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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.

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

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

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

AOL

A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life

SWAT 4

SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

I feel terribly guilty about Gunpoint’s success, so I often wonder if there’s some way I can use what I’ve learned from it to help. The trouble is that offering any kind of advice seems to make people angry – people who aren’t in your exact situation feel like you’re ignoring their circumstances, criticising their methods or dismissing their struggles.

So maybe I can take some advice from myself and share my experiences instead of my opinions.

Lately I’ve got to talk to a lot of developers at conferences and festivals, particularly ones who are working on their first indie game and have lots of specific questions about what we did with Gunpoint. So probably the most helpful thing I can do is give a kind of structured breakdown of Gunpoint’s conception, development, recruitment and promotion, then let people delve into whatever they’re curious about.

It’s not a guide to what you should do, it’s just a guide to what I did and how it worked out. Click a topic to expand it.

Conception

Jumping

Setting

Story

Punching

Crosslink

Tool

Game Maker

Process

Work ethic

Design doc

Implementing

Testing

Processing feedback

Story development

Getting a team

The open submission process

Promotion

Blogging

Videos

Distribution

Contacting press

Thanks for reading. Here’s even more reading!

ben: This is great! Thanks so much for sharing!

Beat: Don't feel guilty! I remember people here in the comments section of your blog *begging* you to take money for the game. Your discussed maybe giving it away.

Blame us!!! :-D

Diego: Thanks for sharing this :)
I'm having that problem with pixel art. It does simplify creation of art assets but on the other hand it creates resolution/size problems.

I look forward to the "getting a team" part!

Naveen: Great writeup. I read it whilst listening to the Gunpoint soundtrack. Brought back memories :). Also Gunpoint is probably the funniest game I've played. Moreso than the usual nominees on a funny list - Portal, Monkey Island, Borderlands 2.

Paul Kankiewicz: My brother linked me to this site about four hours ago, and I haven't been able to leave! Your stuff is brilliant! Thanks for all of the posts! I especially like the stuff on how to be happy and about Gunpoint. I guess I'm going to have to buy Gunpoint now :)

Nick Cummings: This is really useful stuff. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, process, candid opinions, and so on. As someone who's working at being a better independent game maker, this post has been really valuable to reference. Looking forward to seeing the rest!

Fjonan: Thank you, Tom, thank you so much. This inspires and motivates me quite a lot. Sometimes it needs to be written out plain and simple. I am using Redmine, a system that integrates version management, ticket system and a wiki into one system and it is extremely helpful for these kind of projects.

Antan: What's your work ethic now that you're your own boss?

Jon Drobny: You know, I've thought at times that if I hadn't just spent years and huge piles of money studying Physics, I'd be pulling a Tom and making an awesome game instead of pulling out my hair trying to get into grad school. Realistically though, I don't think I would have what it takes to take a leap and go through with something as huge as Gunpoint, not to mention my total lack of ability and experience when it comes to videogames. Everything aside, thanks for making Gunpoint and even more so for sharing your experience - it's been a blast just watching your success from the sidelines.

Colm: Lots of great info here, cheers for sharing. Found the Work Ethic & Testing sections particularly interesting!

Hello world! | Relevant Development: […] we’ve been working on a prototype game for a few months now and after reading the development breakdown of the lovely Tom Francis‘ game, Gunpoint, I thought maybe it’d be worth posting some […]

JimS: Thanks for this; your transparency and attitude should be nothing but an encouragement to people: I know it has been to me. Anything is possible with a bit of dedication!

Brandon Captain: Thanks for the insight. I'm working on my first serious non-mod title and I've definitely learned a few pointers here.

Andrew Osthoff: It's really encouraging to hear your thoughts on being a first time developer. The only part that wasn't a joy was when you talked about writing the story, because holy crap the writing in Gunpoint is great. So basically whenever you talk about the writing impairing game development instead of making it better, I put my fingers in my ears and hummed.
Thanks for sharing, thanks for the game!

simplex3: It's a great game! It's worth to pay for!
You really did a great job!
Thanks for the game and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

JP: It's really cool that you wrote all this up, I'm sure many others besides me appreciate you doing it.

Regarding promotion, I think it's worth stating clearly in those sections that you were a veteran game journalist and had spent years prior building up contacts and gaining peoples' respect before your Youtube video blew up and got the game noticed. Most of the people reading this won't have that network of (in some cases high profile) industry folks to help spread something cool early on; they're starting from nothing, trying to get anyone at all interested in their stuff. The barriers to entry are lowering all the time, but it's worth acknowledging the position one is starting from.

Again, thank you for writing this. Nice work on the game, I am so happy for your success and can't wait to see what you do next!

Laurent Moulet: Hi,
Can you tell us which sound library you used, and why did you go for this one in particular ? I guess it must have been free of most probably that it was owned by one of the composers of the game since you don't count it in the expenses you made for the game ?
Thx for all the useful info !

Vladimir Dreval: Hi, Tom!

Thanks for the great game and all the writing you do here and elsewhere.

I'd love to translate Gunpoint into Russian. Can we discuss this?

Cheers,

Vlad

The 2013 Grimmys: Indie Developer of the Year | Horrible Night - Never enough time in the day for video games: […] Developments work on Gunpoint is – inspirational. Thankfully, he has even provided a breakdown of his development process for the game. Gunpoint is just about as tight as puzzle platformers come and the writing pulled us into the […]

How to get into the games industry – an insiders’ guide | Soviders Tech: […] my own horn and plug my own YouTube vid about making your first game. I’d read Tom Francis’ blog about making Gunpoint from start to finish and watched his talk from Minecon last year – he has some really interesting […]

Edubabble – How to get into the games industry – an insiders’ guide: […] horn and plug my own YouTube vid about making your first game. I’d read Tom Francis’ blog about making Gunpoint from start to finish and watched his talk from Minecon last year – he has some really […]

How to get into the games industry – an insiders' guide | Digital News Daily CA: […] my own horn and plug my own YouTube vid about making your first game. I’d read Tom Francis’ blog about making Gunpoint from start to finish and watched his talk from Minecon last year – he has some really interesting […]

What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done - a post on Tom Francis' blog: […] Gunpoint Development Breakdown […]

Writing Things More Gud. | BONGOLUDO: […] Tom Francis also wrote what I thought was the best inadvertent game design CV cover letter I’ve ever seen: a suggested re-write of Bioshock’s ending. Notice how it only uses assets and gameplay mechanisms in the rest of the game. He also made the excellent Gunpoint, the development of which he blogged about with insight and wit here. […]

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.

Formatting

URLs get turned into links automatically. You can use <i>HTML</i> but not [b]forum[/b] code.