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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 John Chernega

A lab assistant charged with one of the first machines of death refuses to test himself, while everyone around him succumbs.

Pure pleasure to read – or in my case, listen to. It’s the longest story so far, but every time reader Kevin McShane (who sounds excitingly like Peter from Fringe) pauses for more than a second, you’re hoping it’s not going to end.

The whole story is a log, that rapidly devolves into a journal, written in a friendly and clear-headed style. The watch-word of this collection has been ‘refreshing’, and what’s refreshing about Chernega’s protagonist is his almost complete lack of curiosity. He’s curious about other people’s predictions, but he’s one of the few characters in the book so far not even tempted by the prospect.

His diary charts the escalating public reaction to the machines, covering some of the same territory as my own, and I’m honoured they didn’t just scrap mine when they read this. ALMOND plays much more with the machine’s enjoyably sinister ambiguity – when it starts giving more than a few people GOVERNMENT, you know something interesting’s about to go down.

Some predictions are clever enigmas that are unraveled during the story, others are unexplained and seemingly unexplainable, and others seem to be openly fucking with you. That’s important, because the tension the story builds hinges on the narrator inferring a personality to the machine – one that becomes increasingly infuriating to him.

It has a punch, but doesn’t conform to the usual twist-story structure: the set up is almost immediately before the payoff, which prevents it from risking anticlimax. The voice, humour and escalating intrigue don’t need a giant question mark hanging over them to keep the story compelling throughout.

Machine of Death: a book 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 ,

Phydaux: "The voice, humour and escalating intrigue don’t need a giant question mark hanging over them to keep the story compelling throughout."

Yes, this.

One of my favourite stories in the book (I'm only half way). It had an end that I had imagined at least one of the stories would have. Even still, I didn't see it coming. :)

Octaeder: Yes, so far this is the one I keep coming back to as one of my favourites. I'm glad the ending was a simple as it turned out as well, because anything more unusual wouldn't have fit.

Lack: This one is certainly the best I've listened to so far and I'm sure I'll be revisiting it. I really like the way it handled the rising tensions and leaving the listen/reader to fill out the gaps between entries (much like a real journal, if you've read your own or someone else's).

The 'Government' bit was excellent, I'm glad that at least one of the stories has done this (others might have, I've only listened to the ones on podcast so far, despite the book sitting on my desk I'm almost unwilling to read it. Bit like the machine of death and its predictions).

nine: My fav story of the bunch I'd say.

Jason L: About two-thirds of the way through MoD, I wondered if I was going to see a serial killer who used the end sting of this as his gimmick/fetish. I'm a little surprised I didn't, but I have no doubt there were a dozen among the submitted stories.

Tom Francis: The other thing I forgot to say: particularly in the audio version, it sounds a lot like a System Shock 2 log.

Bret: It does, now that I think about it.

Which is fun. Always enjoy being a bit late to the end of the world.

Sam: One of the best ones I've listened to so far, it was really well read. Brilliantly dark, too, especially with the final moments.

sQUEAKYfOAMpEANUT: Please forgive this completely unrelated query, but I was wondering if you ever planned on reviewing the DLC for Mass Effect 2 like you did with TF2's content. I'm really interested to hear your opinion on it.

Tom Francis: I reviewed Lair of the Shadow Broker: http://www.pcgamer.c...

It's alright.

Other people reviewed the others in PCG, haven't played them myself. So far they're really struggling to come up with something I want to play - Shadow Broker was the right concept, but it was pretty humdrum as ME2 quests go.