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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

Right To Live



My guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse over at the PC Gamer blog.


The Poisoned Sponge: I'm going to be a gibbering wreck once this is released, aren't I?

dartt: Come here Sponge, I'll hold you.

J-Man: Group hug!

Chris Evans: I refuse to hold a poisoned sponge. I don't want to die!

Dante: I remember playing this at the showdown, both the game and Chet were doing the whole 'Don't look at the Witch!' thing. So we looked at her, she knocked someone down and then we shot her a lot.

I didn't get the fuss, certainly not on the same level as the tank.

Inferno: The original idea for the witch had it as an invicible class that would kill anyone who disturbed it (as in properly and they couldn't be saved) which I thought was a lot scarier and a cooler idea but I guess they decided that was just too harsh to the players and weakened it down because everything I've seen of the witch since then has had it dying pretty damn fast, it's basically just a hunter :/

Dr. Nerfball: I'm not so bothered about the witch, more so about the HORDES AND HORDES of zombies, who have evidently come from some hill-billy inbreeding town what with the fact that they ALL look exactly the same. Even down to the combat trousers. What the crap?

However, my one complaint about that game is that, enevitably (did I spell that right? Oh well.) you will end up in a group of three other idiots, who, in situations like the sewer pipe thing where you must decide who goes up first, to scout out the street and who'll be left to last, in the dark, all alone, with the splashing and gurgling water disguising the zombie footsteps....sorry I got distracted there. Where was I? Ah yes! They will all, and I mean ALL want to go second or third. And they'll still be arguing while the zombies chewed on their asses. That and there will be one person, who shall be dubbed "Suicidal Shotgunner" who will run in, get owned then expect his squadies to actually SAVE him instead of just cleaning up his mess and then walking right on past 'im.

And I do quite like the origional witch idea, maybe they could do a patch where you could vote for ordinary wiches or super-duper mega-mondo death witches at the start of the campaign and then play through trying not to notice them. At all. Ever.

Christ, that be quite a long post, should probably have split it up into several and interspaced them at secnic intervals, y'know, like you do with flamigos.

Dr. Nerfball: Oh, dang! Almost forgot to ask. Is there some way to identify the witches before you look at them? Like a noise or something? Or is it just more of an OH SUGAR LUMPS AND TEA moment as they run towards you screaming "YOU SAID YOU'D BE HOME AT NINE! WHAT TIME DO YOU CALL THIS?!?"....wait...that's not the kind of witch I'm thinking of is it? No, of course not! Silly me, I mean ******.

J-Man: ?

Tom Francis: You hear her sobbing.

Don't get too bogged down in potential concerns about teammates until you've played it for a while. The game has an uncanny ability to persuade people to co-operate, and saving fallen players - even when it's their fault - is a treat rather than a chore.

TooNu: I laughed so damn hard at your PC Gamer survival guide, cheers Tom that was ace.

J-Man: What does everyone think of Cod5's stab at L4D by putting in a zombie mode?

Itrade: All zombies are welcome zombies, in my opinion.

Lack_26: Itrade is a zombie sympathiser, KILL HIM!

I'm going to pre-order L4D today, also, did anyone watch Dead Set, awesome + funny.

Frosty: @Nerfball: The trousers were on sale, zombies love them some serious savings.

Fat Zombie: Ironically, despite being a zombie myself, I really wish to play this game and blast/bash many zombies.

Unfortunately, this game appears to have a higher spec that I would be able to cope with (mainly in regards to the processor). Can someone who's played it or such tell me where it goes on this performance scale? Is it as system-hungry as:

>Counterstrike Source?
>Team Fortress 2?
>Call of Duty 4?


Cmdt_Carpenter: I am going to try to follow you in to as many L4D games as I can now, Pentadact, and disturb the Witch at every possible turn.

Lack_26: @Cmdt_Carp. we should set up a society dedicated to jumping in to every game of L4D that Pentadact plays and disturb the witch, set car alarms off, etc.

Or would that be TO mean.

Cmdt_Carpenter: Pah, can never be too mean to Pentadact. We don't have to feel guilty anymore either, thanks to him getting that award. Enough people love him in the real world, so we can be as mean as we want.

Dr. Nerfball: You can't be mean to Pentadact, he's an award winning twat now, and as of such, very powerful and famous. So he has the resources to track down and kill anyone who dares make him sad.

You death may or may not involve tiny mouse-owls, paper-mache weavils with periscopes for eyes, a Hunter through the window, KGB squads armed with steel bananas, Lord Of The Rings dropped from 20,000 feet onto your toes and shrink-wrapped zebras. Ahem.

Jay: Oh, so we stay away from the Witch?

Bret: He may be suggesting that. Still, hard to tell.

Cmdt_Carpenter: @Dr. Nerfball I would've expected something more along the lines of policemen with MP5s on Segways or some creature with eyes for hands.

peterd102: I think Tom would simply backstab you. Then taunt over you lifeless corpse.

Dr. Nerfball: That would be plan B I think...

J-Man: How about Plan C? Try to go through a game of L4D without killing any zombies... I guess you could bash them, but I'd like to see people escaping from a witch.

Matt!: So, wait. What happens if you spin around in a circle and pass for a quarter-second over the witch? That shouldn't count. How do you know where not to look? Freaking witch, screwing my curiousity.

J-Man: HAHA! And it is done:

http://steamcommunit... ...s/annoypen

I just need a really embarassing picture of Tom for our avatar.

Rei Onryou: @J-Man: Found:

Or possibly: .../72953780/

J-Man: Cheers Rei, I'm gonna use the first one.

J-Man: Just updated it. Luckily restraining orders don't extend onto the internet.

CloakRaider: I'm absolutely terrified of the Witch.

J-Man: Sorry for the triple post, but privacy is no longer existent on the internet:

http://rustbowl.word... ...pentadact/

Rei Onryou: This pleases me. I shall show my pleasedness by introducing Tom to a lovely semi-naked woman. She does tend to cry a lot, but I'm sure Tom won't mind.

J-Man: Does she also have a fetish for killing?

Rei Onryou: Why yes she does! Perhaps you also know of her. She does have incredibly long (and sharp) nails. I think a blind date is in order.

J-Man: Quite literally. She finds eyeballs delicious.

Waste_Manager: Nice guide. I'm looking forward to left for dead. i wish it was out a week earlier though as I've just about completed Far Cry 2.

Devenger: I can't see what Pentadact can hope to do to stop you (although I think discrimination is unnecessary; far funnier to do it to strangers and petend you made a mistake, and still get screamed at, etc). The last time he killed me then taunted over my lifeless corpse in TF2, I chased him down as a Scout in my next life, batted him to death and taunted over HIS corpse in front of a bemused Soldier and Demoman who proceeded to blow my stationary being into Oblivion (well, some of the gibs may have fallen onto other Elder Scrolls titles).

Off-topic: Apparently, this act of stupidity earned me a friends invite. Maybe he likes being hit over the head with a baseball bat?

J-Man: What can he do to stop us? NOTHING! NOTHING I SAY!

Bret: Well, he can sic his Gogglesharks on you if you don't know his secret weakness. (Which I know. But I won't disturb the witch anyway because I have a self preservatory instinct.)

Rei Onryou: I only wish to annoy in the nicest way possible. What kind of person do you think I am? A griefer? Who knows, perhaps taunting the witch and surviving her onslaughts may become some sort of new meta game.

Lack_26: On a slightly different topic, a new patch will make both Palin and Obama playable characters in Mercenaries 2.

Erm, what?

J-Man: How about in a really tense part of L4D, I walk right up behind Pentadact and fire 30 bullets at the wall behind him.

Roadrunner: J-man you cunt. I don't wanna spam up this precious comment list with my uncontrollable furious and sudden rage, but you know exactly why I'm calling you this.
And yet, you still don't have the balls to discuss anything.

(To pentadact and his fans, sorry for this post.)

The_B: This part of the internet has become a disturbing and frightning place.

Jason L: Annoying and tiresome, actually.