Many games try to have as much plot as feasibly possible. Many of those games wish to include a branching storyline. Even if the developer has a large budget, practicality issues arise when developers try to do branching storylines because a lot of additional effort must be made to design and implement these story branches and the player typically cannot be expected to play through the entire game again just to experience the other branches.
Games with branching storylines rely on the player to find these alternative paths on their own. For example, some players intentionally make numerous saves as backups that they can go back to at any time. When branching storylines are involved however, keeping track of what saves are important and why is time-consuming and often impractical, as the player often has no way of knowing if their current decisions have any impact on the plot.
I assert that if it were easy for the player to go back in time to the key plot points in a game and make different choices, more players would be willing to play through this additional content.
How I propose developers do this is by implementing what I call a "Save Timeline". A save timeline is an in-game save file managing system which displays all save files (whether they're made automatically or by the player) as connected to the saves that occurred in their past.
Here is a mockup of a possible Save Timeline (click picture for full image):
Even though this save timeline only contains roughly a dozen save files, it still looks rather complicated. Once you scale up the size of this system to include all saves a player might make (or change or remake) over the course of even half the length of a branching RPG, the timeline becomes enormous and overlapping. Locating your latest save would become as futile as trying to find a needle in a haystack.
You could solve this problem by clearly labeling the player's most recent save (or centering on it when you open the load screen), but that's essentially the same as putting a tiny "you are here" arrow on a stationary map of an amusement park. It works, but it takes a bit to find and it doesn't help much.
The solution is to compress the timeline to only include what's relevant to your current path. This is much more helpful, as it's extremely obvious where the most recent save is on the timeline.
The question then becomes how much to compress the timeline. You could compress it to just the relevant save files, but because of the large number of saves a player might make, this compressed timeline can still look rather long and complicated. An even better solution would be to compress the timeline and reshape it into a simple straight line. You could also shrink the graphic size of relevant sessions (which might contain 100 save files) down to a smaller icon.
Examples of these different timeline compressions can be seen in the image below:
It is important to note that timelines never converge. Two timelines may include a plot event with the same name, but that doesn't mean that the circumstances surrounding that plot event are the same in each timeline. Every choice and every spinoff you make changes the game world. No two timelines are alike, so they never converge.