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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.

Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend

A Leftfield Solution To An XCOM Disaster

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

Paris Laptop Consciousness Drip

John didn’t come on this trip because it was a day, a little more in fact, for a page, which is presumably less than he could otherwise earn. This trip is to Paris, to see the World Of Warcraft expansion The Burning Crusade. The choice is easier for me: Paris, or office with terrible vending machine, the pay is the same (though not as much as for a page of freelance work, I might add). I suggested that he should come, because it was Paris, but couldn’t come up with a more articulate reason than that, and also the exact arrangements weren’t worked out.

The exact arrangements turned out to be great. The Eurostar’s at 7.30am tomorrow, so I as a Bathican am being put up in a hotel in London for the night. I failed pretty miserably to get to London in time to do anything really, and even my lame plan of going yuppie and blogging from a Starbucks on Belvedere street were foiled by closing times. Instead I’m typing this offline (the Rock Extreme laptop I’m reviewing is picking up the Thames Online wireless network, but not well enough to get net) on a bench next to a hairy old black guy playing very lonely saxophone. I call this yuppohemian.

The hotel is the County Hall Marriott, which is on the Thames, next to the London Eye and Big Ben, and is pretty difficult to believe. I actually kind of laughed when I walked into my room. Hang on, the tour guide lecturing the old Americans on the bench behind me has just told them no-one in England is named Mary because a famous one burnt so many consonants. I think he’s remembering his history and quite a lot else wrong. Okay, now the busker has wondered off sadly, quietly missing out on whatever I was half-planning to give him on my way back to the hotel. Should I pay in advance the next time I pick a bench based on the jazz? No.

I have just cracked my knuckles for the last time, perhaps ever. I will likely crack them again within the minute. I am trying to avoid it, though, on discovering just how many people it annoys and to what extent. It seems a strange thing to be annoyed by – I think it’s perceived as a conscious action, but in fact it’s as involuntary as yawning and far harder to resist. I can’t say I know what the negative side-effects of stopping woudld be, though, so I’m launching an investiagtion. I’m going cold turkey on knuckle crack. God damn it I nearly did it right then. I need a cigarette.

The whole thing – the hotel, this is – is some kind of cylinder built into an enormous courtyard within the same building as the London Eye ticket office. I’m getting the cylinder shape from the corridors – once you get onto your floor, they arc round in a huge circle. My room is vast, the bed has ten pillows, and the window is aimed at the sunset over the Thames with willful precision, igniting the whole thing in orange as soon as I opened the curtains. I am so thirsty. I’ve just discovered the tree I’m sitting under is full of blue lightbulbs. Is this the sort of thing I habitually don’t notice?

Breakfast at 6.30 tomorrow. I feel like I should have something fried to take advantage of it being free, but I also feel like I should never eat anything again. As flattering as the lowlight of the hotel bathroom is, it doesn’t disguise that my new bad habit of eating lunch every day has now begun to counteract my good habit of cycling up a formidable hill on the way home from work. I think the dude who just walked past saying “There are worse places to watch porn” was talking about me.

There are worse places to write. It’s properly night now, and windy with it, but so warm that even my T-shirt feels superfluous. I’m next to a streetlamp engulfed in a swaying tree whose leaves glow as they wave at the light, and the effect is something you wouldn’t see in Oblivion on this laptop, because you pretty much have to disable Canopy Shadows if you want a decent framerate at this things insane native resolution. Ooh, so nearly got through this trip without a Real World Graphics joke. It’s become a tradition now. Dammit! I have cracked. It feels… bad, not doing it. A vague and nameless badness. If I had to give it a name I would probably called it Arthritating, but I would also probably think about it a bit longer so it’s hard to say for sure that that’s what I’d go for, or even if it would be on the shortlist.

I sometimes miss the start of conversations. I sometimes ask people what they’re talking about, as politely as possible, but if I can I just join in not knowing what we’re talking about. The other journalist on this press trip was talking about someone’s gaming habits, specifically exploring game worlds like Far Cry, and I love mountain climbing in the places you’re not supposed to be able to get to in Far Cry. She was saying that he, who’s name might be Dan from what little I overheard of the start, likes to take the hang glider as far as possible, and use it to soar to strange places. Me too! “Who’s this?” “My dad.” Ah, Terry Pratchett then. This is the next day now. I charged my laptop on the Eurostar on the way back, and have enough juice for a few words on the night train to Bath. I’ll have to cycle with this ponderous bastard up Watery Lane, the sharp ascent back to my house, a lofty realm of such good digital reception that one nearby estate is called Freeview Road.

It turns out I’ve met Rhianna Pratchett three times, but didn’t recognise her the second time (hair colour change?), and I think I thought she was a voice actress from the way she was talking about a game’s dialogue. This time, I totally recognised her from the last time, but since I didn’t know who she was last time that wasn’t an awful lot of help. Incredibly, I managed to surmise that this person had, too, worked for Nevrax on Saga Of Ryzom and wrote for PC Zone without connecting her identity with the other very similar-looking person of whom both these things were true. They kind of cottoned on to one another in my head a while later, far too late for me to admit my confusion without embarrassment. Luckily, one of my super-powers is the ability to go from a position of astounding ignorance to perfect understanding without any external reaction at all. The cure for cancer could dawn on me without elevating an eyebrow.

Have you ever seen an orc bored? That’s not a joke set-up. Actually it could be: it’s enThralling. Anyway, that’s what I saw today. The guy wandered mopily between the chambers of the cellar at this event and couldn’t muster a snarl when photographed. I prescribe emancipation.

The_B: WTB EPIX TICKET 4 [[Burning Crusade Sneak Preview]] /W ME

Graham: "on discovering just how many people it annoys and to what extent"

How many people does it annoy? To what extent? How did you find out? I must know!

I'll just turn and ask you, I guess.

Tom Francis: To date I think Jo, Gemma and my mum have expressed extreme distaste at it. I don't know why they take it as such a personal affront - when it bothered me, it was just a sympathetic pain because it sounded like it hurt. I think the sound is just inherently disturbing until you've done it yourself.

Zeno Cosini: Let me know next time you're passing through London and we'll get together for gitanes and frappuccinos outside the National Film Theatre or something.

Ross: I don't like the knuckle crack. I'll be bringing it up at your appraisal.

Kathy: Yo! Cool stuff! Thanks for being here. Would you please also visit my homepage?

Tom Francis: NO, DICK.

Katrina: This site is very nise and helpfull! Visit my sites, please:

Tom Francis: Again, shut up and fuck yourself.

Calaros: I assume this post was from 'back in the day' when nobody but your fellow PC Gamer goons really knew about this site?

'At Random' box ftw ^^

J-Man: That second comment by Pentadact made me giggle.