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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

Infinitely More Exciting Than Anything

A very, very long time ago, a fairly high-ranking Future exec whose opinion I trust hinted – as we all lightly mocked Sony, the national sport for the past eighteen months – that the PS3 had Something Else that made it more of a contender than it might seem. I can believe Home might have been it. From what I’ve seen it’s firmly a There rather than a Second Life, in that you’re a consumer rather than a creator, but it still eclipses the rather under-developed concept of the Mii.

It almost makes Sony seem forward-thinking to discover that they’ve been going down the virtual world while everyone was wondering why they didn’t ape Microsoft’s matchmaking interface. It even lends a little credence to their rather unexciting claim that the PS3 is a computer rather than a console (“Could you make a console next, then? We already have computers that do everything.”) A consumerist social virtual world is something that’s probably best enjoyed from the sofa rather than the desk.

But why, then, on Earth, doesn’t the PS3 come with a keyboard? Accepting USB keyboards is a start, but people don’t have spare ones lying around, aren’t prepared to move their PC one, and aren’t going to buy one specially unless Sony pronounces it necessary. And without widespread keyboard usage, this isn’t a social virtual world, it’s a dystopian nightmare in which people can only communicate through the medium of emote-dance, stock phrases and a cacophony of clashing crackling nasal voices. You know how your voice sounds all wrong recorded? That’s because headset microphones have an inbuilt filter that post-processes the audio input to make you sound like a horrible prick. In those dark, chilling moments after I’ve newly reinstalled Battlefield 2 or Counter-Strike but before I’ve remembered to block all voice-comms, the first time someone actually uses it is like something from a Cronenberg film:

“Oh dear God, I think it’s trying to- it’s trying to talk. I’m going to be sick.”

Non-textual communication is appropriate for a much more exciting prospect also unveiled at GDC, this time from the ex-Lionhead guys who made Ragdoll Kung-Fu. In a restaurant bathroom earlier tonight I got a (non-textual) call from Tim in San Francisco, saying “Look up Little Big Planet. You’re going to love it. It’s like a cross between Spore, Ragdoll Kung-Fu and The Incredible Machine. Oh, and it’s only on PS3.” (That, by the way, is how to promote your system without sounding like a dick, Sony).

I do love it. I love it so much that, if the PS3 were a games console rather than a computer and priced as such, I would be seriously considering waiting a while and then starting to mull it over and straying remarkably close to musing about getting one before returning to my baseline state of definitely-not-getting-one. I would have gone with “Garry’s Mod with hugging”. Creativity and physics we’ve seen together before, but being able to latch onto things makes it wonderfully tactile, and turns the player into a physics prop to be toyed with like all the rest. It looks – and I can’t truthfully say this about any other console game – like a load of people being silly and having a great time together. This video made me laugh with a series of highly embarrassing noises that I haven’t heard myself make since I was six.

There’s a longer video here explaining the creative features, but it’s not set to the Go! Team’s Everyone’s A VIP and so is vastly- wait, there are sound-effects in this clip too. Holy God, does that mean they’ve actually got the Go! Team as the game’s official music? +58%! To its current 94% score. You heard me.

The most indelible criticism I’ve heard anyone make to Sony was simply “Come on, guys, I just want to play with my friends.” I don’t know how much better Home is going to be at making that a simple matter – I’m willing to bet that Microsoft’s old-skool solution is going to be quicker and simpler for some time to come – but there is at least evidence, now, that you’ll be having a completely ridiculous time when you manage it.

Of course, none of this really matters when the system costs, and will continue to cost for a minimum of two years, SIX-HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Graham: The Go! Team IS the official soundtrack, which is freaking fantastic.

Shame the fuckers are PS3 only.

Grill: Here's hoping the US economy crashes and dollar inflation shoots through the roof, so we can buy PS3s for £5 each. Of course, if that happens we're fucked anyway as the UK economy will crash too and luxuries like games magazines will no longer be viable, and we'll all be working in the meat-packing plants (if there's any meat that's not infected with shite due to its overly intensive farming by then...)

Whoops, got a bit negative there.

Jason L: Hey man, aim your economic Armageddon somewhere else; isn't it ultimately the yen that needs to die for a reasonable PS3 price?

Constitution Hill links for 2007-03-09 «: [...] Infinitely More Exciting Than Anything Yet more LittleBigPlanet love. Way to finally get some good press, Sony. [...]

Mike Jennings: Still can't really get over how fantastic 'Home' looks. Also, still having even more trouble clambering over the price. The slags.

Jason L: Home doesn't excite me in the least. I saw avatar chat come. And be horrible. And go. And come. And be horrible. And go. And become MMOs. And still be horrible. Walking among idiots' horrible joke faces to arrange multiplayer instead of sending an invite or searching is not my vision of The Future.

I am going to have a stomachache for the next few years thanks to Media Molecule, the brilliant bastards. Sony, whatever you paid them it was not too much. Congratulations on ushering in the real next generation of gaming, MM.

Tom Francis: I think an inestimable component of its charm is that the puppets face the camera when idle, as if trying to maintain eye contact while entertaining you.

Tom Francis: (Testing a new comment-spam prevention measure.)

Tom Francis: (Wow, that was so problem-free that it didn't even cause problems for the spam-bots.)