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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


Since last we spoke, I have been:

To Seattle!

In America, I am treated like a king. People keep telling me how good I look, how great I am, starting conversations with me in the street, or actually giving me stuff. That last one was because they worked at the company who’d invited me there, but even they gave me more than I’ve ever heard of them giving anyone, including something they’ve never given anyone before, and informed me that this was because I was their favourite. I don’t know what it is, a lot of these things happen before they’ve even heard my spectacularly quaint English accent.

Shavin’ Like A Man!

No room for my clippers in my luggage and no time to shave before leaving, and haunted by this strange curse that seems to mean I spend all press trips absurdly dishevelled and hairy-looking (and without notepad – another curse I managed to break this time), I bought the cheapest way to shave I could: a razor. I’d been meaning to try this, but a few things have always put me off it a bit. Bear in mind that my only experience of razor-shaving is what I see on screens, and there are only two types of scene involving them:

Scene A – a sparkling blue-tiled bathroom, morning. A beautiful woman is visible in the bedroom beyond.
A magnificently buff, bare-chested middle-aged man shaves manlily, then winces and touches his cheek.
Man: Ow, it burns!
VO: You need: Nivea For Girlymen Soft Kitten Gel For Ultra-Sensitive Weak Babyskin!

Scene B – a dingy motel bathroom, morning. A beautiful hooker is visible in the bedroom beyond.
A magnificently buff, bare-chested middle-aged man shaves very, very, carefuly, and slices his whole fucking cheek open. The cut, or bloodstain resulting from the cut, will be misinterpreted later in the film.

In other words, it seems to be excruciatingly painful and almost guaranteed to result in mutilation. Nevertheless, I bought an extremely cheap razor and no after-shave soothing product, inwardly asking how bad it could really be, despite the result of all previous internal “How X can it be?” questions having ultimately been answered by reality with “Fucking, fucking”. *

* I’m partly stealing this line from Boss Nonnu, because he stole my game.

Turned out it was fine. In fact, much easier and more pleasant than electrical shavers, as far as I recall actually using one to try to remove stubble. In general I’m not the kind of adult male who’s still trying to eradicate any evidence that he’s ever grown a facial hair in his life, and therefore must be under the age of fourteen and have his whole life ahead of him. So I’m not scraping the bejesus out of my skin, but still.

Getting A New Bike!

This one, but with slicks, which I’m informed are tyres that go fast on roads. I can now verify that they do.

I stuck it to the bike thieves of Bath by leaving my old one unlocked in town until it vanished. Ha! How’d you like that one, velo-vultures? Not much fun to ride, is it? No salvagable parts, are there? Probably fell off, didn’t you? Yeah, that’s because it’s broken. I mock the socio-economic circumstances that have driven you to unlawfully take possession of my reject! Hm. Now I feel kind of bad. But I’m still pretty sure you’re not the good guy here.

The bicycle is the best vehicle mankind has invented so far. Lots of others can do things it can’t, but those need irreplacable fuels to noisily drink and messily belch out, and the whole energy equation with them is just short-sighted and ugly. A bike is just a dramatically more efficient form of human movement, an outright improvement on the most fundamental thing our bodies do. It uses nothing, requires nothing and emits nothing. It’s also a little like flying on land, which is pleasant.

At A Stag Party!

This one is not what those in the truth business call ‘true’. Al, the groom, is, like me, not the type for stag nights. So he came to my place for fancy burgers and homemade chips, then to town with others for moderate drunkenness, then the next day for a Thai meal at the only one of Bath’s seven Thai restaurants whose location I’d forgotten, then to the park for close-quarters frisbee. EXTREME.

It was good. We ship out to his wedding soon, but I have a metric Christload of work to do before then, so I’m trying not to think too far ahead.

Losing My Internet Connection!

This router has never worked very reliably for me, so I borrowed a new one from Jonty to try. I couldn’t get my PC – or three others – to see it, so I went back to the old one. That no longer worked at all.

Fixing My Internet Connection!

Which is why and how I am talking to you now and not sooner, unless you are one of the people to whom I have spoken to sooner, in which case that happened.

Jason L: 'The bicycle is the best vehicle mankind has invented so far.'

My uncle disagrees. He unicycles to work. You can take a unicycle on the bus, or carry it on a strap where needs be. It's not as fast as a bike, but apparently faster than a comfortable walk and much less effort than a jog. My uncle's not actually very odd, really.

With a bit of modification you can also use it to make an insane and insanely great documentary which everyone who wants to feel happy should see: ...6DMC8_0Xpg

Dabs: "That last one was because they worked at the company who’d invited me there, but even they gave me more than I’ve ever heard of them giving anyone, including something they’ve never given anyone before, and informed me that this was because I was their favourite. I don’t know what it is, a lot of these things happen before they’ve even heard my spectacularly quaint English accent."

Is this a company I might be aware of? One that's situated on the, say, 10th floor of a tall office block? If so, may I enquire as to this thing they gave you that they've never given anyone before since the curiosity is rapidly consuming me as I type? Also, why didn't my own English accent have as much cachet?

Tom Francis: PERHAPS. I'm just kidding about the accent, and as I say, most seem to be exhibiting remarkable friendliness before I speak. I attribute it mostly to the inherent friendliness of Americans, but perhaps there's also an element of the predominantly confident, outgoing personality slant that responds especially well to the demeanour of my awkward gait and nervous energy.

Or: I might just be projecting it because I'm always really happy when I'm over there - it's like I'm on holiday without the embarrassment of butchering anyone's language when I try to communicate.

Dabs: I actually know what you mean. I honestly can't say enough nice things about Seattlians ... Seatonia- ... Seattle People. I remember when I was downtown trying to find the bus to Bellevue on my first day there and some guy, who saw me walking around with a map, actually stopped, asked me if I was lost and then not only pointed me in the right direction but walked with me to the bus stop on 4th Avenue, where I needed to be. That'd never happen here. And the bus driver, on another occasion when I was going back from Bellevue, let me ride free because I only had coins (and they only can take bills ... or the other way round, I forget). I was blown away by how nice Vancouverites are (one of the many reasons I plan to move out there as soon as I have this medical degree in the bag) but Seattle People may be even nicer. And Valve themselves? Don't get me started on their niceness. Don;t worry, I'm not going to pester you further about what the something they've never given anyone else before is though.

The_B: It was a real working Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, wasn't it?

It would explain an awful lot...

Jason L: More than a Money Hat? Yowza!

Tom Francis: I've been assuming that wasn't from them, but I could be wrong.