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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

Vote Tom Francis In The Games Media Awards

Holy shit, apparently I’m a finalist in the Games Media Award for Best Specialist Games Writer – Print. The winner’s decided solely by votes, and “Voting is open to all MCV readers”, so just by reading that sentence I quoted from MCV, you qualify. If you want to be extra-qualified, go and read for a sec, then vote (


You can also vote for PC Gamer for Best Games Magazine, and a bunch of PC Gamer contributors who apparently call themselves Rock Paper Shotgun these days, for Best Games Website. In fact, you could vote for the whole of Team Awesome, as we’re called when we fight crime together on the streets of Bath at night.


If you actually want to read something I wrote for PC Gamer, I reported on those virtual assassins, kept a war diary, failed monumentally at Football Manager, and investigated the effectiveness of awkward flirting in MMORPGs. The SWAT 4 movie script I wrote here was also used in the mag.

The other finalists in my category are Rick Porter, who has long hair and one of those not-quite-a-moustache moustaches, Joel Snape who must work right next to me but I can’t remember which one he is, Jon Blyth, who once killed a seventy-two year-old man right in front of me for no reason, Ben Talbot who I don’t know at all, and Alex Wiltshire, who is lovely but works anonymously for the Edge collective, so it’s impossible to actually know what he wrote. Except when you’re both reviewing the same game and he WILDLY OVER-RATES IT and you don’t.

Also, they all just e-mailed me to say they think you’re a jive sucker. They told me not to tell you they said that, but I thought you should know.

Octaeder: Congrats on the nomination - Just put my vote in.

Tom Francis: Awesome, thanks! If I win, everyone gets a free flying walrus.

John W: I'd congratulate you, if I weren't too busy being pompous about my own quarter of a piece of a nomination.

Ludo: Congrats Penta, much deserved. I remember the GalCiv2 diary being one of the first things of yours I read and thought 'this is awesome, I should really check who wrote it', which in turn got be back into Gamer. One subscription later and the peices are still great!

And that picture of David Hasselhof is still genuinely disturbing.

The_B: Congratulations on the nomination Tom. I too am about to send my nominations.

And Crime On The Streets of Bath also called. He said you guys are pussies.

ImperialCreed: Jive sucker!? That's it...

Consider yourself +1 vote Tom. Best of luck. Tbh, you deserve to win for the GalCiv diary alone.

Chris Livingston: Congrats, Tom! You've already won in my book.

However, if you don't *actually* win I'll never talk to you again. I only talk to winners.

Lack_26: Congratulations, you deserve to win.

Seniath: I'll be voting as soon as I can get at my email account (which should be tomorrow, assuming Virgin Media play fair and actually show up to sort my connection). Bloody work blocking Hotmail.

J-man: Tom Francis ftw!

J-man: Just voted, gave you, Rock Paper Shotgun and PC Gamer my vote. Also, where's John Walker in those awards? Huh? HUH?!

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Congratulations. The Gal Civ diary was one of the best things ever on the internet, and you are clearly one of the best reviewers in PCG. You are able to be both informative and funny. Thank you for the Oblivion review especially. It really is good to be able to read the typrings of someone such as yourself. Best of luck for the win.

Sam: That article about EVE made me order it!

audiman: Nice work, any word if PC Gamer's own Rachel Weber has been nominated for worst specialist games writer (print)? I'd vote for her.

Lack_26: I just read the Gal. Civ article, OMG, I can't believe that I haven't read that before. Here, take you prize and ascend to God-hood with your space bunnies.

Tom Francis: Thanks a lot, everyone. You are all lovely. Except Audiman, who is surprisingly harsh. But probably a decent, upstanding gentleman in his own harsh way.

There will be good news for anyone who liked the GalCiv diary next week.

ImperialCreed: Will it be the GC book Edwards blabbed about on the forum?

*crosses fingers*

HoW Monty: "Nice work, any word if PC Gamer's own Rachel Weber has been nominated for worst specialist games writer (print)? I'd vote for her."

Seconded. She has a horrible turn of phrase: "Flps like a mackeral in the electirc chair." Here that sound? that's my sides splitting.

HoW Monty: *Flops

Sam: I just read the GalCiv article and ordered that aswell!
Damn you and your amazing articles making me buy stuff.

Pod: The website is broke!
and I don't mean James. Speaking of James: What about dates on the articles?

In other news, I didn't know who you were at the time but I read the War Diary when it was first aided and rushed out* to buy GalCiv. Of course I'd already read things by you in PCG, etc etc blahblahblah.

*Ok, stayed home and bought it from Stardock, whatever.

Mr. Brit: You and PCGamer have my vote.

Also when you did weapons for all the TF2 classes you mentioned a new way of earning them that you have yet to elaborate on. Are you likely to do that because I'd like too hear it.

Tom Francis: You don't mean James? Which one is broke? I thought only James was broke. Slim Mode doesn't seem to be helping my CPU overload problems.

Brit: It was something along the lines of repeatable achievements, like pushing the cart 20m in a round, taking out a Sentry that's killed more than five of your team-mates, killing a Demoman who has Stickies on the cap. Special accomplishments that the player should be rewarded for every time he does them. You would need more of these than you do Achievements, because you could get the same one a few times, but it would mean you didn't have to Uber a Scout or burn X Snipers if that isn't how you like to play.

Pod: Pentadactyl*: It's ok! MCV is no longer broke and I voted and /everything/.

*Make a spoke creature theme'd on this. I demand it.

J-man: Man, that GalCiv diary was great! Perhaps I'll do one like that in Mass Effect...

Jason L: Pod, the Horncrested Bristlefrog is that creature. Per James 1.0, 'Pentadact' comes from frogs - Google says probably leptodactylus pentadactylus, whose fingers Linnaeus really, really fancies.

Tom Francis: "As the largest of the neotropical frogs, the muscular
L. pentadactylus preys on other frog species and is largely
left alone by predators due to a toxic skin secretion."

Story of my life.

I still haven't really made a Pentadact creature. Spore itself sort of got in the way of my tinkering towards something I liked as an avatar: in the full game, you only have access to a handful of parts you've found, and only the best of those are really viable.

I remember as a kid trying to reconcile my love of frogs with my love of cool-monsters-that-look-awesome on a sketchpad - and failing. Spore ought to be the perfect tool for that, but making stuff in the Creature Creator feels a bit irrelevant knowing you can't play as them at the Creature stage of the game.

Chris Evans: Well I shall indeed put my vote in for you Tom, and for Gamer and for the guys at RPS :D

Can't wait for the new GalCiv2 diary :D

Best of luck in the awards.

TooNu: Hey, I have read and reread last years blog and this years blog is also looking damn awesome also. I did place my vote BUT you get my vote purely based on your love for Deus Ex :)

Jason L: BTW, it looks like our RPS is all grown up - 'exclusive' reviews of World of Goo? 'Exclusive' interviews with ACE Team? It's exactly what I wanted, but no marketing guy is gnashing his teeth. Exclusive hands-on with L4D2 when every games journalist in the world is in the neighbourhood? That's pretty impressive.

Betty: Wow! Great to find a post konkicng my socks off!