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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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • Hitman header tunnel

    Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

    Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

    Postcards From Far Cry Primal

    Snowball jack header

    Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

    Kill Zone and Bladestorm

    Kill Zone And Bladestorm

    BAFTA Featured

    An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

    Sectors Header

    Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

    DXHR Open area

    What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

    Heat Signature Natural Numbers

    Natural Numbers In Game Design

    Pharma Header

    Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

    Writing vs Programming

    Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

    Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

    New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

    Her Story banner

    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

    Invisible Header

    What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

    Super Game Jam Header

    Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

    Shadow of Mordor Header 2

    What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

    Heat Signature Talk

    Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


    What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

    Murder, She Wrote

    The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

    Heat Signature Wide 2

    Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

    Heat Signature Floorplans Header

    Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

    Gunpoint Steam Workshop

    Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

    Distance Header

    Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

    The Magic Circle

    Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

    Floating Point Blog Launch

    Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

    Floating Sine

    Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


    What’s Your Fault?

    Hoplite banner

    The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

    Gone Point

    Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

    Heat Signature Thumbnail

    Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

    GRappling Hook Thumbnail

    The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

    Alien Swarm Heroics

    A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

    FTL Story

    One Desperate Battle In FTL

    Spelunky Banner

    To Hell And Back In Spelunky

    Game vs story graph

    Games Vs Story 2

    Gunpoint Breakdown

    Gunpoint Development Breakdown

    Max Payne 3

    Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

    This is how you die

    My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


    Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

    Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

    Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

    Mainstream Games

    How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


    A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

    Dark Messiah

    The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


    Arguing On The Internet


    Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

    Stealth Games

    Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


    E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

    Suspicious Manifesto

    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

    What Makes Games Good

    Seat Quest

    A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

    Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

    Beneath Suspicion

    Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

    Open Worlds

    An Idea For A Better Open World Game

    Level Up

    A Different Way To Level Up

    BioShock Ending

    How I Would Have Ended BioShock

    Meet the Spy

    My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

    Team Fortress 2

    Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

    Football Manager

    Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

    EVE Assassins

    EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

    GalCiv 2

    My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


    I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

    Machine of Death

    My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

    Blood money and sex

    Blood Money And Sex


    A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

    Second Life

    First Night, Second Life

    SWAT 4

    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.