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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.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

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

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

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.