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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

Captain Forever




Boop boop boop boop boop!



This is Captain Forever, a free web game where you shoot ships, and bolt bits of the debris onto your own. I was put off it before because when people were pimping it, you had to pay to get in on the beta. The other ways Captain Forever tries to persuade you not to play it is by making the game’s site confusing and devoid of information about the game, and releasing a similarly named sequel almost immediately, which isn’t free. It needn’t be so hard, just click this link to play secretly free now forever my lord.

I’ve been playing it secretly free now forever my Lord all day – my new year’s resolution was to design more space ships, so the year is shaping up well already. If you’d crashed your time machine into my Lego space police set when I was a kid and told me that in the year 2010, I’d be able to snap together my own little craft then fly them around and blow bits off other spaceships to make my spaceship bigger, I’d have been all, “What use is that information realistically of to me at this stage?” But it’s cool.

Since space is dangerous and there’s no separate screen for ship design, you don’t always have time to optimally rebuild your ship after a fight to incorporate all the cool new parts you’ve salvaged. Thus, you scoot wonkily away from the fight with a hastily cobbled space hulk like this:

jumble of parts

And find a quiet corner of the galaxy to take yourself apart and build something a little more like this:

killing machine

My logic with that design was to protect my parts: obviously it’s counter-productive to cover your guns entirely, but by giving them ‘barrels’ like that most incoming fire would hit the tough, functionless hull pieces instead of my fragile weapons and engines.

The same logic applies when attacking: you’re trying to destroy their core piece without damaging too much of the rest of them, because anything they have left when they die simply falls off for the taking. It’s glorious when a lucky shot nails their core module and a whole vast battleship made of tier-5 parts just gently disintegrates into a nebula of fatal freebies.


This one… is harder to explain. I made this after buying Captain Successor, esentially the registered version, and as you can see it adds some stuff. The quivering pink lozenges are Blurst Shields: they bounce back enemy fire. The U-shaped piece is a Chrono engine, which accelerates the operating speed of anything attached to it. The circles are all translocators, a weird direction-agnostic propulsion device that lets you strafe and reverse as fast as you move forwards, but is useless for turning sharply. And the big circle is just a bubble shield: it gets taken down easily, but regenerates, meaning small clashes do no lasting damage.


This is the fastest ship I’ve built so far, structured to allow two racks of India-class engines to max out propulsion without making me dangerously wide. When most of it got smashed to bits by a Kilo craft, I downsized to this:


Slight, but my most powerful ship – and also my most musical. It’s the only time I’ve lasted long enough to scavenge some Prismatic Juliets (white guns), the second best in the game, and I’ve backed them up with a chorus of India and Hotel lasers – the next two tiers down. This is significant a) because a laser hotel would be awesome, and b) because your fire in Captain Forever doesn’t sound the same with every shot: the tones progress through a musical sequence, so your selection of guns and their different fire rates combine to make every ship play a different tune. The three-layered rhythm of this one is awesome – if you do get Captain Successor, try it out here.

At the end of a game, you can go back through every form your ship ever took during it, and save any as a link anyone can click and play with. It’s one of the neatest content sharing systems I’ve seen in a game, better in some ways than Spore’s. Most people will only be playing with the free version of course, so here‘s the one design I did save while playing that – the gun barrels one. Slow, but safe.

If you get Successor, which is $20, my others are here, here, here, here, here and here.

three shield double boost



Bret: Huh. Using Chrome, and it does the first loading screen, but then?

Can't see anything.


Ronnoc: Works for my Chrome :-/

Good game.

Scypher: That musical India-class ship is wonderful. In what other game can you explode hostile spaceships and lay down some sexy beats with the same button?

Scypher: Okay, wait, I just realized Space Invaders Extreme 1 & 2 fit that bill. But that's good company to be in.

The Nate: I can't get past the first loading screen either. It fills the bar then just goes black. This is disappointing because Pentadact's post got me all pumped up and excited for a new space game.

Peterd102: had the loading problem, fixed by finding another link, which was the same with a www. :P

http://www.captainfo... ...orever.php

TooNu: Some people, Like Tom and the RPS guys manage to find awesome games from the internet while simultaneously removing all of my free time. How do you do it? Thanks for the link Tom.

Pod!: Is this related to Battleships Forever?

Tom Francis: Changed the links in the post to have wwws as well - let me know if that fixes it, Bret and Nate. If not, it's a cliche, but maybe update Flash?

Calhoun: 10 bucks and i'd do it in a heartbeat, but i can't justify the 20 bucks for it.

The Nate: Works perfectly now, thank you very much.

Bret: Works like a charm, thanks.

And, having played it now?

What Calhoun said. It's great fun, but twenty I can't swing at the moment.

Joe!: 20 is too much :(

Tom Francis: Great!

Strategically, I agree - I think he'd make more if he charged 10. Worth 20 to me, though. We may even have been given some free accounts, but I'm keen to support it.

spuzman: What I'm kinda wondering about is the picture that lights up in the background when you shoot. It looks like it changes color based on what guns you use. Maybe if you get enough types of guns it becomes full color?

Tom Francis: It's supposed to be your pilot's face reflected in your cockpit (though why he's seeing a top-down view is unclear). If you have a webcam it can apparently snap your face and use that as the reflection image.

JohnArr: This game is brilliant! I've just captured an enemy ship by shooting off it's engines and welding 'pincers' around it! It's superior weapons and armour are now mine to control!
http://img231.images... ...rasite.jpg

Bret: I've found stripping down to an engine and a gun sometimes can save your life. Let me slip into a more powerful ship's blind spot and slowly shoot it to death with the default gun.

Slow, but so satisfying.

Dave_C: Amazing game, though can't really afford the 20 quid right now.

Still, managed to ''beat'' the free version with this hideous monstrosity:

http://www.captainfo... ...03bn15agbf

Design and symmetry kind of go out the window when you're being hounded by hulking great juliet-class battleships. in the late game, my design philosophy boiled down to ''engines in back, lasers in front''. Which actually proved quite effective.

James: Been playing this a lot over the holidays. Usually I don't get further than a little ship - I never get to build the bigger versions (as seen in the ship repository ) as there are never enough engine bits. I must be doing it wrong.

The Nate: Sweet game. I made a prison ship and captured three cores and the information ship.
http://img39.imagesh... ...nship2.jpg
Fun Facts: The cores still threaten you. Also, no more ships appear until you destroy a core.

TooNu: http://www.captainfo... ...2nbihimwcr

If that fails then my apologies, but its a mean green machine, just alter the left side a wee bit to make it even. (I got destroyed and in a panic I just bolted the parts to it asap.)

Matchstick: Check out this awesome ship :
http://www.captainfo... ...pdyo5fb0wc

Enjoy : )

Matchstick: It may not seem like too much, but its kilo gun shoots very fast and is really powerful!

alex: very coo, ships love them all

ali: hello ppl