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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

PC Gamer Podcast: The Future’s Dim

Ross is still away, so the start is kind of a shambles again. In his absence, myself, Tim Edwards, Craig Pearson and special guest Steve Williams discuss why Prince of Persia sucks so profoundly, why GTA IV’s video editor wins so profoundly, what got cut from World of Goo, and what Valve could call a Left 4 Dead sequel. Stream or download below, or Really Simply Syndicate that bad boy here.

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NikoPSK: L4D sequel? :|

Jesse: BUT HOW?? :/

Nonomu198: ...malprobable!

J-Man: yyyyaaayyyy ppoooddddccaaasssstttt!!!

sorry, but this is usually the highlight of my month. Oh, and the snowstorm appears to be malfunctioning, blowing little squares instead of snow.

RC-1290’Dreadnought’: This stuff is very enjoyable, especially when I'm photo-shopping.

TooNu: Your man Steve there is quite funny :) Craig sounds like an old school mate of mine called Peter, he was also a smug git.

Jazmeister: @Dreadnought That's exactly the converse of my situation; when I'm writing something or reading something, I can't listen to podcats because I end up writing whatever I'm listening to.

Hey, what is this, falling squares land? Eh? Eh fellas?

Jason L: Clarification: Snowstorm works properly on the front page, loses its image on post pages. Probability of relative-URL problem: .999

LaZodiac: I don't understand you guys. That stuff is round, to be sure.

Changes direction when on the post page, but whatever.

On topic! I don't have an I Pod. No podcast for me.

Jason L: You are too slow for Pentadact's ninja repair skills, LaZodiac; he fixed it in the time it took me to drive to work. That's customer(?) service! I actually found the alpha-blended missing-image icon snowstorm pleasantly surreal, at least in that small dose.

Jimmay: My, you're British.

I just found it really amusing because as I read your work, I automatically hear it as Americanized English, since, you know, being an American, that's how I perceive the English language. Even when you throw in a "bloody" or a "wanker", I still hear it as American, since my friends and I will ironically throw those into conversations, much as I'm sure you'd throw in a stereotyped "god damnit" or "sonofabitch".

It just made me laugh on a really shitty morning in Chicago. Thanks, Tom!

J-Man: I think you guys need more guest speakers. Or maybe up the amount of people in the podcast to 5. I can't go without the smooth, deep and relaxing tones of Mr. Walker.

Dave_C: Fantastic stuff. I'd dearly like to see that RollerCoaster Tycoon Youtube video. That outline you gave was hilarious. Had a look, but couldn't find it. Lots of people seem to enjoy making rollercoaster disaster scenarios. I did enjoy doing that with the RCT games of old.

Cpt.Muffin: Did Steve steal his voice from Jack Dee?

Simpunzle: LaZodiac - podcasts do not require an iPod, iTunes, a Mac or any other Apple product.

It's an MP3 file.

J-Man: On a side note, I freaking hate how everyone thinks an iPod is some glorious technological advancement that revolutionised the way we lived. Bottom line; it's an mp3 player with a screen.

Tentaculat: For those who find roller coaster violence amusing (who doesn't?) be sure to check out the excellent roller coaster death scene from Final Destination 3. Here's a link if you're too lazy/busy/broke to watch the film: ...qYlxS_bLeE

Though it is 6 minutes long... *shivers excitedly*

Roadrunner: You know in that movie Blades of Glory, Jon Heder's characters biggest fan?
That appears to be J-Man.

I get the podcast via RSS. I'm only 5 second in or so, I heard that STEPHEN and I hunted down the site to exorcise the STEPHEN! side me.

Also: Lovin' the snow, lad.

LaZodiac: Ohhh, I didn't know they were just MP3 files.

Now I feel dumb.

@J-Man: Don't worry man, I hate iPod's. I see no use in them.

Tom Francis: High five, Pod! I was wondering if anyone would pick me up on that.

Regarding temporarily square snow: that was me tinkering with it to fix the horizontal scrollbar issue. Seems to have worked?

Gryphon: One thing that wasn't mentioned is that the Broken Steel DLC for Fallout 3 actually changes the Main Quest so that the game doesn't end when you finish it.

LaZodiac: @Gryphon: Awesome.

@Pentadact: If you were trying to make it so the snow piles up on the bottom of the screen, then yes, mission complete!

If not, oops. I almost spelt you name as Pendatact for absolutly no reason.

I talk to much.

J-Man: @Pentadact

Yeah, snow's working fine now.

Lack_26: I went to sleep listening to this, the tone of Steve's voice lulled me into a deep sleep. Then I woke up and listened to the rest.

Good work with the podcasts, now, I'll set my robots on you all if you don't step up production so the magazine arrives in double size every 48 hours and the podcasts once every 12 hours.

Rei Onryou: The podcast wins big points for stories such as the Rollercoaster one (link to vid would be appreciated) that just wouldn't work as well in print as they do with Tom telling the story. From what I remember, you could kill people in RCT1. A rollercoaster with no end and a big drop would kill people, as well as dropping them in a lake and watching them drown. Of course, these could just be perverse dreams of what RCT should have been. *cough*

ZomBuster: This is the best snow script I have ever seen!

Roadrunner: Wow you guys speak in a monotonous stammery drone like me too! But what your podcast really needs is a catchy jingle at the beginning annoucing the podcast, instead of someone going "Hello this is the PC Gamer podcast!" Three suggestions I could think of ...
A gospel choir singing "PEE-SEE GAMEERRR!!"
A cool DJ scratchy effect with PC Gamer overlayed in.
A Bunch of Valve sound effects saying "PC Gamer Podcast." For example the heavy going "Dun dun dun dun dun, PC Gamer Podcast! For BABIES!" "Yo, its da PC Gamer podcast! Boink!"

Actually the last one sucks. But to save money you can get all the PC gamer staff to sing gospel-style.

Anonymous: You could kill people in RC Tycoon by making the car go too fast and fly off the tracks. Sometimes this happened accidentally, and your day got ruined.

RC-1290’Dreadnought’: I never played the RCT sequels, did they really cut out the drowning?

ZomBuster: Craig is wrong about GTA 4 tough, it's actually really easy to circumvent the Live protection.

See this video of me for a good example ...44TelUnJYk

Roadrunner: I wish there were more satirical topical slices of wit in the podcast, for example you could of atleast thrown a shoe or something.

Roadrunner: Also, Valve cleverly broke the Gibs in the latest TF2 update.
I was having a sniper war with someone across the balconies of 2fort, and everytime I got him his body would explode into gibs. This was funny, but wore thin, because Rockets, Stickies and pipe bombs don't make gibs half the time now, and send you flying like the physics in L4D where you shoot a hunter at close range with a hunting rifle.

Tom Francis: That was epic, Zom, nice work. I'm going to be putting up a few of my own GTA IV shorts soon, I can't stop tinkering with the editor. You and I have similar taste in ending humour, as you'll see.

Cheeetar: According to the people who play the Dutch version of TF2, The VIP game mode is next, based on a loading screen tip which featured the civilian:
http://forums.steamp... ...p?t=770609

Jason L: Maybe, but people thought the same thing after the VIP appeared in Meet the Sniper. People more knowledgeable than I am say that Valve's explicitly defined Payload as the improved successor to VIP.

Cheeetar: Where did they say Payload was meant to replace Hunted?

Anonymous: Ask roburky, unless he's just passing on what he heard. The closest I can find is this Gamespy thing and a couple of references to the TF2 commentary tracks, which may explain why it's not readily available as text. There's also the Payload page itself which ties it to Hunted in less final language.

Tom Francis: Not quite the same thing, but Robin's words when first explaining Payload to us were, roughly, "This is what came out of us thinking about the Hunted. The highs were very high in that mode, but the lows were very low, so we wondered if we could keep those highs but also get rid of some of the lows." I asked what lows, he said the rounds when the person playing VIP doesn't know what they're doing. They didn't want the quality of the whole team's experience to hinge on the skill of one player.

They've also said Payload wouldn't preclude them from revisiting the Hunted, though I can't remember if that was to me or if I just read it.

Mysterious scraps found in Valve's code are more often remnants of the past than portents of the future. There's a whole territorial control mode in the CS:S code that someone dug up about a year ago. I asked Robin about it, and it was just something they tried out briefly years ago, which didn't work out. I wouldn't be surprised if this was just a leftover from when they were trying the Hunted before they honed it down to Payload - it references the exact mechanic that they cited as their dissatisfaction with the old game mode.

HoW Jones [J-Server Wannabee]: The future is dim, if the future's Rachel Penny, Adam Oxford and Rich Stanton. Why don't you and Tim write reviews any more?

Jason L: As best I can tell, the RCT Coaster Carnage video is this: ...QrC_C6SexI If so, it was better in the telling.

Tom Francis: Obviously you'd have to buy our exciting new issue to find out for sure. It's not that one, but it's 'related'.