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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.

  • 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...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    SWAT 4: The Movie Script

    World Of Lifecraft

    Rich pointed me to a post putting forward the concept of Massively Multiplayer Productivity, and I haven’t been able to find anyone who’s actually come up with a formal system for how it would work. The concept is that, in order to give the menial tasks you do in real-life the same addictive quality as the menial tasks in World Of Warcraft, all you need to do is assign experience-point rewards to them. Your To-Do list becomes your Quest Log, and every few thousand points you level yourself up – you have become a superior human being by getting things done.

    So all it needs is a fair system of assigning experience points to the different kinds of things life requires you to sort out, and some markers to indicate when you would level up. I suggest:

    Quest Type XP
    Making a phone call 250
    – that involves persuasion +250
    – to someone you hate +250
    Filling out a form 100
    – and posting it +50
    – and losing it 100
    Physical labour 250
    – that takes more than half an hour +250
    – that takes more than an hour +250
    Going to an appointment 500
    – and resolving a problem while there +250
    – and discovering you are terminally ill +500
    Cleaning a room 500
    – including removal of blood stains +500
    Going shopping for groceries 250
    Working outside of work 250
    – for more than forty-five minutes +250
    – just to get ahead +250
    Doing someone a favour 250
    – that takes more than half an hour +250
    – that involves assassination or insurance fraud +750
    Blogging 100
    – about World Of Lifecraft +150

    Level-ups are awarded for the following XP amounts:

    Progress XP Reward
    Level 1 500 Consumption of an unhealthy food.
    Level 2 1000 Consumption of an expensive and unhealthy food.
    Level 3 2000 A frivolous purchase =< £5/$10
    Level 4 3500 Home delivery for your next groceries purchase
    Level 5 5500 Immediate consumption of eight units of alcohol
    Level 6 8000 A frivolous purchase =< £15/$30
    Level 7 11000 Moral absolution for one theft – past or future
    Level 8 14500 Home delivery for your next narcotics purchase
    Level 9 18500 A frivolous purchase =< £50/$100
    Level 10 23000 Moral absolution for the contract-killing of one unwanted person

    And so on. (If you didn’t spot the pattern, you’re probably not geeky enough to need to turn your life into a MMOG in order to get anything done). Notice that you start at level 0, just to emphasise how worthless you are until you’ve done something.

    Well, I’m level one already and I haven’t had breakfast, so I think a bacon sandwich is in order. Any suggestions for more quest types or rewards?

    Graham: I slept for 16 hours on Friday night. Does this mean that I was ultra-rested and thus got extra XP for my tasks on Saturday?

    Tom Francis: NO. Negative points for sleeping.

    Dabs: Only 500 points for discovering you're terminally ill? You tight-arse Tom!

    So you'd have to find out you've got 37 separate terminal illnesses before you earn enough points to treat yourself to something not exceeding £50 in value??!

    WoL's points system needs patching badly imho. Otherwise, rest assured, I'll be on the internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.

    Joe: Could there be a rest system? So if you avoid doing unproductive activities, like playing games, for 24 hours, you are awarded double XP for any menial task you complete during the next day.

    Iain: I think I've found a bug. I seem to have gotten most of the rewards without gaining the necessary experience.

    Iain: Ah, hang on. I think I know why. I've not been playing World of Lifecraft. I've been playing City of Slackers...

    Mark Wallace: woot, I have leveled!

    I love that guy's idea of a central site where everyone's stats are stored, but I think what would really be cool is some kind of collaborative software thingy where users could weigh in on how many xp they feel each task is worth. Then you average them out to get a collectively determined score for each thing you do each day. Although I guess the score for any particular task would change from day to day and could be easily gamed, but it still seems cool. I'm clearly thinking too hard this afternoon. Do I lose points for that?

    Tom Francis: 36, Dabs. You get one 500 for turning up to the appointment. The hope is that you'll try some of the other activities, though. Eighteen phone-calls later, you could have the doctor killed. That'd show him.

    Mark: I don't think people would all classify their tasks the same way, so I don't think democratic point score values would be much more meaningful than my dictatorial ones. Also, gratz!

    Matt: How about this:
    An hour of physical labour gives you +1 strength, but the higher your strength, the less XP you get from physical labour.

    Richard: OK, since folks wanted it, I've written the bare bones of a World of Lifecraft site, complete with domain name. I don't however have a lot of time to spend on it, so if anybody wants to take control of the admin system and start filling it up with quests, they're welcome to. Email me, richard at square8 dot com.

    FinalSin: Clearly, classes are needed.

    e.g. Filling Out A Form
    ...and losing it
    -50% exp loss if Student Class (Ignorance Plea)

    And a heckload more levels. And steeds.

    HailandKill: Yeah, with a level cap of 10 people are going to be complaining about the boring high level experience. Life ultimately has many things to do in a hypothetical high level....

    roburky: The list text in this entry is now invisible. I'm guessing a problem with the new site style?

    Tom Francis: Yeah, fixed now. Have I mentioned how much I hate CSS yet today?