All posts

Games

Game development

Stories

Happiness

Personal

Music

TV

Film

TOM FRANCIS
REGRETS THIS ALREADY

Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.

Theme

By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend

A Leftfield Solution To An XCOM Disaster

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

What Works And Why: Nonlinear Storytelling In Her Story

My Idea For An ‘Unconventional Weapon’ Game

From Gunpoint To Heat Signature: A Narrative Journey

The Cost Of Simplifying Conversations In Videogames

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX

What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point

What’s Your Fault?

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

One Desperate Battle In FTL

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection

Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault

A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot

Arguing On The Internet

Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?

E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

The Suspicious Developments manifesto

GDC Talk: How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole

Listening To Your Sound Effects For Gunpoint

Understanding Your Brain

What Makes Games Good

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

A Different Way To Level Up

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary

I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood Money And Sex

A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

First Night, Second Life

SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Deus Ex 2

Robots: Keeping The Peace

The Basics
Far-future this time, and you’re a mercenary nano-augmented agent with ‘biomods’ right from the start. You’re constantly given conflicting objectives by two parties, and who you obey will have major consequences for absolutely nothing. There will also be REVELATIONS and ALLEGORY.

NG's Travelling Trunk

The Appeal
Mostly the Strength Biomod – it meant you could pick up a chair and throw it at someone so hard that they died. Actually that’s not really it, but before I get to it I should add that this is the first game in this list to have serious flaws. Whatever anyone might dislike about any of the above games, these people are wrong and ugly. But Invisible War was a bit stupid. Factions simply didn’t care if you stabbed them in the back again and again, so the only meaningful choice you actually had in the game was which cut-scene to watch at the end. The head of the Illuminati seemed irritated at worst if you stabbed the love of his life to death and blew up her corpse. And combat was only fun if you quadrupled the damage multipliers in the [Difficulty] section of the Default.ini file.

So what’s it doing so high up? To quote myself, “It’s not that there isn’t a huge ‘greatness’ chasm between Deus Ex 1 and 2, it’s just that nothing else is in that gap.” Not quite true, idiot, but there is a part of me that feels like Deus Ex 1 and 2 are the only games in the world – everyone else is just coming up with briefly amusing little toys.

2, like 1, is extraordinary because you genuinely invent your ways of tackling situations using the tools you’ve collected – rather than doing what the game designers intended, or choosing from a few set paths. And unlike 1, 2 had the visceral joy of tossing the bodies into a dumpster afterwards. The weapon mod system was vastly more meaningful, to the extent that one of my characters went through the game with four pistols – each modded to serve completely different functions. And while we’re at it, the biomods were much more useful – you could easily get by without them in the original, but here you wouldn’t want to. They all do cool things like take over bots, turn things off when you hit them, eat corpses or shoot enemies for you.

Corpse Pile

The Essential Experience
Punching someone in the face with the baton then flinging their unconscious form gracelessly into a skip. The baton was another little area in which 2 hugely improved on 1 (with its sluggish telescopic number), and once you’ve made the damage tweaks mentioned above, it knocks people out with a single sharp punch to the face. This doesn’t make the game too easy, since getting to everyone’s face before they shoot (and hence kill) you is extremely hard. But possible. This is the thrill – you can take out a whole room full of armed opponents before any one of them can fire, without making a noise other than a rapid series of dull thuds. It takes N-like mastery of your character’s movement, but you couldn’t feel more like a super-agent in anything else.

DemonDoll: I am almost finished with this game for the first time right now (2011) and it has been a very painful process the whole way though. I am all for tight and sharply edited games but this game just doesn't have enough. There are so few weapons and augments that I feel like my character must be identical to every other (this is probably no more true than for the first Deus Ex but it sure feels like it), the levels are small and feel fake for the sake of the consoles of yesteryear, the storyline 'twists' are true to the DX formula but are presented in such a ham-fisted manner that I can't help but feel that this is "Toddler's First Deus Ex - Now With Floaty Jumps To Minimize Boo-Boos." The biggest threat I've felt from the game is the very real danger of drowning in multi-tools which removes the need and motivation to explore non-obvious ways of by-passing obstacles - the very thing that made Deus Ex so brilliant. Like I said, I see the value of cropping meaningless mechanics from a game but all the systems they changed - from removing skills and weapon-specific ammo to the simplistic and small inventory - not only lessen immersion but deprive the player of real meaningful choices which made Deus Ex a thrill before even considering the interesting and well-delivered plot.