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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.

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: The Movie Script

Machine Of Death Is Out: Here’s How To Get It

What is it?

A collection of short stories all based around the idea of a machine that can tell you how you will die. The book contains 34 stories by 33 different writers, and 35 illustrations by 35 different artists. My story is about the accidental inventors of the machine, and is illustrated by Jesse Reklaw of Slow Wave, a great comic incorporating reader-submitted dreams.

Headliners include Randall Munroe (XKCD), Yahtzee Croshaw (Zero Punctuation), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), John Allison (Scary Go Round), Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Aaron Diaz (Dresden Codak), Dorothy Gambell (Cat And Girl), and Christopher Hastings (Dr McNinja). Here’s the full contents of stories and illustrators:

What’s the best way to get it?

1. Buy it on now. This is the best way to support the book, and the only place it’s currently available. It’s $17 in the US, or £11 plus £7 postage if you’re in the UK.

Sorry it’s a bit pricier than we’re used to in the UK – North America just generally charges more for books, and you could go for the cheapest postage option but it takes 18-32 business days. I’m not sure we have that many left on this Earth. You do get a lot of stories by cool people who aren’t me, though.

No progress yet on getting it into the UK Amazon or anywhere outside the US and Canada, so that won’t happen in the foreseeable future I’m afraid. That’s why we want to get a chart position on we can brag about.

If you know me in real life and live in Bath, let me know today if you want to buy a copy: it may make sense to order together this afternoon to save a little on postage.

2. From early November, I’ll be able to buy some copies wholesale and have them sent to people. This will not be significantly cheaper – about £15 with postage. But once that warehouse has them in, it’ll be quicker to send from there than from Amazon. Since that option is at least a week off, right now it’s not quicker to wait for this than to buy from Amazon, and it doesn’t support the project, so I don’t recommend it.

3. It will eventually be available as a free PDF. You won’t get the handsome physical object, but you will get to read the stories.

4. They’re working on a Kindle version too, which won’t be free. It’s not ready yet, but if you’d like to support day one sales, you can just buy the actual book on Amazon today, and forward the editors your receipt e-mail for a free Kindle version once it’s out.

5. Finally, we’ll be releasing a free audiobook of Machine of Death episodically – one story at a time as an ongoing podcast.

“Our (free) audiobook will include the voice talents of many of the authors, plus Jesse Thorn, MC Frontalot, Zach Weiner, Lore Sjöberg, Dave Kellett, Kris Straub, Colleen AF Venable, Joel Watson, and one other secret person we’re waiting to confirm. Yahtzee Croshaw reads his own story.”

If you’d prefer one of the free methods but still want to support the project, you can still buy it on Amazon to support day-one sales, and have it shipped to Machine of Death headquarters to save on postage. Your copy will be donated to schools, libraries or showing the book off to people – equally worthy causes.

Wondermark Enterprises
Attn: MOD
2554 Lincoln Blvd #214
Venice, CA 90291

I demand a free sample

Of course. Here are the first 40 pages as a PDF:

My story is still online for free. And here is the story HIV INFECTION FROM MACHINE OF DEATH NEEDLE, by Brian Quinlan, in its entirety:

“Well,” I thought, “that sucks.”

I have now bought the book

Woo! Thanks! I’m actually pretty optimistic about our day one sales. I don’t get any money from the book doing well, but all proceeds go towards promoting it further, and I’d love to see it be more widely available. If you do get it, let me know in the comments. I imagine we’ll get some idea of how well it sells in general, but I’d love to hear if any came from here. I also want to say “Thanks!” a lot.

I can’t wait to read it myself – I’ve only read my own story and the one above, so I’ll be using some (most) of my contributor’s fee to buy a copy today. Randall Munroe’s – called ? – is about “what happens when physical science rejects the idea of precognition”. I am excited about this.


SenatorPalpatine: Bought it.

Tweets that mention Machine Of Death Is Out: Here’s How To Get It, by Tom Francis -- [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis, Jaz McDougall. Jaz McDougall said: RT @Pentadact: Machine of Death, a short story collection about knowing how you'll die, is out. The first 4 stories: [...]

idefex: What's the import duty situation when buying from the UK?

Octaeder: Ordered. With a quoted delivery time of anywhere up to December 15th I'm seeing this as a suprise Christmas present to my future self - as I'll have almost certainly have forgotten about it by then.

Jonas: Bought. And pimped to a few friends.

SenatorPalpatine: Canceled my order and bought it again for $8 cheaper. #1 already and it's not even 11am!

John: Bought it, the price seems to have been slashed at some point, so with cheap delivery it's really not very much now

SenatorPalpatine: (Nevermind, I misread, it's at #5 atm)

Athatar: Ordered! The book is now up to number 2!

Joseph: Yay for machine of death, boo to month long delivery :(

Joseph: Also boo to Keith Richard's autobiography. There is no justice in this world

Chris Evans: Bought it :D

Auspex: Bought it as a christmas present for my cousin but I'm going to claim the kindle version.

Also, the book has just gone to #1 on the; I like to think it was my purchase that did it.

Well done!

Paul G: Bought, and an extra copy as a birthday present for my brother.

You, Randall Munroe and Yahtzee all in one place - how could I turn it down?

EthZee: Bah! Not only would I have to wait for this book, but the gift balance I had been saving for it on my UK account can't be transferred, so I'll have to pay extra for the thing. HNNG.

...Still! I'll buy it anyway, because I am foolish and I like this sort of thing.

Flying Squirrel: Wooo purchased! And a good excuse to order Mogworld and get free shipping on the whole shebang. Looking forward to it.

superslug: i read or listen to free stuff from more than half the contributors but only heard about this here. I will look forward to december 7 when my copy should arrive.

Coded One: Just bought it! Estimated shipping date is November 1st (there are SOME advantages to living in the States).

Also, as others have stated, it's at #1 on the bestseller list. Congratulations on the successful release! :)

Brey: Got a copy when I woke up today. Read the first 40 pages and confirmed I made a good choice.

Man, mail can't come soon enough. Especially since I always go for free shipping and therefore get things SO SLOWLY.

Bret: What the guy above said.

icouldbeahero: I bought a book! I am excited...

Tom Francis: Wow. Thanks SenatorPalpatine, Octaeder, Jonas, John, Athatar, Joseph, Chris Evans, Auspex (clever!), Paul G (double-thanks), EthZee, Flying Squirrel, superslug, Coded One, Brey, Bret, and icouldbeahero. The best possible people read this blog.

Update and thank-you post!

http://www.pentadact... ...seller-wtf

Andytizer: I'm afraid the US book was a little too dear for me. I'd be happy to support a UK release though, if you should decide a day to conquer to Amazon UK charts :).

Daniel Tovbis: Any chance of it getting released on ?

superslug: my copy arrived today. I have been itching to leave work and read it ever since

Brian Quinlan: I'm glad you liked the story! If you liked the story. I LIKED THE STORY.