Been spreading this around. One of my biggest beefs with games over the years, particularly as saving has become more commonplace, is the way some developers implement it. Particularly when it is done poorly.
Over at Gamasutra, David Sirlin put together nice feature about that very subject.
Games are not for game designers and their ivory-tower ideals-games are for players. Players have lives outside of our games and we should respect those lives and design our games accordingly, rather than expect our players to design their lives around us.
This is an old argument where one side talks about the convenience of saving anytime and the other talks about the need to make games challenging, but this is a false dichotomy. We can allow the player to stop playing without excessive penalty and make a challenging game. It’s just a matter of defining what “saving” actually means.
As an example, Mario 64 doesn’t literally allow the player to save anywhere they want, but it still meets this requirement in spirit. The point of the game is to collect all 120 stars, and every time you collect a star, you “save and continue.” You cannot save your exact position in a level, but such a feature isn’t needed anyway.
The geography of the game is designed such that a player can reach the entrance to any level in just a few seconds by navigating Mario’s castle and getting back to any specific goal in a level doesn’t take long either.
This preserves the game’s difficulty (players can’t save and load to get the stars more easily) and it also means the player can turn the game off at any time, knowing that the only important progress (collecting stars) has been saved.