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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

I’m Not Allowed To Do This

But if you fancy spending a lazy Sunday morning burning through a bunch of custom Portal maps, I’ve put all the ones I’ve found in the right subfolders and zipped them up, so you can just extract it to your Portal folder and type “map ” at the console to browse through them. I don’t even remotely have permission to do that and it’s actually pretty immoral, so I’ll probably take it down Monday. EDIT: Taken down now, attack of conscience. Most of them came from here or here.

If you also want to cut out the hassle of playing shitty, misorganized maps, try station1 and ren_test2 first.


station1 is really nicely made, and doesn’t feel the need to be hopelessly difficult in order to show you how awesome its author must be at the game. It’s got its own visual style, which is nice, but the completely black material it introduces sometimes makes it hard to make out shapes and distances. The top of the central column, for example, in the middle of that screenshot – is it a platform or hole with a thick rim? My favourite thing about it is that it shows you your goal as soon as you spawn, so the adventure to achieve it feels very neatly self-contained, and it’s really satisfying to get back to where you started and finally get through that door.


ren_test2 is difficult. It’s more complicated and intellectually demanding than any of Portal’s Advanced maps, or getting Gold in every Least Portals Challenge. But it’s also geniunely ingenious. I won’t spoil the centrepiece of the map, but suffice to say there’s a switch that does something really, really cool when you press it. It’s simultaneously the smallest and the longest map I’ve played so far, simply because I had to sit there with a cup of tea and think the living shit out of it before I knew what to do. Even then, my absurdly convoluted solution had to go through several iterations before it worked, and I’ll admit that phase is actually just frustrating. It revolves around a bouncing energy orb, and I fucking hate those things. But most of the time and most of the fun is spent just staring at this one room, working out how to fix it.

If you do play it, know that the first switch you press unlocks that door you can see. It took me a long time to figure that out, because in Portal there’s not normally a concept of ‘locked’ and ‘unlocked’, only closed and open – and the switch doesn’t open the door.

Update! Ha! I must admit I was feeling slightly envious of the ren_test2 guy for thinking up such a great central mechanic for his level before me. I had an idea for something similar, but unless it comes off spectacularly it’s probably not as clever. Some consolation, then, to discover that he’s actually a level designer for a little company called Bethesda Softworks.

One of the reasons I’m playing everything anyone makes for Portal is that I am, very intermittently, very slowly and very ineptly, working on my own Portal map. It’s one room with one puzzle at the moment, and even that may be scrapped to fit into the bigger picture. So far all my puzzle ideas are things that require special coding or advanced mapping skills, so now I’m trying to come up with some more basic stuff I can make to learn the engine first.


I’m on the lookout for people to test this, if I actually get anywhere. If you just want to play it, don’t sign up – it’ll be better if you wait till it’s done. But if you want to help me out, drop me an e-mail and I’ll cc you on the next build.

Tom Francis: http://www.TestingAP...

Tom Francis: Multiple awesomes.

The_B: Nice plugin. Although I'm suprised there isn't an auto snipurl/tinyurl one. Or at least that I could find. In the 30 seconds that I looked for...

ImperialCreed: Erm, am I being silly or is that link now broken?

Also, thanks for the tips on the maps. Finally got my net connection back so I can't wait to play them.

Tom Francis: Link still seems to work here.

Tom Francis: Oh, it's just occured to me you may have meant the link in the comments here. That was never supposed to work, I just wanted to check that it would indeed take you to that address - which doesn't exist.