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

I Don’t Know About You Folks

I’m ill, in the way where nothing seems real. I’m not sure what to do about it, because I was already doing everything I normally do to recover from illness when I became ill – in fact, the former followed from the latter so directly that it’s hard not to assume they’re causally connected. I’m getting more sleep than at any point in the last five years, getting more than my RDA of every vitamin known to man, eating actual food more than twice a day, and keeping warm at all times – not hard because it’s unseasonably warm anyway. I’m at a loss, body. What do you want from me?

I hate getting more than seven hours’ sleep, too. Apart from giving up a chunk of precious consciousness-time, and waking up more tired than if I’d had four hours, my brain spends all its REM-sleep time trying to think of the worst possible things that could happen, then informing me very vividly that they all have. Last night I got cancer, and had huge, dark lesions all over my face, then I was attacked by spiders. Thanks, brain! That was a fun nine hours! The physical tortures are actually the highlights: the rest of the time my subconscious invents new mental and emotional traumas, and these are much, much less enjoyable than being repeatedly stabbed then flayed.

Being ill doesn’t make the nightmares any worse, but the groggy detachment from reailty makes them harder to shake in the land of the conscious. It wasn’t until I dressed this morning and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror that I realised I wasn’t mutilated and terminally ill. Anyway, all that is by way of explaining why this has lain dormant all week; I don’t like wasting your brainspace with this stuff and it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Instead, now that I’ve done so anyway, I’ll append a less gloomy note to compensate.

(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs, from the new Robyn Hitchcock album, is wonderful, and would be even if I didn’t have a thing for short-titled songs with massive parentheses. It talks about “Riding in [Briggs’] car in San Fransisco” and later addresses a girl called Mel, all of which sounded very specific and not the kind of thing you make up for rhymes, to me, so I decided the song must have an interesting origin in someone Hitchcock knew. I was a imagining a couple, Briggs and Mel, the former hot-tempered but well-meaning, the latter confused and isolated by his erratic behaviour. It turns out I may have been over-romanticising a little: Briggs is the villain in Magnum Force, a Dirty Harry film Hitchcock kept catching half of on TV.

He doesn’t particularly like the film, it’s presumably just the kind of thing that creeps into your head when song-writing. “A man’s gotta know his limitations” is Clint Eastwood’s catch-phrase in it, and the next line in the song “Or else he will just explode” refers to the final scene, in which Briggs – a corrupt official – is killed by a car-bomb Eastwood planted. For some reason Clint then utters his catch-phrase, although it’s not clear which limitation Briggs should have been aware of: inability to detect car-bombs? I haven’t seen the film, so I still don’t know who Mel is. Other songs inspired by films the songwriter doesn’t really care one way or the other about: one of Miss Black America’s, I think it’s Infinite Chinese Box. Apparently the guy was watching a film, then suddenly decided to stop and write a song about how he thought it was going to end, instead of watching it to find out. I applaud this kind of behaviour.

Zeno Cosini: I got ill in January 2006. It came hot on the heels of the Chirstmas break, during which I was eating lots, sleeping lots and generally treating myself well. I had a cough and a series of cold / flu type bugs that went on solidy for about 6 weeks. It was horrible. I thought I was becoming one of those sickly Victorian gentlemen who have to retire to a sanitorium in the Alps and spend the rest of their short lives in a "bath chair" with a quilted blanket folded over their knees, attended by matronly, thick-wristed nurses. But then, just as inexplicably, I got well again.

Tom Francis: This is unacceptable! I must at least know the causes of my body's malfunctions, even if they're things beyond my control. Or perhaps I can control it without understanding it, to an extent. My scientific instinct would be to temporarily play dumb, trust the logic behind the illness-prevention measures, and assume that they did in fact cushion me from a much more severe illness that would otherwise have been caused by the same unknowable, unstoppable factors. That would suggest I'll recover soon.

I suppose it would be more scientific still to try living extremely unhealthily for a week and see if I deteriorate. I'll try that next week.