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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

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

“The simultaneous ambush and galaxy-wide hangar theft inflicted financial damage upwards of 30 billion ISK – $16,500 US dollars at’s prices. The value of the stolen assets utterly dwarfed the original fee for the job. And yet the only item the Guiding Hand’s anonymous client requested for himself was the cold, dead body of the target. It’s safe to say this was personal.”

A prompt two years after it was originally published, my story about the Guiding Hand Social Club assassins is finally (legally) online. At the time a lot of bad J-PEGs of it cropped up online, and since we didn’t actually have a website of our own then, we tolerated the ones that actually bothered to note the piece came from PC Gamer. But now it’s in actual html and – in a column of that width – about as good as I can humanly make it look.

My favourite bit of it, inevitably, is the bit I didn’t write: the responses to the heist from the Intergalactic Summit. Eve players reacted to the hit with genuine disgust or admiration, but also stayed in-character. So their comments are coloured with wonderful subtexts drawn from Eve’s backstory about the slavery of the Minmatar, and subsequent rebellion.

Coupled with Eve’s extraordinarily evocative character portraits, it gives each commentator such a strong and believable personality that, reading it, I find I can imagine exactly what kind of voice each of these people would have, how they would deliver their judgements.


Look at Zhou Yu! He looks like Jesus. Of course he’s appalled. He’d talk like Neil from the Young Ones, by the way.


Look at Nanus Parkite! He’s wearing aviator shades – of course he’s unimpressed. And if you look closely at the full-size version of his portrait, you can actually see his eyes behind the lenses: they’re keen and angry, matching his Godwin-fulfilling disdain for the Guiding Hand.


Look at Zaridin! That smarmy, crisp-lipped villain. Of course he loves it, and of course he’s reserved and eloquent in his praise.


And man, look at Eddie Gordo. Can’t you just hear his thick, exotic accent? He speaks in simple, black-and-white truths, with the weight of suffering behind them. He’s the only one who doesn’t see this as a discussion of methods: he doesn’t care how it was achieved, only that the people who enslaved his race suffered.

In fact, check out Istvaan Shogaatsu, leader of the most vicious band of contract killers in the universe:

It kind of shows, right?

It’s baffling to me that a five-year-old space game still lets you create the most human and distinctive player-designed artificial faces. Why can’t we make faces like this in games where we actually have a body and face rather than a spaceship, where we can walk around and see other people’s? Instead, three years later, we get a blockbuster character-driven RPG in which the emperor of the world looks like this:


Anyway, that other site I’m working on – this one. It’s coming. It’s remarkable just how much progress you can make, and how quickly, without even coming close to finishing. I’d add that I am close to finishing now, except that I have felt close to finishing for around three weeks. It seemed nearly done half-an-hour into the process. I suddenly have a newfound sympathy for games that miss their release dates.


Grill: Yeah, Septim's nose needed real work. As did all Oblivion's facial animation TBH. However, I've gotta say that all those Eve faces look like psycho-killers to me, except for Eddie Gordo.

roBurky: The portraits of Istvaan Shogaatsu, Arenis Xemdal and Mirial are probably the most recognisable portraits in Eve, having been splashed all over print and the web from this story.

Cian: You're probably aware of this yourself, but those faces will soon be attached to more than forum posts. It's a while off yet but Eve will be expanding into station enviroments with characters walking around their personal hangars, communual enviroments and their own Corporation quarters. I can't wait to see the 'actual' size of my ship in comparison to my character or hanging around in the bar chatting with other Mercs.

Tom Francis: Awesome. I'd heard ages ago that CCP had let slip they'd like to do this one day, but didn't know if that was anything more than idle musing. Will you be able to walk around your ship? That's always what I wanted to do: stand on the bridge and look out at the nebulae on those long trading runs.

Istvaan Shogaatsu: Well, this is a blast from the past. I owe you a beer for that article, Mr. Francis!

Tom Francis: No problem Istvaan, but I make it a rule not to take drinks from contract killers. Learnt that one the hard way.

Sam: It would appear that, for myself at least, the link to the full article redirects to the CVG home page; for anyone else who happens to want to read the article, it can be found here:

Tom Francis: Cheers for spotting. Fixed. Looks like CVG don't accept article specific URLs without the www now?

Emergent Gameplay: Gamers Gone Wild: [...] This is just one example of the economy-gone wild of this game. Here’s another. [...]

lighted business signs: Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this website needs a lot
more attention. I'll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the info!