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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

GTA IV Shorts: Cut Off

Deputy Editor Tim Edwards is the moustachioed bike rider, I’m his pretty if slightly broad-hipped passenger, and Graham Smith is the… well, I think asshole is as good a word as any.

Cut Off

The people responsible for the tech side of porting GTA IV to the PC should be fired in a kiln, but I must admit the video editor they’ve added is a joy. Directing even the most aimless acts of violence into an obnoxiously slick Michael Bay spasgasm is one of the most rewarding creative projects I’ve taken on in games all year – up there with forging new life in Spore.

This is my loud, buzzing, shoddy first try. That YouTube link is actually good quality – you can add &fmt=22 to the URL of a video that was uploaded high-res to link the HD version now – but if like me you loathe the very principle of streaming video, here‘s the full 34MB download.

I honestly thought I’d care about directing, and The Movies certainly never inspired one in me, but GTA IV has turned me around. It’s because the raw footage has such force and impact to it, it’s always tempting me to find a way to better show it off. Suddenly tips I found boring in DVD commentaries are flooding back, and I’m immediately and enthusiastically dissatisfied with everything I make.

I think that’s the litmus test for whether you truly love doing something. Not whether you like what you’ve made – most of us never do – but when you spot the flaws in what you’ve done, are you despirited that you suck, or excited to get on with fixing them? Unfortunately I tend to hit the “record what just happened” key ten times every time I play GTA, and it takes so long to render clips into uploadable .wmv files that at some point during the creative process, you just have to say “Fuck it, that’ll do.”

Update: Steve’s much better one is up now. Cracks me up every time.

‘Supdate: Neither YouTube or CVG are working for me right now, but another great one of Steve’s went up on the new PC Gamer YouTube channel yesterday, and I’ve got a download link to one more of mine that’s not really good enough for official publication. Have a good Christmas.


J-Man: that was fucking brilliant! GTA is now officially on my must-buy list solely for that.

Akirasfriend: *TWONK!*

Too many times has this happened to me.

Great stuff Tom, more plz.

SenatorPalpatine: Damn, now I really want GTAIV.

LaZodiac: Blasted helicopters. Atlest the flyer is dead.

Really shocked the biker didn't die, but you did.

Roadrunner: I think I'm missing the point here, all that happenend was that a helicopter made someone go flying into a pole?

Redhawk: Someone got clipped by a helicopter blade, went flying across half of Liberty City, hit a pole at terminal velocity, AND THEN STOOD UP.

Like Tom said, not exactly the most impressing video, but it is entertaining to see that even games hip-deep in "gritty realism" choose to ignore basic laws of physics.

Roadrunner: The physics are like in TF2 now when you get hit by projectiles!
But I don't see how thats funny and so awe-inspiring.

Smurfy: I've made a ton of videos in GTA IV. You can see some of them here: ...55652659B8

I haven't uploaded most of them, either because they suck, are tests, or because I can't be bothered rendering them.

I'm about to render Death to the Preacher 2, wherein I kill the preacher in about eight different ways.

Tom Francis: It's understandable if you're underwhelmed by my first-timer direction, but if you don't see the point of a helicopter crashing into a motorbike and batting its passenger over two city blocks into a steel railing, you're on the wrong blog.

ZomBuster: With some nice camera angles and music, anything can look cool in Liberty City. I still have some problems finding a decent free video editor tough, WMM makes it all crappy looking.

Here is a nice video of some chopper capers a friend recorded. ...038;fmt=22
(I'm the black guy in the black chopper)

Jazmeister: I think the games you can squeeze out of a game, those running parallel to the official ruleset, are equally valid. This legitamizes something that, for me, started with my brother and the Direct X demo disc, crouched around a computer playing the demo of Monster Truck Madness, crashing around and doing replays.

Funny video!

Graham: "...and Graham Smith is the asshole" could comfortably be said about most situations, I'm betting.

Pod: I think the last scene in the best.
Lovely, tranquil use of no sound bar his own, bloody death.

Roadrunner: Alrighty then, Whose the alternative blog I can read?
I still remember that cheesy scarface moment at the end of Vice City, where you're friends betray you and you have to run up to the helicopter pad. I died so many times in that.
..wait, Why was I playing 18 rated games when I was 10 or so? O.o

Little Green Man: How old are you now Roadrunner?

Little Green Man: Well that O.o failed. Also, sorry for rubbish double post, bu I really like that you've changed the comments thingy Tom. I remember you saying that you were annoyed about not changing it.

Rei Onryou: I think what I loved more than anything else in that video is how the helicopter only hit the passenger and driver escaped more or less intact. That's a good collision detection.

J-Man: Completely unrelated, but listened to Architecture in Helsinki for the first time - Like it or not. Now on my wanted christmas gift list.

Roadrunner: 15 - Even though many things are stamped with a BBFC rating of 18, somehow, and don't ask how, it's easy to acquire them even if you're young. In my case, my older brother got ahold of it.
..Who also happened to be underage. Who knows how he got it O.o

Alexander: That's the great thing about piracy - the ERSB can't regulate it.

Roadrunner: It was on PS2, and it wasn't piracy because he had the box and manual and everything :|
Which really makes you wonder, how DID he get it?!

Dorian Cornelius Jasper: Guys, I don't think it counts as a death if you don't actually die.

LaZodiac: Yha, Dorian is right. I apologize on my part, at any rate.

@Roadrunner: "Oh look, the kid wants to buy a video game. How adorable. You want that one? Ok, I won't even look at it as I put it into your bag, because video games are for kids"

radomaj: I think I found one of the best GTAIV accident-o-stunts: ...oeQu_w6gOs

J-Man: It's sick how the mainstream media patronise gaming to such a level. And then make unwavering, unbased statements that are completely false (Trust Fox, eh?).

Pixel Knight: I remember being screwed out of The Orange Box because the cashier at Best Buy asked for ID. I spent the rest of the day begging my sister to take me back up there to buy it for me. How was I supposed to know that shooting zombies and blowing up cartoony Russian men with pipe bombs was rated M?

CloakRaider: Okay, you take a helicopter to the chops, fly off and hit a guardrail at great speed and survive, and in Steve's one, a man gets hit in the face by a speeding motorcycle tire, and barely notices.

Are their skeletons made out of iron or something?

Pixel Knight: You think thats bad, in GTA 3 they were made of depleted uranium. How else do you explain not being able to swim?

TheLionsInnards: I never realised how harshly regulated age restrictions were in other countries. In South Africa (where I live), I have been buying age restricted 18 games over the counter since I was 12.

Tom Francis: Updated the main post with a couple more.

Dave_C: Pentadact, I must commend you for your creation of that extra downloadable video. How it isn't good enough for public release is beyond me!

The music suited the random acts of violence perfectly, the slow-mo was spot on, and that's the best damn buildup to a fantastic ending I've seen in a while.

Roadrunner: These videos are just far too surreal O.o

Lack_26: Okay, I've got GTA IV today, now, if only it would recognise the disk.

Roadrunner: My problem with GTA IV is that everything is transparent, so I cant actually play it I've even googled the problem to no avail :(

Fez: I really want someone to make a coherent action movie with this. Is there a decent facial animation system?

Alexander: Curses! You have made me buy GTA! I bet you're going to run me out of all of my money some day

State: Ooh, ooh! I do coherence! ...r/State209

Lack_26: I've given up on GTA IV as it flat out refused to start once I finally managed to get it to install, I could get the social club up and running but when I clicked play a black dos box would come up and then a windows error box and it would stop. I've had to install all my games I got on my brothers computer since none of the discs are recognised down here because I have alcohol on this computer, which I use for entirely legitimate purposes and I have only limited access to his computer, half hour a day tops usually. I think I might have to pirate games I actually own, even though I've never pirated a game before.

Anyway, since technology no longer works, our family did a jigsaw instead, which was far more fun. I now renounce gaming and am starting a jigsaw club.

Tom Francis: Do you have XP Service Pack 3 and .NET 3.0 installed? If not, GTA IV gives up with a meaningless error message on startup.

In a kiln.

Alextazy: What ever happend to Fallout Girl?

Tom Francis: Yeah, bring back Fallout Girl! Bring back Fallout Girl!

J-Man: I would go out and purchase GTA IV, but I'm going to Bruges tomorrow, where I shall probably waste all my money on things.


I'm not quite sure what those things are, but I presume that by the time I get back I shall have much less money.

ZomBuster: ^ Waffles

Roadrunner: The IT crowd!
Does anyone else like the IT Crowd? I bring this up, because it's christmas time meaning there's a great drought of updates on blogs worldwide, and i'm making do with conversation in the comments.

Lack_26: I have service pack 3 installed and .NET 1, 1.1(hotfix), 2, 3 and 3.5 on my computer. I did wonder if it was my substandard graphics card, 6600GT, but in the read-me found references to graphical problems on that card series, so they can probably be used, albeit with poor performance.

Roadrunner: My newest problem- I'm literally missing textures.
And because patching it will give me the problem I described earlier, I'm unable to play multiplayer because Games for Windows Live are like the Cheka.

Tom Francis: Take solace in the fact that it would look and move like John Sergeant, then. That's probably got 256MB video RAM, right? With my 512 at work it struggles at 1024x768 on near-minimum detail, and forcibly disables all higher settings.

A kiln. Slathered in glaze.

Roadrunner: Oh, I was hoping "the public could save me"
See what I did there-ahahaha- Double Eeeeeennteeendre.

I like to pride myself on how unsubtle and un-smooth I can be.

Dave_C: Also having technical problems with my 320MB card, the game simply refuses to let me push it further. Oh well, that hasn't stopped me spending more time with the movie editor than playing the actual missions! It really is fantastic fun... here's an attempt of mine, shot during a multiplayer game (I'd suggest watching HD) ...annel_page

Can't get enough of that slow-mo button...

J-Man: @Zombuster:

Actually, only had waffles once, and they were way sweet.

ಠ_ಠ: IDK why but one day Nico's textures disappeared and he went wireframe, and ever since then it's been the same. Should I reinstall?

Alexander: It would be a whole lot better if they didn't bundle like 10 different graphics settings into the screen resolution.

Palker4: I did not found oasis actually some wastlanders told me where it is. I stumbled upon them while searching for yao ghuai caves i asked them what are they doing there and they were all like we are searching for oasis that is here (pointed on location on the other end of map) and then they told me but you are not supposed to know this so now we have to kill you turned out that it was ne who killed them after all