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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.

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: The Movie Script

Some News, JC

Seven hours left of the year – another good one, actually. Last year I got a job at PC Gamer, this year I got the job I’d always wanted at PC Gamer. I also got a raise and a house. Did I tell you about the house yet? I’m not allowed to move in until the 12th, but I have a key now:

House Key

So I’m counting it as this year. It looks like this:

137 Sheridan Road

It was an old man’s house, and he died. It looks very much like an old man’s house inside right now, but we’re going to modernise it heavily. There are dozens of picture hooks which presumably held precious memories and images of loved ones – I’m going to put up framed prints of my favourite screenshots, which is basically the same thing.

The key was a Christmas present. I thought I’d lost my camera for a while, so when I discovered I hadn’t (I refused to look for it for about a month on the grounds that, so long as I hadn’t attempted to find it, I had not in any real sense lost it) I went mad taking photos of everything. It’s hard to get far enough away from normal scenes to make them look interesting (as they are from a plane, for example), so you’ll notice most of my photos are extremely close up instead. This, for example, is a beach at sunset:


Interesting thing I learnt about macro mode over a year ago, then completely forgot until recently: it’s much better if you zoom out, then just put the lens very close. My brain is rubbish.

Recommendations are stronger when you make fewer of them, so for my Stuff Of The Year awards I’m limiting myself to two choices per medium.


1. Battlefield 2. Just before I first set eyes on this, I had to sit through a series of presentations about various console-only games. It was embarassing. I was scared someone from the outside world might peer in and think this was what games were like. When we finally sat down in a lecture theatre and Battlefield 2 popped up on the projector, it was a blissful homecoming to the amazing worlds where I spend my time. Vast, crisp, luscious and magnificently complicated. The social hierarchy of the voice comms system alone is an elegant work of genius. It’s one of those sequels that goes a little too far in improving on the original, and we end up wondering how we ever could have been satisfied with the crude toy that one of the most important games ever made now looks like. Even if you ignore the brilliant, endlessly emotional, ingeniously designed game – and for a long time we did – the fidelity of the world alone makes it extraordinary to be in. The ludicrously thrilling speed and solidity of the jets, the earth-shattering apocalypse of an artillery strike, the exquisite sense of place in every forest, street, mountain and desert. Magnificent.

2. Darwinia. The second-place stigma is misleading, this is the best strategy game ever created – I just have an enormous bias toward first-person games. Ignore if you can the sumptuous style and heart-melting story, what makes my brain explode with delight every time I play Darwinia is the satisfaction of doing almost everything myself. You hold your army together with both hands, controlling your most powerful troops manually while your unpredictable horde of Darwinians flow according to the fluid channels of command you hastily set up for them. It sounds overwhelming, but every task is a game rather than a chore, so everything you’re scrambling to do is fun in itself.

Wafer Tubes


1. Serenity. If you liked Revenge Of The Sith, you should definitely see Serenity. It’s not similar, and I’ve never heard of anyone liking both, but you will I hope break down in tears when you realise the error of your ways. It’s sci-fi your sci-fi-hating friends, girlfriend, mother and luddite cultists will like, because it takes an innovative extra step of actually being good, so it works whether space excites you or not. It excites me a lot. Apart from being witty, emotional, character-driven fiction, Serenity is wonderful epic sci-fi; full of horror, assassins and bureaucracy.

2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I so nearly didn’t go and see this, but quickly checked the Onion AV Club’s review, discovered it was a “a noir-inspired L.A. mystery that isn’t afraid to show some satirical teeth” and bolted for the door. It is exactly my kind of thing. It’s endlessly cool, incredibly funny, frequently dark, and genuinely thrilling.



1. In Case We Die (Architecture In Helsinki). The most fun you can have with your ears.

2. Twin Cinema (The New Pornographers). Spoiled slightly for me by having the best tracks – Bleeding Heart Show, Sing Me Spanish Techno and Twin Cinema – released on various MP3 blogs before the album proper was available. Spoil it for yourself too and listen to those.

More random images of Christmas follow. Have fun tonight/last night.



Vegan Cheese

Graham: I liked both Revenge of the Sith and Serenity.

Actually, that's a lie. I liked Sith, but *loved* Serenity.

Enjoy the pretty skyflowers. Why aren't I there?

Inflatable Moron: I want to love Serenity but is probably the worst film i have ever seen...

Tom Francis: I'm always tempted to say that, but never quite sure enough. Instead I'll leave it at "I've seen worse, but I can't remember when."

Jason L: Actually, I also liked Sith. Half of it was painful, but I enjoyed the stupid fun of the other half, same as Not-so-Phantom Menace - and unlike Clones, which I have seen precisely once.

...Of course I love Serenity. I breathe oxygen too.