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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

World Of Goo Is Coming To Steam, Gentlepersons

Upupdatedate! Caleb points out that 2D Boy have now confirmed that pre-ordererers will be able to use their magic code to register the game on Steam and receive it there too. Fine job, Valve! I guess I forgot I got a magic code.

It’s also coming to Greenhouse and Direct2Drive – we care less about that here at James, but it’s great to hear they’re getting so much distribution-love.

Update: It’s coming to Steam, with eight achievements, and it only took ten months of me badgering them to sign it! Person-who-signs-things, Jason Holtman, notes in the announcement that “More people have told us to get World of Goo on Steam than any other title coming this year.” Possibly that IP-spoofing spam campaign was a step too far.

I’m buying it again. Direct from the developers is a good way to buy things, because they get all the money, but Steam is a good way to own things – on any PC, automatically updated, and nothing to lose.

Original post:

Supportive Drool

World of Goo (out Monday, £10/$20, 3-4 hours long, DRM free) is made by people for whom a level must have a point, and that’s strange to modern eyes and fingers. We’ve come to expect that games have a format, and a steady stream of content that fits it. This set of weapons, these possible enemies, plot delivered to you through this earpiece, progress implied by an increase in that stat, and all future experiences will be variations on those seen thus far.

Best Level Ever

World of Goo doesn’t have a fixed format; it is squishy. Whatever world it wants to take you to, the fundamentals of the game bend to realise it. Whatever engineering concept it wants to play with, old mechanics are plucked out and new ones glopped on to explore it. And whatever conceit of modern life the game chooses to mock, the entire visual grammar of the world inverts to caricature it with dreamlike brilliance.

It makes absolutely no sense that the art, writing, design, levels and music could all be done by the same guy.

Velvet Fist, Iron Glove: I'm downloading it as I write this, having preordered it back in January. If you're reading this and haven't bought it yet, you should. It's brilliant, and funny, and engaging, and frustrating all at once.

But it's the slowest download I've had for years! I'm only getting 2 kB/s off their server, and my browser estimates 7.5 hours left for the remaining 56MB. That hurts.

ZomBuster: you are not the only one..

100 bytes per second..

ZomBuster: But anyway, when you use the words Psychonauts and Multiwinia in one phrase I just have to buy it.

The_B: Two hours of downloading, but I have my sweet, sweet Goo.

Pwnzerfaust: Back in my day we didn't even have standard TCP/IP internet connectivity. And we LIKED it!

Rotten kids and your YouTubes and microwavable macaroni.

Jason L: After several hours of politely spaced refreshes I can't even get into the queue :( Ah well, tomorrow tomorrow.

Sucram: If this post was an attempt to make somebody order the game at 7am, then it was a total success.

x25killa: As soon as I read the title, I brought the game straight away!

Langetc: 14 bytes per second. BYTES. I guess I'll just wait a while...

Idlehands: Sounds like that Fantastic Contraption flash game, only more intriguing. But dammit man what did I say about recommending good games? I need money to live yet you keep tempting me with such visceral delights

CannedLizard: Well, like, I'm sure, many others, I've pre-ordered it and am delighted (also pleased I had a $18 US I had forgotten about in my PayPal account).

A most excellent ludic experiment, what-what!

Roll on Monday.

CannedLizard: And here I was sad I was going to have to wait until Monday when what do I find in my inbox? Glee!

Jason L: I'm on Chapter 4, the Information Superhighway - just completed, um, the one where you orbit. So far I'm not liking this chapter as much as everyone else seems to. I'll find out soon enough, but if the base Goo here is the one that's making everyone gasp...I've played Worms. I came here to build heartbreakingly wobbly trusses on friendly skulls over deadly ground and atmospheric flotation suspension bridges over whirling wind turbines. In isolation I love the art - sounds, colours, and especially the little trail of bits - but it doesn't feel World of Goo. It's not organic/dirty enough and my Goos aren't really building anything - and Grapevine Virus in particular was an exercise in tedium.

So far it's a "merely good" portion of a game that has otherwise been uniformly great.

someguy: what is the name of the song in this video? thankyouplease

Tom Francis: I don't know if it has a name, but it's a version of a track that appears in the game, and not available elsewhere yet - as far as I know. The game music is all done by the artist, level-designer, writer and designer, Kyle Gabler.

Tom Francis: Jason, I'm not one of those to single out that world, but what I loved about it was the freshness, the visual inversion, the departure from the organic and dirty, and the synthesis of concept, story and content. In neither this world nor the others is the basic mechanic the source of my enjoyment - I don't even particularly like building stuff by making little triangles.

Jason L: The song's closest to being named "Best of Times". Thanks to Smee on RPS for the info, thanks to my curiosity for looking around, thanks to Google for bringing stuff close, and thanks to Kyle himself for putting it up at his personal site.

You could also just grab the video via Tamperdata and extract the audio via FLVExtract. Not that I'd do something like that.

Jason L: God dammit. This is beyond running gag. I don't normally make another comment to say sorry, but Sorry.

Tom Francis: Fixed, thanks for the info.

Tom Francis: Tell you what, Vimeo is awesome for embedding. You can choose the precise size, so I matched it up to a standard James screenshot, and button colour, so those are James-post slate. You can probably add a border, too, but I haven't figured that out yet.

Was it them who declared a moratorium on game videos? Shame if so.

Jason L: 'Twas indeed - more specifically, gameplay videos. Machinima and evidently trailers are fine. Although...I guess some are exempt? Oh no Rule 34?

someguy: cheers for the info

Mr. Brit: What is with the new comment button? 'Thus spake Zarathustra'?

Rosti: Ack - I "pre-ordered" this game immediately before finding out about it's Steam incarnation. May have to count my pennies.

Seniath: Good, I can blame my not buying it yet on the fact that I was waiting for it to appear on Steam...

Tom Francis: If it helps, I don't think that download link 2D Boy send you in the e-mail will expire, so you've essentially got the game ready to download on any PC you can access your mail from. The Achievements are probably going to be for the OCD criteria, which aren't the fun bit to me.

Tom Francis: Mr Brit, the real question here is, "Why on Earth was it left as "Submit Your Comment" for so long? I was aghast to find that I'd never customised that button from the default Wordpress template. Even James 1.0's guestbook presented users with the option to "Submit! Obey!"

I think I might change it from time to time, like Ryan North's "E-mail this comic to a friend" link on

Chris Livingston: Isn't there a way to activate it on Steam if you've already bought it, like there is for other games? That would be nice. That way I could get the achievements and updates without having to buy it twice.

Tom Francis: That usually involves entering the CD key to prove your purchase, and here you don't have one because there's no DRM. The lack of DRM is actually limiting the sense in which you own the game. Down with no-DRM! We demand DRM!

ZomBuster: I don't want to buy it twice either :(

But I want it on steam so bad..

Caleb: According to the website you'll be able to activate it on Steam using your "magic key" that you got in the initial email, which is really nice for those who pre-ordered. .../#comments

Tom Francis: Great news, thanks Caleb.

ZomBuster: Hurray for the magic code!!

Chris Livingston: Nice! Once again, I bitch about something and it's solved by Valve. I hereby accept full credit.

Dzamir: YEAAH! I'm very happy that with my preorder code I can play it on steam! :D

x25killa: That's awesome, pre-ordered before the time run out and now it's going on steam next monday. Awesome.

Rosti: Huzzah - Thank you World of 2D Boy Goo!

Jason L: Either Vimeo's having a hiccough or they don't even allow trailers with gameplay in.

Tom Francis: Motherfuckers.



(I already bought it before this affects me natch, but still!)

Jason L: Oh Nintendo, is there anything you can't spoil?

Jason L: Apologies to Nintendo - they're responsible for the eight months' delay, but not for this further four months' Europe-kicking. Roll on, RTL Playtainment. Well done you.

Hermes: Game of the Decade.

Wesman: Is this guerrilla spambot activism? I can't tell.

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