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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.

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

Finally, On Lost

Man, there was a time when Lost was so exciting I’d blog about it here. When a series loses its way, as pretty much all of them have to in the merciless American format of multiple seventeen-hour seasons, it’s amazing how quickly it wipes your memory of how good it used to be. I was a Heroes fanboy, once.

But a lot of the complaints you could level at the way Lost ended up sound superficially like things you could as easily have said about season one: it raises interesting questions but never answers them, it’s too mystical, and you’re given far too much backstory for characters that just aren’t that interesting.

But I think a definable line was crossed somewhere in the middle, between unanswered questions that seem like they could have an interesting explanation, and just making arbitrary shit up in the same lame attempt to blow your mind usually reserved for the stoned, at parties, to the completely sober.

Smoke monster, rips up trees, makes a mechanical clanking noise – I’m fascinated.
Dharma Initiative, has bases here, investigating scientific properties of the island – I’m intrigued.
The Others, mysterious, seemingly superhuman, with horrible motives – I’m kind of intrigued.
“I don’t know what’s more curious, where the rest of the statue is or why it only has four toes.” – I’m, uh, nearing a borderline here.
Ben isn’t in charge of the Others. An invisible man in a shack is. He can cure cancer but he hates flashlights. Also the shack teleports.
At this point it’s clear that there isn’t going to be any kind of interesting explanation for this, and I stop caring.

Everything after that point sounded increasingly like a 12 year-old trying to bail himself out of a ridiculous lie by layering carefully constructed but painfully over-specific falsehoods on top of it. I never really cared about whether they’d answer the questions the series raised, only that the questions should hint at interesting answers. Once it strays into random land, there’s nothing for my imagination to chew on and I get bored.

lostchart

At some point during Season Five – where one timeline is itself jumping back and forth through time – I stopped watching entirely – hence the 0. I never really came back, except for finales and premieres, and I only watched the two episodes preceding the grand finale this week.

I think that let me enjoy it. It was complete hokum of the laziest, stupidest kind, but emotionally well judged and oddly satisfying. Getting a shitty answer to some of the central questions, even the really interesting ones, turned out to feel better than getting none at all. What they gained by deciding not to do anything particularly special in the whole two hours was the freedom to pace it to give each meandering, pointless story thread its own little send-off. I’m not sorry I skipped what I did – in fact I wish I’d skipped most of seasons 3 and 4 too – but I’m glad I tuned back in for the end.

The crappy, crappy end.

Chlorus: At least the ending was more satisfying than what we got for the X-Files - which was a nonending. It seems nobody knows how to resolve plot arcs anymore - the last show to really carry one off was Babylon 5, in my opinion.

The_B: On a completely alternative note - have you had chance to catch the finale of 24 yet? I think it's interesting to note the massive furore around the end of Lost, whereas the end of 24 has pretty much been and gone without so much as a whimper, which is a bit of a shame really as I preferred 24. It may have started lapsing into the formulaic but it was at least an enjoyable formula.

Chris: Wow, we have almost identical timelines, only I quit it a bit sooner and didn't come back until the very, very end. And I liked the finale because I still had plenty of fond feelings for the characters from the early seasons, and wasn't surprised to see most of the mysteries go unsolved because, like you said, there was clearly never going to be any satisfying answers to the horsepucky they were pushing.

Alex Holland: I stopped watching after Series 1 - detected the drift towards mystical bullshit and cut my losses. That graph makes me feel like someone who sold his Enron stocks in August 2000.

I fear for Star Trek Prime 2, or whatever it's going to be called.

Tweets that mention Finally, On Lost, by Tom Francis -- Topsy.com: [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis, Iain Andrews. Iain Andrews said: "Smoke monster, rips up trees, makes a mechanical clanking noise – I’m fascinated" Tom Francis charts his Lost interest http://goo.gl/YJ6g [...]

Barotte: I present to you a choice:

a) You can either have a satisfying ending for the characters.
b) You can have a 'satisfying' ending for yourselves... Terry O'Quinn comes out in a suit and reads out the answer to every mystery that was ever raised.

expositionexpositionexpositionexpositionexpositionv

Evan: @The_B

I preferred 24 as well. I think its finale isn't as big of a deal because there is a movie in the works, so that really wasn't the end for Jack.

Octaeder: I think what finally killed it for me was Ben mentioning a magical box that Locke's father came out of and then it was never referred to again.

Also the time-travel season was just hateful.

Joe!: No tv is as good as Community right now. Go watch it. Now.

MadTinkerer: "I never really came back, except for finales and premieres, and I only watched the two episodes preceding the grand finale this week."

"Getting a shitty answer to some of the central questions, even the really interesting ones, turned out to feel better than getting none at all."

Well that's too bad. Pretty much all of Season 6 was spent wrapping up loose ends when it wasn't hinting at the answers that would be properly answered in the finale.

Also, I noticed a BUNCH of the questions in the video i knew the answer to already, but he goes through it so fast and asks so many there's really not room to reply to all of them here. (And. okay there are a few I don't know.) But here's a bunch of the outstanding ones I knew right away:

1) Every question involving Walt: Walt is "special" just like Hurley, the Korean dude and a few other psychic/"special talented" people shown throughout the series. It's best explained in one of the "mobisodes" (mini-episodes produced during the writer's strike which are available on the DVD & Blu-Ray), but also strongly hinted during the series proper. (Swan computer question: We know Walt was being held in another place originally build by the Dharma Initiative. It's not a big twist to think that there's another working computer elsewhere on the island and they're networked together.)

2) Why the monster killed the pilot: Turns out the monster is simply a jerk. Not explicitly explained, but demonstrated plainly during season 6 and strongly hinted during earlier seasons. Basically it ONLY doesn't kill you if it thinks it can get something from you or if you happen to be a Candidate to replace Jacob. Sometimes it won't kill right away because it wants something first, but as soon as you're no longer useful (and CERTAINLY if you're in the way somehow), you're dead.

3) Dropped supplies: Jacob arranged for the survivors to crash on the island. Jacob is in charge of The Others. The Others have organizational ties back in civilization. The obvious mundane answer is that Jacob and/or Ben didn't want the Candidates starving so they arranged surplus Dharma supplies to be dropped. Possible exotic alternatives involve the events of season 5, but I prefer mundane answers when possible.

4) What happened to Henry Gale: Probably the Smoke Monster. Or infection. Or maybe he convinced the Dharma Initiative to let him leave.

5) One specific bearing: Because the space-time distortion will make you loop around and come back to the island otherwise. See the episodes where Desmond complains about not being able to sail away (season 2 I think) and the season 4 episode where Daniel does his missile experiment.

6) Tom's fake beard: Possible mundane answer: The writers decided he looked better without it.

7) Bear cave skeletons and toy truck: Red herrings.

8) Smoke monster and Eko: see answer 2 above.

9) Jack's Tattoos: Explicitly explained in a flashback. Short version: Jack was in Asia (I forget which part) for a while.

10) Ben seeing his dead mother: Probably the Smoke Monster, or Ben was like Hurley but lost his ability when he was healed in The Temple.

11) Who decided it was time to kill the Dharma Initiative people (miss-stated as "The Others" in the video): I would guess it's Ben's doing, since he was the leader at the time, but given Jacob's Mom's attitude, it's also possible that the Dharma Initiative broke a rule they shouldn't have and Jacob was behind it (though that's less likely).

12) Mikhail: Didn't keep coming back to life, it's just that he wasn't dead the first time.

13) Whose eye appeared in the cabin: Seems like Desmond to me. This could be speculation, but the gizmo used on him in Season 6 was in a cabin, and that might have become "the" cabin as a result (ending up unstuck in time like Desmond was for a while). This could also explain the event with Ben and Locke in the cabin. Also, it LOOKS like Desmond. This is one thing I need to re-view the series for, however.

14) Difference between the timers: natural time distortion. This wasn't a question, but an explanation, like everything Daniel does. You don't always get a full explanation, but the whole point of Daniel's character is to drop BIG HINTS to the sci-fi side of things.

15) Frozen wheel: like a lot of important things, it is explained in the Beyond The Sea episode.

16) Why doesn't the rules of time travel apply to Desmond: Probably because that's his "super power" as Hurley puts it. e.g. Hurley can see dead people, Walt kills birds when he's upset, Desmond has a different relationship to the island/spacetime/energy than everyone else.

Got to go. More answers later.

Jason L: Lost has at least made me think something that is opposite to basically everything else I've ever thought: I was downright excited by the mystical elements and willing to see it become allegory or afterlife, but the moment they started time-travel stories I was done.

Octaeder: @Joe!

Agreed, the paintball episode was the funniest episode of a comedy show I've seen in a long time.

LaZodiac: Finally, its over. Now I can read the TVtropes page to know what happened because I hate this show to much to actually watch it.

MadTinkerer: 17) The logic behind naming Charlie, Boone and Libby as the other survivors: They were already dead, therefore Charles Widmoore wouldn't be able to go after them.

18) The guys who captured Sayid and Hurley: Probably sent by Widmoore.

19) Gabriel and Geoffrey: red herrings, people who are part of The Others' secret mainland network. (Or another possible answer to #17)

20) Who sent Sun a gun and pictures: almost definitely Widmoore.

21) Why was the smoke Monster at the Temple: In the fifth season episode where Ben gets "judged" by the monster, it's implied that the monster goes there all the time.

22) When did the Temple become an Anti-Smoke Monster fortress: Okay, this is something I don't quite get either, but it may have more to do with Dogan being monster repellent than the temple itself. That and the fact that it seems to be split into two large areas: the unoccupied part where the Monster is seen several times (and also where the bomb is kept) and the occupied part where the resurrection pool and a bunch of the Others live.

23) How did Eloise come to run The Lamp: It was just another thing the Others took over from the Dharma Initiative.

24) How did Jack, Hurley and Kate get to the 70s and not Sun: Never explained explicitly, but probably something to do with the time-trips that were affecting the whole island and the fact that Sun wasn't ever a Candidate (her maiden name isn't Kwon: that was a red herring) but the others were.

25) Heiroglyphics: We never get to see them, but there's a group of characters (probably Egyptian) who built the temple, the statue, and the other most-ancient structures. They most likely came after the events of Beyond The Sea and almost certainly knew about Jacob and the smoke Monster and probably thought they were gods. Or possibly before those events, I have to see the episode again to know for sure.

26) Why did Daniel leave the island in the 70s: When he arrived there wasn't anyone else from his time there, so why not leave for a while?

27) Why does Richard think he saw everyone in the picture die: Probably because he thought they were killed with the rest of the DI by The Others, but we know Richard's memory isn't 100% perfect from events in the sixth season (basically: he's immortal but otherwise has no special powers).

28) Why can Jacob leave the Island and the monster can't: Probably because Jacob is alive on his own but the island is keeping the monster alive (as we find out in the finale).

29) Who are "they": our protagonists, returning from the past, most of which are Candidates.

30) What is the infection: The Smoke Monster's influence. Incidentally, see My Question #1 below.

31) Why was SM confused that Sawyer could see Young Jacob. Because Sawyer can't normally see the dead.

32) Why didn't Sun tell Jin to go JUST SO THEIR DAUGHTER WOULDN'T BE AN ORPHAN: I DON'T KNOW. This is even more annoying than what happens to two certain parents in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

33) Jacob/SM's biological mother: it's explained in the episode.

34) Jacob/SM's other mother: not explained, possibly the last member of the Egyptian cult that created the ancient structures on the island.

35) What is the nature of the light: There are two, perfectly balanced ways to see it:

a) The pseudo-scientific view explained most concisely in Rose's flashback (it's a special place where there's naturally a lot of special energy), and expanded upon by Daniel Faraday, the Dharma Initiative guys, Charles Widmoore and crew, and even the Smoke Monster's buddies before he became the monster.

b) The faith/magic view that the island is alive and has a will of it's own. As believed by Locke, many of The Others, Jacob, Jacob's mom, and Jack near the end.

The writers show us both views so much, it's pretty certain that we're supposed to try to see it both ways and that neither view is mutually exclusive. It's one of the major themes of the whole series. It's also heavily implied that there is another power greater than The Island itself (a non-denominational "God"/"Destiny") that is directing everything: If Jacob and the Smoke Monster are metaphorically the black and white stones in the game, who is metaphorically really playing the game? It all goes back to what Locke says to Walt about Backgammon in the pilot. ;)

36) How did Widmoore's electromagnetic thingy send Desmond to the afterlife and back: I think he just had a vision of it, since it was in his future and him having visons when exposed to massive amounts of electro-magnetic energy are his thing. But like the audience he mistook it for some kind of parallel timeline/universe.

37) Wasn't Sayid's soulmate Nadia: Maybe the actress couldn't make it or the producers REALLY wanted Shannon in the finale. Alternate explanation: No, Sayid and Nadia weren't quite soul mates after all, just like Kate and Sawyer weren't.

38a) Why Michael wasn't in the church: As of late season 6, he's stuck on the island. He might well still be. Also, Michael never bonded with the other survivors enough and actively murdered two of them.

38b) Why Walt wasn't in the church: It's impossible to show Young Walt anymore because the actor is grown up. Also, Walt didn't get a chance to bond as closely with the others.

38c) Why Lapedis and other side-characters aren't in the church: They didn't bond as closely and/or, like Ben, they're not ready to move on yet.

ANYWAY

Here's my mind-bending questions:

1) Did the smoke monster kill and impersonate Shannon back in season 1? After the revelations of the season 5 finale/season 6 opener about the monster's capabilities, it sure seems like it. This could also be when Sayid was first infected by the monster's influence and why the infection seemed to progress so fast.

2) Would the smoke monster's true name happen to be Beezelbub? Beezelbub means The Lord of the Flies, which is the name of a book heavily referenced in Lost. Beezelbub's original description is that he's like a cloud of smoke (and/or flies so thick that it looks like smoke). Just a thought.

3) Why was the monster trapped in Locke's form? Why not his original form?

4) Why didn't something happen to Jack other than being spit back up onto the surface with no more or less injuries than he had before?

5) Does Jacob actually have no more mystical powers than anyone else could have who simply gained longevity as a result of swearing to protect the island and drinking spring water?

6) Is Jacob Alvar Hanso (the founder of the Dharma Initiative)?

7) Why does the island allow it's protectors to be so vulnerable while the Smoke Monster is basically invincible as long as the light is working?

8) What if, say, Kate fell into the light and became the new (benign) Smoke Monster and that took away the first Smoke Monster's powers and she and Jack got to live on the island forever? Because that's how I would have ended it. ;)

Nano: http://www.lamebook.... .../just-lost

Bobsy: Wow. Having seen that video there, I can't think of anything I want less than to watch all of Lost. So much bullshit. What's with all the bullshit?

Tom Francis: Nice job, Mad Tinkerer! Even the stuff I saw, I wasn't soaking it up with fanboy attentiveness the way I do with stuff like The West Wing, so this reminded me of a few things that were explained but which I never pieced together.

Also, embarrassingly, I only just realised today that almost all of Jacob's brother's screentime is not, of course, Jacob's brother, but the smoke monster he released/turned into taking his image. I was thinking of it as 'Jacob's brother has smoke monster powers', but I think it's probably more like 'smoke monster has look-like-Jacob's brother powers'.

Cian: Joe! knows the score. Abed as Donald Draper is simply fantastic, let alone the entirety of the Mafia/Chicken fingers and paintball episodes.

Elliot: "3) Why was the monster trapped in Locke's form? Why not his original form? "

Well, we see on a few occasions that the smoke monster takes other forms while still being John Locke. Remember towards the end of Season 5 when Ben was being 'judged'? Alex appears after the monster, we can assume that this is also the monster.

DoctorDisaster: This is why, whenever people are SO ENGROSSED in some crazy mysterious plot-twisty show, I've taken to waiting for the series finale before deciding whether to bother or not. Judging by the inescapable Lost chatter? I won't be bothering.

1stGear: @Chlorus

To be fair, the ending to X-Files was the Truth that Mulder sought. It just so happened that the Truth was that humanity was fucked and that there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

And I'd say Battlestar Galactica didn't a reasonably good job of holding its plot together.

Gazzy: Yeah, does anyone remember Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes? Brit show, combined 5 series of 8-ish episodes each 60 miutes long? Had an intreging time travel-esque storyline? Involved many links to each other and other 70s/80s things? HAD A UNIQUE AND INTRESTING ENDING THAT APPEALED TO THE CASUAL WATCHERS AND THE WILD MASS GUESSERS? ACTUALLY BUILT EACH SERIES FINALE UP TO A GREAT HEIGHT? WAS A GOOD LAUGH? ABLE TO BE WATCHED IF ONLY SEVERAL EPISODES OUT OF A SERIES AND STILL ENJOY THE SHOW AS A WHOLE? EXPLAINED STUFF?

Yeah, that was a good show.

MadTinkerer: "Well, we see on a few occasions that the smoke monster takes other forms while still being John Locke. Remember towards the end of Season 5 when Ben was being 'judged'? Alex appears after the monster, we can assume that this is also the monster."

Yes, but near the start of season 6 he specifically says that he can't change into other people anymore. It's right after Jacob dies, so I think that has a lot to do with it. But unlike other things, it's not properly explained.

Something else that really bugs me: people keep saying that the reveal of the finale was they all died in the plane crash at the beginning. That's not what happened at all. What happened is that when they tried to change the past they actually created a time/place ("imaginary spacetime" as Desmond puts it, though Christian puts it more spiritual terms) where their souls could meet up after they all died. In short, the flash "sideways" were actually another set of flash-forwards, this time to the afterlife. This is fairly consistent with what we know about the pseudo-science of the island in general and particularly about it's ability to trap souls, it's weird relationship with space and time, and earlier established facts about The Incident.

Okay, so it's a bit of a convoluted twist, but it makes sense if you just pay attention to what the characters say and keep in mind the major events of each season.

Plumberduck: @MadTinkerer

My problem with Lost is not that its mysteries are unsolvable by someone engaging in some recreational obsession, as you have. It's that the writers never seem to have cared about these things to the degree the audience did. Or if they did, they indicated it in the most oblique ways possible.

Also, the answer to most of those questions appears to be "Because of magic," when you get down to it. I don't hate magic, mind you. I just like it to have rules beyond "Abra-kadabra."

Chris: I felt roughly the same way. I started watching it on Netflix-Instant Streaming, though. So my relationship with the show was considerably shorter than most of the audience, it had less time to bore into my heart and induce rot from the inside. My reaction to the finale was, I guess, measured fondness.

I wrote about it here: http://bit.ly/aQ31fg

Jason L: I'm gonna let my inner fanboy loose for a minute and push the miniseries Haibane Renmei from a year or two before Lost began. If you can put up with any form of anime, it's like Lost without the physical danger, time travel, flashbacks or narrative flailing. When I put it that way I guess it's actually not that much like Lost, but I still think of them as the same kind of mystery and environment.

Emily: Bloody nice blog you have, Francis. You're a quality writer.

Crowbar: @ Emily: I agree.

Tom Francis: Thank you both kindly! You may avail yourselves of the bourbons.

ihranator: I, for one, had been overanalyzing the series since season two. The ending made absolutely perfect sense to me.

Joe!: UPDATE YOUR TAFFING BLOG.

Sorry, but you're taking ages tom.

Jason L: The PC Gamer blog is now in part his blog; I expect this place is likely to get slower as that ramps up.

Although I am bothered by posts tweeted and unmade; I'm on tenterhooks to find out what our robot overlords think is 'bad'. Not really though.

Gunpoint problem?

Don't post them here, I'm a useless idiot! E-mail tech support with as much detail about your system and the problem as possible, and they can actually do something.

Question?

There's a page about the games I've worked on, what I use to make them, and what platforms they're coming to.

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