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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

Team Fortress 2: Classless Update Night

hl2 2009-08-16 16-47-27-23

hl2 2009-08-16 20-12-06-71

ryuken0083 is looking good!

hl2 2009-08-16 20-24-07-81

hl2 2009-08-16 20-49-49-04

hl2 2009-08-16 20-26-17-37

jamais vu is looking good!

hl2 2009-08-16 12-29-05-73

hl2 2009-08-16 16-31-25-09

[N.O.O.B] Paradise is looking good!_0000

The new TF2 update is a bigger deal than expected: today Valve suddenly announced a huge list of balance changes and fun new touches, and also that the update was, like, out. We played around with it tonight, and the highlight by far is the new set of animations for the losing team running around after the match is won. At one point I broke into the enemy supply room and found a Scout, on his knees, just sobbing.

TF2 Classless Update 03

The new mode, King of the Hill, is excellent – exactly what I wanted Arena to turn into. One cap point, quick rounds, normal respawning. More than half the matches I’ve played, both on Nucleus and the snowy new map, Viaduct, have been preposterously close. The control point sometimes changes hands two or three times after both teams’ countdowns are at zero, just because it keeps getting retaken during overtime. This, or some other glitch, is causing the histrionic announcer to declare “Overtime! OVER time! OVERTIME! Oooover time!” frantically for the duration.

TF2 Classless Update 12

Oh, and I got my Shafted achievement for the Sniper – the one for killing someone with the taunt animation for the Huntsman bow. I’d cleverly fooled myself into thinking I already had it, because I have a screenshot of me stabbing a Medic through the neck with an arrow, but of course that was during the humiliation stage so it doesn’t count. Usually my quests for the taunt kills are more epic, but the Spy’s I got while cloaked – killing an Engy while his dispenser kept me invisible – and this one was just a spur of the moment decision. Terrifying nevertheless: sacrificing that gleeful certainty of killing someone who hasn’t seen you for the ridiculous risk of making yourself vulnerable, deep in enemy ranks, to achieve the same result in a more flamboyant way. Sorry VokKz.

More scenes from update night:

TF2 Classless Update 01

TF2 Classless Update 02

TF2 Classless Update 07

TF2 Classless Update 09

TF2 Classless Update 10

TF2 Classless Update 11

Also, holy shit, I’ve been nominated for another Games Media Award. I don’t have to nag you to vote for me this time, since it’s not a public vote anymore: this year it’s decided by a ‘panel’ of a hundred odd industry judges. Evidentally one or more of this mysterious cabal nominated me, and Graham, and PC Gamer, so if you’re reading this: holy shit, thanks!

If only I knew someone on this panel so I could show them an unrepresentative selection of my work and beg for their vote. Not whoring myself is weird, I don’t feel seedy enough.

Oh, that was the other thing, I’ve been made a Games Media Award judge. Anyone want to trade votes?

Ah, that’s better.

TF2 Classless Update 04


Verde Flash: Darn, I'm not in any of these pictures. The first thing I thought of when I saw you on my server was this. (I was that guy who nerded out over you.)

The_B: Erm, actually Tom the GMAs were decided by us lot. ...ominations

(Yes, Fine, I voted for you and Graham. I like to think my email was the tipping factor. ¬_¬)

x25killa: It was a good match and I think I be into more koth mode in the mere future.

EGTF: I found that you could survive humiliation as a spy by just tapping "b" for last disguise. But then you miss the hilarity of having your arms flailing.

Nice playing with you and The_B and the other chaps too. Hope you didn't mind me following you into the game when I saw you were on.

Shame I was shit though.

relenian: Any thoughts on this limited-edition, forum-announced unlocked medal business, Tom?

http://www.teamfortr... ..._good_day/

Jon Baker: I hope they never fix the announcer's repeated "overtime" calls. It has a certain charm to it.

essecks: - Übercharged players can no longer be stunned.

Some pretty major stuff in this update, from what I've seen. I haven't had a chance to play with it, but I'm fairly certain that is/usedtobe an achievement?

Waste_Manager: Can't believe this went live last night - to think I was off watching crap on TV.

I'm pretty happy about the sandman no longer knocking out ubercharges - that always seemed dumb to me.

Otter: @relenian: someone sent me the link to that medal thingie, and so I entered my Steam ID and password and clicked the dealie to get my own. Then I did a double-take and scrambled to change my Steam password as quickly as possible, because I suddenly realized how phishy the whole setup looked and I filled up all at once with dread and disbelief at how stupid I had been.

Of course, in another thirty seconds I realized that the page's artwork was a fairly convincing seal of authenticity, and "teamfortress" wasn't spelled as "teamfrotress" in the URL or somesuch, so I calmed down. But the incident I had there has made me reconsider how easy it would be for a phisher to get me; I bought a very generic "Hey, check out this new medal thing with the update today! Here's the link" message from a guy on my friends list that I didn't even know too well (not to mention that his account could have been stolen already even if I knew him), clicked the provided link, and the urgency provided by the "first come, first serve" presentation made me fill out my information right away without examining the page too closely.

In other words, what Valve designed and then leaked was basically a perfect model for a scam artist to duplicate. And the deception will be bolstered by the expectation they've just built into their player base that these secret websites will exist, ask for their info, and be totally safe and official. Grab a piece of old concept art that most people won't remember, duplicate the site design and you'll probably do well enough to fool me. I'm not Valve, but if I were I would be trying to reinforce the wariness my players have for clicking links their friends send them and then entering their account details, not undermine it by offering unique rewards for that behavior.

Sorry about the essay -- getting phished wouldn't even have set me back that much, and it didn't happen, and instead I'm apparently getting some prize that most players won't have. But the process still made me uneasy and I'm hoping it doesn't set a precedent. One of the loudest complaints I hear about digital distribution is that you can get your account stolen and lose all your games without a trace; I might equally point out that your clunky physical gaming artifacts might be stolen in real life, and be irretrievable, but the point remains that a buyer of digital goods must feel safe about his ownership of those purchases or he'll go straight back to retail. Anything that makes a phisher's job easier and increases the number of accounts stolen is thereby going to diminish the aggregate perceived security of the system. Valve usually seems to take this stuff seriously.

Lack_26: Why couldn't they just give out one of those redeemable codes to people. (Although some people would probably sell them or come back for more, so there are problems with that too.)

The_B: Tom, don't tell them we got a medal, they'll be jealous.

Oh sh...

Jason L: Classless Update release notes:

- Added graphical 'First Post!' achievement

Phosphorus: I'm pretty sure you can still get The Big Hurt by stunning enemies who are Kritzed.

Jazmeister: What if the medal says "You got phished!" or something?

The_B: Jaz I fear not for phishing scams! (Also because I made sure that firstly, I went through official channels to find it in the first place and two made sure all urls were at the right place. :P

The_B: (Although if Robin Walker starts using my TF2 account, he better get me some bloody hats.)

Roadrunner: Some wit-bandit (I forgot who O.o) on the PCG server said, "I got 99 items but a hat aint one" and I was suddenly hit by a wave of inspiration to make some kind of full song remix of that, except I can't be bothered :D

EGTF: @Roadrunner: For shame, just take any song and mutilate the lyrics to suit TF2. For instance, hammertime -

Can't get this (x2)
Can't get this (ove-over ove ove over-ove-overtime) (x2)

My-my-my-my Uber rush hits you, so hard makes you say oh em gee
Thank you, for blessing me with a hat to wear and two unlocks
It feels good, when you know you're top
A superdope sniper from the 2_fort
And I'm known as such
And this is a hat, uh, you can't get

I told you newbie, you can't get this
Yeah that's how we're unlocking and you know you can't get this
Look at my hat man you can't get this
You know let me spam the cap point you can't get this

Et cetera. Except I can't be bothered to continue as MC Hammer's lyrics are actually rather crap.

Caleb: Someone mentioned in a post a few days ago this, but i'll say it again, as it bears repeating:

Somebody needs to friggin' hire you to take in-game screenshots, as yours are always awesome.

spuzman: I kinda wish my team would lose more often just so I could see a couple more "losing" animations...

Then my team wins, and suddenly I have the opportunity to smash some heads with my GLOWING LIGHTNING SHOVEL.

The_B: Caleb - to be fair, his job does require him to do a lot of that.

Also, VALVE LOVE THE OVERTIME - one of the patch notes tonight:

"Due to many requests, added server ConVar "tf_overtime_nag". When set to 1, it keeps the broken announcer behavior"

Someursault: The big update broke stickyjumps. The post-update update (August 14, not August 13) fixed stickyjumps and broke rocketjumps (AGAIN) in the process. Valve does this just about every time they tweak something about self-damage; last time it took a few days for them to fix it.

I'm not going to be the guy who complains about Valve's free content updates to a game they released more than two years ago. It's great and experimental of them and I even hear there's plans for a new 5-point CP map by Valve, so that'll be a new map I actually play (5-point push maps, and maybe a couple CTF maps, are the only ones that're really viable in a 6v6 setting). That said, would it kill them to try one rocketjump before sending out the new self-damage patch?

I'm not going to bug Valve about it, though, because they might track me down and take my new medal away.

Someursault: Oh, I guess it would have been more accurate to say "a game they released almost two years ago." Times and dates are confusing.

Jazmeister: I'm just gonna go ahead and say this, and I might regret it, but Tom, someone should seriously fucking hire you to write about games for a living. I swear man. You may even be the best specialist writer (print) I know.

Someursault: I'd go so far as to suggest that a British magazine concerned with PC gaming might want to pick him up as a staff writer. The sooner the better, in fact.

Tom Francis: The B: Oh yeah. I missed the nomination phase completely, just assumed it worked the same way as the final decision. Thanks!

Otter: Agreed. They should have found a way to get these out that wasn't imitatable by phishers. Just from the letters we get at PC Gamer, it's obvious phishing is a huge problem for Steam, and this promotion shows a surprising insensitivity to that. Particularly when most of the victims who write to us are doing so because Valve are ignoring them.

Ludo: Great shots. I always find it really hard to get good TF2 screens, even with some creative cropping there's always loads of junk on the screen.

Cptn.Average: Gotta say I love the new critboost animations on some of the melee weapons - the Kukri looks like a powersword and the elctro-bat is awesome :D

Caleb: Cptn.Average: the one thing that bugs me about this update is the new critboost animation, because when it pops up, my framerate drops from it's normal 25-30fps to about 10 :(

Dr. Nerfball: Huh, I just realised, most of the screen shots Tom took involve him getting served... Is that something that happens a lot, or do you only bother to press the screenshot key when that happens.

Oh yeah, and well done on that whole nomination thing. Now you just need to win. =P Good luck anyway!

Someursault: Bit hard to reach the screenshot key while you're doing well, isn't it? Well, I guess you could re-bind it to something more convenient, but even then it's a distraction.

Tom Francis: I have it bound to my mouse's second thumb button, but with TF2 I'm just never thinking about how pretty a scene I'm seeing while I'm alive. In single-player games, and worse multiplayer ones, I'm usually detached enough to remember to hammer it every time something cool happens.

For some reason I instinctively hit it when I earn an achievement. And in Fallout 3, I subconsciously screenshot every time I'm offered a Speechcraft or ability-exlusive dialogue option.

Jazmeister: In TF2 I have mine on middle mouse, so I can just horribly mash all buttons ever. I have no idea how to bind fraps to a mouse key, though, that'd be cool. Source gives me lag with its own screen cap thing.

I always thought it'd be cool if source took a 3d snapshot that you could rotate and remove UI elements. I seem to remember some promo thing for one of the Halo games that was a 3d picture you could pan around, and I remember having to run it in Quicktime, of all things.

Little Green Man: Now it's time to try TF2 on my mahhooosive 32" tv/monitor. Thanks for saying that tvs aren't completely shit as monitors Tom! :D

Tom Francis: Ooh, good luck! It looks amazing, one of the best things to show it off with. Mirror's Edge is probably top, and surprisingly UT3 is up there too.

Little Green Man: Yes, I installed Mirror's Edge as soon as i got off TF2. AMAZING! Unfortuantely my PC then promptly decided to blow up the next day. Thank you very much Power supply and my areas occasionnal power surges, you really pulled it out of the bag that time. Luckily, only half of my pc was fried, but I'm still looking at a hefty cost for a new PSU (Spending a large amount this time on one I can trust) Ram, Mobo and Cpu. Although Mirror's Edge was definitely awesome!

Ludo: Unlucky LGM! You might want a surge protector, it's like a typical plug extension but is supposed to protect your PC from power surges. Costs about 10 quid I think.

DoctorDisaster: I couldn't agree more about KOTH being Arena with all the crap parts taken out. It's great to finally be able to see all the new atmospheric effects that used to be arena-exclusive. My personal favorite of the new maps is definitely Nucleus. Sawmill's very fun too, but I'm always confused whether I'm supposed to be chasing intel or a cap point when the level first loads.

Also I think KOTH is helping some of the more rabid fanboys admit/realize just how terrible Arena was. I was playing a game that went into overtime when one of the players was AFK, so all of us dead people had to sit there for a couple minutes watching as the enemy team searched high and low for some idiot who was idle in the spawn area. I made a crack about how this was "almost as retarded as Arena mode" and NOT ONE PERSON on either team tried to convince me that spectating for minutes at a stretch was an awesome gameplay innovation.

The GLOWING LIGHTNING SHOVEL versus COWERING BABIES thing is also one of the best little tweaks they've ever thrown into the game. The new effect even manages to make a successful Kruber feel even more badass than it did a couple of weeks ago. I also love the critboost on flag cap.

I will say, though, that this business about a spy disguise utterly nerfing all the medic unlocks is annoying as hell. Medics are high-value targets who hang back and keep a strategic outlook on the broader situation. This naturally makes them one of the first classes to spot a disguised spy. The old rules increased the medic's benefit from being observant. The new rules weaken the medic unlocks generally and only seem to benefit amateurish spies.

Lack_26: @LGM,

I had a similar experience a few months back, I'd had the computer for about 2 weeks and had a power surge. Most of the computer turned out to be alright, but the graphics card didn't survive. I actually ended up buying most of a computer worth in new hardware and upgrade the graphics card to a GTX260 from a GT9800. I built another computer out of the spares though, so it's not so bad.

Little Green Man: Yeah,what's annoying is that if my GPU had been fried, it would have been a component I wouldn't have minded replacing. However I had planned on keeping my other componeneets for at least another year or so. Well, at least now I have an excuse to get a nice powerful quad core cpu. Oh, and I have now bought two belkin surge protectors to make sure this never happens again :D

Anonymous: Hey does anyone know a way of making this website a fixed width? Like Tom I now have a very large tv as a monitor and it means that on this website text is huge and pictures small.

Jason L: I'm not sure I understand the problem clearly - if the text and pictures are out of whack, you may need to look at zooming problems - either the 'zoom pictures too' setting, the site-specific zoom setting, or both.

In any case, if 'making it a fixed width' is the correct answer to your problem, I think Stylish is what you're looking for. It allows you to do anything that can be done in CSS, on a per-site basis. In this case I imagine you'd be working with the div.mainColumn class - on stock CSS its width is specified by margins from the sides. Default stylesheet for James is here.

Greasemonkey is the obvious fallback, but speaking for myself 'simple' Javascript is much more difficult than simple CSS, and I find the fact that it has to download and render the page and then rearrange it intensely annoying.

DoctorDisaster: Firebug. Use it.

Tom Francis: I think Anon is just referring to the fact that my website looks crap at very high resolutions - the line length becomes stupidly long and the images have huge blank margins. I might give its width an upper limit at some point, but I kinda prefer the stretchy image solution: http://www.pentadact... ...f-medicine

If I can get that working for everyone, I'll switch over to it.

Jason L: You're usually right, DD, but does Firebug remember your CSS changes from visit to visit? It's great for diagnosing problems and learning, but can it be used as an actual Web customiser?

Little Green Man: Yeah, sorry, that was me, just forgot to put my name in. I might try firebug and see whether that works.

ZomBuster: I hope you're not still trying to cater the IE6 audience because there is NO excuse to use it.

Samurai: Unrelated, but awesome: ...kY.jpg
http://img408.images... ...sc5357.jpg

Anonymous: Oh wow, Samurai. Did he survive?

EGTF: He also spycrabbed it up whilst he was there, apparently - ..._CrENyQi0E

DoctorDisaster: Firebug doesn't save changes, sadly, but I use it to fix problems with websites all the time. Since part of my job is web design, it helps to keep me on my toes. :)

And of course, if you find a hack that works, you can send it along to Tom so he can test it for a wider audience.

tf2 halo hat – ???: [...] "fuck you, Valve. …Justice Per Second – http://juspersec.blo...|||Team Fortress 2: Classless Update Night, by Tom FrancisRoadrunner: Some wit-bandit (I forgot who O.o) on the PCG server said, "I got 99 items but a [...]

tf2 halo hat: [...] 3: ODST a whole month before anyone else, ac. …BeefJack –|||Team Fortress 2: Classless Update Night, by Tom FrancisRoadrunner: Some wit-bandit (I forgot who O.o) on the PCG server said, "I got 99 items but a [...]

Fukagaroff: Team Fortress 2 we want the game. Instead, Warcraft will be forced to play in the world. This game is that something very different here. What's it like to play the game for the fun of it? Very different from what?

Roadrunner: When you go into work on Monday, Tell Buck we love him for putting alltalk on the PCG, and I would send him some toblerone of gratitude if the internet accepted actual objects.