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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

Supreme Commander

Let Us Mumble You Through Our Supreme Commander Game

We finally got around to turning one of our many SupCom matches into a video you can watch. It’s the one written up in the latest mag, six of us versus two cheating AIs.


conVOX: Watched it, enjoyed it, is it the sort of thing we can expect more of in the future?

Diffractionman: Great battle, but your commentary and enthusiasm for every unit makes that video awesome. I want to jump back into SupCom 1's sheer brutality again. Even though it will mean learning how the economy works, there are so many fun units I haven't even built that just sound fantastic. Thanks a lot.

Thanqol: It seemed a bit of a curbstomping, all told.

westyfield: Please do more of these - as someone who is pretty terrible at SupCom, I found it very enjoyable to watch.

1stGear: Interesting, and SupCom's scale is quite impressive, but the AIs really weren't as good as you were selling them to be, or were just completely overwhelmed. The only person who really got hit was Graham, the Soul Ripper was a total bust, and when the end came, both bases were just immediately rolled over.

I'd love to see more SupCom commentaries but perhaps a bit more balanced, or with the AIs tweaked a bit.

Tom Francis: We got crushed by the single AI in the previous game, which is why its difficulty and aggressiveness were dialled down in this one. We're gonna ramp it up again and let it expand in our next one.

Jason L: Another in the 'thanks for trying but blah' column here, I'm afraid. I don't disbelieve that you were under threat, but the settings basically meant either you would crush them or they would crush you in a few minutes of activity at the end. No real targeted raids, no counter-vs-numbers clashes. That's more of a race than a game. And yeah, it doesn't help that an amazing mod to amazing AI for a game largely about resource allocation apparently can't run an economy. Positional problems are easy to forgive; resource planning and optimization are major roles for computers IRL, so it jars to see them bouncing off the bottom of their economies. The patrol routes were funny though.

Chris: I thought those routes were scary, it's like skynet or something.

Jason L: It doesn't have the advantage of you guys just playing it all the time anyway, but AI Wars is designed sspecifically around compstomp, specialised coordination and interesting decisions in all game phases.

Joe R: I wish my computer could run a really massive game of Supcom - it just crumbles when I try and do a 4 Vs 4 with AIs - not necessarily low framerate, but the game speed drops to the point where one second of in game time is like 30 seconds of real life - not fun.

Still an astonishing game though. Sup Com 2 may have had cool improvements and run better, but I simply loved the sheer diversity of units available in Sup Com 1 - especially Forged alliance. I loved how I could scramble torpedo bombers to take down an enemy fleet, but I could also use subs, surface ships, gunships, regular bombers or any combination of those.

Starcraft 2 may be well balanced for competitive play, but its obsessive focus on balance and counters has, for me, totally diminished the fun of it - Sup com is just pure joy incarnate, the ultimate "comp stomp" rts. More videos please!

Amazing SupCom game tonight – 7 of us vs a single AI. This is the base it built:, by Tom Francis: [...] you saw our final assault on the red base in the last big PCG game, imagine that being crushed. It didn’t even take them long to rebuild. Hopefully we’ll [...]