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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

The Podcast Of My Machine Of Death Story Is Out

The stories from the Machine of Death collection are being gradually released as a free podcast, a sort of episodic audiobook. Mine just came out, read rather excellently by Christopher Joseph. Warning! Strong language from the first word.

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.

Not totally sure why I don’t get a mention, I think that might be an oversight. The site makes it clear enough who wrote it so it’s no big deal.

One of many reasons I declined to read my own story was that my narrator is American and I am not, so it’s great to hear it in its pseudo-native tongue. The flipside, of course, is that I’m not perfect at expressing the exact tone of voice characters are using, so inevitably there are parts that aren’t as I’d imagined them. I don’t mind that at all – my narrator is intentionally not me in some important ways, so it’s kind of nice to hear him say things the way I wouldn’t.

It also makes me realise how much clearer I need to be about who’s speaking. Chris always gets it right, but without doing some kind of comedy accent for one of the characters, that’s not enough for the listener to always know. I think I’m meant to write scripts rather than prose, I don’t really care how non-dialogue information is communicated so long as it’s clear.

Here’s the direct MP3 link if you want to download it, or the RSS link to subscribe.

The book is now $12 from or £11 from You can also get it as an iBook for $5.99 or on the Kindle for £7.29.

The whole thing is also free in PDF form, and the text of my story for it is online here.

More ,

Chris: Noice

Lack26: I've only been listening to the podcasts so far and I have to say this is probably joint favourite with ALMOND, excellent listen, although one or two lines jarred a bit with been read out-loud, but it was literally one or two lines.

Tom Francis: Hurray! Thanks.

Tweets that mention The Podcast Of My Machine Of Death Story Is Out, by Tom Francis — [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Francis and Tom Francis, Phil Savage. Phil Savage said: Oh, @Pentadact's Machine of Death story's been podcasted. It's totes good, with shades of Primer (sans the WTF headache) [...]

David Malki !: Hi Tom! I want to apologize about the omission of your name from the audio -- that was a mistake in the editing and has now been corrected with a mention at the very beginning.

To the note about being clear who's speaking -- it's been very interesting and educational for us, directing and editing these stories in audio, to see how a difference in medium can affect comprehension. For example, I've learned that sometimes things like "he said," "Bob said," etc. are often added to audio scripts for clarity, even though it might be perfectly clear in text form. We're learning as we go!

Glad to hear you like the reading!

p.s. "a job fucking lot of them" is not an Americanism, I'm sorry, Tom. :) Chris and I had to Google it.

Tom Francis: Sweet, thanks.

Yeah, I figured, but not during editing for some reason. I was going to mock myself in this post about that, but forgot. Let's just say Pete's British and he picked it up from him.

UberSprode: Thanks for reminding me about this. Totally forgot and ordered the book on the weekend, just arrived today.
Looks like a great read!

sQUEAKYfOAMpEANUT: Tom, I'd just like to reiterate that your story was my absolute favourite in the story.

sQUEAKYfOAMpEANUT: I meant to say "in the book".


Tom Francis: Cheers!

Interestingly SUICIDE almost works as a sequel to it - there's only one detail in there that clashes with the world of my story, and some of the rest is almost creepily consistent.

ihranator: Kinda offtopic here, but what the hell happened to Chris? First Person Shouter is no more, and First Person Observer's not been updated for months.

Jason L: He...starts a lot of projects. On balance, I think it beats overstaying your welcome.

Oak: He's also deleted his Twitter. What's going on?

Tom Francis: He's not dead, just not doing as much writing-about-games-on-the-internet. He is planning to get back into the habit soon. He writes US PCG's back page most months I think.

ihranator: Well any info is good info. Thanks.