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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

GTA IV Shorts

mplayerc 2009-02-06 15-58-13-25
Split Up (YouTube HD)

mplayerc 2009-02-06 15-59-31-15Positive Mental Attitude (YouTube HD)

Surprising News (YouTube HD)

Mother… (YouTube HD)

Glitch City (YouTube HD)

Original post:

As I guess you know if you follow me or @PC_Gamer on Twitter, I’ve put up the- what, third? GTA IV short made from our various antics. This one has the best beginning, and the best ending, of mine. The middle is meandering glitchy madness to tie the two together. The high-def version is on YouTube – there’s a sentence that would have sounded strange a year ago.

Most of the popular ones on Rockstar Social Club are multiminute stuntwank epics nailed together from several clips of footage – mine are all single clips, simply because cuts are a pain in the jerk to jerk around with. I have – eep – 33 of these bastards I’ve edited, and I’m going to be hurling up one a day this week, unless I, like, don’t. I’ll update this post with links.


ImperialCreed: I've just picked up GTA on the Steam weekend deal. Avoiding the singleplayer entirely as the multiplayer is just too much damn fun. My jaw was sore from laughing after my first session with some PCG mates.

Pent, is the build in-video editor thingy as complicated as it looks?

Tom Francis: Nope. There's only one trick to it, and once you've fully got your head around it things are pretty intuitive. To do anything, you need to place a marker - press M. Once you've placed one, you can fiddle with its properties to change the camera angle, zoom and speed for the clip thereafter. If you place more than one, use , and . to cycle between them - clicking on them gets awkward.

And yeah, multiplayer Freeplay is where it's at. I don't recommend the single-player without cheats, and even then it should only be approached in the most relaxed state of mind possible.

Nonomu198: Hey, hey you should update your 1fort (it's DEAD) link to the new site "First Person Shouter".

Dave_C: Oooh, I do love making these. 17 gigs of Hard Disk space used up on video captures.

I think they turn out best simply when a string of absurd coincidences happen - they just aren't fun to edit or watch otherwise. It's pretty difficult (and boring) to tell a story with the thing. Here's the one I think worked out best for me: ...annel_page

Looking forward to seeing the rest of yours!

Also, about the single player: I cannot finish it. I cannot stand the narrative, the voice acting, anything. Every time the game throws an unimaginative, annoying character at me, I congratulate it for somehow inventing the most annoying character ever, again.

Rei Onryou: 5-12s = ultimate win.

Rest of video = agreeable win. I haven't gotten around to GTAIV yet due to many other games and the mass of bugs, but that video, that one video, has made me want to jump online like crazy. >=D

ImperialCreed: Thanks for the pointers. I now have the urge to try and re-create the bank heist shoot out from Heat.

Tom Francis: Oh! That is hilariously brutal, Dave.

Agreed on all counts about the singleplayer - didn't complete it on 360, probably won't here. I am idly replaying the missions, just for more editing fodder, but skipping all cut-scenes and cheating my ass off.

Roadrunner: Cool. Which song was that playing in the first part anyway?
Single player is fun, but the cutscenes just drag on for too long, and the characters are terrible. Voice acting works for them though. I would estimate I'm about 75% through it all.

ZomBuster: Cheating huh? You can't cheat right without mods!
And since this was about videos might as well put this here ...eA7IuSKuik

functional videos are the best!

KaffN8ed: Wow, these clips are making me really want to buy GTAIV, just to play around with the video editor. The one problem I have with that is that I am severely lacking hard drive space, since I hear the game is quite large. Not to mention the gigs and gigs I would take up with videos. By the way, that ending was pretty damn cool.

ZomBuster: To be honest I didn't like the video :(

Palmsy: I had a similar experience with GTA on Xbox. I didn't know what all the reviews were talking about, calling it the perfect game with 10/10s and 100%s being thrown about (I'm looking at you IGN).

It is a very good game; fucking about online with mates is amazing (even on single player it's pretty fun, try playing helicopter destruction derby between skyscrapers with pursuing cops) but the single player just bored me a little. The story just wasn't anywhere near as immersive or enjoyable as San Andreas and was it just me or did it seem a little short?

Jason L:

I'm looking at you IGN

But why?

I don't understand the rationale behind this video either. Getting swatted into a guardrail by helicopter blades - I don't care who y'are, that's funny right there. By contrast the car-skimming-head thing is cool here, but the 'best beginning' and 'best ending' look like completely normal one-button events. Diff'rent strokes, I suppose.

The game is incredibly sizable, but we're down to like ten cents a gig nowadays...

Timmargh: You're on Twitter? Super.

Dagda: Tom, I strongly suggest checking out ...annel_page. Tis' a thing of beauty.

ZomBuster: Can't expect less from a professional machinima maker Dagda

Tom Francis: Nice, but I still prefer Dave's. The dude who hits the lamppost is the highlight - maybe that's a thing with me.

Jason - he's probably looking at IGN because they gave it 10.0/10.0, effectively 100%.

http://uk.xbox360.ig... ...381p7.html

Jason L: ERROR JOKE FAILURE. I was trying for 'But why were you looking at IGN? Why would anyone ever look at IGN?'. Knew it was a stretch, dang it.

Palmsy: Yeah Jason, that joke went straight over my head =P

I'm not too fond of IGN myself, but when games come out that I'm interested in I read alot of advanced reviews to make up for the fact I can't play the game til release.

In regards to the 10/10, to me it implies not that a game is perfect, but just that it achieves everything that it sets out to do and is immersive and (above all) fun to play. GTA IV probably deserves a 9 in that regard. The story was just too boring and repetitive to warrant 100%.

Palmsy: Oh yeah, and all these GTA movies reminds me of the original Driver on PC. I had so much fun with the movie maker on that game.

Jason L: Indeed, that was a game with a perfect understanding of both cinematic driving and driving cinematics, and a thousand class-action lawsuits against hubcap manufacturers. Shame about the collision physics.

Smurfy: Click on my name to see my YouTube page. I think it must be half GTA 4 vids now. The things are just so easy to make that I churn them out all the time.

My latest vid is the start of a series, Myth Trackers, which parodies all those "GTA 4 MYTH HUNTER EXTREME PRO GHOST FINDER" videos. The first episode is kinda bad, but everyone seems to like it >.>

All of them are in HD except for Myth Trackers Episode One, because of codec problems. It's uploaded in HD but YouTube said "no".

Also, in future, use the no watermarks mod to remove those pesky Rockstar logos from the video.

Jazmeister: I've always loved movie makers in games; GTA games are a bargain bin priority for me. This may have bumped it.

Anyone ever wanted to go back and just watch a movie of them playing Mass Effect or Fallout 3, with all the loading screens and tedious bits cut? Just the cool dialogue and cinematic camera of combat? You can make a few really diverse characters with them games, although when your character is silent it doesn't help.

Can you subscribe to the pcg blog RSS without getting all the other CVG stuff?

State: If you're looking for GTA IV videos that have a bit more effort put in, look no further: ...r/State209

Chijts: That's some great work State, although it does sound like you are saying Pentadact's work isn't as good as yours because he didn't put as much effort in.

State: I realize that now. Pentadact's videos are always good for a laugh. I meant that my videos are a bit more coherent than the usual slow-motion infested GTA replays. Sorry for the unintended insult...

Palmsy: ...I'm pretty sure that was another unintended insult =P

Keep digging that hole, buddy!

Post Maker: I think he's trying to say that his video are in a different "genre" of GTA short, rather than a different level of quality. "Clean Getaway" (his newest at time of writing) tells a story of a bank robbery gone wrong, and the ensuing escape from the police. Both Pentadact's and a State's videos are great, but they deal in different things; State with story, Pentadact with humour.

State: I think I'm just going to shut up. >_>

Post Maker: Forgot to mention that I very much enjoyed Glitch City, particularly the part where the cop car just brushs the top of that player's head. The slowmotion leading up the ending (the sliding car, the shattering window) was a really nice touch as well.

Although I just finshed watching "Mother...", and I'm a little embarassed to admit that I can't remember the name of the song they use in it. Could anybody help me with this?

Video link: ...Ope244mQLk

Tom Francis: Cheers.

I love how would-be flame wars fizzle out here because everyone's so polite. I feel like I should decant the port now.

Palmsy: If necessary I could happily inject some hostility into the proceedings.!

Yeah PostMaker, I love that bit where the car brushes that guy's head. His expression, seemingly a mixture of surprise and acknowledgement of his luck to still be alive, completes it.

ZomBuster: I like those 2 new videos

Mother shows some nice (failed) teamwork and Suprising News is lol random

Jason L: On the other hand, Surprising News made me LOL. I feel it could use a Jaws sting, but I am not one for subtlety.

Post Maker, the Mother music's some adaptation of the beat from Snoop/Dre's Next Episode.

Post Maker: I found out today that watching people's videos of GTA IV is on average more fun than actually playing it. This might be due to the fact that I was playing on a console, but I've wondered since then; are the controls on PC also complete ass?

State: I use a 360 pad for PC, so no, it plays great. And you can switch to mouse/keyboard on the fly.

Ludo: Mother is great, watched it a several times and it cracked me up reliably every time the main rider (probably Tom) bounces off the truck and inexplicably flies miles. Semi-organised team violence ftw.

Formerly Cpt.Muffin: *sips port*

Anyone else got some amusing videos to put up that they've made? I think Dave's deserves a place in the main post.

Lack_26: I really like the controls on PC, I had a really hard time with SA due to the controls. The ones on IV felt really natural.

I made my own video, but I haven't got a youtube account so it's on rockstar TV, for the link just click on my name (it should link to the video, anyway).

I do think that the video editor does dis-advantage people with a 4:3 screen, since when you're editing the shot, you forget the game chucks on a large bit at each side, when you export, to make it wide-screen.

Dave_C: Ah, Mother was hilarious! That's just the kind of frenetic shit that can happen in GTA IV-land, you try to set up something awesome, and it just never goes to plan. The world always throws a spanner in the works somehow.

J-Man: Positive Mental Attitude is also great.

ZomBuster: Oh and little problem here, the whole deal with copyright etc. on music where your video's can get muted on youtube, applies on GTA 4 video's too, since they only licensed it for use on the Rockstar Social Club apparently.

Bobsy: Apropos of nuffin, the PCG sporecast is down... again. What the cocking buggery, eh?

Tom Francis: Yeah, so we saw. Nagged Maxis about it some time back, don't know why it's not restored.

Chris R: All these videos are links are great, love em. Anyone else got some more cool videos to link? I can't get enough! :)

Chris R: Grrrr.... *AND..... All these videos AND links are great.

Redhawk: I love the very start of Split Up. The zooming into the faces, combined with the music makes it seem like the start to a trailer of some wacky action-comedy movie.

*does best trailer-narrator voice* Four strangers on the wrong side of the law...

Chris: My love for these videos can not be measured with conventional means.

Jazmeister: How 'bout a ruler with inches on it? Eh? Eh?

Palmsy: Or a love ruler?

...Actually scratch that.

Jazmeister: I wouldn't scratch the love ruler if I were you. You'll do yourself an injury.

Palmsy: Please. Let's stop.

Chris R: Check out these shorts I found on Youtube from user Machinima. There are a TON of videos of GTA 4 for the 360, but he has a handful from the PC version and the built in editor. Here's the filtered link for the GTA PC stuff. They're all about 2 min long, and pretty entertaining. ...ery=gta+pc

Lampica: Hey, check out the the Machinima I made with the GTA4 replay editor. No I am not the YouTube user "Machinima". I use that word because the vids I made are in story form. They have a beginning, end, and a plot in between.

Just do a search on YouTube for 'Niko's New Clothes'.. Then if you like that vid checkout that user's other videos (I've only uploaded 3). One of them is not really a story though..

I promise you will get a big kick out of 'Niko's New Clothes', and my other story oriented one 'Manchurian Candidate' actually won second place in one of Rockstar's online replay editor video contests (out of thousands of entries). Though I think 'Niko's New Clothes' is the better video.