Why Your Games Have That Stupid "Don't Turn Off While Saving" Notice

Illustration for article titled Why Your Games Have That Stupid Dont Turn Off While Saving Notice

If you play video games on a console, you will have seen it. Upon booting a game up for the first, tenth or thousandth time, a screen warning you to never, ever switch off your machine while a game is saving.

It's sound advice, because turning a console off while it's writing the data can corrupt your save file, leading to heartbreak and upturned tea tables.

But why do we need to see it every time we turn on every game?

Jon Blow, creator of Braid, explains, saying that there's a "bizarre over-complexification that already happens with console games today, and is baked into the current certifications, that any [platform holder] could easily fix, but none of them do, because they don't care."

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"For example: every single game is REQUIRED to say on startup, 'sometimes this game saves, when you see this animated icon in the corner, DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR CONSOLE, etc'."

"This is something that developers have to implement and that has to be tested, which costs significant time and money, but worse than all that, it impacts the user experience, because the startup of the game becomes just a little more bureaucratized, and also - this is supposed to be a fun experience, so why are you issuing warnings and strict instructions?"

It's a fair point, and one he suggests can be fixed by implementing "a more robust save system", one that won't collapse in on itself should the unthinkable happen and your console switch off in the spare seconds it's actually being used to save data.

That comes from a much longer letter Blow penned to Ars Technica, on the subject of the kind of problems indie developers face when having their games certified by companies like Microsoft. If you were interested in the drama unfolding the other day surrounding Fez and its game-breaking patch, it's probably worth a read.

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Thoughts on Consoles and Certification Processes [The Witness]

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DISCUSSION

If you don't like the rules of the platform, then don't develop games for it. I'm really tired of Jonathan Blow continually bitching about everything.

I do, however, agree that something *could* be done to resolve this issue. That doesn't mean that platform creators aren't entitled to enforcing rules that require you to be consistent in certain respects, though. Anyway, I'd suggest either of the two "fixes" to the problem:

1) Program games to continually save data, as well as to only attempt to load the newest (if relevant) save file that isn't corrupt.

2) Include some sort of battery backup in the system that'll allow the system enough time to continue writing the save file should the system power down unexpectedly.