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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

Red Pyro Lost Dracula Again, Smells Depressed

Checking now, it doesn’t look like you can read the text of this wall at the start of Meet The Spy in the early YouTube leak:


Which makes me wonder if they added one of these afterwards:


Lots more fun ones in there – stringing them together is the Team Fortress 2 equivalent of fridge magnet poetry.

Spoiler for the video: one of the characters in it turns out to be a Spy in disguise all along!


HumFuzz: Not to mentioned the (Act surprised.) at the beginning of the video. Valve loves to turn events like these into elaborate jokes.

Ronin08: Red Pyro is a Woman, Defenestrated Blue Sniper

Red Soldier leaked video, Needs Roommate

Redhawk: And the Valve Company Achievement: Welcome to the Internet. Requirement is to completely misunderstand what Private means on YouTube.

Alex Holland: Looking at the linked flash video, the relevant field says either "Lost Weight" or "Lost Memory" rather than "Leaked Video" - must be something they added for the HD render-run.

I miss TF2.

Gazin: I noticed this as well. It's wonderful.

Psycho-Monkey: It's stuff like this that makes me glad to be part of the TF2 Community. Just the sheer trolling of the update is causing mass conspiracies and it's just... beautiful

Qazi: "Valve loves to turn events like these into elaborate jokes"

Looking at the blog posts after the "Sniper/Spy Update, Day 5" announcement. Indeed.

Upsilon: Spoiler for the video.

It's not fair. The Scout had the Sandman, so I thought he couldn't have been the Spy.

Jason L: Achievement: Who's Your Daddy?

Nico: http://i10.photobuck... .../board.png

My first go at one.

The lit up signs come from Shadow Tyrant on

http://s666.photobuc... ...eSpyBoard/

Jazmeister: Aww. I was asleep when this came out. This was my plan and everything! But Robin Walker totally made up for it by halting all Valve projects until he'd fired everyone.

I think "Again" is my favourite alert. Now I just love the TF2 setting and character. Imagine invading a level of Evil Genius with a Team?

ZomBuster: @Nico

here's an online version

like so ...m/#4_3,0_7

Also, "It was obvious, he's the red spy!"

LOST DRACULA IS A ROBOT (Dr. McNinja reference!?).

Note how it is spelled "blue" (BLUE actually) as opposed to the traditional "blu" spelling.


Roadrunner: Although slightly unrelated, it's TF2, and it's a video so... Have you guys seen this? (it's an incredibly long youtube link.) ...HgEnN2PFzo ...7QIcxoJU4g

DoctorDisaster: @Roadrunner: that is a truly awesome vid, I was just tweeting about it yesterday. And on YouTube links, you can lop off everything past the alphanumeric hash, like so: ...HgEnN2PFzo

Tom Francis: I'm fascinated as to why my URL clipper clipped the short one but not the long ones.

No wait, what's the word? Irritated.

Tom Francis: Oooh. Wow. The reason is really interesting. No wait, what's the word? Tedious.

I have a TinyURL lengthener so I can see what the fuck people are Tweeting, it automatically expands any shortened URL. But of course it operates on a higher level than my blog's link-castrator, so it makes sense that on my screen the whole thing is fucked.

Smurfy: If you look at the leaked version, you can tell the board doesn't say Leaked Video.

Hurf hurf hurf I live in a bin.

Roadrunner: Yeah, sorry, I didn't realise there was a clipper for links.
I just wanted to avoid spamming the comments with the equivalent of opening the whole of Fallout 3 in notepad.
(Infact I'm off to try that, I'm moderately bored.)

EGTF: Achievements Unlocked :

"Troll Spammer" - Broke Tom's blog code

"F This" - Give up in exasperation trying to fix blog code

MartinJ: The new revolver is just beautiful!

Palmsy: The engraving looks on it looks familiar...

Aftershock: That's because it's your mum.

Cptn.Average: Pretty sure bet it will be able to headshot.

Fullbleed: That explains the Skullpluggery achivement, it looks like a sniper's hat.

BloodVex: http://www.thesether... ...fwall.html

Nonomu198: The Ambassador looks badass. It is like combining what I really likr about playing Spy and his revolver plus my gifted noscoping ability as Sniper. Well, sure there are people who can aim better "noscoping" than me, and I don't think it is any better\cooler\"harder" than tunnel vision aiming, (unlike some other people who scream "NOSCOPE YAH WOO") but I'm stilll good at it and I look like a crippled Sniper in comparison when I use the scope.

Roadrunner: Lucky it doesn't look like their will be "Cloak 1000 times." etc

Jazmeister: I worry about the Ambassador being essentially an upgrade to the gun. I had a discussion with Jon Baker about this and he reckons it won't replace the revolver because he likes to fire a lot of rapid shots while getting away.

If you think about it, it's all about DPS. If it takes the normal revolver 3.4 seconds to do about 250 damage (mid range, no crits), that's 75-ish damage per second. So whatever the Ambassador's time between shots, it's either better or worse, right?

So, the factors determining its usefulness for a given person are A) how accurate is it, B) how accurate are you, and C) any weird factors like slowdown or knockback.


01d55: Jazmeister: Burst is also a factor. The Sniper rifle's DPS is almost certainly terrible, but the fact that you can kill anyone with your first shot makes that irrelevant. Likewise, the Force-a-Nature is advantageous when you're up against a heavy and you have a corner to hide behind while you reload, but inferior when you come up against a scout with the scattergun.

Most likely, the ambassador will allow the spy to kill low health classes with his first shot, while offering lower dps against the soldier, heavy, et al. It'll also be advantageous when you can hide around a corner to cool off after your first shot.

Tom Francis: It would be absurd if the Ambassador's DPS wasn't lower. The accuracy boon is a huge advantage. It'll be better for what I most commonly use the Revolver for: pissing people off at a range too long for them to do anything about it. But worse for straight fights on fair terms: the worst sort.

The Sniper's Razorback creates another set of situations where DPS is more important than accuracy for a Spy, since he can easily get point-blank to a Sniper but needs to be able to take him out before the poor guy can competently react. The current Revolver is excellent for that, I speculate that the Ambassador will be worse, perhaps outright bad.

Tom Francis: What's sort of impressive about the Ambassador as an unlock is that they've taken a weapon idea that is utterly, Steam-Forums boring - "hay guyz the spy shud get a pistol that does more damage but doesn't fire as fast but is really accurate and has a picture of ur mom on it lol" - and made it desirable with a gorgeous model and strong, clear emphasis on its pluses.

PD102: I dont think any of the Sniper stuff is coming out at all - The razorback just insn't valve's style - Its like giving scouts a sg killer, or Heavy an anti sniper helement- It would ruin the balance. Plus The whole sniper update page is called spyupdate. Finally releasing one class pack and that classes counter seems unfair. There is my case for the sniper update not existing anymore.

I do like the look of abasador - sometimes you just cant kill an engi with a backstab correctly, Or snipers at funny angles. This would sort out those issues whilst making sure your not ultra powerful against Pyros or the like so you still have weaknesses. Also I really like powerful things with Euphemistic names - The T3 Bomber in Sup Com was called the ambassador so id mass loads of them. So I might choose it even if its crap.

Spy is my 3rd class in playtime. 50 hrs. And i love it - yes sometimes you fail miserably but others you get a perfect spree and wipe out whole advances. I hope the tools make it less about luck though, thats the really annoying part of spy.

F.Y.I It’s a dual update: On one of thier blog post it said "Sniper/Spy" update, and it has on the advertisement "Sniper vs Spy" with a sniper holding the Huntsman.

The Razorback isn't going to change much though, the new magnum will probably be designed for quickly killing snipers, with good close range damage.

That, or I'll use the old magnum for sniper killing.

Jazmeister: @01d55

I hadn't thought of that. We're quickly seeing the sort of build that really sucks in certain situations, then: Your Ambassador with a Dead Ringer (which probably doesn't allow at-will cloaking) coming up against a heavy with Natascha is, you know, dead. A lot is hinging on how the Dead Ringer reacts to flame. Maybe you'll have a half second of immunity from fire? How long before you're visible when hit? A heavy will still fire the hose in your direction after you're dead, even for a microsecond.


Yeah, whatever sorcery they're employing for the Ambassador, they didn't break it out for Natascha. Also, I'm glad Valve weren't afraid to try something as accurate as a sniper rifle that isn't being held by a sniper. Nothing beats that CS Deagle one-shot-kill thrill.


My favourite thing about TF2 is that a class is more than just its stats, it also sits somewhere on a particular player's list of priority targets. So a spy and a sniper can have the same health, but the spy effectively has less because he draws more fire. I've been trying to crash-course myself in the spy before the update, and man, you can't even show a bit of french shin before the enemy offensive is totally detoured to deal with you personally. Hell, I'd settle for a faster (un)cloak with less charge.

The spy shouldn't get easier to play though, having said that. I think it sits comfortably as an elite class, relying on a solid knowledge of game mechanics, map layouts, class play styles, seduction, etc.

Plumberduck: I laughed for about a minute straight when I saw today's update to the TF2 blog.

Oh, this is gonna be FUN.

Palmsy: I honestly didn't think they'd stoop to this level! Amazing.

Flowerpot Wang: I think with this and the longbow combined they're really trying to push the snipers up forwards to the front lines...

Bret: Valve: Possibly the most horrible people on Earth.

Give Pinkerton a disguise and a bit of power, and suddenly nothing is sacred.

Bless 'em.

Nonomu198: Am I the only one finding this uninspired? I mean, come on. Sniper, a relative loner (not allways, say in Arena maps the maps are so small he is usually with the team), the sharpshooter who needs to keep his aim at the enemy at all time. Does he really need a weapon to put out fires and makes enemies take 35% more damage? Sounds more like, I don't know, a Medic unlock. Plus, when you see a weapon with so many uses, but the uses so useless, you know it's bad. Plus I don't get "lolol PISS" jokes. It's just, I dunno, not funny at all. It was ok for an April Fools joke, but nothing in TF2's level.

Killa-Ewok: Jarate derived from a joke in one of the Meet The Team videos, so did the Sandvich.

Now, will you lie about hating both or admit that you're being overly critic about Jarate EVEN WHEN IT HASN'T COME OUT YET. GOD.

Palmsy: I can't wait to throw urine at people. Honestly. I'm like that.

DoctorDisaster: But that's the whole point, Nonomu. In gameplay terms, the sniper is the single worst class in TF2 -- for all the reasons you named. He's a loner who spends all his time staring down a scope and ignoring the rest of the team. Hell, most of the time he's ignoring the rest of the OTHER team in favor of a sniper duel, which nullifies his impact on the game objectives entirely.

I'm glad they're giving him unlocks that are entirely cooperative in nature because it's going to force him to recognize the first word in the game's title. Stuff like the Razorback, which only provides a specific benefit for his usual boring battlements-camping, I find much less interesting.

I'm still waiting for the spy to get spraypaint, though.

Plumberduck: I agree that the update is built around moving the sniper forward to the point where he's useful standing at the back of a fight, instead of in a tower far away. The Huntsman seems perfect for this... Presumably it'll still be a big source of one-shot damage, with the benefit of being fast enough to charge that it'll be useful at that range. Jarate is there for when things go wrong and the enemies get too close.

PS: It is also there so that you can throw pee on people. HEE!

PD102: F*** guess i was wrong.

Simpunzle: Most of the time I've played, when your team is on fire they run to the nearest health pack or back to their team/medic. The sniper will always be behind the front lines even with the Huntsman in a very good position to put out fires. It could be very effective.

the effectiveness of the 35% increased damage depends on the range and splash. If you can only ever hit one target it won't be all that interesting unless you hit a heavy with a medic or 2 on him. +35% damage will take him down fast no matter how many medics are healing.

If there is a splash and you can hit an entire group coming out of a doorway or tunnel your team can devastate them all very quickly.

It will be very interesting to see how it works.

MrUnimport: As a Medic, I must protest Jarate. We already have dispensers that can heal at the rate of a Medic, and multiple people at that. Now that Snipers can extinguish teammates, the Medic is being stripped of his special abilities. Pretty soon, we will only be valued for our ubercharges.

MartinJ: There should be an achievement simillar to BarBequeQ'd in Pyro achievements:
"Hit an enemy with the Jarate, making them disconnect over losing their dignity."

Chris R: Oh please, do you think every single sniper is going to stop attacking to pull out his jar and put out teammates? Not a chance. He MAY help out a burning teammate if he just happens to have the jar out, but it won't be something that they actively do. Medics are still super useful.

Nonomu198: @MartinJ
Heck, maybe there is.

DoctorDisaster: As a medic, I don't feel terribly threatened by a jar of piss. It doesn't actually heal you, y'know.

MrUnimport: Thanks, DoctorDisaster. It's better when you put it that way.

Mm. Petomaine: I thought the old-school comic advertising the jarate was THE GREATEST THING VALVE HAS EVER MADE. It was sublime. It was the final evolution and perfect expression of comedy. Any miniscule alterations jarate may make to the actual gameplay PALE in comparison with the shining beacon of lulz that is the jarate comic.

MrUnimport: It fits perfectly with the existing ads as well. I particularly love the Force-A-Nature, with its condemnation of shotguns that hold TOO MANY SHELLS and reload TOO QUICKLY.

Anonymous: I’ve been playing for a few hours now, one drop, which I already have. I was a bit annoyed, then I realised that I was really having a lot of fun, far more than normal. I was cutting swathes through the enemy teams as a no-scope assault sniper (heh, I know. But it works so well).

The achievements are fun, the new weapons are fun to play against and in general, a really good update.

Lack_26: That anon. comment was me by the way.

Simpunzle: The Ambassador isn't nearly as slow as I thought it would be... I don't have it but I've had it used against me. Seems to be just a bit slower then the regular pistol.

DoctorDisaster: Last night I was busy and didn't hear about the update. Tonight I have friends coming in from out of town. I'm trying to master the impulse to say "screw 'em" and stay in playing TF2.

I might be a terrible person.

Nonomu198: Well, the update is great, the weapons are great (Ambassador seems OP though. Needs some tweaking?), the maps are great, the graphic bugs are awesome/horrifying (spies disguised as randomly ubered people is awesome, invisable map objects and pee that makes me 100% blind is not), and the new weapon drop system is horrible. The idea itself might woek in a different way, it seems broken and crappy the way it is now.

roBurky: I think the weapon drop system is fantastic. Almost as good as just giving them out for free. People aren't playing a class they don't like just in order to get the unlocks. The servers aren't completely full of a single class. Nobody is trying to get achievements just because they feel they have to. People are just playing the game.

Tom Francis: Without, in most cases, the unlocks - or any notion they'll ever earn the one they want.

If it were me, I'd let players pick an unlock to work towards, and tell them how many points they have to score to earn it - 500 for the Huntsman, say. Then there'd be a little toggleable bar on the HUD showing their cumulative progress towards achieving it.