All posts


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


Some questions I’m getting asked a lot:

Tom, have you won any large perspex awards lately?

No, I- wait! Yes, there was one! The Games Media Award for best Specialist Games Writer in Print. Would you like to see it?

If I say yes, will you uncuff me?

Picture 094

‘Specialist’ Games Writer?

A writer for a publication solely about games, as opposed to someone who does the games bit in a general mag or paper. Those guys had an award that night too, but we didn’t know any of them and I’ve forgotten who won.

This was an actual awards ceremony?

An actual awards ceremony. I didn’t go last year, so I took the precaution of getting drunk with PC Zone on a barge beforehand to be ready for any eventuality. It was an extremely dense concentration of people I knew and liked in a medium-sized comedy joint, with tables somehow arranged so that more than half the guests had to twist and shuffle to see the stage.

Picture 001
Sponsor Deep Silver barged us down the Thames from Paddington to Camden, via London Zoo. Most agreeable.

I hadn’t prepared an acceptance speech, beyond joking to Log that I should mimic Halle Berry’s. I had absolutely no recollection of what Halle Berry said, and by the time my category came around someone had already made a Halle Berry joke. But nevertheless, when I reached the podium, the only thing I could think to say was:

This is a victory not just for me, but for African American women all over the United States.

At least, that’s what I tried to say. I have no idea what came out, since conscious function had utterly abandoned me at this point. I did remember to tack on thankyous to Ross and Tim, and Log had asked me to let people know that he was available for freelance, so I did that too. I found out later that people thought I was just rubbing his face in it. I also think I may have got some words wrong, since I was kind of a mess.

Picture 010

I stumbled off stage but was intercepted, grabbed and shoved in front of a GMA banner and told to hold my prize victoriously. I think I offended the model they wanted to drape me with by implying I didn’t want to be seen with her. I think I also probably offended the organisers by having nothing to say on-camera when they tried to interview me afterwards, in fact I think I may have even come across as mocking them.

Essentially, I experienced a sensation familiar to anyone who’s won an award: the precise moment at which you become an insufferable prick.

I saw you with a big gold gift bag. What was in that?

Lots of random stuff from the sponsors of the event, like Codemasters paper weights and Lego Batman on a format I don’t own. But, in amongst that, £50 worth of man-beauty at some fancy London spa who will, if so commanded, wax your crack, a golden Nintendo DS Lite with The Phantom Hourglass, and a big gold voucher telling me who to hit up for my free copy of Rock Band 2, with all the instruments.

Picture 064

Who else won stuff?

I was really happy to see Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson get the online version of my award – we go way back, but I voted for her because of this. Sadly Rock Paper Shotgun didn’t get the Best Website nod they were up for – Eurogamer did. I consider it impolite of Ellie to win an individual and a group award in the same night. Edge beat us to Best Magazine, and I’m happy for them largely because their own Alex Wiltshire, who was up for my award, seemed so genuinely happy for me.

Picture 025
The single, twitching claret pupil of Edge magazine, nameless and livid. That’s me on the left, but I’m so hideous I had to cut my own face off.

The people there were overwhelmingly nice to me. I was overwhelmed. If I hadn’t recently become an Insufferable Prick, I may have wept. Alex was lovely, Log was lovely, Will and Steve from PC Zone were lovely, my editors Tim and Ross were lovely, my publishers James and Richard were lovely, even when I started shouting at one of them about online strategy (Insufferable Prick), Kieron and Alec from RPS were lovely, Ryan and Jonty from Official Xbox World were lovely, and Matt and Rick from Games TM – with whom I’d hoped to strike up an aggressive rivalry – were too lovely for me to do so. It was a whole evening of people sincerely overestimating my talent and worth.

Picture 040
Rock Paper Shotgun, and a guy I don’t know, tear up the dance floor.

You’re not actually that good. How were you able to win this?

Obviously a lack of shame, integrity and humility helped me a great deal here. This blog is not game-changingly popular, compared to the many higher-profile places the GMAs were mentioned with a nod to a different candidate, but it appears to be frequented by profoundly decent chaps and chapettes. I’ve never seen a site with comment threads this long that’s so entirely free of howling douchesatchels.

On top of that, 1Fort is, I think, game-changingly popular, and without prompting Chris wrote me an amazing endorsement there that convinced even me to vote for myself. I have no facts to back this up, but I suspect a post like this from a guy like Chris does more than an offhanded link from a site with ten times the daily uniques. Thanks, Chris. Please don’t DVORAK my keyboard.

Thanks in particular to Octaeder, John Walker, The_B, ImperialCreed, Chris Livingston, Seniath, J-Man, Mr Brit, Pod, Chris Evans, TooNu, Chijts, LaZodiac, spuzman00, Lack_26, Alex Holland, Alex Holland’s mother, and anyone who voted for me but didn’t specifically say so here.

My acceptance speech on the night was glib, ungrateful, nonsensical, misspoken and possibly inaudible due to nerves, alcohol and shock. But this is what I meant to say.

peterd102: Well done!

im suprised Edge got best magazine, It doesn't Even have a proper F***ing name!

everyone else was proberly so drunk that they wouldn't have noticed any gaffs you made, so don't worry.

ZomBuster: Wow, 4 out of my 9 votes were actual winners!

I make winners!

(and that includes you)

Paul: Congrats, its well deserved.

Paul: But the revised logo may be a little far...oh hell, why not eh?

Lack_26: Well done, I reckon you deserved it.

ZomBuster: http://farm4.static.... ...fd.jpg?v=0

are you that guy with the substantial amount of booze on his table?

roBurky: All hail award-winning jerks.

Seniath: Well deserved indeed.

Edge winning Best Magazine, I mean.

TooNu: Woo! good to see a real gamer get recognition for decent stuff, well done Tom :)

spuzman00: Congrats, Tom! I knew you could do it.

BTW new logo= awesome.

Tom Francis: Thanks.

Zombuster - nope, don't think I'm in that pic. Where's it from?

Paul - it's temporary, obv.

Justice: And Pentadact says: "profoundly decent chaps." I think we should all be quite touched.

Well done on the success!

The_B: Wait, you've played two Non Arcade games total on your 360, and now you just won Rock Band 2? Man!

The_B: Slightly more seriously: Well dserved, well done and you're very welcome.

Timmargh: Nice one.

x25killa: "This is a victory not just for me, but for African American women all over the United States."

I ruddy knew it! Tom Francis is a SPY to all blokes!

Congrats on getting the award :)

peterd102: I would like to bow before Tom's Epic writing skills. May your carrear in writing be long, if only so you don't get into any positon of power and blow up any suns.

Evan: Is that the DS with the Triforce on it? If so, nice prize. Congrats.

Jason L: Well done.

Newt Pulsifer: Wow! I'm very happy for you, Tom!
I'm sure there will be many more waiting for you in the future. Congratulations!

Cptn.Average: Congrats =) And yes you owe my vote to Chris's post. Oh, and excellent writing, that too.

Bret: Good job sir.

And, frankly, you do deserve it for your Gal Civ work alone.

No need to be so modest.

Little Green Man: Woop! Well deserved, if only you came to the PCGamer Showdown I could've gotten your autograph!

Dr. Nerfball: Why my good sir, I do beleive that was a rather lovely blog post which even stopped to compliment me on my voting skills (in other news: =D) however if you would be so kind as to put in "chaps and chappettes" so then it would encompass me then I will not clog this post with comments that make me sound like a Grade A Pillock thanks to the language that makes me sound delectably upper-class.

Anyway, thanks for listening and congratulations on winning a well justified award.

Crane: Bravo sir! You earned it, so don't be so modest.
Let your ego swell!

Octaeder: Congrats!

Definately well deserved.

Tom Camfield: Hurrah

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Congratulations. It is trully a most deserved award.

I like your intense preparations, appropriate for any scenario.

Zombie apocalypse - Fear not, I took the precaution of getting drunk with PC Zone on a barge.

In-Laws visiting - I took the precaution of getting drunk with PC Zone on a barge.

Escaped Supervillain - To the Bat-Barge, so I can take the precaution of getting drunk with PC Zone.

ImperialCreed: Well done again. I await your gracious speech surfacing on Youtube.

Tom Francis: Dr Nerfball - I wondered about that. Fixed now.

Thanks all.

ZomBuster: That's a picture I found on flicker of the GMA

Nice: Extremely well done man, I certainly think you deserve it!

What you of course should have done was get extremely annoyed with all of us for not congratulating you before you tell us. Awards for gratuitous swearing do not come lightly! You could have got all moody-screenplay-actor on our asses.

Hang on, what was it you said you did again?

Chijts: Well whadda ya know, the system works!

Anyone who can make me want to play GalCiv, only then to find out I actually strongly dislike it, yet make me want to play it again on reading the more recent diary of your exploits, has to win something.

Devenger: Congratulations, youve risen up my respect-scale once again. The last time was yesterday when I read in the new PCG about you defeating 7 Supreme AIs on SupCom, which I believe is equivalent to completing your average game on Hard whilst wielding a small toothpick. (Well, I know that Normal caused enough trouble for me on that game.)

Tom Francis: I should clarify that I didn't make the 7 AIs gang up on me, it was just a free-for-all.

peterd102: Oh, well then I defeated the Allies and Axis armies in 1945, alright not at the same time...

Ah well, at least you were honest there.

Niteowl: I can't say I've been an avid, or longtime fan. But as a sometimes-reader of your blog posts and someone entirely unfamiliar with your print work, I offer my meaningless congratulations on the award.

Also, perspex has so few uses that it's nice when it gets a time to shine.

Zeno Cosini: Congratulations Tom! Any protean, yammering entities imprisoned in your crystalline shard for unleashing on lesser games journalists who question your superiority? Or is it just for show?

Pod!: Loon.

Tom Francis: No, but it's very heavy and very sharp and that's all I really need.

Andrew: Neat stuff, a worthy set of winners! You especially! :D (Just a shame about RPS...that photo, ouch).

Koslov: Congrats Tom. Well Deserved indeed.

audiman: Tom, why are you linking to your own site, it's annoying and stupid!

BTW, Congrats on the award.

Tom Francis: Wordpress does that automatically.

|: Well done Tom, you definately deserve it.

Devenger: On the fact it was an FFA: yeah, but that's still a lot of stuff to blow up before you still have to face a Supreme AI who's evaded your blowing up. Deathmatchers in all games can claim overall victory without getting more kills than all their opponents put together!

So don' try to build yourself down. You did well! (And in the game.)

SenatorPalpatine: Congratulations! Sorry about your acceptance speech.

CloakRaider: Good job Tom, certainly deserved the award.

Mouse: I learned about your website from 1Blog, and I daresay you've become one of my favorite writer-persons. I did vote for you (twice I think...), and I'm glad you won :D ! Congratz.

Chris Evans: I am pleased to know that I helped you win this award :D

Looks like you had a great time, congrats on winning the award!

jackrabbit: Good on you

Chris Livingston: Congrats, Tom! Now I'll have to change my tags from "The Wonder of Tom Francis" to "The Wonder of the Award-Winning Tom Francis."

J-Man: I'm presuming you thanked me in your speech also, right? Mazel tov!