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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

Plan B Is Live

The first entries of my new GalCiv2 diary are now online, and new ones will go up three times a week from now until the heat death of the universe. You can read the whole thing if you’re able and willing to get the UK edition of PC Gamer, which subscribers are receiving nowish and shops are getting in on Thursday.

Plan B

It comes as a pocket-sized book for convenient reading on trains, planes and buses, to leave lying around on tiny coffee tables, or, since it is nearly black, for giving the impression that you have 15,000 words’ worth of ex-girlfriends’ contact details on file. In fact, because the cover bears the title “PLAN B”, particularly credulous observers may conclude that this is your second of two such books, containing only your deprioritised relapse hookup candidates.

In fact it is a story about me trying to bring a vast galaxy to peace, despite my slightly hot-headed approach to interstellar diplomacy and a chronic lack of patience. The species I created for this are distantly related to the angry warmongers I played as for the last one, since they are both essentially me and I haven’t mellowed particularly in the last year.


CVG, the site I wrote this diary on, is gone forever. PC Gamer have all the text and images, and are gonna put them back up at some point, don’t know when though.

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Thank you for writing this. You have a style which is wonderful to read.

The question I have to ask is who made the decision to turn regular updates on a blog into one chunk, to be first released in book form? The reason I object is your humour seem to be limited by this. Previously you referenced pictures throughout, but the small nature of the black and white pictures this time made this impossible, and sadly limiting. I was also disappointed, for one entry (day 11), ends mid sentence, beginning the next page on the next entry.

The reason I complain about this is that it reduced the impact of the quest for peace. Because all of the entries were available at once, I could not help myself but to read them all at once. This restricted the effect. Releasing 31 separate entries all together made the tale of Klasnikorlax less immersive, and the story seemed smaller scale that previously, purely because I read it as one.

Sorry to leave such a long comment, and I don't mean to moan about such a magnificent free gift, but surely releasing these entries on the site first would boost visitors and raise the profile of the magazine. I still love the free book, (I printed out the original to keep safe because it was so great), but I don't understand why it was decided to give the Plan B book out first, and release it on the blog later.

I don't know how much choice you had in this decision, but it ended up with your name on the front. I don't mean to sound ungracious either, because it is a wonderful free gift. My main point remains, Thank You.

Dan: I loved the original diary so I'm quite looking forward to this. The thing is...I tried out Gal Civ 2 and found your diary was more entertaining than the game itself. I find that with a lot of gaming stories etc. My imagination thinks the game up as being better in my head than it actually is.

Chris Evans: What ever happened to the rest of Day 11 I was a shocking moment when I realised that it ended abruptly mid-sethntance...

But apart from that this was a magnificent read, it beats the original one you did, but only by a little! Both are amazing pieces of work, and I hope to see more like this in Gamer soon. =]

Tom Francis: Apologies. The last sentence of Day 11 is nothing major, just:

"It was so evil, it might just work."

To be honest, I might have cut that entirely if it had been me editing it. But my last sentence of Day 8 is missing, and that was:

"On the other hand, fuck you in your stupid beardy face you crinkle-browed alien twat."

Again, sorry about those, I didn't have a chance to see it after it had been edited.

Chris: Thanks a lot, I didn't expect anyone to say that.

Iain: If we'd put it all on the website first, it wouldn't have been a desirable enough free gift: most people don't value something that's already available for free online. We considered serialising it in the mag, but it would have taken up one page every issue for three years.

I'm impressed and rather flattered that you read it in one go. Being too compulsive is a nice problem for a book to have.

Chris Evans: =]

I think it has been done in the right way, this way people can appreciate it more by having a hard copy of it, always good. Also it should drive up sales of the mag as people will have read the first couple of blog entries on the website and will want to read the rest of it as soon as they can.

I too would have read it all in one go but for work =[

Do you have any more GalCiv Space Bunny plans?

Fat Zombie: I read this in one go, after receiving my ish of PCGamer on Friday. It made me laugh quite a bit. Very good job!

My only complaint is that you're making GalCiv sound awesome. I've not tried it, but I'm sure that after fifteen minutes of play, I would have lost about 16 games of it, snarled, thrown the disc out the window and loaded up a shooter instead. I just can't GET strategy, and it's made worse by your making it sound awesome. Bah!

Tom Francis: Heh. For what it's worth, GalCiv 2 is the kind of game I never would have tried if I hadn't been asked to review it. It's uncanny how when you really sit down and give them a shot, games that aren't your sort of thing become games that are.

Except Football Manager.

LaZodiac: I would of read it in one go, and then read it again, had I been able to get a copy.

Hopefully every time an entry goes up online, you will alert us.

Also, this is the only time I will ever feel sad not to be british. My being Canadian, in Canada, stops me from getting any of your wonderfull magazine and Plan B.

Chris Evans: Football Manager is one of the best games out there for creating your own little story within the game. I believe it was your failure to understand the offside rule that prevented you from enjoying the game.


Zeno Cosini: Love the opening entries, and I'm really looking forward to reading the whole thing when I can get my hands on a copy of the mag. I started playing Galciv entirely as a result of your last diary, as you know, and I feel the same way as Dan: I do like Galciv 2, but I prefer reading your account to actually playing it.

dartt: I've not finished it yet but It's really great fun. Way up there with the original series :)

The only problem I have with the book is the poorly printed images. Pictures of graphs lack the contrast to make out the lines and labels. I don't think that will stop anyone understanding what is going on as the text is descriptive and, more importantly, entertaining. Though theres nothing like a good graph...

More of this please.

Sam: Futurama references FTW.

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Thanks for answering, that is a reason that makes good sense, and I did enjoy having a book to hold, with real pages to turn. I also did love the cultural references, such as Hitchhikers Guide.

Mr. Brit: I also read it in one go, and, as the general consensus agrees, it was pretty damn good. Only thing I noticed, besides the scentance ending mid-flow, was a mistake on page 27. Right hand column, second paragraph reads "Since the pretty much the only wars going on...". I was suprised it hadn't been mentioned. Is it just my copy? Otherwise, great job, hilarious as usual and can't wait for Spore to trounce those Kirby's ;)

Mr. Brit: (Spore comment may not make sense without a copy of PCgamer to hand)

Sam: Did Tom write that spore review? Because it was amazing, "I met a tyranid, I called him terry" :D

Sam: Oh and "I met a pear, I called him peary. It turns out that was his name"

Mr. Brit: What the fuck does GCU stand for you fucks?

Mr. Brit: What the fuck does GCU stand for you fucks?

Jason L: You're good at making friends. Maybe Google will be your friend.

You're good at making friends. Maybe Google will be your friend.

What fictional genre is GalCiv II's setting?

Mr. Brit: Lol, once you've read day 25 you'll know. Sorry to offend and double post.

Mr. Brit: Sci-fi?


Sorry, am I making it too obvious I'm still suffering from TF2 withdrawl?

Liam C.: I'm think i will get this thursdays PC gamer just for this. My pc itsn't to good to play all the games within' the mag but lets just hope they mention a game i can play (diablo 2....unreal tournament...guild wars?) so that's readable to me aswell XD

Tom Francis: Mr Brit: Okay, that mistake was mine - I had a feeling it might be when I had to read your quote three times before I could see what was wrong with it.

Sam: Yes! Thanks! It is my secret hope that someone out there will know what "Peary! Noooooo!" is a callback to.

Liam: Yay. If you can run Guild Wars okay, I'd be surprised if you couldn't run Spore.

Devenger: Read the whole thing, then read the whole thing again right afterwards. The writing was enticing - you utter failure to complete primary objectives hilarious - but the second reading was more out of interest as to how GalCiv works - I've never played anything from the series before.

So, thanks for the nice short reading, but thanks even more for the exposure to what I'm going to call the 'whoa, strategy sounds fun for once' effect. Hell, I might even buy the game if I can't find someone to borrow it off first (I'm one of those wary gamers who doesn't buy something unless they've completed it, or I trust the developers with my life).

Keep up the good game-narrating!

Liam C.: spore? i'll look into seeing if my pc can run that, looked pretty sweet but i just didn't think it would. I'll be buying a new graphics card soon anyway so i'll start buying pc gamer reqularly after that. Looking forward to reading the book.

Jason L: Well, you sold one more copy of the mag. I'd been wanting to check out PCGUK for a while, and this tipped the balance. A copy is even now setting out for the New World in my name.

Sam: Just finished my first EVER game of GalCiv2, technology victory =D
I gave all my stuff to the Snathi just before I won in tribute certain other bunny races.

Drug Crazed Dropkick: Tom, any chance of an unedited version? Just because I like to fill my hard drive with loads of your ramblings :D

Nice read, and I loved the fact that you kept to your initial plan, and didn't stray from it at all. The last move you played was a great move though, I have to say.

Liam C.: Wow my pc can run this game. I may attempt to buy it.

Pod: I'm buying PCG on thursday for the Spore Ree-view. Did you write it? Did Flubblewick get into the snapshots? I hope the mutli-headed fish beast did. I'd be famous then, me.

Jason L: Actually I now find that that earlier comment was a lie. Well, not a lie I guess - you still sold an extra copy and that copy's still coming here - but I just blew twenty bucks on the previous issue which doesn't contain the stuff I want. Thanks,! You're competent and timely! It's been so long I'd forgotten that gaming magazines go two months ahead...dammit.

Tom Francis: Oh no! If you mail me your address, I can post you out a copy of the right issue - I have a couple put aside.

Pod: yep, it's me. I believe I mention the fish headed monster, but he is not pictured.

Jason L: We'll see - despite my backhanded acid tongue above, it was half my screwup and I've emailed MFM asking whether they've shipped it/can change my order. It's possible things could still turn out lovely, and if it doesn't I'll probably just save up and get the new issue or live without. I believe in paying for my own mistakes.

Congrats on landing the Spore review!

Schtee: Yay! Grabbed GalCivII from HMV the other day for a fiver, read the blog diary and was thus forced to buy the expansions online. Read that you were following it up with this book and was forced to buy Gamer for the first time in a while.

Really wasn't a turn-based fan until now. Never 'got' Civ but reading someone putting a lot more soul into a game compelled me to spend monies. Good work, Mr. F.

Schtee: ...also, p.47, inset quote text reads "Get your filthy money face off my screen". I found it funny.

Ludo: Plan B is fantastic, Tom! Good to see PCG taking advantage of your ability to write THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of words on one topic and still have it be massively entertaining all the way through.

Also to all of you who have the book, don't miss the little disclaimer on page 4.

CloakRaider: I've tried to enjoy Gal Civ 2 so many times, trying to replicate the almost breathtaking events that you seem to come across, but alas every time I have failed.

And now I'm going to install it again.
Bloody good read, bloody good read...

Zig13: Does you lovely book have a lovely ISBN number? I want it to so I can put it on aNobii

MadJax: The book was made of pure star-fucking awesome man! Keep up the good work! :D