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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

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...