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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.

  • Grant: Thanks to the start of this video, I’ve just now noticed that during the static flickers while staring...
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  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • 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

    The Combat In Mirror’s Edge And Why It Fucking Sucks

    Having played it through three times in English and once in Italian, it’s starting to look like I might be obsessed with Mirror’s Edge. This is my fifth post about it, and not my last. But even I think the combat is weirdly bad, and so easily fixable that you start to wonder what went on in DICE’s offices. There’s no way they had a roomful of testers play this and everyone said “Yep, seems fine.”

    The three parts of it suck in different ways, and my proposed fixes are of equal obviosity.

    MirrorsEdge 2008-12-16 02-44-00-28

    Melee

    Like Tuesdays, the melee combat in Mirror’s Edge has no feel. Despite loading-screen guff about run-ups giving your flying kicks more damage, every blow bounces off every enemy, triggering a fake ‘stagger’ animation. Nothing is physical, everything is the result of abstract rules.

    If I, an unarmed action hero, manage to run at a firing gunman and flying-kick him in the face before he kills me, it has to knock him down. Look into your hearts, DICE, you know this to be true. It’s a fundamental axiom of awesome, like glass breaking when I dive through it. The same goes for slide-kicks to the groin, which should lift your victim momentarily from the ground as he’s propelled backwards onto his ass.

    Punches should be weak, of course, which is precisely why there shouldn’t be any. You’re a slim woman with unprotected hands, it’s just not wise to hit someone wearing full body armour. If you’re sprinting when you collide with them, the impact should make them stagger. If you’re stationary, Attack should do the same as Disarm – recall that the Disarm button is actually the “Beat them up and disarm them” button.

    MirrorsEdge 2008-12-16 02-40-08-18

    Disarming

    Waiting for an enemy’s weapon to flash red during a specific frame of the same nonsensical shoulder-nudge they each perform is preposterous. I feel like I’m standing there as a favour to the game’s animators, because they only know how to show me grabbing a wrist in one particular position. It’s a terrible challenge, relying either on using slow-mo so slow that the wait becomes boring, or learning the animations by rote to anticipate the absurdly brief red flash.

    Design tip! You’re supposed to hide – not force me to study – ridiculous conceits like canned animations.

    Disarming should always work – slowly if they’re firing at you when you initiate it, quickly if they’re staggered or prone. Enemies shouldn’t try to nudge you with their weapons in close combat: you’re still in front of their gun, there’s no reason for them to stop firing. Instead they should start to run backwards as you approach, trying to keep you at a distance.

    MirrorsEdge 2008-12-16 01-27-46-40

    Shooting

    I love all the different words reviewers have found for this: loose, hollow, shaky, weak, fuzzy, bland. Obviously to make an unprecedented free-running game you can’t devote the time and budget it would take to make a really punchy shooter too. I wish DICE had seen the bright side of this, though: they didn’t have to! Shooting doesn’t have to take up the player’s time or be their source of fun. You can just have guns outright fucking kill people, the way they actually would.

    Hitman’s the closest model of what I’m talking about: it doesn’t make a great shooter and it doesn’t have to. You spend most of your time in situations where you can’t viably open fire, so enemies don’t have to be tough and interesting challenges when you do. They can just die.

    Once you’ve got hold of a gun in Mirror’s Edge, it should make a lot of noise, have a lot of kick, miss a lot at range, but kill when it hits.

    If some of this sounds like it would make the combat too easy, that might be because I think the combat should be easy. But I also think it should be used in a completely different way, and I think I’m going to have to make that post number 6.

    P.S. Graham’s blog Zeitgasm has also been redesigned, and is also harping on about Mirror’s Edge in tones I mostly agree with. 83% though, honestly.

    More ,

    J-Man: A question; in percentage, how much of the game is devoted to combat? Roughly?

    Roadrunner: Atleast you're not playing it on the xbox. Then it really sucks, you're just tapping LB RB LB like when you're running. and jumping. and skipping cutscenes.

    It may sound like i'm simplifying it a bit, but i'm not, I had more fun on call of duty 4 on the xbox, which I played instantly on veteran because I thought PC Talent > Xbox talent. I played warpig and got up to the 4th checkpoint before giving up because it's too fiddly.

    I did like GoW2 though. Despite PC people having a misanthropic hatred for the series for some reason, It's not bad.

    Alek: Yeah, that seems about right.

    In a game based on this sort of free running concept, I appreciate the attention to THAT instead of combat. Sure, when you have to, it's not that good. But oh well.

    Tom Francis: Feels like 20%, to me. 40% awesome speedy free-running, and 40% slowly working your way around a climbing puzzle. There aren't that many of those, and I like them all, but they each took me a long time.

    J-Man: Hmmm. I think I'll purchase this when the price dips below £20, this post has put me off. And does it have mods, because I can just imagine the incredible stuff the modders would do with it.

    Jason L: No, and it's unlikely to ever get any official support - it's much less of a playground than the Battlefield series, DICE is wholly owned by EA now, and extra levels are monetised these days. However it is based on a modified Unreal 3 engine, and maniacs have already managed to open levels in Frankensteinian patchworks of the U3 map editor and game data. So far they're able to make the editor crash, or in some cases corrupt data and then crash.

    radomaj: When I started playing the game I swore I wouldn't fight, but when I tried some segment the thirtieth time and just couldn't get past them I resorted to disarming. So I got through the game without using guns. Had to stop and disarm opponents about three times in the game, so it's not that bad. But the fighting sucks anyways.

    Jonas: Wow I really like this analysis (or opinion... analion? No that has undesirable connotations). You really hit on a lot of good points, and the Hitman example is spot on - Mirror's Edge is a game that can afford to make the combat brief and lethal.

    Jazmeister: I totally forgot what I was gonna say because of that stark black post there. Look at it - rounded edges and everything.

    Anyway, I haven't played it, but I can feel what you're saying. A game like Mirror's Edge, a speed running about game, wants to be like Assassin's Creed with the killing. I don't know about you, I can't remember if anyone even liked that game because I got it on holiday etc, but approaching a guard from behind on the roof, then doing the flying brainstem stab attack... it does things to a man.

    If you're fast and vulnerable, it should follow naturally that you're either overtly evasive (!) or hit clusters of armed guards like a Minotaur in a china shop (on a train (a bullet train)). High damage or good evasion.

    By damage, incidentally, we've always meant "hurting people index", amirite? When I stand on someone's foot, it can cripple the unsuspecting sod; if I punched him really hard and was Bruce Lee, it could kill him. What is this health thing still doing here in mah games?

    Still loving where the twitter is. Will be ruined the moment it says "@CraigPearson yeh i no lol". Congratulations, you get to be Always Vigilant.

    Jazmeister: Interested to know why my last comment flagged as spam. Did the phrase "yeh i no lol" set it off? I suppose I'll know when I hit submit!

    The Poisoned Sponge: To be fair though, I think there were only two or three sections when you had to fight, but really, there should've been none. The problem I found though was that without the enemies constantly trying to get you, the lauded time trial mode just seems a bit hollow. I need some sort of context for my running, y'know?

    Cmdt_Carpenter: And why is it that if I take a running start and jump kick someone, they just give a half hearted push with their assault rifle and I TAKE ALL THE DAMAGE AND STUMBLE BACKWARDS? Apparently after those November Riot things the government abolished Newton's Laws of Motion.

    Cmdt_Carpenter: Roadrunner: I played this all the way through with an XBox controller because I thought it would be more fun that way. You had a problem with hitting the bumpers all the time?

    Tom Francis: I suspect there are no completely unavoidable fights, if you kite enemies to an awkward spot before you climb that drainpipe or crank that door wheel. But a lot of them are unreasonably hard to avoid the first time you play: there's a puzzle in working out where to go, and it's a hard one to solve when your movement is constrained by lines of fire.

    Mostly agreed about Time Trial, found it a little unexciting and haven't returned to it.

    Cmdt_Carpenter: Pentadact: You can say there are no completely unavoidable fights, but the only real way to avoid them is by glitching the AI or messing with the enemies in a way that they can't find they're way to you so you have enough time to keep going. Plus, the game makes a big point of highlighting those enemies in red so you know you 'absolutely must' kill them apparently.

    Tom Francis: Yeah: kiting them to an awkward spot.

    Of course, I've just realised that there are three absolutely unavoidable fights, but they're not of the normal kind against cops with guns. And only one of them is really a fight.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the times Merc tells you to stop and fight, early on, were a response to early playtesters repeatedly trying to get past every enemy. It's what you naturally feel like doing in this game. Their response to that should have been to make sure that playstyle is feasible, rather than try to talk people out of it. The only times that it's not seem to be calculated attempts to scupper it.

    Joe Russell: @ Carpenter

    Actually, the game tells you that the red glow means that you can either fight or run past them, but you do have to go through them in some way.

    It is possible in pretty much every situation in Mirror's Edge to get past without fighting - however, you will die a lot (a lot more than if you were to attempt combat).

    I actually didn't find the combat that bad. I've played through the entire game three times (once on each difficulty) and got the achievement for not shooting anybody (I have it on 360) and I actually got quite used to the combat. I didn't use the disarm moves unless the enemy was facing away from me, making for an easy disarm, and generally if you separate the enemies and take them out one by one you shouldn't have that much trouble.

    That's not to say it's well designed; I agree with pretty much everything you say here, but I found the combat part of the game reasonably fun (as well as making the enemies shoot the servers in the last room of the game for me by running round the perimeter and then legging it up the stairs to the roof).

    Andrew: There's manadtory fights? scrap my earlier comment about the question being "if you don't need to fight, if it's bad, does it detract from the game". I'll probably still get the game, since I enjoyed the demo and personally love to run around in first person jumping (more so then 2D platformers) - like as Scout in TF2, but the fighting does sound awful.

    Thinking with Parkours « Somewhere In England: [...] Just putting together some thoughts on Mirror’s Edge and noticed that Tom Francis from PC Gamer UK has put up a post all about why the combat in Mirror’s Edge fucking sucks. [...]

    Tom Francis: Sorry guys, my comment police - Spam Karma - is being ferocious since I upgraded WordPress. It's set on 'Lovey Dovey', the most generous setting, and it still arrested Jason L for being too new (!), and Jaz and Jonas for having fake payloads (?). Bailed them out now.

    If it had flagged Jaz's comment with "Dude sounds like he's drunk," however, I might have concurred.

    Rei Onryou: I don't see why they couldn't have gone in the Thief direction and encourage you to avoid every fight, although I suppose then they couldn't have put in that Achievement for not shooting anybody.

    Modern day Thief game with free-running motion, FTW?

    Dave_C: It's funny that everything you've suggested for bettering the fights is entirely possible.
    How hard can it be for an enemy model to ragdoll-ise when hit by your turbo karate kick? GTAIV does that stuff without breaking a sweat, you'd think such a physics-based game would have integrated Euphoria or at least developed physics to suit its gameplay.
    The only game I can think of that even comes close to exciting First-Person melee combat is FEAR (the first one). At least that made you feel badass, slide kicking and flying scissors kicking your way through a roomfull of enemies. In slow-mo. Looks like that's miles ahead of this though.

    Aftershock: MOD PLX.

    I've not played this on PC, whats the quality of the port like?

    Jason L: Horr horr horr, for the millionth time it's not a port.

    Here's hoping instead of a sequel they do a prequel that actually is just about delivering packages past cops in a timely manner.

    ZomBuster: I found out you can actually avoid fights by dieing.

    In the drain thingie with the snipers, I messed up the disarm move and thought "well I'll just redo it" but when I respawned it was on a later checkpoint and the snipers were gone.

    LaZodiac: I do agree with the drop kicks not knocking people down, but other then that, I'm fine with the combat.

    The times I had to use it, it was fine. Except for the fight againest the Parkour Assassion, but thats only because my main combo (punch, punch, ball kick) doesn't work on that person.

    J-Man: @Rei Onryou;

    [b]YES.[/b]

    J-Man: Pfft. I can't even use bold.

    Formerly Cpt.Muffin: Do you think that Kitten was influenced by Mirror's Edge?

    Redhawk: Odd. And apparently Spam Karma tossed out my novel-sized comment too. Although I suppose I deserved it.

    Tom Francis: You can, you just have to use actual HTML.

    J-Man: Actual HTML? [b]ACTUAL HTML?![/b] Who the hell do you think I am, Tom? Tom Francis?! I have no idea how to use HTML.

    Tom Francis: Redhawk - when was that? I can't see anything by you in the comments filed as spam in the last five days, and it's not set to delete anything.

    Tom Francis: It's the same, but pointy brackets. BBcode is the child-safe version.

    J-Man: {b}so.. will this work?{/b}

    J-Man: Gah. I surrender to the fascistic HTML.

    Roadrunner: He means like this.
    This would be awkward if I was wrong.

    Tom Francis: Although if you're right, he can't see what tags you used. It's <these>.

    J-Man: hmmm

    J-Man: Woot. Also, can anyone recommend me a cheap game? I'd love to buy Mirror's Edge, but I'm broke.

    Redhawk: Hrm, odd. I distinctly remember writing it up in this chat field and am positive I saw it in the big comment mass. Perhaps I was mistaken, though, if your enforcer isn't reporting anything.

    Jazmeister: Hey, hey J-Man. Hey buddy. [a href="http://www.yougotrickrolled.com/"]Click Here[/a] to learn all about html.

    Cheap game? Tell two of your friends that each said something nasty about the other, and convince both that you're the only one they can trust.

    Tom, your <these> tag didn't show up in my feed reader, but I see it here. When are you going to draw the line at making your website compatible? What about bally foreigners?

    Lastly, do you mind if I sound drunk? Impossible to tell, so far.

    J-Man: Just downloaded a free game called glitch - incredible. And then I found out I could upload music into it, so assembling a playlist of architecture in helsinki, decemberists and orishas right now.

    Jason L: Perpetual resource PCG's 365 Days of Free Games - I've been finally working my way through this for a week now. I'm about halfway through and have only actually played 10% of the things I've grabbed.

    J-Man: Cheers, Jason; these all look awesome.

    J-Man: My god, these indie FPSs are awesome. Playing celestial impact, and just created a massive tower from which I grenaded my foes.

    SenatorPalpatine: Why do you have to post so much about Mirror's Edge? It makes me sad to think about what it could have been with a little more thought. (When it's cheaper I will witness the enormous wasted potential for myself.) Great points about the combat though.

    And I now have a twitter account; I will promptly start to never use it. I'm a little bit angry because "SenatorPalpatine" is one too many characters. This is why I don't have a Digg account, because they expect me to fit a username into fifteen characters. Guess what? IT'S ONE TOO FEW! 'Sen_Palpatine' will have to do for twitter. If only SenatorPalpatine was one less letter. If only...

    Paul E: "Once you’ve got hold of a gun in Mirror’s Edge, it should make a lot of noise, have a lot of kick, miss a lot at range, but kill when it hits."

    -How is that different than how it is in the game?!

    Keeping The Peace In Mirror’s Edge, by Tom Francis: [...] of my suggestions for the combat with cops would make it less difficult, and hopefully less awkward. But it can’t get so easy [...]

    Mirror’s Edge | Knights of the Cardboard Castle: [...] be better off just running away from enemies than trying to engage them in melee. Game reviewer Tom Francis has some interesting ideas on how combat in Mirror’s Edge could have been improved and I [...]

    anwesh: ur comments r stupid

    rottenworld: mirror's edge is the best, u r all geeks

    Fuck Mirror's Edge: This sure is one shitty ass game without any feeling at all. It does suck really. Looks great at first, but once you get it and starts playing, you'll be bored with it within 1 Hour. After 2 hours you'd hate it.

    Bret: Mature, thoughtful, brilliant.

    When I see a name like "Fuck Mirror's Edge" I expect literary sophistication on par with Wodehouse, and yet I underestimated your sheer capacity for wordplay, for understanding the intricacies of the language. "and starts playing"? Shakespeare himself would roll over in his grave with envy.


    (And Tom liked the game. Trust him a little more than you, yeah?)

    The name is: I think its Goofy that Im fighting Men with Guns in this game . I mean come on They are trained to Kill and have Weapons the Runner has no weaponry !! This game should of been Combat Fists Vs Fist !! The Guns in this game make me laugh at times . Heavy gun Vs little old jumper Girl lol . I also thing this game needs Map editors for the Counsels so we can create interesting Puzzle online or time trials !!! Why is little big planet so popular ? Because they allow the game to Play Create and share

    Anthony: The reason that Faith bounces back when she kicks is because they have tough armor. I semi-agree with you though. A flying kick should definitely cause a CPF policeman to fly backward. The more armor they have, the more recoil bounce (like the PK SWATs for example). I think the punches should still be in, it's particularly useful if you get cornered by a CPF. Also, they nudge you to push you back to continue shooting you as you stagger. They're tough, no reason to back up defensively. As far as shooting goes, I think it's perfectly fine. I've heard people say that the aiming is poor or whatever but I think it's just them because I nail 'em every time. Perhaps an auto aim feature would be useful?

    EvilDarkrai: One thing I utterly detest about the combat that seems to go unmentioned is the fact that any time you land a melee attack on an enemy you auto-lock to them and can't get away without defeating them. This makes it difficult to hit-and-run enemies or, heck, even survive when facing a cluster of enemies.

    Example scenario: I'm running down a corridor created by shipping crates and there are three shotgun wielding blues in front of me. I drop kick the first guy and run past his staggering body to his buddy, whom I disarm with a well-applied slow effect. The muzzle of my newly acquired shotgun is then introduced to the face of Blue #3, and I run past into a door, feeling lik a boss.

    ...or, at least, that'ss what would have happened if I hadn't been staring at Blue #1 like a star-struck schoolgirl while his buds pummeled me to death. Anyone else see a problem here?

    Asinus: I'm sure this post is years old by this time (I'm looking for a posted date, but don't see one, ah well...), but I just got ME from Steam a short while ago and returned to it again after getting hybrid Physx set up on my machine. Anyway, yes, I have stopped again because of the combat. I'm probably too impatient for it, but I think I'm impatient with it because the parts that are good are so great. Specifically, when you're really in a running flow, jumping, sliding, swinging, etc. it's such a great feeling game. Then you see a cop and think, "Ah, I'll slide and kick him in the crotch." But instead of staggering the fellow at all, all of the awesome kinesis grinds to a halt, and you're suddenly reminded that you are, in fact, playing a very flawed game.

    I'm with most of the other posters here-- I don't want this to be a beat-em-up, I don't mind running away from guy's shooting at me, and I appreciate that they let me take several gunshot wounds before I'm brought down, but there are just some things about the world that ought to be brought into the combat. One of those is that if a muscly woman who can make incredible leaps comes sprinting at you and hits you full on with a kick, even if you're a decently sized man, you're going to be staggered. If she's trained in some form of martial arts, she might be able to stun you briefly.

    It's the combination of an extremely free-feeling game (though it's almost on rails, though the invisible walls are extra invisible in this game, which I appreciate) with gimmicky, extremely phony combat. It reminds me of the Empire Strikes Back Atari game-- there was a flashing square on the AT-ATs that you had to shoot with your speeder. That was the only spot where they were vulnerable, so you had to find and shoot just that spot. It worked in that game because the whole thing was just an artificial, 80s arcade-y game. Here, it breaks the immersion and is just frustrating.

    Kudos to you on all of your playthroughs, I'm just having such a hard time sustaining focus on it, but wish I could.

    Oh! The Gameological Society (gameological.com) made a video of Mirror's Edge remixed with soundtrack replaced by M83's Until the Dawn Heals Us; it's worth a look if you're a fan of either, both (or neither, I guess :) ). Thanks for the write up! It was nice to see that a fan and competent player of the game shared at least some of my frustrations. Maybe I'll keep at it.

    That one guy.. you know that guy: The game sucks major balls and if they fuck up the sequel, then fuck it, worst shit ever. The story is short and confusing, lack of help for the new players who aren't playing games much, having difficulties with level design, gun combat completely sucks ass, repetitive combat with all the enemies and the ending is PLAIN STUPID. Where the fuck are those police mans, fucking jerking off and expecting a sis on sis action? What the fuck game. I had to play it to see if I'm going to enjoy it or not and you can tell by now that I think it's the shittiest game ever made. Maybe not the shittiest, but it's there somewhere with the others. It had so much potencial and they ruined it. Had to push it...

    Jason L: Times I'm grateful for Remo Internet Man Voice: +1

    Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Review: […] really hated the ‘blues’ in the original game, and unlike Catalyst you couldn’t run away, you had to run through them […]