Why Your Games Have That Stupid "Don't Turn Off While Saving" Notice

If you play video games on a console, you will have seen it. Upon booting a game up for the first, tenth or thousandth time, a screen warning you to never, ever switch off your machine while a game is saving.

It's sound advice, because turning a console off while it's writing the data can corrupt your save file, leading to heartbreak and upturned tea tables.

But why do we need to see it every time we turn on every game?

Jon Blow, creator of Braid, explains, saying that there's a "bizarre over-complexification that already happens with console games today, and is baked into the current certifications, that any [platform holder] could easily fix, but none of them do, because they don't care."

"For example: every single game is REQUIRED to say on startup, 'sometimes this game saves, when you see this animated icon in the corner, DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR CONSOLE, etc'."

"This is something that developers have to implement and that has to be tested, which costs significant time and money, but worse than all that, it impacts the user experience, because the startup of the game becomes just a little more bureaucratized, and also - this is supposed to be a fun experience, so why are you issuing warnings and strict instructions?"

It's a fair point, and one he suggests can be fixed by implementing "a more robust save system", one that won't collapse in on itself should the unthinkable happen and your console switch off in the spare seconds it's actually being used to save data.

That comes from a much longer letter Blow penned to Ars Technica, on the subject of the kind of problems indie developers face when having their games certified by companies like Microsoft. If you were interested in the drama unfolding the other day surrounding Fez and its game-breaking patch, it's probably worth a read.

Thoughts on Consoles and Certification Processes [The Witness]


    Not just that, you also get a quick terms and conditions and often an epilepsy warning (if I had epilepsy I'm sure I'd already be wary of video games!)

    Stupid article. It takes under 10 seconds for most games to save.

      Well if you read the article you would know that's not the issue.

      no, stupid comment

      I actually came looking for this information as it was something I was interested in. Nearly 7 years later... I know I'm late... But what a mean and ignorant thing to say.

    They aren't kidding, I have a warning for Driver San Francisco players.

    I almost completed the game and one night I just turned off the console while driving around.
    The next day I went to resume my game and found it strange that the story was starting over.
    I went to the menu and looked for my save game, aaahhhh it was gone just like that.

    I had to start all the way from the beginning again, this time exiting the game and then switching off the console, I also had to beat all my records again.

    I wrote to Ubisoft about my concern why not have two save files one permanent and one temporary
    as you play it saves to temporary save then when you get an achievement or every 10minutes or so it saves to the permanent save this way only the temporary save file is lost at a loss of power.
    They did not reply to this day.

    This could have happened to anyone who has experienced a power failure.

    Using the method above would eliminate the warning messages, alternatively a small battery inside the console could be inside the console to give 5 minutes of power to save your game with a count down on the screen, also including siren and announcer counting down from the movie Alien would make it perfect.

      The xbox isn't even able to save the time if power is cut to the console! You'd think it wouldn't be too hard to put a little 10c coin sized battery inside, but apparently it is.

        A coin battery isn't going to power the entire console for the time it takes to save.

        Your going to need a battery as big as the X-Box to pull that off not a tiny little one.

        The power consumption of these machines is immense. The tiny battery on a computer motherboard is not to keep the machine running but to keep enough power to it's systems to keep low power things going. Like the clock.

          Your TV would also need a backup battery.

          he actually was talking about saving the time...

      Same happened to me with Burnout Paradise.

      Looks like it's a good thing I always quit to the menu before turning my console off in a game like that.

    I went away to France for six months - came back and my brother had corrupted the PS3 hard drive by switching it off while saving (completely dead), and managed to wipe my Burnout 3 file on the PS2 by 'accidentally' turning the console off with his big toe whilst saving. I would tattoo one of these warnings to the inside of his eyeballs to prevent its re-occurrence,... so much play time down the drain.

    Any reasonable software developer learns very early on how to reliably write critical data to disk without corrupting previous versions of that data. It's not rocket science, and yet modern consoles seemingly cannot implement it?

    Don't turn off in the middle of a disk write operation or you shall be granted corrupt files. Not rocket science.

    Meh. Warnings are there because people sue. An epilepsy warning or a Move don't-brain-your-cat warning takes 10 seconds. Doesn't hurt at all.

      Move warnings are a little ridiculous though. Do we really need to be reminded that in a moving state. we would bump into things? If we were to carry through with that principle, a cricket bat should carry the same warning.

    Luke, stop being a princess and wait 5 seconds for the save. How hard can it be?

    A simple 'I understand, never show me again' would suffice - at a game level at least, but ideally at the console level

    you turn the console off properly and these problems will never happen.

    Forget the warning - fix the problem. Anyone who spends time working on DBs know how precious data is and anyone with even half a brain has processes in place to ensure that issues like this can't happen. Microsoft is a multinational company who has been in this game for more than 10 seconds and has the capacity to implement and control this sort of data management however they've instead chosen to push the solution upstream to developers with the enforced provision of a warning message.

    To be honest it makes great business sense for them - until someone else implements the solution in their console and Microsoft end up looking like a neanderthal - Carrying the biggest stick but destined for extinction.

      Now I've read the full article I'm even more concerned. I love my 360. I play my 360 almost every day. But I've recently been spending more and more time on Steam a simple game - Dungeon Defenders - had more options on Steam. This led me to purchase more games and now I'm sat at around 35% of my game time on Steam. This is only going to grow if the console makers don't make it easier for developers to get their software onto consoles, and easire to update.

      Hate to say it but that end of console dominance that I hear espoused across the interwebs is not only coming - it's only a generation away.

    I think the more important question is, WHY DOES THIS STILL SHOW UP ON PC PORTS/GAMES!! Who turns off their PC by yanking out the power cable from the back??

      I'm guessing alt+f4ing during a save would have similar results. Not sure on that though and not game to test it.

        It would, but then the message should say to not quit, not turn off your PC :S

    Microsoft/Sony TRC/TCR's have always been a pain in the arse. Worked as a games tester for years and had to deal with TRC/TCR testing. Can't imagine the pain of the indie devs

    Bit of a storm in a teacup... Viewing epilepsy warnings and save warnings isn't *really* that big an issue...

    Instead of complaining of the time power went off while saving your precious game and the many redundant power options game producers could implement . U could always connect the game to a UPS.

    To be fair, it's only for saves that take more than a certain amount of time. It's been a while since my stint as an XBox 360 games tester but it was something along the lines of more than a second or two and it's usually worked into something where you have to wait anyway. The TCR I find more obnoxious is the one that says something like you have to give each contributing studio uninterruptible view time at the beginning of the game, unless it goes more than a certain length.

    SE, SO.

    My cat always walks on the eject button of my PS3. I wish I could disable them somehow (the ps3 buttons or the cats)

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