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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



It’s incredibly rare, even among these great programmes, for the main character to be my favourite, but Fry definitely is. He doesn’t fit easily into any established stereotype – he’s an idiot but not to the extent of Homer, he’s a loser but not everything goes wrong, he’s hopeless with women but dated Amy, and he’s inept at everything except computer games. To me, he’s a modern-day hero: vain and stupid whilst nerdy and unpopular.

He’s a pizza-delivery boy who falls into a cryo chamber on the turn of the millenium and is defrosted a thousand years later. He befriends a heartless alcoholic bending robot called Bender (it takes a few episodes to get used to the fact that one of the characters is called Bender) and a renegade career-implant officer, the one-eyed Leela. They find work as the illegally underpaid delivery company owned by Fry’s descendant, the senile mad scientist Professor Farnsworth. Also in the company are Zoidberg, an incompetent lobster-alien doctor; Amy, a rich and clueless intern the Professor keeps on because she has the same blood type as him; and Hermes, a Jamaican bureaucrat.

The other main component of Futurama’s appeal is that it’s set in the future – the world is richly imagined and exciting, which takes it to a completely different level to The Simpsons. Cleverly, the satire of The Simpsons isn’t lost in the transition to the year 3000 either – roughly half of everything in the future is a comment on something in the present – and the humour itself is somewhere further in the senseless and crazy directions than The Simpsons. In one shot of a storage cupboard, two folders on a shelf are labelled ‘P’ and ‘NP’ – implying that by 3000AD a mathematical conundrum over the computability of a certain class of algorithms has been resolved. Matt Groening is kind of a nerd himself, but here he’s teamed with David X Cohen, and the team nerdiness level is at such dangerous heights that one DVD commentary mentions they regularly play D&D in their lunchbreaks.

Lastly, the sideline characters that crop up in just a few episodes are among the greatest ever devised: most notably Clamps, Flexo, Morbo, the Robot Devil, the generic fat mechanic guy, Santa Claus, Horrible Gelatinous Blob, the Harlem Globetrotters, That Guy and Elzar. I think quotes do more good conveying the appeal of Futurama, and luckily I have thousands of them.

Series Notes: the first three series are interchangeably great, then the fourth starts with a run of mind-blowingly good episodes, the premiere being probably my favourite ever, and so epic and exciting that it leaves me feeling like I’ve seen Futurama: The Film. It doesn’t stay that good, though, and then series five has two, maybe even three episodes that are basically worthless. The others are as great as the old stuff, but those few anomalies don’t even have a single joke in them that makes me feel bad about writing them off like this.


Soldier: This is the worst part: the calm before the battle.
Fry: And then the battle isn’t so bad?
Soldier: Oh, right. I forgot about the battle.

(a crustacean confiscates Bender’s cigar)
Bender: Wait, I need that to smoke!

(Bender is caught having stolen the priceless atomic tiara)
Bender: Wait, I can explain! It’s very valuable!

Bender: (to a turtle) Maybe you’d feel better if I had a drink.

Bender: (to a turtle) At least we’ll die on our backs, helpless.

Al Gore: And next up we have Professor-
Professor Farnsworth: I demand the floor!
Al Gore: Well, yes, it’s your turn to speak.
Professor Farnsworth: Well nuts to me! I’m taking the stage.

Fry: Hey, you have no right to criticize the 20th century! We gave the world the light bulb, the steam boat and the cotton gin.
Leela: Those things are all from the 19th century.
Fry: Yeah, well, they probably just copied us.

Fry: It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting through to you?

Leela: We’re going to deliver this crate like professionals.
Fry: Aw. Can’t we just dump it in the sewer and say we delivered it?
Bender: Too much work! I say we burn it, then say we dumped it in the sewer!

Leela: That’s Zapp Brannigan’s ship!
Fry: The Zapp Brannigan?
Fry: (confused) Who’s the Zapp Brannigan?

Leela: Stop it, Bender, we don’t need to beg.
Fry: So what do you suggest? A daring daylight robbery of Fort Knox on elephant-back? That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.

Leela: Where’s Fry?
Bender: I didn’t kill him. Professor?
Professor Farnsworth: No, I’ve been busy.

(Fry has Bender dig up his brother’s grave to take back a lucky clover he stole)
Bender: Paydirt! I got the clover, and his wedding ring. Sorry ladies, I’m taken! Hey Fry, you want me to smack the corpse up a little?

Bender: (carrying pillows) These aren’t very heavy, but you don’t hear me not complaining.

Bender: (locking Leela in the laundry room as part of a mutiny) Don’t worry Leela, soon we’ll be able to look back on all this and laugh. Ahahahahahaa!

Bender: (the ship is going down with Leela, Bender and Fry still aboard) Leela, save me! And yourself I guess! And my banjo! … And Fry!

Zapp Brannigan: (explaining his military plan) If we can hit that bullseye the rest of the dominos will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!

(Fry is styling his hair in the exhaust of the ship’s engines)
Leela: Fry, do you have any idea how long it takes to reconfigure those engines?
Fry: When you look this good, you don’t need to know anything.

(Leela is proposing staying at her artificially reduced age rather than returning to her normal one)
Professor Farnsworth: (horrified) But you’ll have no way to return to your normal age except growing up, as God intended!

(Leela and Bender confront the Professor)
Leela: We’ve got to talk to you about Fry.
Bender: Yeah! We want some money! Wait, what’s this about Fry?

(Fry is staying with Bender)
Fry: Where’s the bathroom?
Bender: Bathwhat?
Fry: Bathroom.
Bender: Whatroom?
Fry: Bathroom!
Bender: Whatwhat?

Bender: Of all the friends I’ve had, you’re the first.

(Fry is preparing to revive his fossilised dog)
Bender: A dog, eh? Interesting… no wait, what’s that other one? Tedious…

(Bender and the others are ascending the side of a hotel, Bender looking in on the guests)
Bender: Get a room, you two!
Man: We’re in a room.
Bender: Then lose some weight!

Clips: native.avi (12MB) rock.mpg (3MB)


craigp: Is your favourite episode Roswell That Ends Well? Cause if it is, then you and I have far too much in common for our own good.

Tom Francis: Yep: "the fourth starts with a run of mind-blowingly good episodes, the premiere being probably my favourite ever"


Graham Smith: You know what is stupid? Roswell That Ends Well isn't on the Fourth Season DVD. And there is no Fifth Season DVD. The Fifth Season is on the Fourth Season DVD, and the Third Season DVD - which presumably contains the aforementioned episode - is at my brothers.


My favourite is probably the one where Fry tries to get his lucky five leaf clover back from his brother. It fulfills the three things all shows need to be great: comedy, drama, and flashbacks. Like those early season two episodes of the West Wing, where we get The Origin Story, and it's the best Origin Story ever? Yeah, like that. Only with robots.

Tom Francis: Also Simple Minds. Luck Of The Fryish, that was. I think they were recorded as seasons the way they're boxed, and Fox split them up to suit their schedule. To be honest I sort of prefer Fox's divisions.

That is indeed the best origin story ever. I like the bit when Josh points at his face.

Graham Smith: I don't remember the bit where he points at his face, but I'll stick in the DVD in a bit and probably watch it. And also maybe rip the episodes with Ainsley Hayes in it, and maybe some of the ones with Mary-Louise Parker. Because they're all awesome.

Mr Dan: The episode with the Neutral Planet is one of my favourites. The President has some great lines:

"All I know is my gut says maybe."
"If I dont make it tell my wife, "Hello.""

craigp: What episodes don't have a single joke in them, btw?

The only thing wrong with Roswell That Ends Well is the distinct lack of Zapp Brannigan. Just one of his lines would have made that episode reach state of Zen comedy perfection.

"If we can hit that bull's-eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate!"

"Rock crushes scissors. But paper covers rock! And scissors cuts paper! Kiff, we have a conundrum. Search them for paper! And, bring me a rock!"

"What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?"

God I miss Futurama. And love Wikiquote.

Tom Francis: They had jokes, but none good enough to make me feel bad about dismissing them. I actually can't think what the other two would have been, but Route Of All Evil is the worst.

Jason L: Whoops. Small boo-boo. Looking back at Old James, you left out the "anti-mugging-you fund" line.

davej: i only have this to say: i want futurama back too :(

Heretic: I love Futurama, its infinitely better than the simpsons as that's becoming clichéd. Futurama feels fresh and pokes fun at things geeks and non-geeks alike can find hysterical.

My favourite episode has to be the star trek one, I used to like it when I was very young about 3 or 4 until I found out star wars had more lasers. However it makes for a brilliant episiode and it includes the great Zapp Branigan who is the greatest captain ever in the history of captains.

Tom Francis: Well, Star Trek has phasers and Star Wars has blasters. Star Trek's phasers do at least work rougly like lasers - they're beams of energy - whereas Star Wars blasters fire bolts of something and hence aren't light-based.

Heretic: True but Star Treks phasers don't kill that much, theres far to much set to stun in that series. But when I was 3 or 4 I didn't much care for stunning people (Pun not intended)I wanted explosions and spaceships that swoop dive and weave(SP?) so star wars stole my affection very quickly.

Jason L: I finally started my Futurama collection on the strength of various geeky recommendations and the few latter-season episodes I'd seen. I have to comment that it starts out kind of rough. Completely forgivable pilotitis aside, for the first four or five episodes the dialog felt cold-slab dead to me. The lines are great, but there's no joie de vivre in anybody's delivery; it feels very much... "OK, now I say my line. OK, say your line. OK, now you say yours, good..." Even when one character's supposed to be interrupting another, there's a dead beat in the middle where the sentence fragment sinks, flailing, beneath the surface.

Fortunately, around the sixth and seventh episodes things seem to be improving dramatically (bdmp-tssh), with the biggest gains made by Leela and Professor Farnsworth. Just a warning to those who come after; don't give up on it too soon!

The_B: ...kaplan.htm

*Sheds a tear of joy*

DKMFan: For some reason, its funnier than the Simpsons. I think they just lost it after the first few seasons.

Why are idiots so funny? Take Peter Griffin from Family Guy. He's the best joke anyone came up with

Jason L: It's all over the commentary - in the first season they quote...some famous comedy the effect that everyone loves a guy who's stupider than they are. Every so often from then on: 'Heehee, Fry's so dumb.' 'Golly, Fry's dumb.'

Tom Francis: What I like about Fry, though, is that the joke isn't often just that he's stupid. It's more commonly that he's easily pleased, geeky, weirdly optimistic, or inexplicably perverts grammar. "Hey look, it's that guy I am!"

Griffin's stupidity is too consistent for my taste: everything he says is dumb, and dumb in the same way, and that's always the joke.

Jason L: Right on, except for the rare occasions when the joke is that he's fat and disgusting.

Does it break the Homer Effect that Brian and sometimes Stewie earn my love by being smart in the same way?