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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

Starcraft 2


It’s a game from Blizzard, and yet it’s artistically uninteresting. I’m sure it’ll be wonderful, but why does it look so vapid and plastic? These might as well be sprites, they have no depth or character to them. In the original the Zerg looked sticky and disgusting. In this they look like a breakfast cereal.

Blizzard have never had the edge with tech, but their artists always wildly over-compenstated by giving everything wonderfully exaggerated character. Even with the primitive Warcraft 3 engine, they managed to make units look cool enough that you could zoom in on them for cutscenes, and watch them talk. And as you can see, you wouldn’t want to zoom in on these guys.

Anyway, excited nonetheless. Beww!

bob_Arctor: Meh. The gameplay video did absolutely nothing to excite me.

We have Dawn of War and Company of Heros, not that they massively interested me, but they are obviously better than this.

RTS used to be my favourite genre, now I just can't get excited about it.

The napoleonic 3d wargame looks good. Can't remember the name, Tim Stone mentioned it in PCG.
The civil war ones were a nice idea but the interface and presentation put me off buying them, 2d sprites and a restrictive camera, unrewarding fighting animations, difficult to do things.

Bobsy: I mostly want to play SC2 for the dialogue, story and cutscenes (and the Dark Templar). Playing -Craft RTSs is an exercise in patience as missions become increasingly complicated and effort-consuming. There'd better be an easy mode for this.

Jason L: Did...Did I just see Jerry Holkins lament the lack of 'other games inside' the most brazenly, exhaustively, aggressively mod-friendly entertainment software product in history?

Tom Francis: I don't know - got a link? I couldn't see it in the latest news post.

Your use of this extremely old post reminds me I ought to have one up about StarCraft 2 now that I've played it. The plasticness isn't so much of a problem - it's still there on the Terrans, but the Zerg look properly gross now.

Jason L:

Warcraft III was, by comparison [with Starcraft II], chockablock with innovations and crazy bullshit - the sort of prayerful long pass that a company with Blizzard's talent and resources can bring to fruition. I don't know who else is supposed to take these chances. Beyond its narrative strengths, which were manifold, its technological and philosophical bones gave rise to Defense of the Ancients, which I've argued constitutes an entirely new genre. It was a game so bold that it contained games within it. Where is that bold heart?

The artistic point is fine, but there on the back hand is a dose of WTF.

I'm sure you've written about SCII on PCG. I regret the post now, sorry. It was late enough that I shouldn't have allowed myself to post anything, Twitter gave me bullshit, and James was the closest familiar post box where I wouldn't be disrupting a discussion about the actual game.

Tom Francis: No, it's cool. Kind of an incredible point. Even if you ignore the toolset, the number of SCII missions that are games in themselves rather than a standard base assault is crazy. It's actually a fault, I think.

Unrelatedly, I wonder if Warcraft 3 had threw this much tired cliche at me and I just accepted it, or if StarCraft 2 really is the narrative downturn it feels like for Blizzard. I feel like it's trying to bore me, sometimes.