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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

I’ve Got Confessions To Make

The silence here lately has been down to a dangerous daily routine of falling asleep in front of Star Trek: The Next Generation, waking up at 5am and playing Prototype until work. Dangerous, but not unpleasant.

Prototype has caused me to break a mouse, and Star Trek has my brain quietly working on a master formula to generate Star Trek plots for Star Trek Online quests, and ways they could interact with a player-chosen crew.

Meanwhile, The Sounds have a new album. It’s nudged them back into the lead as my most-listened artist on, partly because their songs have a tight neatness to them that allows me to listen to them almost indefinitely without irritation, and partly because until this album, they were unique in never having produced a worthless song. That’s the last one on Crossing the Rubicon, but it’s their best album despite it. Two reasons, one of them is this:

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Do you find that some bands just sound like two guitars and some drums? When No-One Sleeps When I’m Awake kicks in, it reminds me that The Sounds are one of the few that don’t. They produce a thick ribbon of undulating noise that your speakers seem happy to belt out, as if they’ve finally got something to sink their drivers’ teeth into.

The other reason is Home Is Where Your Heart Is, but it’s possible I’m just being a big sap about that one.

prototype annotatedI see now why most swords extend in only one direction.


Nano: Some dude introduced me to the Sounds recently, and I agree with your favourite songs, although 'Midnight Sun' is probably my number one. It is amazing to think that it's such a small band, because they sound so fat and meaty. Kudos to the studio engineer for mixing their album around their dynamics and not just reaching for the Compressor.

Also, moar screenshots of disemboweling plz.

ZomBuster: Protoype is a nice game.
I love helicopter hopping in the endgame, my record is like 16 or something.

also I like doing this (not my video) ...&hd=1

nine: I'm glad this artist has a back catalogue. The last artist you recommended (Florence & The Machine) still doesn't have an album out, and I'm desperately waiting!

Tom Francis: Monday!

Murray: Atleast you update more than Chris. :)

Thomas Lawrence: Honestly, I appreciate those people on my RSS reader who don;t updae that frequently, because A) they justify the RSS reader (as opposed to just refreshing the respective websites) and B) my RSS reader currently has 450+ unread items. And climbing.

Thomas Lawrence: Also, The Sounds sound sound! Sound choice.

Tom Francis: Speaking of which - are you finding posts now come through as excerpts in the RSS feed? I am, and they shouldn't. It's always been set to include full posts in the feed and I don't like forcing people to come here, but I can't figure out how to fix it.

Jazmeister: Thomas: Seconded.

Tom: You fix it by plastering ads everywhere. I knew you were in this racket for the millions of cash moneys.

Also, lovely Deus Ex article! I just read it to my wife, and it helped break up the monotony of a long, bleak HD-format.

Thomas Lawrence: My stuff from James is showing up as excerpts only (if that) on my RSS reader, and has been since.... March 16th, I think? The post then about the Nameless Mod shows up in full in the reader (this is Google Reader, if it matters), but the subsequent post ("Lord I just Don't Care", about the wonderful Florence + the Machine) I only get the second paragraph, and it deteriorates from there.

My specific feed URL is: http://www.pentadact... ...x.php/feed

Graham: Everyone knows that Tony The Beat is their best song.

Although I haven't listened to the new album yet.

Tom Francis: Good once it gets going, but the slightly clumsy sexy talk in the opening verses is a bit offputting.

Anonymous: I think I'm going to rent Prototype. Is it really as fun as people say?

LaZodiac: er, shit. That was me. Forgot I deleted my cookies awhile ago.

EGTF: Turning into a dumpy woman and flying still hasn't gotten old for me. Prototype is pretty good too.

Tom Francis: Loved your Prototype love story about Steven by the way, Ed. Ooh, there's a part two!

Bumface the Brave: "Do you find that some bands just sound like two guitars and some drums... The Sounds are one of the few that don’t."

Maybe you're not listening to the right music? Chortle!

Tom Francis: Fixed the RSS problem, future posts should come through in full. Finding the solution was made inordinately hard by the fact that a moderator on the WordPress support forums is in denial that this problem even exists. He not only accuses people who report it of lying, but locks threads about it to prevent people sharing solutions. THANKS CHUM.

The_B: I quite enjoyed Prototype while it lasted, can't see myself returning to finish all the side missions or play the New Game + mode though, to be honest.

And some of the targeting was infurating, especially trying to get Intrigue targets that were too happy to wade into an Infected area.

Tom Francis: Florence and the Machine update! Even though the album isn't technically out till tomorrow, you can buy the MP3 version of the 2-disc special edition for £8 on Amazon right now: ...ef=mb_oe_o

EGTF: Wow, you actually read that? Cheers Tom! Sorry to disappoint with part two, I know it didn't have the same charm.

Jazmeister: I swear that's his superpower.

SenatorPalpatine: I enjoy clicking my RSS feed to come here when there's a new post. This site is uniquely designed and easy on the eyes, not to mention the content.

Lack_26: I've been listening to The Sounds since you mentioned them on Twitter, I haven't listened to the new album (I wonder if it'll turn up on Spotify) but I think my favourites from their previous are Tony the Beat, Hope You're Happy Now and Hit Me. Oh yeah, Rock 'n Roll is good too.

Also, what do you think of the new Florence album, I've listened to it through, er... less than legal means since I wont be around to get the album for a few weeks and would rather it wasn't sitting in the letter box. But I'll get it once I'm back, mainly for My Boy Build Coffins, even though I prefer the version on youtube that they did in that park.

Dante: Star Trek Plot Generator:

Planet contains:

1) Weird Aliens
2) Warring Factions
3) Time Machine
4) God


1) Are Aliens female? (go to a) Are they living in a utopia (b) are they attacking you? (c) Or are they just weird? (d)
2) Is war a thinly veiled social allegory? (e) Is one side just plain evil? (f) Or is war just a senseless waste of life? (g)
3) Are you in the twentieth century? (h) Are you at a historically important event? (i) Or are you in your own past? (j)
4) Is God a computer? (k) Otherwise (e)

a) Boldly go
b) Destroy utopia in name of freedom
c) Victory by technobabble
d) Stare at them a bit, then (a)
e) Make philosophical speech
f) Set phasers to kill
g) (e), then (a)
h) Make jokes about contemporary culture, then (a)
i) Mess it up, change history, then change it back, then (a)
j) Try to avoid paradox, fail, (c) then (a)
k) Destroy computer

I spent way too long doing that. And I haven't even put holodeck malfunctions or energy beings in yet.

Jason L: As long as we (were) talking about the RSS feed, I have a problem where only some of the new feed items get 'highlighted' as new. I think it may only start marking items when it gets a comment on a different post than the last marked read one, i.e. a different item name. This problem hasn't shown up on any other feed, but if it has to do with feed items having the same name that would make sense - none of my other feeds have that (Can anyone think of another feed that has many items with the same name/title?) I use the Feed Sidebar extension, but I think I tested it with some bookmark toolbar highlighter and had the same problem.

This isn't a full-blown bug report yet, since I still haven't completed the necessary testing to pin it down on my end. Just, if anyone complains about things not showing up in RSS maybe they mean this.

Tom Francis: Hm, so new posts show in the feed but aren't flagged up as unread?

What things have the same name in my feed?

Jason L: My mistake, I thought the 'by' part on the comments feed was done through XML wizardry, meaning that there would have been a dozen 'Comment on I've Got Confessions To Make's in a row for example. With the author included in the, although maybe the author got lazy and cut the comparison off at 32 characters or something. Again, before pinning this on your feed I really need to stop using the extension I like and switch to another one for a week to see if it's got the same problem. I was just taking the conversational opportunity to pass along preliminary information.

Jason L: And I didn't answer the question. Yes, that's exactly what happens. Obviously the whole point of the extension is that it's usually set to show only new items.

J-Man: Does anyone know if the new Florence album is good?

Jason L: OK, NM. Sorry. Feed Sidebar has reported open bugs with its read/unread function.

Robert64: After reading this, I finally caved and bought Prototype. It has now consumed two full days of my life.

Redhawk: @Robert64: Have you gotten to the part where the game becomes a giant mass of knockback and bullshit? Fun game and all, but its another one of those that you can just see Amazing Game written and then scribbled out in favor of Decent Game.

Tom Francis: There's certainly plenty of bullshit, but I'm finding what EGTF found - dumb missions that would be unforgivable in another game are really only a minor quibble in this one. I think it's because your abilities are so ridiculous that there's always a fairly easy way past a problem, even if it's not obvious at first.

Dante: Aye, particlarly hard bosses can usually be defeated by jumping around a lot and whipfisting them from a distance.

That's a power from the game by the way, not the bizzare sex act it sounds like.

Tom Francis: J-Man - Florence album is great so far. Two tracks I'm not wild about, but the rest is super strong. I rate Between Two Lungs and Drumming Song up with Dog Days and Rabbit Heart.

Robert64: Just completed it. My main problem was that the bosses seemed to drag on and on, with not many new interesting elements introduced to keep me interested.
Anyone else beat the final boss by repeatedly throwing helicopters at it?

MartinJ: Not helicopters, helicopter rockets.

Tom Francis: This fight makes me sad. Once the time limit starts, I can't find out a way to do damage to him fast enough without losing all my health, and with the troops gone I've got no way to regenerate it. The parked choppers are all blown up by then, and stealing the attacking ones takes a while and doesn't get much damage in before he one-shots them with his ultra-pounce.

I am moved to wonder: the bomb is basically a sound tactic, so why can't I swim to shore?

Dagda: I beat him on my first try, with the help of two Critical Pain devastators as soon as the countdown started.

The bomb is going to go off right next to the island if you just leave it there, killing much of the surviving population.

Tom Francis: Beat him, pretty much the same tactic. I forgot I hadn't upgraded my Devastator juice to the max, so that let me get three blasts ready by the time the countdown started. Rubbish boss.

Redhawk: @Dagda: considering the amount of concern you have for the surviving population in the rest of the game, I don't see why this is a problem.

Dagda: @Redhawk: Yeah, can't say I disagree with you on that score; Mercer's characterization kinda takes a last-minute swerve on that matter.

@Pentadact: On the topic of bosses, the final battle with Elisabeth Greene is an overly-long slog against a laughable monster design that I lost at the last minute on my first try- after half an hour of play- because the 30th helicopter I hijacked flew out of the combat zone while I was doing so.

I absolutely loved it.

It's the epic sense of scale- the fact that you're taking cover behind skyscrapers and engaging this titanic enemy, soaring through the air a hundred stories up. It makes me dream of more boss battles against more giant foes, mobile ones who slowly clamber between the upper sections of different skyscrapers or trundle down streets and have to be ambushed from side alleyways.

MartinJ: Don't take me wrong, but did anyone else think that Elisabeth Greene as the boss looks like a mix up of a Cthulu monster and a female reproduction organ?

EGTF: @MartinJ How do we take you right? Freud just had a heart attack in his grave.

nine: Lungs is cheaper on ...038;sr=8-2

nine: This is what annoys me about the music industry. I can't buy Lungs from iTunes or Amazon because of region restrictions. So I've pirated it, and now I need to remember to buy a real copy once it's out. Which, of course, will be lower quality. Argh.

Tom Francis: Yeah, region restrictions are why I can't buy MP3s from - last time I tried, at least. I'm not whinging though because the UK Amazon has since caught up in selection, and is still pretty goram cheap. Young Tom used to pay £15 for albums at Our shitty Price.

Jason L: Dagda: Earth Defense Force/Chikyuu Boueigun. Especially Chikyuu Boueigun 2 for the PS2, which includes a jetpack.

MartinJ: But so many Cthulhoids look like vaginas in the first place...Of course, 'sometimes a giant monster is just a giant monster'.

Pod: I like this

nine: Just got my copy of Lungs today. The bonus disc with the deluxe edition is pretty poor, but the main disc is GREAT!

Tom Francis: Am I right in thinking The Hardest of Hearts is only on the bonus disc? For the most part, yeah, I don't want shitty demos when I have the good version of the songs on the main disc. But that song is magnificent, well worth it.

nine: Yeah it is, that and Bird Song are the redeeming factors. Thanks for recommending Florence.. again.

PS, if you aren't a wilco fan yet try the latest album.

Mr. Brit: 'Falling' is another bonus disc treat if you ask me. Currently swaying between 'Bird Song' and 'Between two lungs' for favourite.
Which two songs weren't you excited about? I'm guessing 'Cosmic love' and 'Blinding' as I have listened to all the others enough to know the lyrics of by heart by now.
Also, never heard The Sounds before but thank you!

Tom Francis: I actually missed Falling until just recently, because stupid Amazon mislabelled it as a demo version of Dog Days - which I'd have no interest in. I was then bonus annoyed to find that what I thought would be a new song, Falling, was just a slightly rubbish version of Dog Days. I hate you Amazon.

Between Two Lungs might be my favourite too.

Tom Lawrence: Lungs is now avaialable for listening on Spotify, for their customary no pennies:

http://open.spotify.... ...TqaeelKgT0

I Like That You Can Slow Down, by Tom Francis: [...] I only just got this, but Yeah Yeah Yeah is an instant favourite. The Sounds are usually pretty straightforward rock, but here they’re going a little more electronic – some tracks feel more about rhythms and samples than the conventional structure they’ve stuck to before. On Yeah Yeah Yeah it’s excitingly new, but the rest of the album isn’t standing up to Rubicon yet (see I’ve Got Confessions To Make). [...]