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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

    Field Studies 3: My Pretties

    With a game as flexible as Spore, experimental gamers like me have a really hard time getting past the stage of “Ooh, can I do this? What do you do about it if I do that? Won’t it break if I try this?”

    Spore endures this process with increasing weariness: “Yes, you can do that. If you do that it will look weird. Yes, you can break me. Yes, if you really try, you can make a creature that clips through itself and can barely walk. Are you happy now?”

    Then the question becomes, “What’s the most unusual thing I can make without breaking it?” Leafing through other people’s creations is a good cure for that: some of them are so inventive and ingenious that you start to realise you’re probably never going to be recognised as the Da Vinci of Spore, the game’s defining renaissance God whose creatures display a perfect fusion of art and science.

    So my creatures start out defiantly unconventional but rather lacking in personality, and gradually the emphasis shifts from freakish limb structures to more expressive faces, configurations that animate interestingly, and pretty colours.

    Palm Face
    Palm Face

    CRE_Palm Face-067a3673_ful

    Who says limbs have to be on the body and facial features on the face? After making the Palm Face, an ambulatory tree that grows features instead of leaves, I do. To strangers in the street I say it, shaking their shoulders and frothing.

    To try any of these in-game, right-click the small image and save it to your My Documents\My Spore Creations\Creatures folder.



    Let’s try a really thin body! No, boring, let’s try a really fat one! No, boring. Okay, how about fat, then thin, then fat, then thin. Then each fat lump could have a single, giant feature dangling from it. And the whole thing could bend dangerously forwards, and be supported by a million increasingly huge legs.

    Horncrested Bristlefrog (1)
    Horncrested Bristlefrog


    What happens if you make a creature with a spiral spine? And distribute its face across disparate lengths of the curl? Then add a load of spikes? This guy didn’t really come together until I made his front paws hand-like, which gives him a puppyish scampering gait. It’s quite hard to give non upright creatures arms that look like they’re part of them, and that didn’t really work until I made his biceps as thick as his back leg thigh, so that the three limbs look like trunks from the same stem. The ‘stripe’ pattern option in Spore’s paint mode really did me proud, too.



    This time I wanted to make something jungle tribes might have legends about, and which sort of stalked about the place like a walking bat. It didn’t really look imposing enough until I discovered you can have really fucking huge spikes, and once Eyestalker was done that inspired a flurry of aborted creatures who had nothing going on conceptually except a lot of really fucking huge spikes. None, predictably, were worth saving.

    Malevolent Stomptrunk
    Malevolent Stomptrunk

    CRE_Malevolent Stomptrunk-0680d744_ful

    This started when I tried just inflating a thigh until it resembled an epic banana, then wondered if it was possible to make a creature that would suit. I also wanted something that never smiled, frowned or laughed; that would only survey all before it with a nameless besnouted malice. This pose doesn’t really show that off.

    Once I’d finished, I was suddenly struck by the fear that I might have subconsciously copied a creature I’d seen somewhere before to a shameless extent. Does anyone recognise it? I’m thinking something from Star Wars or Futurama, but it’s not coming.

    Goggleshark (1)


    The eyes-as-hands notion didn’t really work with the Eyestalker, but I thought I’d see if it worked better as the whole focus of a creature. Finding the slider that created that enormous drooping rictus of dismay immediately made the face work, but I actually abandoned the whole thing when I couldn’t come up with an inventive leg system. I only just came back to it, now more or less relieved of my fixation with making pointless overcomplications of conventional limb structures, and tried just giving him comically puny legs at the base of his lean abdomen. The resulting gait is hilarious and fits his excitable face exactly.

    Like Malfunctioning Eddie, Gogglesharks are easily astonished.


    Previously: Sporepedia, Best creations.


    The_B: Were all these created in the trial version, or did you splash out for the whole caboodle?

    I'm very tempted, even if I will only be able to play on it for three days before being unable to for nearly three months.

    Tom Francis: Trial, we're still waiting on a copy of the full thing from EA.

    Chris Livingston: These are great, Tom! I love Stomptrunk and I will download him and make him walk around for me. I made one with a similar nose (well, neck, technically), but he doesn't look like he wants to party as much as your does. I love the coloring on yours, too.

    This is so much friggin' fun, even if a) what it ends up like is nothing how it looks in my head before I start, and b) four out of every five critters I start get deleted before I even finish because they're just too dang ugly to live.

    Jason L: Hah, the Stomptrunk's great. What a wonderful color scheme! I don't know about 'shameless extent'; are you sure it's not just a false positive from Zoidberg? It has his eyes.

    Jason L: And, obviously, it looks very very much like a Pyro.

    Sindre: I looked through your "Spore-folio" and I see potential! Pan's Nightmare was a favourite, beaten only by the hummingbird

    I find the online services lacking though. The server is incredibly slow, and things seem to be double-posted so to speak.

    And there is no numeric rating, nor can you subscribe to other users. The idea of a public "gene pool" is amazing, but the interface belongs to a pre-school mathematics game, which is a shame.

    Pod: The full CC comes with a proper shark's mouth and an anteaters nose. You might want to try them out and see what they look like!

    Field Studies 1: Sporegasm, by Pentadact, who is secretly Tom Francis: [...] Best creations, My creations. Link   Comment     Calaros: Thank you. Thank you so very, very much. I [...]