6 votes

A brief history of saved games

Tags: retro, history

3 comments

  1. asoftbird
    Link
    I think we've also gained something special: Save games as a way to travel back in time to see what you were doing in that save from years ago. I've found this fairly fun to do, load up decade-old...

    At the same time, we may all have lost something special.

    I think we've also gained something special: Save games as a way to travel back in time to see what you were doing in that save from years ago.
    I've found this fairly fun to do, load up decade-old Minecraft or Simcity saves and just look around, see if I can remember what I was working on, how I made [x] building or [y] neighborhood in the respective games.
    Savegames as a nostalgia instrument, to see how you thought/acted back then and what has changed from then on. And in a way, also relive the times past: I remember how much fun I had playing in those saves and relive that thought when I reboot them much later.

    The same goes for videos and streams: those can be seen as audiovisual savegames of things you and others have played in the past.

    5 votes
  2. [2]
    hungariantoast
    Link
    Am I understanding this right? Passwords weren't how you accessed a save file, because those didn't exist. Passwords, instead of being linked to a save file, were procedural representations of the...

    Passwords were both treasured and traded, shared on playgrounds and even published in magazines and books.

    Am I understanding this right?

    Passwords weren't how you accessed a save file, because those didn't exist.

    Passwords, instead of being linked to a save file, were procedural representations of the game's state at the time of saving? Like a binary-to-text encoding?

    Because like, this blew my mind when I read it the first time.

    Then I thought about it some more.

    I'm assuming that I'm right about passwords essentially being a "seed" to regenerate the game state to an exact point, but isn't this just what save files are? I mean, some save files are text files, but a lot of them are some proprietary, binary format right?

    I guess if most games today actually implemented a password system like what we're talking about, the codes would be gargantuan, but to be honest, I'd really love to see it utilized.

    Could you imagine? Just being able to copy and paste a code for your save game in Skyrim to your friend?

    Or, I could just be totally misunderstanding all of this.

    1 vote
    1. Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      No, you're actually overcomplicating it by thinking about it as a seed and it's (at least in my opinion) even cooler to think about than that. The password literally is the save file. You're...

      No, you're actually overcomplicating it by thinking about it as a seed and it's (at least in my opinion) even cooler to think about than that. The password literally is the save file. You're inputting the entire save file data.

      The key part is to recognize that those old games really didn't have many "paths", there weren't a lot of different options for progressing through them. Sometimes there weren't any options at all.

      As an over-simplified example (but actually not that oversimplified), think about an extremely basic game—imagine the game has 10 levels, and you don't have any lives. If you die, you start the game over from level 1. Every possible "save file" for that game could be represented by the numbers 1-9, for "how many levels has the player gotten past?". If you didn't care about obfuscating the passwords, that game's entire "password system" could be: "Enter a single digit".

      Even though that's obviously simplistic, real games really weren't much more complicated than that. Mega Man 2 (one of my favorite NES games) had 8 stages that you could choose to play in any order, but you had to clear all 8 to get to the final stage of the game. For a NES game, this was pretty non-linear. But in terms of game progress, those are just 8 different yes/no choices: "has the player beaten Metal Man?", "has the player beaten Crash Man?", etc.

      From a computer's perspective, that's literally 8 bits (choices between 1 and 0) of "data". The only other variance in Mega Man 2 is that you could have collected 0-4 Energy Tanks. Storing 5 different options takes 3 bits. So then, to store all possible "save files" for Mega Man 2, you only need 11 bits total. This is what Mega Man 2's password screen looked like: http://www.honestgamers.com/guides/12/3766/1/password.jpg

      It's a 5x5 grid where each square either has a dot in it or not. So that has 25 bits we can set and is way more data than we need to be able to input all the possible saved games (which means there are a lot of possible inputs that won't work, so it was hard to guess working ones).

      It's all just different forms of data in the end. We just figured out that MM2 required 8 bits of data to store which "path" you took through the game, plus the 5 possible options for number of energy tanks. That means that there are 28 possible paths (256), and 5 different possibilities for energy tanks, so there are are a total of 1280 possible game states. A complete password system for MM2 could have been "enter a number from 1 to 1280".

      And when you start adding letters into it, you can encode the data even more compactly. In a password system where each character can be any letter or digit, that means you have 36 options per character. MM2 could have used a password system only 2 characters long, because 2 characters would give you 1296 options (362), which is already more than we need.

      Of course games now are massively more complex, so our "passwords" require more and more bits, get longer and longer, and eventually become multi-kilobyte or even multi-megabyte files which are, deep down, really just gigantic numbers.

      So yes, you can send a friend your Skyrim password. It's just a really, really, really long password, so you store it in a file on your computer.

      3 votes