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TOM FRANCIS
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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.

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By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    Diablo 2

    The Basics
    Absurdly slick isometric action-RPG with real-time combat (clicking) and a bewildering array of spells (right-clicking).

    The Appeal
    It’s clear that the guys designing Diablo 2 were world experts on how to make character progression exciting, satisfying and an inspiring driving force to a game rather than a miserable dragging one. It’s also clear that they left Blizzard before World Of Warcraft. In Diablo every level-up brings a paralysingly tricky decision – every new skill is carefully hand-crafted to sound wildly exciting in text and have real use in combat. And you only get one per level.

    Having whittled down the nonsense trappings of the RPG – story, quests, NPCs and the like – to virtually nothing, it proved that ‘grind’ is only a problem when your levelling system sucks. You suddenly realise other games are just trying to distract you from their uninspired mechanics when they ply you with a rich plot and a fascinating world. If your game’s actually good, you don’t need any of that – no-one feels like they’re grinding because they’re actually looking forward to getting that next level, and they’ll get there, and when they get it they’ll get something they want, and when they try it out it’ll be fun. All of this is achieved with the simple combat system, brilliant sound-effects, and perfectly judged skills. Roll on Hellgate London.

    The Essential Experience
    Corpse Explosion chain-reaction. The central dynamic here is that blowing up a corpse usually kills people, since it’s an extraordinarily powerful spell (the blast is proportional to the creature’s hitpoints), and that means more corpses. It gets to the stage at which the first casualty triggers a staggered apocalypse of bloody showers that annihilates everything on-screen. I remember in the blurb for the Necromancer class used in the manual – which I read about six months before release on a website – it said “While many shun the Necromancer for his ghoulish appearence and strange ways, all fear his power – for it is the stuff of nightmares.” You never really believe sales blurb until you’re blowing up corpses three times a second.

    My highest-level character in Diablo 2, and functionally my favourite character in any game, was Pentadact the Necromancer. I started him with Bitchard the Barbarian (flatmate) and we played through the whole game and expansion pack over the course of a weekend. By the time we were finished, Pentadact was genuinely the stuff of nightmares. Skip past the giant skull he wore over his face, he was accompanied at all times by a hulk of rotting flesh and exposed bones, and carried a long, undulating, bright orange dagger called Pentadact’s Screaming Cinquedeas Of Pestilence – a single stab from which would send huge enemies scrambling away in fear, but infected with a poison so virulent that even if they escaped the inevitable corpse explosions, Poison Novas and Bone Spears, they faced certain death. I lost him and my characters in all games beginning with letters earlier than ‘q’ in the great ChkDsk error of 2005, so if you ever read about Microsoft employees being stabbed to death with a knife matching the above description, by a man holding a mop adorned with butcher’s offcuts, remember that I was always a quiet boy who kept himself to himself.

    DemonDoll: It astounds me how much of this fun they ruined with one of the later patches that added synergies. Now instead of a balanced and flexible character that has several clever solutions to immunities and bosses, the only route that makes sense is to get one skill and all its synergies which will obliterate any boss. It also means that your character is planned out, and by level 30 you will be using the one or two skills your character will ever care about and after that it does become a grind to boost synergies point by point because all they do is give a 5% or 10% or whatever damage boost and don't make it more fun in any way.