Save File Functions

The save file format of the game is relatively simple, and the functions that save and load games are accordingly straightforward. This simplicity is achieved because of a firm game design decision – saved games are recorded at the beginning of a level, discarding any progress that has been made since the level started. By designing the save format in this way, the regular map loading and initialization code can accurately recreate the game state without needing to store details about the state of every global variable that could possibly affect the restoration of the game’s state.


The LoadGameState() function reads the current state of the most important player variables from a file on disk, whose filename extension is influenced by the character provided in slot_char. If the file cannot be loaded, returns false. If the file’s internal anti-tampering checksum does not match, an error message is displayed and the program exits. Otherwise, returns true.

Each save game slot is identified by a single-character slot_char byte, which could in principle be any character supported in a DOS “8.3” style file name. The MS-DOS 6 User’s Guide says this about files and directory names:

  • Can be up to eight characters long. In addition, you can include an extension up to three characters long.
  • Are not case-sensitive. It does not matter whether you use uppercase or lowercase letters when you type them.
  • Can contain only the letters A through Z, the numbers 0 through 9, and the following special characters: underscore (_), caret (^), dollar sign ($), tilde (~), exclamation point (!), number sign (#), percent sign (%), ampersand (&), hyphen (-), braces ({}), at sign (@), single quotation mark (`), apostrophe (’), and parentheses (). No other special characters are acceptable.
  • Cannot contain spaces, commas, backslashes, or periods (except the period that separates the name from the extension).
  • Cannot be identical to the name of another file or subdirectory in the same directory.

Microsoft MS-DOS 6 Concise User’s Guide 1

In practice, the game uses digit characters 1 through 9 and the letter T as slot_char values.

bbool LoadGameState(char slot_char)
    static char *filename = FILENAME_BASE ".SV ";
    FILE *fp;
    int checksum;

    *(filename + SAVE_SLOT_INDEX) = slot_char;

FILENAME_BASE is a constant based on the episode of the game being played, and holds a value like "COSMO1". SAVE_SLOT_INDEX is a numeric index into the local filename string, and points to the location in that string where the slot_char should be placed. These two constants, combined with slot_char, produce the final filename that will be opened.

In a hypothetical example where slot_char was '7', FILENAME_BASE was "COSMO2", and SAVE_SLOT_INDEX was 9, the initial value for filename would become "COSMO2.SV " – note the trailing space. The ninth element of that string would be overwritten with slot_char, producing a final filename of "COSMO2.SV7".

    fp = fopen(JoinPath(writePath, filename), "rb");
    if (fp == NULL) {

        return false;

JoinPath() combines the relative filename with the writePath from when the program started. In common use, writePath is an empty string and the resulting filename remains relative. This filename is passed to fopen() which tries to open the file for reading in binary mode ("rb"). The file pointer is returned in fp.

If the file could not be opened (most likely because a save file with the specified slot_char does not exist), fp will hold a NULL value and loading cannot proceed. The if body responds to this by fclose()ing the known-NULL pointer (which is an entirely meaningless and unsafe operation) and returning false to the caller.

    playerHealth = getw(fp);
    fread(&gameScore, 4, 1, fp);
    gameStars = getw(fp);
    levelNum = getw(fp);
    playerBombs = getw(fp);
    playerHealthCells = getw(fp);
    usedCheatCode = getw(fp);
    sawBombHint = getw(fp);
    pounceHintState = getw(fp);
    sawHealthHint = getw(fp);

Otherwise, fp holds a readable file and we can proceed with populating the global variables with the values read from the file.

The save file format defines the size and ordering of the fields here, which are (with one exception) 16-bit words stored in the CPU’s native byte order. The getw() library function reads such a word, and advances the read position in fp by two bytes to prepare for the next read. fread() does a similar task, but using a configurable read size – here reading one four-byte value into gameScore.

From fp, values are read into the global playerHealth, gameScore, gameStars, levelNum, playerBombs, playerHealthCells, usedCheatCode, sawBombHint, pounceHintState, and sawHealthHint variables.

    checksum = playerHealth + (word)gameStars + levelNum + playerBombs +

    if (getw(fp) != checksum) {


    return true;

The file concludes with a checksum word, which is the 16-bit sum of the player’s health, available health cells, bombs, stars, and the current level number. If the last word in the save file, read via getw(), does not match this checksum, the save file has been tampered with.

The game chooses to handle this condition sternly, by showing an error message (ShowAlteredFileError()) followed by an unconditional exit to DOS with ExitClean().

If the checksum check succeeded, clean up fp with a call to fclose() and return true to the caller to indicate that the load has completed successfully.


The SaveGameState() function writes the current state of the most important player variables to a file on disk, whose filename extension is influenced by the character provided in slot_char.

void SaveGameState(char slot_char)
    static char *filename = FILENAME_BASE ".SV ";
    FILE *fp;
    word checksum;

    *(filename + SAVE_SLOT_INDEX) = slot_char;

    fp = fopen(JoinPath(writePath, filename), "wb");

The file name generation here works identically to LoadGameState(). slot_char is injected into a file name template to produce a file pointer in fp.

    putw(playerHealth, fp);
    fwrite(&gameScore, 4, 1, fp);
    putw((word)gameStars, fp);
    putw(levelNum, fp);
    putw(playerBombs, fp);
    putw(playerHealthCells, fp);
    putw(usedCheatCode, fp);
    putw(true, fp);  /* bomb hint */
    putw(POUNCE_HINT_SEEN, fp);
    putw(true, fp);  /* health hint */

This sequence of calls serializes the current game state into the save file format. Most variables are 16-bit and written to fp with putw(). gameScore is 32 bits wide, and instead uses fwrite() to store a single four-byte value in fp.

Values are stored from playerHealth, gameScore, gameStars, levelNum, playerBombs, playerHealthCells, and usedCheatCode. Following these, the three hint variables (bomb, pounce, and power-up) are unconditionally written as their “seen” state – not the values currently held in memory. As a result of this decision, any subsequent LoadGameState() call will load a state where these hints will not show, even if the player has not actually seen them yet.

Get a load of Mr. Know It All here…

Perhaps the thinking was, if the user knows enough to be saving/loading the game before seeing these hints, they probably have played the game before and have seen how the essential mechanics work already.

    checksum = playerHealth + (word)gameStars + levelNum + playerBombs +
    putw(checksum, fp);


The last field written into the file is the checksum. This is the 16-bit sum of the player’s health, available health cells, bombs, stars, and the current level number. This is written to fp with putw(), then the file pointer is closed with fclose().

The checksum is used by LoadGameState() as a simple check to verify that the content of the save file has not been manipulated by the user in an attempt to cheat.