Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

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Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby Kerr Avon » 2019-1-12 @ 16:57

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).
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby realnc » 2019-1-12 @ 17:09

Because game designers were mostly console gamers. They grew up with checkpoint systems and as a result this is perceived as the best way to do things.

There are cases though where it's an engine limitation. In some versions of the Unreal Engine for example it wasn't feasible to save game state at any point you want. You had to craft the maps with checkpoints in mind.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby Putas » 2019-1-12 @ 18:10

It depends.

Checkpoints are legit, remembering quick save key or going through some menu to save have disadvantages as well.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby leileilol » 2019-1-14 @ 02:42

Allowing easy save scumming can suck the enjoyment out of a game and encourage really bad habits. The 90s had considerable loading times to bear with in the process for most games, so it wasn't that bad to the point of habitual quickload then. Just ask all those who abuse emulator save states for console games as an argument for "pc gamer superiority"...


(Note that this is in the context for PC FPSes which aren't anywhere near the same tier as a Sierra adventure game in which savescumming is super encouraged.)
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby tincup » 2019-1-14 @ 03:26

I agree with the OP that *most* gamers prefer being able to save when they want/need to. That said if a checkpoint design has enough save points it's less of an issue, but even then I find the in-game save hicups a distraction - so the more of them the more of a distraction. The classic "load up new level/area" worked okay since they could be designed into the levels at logical points - and there weren't that many since they weren't spaced as closesly together as comfortable player save intervals would need to be.

Honestly bad game saving has killed quite a few game for me - and is a frequent complaint on the web.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby DonutKing » 2019-1-14 @ 08:35

FWIW I liked Soldier of Fortune 2's system, where you could save at any time but had a limited number of saves per mission (with fewer saves at higher difficulties).
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby sf78 » 2019-1-14 @ 08:57

Kerr Avon wrote:Far Cry's checkpoint system was mentioned in another thread, and it made me wonder again why PC FPS games have checkpoints.


It took me awhile to realize that those games save to the nearest friendly base or radio tower no matter where you are on the map. It was pretty confusing at first, but it's not so bad once you get used to it. One rather annoying game that uses checkpoints is Alan Wake. At one point it saved in the middle of the last action sequence after I had made a navigational error so there was not enough time to correct my mistake and I ended up stuck in a loop of dying and restarting.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby jheronimus » 2019-1-14 @ 10:34

Checkpoints simply offer a more fluid gameplay. I've been a gamer since the 90s, but manual savegames is definitely one thing I don't miss. Frankly, I often forget that I need to use quicksaves or manual saves whenever I play retro games and get really frustrated, because some games don't even autosave between missions.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby clueless1 » 2019-1-14 @ 10:49

leileilol wrote:Allowing easy save scumming can suck the enjoyment out of a game and encourage really bad habits.

Gaming is an entertainment system, not a child to rear. Players will do what is most entertaining, so if they don't like to save, they simply don't save until they are ready to stop playing. If it boosts their entertainment, then they will save as often as they want. When I pay money to be entertained by a PC game, I appreciate being able to enjoy it my way, not be force-fed a system that makes it less entertaining for me. :shrug:
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby sf78 » 2019-1-15 @ 10:26

There are also several games that are so bugged it's pretty much mandatory to use quick save because of the frequent crashes. Also if you tend to mod your games heavily (and who doesn't?) it usually causes more problems in game stability.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby Putas » 2019-1-17 @ 17:18

clueless1 wrote:
leileilol wrote:Allowing easy save scumming can suck the enjoyment out of a game and encourage really bad habits.

Gaming is an entertainment system, not a child to rear. Players will do what is most entertaining, so if they don't like to save, they simply don't save until they are ready to stop playing. If it boosts their entertainment, then they will save as often as they want. When I pay money to be entertained by a PC game, I appreciate being able to enjoy it my way, not be force-fed a system that makes it less entertaining for me. :shrug:


If you are rare completely in self-control human, maybe. But for rest of humanity... In a horror game for example, I would chicken out and save way too often, ruining lot of the game. Checkpoint systems can be integral to the game design.
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Re: Why do PC first person shooters use checkpoints?

Postby TheMobRules » 2019-1-17 @ 19:16

I agree that save scumming can ruin the experience, especially in atmospheric/horror games. Though some FPS like Dark Forces could have been more lenient with the save system, especially if you were in the middle of a mission and had to leave.

But you can also take the opposite approach like Dark Souls which auto-saves in very short intervals, but forces you to live with the choices you've made.
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