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Game development








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.


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

World Of Lifecraft

Rich pointed me to a post putting forward the concept of Massively Multiplayer Productivity, and I haven’t been able to find anyone who’s actually come up with a formal system for how it would work. The concept is that, in order to give the menial tasks you do in real-life the same addictive quality as the menial tasks in World Of Warcraft, all you need to do is assign experience-point rewards to them. Your To-Do list becomes your Quest Log, and every few thousand points you level yourself up – you have become a superior human being by getting things done.

So all it needs is a fair system of assigning experience points to the different kinds of things life requires you to sort out, and some markers to indicate when you would level up. I suggest:

Quest Type XP
Making a phone call 250
– that involves persuasion +250
– to someone you hate +250
Filling out a form 100
– and posting it +50
– and losing it 100
Physical labour 250
– that takes more than half an hour +250
– that takes more than an hour +250
Going to an appointment 500
– and resolving a problem while there +250
– and discovering you are terminally ill +500
Cleaning a room 500
– including removal of blood stains +500
Going shopping for groceries 250
Working outside of work 250
– for more than forty-five minutes +250
– just to get ahead +250
Doing someone a favour 250
– that takes more than half an hour +250
– that involves assassination or insurance fraud +750
Blogging 100
– about World Of Lifecraft +150

Level-ups are awarded for the following XP amounts:

Progress XP Reward
Level 1 500 Consumption of an unhealthy food.
Level 2 1000 Consumption of an expensive and unhealthy food.
Level 3 2000 A frivolous purchase =< £5/$10
Level 4 3500 Home delivery for your next groceries purchase
Level 5 5500 Immediate consumption of eight units of alcohol
Level 6 8000 A frivolous purchase =< £15/$30
Level 7 11000 Moral absolution for one theft – past or future
Level 8 14500 Home delivery for your next narcotics purchase
Level 9 18500 A frivolous purchase =< £50/$100
Level 10 23000 Moral absolution for the contract-killing of one unwanted person

And so on. (If you didn’t spot the pattern, you’re probably not geeky enough to need to turn your life into a MMOG in order to get anything done). Notice that you start at level 0, just to emphasise how worthless you are until you’ve done something.

Well, I’m level one already and I haven’t had breakfast, so I think a bacon sandwich is in order. Any suggestions for more quest types or rewards?

Graham: I slept for 16 hours on Friday night. Does this mean that I was ultra-rested and thus got extra XP for my tasks on Saturday?

Tom Francis: NO. Negative points for sleeping.

Dabs: Only 500 points for discovering you're terminally ill? You tight-arse Tom!

So you'd have to find out you've got 37 separate terminal illnesses before you earn enough points to treat yourself to something not exceeding £50 in value??!

WoL's points system needs patching badly imho. Otherwise, rest assured, I'll be on the internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.

Joe: Could there be a rest system? So if you avoid doing unproductive activities, like playing games, for 24 hours, you are awarded double XP for any menial task you complete during the next day.

Iain: I think I've found a bug. I seem to have gotten most of the rewards without gaining the necessary experience.

Iain: Ah, hang on. I think I know why. I've not been playing World of Lifecraft. I've been playing City of Slackers...

Mark Wallace: woot, I have leveled!

I love that guy's idea of a central site where everyone's stats are stored, but I think what would really be cool is some kind of collaborative software thingy where users could weigh in on how many xp they feel each task is worth. Then you average them out to get a collectively determined score for each thing you do each day. Although I guess the score for any particular task would change from day to day and could be easily gamed, but it still seems cool. I'm clearly thinking too hard this afternoon. Do I lose points for that?

Tom Francis: 36, Dabs. You get one 500 for turning up to the appointment. The hope is that you'll try some of the other activities, though. Eighteen phone-calls later, you could have the doctor killed. That'd show him.

Mark: I don't think people would all classify their tasks the same way, so I don't think democratic point score values would be much more meaningful than my dictatorial ones. Also, gratz!

Matt: How about this:
An hour of physical labour gives you +1 strength, but the higher your strength, the less XP you get from physical labour.

Richard: OK, since folks wanted it, I've written the bare bones of a World of Lifecraft site, complete with domain name. I don't however have a lot of time to spend on it, so if anybody wants to take control of the admin system and start filling it up with quests, they're welcome to. Email me, richard at square8 dot com.

FinalSin: Clearly, classes are needed.

e.g. Filling Out A Form
...and losing it
-50% exp loss if Student Class (Ignorance Plea)

And a heckload more levels. And steeds.

HailandKill: Yeah, with a level cap of 10 people are going to be complaining about the boring high level experience. Life ultimately has many things to do in a hypothetical high level....

roburky: The list text in this entry is now invisible. I'm guessing a problem with the new site style?

Tom Francis: Yeah, fixed now. Have I mentioned how much I hate CSS yet today?