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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    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.