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Sam McCulloch - Interaction designer

UX design that supports game design goals

My name is Sam McCulloch, and I design and analyse things…


I am a UX Designer with 8 years experience in Product design, Interaction Design, and User Research. To date I have worked for agencies, in-house and freelance, building digital products and services.

I am passionate about video and board games, game design and interaction psychology (HCI), and art. I love to learn, and genuinely wish there were more hours in a day.

See a taster of how I think and work in my mini UX analysis of Monster Hunter: World on PS4.

 
 
 

I helped make a game in 72 hours.

A private GameJam for fun!

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My design principles


Know the player

I mix research methodologies to help build an understanding of where interfaces work, where they don'’t, and most importantly—why.

Behavioural research (such as usability testing and analysing game telemetry) shows how players interpret and respond to the game experience.

Attitudinal research (such as surveys and interviews) reveal what the player is thinking or feeling as they play, giving crucial context to their behaviours and motivations.

Keep learning

Building on a foundation of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Player-Centered Design principles, I design prototypes that enable testing.

Technology evolves; the fundamentals of Human-centric design don’t. I use a wide range of tools, and am always learning new skills, based on the outcome required.

Work as a team

Creating great UX is a team effort - I believe strongly in cross-discipline collaboration and learning together as a team.

I produce site and mind-maps, user and process flows, and iterate my outputs to support the workflows of others—team dynamics matter!

 

What I do


Low-fi wireframes

Cheap, fast and disposable, I use these to quickly get ideas down, create discussion and get ‘on the same page’ within a team and with players. These are also great for testing fundamentals like information architecture, language and visual positioning.

  • What information needs to be on screen?

  • Are the concepts, language and visuals being interpreted accurately?

  • Does our information architecture work?

Generic structure for form logic, with definitions of components required by each view/state.

Early concept ideas for a simple card game

 

Screenshot of Radial menu low-to-mid-fi concept for Monster Hunter: World.
A step up from wireframes, the colours and styling do not match the game’s style guide but rather imply what functionally needs to be displayed.

Mid-fi and visual prototypes

Visually closer to “the real thing”, I create semi-interactive prototypes to understand specific interactions, or to explore what a visual experience might be. These are still significantly cheaper than high-fi prototypes and allow for earlier exploration of certain aspects, such as how players feel about visual treatments or UI flows.

  • Is our visual layout/style enhancing gameplay immersion or making it harder to interpret important information at critical moments?

  • Does this clearly communicate design intent / important technical considerations to developers?

 

High-fi prototypes

A vertical slice of the intended experience built in collaboration with a development team, OR an interactive prototype that includes some animation, depending on what we’re needing to evaluate.
With the vertical slice we can test things that semi-static prototypes can’t mimic without significant cost, such as inputs and manipulation of elements.

  • Is the game providing good feedback to the users actions, be it to an input, a gameplay choice/action, or when learning a new concept?

  • Are the players learning key mental models that they can build on as they play more of the game?

  • How do players feel about certain features or aspects of the game?

Transitions between weapons views

 

A conceptual model translated into Information Architecture draft

User journeys and architecture

I use diagrams, maps and flows to synthesise research findings and communicate journeys, typically to give steer to wireframe requirements. These have also been really helpful in creating cohesion between design and development, teasing out discussions like relationships between items in data schemas.

As iterative design means these will likely evolve, I consider these to be ‘living’ documents and work with tools that allow for this sort of collaboration and discussion.

 

Other relevant things


Concept and market research

I have experience with attitudinal research in commercial contexts, for things like new propositions and product concepts. My work has involved investigating things like motivations, desirability, and comprehension at a brand, journey and discreet interaction level. This involved a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, using things like the Kano model, exercises such as user interviews, focus groups, surveys, and basic conjoint analysis.

I have also created mockups to use as discussion collateral.

 
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Digital painting, sketches and illustration

My experience in graphic design has taught me the importance of how imagery, colour, and typography work together to evoke particular feelings.

Outside of UI and branding work, I’ve explored digital painting, concept art, and illustration.

 

Game Design

I take an active interest in learning Game Design, both for physical and digital media. Understanding gameplay economies and conceptual work helps me ensure that the interface and interactions support the game’s core design pillars.

In my free time, I am working with a small group on a Unity based video game project, currently in it’s early stages.

 

Interested in a conversation?

If you’d like to get in touch - be it for a copy of my CV, more samples of work, or to discuss Games UX - you can reach me on Linkedin.