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The Save Anywhere of the Future?
June 6th 2005, 17:19 CEST by Hugin

The videogame industry has come a long way since the original Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Quake.  But it is still clearly learning how to explore and exploit the gameplay implications of 3 dimensional space.  What I'm wondering is, is the next fundamental axis of gameplay going to be time?


Max Payne (nee The Matrix) gave us bullet time.  Prince of Persia allowed for the limited rewinding of events.  The upcoming Sega combat racer Full Auto allows for a somewhat more expansive rewinding of time as well.  And the gameplay of Timeshift seems to revolve entirely around the manipulation of time, speeding up, slowing down, reversing, and freezing.

But instead of it being the twist or feature or gimmick of specific games, could this ability to control time in games slowly become a fairly standard feature, allowing players the ability to control and edit their play experiences as routinely as cheat codes and creative use of saves do now?  Will developers ever feel comfortable giving players that much agency, given the impact time control could have on linearity, event scripting, environment destruction, player death, the sheer idea of cause and effect itself?  

Will players come to expect to be able to control their position in a game's temporal space as much as they expect to be able to control their position in the game's physical space?  Will a game that unspools in unmodifiable linear time be as unthinkable (or as idiosyncratically ultra-hardcore oriented) as a current game with no ability to save?
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#1 by LPMiller
2005-06-06 17:25:57
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I don't think so. It's just a possible gameplay mechanic, not a game play evolution.

When LP says he's bringing Armageddon, he brings fucking Armageddon. - Caryn, 6/01/2004
#2 by Jibble
2005-06-06 17:26:08
EOD.

Well it beats going to the video store to rent the latest hardcore releases twice a week. - G-Man
222 lbs.  42 to go.
#3 by Greg
2005-06-06 17:29:20
It'd require a lot of storage space to store all that info, which is why you only get 5-10 seconds of it in Sands of Time and Full Auto. Maybe it's something that could be used, but I don't think it would happen anytime in the near future.

こんにちは
#4 by Matt Perkins
2005-06-06 17:37:11
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
I'm in agreement with LP here, sadly enough.  :)  It'll be used in some games, but not even a majority.

"Palpatine - Helps me Anakin, council r skript kiddies !" - Ds
#5 by BobJustBob
2005-06-06 17:39:47
It won't be used in all games, but it should be.

"he runs like dumbass, and jumps like moron" - fallen_child, GameFAQs
#6 by Gunp01nt
2005-06-06 17:40:09
supersimon33@hotmail.com
It IS a mechanism that becomes more and more possible, given technical advancements.

The only thing that could possibly make me less frightening, is if someone made three movies about my childhood, pointing out how much of a retarded, non-threatening pussy I used to be.

Wait, someone already did that? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
 - Darth Vader
#7 by Matt Perkins
2005-06-06 17:43:01
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
It IS a mechanism that becomes more and more possible, given technical advancements.

Whether it's possible or not is not the question.  The question is whether it's a gameplay mechanic or a gameplay advancement.  Will it be something that makes its way into many games, or will it stay a niche, even more so than "bullet-time" (stolen from the matrix, which was stolen itself, funnily enough)?

"Palpatine - Helps me Anakin, council r skript kiddies !" - Ds
#8 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 17:43:52
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
It won't be used in all games, but it should be.

All games should utilize time control/travel?  I'm not sure I understand.
#9 by Gunp01nt
2005-06-06 17:43:55
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Plus, it has a few really big advantages over save anywhere, amongst others:

- You can't make the mistake of pressing quicksave and dying the second after, which makes the quicksave unusable because no matter what you do, you keep dying instantly after you respawn.

- You don't need to remember to press quicksave, and you don't lose a certain amount of progress if you die.

However, any game implementing this system would have to be quite linear. It would apply to many game types though.

The only thing that could possibly make me less frightening, is if someone made three movies about my childhood, pointing out how much of a retarded, non-threatening pussy I used to be.

Wait, someone already did that? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
 - Darth Vader
#10 by Charles
2005-06-06 17:44:09
www.bluh.org
If someone developed a game with this kind of thing in mind, it would be possible to implement.  I think there may be maximum lengths, but that could easily be offset just by having a standard save once in a while which says "I promise not to go backwards beyond this point".

Videogames!  Why waste good technology on science and medicine?
#11 by Jibble
2005-06-06 17:45:32
You know what I'd like to see?  Nightcrawler style teleporting in a video game.  BAMF! You're kicking a guy in the head BAMF! you're flipping off a wall into the other room BAMF! you're sipping a martini BAMF! you're punching someone in the head BAMF! you're standing behind and to the left of someone then you tap their right shoulder so they turn around and no one is there BAMF! you're reading the Wall Street Journal BAMF! you're wondering if that producer didn't hire you because you're gay BAMF!

Well it beats going to the video store to rent the latest hardcore releases twice a week. - G-Man
222 lbs.  42 to go.
#12 by Hugin
2005-06-06 17:46:27
lmccain@nber.org
Don't we have a lot of storage space now though?  What with all these 10 gb game installs and 350 GB hard drives? I'd think the issue would more be RAM than ROM.

LP, to be honest, I don't really think it will happen either.  But it's an interesting way of thinking about player control and linearity. I mean, if you have a generation raised on TiVo or similar technologies, being forced to play forward only, with no opportunity to rewind, revise, freeze (not just pauze the game, but pause the world within the game)...
#13 by Charles
2005-06-06 17:46:50
www.bluh.org
However, any game implementing this system would have to be quite linear. It would apply to many game types though.


No it wouldn't, if you implement a system of remembering gamestate changes, it would be just as possible if the game were linear as not.  


Also, it just struck me that implementing a system like this would allow players to have a final recording of their entire gameplay experience.  Which raises a lot of cool and interesting possibilities.  It would be neat to play a game through start to finish, rewind in order to tweak the final outcome to be just how you want, and then be able to re-watch yourself play through some kind of a second person.  And to be able to share the recordings with other people.

Videogames!  Why waste good technology on science and medicine?
#14 by Greg
2005-06-06 17:50:13
Hugin, sorry I wasn't explicit enough. I did mean temporary storage (RAM), since it would be the fastest way of retrieval/storage.

こんにちは
#15 by eggbert
2005-06-06 17:56:44
http://www.stuffresearch.com
All games should utilize time control/travel?  I'm not sure I understand.

Basically, it's Tivo for video games. Instead of having snapshots of the game as saves, whether user controlled or 'save point' controlled, you would have the whole game.

One question would be how to handle branching, from a user and GUI perspective. If a user 'rewinds' back and starts playing again, is the old branch still available? If the games lets you rewind as often as Sands of Time that could get hairy, You'd end up with hundreds of alternate timelines. If you make it so that the old branch gets deleted though, then you lose a lot of the utility of this system vs. the usual save system. I haven't had a chance to think this through though, so I may be missing something obvious.
#16 by CheesyPoof
2005-06-06 18:00:15
t won't be used in all games, but it should be.

Just think Bob, in those turn based games that you love they could have been done long ago.
#17 by Hugin
2005-06-06 18:02:27
lmccain@nber.org
#11 by Jibble

 
 You know what I'd like to see?  Nightcrawler style teleporting in a video game.  BAMF! You're kicking a guy in the head BAMF! you're flipping off a wall into the other room BAMF! you're sipping a martini BAMF! you're punching someone in the head BAMF! you're standing behind and to the left of someone then you tap their right shoulder so they turn around and no one is there BAMF! you're reading the Wall Street Journal BAMF! you're wondering if that producer didn't hire you because you're gay BAMF!


I was relating to Charles in IRC a game that ran along these lines.  Not so much about spacial teleportation as the player having the ability to position themselves in multiple places in the game's space and time.  The example I cited are "caper" films like Ocean's 11, where a group of people manage to do a lot of little interesting things in different places at different time, and sometimes in different places at the same time, in order to pull off complex and (hopefully) cool acts.  Except in this game it would be one person.  

So, you have a mission to dress up as a janitor, sneak into a beuilding, and get into the power closet and shut off the power.  And this would be a sort of stealth based mission.  But meanwhile (*bamf*, you might say), you're a window washer guy on a scaffold outside the building.  And when the power went off you'd cut the glass and get into an office to start cracking a safe.  But meanwhile you'd be having a gunfight in the lobby, distracting the guards.  The game would need some kind of gameplay mechanic in terms mini-windows (like XIII had maybe), and timers or something, to give a sense of the "current" active "you".  Maybe you'd have a limited number of other selves and you'd have some way of knowing if you were 1st Self or 2nd Self or 3rd Self.  And maybe you could actually assist yourself in a firefight.  Like, your 1st self could fight it out in one corridor while your 2nd self could be sniping from across the street.  And the whole narrative would be about unexpected complications and fixing failures.  Instead of avoiding failure per se, you'd just...fail.  And then come back to assist yourself.  Sniped to death in a level?  Come back and as your 2nd self, knife the snipers.  Then watch your first self get through the area where you got killed before.  The whole point being, unlike so many other games, 1 super commando guy can't actually defeat the whole army alone.  He or she does pick the wrong wire on the bomb (I'd love a bit where you radio yourself "No idiot, the blue.  Trust me, it's the fucking blue wire."

You'd have to write the story really carefully not to break it all, and there's have to be a big fiction underpinning it, in terms of the time travel bits.  But I think it could be fun.

(This is only vaguely and indirectly to do with the controlling time thing, as I see it, the game wouldn't have bullet time or rewinding per se, just lots of iterations.  And recording of the player's actions overlaid into the otherwise active game environment, kind of like the "ghost car" feature in some racing games.)
#18 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 18:03:00
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Ahh.  I think it's interesting, but I see it leading to even less challenge for people as is often the cry against save anywhere.  If I can simply rewind and try something else it completely removes any fear or suspense from the game design.  Yeah, you can limit it with "time sand" or whatever, but at that point you're basically back to Soldier of Fortune type saves (5 per level).

I'm Mr. Negative today!
#19 by Hugin
2005-06-06 18:03:12
lmccain@nber.org
Thinking...
#20 by Hugin
2005-06-06 18:04:42
lmccain@nber.org
Bah.  Eggbert, I assume there'd be a definite limit to how many old branches were preserved. You could maybe preserve 1 extra branch back to a save point, but that would be it.
#21 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 18:04:55
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
That said, Hugin's idea is interesting.  I like the concept but I'm not sure how far you could take it before it became too complicated to be workable.
#22 by Hugin
2005-06-06 18:06:49
lmccain@nber.org
Warren, my thought there would be that those sorts of people would get to play with the idea of doing a particular firefight or jump or whatever perfectly.  So the challenge would be in the immediate perfecting of moments.  And it's possible, if the game designer wanted to be all hardcore and jerky about it, that progression or scores would be dependent on just that perfection.
#23 by Hugin
2005-06-06 18:08:14
lmccain@nber.org
Trying to make it too open ended would be suicidal and probably impossible.  But with a well written, well scripted game, and some well defined limitations (like the limit on the maximum number of concurrent Selves), I think it could be done.
#24 by E-ph0nk
2005-06-06 18:11:11
http://www.electrophonk.be
Hugin,

I want that game.  Make it!

#25 by CheesyPoof
2005-06-06 18:12:11
I too would like to play Hugin's game, but he needs to fix some bits of this. This stuck out as a sore thumb to me:

Sniped to death in a level?  Come back and as your 2nd self, knife the snipers.

This sounds like trial and error game play, which I hate, Hate, HATE. Now if there was an extensive mission briefing so you knew exactly what to do, then it would be fun.  Maybe tiered goals, ala Thief or something, so that at easy you try to get X, but when it's hard you try to get x, y, and z. This would encourage players to replay the level figuring it out without that frustration of "Bzzt, try again from the beginning."
#26 by Greg
2005-06-06 18:15:20
That's why it works with games like Sands of Time, or even that crappy platformer on the Xbox. The time mechanisms are built into the core gameplay, they aren't really bolted on with no relevance.

And my stance on save anywhere is a game that features it is typically more difficult if you don't use it frequently. The concept itself is fine. But give me the ability to not have to min/max everything I do just to complete a level!

こんにちは
#27 by Hugin
2005-06-06 18:15:23
lmccain@nber.org
Sure Cheesy.  I have no objection to at least some, if not most of the mission goals being laid out like that. "You have to get through this corridor.  And you have to take out the snipers guarding the corridor.  So 1st to the door, and 2nd goes to the upper catwalk."

Or whatever.  I'd like to think that some failures could be written well enough to not be frustrating, as the player would feel empowered by the process of fixing it and saving themsevles. But I totally understand the trial and error feeling being a pitfall to avoid.
#28 by Matt Perkins
2005-06-06 18:16:22
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Yeah, I don't want every game to require me to rewind to win it.  Replayability is one thing, redoing parts I've already done will grow old real fast.

"Palpatine - Helps me Anakin, council r skript kiddies !" - Ds
#29 by LPMiller
2005-06-06 18:53:09
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
You know, Tivo abilities during the game would have to be something that was actually important to game, not just a player safety net. I mean, if you already have save anywhere, you don't need the net.

On the other hand, tivo AFTER you have completed a game, that would be something, especially with games that have multiple paths. But...i dunno. I can see it being fun, and I can see it stealing my fun, so I dunno.

When LP says he's bringing Armageddon, he brings fucking Armageddon. - Caryn, 6/01/2004
#30 by Wyst
2005-06-06 18:58:05
I want Hugins game , NOW!
#31 by Jibble
2005-06-06 18:58:31
I think you could run Hugin's idea a lot of ways (I like it, btw).  One way would be to have each level playable twice.  First you get a chance to run a scout unit through it (flying drone, whatever) to see what you might need.  If you want, you can skip this and just have your objectives tossed at you.  When you get pinned in a tight spot, you can put in a mechanic that allows you to call for help.  Perhaps just a beeper system that lets you page your alternate self to come back in time to help you.

Really digging this concept, though it would be insanely complex in practice.

Well it beats going to the video store to rent the latest hardcore releases twice a week. - G-Man
222 lbs.  42 to go.
#32 by Wyst
2005-06-06 19:00:39
Leave it all complicated, Like stated.

Yea I ran into the snipers, but to knife the snipers I would have to have seen that door to the left that I didn't know could be opened. That leads to a whole 2nd self new area kinda thing that allows me to save myself from the snipers.

I would say freeze on moment before death, like a snapshot. Your view turns in place to find the area that your "death" came from.

This could bring a whole knew annoying but to me ultimatly fun level to games like Myst/Syberia so on.
#33 by Hugin
2005-06-06 19:00:54
lmccain@nber.org
Well, I all I need is an artist, and some programmers, and a sound guy and....
#34 by Jibble
2005-06-06 19:02:48
I'll do PR!

Well it beats going to the video store to rent the latest hardcore releases twice a week. - G-Man
222 lbs.  42 to go.
#35 by Jibble
2005-06-06 19:05:05
There's always the Harry Potter approach to it if you want to go for replayability.  You play through the entire game and there's odd stuff happening.  Some mysterious person is always saving you from certain doom by doing crazy shit (acrobatics, cool-ass weapons, etc.).  Build on that being something you wish you could do, then the "ending" of the game is you being sent back in time to save yourself.

Well it beats going to the video store to rent the latest hardcore releases twice a week. - G-Man
222 lbs.  42 to go.
#36 by Your Friend
2005-06-06 19:12:00
We'll see more of this sort of thing as a cool gimmick games use, but it won't be standard, nor should it be.

I didn't ask for a shrink, that must've been somebody else.  Also, that pudding isn't mine.  Also, I'm wearing this suit today because I had a very important meeting this morning.  And I don't have a crying problem.
#37 by Caryn
2005-06-06 19:12:01
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
#25 CheesyPoof
This sounds like trial and error game play, which I hate, Hate, HATE.

It doesn't sound like trial and error at all to me because the key to Hugin's idea is that these alternative selves are playing a completely different perspective of the game, almost a completely different mission, albeit ones that tie into each other. If you're the guy doing one thing who gets sniped -- say, sneaking through a building -- and you decide to take control of your second self and sneak up on the snipers to take them out because they got your first self, that's a completely different mission and branch. Trial and error gameplay in this example would prevent you from taking control of what is essentially a different character in a different place in the game, and instead it would force your first self, the guy sneaking through a building -- to find an alternate route or take out the snipers himself.

Current novel status: 8500 words
"3D Jesus by my bedside that talks to me when it's late at night."
#38 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 19:14:01
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Well, I all I need is an artist, and some programmers, and a sound guy and....

I'll do the web site and run the forums!
#39 by Neale
2005-06-06 19:15:01
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Better get those flaming skull animated gifs ready for the front page.

I have a hard time accepting that anyone could achieve this miraculously high level of stupidity. - Caryn
#40 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 19:16:09
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
My "guest book" script is almost finished downloading...
#41 by Your Friend
2005-06-06 19:18:10
Now that Charles isn't crunching on Pariah, maybe he'll build you guys a community based document management system from scratch so you can upload all the concept sketches and ideamen documentation for the team to share.

I didn't ask for a shrink, that must've been somebody else.  Also, that pudding isn't mine.  Also, I'm wearing this suit today because I had a very important meeting this morning.  And I don't have a crying problem.
#42 by mgns
2005-06-06 19:35:42
Well, there you go. OSX on Intel. They've been compiling it on x86 for five years, just in case. And just to rub it in, the last keynotes have been on x86...

Just those three words, said and meant. I love you. They were quite hopeless. He said it as he might have said, I have cancer.
#43 by mgns
2005-06-06 19:36:27
One s too many.

Just those three words, said and meant. I love you. They were quite hopeless. He said it as he might have said, I have cancer.
#44 by Charles
2005-06-06 19:39:21
www.bluh.org
Sure, but you need to pay my rent.  When my paypal donations reach $70000, I'll guarantee you a year of work.

Videogames!  Why waste good technology on science and medicine?
#45 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 19:45:22
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Since that's $70000 Canadian, we only need to raise abut $200 here guys.  We can do this!
#46 by Charles
2005-06-06 19:46:12
www.bluh.org
No, that was $70000 USD.  Paypal doesn't work in $CDN.  


Also:  

Well, there you go. OSX on Intel. They've been compiling it on x86 for five years, just in case. And just to rub it in, the last keynotes have been on x86...


Links?

Videogames!  Why waste good technology on science and medicine?
#47 by mgns
2005-06-06 19:47:03
http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2005/jun/06intel.html

Just those three words, said and meant. I love you. They were quite hopeless. He said it as he might have said, I have cancer.
#48 by Shadarr
2005-06-06 19:50:15
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
I could see it being kind of fun to play multiple characters at the same time, but the controlling time thing seems like a substitute for save-reloading your way through a level, which isn't fun anyway.  Much better to create games where you don't have to replay the same thing multiple times than to change the way you're going back to replay it.

"I spent a year in Vancouver; now I have to kill a hooker and feed her to the pigs just to get going in the mornings." - Leslie Nassar
#49 by Neale
2005-06-06 19:55:28
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
I think the rewind-as-a-save function is a great idea, personally. As with save anywhere, just don't use it if you don't like it.

I have a hard time accepting that anyone could achieve this miraculously high level of stupidity. - Caryn
#50 by Warren Marshall
2005-06-06 19:55:47
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
This discussion reminds me of a game called "The Sting".  You had to plan robberies and once planned, you could hit the "play" button and see them carried out.  If a guard saw you or something went wrong, you could rewind to that spot in the plan and try something else.
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