Screencheat Interview: Nicholas McDonnell’s Insight into Indie Development

Screencheat 04Remember jumping into your favorite competitive FPS multiplayer matches, and playing against that one guy who’d watch your screen instead of using the radar and playing fairly? If you said no, you either didn’t have any friends or you were that player…and weren’t a very good friend.

Samurai Punk remembers and built an entire game around the concept of screen cheating. The difference? Instead of being a jerk for looking at the other player’s screen, it is a central game mechanic required to figure out where everyone is on the map. All the character models are invisible—the only way to know where the enemy is lurking is by puzzling out what they are seeing in relationship to the map.

Screencheat is already available on Steam and makes its console debut March 1, 2016 for PS4 and Xbox One. Nicholas McDonnell, Founder/Artist for Samurai Punk, explains the rock/paper/scissors gameplay loop, the competitive community and the importance of online multiplayer.

With the game porting to consoles, McDonnell praises Unity for making the transition easy stating that there are obviously differences at the hardware level, with PS4 being the more powerful console, but the frameworks for the games are very similar. Fortunately, it isn’t like making the same game twice but more like switching out pieces of code where needed for infrastructure changes.

One feature I was surprised to see available on the PC and console version of Screencheat was online multiplayer. Oftentimes these couch co-op type-games don’t offer the chance to go online and McDonnell is very honest why:

“I think online multiplayer was a complete waste of time and 80% of our player base play locally anyways. Half the servers which are active are password protected, creating a simulated local multiplayer experience. Online multiplayer added about 70% time to our development timeline.”

ScreenCheat LogoThe added time of creating online multiplayer was necessary, however. The Melbourne-based development team didn’t have the luxury of working alongside each other so netcode was deployed into the game from the beginning for testing purposes and developing collaboratively.

McDonnell goes on to say there is a surprisingly competitive and dedicated community. “They [competitive players] get particularly good at the game, to the point where I can’t beat them anymore. And I have 800 hours experience.” There has been a huge push from the competitive community to generate tournament level players.

“When you first play Screencheat, you shoot at people and try to get kills.” But the longer you spend with the game, the more you delve into the tactical elements and strategies required in each map and weapon selection. “There are 10 guns each with their own mechanics and skills. You can only change weapons on death, so there is a strategy around knowing someone is stuck with a particular weapon.”

One unique, out-of-the-box feature that’s available is a Murder Mystery mode – everyone has a target and specific weapon they need to acquire to defeat their mark. It creates a chaotic scene where everyone is both cat and mouse at all times trying to find the perfect balance in each encounter.

Screencheat was recognized at the PAX Prime 2014 Indie MEGABOOTH and the PAX Australia 2014 Australian Indie Showcase. Samurai Punk will continue supporting Screencheat after it is released on consoles and are currently prototyping their next project. Hopefully they will have the finishing touches to showcase at the next Pax Prime.


Thanks Nicholas for your honest responses, insight into game development and what it’s like to be a growing indie developer.

Screencheat is available on PS4, Steam (PC/Mac/Linux) and Xbox One. Check out Samurai Punk to learn more about Screencheat and their future projects.

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