Autosave Systems Need an Overhaul

By: Steve Zachmann, contributor

The other day I was engaging in one of my favorite gaming past times: Skyrim.  Every few months or so, I pick it back up, log a few hours doing some side quests, and then go back to playing more recent releases.  This time though, something occurred to me that I hadn’t though too much of in the past –saving in Skyrim really sucks.

When you make a character in Skyrim and you start the game, your game eventually gets autosaved.  In addition, you can save the game manually yourself.  Then, when you go back through your list of previous saves, they appear in chronological order, starting with the most recent.  This is all fine and dandy except for the incredibly common occurrence where you might want to start a new character.

Let’s assume you started playing Skyrim, made a plate-wearing warrior type, and got to level 10.  You found this mildly interesting but wanted to play the game from a new perspective.  You start a new character, this time a mage, and you get them to level 10 as well. When you look back through your save files, you’ll see a chronological order of your saves with no regard to characters.  Sure, each save is labeled with the character’s name, so their vaguely identifiable, but for the most part, you’re left to wade through this incredibly obtuse chronological save list.  Furthermore, the game is never clear on exactly how many saves it keeps, so if you play your mage character for several weeks, saving a ton of times, and then go back and look for your level 10 warrior, will his save even still be there?

Here’s the thing that really gets me going about all of this; the terrible Skyrim save system isn’t the exception here.  Almost all games these days still have some type of obtuse, out-dated save system.  And with so much advancement in technology, it blows my mind that this is still accepted.  At this point in gaming, a save system identical to the one seen in the original Legend of Zelda would seem completely normal.  What?!  How is it possible that we’re moving towards virtual reality gaming via things like the Oculus Rift, and yet the gaming industry still feels the need to use the same save system 25 years ago.

The terrible save system applies to most games, but it’s most apparent in RPGs, where it’s feasible to play the game through several times trying different classes or builds.  Am I nuts for wanting a World of Warcraft style character screen in single player RPGs like Skyrim or Dark Souls.  It seems so easy to add, and would be such a great addition to any game that did it.  Again, it’s just really hard for me to accept that in this day and age I can’t have a robust save system for a game expects that I might want to play it more than on time?  Come on game industry, get it together!