All posts


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

Field Studies 2: I Will Save You From The Wangs

(But Not The Racism Apparently?)

As you browse other people’s Spore creatures, you get harder to impress at a frightening rate. What wowed me at first seems trivial now. At this stage I don’t even stop my scrollbar for anything less than amazing. The merely unique, beautiful, inventive and monstrous are now the chaff of this harvesting operation, and the wheat is something else entirely.

As with any creative endeavour, the most inventive and talented community is also the one that thinks creating a penis creature is funny even after the first five penis creatures. There’s one that’s having permanent anal sex with itself. Another is simply the word ‘FUCK’ with legs.

But amongst them, there’s some awesomeness, and I link it here:


Krang, attempting to do The Robot with hideous results.

Cerebrean Puppeteer

CRE_P38 Lightning-067f0d30_sml
Yep, definitely didn’t think of trying to make a P-38 Lightning.


CRE_Ima Little Teapot-067e4209_sml

The Proposesaur

Puts me in mind of the Tentacle from Day of the Tentacle. Someone should make that.



CRE_Kenun'thep Ghoul-067f3959_ful



I dubbed this the Walking Suicide, but in the comments below, Hoborg suggests this image has racist connotations. I checked, and the guy who made it didn’t intend to depict a lynching, he just had to make the guy brown for the tree to be brown. I’m torn. Half of me thinks, “Can’t a black guy hang himself in peace without it automatically being a racist killing?” And the other half does get that it’s a very particular image. I’m leaving it in for now, but if anyone else would rather not have seen it, say so.

Update: I forgot it because I was mostly concentrating on the Something Awful goons contributions, but this one I found on Sporepedia is one of my favourite tribute creatures so far. A Futurama reference? In a game? Oh sir, how deliciously absurd!

Previously: Sporepedia.
Next: My creations.


Grill: Oh. So I *am* going to have to buy this game then. Darn.

Chris Livingston: There's also a bit of personal deflation when you see some really great creatures people are doing, like the bullsquid and Houndeye. Like, suddenly that lizard thing I spent an hour on and was really happy with now barely seems worth stepping on with my boot.

Tom Francis: Yeah, same here. If Spore had been out, I would have been so excited to launch into it with my Horncrested Bristlefrog. By the time it is released, I'll have an indelible impression of just how inferior all my creatures are.

Hoborg: Erm... I'm not sure whether I've simply got the wrong end of the stick here, but I'm afraid what you've listed as a "Walking Suicide", I interpreted as a recently-lynched black man. Maybe that's unintentional and I've just been listening to too much Billie Holiday, but "Strange Fruit" seems a more appropriate title.

I'm in no way one of those pansified, easily-offended people who tend to complain about such things, but I think whichever way you look at it, intentional or not, that design is basically disgusting and not to be publicly applauded. I think you ought to reconsider its inclusion here.

Tom Francis: Huh, it didn't strike me that way. The creator didn't intend it that way either - he's said the guy is only brown because all possible colour schemes require him to be the same colour as the tree, which doesn't look like a tree if it's any other colour.

If anyone else was offended by this, let me know here and I will snip it.

SenatorPalpatine: It's significant that I didn't notice a black man being lynched, I noticed a guy hanging from a tree. The caption "suicide" might have thrown me off that line of thought. This reminds me of the South Park episode about the flag.

Anyway... yay Spore!

bill: I thought it was a black guy getting lynched too, but.. come on, silly to remove it.

Thomas Lawrence: Gotta say, my first thought was of a black guy being lynched also. I'm not offended as such, but the connotation is certainly unfortunate.

ztilleto: I really don't see any lynching, might be people have that on their mind. I saw it as you wrote it, hanged man, or suicide, whatever one might... The idea of him being brown didn't pop into me before people started talking about it here.

I really don't think you should remove it, I think it is by fare one of the best made spore creatures, mobid yeah, but still one of the best made, idea rich and well executed.

Calaros: I think that the apparent racism isn't as obvious as is being suggested. Like Mr. Palpatine up there, my first thought was just of a permanent suicide on legs! But maybe that's just me. Seems a bit superfluous to remove it now anyway.

Jason L: The tree part of the Walking Suicide is awesome enough to warrant its preservation, I think, but the body's not that interesting. The Cerebrean Puppeteer tickles me pink, though - it seems to me that the most likely route to a fully mobile second body like that is runaway sexual/fitness selection, which is always tragicomic. What fun could be had with a story about humans meeting those! 'I am back here, Human Chim. I am alyays behind my ngrrrlll, and I yitch you yould stop talk to it. Yen you do that it positchions me narratively as an eavesdropper on conversatchions you are actually having with me, in a very funny and paradoxical yay.'

Lack_26: I made myself a Hormagaunt (Tyranid from Warhammer 40k).

PNG file: http://www.vulomedia... ...agaunt.png

Bigger picture:
http://www.vulomedia... ...agaunt.png

Chris Livingston: Wow. The Sporepedia jumped from about 13,500 entries last night to almost 30,000 this morning.

The_B: I think the only thing really missing is some sort of friends system where you can ogle your friends creatures. It's nice to see everyone's now and again, but it's a bit of a pain in the backside to find creatures made by contacts unless you know their creature's names...

Tom Francis: Yeah, they got the registration back up. They shut it off once they realised the editor leaked early, but now that it's officially out they're letting people sign up again.