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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

Deus Ex

Bathroom Inferno

The Basics
Open-ended near-future FPS RPG hybrid. You’re a nano-augmented super-agent working for an international anti-terrorist organisation, and conspiracy is afoot. You have ways of killing people, incapacitating them and sneaking past them, and you can gain access to places by hacking, lockpicking, explosives and stacking objects. The levels are huge, open, real-world environments and your route to your objective is something you have to come up with yourself rather than following the ‘path’ of the level.


The Appeal
It’s not about the parts where you make meaningful choices about whose side you’re on and who lives and dies. It’s about lateral thinking and improvisation – moving in the kind of possibility space created by the huge variety of tools at your disposal. In that environment, you win or lose on your ideas – and it’s gloriously satisfying to win, and invariably hilarious to lose. When you’re crawling across the floor with no legs, through a cloud of tear gas, surrounded by enemies and with no ammo – all because you didn’t think your idea through properly – then you’re having fun. And when you survive, kill three grown men better armed and legged than you, and destroy the whole facility – just by out-thinking them – then you are as a God, and will finally understand why this is the best game ever.

Vent Stealth

The Essential Experience
What springs to mind at the mention of its name is the standard pistol, close enough to an NSF’s head that I know the shot will kill. It’s symbolic because while there are guns, killing someone with them requires you some kind of tactical thought in terms of getting close enough to hit them in the head.

Without training your pistol skill to Master, that’s very difficult to guarantee at any kind of range. And so the game is not about aiming, it’s about thinking tactically about how to get close enough with the tools you’ve got that you won’t need to rely on your aim.

The reason this resonates with me is that I couldn’t fire a gun to save my life, and in Deus Ex I can actually play a skilless character who wins because of the intelligence in what he does – which is all mine.

dude: put a laser sight, which you can find in the first level, on the pistol and voila you have pinpoint accuracy... one headshot kills with the normal pistol, two for the stealth pistol. untrained, that is

Zig13: I love Deus Ex but it is has a big problem with choice. Your character endsd up saying things you compleley disagree with. The worst example is the second level - Castle Clinton. I completed it without killing anyone - I used the tranquilizer darts and shock prod only. And yet, when I get back to base and talk to the armory guy, my character boasts that 'the floors of castle clinton are covered in bodies'. Coincidently the armorer dosn't give me any ammo. You are also forced to go against orders and can only progress by sending a signal that helps terroists. And then you have to get caught and imprisoned. These things really made me loose respect for the game.

J-man: Meh. It's a semi-linear game, and the devs back then probably didn't have the tech or budget to do REAL linearity.

DiscountNinja: For me, Deus Ex was the moment I really fell in love with PC gaming.

It's still my favourite game to date. You got good taste Mr Francis :)

DemonDoll: For the reference of Zig13 and anyone else who might still care: Deus Ex, while an amazing game, was programmed by 3 guys (unlike today's [2011] big titles) and there are many many little bugs. An example is that for the purposes of both the first and second levels any bodies on the level count as kills. So even if you knock everyone out you're accused of being a murderer. But if you kill everyone, stack their corpses in a horrifying pyramid and blow it all up then you're a model citizen. I think all it's bugs are very easy to overlook because it is such an unbiased game and I don't have to live with the insult of sub-par statistics (whether they be 0 kills) simply because the game, like real life, doesn't track and doesn't care.