Up For Debate - Do You Use Save Scumming to Play Your Games?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Sep 2, 2018 5:00 PM
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This week I was inspired by a tweet by YouTuber Mark Brown, who posted an image plucked straight from the Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall’s manual. While by no means the first Bethesda title, it was one of its earliest, and the manual for the game carried a pretty straightforward message - please don’t save scum.

Save scumming, for the uninitiated, is the process of constantly saving and reloading in order to achieve the best possible scenario. So if, for example, one of your characters died in XCOM, the process of reloading a turn to try it again and save the character would be ‘save scumming’.

Anyway, in the Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall manual, Bethesda lays out its intentions like this:

“Most computer gamers use the save game to maximise their playing ability. Anytime something goes wrong, they return to a saved game and replay it until they get it right. The final history of their game looks like an endless streak of lucky breaks and perfect choices.

“Role-playing is not about playing the perfect game. It is about building a character and creating a story. Bethesda Softworks has worked very hard to make The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall a game that does not require players to replay their mistakes. All adversity can be overcome, excepting only the character’s actual death. In fact, you will never see some of the most interesting aspects of the game unless you play through your mistakes.

If your character dies, gets locked in a dungeon, or some other truly catastrophic event takes place, by all means return to your last saved game and replay it. However, if you character is caught pickpocketing, if a quest goes wrong, or some other mundane mishap occurs, let it play out. You may be surprised by what happens next.”

The idea is pretty simple but the ramifications are potentially huge. I should imagine the vast majority of gamers usually save and reload their games. In fact, plenty of games are developed now, even RPGs, so that failure outside of death pretty much isn’t even an option. Look at The Witcher 3, where you will be the all-powerful hero of the tale regardless of what happens. Sure, you may make a murky moral choice along the way, but it matters for naught in a gameplay sense.

But the very essence of role-playing, in particular, is living with your choices. Making a bad decision and trying to climb your way out of it. That first paragraph has stuck with me though, particularly when thinking of modern Bethesda games like Skyrim, where I made use of a procession of saves and reloads to emerge as the champion of the world, master magician, ace assassin, and unparalleled thief. Wouldn’t it have been interesting if I’d live with the consequences of my actions? To be caught thieving and thrown into jail. Or losing all my precious potions in a battle that got out of hand.

So I thought I’d open this up to everyone and see what your thoughts are. Do you use save scumming to create “an endless streak of perfect choices”, or do you prefer to live with decisions and see where the adventure takes you? Which games handle choice and consequence the best? Get voting and share why below!

Do you ever use save scumming to play your games?

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11:24 Sep-04-2018

Why can't I have a perfect playthrough if there's an option? :V


But seriously, I make constant hard saves (and quick saves) in fear of losing progress - learned my lesson there - or in case I want to return to a certain point in game some time later, for whatever reason.

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11:59 Sep-04-2018

I'd say perfect is boring, especially in RPGs.

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22:21 Sep-03-2018

I play the way I want to play

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19:17 Sep-03-2018

Try not to save scum...UNLESS the game has really vague dialogue options where you have no idea what your character is actually going to say.

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16:21 Sep-03-2018

Stalker..... need i say more hahahahaha then when you load you kinda fall on the ground and make a noise, save lost its meaning hehe also witcher 3 but not for gameplay reasons, i just wanted to have a manual save in all of those beautiful places!

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14:28 Sep-03-2018

The only reason i save is to to not lose my progress - be it good or bad - too many times i'm happily playing and then it crashes and i lose my progress.

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13:22 Sep-03-2018

Used to but it debends on the game and my time

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13:05 Sep-03-2018

I'm a simple man, if I can save, i do save! sometimes I dobble-save just to be sure!

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11:08 Sep-03-2018

Hmmmm..... By the way you defined save scumming, I don't remember doing that. First of all I no longer do manual saves because of autosaving feature in many of the games, but I think I was close to save scumming in OG Deus Ex. I think I almost did 250 saves in a playthrough of Deus Ex, accumulating over 1.5 GB XDDD

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08:56 Sep-03-2018

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe...

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07:16 Sep-03-2018

when i was younger, but now i realize life isn't perfect, and honestly i don't really have intentions on beating most games i play these days.

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15:14 Sep-04-2018

Relatable, although I have intentions to complete them but I have an attention span of Chihuahua now so I get distracted by other games.

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06:23 Sep-03-2018

Cannot do that in Dark Souls series and games alike, what's done is done.

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04:01 Sep-03-2018

In the past i did not save as much (mostly when i exit the game), i play and let things happen (specially in rpgs) but lately as soon as i sense some big event, decision, battle is about to happen i hardcore save that thing... just in case something like this happens :D


I blame skyrim with some weird bugs that can ruin a lot of played hours and mass effect 2 for this... i made a huge mistake when i decided to got for the collectors early and unprepared... such arrogance cost me most of my crew, it was a disaster! Since then i save even more... like crazy lol

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03:44 Sep-03-2018

I did in State of Decay 2 recently. My best character was ambush by a plague horde, a feral and 2 juggernauts, when he was about to die I Alt-F4 'd. It was heart-pumping when I was waiting for the reload as I didn't know if I quit quickly enough. When I reloaded the game, after a long sigh of relief, I began to prep the gears and systematically eliminated the threat 1-by-1 before clearing the site of the infected.

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03:10 Sep-03-2018

There are no perfect choices to begin with in case of games like Witcher 3. One choice may be better than another and that too may differ from person to person. I reload mainly when I thought the character is going to say something because of the dialog options but when I choose that he say something completely different which screws everything up and pisses me off and I reload. In terms of gameplay I don't really reload that much unless I am trying for a complete ghost play-through like in Dishonored type of games.

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23:06 Sep-02-2018

I only do it in ETS2/ATS if its a super long drive. That way if i crash into something or game glitches and traffic stops i can always reload to somewhere just earlier. I don't do it in anything else. If anything ill replay a game or restart a checkpoint.

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22:55 Sep-02-2018

If its like a long RPG, I just go with my choices to create my story, and if I ever want to see different outcomes and choices I would start a new playthrough like I did with KCD.

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22:10 Sep-02-2018

The time I reload in a game like Skyrim is if I die or if the problem was caused by a glitch or the game's poor mechanics. No game is perfect and I'll be damned if I'm going to let that ruin my run. If it's a mistake or miscalculation on my part then I roll with the punches and see what happens. Oh, and always save before picking a lock in Skyrim.

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21:49 Sep-02-2018

Every time when i start and rpg i say what happens, happens. Few hours later i'm checking guides for optimal quest choices and and replaying every small mistake that takes away from the optimal path

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21:16 Sep-02-2018

Maybe it´s true we players shouldn´t spam the saves, but the developers must give the choice not for the experience wise but more for the limited time most people have to play them. Most of us cannot play more just to reach one point for "autosaving". It´s just a matter of time.

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21:04 Sep-02-2018

I try my hardest not to, if I want to make different choices I make a separate save game.

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