Playing Past Your Mistakes | Game Maker’s Toolkit


In the manual for Elder Scrolls 2, Bethesda encouraged players to avoid reloading a save game after making mistakes. So why should gamers follow this advice, and how can designers help them play past their screw ups?

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Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance)

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Ubisoft Toronto, 2013)
Valkyria Chronicles (Sega, 2008)
Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios, 2016)
Hitman (iO Interactive, 2016)
Into the Breach (Subset Games, 2018)
Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft Montreal, 2017)
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (Arkane Studios, 2017)
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (Bethesda Softworks, 1996)
Far Cry 2 (Ubisoft Montreal, 2008)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, 2017)
Gunpoint (Suspicious Developments, 2013)
XCOM 2 (Firaxis, 2016)
Invisible, Inc. (Klei Entertainment, 2015)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Kojima Productions, 2015)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Kojima Productions, 2014)
Marvel’s Spider-Man (Insomniac Games, 2018)
Call of Duty: WWII (Sledgehammer Games, 2017)
The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013)
Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment, 2012)
Middle-earth: Shadow of War (Monolith Productions, 2017)
Pyre (Supergiant Games, 2017)
The Long Dark (Hinterland Studio, 2014)
Dead Rising 2 (Capcom Vancouver, 2010)
Dark Souls (From Software, 2011)
Heat Signature (Suspicious Developments, 2017)

Music used in this episode is by Chris Zabriskie

32 thoughts on “Playing Past Your Mistakes | Game Maker’s Toolkit

  1. 9:23 I think factorio really uses this to its advantage and is why it is so popular, it allows players to be creative and allow to optimize. As with Minecraft, creating contraptions, sharing and creating communites. Every disadvantage can be a potential advantage! Great video!

  2. I think the main times when I feel like I should re-load and take another shot at something is when something detrimental happens by accident, or via a gameplay mechanic that I deem 'unfair', such as if I was being perfectly stealthy, but because of some bug in the code I still get spotted by an enemy. That's an immediate re-load there. Don't take the most enjoyable part of a game away from the player.

  3. I used to save-scum through my games a lot, starting with, say, Wolf3d and Doom, and Fallout, and considered it normal up until a few years back when something'd changed. I couldn't do it anymore, and if I did – I lost interest in a game pretty fast. It started to feel too safe, too dull, and getting rid of the habit helped me re-discover gaming.
    Yeah, I think it was triggered by XCOM's Ironman mode, then strengthened by Darkest Dungeon and so on.
    This stuff only presents a problem for "achievement hunters" and the like, but they're not really people.
    But yeah, with all this rogue-light rage them devs seem to have caught the drift and started to implement that "failure spectrum", so that I don't have to fight a whole town just because I told someone that he sucked.

  4. Small correction: Dark Souls saves automatically all the time, when resting at a bonfire, picking up an item, etc. Every save is a "permanent" save, so you can never go back to a previous point (like resting at a bonfire), unless you savescum by alt-tabbing.

  5. Wow, I’ve been looking for a channel like yours for a while. Interesting commentary on the design process behind games, I hope as I dig deeper into your videos I can learn a lot more because I really want to know about game design and the industry itself. Thanks for your hard work.

  6. Yahtzee's take on save scumming, that the player's desire to resort to it is a mark of bad design, will always stick with me. He summed it up as "You can't blame someone for breaking a window if the only door is in the roof!"

  7. Great video as always, Mark!

    About your Disability series: do you know about the speedrunner halfcoordinated? If not, you should search his name on YouTube and watch the Waypoint video about him. He is the perfect example of a gamer with a motor disability.


  8. This is really interesting and I especially like the idea of Failure Spectrum. So it definitely depends on the game. e.g. I found myself to never consider savescumming in Life is Strange: firstly it somewhat has a system built in that let's the player see different outcomes and then they have to decide which road to take. Secondly since I had some time to consider my decision I stand with every one I made. Hence I never had the wish to play it again. The story I lived through was my story and there's no way I want to change and live another life in the game.

    But another game that comes to my mind is Max Payne 2. Its highly stylized action made me want to clear every room perfectly. So I tried a few times, reloaded a few times until I got that satisfaction, that nobody except me cared for. So I think in that case savescumming is a totally legit way to create my preferred experience that was as close to a tool assisted speedrun as it can get.

    Also sometimes savescumming is the only way for a rather unskilled player to get through a hard game, which in my opinion is also totally legit. If I want to see the whole game I paid full price for, that's reasonable, because the other side of it is that I don't buy games that look too hard, because I don't want to waste money on games I can never finish. (inb4 git gud)

  9. Funny enough, using save scumming in games that have disabled save scumming actually added more fun to those games for me.

    For example in FTL, I always backup my save after getting to next area (long live PC). Saves are still rare, one per area, but I'm not forced to lose all progress due to bad role of the dice.

    This especially increased enjoyment of the last boss phase of the game. Without this, it was just plain awful for me.

  10. The designer of Far Cry 2 is probably the last person I would ever ask for advice on game design.

    That game was nothing but tedious repetitive bull** from start to finish. The normal gameplay loop being to drive all the way across the map to accept a mission, then drive all the way to the other side of the map to your objective, all the while the car you use to move around is shot to pieces several times over by enemies in respawning enemy checkpoints or by randomly spawning rubber-banding pick-up trucks with mounted machine guns (The moment they see you, they ram you at 3 times the speed your vehicles can move), forcing you to stop, kill those enemies and then repeat the same car repair animation you've seen a million times before you get to proceed.

    And the reward for getting to where you wanted to go? All your equipment malfunctioning because the annoying interruptions you've had to dealt with has degraded them to the point of uselessness. But this can be alleviated if you spend time collecting hundreds of identical collectible diamonds to allow you to upgrade your arsenal to degrade at a slightly slower pace. But hey, the buddy system was cool right? Pity it ended up being an occasional extra life immediately followed by what is basically an escort quest of a braindead AI. If they get their stupid selves killed 3 times, they're gone. So that's a limit on how many times you get to play past your mistakes before you're back to the usual death = Reload checkpoint. I think you could get replacement buddies, but since that involved having to play more missions, I opted not to.

  11. My preference to play past my mistakes is why I always play XCOM on Normal difficulty. The higher difficulties, IMO, pretty much assume that you're going to be save scumming, and that's just not fun for me.

  12. Fallout 2 had permadeath but losing an NPC was significant.. losing your player sucked. WASTELAND did this better: If your entire party died, restart the room. If it wasn't a full wipe, you continued playing, having to reach the HQ to get more characters. More systemic design than character driven but it worked fantastic!

  13. I allways play battle brothers on Iron man mode but if you shut down the game from task manager rather than exit properly you start over before the last combat, allowing you to save scum past iron man mode. Sometimes I'll do that if a missclick or some other clumsy action gets a key character killed. For every time I do it iI become more lenient with when I allow myself to save scum up to the point where all the fun is gone. I really wish battle brothers wouldn't let me abuse the system.

  14. I never abuse saving system (expect in Pokemon because of IVs), but in games like Undertale, reset doesn't wipe out what you have done, and the fact that I never reload to fix something actually made me missing some of the best moment.
    Or in DDLC, it tells player saving is important and deletes all of them once reaching the plot.
    So, making player not want to reload save files is good , make them not be able to is OK, but things can get to another level when player thinks they can abuse it and the game scares the shit out of them.
    It feels so damn great when see someone do their first play through and cry about "how do I get my clean stats back" then people just tilting "obviously you have to buy a new computer."

  15. The failure spectrum is kind of a health bar for success. There's no more instadeath upon getting hit once in most games, but what about games where combat and staying alive isn't the main focus? Health bar is a device for creating enough wiggle room so that the player can experiment and learn without always having to start from scratch. We need more "health bars" (figuratively speaking…) for all kinds of shenanigans that happen in games.

    My pet peeve is branching dialogue/story, like in Witcher 3 – at the end of a long conversation it's almost impossible for me to not reload a save and try other options to see all the different outcomes. It should be an empowering thing for games to enable players to explore causality in this way, but having to reload save games and go through portions of the game again just to see the different cutscene is cumbersome. I feel like there is a lot of room for creativity in that kind of design to make it more integral to the game. Even games like Heavy Rain etc do it kind of half-assedly by giving the option of choosing a chapter of the story to play through again, but that is sometimes tedious as well.

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