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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

Episode Three Conjecture


Suffering from blogger’s paralysis, wanting to talk about five different things but having no preference as to which, I’ll just stick with the theme. This is a bit silly, of course, Episode Two being six months off, but Dabs mentioned something I’d forgotten, and I looked it up, and he’s right. Raising The Bar, the superb coffee-table book about Half-Life 2’s development, mentions that at one point a large section of the game was set in an arctic base, called Weather Control. Examining a scan of a map sketch, it even mentions a ‘Judith at Weather Control’ scene.

I don’t think we’re going there in Episode Two – it’s a whole new country and Episode Two is already introducing a very large and very different environment, but we’ve been shown it now, and I really buy the idea that they’d finish the trilogy in a very different kind of place. Also of note are two aspects of Valve’s design philosophy: a) that the player should see where he’s going to end up long before he gets there (mentioned in Raising The Bar), and b) that you don’t show the player something cool then deny him it (mentioned in Gamespot’s The Final Hours Of Half-Life 2, I think). Wherever the climax of Half-Life 2: Episodes, we’ll glimpse it well in advance, and whenever it happens, we will go to Weather Control.

My final, third piece of evidence is one of the most universal tenets of videogame cliché: all expansion packs, however they’re delivered, must take you to a snowy environment.

I’m not sure how far they got with the section when it was going to be a part of Half-Life 2 – the name makes it sound like it served a Combine function like the Air Exchange, which had a lot built around it before it was cut – but there’s a short story by Marc Laidlaw in there written as inspirational material for the section. Sort of like textual concept art. It describes an intense climactic battle between Combine reinforcements who’ve tracked down the main rebel force, a last stand by the latter. Snowstorms and ice explosions. Enticing.

Bobsy: So, the battle of Hoth then.

Rob: "My final, third piece of evidence is one of the most universal tenets of videogame cliché: all expansion packs, however they’re delivered, must take you to a snowy environment."

Oh god, you're so right! Magic Carpet: Hidden Worlds and Age of Mythology: Titans spring to mind, just for starters.

How bizarre.

Dave McLeod: Terribly sorry I didn't reply to that earlier request, I never really get replies from these blogs. Should've spoken up, who knows where my fame might have taken me by now... Glad you were able to follow up though

All I know is that BIG STOMPY ROBOTS are mentioned, which can be nothing less than superb.

And of course, Bloodmoon :) Since Icewind Dale was really nothing more than an expasnino for the God-stuff that was Baldur's Gate, you might be inclined to mention it. Deus Ex 2 natch... Shadows of Undrentide...the secrets of the ultimate game making manual is reveal further.

Tom Francis: Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, Dawn of War: Winter Assault, Spellforce: Breath of Winter, and Icewind Dale's own expansion: Heart of Winter.

Mirror’s Edge, by Pentadact, who is secretly Tom Francis: [...] don’t often dribble about unreleased games here, except when they’re by Valve or a cool part of them has just been released or I’ve played them and can’t tell you [...]