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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.

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

I’m Not Making The Plan Next Time

Thomas Paine in the comments over at 1Fort points out the Leeroy Jenkins of Left 4 Dead.

I love the sheer speed and force with which his plan fails.

Imperial Creed: Ye gods.

To be fair though, the rest of the team seemed to make it. If I had a choice between sacrificing the shouty idiot as a distraction for the horde or mucking in to pull his ass to safety, I know which option I'd pick.

J-Man: Ha! Got to mention that in the next "annoy pentadact society" meeting.

CynicalCheeto: Oh, man. I might have had to chuck a pipe bomb at him while he was on the ground.

Hoborg: This video has just given me an idea for the ONE THING missing from Left 4 Dead - INFECTION MODE - a mode where, at random, a character who has been knocked down and revived by a teammate *transforms into a zombie*. Thereby giving us that classic moment where the team has to kill the guy before he/she transforms.

It would have to be a random occurrence, because if it was *every* time then nobody would bother reviving teammates, you'd just finish them off yourself before they get up and transform anyway.

What would make the mode interesting is if the person who is going to change is given a private timer of some kind *informing* them that they are going to transform. This way, the person can either keep quiet about it and try to get to the safe room with the others (in which case they'll be "cured" for the next round, but of course it means getting there before the infection timer runs out, which is a gamble because you're potentially putting the rest of the team in danger), or if the risk isn't worth it you say "okay guys, I'm going to change, you have to kill me".

The tradeoff that stops people from just deciding to off you immediately and get rid of the risk is this: the infected player *does not* get attacked by zombies, as they now see that player as one of their own. This means that effectively, the team will actually receive a big benefit from having you on their side, *right up* until the moment you transform, where you randomly become any one of the special zombie classes.

Waddayareckon? It might be tough to balance, but I believe this idea to be awesome :D

Roadrunner: Theres nothing as hilarious as hearing an idiot who got what he deserved screaming in panic.

Smurfy: Hoborg, your plan would only work if they transform into an NPC zombie. If they still retain control of their zombie player, who in their right mind would tell their teammates to kill them?

Hoborg: That is an issue I've been thinking about since posting. In order for the idea to work properly, you'd have to actually lose control of the character and involutarily attack your teammates (that's how it works in the movies, after all). Alternatively the mode could work as part of the Vs. game - the zombie team would get an extra player after you'd transformed, but only after having had to deal with the "invincible" infected player, who would have been a valuable asset to the humans up to that point.

The interesting thing would be that even if you didn't tell your teammates you'd been infected, observant players could still figure it out by noticing that the zombies didn't seem to be attacking you (which would still be quite hard to figure out in the heat of battle). This would lead to interesting situations where the members of the human team weren't sure whether or not to trust players who'd been knocked down, which adds to the whole cinematic effect.

Alternatively, the infected player can tell his teammates he's infected and thereby become a valuable tactical asset, since the zombies ignore him/her.

peterd102: @roadrunner - how very true, i love playing spy on Alltalk servers. Muhahaha!

Theres nothing like plans that go badly wrong and pulling through at the worst odds.

Chijts: It would have been more funny if I could have believed it wasn't set up/he was seriously that crazy.

Jazmeister: I lol'd.
I also lol'd at "ZOMBIE BUKKAKE!!!!" just before he dies.
Also this was everyone I played with in the demo.

@Hoborg: 1) The zombies attack infected characters in the movies, 2) A precise timer wouldn't be as good as some sort of general impending, throbbing knowledge - like the colour wash, but different. Great idea! If anyone can do it right, it's Valve. Maybe they could incorporate it into a fifth difficulty, somewhat akin to Deus Ex's "Realistic" difficulty - not harder per se, in terms of uber health and damage, but just unfair to everyone.

Hoborg: Yeah I know in most movies the zombies still attack the infected, but I figured making them "invisible" to the zombies would be a good idea as:
A) it would give the team a reason to keep the infected alive rather than just killing them immediately, leading to moments where the infected can say "guys, it's ok, I'll stay behind and (flip the switch / keep the door closed / whatever) since I've got a better chance of succeeding, and I'll be a zombie soon anyway", and
B) it provides a subtle clue to the other players about who might be infected, which would lead to the distrust etc. which would ratchet up the tension levels and lead to more cinematic "I say we waste him / leave him behind" moments.

Excellent idea about ditching the timer though - we could have it so that the character will transform at any random moment (possibly dictated by the severity of their injuries prior to being picked up). I was thinking if there was a timer, it would be too easy to exploit the system by taking advantage of the invisibility and then saying "okay I've got five seconds left kill me RIGHT NOW". By making it more random and imprecise like you're suggesting, it would be more tense, more realistic, and also harder to exploit.

Roadrunner: But think about how many times you would join a random server, only to be tked with the excuse "Sorry, I thought you might be turning into one of them."
I think it's fine how it is anyway :p

Hoborg: well it would either be an optional mod or a separate game mode, rather than being included in the default game. Just thought it would be a cool idea, adding to the whole zom-pocalypse ambience ;p

It does seem like one of those ideas that's so obvious, I can't believe Valve haven't already thought of it. Maybe they either did think of it, toyed with the idea and found it lacking / too hard to get it to work (unlikely - Valve seem to be able to get pretty much anything to be fun) or they might consider including it in a later expansion? Otherwise some clever mod team will inevitably get cracking on it sooner or later.

Cochrane: @Hoborg: Well, Valve admitted that they didn't, for example, manage to make Alyx falling off a bridge, or the Commander in TF2, any fun. I think a very under-valued part of Valve's success (just like with other exceptional companies like Google and Apple) is knowing what to leave out to make something the most fun. So my guess is that they really could not make your suggestion fun, or at least not fun enough with the time and money they had. I still think it's an interesting idea, though.

ZomBuster: That's from 4playerpodcast, their stuff is always hilarious.

Chijts: Hoburg/Roadrunner: To remedy the problem of everybody tking anyone because they feel like it, you could just make it so you can only hurt another player IF they are infected.

Chijts: Oh wait you can tk people anyway. My bad.

Hoborg: Hmm that would make it too easy to tell who the infected is, you'd just start compulsively shooting teammates who'd been previously knocked down, like the pyro spy checking in TF2. It would break the immersion totally.

Also, the idea of making the infected zombie-invisible is so that there's actually a reason why you might *want* to keep the infected person on your team. Like in the movies, where the infected guy ends up making the big sacrifice and taking the most dangerous mission, because he/she was doomed anyway, so it becomes a trade-off of having the benefit of a free gambit vs the danger of suddenly having a hunter appear right in the middle of the team. And let's not forget that this is still a co-op game, so killing your team members is *always* effectively shooting yourself in the foot. And making it so that the infected is "cured" once they get to the safehouse would be an incentive for them not to just start griefing the other players.

Jon Baker: So does this mean the "leave Britney alone" guy plays Left 4 Dead?

Also: BAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Jazmeister: The infected could stay infected for a long time, suddenly and brutally lose the ability to communicate in any way, and even hallucinate his friends as zombies. That last gambit, combined with some terrified voice acting, could signal his descent into infection.

This would ruin Vanilla L4D - an absurd term on day 2 of launch, but relevant nonetheless - it should be an alternate game-mode more tailored for people who buy the game expecting survival horror (like RE) rather than co-op zombie shooter (like HotD). If modders could add game-modes, that would work. So would server mods, but the indiscriminate server joining would make all that more difficult.

spuzman00: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

spuzman00: Oops, sorry Tom. I think I just stretched your blog far more than any blog is meant to be stretched.

The Rev. Name Withheld: Damn it, Spuzmaaaaaan!

Freakinswiit: Dear God Spuzman, what abomination have you created?!?

Hoborg: Ooh, you stretched it right out. That'll make his eyes water.

Lack_26: On the demo, I got vomited on by a boomer and someone set the car alarm of, so I shot the guy next to me, incapacitating him and threw a pipe bomb just behind him (so he was just out of the main blast). The zombies ran towards it, some blew up and the rest of the hoard swarmed him while the rest of us ran away giggling.

Good times,

grey_painter: We have come to a conclusion as a group that The Director can hear and understand you. Even if you are using Skype for communication worryingly. Its the only logical explanation for the multiple times Hypnotoad has stopped us by a door with an exclamation "I have a plan!" for him to be leapt on by a hunter the second he breaks cover and then get swarmed. The Director can hear your plans and he/she is not amused.

RC-1290’Dreadnought’: If you can't be seen by zombies because you are infected, you can run/limp to the safe room and let the others die... winning the map.

Hoborg: Simple - if you get to the safe room before anybody else does, you transform instantly and are effectively killed.

The question is, if you *do* make it to the safe room with the others, should you be "cured" at the start of the next chapter, or should the infection /continue/ throughout the movie? Personally I think "cured" is a better idea as it gives the player an incentive to keep playing rather than just dropping out as you're effectively already dead.

The more I think about it, the more I think this would need to be a whole new mod rather than an optional extra "rule" (unless it simply happened so seldom that it didn't upset the normal rhythm of the game) - you could come up with a bunch of new maps designed to encourage one player to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the rest of the team. For example, a bomb that needs to be set off after everyone else has gotten to safety.

J-Man: @hoborg

Why don't you just go play zombie panic source?

Dragonalex: I REALLY like that infected idea.

I wish to expand on that Director hearing you theory. It also appears to have a very mean sense of humor. I am dieing. Litterally RUNNING on pain killers, and even then down to 30 health. All I find is ammo. Everywhere. We make it to the safe room, heal, its all good.

Next level, I run out of ammo. What do I find? Medkits. EVERYWHERE. screw you Director!

Roadrunner: I was wondering if anyone has extreme lag issues on most if not all of the L4D servers you play on?
Valve fucked up big time without a proper server browser. L4D's Matchmaking is a joke. Just before xbox 360 players get crap match making, doesn't mean we have to suffer it too

Tom Francis: Yeah, the match-maker is a moron. He's either blissfully unaware of lag, wildly inaccurate at judging it, or prioritising some other factor over it. Removing all player choice in server selection was a big step, and it shouldn't have been taken without a reliable replacement.

BigJMoney: Infected idea is awesome! I have two issues with it:

- The invulnerability to zombies wouldn't add much to gameplay; in fact probably annoying gameplay (like steep learning ramp siliness in TFC; veterans could ALWAYS tell who was a spy). Actually I think it would be more fun if you had it so that when the infected gets killed by zombies he IMMEDIATELY becomes one of them; this makes it even more tense about "do we kill him or not?"

- The person who turns into the zombie can't turn into an NPC. Otherwise most team-oriented players will just say "kill me I'm infected"... furthermore 1 NPC zombie is no threat. They're a piece of cake to kill and who gives a damn if your temmate becomes one. **BUT! If you allow the infected player the option of continuing to play with the desire to become a traitor and wipe out the rest of the team to win by himself, then you've added a VERY cool dramatic aspect to the gameplay that encourages the player to say nothing at all about their infection (unless they feel very loyal to the team).

My thoughts

peterd102: Aren't these people meant to be immune to the zombie creating agent? Thats why they are still alive right?

Valve spend ages making zombies plausible and realistic, and everyone just smashes it to bits :( - Shame on you!

Hoborg: peterd102: ... eh? :s

Jazmeister: In I Am Legend, the survivors are immune. Maybe that's what you're thinking about? I mean, if you take the game as a perfect representation of the world and assume there aren't any mistakes (a rare and dangerous procedure), the fact that "infected" can beat the shit out of you and you don't turn, nor does your corpse rise (which would certainly change things), you could take that as proof that you can't be infected.

Knowing Valve, they probably thought it would detract from the purity of the game, not be fun, or make it too complicated to be intuitive. That's what Gabe Newell seemed to think last night, as he mentioned it at the private tea party I attended in my honour.

Tom Francis: I was going to go to that, but Warren Spector was throwing me a street parade so it just seemed kind of rude.

Peter's right, the plot is that you four are immune to the infection. But it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to change that to just being very resistant to it.

I think it's got to be a rare occurence with no telltale signs, otherwise you're just going to get blown away by your team-mates in public games without a second thought.

Dante: @ Dragonalex

It can totally hear you, a freind made the mistake of confessing he found smokers the most terrifying of the special zombies when playing Dead Air last night. And suddenly couldn't move more than a few meters without getting tongued. In the finale he managed to get snagged by a smoker who dragged him past a boomer, which vomited on him.

He was a nervous wreck by the end of it.

Aldo: So, does this mean the Director passes the Turing test? ;)

Snow: The 4 survivors are immune, Thats why in one campaign someone says: "The army is still taking in immunes" HOWEVER (spoiler) in the death toll campaign in like the 2nd or 3rd safehouse is a some crazy guy who not only refuses to let you in the safehouse but rings a church bell to bring zombies. After the horde falls he becomes a smoker and bursts out of the safehouse (/spoiler). If he was still alive he must have been immune, but then why did he become a smoker at the end if he was immune? Take that valve!

Lack_26: [spoilers]


He turns into a smoker/hunter/boomer. Also he says that he let someone else in that said they were clean and got bitten for his trouble. He wasn't immune, he just never caught the virus until someone passed it onto him by bodily fluids. Some one has written on one of the CETA survival guides that it isn't air-born, despite CETA stating that after securing a room you should seal it with plastic-sheeting.

Oh and you can play the piano in the church :) [/spoilers]

Snow: Oh ok i feel quite the fool now. But if it isn't airborn then how come you don't see partly-eaten zombies at all. I understand that whole towns could be infected through the water supply and such, but NO bites on the zombies? Also in the opening sequence bill says that the zombies are changing doesn't that mean that he would turn into a common infected before becoming a boss infected? as it is he goes from regular person to smoker/hunter/boomer in like a minute. or at least close enough to a human to talk and ring bells.

Roadrunner: If you agree that the lobbying system fails horribly, sign this petition on the steam forums to bring back the good ol' server browser.
http://forums.steamp... ...ost8505218

Anonymous: Erm... I don't have much of an answer to those questions. But this is based of B-movies, and they're not really known for their convincing plots and on some graffiti it's stated that zombification can take between 3 days and 5 minutes, from varying accounts.

Although you do see quite a few dead bodies around, although the normal infected could have just killed them.

I wonder if Valve actually have answers.

Jazmeister: I didn't think you could get "airborne" viruses. I thought that was a pretty edwardian view of the way things work.

I want... I want the Witch to be more scary. Why not have a whole host of scary shit that happens when you decide against avoiding her? That could be with any updates they release. Like if they added more damage to demoman nades with every class pack.

Are they "undead"? It says so in promotional materials, but then, PR stuff just needs to send a message, it isn't always written by the same people. If they actually physically die, then reanimate, you could have the player's corpses rising. The more I think about it, the more I warm to that idea; it would fuck with your friendly-fire-tuned reflexes.

Jason L: No, they're not undead, they basically have a less-debilitating form of rabies. I actually don't like to call most modern 'zombies' by that name, for precisely that reason. A pop-culture division's already forming - notice the relative paucity of 'zombie' in L4D discussions, given the focus of the title. People seem to steer toward 'horde' or 'Infected', and Infected is definitely part of the larger lexicon. I think it's time to just go whole-hog on recognising the 'natural', subhumanity and contagion-terror based Homo Sapiens Mordicansis as a different phenomenon from supernatural, Uncanny Valley-dwelling Homo Sapiens Putrescens. They move differently, group differently, develop differently and their homes are plotted differently. Their offspring so far have been few (basically Shaun of the Dead) and not very fertile. One has no particular hunger for braaaaiiins.

Some bacteria cysts (notably anthrax) spread as a fine dust that even small breezes can spread as an aerosol. I'm not an expert but I'd be surprised if there weren't viruses that exploited the same trick using host cells. I'm pretty sure I read about a couple that colonised keratinising skin cells to be flaked off as household dust? In the postapocalyptic stillness, sure, it settles out (until you disturb it). But in a world of cars and mobile professionals and central ventilation, the difference is academic. Sez Oi.

I thought you just said the lobbying system didn't work, Roadrunner. Bdmp-tshh.

Lack_26: Oh yeah, that anonymous comment was me, but on a different machine.

Also, I'm sure some virus can be airborne, in gene therapy for cystic fibrosis they can inhale the virus, which they've engineered to deliver the working CFTR gene, using an aerosol, although the virus has mutated in a few cases and killed the person it's being treating.

Jazmeister: Nothing really to say, except I wish Jason L. had posted some sort of blog link.

Maybe a war of the mindless bitey ones is in order?

Enjay: For those of you wanting a zombie game where if you die, you get turned into a zombie, play zombie panic source. Or Counter strike zombie mod. Or TF2 zombie fortress mod even.

L4D isn't trying to be those games, hence why it's only four players on one team. The infected bosses are sweet though, and I wouldn't mind seeing a mode where you and another team of four try to fight through an incredibly hard (Like, harder then expert) campaign, and if you die, you turn into an infected and for the rest of the campaign get to try to stop your former teamates from finishing.

Would make for a more difficult experince that has a bit of the "My teamates want me to die, I'll show them!" aspect to it.

Jackrabbit: By some twist of fate the first time round there was no picture. Somehow it was even funnier.

Tom Francis: You're right, Jackrabbit, it's actually funnier with just the sound.

LaZodiac: @Snow: From what I understand, the quote "They're changing" is infact Bill saying "they are going from crazy people with just a bad case of rabies, to...well, the Infected we see in the game"

Basicly, the rabies virus in L4D, in certain bodies mutates, turning them into the Boss Infected. I wouldn't be surprised if, during a new campaign, suddenly a new Boss Zombie appeared and, after killing it, the survivors mention things like "what was that?" or things like that.

Of course, once you've encountered it, it would save into your data so that the next time you face it, you do know what it is, and if your with any players that haven't seen it, your character will tell them about it.

Gunpoint problem?

Don't post them here, I'm a useless idiot! E-mail tech support with as much detail about your system and the problem as possible, and they can actually do something.

Question?

There's a page about the games I've worked on, what I use to make them, and what platforms they're coming to.

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