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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

Lost, Season Four, Spoilers, Obviously


The interminable filler episodes between each premiere and finalé were doing a pretty good job of killing my enthusiasm for Lost. And towards the end of season three, the silliness was just getting silly. There’s a character called Taller Ghost Walt. Jack’s dead dad got better. Ben isn’t really in charge, he takes orders from an invisible man who can cure cancer and lives in a teleporting shack but hates technology.

But then I enjoyed the very end of that season, in an I-don’t-really-care way. And now I’m enjoying the start of the new season, in an oh-wait-actually-I-do way.


Starting on a Hurley episode was a quick way to my heart. I could have done with less teleporting shack action, particularly since it now apparently has Jack’s simultaneously dead, undead and never-died dad in it, but even that is sort of entertaining from Hurley’s perspective.

Glad that the factions finally split, glad that Jack’s was so unpopular, and glad that, after he made his choice, it became woefully clear that The Other Others weren’t here to rescue them. Daniel, the nervous physicist with a gun, does such a dismal job of reassuring them that his every scene is comedy.

The Other Others, unlike most of The Others and The Tailenders, are mostly welcome additions to the cast – Daniel’s loveably neurotic, the pilot’s likeable, Miles The Angry Semi-Evil Techno-Exorcist is likeably dislikeable, and the woman will hopefully die soon.

I couldn’t tell you why the wilfull absurdity of Miles’ profession doesn’t grate with me the way the invisible cancer-curing teleporting luddite did. I think because it’s brief, and no big deal is made of it. That understatement also does wonders for the scene with Daniel’s bizarre experiment – it doesn’t overplay what happened there, but it’s fascinating if you got it.

Hello, dude from The Wire! Explain chess to us in Baltimore gang terms.

But the main thing I love about Lost at the moment is the darkness implied by what we’ve seen of the future. I’m really pleased they stuck with the great idea of switching to flash-forwards instead of flash-backs, leaving the island in the past and making it feel like the plot’s finally progressed. And I’m even more pleased about what they’ve shown.

Kate hates someone so much she can’t even be civil about his funeral (my bet is Michael, by the way). Jack hates his life so much he spends it trying to get back to the island. Hurley’s so haunted that he jumps at the chance to spend the rest of his life in an institution. And Sayid – Sayid is a hitman for Ben?

That’s the worst – and hence best – of it. They’ve escaped the island and they still haven’t escaped Ben. The weasely mass-murderer who seems to spend most of his life at their mercy, yet always end up back in charge. Hopefully the reasons for this won’t be as feebly contrived as Abram’s scoffable methods for keeping Ron Rifkin’s character ahead in Alias.


Graham points out that Lostpedia (from which these stills are stolen) is overflowing with absurd theories. My favourites are that a change in photo frames during the Miles flashback indicates an entirely new timeline, that the island is keeping Jack’s father alive so he can pay Sawyer back for a drink, and the entire Theories section on the nature and causes of Jack’s beard in the final episode of last season:

Jack’s beard

  • Jack grows a beard because he’s become an alcoholic addicted to pain killers who doesn’t take care of himself because he is depressed.
  • Jack’s stubble appears Grey on the island, but his beard is not in the flash forward.
    • He could have just dyed his beard.
      • Jack has become “an alcoholic addicted to pain killers who doesn’t take care of himself because he is depressed” but cares enough about his appearance to dye his beard to not look old.

Seeing the Lost game recently, which Damon Lindelof describes as “RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!”, had made me forget that anyone involved with Lost was ever talented. I’m glad the fourth season started to remind me.

Tentaculat: Agreed, the show has become compelling again. Though I have to wonder if even half of the loose ends will ever be tied up. There's a huge Lost billboard advertisment near my house; "ANSWERS ARE COMING" it tells me. Uh-huh.

"What is the Monster?", asks Locke, ready to shoot Ben in the head.

"I don't know", replies Ben. Oh well.

WeakLemonDrink: This season has been quite the success so far. On the fence viewers seem to be coming back over and long standing, hard core apologists actually have some convincing ammo to fire at the nay sayers! No matter what people think of the last three seasons, it seems season 4is going to turn out to be exactly what all parties need.

Tom Francis: Hopefully. Your name sounds familiar, by the way, and not just from the hobby lion, king of the hobby jungle. Have I played you in TF2 or something?

WeakLemonDrink: Indeed. I believe I was in the same server as you on the night of the Badlands release, testing out my fancy new 'sizzle' feature.

Tom Francis: Hey, I know you from somewhere else too: you're in the Team Roomba griefing video, part 2! You're one of the guys they trap in the supply room!

My enjoyment of those is always tainted by wondering how much of it is staged - the victims who theatrically narrate their thought processes before they blunder into a trap are pretty obvious, but I wonder if some of the others are genuine.

WeakLemonDrink: > Hey, I know you from somewhere else too: you're in the Team Roomba griefing video, part 2! You're one of the guys they trap in the supply room!

Haha, yes! I thought that was a nice little grief, actually. I admired the ingenuity. I was more perturbed by the moron shouting abuse at him over team speak ("Fucking Americans, all the same" etc.) but as you said he might've been part of the whole set up as he did seem to be putting on a comedy Scally voice.

RE Lost: Just finished watching 4.5 'The Constant' and I'm fucking PUMPED. That was such a stonkingly excellent episode. It typically raised a shit load of questions, but it's really given some context to the whole situation. This episode has set out exactly what the thrust of the main mystery surrounding the Island is and I love where they're going with it.

Tom Francis: Ditto. It even had me a little moist around the eyes by the end.

Er, Lost. Not the comedy Scally voice.

Finally, On Lost, by Tom Francis: [...] there was a time when Lost was so exciting I’d blog about it here. When a series loses its way, as pretty much all of them have to in the merciless American format [...]