All posts


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

This Week

Woke up confused on Thursday morning, after a night spent talking to a dog with a human head, dodging feathers thrown by a woman on a rocking horse in the rafters, avoiding a man with a fox snout moulded onto his mouth, exchanging glances with a badger couple, and applauding a woman who set her nipples on fire with a candle lit by an electrified cucumber – the Future Christmas party. The text from Craig that woke me up said the new Team Fortress 2 update namechecked me. !?


The office is nuts at the moment because we’re just finishing the shortest issue cycle of the year, so we were already exhausted when we headed up to Reading for Play with PC Gamer Live: our big free LAN party. Met a lot of names I knew from comments here, as well as Twitter and the PCG blog.


The event was partly to launch our PC Gamer Top 100 site. We’ve done our Top 100 article in the new issue, now we’re gathering votes for a gigantic public one. In the mag, Deus Ex has won for the first time ever – it’d be awesome to see it win the public vote as well. Vote!

One of the main games we played there was Team Fortress 2, so Craig got in touch with Valve beforehand to see if they could lend us some cheaty weapons to hurt our readers with during the event. To their enormous credit, despite being days away from launching a major update, they did. We were able to turn ourselves into slow but nigh-invincible Medics with eternally critting bonesaws, Scout-speed Heavies with deadly boxing gloves, and Soldiers with rapid-fire rocket launchers that do one hundred times the normal damage and heal us with every hit.

The next day the update was out, and I was determined to play fair. But then Robin, who sorted these ultra-weapons out for us, showed up in one of my matches and challenged me to a ridiculous weapon duel. I’d already seen him use the rocket launcher he loaned us, so I was picturing a jousting match with that when I agreed. I hadn’t considered what Valve’s personal versions of the new Demoman weapons might be.

He’s invincible, on fire and able to kill anything in one hit – even me. I’m the Blue Soldier here, the video is taken by a Red Soldier named Traxantic, who by rights should have destroyed me many times over.

Uberduel 26_crop

Powerful and on fire I can deal with, but invincible makes things tricky. It meant the match was primarily about stopping him from getting to me, which meant buffeting him with streams of rockets as he charged. Inevitably he’d get too close, and I’d have to rocket-jump away and spray a salvo down on the map as I flew.

Uberduel 29_crop

I apologise to the many, many people killed in the crossfire, and also the people I just shot. Not everyone in the game knew who Robin worked for or guessed that my weapons were probably his doing, so some names were slung. Sorry dudes!

Uberduel 43_crop

For those that asked, I’m afraid I don’t have my ‘special’ pickaxe to show you yet – looks like there are still some teething problems with this update that ought to be ironed out first. I think it’ll be a regular pickaxe with a subtle sparkle to it and eventually a custom name, rather than a cheat-o-matic megapick. I still plan to use it to the exclusion of all else.

The rest of the week was consumed by stuff you don’t care about, but it’s been awesome and exhausting in equal measure. I think we might finally be approaching the relaxing part of Christmas, so today I do nothing that doesn’t have ‘Fortress’, ‘Commander’ or ‘Trek’ in the title.


Jazmeister: I wonder if that could just be a game mode by itself? There must be a way to enable server specific weapons.

RichardZK: Some servers run a gamemode called 1 vs. all where one dude is massively overpowered and all the other players on the server have to take him out.

FraktuRe: I've been on servers before where you have random class and random weapons, it's epic fun being a scout with a minigun etc.

Also, congrats!

Jesus: yeah there are servers running a plugin that has gamemodes where either one juggernaut who fires like pentadact did in that video gets hunted by normal players, or everyone is in that turbo firing mode, with huge bunnyhop boosts and such.

now this is where this becomes a shameless plug, i've set the website field to be that of the plugin's main community.

Havokroft: See, this is what TF2 is supposed to be all about; ridiculous silly OTT fun.

What server did this epic duel take place on, out of interest? PCG or other? Also congrats on the equalizer recognition! It's a wonderful, wonderful unlock. Makes me wonder what the future holds for Mr Tom Francis now that we know Valve has their eye on him...

Out Reach: Wow thanks for putting traxes video in a blog post :)

I've linked him to this, and he should say hi at some point.

LaZodiac: TeamFortress 2, Wind Comander, and the Star Trek MMO?

Just taking a guess at what you've got lined up.

Traxantic: Hey thanks man for putting my video in! I had lots of fun with that update (and still), and especially you and Robin hopping in!

Merry Christmas!

Jazmeister: @LaZodiac: Ah, Wind Commander. The glory days of ushering soft breezes by managing local air pressure, racking up gust combos, and finally summoning the Ithaqua to rampage across rural farmland. It could also be Supreme Commander.

Since Valve reads everything associated with Tom Francis, I thought this'd be a good place to mention that my wife hit Soldier Milestone 2 (and now 3) and didn't get the new rocket launcher. She got her banner ok. Anyone else experienced this?

Also, would anyone care to whine about how overpowered the equalizer is?

Tom Francis: Yeah, I'm kinda taking it easy for now because I hit both Soldier and Demo milestones 2 without getting the unlock. It's common, a fix is coming, and missing weapons will be retroactively awarded. You can use Achievement Manager to re-lock the Milestone and re-earn it, but I think I'm just going to wait for the fix. Using external programs to mess with my account makes me a little uneasy.

SenatorPalpatine: Posts are showing up in full on Google Reader again, thanks for that Tom.

Shamefully I still haven't played Deus Ex. I'll tend to that during winter break. (Along with Arkham Asylum)

Pod!: Traxantic is king of airshots it seems.

Tom Francis: The reason they weren't before was that WordPress's option to do so was broken in an update, and I had to hack the code to fix it. It would reset every time I updated WP, which is all the freaking time since the hack. In 2.9, they seem to have fixed it to just work in the first place. Welcome back to square one!

Part of the reason it took them this long is probably that one of the admins on their support forum decided everyone who complained of this problem was just using the wrong type of RSS reader, and would insult them and lock the thread.

LaZodiac: @JazMiester: Er, I ment Wing Commander, my bad.

Lack_26: @JazMiester,

Damn you, now I really want a weather control game. Wreaking havoc on the human race as they power you with global warming sounds really fun. You'd have to balance the destruction with keeping them able to still pump out the green-house gases that heat up the earth. I wish someone would make a game like that.

Dante: Hello Tom! We met briefly at the Live event where the multiple people by the same name confused all.

Incidentally, Ludo thinks your new weapon should be called 'The Pentadaxe'

Inferno: Awesome video and well done on the pickaxe again tom. Sadly I didnt' get to speak to you despite being at pcglive. Yuo're easily my favourite writer for pcg but somehow I didn't get the chance! Well done all the same and I look forward to seeing your pickaxe once you've gotten it!

x25killa: PCGamer Live was epic and I did managed to backstabbed one of the overpowered medics >:)

Merry Xmas and good tidings.