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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.

  • 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

    GalCiv2: Still Genius



    ImperialCreed: Nice to see the Spectres of Agony are still alive and well, flipping off every sentient species in the galaxy as they go :)

    P.S. Did you ever get that email I dropped you Mr. Francis?

    Tentaculat: I loved Master of Orion 2, and Civilization 4 but I simply can't get into GalCiv2. I want to love it, I really do. Do the expansions improve the game considerably? I've only played the first edition - which just seemed to drag on with no real structure to the game.

    Like I said, I want to love it, so what am I missing?

    Tom Francis: Are you playing the campaign? I'm not a big fan of that. The sense of progression is kind of undermined when you have to keep restarting, and it's the complexity and depth of that sense that makes GalCiv great in the first place.

    I'd much rather play one twenty-hour match from random parameters than a tighly-plotted, mission-based story made up of smaller matches. Apart from anything else, a random game ends up having a better story.

    In fact, GalCiv works so well for the former, that I wonder if we'll soon get to the point where people are happy for that to be the 'campaign', so to speak. Quick tutorial, then here: win this one, vast, enormously complex galaxy.

    bob_Arctor: There is a campaign?
    Madness: 4X games never needed a campaign before. Just start a large random map, sorted for 30 hours.

    Tom Francis: The idea is to give new players somewhere to start - a custom game screen is super-intimidating if you've never played before. People want a button they can click to play the game in a way that'll lead them in gradually, not requiring advanced knowledge from the get go. That's what 'campaign' says to most people.

    But a mission-by-mission progression doesn't suit this type of game at all, and that's one of few things I hold against Dark Avatar. Expansions ought to be tackling this instead of just repeating the mistake with slightly more care and attention.

    I think my solution would be to combine a preset small-galaxy match with a tutorial, so that the tutorial explains the basics then lets you play an easy little game, offering help and commentary throughout. Then the 'New Game' option would launch you into a somewhat randomised Huge or Immense sized game as a race of your choice or design, with every other race present, default settings, and a simple choice of AI difficulty.

    You'd still have a Custom Game option below that for anyone who wants to play differently, but you basically come down and say: this is how our game is meant to be played, this is how we think you'll get the most fun out of it. So that players without a preference will actually try the type of match that best shows off the game's traits, and get a huge amount of playtime out of it.

    Right now, timid or modest players probably never try getting stuck into a really huge game, they likely stick to the campaign, which really doesn't show off the game well.

    ImperialCreed - did your mail or e-mail address mention your handle? A Gmail search for it turns up nothing.

    ImperialCreed: I fired it at your Gmail account, and my e-mail is imperial.creed[at]whatever, so that's curious it didn't materialise. It had an attachment too, a piece of music I thought you might be interested in.

    I agree the campaign in both versions of the game is a bit rubbish, that part never gripped me at all. May I ask what difficulty level you play at, as I seem to get my ass handed to me on all but the easiest levels?

    Love the game though, even if it does swallow huge chunks of my life.

    Tom Francis: Nope - all I've got is a Kane and Lynch review you sent to the Uncensored address a while back. Resend?