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.

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

Why Terriers Was Axed

“Based on what these people saw in those two episodes, the FX-centric viewer just rated it lower in areas such as intensity, suspense, sexiness. When you talk to the USA-type viewer, they rate it lower than their favorite shows because it’s not a land in which every babe is hot, and the sky is incredibly blue, and everybody lives in an apartment three times as big as they could legitimately afford, and everything comes out great in the end. What we ended up with—and this is a much more nuanced and complicated answer—was a show that somehow fell between two brands.”
FX president John Landgraf

Depressing as that is, it’s nice to see the president of the whole network take significant time to explain the exact logic by which they axed Terriers. And while it is a bad name, and showing anything dog-related inevitably hurt it, he’s a pretty clear thinker about statistics and their significance. There’s even something refreshingly scientific about the way he breaks down his job, and his capacity to influence the outcome. It’d be nicer to think there’s a massive audience for smart stuff with no obvious hook and some evil middleman was stopping it reaching them, but Landgraf’s elaboration is more likely to be tough truth than an easy lie.

“If the answer is as simple as change Terriers to Beach Dicks and take the dog off the poster, and it’ll quadruple its audience, then I’m being dumb in not picking it up, especially since it’s such a good show. I did my best to answer that question, and unfortunately the answer was resoundingly no, that’s not likely to create a different outcome. Because for whatever reason—that’s disappointing and not entirely fathomable—people just don’t want to watch this show.”

Cheers to Chris for the link.

Chynes: I didn't know anything about the show except for those generic teasers, which told me absolutely nothing. I watched one episode on your recommendation and was hooked. A really fantastic show. It's a shame it won't be coming back, but that was probably the best ending we could have hoped for.

Chris: I never really got hooked, or even truly loved the show: it was the sort of show where every couple weeks I'd remember I had a couple episodes queued up to watch, and I'd watch them. I did like it, though; it was always worth watching, I thought the writing was good and there were plenty of surprises, and the season finished strong: in fact, rather than wait a week to watch the last episode On-Demand, I bought it on iTunes so I could watch it sooner.

I'd say the weak promos probably hurt its chances a lot, and the main character looking like a stinky homeless guy probably didn't help. And some shows, no matter what, just don't find an audience. I bet if it had a chance on DVD before cancellation, it probably would have had stronger numbers in season two, but alas.

SenatorPalpatine: God dammit.

At least it had an amazing ending scene.

IvanHoeHo: I watched the first episode on your recommendation and was rather underwhelmed as it was so mostly predictable and the characters uninteresting.

I was going to give it another chance but then I also started Life on Mars AND The Larry Sanders Show, both of which completely hooked me before the half way point. Maybe I'll do it after this lot. (but then, I'll probably just end up re-watching the early Top Gears... just remembered that they were rather entertaining)

circadianwolf: This show was generally brilliant, although consistently the most amazing thing about it to me was how it handled Internet culture. Most mass media is hamhanded about the Internet at best and technophobic (with good reason) at worst, but Terriers always seemed to completely take it in stride without ever being overbearing (i.e. Laura the "blogger").

I didn't expect it to continue, though; the style and leads are just not attractive to a mass audience at all. Really interesting to read the exec's comments though. Seems pretty honest.

UberSprode: Go back and read my comment on your previous Terriers post.
Totally called this.

RIP Terriers « Mana's Menagerie of Maniacal Mumblings: [...] Terriers was a cool show. It is with sadness that it has gotten axed by FX on December 8th. Here’s a great short post by Tom Francis on its death. I always thought network presidents were out of touch with reality (you know, like everyone with [...]