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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.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

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Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

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Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

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What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

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Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

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

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life


SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Red Faction Guerilla Tales: Fully Destructible Integrity

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I didn’t realise the recent Red Faction game was by the guys who made the excellent Saints Row 2, and I didn’t even realise Saints Row 2 was by the original Red Faction guys. I just rather childishly thought “Ugh, Red Faction” and ignored it. I didn’t expect it to be the first game to claim freeform destructibility and not actually be lying. And I certainly didn’t expect it to be one of my favourite games this year. Anyway, here’s a thing that happened:

I’m sandwiched between a GDF building and the compound’s armoured walls, angry APCs swarming the roads outside, when the crash happens. The cab of a large cargo truck bursts through the thick black wall in a fountain of rubble, run off the road by the careening GDF cars. The civilian driver bolts out, giving me both an opening and a free vehicle to drive through it. I clamber in and reverse out.

There’s already a similar truck parked in the garage back at the rebel base when I arrive, and I’m not entirely sure my heavier number is going to fit. I decide to find out full speed, so I not only crash headfirst into the other truck, but actually drive up its crumpled chassis and punch through the roof of the garage.

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I flop limply out of the driver side door onto what remains of the roof, pick myself up and assess the damage. I figure I can make it slightly less obvious if I can just push my truck back down through ceiling, so I start pounding on its roof with my sledgehammer.

When the blast clears, I’m on a rock twenty meters away, black smoke billowing up from where the garage used to be. There’s a second detonation as the fire reaches the truck below, and the last few struts and girders clank to the floor. I back quietly away and talk to my boss.

I’ve unlocked something called The Grinder, so main plot be damned, I’m spending my salvage on making one of those. I have a little left over to buy the ability to teleport to any safehouse, so I zip to the furthest one to try it out.

It’s like a different planet, closer to Cumbria than Mars. It’s green, for one thing, and the cars are all differenty. One is a beautifully idealised designer vision of a future-car, impractically low, wide and sleek. I love it so much that I run directly towards it, am hit in the shins by a hubless hoverwheel, and somersault onto my back, beaming. I get up and hijack it – the doors open upwards! Of course they do! – and its one careful owner just says “Good luck!”

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I speed off across the Martian countryside to the hostage rescue mission I picked up on arrival. The setting turns out to be a municipal building across a huge open plaza, and there’s a taxi in the parking lot so cool that I’m going to have to come back to admiring it later or no-one’s gonna get rescued today.

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The guards let me stroll all the way up to the building itself before they get angry, at which point I finally try the Grinder on a live target. It charges for a second and then FOOSH! A razorblade the size of a dinnerplate has buried itself in the guard’s duodenum. Holy shit! I’m keeping this.

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The Grinder swiftly clears out the ground floor – I can take little credit – but no hostages; they must be upstairs. FOOSH! One guard staggers back through a first-floor window with a blade in his diaphgragm. I have time to untie one of the three hostages before FOOSH! Another guard crashes over a balcony into the foyer, landing face-first on the razor in his skull. This is brilliant. This is every sci-fi fantasy I’ve ever had. FOOSH! A guard tries to high-kick me and finds a foreign object the size of an LP in her thigh.

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Outside is an army, which I instinctively try to electrocute with the Arc-Welder before realising we’re going to have to double back. I hammer out a new backdoor to the building and lead my charges through the hole, on a painful dash to the cover of the next brick wall. FOOSH! FOOSH! FOOSH! I can’t razorblade them all, but they’re so pervasive that even in the quiet shade of a cafe I have to cut a few down to buy us a moment’s peace.

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My friends make it round the quiet corner one by one, but the third girl lingers too long at the threshold to take pot-shots at the encroaching squadrons, and she’s felled. The survivors need no cajoling, we scarper for the carpark almost in unison. On arrival, we have a problem: futuro-car’s a two-seater. No wonder that bastard said ‘good luck’.

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The taxi! It’s doors are portholes how cool is that? Once we’ve all climbed in, the discs of glass slide back into place and I speed off in a light drizzle of gunfire, my two fares looking completely unmoved by our plight. I’m having the time of my life.

Red Faction Guerilla 01


The_B: Have you tried the Multiplayer yet Tom? Once you get past the mostly awful Matchmaking system and actually into the game it's a heck of a lot of fun. The backpack mechanic is marvellous in a TF2 giving people a role kind of way.

Jethro: Wow. Need! Game!

HyperKUltra: I love it too. Got it during the Steam sale on Sunday. Totally worth every penny. Haven't gotten this "Grinder" yet though, I mostly stick to the Sledgehamma, and remote charges myself.

Palmsy: I was gonna buy this game but rented it. It was amazing fun for the first day or so but got repetitive very quickly. It was great experimenting with the physics etc, but eventually you realize that a building will always fall down when you hit it enough.

Online didn't get boring though. Nothing like sprinting past a building, minding your own business when a team mate slams an enemy through the wall in front of you with a rhino pack.

Dan: I liked knocking buildings down quite a bit but wish they would have fallen down without having to go around knocking every single section of a wall down. It's unlikely a tiny, sheetrock bathroom wall would hold up an entire apartment building.

Lack_26: I probably had more fun with this game than any others this year, it's brilliant.

It was great on Normal where you just break things with the hammer, but it scales really nicely to the Insane setting (which I'm currently playing at), it completely changes the dynamics of the game; making it far more about cover and hit and run. Oh yeah, carbombs, often invaluable.

Alex Hopkinson: I played it on the 360 and loved it. It's my tenative game of the year, at the awards ceremony inside my head. Glad to see it getting some love.

Crashing headlong through the walls of a building was always my first step in almost any mission and it feels disappointly pedestrian to return to action games where I can't do this.

Jossoy: I'm glad this game is finally starting to get some of the respect it deserves. Sure, it's a mess, and all the criticisms it's garnered so far are completely valid, but for me the lack of variety was more than made up for the fact that most of the things you DO get to do are consistently fun. Especially that, if you're like me and hate escort missions, you can completely skip them in lieu of Jenkins' awesome rocket-bike missions. Riding shotgun with a rowdy redneck (that likes you) is an experience everyone should have at least once.

Smurfy: GDF? Tom, I think you mean EDF.

EGTF: EDF? Smurfy, I think you mean EDGTF.

This game from your narrative actually sounds like a heck of alot of fun. I had overlooked it as I thought it was just another Red Faction game, plus reviews and such seemed to suggest it was a bit repetitive and had feathery guns.

Might go pick it up now infact. The temptation to drive through walls into rooms full of people is very appealing. Even if most of the time it will happen in a more Frank Spencer manner.

Ryan: I don't think this is going to make my game of the year- too many little niggling problems with the difficulty curve, occasionally unsatisfying gunplay, etc- but the environmental destruction is fucking brilliant and has absolutely provided me with my gaming MOMENT of the year.

About halfway through the first zone, I decide to take down one of the high-importance targets, in the form of a barracks with a couple of smokestacks on either side. Sticky bombs take care of one smokestack, but the guards are starting to pour in from every conceivable direction, and my guerrilla buddies are of little use. I end up wasting the rest of my sticky bombs boobytrapping gas tanks and dealing with enemy vehicles, and while it gets me a momentary respite from the onslaught I'm still left with two intact buildings and no explosives to tear them down with.

So I run toward the side of the smokestack facing the barracks, start frantically hammering away at an important-looking piece of rebar, and wham bam thank you ma'am, the smokestack comes slowly toppling over and smacks nine kinds of shit out of the barracks like the baseball bat of God himself.

Chijts: It's my game of the year. Not so much for the cool single-player but the multi is just great. Judging whereabouts an enemy is hiding inside a building then taking a hammer or rhino pack through the wall, making them flyyyyyyy is incredibly satisfying. Getting a massive grinder kill streak as pentadact has found out is also right up there. Or how about smashing through the floor with the hammer to jump down guns blazing on the enemy below. I don't think I've ever played a more satifying multi where cool, badass things happen. I'm sure the third person gunplay won't appeal to all but it certainly does for me.

Chijts: BTW when you've completed single player turn the super hammer cheat on (if you've unlocked it by then). Those civilians running you over won't do it again in a hurry.

Tom Francis: Yeah, the super hammer is amazing. I wish the last mission had been just you, with that, against an army.

Caleb: Ghaa, looks very sweet. Damn my shitty computer limiting me in game choices! (Still, at least Torchlight and TF2 work fine)