Heat Signature creator wants botched space burglary to be a ‘recoverable catastrophe’

Here, heat here

Spaceship hijacking sim Heat Signature [official site] is coming out on Sept 21, says creator and Gunpointer Tom Francis. Like its spiritual predecessor, it involves infiltrating places you shouldn’t be, sneaking around like a cheeky space burglar, and completing missions for one of the galaxy’s factions. But ultimately it seems to be about panicking as all your plans and preparation go terribly awry. I asked Francis why he was proliferating the Things Go Badly Wrong genre and he said that “most games with challenge” fitted that description.

“The part I like,” he said, “is ‘But There Might Be A Way Out Of It’.”

“One of the design goals for Heat Signature was ‘Recoverable Catastrophe’,” said the fallen PC Gamer journalist. “I think when you get into trouble, the least interesting thing that can happen is a red screen and ‘Game Over’. So I want to provide every opportunity for you to find some clever way out of your predicament. Every time you do, that’s instantly a better story than ‘I died 25 times but the 26th time I did it.’

“I’m the kind of person who has never and will never punch the air at a moment in a movie, but when I figured out a way to win an impossible battle in FTL by disabling my own shields, I danced like a moron. That’s the genre I want to make games in.”

Here’s Francis announcing the release date but also explaining a silly gun that players can find if they buy in the first week. It’s called the Everything Gun and it can be loaded with, for example, everything.

Adam played an earlier version of the upcoming Things-go-wrong and called it a “comic cosmic playground”. A game of pausing and unpausing, swapping places with enemies using gadgets, frying electronics, and trying to survive multiple ejections into the vacuum of space. But these were his closing thoughts:

As it stands, right now, Heat Signature is hilarious and surprisingly skill-based. True, most of the skill is in your ability to plan and think on your feet rather than in twitchy responses (the pausing ensures you don’t need the ability to pull of ludicrous reflex shots), but there’s a very solid stealth action game behind the farce.

Francis’ previous game, Gunpoint, was a hacking stealth game of leaping through windows and punching guards over and over and over and over.

Disclaimer: almost everyone at RPS knows Tom Francis personally, having been a journalist for PC Gamer, but we all now talk about him behind his back.


  1. Zorgulon says:

    I am really excited for this, been following its development from the very beginning.

    Can’t wait to get my hands on some manageable space chaos.

  2. TΛPETRVE says:

    I love the way the game combines Cryptarch-like procedural space hulk looting and Hotline Miami-esque twitch violence.

  3. Mungrul says:

    If it really wants to encourage players trying to recover from a seemingly hopeless botch, I hope it doesn’t include achievements for perfect play.
    Too many games have adopted this idea of achievements being a measure of performance rather than exception.
    Of course, the counter argument is that players can ignore achievements, but I would argue that if a game includes achievements, it will have been designed to some extent around them.

    I suspect this is why we don’t see achievements in Nintendo games.

    • Pozzo says:

      I am fairly certain that Tom Francis is not intending for achievements to structure the game. To assuage your concerns, I would suggest perusing the achievements from his previous game, Gunpoint, including “Title finally relevant” or “Might as well have an achievement for that too”, which give an idea of his attitude towards such things

      • Bull0 says:

        There’s an achievement for punching someone’s face to custard to try and get you to stop, iirc.

      • LazyWizard says:

        It’s been a long time since I played, but I could swear Gunpoint had an even worse system than achievements: it granted titles for clearing a level a certain way, but they were erased if you replayed that level and replaced with whichever titles you earned on the new attempt, even if they were far lesser. Am I remembering this wrong?

    • Viral Frog says:

      I would assume the opposite re: games being designed around achievements. Reason being that achievements are something that almost always comes after a significant portion of the game is implemented. I think it’s more a result of “here’s what’s in our game, these things would make for good achievements” rather than “what can we design in order to give it an achievement?”

  4. Shinard says:

    I loved Tom’s article on the failure spectrum, glad to see he’s sticking to it in his own work!

    • Ben King says:

      YES, his breakdown of MGSV’s alert system was grand, and had a really positive impact on how I ran my next D&D dungeon for players.

  5. Bull0 says:

    Very very hyped for this and Tom’s innocent passion for the craft and success is genuinely heartwarming.

  6. Crafter says:

    I had a great time with Gunpoint, so I am waiting for this one with impatience !

    I hope it goes out on the Switch too though

  7. Ben King says:

    I have really enjoyed watching his regular updates on YouTube since he launched Gunpoint they are entertaining personal dev diaries, and I easily get as much or more out of each one of them as I do any random GDC talk. I highly recommend Tom Francis’s YouTube channel, it’s chock full of delightful game developing anecdotes framed up for a layperson. I’m looking forward to this one but am going to miss seeing his heat sig dev vlogs:-(

  8. LessThanNothing says:

    Very interesting to read the creator’s point of view vs. the review of Necrosphere. Necrosphere is very much a “I died 25 times but the 26th time I did it” game

  9. Otterley says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. I absolutely adored Gunpoint.

    I didn’t realize the release date was so close, that got me excited for a moment. Pity about the whole first week exclusive content though – not the sort of move I would have expected from Tom Francis.

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      phuzz says:

      At least it’s not a pre-order dlc, it’s just a small way to encourage people to buy in that first week (when most of the revenue for an indie game is likely to be made).
      I’m going to guess that there’ll just be a single boolean flag for “foundeverythinggun”, so it’ll be an easy modification you your save files if you wanted to cheat at a later date.

      • Otterley says:

        You’re right, and it’s a far cry from being forced to buy at gunpoint ^^ And perhaps these kind of incentives just work so well that he’d be mad not to use it.

        I was the beneficiary of a couple of exclusive deals with Elite: Dangerous – I still wish they didn’t feel the need to do that kind of thing. (One was an exclusive ship unlock for buying Horizons early, IIRC.)

    • PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

      Absolutely nothing wrong with rewarding/encouraging those willing to pay full price. A similar complaint was made by someone on YouTube saying it was not fair, they’d miss it as they prefer to wait and buy games in the Steam sale… Come on people.. why not just pirate it if you don’t think it’s worth spending money on?

      • Otterley says:

        If I buy it at the beginning of next month it will be full price sans exclusive content. I paid above the asking price for Gunpoint and I intend to pay full price for Heat Signature.

        This isn’t a reward for paying full price – as Tom points out on his website, this is all about enhancing first week sales. I get why he is doing this, but I don’t see why I should like it.

  10. JarinArenos says:

    This is still one of my favorite examples of “recoverable catastrophe”
    link to twitter.com

    Note… the player is the one on the left, with a shotgun spread inches away from their face. The guard has an invulnerability shield. And I can think of half a dozen possible ways to make that winnable. Granted, several of those involve you and the guard both going out that window into vacuum, but details.

  11. heretic says:

    Wow hadn’t seen a video of this for a while, the art has really ramped up!

    Definitely looking forward to picking this up.

  12. JQHY says:

    Loving what this game has to offer so far, developer(s?) is/are evidently dedicated to his/their art. Keep up good work!

  13. Talahar says:

    The limited time availability of the everything gun annoys me to no end. I already know I won’t be able to afford the game this month, so I’m already boned in that regard before I even would have had a chance to try to get it.