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Throw a wrench, change the galaxy.


Mostly nebulae.

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Windows for sure, dunno about others


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Design, Code, Writing

Tom Francis


John Roberts


John Halpart


Tom Francis
John Roberts

Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox

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Heat Signature Factions Trailer, Working At Valve, Looking For A Programmer

Surprising news!

  • I made a new video showing off John Roberts’ excellent new art for the game’s four factions! (Not that surprising)
  • I’m looking for a programmer in the Seattle area to help me finish the game! (Seattle part seems surprising)
  • … because I’m moving to Bellevue to work on the game at Valve’s offices! (Extremely surprising but now the Seattle thing is less surprising)

Here’s the new video, which also shows what teleporters and the What Now? screen add to the game:

If you haven’t already, put it on your Steam Wishlist so you hear about it when it comes out. Also, if you were in on a Steam beta, it was probably taken off your wishlist because Steam briefly thought you owned it, so check. And if you want to be in on future tests, make sure you’re on the mailing list (top right).

The Valve thing

They want my input on something, and I’d obviously welcome theirs on Heat Sig, so I’ve accepted their offer to come and work on it at their offices instead of my bedroom. I’ll still be independent, self-employed and pretty much full time on Heat Sig, but I’m very excited to be around people again – especially these people. I’ll be there for 3 months at most, at which point the siren song of visa waiver laws will call me home.

The job

So, I’m looking for a programmer to work with me in person, in Bellevue, to help finish the game!

  • Language: Game Maker Studio 1.4 – experience with this is nice but I can teach you it if not
  • Hours: likely 40 hours a week, but less is OK
  • Location: Bellevue
  • Starting: I arrive Jan 11th, so sometime after that
  • Duration: should be a bit under 3 months in-office while I’m in Bellevue, and maybe some follow-up work from home after that.
  • Pay: we’ll do it by the hour, tell me what you normally charge.
  • Experience: some kind of games programming experience is probably needed.
The work

I’m 3 years in to Heat Signature and I’d like it to be finished. It’s almost feature-complete, but I’m looking for someone to help me with the technical aspects of finishing it, primarily:

  • Bug-fixing
  • Performance
  • Refactoring to help/avoid both those things
  • Adding some more technical features (eg certain collision types, maybe shaders, etc)
Who I’m looking for

Right now I’m the only programmer, I’m self-taught, and my software architecture is pretty sloppy. Bug-fixing is a pain because of every part of that sentence. And optimisation is stabbing in the dark, I know very little about how computers really work. So I’m looking for someone to fill all those gaps in my skills, and handle the most technical stuff.

If you’re the kind of person I’m looking for you’ll probably want to rewrite my entire code-base to do it better, but we don’t have that kind of time, so you also need to know how to pick your battles. Basically I need someone with the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the skill to refactor the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

How we’ll work

I want to work in-person, so that I can talk you through how the current code works, and you can talk me through how you’re changing it so I can still work with it afterwards when I need to.

I’m friendly and I work best in a low-pressure environment, I hope you do too! You can probably get a sense of what I’m like to work with from these daily videos about what I’m working on.

I’m only in the US until April 8th ish, so the in-person work won’t last longer than that. I don’t guarantee it’ll be the full three months, but I’ll give you some warning if it’s going to end sooner (eg because I have to go back to the UK).

At the end, if we worked well, I might ask if you want to stay on and keep working on it remotely. Even if we finish the game (unknown), I’ll be keen to have you help out with testing and post-launch support. We can talk about that towards the end of this contract, it’d be a separate thing.

Legal details

You will be a contractor, not an employee, working for my UK-based company Suspicious Developments Limited. All the work you do for us will belong to the company. You’ll sign a contract to that effect, and you’ll also need to sign an NDA with Valve, so they don’t have to worry about what you see there.

You’ll need to keep track of your hours and invoice me – I’d suggest at the end of each month.


1. Send me an e-mail saying:

  • A short bit about yourself, your skills, why you’re interested
  • What programming work you’ve done (a resume is fine but treat me as a layman in terms of understanding what your previous work involved / how it applies)
  • What you’d want to be paid per hour. This won’t be a negotiation process so just ask for what’s fair – either I can afford you or I can’t.
  • Whether 40 hours a week works for you or if not, what does
  • Whether you’re free till April, and what your availability is like after that
  • Any existing contracts or employment or organisation memberships that have any bearing on the rights to work you do for us or how it can be used (I am hoping none!)

2. I’ll probably want to have a Skype conversation with the most likely candidates, to talk through some details. Probably in January.

3. I’d like to meet up and try working together for a day, paid, in a cafe or something, just to see how well we work together and how you get on with the specifics of the job. I might do this with several times with different people. Won’t be sooner than Jan 11th.

Please keep any and all questions and contact about this to the e-mail address above. Cheers!

Richard: "GML is similar to JavaScript"

Oh golly gosh no it's not. I wish it was. You'd be amazed at how much faster you'd get things done if it actually was. Proper data structures alone would be worth it.

Ewan: Seconding Richard, GML is like Javascript in the way that most languages relate to javascript. However GML misses some of the nice bits along the way.

Whish i could help but still finishing up studies, hope you find someone and good luck! (also game is looking awesome and i'm looking forward to another test, if there is one)

Egan: Oh no, even less people on the Crate and Crowbar! Pretty soon it'll just be Pip talking about opposites. ;)

Mike: Tom,

I emailed you awhile back for game development advice. You provided brilliantly, and using it as a reference I've actually managed to get somewhat through a moderately entertaining (and yet incredibly buggy) prototype. I never got back to your email, so I'll just thank you here instead.

So, the creator of what was ultimately the most inspirational game to getting me into both programming and game development was just hired by Valve. The Valve. The Valve that's essentially revolutionized the video game industry just about every time they've released a game.

I just got back from running in circles and yelling "holy fucking shit" at the top of my lungs. That is, internally, of course.

While I'm admittedly slightly saddened to see my favorite indie developer no longer be an 'indie developer' (maybe I'll settle for Davey Wreden?), I'm incredibly excited to see whatever projects you and Valve are working on together. Valve has, throughout video game history, pioneered some of the biggest innovations within professional game development. A hobbyist Tom Francis managed to change my life as it is-- I'm slightly terrified (and yet incredibly excited) as to what a resource and industry-backed Tom Francis will be capable of accomplishing.

Hell, maybe we'll get a Gunpoint II. In 3D. With full, bullfrog-trousers physics.

Anyway, I think I've rabbled on for long enough. Congratulations, Tom. May the future hold the best for you.

- Mike

Mike: ...and yes, I get that I'm totally exaggerating in just about every aspect, mainly because you're not *technically* hired by Valve and you're just *working at the Valve offices*. But come on. They're pretty much the same thing. You're sitting a small walking distance away from industry geniuses like Mark Laidlaw. (Well, I mean, he's retired, but you get my point.).

Going to go take a little walk. Get off some hype. Anyway, once again, congratulations!

Luv as Smith: hello I am extremely excited about your game and I can't wait to play it I'm also confused as to why you have not put this game as a early access on steam it would help you as you would get more funding's and you would also have people who bought the game who could be your massive army of bug finders and idea generators I do belive other people would also love to see this game come out on early access as they may have been waiting for this game for months like I have