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

    This Just In: The Scout Is A Dick

    As a Spy, there’s a very tense moment after you’ve ‘sapped’ an enemy Engineer’s sentry, dispenser and teleporters. You retain your perfect disguise, but the Engineer knows there’s a Spy around. It’s not always possible to get far from the scene of the crime before the Engineer comes running, so sometimes you have to rely on a good choice of disguise and some subtle sidling to defer suspicion onto an innocent target.

    Dressed as a Scout, I had the best possible chance of getting away with it – Spies rarely disguise as Scouts because they can’t move as fast as a real one, so it looks suspicious if you move around a lot. But I was staying perfectly still, facing the other way, waiting with impressive restraint for the sappers to finish their work, the sentry to kersplode and the crime to be complete.

    hl2 2007-09-30 01-59-21-75

    Sometimes, your character utters a line appropriate to what he’s done. “You’ve got blood on my suit,” if you’ve just revealed yourself and backstabbed someone, for example. Other characters have special lines for if they manage to destroy an Engineer’s structures. The Spy doesn’t have these, of course, because it would of course blow his cover to talk like a Spy amongst enemies.

    But Valve may have overlooked, or intentionally ignored, a quirk of the Spy’s deception – he will perfectly mimic his assumed class’s vocal responses. After a pregnant pause as my Sappers fizzled quietly away and the Engineer ran in front of me, glaring wildly for any signs of suspicion, his Sentry finally exploded. And my Spy, in a perfect impression of an asshole Scout, immediately shouted, “I broke your stupid crap, moron!”

    Three things happened at once – I slapped my forehead, the Engineer blew me away with a point-blank blast, and the Scout became my favourite personality – narrowly beating the Kenny-esque Pyro.

    bob_Arctor: Gah, bought the bloody Orange box and can't play it with wireless internet, keeps dropping out.
    So I just have to read about TF2. ARRGG.

    Jason L: Just curious - did they ever fix this? Do they consider it a problem? Do they know about it?

    Tom Francis: It hasn't been mentioned in the update news, and it's a rare enough occurence that I can't tell if it's gone. I hope they haven't - it's pure comedy.

    Chet - who writes a lot of this dialogue - says that they originally toyed with having the Spy do feeble impressions of whoever he was dressed up as. If you yank out the game files, you can hear a few aborted attempts at him doing a very shakey Engineer. It's a wonderful idea, but you can kind of see why they didn't follow through.

    Matt: How do we find these sound files?

    Freakinswiit: You need to look through the GCF files by using a program called GCFScape.

    BloodVex: Doesn't he say "everyone back to the base, pardner?" in-game or is that one of those locked away GCF files.

    I can swear I've heard it in game befor

    BloodVex: e

    John Stamos: @Bloodvex They might have removed it by now but I used to hear it quite often when the game 1st came out. Or I am remembering wrong

    Tom Francis: Chet once told me that was part of an idea they were playing around with but didn't end up using in the game. People have probably played stuff like that over the voice comms though.

    TurboPunz: To hear the spy's terrible impressions (only 2, both of Engie) open up GCF Scape, in your "Steamapps" folder, open up "Team Fortress 2 content"
    Browse through this folder directory:

    Then go down to the spy. All the way down, and listen to #'s 7 and 8.

    Wish they had kept that idea, it would have been hilarious.

    Jason L: This seems the most apropos place. Link dump 1/2: In a couple of years we're going to lose Tom...