Quicksave-Fail: The Agony and The Ecstacy

You know what I hate? Accidentally hitting quicksave when you meant to hit quickload, leaving yourself trapped in some ostensibly unwinnable situation and sobbing like a child about a terrible turn of events that you can blame no-one but yourself for.

You know what I love? Managing to win that unwinnable situation anyway: ultimate triumph in the face of self-made adversity.

Everyone’s done it. We gamers are rarely creatures of patience, and the usually reliable presence of one-button saving and loading has only exacerbated our desire for nownownow. We don’t let in-game failure sink in – we immediately want to try again. There are times when I swear I reach for Quickload before I’m conciously aware the situation’s gone belly-up. Something in me has already ascertained that I am about to lose my last scrap of health, or fall off a ledge, or fire my last rocket, or say the wrong thing. Something else in me feels that, if the final, fatal act doesn’t actually happen, I haven’t really failed. So I impatiently reach for quickload before the bitter end hits, and I try again.

The trouble is that the familiar upwards reach towards the central cluster of F5 keys is more muscle memory than concious act after all these years. Sometimes, I get it wrong. When it’s a game that thinks making the quickload/save keys adjacent is a smart idea, I get it wrong a bit too often. But I can’t blame just that – I’ve definitely hit F6 when I should have hit F9 in the past.

Whine, whine, whine. That’s not what I mean to post about though. Sometimes, a fudged quicksave means I’ve simply saved as my character dies, and that’s pretty miserable. Other times, it’s just before my character dies – when the straits are dire, when my window of opportunity is a fraction of a second. That’s not miserable. That’s a challenge.

My cludgy hands means this happens fairly often. Recently, I had a misjudged quicksave in Stalker that was milliseconds before a bloke with a shotgun unloaded both barrels into my face. Upon reloading, I died immediately. My last save was getting on for half an hour’s worth of progress back, and there was no way I wanted to repeat that. So, over the course of a couple of dozen attempts, I finally established the exact moment I could hit the crouch key as the loading screen dissipated, which took me safely beneath his deadly blast and able to spray his ankles with machinegun bullets before he let off a second shot. It took about 20 minutes and grueling trial and error, but I did it. It’ll never impress anyone, except me – because I beat my own failure.

The only such instance I was truly proud of, though, was Half-Life. I managed to hit quicksave just as the infamous Black Ops assassin ladies showed up for the first time. I meant to hit quickload, because at that point I had only 1% health and these super-speedy guys looked serious. So I reached up towards the saintly F keys and… oops. Yeah, those guys were serious. Especially when 99% of my health was missing.

I replayed that battle so very many times. I was a truly terrible FPS player at that point, so my hope of making it through on reflex and precision alone were non-existent. If they saw me, I was dead. My only hope was not to out-shoot them, but to out-smart them. Over the course of almost two hours, I constructed every satchel charge and trip mine traps in every variation I could think of. Of course, the damnably agile women rarely went the same direction twice, so I had to plan for multiple routes, elaborate networks of explosive roadblocks.

It seemed like a dream when I finally did it, my mind a mess of plans and counter-plans. I just remember the muted thud of the last tripmine, and then the silence. I’d done it. I’d beaten my own ineptitude. I celebrated with a quicksave.

It’s happened to you too. Share!


  1. Switchbreak says:

    What’s really bad is when you accidentally hit quickload right after finally beating the situation.

  2. AksumkA says:

    HA! I quicksaved in HL1 by accident too!

    It was my first time playing it, and I was in the Blast Pit level and I was trying to get past that monster thing (forgot what it was called). I was on a ladder and figured I made it far enough and did not want to risk anything so I quicksaved. As soon as my finger came off the key, BANG! killed. Oh crap… The game loaded again, and BANG! Shit… I opened my saved game window only to find the next available load was way back in Office Complex.

    After I cried for a few minutes, I tried with all my might to not get killed. I jumped at the right time and managed to not get killed instantly. After a few more ties, I managed to get away.

    Now every time I go for the quick save, I make sure there is absolutely nothing that will kill me the instant the game loads.

  3. Doctor_Hellsturm says:

    @Switchbreak: Classic!

  4. Turin Turambar says:

    Ohhh satchel charges and tripmines. Explosives to play with, another reason of why HL1 is better than HL2.

  5. nabeel says:

    That’s pretty awesome, Alec. Thank heavens for Far Cry 2 and its individual quick saves, eh? If I make this mistake, I usually err on the side of loading instead of saving. These days I hit quick load when I mean to take a screenshot, which is a whole other annoyance.


  6. subedii says:

    Oh good grief I’ve done that more than once as well Switchbreak. You finally beat the scenario that’s been hounding you since half past eternity, and then when you finally do, you hit the quickload button. Followed by profuse crying and swearing.

    These days I almost never bother quicksaving in FPS’s. The checkpoints are good enough, and quicksaving all the time just destroys any tension that could come from the game (something that SWAT 4 knocked out of me very, very painfully).

    Having said that, some of my best triumphs in a game have been from where my savegame dumped me low on health right in front of a squad or angry dudes. In FEAR it was the invisible Ninja’s. Try going through that section whilst trying not to take a single hit and you’ll feel like the Terminator mixed with a dash of Bruce Lee.

  7. garren says:

    My accidental save-button occasions happen often when there’s a grenade next to me that explodes 0,5 seconds later.

    Then I reload and reload and reload and try to find just the right angle to jump out of the way in time. Sometimes I get out of the way, too often I die no matter what.

  8. cocain says:

    recently while playing fallout. it happens alot, but im just glad fallout has the quicksave and quick load buttons so far away from each other.

  9. Turin Turambar says:

    And also, why HL1 firefights were so fun. They gave you more lethal enemies to play with, but also more tools to use your smarts against them.

  10. Deadpan says:

    Worse is when you’re in a game that quicksaves when you hit a location.

    In Crysis, after clearing the mining complex, I thought I’d tempt fate by jumping across the gap to the mine instead of walking. Damn thing quicksaves in midair, overrides the last ten minutes since I last quicksaved, etc. And of course, I fall to my death.

    I LOL’D.

    Thankfully newer games make quicksaves into whole saves you can reload.

  11. Yhancik says:

    It happened to me so many tiiimes.

    When doing a Fallout 3 weekend not so long ago, one of my friend quicksaved as he was falling from a bridge.

    The funny thing is that, when you reload, you only fall from the height from which you quicksaved. Thus he was able to survive from a “not so high fall”.

    Totally exploitable :p

  12. GothikX says:

    Now, I can’t remember what game it was, but I definitely remember quicksaving (by instinct alone) before something was about to go terribly wrong, and I was terribly happy about it when it did. So I quickloaded just after it did… and I went on for about two hours trying with all my might to defeat the undefeatable, quickloading every time just before the inevitable happened. I was starting to think that the developers were inhuman, because it just wasn’t possible to come out well out of the situation… so I was about to give up, and just didn’t quickload, throwing my hands up in despair. Surely enough, after a few seconds a cutscene kicked in; I was SUPPOSED to fail, wouldn’t you know it.

  13. Mman says:

    I can’t seem to remember any specific instance (I think I had a moment in Stalker like the one mentioned in the article though), but I’ve certainly had various instances where I saved in a bad position and managed to work my way out of it.

    Actually one that does stick out is when I was playing Halo 2 and an auto-checkpoint happened at almost the exact moment I was about to die. After dying several games the game set me back to the checkpoint before the one I was screwed at. It sticks out because it struck me as being a really good idea to use a system like that in a game with auto-checkpoints.

  14. KindredPhantom says:

    Heh i had a similar problem with the black op lady assassins whilst playing opposing force. I found a solution similar to yours, i satchel charged and trap mined a crucial corner corridor then proceed forward to trigger them then run off back up the corridor avoiding setting off my own trap. After a couple of attempts it worked.

  15. Nero says:

    Can’t recall a specific game but of course this has happened to me. Quicksaving a second before you die etc, pushing the wrong button. So much fun every time.

  16. Smee says:

    Not really a quicksave story, but while playing Half Life 2 I had just destroyed the helicopter gunship at the end of Route Canal, and the game duly autosaved. However, said helicopter gunship was above me at the time, and said helicopter gunship duly plummeted in a rain of fire and metal onto my head. Click – Autoload. Blam, whoosh, dead. Click – Autoload. Blam, whoosh, dead. Click – Autoload. Blam, whoosh, dead. You get the idea. Somehow I eventually managed to hit the accelerator at just the right time to avoid a direct hit, probably in the same way as your crouch move in Stalker. Took a while, though.

  17. Radiant says:

    I have 3 saves.
    One which I use when I think “right this is safe enough” and another for when I’ve made some progress past the first but not enough to erase my opening gambit.

    The final save is ostensibly called “GOOOOOOOOOO!”
    And is for those times when I’m making my push, my big move and my chips are all in.
    I have 30 medium tanks, some planes and smattering of guys I got at the start of the level all ready to roll on that one tesla coil.
    It’s use is usually followed by a loading screen to the first save.
    Actual quicksaves and quickloads are banned since June ’98.
    And we don’t talk about June ’98.

  18. Doug F says:

    GothikX – I did that with Deus Ex, as I emerged from the subway to find Gunther, ad robot, and half the army waiting for me.

  19. vordhosbn says:

    Don’t the Half-Life games actually rotate through two different quicksave slots? Because I remember thinking that was the best feature ever and I’m bummed it’s still not very common in modern games.

  20. Radiant says:

    Ah christ the mid point autosave!
    Halo 3 was the worst for this as it was completely arbitrary.
    I’d traipsed 30 minutes through to this forest clearing [2 battles, all my grenades and very little health into the level] and the game saved itself before it made me fight a whole grip of brutes surrounded by guys with sniper rifles.
    I say ‘guys’ but I mean ‘wankers’.
    After trying to win this fight for an hour and a half the game saved ITSELF just as I slipped down this cliff to a tiny ledge surrounded by water and skybox.
    This hurt me twice.
    Once on the outside as the xbox joypad is not designed to be smashed into the floor and still be ergonomic.
    And again on the inside because the save system thought I was so shit at the game that it saved me 30 seconds after the last autosave.

  21. Eyre says:

    Yeah…quick save and quick load seems kinda pointless to me. I always use the save/load options from the menu, no matter what game. Prevents accidentally overwriting something I don’t want to. I don’t have all the time in the world to play games (wish I did) so I won’t settle for screw ups like this. If I get stuck somewhere on a save, well, time for God Mode for a few minutes until I’m out of the woods. I don’t play games that make me continually repeat sections, even if its because of mistakes I made. Too many games, not enough time.

  22. IvanHoeHo says:

    I don’t understand why every game can’t have backup copies (5 of ’em, let’s say) of quick files. It literally takes up less than 1mb and it can’t be that hard to program.

  23. Kast says:

    My first experience of HL, watching a friend play it, ended with him pretty furious with me when I hit quicksave on his keyboard as he was falling to his death.

    “What did you do that for?!”
    “Huh… that’s not quickload?”
    “No, that’s quicksave!”
    “Um, it’s usually quickload.”

  24. JonFitt says:

    I have done this a few memorable times, both were in the games you mentioned.
    In HL1 I quicksaved on low health right in the middle of a Gargantuan fight, and in Stalker I quicksaved on purpose, but in a place where it turned out that I was seconds away from being ganked by raiders from two directions at once.
    They both took many tries, but eventually I was successful.

    Ooh one other, in the original Descent. I was in a boss fight with 2 huge cloaking robots who fired homing death missiles, and took forever to kill. I accidentally quicksaved as one missile was incoming, and had to replay many times trying to avoid it.

    Oh, and it wasn’t an accident, but I used to replay X-Com savegames many many many times trying to avoid a seemingly inevitable death. I played all the traditional X-Com games without ever losing an agent.

  25. lethu says:

    As far as I can remember, I met the same kind of misfortune since Unreal 2 (the singleplayer game that dared to happen during the wrong era), same quick load/quick save story in all its possible variations, accross games and years. But… there is another type of similar clumsiness, the one that happens when pushing the lil’ flag key, and particularily while playing online games. That was a real pain, stronger than the singleplayer variety. I can’t remember one single major online game where I didn’t encounter such humiliating mishap at least once… Until I got the G15!
    I’d beaten my ineptitude too, in my own way.

  26. Jonny Robson says:

    Did this in HL1 as I was falling down a fecking lift shaft :(

    I tried for about 10 minutes quick-loading to move myself to the edge of the shaft as I was falling to try to land on a sticky-out bit. Then I gave up and started the chapter again…

  27. Sensitive Artist says:

    After experiencing the quicksave/quickload button mishap only a few times, I now remap quicksave far away from quickload. Of course, I’m one of the non-WASD folks (I prefer the keypad for movement), so I remap pretty much everything anyway.

  28. PaulMorel says:

    I’m with you switchbreak! I have accidentally quickloaded after a glorious victory many times.

    Recently, I screwed up QS/QL in Fallout 3, but luckily, the game is such that you can almost always work your way out of any situation.

  29. Suprore says:

    uh, to all of the people with hl1/2 and falling to death problems… noclip.

    I guess i just dont see the joy in quickloading a thousand times only to fall to my death and dont think it’s that objectionable to cheat my way out.

  30. FhnuZoag says:

    You’d think developers would be much smarter about this.

    Listen up, any game developers who are listening, who may be considering a quicksave system. This is what to do:

    Allocate three or more save slots. Keep a counter of the ‘current’ save slot.
    When quickload is pressed, load the current save slot.
    When quicksave is pressed, move on to the next save slot in the cycle, and so save over that one.

    So if the player accidentally saves incorrectly, he can still access the previous quicksave through the normal load/save game menu.

    It’s not rocket science, jeez.

  31. Butler` says:

    Can honestly say I’ve never done this :S

  32. unique_identifier says:

    In STALKER clear sky I ended up with the most fantastic quicksave: every time I loaded it the game would crash shortly afterwards, with the time from load to crash decreasing each time I retried it. After five or so attempts the game relaxed into crashing during the loading screen.

    On another note, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that my Far Cry 2 quicksave folder is about 1.3 gigs.

  33. MedO says:

    Doug F: If you put all upgrades into strength, you can use the invisibility armor to come out of the subway without being seen, and lift away some of the crates surronding the area and “escape” (make sure you put it back to stop Gunther from following). You don’t get anywhere interesting though, as far as I can tell; everything in the surrounding area that you can’t see from the subway entrance is bare, reduced geometry and in parts unlighted.

    You can also get out without the upgrade by stacking stuff against the big crates and climbing over (that’s more difficult and doesn’t work on all crates though, since the skybox hangs quite low).

    Yeah, I spent quite some time playing with that situation, and similar ones (Trying to exit the 747 without Lebedev OR Navarre getting dying, for example (no success there)). When a game throws a supposedly impossible fight at me, I love to take it as a challenge.

  34. unique_identifier says:

    FhnuZoag: I was thinking of exactly that system. An enhancement might be to only cycle forward a slot if the time elapsed since last save was greater than some threshold – say 10 minutes.

  35. MedO says:

    By the way (missing edit button), I ended up tasing Lebedev and carried his unconscious body all the way to the Unatco HQ medical facilities, but the game still treated that if I had killed him :(

  36. DBeaver says:

    Original “Commandos” – Just before a squad of german soldiers catches the Green Beret with a body on his shoulder. Then it became a clickfest with the pistol icon, which took up to 20 times to win… I must have done that in almost every level in the game

  37. Down Rodeo says:

    A non-WSAD user? Heathen! :p

    @FhnuZoag: that’s the son-father-grandfather system, used by many companies to back up data.

    Personally I have never really used the quicksave or quickload buttons. In HL2 I made extensive use of the save function but always through the menu. I’m sure I have my share of gaffes though (thinking about it they all seem to be from dirty, dirty consoles).

  38. qrter says:

    On another note, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that my Far Cry 2 quicksave folder is about 1.3 gigs.

    I had that too. It meant that when I wanted to make a ‘security save’ (one of those manual saves you make every few hours to help if you really cock up a quicksave somewhere) the game would say it was opening the saves folder (or whatever it was called) and it would literally take about 3 or 4 minutes.

    I then decided I’d want to delete most of those saves, which the game would let you do but only one by one and having to reopen the saves folder every time after you just deleted one. So I deleted them outside of the game, ofcourse.

  39. Ishy says:

    Happened a good amount to me…

    Generally easy solutions: Bind a key to god or noclip cheats.

    More developers need to save the second quicksave as well as fairly frequent autosaves…

  40. Nehr says:

    Alec, you’re pretty young? Since you were a bad FPS-player when Half-Life came out.

    Can’t you remap the F5/F6 keys in most games?

  41. Noc says:

    I used to be really paranoid about saving in a bad spot, even with normal saves. So I’d keep a bunch of layered files; a main one for safe points, then a temp file for points inside of an area and a second temp file for anywhere really risky. It worked out pretty well; when I started quicksaving by habit, that usually took the place of my second temp file, and I still used the first two as normal.

    . . .

    Sticking points do happen to me, though, but it’s usually a matter of console shooters that lack quicksavery in favor of checkpoints. Back when I was playing through Halo (and sequels) on Legendary, for example, every second checkpoint would seem to land me in some obnoxious situation, crouched behind something with no shields and little ammo with aliens swarming around both sides.

    In retrospect, this probably contributed quite a bit to my enjoyment of the game. Since each section became an exercise in creative problem solving, instead of just another gaggle of monsters to be gunned down on the way to the next gaggle of monsters.

    My old roommate, though, had a habit of saving at the absolute worst times in HL2. Which was hilarious, because he’d get progressively angrier as the process went on and he kept getting gunned down moments after reloading.

    Good times.

  42. Gap Gen says:

    If you’re stealthy, you can crossbow all the black-ops guys without them going into ninja-mode. But yes, 20 minutes of reloading probably is excessive.

  43. kalgor says:

    “The trouble is that the familiar upwards reach towards the central cluster of F5 keys is more muscle memory than concious act after all these years.”
    Have you ever felt the need to quicksave or quick load in “real life”?, you know to cheat a hard test or maybe win at the casino?

  44. Alex says:

    MedO: Given that when you knock someone unconscious in Deus Ex, you can hit them until they explode into pieces without ever waking up, I always felt that unconciousness in that game was the developers’ way of still letting you feel like a pacifistic type even as you slaughtered your way through half the respective populations of New York, Hong Kong, Paris etc. Telling you that you ‘found a body’ when you pick them up doesn’t help either. ;)

    I haven’t really worked my way out of a quicksave-fail situation, but mostly that’s because I’m cheating scum when it comes to single-player games. I have experienced the horror of the impossible quicksave, though. Playing Splinter Cell (I forget which one) and quicksaving having set off two alarms already, only to turn a corner to encounter seemingly a dozen Chinese embassy guards, with Sam standing in the middle of a beam of light carrying the body of one of their mates, was simultaneously one of the funnier and more frustrating things I’ve ever done.

  45. exleus says:

    Man, way back in the original Tomb Raider I accidentally saved once Lara started to scream as she fell into a pit.

    Once loaded, poor girl would have a little more than a second to contemplate her demise at the hands of gravity.

  46. PleasingFungus says:

    Been playing King’s Bounty obsessively – which of course is a name never before heard on RPS – and it does the multiple-quicksaves thing. It cycles between three slots. Been quite glad of that a few times.

    Fallout 3, on the other hand, does not have multiple quicksaves. At one point, I ended up in a difficult fight with some Raiders – I wasn’t very high level, and one of the scum had a rocket launcher. I eventually managed to win the fight, but then noticed that a nearby car was afire. In Fallout 3, damaged cars eventually explode rather violently. So I got a safe distance away, turned to watch the car explode harmlessly, quicksaved…

    It is important to note here that I was on a highway, clogged with ancient, useless, and now burning cars.

    I tried roughly a half a dozen times to correct my error, but the result was always the same.

    Lost about fifteen minutes progress because the game hadn’t autosaved when I thought it had, too. So sad! But I wiped out the Raiders anyway, and replicated the explosion later for some pretty screenshots. So no hard feelings.

  47. Noc says:

    @kalgor: A few months ago, I received an e-mail saying that I’d gotten turned down for a job I’d interviewed for a few days previously. So, of course my first response was to hit the quickload key.

    My second response was to blink, wonder why I hadn’t jumped back to the previous week, and swear as I concluded that I must’ve hit quicksave instead.

  48. Dr Evanzan says:

    I’ve certainly made the QL/QS mistake on more than one occasion. It’s certainly very satisfying when you manage to work your way out of the situation. However, the memory that comes to mind for me is with a related phenomenon.

    In the last level of Thief 2, having fallen from a great height and knocked myself down to 1 shield of health I knew I’d have to reload. However, I kept going to scout out the area. The part of the level I had fallen to involves creeping though a large ‘Star Wars: Episode 2′-style machine conveyor belt of crushing blocks, flames, spikes, etc. I deftly made it through the entire section unscathed and promptly decided it was better to reload and do that section with full health.

    Of course, upon reloading and attempting with full health I end up getting caught and killed in the machine every frickin’ subsequent time for the next hour before I can make it through again.

    Quickload-Fail: the Ecstasy and the (repeated) Agony?

  49. Bill says:

    @Switchbreak – that’s the same mistake I make most of the time.

    Speaking of HL1, my fave goofy cheat was to use notarget to attach laser mines to the backs of the blue guards. Move away, notarget off, and watch them blow up when they turned around.

  50. obo says:

    Not a quicksave issue, but I accidentally saved over my campaign during a base invasion in X-Com 1.

    I only had one guy on duty in the base and a full stock of plain bullet rifles and ammo, against those snake dudes and the speedy black zombifying bug bastards.

    I think I played it for a month and finally won by finding some higher ground and waiting them out. That seems way too dull in retrospect to have felt as exhilarating as it did to finish.