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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

    Review: Soulstorm (Fire Indeed Hot)

    The Sisters of Battle – nuns with guns, often on the run – are a much better faction. Apart from anything, they’re more compellingly evil. The Dark Eldar are all big hats and camp moustache-twirling. The Sisters of Battle earnestly believe in burning anyone who doesn’t believe in their god. That just hits a little closer to home.

    Dawn of War - Soulstorm

    Soulstorm’s developers, Iron Lore, have shut down since they made this game. Which seems ridiculous, given the spectacular number of copies it’s going to sell.

    It’s also sad, because while this wasn’t as brave or interesting as Dark Crusade, Iron Lore were talented guys who had a rare gift: they could see what made another game great, and mimic it.

    Even if that wasn’t their intention, they were one of the only developers who gave the impression that they truly knew the nuts and bolts of what made games fun. I had plenty of complaints about Soulstorm, but for weeks I couldn’t stop playing it.

    Now I’ve moved on to their previous game, Titan Quest, and it’s far better than I’d been led to believe. It’s convinced me that we really have lost a great team in Iron Lore, and if you’re interested in an insider’s perspective on why, and how, a THQ guy has posted his thoughts over at Quarter to Three.

    Seniath: Picked this up last Friday, yet to actually try the two new races, I enjoy the Necrons far too much, especially when you get a nice big Honour Guard on the go (though that can make the more straight forward maps a bit of a cake walk). All in all, I agree, it shares much of Dark Crusade's failings, but does little to improve on its good points.

    Tom Francis: If I hadn't been reviewing it, I might have done the same. Necrons CRUSH. I played a fair bit with the Sisters, then switched to the Dark Eldar and completed it as them, then switched to Chaos so I could do the Dark Eldar Stronghold mission as quickly as possible.

    I'm actually trying to play it through as the Tau now, who I like almost as much as the Necrons, and who are better at rushing easy missions in a few minutes. Got stuck on the Orks this time, though - wanted to take them out early because they had lots of ways to invade my territory, but that mission can be a bitch. When my Greater Gnarloc got forever behind the building it came from, permanently using up 5 vehicle cap, and I discovered the Orks already had 4 Squiggoths, I kind of gave up. If I do it again, it'll be a stealth rush on their HQ.

    Seniath: The Dark Eldar took out Chaos during my Necron campaign, so I'm going to go back and play as them to do the two final levels.

    I had some real fun on the Sisters of Battle one; teleported my 'lith to the back of their base, along with 3 squads of Immortals and my Necron Lord and somehow managed to take out their Monastery thing. Which was odd, since a) I hadn't destroyed any of their statues and b) their Saint thing was still flapping about. Not quite sure what happened there o_0.

    Tom Francis: The Monolith cares not for this 'invulnerability'. It has cannon of plus ten BOOM.

    Jason L: Yeah, whoever led you to look down on Titan Quest misled you. It is nothing more or less than an alternate Diablo III, and that's a very good thing. It might be a bit imbalanced - my brother spent a playthrough leveling virtually nothing but Earth's Grenade spell to great effect - but then, he also spent that whole playthrough cackling nonstop, which I think is the point of a Diablolike. Any game wherein the most feared foes include giant snapping turtles is doing something right too.

    Seniath: Not to mention the giant Lime flavoured Ring Pop of Doom.

    Maybe that's what really threatened the Necrontyr race with extinction; mass tooth decay and diabetes.

    Tom Francis: I spam Bolt Traps in Titan Quest, then lead the enemies on a silent-comedy style chase around the killing field until they die of exhaustion and arrows. It's absurd, but too effective to resist.

    Lukasa: Hate to talk strategy, but...

    a) Penta, you do realise that if you select a unit and hit 'delete' it dies, right?

    b) The saint only protects buildings nearby it. If it's off defending something else, you can kill whatever you want. I took advantage of that with Guard, as they get hammered if you split your forces too much. So I sent a couple squads to distract the Angel, then banebladed the Monastery. End of.

    Seniath: Except she was hovering nearer the Monestary when I killed it. Not to mention the fact that my Monolith barely took any damage. *shrug*, it's done.

    Wasn't aware of that Del thing; useful to know, cheers :)

    Tom Francis: WHAT. Man, I searched high and low for a command like this. I bet it works on buildings, too.

    Tom Francis: It does!

    Lukasa: Hmm, maybe Iron Lore decided that Monolith > Complete Invulnerability. I have to say, it would certainly be in keeping with the style of the games. =)

    And no problems with the 'delete' tip: I only know it because I played the things to death, and was sick of Leman Russ tanks worth 5 unit cap getting stuck behind a poorly placed building.

    Seniath: Having played a few more of the Stronghold levels, the tactic of building a Monolith behind a big wall and then teleporting it into the main enemy base (followed by an entire army of Warriors/Immortals) seems to result in an overly simplistic victory. Usually quite possibly to ignore all ancillary objectives and just take out that one key structure.

    Tom Francis: I see the endless scope for cheap-ass tactics in Dawn of War as the essence of the game: it's almost like a puzzle game. Unlike other RTSs, where each killer tactic has some counter, Dawn of War is just about figuring out which tactics have absolutely no counter and guarantee you a win.

    I'm going through with Tau at the moment, and with my invisible jetpack commander and his entourage of Stealth Suits, I don't actually have to build anything on most maps.

    Only Chaos have withstood this technique so far, because their basic Cultists can see infiltrated units. Their stronghold mission is about destroying shrines to dispel a pink cloud over their base which kills you if you go in it.

    Instead I spammed Skyrays and parked them outside the miasma, jetpacked a suicide Stealth Suit into the thick of it to reveal the location of their HQ, then bombarded it from outside until it broke.