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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: Little Lamplight

Previously, on Fallout Girl:

1 Nobody’s Vault: “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.”

2 Anywhere But Megaton: “I chose to exit the conversation, wait for him to turn round, then put a rusty kitchen knife I found in a toilet between his eleventh and twelfth vertebrae.”

3 The Road To Tenpenny: “I bought a dress only mildly stained with the blood of the dead, a magnificent bonnet to shade my emotionless murderer’s eyes, then pickpocketed my money back and headed up to the penthouse for some light genocide.”

4 Striking Out: “The shot ripped his right leg off at the knee, sending him pitching forward in a sprinkler-spurt of blood face-first into the dirt. All was still. The Fat Man was safe. I’ll be nice tomorrow.”

This post contains mild Little Lamplight spoilers.

Fallout3 2008-11-06 20-29-51-62

I decided to travel as far West as I could, as much to find out what would stop me as any reason to believe clues might lie this way.

I found a cave. It was called Lamplight Cavern. I went in. A twelve year-old boy told me to fuck off.

Fallout3 2008-11-06 13-51-58-37

I wasn’t going to be nice today.

There’s a perk you can choose in Fallout 3 that makes you more persuasive to children. I’m serious, that’s its sole purpose. I don’t have that perk, and frankly I worry about those who do. Certainly situations do arise, like this one, where persuading a child is useful to your quest, but it’s the pre-meditation that makes this such a creepy thing to want. “Yeah, I’m probably going to need to convince some kids to do something they don’t wanna do. I’ll take it.”

Fallout3 2008-11-06 13-13-32-73

I relied on raw charisma to get in. It was a society full of kids, which didn’t make a lot of sense given that they got here two hundred years ago, and they have a policy of kicking people out long before they reach child-bearing age. Luckily, though, one of the magic kids happened to know something about the android I’d made it my mission to hunt. She had a recording that confirmed the thing had acquired one of the two devices it was after.

As I’d arrived in Lamplight, someone else was leaving. Sticky. On my way out, I agreed to take him to Big Town because, well, he knew where Big Town was and I didn’t and I like places that are big.

Fallout3 2008-11-06 14-01-11-12

Sticky tells randomly generated stories from modular – stupid – components. No two are ever quite the same, or interesting. He also runs off a lot. He’s one of those characters who was clearly designed to be annoying. While you can’t help but admire the developer’s resounding success, it’s hard to deduce why this was something they felt they had to achieve.

Tired not so much of Sticky wandering off – the break from his chatter was welcome – but of trying to find him again, I tried making him wear a variety of outfits before settling on a radiation suit. We weren’t headed towards any more than the normal amount of radiation, but the suit is bright yellow, and therefore easy to spot.

Fallout3 2008-11-06 13-56-37-60

Fallout3 2008-11-06 13-58-08-68

Fallout3 2008-11-06 20-32-31-39

I had a good feeling about Big Town. Which was probably one reason it went so hideously wrong that the game actually stopped to produce a dialogue box calling me a sick bastard.

Fallout3 2008-11-06 21-14-21-30

More , ,

nine: glad to see this return!

Jazmeister: I never actually found little lamplight. I didn't notice the spoiler, but I'm not about to go back and - actually I just did there and still couldn't find it.

Actually, I've just realised, I didn't finish Fallout 3! :o why didn't I discover this sooner?!

Dante: You worry about other people's choices in Fallout Tom? Because yours are so defensible? What exactly did you do to big town you horrible monster?

I actually picked 'Child at Heart', partly because there weren't that many interesting perks at that level, but mostly because I always go for extra dialogue perks.

Ciaran: @Jazzmeister: You actually have to visit Little Lamplight as part of the main storyline, so if you continue along that you'll get to it eventually.

Desmolas: S'aight. Still, this makes me yearn for Nondrick.

Did Chris Livingston die? It appears he left a monkey twittering but no actual articles come out of that site.

EGTF: All games I think program especially for Tom a dialogue option calling him a sick bastard. I think even Prototype might shudder a bit at him and mutter "Hang on, that's a bit far isn't it?"

skizelo: I cant help but think that the whole of Little Lamplight was a massive mistake on Bethesda's part: a plot-important town of massively annoying, immortal brats who don't make any sense, biologically speaking. Not to mention that you cant really do much while there, because of the headline-dodging.

jcstarzyk: Next time you're in Little Lamplight, find Biwwy and use some of your Charisma on him. Your muderous rage will love it.

LaZodiac: Oh god, I can't wait to see just how your adventures in Big Town went, if the game had to tell you off.

AlphaTM: A hah, I remember the "Sick bastard" comment. Good times...

Kodiak: Any child born in Big Town is sent back to Little Lamplight, and so are lots of orphans found wandering the wastes. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable. [And it's totally worth it for Eulogy's Boogeyman Mask quest!]

Jackrabbit: Child at Heart gets you a free powerful lazer gun, doesn't it?

Bret: You know, that is an excuse.

I mean, if you knew for a fact free lasers came with a perk, it sounds a lot more like a good idea, even if the perk's name is "#1 Hitler fan".

TooNu: Best perk in the game: Cyborg.

Johnny Bulwharks: How come when other people play the game and I read about it, it sounds awesome, but when I play it, all I get out of it is an above average experience?

LaZodiac: @: Johnny Bulwharks: Maybe you just don't like the game, and he does? Thats all I can think of.

Jazmeister: Check your signal for the matrix, and the spinal port too, there were some driver issues I think. When did you update your Brainware last?

TooNu: Any game that gives you a world to explore and kill things in is awesome. There are days upon days of stuff to do, places to see, secrets to find, stories to hear/seek out/reveal, people to kill, monsters to kill, beasts to kill, people to befriend, monsters to...kill, beasts to tame AND kill.

You get a house, you get lot's of weapons, lot's of gear, lot's of small collectable things and junk...lot's and lot's of junk.

Just build a game foryourself within this game and you will be hooked. I love this game.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. complete mod pack is out btw, that is also awesome.

Devlosirrus: Man, I've really gotta start playing this game again. Any game that lets me blow the heads off mutated monsters while dressed like Abe Lincoln 2099 is a success in my book. TOP HAT FTW

Roadrunner: I did the Big Town quest quite early, but for some reason once I completed it all the characters there vanished.
And this is a problem because I wanted to find Red and make him a slave.

J-Man: Question: why is the job of deputy editor being offered externally and why not to an internal editor in PCG?

Jazmeister: Doesn't make sense to limit your options, I don't think. Imagine Cobbett joined PCG :D

J-Man: That would be good. Or you could sign on as the resident indie guy.

Lurking Yeti: I love this, not least for how the story's being told in the cold, distant way you'd expect from a murderer like Sophie.

I've been wondering though... it all seems a little easier for you than it was for me. Ok, a lot easier. Getting into Little Lamplight on pure charisma? Getting close enough to beat raiders with sledgehammers without dying at range?

So what's the difference? Is your difficulty slider set way easy? Are you just infinitely better at the game than me? Or is this adventure a lot more abridged than I thought, with levels of experience being skipped between posts?

Tom Francis: Thanks man. It's pretty abridged; I've missed out hijinks like the time I blundered into some abandoned town and got utterly destroyed by four Raiders. Took me a fair few attempts to get around that Raider cave with Smiling Jack in it, too.

I think I had a 76% chance of bluffing my way into Lamplight, Speech is one of my tagged skills.

Lurking Yeti: Ah, cool. That's a mystery solved then. My tagged skills are all based letting me put landmines in people's pockets more easily.

I've just had the misfortune of having the game crash on me. I was around 4 feet from the door to the Oasis at the time. This being after reading your post calling it the defining moment of the game... Gah.

I laughed at the poetic injustice, reset my 360, and was prepared to load my last save, in which I was about 5 feet from the door to the Oasis (handy, that).

I was then informed by the game that it was, in fact, an Xbox 360 game, and I should remove it from my DVD player and put it in an Xbox 360.

Hang on, what DVD player? This IS an Xbox 360! What's wrong with my game?! Gah! A perfectly round scratch around the edge of the disk, inflicted by the console, that's what.

I've always found getting games to run on my PC a hassle, but at least its never actually physically assaulted one of my disks. The injustice is no less poetic now, but it has somehow become a lot less funny.

Fat Zombie: @Devlosirrus:

Yes. This is all I can say: FUTURO-LINCOLN is the best thing ever.

It makes me sad: I've almost reached the end of the main quest with my character; knowing he'll be gone when I finish soon, I'm planning to start as a new character, maybe female. But females can't have the Honest Abe Beard! It saddens me slightly.

(NB: I'm playing on PS3, they haven't yet released the DLC which lets you play on after the end, as it were)