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.
Update! Last time I tweaked the design, I supplied a song to play while you stared at it trying to work out what the hell is different. I’ve just added the Mirror’s Edge song to my Mirror’s Edge screenshots post. Could these facts be combined question mark??
Okay, backing slowly away from the precarious construction of toothpicks and Blu-tac that is the James 2.7 source code, I think it’s done. Let me know if something’s malfunctioning wildly for you, I haven’t tested everything.
Since I came up with the last design a year ago, you guys have caused me two equally wonderful problems: more traffic than it was ever built to handle, and so many comments that browser scrollbars shrunk to an unwiedly trifle by comparison. The point of this minor redesign was to deal with those enough that my account would no longer get suspended, and newcomers would be able to work out what the hell was going on. Here’s what’s new – I’ll insert some unrelated images from my Flickr account for those who don’t really care but feel compelled to read.
The defining feature of James removed: Comments are no longer displayed beneath posts on the main page – just the latest one. It had got to the point where even if I limited the main page to two posts, it was a nightmare to find the second one or even know whether there was a second to find. The original idea for this redesign was to embrace that and make it just one post on the main page, but then I thought about it for more than two seconds and realised that’s exactly what you get if you just click on the post. So I went the other way.
Tags! A little box on the right lists them. They’re actually for special series of posts rather than scattershot word-association – almost nothing will have more than one tag, most posts will have none. I wanted a quick way for people who like GTA IV to see what I’ve said about GTA IV, or people who like Trust Me With Your Ears to hear the previous ones, or people stumbling on Fallout Girl to read it from the start.
Last Comments: Tracks the three most recently discussed posts and what was last said about them, which means when old posts get commented, the revival of that discussion can’t be overwhelmed by lots of comments on the latest post. LaZodiac, for example, just responded to a comment made back in November on that Left 4 Dead video. Exciting!
Smoother everything! This is huge. The rounded corners, and my wonky little avatar up there, are very slightly smoother, thanks to being downscaled double-sized GIFs – a cheap and IE6.0 friendly hack for anti-aliasing. Truly, this is the first major sign of the world getting better now that Barack Obama is the leader of the free world.
Nine billion times more efficient: I just deleted about 70% of the existing source code, and replaced it with a more nimble CSS architecture that loads the main column before the sidebars. Getting that to scale correctly at lower resolutions involved forcing ageing HTML to make rough and non-consensual love to underage CSS standards while I watched, aghast. It is not a problem I wish to solve again.
Also: Search bar (Google, but not Google Custom Search because it utterly, utterly sucks), Favourites (only the very best), PC Gamer links (because even PC Gamer US didn’t realise I worked for PC Gamer when they first found this place, and fewer still seem to know who the regular writers are), and a revised About (no room for the headshot anymore, but really the only relevant thing about my appearance is that I’m not female and attractive, so you don’t have to pretend everything I post is interesting).
Again, thanks for coming, thanks particularly for returning, and thanks most of all for commenting so goddamn much.
More Site Stuff
Robert64: Very nice, didn't notice anything at first, but looking closely there are vast improvements.
The Poisoned Sponge: Hurrah, no longer shall I be forced to wade through the dross of those who aren't Tom Francis! A noteworthy day indeed!
The_B: Don't worry, if I need to remember what you look like, I just picture your face that time when you were stuck inside yourself in Alone in the Dark. Not a euphanism.
Bret: Huzzah indeed!
More posts on the front page!
Ross: I'm a little worried at the real human cost of this update - has Zarathustra lost an exclamation point?!*
Other than that, nice little set of slickness added. Ta muchly.
* I could be mis-remembering vintage James, of course
Justice: I heartily approve of the changes! I love your flippant attitude to your HTML comments: "COMMENTS, IF THERE ARE ANY", "HERE'S WHERE THEY TYPE STUFF IN"... ahh!
Dave_C: I heartily approve of this update!
Hard as it is, the comment section-crunching was really the only option. And, on the upside, I feel it makes the posts themselves more prominent.
Dave_C: Huh! Justice and I appear to have used the exact same first four words in our approval of this update. A fine choice of words, I might add. Our elegant use of the exclamation mark is also second to none.
ZomBuster: Who still uses IE 6 anymore? Use PNGs, they are the future!
Or even APNG because it sounds cool.
Lukasa: I heartily approve of everyone heartily approving. With that out of the way, I'll go on to say 'Kudos' to you for going to all of that effort, especially in amongst your other commitments (at least, I assume you have other commitments). It shows more dedication than I have ever had.
Cpt.Muffin: I'm only a semi-literate hack when it comes to computers, who has no idea what most of those changes mean. Programming HTML to me is more daunting to learn than foot-to-ball's 50,000 leagues under the sea.
I like the redesign, but I dont think you ever really told us what it's like being white, middle-class and male.
Jason L: You know it's a line from Ben Folds' excellent song Rockin' the Suburbs, right? I ask because for some time I didn't.
Tom Francis: Patch note I forgot: now with 100% less jiggling. It always bothered me before that the columns would load with slightly the wrong widths, then correct themselves as it finished.
ZomBuster: 2% of James readers, amazingly. I do use PNGs, but not where transparency is important.
AMP’d: That carabiner doesn't look very sturdy. What's it being used for in that picture?
Oh! And James looks nicer too.
AMP’d: No, no, it's just that those carabiners (I'm pretty sure it doesn't have a screw on it) aren't rated for falls. You can load them with weight, but when something heavy, like a climber, falls on one of those, they pretty much go "SNAP."
But it would be fine for a static load, especially since it can't be the only one on that balloon.
Tom Francis: Interesting! So if about eight people fell from, say, another balloon above us, and all somehow steered their descent to land in our basket at the same time, the whole thing might have snapped? Scary.
AMP’d: I think the wicker basket might have snapped first, but yeah.
In that highly improbable scenario...
Glen: I use IE6 (I work at a big company, and like all big companies they are often slow at updating software), and I this update has caused all the text in the main window (above) to flow to the right underneath the right sidebar. Just letting you know.
Redhawk: Hooray for the comment shortening! That was my main gripe with this website. Logically, with it resolved, http://www.pentadact.com must be perfection! Hooray perfection!
Waste_Manager: It's quite broken in IE7....liking the changes though
Zeno Cosini: Looks good... except that yes, I'm having the same problem with the text flowing under the right sidebar. Also, the cup of coffee I'm drinking turns out to be American-weak, but I guess there's nothing you can do about that.
Tom Francis: Goddamn it, you're right. That coffee is weak. And this is screwed up in IE. I tested it in IE 6.0 about an hour before going live, and now it's completely different. I'm assuming the problem in IE 7 is the same - the main column is hugely wide and overlaps the right sidebar?
This is the most soul-destroying kind of problem to fix: "Spot the mistake in code that already works perfectly because there aren't any mistakes in it."
It's trying to make the main column 100% of the screen width come hell or high water, even if I remove all the width="100%"s from the tables. It's as if it's obeying the left and right margin properties of the CSS class while disregarding its margin properties and the size of its container. Or the container is too big... nope, there's no earthly reason for it to correctly interpret the right margin property for the right sidebar yet get it completely wrong for the main bar. Some demented notion of its width is over-riding every other constraint, even though I never specify its width.
Well, thinking aloud hasn't helped. I'll be back in a bit.
Rei Onryou: Clean, efficient, easy to use and with some bizarre HTML/CSS roleplay to boot. Fantastic. How many users was James originally designed to handle and at what point did too many people start to like you?
Tom Francis: Fixed! I am invincible!
Long, complicated, boring story short, IE is utterly flummoxed by the margin-left: or margin-right: properties. But because of some nifty reconfiguring I did later, I didn't need them anyway.
Ludo: That was some ninja fixing, was about to post about the margin thing, but then suddenly it was all sorted.
Waste_Manager: This is why table tags are completely win and utterly reliable. Boo CSS.
Pod: Travelwise tip:
Don't jump out of planes.
What was I thinking?! I meant to write:
Wise Travel Tip:
Don't jump out of planes
I suck ;(
Jazmeister: Wow, Craig redesigned his site too! Now it has this feature called:
"Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 8388608 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 30720 bytes) in /usr/home/explodid/public_html/wp-content/plugins/customizable-comment-listings.php on line 487"
...Is that your twitter feed right at the bottom? I saw it when scrolling for posts and felt it was a silly, little-seen place. Then, obviously, I started commenting and... good job! Wife's laptop loads it all in a second.
Glad someone likes Adam and Joe. Do you get their radio signal down there? I settle for podcats.
Lack_26: :( the last couple of words on each post are now obscured by the last comments, features, tags, random, etc boxes. This makes me sad, darn 1024x768 maximum display resolution.
Tom Francis: I'm such a fanboy that I can listen to neither their podcasts nor the live show: the former because I'd know I was missing out on two and a bit hours of aimless chat and bad nineties hip-hop a week, and the latter because I can't pause it when I leave the room.
Instead I stream it on my EEE with the iPlayer, so I can listen a) while cooking and b) while playing games without having to alt+tab out to pause it if someone's saying something important.
Adam's enactment of a teenager's thought process when watching the opening sequence of the new series of Skins this week had me helpless.
Yeah, my Twitter status is in the penalty box down there. I think I did that temporarily to get it out of the way while working on something else, when my status was 'Scunted like a twazzock' in reference to the Stephen Fry podgrams, and something about finding it there unexpectedly later made me laugh. It won't always make sense there, but I like it being slightly easter-eggy. I think because you normally find dreary gumph about webmasters and copyrights down there.
Seniath: OT: I recently discovered that all of The Adam & Joe Show is on 4OD. This has made me very happy indeed (even if I do already have far too much TV to catch up on).
J-Man: Didn't you logo used to have a glass of champagne?
Smurfy: This sucks.
Tom Francis: Lack - still? What browser? I knew it was that way when it first went live, because late change screwed up the fix I'd gone with, but it should have been addressed pretty sharpish. I can't replicate it now in Firefox, IE or Chrome browser at 1024x768. In fact, even at 800x600 stuff shouldn't overlap, it should just force a horizontal scrollbar.
J-Man - yeah, I didn't bother to redraw it in the new high-res logo, trying to cut back on clutter. It was a Christmas thing that only stayed because Graham said it looked more like me with wine nearby.
J-Man: I think you should have little themed logos - sometimes holding champagne, ak47s, throwing grenades etc. Then loop them with a script.
LaZodiac: Now I feel embarresed about the L4D comment *blush*
DoctorDisaster: I didn't realize that was your Twitter feed, because when I first saw it the status was "Bonus feature: now actually works in Internet Explorer." This was so hilariously appropriate for a redesigned website that I assumed it was permanent.
Lack_26: The browser I'm using is the last version of Firefox 2. Not 3, so that might be where my problems are coming from.
Here is a screenshot
Lack_26: Hmm, sorry about that over long url, it's just stretched the page further. I probably shouldn't have named it such a silly thing. Well feel free to delete the url after you've seen it, just to get the width back to normal.
qwertylicious: In the latest (public) Chrome build I'm getting the page rendered similarly to Lack_26. Apart from that, very nice.
Fat Zombie: How appropriate! I've started playing BF2 again.
...Well, I thought it was appropriate. Also, lovely new blog etc.
Tom Francis: Damn, this is going to be hard to diagnose. Usually I try ten different things a minute, but I can't make the problem happen in the first place on my machine, even with the latest Chrome, so I can't tell what has an effect.
Two things are weird about that screenshot - one is that the whole thing is off-center: not by much, but there has to be a reason. The other is that the main column has plenty of slack to contract to fulfill its 203 pixel indent from the right hand side, and it's ignoring it. Only fixed-width image or nowrap line should be able to countermand that.
What I've tried for now is adding two dummy rows to the main post table in an attempt to squish the main column in harder. Let me know if anything's changed for you.
Roadrunner: Yeah, why doesn't chrome work with youtube? I like chrome because it's simple yet sharp, and fairly quick.
Also I have an unjustified pre-concluded hatred of firefox.
But why doesn't it work with youtube and joining facebook apps?
(Yes, even unloved geeks use facebook.)
Tom Francis: Funny you should mention that - I don't have trouble with YouTube, but Google Docs malfunctions horribly in Chrome for me.
I just plain don't like Chrome. I forgave its chronic, PC-freezing problems at launch, but it's been a long time now and it's still just a horrible, horrible app to have installed. It not only secretly installs a Google Updater program that runs on your machine at all times, but if you manually close that, it's set up a Windows Scheduled event to restart it every time your PC is idle. When Chrome itself is actually running, both my hard drives chug constantly, even with the Google Updater closed, disabled and deleted. Plenty of obvious, key sites don't work, including as we've established several owned by Google themselves. At some point, the 'beta' blackboard on which you're chalking up its crimes runs out of space.
roBurky: I don't have any problems at all using Chrome. Flickr uploading didn't work with it at first, but that was fixed long ago.
roBurky: Apart from your site, now. With the width all stretched by Lack_26's link.
Tom Francis: Hey, it's like an episode of House, which is to say every episode of House. What if Lack's problem and Qwertylicious' problem are symptoms of two completely different diseases, the latter triggered by our attempts to diagnose the former when Lack posted his screenshot link?
To all patients, how is it now that I've fixed the URL shortening plugin?
Foreman thinks it's lupus.
It's not lupus.
roBurky: All is now good.
DoctorDisaster: One of these days, House, it's going to be lupus and you're going to FUCKING REGRET making fun of me for all these years.
Nonomu198: 1)No! The twitter, ruined! I must scroll all the way down (or press the End button) to read it!
2)Tag! Now this place is just like 1fort. Only that it gets updated without sudden deaths!
Lack_26: Well, I won't be able to say if it was fixed on that browser. Because I finally moved my new computer into the main room and the old one is no longer linked to the internet. But with Firefox 3 it works, so no problems anymore.
Tom Francis: Nooo! I need closure!
Occam's Razor nudges me towards the simplest explanation: assuming it wasn't some weird extension, it's possible there happened to be some long string it was refusing to wrap - perhaps Jazmeister's paste of Craig's blog content.
Either way, I'm undoing the dummy column speculative fix - it was a horrible solution, and it reintroduced the dreaded jiggling on load.
Roadrunner: on the topic of browsers, apart from Firefox, Opera, Safari, Chrome and IE, what other browsers are there?
Are you still fiddling around with the blog settings?
Should I just... leave out the back way?
Roadrunner: Did anyone see in the news the goat detained for armed robbery in Lagos?
Tom Camfield: Francis, I insist* that Pentadact comments are somehow highlighted differently to the rest.
roBurky: The comments box in the right hand column is now all stretched by Smurfy's link on the mirror's edge post.
J-Man: @roBurky: yeah, getting the same.
Tom Francis: Not anymore, motherfuckers! I just ripped the still-beating heart out of my URL chunker plugin with my bare hands, hacked the custom post listings plugin in half with a masonry saw, shoved the former somewhere between the latter's lungs and spleen and stitched it all up with dental floss. I now feel like a genius, even though all I really did was stare at 6,700 words of code for half an hour and then make two replacements.
The next thing to go wrong, though, I really am just going to say 'fuck it'.
radomaj: Got a dog. Pisses all over the place. So now his name is James.
Tom Francis: You named your dog after my website because of urine? Clarify.
Bumface the Brave: I second Tom Camfield's request.
Also (Probably an obvious answer for this that I've overlooked), why did you feel it necessary to include in your post a screenshot of the website that we're already on?
The_B: Tom, have you tried BrowserShots? - lets you see your website in just about any browser in any resolution you specify without having to download the browsers themselves. Incredibly useful to see which browsers your site doesn't work in.
Jazmeister: I found it handy because I only really use RSS readers and only grudgingly visit the internet proper. Like now, for example.
Tom Francis: Bumface - posterity. I dare say I'll redesign this place again sometime - so far it's been every January - so it's nice to include a log of what it looked like. I was going to make it a recursive shot of the post itself, but I got very irritated with Paint Shop Pro very quickly.
B - I did try that site some time ago, but the queue to get the shots was absurd at the time. Looks like someone - you? - submitted this place to it yesterday in 90 browsers. Some fairly major ones just haven't loaded anything at all in those shots, I'm not sure it gave them time. All of them cut from this post to halfway through Mass Effect one - I'm assuming that's by design to show you the bottom of the page, or something has gone badly wrong. Other than that, the only casualties seem to be super-old browsers and obscure Linux ones, both of which can go to hell if they can't follow simple standards.
J-Man: AAAHH. All the comments have "comment_author_email" on the end of them.
e.g. "Other than that, the only casualties seem to be super-old browsers and obscure Linux ones, both of which can go to hell if they can't follow simple standards.comment_author_email"
Robert64: What browser do you use J-Man? No "comment_author_email"'s here.
Tom Francis: It was only for a second, I was debugging a strange function.
J-Man: All better now.
Nonomu198: Did you stop liking Penny Arcade, Tom? I'm pretty sure it used to be on the favorites. I personally don't really like it and find it overrated...
Also where is your picture :(
And why are the images on the left side and the random on the right side?
Why, Tom, why?!
radomaj: Sorry, wrote James, thought Tom. Nevermind, just a joke. I screwed it up.
Roadrunner: You should change the colour scheme for different events.
Valentines day? Pink.
Halloween? Orange and Black.
See how simple and brilliant this is?! :D
Roadrunner: Also, A duck walks into a bar. Orders a drink for 59p, and he says to the bartender- "Put it on my bill."
The joke is only funny when you hit the big red button on that page.
Jazmeister: Don't press it! I pressed it and it made me laugh, shattering my calm disdain for organic life.
LaZodiac: @Roadrunner: Is this an american thing? Because I swear the rimshot has always gone "ba dum dum tish" and not "ba dum tish"
Formerly Cpt.Muffin: New! On Wii!
"Tom Francis' Coding Trauma Centre"
Grimace as you play Tom Francis, blog redisigning extraordinaire. Using wit and your wii controller, your duty is to stitch together coding that others said couldn't be done! Progress begins in overcoming that unquenchable monster "Firefox" - whereupon your journey begins to take you to forksaken areas, such as to level seven to face the dreaded benemoth "IE". As you take Tom through more and more grueling challenges along his quest to re-create the greatest blog site of them all, such fabled beasts as "linux" are rumoured to rear their ugly heads. Dare you slay them? Shall you run away? The choice is yours in TFCTC.
Non-linear Gameplay - Either continue battling and re-arranging code chunks or embark on fun-filled side quests such as "Whisky while you work" to "I've got a deadline tomorrow"!
Physics - Watch the almost real life physics as you use the wii remote to slam Tom's head back and forth into the keyboard in exasperation!
Compelling Storymode - Enthrall yourself in the world of the white, middle class, award-winning Tom Francis and interact as you please with his fellow humans! Choose from the diverse dialogue branches of - wit, humour, bastard, condescending bastard, philisophical.
Out January 2010
Looks like someone - you? - submitted this place to it yesterday in 90 browsers.
J-Man: That game sounds brilliant.
Roadrunner: Speaking of brilliant games I played mirrors edge on the xbox, and its not brilliant at all.
Its just run RB LB RB etc etc, and all the levels are the same.
And because the whole city is florescent white, it hurts my eyes and although nice, gets boring very quickly.
Jason L: For what it's worth, Firefox 3 2008120122 can replicate Lack's problem if you use the page zoom (ctrl-+). His shot looks like it's at normal size, but at least this is the same CSS disobedience.
Nonomu198: Tom's comments, black? So many changes...
This is not James 2.x any longer. It is.. James 2.x special edition.
Roadrunner: We should all get special colours, it's not communist!
Infact make this blog more communist, step by step, until you have a secret police force and every time someone misses one of his daily checks on your blog, they're eliminated by the Cheka.
J-Man: I like the highlighting. On a side note, wouldn't the TV show Dexter make a brilliant game?
Tom Francis: I think that's an exciting new problem, Jason, assuming I'm seeing what you're seeing. That the main and right columns smoosh together, but don't significantly overlap like they used to. I have a nasty feeling my ego-highlighting caused that one.
Formerly Muffin: welcome to my life. Need a dialogue option for "Ignore everyone and spout tediously detailed coding gripes," though.
Nonomu: I got rid of the Comics box because I just haven't been reading any of them consistently enough to recommend lately. Qwantz is the only one good enough to make it into the other list, which is basically the best eight things on the internet.
I've always wanted to put all the outgoing links on the left hand side, but I couldn't back when browsers had to load that column before they'd start rendering the main content - Flickr, Google Reader and Twitter all frequently stall.
HoW Monty: Nice redesgin. Shame the PCG bloggers don't all write in the magazine. Lousy Richard Stanton and Rachael Penny.
Tom Francis: Fixed it, for me at least - it was that image I embedded, the extra indent made it too large.
But mostly I'm posting this to check nothing breaks if I comment twice in a row now.
Tom Francis: Dammit!
HoW Monty: Oh dear.
Jason L: This predated the ego-highlighting and exactly replicated the problem in Lack's shot - the right column boxes intruding into the center by a few tens of pixels. You have it fixed here now, well done.
Roadrunner: Hang on, what exactly are you trying to redesign here?
Nothing seems different from before except and extra bar, and a different format of comments...
Jason L: Maybe he said in the post about the redesign.
Roadrunner: I didn't mean it like that, I meant what seems to be going wrong O.o
Tom Francis: Elite James Testing Squad, as I've come to call anyone still hanging out in this thread: do you want to try something for me?
I've gone back and reconjigulated an old post to try a new way of using screenshots. I'm interested to know whether a) it works for you and b) you approve of it. It's something that simply can't be done in IE 6, so I've set it up not to bother if that's what you're using. BrowserShots suggests it also doesn't work in IE 8, and won't let me test IE 7, so if you have either of those I'm all ears.
It's just an experiment at the moment, I thought until recently it couldn't be done at all.
Jason L: I approve, although there's no strong feeling either way. It works here in FF3.
We're back to the right column intruding if zoomed, both on that post and this, but I'd like to be clear that I don't consider that a major problem in itself - only if it's the same thing Lack said he was having all the time in FF2.
James: I took "Comments are no longer displayed beneath posts on the main page - just the latest one." to mean that only the first post would have comments displayed on the main page, not that only the first comment would be displayed. Which still solves the "where is the second post" problem, since it will be at the end of the big block of comments.
HoW Monty: Tom, the medic post didn't work for me in IE7.
Tom Francis: Damn. I can switch it off for IE 7 too, but then it'll only be active for 76% of James readers. 40% of those would benefit greatly, 38% would benefit slightly. Those who wouldn't benefit or wouldn't see it at all would just find images load much more slowly, and since that's 40% of everyone, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go with it.
Shame. IE has no good reason to ignore proportional image sizes - it has the tech to scale them, it just refuses if doing so would render them smaller than original size.
Jason L: Bug: When people post pingbacks (I think? That's still a concept I don't like or understand), the post bubbles up on the recent comments list but instead of the pingback the last 'real' comment is shown. Current example is I Played Through Episode Two Etc.
Tom Francis: Yeah, I've looked for a workaround but no luck so far. That plugin seems to have schizophrenic feelings about whether a trackback counts as a comment or not, and it's an absolute beast of a chunk of code to sift through.
Not too serious - I do want trackbacked posts to rise up - just slightly confusing you've already read the comment.
Bumface the Brave: Someone might have mentioned this already, but I've just noticed. I clicked About>Everything feed button wotsit, and it just came up with a load of jargon. Maybe it's just me. Whatever.
Jazmeister: Does it look like xml?
Bumface the Brave: Possibly. Does xml look like this:
If so, yes.
Jason L: Yes, that's RSS XML. I guess that 'About' is a little misleading, but the links are using the standard icon for an RSS feed.