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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

Burglary Aftermath

A while back I got burglarated, triggering lots of people to be very nice to me and my insurance company to give me – after some wrangling – a large sum of money. At first they’d tried to offer me vouchers to buy inferior replacements from a rather loathesome overpriced appliance chain. When I explained in the politest possible terms that Comet’s lines constituted a sort of unfunny parody of actual electronics, they offered me a cheque for the total sticker price of their suggested replacements. The fact that these were vastly inferior items was seemingly not a factor in Comet’s near-criminal pricing of them, so I did the maths and took the cash.

Since James commenters were actually a deciding factor in my buying some of this stuff in the first place, and since I was going to blog oozingly about a lot of these black digital delicacies before I lost them anyway, here’s what I was robbed of and what I got back:


Netbook: EEE 1000
Replaced for the same price with an EEE 1000HE, with 300% larger storage capacity, 50% longer battery life and a 500% nicer keyboard.


The main things I wanted my EEE 1000 for were the battery life – six hours, more if you disable stuff – and the 40GB solid-state drive. It’s since been discontinued, and nothing worth buying has gone down the solid-state route since. The 1000 HE might have a hard drive, but it evidentally hasn’t hurt the battery life: this motherfucker lasts nine and a half hours. There are days I don’t last nine and a half hours.

I’ve been totally in love with both netbooks. It turns out the only surefire way to lure me away from my computer for any length of time is to give me another, smaller computer, on which I can write, browse, watch video and play Dice Wars, Spelunky and Deus Ex.

The new one fixes my only real irritation with the last: an akwardly placed shift key. I didn’t realise how much that was bothering me until I started seriously typing on the new one – I’m as fast and accurate on this as a full-size ergonomic.


TVs: Two 32 inch DGM Active Matrix panels
Replaced with the same and an equivalent model with a £200 profit.


Nominally two TVs, functionally one TV and one monitor. I was happy with my 19″ Cathode Ray Tube monitor for years after everyone else had moved on to widescreen, and might have been for years more if I hadn’t reviewed Mirror’s Edge for PC Format. Despicably, it letterboxes the viewing area on non-widescreen displays, so I had to at least try it widescreen for the sake of the review. The only one I had was my cheap (£270) yet suspiciously good 32″ LCD TV, so I hauled it to the bedroom and rigged it up. You could say I never went back, except that I did, and the dismal sight of that gloomy square portal on the digital world is what made me buy a second 32″ TV.

The impulse to buy something called a ‘monitor’ for your PC, rather than making do with a ‘TV’, is a bit of an anachronism. There used to be a difference when both were made out of magic ray guns, but these days it’s just that LCD monitors use a cheap and nasty panel technology, are eight inches smaller, and have feebler colour reproduction than the equivalently priced telly.

I would have happily bought them both back full price, since they were already stupidly cheap, but they’ve since been discontinued. The only way I could get them semi-first-hand was to go for Warranty Replacement units from Dabs. I don’t really know what that means, except £160ish instead of £270 and no remote control. Both appear to be brand new and work perfectly.

Things that look amazing on a star-bright 32″ monitor a foot from your face: Team Fortress 2, Mirror’s Edge, Unreal Tournament 3, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, BioShock.


Console And Games: 360 Premium with Left 4 Dead and Fable 2
Replaced with a £160 profit.


These you actually can buy at Comet, but by insisting on the money rather than vouchers to do so, I got to buy them from for spectacularly less. It wasn’t easy to persuade my insurance company, Direct Line, to give me money rather than Comet funbux, and I had to do so at a time when I really didn’t feel like arguing. So by the time I did, I was determined to fleece them for every penny I could. I bear them a keen and savage ill-will I cannot muster for the guys who took my stuff. Their professions are equally amoral, but my thieves were at least swift and courteous.


Bike: Specialized Hardrock Sport
Replaced with an improved model and £110 profit.

Hardrock Sport

It was my own stupid fault this got nicked – it was in my shed, which has a frickin’ window, and while the shed was notionally locked the bike was not.

Happily, it was nicked just before Future brought back a cycle-to-work initiative that gets you 40% off a new bike by deducting its cost from your gross pay – a nimble tax dodge. My friend Owen was also looking into getting a bike, which saved me the trouble of re-researching which is the best one to get these days. He’d learnt exactly what I did when I first bought mine: get a Specialized Hardrock Sport. It’s actually been redesigned since I got mine the first time, so my new one uses a lighter alloy and, frankly, looks cooler.


Replaced, upgraded and added to for free.

It turns out that when you’re robbed, the local council here pay not only to replace the broken lock, but replace all the locks in your house with ultra tough high-security deadbolts with five free-spinning cylinders inside that make them impossible to saw through, install new bolts inside the wood of your door so they can’t be kicked in, and upgrade the latch you shouldn’t have been using as a lock in the first place. What the hell, local council? Aren’t you supposed to be lazy, bureaucratic and heartless?


If anyone’s been totting up the numbers, they’ll have spotted I made quite a lot of money from being robbed. It’s not as much as it sounds, after paying three different ‘excesses’ to the insurance pricks for the crime of being victimised in three different ways, but certainly a net positive.

Usually the real cost is that your life is just a bit rubbish for a while as you go through the hassle of replacing all this stuff. But one person in particular was very nice to me when I lost all this, and she’s continued to be nicer to me since than I really seem to warrant. So instead, the last two months have been the best in years.

I give this burglary nine out of ten.

Richard: Agree totally on the Shift key thing. I have one of the old EEEs which I'm currently replacing with a new one, purely because of the pissant half-size right-Shift key that always, always, always has me hitting the arrows instead.

Alex-chan!: ooh... you're ranking burglaries, eh? what's you're address? i bet i can get 10/10 :D

J-Man: You better hope Direct Line don't read this...

Rei Onryou: Its ridiculous that they try to rip you off further with the funbux in the first place. Anyone with half a tech savy brain knows not to go there. Besides that, they don't have the super cool top notch stuff.

I rate this review of said burglary 10/10. If I ever get robbed, I now know how to handle the post-burglary two months. =D

Bigfoot_King: I guess I know what to do now if I get robbed now

The_B: J-Man: I'd be more worried about the burgulars reading than the insurance company. But if there's one thing The Sims 3 has taught me, it's that your stuff was nicked by a guy with a SUCTION SACK.

You should totally nick that back from them if they try again.

ZomBuster: It's like someone comes by your house, replaces all your stuff with newer and better ones, upgrades your locks, leaves some cash behind and put a sign on your back saying "Be nice to me please".

Ludo: I've been thinking about getting a monitor recently. Now I'm extremely tempted to get that TV. It's ... just ... so ... awesomely ... large.

EGTF: Tom Francis, master of stealth-thief insurance.

What's in the non-descript paper bag next to your comp?

Lack_26: I'll blow your mind, address please, 14/10 easy.

But, seriously, that was some good luck with insurance company. And remember, a gentleman thief will steal just shot of what the insurance company will pay out. That way it's a renewable resource.

Jonas: This is a really great post, way to make the best of a shitty situation Tom. But yes, I do wonder what Direct Line would do if they found this :P

spuzman00: Wow. I need to get robbed.

PD102: I kind of like my gadgets far too much, and I hate talking to people, especially insurance companies. So im going to make sure that as soon as im able to get a house, the door is made of solid steel and the windows are bulletproof. Ill see if i can buy one of those paintball Sentry Guns to boot.

Smurfy: Nice screenshot on the Eee - yeah, I noticed. I'm kind of a big deal.

Smurfy: Oh and on the desktop monitor too. If you were from where I was from, you'd be fuckin' cool.

Ludo: Yeah Deus Ex has been appearing everywhere I look recently, like a kind of subliminal hum. I installed it this evening and have been merrily cattle prodding fools. Man, it looks so old now, but is still great fun.

Tom Francis: DirectLine are welcome to read it - I told them what this stuff costs in real shops, they chose to give me Comet prices.

EGTF - the bag is actually a lamp.

Roadrunner: The first time I was burgled, I was about 7. They stole some car keys and a tv.
However what made up for it was that I got driven to school in a fucking POLICE CAR. (I was too young at the time to give a crap about the insurance etc)
That was undeniably epic.

Then I was burgled again and the insurance payed back roughly 4.2% of what the stolen items were worth. ¬_____¬

Nano: What's a PC gamer doing with an Xbox? Isn't that illegal, or something?

J-Man: I agree with Smurfy.

Inferno: Glad to hear you made the best of what can often be an awful situation. And good to hear about that other someone being especially nice. This random post made me happy. That is all.

Tom Francis: I have a special permit, Nano.

Preedy: he must only use it to laugh at.... right?

SenatorPalpatine: Sorry about the burglary, yay for upgraded gadgets and locks!

waste_manager: So they stole all this stuff but left your fruit bowl in tact? What the hell? Those apples look tasty.

Glad you got it all sorted anyway chap.

Chijts: That TV seems far too large to be that close to your face.

Ludo: I say it's not too large enough!

passerby: That's right, scam your insurance company then write about it on the Internet THIS PLAN CANNOT POSSIBLY FAIL

(though yes I agree the odds of them reading this are low...)

Anonymous: Who is this person?

Jason L: It's not a scam if they offer it because of their ridiculous cross-branding agreements. Unless the burglary bore the signature of the dashing cad Praig Cearson, this nothing more than a rare positive example of blind bureaucracy in action.

Jazmeister: Insurance is great in theory, but in practice they're in the business of weaselling out of agreements and surprising you with technicalities. Grrrr...

J-Man: Also, who's this nice lady?

J-Man: Also Ross leaving PCG. Sadface.

Preedy: :(

Ralph: Hey tom I'm glad everything worked out well in the end. Must be a horrible feeling to have your hard earned valuables stolen by some scallywags. The way you dealt with this situation is admirable you didn't let the crooks get the best of you and you dealt with the insurance people brilliantly.

Its times like these when it becomes obvious who your true friends are and I'm glad someone helped you out a lot. All the best for the future friend - and keep up the great work I love reading your amusing witty aticles online and in pcg, your my favourite games journalist :P
ps you should do some blogging for RPS :))

Little Green Man: @ Ralph
Why would he need to do blogging for RPS when he has his own blog just for himself?

Also I would've said: The way you dealt with this situation is admirable - you didn't let the crooks get the better of you. And the burglars don't seem to have done too much damage either.

Tom Francis: Anonymous and J-Man: She's http://mininanobytes... ...oming.html

Some couples fight about the toilet seat, we fight about Valve's timing of Left 4 Dead 2.

Ralph: Thanks, man! Cheered me up on a dull day.

LGM: Oh snap.

CloakRaider: Good to see that everything has sort of worked out from being robbed. Keep up the great journalismismisming and blogs!

Also, I'm tempted to get an EEE PC myself, but the only thing putting me off is the resolution that they run at.

Direct Line: ahah! I've reported this to counter fraud at direct line, I work for them! get ready for the phone call!

Tom Francis: You're called Direct Line and you work for Direct Line? Talk about nomnitive determinism!

Once again: fraud is when you lie about what you lost or what it's worth. I told them precisely what I lost, what I paid for it, and what it sells for today. They ignored that, offered me vouchers for some shitty replacements that weren't the same. I told them they weren't the same, they offered me the cash value of those replacements. I accepted.

Jason L: Nominative determinism nothing, that looks like nepotism to me.

Troll: Om nom nom nom nom. Thanks Tom!

Little Green Man: I've been looking at getting a tv/replacement monitor for my bedroom recently in the 32" area. Does having the low resolution of 1366*768 not look a bit odd being stretched over 32"s as it appears to be on those screens, as I was worried and thinking of going for a 1080p screen. Only problem with that is because of the much more computer sized pixels it would also take a much more powerful graphics card to power than I currently own.

Anyone's opinion?