Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 10, 2014
Cloud save

I grew up with computers that had a command line interface, where typing "dir" with the right parameters would tell you everything you wanted to know about the file system. And when we switched to graphical user interfaces, I was still very much aware of what a file is, and what for example the difference between an executable and a data file is. For example copying or deleting a game save file is something I always considered something rather obvious. But that was when those game save files still were on the computer I was playing on. They aren't necessarily any more.

One advantage of games that are very cheap or free is that one might get them for multiple devices. For example I bought Skulls of the Shogun on Steam, but then bought it again for a pittance when it came out on the iPad, as I considered the game to work better with a touch screen. And if you consider Free2Play games with game elements where you need to gather resources or build something every 4 hours, it is obviously an advantage if you can do so during your lunch break on your smart phone. So if you can play the same game on several platforms, you might want to use the same save game for all of them. And ideally that save game is "in the cloud", so you don't need to manually transfer any files. My experience with such cloud saves is a mixed bag.

With some games the cloud save works rather well even cross-platform. Skulls of the Shogun has a "Skulls anywhere" option, so I can play with the same save game on the PC and the iPad. But it's optional, so if I wanted I could also run two completely separate games on the two platforms. That isn't always the case. My wife plays some games on her iPad, which uses the same Apple ID as mine, and as those games have automatic mandatory cloud saves, I can't play the same game without messing her game up. Other games have no cloud save, so I lost save games when I bought a new iPad. Manual transfer of save games from one device to the other sometimes works, but is a hassle, as iOS keeps its file system hidden and you need special applications to dig in. As the files aren't meant to be visible, programmers frequently don't label them very clearly, so finding the right files to copy isn't obvious. And some games have cloud saves that are platform-specific, so you can't use the same save game on iOS and Android for example.

Another problem I had with cloud saves is that sometimes you are unable to delete save games. For example I like the city building game Pixel People on the iPad, which uses an optional Facebook cloud save. But when I wanted to start over, I could only do that locally by uninstalling, reinstalling, and not connecting to Facebook again. In spite of me deleting the game from my Facebook account, it appears that the cloud save is stored somewhere, so when I tried to connect the new game to Facebook again, it just overwrote my new game with the old cloud save.

What I would like all games to have is a cloud save system which is platform-independent, optional, and which allows some basic save game management like deleting unwanted save games. Very few games offer all that right now. First world problem, for sure, but one can always dream of things getting better.

I'm having the same problems now that I have an iPad. I'm all for "easiness" of use, but I find that they are pushing things a bit too far on the "hide everything under the rug" department, making it impossible to actually do what *you* want as compared to what the manufacturer wants.
I've often asked "how to do this on the iPad" to friends, only to get the same answer: jailbreak it. But I find it absurd to be forced into hacking my own device....
BTW is it really a good idea to share the same appleID among people? I know of the auto-sync-you-ipad crap which iTunes pulls if you're not careful, but wouldn't it be easier to just have two appleIDs?
wouldn't it be easier to just have two appleIDs?

If we had two Apple IDs, we would need to buy the games we both want to play twice. And we would need to pay for other content services like the BBC iPlayer twice. As, for once, it is legal for a family to share content on up to 10 devices without buying it multiple times, I don't really want the extra cost.

By the way, one can set up the different iPads in a way that they don't share EVERYTHING. It just depends what sort of identification each application uses.
Casual games on PC solved this a long time ago. Although they make loading and saving transparent and automatic, they allow multiple 'characters' on an account, so if you have several family members using a single log-on, they can all play their own game.

Seems like it would be easy to implement this on cloud-based games. When you log on you would see a button saying "Welcome Tobold - if this is not you click here" and clicking would allow Mrs. Tobold's game to be loaded instead.

I suppose it would make it easier for amateur griefers to play multiple IDs in some games, but then again anyone doing it would be trivial to catch.
I would gladly accept cloud saves (or otherwise inaccessible save games) if I knew I could always trust it or there was some sort of backup/restore functionality, because like autosaving on PC, it makes life a lot easier. But these things can get complex real quick and sometimes the developers just can't predict everything.

I got pretty far in "Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP" on my iPad 2 using iOS 6. Then iOS 7 was installed and the developers updated their game to support it. When I started the game after this update, my save games were gone. Only option was to start all over.
I like the UNIX command line and I used PC-DOS 1.0. But I really like the cloud. Optional is not high on my list of requirements for cloud storage. Platform-independent is clearly a requirement. I really like being able to have both my Mac and PC to access the same game. it is especially nice to have a Google Doc Spreadsheet (MMO dailies and crafting and AH) that I can access from any machine, including iPad.

While I miss having obvious files, that is not the way the world is going. 2006 Discussion on Microsoft Vista talked about how they were going away from hierarchical file systems towards metadata. As we expect Windows 9 and 10 to be more like mobile operating systems, I expect that data files will be less obvious, at least to an oldtimer such as myself.

Besides, if the future is things like Google Docs and Sony Playstation Now, if the games are not local, why should the data files be local?

If you had synced out the old iPad and restored the new ipad from the old, I would have expected the save games to still be there.

My prejudiced view is that problems with Facebook save would tend to reflect more of FB than the cloud.
Origin offers cloud storage for EA games but the storage limit seems to be very small. I keep running out of cloud space leading to warning messages and frantic cleaning out of old save games.

Should have added:

To be fair to EA and Origin once you exceed your cloud storage limit you are given the option to disable cloud storage and continue with local saves so it isn't a deal breaker. It just seems strange that a single play though of a big game like Dragon Age can exceed your allotted storage limit.
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