The original Super Stickman Golf by Noodlecake Studios is one of my favorite mobile games (links to stores available here). It’s a simple yet challenging way to pass a few minutes of time. Everybody likes mini-golf, right? Super Stickman Golf 2 picks up right where the first left off, adding a few new features and a bunch of new in-app purchase options.
Merits of the upgrade aside, there’s one particular issue with the game that hasn’t changed between the two versions, and it has caused me a tiny amount of grief a few times now. When playing a single player round, backing out to the main menu doesn’t save the player’s progress, and the game doesn’t do anything to warn them of this either. Just like Microsoft Word prompts users before leaving changes unsaved, games always should tell the player before they lose progress.
For the sake of completeness, let me walk you through the process. Let’s say you’re halfway through a round of Super Stickman Golf 2 and you want to head back to the menu. Why would you want to do this? One of the features added in SSG2 is turn-based multiplayer, so maybe you just got a notification that a game was updated and you want to check it out. You tap the pause button and get a standard issue looking menu with the following options:
From here, pressing the Main Menu button will take you directly back to the main menu, no questions asked, and all your progress in the round you were on has been lost. At least it’s consistent, because Restart Course does the same thing.
Okay, so the game doesn’t offer a confirmation before going back to the main menu, how big of a deal is it? Unlike a game of Madden that takes 45 minutes to play, getting through 9 holes in Super Stickman Golf takes 5 minutes or so. This is probably why you have to confirm quitting a game of Madden twice, even after the game is over (note: my copy of Madden 12 for the Xbox fails to work, so I can’t 100% confirm this, but this is what I remember).
Despite this, anytime I lose progress in a game, it makes me unhappy. Even if it was just three holes that I could redo in two minutes.
What should have happened?
This situation is easily avoidable. Ideally, a user would be able to go back to the main menu and pick up where they left off. This does definitely make things more complicated though, because the concept of “saving” gets messy in a hurry. Do you start to have multiple save slots? Can you start playing multiple different courses? What about syncing saves between devices?
An easier solution though is a simple confirmation dialog. “Hey if you go back to the main menu, your progress will be lost”. This doesn’t cover all situations, but I’d guess it’s what most players would expect, and it adds one more layer of security.
iCloud sync: progress saved!
Despite my issue above with losing progress in the middle of a round, Super Stickman Golf 2 does offer a great feature that helps users keep their progress across iOS devices: iCloud sync. This is becoming more common in games these days and I am really excited about it. As an owner of both an iPad and an iPhone, I appreciate games that let me take my game from my iPhone to my iPad and back again. For whatever reason, iCloud saves don’t always work well (see the Civilization Revolution article), but it’s a great thing when they do.
Take great pains to make sure your game doesn’t let players lose their progress. Sometimes it’s unavoidable – if the phone reboots mid-game, what can you really do? But for situations that are expected, always make sure users know the results of their actions. If you want players to get back to the main menu without a confirmation prompt, then build in a function to resume where they left off.
What other games can you think of that make it easy to lose progress? Let’s discuss in the comments below!