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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

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.