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Design, Code, Writing

Tom Francis


John Roberts


John Winder


John Halpart


Tom Francis
John Roberts

Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox

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Heat Signature’s Fair Points Update: Reacting To Good Reviews

I was too nervous to read Heat Signature reviews for two weeks after launch. I was relieved to see the scores were great, and after 3.5 years of work, that was all I wanted to hear: I didn’t want to know what their caveats were.

Once I calmed down and read them, though, I was delighted: they were not only very positive, but they told entertaining stories and made intelligent points. And almost every critique I read I thought was a fair point. Hence this:

The Fair Points Update

5 new features and 3 new items, in direct response to review critiques, designed to round the game out and make it more fun for more people.

We also added a gun that fires acid money to melt the flesh from your enemies and leave only chemically bleached bone. No-one asked us for that, we just kind of did it, and now here we are.

This post goes into all the design logic, critiques and features – if you’re only interested in what’s been added, the Steam Announcement covers only that. Continued

Death is Canceled for Space Halloween

For the duration of Space Halloween (27th of Space October to the 1st of Space November), life and death in the Drift will be a little different: Continued

Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend

I reshuffled this post a bit so I can link this part more easily:

Update On The Everything Gun

It’s been great to see how much people are loving this very silly weapon, and how excited people are to send us shots of them finding it. One thing I didn’t forsee was that for a small number of people, it could cause anxiety: the fear of missing out, or even when they have it, the fear of somehow losing it. So we’re going to simplify it:

If you play any time between now and Oct 5th, you’ll unlock the Everything Gun as a random drop.

Within six months, we’ll unlock it as a random drop for everyone.

I hope that allows it to still be a special thing for everyone who was part of our launch, without causing anyone worry. A few more details if you need them:

  • If you’ve already stolen it from the shipment (even if you died right after), you’ve already unlocked it even if you don’t play again before Oct 5.
  • You can still steal it from the shipment if you haven’t already, that’s just a reliable way of obtaining it the first time.
  • Its unlocked status is stored both in your saves and backed up on Steam Cloud (unless you’re playing off Steam or have disabled Steam Cloud).
  • It’s a file called Progress.dat if you want to back it up manually.
  • Once it’s unlocked for everyone it’ll just be in the game, no save file involved, so there isn’t and never will be any way to permanently lose it.

Three things to know about finding it as a random drop:

  • It’s a Unique Item, the rarest tier, so it doesn’t come up frequently.
  • It’s a Unique Item, so there’s only one per galaxy. If one of your active characters has it, you won’t be finding it in crates in this galaxy, because look, there it is, that person’s got it.
  • Any time it’s not owned by one of your active characters, you can find it. Doesn’t matter how/why/when it was lost. Doesn’t matter if a character retired with it and didn’t pass it on. Doesn’t matter if you blew it up or flung it into space. Honestly it sounds like you’re trying to lose it, but tough, you can’t.
How The Launch Went

Heat Signature has been out for six days, and my God. It has been a storm. The good kind. It took three and a half years and I spent about £200,000 on it, making it probably the biggest risk of my life. And by the time it was done, the chance for any given indie game to succeed had dropped enough that the term for this trend ends in ‘pocalypse’.

I knew I wouldn’t have another Gunpoint-size success – that came out in the sweet spot for indie, when demand was high and supply was low. So my best-case-scenario was to do half as well as Gunpoint did in the same timeframe. Continued

Heat Signature Is Out!

Or you can buy it from the Humble Store.

Supporter’s Edition

There’s also a Supporter’s Edition, which comes with a bunch of fun extras:

  • Play through Heat Signature’s development with 8 early prototypes from its 3.5 year development.
  • Watch 9 developer commentary videos showing and explaining its evolution: from drilling through hulls to liberating empires. (Total: 70 minutes)
  • Own the full soundtrack in 320kbps MP3 format. (19 tracks, 83 minutes)

And on the Humble Store.

Technical Issues

If you’re having any technical issues, we’re posting any known solutions here, and you can report bugs to us here.


Heat Signature Release Date And Launch Celebrations

Heat Signature will be out on Steam 21st of September 2017! At time of writing, that’s Thursday of next week. It’s for Windows PCs, other platforms will depend on how this one goes.

We don’t do pre-order bonuses because I don’t want to pressure you to buy before reviews are out. But I am super grateful to those who buy at launch, because our whole future depends on how we do that first week. So we’re doing a few special things to celebrate it and thank those of you who are joining us:

Unique Shipment: The Everything Gun

For the first two weeks, there’s a ship carrying a unique weapon passing through the galaxy. It’s called the Everything Gun, and if you steal it, you’ll also unlock it as a random drop in this and all your future games. More info below.

Be One Of Our Trading Cards

Heat Signature is all about the stories that emerge from what you get up to in game, not our pre-written lore. So for Steam Trading Cards, we want them to be about your stories. We want to see GIFs or short videos of crazy situations you’ve got into or clever tricks you’ve discovered, and we’ll turn the best into trading cards with your name on! You’ll have the strange sensation of being traded, sold, and perhaps broken down to make a badge. More info below.

Unique Shipment FAQ

How do I find the shipment?
You’ll come across it randomly (about every 30 secs) as you fly around, quite frequently, and you’ll know it by a big golden light flashing on it, like in the video.

Does this mean I have to be online to play?
Haha, God no. It’s a single player game and we’re not assholes. This is just a bit of fun.

What happens if I board the ship but fail?
That’s fine! The ship will still be flying around until the date it’s due to leave, so you’ve got as many chances as you like, with whatever characters you like.

What if I buy the game after the date the shipment leaves?
Same, you won’t get the Everything Gun, and it won’t drop randomly for you.

If miss out, will it ever return?
Yes, though we haven’t planned when exactly.

Is the ship hard?
Nope! See the video.

Be On A Trading Card FAQ

What kind of clips are you looking for?

– Clever or ridiculous: my favourite are ‘I was in this impossible situation and here’s the mad thing I tried to solve it’
– Less than 1 minute in length, preferably less than 30 secs.
– GIF, GFY or very short YouTube clip. You can also link to a particular timestamp in a longer YouTube or Twitch vid if you like
– Cut, or link, straight to the good bit, or at most a few seconds before. No lead-in – if it needs that it’s probably not what we’re after.
– Tell us in the Tweet what is happening, as best you can in the character limit.

How do I submit one?

On Twitter! But!

– Do it as a normal tweet, not a reply to us – we’d like people who don’t already follow us to see it. That means don’t start your tweet with @HeatSig.
– Instead, mention @HeatSig at the end! You can say something like “I just did X in @HeatSig [link]” – that way we’ll see it.
– Upload or link your clip, obviously. GIFs uploaded direct to Twitter are the coolest, but I know they’re more hassle to make and if they’re more than a few seconds they won’t fit in Twitter’s 7Mb, so links are fine.

I just used a Glitchtrap to teleport a body into space and then Swapped with it to escape the ship in @HeatSig

What’s the deadline?
We’ll start looking at entries September 28th, but we’ll keep accepting them until we have enough that we love!

How will I know if I’m picked?
We’ll reply to you on Twitter.

How will I be credited on the Trading Card?

We’d like to make the title of the card your name, but!
– If you prefer an alias we can do that (caveat below).
– If you’d rather we used the name of the character you were playing at the time we’re very happy do that (we can still credit your real name in the description or not, your choice).
– If we’re using your name or an alias it’ll be subject to our approval: we don’t want anything that is or sounds like a joke name or something that’ll clash with the fiction.
– We can discuss this if you’re picked.

The description on the card will probably be our summary of your cool moment.

How do I capture videos or GIFs?

If your PC has an nVidia card I like nVidia ShadowPlay. It’s included in the GeForce Experience (unfortunately you have to make an nVidia account) and you can set it up to always be recording, then hit a key to have it save the last 5 minutes. Amazingly it seems to have almost no performance impact. That’s what I do.

Otherwise, OBS is your best bet. You’ll want to go to Settings > Broadcast Settings > Mode > File Output Only to make it save to disk instead of streaming live. I think it can do a similar always-recording thing but I haven’t used it for that myself.

For editing, I like Avidemux.

For sharing, I suggest YouTube. In theory it’s possible to upload videos straight to Twitter but it’s never worked for gameplay videos for me.

To make GIFs, first make a video as above, then I recommend GIFCam for capturing the bit you want.

You just watch your video back and put GIFcam on top of it and hit Record. I’d say 16 fps is good enough for this, and you’ll need the file size to be under 7MB to upload it on Twitter, which is the best way.

Failing that, you can upload small videos to GFYCat and it’ll both GIF them and GFY them – GFYs are better quality equivalent of GIFs, but they don’t embed natively in Twitter.



Heat Signature Factions Trailer, Working At Valve

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). Continued



Heat Signature: What I’ve Been Working On

As well as the update above, I’ve been putting up some day-by-day logs of what I’m working on in Heat Signature. I’m only doing them for my own benefit, so they’re not mega interesting and I don’t do one every day I work – only when I think it’ll help.



Testing, Wishlists, And A New Video

As promised on Twitter, I recently sent everyone on our mailing list instructions on how to get in on a new alpha test of Heat Signature. Keys went out to the first 2,000 people to do so, but I’ll also be keeping the testing list active and inviting people to future alphas from there, so you can still get on it now if you haven’t already. Clarification: this says you can still get on the list, not you can still get in on this alpha test. That test is over and there’s no date for the next one.

If you’re in the alpha: Continued



Heat Signature Will Be At Rezzed 2016 Next Week

Hello! I’ll be at Rezzed in London next week, 7-9 April 2016, and you can come and play Heat Signature while I watch, panic, and frantically patch it on a different PC. Saturday’s sold out, but Thurs and Fri tickets are still available. Our artist John Roberts made this fantastic piece for our booth: Continued



Heat Signature: Infinitely Scaling Vapour Layers

Excerpt from an e-mail I just sent to artist John: Continued



Generating Locks And Keys In Heat Signature’s Ships

My summary of where we are after the last ship-generation post would be:

  • The Drunk Snake is probably the best algorithm so far, for generating the amount of branching and length of critical path we want while looking fairly pleasing.
  • But! There’s a lot of room for improvement.
  • But! Improvement is getting harder: we don’t have a huge amount of control with these types of algorithms, so we can’t fine-tune things precisely without a big rewrite.
  • And! We don’t know enough about our requirements to get really fussy yet – maybe some things that seem bad now will be good when we have certain security devices or guard patrols in.




Laying Out Heat Signature’s Ships: Snakey Vs Branchy

Last time I covered how I taught Heat Signature to build ships out of sectors, join those sectors together, lock some of those doors, then place keycards in the right places to ensure they’re all openable. I’d got the algorithm generating layouts like this, which is great: Continued



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



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



Gunpoint Exclusive Edition Owners Now Have A Two-Week Alpha Of Heat Signature

If you own the Exclusive Edition of Gunpoint on Steam – or the Exclusive Extras as DLC – you now have access to a Windows-only, very rough and time-limited alpha test version of Heat Signature!

If you don’t, though, I don’t recommend buying it just to get in on this! This is very unfinished, very unoptimised, and time-limited: I will close it down in two weeks and then you won’t have it anymore. It exists purely to help me find problems with the game and get people’s thoughts, not necessarily to give them the best experience or one I’d charge for individually. Continued



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