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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

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.