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

On Second Thoughts, I Give Up


Where do you- I mean how do you- Why would… if… what.

The Liberal Democrats just sent me a leaflet telling me not to vote Labour because they don’t have a chance of getting in. This is a real thing that happened, not something funny Ian Hislop said.

Really, guys? You’re now sending out leaflets to promote the same moronic and anti-democratic logic that’s kept you out of power for ninety two years? This is something you’d like to do?

If you want to use exploitation and deceit to gain popularity, there’s a much less stupid way to do it. Keep your policies exactly the same, but have Clegg announce he’ll keep the Trident missile system and won’t give amnesty to long-term illegal immigrants. You’ll find you then win. At that point, feel free to scrap the Trident missile system without telling anyone, and grant amnesty to long-term illegal immigrants.

Before the debates, Kim wrote to David Cameron to ask if he had any actual policies or if his whole campaign was just about what’s wrong with Labour. She got a letter back detailing what’s wrong with Labour.

On Wednesday Gordon Brown got in trouble for calling a bigoted woman bigoted in a private conversation that Sky broadcast. Then last night he used his closing speech of the debates, his last chance to focus attention back on policies, to repeat his limpest slanders of his two opponents.

Now the Lib Dems are asking people to vote against the party they believe in to keep out a common enemy, as if this will give their one vote the game-changing power it apparently wouldn’t have if they cast it democratically.

I can’t help but notice that all three parties spend their efforts begging people not to vote for someone, and the end result is that not enough people vote.

They’ve all done a great job of killing my interest in British politics, after the televised debates briefly rekindled it, so I’ll shut up about it now.

roBurky: It's been the same with the Liberal Democrat leaflets here. The last one was in the form of a short letter, where the LibDem candidate mentioned that labour can't win about four or five times in the text, and ended with "P.S. Labour can't win".

Tweets that mention On Second Thoughts, I Give Up, by Tom Francis — [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis. Tom Francis said: This came through the door today: Come on, Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, don't you even read my blog? [...]

Mike Arthur: It's pretty infuriating but then again, the Lib Dems aren't perfect and they will try and game the system in the areas they can.

I don't think I'll be a lifelong Lib Dem voter but at the moment they are the best hope, I think, of having a genuinely different way of doing things.

Jaz: Same here with the SNP leaflets. "Two horse race".

@Mike: I'd like the Lib Dems to get in and reform the voting system. After that, any party can get a big chunk of seats with a big chunk of votes, and I'll look at some smaller players.

BrianDawg: I feel the same way in the states. I was so turned off by our televised debates because nobody would give you a straight answer. Everything is generic crap like "So and so hates American and freedom" and "So and so wants to clean up Washington!" It's never about anything with substance, specific initiatives, or specific policies or votes. It sucks :(

Dan Pryce: As far as I know, the Lib Dems are the only ones promising to do something about the Digital Economy Act (I hate calling it an act). Until Labour or the Tories either promise to do it AND get Evil Genius 2 made, the Lib Dems have got my vote.

Win win for me.

nine: You're wishing for the existance of a voting system so perfect that not even neckbearded mathematicians account for it in their voting theory papers.

You also complain that political parties aren't lying to you about the most valuable way to spend your vote. At least you're consistently idealistic.

Sympathetic Canuck: I read your initial post and completely agreed.

This whole "Win/Lose" metaphor has gone too far. It's like "winning" a survey, by gaming it.

Scenario 1) The elected politician looks out for the public interest (yeah, I know)
Scenario 2) The elected politician looks out for his own interests

Either way, he's looking at the voting results and pandering/skewing his actions to hit their perceived interests.

Lack_26: I was a bit disappointed by the repeated undermining of each other that the candidates have been displaying. I still felt that Brown did pretty well though, then again, I listened to it on the radio and read about it on twitter, so I didn't have to see his face.

Clegg didn't say much, Cameron spoke a lot and spoke well but didn't actually say a great deal about his policies. Brown actually came across as knowing more about his polices, but his presentation has always been more subdued.

Rich: As someone who's designed a leaflet or two that looks like that, I can tell you why it's used on a local level. Even with a seat already held by a Lib Dem, people often say they won't bother voting for us, because we're not going to win in the seat (although that's been remarkably less pronounced this election). The leaflet is used to make it abundantly clear that whatever things are like on a national level, it is worth voting for the Lib Dem in that seat.

Tactics would have to change once the voting system changes, depending on what sort of system we get. I'll personally be happy for more content focused leaflets. They'll all tend to repeat the same point, whatever it is, as we have about the time it takes to pick the leaflet up and throw it in the bin to get info through to most people. So lots of pieces of paper put through the door mean more people eventually see what we have to say. It is annoying, but people don't usually read long policy documents if you put it through their door.

As for what policy we promote, while it'd probably gain some more votes, we've never been about altering policy to make ourselves popular. At least for the most part. The Lib Dem membership wouldn't accept promoting something they don't agree on. The leadership don't get to tell us what we believe, however much the media seem to think it works like that...

Pod!: I got almost the same leaflet, but a different guy, of course.

Thing is, I don't really like the looks of this "Sandy" bloke, but I've voted LD these past 6 years and I'll vote them again.

Mainly becasue they're the best guys to get some form of proportional representation going..

..which is why I can't tell if this leaflet is to say "LOOK! We're proving out point" or "we just want POWAR"

Jimmy!: It's good that Dan Foster has transcended party politics. It's too bad the rest of the parties haven't done the same.

Peter: We should get Rico Rodriguez organising the debates and policing the House of commons to keep out politicians who make stuff up or misrepresent things.

I wonder how many MPs would be left?

Rico Rodriguez: Take that, debate jerks!

trevabob: My Lib Dem candidate has done the exact same thing, only he's in second place behind the Tories. See similar graph here http://www.nickradfo...

I'll be voting Labour anyway though, fuck you Nick Radford!

Mr Chug: Lifted from the Guardian website ( ...dem-labour):

"Exclusive: Liberal Democrat leader rejects tactical voting, and says the race for PM is between him and Cameron"


Jaz: Nick Clegg: Latest in a long line of somewhat important people who happen to read James.

Mr Bubbles: Vote Rico Rodriguez for PM?

"Economists, I hate economists..."

Wesman: @Mr Bubbles

Rico would just blow up parliment, then, walking away (Cool guys don't look at explosions) say

"Try operating a country now you Government Jerks!"

Actsub: Now all we need is for Nick Clegg to read your article and respond in such a way that you feel like a dick, however correct you may have been in questioning things in the first place.