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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

    StarCraft 2: Single-Player

    For about four years, everyone’s been scrambling to reinvent the RTS. Blizzard seemed like the only company sticking with the traditional mine-resources, build-buildings, mass-units structure – presumably because they didn’t dare undermine the professional scene that sprung up around the first StarCraft.

    So they siphoned all their thick, sticky innovation into the single-player for StarCraft 2, where they can stick with the old high-level rules but make more interesting missions out of them.

    In fact, they got a bit carried away. I’m used to high-budget strategy games giving me a lot of special-case missions, but StarCraft 2 never stops. I spent half the game waiting for a “Make a base, go kill theirs” mission that never came. Literally every single one is a custom showcase for one particular unit, an unusual objective, a pre-built base, no base at all, or revolves around a new rule they have to teach you on the fly.

    Train sigh

    At the risk of sounding like a tiny child, I don’t like it. I like to make my own bases. I like to choose the units I like, rather than have a whole mission structured to force me to appreciate one the game wants me to use. And I don’t like new rules.

    Scripting a mission around a unique scenario always involves a degree of Bullshit: Bullshit you couldn’t have seen coming, Bullshit you’re forced to do, Bullshit to stop you taking shortcuts or being clever. Blizzard are so good, so big, rich and talented, that they’re able to avoid almost all the Bullshit that scripting causes on one, maybe two missions. The rest of the time, I’m punished for doing my own thing so much that I eventually learn to just play the way the mission designer wants me to. Use the unit he tells me to. Click what he tells me to click. It works, but it’s basically a waste of my time.

    The zombie-frying mission is the one I’m thinking of as an example of pretty much Bullshit-free scripting. It does dictate certain aspects of the way you play, but the New Rule is easy to grasp and has a certain intuitive logic to it. And you can build whatever works for you: any effective army is effective here. Accordingly, it’s fun.

    Zombie Night

    The other one I liked was the optional mission where you play as a female Ghost, separated from but supporting a larger army. Plenty of Bullshit, but the way it turned existing RTS mechanics into puzzle logic was interesting, and the mind-control ability has so many great applications. I’ve heard the alternative mission, with Utter Tosh, is good too, but his abilities seemed less exciting to me and I didn’t get anywhere with it.

    I’m also a fan of the research system between missions, and the ability to postpone some missions for ages. But both are pretty minor bonuses. Two good missions, among thirty, isn’t enough to make me want to sit through the embarrassing cutscenes.

    Cutscenes

    More ,

    Peter: Hit the nail on the head. You spend 90% of the game playing these new-unit missions, where they basically hand-feed you what needs doing. Granted there are a lot of clever and diverse missions.

    That doesn't excuse the fact that almost the entire game played like what I would expected the first few introductory missions to play like.
    SPOILERS



    You spend most of the game "building" up raynor's forces instead of moving the plot forward. If you look on wikipedia, a lot of stuff happened during SC1 and BW that was plot moving. SC2 = Raynor saves more citizens.

    Chlorus: In their defense, I assume they reserved multiplayer for the whole "build yourself from scratch" scenario. Still pisses me off how it takes you half the game to get siege tanks.

    AlexW: But a lack of variety is what kills my interest in other RTS campaigns. "Build a base, build overwhelming numbers of the game's most unbalanced unit, attack-move to victory." SC2 switches the conditions up, which is surely better than the alternative. You can't very well say you were bored in it, even if you were encouraged to do it in a specific way. It's like how HL2 is a very well designed and greased chute towards the end goal - polish and style poured in to make a very good action romp that floods the senses... rather than a bog standard small area no different from any other, that you're dumped in and told to kill the enemy.

    And the stories are about comparable, too.

    Jonn: Alex, I don't think James' complaint is that it's not varied--

    Actually, yes, that is the complaint. Forcing players to use a certain type of strategy can be just as bad as a lack of variety, in that you have to do it Their Way. There is something to be said for both your viewpoints, though.

    RichardZk: I disagree.

    Jaz: I disagree with James and agree with Tom Francis.

    Tweets that mention StarCraft 2: Single-Player, by Tom Francis -- Topsy.com: [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis, Connie Will. Connie Will said: http://bit.ly/GameZ StarCraft 2: Single-Player, by Tom Francis: I'm used to high-budget strategy games giving me a... http://bit.ly/cvQMwU [...]

    EGTF: I disagree with James and Tom Francis but agree with Pentadact.

    Andrew: Yeah, it comes across as a heavily scripted campaign. I enjoyed most of it, just some really frustrating missions where you are forced to use certain units in a very specific way (which sometimes they don't really tell you) is dead annoying (restarting some missions multiple times to "get what the hell they want me to do"), but most were generally they were done well enough to be fun.

    Groove: I disagree. Building a base from scratch repeatedly isn't fun. Building the same army repeatedly and using it in the same way isn't fun.

    Half the missions that introduce units aren't actually centred around that unit (firebats, mauraders, vultures, goliaths, wraiths, hellions, etc), they're just a good choice in it. Also, on almost all missions you can forget the starring unit and still play it like a game of C&C if you like. It will just feel stupid, like how most other RTS campaigns feel naturally.

    DoctorDisaster: But if not for the single-player campaign, where would I get all the screenshots of hilarious roidmonsters giving each other their Serious Faces? That is pretty much the only aspect of the entire SC2 mediagasm that appeals to me at all.

    Tom Francis: No argument from me that most RTS campaigns suck. Pretty much agree that building the same base every mission has limited entertainment value too. But mixing that in with missions where you don't get to build one at all, and missions where the base is built for you, is just cutting something I find boring with something I find irritating and calling it variety.

    StarCraft 2's multiplayer obviously has something going for it, but it's pretty inaccessible to players who don't like to micromanage to a competitive degree. I'd love to see them make a single-player game that trains us to do that well, explains the virtue of it to us, and teaches the value of mechanics like scouting and countering. Because SC2's multiplayer actually has meaningful variety: if you're playing well, you certainly don't build the same base every time. And watching the pro leagues, I'm amazed at how differently every match plays out.

    It'd be great to see Blizzard leverage that for single-player, and explain it to idiots like me. Rather than ignore it and go to enormous effort to build something that has little to do with it.

    Jason L: Oh...I thought there was a comprehensive, smoothly graduated skirmish tutorial/challenges suite. That was the whole reason I was going to pick up SC2 at some point. Well, money in my pocket.

    Groove: Thinking about the campaign as multiplayer training, I thought they taught micro and multitasking really quite well. By largely removing base-management from the equation they created a situation where you could focus your attention on your army. Possibly the most important thing they did was to introduce the need to leave your base early and fight using a small force. This is essential since most important battles in multiplayer involve less than a dozen units a side, and getting the most out of one guy is key. Doing this while building workers, units, supply buildings and looking after the mission objectives should hopefully teach people to multitask.

    They teach really basic countering, but not really scouting. Scouting as it is used in multiplayer can't really apply to a structured mission. The key to scouting is seeing what buildings your opponent has built and knowing what units this will lead to, so which units need countered. When you're attacking a fortified position and your opponent has almost every building this isn't a viable mechanic (they do try this in the second ).

    Groove: Thinking about the campaign as multiplayer training, I thought they taught micro and multitasking really quite well. By largely removing base-management from the equation they created a situation where you could focus your attention on your army. Possibly the most important thing they did was to introduce the need to leave your base early and fight using a small force. This is essential since most important battles in multiplayer involve less than a dozen units a side, and getting the most out of one guy is key. Doing this while building workers, units, supply buildings and looking after the mission objectives should hopefully teach people to multitask.

    They teach really basic countering, but not really scouting. Scouting as it is used in multiplayer can't really apply to a structured mission. The key to scouting is seeing what buildings your opponent has built and knowing what units this will lead to, so which units need countered. When you're attacking a fortified position and your opponent has almost every building this isn't a viable mechanic.

    Slightly worried this might have posted twice, damn phone overlays.

    MarkSide: I remember the PCG review describing the campaign as being like a puzzle game, which rings true from what I've played so far. I do enjoy the puzzling and the neat way time pressure is applied in a lot of cases, but it seems a shame that the multiplayer is such a different kettle of fish/zerglings - one that I am, consequently, wholly unprepared for. And I do miss missions which give you the freedom to amass a huge army and go a-stomping.