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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

Snowball jack header

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

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

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

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

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

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

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

The PC Gamer Blog

Most of last week, I wrote things on the internet instead of in a magazine. We’re ramping up our efforts on the PC Gamer blog by around 5,000%, to see if people like it enough to justify developing it into something more. So with a few exceptions, my job for a while will be ‘blogger’ – a thing I have been doing for fun since 1995. This is exciting! Here’s some of the stuff we did last week:


My five favourite games ever, in which I am paralysed, dismembered and killed. (Plus Graham’s, Rich’s and Craig’s).

Tim’s guide to horribly rushing people in Starcraft 2. And what they can do about it.


Five good things about Supreme Commander 2 you don’t get from the demo – my attempt to explain the game’s virtues better than its own ill-chosen demo managed. I wish I’d done this for the Hitman: Blood Money demo back in the day, too.

Why I love the Adaptor in Supreme Commander 2. The game’s best unit is tiny.


Our Napoleon: Total War review, and what Creative Assembly changed in response to it.

Tom Robert’s open letter to PopCap claiming that they stole 800 hours of his mother’s love. Tom will go far.


Craig’s tale of touching camaraderie in STALKER: Call of Pripyat. AIs must get confused by the player sometimes.

You can subscribe to all the PC Gamer stuff here. Your thoughts much appreciated.

Mr Pink: Really enjoyed reading these, and it's great to see the blog getting some attention. Is there an RSS feed for it that I'm missing, as the only one I can find is for everything on CGV.

Phill Cameron: Yeah, Mr Pink is right; the best way to make this sort of thing really get the attention it deserves is a working RSS feed. It's pretty much how I digest all my news this day, and I just don't have the god damned time to check the site daily. I mean, it's not like it's as easy as typing a few words into my address bar.

I'm a busy man!

Tom Francis: Yep! http://www.computera... ...8;site=pcg

Bret: AI reaction to the player would be... interesting.

"Why is Dr. Freeman shooting me in the face? All I did was remind him about reloading. Also, why doesn't it hurt?"

Chris Evans: Ooh this is good! I stopped visiting the PCG site (and forums) a while back when it all seemed to be slowing to a halt. If the PCG blog is now being used for the forces of good (or evil?) then I will have to check it out more often :)

Lack_26: Darn, now I have to check more sites.

I do hope they carry on this blogging, tis excellent.

Wowbagger: I'm going to be a dick and just say this:
If you want the PCG blog to take off I really think you need to try and get the CVG website to be less of a hideous, annoying, impossible to navigate clusterfuck.
I know there is an RSS feed (I just subcribed!) but I bet you'd get more repeat readers if they weren't put off by the CVG website on their first read of your stuff.
Sorry to be a negative nancy, but this is a comment on the internet so I guess I could have been worse!

Greg Wild: I certainly enjoyed the articles. More bloggy-type stuff is good stuff, ala' RPS only from the wonderful people at PC Gamer. This sounds like A Good Thing.

Chris Evans: @Wowbagger - I agree, the CVG site network is god awful, horrendous to navigate and full of different links and images leading who knows where. A proper PCG site is essential!

Tom: I've kind of got to agree with Wowbagger too. The CVG page design is horrid, cramming the interesting bit (i.e. the blog) into a tiny 400px-wide box surrounded by adverts and other such distracting guff on all sides. It's an awful lot like one of those cookie-cutter local newspaper websites.

Jaz: Wowbagger et al: PC Gamer is a quality mag written by the best in the business. It need to not take ten seconds to load and look like IGN.

As for PCG blogging in general: I guess it's a slippery slope as the greatest bastion of quality print games writing - putting all your reviews online for free devalues the mag, but being a month late to the party devalues the review itself. Nice that you guys are finding the time to put some articles on there. What's the policy on which reviews go up?

bacon: Wowbagger -

Totally agree. You were able to get the RSS for just the PCG Blog? I either get nothing or the entire CVG news feed, and quite frankly I don't want to have to sift through tons of console news to read the few article I care about.

bacon: Sorry all, I'm an idiot and can't read the posts at the top of the page.

Tom Francis: No need to apologise, negative nancies! This is helpful stuff for us - we want to develop the site into its own thing, and the more evidence we have that people want this, the better our chances of justifying it. Doubly useful if you make your feelings known on the blog itself.

Thanks for the encouraging thoughts.

Mike Smith: I have a hard enough time keeping up with RPS, 1UP and I have yet another quality feed to absorb my time?! Damn you PCG.

I do agree with with Jaz though that there is maybe a bit too much visual fluff around the sides of the articles. I know its probably nothing you guys can do about it personally as its probably a template the entire site has to stick to.

But may put the whole articles including pictures into the RSS summary? Then my feed reader can extract the meat and leave out the visual fluff. CVG maybe wont be so happy about that though i dont know...lost advertising revenue and such...

DoctorDisaster: I was trying to figure out what everyone's big problem with the design was. Then I realized that the link I had clicked, at the bottom of the article, was the RSS feed. I was looking at the Firefox RSS reader template! So I scrolled up and clicked the proper link and screamed and gouged my eyes out with a plastic fork.

Ha ha kidding! I knew it was the RSS feed all along. But I did click on it specifically because it was easier on the eyes than the site proper.

(Also I was wearing glasses, which do not gouge easily. They are a bit scratched now, though.)

If I may offer some suggestions...?

James's 3-column format works because at any reasonable resolution, the main column is wider than the other two combined, giving it proper hierarchy. For an ad-supported site, though, you're going to want to have some nice fat space set aside for shillery, so a 2-column grid is probably the way to go.

The main sin of the current site is that it has a million little boxes, each with its own background/border/color combination to set it off from the other 999,999 little boxes. So busy! Make them all match, like on James, or fall into just a couple of harmonious themes. (No more of this boxes-within-boxes-within-boxes business, either. border:none; exists for a reason.)

I am also put off by the business of segregating the content into different little boxes and arranging them vertically. Just use category slugs to differentiate previews, reviews, blogs, and features, and run them all together so the newest stuff is at the top and I don't have to scroll around to find what I want.

Either the red or the purple has to go. Please.

In summary, mainly I am saying that James looks great! If the PC Gamer blog looked more like James, I would check in on it more. In fact, I had originally sprinkled this comment with digs at IGN's hideous clusterfuck of a template, but then I actually visited their site to check a fact and realized it had a redesign. Then I realized the redesign could be a year or more old! It's been that long since I've been brave enough to type "" into my browser. All because of a shitty design! PCG deserves better.

Tom Francis: Jesus fucking Christ!

I just typed into my browser. I've seen some, er, zealous advertising in my time, but that's the first that melts reality.

Tristan: I think the CVG website has got that weird melty DSi XL ad effect now.

Agree with the other comments here - the CVG website sucks but I've been really enjoying the PC Gamer blog since it started being updated. Just subscribed to the RSS and added it to my James and RPS feeds.

Hope you get enough interest for a proper PC Gamer redesigned blog

Jaz: Tom, there's no need to exaggerate. I'm sure the ign marketing is pretty dense, but if I just type it in there, I doubt very much that it'ldf fhfd

Jason L: Wait, what. Did I just see 'Kotaku' and 'quality' in the same sentence?

Mr Bubbles: Though to be fair, I actually have no idea if you already do this, it'd be cool to have a collection of photos of all the gaming events (E3, Blizzcon etc) or even trips to be uploaded to the blog to look through. Aside from the pictures Valve aren't willing to talk about of course.

Skusey: I'm really pleased that you started updating the blog more regularly, it's a great way to see the PCG collective write a few paragraphs on interesting things. Almost like an extended Twitter.

And CVG does have an awful design, which is a shame as most of the content is good. I've grown used to it now but a move to your own sensibly designed blog would be very welcome. My eyes would be extremely thankful.

DoctorDisaster: HOLY FUCK

That was not there when I typed it in yesterday.

Apparently they got rid of all the horrible obtrusive slow-loading design to focus more attention on the horrible obtrusive slow-loading BROWSER DEMOLISHING ads.

MarkSide: Yo! Just a quick comment. I love the idea of the blog getting ramped up, but I have to say I get slightly overwhelmed with the PCG stuff being embedded in the CVG site. I'm easily intimidated! Maybe other PCG readers are too. Who knows? They do. Obv.

Mike Smith: @ Jason L

Oops, maybe your right. I actually only have Kotaku in my reader because of the quantity...not the quality. They cover [i]everything![/i]. And its only read when i [i]really[/i] need to kill time.

Anyway, yeah...hopes for CVG PC Gamer blog redesign! The content is great! Its just a bit lost.

Mike Smith: For godsakes, i forget James doesnt allow forum tags:P

Dan: Kotaku is pretty nice, not a lot of features but sometimes something turns up that's pretty memorable. Usually from another site. It's kind of like the Newser of gaming news.

Dante: I tend to read Kotaku because they get all the news up on the front page right away, so I can browse it easilly. Also most of the longer form, more thoughtful sites I read are PC only if I ever find a site with the range and depth of coverage of say, Rock Paper Shotgun, for consoles I'll be all over it, till then any non PC news comes from Kotaku.

TooNu: I thought there was a bit more attention being spent on the PCG site. And it shows and it is a good thing. Anecdotes and gaming suggestions (hilarious or serious it makes no difference) are just as vital about capturing somebodies enthusiasm for playing games as a good review.

Your ultimate goal is to get people excited about PC gaming so they come to your website to read about games they might not even be interested in, in the first place. For example I couldn't give a monkies about football management games but Graham writes well enough to make it sound at least vaguely interesting as a game.

So, more wee stories and things like you guys are doing means more people coming to the PCG site, means more possible subscriptions means you don't have to go back to working in a book warehouse eh?

EGTF: I love the fact that even in a game where you were lazy and your inactivity has led to AI control, you can still write something that makes me laugh too much.

Mr Bubbles: That entire write up has inspired me to play Neptune's Pride AND GalCiv 2 just because of the awesomeness of it (and the fact it links to the epic war diaries of GalCiv 2).

Dr. Disaster: After reading your top 5, I spotted a Steam sale on Blood Money and picked it up. (All the Hitman games, actually.) And I'm playing it thinking, "holy shit! why didn't anyone tell me someone made a proper sequel to Deus Ex?" The only improvements I can think of would be to (a) remove the parking garage entirely from the heaven/hell level, and (b) allow me to force-feed the First Pooch a bomb so I can use it to kill the Vice President while they're on walkies. Thanks for the rec!

niks: Cool post, thanks :)

Papa's Freezeria: Ohh boy, StarCraft II gives me chills, barely managed to quit, took 2 years of my life and my job lol