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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


Turns out the last item on my Redesign To-Do List – “Shoehorn old text into new template” – was the hardest. I still have bits to add to the Film and Television sections, but they’re bits I don’t care an awful lot about, so it’s debatable that I should waste your time with them.

Checklist for the new design:

  • Fills screen
  • Co-opts ‘trendy’ rounded corners
  • Mutilates WordPress to own evil ends
  • Heavy Flickr exploitation
  • Comments over-promoted

I think that’s most of it. The last one means that your comments appear on the front page, letting you graffiti and deface this site as you please. The main purpose of this drawn-out conversion to WordPress was to enable comments, so please scrawl on everything, especially the ‘Best X’ type pages. You don’t need to log in, all fields are optional and comments are unmoderated so they’ll appear right away.

If I could also direct your attention to the rewritten Games section, the three new Philosophy sections, and the new Comics and Blogs links. The free MP3s linked in the top right there will get updated (in fact, they already have been before this went up, so I’ll switch the old ones in after a while). Brace yourself for the odd broken link there, because I’m pointing you to other people who’ve uploaded them, and they may get scared. To my knowledge they’re legally free tracks, but you never know.

I discovered there’s been a new trailer for the Firefly film, Serenity, since the one I saw. Head over to Television for a link. I could paste it here, of course, but I’m trying to get rid of you.

Apologies to anyone who disliked the crazy-long nature of the old design – I honestly thought WordPress would automatically curtail the main page and archive old posts, but it doesn’t seem to. I’ll work out how to do it manually before it gets too long.

Lastly, the reason all the posts here are about specific things is just that I’ve been posting and reposting the content for the media sections – normally it’ll be mostly more traditional blog-style posts here.

David: To be honest, it's fairly brilliant. I love it. Nice work.

Graham: I've been looking at the site for the last hour or so, and at first it was great. Half-Life 2 under "Best Games", Futurama, Firefly, West Wing and Lost under "Best TV", Adaptation and Grosse Pointe Blank under "Best Films", Penny Arcade under "Best Comics", Belle And Sebastian under "Best Music", The Go! Team, Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five way down there amongst the lists of Music.

But doesn't there come a point where there are just too many similarties of taste? I feel like I need to go like different things, just so I'm not irrelevant.

Tom Francis: No! We are members of a cult, you and I. Unfortunately being anti-social is one of the many things most of us have in common, so we generally don't know each other yet. However, hi. You should be thinking things like "Wow, I'm bound to like LA Confidential and Scary Go Round," and maybe trying them out. Perhaps re-watch Memento and refer to the graph. Actually the music section is the only one that's purely that, and I don't like it as it is. I'm planning on passing judgement on some new albums, and they'll ensure that section actually has some words in it. The rest, I guess you're supposed to get something out of it if you agree with the text, but I don't know what.

Graham Smith: Really I'm just thinking "Man, I should watch some Futurama."

Also, "Why don't line breaks work in the comments? Do I need to use HTML?


Graham Smith: No."

Tom Francis: I can't let WordPress format the comments because it puts a linebreak between the author and the post, ruining the IRC feel, but html tags ought to be allowed now.


Defragged: "I honestly thought WordPress would automatically curtail the main page and archive old posts, but it doesn’t seem to. I’ll work out how to do it manually before it gets too long."

I believe there's an option on the /wp-admin/options-reading.php page that let's you do that. "Show at most X posts" (on the main page). The rest get shoehorned into the archivey bit. Although this requires that you've stuffed an archivey bit placeholder into the template somewhere.

Really nice design though.

Tom Francis: Excellent, cheers. I was going to have a half-hearted go at working it out myself, then post a link on the WordPress 'show off your blog' forum and see if anyone spontaneously explained how to do it. I shot myself in the foot by designing a template from scratch, which means it only includes features I understand - not many.