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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.

  • 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...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • Hitman header tunnel

    Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

    Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

    Postcards From Far Cry Primal

    Snowball jack header

    Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

    Kill Zone and Bladestorm

    Kill Zone And Bladestorm

    BAFTA Featured

    An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

    Sectors Header

    Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

    DXHR Open area

    What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

    Heat Signature Natural Numbers

    Natural Numbers In Game Design

    Pharma Header

    Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

    Writing vs Programming

    Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

    Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

    New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

    Her Story banner

    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

    Invisible Header

    What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

    Super Game Jam Header

    Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

    Shadow of Mordor Header 2

    What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

    Heat Signature Talk

    Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX

    Projects

    What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

    Murder, She Wrote

    The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

    Heat Signature Wide 2

    Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

    Heat Signature Floorplans Header

    Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

    Gunpoint Steam Workshop

    Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

    Distance Header

    Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

    The Magic Circle

    Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

    Floating Point Blog Launch

    Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

    Floating Sine

    Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point

    Fault

    What’s Your Fault?

    Hoplite banner

    The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

    Gone Point

    Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

    Heat Signature Thumbnail

    Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

    GRappling Hook Thumbnail

    The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

    Alien Swarm Heroics

    A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

    FTL Story

    One Desperate Battle In FTL

    Spelunky Banner

    To Hell And Back In Spelunky

    Game vs story graph

    Games Vs Story 2

    Gunpoint Breakdown

    Gunpoint Development Breakdown

    Max Payne 3

    Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

    This is how you die

    My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection

    Clouds

    Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

    Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

    Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

    Mainstream Games

    How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault

    A-Rock-and-a-Hard-Place-Trio-Jan

    A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

    Dark Messiah

    The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot

    Arguing

    Arguing On The Internet

    Spelunky

    Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

    Stealth Games

    Why Are Stealth Games Cool?

    Violence

    E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

    Suspicious Manifesto

    The Suspicious Developments manifesto

    GDC

    GDC Talk: How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole

    Crosslink

    Listening To Your Sound Effects For Gunpoint

    Happiness

    Understanding Your Brain

    What Makes Games Good

    What Makes Games Good

    Seat Quest

    A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

    Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

    Beneath Suspicion

    Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

    Open Worlds

    An Idea For A Better Open World Game

    Level Up

    A Different Way To Level Up

    BioShock Ending

    How I Would Have Ended BioShock

    Meet the Spy

    My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

    Team Fortress 2

    Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

    Football Manager

    Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

    EVE Assassins

    EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

    GalCiv 2

    My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary

    Gnome

    I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

    Machine of Death

    My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

    Blood money and sex

    Blood Money And Sex

    AOL

    A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

    Second Life

    First Night, Second Life

    SWAT 4

    SWAT 4: The Movie Script

    Can A Death Knight Walk On Lava?

    I was bribed back into World of Warcraft recently by the refer-a-friend perks. You level up three times as fast while with your friend, you can teleport each other across the world, you can give each other free level-ups, and then you both get a unicorn.

    So I was storming through Ragefire Chasm with a group of PC Gamer guild-mates on the Steamwheedle Cartel server, one of whom is a Death Knight. Death Knights have a great spell that freezes water around them, making it solid enough for them to run across it rather than having to swim. This one, Cartho, wondered if it would also work on the seas of lava that surround you in Ragefire.

    He stripped down to his undergarments, took a generous run-up and bellowed, in the Death Knight’s echoing villain voice: “For Quel’thalas!”

    Lava Walker

    The Poisoned Sponge: I think this means he qualifies for a Darwin award.

    roBurky: My Aarghubul's levitation spell didn't work on Lava either. This was discovered after a scientific experiment involving the centre of a volcano.

    Madness: Oh man I remember that. Sakazak here. So yeah, it turns out not even PCG writers can walk on lava.

    Cartho: Woohoo I'm famous!!!

    The_B: This, I believe, is called for.

    Mr. Brit: lol, did you get the coppers?

    Smurfy: That's a racist attack!

    Roadrunner: No matter what anyone ever says about world of warcraft, I'm never ever going to try it.
    And it's okay for me to not try it and have assumptions based from stereotypes, You damn greasy nerds!

    J-Man: You don't post for ages, then leave us with a lousy .gif?! Screw it pentadact, I'm gonna go listen to Girl Talk until there's a real post up.

    Aftershock: You better have got those coppers.

    Jazmeister: @ The Poisoned Sponge

    DEATH KNIGHTS DON'T EVOLVE!!!

    (please god never let them evolve)

    Also, I used to play world of warcraft. I used to pretend to be a girl. It all started when I didn't say I wasn't a girl, and giggled lavisciously as I watched people just assume so. Then I started talking with other pretend girls about how we were really girls and how silly boys were.

    That is my review of world of warcraft. 100%! I'd never play it again!

    Jazmeister: Oh man laviscious is something that I was sure was a word. I can't find it anywhere, not on tree paper or google paper! Did I dream this word up? I thought it was some kind of suggestive, aggressively feminine adjective.

    Google lavisciously. I found a site called wordie, which... has no purpose?

    Sorry fo' double post, foo's.

    Jebus: We'd make up acronyms while playing WoW and use them as excuses for whatever went wrong. My favorite was my roommates excuse for an instance wipe.

    "Sorry guys, CIH."
    "CIH?"
    "Cock in hand."
    "What?"

    I definitely played that game way to much in 2005, then came back to try out Burning Crusade when they offered me the 10 day trial. Something about raising the level cap never boded well with me, maybe it was cause all those hours getting epic gear in MC and BWL became utterly worthless. They've been trying to sucker me in with another 10 day trial for Lich King, but its become quite apparent that WoW is no longer for me.

    Roadrunner: Thanks to World of Warcraft I've begun coughing up blood mixed in laviciously with phlegm.
    Or it could be I'm just ill, but I'm off to my GP.

    Tom Francis: lascivious
    [luh-siv-ee-uhs]
    1. inclined to lustfulness; wanton; lewd:


    Laviscious is French for vicious.

    Jazmeister: Thanks! Now my soul may rest.

    I didn't really need to say anything, did I? Wasting internets again.

    Formerly Cpt.Muffin: You should've logged back in for Valentines Jazmeister, there you could've used your lascvious charms on all the lonley gamers out there. If, y'know, getting nerds to masturbate is your thing.

    How come when on Holiday in San Francisco you decided to play WOW:LK Tom?

    Roadrunner: It's not called valentines day for nerds, it's called Singles Awareness Day.

    Redhawk: Technically, its called Singles Awareness Day for the pathetic ones and February 14th for the rest of us.

    Roadrunner: Touché, Redhawk :\

    DoctorDisaster: So, essentially, the incentive to play World of Warcraft is that you don't have to play as much World of Warcraft?

    Tom Francis: Heh, I said almost exactly that to Alex at Edge when he caught me playing it at lunch, and declined my offer to refer-a-friend him.

    "But just think how little World of Warcraft you could be playing right now!"

    Jazmeister: I think that's like taking tax out of benefits and topping it up again with tax credits. It's an answer to a problem, but you could make it a simpler problem. Blizzard recognise that you want to play without having to spend quite so much time on it, so they're giving you ways to cut corners eating the time consuming porridge buoying the raisins of their success.

    Enjay: I used to play WoW, played it for a year.

    Loved it, but there was one main problem, which is why I quit it to start Warhammer.

    First 20 levels are fun at first. You level, getting new abbilities constantly, doing quest, leveling up a couple times a day.

    Then you get into the 30's. You level maybe 1 time a day, and the quest don't seem to make that sacred exp bar go up at all.

    So to fix it? You take a bunch of quest, finish them all, turn them all in, to see the bar move up maybe a little box.

    At this point you begin to wonder. Is this worth it? Somebody told me "ur just playing the wrong class LOL" so I tried 3 different classes on 3 different servers, and it all felt the same. It felt like work. I'd put why WAR is so much better but honestly saying it doesn't end up like WoW later on would be stupid as my characters aren't high enough to make that decision.

    Tom Francis: Yeah, I've never got past thirty-three, partly because of that sudden slowdown. The refer-a-friend thing really helps, but Tim tried a Shaman for his new character and didn't really take to it, so he's not playing much anymore.

    Palms: Played as a Gnome warlock for a few months after my friends raved about it. It was really fun playing with mates (particularly one session playing as low level horde in the barrens where a friend logged on drunk, charging at raptors yelling "IM GOING TO RAPE YOUR EGGS" on general chat)and instances were good too (until people began taking them a little too seriously) but after about level 35 I really got what people meant when they said "grind." In the end it just became a monotonous job which I was paying for rather than a fun distraction from *real* work.

    Enjay: I managed to make it to 42 on a hunter because my friends all told me after the 30's you are in the clear, and I spent many-a-hour doing quest that were pretty much all the same and flying everywhere (which I admit at first was cool, but after you've flown around a few times you wish it'd just teleport you there).

    They were wrong. It seems to get worse as you level up, and while level 80 content does sound nice, in the end, unless you are willing to put many hours and unfun ones at that, you aren't going to make it there in any conceivable amount of time. So I quit. I figured, if I'm going to work, I want paid, and if I want to play a game, I want to have fun.

    It's nice they are trying to make the leveling grind a bit easier by introducing the faster leveling and stuff, but in the end it's just going to get the people who are on the trial into the 30's where it starts to get boring, and they'll quit odds are.

    BTw anyone who managed to make it to 80, while many people would say you have no life, which may or may not be true, you do have a lot of determination, that, or you have a really boring life and nothing else to play.

    Redhawk: @Enjay, I played WoW for about two years, having recently left for Warhammer. I can tell you that, yes, the 30ish-60ish grind takes grit and a certain amount of psychosis to get through. Its a testament to how MMOs were made back then: more like jobs than games. Nostalgia raiding the original end-game content is a good example of this as well, as anyone who has suffered through the truly ungodly amount of trash in Molten Core can tell you.

    However, once you get into the Burning Crusade 60-70 stuff and especially the Wrath of the Lich King expansion they just released, you see how Blizzard refined the experience and made it significantly more enjoyable. Having fiddled with other MMOs and talked to my sister and brother-in-law about their experiences in Everquest, its pretty clear that WoW is the pinnacle of the genre right now. Its still an MMO, which turns a lot of people off (like most of the people in these comments, it appears) but its the best damn MMO out there.

    Cartho: 30 - 60 is bad
    I am level 80 now, and I can tell you I almost quit at many points in the 30 - 60 bit
    It was slow, boring, the quests were annoying, dull and repetitive.

    However once you get to Outland at level 58 its so worth it, as the game really starts to come alive, the quests are alot more inventive, the instances are refined, less time consuming and the zones are fantastic. (One of my main complaints about 30 - 60 is the zones, with the exception of Stranglethorn they are terrible)

    Northrend is just stunning. Funny and inventive quests where you actually care about the sotrylines, superb zone design and brilliant dungeons to explore

    In my opinion the hardest thing about WoW is getting to Outland. Once you've done that you're laughing

    Jason L: But a year's a long time to wait for a punchline.

    Does anyone else get the feeling that maybe Blizzard should revamp the earlier quests to be easier/shorter/more drop-generous when they tack on to the top? Sort of keep the game the same overall 'size'? That chasm between new players and those who came before has to be there to make the 'victory' meaningful, but I wonder if there's any difference in potential customers' eyes between having to grind for several months to get in the game, and having to grind for several months in areas nobody cares about anymore earning now-trivial loot.

    Cartho: Yeah I think the major problem now is that for new players trying to get into the game, 1 - 80 feels incredibly daunting, even with the refer a friend perks

    They have said though that they will continue to monitor player feedback and will make further adjustments down the line

    Like how now its 60% faster to level up from 1 - 60 than it was when the game first came out, due to Blizzard increasing quest exp rewards as well as the exp you get from just randomly killing things

    Enjay: Only way I'll honestly go back to playing WoW is if the make the 1-60 leveling easier (not nessecarily faster) then 60-80.

    I've played on my friends priest on WoW shortly after TBC came out, and liked the few outland quest I did, but every time I try to say "After I get out of the low level stuff, it gets easier" I quickly correct myself saying I don't see any reward to it. It's all about reward vs work expended, and for the first 60 levels, WoW's work far outweighs the rewards of the last 20 levels and end game content. WAR seems to have a slightly better balance at lower levels, as you can do low level PVP and actually feel rewarded, and the higher levels are rewarding (allbeit not nearly as rewarding as WoW's expansive endgame yet).

    Warcraft's storyline is amazing and if they made a movie I'd be one of the first people in line for tickets, but WoW disapoints me by not showing much involving the story until the higher levels as well.

    Low level instances are fun at first, but as you get into the more serious instances, you still have to dedicate a good 2/3 hours in some of the instances, sometimes for no reward. Tack on the severe lack of EXP you get for them, and it seems like Blizzard is giving you one choice when you are trying to level. Do quest and grind. Instances are just side-things that might make leveling just a tad bit easier, but longer overall. Hopefully MMO's will begin to morph into more multi-leveling styles, where you can PVP, Quest, do dungeons, and many other things to level up, all of which are equally viable.

    DoctorDisaster: I would really like to get into MMOs -- I love the concept of massive player-driven worlds -- but two points keep ruining it for me:

    1. I have too many other things I want to do. Everyone who talks about MMOs takes for granted the amount of time you have to invest to get anything out of them, but I can play a game like TF2 for as little as two hours a week without getting rusty enough that it's a problem. If I played that little in a game like WoW, how long would it take me to get to the good stuff?

    2. I've never heard anyone describe MMO gameplay I would actually enjoy. I'm not going to blame this on the grind scapegoat, either; if I can get all the stars in Mario Galaxy, repetition obviously isn't a problem. The issue is that I'm a tourist gamer. In games that present a fantasy world, I want to be able to traipse all over the landscape enjoying interesting new environments and doing stupid stuff like stealing every tinted light source I see. A lot of single-player RPGs reward that kind of nonsense, but MMO advancement always seems to be really structured.

    Roadrunner: I used to play some MMOs, but looking back on them I don't remember them as fun, casual games where you play for fun, I would play because I had levels to gain at things.
    Looking back on that point, makes me think how stupid they really are.
    I don't see the allure. It's a nice feeling of satisfaction gaining a level, but only because it takes you ages to get there due to solid grinding.

    Or you could pay Koreans to play for you. :D

    peterd102: I find it hard to explain why i like WoW, i know I do, but logically i feel i shouldnt, its odd. I can understand if people do not like them, but do have a go at them and see if you do, or don't.

    Roadrunner: But if I play the trial, I might be hooked :O
    It's not worth it, it's like heroin. Shoot up once, "Wow this is an interesting experience" Then you can't stop.

    Actually I read a news article a while back proving MMORPGs are more addicting then some drugs.

    Enjay: WoW is addicting for the first couple months.

    The trial you'll likely be playing constantly during that trial, because during the trial you get to play the first 20 levels, which as I said before, are the fun ones. That's where it's kinda misleading, I got a character to 27 during a 10 day BC trial, and that was enough to make me renew the description (at that time I only had one other 30 character), then I simply didn't play when I did renew my subscription.

    Basically play the trial, if you enjoy it a lot, you might want to dish out the cash for the game, but don't think that you'll have as much fun for the 30-60 levels as you will with the rest of them.

    Formerly Cpt.Muffin now EGTF: Everyone commenting here seems to have played a different game to me. I got bored, lost and lonley when I wanted to explore elsewhere and didn't want to get 6 boar ribs. I quit after level 15 and kindof glad too if they're meant to be the highlight.

    Only time I had fun was when I found some fellow idiots who were as casual as me (casual like DoctorDisaster here). Oh and when I was in ironforge I was given a guild invitation to a group of a dozen lvl.60's who created the guild just then, gave me 10 gold then all quit the guild leaving me at the head of it by myself. Dunno if the guild system has changed from that.

    Maybe I just can't commit to games that feel impersonal. I'm staying with my staple diet of Vampire:The Masquerade and Max Payne 2 for gaming I enjoy till I burn through DOWII in a few days time. THEN DESPAIR WILL HIT ME AFTERWARDS.

    Devenger: My only experiences of MMOs are City of Heroes (beta testing) and PlanetSide. I played these for the gameplay that I couldn't get anywhere else. The City of Heroes beta ended long before I ran out of things to try, whereas PlanetSide just slowly got worse and worse with time, but that was a playerbase thing.

    In PlanetSide, player skill was a big contributing factor, possibly beyond your battle-rank, so it didn't feel awkward. You were on the same battlefield as everyone else, and shooting the bad guys with a rifle still worked like a charm. (In the City of Heroes beta, most people were low-level because it was just the beta.) From what I understand of WoW, you're barely playing in the same game world as people of a higher level.

    So, feeling like I'm not playing the fun part of the game because I haven't played the game enough? No thanks, Blizzard. And exp rewards are a lame way of hiding a weak point of gameplay (that you will WANT to skip through the mid-levels).

    Drake: I had what I called "The wall."

    Level 32. Every time I made a character, I would get to 32, and just...quit. I played a druid, got her to 32, and stopped playing. When I came back I made a warrior. Same thing.

    FINALLY after the expansion, I had a Draeni mage, decided that I was sick of this crap and wanted to get to seventy. Summer had just started and I vowed to level up once a day until I got to seventy.

    It took me all summer, sometimes it took me more then a day to level. There were times (specifically 30-58) that I wanted to quit, where I was wondering: "Is it worth it."

    Then I went to outland. Holy crap it was like playing a COMPLETELY different game.

    Then I never bothered playing Wrath of the Lich King XP