The fuel for this story stems from me catching up on great games from 2011 that I never had a chance to play. Sega released Yakuza 4 for the North American region back in March of last year. I missed it then and am playing it now.
I'm new to the Yakuza series; I know, I'm a big jerk for that. As such, I had no idea how saving has been handled before this title. I fired up the game for the first time, logged an hour of play before being ready to quit and have lunch.
I opened the start menu and looked for a save option. No dice. I pressed select and was greeted with a "Go back to title screen?" prompt and selected "Yes" assuming the game would automagically save on my behalf.
It did not. I had to replay my single hour and figure out how to save for real. I'm glad I elected to take my break then.
Phone booths, by the way. In the multicolored, super-busy world of Yakuza 4, those wishing to save need to find phone booths (or, later, hideouts). There's no tutorial on this like there is for everything else. You're meant to find a phone booth and figure it out on your own.
From where I stand, saving should be dead easy. Games should auto-save in lulls and give gamers a menu option to save at any moment. This should be standard across almost every single game type and genre.
I should never turn off a game after my first play and wonder whether or not my progress will be bookmarked. That shouldn't happen.
The exception to this rule? The survival category of gaming. If advancing in the game is meant to be the mechanical difficulty, I totally get making save points few and far between. There should be no auto-saving in Dark Souls. Make me hunt down a beacon and save on my own. I play the game to get bitched around like that, I expect it.
For a game that centers itself around story, characters and locale? Give me a save option constantly.
Every time you fire up a new game your tasked with learning its user interface. For the most part, this is easy. Great games have intuitive UIs that make sense instantly. Not every game is great.
Save screens are part of the UI structure. Make them easy to find, make them obvious and make them dead simple. Enough of this save location shit in genres that don't need it.