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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

Postcards From A Weekend Of Premeditated Murder

A slightly tense week inspired me to go back to Hitman: Blood Money last weekend. It is cathartic.

Hitman - now it's obviousWell, yes, now it’s obvious where the killer was standing.

Hitman - red blipThis is the climax of a spectacularly machiavellian plot to replace an actor’s prop pistol with a real one to trick him into performing your hit for you at the crescendo of a wartime opera.

Hitman - yes, there's a bomb in thatI’ll save you the trouble – yes, there’s a bomb in that.

Hitman - compactI don’t know why, but as I trash-compacted this sanitation worker, it really bothered me that I was depriving society of the valuable service he provides.

Hitman - don't have a wall like thisIf you’re in witness protection, don’t let them put you in a house with a wall like this.

Hitman - in case someone throws a knife into your headIn case someone hides there and throws a kitchen knife into your head like this.

Hitman - dead birdIn retrospect, yes, it was always going to be difficult to get away with killing that bird in front of this cop.

Hitman - crowd sceneI still don’t know how they did this goddamn crowd scene. How- polygons- what?

Hitman - ruffled feathersThis is as tragicomic as it is hilarisad.

Hitman - loadingI am especially unclear on where I keep my pistols in this outfit.

Hitman - spadeStill feels good.

Hitman - conspicuousWhat? Too slutty?

Hitman - knife surpriseYes, I have done this more than once.

Hitman - honest cakeWhat’s the matter asshole, never seen a poisoncake before?

Hitman - strangleNO POISON FOR YOU.

Out Reach: Poison cake is good... but poisoned exploding cake....

MartinJ: God damnit! You could throw kitchen knives? I need to reinstall this.

Tom Francis: Yep, just hold the drop key. You can throw hammers and stuff too.

Throwing suitcases is also useful. One of the best ways I've found to kill the Sheik in the casino is to put a bomb in a briefcase and toss it over the dividers. People think you strange, but they don't see it as a hostile act.

Jaz: I fell in love with this game just before I moved down, but I never did complete it. I was hooked on doing a perfect run, and couldn't manage it on the last mission I played.

Ezzer: Oh my god you can put bombs in things and throw them I never thought of that.

This game will never cease to amaze me

Tom Francis: And did you guys know you point guns at people to shoot them?

Devlosirrus: I have also heard that knives may be used for stabbing.

AlexW: I did not know that, Tom. I thought it was a hypodermic injection simulator, myself. And coincidentally also played some Blood Money (tutorial through Murder of Crows) last week.

Squawk Box: Argh, it all looks so wonderful, but I have never managed to get a Hitman game working on my computer, ever. Are they particularly averse to being played terribly, or do they just not like Vista that much? Or is it something to do with the Steam version?

Still, always up for one more throw of the metaphorical kitchen knife.

Lack 26: I almost screwed up my latest play-through (correction I did screw up), I was messing around on the sub-urban level and spent most of my money fully upgrading my Shotgun. I then accidental saved.

Needless to say I carried on through the rest of the campaign taking an approach that Fi from Burn Notice would be proud of.

dual_barrel: I love this game to death. It's such a cool, unparalleled anti-hero game.

TooNu: I bought this game when you and Craig sang its praises on the PCG podcast some years ago. Haven't regretted that spontanious purchase yet. I think Hitman Blood Money has been on my rotation list since then and I still play it. What mission was it you boasted about completing in 20 seconds or there abouts?

Tom Francis: Heh, that's the opera one. You can't do it on your first run, or at least I can't, but once you've unlocked all the upgrades, you can do it with a silenced, scoped, magnum ammo pistol in about 32 secs.

You run upstairs, shoot a cop, shoot the lock off the door to the balcony, scope-snipe both the actor on stage and the VIP in his box from there, then run right back out.

Hmm, I might have just thought of a way to do it similarly without those upgrades.

Jaz: Next you'll be telling me there's a way to get into all those little doors.

Lack 26: Wait, you can shoot locks off doors? Why didn't anyone tell me.

seymour: the GAME tells you that you can shoot out locks, it's in the tutorial! there's a shotgun outside a locked room with 3 guys playing cards, and you just shoot out the door and the people inside, and spend the rest of the game trying to play as a bald anton chigurh

Lack_26: Oh, I pretty much ignored the tutorial. Ah well, I haven't played it in years so it's good to know for when I re-install it.

Mickiscoole: I've also coincidentally been playing Blood Money this past week.

I don't think i've ever used knives as a weapon. I'm too much in love with my customised silverballer (no scope though, if I wanted a scope I would use the sniper rifle).
The pew pew as you doubletap someone is just so very satisfying.

My favourite way to play the missions are to go in with a plan, but if anyone sees you or the plan gets altered in any way it is best to just start shooting.

TooNu: I to have a plan...usually. I completed every mission on Normal and hard with Silent Assassin so now I don't need to prove myself, I think of something fun and go with it. Like dressing up as the clown and firing automatic weapons from across the street. That sort of thing.

MartinJ: ... you could shoot locks off doors? Now that you mention it I remember it in the tutorial, but it just never struck me as something I should do in the actual campaign.

Joe!: I missed the Beretta from Hitman 2 :( It was such a plain, simple, and effective weapon... the equivalent in Blood Money is a silenced .40 I think, but it's nowhere near as satisfying as the Beretta.

I played Blood Money Jason Bourne-style, going in with a pistol and just improvising throughout the level from there, but without changing clothes.. it's more about stealth and short bursts of action.

H: I still absolutely adore this game. The number of things that can go wrong, the number of different ways you can carry out each hit. And lovely the feeling you get from an execution well executed, be it through careful and meticulous planning, a bomb triggered at the crucial moment, or a hasty change of clothing.

(And a big hello to Echelon who just joined the conversation.)

Simuri: I've yet to finish the Whitehouse level. Gotta go through that game again.

My favorite was the party one. Start on a boat, take the elevator upstairs etc. I must have killed more than 30 people in that elevator. The pile of bodies should have maxed out the weight limit really. I had a perfect record until that mission, but yoinking people up to their doom was just too much fun.

All those influential and powerful people dragged up into the darkness and tossed onto the pile.

Chris R: You guys need to check out the little youtube series "How NOT to play Hitman."

Here's the first episode. He goes through the game in random order, so this isn't the first mission of BloodMoney. ...RC5ab5tLUY

Tom Francis: In practise, that's how I play a lot of the time. I have lofty plans, but when they go wrong I don't start again.

In that van, though, I love to walk in there while they're still protesting, shut the door behind me, then grab one of them as a human shield and shoot the other. It feels very neat.

I've done the sniping through the window method and got away with it. It distracts a lot of the guards, so if you nab a disguise from the van, it's not hard to get the wife on her own after that.

Lack 26: I've just finished a playthrough using Joe!'s technique, it's great fun to just do it in a fairly no-nonsense way. I've done about 6 of the missions well (ghost,hitman,etc) without changing uniform or being seen (well, anyone who saw me was dead pretty quickly. I averaged about 0-2 violence on the missions).

Joe! is right, it completely changes how you play the game. A Dance With The Devil and You'd Better Watch Out... were hard to do without changing but I'm proud that I did it, A New Life was a fun one to do though. (Kill men in van, run round side, shoot dog, shoot man in basement, go up to ground floor, shoot man there, sneak into living room, shoot Vinnie + guard, sneak to pool, shoot girl, steal necklace, go back by same route) it's surprisingly fun considering it's such a straightforward way to do it.

Oh yeah, and I only used the SLP .40 S since I like it and the sound it makes better than the silverballer.

Tom Francis: Me too. I know Joe's not a fan, but the .40 S is probably my favourite pistol in any game. Thunk!

I've done a lot of missions where I insist on getting my suit back before I leave, and plenty where I just kill people without stealth. Dunno if I've really tried stealthing it without disguises though, I'll give it a go.