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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.

  • html color: This is the information I am looking for. This article is clear and easy to understand. I’m...
  • Grant: Thanks to the start of this video, I’ve just now noticed that during the static flickers while staring...
  • Ben: Great analysis. During the lab sequence in the Prey intro, you were looking around for tells that Morgan is in a...
  • 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...
  • 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

    This Month In Awesome

    1st: New PC Gamer Out

    My contribution to this one was the Long Play on Darwinia, in which I essentially beg people to buy it. The weird thing is, it seems to be working. I still play Darwinia regularly and it remains my favourite strategy game of all time, and it genuinely hurt to find out hardly anyone bought it. I’m happy to discover that plenty of them just needed a bit of friendly cajoling from someone with strong feelings on the matter. It also feels surreal and wonderful to have an effect – it’s not good to get used to the idea of having your words in print, and realising that people actually read them and pay attention jars you out of that nicely.

    I’ve had a chance to play the new Darwinia demo they’re working on – a level not seen in the game – and it’s incredible stuff. Doesn’t just blow the last demo out of the water, it’s actually one of my favourite levels ever. I’ll link it as soon as it’s finished and up properly.

    3rd: Tim’s Birthday

    This one’s in the past now, and it was great. I discovered Chicken Tikka Taka Tak, sang Dandy Warhols in some kind of demonic kareoke console game (I believe the game scathingly classified me as a ‘hopeful’. Jon Hicks, however, said only my “Woo ooh ooh”s needed work – my baritone lounge crooning was fine. Damn straight) , dehatted a Nintendog and swung another around the room on the end of a rope. It seems there may have been other people present too.

    The Present

    8th: The OC

    Yeah, everyone is straight out of an advert for one thing or another, but Seth is wittier than some of the best Whedon characters, and the constant sunshine is oddly addictive. It’s melodrama, it’s trash, but it’s frequently very funny and prominently features astoundingly good music. I am genuinely looking forward to its return.

    9th: Discs Finished

    Sweet, sweet release. The monthly deadline gives this job a kind of rhythm that builds to a kind of wild panic right up until the envelope containing the masters leaves my hands. Then I suddenly lose thirty kilograms and go and have a Carrot Cake Milkshake. I’m actually going to miss that when I stop being a Disc Editor. The pains of being wholly responsible for a big, important thing do pay off when it’s finally over.

    12th: City Of Villains Beta

    Some months back now, I accumulated so much experience debt from repeatedly dying on my way through a high-level area between me and my mission that I realised it would be quicker to start a new character than continue with this one. Experience debt is a huge, hideous, gaping wound in the otherwise unbroken awesomeness of City Of Heroes, and I felt pretty okay about giving it up until someone told me they’ve halved it now. Issue Five just went live, and now I’m longing to get back in and see what else has changed. Unfortunately my account has expired, so I’m not sure if I should re-register so soon before getting to play what is in effect the sequel.

    Anyway, the point is, I’m pretty excited about City Of Villains now. I’m not expecting it to be massively different to CoH, I’m just expecting it to work.

    Sometime: Fahrenheit

    I can’t imagine I’m going to like this as much as its reviewers have so far, but there’s no doubting its perfectly pitched atmosphere and tactile control tricks. I intend to enjoy it as pulp – a sort of scienceless CSI.

    21st: Lost

    Will we find out a damn thing about anything? Craig says he heard we will, but it seems almost too much to ask. My main hope from the new series is that The Others will regain the sinisterness they had when all we knew of them was the super-human, super-unsettling Ethan. The last glimpse we had of them was too ordinary – we need to find out something namelessly horrifying about them to make them scary again.

    I’m also hoping for more on the response to Boone’s call for help just before he tumbled off that cliff. If you haven’t listened to it carefully yet, do so now. It is interesting stuff.

    23rd: Winter Assault

    Dawn Of War was great. This will have new stuff. It will be great. END PREVIEW.

    23rd: Fable

    People keep telling me I’ll find this interesting, so I will play it. The voice-acting seriously risks ruining it for me, though – I found it unbearable in Black And White, and from what I’ve heard it’s the same mockingly insincere stuff here. In other respects, too, it looks a bit like a child’s drawing of an RPG rather than one made by RPG lovers. I don’t mind some streamlining, but it looks like it’s lost all the character of an RPG, leaving everything generic and placeholderish. I haven’t played it for even a second, so this is just scepticism.

    Various Times: Other Birthdays

    Mark, Ross and Beast all have birthdays (apparently on the same day) this month, as do at least two friends from outside of work and my gran. Literally fifty percent of everyone I know was born in September.

    28th: My Birthday

    I might like to go up in a balloon. Seems like a birthdayish thing to do. I also like the idea of silent flight. Engine noises ruin travel for me.

    30th: Kieron‘s Birthday

    I am quietly hoping to just do whatever other people are doing for this, instead of doing something sociable with lovely Gamer people for my birthday (short of working with them, if I go to work). You’re kind of responsible for people’s enjoyment if they’re out because of you, and that’s the kind of pressure for which mere Disc Editing cannot prepare you. I’d feel better if I wasn’t the main event, more of a niche side-show.

    30th: Serenity

    The spectacular finalé to what is sure to be the best September ever. If you haven’t seen Firefly, see this. If you have, you’re already going to see this. If you’ve already seen it through ‘connections’, I hate your face.

    Jason L: Overruling counterexample: Gabe and Tycho hated Fable (as did he two guys I know who played it). Apparently it has exactly the same vices (quote adaptive freedom end quote, but none really), with none of the redeeming character or toy value. Shrug. We're (in the case of PA, arguably) not professional games journalists. Maybe it's good.

    Dabs: "If you haven’t listened to it carefully yet, do so now. It is interesting stuff."

    Can I just confirm now: it's difficult to hear over Locke's shouting but does the responding voice say (spoiler) "we're the survivors of flight 815?" (/spoiler) If so, whoa.

    Jason L.: Good grief, I promise I will be more careful proofing comments in the future. s/he/the, and "the same..." refers to Black and White.

    I also wanted to chime in on the demo - I'm also in the betas, though sadly I've only had time to play enough for a couple of obvious bug reports. Everyone with an interest just needs to know that the new demo will Rawk. That's with a capital R, son. It's a much better introduction than even the full game, and all that keeps it from being a Perfect Level is the absence of any Ants - but I guess one needs to hold something back for the full version.

    Tom Francis: Dabs: yep. I've hidden your text for the sake of anyone who hasn't got to that episode yet. Some people thought the reply said something else, so when they did a recap episode later on, they re-recorded the message to be clearer. Now everyone thinks it's a conspiracy to cover up the original message. Sigh.

    David: You've made me feel very guilty about Darwinia. Not only did I wait for it to reach £20 before I bought it but I also bought it from Game. I'm sorry, Tom. :(

    Also, your music is startingly good.

    Lithilk: In your Long Play article it says 'Multiplayer: Not yet - wait for a patch.' Where have you found this out and is it true? If it is, I really am going to start playing Darwinia more.

    Tom Francis: Actually I didn't write that - I wrote something long and complicated explaining the nuances and uncertainties of the situation, and it got cut to that by someone who actually realises how big a page is.

    Tom of Introversion said this in that thread I linked, though: "With any luck in around 6 month's time we're then going to release two very cool shall I say... things Wink before something totally new in 2007!"

    Smart money's on one of those non-'totally new' projects being Multiwinia.

    Lithilk: Meh. I was all exicted and everything for Darwinia multiplayer.

    Tom Francis: That's what Multiwinia means!

    Lithilk: Ok ok. I'm just stupid. I see now.

    Jason L: New demo's out

    Lithilk: Ive bought a sexy Darwinia poster for my office wall now.

    Pentadact: Woo! I have one somewhere, but it won't stay up and we're not allowed to mutilate the walls of our flat. This reminds me, I must do a new version of this post saying how everything was. Pretty awesome month huh.