There is nothing better than feeling triumph after defeating a particularly strong boss. Although no, actually there is a feeling of relief when, after the battle, you run to the nearest save point and press the Save button.



We rarely think about how these savepoints work. It’s just a way for us to protect our progress. Meanwhile, a competently (or illiterately) located checkpoint noticeably changes the feeling of the game. Let’s figure out how this happens, together with indie developer Yaroslav Kravtsov, who worked on the level design for Skyforge and Allods Online.

Checkpoint # 1. Story

One of the first games to feature a full-fledged save system was The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986 on the NES. Before that, the games were played in one sitting, and the loss meant that everything had to start all over again.

In some games, such as Super Mario Bros. 1983 – the authors placed checkpoints where the player could return in case of death. However, even here, it was only necessary to lose all lives or just turn off the console, you had to start from the first level.

Super Mario Bros.

This was primarily due to the limitations of the gaming systems of that time: the early generations of consoles did not have devices for storing game progress.

That all changed with the arrival of the NES. Some game cartridges for it have built-in SRAM – semiconductor random access memory. This meant that the console could at any time use the memory cell to write and read data.

It was in these cells that Zelda and other NES games stored the player’s progress – now it was possible to select the cherished Save option in order to continue from the same place next time.

The legend of zelda

Certain difficulties, however, still remained – SRAM, being a volatile type of memory, worked only as long as the battery did not run out in the cartridge. And since these batteries were not in all cartridges, some games still had to be played at once.

Nevertheless, the life of the players has become much more comfortable. Meanwhile, the developers were finally able to create large, large-scale and complex projects designed for a long run. Over time, save systems in games have added other features.

Checkpoint number 2. How savepoints work

The basic purpose of checkpoints has remained the same throughout the history of video games.

Yaroslav Kravtsov, indie developer
Yaroslav Kravtsov, indie developer:

“The task of the developers is to make the player enjoy the game and, in particular, from overcoming obstacles. The player may not be able to cope with some of them, and in order not to spoil his pleasure, the easiest way is to rewind progress a little back and give one more chance. “

Therefore, games are often saved when nothing is happening. This allows not to store too much information about the state of the player and at the same time gives him a signal to start the next stage. Levels are usually built around such moments.

Level designer Andrew Dovitchy, who worked on 2013 Tomb Raider, told Polygon: “From a creative perspective, it’s important to put checkpoints into level design as early as possible. We build many in-game events and subloads around checkpoints. “

Tomb Raider (2013)

The industry did not come to this right away, including due to technical limitations.

In the first Half-Life of 1998, for example, automatic checkpoints were spaced so far apart that the player had to rely on quicksave – quick save at the touch of a button. However, already Half-Life 2, released in 2004, arranged auto-saves so generously that help in the form of a quick save was almost not required.

The most obvious reason for this evolution is concern for player comfort. But there is another – the growing pace of games and more and more cinematic stories.

Therefore, the greatest concentration of savepoints in Tomb Raider is found in its most spectacular linear sections. “They’re exciting the first time you play, but the fun can quickly fade if you have to play them again,” Dovici explained.

For the same reason, Tomb Raider or, for example, Control save all trophies and notes found by the player, even in the event of his death – so as not to force him to repeat the same actions.


In the Call of Duty series, there is a whole system at all to create save points in a place convenient for the player. To do this, the algorithm keeps track of whether the hero is being targeted at the moment, whether they are shooting at him, whether he has received damage. Only if all parameters are met will the game create a savepoint.

Here, the function of checkpoints is the same as in Tomb Raider – to maintain the pace of the game. However, there are genres where savepoints solve much more original problems.

Checkpoint # 3. Unconventional approach

In RPGs and “immersive sims”, which include, say, The Elder Scrolls and Deus Ex series, respectively, the game also records progress every time you move to another location, but the player himself can use the quicksave. Thus, the user always has two options – the save, which he creates himself, and the checkpoints that the game offers him.

Some sandboxes allow you to create your own checkpoint network in the form of physical objects – like beds from Minecraft and Terraria. In the platformer Ori and the Blind Forest, the user can add a savepoint to the existing checkpoints, spending a valuable resource. This, of course, gives rise to its own difficulties.

Yaroslav Kravtsov, indie developer:
Yaroslav Kravtsov, indie developer ::

“We have to store information not only about the player, but also about opponents, NPCs, objects and everything else. Plus animations, effects and logic of actions of opponents. One has only to forget about something, and that’s it – after loading the game world will be different. It might look like a bug or lead to exploits. “

But the player has an interesting choice. On the one hand, he can explore the virtual world at his own pace. On the other hand, an unsuccessfully placed bed risks sending the player into a “death loop” – a situation when the player is reborn in a disadvantageous place or moment of passage.

Orient and the blind forrest

In platformers at the level, only checkpoints are often found, and save points are placed at the end of locations and even entire game zones. Classic representatives of the genre (Super Mario World) and their imitators (Sonic Mania) add to this “life” – the ability to respawn a certain number of times at a checkpoint before the game throws the player to an earlier stage.

Modern game designers, however, oppose “lives” as a concept. Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen wrote in a post on the design of his project: “By removing ‘lives’, the developer can make the game difficult through level design and other tests – instead of punishing the player for losing those ‘lives’ and reducing everything to restart “.

Therefore, his game is saved at the beginning of each level, the levels themselves are short, and the player is reborn immediately after death.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time offers a compromise: if a player dies too often in the same place, the game creates a new checkpoint on the fly – just before the moment that causes difficulties. In addition, it can be passed in two modes: “classic”, with a limited number of lives, and “modern”, where the hero can die as many times as he wants.

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