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A good ending to a *session,* not just the whole game — or, why don’t more games let you save/quit at the end of a chapter?

Content of the article: "A good ending to a *session,* not just the whole game — or, why don’t more games let you save/quit at the end of a chapter?"

This is a feature that Doom Eternal has that I miss so often in single-player, narrative-driven games. I played The Last of Us: Part 2 and Halo 3 before starting Doom Eternal, and this contrast stands out so much:

Both games are episodic — not in release schedule, but in narrative (or physical) structure. In TLOU, you might play through a long stretch of sneaking and fighting, a few encounters strung together with rising intensity until you reach the climax, almost always a cutscene. But it's really two cutscenes — it's even more obvious with the flashbacks in TLOU2, where you might be captured by an enemy and then knocked out, then fade to black, and the story picks up in a different time and place, like a flashback… and then the cutscene ends and you get control again.

Halo games do the same thing (at least MCC on PC), but it even throws a loading screen in between — you finish an episode, and even if it's a point where it would be a nice point to stop the game, like you've gotten onto a Pelican to be flown somewhere… but sometimes it actually makes you sit through a loading screen, then plays another cutscene setting the scene for this new chapter.

This is great to keep you playing — one chapter naturally flows into the next, like watching a TV series with Netflix's binge mode.

But you can't quit at the end of a chapter, you quit after the beginning of one. Like, you could pause during a cutscene in TLOU2, suspend, and turn off the console, but how long ago was your checkpoint? Or is your checkpoint past the cutscene? So you wait for the end of the cutscene, then maybe manually save (or at least check that your checkpoint is recent), and you can finally quit.

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That's not just an unsatisfying way to end a session, it also leaves you entirely starved for context at the beginning of the next one — you'll start playing just after the cutscene that told you where you are and what you're doing!

I'm a little curious if I'm the only one who quits at these points, and not at some random point in the middle of a chapter… but also, why do so few games go for the obvious solution?

Doom Eternal solves this problem with something really simple:

At the end of a chapter, on a screen summarizing how well you did, you get two buttons:

  • Continue
  • Save and quit

The game lets you save and quit at the end of a chapter.

Of course, the game is light on story, so there's not a huge cutscene, but it still means the setup will be at the beginning of your next play session — more often that not, each chapter begins with you on the Doom Citadel, with a chance to install some powerups, test out your new weapons, and hear the basic objective of the next mission before you teleport back into the fray.

This is the thing I actually miss from episodic games, too — I didn't enjoy waiting for the next Walking Dead episode to come out, but once it's all there… Each episode is a little 2-hour self-contained piece, there's even an end screen summarizing your choices, and then you save and quit and pick it up tomorrow.

Obviously, this exact technique doesn't work for all games — huge open-world experiences don't have neat chapter-ends, and you can go days without touching the main storyline at all.

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But is there a reason this isn't done more broadly? And are there other ways games can focus on having a satisfying end to each play session?


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