All posts


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

A Couple Of Things!

  • I’m in one of those swamp months, where everything seems to take five times longer than it ever possibly could, and usually go dramatically wrong at three different points. This is why I was in the office until nine tonight, despite working on a section for the issue after the one whose deadline the others were crunching to. Also there was free junk food and liquor, by way of Ross’s efficient repurposing of the bribes we receive to incentivise and energise overtimers.
  • The one thing that did go swiftly and without hitches was a short story I wrote to submit to the Machine Of Death collection, a set of short stories based around the concept put forth in this comic:


    I’m going to put it up here in a day or two, once I’ve tinkered with it a bit. It’s a little over six-thousand words, divided into five short chapters, and covering a lot more time and events than my 50,000 word novel was ever going to. I’m not trying anything of book-length again until I’ve done a few more of these – it’s gratifying and intoxicating to fly through something like this without sweating it. I’m not keen to go back to a vast mess of ideas without enough narrative string to tie them together, no matter how I re-squish them.

  • Lastly, Heroes was excellent. I hope they don’t do too many of these single-story episodes or it could become Lost (there is not a scale by which I could measure how little I cared about anyone or anything in the last episode of that), but Glasses Guy is one of the few characters who can carry one with ease. The actor has always been superb, taking a very tough role to make interesting and managing to give him an uneasy mix of creepiness, likeability and mystique. All while wearing horn-rimmed glasses. He’s even better without them, though, and he’s convincing enough as both a loving father and a demon that even towards the end, you’re not 100% sure which side he’s going to come down on. And ultimately it’s the one you believed in slightly more, which is itself a feat. Not just to act each well, but to know exactly how well you’re doing it and stop short of perfection on the one your character’s heart wouldn’t quite be in. 24, Lost and Studio 60 are all losing it at the moment, I’m so pleased to see the most flawed show of the lot outshining them all.

Jonty: Easy on the italics, Paragraph Style Man. You're getting all Tycho there.

Otherwise I find your post informative and satisfactory 7/10.

Tom Francis: Hey, I was over-using italics before that guy was- well, before his first child was born, at any rate.

Graham: I am totally pissed that I missed pizza/liquor night. While you were all chowing down, I was on a train to London for the second time that day.

Tom Francis: You had to go back for your passport? Suxxor. Still, two of the last three of my press-trips were ruined by travel troubles beyond my control, and the other one was to Woking to start reviewing a game that I then didn't end up reviewing, so I'm pretty much out of sympathy.