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Game development








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.


By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend

A Leftfield Solution To An XCOM Disaster

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

Half-Life 2: Deathmatch

The Basics
Guns vs Filing Cabinets. Morons think this is the sequel to Half-Life Deathmatch and run mindlessly around spraying people with the feeble SMG. This is not that game. It’s a game where you fight two classes of enemies – cannon fodder grunts, armed with the standard Half-Life 2 weapons, and Gravity Jedis, artful duellists each with their own remarkable style which will clash with your own in a gripping battle of the titans. You, of course, are a Gravity Jedi. Aren’t you?

The Appeal
The raw physicality of it all. Shooting people with guns is a very hypothetical thing – unless it’s Soldier Of Fortune 2, you’re just clicking to make a hitscan check in code deduct HP from a hitbox until it turns into a ragdoll and gains some decals. If you fire a radiator at someone, you’ve fucking killed them. It’s immediately apparent.

I was enthralled by this. I’ve been playing it from the hour it came out, and while most Half-Life 2 owners toyed with it then rejected it as ‘merely fun’, I haven’t been able to stop. As part of the delightfully evocative shared lingo of some of the PC Gamer writers, we often talk of ‘crushing’ our enemies – this is the game where you can actually do it. Crush. No armour check is made, no super-health can save them, they can scour the whole map for the best weapon in the game – they’ll find, when you Gravity Gun an eight foot metal workbench into their neck, that they had it all along.

That ‘great equaliser’ element adds a beautiful twist to it. I am good at HL2DM, and when I’m at the top of the scoreboard, the idea that I got there with the starting weapon, the one everyone has all the time but doesn’t use, is uniquely satisfying. Only the élite stick to the Gravity Gun, and when you meet a fellow one the battle is extraordinary. Objects ricochet off each other in mid-air, rebound off walls and are re-caught before they hit the ground. Every piece of furniture, debris, wall-fitting and data storage device is vacuumed up and flung in relentless yet fluid exchange. Lesser players are smashed in the crossfire, casual shots catching them in the face, tables hitting the ceiling and dropping on them. It almost looks like an unhappy coincidence that everyone using a gun dies within seconds of entering the room, but there is something subtle but unmistakable in the way a Gravity Jedi moves, his instinctive feel for physics and his inhuman catching reflexes that renders him impervious to the hail of metal and plastic that pounds the rest of the room. When the first blow finally hits, it is the last – one is too busy catching the last throw of the other, or scooping up his next projectile, and a sink crashes into his skull. The victor stands up in his seat, punching the air. The defeated player shakes his head in deference, awe. Someone is as awesome as he.

The Essential Experience
The radiator kill. I could list my top fifty Gravity Gun objects without pausing, but top of the list is always the ridged wonder. Slim one way, broad the other, deadly both. Brutal mass, perfect ricochet, flat-surface slide factor high. Warm glow.

roBurky: That a startlingly different experience to mine. I've tried Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, but attempting to use the gravity gun just gets me killed. A lot. There's never enough physics objects to be thrown, and the SMG invariably kills quicker even when you have an object ready and are accurate.

Tom Francis: What are you throwing, medkits?

Jason L: Further tests: Special characters ¿


roBurky: Ok, on further inspection, I was just playing on crap maps with no objects around. Gravity gun wins.

Tom Francis: Ah yes, HL2DM map makers don't have a clue how to furnish their maps. Even some of the official ones are too light on debris. Lockdown is my firm favourite, though the ground floor room in Overwatch is the most intense single area for Gravity Gun fights. Usually it's me down there crushing people, while a guy at the top camps the RPG and picks off those foolish enough to run around outdoors. We compete for kills, but never actually fight each other. We are of different worlds.

Lithilk: In reply to the 'throwing medkits', thats actually where a majority of my deaths come from. My pc is old and objects in the distance fade. So when I aim for something heavy like a barrel thats far away, I sometimes end up picking up a small, useless object.