished only by a handful game such as Eternal Darkness.

The Resident Evil typewriters are probably one of the most famous save icons featured in a video game. While it may not seem like a big deal, the typewriters perfectly complement the atmosphere created by the game designers. The eerie sounds of metal pieces working to type in your save add to the silent loneliness that is only broken by the moans of a nearby zombie. The typewriters will only save if a player has an ink ribbon on hand which means the player is limited on the number of times they can save. This limited amount of saving augments the suspense and horror that is shaped by the designers. The sound designers did a remarkable job by composing the perfect song to fit the save rooms. “Secure Place” (theme for the save room in Resident Evil 2) evokes emotions of feeling safe yet apprehensive of what lays in the next dreadful corridor. I’ve included the “Secure Place” theme as a good way to end my discussion of save systems that go above and beyond the call of duty.