Backing up screenshots and savegames

I only recently realized that Steam doesn’t back up my screenshots to Steam Cloud, despite a default storage of almost 20 GB. You’d think they’d just do it automatically, but nope, and you can’t even change it in a setting somewhere. This despite the thousands of dollars all of us have spent. And unfortunately, the folder structure in Steam is literally the most confusing of any game client, so most people only realize how much wasn’t saved when it’s too late.

I also recently played Resident Evil 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and tried getting around the savegame limit by backing them up automatically, but doing that cumulatively instead of just overwriting the destination folder every time proved a huge pain.

After losing my mind trying to remember all my game settings, especially after reinstalling Windows or troubleshooting performance issues, I ended up literally writing them all down in a public GitHub repo in a way I hoped would be helpful not just to Future Me but other streamers and gamers, too.

Backing up

There are basically three different ways something is saved to storage:

  1. Triggered by software: F12/PrtScr
  2. Automatically or scheduled: scripts and backup tools with timers/listeners
  3. Manually: copy-paste, drag-and-drop

You will need to create a system that considers all the things you want that manages to back it all up regularly and without being prone to error.

Like you, we’ve all technically had measures to back up our stuff, and yet here we are.

We want to do #1, #2, and #3 in order of preference. And if a backup flow doesn’t follow #1, maybe we can improve it in a way where it will.

The biggest reason why you can to have a backup job follow #1 is what happens if you end up backup up an empty folder to your backup destination; everything in the backup is effectively wiped out, and you most likely won’t even notice.

Screenshots

I’m going to use %GAMEDIR% as shorthand for my game directory, even though it’s not an actual environment variable. Other user-specific variables will have the syntax <GAME>.

Rather than use screenshot features in each game and service, you can download a dedicated tool like Greenshot1 to take over everything. Another thing that’s nice about Greenshot is that you can tie multiple triggers to a screenshot such as uploading your screenshots online.

Copy my Greenshot settings from my settings repo.

Hotkeys

This is how I do screenshots:

Default dirs

Client Destination Cloud backup
Battle.net %HOMEPATH%\Documents\<GAME>\Screenshots No
Epic Game-specific3 No
Origin Game-specific dirs4 No
Steam (local) %GAMEDIR%\Steam\userdata\<USER_ID>\760\remote Manual
Steam (cloud) https://steamcommunity.com/my/screenshots Yes (duh)
GOG %HOMEPATH%\Documents\GOG Galaxy\Screenshots No
Uplay %HOMEPATH%\Pictures\Uplay No
PS4 - No

Other typical game directories:

Manual configuration

Savegames

The things that sucks about savegames is that you usually can’t specify their locations, and without cloud backups, you stand to lose unfathomably hours of playtime unless you take your own precautions.

In addition, games store savegames one of these ways:

  1. Unlimited save slots
  2. Limited save slots (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey)
  3. One save slot (Sekiro, Subnautica)

One save slot exposes a particular risk when it comes to game-breaking bugs or corrupted savegames. I ran into the former with Subnautica and the latter with Sekiro.

Limited save slots suck because you’ll eventually only be able to reload from a certain point in time. And when games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (and Sekiro) have different endings depending on fairly arbitrary choices, you can end up being locked into certain endings you don’t necessarily want.

Unlimited save slots give you unlimited freedom. However, you can understand why some games have only one official save slot, because it can be used to cheat or savescum. That doesn’t mean corrupted savegames are acceptable whatsoever, and creating backups to restore from are obviously the better decision, especially when people can still manually create their own savegames beyond what the game supports.

Based on this, we want to back up savegames in a **quantitative** fashion that *never* overwrites a savegame; our backup must only create *new* copies.

In other words: only back up savegames using an unlimited, overwrite-proof fashion.

Default dirs

Keep in mind that I can’t play literally every game, so take the “Yes” below with a grain of salt. Think of it as platform support.

Client Destination Cloud backup
Epic - April–June ‘19
Origin %HOMEPATH%\Documents\Electronic Arts Maybe
Steam (local) %GAMEDIR%\Steam\userdata\<USER_ID>\<GAME_ID>\remote Yes6
Steam (cloud) https://store.steampowered.com/account/remotestorage Yes (duh)
GOG %HOMEPATH%\Documents\<GAME>\... No
Uplay %GAMEDIR\Ubisoft\Ubisoft Game Launcher\savegames Yes
PS4 - Yes

Other typical game directories:

  • %HOMEPATH%\Documents\<GAME>
  • %HOMEPATH%\Pictures
  • %HOMEPATH%\Saved Games5
  • %HOMEPATH%\Documents\My Games\<GAME>
  • %HOMEPATH%\Documents\Saved Games

I recently had a really cool issue myself:

It also turns out that Sekiro doesn’t even store its savegames in the Steam folder, ie %GAMEDIR%\Steam\userdata\<USER_ID>\<GAME_ID>\remote; instead, it stores them in %APPDATA%\Sekiro\<WEIRD_NUMBERS>\s0000.sl2.

And as nice as it was that Steam backs up my latest savegame, the latest savegame is still the corrupt one! And Sekiro only supports one save slot, which is better than games with none, but worse than games with a higher cap, and even worse than games with no cap at all.

  1. Sometimes, Greenshot doesn’t seem to capture the screen properly so make sure it works with your game, and do what I do and use both your PrtScr and F12 shortcuts at the same time.

    Greenshot will also capture overlays within a game like FPS counters or benchmarking software like Afterburner. ↩︎

  2. “Global” meaning the default, OS-level and/or Greenshot ↩︎

  3. Fortnite also doesn’t appear to have a native screenshot feature, which seems insane? ↩︎

  4. For instance, Apex Legends screenshots are stored in the poorly named %GAMEDIR%\Origin Games\Apex\r2\screenshots. ↩︎

  5. Windows tried making this folder the sort-of-official savegame dir, but unfortunately developers didn’t agree. ↩︎ ↩︎2

  6. Subnautica notoriously does not back up your one allowed savegame to Steam’s cloud. Ask me how I know. ↩︎