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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.

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By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

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

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

I haven’t talked about the way I randomly generate spaceships in Heat Signature since this post – before it even had actual art. That’s partly because I’ve barely touched it since then. I showed the game to developer friends and the press in LA and SF a few weeks ago, and got lots of great input and ideas, but the main thing I came away thinking was: the on-board game needs to be more interesting. And I think better ship interiors are the foundation of that. Continued

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Deus Ex’s appeal is often boiled down to ‘lots of options’, but obviously that doesn’t quite cover it. Right now I’m looking to redesign the ‘sneaking inside spaceships’ part of Heat Signature, so I need more than a vague line about what’s cool about Deus Ex – I need a practical understanding of specifically why it works, and why similar games don’t. So I’m replaying Deus Ex 1 and 3, to figure out what it is I want to steal. And I think it is options, but it’s not just number. They have to fill a certain set of requirements, and this is my attempt to nail down what those are.

I’ve been mostly playing Human Revolution so far, but I’ll also use some examples for DX1 since there’s so much overlap. Continued

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

In maths, ‘natural numbers’ are the ones you might use to count observable, whole things: eg. there are six people here. Anything that doesn’t work in place of ‘six’ there, like 3.4 or -2, is not natural. They’re kind of ‘numbers you can see’.

I’d like to use the term in game design to mean specifically that: numbers you can see. Things that are represented so simply and wholly and countably that you don’t need to display an actual numeric figure to tell the player how much they’re seeing. They can just see. Continued

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Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

I’ve been playing Big Pharma, a game where you design production lines to manufacture cures to sell for maximum profit, or to genuinely help people, as your fancy may dictate. It’s excellent and I have become hopelessly addicted to it, but my favourite part is having to come up with names for the often double-edged drugs your imperfect process has produced: Continued

Writing vs Programming

Writing is like having a conversation with someone who can’t reply until you’ve finished.

Programming is like having a conversation with a robot who screams at you if you pause in the wrong place, electrocutes you if you change your mind, and explodes if you ever use the future tense.

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

After 7 months, 25 episodes, and about 16 hours of total running time, my tutorial series is complete! I talk you through making a game, from writing your first line of code, to releasing and selling it. It’s aimed at absolute beginners, it only uses free software, the tutorial itself is free, ad-free, the game we made is free, and it’s in fairly digestible 45-minute episodes.

Hope it’s of use! Here’s the game we made:

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New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

As always, follow it on Twitter or sign up to be told when it’s out, or ready for testing, here.

I also made a short montage of all the ways I fucked this video up in previous takes: Continued

Her Story banner

What Works And Why: Nonlinear Storytelling In Her Story

What Works And Why is a thing where I dig into the design of a game I like and try to analyse what makes it good, hopefully to learn from it but also because I love this stuff.

Spoiler-free

Continued

My Idea For An ‘Unconventional Weapon’ Game

I was ill for a few weeks recently, and Ludum Dare happened during it. As usual I wanted the challenge of thinking up an idea to fit the theme, but couldn’t spare the two days to actually make something. The theme was ‘an unconventional weapon’, so I wrote up an idea but didn’t get around to publishing it at the time. Here it is! Continued

From Gunpoint To Heat Signature: A Narrative Journey

Many of you have been asking how the story of Heat Signature follows on from Gunpoint. We can now explain.

The Cost Of Simplifying Conversations In Videogames

I was really entertained and inspired by this piece of satire, linked in an article by Chris Hecker, linked by Varanas on the Crate and Crowbar forums.

I started thinking out loud about it on Twitter, but didn’t want to swamp your timeline with it, so I’ll paste what I said so far and continue it here: Continued

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

What Works And Why is a thing where I dig into the design of a game I like and try to analyse what makes it good, hopefully to learn from it but also because I love this stuff.

What is it?

A turn-based stealth game with randomly generated levels and no savegames. You have two secret agents with different special abilities, and you choose from offices of varying difficulties and rewards to break into and steal money, equipment and abilities. You break in by carefully peering round corners and doors, ambushing unwitting guards with your tazers, and hacking security devices from a special vision mode.

If you want a better idea of how it plays, I recorded myself going through one mission, and talked through my thinking and how the game works.

Continued

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Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Super Game Jam is a documentary series on Steam that films two developers per episode, working together to make a game in 48 hours. It’s discounted to $15 for the whole series right now, which is 5 half-hour episodes, the 5 games that were made in them, and a bunch of extra scenes and music from Kozilek and Doseone.

Episode 5 just came out tonight, and it’s me and artist/designer Liselore Goedhart making SimAntics: Realistic Anteater Simulator. We were given the theme of ‘Simulation’ by previous jammers Cactus and Grapefrukt, and told not to make SimAnt. So we simulated an anteater instead.

You can grab it from Steam here, where there’s also a trailer. Stills below, and thoughts on the episode at the end! Continued

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Game: Shadow of Mordor

Third-person open world action and stealth game, with Assassin’s Creed free-running and Arkham Asylum combat. You’re in Mordor, it’s full of orc-like Uruks, and for reasons that were probably explained in all the cut-scenes I skipped, you have to use them to get to the Black Dark Lord Hand – who I gather is a ruffian. Continued

Heat Signature Talk

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. Continued