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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.

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

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

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

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX

What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point

What’s Your Fault?

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

One Desperate Battle In FTL

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection

Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault

A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot

Arguing On The Internet

Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?

E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

The Suspicious Developments manifesto

GDC Talk: How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole

Listening To Your Sound Effects For Gunpoint

Understanding Your Brain

What Makes Games Good

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

A Different Way To Level Up

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary

I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood Money And Sex

A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

First Night, Second Life

SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Why I’m Letting Heat Signature Get Bigger

Here is a video blog about that, and how I’m changing how I think about working on it.

A Day’s Experimentation With Heat Signature’s Nebula Generation

John recently did some new sprites for us to construct nebulae out of, and I couldn’t help tinkering with the way we randomly generate your galaxy to make use of them. The ‘galaxy’ is what I call the entire game world, and a single clump of gas clouds within that is a ‘region’. I started with generating a single region from these sprites, combining two colours, then tried generating a bunch of those to make a galaxy. The latter part turns out to look awful if you use more than a couple of colours, so for now they each have a definite theme. Continued

Galactic Zoom In Heat Signature

Heat Signature’s universe has been infinite since day 2 or 3, but until now you’ve only been able to see a meager 35,000 x 35,000 pixels of it at once. I knew at some point I wanted to let you see an overview of the part of space you’re in, a collection of vast gas clouds that I think is going to be called The Grove. But I wasn’t sure if this would have be a map mode or if we could zoom smoothly from one to the other. I’m still not sure if the latter is viable performance-wise, or even if it’s the right way to go, and the galaxy is ugly at the moment, but for what it’s worth I made it and here it is: (CPU warning, mega-GFY!) Continued

Detpacks

Today I added Detpacks to Heat Signature. Here is a Detpack:

Continued

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. Continued

New Heat Signature Trailer Shows Art, Music, Wrenches And Guns

Heat Signature Screenshots

Here’s what Heat Signature looks like these days! The new art is by the multi-talented John Roberts, who also did art for our last game, Gunpoint. Next week I’ll put up a trailer to show all this in action. For those who haven’t seen it moving yet, there’s no break between inside and out: you zoom smoothly from the scale of these interior shots to the big-scale space battles.

When I have new shots in future, I’ll add them on this page and take down any outdated ones. I’ll keep the first three as reasonably representative ones, then below them it’ll be newest-first. Everyone has permission to use these shots in any articles or videos, print or online, as long as you make it clear what game they’re from. Continued

Heat Signature Trailers

I think if I embed a YouTube playlist, I can make this post always show the latest Heat Signature trailer even when I change it in future.

Help Me Learn Finite State Machines For Guard AI In Heat Signature

I have long known that ‘Finite State Machines’ are a thing I should be using, but when I try to read up on them, the explanations are either hopelessly vague or incredibly specific to a language and situation I don’t understand.

I whined to Mike Cook about this, and he said something to the effect of, “When you read up about Finite State Machines, it sounds like they’re this one specific agreed-upon thing, but every time you talk to an actual programmer about them you’ll get a different version of what they are.”

But! I am determined to try them in Heat Signature, and I have just reached that point where there’s enough AI an animation stuff going on that I need some kind of system to manage it. So I’m going to explain how I plan to use one, and if you’re a programmer, perhaps you can warn me of any problems I’m making for myself.

If you’re not, or if you’re learning, maybe you’ll get something out of how hopelessly I’ve failed at this so far. Continued

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

Introducing The Heat Signature Team

Last month I made a new video of my ugly prototype for Heat Signature and put out an open call for artists and composers who might wanna work on it. When I did the same thing for my first game Gunpoint, around 30 artists and 40 composers applied. For Heat Signature, 81 artists and 232 composers applied. This was extraordinary and flattering, then daunting, then impossible, then exciting once I finally had my decision, then absolutely horrible when I had to tell everyone I hadn’t picked. You don’t really know how many ‘313 people’ is until you have to say no to 310 of them.

My deep, deep thanks to the amazingly talented people who applied, it meant a huge amount to me that people of your calibre were interested in my thing.

Here’s who I picked: Continued

Update On Heat Signature Applications

Just a quick update to say I am still going through the Heat Signature applications. Sorry it’s taking a while – if you didn’t see on Twitter, I got 81 applications for the artist position and 232 for composer. So I am endlessly listening to and re-listening to samples, rigging up makeshift dynamic music systems in-game to see what kind of things work, burying myself in reams of notes, and making impossible choices. Pretty soon I should be able to let applicants know individually where we’re at, and a while after that I’ll be able to announce a decision. The standard of submissions is amazing – the final game is going to be a thing of beauty.

Heat Signature Playable At EGX And Fantastic Arcade

Heat Signature will be playable at two different events next month, in the UK and the US!

18-21 September: Fantastic Arcade at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, US
25-28 September: Eurogamer Expo (EGX) in Earls Court, London, UK

I’ll be at both events to talk you through it and answer any questions with “I don’t know,” “No,” or “We’ll see.” I’ll also be doing some form of presentation at each, probably involving playing the game myself and explaining my plans.

SimAntics

Earlier this year I also made a game with artist and designer Liselore Goedhart, in which two players steer the tongues of anteaters and battle each other like disgusting slithery light-cycles as they compete for ants. That’s SimAntics: Realistic Anteater Simulator, and it will also be playable at Fantastic Arcade!

And for EGX, I commissioned my friend and graphic designer Natalie Hanke (who I worked with on Distance) to create this spectacularly pink poster! Continued

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

I've now made enough of Heat Signature to be fairly sure of what it is, which means a) here's a new trailer!

And b) I'm ready to start looking for an artist and a composer to work with!

Update: the deadline has passed and applications are now closed! We got a lot! More as I sort through them.

I'd like to do it the same way I did for Gunpoint, with Open Submissions. That means anyone can send in a sample of what they can do, and I'll pick the best artist and the best composer based on that. In this post I'll explain loads about what we're looking for, but the highlights are:

✓ Paid!
✓ No experience required!
✓ Work from anywhere!
✓ Flexible hours!
✓ Game already works!
✓ Application deadline: [EXPIRED!]
Continued

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

I started making Heat Signature mainly to figure out if the mechanics would be as fun as they seemed in my head, so I built all its systems in the cheapest, fastest, simplest possible way. That worked – it’s now got to the point where I’m laughing out loud at something ridiculous happening most times I play.

But the slapdash way I built it has the following problems: Continued