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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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    SWAT 4: The Movie Script

    Seat Quest

    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.