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[Originally posted on sister site IndieGames]
Save files can act as more than gateways to return to your game wherever you play it; in a concerted effort, they can change your game experience. Developers Smestorp, Zaratustra, and more have been contributing to Sharecart1000, a four-game, one-visualizer and growing project that allows each creator to use a common save file to inject wild gameplay variations. The more Sharecart1000 games you play, the more the file plays with the games themselves.
Damian Sommer, creator of YouAreABountyHunter, says the project started when Starseed Pilgrim developer Droqen and he met at a jam. "Droqen and I have tried collaborating a bunch, and it always ends in weirdness. So this time, it started as 1 game, that evolved into 2 different games, and then we decided, that their save files should interact somehow. I wrote up a save file, decided on some parameters for how we could use each variable, and that was it."
He says the original idea was to follow something like IGF Pirate Kart, "but we kinda just let the sharecart idea sit for a while, until Fjords came out, which was the first released sharecart game."
Damian feels that Kyle Reimergartin's Fjords is the most transparent use of the Sharecart1000, "because a core part of the gameplay involves flipping 8 different booleans from true to false... you just need to get to a terminal in the game and then you can set your switches however you like."
The most visually disruptive may be Smestorp's Post-Future Vagabond, which glitches the more games you play:
After playing other Sharecart1000 games:
Michael Brough worked previously on Experiment 12, a chain of different games that together tell one story. He said the lack of limits for Sharecart1000 might have made it harder to develop for, but they opened up the possibilitiy space. "People might put things that aren't possible to reach without an input from another game, but we haven't worked together to guarantee that these things will happen... it's a mystery to us what will happen."
In Damian's game, most of the save switches determine whether or not an enemy is dead or alive. He believes his game is near impossible to play without any other game, as it saves your health as you lose it. "When you die, you might need to go to another game to try and figure out how to replenish it, or else you start off the game only able to take a single hit."
He explains that the save features are similar with Zaratustra and Karyn Ribas' The Isles: the save file determines how much health you start with, what items you have, your name, where you are on the map, and more.
Damian says Sharecart1000 may get a launcher later from IGF Pirate Kart coordinator Mike Meyer and possibly include a procedural music track that takes the save file into account from Ryan Roth.As for future Sharecart1000 entries, several developers have been working on games, and more people have expressed interest since the idea went public.
There's no timestable, though, but the blueprint for anyone to start doing so is available online (just let @netgrind know when you have a game to add), as long as developers follow, or constructively break, this rule from Damian: "You have to read and write to every variable in some way, and it can be the only save file for the game...But if you must break a rule, by all means, if it makes the game stronger."