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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

Seat Quest 2010: The Flight

This is part three of my adventure in seats. Part one is here and part two is here.

My first thought on the plane was “Oh man, Club Class on this flight looks just like the lowly World Traveller Plus.” Then, “Oh, that was World Traveller Plus. This is Club Class.”

Not really seats, even, but pods. Each faces the opposite way to its neighbour, so you’re left staring a stranger in the face. That’s okay, though, because a frosted glass barrier can be electricly erected between you, shooting up in nested layers like spacecraft armour. I worried a while about how to do this politely, until the person opposite did it impolitely.

FINE. Didn’t want to look at YOUR stupid face EITHER. This is how Club Class people behave: I’d only been a Club Class person for a few hours, and I’d already been planning to do the same.

The barrier seemed less like a useful feature and more like a diabolical social experiment. Take two strangers who have no reason to look at each other, sit them so they’re looking at each other, then wait to see who presses the button first. Neither of you mind, really, but unless you live to see the great cyber shunning of 2073, it’s about the only time in your life a perfect stranger will tell a robot that they don’t want to look at your face anymore.

IMG_4097This photo is annotated, but I can’t find a good way of embedding annotations. Click it instead.

The legroom is so preposterous that once you’ve done up your seatbelt, trying to retrieve your Highlife magazine from the seatback pocket in front of you looks like a baby straining at his pram buckle for some unreachable sweet. And it isn’t a seatback pocket so much as a fold-down footrest that completes your full length bed when you fully recline. For this reason your tray folds down from the side on an adjustable rail, running from directly in front of you to the position Club Class people refer to as “the fuck out of my way”.

The only apparent drawback was that I couldn’t put anything under my seat, because the reclining mechanism took up all the space, and I couldn’t put anything under the seat in front of me, because there wasn’t one in walking distance. I’d have to board a much smaller plane and fly there to deposit it.

The drawback was solved by an actual drawer. I had a drawer. I wasn’t just sitting there, I was moving in.

It was one of those ten hour flights that just flew by. You know – the ones that never happen. Apart from a very Club Class incident in which I managed to restrain myself from shouting “WELL IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE FUCKING POUILLY-FUME, WHY THE FUCK IS IT ON THIS FUCKING WINE LIST? HALF THIS SHIT IS SAUVIGNON, AND YOU’RE TELLING ME ALL YOU’VE GOT IS FUCKING GRIGIO? I WANT THE DELICATE FUCKING HONEYSUCKLE AROMAS GODDAMMIT.” I barely noticed the time.


And oddly, the things that really help don’t seem like they need to be expensive. All you need for an awesome flight is to be drunk, lying down, and watching a bad romantic comedy that is for some reason affecting you more than it should.

Booze and entertainment are free even in Economy, and I just don’t think people take up any more space when they’re lying down. You could have a double-bunk economy class that would be perfectly pleasant to sleep in, and if you staggered the bunks they could even sit up.

Which I guess is why they don’t do it. It’d be perfectly fine. There’d be no reason to pay two or three times a sane air fare to fly in comfort. The airline’s only economically viable option is to cause intentional discomfort to their poorest customers, and I’m not even sure it’s wrong. If they didn’t, base costs would rise and fewer people could afford to fly at all.

It’s a weird and slightly annoying piece of knowledge that’s going to make it even harder to enjoy the actually extremely nice World Traveller Plus class I’m booked on on the way back.

Next: the way back.


Drug Crazed Dropkick: These are a joy to read Mr Francis.

Especially as I've just come off 3 planes on my return from Americaland. God love cancellations and then connecting flights!

Oramnis: In their defense, more people tend to favour a nice Pino Grigio. They can be hauntingly aromatic.

Tom Francis: If I wasn't already haunted I wouldn't be drinking.

That's not true.

Lack_26: I can almost taste the flight after reading this. (Luck git, I always put up with the paupers).

Tweets that mention Seat Quest 2010: The Flight, by Tom Francis — [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis, Ben Borthwick. Ben Borthwick said: Before bed, stare at @5players Faces: & then follow @Pentadact's decent into air-seating madness: [...]

TooNu: I don't know how you do this sort of writing, it's awesome. One thing that I can't stop thinking though is, if this was me I would much rather not write and instead sit and play my DS, or watch the movie and drink a little whilst thinking how great it is to be pampered.

Did you take the piss out of the steward service and be a complete arse because you can?

Davie: Reading these has made me view my upcoming flight--the first in thirteen years--with increasing anticipation.

Cpt.Average: @Davie: Anticipation or Trepidation?

Dante: Club World, World Traveller Plus, I assume the next stage is Super-Maxi-Magnum Jetsetting Social Club? it's rapidly becoming apparent that air travel has developed it's own thoroughly impenetrable lingo since I last used it.


Tom, you make me laugh too much.

Zephyrtron: I remember once being on a flight to Vancouver with Dave Harrison (ex GamesMaster maestro) when he got bumped up to Club.

A few hours in I navigated my way out of my perfectly respectable World Traveller Plus to go visit him in his opulence.

Dave was the only man in the entire Club area. He was sat, nay, *reclined* in utter comfort surrounded by upwards of a dozen empty seats. He had a glass of champagne and a big smile and his feet up.

I was, obviously, incensed. So I sat down nearby and decided I'd bluff it out and have myself some of the Club comfort. Within five minutes a man who looked more like a bouncer than an airsteward came to eject me.

It was almost as bad as when Duncan (Edge) got bumped to BA First and a stewardess actually intercepted me on my way to talk to him before asking "Is this man bothering you, sir?".

: (

Chijts: Does anyone know of any other blog-type-things that are as interesting or as funny as Pentadact's? I'm always left wanting more after reading these posts.

Tom Francis: Cheers everyone!

Some of my favourite non-games blogging is by my favourite games blogger, Chris Livingston. His diaries of endless demeaning temp work at one of his many former sites, Not My Desk, are many and hilarious: http://www.notmydesk...

Zephyr: Man, that sucks. Why would they upgrade one person if they're not planning to fill the seats?

One guy came over to see his Club World friend next to me on this flight, and sat on his footstool talking to him about idiotic stuff for hours. I had to really struggle with the urge to yell, "THE FOOTSTOOL IS NOT A SEAT. THERE IS A NOTICE ON THE FOOTSTOOL CLARIFYING THAT IT IS NOT A SEAT AND IS NOT TO BE USED AS A SEAT, WHICH YOU WOULD BE ABLE TO READ WERE YOU NOT USING IT AS A SEAT."

phuzz: Once upon a time I was trying to fly back from Morocco with two friends.
We turned up at the desk, and presented our tickets, only to be told:
"I'm sorry sir, the plane is full"
Me: "but we have tickets, look, tickets!"
Royal Air Marocco Guy: "I'm sorry sir, but the plane is full because the flight yesterday was cancelled, and everybody from that flight is on your one"
Me: "!"
Me: "but I have to be back at work tomorrow :("
At this point it sinks in that the downside of this air travel malarky is when my magic bit of paper (ie ticket) stops working and I have to work out how to walk back...
Eventually we persuaded the guy that seeing as we'd given his company some (a lot of) money, maybe they could find some other way of getting us back to London that was faster than walking. After a bit of running round Casablanca airport, one of my friends was stuck on an Air France flight to Paris, hopefully with a connection onwards from there. Whilst us remaining two were put on an internal flight in a tiny little two engined thing with about 14 other passengers and our luggage on our laps, which somehow went across the med and dropped us in Malaga. To this day I don't know if that was where the flight was supposed to go, but the Spanish passport officials didn't seem too bothered.
From there RAM guy had found us a flight back home on BA, but unfortunately the only seats they had left were in business class, oh shucks!
Because we had business class tickets, we were allowed in the Lounge. I probably made myself look like a pleb by having to go back outside and ask the attendant how we paid for drinks.
Upon finding out the sheer wonderfulness that is a free, unattended bar I proceeded to weigh up the cons of getting drunk before flying, with the pros of a free bar.
It turns out that getting really pissed on free booze before you fly has no downsides that I could detect, who knew?

Eventually we all managed to reconvene with our Paris bound freind back in London and all was good. She'd had to fly cattle class the whole way though :)

Club Class | Fu Hot Post, Pin, Repin, Like and Comment: [...] See: http://www.pentadact... ...#038;#8230; [...]

Jabberwok: I was upgraded randomly to first class on an international flight, and suddenly realized it's possible to fly for eighteen hours without feeling like I'm in Hell. The experience made me hate first class flyers even more.

Club Class | Som2ny Post: […] See: http://www.pentadact... ...-2010-th... […]