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Tom Francis

Why Arkane went roguelike with Prey's Mooncrash DLC

But not why they didn't make the moon a big wheel of cheese

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What Works And Why: Story structure in Unavowed

Learning lessons from episodic television

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7 months ago

Feature: Eat, play, shoot

Four offbeat ideas from GDC’s Experimental Gameplay Workshop

The Experimental Gameplay Workshop is an annual showcase of the most interesting and outlandish ideas in game design, presented at the end of the Game Developers Conference every year. This year that included everything from an adaptation of an Eminem video to a game that's trying to trick you into quitting. Here are some of the highlights:

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Feature: But not why they didn't make the moon a big wheel of cheese

Why Arkane went roguelike with Prey’s Mooncrash DLC

At GDC this week, Prey's lead level designer Rich Wilson explained why their team decided to change the immersive sim formula for its Mooncrash DLC. Mooncrash is a fascinating artefact: it blends the immersive first-person exploration and triple-A production values of its parent game with experimental, permadeath, randomised elements pulled from roguelikes. It's a marriage that could not be more targeted to my personal tastes,…

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1 year ago

Feature: Learning lessons from episodic television

What Works And Why: Story structure in Unavowed

Unavowed is a point-and-click adventure from Wadjet Eye, who made the Blackwell series and The Shivah. I haven't played those games, and I don't usually like point-and-clicks. But Unavowed gripped me from start to finish. It has a few mechanical modernisations over other adventure games, but most of what sucked me in was just the story, and the way it's told. It's a glowing example…

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Feature: I'm in

What Works And Why: Betting on yourself in 868-Hack

What Works And Why is a monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game or mechanic and analyses what makes it good. I think difficulty is one of the most under-solved problems in game design. We've barely started to break out of the assumptions and principles that were concocted to keep people putting quarters into arcade…

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Feature: Numbers crunch back

What Works And Why: Juicy maths in Slay The Spire

What Works And Why is a monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game or mechanic and analyses what makes it good. When games offer you abilities and perks that boost your stats, they often do it in a meager, fiddly way: 5% chance to deal 10% extra damage for 5 seconds. Does not stack. This…

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Feature: Training the locals

What Works And Why: Mentoring in Far Cry 5

What Works And Why is a monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game or mechanic and analyses what makes it good. Far Cry 5 is a mixed bag, but one of the bigger, shinier objects in that bag is its companions system. It's a crossbreed of Far Cry Primal's pets - you can summon them…

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2 years ago

Feature: The recon is on

What Works And Why: Unfair intel in stealth games

What Works And Why is a monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game or mechanic and analyses what makes it good. Games about one player character against hundreds of enemies generally have to give you some kind of unfair advantage. In action games, it's usually resilience: getting shot in Call of Duty covers you in…

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Feature: Gunpoint's designer analyses games

What Works And Why: Optimising in Opus Magnum

What Works And Why is a new monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game and analyses what makes it good. Opus Magnum is a puzzle game about designing machines that arrange and combine shiny little atoms to turn lead to gold, and other fanciful alchemy. It's by Zachtronics, whose games follow such a recognised pattern…

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Feature: Gunpoint's designer analyses games

What Works And Why: Emergence

What Works And Why is a new monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game and analyses what makes it good. I love Deus Ex, System Shock 2, and Dishonored 2, and the name for these games is dumb: they're 'immersive sims'. If you asked me what I liked about them, my answer would be a…

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