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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.

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

Welcome To Site Six

I seem to redesign this place at the start of every year – boredom with the old design peaks just as the winter break hits with the spare time to fix it. This new design is mostly just a visual jiggle, but I’m counting it as site number six because it’s no longer called James. I’m not good with titles, obviously, so it doesn’t really have one anymore – it’s just my blog, or if you need something more unique.

I’ve sort of decapitated the old design:

It felt flabby and basic, and those black bars bothered me for no good reason. The new one fits more on the screen, and is a bit smoother. You’ll notice I’ve brought it bang up to date with the hottest web trend of 2003 – very slight gradients. A few other things are new:

  • Infinite scroll: it loads the next bunch of posts when you scroll to the bottom. It doesn’t currently tell you it’s doing this.
  • Like button: fucking Zuckerberg. That ugly little thing is so goddamn hard to put on any non-white page without making it hideous. I can’t resist them, though – they’ve been awesome on the PC Gamer site for letting us know the difference between pieces that people want to respond to, and piece people just… like. Without something filling that role, you never really know when you’ve done something right.
  • Category tabs: browsing by category was a little obfuscated in the last design. I wanted to put them front and center for the sake of people who don’t care about games, since that topic often dominates this place a bit. Of course, which category link do the vast, vast majority of people click on? Games. They look at my site about games and think “Goddamn it, this isn’t enough about games! ONLY GAMES!”

As ever, please let me know what you think and if anything isn’t displaying right for you. I have some tweaking to do and presumably a lot of bug fixing, though it doesn’t look too disastrous so far.


Anonymous: Looks nice.

Glad the color scheme stayed. Always liked it.

K5 Josh: I chuckled at "Recursion.png."

Chris: Posts need dating.

Bret: But that takes the game out of the thing.

Always fun to try to guess.

nine: When I like something does it show up on my Facebook profile? I've not clicked them before because I dont want to spam my friends.

Nano: @nine - It does show up on your FB profile when you like something. Just showed up on my feed...

Tom Francis: People can see it on your profile, but it doesn't usually come up in their feeds unless they specifically look at your page or go to the Recent Items list. Facebook seems really keen to hide them away, presumably to prevent spamming/viral stuff.

You can see the date of any given post in the URL. I've never put them in the posts themselves, wasn't totally convinced of the need. Open to persuasion though.

Ankr: Hey Tom. Really like the new-ish look and feel of the site. Best of luck with your other projects!

Lack 26: I shan't be using the Like button, because, well, I'm very easily amused and like everything. So just take it as read that I'll enjoy anything you post.

The new site took a minute or two to get used to but the infinite scroll and having the sections at the top really work. Although I kind of miss the black-bars.

Also, when are we going to see 'musings on the nature of reality' posts again?

Chijts: The navigation/tabs bar at the top rubs against the status section. I'm using Firefox but that's about all I can tell you. Could just be something out of whack my end. It seems to be correct in the picture of site six though.

Chijts: Oh yea and Happy New Year to anyone who wants it.

Tom Francis: Doh, of course! I noticed that in testing and forgot to fix it - it happens if your browser window is less than 1280 pixels wide. Cheers, I'll take a look.

Nonomu198: R.I.P. James

Tom Camfield: Huh, I never knew you could like something using the facebook button, without it appearing on facebook. I might "like" more things now.

Tom Francis: Fixed the category bar bug now, and made it highlight the category you're looking at. Also abandoned the 'Notebook' name, it was too vague. That section is Philosophy now.

Anonymous: Sites looking good, as ever. I'm really liking the "scroll down load new posts" feature, as it saves me clicking through pages and pages whilst searching for old posts.

Plumberduck: Rest in peace, James. You were a charmingly confusing thing to call a blog by a man named Tom.