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Design, Code, Writing

Tom Francis


John Roberts


John Winder


John Halpart


Tom Francis
John Roberts

Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox

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Heat Signature, One Year Later

I started making Heat Signature on December the 1st, 2013. I know this because I released the first video of it two days later.

One year on, and the latest video shows how far it’s come.

But I have to keep reminding myself it hasn’t been a year of work yet. When I started it, I was still torn between this and another project, a heist game using grappling hooks. In the year since I started Heat Signature, I have also:

  • Worked for about two months on that grappling hook heist game. The last two dev log videos I made for that show what I did on it in that time.
  • Took the grappling hook tech from the heist game and spent five weeks to make Floating Point, a peaceful game about swinging around elegantly, released on Steam for free.
  • Went to the BAFTA Games Awards: for Gunpoint, lost to some shitty car game.
  • Collaborated with Natalie Hanke and Jukio Kallio to make Distance, a short visual story piece for the Space Cowboy Game Jam.
  • Collaborated with Liselore Goedhart to make SimAntics: a two-player competitive anteater licking simulator, where you steer a prehensile tongue with the mouse to lick up more ants than your opponent. Filmed and released as part of the Super Game Jam documentary.
  • In my ‘spare time’, knocked together a basic RTS-style framework for possible use in a civ-building game I’d like to try some day.
  • Wrote and successfully pitched an hour-long talk for next year’s GDC.

And I’ve also done a bunch of Heat Signature related stuff other than the actual development:

  • IndieCade East, New York: to show the heist game and Heat Sig.
  • GDC, San Francisco: to show Heat Sig.
  • Fantastic Arcade, Austin: to show and give a presentation of Heat Sig.
  • EGX, London: to show Heat Sig.
  • Made a bunch of videos about it.
  • Spent more than a month finding and reviewing applicants for the artist and composer positions on the team, and eventually making a decision on both.
  • With John, built a nice website for it.

I’m listing all this mostly for myself, because I’m always haunted by this feeling that I’m not being productive enough, that I should have done more. When I write it all down, though, it seems like a lot.

I intentionally let myself wander a bit after Gunpoint, since that had taken three years of sustained focus to finish. And Heat Signature itself is actually the result of that: I let myself get distracted from the heist game to try it out, and it turned into something both cooler and easier to make.

When I started working on it properly, I had a time frame in mind. But right away, it started to stress me out. The scope would change or my ETAs for individual features would be off, and I’d start to feel like I was failing even though nothing had gone wrong. So now I don’t even have an internal release date, it’s just a thing I’ll work on as efficiently as possible, at least until it feels ready, and then until I feel like moving on. I’m having a great time doing that, so I’m not going to let anything spoil it.


Pete: And recording the crate and crowbar should be on there surely? :)

Alec: I remember seeing the first heat sig video and being so excited cause it was such an awesome concept. It has come a long way since then and I am even more excited now! Can't wait for testing and the full game!

Scott: Wow. Effing amazing, really.

Ewan: You should make the guards take the players money when he is thrown out of thier ship but allow players to jump out of airlocks to avoid getting their money taken. Really excited for testing, keep it up!

Jake: Looks like your idea has flourished and grown. :D

Clyberis: Hi Tom,
I'm glad to see that you are working on another great game. I thoroughly enjoyed Gunpoint and now I'm looking forward to Heat Signature. I think I recognize the gun sound. BTW, will you be able to bludgeon enemies to death ala Gunpoint. That was one of my favorite parts outside of the main game mechanic of rewiring.

Benjamin: That is a far way to go in one year!

Dec 1 is my birthday too! :P
nice to share a birthday with something great :D

Luke: Fantastic!

Okay enough praise, get back to work you lazy sod! I look forward to playing anything you make.

MattW: Hi Tom, I loved your work on PCG and Im very happy that you are now making games too (though I was sad when you stopped writing for PCG).

Just wondering if you've ever read the Culture books as I think there could be plenty of inspiration for Heat Signature and similar games you might make in the future.

Also wondered if you had read the China Mieville books Perdido Street Station, The Scar and iron Council. No particular reason but you strike me as the type of guy who would enjoy them.

Cheers! :)

Jason L: From Plan B: 'It was an exploration vessel called the GCU WTFIIYF (WHERE THE FUCK IS IT YOU FUCKS? - give yourself a biscuit if you know what the GCU stands for).'

Gal Anonim: this is great game please work faster

Dan: Are you going to add fuel management? Detours to obtain fuel from ships on the way to targets could be tedious or make missions feel more adventurous than simply flying from point A to point B.

Jabberwok: After watching a newer video of this, I just realized that Heat Signature is procedural Hotline Miami in space. Which is a good thing.

daniel: hey, how are you ? can you please please tell me how you did the zooming and parallax background for heat signature ? I tried parallax moving surfaces or just one surface but updating the position of the stars each step or even using colored vertices but the fps just always drop to much. Do you save every star position into an array ? And the bigger the view gets by zooming out the bigger the problem becomes. I'm at my wits' end. It seems like that was pretty easy for you but I'm already working on it for weeks. I'd be so thankful for your help. An answer to and you would be the most awesome person ever : ) thank you very much

Nash: I'm honored to share a birthday with this game.