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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

Field Studies 1: Sporegasm


No-one seems to have noticed except Eurogamer, who failed to link it, but Sporepedia is already publicly accessible. This is the online field guide to all the creatures people have created with Spore, and the source from which the game will eventually populate the planets you play in with AI-controlled versions of the races people have made.

Right now it’s mostly Maxis folks and a few journos creating, and I think we can conclusively say Maxis are better at it. If you stumble on a Horncrested Bristlefrog up there, though, that’s my first proper stab.

The incredible thing about Sporepedia is that those thumbnail images you see are the creature files. Drag that image right from your browser to the game window, and it loads that creature in all its scampering glory. The creature’s DNA is actually coded into the metadata of a 25 kilobyte PNG image.

It takes a long, long time to get the test-the-limits urge out of your system – which is probably why they’re releasing the editor so far ahead of the game. Because you don’t really appreciate how exciting a prospect Spore is until you get past the “Can I break it?” phase (yes, oh God yes) and create something you truly love. The more personal a protagonist is to you the greater your invest in its plight, and it doesn’t get much more personal than a species you’ve hand-built from clay and vertebrae.

Next: Best creations, My creations.


Calaros: Thank you. Thank you so very, very much.

I think I've just seen the rest of my life laid out before me O.O

Grill: What with the APB character creator and this, I may never get into playing a game properly again.

Also: Put some backstory into your creations Tom, for us poor folks who haven't got access to the creator - Palmface is disturbing but without explanation.

Tom: You can search for/link to creatures directly Tom. Yours: ...0000014362

Just how much HTML can we use here, again?

Tom Francis: That link doesn't seem to take me to a specific creature page, just the general list.

James likes most basic html. Not sure about images, and probably not tables, but most of the rest of the essentials.

Grill: roger, wilco. The Horncrested Bristlefrog has some words. Haven't quite settled on whether I want origin stories, naturalist observations or honest gamer talk. So far I've preferred the latter in other people's creations.

Lack_26: Haha, I immediately typed in 'Nightmare', just to see what came up and there was one of yours' Pentadact.

Tom: Seems they changed the URLs since I pasted that link. This works at the moment.

Anonymous: I think the Earth is my favourite spore in that screenshot.
What's the name of the Great Penis Race?
Also, I think undercroc is pretty cool. It's got a unhappy-red-face rating though :(

Tom Francis: Interestingly the number of creatures has more than doubled since I posted this, so I guess the editor was rolled out to a lot of new people today. It's release into the wild on Tuesday, at which point: may God have mercy on us all.

Anon: I suggested 'Freudian Nightmare' for Tim's living phallus, but I think it was deleted from Sporepedia. I suspect cocks and copyright infringement will be viewed dimly.

Lack: Did you see Pan's Labyrinth? That thing was loosely based on the dinner table monster from that film. A rather cutesy version, but there's something about disjointed faces I find fascinating. Also, yes, I like the word 'nightmare'.

The_B: It appears it's been leaked onto the torrent network. Oh dear.

Jason L: 'It' being what?

The_B: The Creature Creator demo thingy.

Rob: It's not a leak, it was on a coverdisc.

http://files.filefro... ...einfo.html

The_B: I don't know any magazines released on a Saturday. Unless it was some form of subscriber copy? I only ask as I was under the impression that it wasn't on any magazine coverdisk due before Tuesday...

Jason L: Ah. In other news, water has been found to run downhill. Shrug.

Tom Francis: Did you hear which mag, Rob?

If anyone grabs it and makes something cool, do link it here. Ogling other people's stuff is almost exactly as fun as making your own.

CloakRaider: I actually saw a friend's creature on that, after many minutes of a gaping mouth I PM'd him through steam saying "LOLOLL I SAW YOUR CREATURE"

Christ, I've never been so excited over seeing something that looks like a victim of Chernobyl.


WeakLemonDrink: I've just realised that last comment should've been in the above entry.

Anonymous: From the Sporepedia:
"How do you see one of these Creatures in your Spore Creature Creator? Right Click on the thumbnail image of the creature. Save the image to your desktop. Drag the saved image from your desktop into the Spore Creature Creator. Voila! The Creature is in your game."
WHA?!?! How in the world is that possible? I find the idea of simply dropping a png file into the game to create a moving 3d character far more fantastic than any of the characters. Must find out what happens if I drop a non-spore image into it.
Now that the demo is out, the database is updating at a speed about 1000 creatures a minute.

Tom Francis: Basically PNG format images have fields for 'metadata' - extra info that doesn't affect the image. Spore's creatures are tiny enough to have their entire DNA coded into that space, and the game then re-generates them from that.

Unlike other games, it doesn't need to store every polygon or animation frame of a model to know exactly how it should look: all that stuff is ingeniously generated by algorithmic procedures from the basic facts about the creature.

So yeah, it's pretty incredible. It's a beautiful piece of software.

Field Studies 3: My Pretties, by Pentadact, who is secretly Tom Francis: [...] Sporepedia, Best creations. Comment     The_B: Were all these created in the trial version, [...]

muffin: Ok when the first talk from Will Wright came out along with him showing the audience the looked amazing!!
However when i bought the game they had changed soo many things...n its worse now!
In the creature stage there is no real hierachy of the food chain...i found myself just annihalating everything in my path! which got a bit boring after a while....

The amoeba stage is too short..and there are not enough parts to unlock!
The space stage gets very annoying after a while as i spent ages flying to a distant area...then sudenly a virus breaks out on my home planet and i have to fly all the way back just to kill 6 creatures!!!! WTF
it just became a bit boring after a while and unexciting...

However it was a good attempt at a fun, interesting, and chalenging game by Will Wright. You have to start somewhere??