START IT: The Place To Put Save Games

By John Walker on January 24th, 2012 at 11:25 am.

Tally ho!

Yesterday I let out a clarion call to all developers and publishers to STOP IT when it came to confetti-scattering save games around our computers, and to keep them all in one sensible place. What I didn’t add, it’s been pointed out to me by a few developers since, was what that sensible place is. So I’ve picked one.

Clearly whatever you choose is going to lead to massive, world-changing controversy, and not everyone would be happy with any choice. But this, I think, is the best all-round.

C:\Users\[user]\Documents\My Games\[game name]\Saves\

No, it’s not especially catchy, and yes, it looks at first like it’s in that awkward \Users\ folder. But of course My Documents is something familiar to most users of a Windows PC, and certainly easily accessible thanks to Microsoft’s belief that everyone will be compelled to use it to store all their everythings. (I’ve never used it for anything in my life, always preferring to store such files on a hard drive separate from my Windows install, but this is not what the majority does.)

Also, and correct me if I’m wrong, and I probably am, but I believe \Documents\ is one of the folders Windows is able to conflate with its XP counterpart, \My Documents\, which would perhaps get around the issues with having to support the two structurally different operating systems. And if I’m wrong, well, um.

At the same time, with this tidy system, things like .ini files that games just feel compelled not to store in their own installation folders can also be all sensibly put in the same place. If it’s not where I installed it, then I know it’s going to be in My Games.

So, there it is. The decision’s made. RPS has declared it, and it shall be so. Every publisher and developer, indie to AAA, get on board with this, and just think about how much better the world will be. 0.0047% better. That’s how much. So I say,

, , .

260 Comments »

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  1. Yargh says:

    This has the whiff of Holy Righteousness. John has laid down The Word. Now we must hope the legions of developers see fit to listen so all can be saved.

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      El_MUERkO says:

      Are you questioning his word?

      Blasphemer!!!!

      BUUUUURRRRNNNN HIM!!!!

    • roryok says:

      Since we still can’t all agree, lets put it to a vote

    • InsaneJ says:

      No wait, that’s terrible for 2 very good reasons.
      1. Don’t use hardcoded pathnames.
      2. Don’t put crap in our ‘Documents’ folders.

      It should be somehting like: %USERPROFILE%\My Games\[game name]

      This way it’s always stored in the profile of the user that is currently logged in to the computer. It’s out of the way but easy to find and thus easy to back-up/modify/whatever.

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      Cinek says:

      Gash, people, you really have something to argue about, don’t you?

      Let it be John’s way. Just as long as we, the people, support it, and developers will hear – something that MUST be done WILL be done and finally we’ll finish this confetti festival.

      Ps. Anyone made a phone to EU parliament? You know, they forced all these idiots to finally start using USB for cellphone chargers so maybe than can force other pack of people to start using one saves directory???? ;)

    • max pain says:

      Better yet, have it configurable from the settings file (bonus to make a setting in the game menu).
      That way those 5% of games that will actually have to know where their savegames are can change it to their liking (they can even put it on an usb and transfer it).

    • The Tupper says:

      Roryok – that seems to be a very well considered, comprehensive poll. Well done.

    • step21 says:

      What InsaneJ said. Games also could just create a My Games on XP, like they now create their own folder.

    • daf says:

      @roryok your pool doesn’t include the built in location in Vista/7 and the one Microsoft would like developers to use which is the “Saved Games” folder. So I feel the pool is flawed, when the imo correct option would need to be written in, something most people wouldn’t be informed on how to do.

    • neolith says:

      InsaneJ has it right – hardcoded paths stink!

      The one and only place I never want to have any save files is my C: drive!

    • roryok says:

      @TheTupper uh… thanks? I’m sensing a trap…

    • roryok says:

      @daf There’s an ‘Other’ option for everything not on the poll, and actually only 2 people out of 195 (so far) suggested that folder

      Edit: Actually there were four or five, so I added it. still trying to figure out how to merge in all those votes!

    • roryok says:

      My fav answer so far
      “Where should Saves go?”
      “they should go up yours!”

    • daf says:

      @roryok The other option would imply people knew about it, but unless they’re technically inclined I very much doubt it.

      I mean, how many people ever noticed Saved Games directory on their “home” dir?, then how many of those noticed that they could rename the folder to anything they wanted? And even more how many noticed that just like My documents they could change “Saved Games” location to any one they chose to?

      If I so wanted I could have “Saved Games” in “C:/Users/[ID]/Documents/My Games/” and as long as the games used the API to get the path it would work.

      That’s why I’m so “militant” about “Saved Games”, because it’s the closest we can get to were ever we want to put it without having game developers write a “pick were you want to save” option for every game.

      But like you said, I’m the minority…

    • The Tupper says:

      Roryok hehe. No trap intended – was just being nice is all. I promise it’ll never happen again! (inane smiley face)

    • roryok says:

      @TheTupper thanks then! Guess I’m just paranoid

    • The Tupper says:

      No worries – the internet can be a harsh place, I know.

    • roryok says:

      @daf I’ve actually added it to the poll now.

      “The other option would imply people knew about it, but unless they’re technically inclined I very much doubt it.”

      True. I’d consider myself technical and I didn’t know it existed. But if non-technical people don’t even know it exists, why would they choose it on a poll? It doesn’t leap out as a better suggestion than all the others – only really technical people like yourself are likely to understand why its a better choice.

      Anyway, we’ll see. maybe more people will choose that now that it’s there. Either way, doesn’t really matter. It’s only a poll!

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Well I think it’s a great idea – Firstly it is simplicity itself to relocate your documents folders and there are several methods to do so – I prefer using symbolic links, but I believe there are other methods described in the windows support database.

      Secondly, the net effect on your documents folder is a single folder called My Games – perfect for me as although I loath “My” in front of any folder name, I’ve learnt to cope with it and I subdivide my documents up anyway.

      Thirdly, it can be used by all games to place most of their files, thus creating a modern interpretation of the “Games used to be self contained in their install folder” leaving only the games system files in the program files bit

    • zaphod42 says:

      Or Windows could just learn to actually support videogames.

    • dontnormally says:

      Dear John,

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_Account_Control

      Sincerely,
      Yes, it sucks.

    • roryok says:

      @Sheng-ji In XP installs the first thing I always did was make a folder on the C drive called Hub, right click on My documents and rename it and point it there.

      Windows 7 (and probably vista – I didnt bite) now have the User folder as the main, well, user folder in explorer, and that can’t be moved anymore

      Luckily I can still delete all the pointless, useless folders that get created there like “links” and “Favourites”

    • geoffreyk says:

      Note to all: The location of the “Users” folder in WIndows 7 is configurable. My “Users” folder is on my non-OS storage drive. It is not super-easy to move, and it has to be done after installation (can’t configure it during), but it is mobile.

    • Dhatz says:

      I always wanted the save/load screen to be a saves manager, or at least show the location.

    • pmanpman says:

      USB phone chargers is a stupid idea

    • roryok says:

      @pmanpman ok, I’ll bite. Why are USB chargers a stupid idea? This better be good.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      @dontnormally

      What does UAC have to do with *anything whatsoever* here?

      %UserProfile%\Documents\My Games\ is where game data, such as INIs, and per-user game installations should go.
      %UserProfile%\Documents\Saved Games\ is where game saves should go.
      Both of these folders are fully under the user’s control, and thus don’t require elevation. UAC isn’t touched.

      UAC is involved when moronic developers put per-user files, or user-modified files, in a system folder (%ProgramFiles%, %CommonProgramFIles%, %SystemRoot%). Then, the user has to be elevated to modify things such as key bindings.

      UAC is also involved when moronic developers decide that they need to install crap into %SystemRoot%\System32, %SystemRoot%\SysWoW64, or write to any section of the registry other than HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Since the application’s directory is included in the module search path, any modules which aren’t redistributables (such as DirectX) should be placed in the application’s directory, and redistributables should be invoked by the UN-ELEVATED installer only if the installer determines that the specific dependency isn’t already present. Which *NEVER* requires elevation on an unmodified OS.

      Google Chrome is a prime example of this: It doesn’t require any elevation if you install it per-user (“Just for me”), while requesting elevation (and invoking UAC) if you choose to install it per-machine (“For Everyone”).

      UAC works very well, when developers aren’t retarded. These are simple rules to follow:

      1) Don’t put *per-user* shit in Program Files.
      2) Don’t put *any* shit in the Windows directory.
      3) Don’t put *per-user* shit in HKLM.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Oh, I guess, related: You can move almost anything anywhere, save for %SystemRoot%\*, %ProgramFiles%\*, and %SystemDrive%. Just create a junction. As long as nothing in that folder is called before FSFilter is loaded, or after it is unloaded, you won’t have any issues.

  2. Nosgoroth says:

    Make it so.

    • fwfulton says:

      I think a round of “So Say We All” could carry more weight.

    • roryok says:

      there was a time I would have agreed, and started into it. But I recently followed Edward James Olmos on twitter, and he says it too much for my liking. He also refers to himself as Galactica Actual, which is a little unfortunate

  3. Kollega says:

    I really wish that RPS demanding to put saves in one sensible, easily accessible place would actually make everyone put them there. I really, really do.

    • bigtoeohno says:

      Rock Paper Shotgun: tackling the big issues

    • Meat Circus says:

      Technically, Microsoft already proposed a standard location for savegames, i.e., where the execrable GFWL stores its shit.

      Thus tainting that directory’s good name forever.

      What we need is an enforcement regime. All games henceforth should be monitored for compliance and the deviants shunned and publicly ridiculed.

    • Arona Daal says:

      My Wishlist is a bit larger than that:
      Second Desktop/Quickmenu Link which directly starts the last Savegame.
      No (unskipable?) Logos/Intros/Menus/Logins, just Doubleclick and you are playing.

      Same for quitting : Alt+f4 = Instant Desktop (BF 2 does that nicely)

    • bigtoeohno says:

      Don’t get me wrong it makes a great deal of sense. Will it happen? I say prob not.

    • roryok says:

      I’ve been participating in this thread all day, and it’s certainly interesting, but I don’t hold any hope of it going anywhere. Even if every single games dev was to do this immediately, every game thus far released would still suffer from it. Therefore, I propose a two part solution:

      1. That all PC games developers store their game saves and configs in C:/Users/[ID]/Documents/My Games/[game name]/Saves

      2. That we see exactly how many games we can tweak the registry entries of to point to this same folder. I’m off to do this right now, with everything I have installed.

      UPDATE: After trying this with just a few games I have lost the will to live. Mass Effect ignored the new save folder and created a new one where the old one was. Mirrors Edge wouldn’t start, and I couldn’t find any of the entries for Rage. =(

    • Archonsod says:

      “Technically, Microsoft already proposed a standard location for savegames”

      Funnily enough they actually did. And it’s exactly where we’re suggesting they be put. Of course, given Microsoft’s ability to adhere to standards they can’t really call developers out for not doing the same.

    • daf says:

      @roryok Rage uses the “Saved Games” location so by default it’s “%userprofile%/Saved Games/id software/rage” assuming you haven’t moved your Saved Games folder, on XP I’m not sure were they chose to put it.

    • sassy says:

      @roryok: Sometimes it is best just to ignore the past. Even if a standard was brought in that all developers started following, past games wont be patched.

      Fortunately at this moment a piece of free software names “Game Save Manager” can locate and backup the vast majority of game saves. Not an ideal solution to the problem but it is a working and currently existing one.

  4. QuasiBelgium says:

    Not in my friggin’ documents! Come on! D:

    • haowan says:

      Where else? My Documents is visible and accessible. AppData is hidden. Some other places (e.g. Program Files) are forbidden. Arbitrary directories help nobody. My Documents is a great standard place to put saved games.

    • QuasiBelgium says:

      Well, I’d like to be able to use my documents for documents. It’s just spammed with folders from all kinds of programs and games who want me to be able to access their screenshot and have me play my own music in them and what not.

      A “my games” folder should just come with the installation of Windows, just like My Pictures, My Music, My Videos, My Whatever, and My Documents.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      The odds of RPS convincing game devs to change their placement of files are higher than the odds of convincing all software developers everywhere. My Documents is lost to personal use.

    • Dan Lawrence says:

      There already is a ‘Saved Games’ default folder for this in Vista & post Vista versions of Windows. It is supposed to be the standard location for saved games but developers often don’t read boring standard documentation or they want their one size fits all function to save games somewhere whatever OS the program is being run on.

      I vote that you campaign for developers to use the provided folder rather than trying to continue sticking them in documents because they are obviously not documents.

    • RagingLion says:

      I hear you and sympathise but after reading the comments thread to the “STOP IT” piece I can see the reasoning behind it. As long all game stuff is kept in one folder without every single publisher or game feeling like they should have their own separate folder directly underneath the “Documents” level then there won’t be any clutter and it will be more than bearable.

      Sounds good to me: +1 to this.

    • jplayer01 says:

      Well, there already is a My Games folder inside My Documents. It’s a visible, accessible location. It’s far better than having all the game folders strewn across my drive. And it’s far better than a bunch of games deciding to spam My Documents full of their own folders. They will (optimistically) be reduced to this one, tolerable folder, My Games.

      I can only hope developers decide to listen. This is one of the places where consoles have it right. My saved games and all game data are in an easy to find place on my PS3 (scroll up in the Games menu), so I can copy/move/delete them at will. It’s long overdue for PC’s.

    • BrightCandle says:

      Agreed the documents directory is a very bad place for this to go. They clearly aren’t documents and should go into c:/users/John/My Games instead.

      But its also worth mentioning I don’t really want games to use that directory exclusively for all their patches and such. Ideally I would want it backed up and I don’t want to waste upload on temporary files and such in there, it should be the user settings and saves. Even mods and maps should go somewhere else ideally (the games directory).

    • Megagun says:

      @jplayer: I don’t think it’s there by default. I have such a folder, but I’m running a Dutch version of Windows 7, and it’s still called “My Games” rather than the localized “Mijn Spellen” or “Mijn Games”. All the stuff that is there by default is localized for me, which leads me to believe that games have created the “My Games” folder on Win7, not the OS itself.

    • cliffski says:

      It’s not localised because the last time I checked, there is no windows API call to get \My Games. . it has to be hard coded by the devs. You *can get My Documents:

      SHGetFolderPath(NULL,CSIDL_PERSONAL,NULL,SHGFP_TYPE_CURRENT,docspath)

      but then you have to do this:

      sprintf_s(path,”%s/My Games”,docspath);

      which sucks. Unless they changed this very recently.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Good grief. It’s these (b)anal arguments that caused this mess in the first place.

    • nicePenguin says:

      I think the Documents folder is already lost…
      54 out of 56 of the folders in My Documents are for programs on my PC

      http://i.imgur.com/gXQTC.png

    • Miltrivd says:

      as @InsaneJ said, harcoded folders are no good, you could end up with folders in your users folder or admin folder or public folder and it won’t work across all windows versions. Besides, My Documents folder is already full of crap nowadays since every single bit of software makes a garbage folder in there making a mess. In my case, I don’t even use the damn thing.

      If we want a change, it has to be something that actually works for everyone and be simple. My opinion is that should be by a C: folder (C:\Savegames) with the OPTION (this is where we make something be really good) to change it wherever we wanted (game folder, another folder, etc.).

      And add something that should be the norm, the installation should tell you at the end where is putting your save files and ask you if you want a shortcut to it as well.

    • DMStern says:

      @cliffski: There is a FOLDERID_SavedGames (defaults to %USERPROFILE%\Saved Games), new in Vista, which is obviously where Microsoft think the saves should go, and as such I have to agree. In order to reduce the chance of collisions I do think the full path should include the developer or publisher name, which is fine as long as it’s done in a consistent fashion.

    • LionsPhil says:

      What DMStern said (with a pre-Vista fallback to “My Games”). John choose poorly. Stick. To. The. Fucking. Platform.

      Still, at least it’s not %HOME%/.bad-linux-port—dotfiles being such a universal idiom and all![1] Fuck you very much, GIMP.

      1. They’re also wrong for MacOS X, even though it’s allegedly UNIX.

    • Finster says:

      Are any of you actually suggesting that you are trying to keep documents in “My Documents”?! That’s insanity. It’s a lost cause for storing legitimate documents in, what with all the files that programs want to keep in there. You’re far better off making a separate folder of your own.

    • Blain says:

      I don’t get this (possibly because my computer is four years old and running XP). Most games use My Documents already. Putting them into a My Games subfolder would drastically reduce the mess in My Documents.

  5. Baggypants says:

    shouldn’t you really use variables like %userprofile%\Documents\My Games\[game name]\Saves\ ?

    • Starky says:

      The “John” part in his suggestion is that variable though.

      Obviously games need to have user account specific saves.

    • haowan says:

      @Baggypants yes, on the technical side that’s correct; they’ll always map to the right place like in John’s post though. We’re developers, so we’re technical and all that and don’t need explicit instructions, just where we need to put the save games :)

    • Baggypants says:

      “We’re developers, so we’re technical and all that and don’t need explicit instructions”

      Hahahahahah….

    • royaltyinexile says:

      No, I think it’s quite clear that he’s suggesting every gamer on the planet will have a user defined as ‘john’, or will change their names TO John, in testament to this biblical savegame prophesy.

    • roryok says:

      Well I’m certainly doing that. I also think all games should henceforth be called 3:16

    • DiGi says:

      Damn, so I made new folder named “John” just for nothing? :-)

    • John Walker says:

      While I like Royalty’s suggestion, I’ve fixed that.

    • yrro says:

      No, you should use SHGetKnownFolderPath and a FOLDERID value (or, on XP or earlier, SHGetFolderPath and a CSIDL value).

    • Theodoric says:

      Yeah, I moved my Documents folder to my D partition ’cause it was filling up my windows partition. Please be more specific about the fact that it needn’t be C please, this is important. In fact, I’m personally satisfied with having it near the game folders; the G disk I used for games is 2 Tb big and can easily harbour any and all save games, which can get scarily huge in some games.

    • Happydaws says:

      Also the \Users\ part is wrong, not everyone running EN windows you know :)
      (yes there is foreign readers on RPS!)

      Just had an issue with an American dev trying to put files in \users\ on a Danish Windows.. Bleh..

    • mouton says:

      From now on, all saves will be in the John folder. All hail John.

  6. Nathan_G says:

    Developers? Do this. I know some of you are reading this: Do what John says, and do it now. We want it.

    • wccrawford says:

      I think I’ll wait until the debates are done. If this is worthwhile, there will be several arguments, including a blog post entitled ‘Standardized save game location considered harmful’ and much bitching about nothing. In the end, some half-assed consensus will be reached by actual developers, at which point half of them will actually do it. At that point, it’s fairly safe to put my eggs into that basket. 2 months later, Windows 8 will go Gold, and won’t have something that was in all previous versions of Windows and the entire debate will rage again.

      Edit: I should have finished reading the comments. Apparently the first debate is already raging. We’re on track, guys!

  7. Gusdor says:

    Applications should be saving data in the well defined application data folders.

    Mash ‘Windows + R’ for me. Now type %appdata%

    This is where Microsoft recommends that application modified data should be stored. Why invent another standard for Windows when one already exists?

    • haowan says:

      appdata is hidden. So less technically-savvy users won’t be able to find their save games if they need them.

    • Starky says:

      Because that one is annoying to search and hidden by default.

      Appdata is for application data that the the majority of users should never interact with.
      Save games are not that kind of data.

    • Gusdor says:

      We disagree on that point. I challenge you to prove that the majority of users want to email save games to their friends.

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      RobF says:

      No-one needs to prove that. We just need to enable those who want to do such things to be able to do such things without pissing around.

      Why do you need to hide save game data? Is it special or precious?

    • pyjamarama says:

      Save data is user generated data not application data, should be in the user space.

    • LuNatic says:

      @Starky

      %Appdata% is where programs should save any and all application-specific data on a user by user basis. Save games are EXACTLY this kind of data.

      If a user is incapable of googling ‘how do I backup my save games’ and then following the instructions, they should getting someone else to help them with it anyway.

    • RagingLion says:

      Surely the main application is to keep game saves and for that person to be able to keep them for perpituity by transferring them onto a new PC/hard drive as painlessly as possible which I think a large number would want to do.

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      The Sombrero Kid says:

      Because Microsoft aren’t right, look at gfwl to see why this is the most wrongf of all wrong ways to do it.

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      RobF says:

      “If a user is incapable of googling ‘how do I backup my save games’ and then following the instructions, they should getting someone else to help them with it anyway. ”

      No. That’s not how things should be. There’s no need to obfuscate and hide save data and there’s certainly no need to treat users like wanting to do something with a save file is something they should have to google to discover.

    • Milky1985 says:

      Save games are user data, and as such shoudl be in the users folder (ie my documents or documents).

      The AppData folder is for application data, i.e none user configurable settings (i.e which optimisations to use, stored shaders that kinda thing)

      There is no reason for saves or keyboard config files to be in the appdata folder, its not designed for that (putting config fiels for graphics etc maybe, but not saves)

    • Flavioli says:

      The point is to make the location as obvious and easy to find as possible. If most of the users find themselves forced to use Google, you’ve failed to do that. There’s no functional reason why the files should go in appdata when they could be placed somewhere that’s easier to find (and in the very least not hidden by default).

  8. Inigo says:

    But my John folder is where I keep my porn. This’ll just make things confusing.

  9. GetUpKidAK says:

    It already feels 0.0007% better. Please, developers, let’s push for that extra 0.0040%.

    Do it for the kids.

  10. Dan Lawrence says:

    Eh, what’s wrong with using:

    C:/Users/John/Saved Games/

    ….on post vista platforms? It has a shorter URL, a special icon and it is what the folder is for. Anything pre-vista is always going to be a mess now anyway because there was no standard folder and anything post Vista is just a case of developers not caring about the new standard/not updating their save routines/not wanting a separate save routine based on OS version.

    I think using that folder is less confusing for new users who won’t have the years of pre-vista experience that they have to go rooting around in a documents folder to find save games.

    • roryok says:

      Yeah, I think this would be better than Documents (since its not a document. I don’t intend to read or print any saves)

      However, I do think ‘Saved Games’ sounds wrong. it should be ‘Game Saves’

    • yrro says:

      You can’t use it if you want your game to work on both XP and Vista or later. Imagine what happens if someone plays your game on XP, then upgrades to Vista. The game, running on Vista, will look for its saved games in FOLDERID_SavedGames, but the saves created on XP will be elsewhere…

      IMO John is dead wrong with this, and saved games must be stored in FOLDERID_SavedGames. It’s not hidden by default, it’s easy to find, and it avoids cluttering the user’s Documents folder up with crap they don’t want to see.

      Unfortunately, FOLDERID_SavedGames only exists since Vista, but developers who insist on propping up XP should put in extra effort to avoid the case mentioned above (look in the XP location first, and only use FOLDERID_SavedGames if there’s no data in the XP location). As for that XP location, the correct and only place to store saved games is CSIDL_APPDATA (known as FOLDERID_RoamingAppData in Vista and later). If and only if your saved game data is larger than a few megabytes, it should be stored in CSIDL_LOCAL_APPDATA (known as FOLDERID_LocalAppData in Vista and later) instead.

      And can we stop this nonsense with referring to environment variables that just plain don’t exist? It’s only going to muddy the waters. The correct way to retrieve the location of any well known folder is by calling SHGetKnownFolderPath with a FOLDERID value (or, on XP and earlier, SHGetFolderPath with a CSIDL value).

    • John Walker says:

      The reason I’ve not opted for this is because it doesn’t pre-exist with an install of Windows, and thus will only lead to fuss.

    • diebroken says:

      Seconded.

      C:/Users/[user]/Games/[game name]/Saves

      No need to clutter up the ‘(My )Documents’ folder any more than necessary…

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      The Sombrero Kid says:

      I’m pretty sure it does exist from a fresh install, i’d be behind this, but most developers seem to agree on somewhere in my documents & this seems like a bigger leap for them.

    • goosnargh says:

      I’m pretty sure game developers can figure out a simple if-then-else statement for Windows XP users.

    • Dan Lawrence says:

      I’d be surprised if it wasn’t pre-installed as it’s a Microsoft standard ‘known folder’ now. Anyway, it would be instantly created the first time you save a game anyway so that doesn’t really matter.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      It might be a good point to notice that “My Pictures”, “my Videos”, etc are now found in C:Users[User] along with Desktop, Favourites, etc rather than XP’s location of “C:Documents and Settings[User]My Documents… My Documents now being a sort of catch-all for text-based things, or presentation slideshows, rather than “everything”.

      It’s a kind of Linux view of things (not really linux at all probably) where the User’s personal files and settings does not start within My Documents.

      The hidden folders.. are hidden because they’re system settings, which generally break things if you try and manually edit them, and generally don’t need to be copied over to a new install in order to keep your stuff working.

    • daf says:

      The system provided “Saved Games” folder is imo the way to go and not some arbitrary folder inside my documents, the “Saved Games” has an API call to get it’s location and windows allows you to rename it and move it, in my system it’s actually located in “D:/Home/Saves” (the same way My documents is D:/Home/Documents”).

      Deciding to use My Documents because XP doesn’t have “Saved Games” is a bit short sighted as with every passing month/year XP usage will drop leaving us with Vista, 7 and eventually 8. All of which have “Saved Games” folder. Let us leave My documents to my documents.

      In the meantime, the games that still would like to support XP could easily do so with a if statement at the start of the game, something trivial compared to how allot of games now have a DX9 and DX11 mode to account for the lack of dx11 on XP.

    • Megagun says:

      @John: your solution also doesn’t pre-exist on an installation of Windows 7. The Saved Games folder does (since Vista), but it doesn’t pre-exist on Windows XP. How will your solution cope with people that use a non-english version of Windows? Using Saved Games will work fine if you’re running Vista or later, no matter what language you use.

    • KenTWOu says:

      C:/Users/%username%/Saved Games/ – is simply the best choice!

      Anyway NTFS symbolic link helps you to clean up this mess and save all files in any folder you want.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTFS_symbolic_link

  11. Premium User Badge

    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Damn, I’ll have to create a ‘John’ user now just for saves.

  12. AbyssUK says:

    Erm No, it’s my PC this isn’t a MAC let me choose where I store my save games please.

  13. dmadrfe says:

    I think you should contact developers and ask them how they chose save game locations. Do they have a system? Do they roll a dice ? Do they compete with other developers to make them as inaccessible as possible ?

  14. Guvornator says:

    What this needs is a petition.

    • roryok says:

      No. What it needs is a poll. We can’t agree on an answer yet.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Can’t agree? We already agreed. Just few people with big mouth scream about some other directories. But even your poll shows who is right. :)
      (atm. 67% for John’s option, 11% for other strongest alternative)

    • roryok says:

      Yeah, I guess you’re right. No harm in checking though!

  15. purdz says:

    I concur, although a ‘standard’ does exist this one makes more sense.

  16. Moni says:

    You should have some sort of form for developers to sign, pledging their allegiance to the One True Directory.

    Failure to comply will result in the sending of a disgruntled letter.

  17. Premium User Badge

    revelationspace says:

    What if you don’t want save games on your C drive? Some games have large saves and a fair few of us use an SSD with limited capacity for Windows.

    Yes a centralised place for save games would be nice but it’s probably problems like the above that mean there will never be any ‘standard’.

    • Meneth says:

      Windows (at least Vista and 7) lets you move the Documents folder wherever you want. I have mine on my E: drive.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      XP did this as well, right click on my documents and select properties, you will find an option to move it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      And that’s one of reasons why it’s a best solution of all.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      You can temporarily change environment variables using the ‘set’ command, I use it to manage multiple Minecraft installs. It’s only local to the parent process and it’s children though, which has pros and cons but it under consideration, completely sensible.

      To change an environment variable permanently, which is the second part of the process of moving the My Documents folder (The first being to move the directory), you can either do a registry hack, or use the ‘setx’ command. Setx comes with Windows Vista onwards, for pre-Vista you’ll need to download it from Microsoft.

      I wont go over Setx usage as the arguments you can give it are quite numerous, you’re better off finding a guide. Reg keys are located at…

      HKCU\Environment (User Specific System level)
      HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders (User Folders)
      HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SessionManager\Environment (System level)

      If you don’t know what you are doing but still want to do a reghack, at least do a reg backup first (or at the very least a restore point to return to). I know this from experience.

  18. Kdansky says:

    Augh. Yes, you are wrong. http://xkcd.com/927/

    The Documents folder can actually be accessed without even knowing its name, and the XP/Vista variations are all linked together if you do it correctly. It belongs there. Because Microsoft decrees it so. People hard-coding their paths is the primary issue. Use the bloody Windows API!!!

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/dd378457(v=vs.85).aspx
    FOLDERID_SavedGames

    Is it that hard!?

  19. Premium User Badge

    Colthor says:

    This is acceptable, because you can point the (My )Documents link at any directory on any drive you want.

  20. pyjamarama says:

    I still prefer a JUST ASK campaign. I known were I want my save games just ask me, everyone that uses a computer knows were to save a file, every program asks you or at least let’s change a setting. So JUST ASK

  21. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Speaking of John, maybe we should start putting these in outdoors and handing out special glasses so only developers can see them.

    START IT

  22. Milky1985 says:

    I beleive your right on the “documents”, “My documents” thing, I think theres basically a built in shortcut in win 7 that directs “my documents” to “documents” anyway for compatability reasons.

  23. kukouri says:

    This must happen.

  24. Kdansky says:

    Bonus knowledge: You do not have write permissions from Flash (or HTML5, or any other web-format) into \Documents\, you can only go into AppData, or you need a problematic and rather frightening popup.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I was going to mention in the STOP article that this was the reason for Minecraft being a pain for back ups, it being a simple limitation of Java.

  25. Sfitz says:

    OK. :)

  26. Megagun says:

    Why not use Known Folders and use “FOLDERID_SavedGames”, which by default points to %USERPROFILE%//Saved Games? Windows vista and above only. Seems like a good solution, right? It’s built-in to Windows Vista and 7!

    Another option would be to use %appdata%.

    The suggestion as suggested by John may not work nicely with people who don’t run an English version of Windows, unless the “My Games” folder can be retrieved through some API. As far as I know, there’s no such option anywhere, and “My Games” only exists under “My Documents” on Windows XP (no longer on Windows 7) or if some other game has made it earlier. The proposed suggestion reminds me of this XKCD comic. Worth noting is that I am running a Dutch version of Windows 7, but this folder is also called “My Games” for me, instead of the localized “Mijn Spellen”.

    • Dan Lawrence says:

      Yeah this (Saved Games) is the new standard brought in with Vista and all post vista OS versions. In case any other developers are reading it is also relatively painless to check the OS version and branch your save game function, in C++:

      GetVersionEx(&osvi);
      m_isOSVistaOrLater = osvi.dwMajorVersion >= 6;

      Bah this was supposed to be a reply.

    • Megagun says:

      @Dan Lawrence: You did succesfully reply to my earlier message, but I edited it and added in one too many link (to an XKCD comic, argh), which means that it’s now awaiting moderation. Don’t worry, you didn’t screw up. :)

  27. Suds says:

    No. Flat out no. I agree that there should be a standardized place for game (and app) save files; and there is. %appdata%. The My Documents folder is for my documents, things that I deliberately put there, and organize to my convenience. There is nothing more annoying than when an application or game puts crap in that folder that you cant move without breaking that app or game.

    LEAVE THE MY DOCUMENTS FOLDER ALONE

    Save files are not documents, you typically cant open them in a document viewer and view their contents (let alone edit them!). Put your save files somewhere out of the way. %userprofile%\GameData\%game%\Saves or something would be infinitely better and provide a convenient place for users to access them to make backups or move from PC to PC. Alternatively %appdata%\%game%\Saves would be just as good for games that for whatever reason don’t want their saves tampered with. Just

    LEAVE THE MY DOCUMENTS FOLDER ALONE

    and find another “universal” place to store game data and saves.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      appdata is the worst idea of all, it might be intuitive for you and me, but know one else, it’s not about you it’s about us.

    • MugiMugi says:

      Totally agree here, put them in the folder they where MENT to be at. Where most applications already use to store it’s data files,

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Right… put it in place where noone can find them? Truly brilliant idea.

    • thegooseking says:

      Why would no-one be able to find them if they were all in the same place? That seems like really specious reasoning.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Because that place is hidden by default?

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      Also Shift clicking the 100 games you’ve got in there so you don’t copy over the 300 other apps that’ve left guff in there doesn’t sound fun at all.

    • mouton says:

      As many others, you miss the point. The place doesn’t really matter – it being single is what does.

    • Milky1985 says:

      there is a different between a data file and a user generated file.

      A save is a USER generated file, and so should go in the users folder, its not application data, its user data.

      [EDIT] By your own argument you could say that word documents should all go in appdata, since they are just data files used by word and so should be stored with the application, doesn’t matter that they are generated by the user via users actions.

    • Premium User Badge

      kavika says:

      As said elsewhere, Microsoft spoke and already made an API for saved games. It’s close to what you want:

      It’s FOLDERID_SavedGames aka C:/Users/[ID]/Saved Games/[whatever]

      How to get it to work on XP is the only remaining question.

  28. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Games are no different from any other application, loading a save game should open up a open dialog at the default location & save games should be associated with the game so you can load the game + save from file explorer if you wish.

    • Premium User Badge

      phlebas says:

      Agreed. But there should be a sensible default, so if you don’t change any settings you should be able to find the saved games without incident.

    • thegooseking says:

      The problem with that is that Windows still handles associations based on filename extension rather than something more sensible like the header info Linux uses. So which game gets to be associated with the .sav extension?

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Simple: nobody should use “.sav” as the extension. An appropriate extension is “.[gamename]Save”, so .BioshockSave, .MinecraftSave, .DeusExHumanRevolutionSave. Simples.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      This idea is really quite the best computer-related thing I’ve read today.

  29. netizensmith says:

    For security all game saves should be in A:\

    Please insert floppy disk

    Alternatively I’m happy with where the article suggests.

  30. JohnP says:

    I approve of this. (Well, that’s that then they said. A random guy on the internet approves. Job done.)

    MyDocuments can be moved to any drive seamlessly, which means saves won’t be clogging up my SSD, and backed up automatically if you backup MyDocuments. (Obviously you should!)

  31. Genocidal says:

    Ugh. Can we just use the standard that already exists, that makes the most sense, and that makes it easiest to back up all of our saves in one go? I’m talking about /Users/Saved Games/. /Users/Documents/Saved Games/ would also be acceptable; sadly between the two locations the only game I have with info in either is Jamestown, and it’s in the latter.

    • Unaco says:

      John is on a Crusade! There will be no sense here, thank you very much.

    • Milky1985 says:

      You realise that basically what he suggested just with a different folder name right?

      Not sure if Unaco is trolling here , its hard to tell :P

  32. DRoseDARs says:

    John, I’m sorry but with this:
    “C:\Users\[user]\Documents\My Games\[game name]\Saves\”
    you seem to be unclear on your own concept of simplicity. Seriously, you want to drill down through 7 layers? I get that Microsoft has long been proud of their folder structure, but must you encourage its abuse?

    I’ve been using approximately this whenever possible since the late-80s:
    “D:\Games\[Whatever the game is]\Saves”
    and I always install my games on a physically separate (not partitioned) d: never c: in case the OS goes tits-up, so that it doesn’t take my games or anything important with it. Doesn’t apply if one is using a laptop unless it’s a fat hog of a laptop that has room for 2 drives (make that happen more, manufacturers).

    • Prime says:

      “Seriously, you want to drill down through 7 layers?”

      …or just click on the big convenient word ‘Documents’ in the Start Menu? Two-clicks from the desktop. Who drills down from c: these days? That’s why John’s suggestion makes the most sense, the most user-friendly option, because Windows itself is already pointing you straight at that folder.

    • mouton says:

      Depth is not the real issue. Fragmentation is. If they decided on one place and stuck with it, I could live with depth 20, if need be.

    • DRoseDARs says:

      @Prime
      You can make a shortcut to the folder and place it on your desktop. Double-click and done. And if something were to happen to that shortcut, the folder itself would be easy to find, rather than drilling down through a bunch of other layers that lay users probably wouldn’t associate as being leading them to their games or saves.

    • Prime says:

      My Documents isn’t easy to find?

  33. MugiMugi says:

    Please don’t put them YET AT A NEW PLACE. My Documents is for Documents, last I checked save games are files who should not be toutched and they are defetively NOT documents.

    Put them where they should be at %appdata%\Company\Game and NOWHERE ELSE. Most game companies follow this already luckely, make it easy to make a backup of your system as this is the #1 folder to make a backup off.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      It’s not “yet another place”.
      Right now I got 12 various games storing their saves.

      It’s hardly a new invention. More like: Encouraging other developers to start using it as well.

    • Prime says:

      If you want to be technical about it then no they aren’t documents, but what save files and ‘documents’ have in common is being valuable user-generated data that the user might want to backup and store. Where better for save games than in the largest, most significant folder full of other data that the user generally wants to back up and store?

      To avoid rankling the ‘document vs file’ pedants, I’d perhaps argue as well to change ‘My Documents’ to ‘My Data’ or ‘My Files’. Or at least think of the folder in those terms. Ccleaner, when it cleans the registry, offers to save the state of your registry in a file in – guess where – My Documents! I bet you’re not all sniffing at that and re-targetting the folder each time!

    • johnpeat says:

      I’d agree that Documents isn’t ideal – problem is that Microsoft doesn’t and puts the “My Games” folder in “My Documents” on Vista and W7, so you’ll have 2 “My Games” folders if you put it where it should be…

  34. Peewi says:

    Vista and Win7 have a Saved Games folder in the user folder and I’d really prefer if developers used that.

    Saved games aren’t documents and developers should stop pretending that they are.

  35. djbriandamage says:

    \user\blah\documents\ is the Vista directory. In Win7 it’s \user\blah\my documents\

  36. jalf says:

    I’m pretty sure game developers can figure out a simple if-then-else statement for Windows XP users.

    Eh, it’s not a question of whether they can understand the highly complex rocket science involved, but whether they can be arsed to do it.

    We know they can’t. That’s why John suggested a simple fixed scheme which will work on *any* version of Windows.

  37. Berzee says:

    This idea, plus having an option for GameInstallDir/saves

    would be this, plus a good idea.

  38. Etherealsteel says:

    Game Saves should be saved to the cloud, problem solved. In some regards certain games already do this now. I like that type of service, it takes the guess work out of game saves and say I reinstall Windows I can start back where I left off. I do agree the game saves need a standard save place and from there a way to backup those game saves easily either to the cloud or another drive.

    • Premium User Badge

      kavika says:

      If Microsoft can build in a cloud that doesn’t suck for this purpose, and make it back up offline so I don’t have to always be connected, then I’m completely for your suggestion.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      The problem with relying on any sort of cloud service alone is just like the clouds in the sky, tomorrow it might not be there.

      You still need a local solution.

  39. Xtinction says:

    C is my SSD, I prefer those 60 gigs would remain free of crap like savegames. I suggest we do not START IT.

    • Tams80 says:

      You can redirect your user folders. Sure the links stay on C:\ but the contents can be on whatever drive you like (actually moving the links is rather messy).

      Go to C:\Users\username or ‘Start’ –> ‘username’
      Then right-click the folder you want to access a different drive and go to ‘Properties’. Click the ‘Location’ tab and there you have it.
      AppData can’t be moved, but I don;t think there are many here who want game data stored there anyway.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      How much space do your savegames take up? o.O About 30 games I have saves for, including ME 1+2, DA:O/2, anno, Risen, Asscreed 1/2/3 and several others and it all adds up to under 100 MB.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    This seems like a sensible solution.

  41. keltic_dave says:

    Not to disagree with this article but you clearly forgot that on a windows computer there are 2 game folders.

    The one in my documents and the one just outside it in the user folder.

    user/Saved Games/

    This would be a better place to put saved games as it would be out the way and not in my documents.

    • johnpeat says:

      user/Saved Games was almost certainly created by one of your games – it’s not a stock folder (not on any of the 4 PCs I have here atm – oh the joy of fixing PCs!!)

    • Megagun says:

      The “Saved Games” folder under your user profile should always exist when running Windows Vista or later, but it might have a localized display name (“Opgeslagen Spellen”, in Dutch). It doesn’t exist on XP though.

    • Tams80 says:

      @ johnpeat I don’t think so.

      It has it’s own folder icon, which user created folders don’t by default. I also have nothing in it, yet it is still there, yet I have played every game I have installed and have uninstalled none of them.

  42. woegjiub says:

    I hate to be *that guy*, but what about non-windows platforms?
    /home/user/savegames would be sweet, but I see most developers storing them in /home/user/.gamename/saved games

    For windows, the suggested location makes perfect sense.

    • johnpeat says:

      You’re on a PC gaming site so we’ll be OK then

      We have a small amount of people who persist in using some variant of Linux but they’ll be dead of malnutrition soon and we don’t give 2 hoots about OSX (so that’s us AND Apple then!!) :)

    • Premium User Badge

      kavika says:

      There are conventions for saved data on Linux already.

      http://www.pathname.com/fhs/

      I believe the closest thing to a recommendation is dot files and dot directories.

  43. Jamesworkshop says:

    No I dislike games or programs putting things in my document, game saves are not my documents, When I tell a game to install to a single folder, I do wonder why it bothers asking for a specific folder if only a unknown portion of the program is going to be written there, while the rest gets put god knows where, why bother giving me a choice if it is only going to be ignored.

    Would it be so hard for the game to atleast list the locations of the other folders it’s going to make, maybe if the game uses a launcher rather than directly running the game.exe they could put a button that opens the save folder, that doesn’t strike me a a hard thing to do.

    When i say

    C:\Games\Diablo II

    thats where I want the game located, .ini .cfg and the save folder I want in that location, I created a specific folder for games to go in and told the installer the direct file path I wanted it to use, not as a helpfull but ignorable suggestion but as an order.

    It leads into my primary annoyance of games leaving folders and junk registry entries that I can find months after having a game uninstalled, I should not be able to still find a complete save folder that didn’t get included in the uninstaller.

    What part of save games makes them not a valid part of the game to remove when uninstalling, that to me is as offensive as rootkits.
    I’m 100% certain when I remove a program that I want 100% of it to be removed when asked.

    • johnpeat says:

      It amazes me that people are as dumb as this,

      Putting savegames into game folders is massively, massively stupid – it makes them near-impossible to backup effectively and no easier to find/transfer to a new PC

      Almost no developer does this (I’ve not seen it in over a decade) and for GOOD reason.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      Game saves and game config files are not program files, they don’t belong with the program install. They are data files.

      The location that they are stored in should follow the following rules:

      -It must be located within a User folder that gets automatically defined upon User Profile creation.
      -That same defined user folder must be capable of being relocated and redefined buy the user
      -The game must locate the save folder using the definition in the registry and not a static link
      -The game must provide a shortcut (using the defined path and not a static link) to the save folder, the shortcut can be located in-game or within the Start Menu
      -The game uninstaller must give the option of removing any save folder it created

      You want to find your game saves – There is a link right to them
      You want to back up all your game saves – They’re all in the same place, drag and drop in seconds
      You don’t want your save data on your system drive – You can move it
      You want all configuration data to uninstall with the game – It can be done, if the devs don’t do it, you don’t have to go hunting for them because the dynamic link to find them is ALWAYS the same.

    • Dan Lawrence says:

      Also this saving in root behaviour is forbidden/restricted by the windows access control system that vista users will be intimately familiar with.

    • robaal says:

      It’s useful if you’re sharing the computer with someone.

      Make an account for each person and presto – you each get your own in-game settings, and there’s little risk of accidentally overwriting each others saves.

      I do agree though that putting DLC / expansions / addons in the user profile folder is insane.

  44. RockandGrohl says:

    Can we please spread this to other gaming sites? Kotaku? 1Up, etc?

  45. afarrell says:

    Jesus, dude, do you seriously have nothing better to do with your time?

  46. johnpeat says:

    I’m astonished that no-one has mentioned %USERDATA% or $HOME yet.

    On Windows, %USERDATA% is the user’s “home” directory – so

    x:\Users\YOU – Vista and W7
    x:\Documents and Settings\YOU – on XP

    with slight variants for some OEM and other weird versions

    On *NIX it would be $HOME if they had any games to play at all and I assume this works within OSX as well – but again, who cares? :)

    • doublethink says:

      *****That is not correct*****

      FOR WINDOWS XP:

      %USERPROFILE%

      points to

      C:\Documents and Settings\[user]

      So you detect for XP, if yes:

      %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Games\[game title]\Saves

      That would mimic what John is suggesting on XP perfectly.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      Which works if the My Documents hasn’t been moved. To correct for that the game should retrieve the My Documents path from the ‘Personal’ data item located at…

      HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders\Personal
      Default value: %USERPROFILE%\My Documents

      And then appending the rest of the path. Ideally there should be a ‘GameData’ User Shell Folder so it can be completely seperate, but there isn’t.

  47. skyturnedred says:

    Hmm. I always thought the most sensible place would be C:\TheGame\Saves\.

    • Optimaximal says:

      You don’t install to the drive root – It’s not been the right way to do things since Windows 98 introduced Program Files & My Documents.

  48. malkav11 says:

    As someone who has four hard drives for a reason, please don’t put anything I didn’t install on C: on C:.

  49. Unaco says:

    I predict… This Clarion Call will have no real effects, in the long run. Consensus will never be reached as to which location to use.

    It’s also largely inconsequential to the vast, overwhelming majority of PC Gamers, who will either never need to actively hunt down their save games, or will have no problems finding them, checking in the 2 or 3 common locations.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      “It’s also largely inconsequential to the vast, overwhelming majority of PC Gamers, who will either never need to actively hunt down their save games, or will have no problems finding them, checking in the 2 or 3 common locations.”

      Whilst I understand the practicalities of this thought process I really don’t like it. I find myself listed in “the vast minority” so often that I cannot help but wonder if I am being really really cleverly bullied. Just because something or someone is in a minority does not make them any less valid than the majority.

  50. mouton says:

    How about engaging the developers somehow, RPS? Perhaps ask them to sign a declaration or somesuch? Start with indies who will bow to your might and work your way up the food chain?