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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

Far Cry 2 Released, Forest Fires Up 8000%

Far Cry 2 is out! I’m not wild about it.

Fire 1

I like it a lot, I just don’t love it. I love open-world games, and I love shooters, but I’m still waiting for someone to succesfully combine the two. In Morrowind and Oblivion, I couldn’t summarise what was in those worlds in less than a few hundred words. With Far Cry 2, I can do it in one: enemies.

Fire 6

The factions and backstory and war-torn mood all hint at something I want to play, but bear no relation to what’s actually in the game: an entire nation of people whose sole objective in life is to hunt and murder you. You’re an unknown foreigner, and neither of the factions have uniforms, but they’ll shoot you on sight from a hundred meters away, abandon the posts they’re supposed to be guarding to hunt you halfway across the country, and even abandon a mounted gun to chase your M60-equipped deathjeep in their rusty sedan.

Fire 3

It’s not the realism issue that bothers me, nor the respawning enemies, jamming guns, blurted voice acting, nonsense plot, or even how damn hard it is to see the people firing at you in this much undergrowth. All those things have bothered me, but I’d happily overlook them if I could see anything interesting beyond.

Fire 2

Far Cry 2’s world is alluring beyond belief, glorious escapism to a place we rarely get to visit, visualised by a properly revolutionary engine. But its contents are uniform, angry, and ultimately dull to me. And I can’t entirely avoid them, because the same five guys and the same jeep are at the same damn checkpoint every 42 seconds along every road. The missions themselves provide plenty of fun combat, and if I wasn’t so sick of fighting by the time I got to them, I might be enjoying it a lot more.

Fire 4

On the plus side: fire lol.

I have some other things I want to mention about Far Cry 2, some of them more positive, but I think I’ll split this up into a series of daily posts to avoid wall-o’-text syndrome, and as an excuse to post more screenshots. Today’s theme was Things I Set On Fire Then Wondered If It Had Really Been The Right Thing To Do.

Fire 5


Pod: Wow, I wasn't expecting that!
(The slightly negative reaction, rather than the fire. I was expecting bush fires. Lotssss of bush fires.)

Lack_26: Yey, fire, also no love for Far Cry 2 :(

My computer probably won't be able to run it and I don't have the HD space on my steam partition. Which makes me sad.

Chris Livingston: Sorry to hear you're not in love with it, since I tend to like the games you like. Still, it only has to get me to next week when Fallout 3 comes out.

Seniath: I played Far Cry 2 briefly at the Showdown. My thoughts could be summed up by "hmmm, this is rather brown. Oh, I'm shooting people in the face again, how quaint."

Yes, it was very pretty, and yes I only played it for 5 minutes, but those 5 minutes didn't really leave me with a burning desire to play it for longer (compared to, say, 5 minutes with Left4Dead).

I imagine, a few months down the line I'll get a craving for a solid FPS, and pick this up. But until then, there are more pressing games to play.

SenatorPalpatine: Yay, fire!

Bret: You know, is there any problem, up to and including zombies, that can't be solved with fire?

Tom Francis: Fire?

Devenger: In the words of... well, anyone really: 'Kill it with fire!'

Mmmm, I expeted FC2 to have flaws the moment I heard it might be good. See also: Crysis, Lego Indiana Jones, any other videogame you'd care to mention. And I play Dwarf Fortress! I don't need your shiny fire effects and realistic undergrowth, all I need is ASCII that resembles a fort of dwarves burning to satiate my desire for burning dwarves!

Meh, I ight buy FC2 once the prices fall in two years, that's my general tactics. I got Q4 and Prey for £5 a year ago, so I know that this tactic works.

Jason L: Rarely do you disappoint me so, sir! 'Fight fire with fire'...

Niteowl: How is Farcry 2's mod support? A while back when the Source mod Empires (rts/fps with vehicles) was casting about looking for an engine, they settled, briefly, on Farcry.

Of course, now they are on Source.

Tux: Sounds like your major problem is with the density of enemies, something I found with Oblivion until I got some mods for it. Would the same work here do you think? I didn't actually like Oblivion until I modded the hell out of it, and now I love it.

Mods could also help with the faction differentiation and the jamming guns. Although that would still leave the blurted voice acting, nonsense plot, and grass-coloured enemies.

Belcher: @Jason L: Darn you; took the words right out of my mouth, you did!

Lack_26: You can indeed solve Fire with Fire, that's what they do to fight forest fire. See there is nothing that fire can't solve.

Crane: Hmmmm. How disheartening.
Still, there's Fallout 3, Mirror's Edge, Left 4 Dead, Dead Space... Plenty of other potentially great games due soon.

Grill: Yay for independence of thought! That's why you're the best print games writer in Britain!

(Couldn't care less what your actual verdict was, but you've provided a well-argued case for it rather than the usual semi-emotional blurb of many sites, so that'll do me.)

Iain “DDude” Dawson: That was an unexpected opinion.

Don't tell Tim I said this, but when I saw it was he who was reviewing Far Cry and not you, I was sad. After your Bioshock review, your Oblivion review, I am hoping for another of the like this Christmas.

ImperialCreed: @DDude

Tom's probably given up requesting anything else in the hopes of getting L4D.

Would you have anything you'd like to call out in Tim E's review then Tom? He was fairly ecstatic about it.

Bobsy: Interesting take. So: lack of variation is its big flaw? Sounds about right though I'll be interested to see for m'self if I ever buy my new compy.

Funnily enough while I have a 101 one nasty things to say about Oblivion, variety is one of the things it manages to do well.

And the last time I played a mostly-outdoorsy shooter (which may have been all the way back to Delta Force or Outcast, showing my age) I longed, longed to go indoors for a spell.

Dante: I played Far Cry at the showdown too, and I have to say my experience mostly mirrored Tom's, everywhere I went people unloaded out of jeeps and tried to kill me.

Tim reckons it's got a great, deep story, but I'm worried I'll have to fight my way to every single installment of it.

Ludo: Yeah John Walker was watching us play and he flagged that up on the RPS podcast. Dante followed a signpost to the Post Office, but when he got there all hell broke loose for no apparent reason, which to be honest was hilarious, but I can imagine being a problem with extended periods of play.

I was totally infected by Tim's enthusiasm for it at the Showdown, and it is really beautiful, and with a stellar 90+% review behind it I'm willing to splash some cash.

peterd102: Nice to see different opinions in the PCG team. Btw fire is bad to use on Zombies, its a very risky weapon. A Zombie is bad, a zombie on fire is worse!

Bret: Tell that to Freeman.

Tom Francis: I'm familiar with the phrase, of course, but I reject that setting fire to other things in order to save still other things to which the original fire might have eventually spread is a full or satisfactory solution to the problem that your original stuff is still on fire.

Also aliens. I can't speak to the zombie debate Peter and Bret are doubtless about to launch into, but the flamethrower in Aliens Vs Predator primarily caused aliens to claw your face off with red-hot razor-sharp claws rather than just regular razor-sharp claws.

Bret: But in the original two Alien films, flamethrowers were one of the few good ways to deal with the things. Shooting them into space was the best, sure, but fire made Xenomorphs run.

And, to fulfill Pentadact's apparent demand for zombie debate: Fire solves the zombie problem, given enough time, and replaces it with fun, fire-based problems.

DoctorDisaster: You can actually use fire to contain forest fires, by doing a controlled burn around the perimeter, killing off the underbrush that the uncontrolled fire uses to spread. It's true! I read it on the internet.

Tom Francis: Yeah, that's what I mean by "setting fire to other things in order to save still other things to which the original fire might have eventually spread".

peterd102: Doctor Disaster is Right. It also starves to orginal fire of oxygen. w00t Science!

@ Bret - I shall. Half-life 2 is a fairly accurate simulator of what do do with a zombie attack, traps are useful, as zombies are dumb, a few controlled bursts to the head is the best way to eliminate them and fire can be effective but it is slow and has no loyalty.

Your right about the flamethrowers vs Aliens tatic. Its probably the best possible weapon to use against them as it keeps them back and might reduce the possibility of acid reaching you. The Ripley et al paper shortly to be published may confirm or refute this idea.

Ronnie: Fire!

http://www.gamasutra... ...tory=20901

Wesman: By the way, Pentadact, They actually DO use fire to fight fire!

Tom Francis: ARGH.

Jaz: I really don't think you can put out a fire using fire. That's like trying to dry something by hosing it down with water. You can save things from fire by making sure the fire never reaches them, but that isn't the same thing.

I just felt like explaining that because my eyes hurt and I want to feel smart.