I’m not sure that not knowing the moment to save right before a critical choice is bad design. It’s what happens in reality; you don’t always know the consequences of your choices and you certainly don’t have a save button. Does not broadcasting that to the player make it bad design, good design, or simply a neutral design choice that mimics or separates from reality in favor of player communication?
What the hell I’ll start on the Pandora’s box re save points/options to save:
I fucking hate cued save points. Hate them. Don’t tell me when to save the damn game.
Some gamers like that “I want to simulate real life and not know the consequences.” And that’s fine. Just don’t save your game. But the ability to pick where to save has been around since the C64. Put it in games now, so the people that want to experience the story the way they want, and not some arbitrary, even punitive save points wants. I can go back and re read a chapter in a book. I can hit rewind on a Blu Ray. I’m old. I miss stuff. And having a game say “tough shit, old man, you missed it” is annoying. Really, having a game say “tough shit” is really cockiness on the part of devs.
As I said, hey, if people want to play that way, fine. They want to set TW to hardcore mode when it deletes your saves if you die, fine. If they never want to hit the quicksave button, good for them. But have the option to NOT play that way. Have the option to go back a few pages if you want.
There’s enough consequences for your choices in real life.
I guess I don’t have a hugely strong opinion on one type of save over another. I kind of like games that auto-save if they do it a lot, because I have a tendency to forget to save when it’s up to me, and it’s annoying to spend half an hour in real time roving over hill and dale in Skyrim, discovering things and picking up exciting potion ingredients, and then absentmindedly be killed by randits (random bandits) and realize that you’re back in that village where you sold some loot, because the last automatic save was when you walked out of that tiny shop and you neglected to do any saves of your own in the meantime.
I don’t very often use purposeful saves the way Butch describes–say, right before a conversation you think you might want to view again–but I can see the value in that because yeah, sometimes you do miss something. (Or OK, sometimes because you’re curious how Leliana will react if you dump the blood on the ashes of Andraste, but you’re pretty sure it’s not going to be good, and you want the Ctrl-Z option. But that’s another level of metagaming than just wanting to make sure you didn’t miss any of Mordin’s Scientist Salarian song or something.)
I mostly do purposeful saves (when I remember) to make sure that I don’t have to do a bunch of searching and looting all over again, or I know I might not survive the randit encounter and want to be sure I’m still on this part of the map when I come back, or whatever.
It IS incredibly annoying to cover a lot of ground or make a lot of progress of some kind and then lose it all because you haven’t happened to trigger an automatic save along the way. This is when I wish for the ability to save on purpose, if that’s not available. I just don’t want to have to run all the way across the country again/pick up all those magic plants again/kill all those randits again/etc.
Of course, a lot of times purposeful saving IS available and I just didn’t remember to use it, in which case I guess I wish for auto-saves or a better memory.