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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

Soviet Power

As is traditional for this point in the Class Update timeline, Chris and I have both got our taunt kills, and again he beat me to the blog brag. For the unfamiliar, the Heavy class has always been able to point his fingers like a gun and say “Pow! Haha!” But until the recent updates to the class, that wouldn’t kill a man stone dead if he stood in the way of it. Now it does, and there’s an achievement for it.

This is how it went down:

hl2 2008-08-24 22-28-06-84 pow total miss
There was a lot of missing completely.

hl2 2008-08-24 22-53-58-41 uber pow fail#
One or two completely wasted ubercharges.

hl2 2008-08-24 22-43-19-62 pow too high
One instance of “I’ve Landed On Your Medic’s Head And This Taunt Doesn’t Fire Down.”

hl2 2008-08-24 22-36-02-99 pow too far
A great many foiled by knockback.

hl2 2008-08-24 22-57-32-98 pow fail
One that goddamn should have worked, he walked right through my finger during this.

hl2 2008-08-24 22-59-21-60 pow success
And then, on my very next life, the very same guy, emboldened by his apparent immunity to the taunt in our last encounter, impaled himself on my middle- and fore-finger and flew back in a spray of SO MUCH BLOOD.

hl2 2008-08-24 22-59-22-51 pow aftermath
This is what happened while I blew the imaginary smoke from my imaginary gun barrel.

scared boxer
And these were the spoils. All Heavies become pathologically silly when they unlock these, serious tactics are out the window.

hl2 2008-08-24 23-23-52-49 victory punch

Soon after I jumped back to Badwater Basin and won by a) riding on top of the cart doing the KGB taunt, b) standing in front of the cart doing the KGB taunt, and c) standing actually in the blast hole doing the KGB taunt, and miraculously surviving.

Getting this was a lot more fun than my more gruelling quest for the Hadouken Kill. I was about to call it a night on Sunday, but when browsing achievement progress I noticed I was one Sandvich away from Konspicuous Konsumption, one WE MUST STOP LITTLE CART! away from Stalin The Cart, and only three achievements away from unlocking the Killing Gloves of Boxing, which I had actually started to lust after since giving up my shotgun for the Sandvich.

I joined a Badwater Basin server and munched a Sandvich, stopped the TINY LEETLE MEN from Pushkin the cart the requisite one time, then noticed that everyone else on the server was in the same clan, and they probably wouldn’t appreciate me wasting the slot I was taking up by repeatedly trying to Pow! everyone I met.

So I ended up in purgatory: instant respawn 2fort 24/7. roBurky joined me there, but I soon got autobalanced to the other team. Usually I refuse to fight my friends and Spectate until there’s a slot on their team, but since I wasn’t playing properly anyway I didn’t object.

It was hilarious. Before long most people on the enemy team knew me, and knew that I wouldn’t attempt to shoot them or in any way be effective when attacked. So a lot of them would draw their own melee weapons and take great pleasure in beating me to death as I was frozen to the spot, pointing my fingers impotently at where they used to be. roBurky took this one step further: he was playing Pyro, so would circle me after I started taunting, switch to shotgun and perform his own killing taunt, which takes rather less time to get to the lethal bit.

Not only did he succeed, but this was his fourth Pentadact-killing in a row, so it earned him a Domination. He tried it again the next time we ran into each other, so this time I sidestepped and killed him back with a critical uppercut.

Once I’d earned the gloves, I stuck around for a while to try them out. Long enough to discover that if you can get behind a Heavy Medic pair, you can punch out the Medic and use the crits time to KO the Heavy before he can take you out, even if he’s pretty on-the-ball.

roburky: I did no sneaky circling or waiting for you to taunt first. I faced you, head on, fingers versus fireball, in an epic battle of the taunts where the fastest reaction wins.

Chijts: Awesome shots man, especially the one with 2 heavies with KGBs. The party hat and his expression is pure brilliance. I'd also like your PC please.

Tom Francis: Pah, more like where the sneaky Pyro who moved slightly to the right and has a faster-firing taunt kill animation wins.

Tom Francis: I can't help noticing I'm the only one who didn't get a party hat. Man, this is just like Richard's birthday when I was 9.

Newt Pulsifer: Nice screenies!
And I was about to ask you that.. where is your party hat!?

Inferno: Ah I have yet to earn the delights of the KGB. Killing taunts is genius and so is your write up.

Chris Evans: The Heavy achievements just haven't gotten my attention in the way the Pyro ones have done. Taunt kills still rule though!

Dante: I've only just got the Axetingisher, I'm so behind the times.

I'd like to thank the demoman who was paying too much attention to his stickies and not enough to me for my Pyro taunt kill. Yet to pick up the Heavy one although I managed to lose a pow duel already :(

Devenger: Well, I kind of cheated for the Show Trial achievement - I 'earned' it in an epic, POW-only multi-round Heavy battle in arena_granary with a bunch of Javaserver fools. The secret, apparently, is to get on the cargo containers, then land behind enemies beginning their taunt and pray they'll be locked in place for just long enough for a point-blank cartoon knockout. Following games included arena_ravine as Pyros (where I discovered the hadouken is capable of multi-kills; I do wonder how I found two enemy Pyros engaged in same-direction taunts next to each ther to this day) and a good ol' melee fight wherethe K.G.B.s poved inferior to the rapid, dodging attacks of the bonesaw.

Come on, Valve, make melee-only a gametype or a console variable or something.

Velvet Fist, Iron Glove: Everyone had the party hat, only you never see it on your own head, you can only see other people's.

"Birthday mode" was forced on on every TF2 server worldwide, as Sunday was the 12th birthday of Team Fortress: the original Team Fortress mod was released on August 24th, 1996.

Tom Francis: Holy shit, I had no idea. Thanks for pointing it out V-Fig, as I assume you are known on the streets.

I suspected the thing about your own party hat being invisible.

Bootsie_b: Nice.

Oh, and Devenger: There is a console command to make it melee only. It's great fun. Don't know what it is. Maybe... "sv_rangedweapons_0"?

Aftershock: Ah, i wondered why there was Birthday mode on every single TF2 server.

The Heavy taunt has a fair bit of range on it, i got my first taunt kill from the lower ledge on the far right, in goldrush's first stage, second half. I hit a heavy who was spraying from behind the wall next to the cart tracks.
I also got another taunt kill down the first section of the tunnel.

It seems, that even with the very slow firing time, its insta-kill power seems to be better than the minigun against other heavies who are spinning their gun and moving slowly. Provided you can hit, of course.

RC-1290’Dreadnought’: Only seen you in Team Fortress once. You were 'just passing' me as a heavy. Seriously, what were you trying to do :P. Looked awesome though.

Tom Francis: I was trying to get behind everyone so I could punch their brains out without them seeing me. I think I was still trying for my Show Trial at that point.

Cmdt_Carpenter: Wow, I am so glad I got this an easier way.

I actually got it twice, once for me and once for my brother.

1st, on H-Day, some friends and I were dicking about on a private server on Lumberyard, and when one as away I just popped up and shot him with the taunt. Easy, and it kind of counts.

2nd, on Corporation, waited for the gates to open, and POW'd a pyro just as the gates flew up. Silly pyro.

a headcrab: Cool stuff. Me and some [Z] people were fucking around on granary, and I managed to POW taunt another heavy right as he was coming out of the respawn room. Ninjariffic timing for the win.

Jason L: BTW, is this post's title perchance an Alabama 3 reference?