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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.

  • 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...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • 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

    Brain Storm’s New Clothes

    Bloody Bay

    Brain Storm is back, in a sleek new costume and with three burly ghost men bodyguards. She’s now in her mid-twenties, and openly superheroinic. You might remember shots of her in a previous post looking rather ordinary – the original concept was a heroine who just looked like a normal person – albeit with a bandana to hold her radioactive brain in. It worked well at early levels, beating up thugs and using her brain-snapping powers to do favours for the city, looking like a minor vigilante. But then she was blinding everyone in the room with a gesture, summoning spectral armies and rendering herself completely invisible. She was acting way too much like a superheroine not to look like one. At level 20 you get a second costume slot – a chance to design a completely new costume, but still be able to go back to the old one when you like. So it was time for a redesign.


    This second generation of your hero is a fantastic idea – even though your costume has no bearing on your abilities, it’s a far more integral part of your character than the latest piece of armour you’re wearing for the stat bonuses in WoW. Making a new one is a chance to redefine your hero’s personality. Brain Storm started out as a woman with the unusual ability to make people imagine they’re more and more horribly mutilated until they black out from the trauma. She was generally a nice person, but if you were trying to wrestle a young woman’s handbag from her in broad daylight, you could expect to find your skin bursting open in septic lesions until you fell unconscious with the pain. Now that her abilities were more spectacular, more diverse and frequently more cruel and unusual, she needed a look that would announce her awesomeness, but also reflect her not entirely serious personality and avoid the machismo or pomp of heroes who can take or dish damage – she does neither. Thus, this:

    Meet My Friends 'You' And 'AreAboutToBeBeatenUpByTwoBurlyGhosts'

    I agonised over it for nearly an hour. I’d hit a huge problem in that the bandana, the previous costume’s only distinctive feature, came with long hair that you couldn’t change. All long hair – about half of the female hair styles – conflicts with having a cape; the two move freely through each other and it looks deeply wrong. When I’d finally got around it and finished the costume, I worried that it was too generic – black and white are not terribly adventurous colours, and essentially what I’d created was a woman in a standard superhero costume – she even had an Incredibles-style black eyemask. I needn’t have worried – the first person to see me when I came out of the costume shop immediately said “Holy shit, nice costume!” He was a giant in a blue and yellow leotard, which reminded me: no-one wears black and white in City Of Heroes. No-one wears sensibly cut trousers, a simple eyemask or a cape with subtly different patterning on each side. I stood out more as a hero with an unexuberant costume than I did as a normal-looking person.


    The point of the new costume is to look imposing (for a small lady), smart (everyone I team with looks good bashng goons, but I’m the only one who could attend a post-goon-bashing soirée without having to change), tasteful (to distinguish myself from the many scantily clad heroines created by their male players for their own ‘entertainment’), and yet very subtly casual (because I’m no square). Hence the shoulder pads, the black, the full-body-coverage and the white boots that look like trainers under the trousers – respectively.

    Flying Kick

    That’s the look. The changes in Brain Storm’s abilities since her vigilante beginings mean that she’s now an extraordinary crowd-controller, a mistress of chaos. Her opening moves on any given mob leave them freezing, terrified and set upon by powerful, indestructable yet entirely imaginary assailants. Actually killing them after that is a trivial matter, best left to the menial executioners of other classes. Also she is invisible and can punch people in the stomach or head.

    Freezing Rain

    They say City Of Heroes is shallow, but your heroes certainly aren’t. Every level mine becomes more complex, more distinctive and gains a little more backstory and personality. Now let me tell you about my World Of Warcraft character:

    It’s a level 33 Warlock.

    E cigarette Reviews: I truly didn't expect to see a page like Brain Storms New Clothes, by Tom Francis today. Very impressive. Reminds me of something I learned about where to buy the e cigarette the other day.

    Tom Francis: Spam, but so good! Cut the link and kept it.