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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

Valve Steal Third And Fourth James Weapon Ideas

Not really, of course: the newly announced Wrangler is a more intricate beast than my Laser Pointer or Shield Spanner suggestions. It sounds ridiculous: not only do you get to direct your Sentry’s fire, but it’s also nigh-impervious to harm and twice as powerful. But of course, if you’re using the Wrangler, you’re not using your Wrench. So your Sentry isn’t getting healed, and it has to shut down for three seconds if you whip out your spanner.

I won’t pretend to know how this will play out, but I actually think this is how Sentries should always have been. There should be no auto mode. Having the AI spot and shoot human players robs the Engy of the satisfaction of doing it himself, and the victim the knowledge that they were caught out by a real opponent. Instead, a computer has all the fun, and the players it kills don’t learn much: the computer simply out-damaged them. Most of the time I die to a Sentry, my only other option was to hang back and do nothing.

So I’m glad the Wrangler sounds crazy powerful, because I’d like everyone to use it, all the time. I’d rather have a tougher but fallible opponent, and one that doesn’t rapidly self-heal, than the alternative.

I’m taking some time off at the moment (which will hopefully translate to some progress with Private Dick), but Jaz and the guys have been running an amazingly good days-long liveblog of every snippet of information that’s come out about the Engineer update.

More ,

1stGear: You should send an email to Gaben asking for royalties or a job.

Crowbar: I'd be interested in hearing what you think about the new shotgun. When I read into the details, it sounded a little over-powered to my poor, nerfed, pyro heart.

Ezzer: The first thing I thought when I saw it was "Wasn't that Tom Francis' Idea?"

Nonomu198: You shouldn't worry about the wrangler, no fixing means a quick and painful death to the sentry.
It IS a great worry for me and my fellow arena players. Engineers would be able to just build a level 1 sentry and own everyone quickly.

And honestly, I rather checking the forums to find the bits of information around the trash they have in there.
The PC Gamer page has some mistakes and a lot missing information.

Did you guys notice the Engie's grandpa looks a lot more Australian in the new hidden link picture? He's even drinking beer.

http://www.teamfortr... ...e/radigan/
http://www.teamfortr... ...rangdigan/

Affected by the Australlium?

Jaz: Nonomu198: If you spot any mistakes, give me a shout in the comments and I'll happily fix it.

Lack_26: Don't Valve generally hire people who's ideas they steal?

I'm still hoping for an 1850 version of TF2 as they showed in that picture, I know we have Lead & Gold, but it's not the same.

VelvetFistIronGlove: I’m interested to see how the Wrangler will work in-game: does it point where your crosshair goes? How vulnerable is the engineer while using the wrangler, given that if you switch to your shotgun the sentry shuts down for three seconds?

At the moment it’s often necessary to target the engi first if he’s turtling his sentry, but I suspect he’ll end up the weak point for attacking wrangled sentries.

Ryebread: Seems like the Wrangler would make the engie even more deliciously vulnerable to spies since A: engie *must* be facing the obvious enemies and can't spin around spy-checking too much, and B: if the spy backstabs the engie, the sentry would also be vulnerable for three seconds because of that wrangler disadvantage?

Although this ought to encourage engies to cooperate. One would wrangle while the other repairs and upgrades with his wrench.

Plumberduck: I'm curious as to what the range for using this thing will be. Right next to the sentry? A few feet away? Line of sight? Might make finding the engie in question the most important part of taking it down.

And yeah, as soon as I saw this, I laughed at another of Tom's weapon ideas slipping into the game.

DoctorDisaster: I also immediately thought, "laser pointer!"

@Ryebread: I hadn't thought of that last consequence -- greater engi cooperation -- but I love it. Nothing is more pathetic than three engis trying to turtle three level 1 sentries on their last point. My favorite unlocks to this point have been the ones that enable more quirky moments of improvised cooperation: a heavy tossing his beleaguered medic a sammie; a sniper jarring the enemy team right as they run into your sticky field; running around a corner right into a grinning heavy, only to have his expression turn to shock and dismay as your buddy's baseball cracks off his skull. I'll be only too happy to add the "I'll wrench it!" power slide to the list.

@Plumberduck: I think the biggest advantage to this unlock is that it negates the range concern. A level three's missiles, properly directed, can absolutely nuke anyone cocky enough to try to range or edge the gun.

Plumberduck: @DoctorDisaster

That's a good point, but I was actually talking about the range the engie has to be at from his gun to use the Wrangler. I have this image in my head of crouching, hidden engineers directing their guns from as far away as possible, giggling quietly into their wrenches.

DoctorDisaster: Admit it. You love that image. It is a wonderful image.

And after reading all the stuff up at the PCG live blog, I am mainly left impressed at all the crazy Lincoln speculation. To which I add my own theory: the pyro will be unmasked, and it's Abraham Lincoln.

Tom Francis: Yeah, the more you read into it, the more you realise a crazy amount of this update's stuff relates to honest Abe. If the third unlock is a buildable robot Abraham Lincoln, I will be in love.

Nonomu198: Abraham Lincoln died in a stair testing accident, remember? He might have some significance on the ever thickening plot of the Team Fortress universe, but he is not the Pyro.

A rampaging robot, perhaps. If giant, new game mode?

God, I've had my fair share of Lincoln and giant rampaging robots from Fallout 3.

Jason L: Something I hadn't thought of at the time - the Laser/Wrangler, assuming any degree of relevance, invalidates the Spray Paint doesn't it.