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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.

  • Grant: Thanks to the start of this video, I’ve just now noticed that during the static flickers while staring...
  • Ben: Great analysis. During the lab sequence in the Prey intro, you were looking around for tells that Morgan is in a...
  • 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...
  • 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

    Machine Of Death Is A #1 Bestseller: WTF

    At about 7.30PM yesterday evening UK time, we finally pulled ahead of Keith Richards and became the #1 best-selling book on Then we stayed there for twenty four hours. Sales were up 685,800%. We beat Glenn Beck’s new book on its launch day.

    Apparently: “It was mentioned as number one on the Glenn Beck radio program this morning as an example of America’s preoccupation with death.” It was “a plea to his listeners to buy his book and not let us death-peddlers win.”

    Thank you so, so much to anyone who bought it, and thanks to anyone who told other people about it. Not many people actually read the Machine of Death blog on a regular basis – not much has happened there for three years. So all this happened by people telling other people.

    When the editors suggested a big push on the 26th, I thought it’d be cool, but we’d be gaming the system a bit. But really, we were just giving ourselves a launch day. We didn’t know when it would go up on, so we had to wait until it had before we could start organising any kind of campaign. Other books get to dictate a release date and plan around that – we did the same, we just had to rely on a little good will from people to delay until a launch day we could organise for.

    Malki now has e-mails from four bookstores interested in stocking it, including Barnes & Noble, and one from the New York friggin Times. He and Ryan did a funny sort of mini-podcast to say thanks and stretch more sports metaphors.

    A lot of people are asking how many copies we actually sold – I don’t have any insider info on that, but if Amazon’s percentage increase figures are right- wait, they’re not. See comments.

    There’s lots more info on the PDF, audiobook, Kindle and Vulcan mindmeld editions on the official site, which’ll also have more info on if and when it’ll come to and the like.

    Thanks again everyone, particularly those in the UK who braved the shipping costs to support it. You have accomplished something amazing, annoyed Glenn Beck, and made me and a bunch of webcomic dudes very happy.


    Wowbagger: Ordering it pissed off Glenn Beck? I guess that was one of my more worthwhile purchases!
    Congratulations on your scheme's success, by the way :)

    Dave: Congrats, I did my part on the day - shipping was £5, but I was too cheap to go for anything above the cheapest option.

    http://www.novelrank... ...-paperback

    Looks like it was actually 115. The whole point was that Amazon daily sales are actually pretty modest, so it wasnt too hard to get to #1. I guess people still leave the house to buy their books these days?

    Tweets that mention Machine Of Death Is A #1 Bestseller: WTF, by Tom Francis -- [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis and Johnni Fortune, Mark Richard Danks. Mark Richard Danks said: RT @Pentadact: Machine of Death update: We sold over 6,859 copies, we beat Glenn Beck's book on its launch day, and ... [...]

    Tom Francis: That sounds more likely! I think Amazon's sales increase percentages must just be pure fiction.

    In fact, after a little tinkering, I've reverse engineered their formula. It takes yesterday's sales rank, divides it by today's, subtracts 1, then multiplies by 100. This gets you: a meaningless number. It means your figure is as dependent on where you end up as on the magnitude of your climb.

    RC-1290'Dreadnought': Funny how Machine of Death 'beats' a book called Life.

    Coded One: Glad to help! I'm looking forward to reading it :)

    Coded One: Also, I'd love to actually hear Glenn Beck's quote. Nothing gives me more satisfaction then knowing that I helped to contribute to an angry misquote from Glenn Beck!

    Tom Francis: Apparently it was "a plea to his listeners to buy his book and not let us death-peddlers win". He's ahead of us again now, BUT: he is terribly fat.

    malki !: @Dave - I don't know where Novelrank gets their numbers, but I'm pretty sure that's inaccurate. I don't have full details yet but I'm sure they're much higher.

    @Tom - I was paraphrasing the "death-peddlers" part! Don't want to give the impression it was an exact quote. I'll post a partial transcript on the MOD blog later tonight.

    Tom Francis: Heh - yeah, didn't mean to imply otherwise.

    Apparently Novelrank works by inferring sales from changes in chart position. So if you're low down in the chart, it's probably not a bad estimate, since a sale will usually move you in the charts. But if you spend a lot of time at #2 or #1, it'd have no way of knowing about the copies you sell while at those positions.

    Davie: My god, you attracted negative attention from Glenn Beck! You deserve medals! Many of them! And I will absolutely buy this if it becomes available retail. Sadly, I have no viable source of internet money at this time.

    EthZee: I can't wait to get the copy!

    And that transcript of Glenn Beck, that's, well, it's a thing of beauty. No wonder he's so popular as a radio guy. Here's my favourite bit:

    "These are the — this is the left, I think, speaking. This is the left. You want to talk about where we’re headed? We’re headed towards a culture of death. A culture that, um, celebrates the things that have destroyed us. Not that the Rolling Stones have destroyed us — I mean, you can’t always get what you want. You know what I’m saying? Brown sugar. I have no idea what that means."

    Mindbending, surreal hilarity.

    See, when I played GTA 4, and I listened to that pundit on WKTT, I thought that was a parody. Not so, it seems.

    MadTinkerer: I bought M.O.D. on the day it launched. I also bought Beck's book. Haven't had time to read either.

    Connective Visions » Viral Can Be Good for You: A Sci-Fi Success Story: [...] Weekly blog, as well as smaller sites such as FrozenYogurt, Pelotard’s Impopular Culture, James by Pentadact, and my own. (There may well be more, but I have to publish this darn [...]

    Joseph: "We beat Glenn Beck’s new book on its launch day."


    EthZee: So my book arrived! Today! About two or three weeks early! I'm not opening it yet because there's some stuff I need to do and I need an incentive, but I am pleased that it came so quickly.


    Tom Francis: Woo! The UK copies seem to be arriving much earlier than predicted, lots of people seem to have them now. Party!

    Jason L: It's a dumb thing to judge a book by, so I'm not, but it's a much larger book than I expected. More pages, more content.

    Tom Francis: It's a good cover, too.

    EthZee: Jason: It is! It's a much larger book than I expected. The illustrations and stories I've read so far are fantastic.

    Flying Squirrel: The book is awesome so far. Every story has been new and interesting and inventive. Only one has made me feel uncomfortable while reading it, but it was purposeful, so made the story more meaningful (if not more enjoyable). In all honesty Tom, yours is one of my favorites so far, along with the one about the lab assistant and his journal. Thanks for the recommendation =)

    Tom Francis: Awesome, thanks!

    The way I'm reading is, when the podcast of a story comes out, I listen to the start of it, and if I like the person's voice I'll listen to the whole thing. If not, I read it in the book. Love is very well read. Can't wait to hear mine, have no idea who did it.

    Bret: Finished.

    Man. So good. Creeping existential dread all over.

    MattB: I bought the book, and had trouble putting it down during a vacation in the Caribbean in good weather. It was really that good.

    Tom, your story is one of the best in there. I've been getting friends interested in it by having them read a story or two, and Exploded is one of the ones I recommend.