Channel Zero #9: The Saves That Wouldn't Die

by Rathe on Monday, 4 July 2011

I'm sure there's other, newer, more important news in the world of Nintendo this week, but no. It's my weekend (despite this going out on a Monday) and I'm going to whine about what I damn well please. No, you shut up and listen. I'm still just trying to get over the Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D save data debacle. How does this happen? I know we've mentioned before our fears that gaming is regressing as technology gets better, but how do you fail to implement a file delete system? Is this tomorrow: we no longer worry about having our saves wiped at random - instead, we play through as thoroughly as we can in the constant knowledge that it's the only time we will be able to do so? Want to talk to that NPC you missed? Want to pick up that extra health pack? That'll be £40, please.

Chomp bars, Cadbury's, 17p Chomp bar
That's 235 of these things. For any Americans reading, this is how we measure inflation in Britain.

Of course, I'm exaggerating - a time-attack arcade-style game like Mercenaries isn't that drastically affected; the extent of the damage is that you'll never be able to wipe your unlockables and suchlike in case, say, you've picked up a pre-owned copy or lent it to a friend. What remains particularly baffling is the fact that it's not a bug, it's a feature, according to Capcom: apparently it was a design choice from the start to not allow players to wipe their data. Honestly, how does this work? Their statement, in its entirety, reads:
"In Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, all mission progress is saved directly to the Nintendo 3DS cartridge, where it cannot be reset. The nature of the game invites high levels of replayability, encouraging fans to improve mission scores. The save mechanic ensures that both original and unlocked game content will be available to all users. Secondhand game sales were not a factor in this development decision, and we hope that all our consumers will be able to enjoy the entirety of the survival-action experiences that the game does offer."

This defies understanding. I have re-read it and re-read it and I am at a loss. Some questions that instantly pop into thought:
  • How is being deprived of the enjoyment of unlocking something for yourself good for 'all users'?
  • Why would even think of using a save mechanic in this way to allow content to 'be available to all users'?
  • Now that most people are aware of this fault, why would they buy this new, let alone used?
  • Why do you feel the prescence of a Delete All option would detract from the experience in the first place?
  • Why?
  • Why?
  • Why?
Batman, Robin, disappointment, scolding, you have let us all down
Not often we get to crack this image out. I'm going to savour this.
Ultimately, I am screaming into an abyss (well, more so than usual). It's not the first time something like this has happened of course, but the justification of it as being intentional is just galling - particularly for a game that is "lacking content" to begin with. Going back to the notion of games intentionally not having any delete functions, though - I wonder how we'd treat our current games if we knew they all didn't have that function. Would we go further out of our way to explore everything a game has to offer, or would it just make us frustrated? That would depend between exactly what games we're talking about, but in an era where we take auto-save and save-states for granted, it's an interesting mindset to take into a game. I guess it's somewhat akin to watching a film in a cinema as opposed to watching it on DVD - you're more naturally inclined to pay more attention to something you just spent £8 on to see once uninterrupted than you are something that can be rewound or fast-forwarded at will, especially the first time around. With a medium that is significantly more expensive to the consumer like videogames, I can't see it being a beneficial business decision - but an interesting creative one. Not a good thing, just an interesting thing.

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