We Need Cross-Platform Save Files

iOS gaming is really coming along if you ask me, but it still has a few problems that either Apple or the developers at large don’t seem to understand yet about the way people play games.  The one that get’s to me possibly the most is handling save data between devices.  When you think about it though it’s a new concept to most of gaming at large.

We have all these games that are universal between the iPad and iPhone now- if you buy it on one you own it on both. You can play both at home on an iPad or in your car on your iPhone… except in most cases you can’t carry your save file between them.

Who in their right mind would want to keep two separate save files for a game which they purchased once? Maybe it’s an oversight developers keep making. Maybe there’s still something technical in the way, but whatever it is they need to figure out a platform-wide solution for this.

I know we have cloud saves with iOS5 now but I only know of two games that use them: Scribblenauts and Infinity Blade II. There are a lot more iOS games I own on both devices, would like to play on both, but can’t share a save file between both. With some games I think you can copy the save file through iTunes but that’s more complex than it should be for a platform that’s supposed to be about user friendliness.

The idea of people playing one game on multiple machines though isn’t a usual thing for conventional gaming either. It’s always been “you buy a game for a platform, and play it on that platform”. That old thinking is probably why Square Enix refuses to make their iOS games universal.

Gaming is more or less alone in this. We’ve reached a point where if you have a digital movie or music album, you can play them on any device that will run those formats. You can start a Netflix movie on your TV and continue it on your phone. I can stop typing this blog on my desktop now and finish it on my iPad. For obvious technical reasons you still can’t do this with video games. Sony seems to be the sole company willing to change this on a hardware level.

Firstly you have the fact that PS1 games and minis bought on PSN are playable on the PS3 and PSP, and you can flip save files between them (and even old memory cards for the PS1 games). Now you’ve got the PSVita chock full of ports of PS3 games, some of which feature cross-compatible save files.

One of the platform’s main advertisements features a guy playing MLB 12 The Show at home on his PS3, then continuing the same file on his Vita on the way to work.  Sony’s even bundling both versions together in an $80 package. It’d be really nice if that kind of thing took off – if I could flip a Final Fantasy save file back and forth between the console and the handheld.  That’s the real question: how do you make one game playable both at home and on a handheld?

The oldest hardware solution is to make the handheld game playable at home like Nintendo’s Super Game Boy and Game Boy Player. A lot of people are begging Sony to release an HDMI attachment to the Vita so that, in combination with a wireless Dual Shock 3 connection, it could become simultaneously a handheld and a console. iOS devices can technically do something similar now. I know a lot of people wouldn’t like looking at handheld graphics on a TV screen, but I honestly don’t mind as long as I’m enjoying the game.

The other solution is over the cloud, which OnLive has already put to good use. You can already play one game on your PC, TV, iPad, and iPhone with the same graphics – if you trust some server somewhere with your $49.99. Personally I still don’t.

For the time being though, I think somebody’s gonna have to make cloud save files catch on with iOS developers. Microsoft and Sony have already gotten the hint after Steam had been doing it for a while. Heck, there’s even a way to convert Xbox 360 save files over to PC and back.

Ultimately, I think that we need to eventually get away from the notion that each game you buy is for one platform only. That’s getting into the subject of platform dividers in general, but I still think things like this make gaming continue to look somewhat childish in the face of other media.

BULLETS:

  • So it looks like a fourth Mickey Mouse Illusion game is being developed for the 3DS to coincide with Epic Mickey 2. Looks like the three Sega games just got bumped up on my backlog. It’d be great if they got rereleased for download.
  • I’ve done a couple of new custom box arts: Demon’s Souls and The Witcher 2 Enhanced Editionhttp://t.co/wbMHip0V. Here’s another for Tales of Vesperiahttp://www.mediafire.com/?027tkvhadj1gipn
  • Absolutely harrowing tale of one man’s life in and escape from a North Korean prison camp: http://t.co/V9mdOtdc The book comes out this week.
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