B McP; Yes to just about all of that. Putting the Save after the unskippable cinematic. Having multiple Save Slots so that the players who want to watch the cutscene again can reload one and watch the cutscene again, and another save after for the people who don’t want to watch it again. Having a Save Point right before a challenging experience; and right afterward, and having both of these available for the player who wants to retry the experience either to get a better ‘score’ or to lap up some exposition.
But back to the challenge of them… The mystery of the save experience can’t be laid completely on the developer’s shoulders. First, there’s MS and Sony who implement save file size limits on their hardware. So before developers even start making a game, there’s a size limit to adhere to that isn’t present on PC. Next, depending on the engine the developer’s using, there’s usually some sort of built-in support for a save system, but odds are it’s checkpoint-based as that’s the easiest to support and the lowest common denominator. If the developer’s engine doesn’t support checkpoint or anywhere saves ‘out of the box’ then the dev has to write one. And odds are they’ll write the checkpoint version and spend their other dev dollars elsewhere like on the rendering or netcode. But say we have a dev who chose an engine with checkpoint saves already included… Now they need to decided if they’ll just run with checkpoint saves or add onto it and create a save anywhere system. Do they have the money and resources to spend on improving a save system that already works? If they do, can they write one that produces files small enough to fit within the console save file size restrictions? This is a much harder question to answer. If the game’s a linear shooter without much fluff (VFX, destruction, physics, low number of enemies, etc…) then it might not be a problem to write a save-anywhere system that fits in the size constraints. But if it’s an open-world that supports combat with multiple enemies, NPCs, lots of VFX, physics, destruction, skill levels, weapon mods, character mods, and all the other bells and whistles, then that save file size can balloon… Here’s a good article about all the things that might need to be considered: Escapist Magazine: Why We Have Checkpoint Saves.
So you see, it’s not as easy as one might first expect, and the two biggest culprits seem to be MS and Sony for limiting save file sizes (although I’m sure they have their reasons) and because when the checkpoint system works; you don’t even notice it, and it’s relatively easy to implement. Time and Resources are the other culprit. Would you rather spend your programmer money on a more elaborate save systems that will also impact other departments (like QA because there will be more bugs), or would you rather devs spend that money on the renderer or the netcode, or something else? In general I think the dev decision is usually to spend it on something that doesn’t work, or doesn’t exist yet, but I wonder what the player’s answer to this question would be?