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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

Valve Decided Against The Overhealer

Damn, I was in the middle of composing an eloquent post that phrased with restraint and reason why I found it hard to imagine this having a positive net effect on the game. Now it’s not going to look like I’m prescient.

Tom Francis: By the way, I've just tweaked James' master code to make the titles of Link posts links to the links. Because I kept clicking on them, dumbly expecting a behaviour I hadn't coded.

EViL HULiO: Wow, this is news out of no where. The overhealer sounded cool, if a little over powered. Guess we are going to have to wait even longer for the update now..

ChrisL: Well, I'd still like to hear your reason and eloquence.

The_B: Is it too early to make a 'Tom Fortress 2' quip yet?

roburky: But how do you get to the specific page for a blog entry if you can't click on the title?

Tom Francis: Er, I may have oversold it a little. Most people focus on the idea that everyone would have been running around with double-health, and that's my fault: Valve stressed that they hadn't settled for sure on those figures, and I reported them anyway. There didn't seem another way of communicating the severity of the changes they were talking about.

My thing about the Medic is, he's not fun enough for people to play him as often as they play the Engy, but he's so powerful that he's every bit as essential to success. So often success is just a case of which side has more people prepared to sacrifice their real class preference to go Medic and help the team.

The Overhealer seemed like it would make him even more essential to the team, and even less fun to play: you lose the one moment of true joy the Medic has right now - Ubercharge - and add a whole lot more holding down fire on friends so they can go out and have more fun than you.

Overall, I'd like to see the Medic become more fun and slightly less essential. In terms of unlocks, I'd like to see some that cater to what roBurky plays - what the Control Point guys call a Shadow Medic (after the more aggressive build of Priest in World of Warcraft). Medics who take breaks from healing to bonesaw the surviving enemies, hunt Spies, pick Scouts out of the air.

I have a couple of ideas for this, actually - there's a big old Unlocks post in my drafts folder I've been adding to for ages, I should probably make it live.

roBurky: I'm assuming people won't usually want to link to me linking other people, but the Comments link still takes you there, after a fashion.

WeakLemonDrink: Haing you seen in the latest update that they're fixeda bug that means Soldiers and Demomen were getting higher rates of critical hits? This seems to have been skimmed over a little bit, but I think it's time to shout from the rooftops that us moaning minnies complaining about the Soldier having a near God-like power actually had a point.

Tom Francis: Yeah, that happened while I was away, and I thought the forums would be full of fireworks and bunting. I've played Soldier since, though, and it seemed the same to me: I still got an absurd number of crits.

The formula for how crits are intended to work is biased towards the most damaging classes, rather than the most useful or highest scoring, and the stats show exactly what you'd think: Soldiers do the most damage by some margin.

ChrisL: I was trying to think up some unlocks for medics (and other classes as well). It's hard to come up with things that wouldn't fundamentally alter the game balance. Like a Leech Gun, or something, would be fun -- sort of the opposite of the medigun, it slowly drains the health of an enemy to fill your uber -- but it almost turns the medic into a pyro in a lot of ways.

Tom Francis: Nothing wrong with things that alter the game balance, so long as they don't... make it rubbish. I'd been thinking about a negative-healer too - it feels like it'd be fun - but not as a replacement Medigun. I'd replace the Syringe Gun with it, so it's only ever a backup weapon. I hadn't thought about letting it charge Uber; might be quite a nice risk/reward thing, given that the more Uber you have the less you want to risk your life. But I wouldn't want to incentivise an alternative to healing people who need it, and it might do that.

One interesting debuff for a Medic unlock would be to prevent it from gaining ubercharge by healing people above their normal maximum, so that it would only get you anywhere when you healed people who really needed it.

Jason L: Didn't TF Original have a slow-moving, arcy Syringe Gun which killed slowly but inevitably after one hit? Seems somewhat similar to a Leech Gun, although making Uber work with it might be difficult. Actually, I bet it has at least a conceptual similarity to Action Quake Knife...?