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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

    Machine of Death 2

    Machine Of Death: Volume 2

    I danced around the room like an imbecile when my story got into the original Machine of Death collection. I didn’t really know what it was doing there, next to all these awesome ideas, but I didn’t care.

    Until it came out.

    It’s flattering to be in such wonderful company, of course, but I can’t help wincing at the way EXPLODED painstakingly re-explains the concept, and details the creation of the machine as if you’ve never heard of such a thing.

    Explaining yourself clearly is the first thing you learn in games writing, but it totally backfired for me in this context. And I hadn’t thought about how heavy a collection of stories about people who know how they’ll die could be. EXPLODED has jokes, but it dwells on its deaths.

    One of my favourites in the collection is TORN APART AND DEVOURED BY LIONS, because it’s such a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t explain the concept, and it doesn’t even really have a plot, but it’s so funny, breezy and fun that you don’t want it to end.

    The third demoralising thing I realised reading Machine of Death was that I suddenly had a much, much better idea for a story on this concept.

    The crux of so many stories comes down to that Can’t Beat The Machine rule, and I got thinking about what would happen if you started from that. If the characters in your story had all read this whole collection, and were intimately familiar with the weird ways fate would bend itself to make the machine’s predictions come true. And then you tried to write an action film.

    That’s when Machine of Death 2 was announced, and it wasn’t a hard decision to enter. Writing EXPLODED was a quick and enormously fun process, a handful of evenings, something I’d do again without any hope of inclusion.

    So I wrote out the story idea I’d been kicking around, looked at it, and ditched it.

    The problem was that it was about heroes – soldiers, really, but soldiers about whom I could only ever say one of a few things:

    • YAY hero soldiers!
    • WAIT some soldiers are jerks!
    • GUYS war can be bad sometimes.
    • OOH maybe what they’re fighting for is CONTROVERSIAL?

    These are the four worst story concepts ever. And they don’t exactly lend themselves to the light, breezy tone I wanted to steal from DEVOURED.

    The truth is, I don’t give a shit about fictional soldiers. I’ve watched them, been them, killed them more times than makes sense. I just liked the concept of how these guys would work in a Machine of Death world, how they would use that to their advantage, and wanted to write a story where things worked like that.

    Really, the only interesting thing I could ask about some Machine of Death-enhanced superheroes was “What would it be like to fight them?” It would fucking suck. It would be like fighting the player in a videogame, or the hero in a movie – the asshole all the bullets miss, for whom every twist of physics seems to land in his favour.

    What’s that like? Ask a supervillain. Actually, ask his henchmen.

    LAZARUS REACTOR FISSION SEQUENCE is about three henchpersons, the supervillain they work for, and the supersoldier superheroes who keep fucking up their shit.

    It got accepted into the Machine of Death 2 collection on my birthday, and I danced around the room like an imbecile.

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    Sam: Congrats! Looks like I'll be buying this volume, too, then.

    Rosti: I am excite!

    Gryphon: Good god, yes. Love good collections of short stories, and machine of death had some of the best short stories I've ever read. I'm extremely excited for this one!

    Bret: Man, one of the top two picks? Congratulations.

    And MOD 1 was one of the best collections I've ever read, your story included. They weren't all the best I've ever read or anything of the sort, but I at least kinda liked the entire lot. Most other collections I've seen have at least one stinker.

    And hearing your story's better this time? Well, sounds good.

    Clint: For what it's worth, I thought that the overexposition was perfectly justifiably given that you basically wrote the genesis of the thing. Understanding how each of your characters reacted to each new aspect of the machine they uncovered I thought was important to connecting to them by the end.

    And yours was the story that convinced me to buy the first collection at all.

    Clint: Justifiable*. D'oh.

    Tom Francis: Thanks guys!

    Wesman: Tom, I bought the original volume entirely because of you, and will thusly be purchasing this one for the same reason. Don't ever stop, you lovable scamp.

    verendus: Don't you hate how those four story concepts seem to make up the bulk of today's media? The last three themselves are so dominant that even the first feels like a breath of fresh air in comparison.

    Bret: Going to agree those are pretty bad, but the worst? I dunno, it's probably a personal thing, but I've always liked "YAY! Hero Soldiers" better than the all time favorites for school assigned reading

    GUESS WHAT? Teenagers angst!

    and

    SURPRISE! The past (or what I skimmed of it from an encyclopedia) sucked!

    I mean, at least the first one sometimes leads to a trio of ski patrol brothers fighting dinosaurs in Antarctica while two of them are snow blind.