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Tom Francis

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Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX

I’ve been away the last two weeks, showing Heat Signature first at Fantastic Arcade in Austin, then at EGX in London. I’ll show you what that all looked like below, but first I’ll embed my EGX talk so you can play that and look at the photos during the boring bits. From about 5 minutes in, you can see Heat Signature with some of the new art and music.

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First night in Austin, met up with fellow Brit and Sokobond co-creator Alan Hazelden for a drink at CU29, appropriately named for the atomic number of copper (Sokobond is about atoms). This is a ‘Mexican Coffee’, which involves setting fire to orange peel. It was goddamn great.

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This was the rather different setup for my rather similar presentation at Fantastic Arcade, in a bar. This trip was my first time doing something on stage with no preparation or script, in a randomised game, so it was nice to do it in a more relaxed atmosphere at Fantastic before going up in front of a larger and more captive audience at EGX. Pic by Brandon Boyer.

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Typically if the screen is indistinguishably white they’re playing SimAntics, and if it’s indistinguishably black they’re playing Heat Signature.

2014-09-20 17.07.30

Half of Fantastic Arcade happens in an Alamo Drafthouse theatre, where they bring food and drink to your seat. Me and a new friend who works at Blizzard drank boozy milkshakes and watched the N++ tournament, which is one of the best spectator sports.

2014-09-21 09.08.35

2014-09-21 14.27.40 HDR

Robin Arnott and Alexander Bruce play SimAntics, the game Liselore Goedhart and I made for the Super Game Jam. Our SGJ episode was meant to screen in the giant theatre, but unfortunately wasn’t ready in time.

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Luftrauser’s composer and Life on a Mountain creator Jukio Kallio and I. Jukio and I worked with Natalie Hanke on Distance.

2014-09-21 23.08.39

Jukio DJ’ing the Fantastic Arcade closing party as Kozilek, with Fernando Ramallo on visuals.

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Instead of rushing back to get home for 1 day before having to go to EGX, I stayed in Austin to watch the new Ghibli film (pretty good) and The Stranger (awful), and join some friends for a trip to the Salt Lick (pictured), which had sent at least one of them into surgery previously.

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Bacon and maple donut at Gourdoughs, a thing I was determined to try before leaving Austin. It was soft and crispy and a massive mistake.

2014-09-25 09.50.53

EGX.

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I patched Heat Signature while I watched people play, trying to address usability issues quickly enough to see whether my fixes worked on the next players. I made 12 versions in 4 days, and the game improved hugely.

I think I’ll do this at events any time I can, rather than standing around and explaining my game to onlookers as I did at PAX. It’s less sociable, but much easier on the legs and voicebox, and so satisfying and energising to get so much work done – then to see its value immediately.

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Each new version took progressively less pointing at things. Thanks again to Natalie Hanke for designing the awesome poster. Pic by Ben Borthwick.

2014-09-26 13.18.51

Matt Lees and Steve Hogarty tried it. I tried, and failed, not to ask journalists “What did you think?”, because I hated it when devs did that to me when I was a writer.

2014-09-27 10.32.07

This fellow boarded a ship, saw a horde of guards coming his way, fired wildly, shot an explosive barrel, and blew this chunk clean off the ship: spinning through space, suddenly alone.

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Gunpoint and Heat Signature artist John Roberts manned the station for a while so I could see a little of the show.

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The random gas clouds keeps producing gorgeous combinations I’ve never seen before.

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Quite a nice layout on a big ship. I think this is the balance of rooms to corridors I’d like to see more of, more rooms than this and it starts to look like grid paper.

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Pic sneakily taken by my friend Rossi while I was being interviewed by Chris Bratt for VideoGamer.com. EGX was better for press exposure than any other event I’ve been to.

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Lots of nice tweets during and after my talk. This pic by Gareth Williams.

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Sneakily taken by Pip while I nervously watch Heat Signature being played in not the exact way I would play it – always scary.

Now that I’m back, there’s lots of boring business stuff to catch up on, including officially forming our team. But then there’s the wonderful job of revising my priorities and ideas for the game’s grand plan based on the truckload of new self-awareness I’ve gained from watching people play and talking to them about what works.

The response was hugely positive, but the blanks in the current prototype are not the type a new player can fill in for themselves. With Gunpoint, it was “This, but more levels.” Heat Signature’s already infinitely big, so it’ll increase in definition and systemic richness rather than in size. That’s something I could inject in any of a million places, so the current build doesn’t definitively show where it’s going. But the upside of that breadth is that I can also adapt my focus as I learn more about where the most exciting possibilities are.

As ever, join the mailing list if you want to be involved in testing when we do that, or just to be told when it’s out.

More

Dan Smith: Hey Tom, I saw this talk on YouTube a few days ago... and have attempted to get in touch via Email. Dunno if your spam filter blocked it or whatever, but could you please hunt it down? Its super important that I reach you!

Duncan Wintle: Is it correct that the link for the mailing list goes to the gunpoint mailing list?

Taha Nasir: A line pretty much apposite on this site:

Wow I regret not playing that.

I was literally there so many times with my friends never letting me play! Ah well. Maybe some day.

Tom Francis: Dan - replied!
Duncan - it's the Suspicious Developments mailing list, that's my company.

Colin Hardwick: Hey Tom,

I was at the Euro gamer Dev speak Listening to how you got where you are now, it was very inspiring and if you don't mind I would like to talk to you more about it?


Kind Regards
Colin H

Jack Price: Hey Tom,
You may remember me, I was the kid at EGX who was with his journalist Dad and asked for your autograph. Anyway, I was wondering if you could give us an idea of a date of a beta test or something similar, or even a full release? I can imagine it won't be for a while, but even so, it would be nice to know.

Yours,
Jack

Tom Francis: Yeah, hi Jack! I'm afraid I have no idea. You can get on that mailing list to be told when it does happen, though: http://gunpointgame.... ...f68b263ad6

coolwithpie: Hi Tom, couldn't make it to either EGX or Fantastic Arcade, but I had an idea while I was watching your talk. Have you considered getting missions from people in bars on spacestations? It could be a cool atmosphere sort of thing.

Dan Smith: Hey Tom, sent a response through. Don't know if you want me to let you know on here when I reply, if you don't actively check your e-mail?

Kyle Moller: Everything looks great, Tom.

One random possibility that popped to mind when you mentioned that you can't dock the larger captured ships w/ others... what if you had to selectively combine components from captured vessels in a tetris-like fashion to create some specialized conglomeration for a specific task/quest. Maybe you tugboat them around w/ your boarding vessel, maybe dock an engine module from one ship onto the munitions module from another and make an improvised explosive ram. Maybe you have to release module from ships via explosives, sabotage, and then retrieve them w/ your ship for this purpose.

I apologize if this kind of post is just the worst, but thought it might be interesting to you.

Jonathan Burroughs: So excited for Gunpoint. Cursing myself for not making the time to play it at EGX. Super curious to ask, what did you hate about devs asking you “What did you think?” when you were a writer? I can imagine it's just awkward to be put on the spot like that. Feeling very guilty about the various times I no doubt did it myself!

Jonathan Burroughs: Yay! I wrote "Gunpoint" when I obviously meant "Heat Signature". Attribute it to my already being so happy with having played Gunpoint that it's all I can think about, day or night. Also I'm on my third coffee of the morning. Yes.

Tom Francis: Heh. Yeah, it's awkward because if you hated it, you usually don't wanna say that to their face when they're all excited and nervous and have spent years working on it. But if you lie, then you're gonna have to contradict that in the article you write.

Heat Signature, One Year Later – a post on the Heat Signature site: […] Fantastic Arcade, Austin: to show and give a presentation of Heat Sig. […]

Henco: Looks like so much fun

Thoughts About Praise And Confidence At GDC And Rezzed – a post on Tom Francis’ blog: […] Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX […]