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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


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.