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

2010: The Year In Forty Photos

Photos of 2010 60

You probably don’t want to hear about my year, particularly since it was good. So I’ll do what I did in 2009 and just pick some shots from it, and a track to listen to while you browse.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Photos of 2010 09

Photos of 2010 12

Photos of 2010 64

Photos of 2010 11I invented a board game for my family to capture the basic mechanics of the amazing but single-player only Flash game Dice Wars. It had some kinks.

Photos of 2010 22Rich’s housewarming. He has a trapdoor in his kitchen that leads to an underground well.

Photos of 2010 14I made cookies for my family at easter, each customised to our esoteric tastes.

Photos of 2010 20

Photos of 2010 15

Photos of 2010 19

Photos of 2010 21Ceramic.

Photos of 2010 24My cheese and rosemary bread – best eaten while it’s still this hot.

Photos of 2010 26Exhausted in an especially hectic New York City, I’m happy to find Max Brenner The Chocolate Man still exists, and is still an oasis of warmth and butterfat.

Photos of 2010 28

Photos of 2010 29

Photos of 2010 31

Photos of 2010 34

Photos of 2010 35

Photos of 2010 37For our pseudo-anniversary, we fed Kim’s fixation with fish at the aquarium, and my fixation with steak at Hawksmoor.

Photos of 2010 38

Photos of 2010 39Hawksmoor’s sticky toffee pudding.

Photos of 2010 43I now own a barbecue, the final artefact I needed to complete my triforce of manhood.

Photos of 2010 42

Photos of 2010 01Our old friend Al was back from New Zealand for a while, so Rich, he and I got together for a fajitas and margaritas night. We got through about a third of the Cuervo in margaritas before I passed out and Rich violated his vegetarianism. Welcome back Al!

Photos of 2010 02It made us think.

Photos of 2010 6030s party for my Gran’s birthday. Anna, me, and Kim.

Photos of 2010 45Vancouver work trip.

Photos of 2010 50

Photos of 2010 51

Photos of 2010 57

Photos of 2010 03

Photos of 2010 04

Photos of 2010 05Seafood with Relic. That’s Dan Kading, designer of Dawn of War 2: Retribution.

Photos of 2010 06

Photos of 2010 08Halloween.

Photos of 2010 07

Eve 01Christmas. Anna and I are transfixed by our dad connecting a battery and a magnetised screw so that it spins phenomenally fast.

Dad SledThese last few might look familiar.


Tree Shadow

Frost Fingers

icouldbeahero: Nice photos...That ceramic crushed plastic cup is droll!

SenatorPalpatine: The Highline is really cool, but Max Brenner's is too expensive for me. I like the giant pseudo-rope bridge. Where is that?

Duncan: Only a RTS designer would stare at seafood with that much malice.

Bret: I know this will sound ridiculous to your no doubt superior mind, but...

why couldn't dice wars use, well, dice?

Or are the papers placeholders for dice? They probably are, come to think.

It is a good game. Just won a match.

Nano: Don't forget, I'm the one who put the BBQ together, Mr Man.

westyfield: @SenatorPalpatine
It looks like the Capilano bridge, near Vancouver.

Lack 26: Perfectly timed song, finished just as I hit the comments. I like the hat as well.

Tom Francis: Bret: we just didn't have enough dice. I think we only had two, in fact.

Nano: true. I was busy building something else, the bench I think?

Commander Fabulous: Dude! Sweet hat! And I am dissaproving of the fact that this was only said 7 comments in. More hat appreciation! Especially because it's a trilby, which is like a baby fedora, the mafia hat o' choice. :3

Oh, and you know it's a REAL MAN'S pudding if it has to be contained with a bowl on a plate, basically so then you can just lunge at it jaws agape and murderify it most messily without contamination of the rest of the table. Classy restaurants have the greatest potential for messiest eating habits, quite contrarywise really. Anyway, I ramble, good selection of photos though.

Lurchibles: Stumbled onto your site (been reading PCG) and decided to click "play" on the track...

Ben Folds :-)

You have exceeded my expectations Mr. Francis.

That is all.

Tom Francis: Thanks guys!

Nano: @Pentadact - it was your Mum who was fixing and varnishing the bench! You just stood around looking confused a lot, drinking wine with your Dad.

Tom Francis: UNLIKELY.

Jason L: It is a wonderful hat; I envy your haberdashary. I wear a boonie or a Real Deal hat all summer against my foe the unconquered sun and love them, but wanted to get something non-ventilated and felt for my highly, highly ventilated winters. Thought I could rock a sharp Matthew Vaughn trilby, or a fedora, or one of those droopy crushed Scottish things in a pinch. Spent an hour in the shop and looked like a dunce in everything I put on except for this sort of shako thing that made me look like I was going to ask for my own papieren bitte right out of the mirror. I felt like a misogynistic stereotype faced with a row of slightly different-coloured shoes. I will try again, but hat morale is low. I...I fear I may wind up with an ironic derby. I am not an ironic dude. Let spring come before that fate.

TooNu: I think 2010 was the year I read something here where you posted the photo of where JC first arrives. It's one of the major factors in this years NY trip in March, I thougth you should probably know that somethign as small as a photo and a caption can help influence a decision to spend lot's of money on a trip abroad.

I hope you are proud of yourself.

Lack 26: I wish I could find hats that fit me, I've got a tradition going with my brother that when ever we visit a foreign countries we have to buy a hat (traditional, failing that military) from that country. The amount of time I've spent bumbling around Bazaars and markets looking for a proper fit.

Tom Francis: Nice! It is a strange experience. I haven't had any luck going inside - both times I've been it's been closed off for security reasons. Annoying, but since the main reason I wanted to go in there was to see if it looks like a videogame where terrorists have blown it up, I can't really begrudge them their protectiveness.

Jason L: Thanks, At Random widget! I forgot to mention before that computer multiplayer Dicewars exists: KDice.