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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 Return: Origins

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

Two weeks before the return flight: four or five bad seats. I don’t book any of them.

One week before departure: three or four bad seats. Not booking.

Eighteen hours before departure: one bad seat. Oh come on! Fine, as an act of protest, I’m not even going to book the only seat available to me. I’m going to leave you guys in the dark as to which of these one seats I’m going to take.

Four hours before departure: one bad seat. The same bad seat. My system has failed. You know what, assholes? Fine. I’m…. I’m not even going to check in online. Deal with that.

Three hours before departure, check-in desk: “Hmm, let’s see if we can get you a better seat.”
“Oh, that’d be great.”
“Okay, you’re going from gate S10, everything’s running on time, here’s your boarding pass.”

I look at the boarding pass: it’s the same seat. It’s from that special stripe down the middle of the plane where seats just aren’t anything. They’re not aisle (easy to get up), they’re not window (no ass in face when other people get up), they’re not front of block (infinite leg room) and they’re not back of block (guilt-free reclining). They’re just seats, reasonably comfortable seats, on a plane, that is going to fly through the goddamn air until you’re in another country, serving you free drinks as it goes.


IMG_4120This is a cinnamon apple pie with maple ice cream I had shortly before my flight home. After I’d finished, the waitress noticed I was not dead and commented that “You’ve done well.” No I have not, kindly waitress. No I have not.

Waiting at the gate, the staff keep putting out announcements for British Airways passengers who’ve checked in online, and haven’t seen a BA rep at the airport yet. I sit back and smile at their misfortune. Wrong choice, suckers! You should have randomly not checked in online this time, like I randomly didn’t.

They form a queue, then everyone sees the queue and thinks we’re boarding, forming a bigger queue, which makes everyone sure we’re boarding, then they have to put out another announcement telling everyone to sit back down. The TV’s showing some weird sitcom where Wyclef Jean is trying to become the president of Haiti.

When we finally board, the lady in front of me gets an angry red beep when her boarding pass is scanned.
“Oh dear. You didn’t see a British Airways representative, did you?”
“Yes, I saw you, at this desk.”
We share a very British everyone-is-incompetent look while the rep goes off to check something. She comes back. It’s fine.

I have my passport open to the photo page with the boarding pass tucked inside – I have decided this will be one of my life skills. She scans it, it beeps red.
“Did you-“
I’ll be damned if I’m going to be penalised for checking in online the one time I didn’t.
She goes off to check something, and comes back. I’m just about to explain – in what I plan to be a slightly snippy tone – exactly who I saw and where, when she leans forwards and whispers guiltily:
“You’ve been upgraded to Club.”

Jesus, now people are just going to hate me.


Flowerpot Wang: Holy. Shit.


Tweets that mention Seat Quest 2010: The Return: Origins, by Tom Francis — [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis, Ben Borthwick and Ben Borthwick, Ben Borthwick. Ben Borthwick said: And so @Pentadact wins the Best Collection of Blog Posts about Air Travel Seats ever in the Games Joruno Blogolympics: [...]

Tom Francis: Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Joe!: For the love of God please make a bonus part 5. These are the funniest posts on James since that Far Cry one where the lead designer came on and there was A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FLAMING calm discussion.

CloakRaider: Heh, British Airways aren't as bad as everyone seems to believe. Better than some budget airlines such as WizzAir. While most airlines have the decency to tell you when your flight has been delayed, they didn't actually say anything. So the time of departure sort of came and went, and everyone was still there.

phuzz: So, does travel writing pay better than games journalism?

DoctorDisaster: @phuzz: I hear his earnings from the blog have gone up 11 percent since this series started.

Tom Francis: Yep, still zero. Actually traffic has steadily declined with each of these, so I guess non-games stuff is less linkable.

I've been wondering about splitting off a separate blog for non games stuff, one that could wallow in obscurity without pissing off people who come here for Team Fortress 2 patch analysis.

EGTF: Give it two to three years and these travel collections can appear in a book too! Or perhaps give them their own spin off blog

Coded One: I actually really enjoyed this series! You have a writing style that works well when writing about any subject.

Laserhead: I can't stop laughing after reading that last line... Well played sir, well played!

Scott O: Maybe news got around that you ate that apple pie monstrosity. I've got a bad taste in my mouth from just looking at it.