Sam McLean

Reaching New Heights – Arms Race

Genre: Button Mashing Party Game
Platform: PC, Mac
Players: Two (Competitive Head-To-Head)
Status: Released

Team: Handsome Dragon Games
Role: Game Design
Duration: 2 Months

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Team Members:
Jack Kuskoff – Lead Game Design
Corey Underdown – Programming
Callan Syratt – Programming, UI, Management
Patrick Vullermin – Lead Artist
Lauren Bearkley – Additional Art
Samuel McLean – Lead Musician

“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat.” ~ R. Nixon

Arms Race puts two players in the shoes of rival diplomats – one from Russia, the other: America – and pits them against each other in a diplomatic battle of focus and determination. When only one of them can walk away victorious from this frantic political free-for-all, who will reign supreme?

You can get Arms Race right here!


Arms Race – Mutually Assured Production

A Post-Mortem

Hey there, dear reader! For those of you who are familiar with my blog (I assume there are very few of you), you’ll note that I’m actually taking the time to make my recent game jam game Arms Race its own post-mortem, instead of putting a post-mortem summary of sorts on the end of a Gentlemen’s Showcase post. That’s because this one is probably going to be a fair amount longer than the kind of space I use in a typical summary. But anyway, enough rambling, let’s talk about Arms Race, and how its production went down.

First and foremost, its important to note that the entire development of this game (up to the point of writing this, at least) took place within the span of 48 hours, for the Brisbane Fab48 Game Jam 2016. We (Handsome Dragon Games) were given the words ‘Love’, ‘Power’, and ‘Surprise’ to use as our inspirations for the game, the last of which being the one we focused on primarily.


Reaching New Heights – Arms Race (Game Jam Ver.)

Genre: Button Mashing Party Game
Platform: PC, Mac
Players: Two (Competitive Head-To-Head)
Status: Base Game Completed, Expanded Here

Team: Handsome Dragon Games
Role: Game Design, Management
Duration: 48 hours (Consecutive)

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Team Members:
Jack Kuskoff – Game Design, Management
Corey Underdown – Programming
Callan Syratt – Programming, UI
Lauren Bearkley – Lead Artist
Samuel McLean – Lead Musician

“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat.” ~ R. Nixon

Arms Race puts two players in the shoes of rival diplomats – one from Russia, the other: America – and pits them against each other in a diplomatic battle of focus and determination. When only one of them can walk away victorious from this frantic political free-for-all, who will reign supreme?

The game was developed in 48 hours, as part of the Brisbane Fab48 challenge, using the inspirations “Love”, “Power”, and “Surprise”. It was a hard fought development, and there’s still a couple of rough edges, but the Arms Race still has plenty of surprises waiting for you…

Since then, we’ve taken the time to amp up the game and turn it into a more complete experience, which you can get here!

Alternatively, if you want to try out the original game jam version, you can download it here!

Rather than hide my reflections beneath a read more tag, they’ve got their own post this time. You can take a look at them here!

Reaching New Heights – Emakimono

Genre: Auto-Runner (Or ‘Flier’ more so)
Platform: PC, Mac
Players: Single Player
Status: Released

Team: Handsome Dragon Games
Role: Game Design, Management
Duration: 48 hours (Consecutive)


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Team Members:
Jack Kuskoff – Game Design, Management
Corey Underdown – Programming
Callan Syratt – Programming, UI
Jared Ford – Programming
Angelica Zurawski – Lead Artist
Samuel McLean – Lead Musician

Emakimono is an infinite auto-runner (or auto-flier, as it were) wherein players take control of a small, paper swallow, desperately fleeing from the collapse of its world. Gracefully guide the swallow over and under the various obstacles that stand in its way, and fly as far as you can!

If you want to try the PC or Mac version of Emakimono, you can download them here!


Reaching New Heights – Prosperity

Genre: Resource Management
Platform: Web
Single Player
Status: Completed, Available

Team: Unnamed
Role: Designer/Programmer/Manager
Duration: 3 Weeks

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Team Members:
Jack Kuskoff – Designer/Programmer/Manager
Sam McLean – Musician
Eugene Martens – Artist

Special Thanks:
Savik Fraguela – Assisted greatly in the creation of the tower.

Prosperity is a resource management game that has players building and managing a workforce to create a massive tower in the name of God. Carefully manage the assignment of each worker to maximise your resource output and build the tower as quickly as you can, lest God grow impatient. Yet the resources you can gather are limited in their supply. When they run dry and clock is ticking, what method will you turn to, to build the tower ever higher?

You can download Prosperity here.


Reaching New Heights – LinKeR

Genre: Top-Down Racer
Platform: PC
Players: Local Multiplayer (4 Players)
Status: Incomplete, Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Team: Handsome Dragon Games (Most of them, anyway)
Role: Game Design, Art, Management
Duration: ~40 hours / 5 Days

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Team Members:
Jack Kuskoff – Design, Art, Management
Callan Syratt – Programming, UI
Corey Underdown – Programming
Samuel McLean – Audio

LinKeR is a top-down twin-stick racer which pits four players against each other in a frantic and deadly race. Players shoot, slow, sting, and detonate their opponents all throughout the race in their efforts to take the lead. Each player always has their car’s trusty machine gun to tackle their foes, along with a myriad of items to be picked up along the track, but there’s a catch: the enemy hit by an attack is not the one that takes the damage. All the damage goes to that player’s ‘scapegoat’ – another racer, possibly you. Can you hit the right opponent to take the lead?

Currently, there’s no publicly available version of LinKeR, but who knows, maybe there will be one day. It’s an idea that needs a lot of work, but that we at HDG are all still fond of. We’ll see…


Potentially Prosperous, But Confusing As Hell

Over the past three week, I have been putting all of my time and energy into the development of the game Prosperity. This resource management game had players collecting various resources in order to construct a grand tower unlike any other, in the name of God. For the most part, the game was very well received. People seemed to enjoy the resource management side of things, and found getting to that next tower level a satisfying accomplishment. And let’s not forget the wonderful music produced by Sam Mclean, which got nothing but praise. However, there was one major issue with the game, that made a lot of people struggle early on – they had no idea what they were doing.

This issue was primarily due to the user interface. I was already aware that it was ugly (I made the panels in about two minutes in Photoshop, and am certainly no artist) but I did not realise that the way it was constructed and present would have such an impact on the way people played. So, I’m going to take a moment to look at a few different aspects of the interface, and how they could have been done better.

This is what it looked like.

This is what the players were first presented with. An empty landscape and a bunch of letters and numbers. Now, we can’t assume that the player has read the instructions (as few did). So, what can they get from this. Wood, Stone, Iron, and Gold are things in the game, and they can Hire Workers and Expand the Tower. As for all the letters, numbers, and arithmetic symbols, there’s not real indication as to what they’re for.

One simple mistake here is that whilst all the letters (which represent the various resources) are color coded to match the workers, the resources at the top of the screen aren’t. Whilst this would not have made it entirely clear what those numbers and buttons were for, it at least would have reinforced the link between each of the respective resources.

But, the big problem with the interface (or at least one of them anyway) was that there was no clear explanation as to what the plus and minus buttons do, even if you do understand that the letters mean resources. What the buttons do is assign workers to collect each resource. What the buttons convey, is essentially nothing. Presumably, the plus button will add something to something else, and the minus will subtract that thing. Beyond that, there’s nothing.

Though how to clear up this confusion? Obviously, we need to make it much more clear what the button actually do. One way to do this, would be to clarify the information around the buttons. For example, if that entire panel had the heading ‘Worker Assignment’ and each resource was followed by a ‘0 Workers’ rather than just ‘0’ it would make more sense that pressing plus would assign a worker to that resource.

Another issue is that the panels used for both information and buttons are the same. Given that all of the resource information at the top and sides of the screen are on the dark blue background, one could assume that everything on that background is just information and not interactive. However, this is not the case with Prosperity. A simple solution is to give all the buttons a different look from the rest of the interface. Perhaps a different color, or a different border, or a different panel style.

It was also mentioned that the difference between the buttons’ active and inactive states (when you can and can’t press them, depending on your resources) was not clear enough. Whilst the became darker and grayed out, it was not entirely clear why. In part, this can of course be fixed by making the contrast between the two more substantial. Though furthermore, it could be improved by also changing the appearance of the tool-tip that appears when you hover over the button. Changes could include things like highlighting costs red if you have insufficient funds, or the tool-tip itself could change color/style to reflect the current state.

Now, I could continue to go on and on about all the things wrong with this design but I simply haven’t the time. So I’ll likely make another post about interfaces in general a little later on, no doubt from the perspective of everyone’s favorite office sim – Casual Office Extreme. So until next time, dear reader…

You can play Prosperity here.

The Sound of Prosperity

With another game in the works, named Prosperity, a whole new series of challenges and design decisions have arisen. For this particular game, our task is to create something that has players start in one emotional state and transition to another. Prosperity will have players transitioning from pride to regret as they try to build a grand tower in the name of god, by any means necessary. Given that the game is still in its early stages, the main emotional focus is pride, which is being constructed in several ways.

One of the more prominent ways is through the games music. Currently, I have the great privilege of working with the ever so skilled Sam McLean. Sam has already produced the first track in game, set to play as the player begins. This particular track has been composed in four different layers, which I have set to fade in on command. By having the layers fade in one by one it allows the sound to grow in conjunction with the tower, which serves to emphasise the player’s progress through the game. This emphasis in turn serves to increase the sensation of accomplishment in the player, and by extension, their feeling of pride.

You can listen to the first track here.

Other methods of inducing a sense of pride in the player have been included in the game’s design decisions. For example, one feature that is included is the “BASK” button. Pressing this has the game’s camera gracefully ascend to the top of the tower as a short, beautiful harmony plays, allowing the player to truly soak in the scope of what they have created. This, as before, increases the player’s sense of accomplishment, and by extension, their feeling of pride.

One other method of create the sensation of pride is praise. People are more likely to take pride in something if they are praised for it by others. As such, throughout the game, the player will receive the adulation of both their workers and of God himself. The workers will praise the player for bringing them such prosperity, and for achieving something none of them thought possible. Meanwhile, God will commend the player on how impressed his is by their work, how it is truly worthy of a god, and how the player is without doubt one of his greatest creations. With such praise, the player is likely to feel as if they’ve accomplished more, and as such, they will feel greater pride in their accomplishments.

As you can likely see, a fair amount of these methods are still in development and have not yet been fully implemented in the game, so whether or not they are as effective as I believe is yet to be seen. However, with some hard work and attention to detail, their effects should definitely be felt.