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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

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

I think stand up comics do a lot of plane food material because they travel a lot for their work, and travel is boring, and boredom gets you thinking. This is how I’ve come back from a trip with 3,000 words about my seat. I’ll put it up in parts, and since I don’t have any photos of most of it, I’m going to illustrate it with pictures from an unrelated adventure.


I get to travel for work sometimes, and it’s made me a little demented about checking in.

The first few times you get babied, or bathroomed, or fatmanned, you accept it. But after that, you start to scheme. Getting a good seat isn’t a hope for me, any more, it’s the objective of a five-part campaign. I’ve given miniature lectures to friends on the virtues of aisle versus window, and the risk/reward mathematics of the front row – where there’s legroom aplenty, but the cots may hide a grim payload.

So I check in as close to 24 hours ahead as humanly possible. I even rush the process, when I do it, as if other people are clicking through the wizard faster than me, swiftly dragging their round-headed icons to the precious blue seats I’m trying to secure myself.

If you’re anything like this, you’ll have discovered what I have: it doesn’t work.


You get to seat selection and there are precisely three left, sprinkled amid daunting blocks of what can only be families with children, drunk rugby players, or worst of all: people with something interesting to say. To each other.

And when you walk to this seat, twenty four hours later, you’ll have noticed the ninety year old, noticed the ball of knotted grey hair that might once have been a hippy, and the man whose vestments seem to mark him out as the pope of some unrecognisable religion – all in seats that were gone when you booked. And you’ll have thought this:


Buckles And Ropes

All of you? All of you checked in before me? You checked in twenty-three hours, fifty nine minutes and fifty nine seconds before departure? You there, dipping your dentures in the complimentary tonic water, what browser do you use? Which e-mail address did you have them send the booking code to? Tell me how you got that seat before me, you cheating slimy fuck! Stop crying and talk!

Perhaps you’re not like this.

The whole process makes no sense to me anymore. I thought the reason you had to check in for a flight, when you don’t for a bus, is that it’s important you show up. They’ll wait for you. So they’d appreciate it if you let them know an hour or two beforehand that you’re at the airport and ready to go.

Then they started letting you do it online.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the convenience. But what does checking in online actually tell you, beyond the fact that I still physically exist the day before I fly? That doesn’t seem to offer any greater assurance that I’ll actually show up for the flight in time than when I paid you crazy money for it in the first place. It just reduces the whole thing to a frantic and brutal seat race, one that has frankly cost me a chunk of my already fractured humanity.


Now I’ve learnt something even worse. The seats change. Book one 24 hours early, then try again five hours before departure. A paradise unfolds; a land of empty aisle seats, vacant blocks, even the front rows with infinite legroom. They exist, no-one’s reserved them, and they open up.

I don’t know when or by what dark magic, but it happens. Those people who couldn’t possibly have booked them before you? They didn’t. They just checked in after all the fake, placeholder people checked out.

Prone Cow

So this time, I checked in three times.

Once way ahead of time: two seats available, both shit. Same for my return flight, almost a week later.

Then again, twenty four hours before. Nope: different seats are free, but nothing better. I can’t print my boarding pass at home anyway, though, so I just left it.

Then, the morning of departure, I check in online again. Three or four seats. In fucking Club World.

They’re even aisle seats, and why not? Club World is 50% aisle. You can’t move without bumping into an aisle, which is to say you can move without bumping into anything at all, because of all the aisles. There are seats in Club World that are both window and aisle at the same time – something modern science previously thought impossible. I took one by the lake, overlooking the valley, and confirmed.

Next: The Lounge.


Drug Crazed Dropkick: I'm interested to see what these mini lectures are like. Please do post them.

Lack_26: Ah, the glories of air-travel. I'm glad I've taken the ferry the past few times I've been abroad, the swimming pools on the bottom deck are insane during a choppy sea (haven't had a go in properly rough seas though), one side of the pool drains completely while the other side rides up to the ceiling. So... the best wave machine ever turns out to be actual waves?

Anyway, I digress, as DCD said; I do hope you continue these mini-lectures.

Tweets that mention Seat Quest 2010, by Tom Francis — [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis, Duncan Geere. Duncan Geere said: RT @Pentadact: Witness my slow descent into madness over getting an optimal plane seat: [...]

EGTF: Do you know if it's the case that if you book a seat you're less likely to get promoted to an empty first class space? As I'd like to maximise those odds.

I was lucky enough in one of my frequent journeys to the states to get promoted and it was fucking bliss; free champagne and three course meals, seats that could go horizontal and a screen to personally choose movies or radio at a whim.

Another lovely time was when the plane was massively under-populated so at the back of the plane there were 8 empty rows, giving me 4 seats to lay across and sleep with all the extra pillows.

Normally though if I can I'll try and go for front row or an escape exit place.

verendus: As I'm flying on Monday, I would be very interested to hear your accumulated lectures on the benefits and detriments of the varied seat types.

Tom Francis: It certainly doesn't prevent you from being upgraded, since I've had a seat booked every time it's happened to me. It usually happens at the gate, which is when everyone technically has a seat booked - at that point, I don't think there's any record of whether you picked your seat or the check-in desk staff did.

In this case, though, it actually happened at the online check in. If I'd confirmed at an earlier stage, and printed my boarding pass, I wouldn't have even known there were Club World seats available. If no-one had booked them I might still have been upgraded randomly, but that's not likely.

Drug Crazed & Verendus: the short version is, aisle seats on the side blocks are best (less likely to be next to a group of talkers, and on most flights fewer people who need to squeeze past you to get out), and front row is worth the risk of babies (because you're gonna hear the baby wherever you sit).

Dan: The window vs aisle debate is a tough one.

Nobody wants the middle of course. The middle means you have none of the benefits of the window or the aisle and you also have less freedom of movement because you constantly have to prevent yourself touching people to either side of you.

In my opinion the window vs aisle debate depends on the flight. If the flight is travelling overnight then it's a toughy. The window allows the best comfort for sleeping (as you have a place to lean) but also you have to do the highly uncomfortable act of waking people up when you need the toilet. The aisle at night means you don't have to wake anybody up, but also means you'll possibly be woken up yourself. Possibly I'm too British because I always feel I'd rather be woken up than have to go through waking a stranger up. Thus on night flights the aisle has me in its grasp.

On a day flight though. That's a whole different ball game. Chances are your fellow passengers will be awake so it doesn't matter so much about pushing by to go to the loo. This allows you to use the window to its full advantage. You can have naps a plenty and have extra comfort room for your body to slump into.

The aisle seat is a burden in disguise. It gives the illusion of extra leg and body room, but really you're constantly forced to push your body back in for the bloody trollies. You also have to constantly be aware of your surroundings (meaning no naps) or a stewardess will "accidentally" ram you in the leg.

Nonomu198: One time I was stuck in the seat with the back to the emergency exit. In an overnight flight. It was terrible.

Zephyrtron: But, but, but! I need to know if you were in a hot air balloon or abseilling from a plane, or have manged to screw eye-hooks into the sky and string a mile-high rope link across the horizon.