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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

I Propose A Less Serious Vote


When, inevitably, I become a super-villain (I find myself buying a lot of black clothing with high collars lately), this is how it’ll end. When my swarm of Gogglesharks march on Beijing, when my jetpack drops me gently in the thick of the clash of Tian’anman Square, bullets pinging off my power-armour, the sky black with my aerial drones, my image burned in phosphor over that of Chairman Mao, China’s Segway-surfing police force shredded like crispy duck.

Someone – probably called John or Jack – will urgently command their technically minded sidekick to Google me, + “fatal weaknesses”, snapping that “There’s got to be something!” The sidekick, who will have spiky hair, a differently coloured shortsleeve outside his longsleeve and a name like ‘Skeeter’, will find this post.
“I think I’ve got it! Routing it through the local police band… now!” And he’ll hit this play button:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Gogglesharks will stop, mid-chomp, and point their eyeball arms quizzically to me. It will rain deactivated silver drones. Everything will stop dead for three minutes and twenty-seven seconds, forty hectares of carnage shakily frozen like the closing credits of a macabre sixties sitcom, the only sound the opening track from the latest Mates of State album Re-Arrange Us, the groans of the dying and the slightly squeaky wheel of a broken Segway whirring away. When it finishes, I will hang my head slightly and mutter “Okay, I’ll be good.”

So begins music week on James! I’ve got a ridiculous amount of new stuff I’m listening to at the moment, so I’m picking a track from each a day and posting it here until I get bored or you get bored or I forget or the week ends.

And just so you know, Jack and Skeeter, I foresaw this.


Seniath: I thought weeks normally started on Monday (or Sunday if you're one of those weird types).

Seniath: Also, how on earth have I not seen the Armoured Segway Division before?

Ludo: Listening to that track and staring that image has just provided me with the most surreal experience of the month so far.

The line "everything's gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better" rings so true when confronted with a hypothetical war between an army of goons riding seqways and a land-loving shoal of rampant gogglesharks.

Alex Holland: The Segway Mounted Police (which I assumed were a photoshop until you provided that link) remind me of T-Rex from Dinosaur Comics - knock-knees and tiny little arms.

It's vital that someone quickly releases an RTS with Segway Mounted units. That, or we've just solved the question of the Heavy's unlockable weapon.

Iain "DDude" Dawson: Great idea. Nice song. This will make my week.

Freakinswiit: This IS the only result that shows up when you Google "Tom Francis" + "fatal weaknesses".

Tom Francis: Heh, I can't believe you looked that up.

By the way, I just realised the Download link wasn't working - fixed now.

Ludo: I've just discovered that this song has an amazing video. ...doYK9jOltQ

Tom Francis: Ha. That makes every bit as much sense as Gogglesharks munching on police Segways.