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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.

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By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

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

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX

Projects

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

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

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

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

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

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

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

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point

Fault

What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

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

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection

Clouds

Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

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

A-Rock-and-a-Hard-Place-Trio-Jan

A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot

Arguing

Arguing On The Internet

Spelunky

Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?

Violence

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

Suspicious Manifesto

The Suspicious Developments manifesto

GDC

GDC Talk: How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole

Crosslink

Listening To Your Sound Effects For Gunpoint

Happiness

Understanding Your Brain

What Makes Games Good

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary

Gnome

I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex

AOL

A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life

SWAT 4

SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Hellgate London Thoughts

It might not have been Bill Roper, but there was someone who worked on the Diablo games who had a direct line to the pleasure center of my brain. World of Warcraft suggested to me that he had either left, or was working on something else now: it could hook me with its grind, but never excite or enthrall me the way a few tiny gold letters could in the Diablo games. Hellgate London clinches it: he must have left Blizzard and gone to Flagship. And started drinking heavily.

HellgateDemo_sp_dx9_x86 2007-10-19 00-30-44-86

The exciting stuff is there, it’s just adrift in a very messy, empty, grey game. A very repetitive one, too – this is only the demo, and even in the short time it took me to exhaust its sliver of content, I got incredibly tired of the identical warehousey tunnels.

It’s a myth that Diablo was about grind. The environments and enemies were diverse, even in the first game, and though you repeated interactions, they were interactions you wanted to repeat. The comedy clunk of a blunt object stoving in a zombie’s skull, nailing a scampering monster with a single arrow at twenty paces, pulling fire from the Earth and streaming it through your hands. It wasn’t grind, it was caress.

Hellgate is rather vague – nothing has to connect to hit, and though the sounds are satisfying, the interactions aren’t clear or physical. One-hit kills still feel right, because the soft ragdoll enacts an appropriate response to your blow. But against tougher enemies, you’re either waving your sword back and forth or holding down fire to make a health bar go down, and there’s no other visible response to your attacks. It’s not an interaction I want to repeat, and that’s fatal for this type of game.

HellgateDemo_sp_dx9_x86 2007-10-19 00-30-4-86

The exciting stuff is that it’s clear they’ve developed the best concepts nascent in Diablo 2: slotting and Horadric Cube recipes. Slotting is more sophisticated, and integrated with a crafting system, and the Horadric Cube’s magical recombinatorics have evolved into a device that can keep re-enchanting your favourite weapon to keep it up to your level.

But the loot harvest is made a lot less interesting by the abundance of class-exclusive items, something Diablo 1 & 2 had no concept of whatsoever, and even Lord of Destruction had the good sense to hold off on until later levels. Most of what I find is junk that I can neither use nor understand, and again, that’s fatal to this type of game. The loot harvest is the intravenous drip of dopamine here, you can’t afford to stem anything like as much as this.

So Diablo is dead forever, I fear. The genius who can tweak the equations to make me smile has left to join a team that don’t have the art talent, coding precision or design focus to let him shine. And the people who can still do that at Blizzard don’t seem to appreciate what it was that endlessly delighted me about Diablo, only what addicted me to it.

Has anyone played and liked this yet? I’m interested to know if it has charms I’m missing – I’m entirely guilty of not taking it on its own terms.

cullnean: Shame really I was looking forward to this as me and a few guys from work were gonna get it.

maybe they can take criticism from the demo/beta and turn it around quick sharp or take a leaf out of blizzard/valves book and hold on to it until its ready.

jonwilles: The demo is a lie. I have NO idea why they put that demo out into the public because it absolutely fails to highlight its better points. Gameplay past the first four levels picks up quite nicely and the forays into hell and the various buildings provide nice variation. Once you get into the first really frantic fire fight it feels just like when you wanted to pally jump out of a bad spot in diablo. In terms of the looting not being quite right, the stuff that isn't class useful can be scrapped and used to make stuff that is useful to your class. I couldn't agree more with you're initial assessment of the game from the demo but the demo is a far cry from what the actual game is like. Why they would shoot themselves in the foot like that i have NO idea. Anyway there's my two cents.

pxd: Tested and tested through ~ what you have experienced is true and ... it's really hard to fall in love with HGL. It's rough. D2 is a HELL lot better in any sense ... sigh. (Yeap, the 1 hit kill slash is precise, and then it's boringly swinging without impact, it doesn't even hamper the opponent gosh.)

uncklekk: while diablo 1 and 2 were awsome i belive you had a too deep connection with them.. i hate to break it to ya but they both were a giant grind just like 95% of games toady.

Tom Francis: Sorry. I will have less-deep connections with games in future, and deem them all equally bland.