First post, by Kerr Avon
Far Cry's checkpoint system was mentioned in another thread, and it made me wonder again why PC FPS games have checkpoints. Traditionally, PC FPS games used a save-whenever-you-like system, whilst console FPS games used a checkpoint system, but that was mainly as a consequence of the save-game hardware available to each respective machine. Since PCs had a hard-drive, then there was always space for reasonably sized save games, but because consoles had limited space on their memory cards, then console FPSs tended to only save between missions, which resulted in much smaller game-saves since you didn't have to save things like enemies' positions and states. There were some console FPS games that let you save anywhere, or had checkpoints mid-game, but not many.
Then for some reason, when the original XBox came out, with it's built in hard drive, meaning that checkpoints were no longer made necessary by the console's hardware, then the almost launch-game Halo still used checkpoints. And since half of the first person shooters released since Halo seem to almost blindly copy Halo, then checkpoints have become commonplace in PC first person shooters. The same games also tend to copy Halo's other mechanics, such as the weapon carrying limit (I hate that), and the rechargeable health system (another thing I'm not too keen on). But what is potentially worse is that sometimes a given game's automatic checkpoint system can choose a really bad time to save, such as when you're nearly out of ammunition and about to enter a situation requiring a *lot* of ammunition, or when you're health is nearly down to zero and you're sure to die in the next few seconds. It wouldn't be so bad if the game would store the last two checkpoints, but no, it always just seems to store the last checkpoint. Many games do at least have the option to restart the level, meaning you go right back to when you first entered the level, long before the first checkpoint, but though that does save you from having to play from the unwinnable checkpoint save, it also means you have to re-play through a lot of the same level again.
So why have PC games in particular gone from the save-where-you-like system to the in-level automatic checkpoint system? I know that being able to save at any time can be abused by the player (who can save every two seconds, and experiment whilst being free to 'take back' any amount of time and in-game actions that they like), but there's no ideal save system at all, they all have their potential faults. And I think most PC games would prefer to be able to save the game where and when they choose (and also to be able to carry more than two or three weapons, but that's not the point of the thread), so why are checkpoint save systems forced upon us?
And what sort of save system do you prefer in first person games? Being able to save anywhere, or checkpoint saving between levels (which is OK for small levels, but horrible for large levels if there's no mid-level checkpoints too), or multiplayer checkpoints in level, or (and this is the worst one, I think) only being able to save at set locations during the game BUT to do so you need a special object, of which there are only a limited number in the game (such as saving in the Resident Evil games when you need a typewriter ribbon, or in Daikatana where you need a jewel or you can't use the save system).