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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

Fallout Girl, A Diary

My name is Sophie, because the way in which Fallout 3 asks you to pick your name is a way that makes silly names, or obtuse ones like Pentadact, seem rather cruel. I’m not going to spoil what that is right now, but I will in the following entry.

I’m going to location-tag these spoilers, so if you’re playing right now, or you plan to, you can skip the sections about any areas you haven’t visited. I’m not doing the main plot, so I won’t be spoiling anything about that. I ended up picking a different main quest.

Nobody’s Vault
(Vault 101)

Starting the player as a baby is genius, not least because players, first plunged into a new game world, act like babies.

Remember that guy in the opposite cell to you when you start Oblivion? What did he see you do? Bat the manacles like a kitten, hold them and wave them around, knock a bottle over, bump into your cell bars, pick everything up and try to eat or use it.

Before I took my first steps towards dad, I picked up teddy, swung him around my head and threw him across the room. Then I took all the toys out of my toy box and tossed them randomly around. Then I threw one at dad. Then I jumped up high to pull down the Nuka Cola truck from the shelf and play with that. Then, when dad had gone, I felt bad and tidied up all my toys into the box again.

Fallout3 2008-10-29 07-53-24-53

I grew up to be kind of a difficult kid. At sixteen, I beat a man unconscious seven consecutive times in a GOAT exam. It started as a scuffle, but I got carried away and kept hitting him after he’d put his guard down. And after he’d passed out. And after he’d come to again. And for some time after that.

Fallout3 2008-10-29 13-34-06-39

When I finally stopped, I looked up to find all the other students staring at me, and a trail of blood smattered across the walls leading to the limp body at my feet. I lowered my guard, and talked to the examiner. He agreed I should probably just skip the exam. He suggested I become a Vault Loyalty Inspector.

Fallout3 2008-10-29 13-35-06-39

So when chaos breaks out in the vault, I’m in the middle of bludgeoning a man to death with a baseball bat. I forget who started it, but his face isn’t in a good way anymore. Or there. Mid-combat, my body’s forcibly twisted around and my face sucked in towards Butch, my bully, my victim. As you might expect after the beating I gave him three years ago, he’s a gibbering wreck. His mother’s in trouble.

Fallout3 2008-10-29 13-40-00-09

I’m actually not against helping his mother – I don’t know her – but I head the wrong way to get into her room, and by the time I get there mutant cockroaches were already eating her dead face off, so I strip her naked, steal her clothes and most of her booze, drink quite a lot of it and beat her son to death with a baseball bat. His Vault Loyalty was lacking.

I am now addicted to vodka.

I also found my own Vault Loyalty lacking, so I slipped past the overseer and staggered blinking into the outside world. At that point, a man in a welding mask sprinted up to me and started hitting me in the head with a pool-cue. Ah, the great outdoors.

More , ,

Aftershock: HAHA.

You're almost as bad as Chris. At least you haven't started with the cannibalism yet.

Idlehands: Oh give him time, he's only just left the vault. I can't wait to finish up my nice character (am I a rare minority that didn't immediately make a badass character?) and be a complete arse, you and Chris make it sound so much fun (and my flatmate who got addicted to pyscho killed a towns population then blew it up for good measure).

Sheepye: News just in: "Pentadact shows teenage violence and videogames"

I guess Happy [post-apocalytpic] Days was out of the question as a blogpost title? What with beating up a Fonz lookalike. Also where did it all go wrong for young Sophie Francis? She was such a caring toddler, clearing her toys away, the next thing she's drinking vodka next to a dead corpse. Sounds like my own childhood.

Nice post, I giggled all the way through it and was nice to find at 3am such an amusing update.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper: You killed Butch!

You should've let him be. He would've suffered a fate worse than death if you'd let him survive. Or at least let him take the GOAT exam in peace.

He would've become the Vault's Greatest Hair Stylist.

He would also have been able to style your hair, if you wanted him as a companion/lackey/pack mule later.

Nicholas Feinberg: You are terrible.

Holy crud, Butch can survive? I killed him when I rescued EXPURGATED from the Overseer. There's at least two other hair stylists in the game, though, so it's no big loss.

(Hadn't noticed that Chris was doing his own Fallout 3 thing. Must read backlog.)

spuzman00: Hm, now I'm regretting becoming a total boy scout. Still, at least other people like me. :D

Pwnzerfaust: What amuses me most about this is I did everything exactly the same way, except I saved Butch's mum then beat them both to death anyway.

Tom Scholes: Hahahah badass :)

Will: It's weird to see Dad look so different from the guy I'm used to. Modifying him based on your own looks is a nice touch.

ZomBuster: I was so suprised that in a vault someone could actually be in danger, and that it would happen just when I was about to leave that I just said "Fuck you" to Butch and walked away.

Mobba: I redid the "save my mum" bit after I got lost the first time and she was already dead (I also killed butch with his own knife), but there was no benifit to saving her, except nobody hated me when I left the vault.

Iain “DDude” Dawson: And after you did all this, was there time to play Fallout 3?

Dante: Thank goodness for this comments thread, or I'd be convinced I'm the only person playing this as anything but a murderous psychopath.

Word to the wise though, try and control your rage when explodenating Megaton, one of the two evil followers is there. Ludo made that mistake.

Waste_Manager: I'm banned from buying this as apparently my Mrs 'needs something to get me for Christmas'. Can't wait to play it, but at least I get L4D soon enough.

Brian the C: You can beat Butch during the GOAT? AWESOME. Makes me wanna reset my game to do that, but I've rigged Megaton to asplode and am doing the last 3 quests for Moira.

Chris Livingston: Hooray! I was hoping you'd start posting about the game.

The only thing I'm missing in the tutorial is that you can't go third-person as a baby. A little kid, sure, but not as a toddler. That's a bit of a bummer. I wanted to see myself leaping around on the tables and chairs.

Tom Francis: This diary is lagging behind my progress a little, in that I've now played for thirty-six hours and just completed it. Everyone is right about the shitty ending. Awesome right up until it happens, but insultingly dumb when it does.


Sam: I told Butch to go save her himself, hoping he would watch his mother die and then have his own face eaten off.

I try to be evil, THEY WONT FUCKING LET ME!
Oh, town full of annoying little kids, you wont let me get my fat man out? DAMN YOU.

Sam: Ok, just read my comment over, that thing about the fat man sounds so wrong.

Jace: Don't know if it was a glitch or what, but after being let into Little Lamplight I was able to pull out my extensive armoury. Being an insufferable goody-two-shoes, however, I didn't actually try shooting anyone.

DoctorDisaster: I find it impossible to play as evil characters in these games. The 'dark' options they give you are almost always completely laughable -- although KOTOR is probably the worst for that. At least in Fallout I can (and do) play as a character who's more opportunistic and self-interested than an actual ravening maniac. Unfortunately they still relegate this Greedo-shooting Han Solo type pretty far out on the good end of the spectrum.

I guess the problem is that, when your audience is a bunch of gamers, you have to skew your morality system a bit to accommodate all the baby-eating rapists people like Tom and Chris come up.

I do think my next character will be a little more colorful and thematic -- maybe a laser-toting mad scientist or some such.

Butch: I've got a funny story about how my game began

In Oblivion i named myself Butch as well. I just thought it would be funny to have a name given to ugly dogs. Yes, i laughed when i say my horse was called 'Butch's Horse'. But Fallout 3 was special. At the birthday bit, i just overheard someone talking about Butch, and i was like cool, it even puts your name into the story. But then i heard that annoying kid saying this sux, i my party was better, ur mum etc, so i went over and then i saw Butch.
OMG WTF ROFLMAO BUTCH. It was very funny seeing someone with a stupid name who was actually one of the npc's.And when it skips to the bit when you're like 16 and there's the gang, and there all like 'Butch is the leader around here, not the Overseer' I'm like 'Damn right!' as i pepper them with BB's.
So when i got to that bit when he's begging you and saying sorry for all the bullying etc etc i do the only right thing.
Murder him and steal his mum.

Alexander: @Butch
Same thing happened to me, sort of. In thinking of a realistic name, I thought of a friend's name, James, not knowing about the father's name. Imagine my surprise when the Overseer's documents expressed his concern about...James...