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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

The Year In Forty Photos

I won’t bore you with any kind of account of my year, but here are some photos I took during it. I guess I didn’t take all of them since I’m in some of them, but I don’t remember so good about those ones.

I’ve been working my way through Said the Gramophone’s 75 tracks of the year with an odd cocktail of revulsion and delight. Among the delight, this wonderful song by Vic Chesnutt. Often songs that aren’t about what they seem to be about never let you in on the twist – it was years before I realised Belle & Sebastian’s Century of Elvis was about a cat. Vic’s is from the school of “Two minutes in, just come out and say it.”

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I approve. It’d be a shame for anyone to hear a couplet so painfully double-edged as “When you touched a friend of mine / I thought I would lose my mind” and miss the grim joke.

Oh yeah, good news: I’m working on a really long post about a really esoteric subject that involves lots of strong opinions about game design ideas I have no experience working with.


IMG_2115Truffle fries in San Fran.





IMG_2194The restaurant of endless meat, with 2K’s Karl Unterholzner and Jordan Thomas.


San Fran March 09 005Mr Gish unwisely shows his daughter the drawing Mr World of Goo did of him naked.

San Fran March 09 008

San Fran March 09 012


IMG_2314Dylan Moran, yesterday.






IMG_2620France’s pimary exports are textiles and macro photography.










IMG_2878Space Invader ice cubes.




IMG_2931Kim arranged I think my first ever surprise birthday party.

Halloween 010Halloween.

New York 008

New York 301

New York 191

New York 215

New York 312

New York 234


Jonas: Space Invader ice cubes! I think I just realised my life is incomplete.

Dan: I never realized how depressing it is to see a year condensed into 40 pictures. Don't even ask me why!

spuzman: Love that cake! Must've been a blast to eat.
Oh, and come back to the SF Bay sometime. We all miss you.

Jazmeister: Here's to a good year!

Jonn: I saw that first pic of Moran and wondered why he looked so familiar. Then I saw the second one and the caption and went "hang a tic, that's the Black Books guy!"

]France’s pimary exports are textiles and macro photography.

Also, berets.

(You thought I was going to say "surrendering", dincha?)


That's a really good impression of a pale British man.

icouldbeahero: Nice photos sir. Was that endless meal restaurant a Fogo de Chao, perchance?

Tom Francis: Erk, sorry, these weren't meant to be flagged as private. Fixed now, the big versions of the Space Invader ones are best.

All I can remember about the restaurant's name is that it rhymes with asbestos.

It's not really Dylan, Jonn, something about my obliviousness to disarranged hair just made me think of him.

Heh, did anyone else spend long enough in the comments box for the snow to reach down here? It takes a while.

Chijts: Those ice cube shots are by far the best, especially number one and two. That's some sweet macro action right there.

Walternat0r: Loving the guy made out of slate and the manatee

Aldo: Mmm, dried fishies...

( ...4/sizes/l/ )

Lack_26: A good year then?

My year was 2/3 STRESS 3/12 stress 1/12 relaxing.

That's my year in a nut shell, still, I can't believe that's almost a new decade. When someone said that I said something along the lines of 'What? Since when, no... f*ck off'. I'd forgotten that 2010 would be the start of the next decade, I'd only just got settled with the 00's.

Also, 2010 is still pegged down as THE FUTURE, it certainly doesn't feel like the future yet. This Christmas better at least see something major come out of CERN. And I'm definitely going to make some retro-ice blocks. Perhaps I could stick jelly cubes together to make characters from the years when you could see all the individual colours in a pixel from about 1m away from the screen.

Desmolas: Pretentious macro of wall?

Laser: I hope you don't mind me using your picture of you in a silly wig in my media presentation about your blog, Mr Francis :)

Zeno Cosini: Excellent. By cycling through these pictures very quickly I can imagine what you'd experience, Tom, if you drowned on the final day of the year (not that you will!)

Dr. Nerfball: @Pentadact: Yep, I've been down here for fifteen minutes (for some reason), I've seen a single lonely snow flake. Kinda depressing somehow...

Also those are some purty photos, I still laugh when I see the walrus one, it looks so happy to see you! Did you bring him his bukkit?

Oh yeah, and there's to much sunlight reflecting on the fifth picture down, or I'm just blind, what's it supposed to be of? =P

Inferno: Awww. This was so happy :D

Tom Francis: Desmolas has somehow reversed causality and answered your question a few comments back, Nerfball - although he's probably referring to the stucco. Perhaps because I'm a child of the Geocities age, I just like photos that look like they could tile to make a wallpaper.

I bet 'ah, the truffle fries!' is one of those things you can say underwater.

DM Osbon: Some cool pics but is that a kitty hiding in the basket(tempted with a biscuit) or something more sinister?

Lomithiel: @DM Osbon - That, I believe, is a Vortigaunt. :D (Unless I'm not looking at the same picture)

Oddtwang: I saw a snowflake down here, thought it was something falling in front of my face!
Did you enjoy your trip to see Family Guy being 'written'?

Rei Onryou: Indeed it's a Vortigaunt. Everyone knows they love cookies.

I wish I had a girlfriend who would surprise me with Schrödinger's cake. You are a very lucky man.

Pod!: Nice pics, but it shows how dull American cities are. Just big boring grids. This was my major gripe with the Sim City games -- they just let you make big boring American grid-cities :(

Also: Did you make the ice cubes yourself?

Jazmeister: Rei: You could make your own cake? And then eat it and play the song? You could even spend thirty years building glaDOS to eat it with you. Problem solved in three easy steps!

Angus: These photos make me slightly jealous

EGTF: Looks like you had a lovely year Tom, despite the robbery. Here's to you and the rest of the James regulars, hope the next year is good for you all.

(Pedantic correction: I went and googled him to find more of his lovely work, turns out he's called Chesnutt, not Chestnutt)

Akirasfriend: Damn, them's some lovely snaps, Tom. Looks like a good year. :D

Oh hey, snow!

Tom Francis: Yeah, just noticed that when Spotifying him the other day - fixed. Luckily it was already right in the filename.

Captane: Some really nice pics here, definitely got a knack for photography. Good job.

@Jonn How do you export surrendering only way I can think of is a roundabout way of saying you win a lot.

Chives: Cool shots, and cool snowflakes. But y'know they kind of get in eachother's way. :P

Davie: Nice. I especially like the first one. You're a talented photographer.

Anonymous: I to am a fan of nice photography and games and this site, so thanks for sharing your pictures Tom and to all I say seasons greetings have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year :)

TooNu: Oh bollocks, see I shouldn't write anything when I have just woken up...anyway that is me above.

Nano: The cake was a lie.

Tom Francis: Vic died Christmas Day, after taking an overdose of muscle relaxants.


Sounds like he was ready this time.

Crilly: Man. I haven't even heard of this person till now, and cried after reading that page. CURSE YOU TOM!