Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Game Saves

Back when I first got my NES, Zelda had a battery in it, so you could save your game as you went through the adventure classic (somehow I never really have felt that the Legend of Zelda was a RPG). Since those early games, the concept of game saves has been important. Up until the release of theSegaCD, game data was saved on the cartridge itself. If you rented a game from the video store, you lost all your saves when you returned it. Also with age you run into the issue that you loose your save games when the battery eventually dies. With the SegaCD, internal storage appeared: This is great for the rental concept, but horrid for the worst case scenario that your system dies and you have to replace/repair it. Luckily my original SegaCD and Saturn both are still in great working condition!

The PS1, N64, DreamCast PS2, and GameCube all had the concept of memory cartridges. These are neat because you can manage your saves individually. The Dreamcast actually made your VMU into it's own gaming peripheral, allowing for mini-games on the device. While cool, these were typically expensive propositions that were an additional charge you had to get when buying the system. Yeah, the Dreamcast was a low $99 at one point, but you had to get a $20 VMU and a $50 game just to do anything with the system!

In today's generation storage is by default again on an internal platform. For the Wii this is much like it was for the Saturn of old - an internal flash drive. Enough storage for a few things, but not for extra content. The PS3 and the 360 both use the internal storage for gaming and multimedia as well as game saves, and add an extra bit of goodness called DRM (or Digital Rights Management). This means that your save game cannot be used by someone else that logs into your system, and vice versa. Now not only if your system's hard drive dies do you perhaps loose your saves (and purchased games!), but you cannot use your game saves as you wish with your friends per se. With the 360 there is a bit of reason for this, as there is an "achievement score" that could be "fluffed" by sharing game saves that had certain achievements either easily in grasp or completed for you. That said, is my gamerscore my "fun-o-meter"?

I'm wondering if there is a holy grail of game saves, and if there is if we'll ever see it? Ideally what I'd love to see is that DRM goes away on game consoles, and the USB ports on these systems are allowed to be used for copying of game saves. Although I'd assume that it's mostly a pipe dream.

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