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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.

Theme

By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

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

The Team Fortress 2 Experience

tf2 pie

More

Alex-chan!: that much time loading? how bad is your pc? and too many pyros on your team or the opposite team?

Sanalisnail: Losing due to spending too much time yelling at noobs to GO THE OTHER WAY!

Ross: Purple's my current pain, but I've also been responsible for a lot of mustard.

Which is to say, Pentadact-does-Chartcore-Gamer is fun. Hurrah.

Mr Chug: I love having a couple of servers that generally completely dispel the need for the top two. It leaves more time for the others, largely occupied by grey and light pink.

Smee: How about a server that hasn't got all-talk on?

AlphaTM: I like Pipeline, meself, but what I would really like to see is a single stage, longer version of the last stage of it. You know like this would be the Badwater to Pipeline's Goldrush.

TooNu: Where is the category for servers with 33% snipers 33% pyro 22% scout 22% spy ?

roBurky: God those light blue and red sections are annoying. It's why I typically don't play TF2 unless a spot opens up on the PCG or RPS servers. Which isn't very often.

Roadrunner: I seem to count everything as green, unless it's "not one of my days" in which case, I just ragequit.

Pattom: I think Pipeline is good because you instantly know what you're doing when you leave spawn. I've had to shout at some of my newbie friends while defending Gold Rush: "No, guys, follow...never mind, just keep walking on the train tracks until you see the big blue warehouse."

DoctorDisaster: I negate the first two by following my classy Steam friends to their favorite servers. Although I suppose that won't work for an Award Winning Games Journalist with legions of adoring fans hoping some of the magic will rub off through the magic of Steam Cloud.

Actually the bigger problem is probably that your journo friends play a ton of different games. Mine focus on a few, and TF2 is one of them.

Phill Cameron: You know there's always the RPS server. We don't have turbine on rotation, and we've got a server cap of 20. But then, you'd be playing with the enemy.

Tom Francis: Aw, RPS are my enemy? I don't think anyone told either of us. I guess we have to DDOS each other now.

The RPS and PCG servers, I'm afraid, too often fall deep into the light blue: most of the time they're either full or empty. I'd add the Hampshire Heavies server to that list too: I find myself there just because they're often at the top of the ascending-order ping list, and run good maps. But in doing so, I've found the HH guys themselves to be a decent bunch of chaps, and the clientele generally pull a few more kilos of their weight than most.

After the rate the Professor Plums were unlocking tonight, though, I'm going to be spending a lot more time on the PCG server.

TomHD: [shameless advertisement of my prefered server]
The Uberium server is quite good and only usually breaches the being full rule in your list aswell as the turbine one on occasion (less popular maps appear less in the rotation though). but is good clean vanilla official map only. I saw you on it once quite a fair while back, at the time it was clan but that's shut down now, it also had the hlxstats, but that nolonger spams chat either.
[/shameless advertisement of my prefered server]

Jazmeister: My wife has a good server too, with class limits of 2 for sniper and spy (and 3 for everything else). It's also the only server in the world where I was top of the ranking this one time. There's just a lot more 2fort than I'd like, though. I actually love pipeline, it's like hard mode. It does what CTF would be doing (pushing players into attack and defense at the same time) if every CTF map wasn't just TURTLE TOWN.

The_B: Tom if you ever can't get on the RPS server, I know people willing to kick others for you.

And off of the server. (There's also a second one going up, I believe)

Also, when is Chris going to sue you for plagarism?

Psycho-Monkey: I hate servers that have reserved slots. I see a 31/32 opening, I take it - a minute later it says that spot is reserved. It's so annoying. What's even more annoying is when you join a server where there is 6 god-damn snipers on one side, but not any side, the side you had to join.

Cptn.Average: I've got the RPS server on favourite but haven't actually tried it yet - the 300-450 ping from New Zealand is a little rough.

I like Turbine but typically its not a good map to rotate to. Dedicated servers are fun though, if you're a deviant like me =P Oddly enough I like to compare it to De_Dust because it's a small, simple enough map with multiple avenues of attack. Rather team dependant but then that's nothing new ~~

Blogocube: Yeah, I quite enjoy Turbine, if it's what i'm expecting, and the population is reasonably low. any more than about 16 people jumping on and it devolves rapidly. Hydro is what gets me groan-emitting when it pops up on my loading screen.

Tom Francis: Bizarrely, I've started to like Hydro, just because it comes up so rarely. It's not a very well-balanced or lasting game, but it's just a nice little break on a weird, pretty map.

Dr. nerfball: I maaaay have skipped over it in the giant rant-thing for light blue, but I think you forgot to mention the whole "going onto a server which supposedly almost full and then finding it to be completely empty". And just to name some servers that do that: all the GTFO servers, possibly Multiplay and most of the [Fr] servers for some reason...

01d55: Empty servers claiming to be almost full is something that Valve went out of their way to fix - they worked out a system for identifying these servers (based on the fact that they attract a large number of players, who almost always quit out right away) and delist them when they've been identified

Octaeder: The light blue matches up with my experience pretty accurately. Except for Turbine... I quite like Turbine.

cixelsyD: The worst thing is when you click to join a server that's like 28/32 and you find out that it was just a lie, and that number was put there to make you load the game, disconnect, and try again.

Too many pyros?, medic-heavy clears em out!

cixelsyD: Oh, nerfball got there before me =/

Dante: Personally I'd add:

*Time spent waiting forauto-retry to get you into a server you know fufills most of the above.
*Time spent furiously clicking 'join game' because you're convinced auto-retry doesn't work properly any more.
*Time spent muting mic spammers
*Time spent sitting out in arena.
*Time spent sitting out in arena even though there's only like four players a side.

I've got RPS, the OC and PCG on my favourites list, the OC isn't bad, they do play turbine a little too much, but they also have some of the more creative player made maps on (frontier is awesome) and almost no arena.

Alex Hopkinson: TF2 takes a stupid amount of time to load no matter how beastly your PC is (on a 32 bit OS, at least). Once you're on a server and changing maps it's super quick, but getting to that point requires some reading material and a pleasing beverage.

Seniath: There was a time, not too long ago, when the RPS server was dead except on the rare occasions we bothered to scheduled an event. Now, infuriatingly, it's perma-full. Well, until it crashes after switching to Redfort.

O: I tend to play on the OC and HH servers which tend to fufill most of the light blue. The OC has an auto team scramble if one team wins very quickly, so it seems to avoid the team imbalance problem.
TF2 only takes long to load for me when first joining a server on the "Sending client info" part.
I didn't realise RPS had a server, I'll have to go and try it out :)

Lack_26: Although I prefer the RPS and PCG servers I also now spend a lot of time on The ESGentlemen's Club and [FR-BE]*Battle Royale*|TF-1|.

CloakRaider: RPS Server is too small and too round a number for my liking.

I play on the PCG Server, except now it has Arena maps on it which are horrible.

Jazmeister#: 01d55 - servers that slipped through the net were just too busy during the day to lose enough rating points from me repeatedly connecting and disconnecting during the long slow night of TF2. GTFOGaming.co.uk is one of the worst, but that's not the worst thing to find on a server.

Did anyone see the bots yet? Because that moment when you join a 31/32 server, and sigh with relief at the very real signs of battle audible at the team select screen, is crucial in Valve's de-listing mechanic. You're on, like, a http://www.saigns.de server (which look like about seven dedicated valve map servers absolutely creaking with people) and you play for a bit, and everbody's username has cheeky bot references, and that's when you get suspicious. Then you build a teleporter on some stairs and hold up your entire team.

I love the PCG server because it's usually quite easy going. When times are tough for the red team, a server that'll accept the viability of a heavy rush or a permanent chain of medics is great for reaffirming your faith in the human race. It's advertised in a mag that at least forty thousand people must read, but it doesn't feel like a "pub" server, not all the time.

And I don't believe I mentioned how hilarious that graph is. I like that the "winning" section is a great big chunk, almost bigger than any of the others, but it's a quarter of the entire pie.

Chris Evans: RPS server really is the only one I play on now, I used to pop on the PCG one a bit, but haven't been there for quite a while.

Best thing about RPS server, apart from the people, is Redfort. :D

Nonomu198: So, Tom, so low you steal from a blog that's so low it updates once in a week?

I know you guys must be sick of me talking about this, but yah I hardly experience any of this. It just seems that I live in a world where the server is allways full, but there are a lot of people joining and leaving, the teams are allways balanced (team scramble handles that), and fun is generally being had, either serious killing sprees fun or comical joking between players fun. You people can keep living in your arena hating world. I'm gonna stay in my happy bubble.

I don't really like the PCG server because I usually lag there. It's on my favorites, though.

Ludo: Hm, so ... anyway, anyone got a hat yet?

Redhawk: Finally stumbled my way into the PCG server and had Jazmeister ruin my three kills in as many seconds by losing the match! *shakes fist*

Bigfoot_King: One guy on the pcg server got 3 hats and 2 where doubles and this was in the same round very mad indeed

Ludo: I remember that! People now think the PCG server is charmed. Maybe it is.

Someone even got the fedora! That's the one I really want, because I can't quite summon the audacity to wear one in reality.

Fishbro: Yep, I am the proud owner of a Fancy Fedora.
When I got it everyone on the server congratulated me. Before saying that I was a lucky prick.

Smurfy: WHATS A TF2

The_B: By the way Tom, does this mean TF2 is fixed on your home computer yet?

Sir Digby: The INX public server 3 is where it's at :D

Dr. nerfball: On the topic of hats: I saw someone, who must have hacked the game code or something, get all the hats in about five minutes. There was complete uproar on the server when that happened. Much screaming on all talk and all that. Fun times! And the pyro gets a beenie hat! Holy mother of jumping bajeezuz! Does that mean we finally get to see it's face? For really-reals?

Ludo: I've seen the Pyro's beanie, it sits neatly on top of his/her mask. Pyro still has the skills to pull it off though, very stylish.

Pentadact: Nope, the beanie just goes on top of his/her gasmask.

Not to say this is what that guy was doing, but it is possible to produce the found-item messages artificially, without actually obtaining the items.

The B: Yep. Kind of wish it'd break again now, I have no self control. Hence venting my gripes in pie-chart form.

Nonomu: Good point, it was rude of me not to doff my cap to Chris' Chartcore series. I wasn't thinking about that when I was making this, it's a post I wanted to do ages ago and it only just recently occured that this is the appropriate format.

Littleedge: I played 12 hours in my clan's server over the weekend. That was just with Sniper. So I find my clan's server pretty good. Each map is voted on by the players, and it'll rarely go on a bad map. Occasionally, cp_blackmesa, cp_turbine, and cp_steel get through, but we usually persuade everyone to go through another vote -- Those maps suck. Anyways, I don't want to make this sound like an advertisement, but in case any of you want to grace us with your presence, connect to tf.nnnclan.com. Anywho, I should really get on PCG server...I mean I added it to my Favorites List and everything. Maybe I'll join you later this week.

Jason L: I was a bit surprised to see you of all people using a 3D pie chart, Tom! The damage is minimal in this case, I suppose.

J-Man: I would add: Time spent waiting for a lag spike to end, during which you know you've died.

DragonNinja: I waste most of my time on auto-join, waiting for a slot to free up on the PCG server. I'm very grateful to the PcGamer server as it's given me the engineers miner hat and Jarate. Though other than that I've only got a few dupes, which I wouldn't mind so much if you could combine them to make some sort of super weapon.

Nico: Also: Time spent waiting for team numbers to even out so you can join a team with a friend.

DiscountNinja: I pretty much only play on the PCG server of the Twenty Sided server :S I spend msot of my time waiting to auto-join, but I figure 10 mins of auto-join is worth it when I get myself onto a server that I'll play on for 2 or 3 hours.

Actually, the PCG server is pretty damned sweet. I love how english we are on there. I am delighted that there is a space on the web for me to be as outragously British as I am.

Littleedge: I'm not British, but I find you Brits to be epic in conversation.

@DragonNinja You're lucky -- I just want the Spy and Engi hats. Fedora and Miner ftw

PD102: I use the Server settings thingy and limit myself to about 30 seconds to find a server. I Never go to the PCG server atm - always Full and I daren't bother with Auto-Join. Plus theres always the danger ill get kicked for one of the staff. In the good-old days when I got on It was jolly fun - Plus thrilling whenever I landed a backstab on one of the PCG staff or rushed as medic to save one of your lives.

Anyone Awake really late at night at around 2am? Servers bound to be clear.

Jazmeister: DiscountNinja: Sexington isn't very English on there. RUH ROH CAN OF WORMS TIEM. I actually found that I'd auto-join only to be kicked immediately, usually just before a lovely sap session.

Redhawk: I lost the whole match by myself? Thus spoiling your killstreak? Dude, wins > kills, I believe.

PD102: I am always awake every night until dawn because I am cursed. Also, PCG was full of Arena-whinging till 4am and beyond for most nights since the update, as were many of the servers on my faves. I love the fun servers with the jarate, a lot of them have a mod for infinite jarate ammo, and one had the, uh, "jujizztsu" mod. It was awkward on there. I just went pyro.

Everyone talking about hats: It's weird getting an unlock that's cool, because you desperately want to show it to people and tell them about it, but you know they're going through the torture you were going through until you got it, so it's weird. Come on Valve, everyone will have everything by the time you put in the trading system (unless it's now).

Ludo: @PD102 "I am always awake every night until dawn because I am cursed"

It's good to know that TF2 provides a friendly neutral ground for humans and vampires alike. A LAN event might be less civilised.

I've got a complex interweaving sequence of trades lined up with my friends as soon as the trading system goes live. It reminds me of collecting cards. Ambassador? Got. Cloak and Dagger? Got ... Got ... Need ... Got.

Dr. nerfball: @ Ludo: For me it's need for everything except the backburner, which I have 5 of and counting. This means I either have the worst luck imaginable or the game is trying to tell me I'm god's gift to the pyro class...

I wouldn't mind it if Valve still encorporated the whole getting items after unlocking a certain amount of achievements as well as the drop thing, just to cater to the people who have insanely bad luck. Mind you, I guess it would be pretty agrivating if you find an item one achievement away from unlocking it...

Or do they still do that and I just really suck as the spy? =P

Ludo: Perhaps they should have some sort of bank system where people with multiples can trade in say 2 Backburners for a weapon item of their choice. 5 Backburners for a hat.

If you wanted to devote yourself to the pyro I've got a spare Axtinguisher with nowhere to go.

Octaeder: I'd also add time spent sat downloading a file like "misc/sounds/kungfu.mp3" because people seem to think that that's what it'll take to make their server 'awesome'.

Roadrunner: Octaeder, just go into options and disable downloading sounds...

Octaeder: Cheers Roadrunner. I now feel quite stupid for not even thinking of looking for that option!

Pod: Octaeder:
Downloading sounds is immediate grounds for a disconnect in my opinion.

DiscountNinja: Agreed, the instant TF2 starts downloading anything at all other than a map, I disconnect :)

Jazmeister: I love seeing all the weird crap people have on their servers. You get custom bullet bill carts and stuff, it's awesome.

Roadrunner: Jazmeister: I remember playing a payload map called Das Cow or something, and the cart was a cow O.o
It was very impressive.

Bumface the Brave: Unlock system reverted to the original now. It's a shame, I think. Although it wasn't a brilliant idea, something does need to be done. It's going to take a long time and a lot of negative feedback to find a solution.

And to that chart I'd have to add "Losing due to my own incompetence". :/

Tom Francis: It's funny: my complaint was that I couldn't work towards unlocking the things I wanted in the new system. Now that they've reinstated the ability to unlock them with achievements, I still can't: I'd already got eighteen each of the Sniper and Spy ones through ordinary play, so I woke up this morning with everything.

I'm happy to have it all, of course, but oddly not nearly as happy as if Cloak and Dagger or Dead Ringer had popped up at random yesterday. Or if they had when I got 17 achievements as the Spy. I managed to have the progress, and the reward, without ever experiencing the progress-towards-a-reward that usually makes these updates exciting.

Jazmeister: mm. I felt overwhelmed by the sudden glut of items and kind of half-heartedly tried them all out. I felt like I cheated. Achievements really weren't the way to do things, I thought, and I think if they'd examined how their system worked differently than the way they'd envisioned, implemented a trading system, gotten rid of duplicates, or just... something. It doesn't feel like Valve, you know?

Cptn.Average: The problem with the proposed trading system is that there aren't nearly enough items to trade considering you only ever need one of any of them. Unless they were going to go nuts with the accessories, dedicated gamers would end up with a bazillion duplicate items just sitting around.

Maybe a recipe/pawn shop system could have worked, but direct player trading has issues.

Tom Francis: Yeah, trade only works if you have scarcity, but at the same time they're gearing the unlock system to make sure everyone gets to play with the new stuff. If they impliment it soon, trade could still be worthwhile for hats, but otherwise they'll need to release it with a lot more scarce items for it to be a system worth having.

PFC Skinner: I believe this is what the trading system will be for:
http://forums.steamp... ...p?t=845583
Weapon drops will start to have slightly altered stats to make things more interesting.

Jazmeister: Maybe if they have more items than backpack slots?

Devenger: I'd need three times as many hands to wield all the Ambassadors I now have... the period of scarcity, for me at least, has ended.

I have no idea how Valve can make enough items that trading and suchlike will be an interesting metagame. I wouldn't mind if they just threw in the towel and gave everyone all of the weapons as they were released - and incorporate the weapon selection into the class menu, so you can pick the right class and the right weapons for the situation very quickly.

Great graph. The pink area summarises my pain... of my 100+ hours of Medic, I'd say about 50 of them were effectively involuntary, trying to fix the team balance. That's not to say I don't enjoy Medic, but sometimes blowing stuff up is more enjoyable.

Anonymous: Personally, I can't seem to find class-restricted servers if I try. What's the secret? And are there any that just limit Spies? about 3/4 of my pie chart consists of spychecking and being backstabbed, and that's why I hardly ever play the game anymore, as neither is fun. No, I never play Engineer or Sniper either.

Noogai03: What about the "German or kick" servers? You join, they ask you something in German and kick you when you don't respond.