Most video games developed today allow the player to save their game manually and have multiple save files. This is especially true in the case of open-world RPGs, or most RPGs in general. Some action and narrative driven games also allow the player to save their game manually and create several save files.
At some point of browsing on the Internet for walkthroughs or guides, you may have come across the term ‘save scumming’. If you’re wondering as to what this refers to, you need not fret. We’ll be discussing what ‘save scumming’ is, what good and bad comes from performing this action and finally, is it really worth it?
Table of Contents
- What is Save Scumming?
- Motives for Save Scumming
- Obtaining Rare Items
- Pokémon example
- Avoiding Consequences and Changing Outcomes
- The Witcher 3 example (spoiler alert!)
- Saving Time
- Advance Wars example
- XCOM example
- Obtaining Rare Items
- Punishing Save Scumming
- Is Save Scumming Worth It?
- Positive Aspects
- Negative Aspects
- Recommendations for Efficient Saving
What is Save Scumming?
‘Save scumming’ refers to the act of creating multiple saves, or saving repeatedly, and reloading them to achieve a desirable outcome. The term was coined in the older days of gaming when the ability to save a game at any point was considered revolutionary.
The old roguelike games are considered difficult due to the lack of the saving feature coupled with permadeath: if you died, you’d have to start all over again. Therefore, when the ability to save came to be added, many gamers vented a sigh of relief as their hard work would no longer be lost.
Motives for Save Scumming
Staying true to human nature, players began experimenting the new save feature to determine the extent of it’s usefulness. They were not disappointed by the results.
Not only did the games become easier with the new save feature, players could now also take advantage of the game’s randomness and save their time, escape the consequences of their actions and get rare items.
Save Scumming to Get Rare Items
Every game has that one item that has very rare chance of dropping. A notorious example is of the ‘shinies’ in the Pokémon game series.
Shinies were Pokémon variants introduced in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver that had a different appearance from their normal counterpart. They also had a unique glitter animation that played whenever they appeared in front of the player.
When news of the shiny Pokémon spread, players went wild in search of them. Encountering a shiny was nothing short of a miracle; you had a 1 in 8192 chance of come across one. Some discovered workarounds, bugs and glitches to improve their chances, but they were still minimal.
Players used to save their game near the tall grass, where you could encounter Pokémon, then wander around in it until a Pokémon appeared. If it wasn’t a shiny, they would reload their save. Reloading the save caused the odds to reset and randomize the Pokémon that would appear next.
Many die-hard fans used to, and still do, reset their game an exorbitant number of times just to get a shiny. In the recent Pokémon titles, shinies are not that rare anymore, but that hasn’t depreciated their value.
Save Scumming to Avoid Consequences and Change Outcomes
In RPGs like The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2 etc, you may be faced with decisions that will have consequences; whether these consequences effect the main story or not depends on the type of quest.
These decisions are usually influenced by the dialogue options the game provides the player. Depending on the dialogue the player chooses, the game will make the consequences apparent; either instantly or later.
Therefore, many players prefer to save beforehand, usually in the case of quests related to the main story.
An example is the For The Advancement of Learning quest in The Witcher 3. Although a sidequest, it can affect your main story. In this quest, the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia has to decide Keira Metz’s fate. The choices are to kill her yourself, let her go to her death, or offer her a way out of her turmoil.
Depending on the dialogue options you choose, Keira’s outcome will be decided. When players found that the dialogue they chose led to an undesirable outcome, they save scummed. They changed their choices and achieved their preferred outcome this way.
Save Scumming to Save Time
Many players save scum simply to save time and avoid repeating their mistakes. This can be particularly handy in strategy or turn-based games, where one wrong move can spell disaster. Save scumming in these games can help save precious times.
There may also be instances where you have to fight a horde of enemies before a boss fight (cough cough FromSoftware cough cough). These enemies may not necessarily be difficult, but are undoubtedly irritating.
Therefore, saving after dealing with the horde and heading off to the boss can help save invaluable time, or at the very least, be less of a headache.
An example would be in the Advance Wars game series for the Nintendo GameBoy Advance and DS. Advance Wars is a turn-based strategy game where the player commands troops on the battlefield. Every troops movement needs to precise and calculated, as one wrong move can change the odds.
Players found that they could save their game before making their move and, sure enough, began to do just that. In a turn-based game, this made things extremely easy and made the whole game a breeze.
Another, and undoubtedly the most famous, example is the XCOM series of games. In a strategy game where every move needs to count and every troop placement needs to be precise, players made a habit of save scumming before every move so that they could make things easier for themselves and save time.
Punishing Save Scummers
Because save scumming tends to ruin the experience of the game and makes things easy, some developers and studios add restrictions that punish the player for save scumming.
An example of this is gambling in Fallout: New Vegas. Naturally gambling can get you quite a bit of money so every player attempted to save scum in the casino, in order to make a quick buck. But the developers already expected this and added the following restrictions:
- There was a limit to how much you could win from the casino before getting kicked or banned.
- There would be a one-minute cooldown on all games in the casino when a player loaded a save.
XCOM deserves to be mentioned again, here as well. In XCOM 2, Firaxis designed the game in such a way that they predetermined the outcome of every action the player could take after each turn. Therefore, save scumming was utterly useless as the odds were already decided.
Is Save Scumming Worth It?
From what has been discussed above, it’s clear enough that save scumming has its merits and demerits. It is generally agreed in gaming communities that save scumming lies in a morally grey ground, since studios and developers rarely set constraints for it. However, there are always elitists that will tell you that it’s wrong.
The positives of save scumming include:
- Saves time
- Makes the game a little less irritating and easy
- Gets you all the cool stuff
The negatives are:
- Can bring out your obsessive, perfectionist side.
- Makes the game less fun; if your actions have no consequences, they don’t really mean anything.
- You will never get that feeling of accomplishment of finishing something without a little hardship.
Recommendations for Efficient Saving
The best course of action would be to save in an efficient manner; usually after a set amount of time or after a significant amount of headway. This way, even if you die in the game, or are forced to reload a save, you won’t have to toil away on the same task you had already done before.
We recommend going with the flow in narrative-driven games. You control the protagonist, so take the same course of action you would take if you were faced with such a situation.
Face the consequences of your actions and at the end of the day, when you’ve completed the game, you’ll realize how fun and fulfilling the game truly was.
In conclusion, ‘save scumming‘ has its advantages, such as saving time and making games less frustrating, but it also has its drawbacks, like potentially diminishing the sense of accomplishment and fun.
No veteran Soulsbourne player can deny the appeal of having the option to save just before the boss fight after dealing with a horde of miscreants, or saving after defeating the 1st stage of a boss. But no Soulsbourne player would admit this.
The practice exists in a morally grey area, and ultimately, the decision to use it is up to each individual player. It’s important to consider the potential consequences and ensure that it doesn’t negatively impact the overall gaming experience.