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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.

  • Grant: Thanks to the start of this video, I’ve just now noticed that during the static flickers while staring...
  • Ben: Great analysis. During the lab sequence in the Prey intro, you were looking around for tells that Morgan is in a...
  • 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...
  • 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.)