All posts


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


A Machine of Death story, by Camille Alexa

The book I’m reading just got putdownable, so I’ve finally dug into Machine of Death. I’d also been following the podcast, trying each entry to see if I like the reader’s voice, and saving it to read in the book if I don’t. What? That’s not weird. I’m overly fussy about reading voices.

My plan is to review every story in the book except my own. We’ve had lots of lovely reviews, but in a normal review you don’t analyse every story – most don’t even mention standouts. But short story collections are diverse, if they’re good, and for all I know ours is both. I don’t know any of the other authors personally, except for brief e-mail exchanges about the book, so it’s not hard to be objective. I will be more polite than I am in game reviews, though, since I can’t claim to be well-read or good at analysing literature.

Flaming Marshmallow

A school girl frets about what social clique her prediction will put her in.

I have to admit I avoided this story at first, because the title made me think “Sigh, comedy death.” It’s not a comedy, and that prediction has almost nothing to do with it.

Instead, it’s an incredibly focused picture of what feels like a very thoroughly imagined version of the Machine of Death world, set long after any initial shock or uncertainty about the use of the machine. Everyone’s so settled into it that schoolkids define their hang-out groups and social status by their predicted deaths; violent ones the coolest.

Something rings very true about the ease with which kids accept the morbidity of death predictions, and get more excited about the possibilities than bogged down by the fatalism. The story’s payload, to me at least, is a situation where a girl is desperately hoping for the stickiest possible end, while her father longs for something dull and distant.

She does get her prediction, but the only failing of Marshmallow is that it isn’t immediately clear what it means. That ambiguity’s a useful tool in other stories, but here I’m just not totally sure if the words are referring to something I’m not familiar with. The characters understand it, and we understand it through them, but the scene could have had more punch if it was something we could immediately grasp the implications of, to both parties.

This feels like one of the most convincing worlds, though, and the voice of the narrator is authentically young and fun.

Machine of Death: a thing that appears to be good so far. It’s now $18 whether you buy it from Amazon or Topatoco, and I think Topatoco have faster international shipping. The whole book is free in PDF form, and is trickling out steadily as an audiobook in podcast form. My story for it is online here.

More ,

The_B: Both the audiobook version and the news you're reviewing every story are Awesome Things.

I just finished the book myself and quite enjoyed many of the stories, although I have to admit there were a few ones that I didn't quite like as well. Hopefully these might give me the inclination to go back to some of these sooner than I usually would.

The_B: (Also will you be adding your own story to the Audiobook version Tom?)

Tom Francis: It'll be included, though I didn't ask to read mine myself. Don't know who's doing it or when it'll be out. Fount of knowledge.

Bret: You're reviewing the whole book?

Something to look forward to. Huzzah.

Helvetica: Don't forget to mention the art. The pre-story art did influence some of the mood and feeling I had whilst reading the subsequent story.