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Game development








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.


By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend

A Leftfield Solution To An XCOM Disaster

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

The ‘Tiny World’ Game I Didn’t Make At The Weekend

Another Ludum Dare, the competition to make a game in a weekend! Another weekend I can’t really do so! Instead, I worked on Gunpoint. But as before, I’ll tell you what game I would have made. The theme was Tiny World, and my game idea is called… Launch Craft.

Top-down, space. You control a vast mothership, bigger than any sun, drifting through a dense system of planets and stars. Hovering your cursor over tiny planets scans them, and after a short delay, reports whether any of your people are captive there or not.

As you pass, the tiny planets launch even tinier capital ships at you, zapping at you with tiny weapons but doing no actual damage. You can destroy these with your giant main laser, but it’ll also obliterate any planet in its path, so you have to be a bit careful.

Once you’ve found a planet with some captives on it, you’ve got to wipe out all the capital ships, then you can right click on it to “Launch Craft”.

A tiny pixel of black leaves the body of your ship and flies towards the planet. When it gets there, cut to:

Top down, globe view. You control a vast black disc of a ship as whole nations drift beneath you, their cities and roads sparkling orange at night. (It’s night because you attacked from the opposite side to the sun.)

The cities launch squadrons of fighter jets against you, which do a little damage to your craft if not destroyed with your main laser. Holding the cursor over a city scans it for captives. When you find some, and you’ve cleared the skies, you can right click on that city to “Launch Craft”.

A tiny pixel of black leaves the body of your ship and flies towards the city. When it gets there, cut to:

Side-on, cityscape view. You control a large black dropship zooming above the rooftops. (The sunset’s orange because that’s the colour of the nearest star.)

Soldiers shoot homing missiles at you from their rooftops, which do significant damage if they hit. You can fry them with your main laser, and burn missiles out of the air, but the beam soon destroys any buildings behind. Hovering the cursor over a building slows your ship for a moment to scan it for captives. If you find some, and the soldiers are all dead, you can right click on it to “Launch Craft”.

A black missile shoots from your ship, slamming into the wall of the building. Cut to:

Side-on, building cross-section. You control a small, flying, baby-squid-like alien, hovering through the building’s floors. (The building is purple. That is random.)

Security personnel fire automatic weapons at you, which kill if they hit. You can fry them with your brain laser, and burn holes through the floors of the building.

On one floor, you see the Captives: others of your species kept in glass jars for military experiments. Once you get to them, you have to destroy their tanks with your laser, then blast your way through the wall to get out.

If you die at any point up to here, we cut back to the previous stage and another craft is launched. If you die after this point, we cut back to the mothership and the captives on this planet are lost.

Assuming you get out, we cut to:

Cityscape. The dropship picks you up from the building, but now the streets are crawling with soldiers. You have to shoot down incoming missiles from all directions while you lift off to the top of the screen. Cut to:

Globe. Fighters have scrambled from all over the planet to intercept you, and their combined fire is lethal if you don’t cut their numbers down with your laser. As long as you survive, the disc of your ship grows larger and larger until it fills the screen and we cut to:

Space. No sound but the quiet hum of the mothership. The planet launches more capital ships if you don’t destroy it, but they can’t scratch you. You drift on, scanning for more captives.

A bunch of people asked if they or someone else could make this – yes! I hereby waive all rights to this thing and chuck it into the public domain, anyone can do anything with it.

To the extent possible under law, Tom Francis has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Launch Craft. This work is published from: United Kingdom.


Eagle0600: ...

I like it. Thinking of making this another year when you're less busy?

Alek: Mr. Francis, if you don't make this game, someone else (myself?) has to! It is wonderful.

Simon: It actually sounds like a lot of fun to me!

Tim: I now want to play this but cant

Nonomu198: Sounds like something Spore would have been if it didn't suck.

It's a neat concept, but after performing the feat of saving your buddies once, what's the incentive to do it again? More difficulty? Or maybe you didn't think it that far?

Niteowl: I'm really tempted to have a go at this, but worried my graphics will be even dodgier than the concept art.

The Cheshire Cat: Incentive for rescuing more buddies - each "rescue" could be a different level layout. So while the general stage progression is the same, the actual challenges involved could change/escalate as you clear more planets. It would probably work better if the stages were custom built instead of randomly generated, to provide a good progression, although if you got a good algorithm for it random generation could work too.

Alek: Trying my own take at this in Flash using Flixel.... just like Gunpoint I'm kinda starting with minimal knowledge and going forward with it. Having an interesting time.

Freelancer: Almost had a heart attack when I saw the first screen - thought someone was making my game before I could! Idea sounds great though, even if there wasn't that much longevity. Not all games need to be 50 hours long.

lechip: What an awesome idea man, love the concept of changing the gameplay mechanics.