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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 Escape Game I’m Not Going To Make This Weekend

The 48-hour game-making competition Ludum Dare is back on this weekend, and the theme is Escape. This is the 21st compo – I entered the 19th with Scanno Domini, and regretted not entering the 20th.

Gunpoint’s at too exciting a stage right now to take time off from it. If I was making a game about Escape this weekend, though, here’s what it’d be.

Escape Velocity

You’re a small escape pod with a single thruster, jetting around an infinite randomly generated space. Planets of randomly generated size attract you with their gravitational pull. If you land on one, you’ll find your thruster isn’t powerful enough to let you escape.

You can, however, press down to burrow through the crust of the planet into its gooey core. Your pod automatically sucks up the molten minerals in the centre of the planet to use as fuel. The bigger the planet, the more intensely its fuel burns, and therefore the more powerful your thruster can get if you suck up its whole core. It’s just enough power to escape the gravitational pull of a planet this size, so from now on you can escape any planet that isn’t bigger than this one without boring to its core.

As soon as you start sucking up a planet’s core, though, it becomes unstable and will soon explode. It also gets lighter, reducing its gravitational pull. You have to judge how long you can afford to keep sucking up its core before you need to start escaping. The longer you suck, the more powerful your thruster and the weaker the gravitation pull it has to overcome, but the closer you get to the planet’s detonation.

You have to leave the crust through the hole you made on your way in, or take a second to drill a new one. Provided you get outside the fatal radius in time, you can ride the blast wave of the explosion for a speed boost that’ll last till you next hit a planet, or thrust in a different direction.

You’re trying to get to the galactic core, a direction indicated on-screen, by progressively increasing your thruster power and armour to increase speed and skip more and more planets on the way. You want to get there to suck the whole thing up and use it as fuel to escape spacetime or whatever THE END.


FlyingSquirrel: Ok, if Tom isn't going to make Escape Velocity this weekend, can someone else? That sounds like all sorts of fun :D

Eagle0600: If you no-one else makes this, at least you know you have a good idea for a project to work on once you're done with this. Because that would be a very fun game.

Clockwok Peanut: Escape velocity sounds bril! Also regarding gunpoint's background it actually looks kinda cool at the moment, it has an out-of-focus feel to it like in Limbo.

Sam: Gunpoint looks amazing but I can't help but think it might be a bit too busy- the guards, especially, don't stand out from the background, and it's hard to tell what's scenery and what's a real object in the building.

Tom Francis: That mockup is to show every prop and feature that's in there right now, so it's much more cluttered than a normal level would be.

My fault, I phrased it badly in the post - changed it to explain better now.

Rei Onryou: Out of curiosity, are you tempted to try out random generation for Gunpoint? Since you're going for a story based game, it wouldn't fit directly, but having the opportunity for infinite replay-ability could be interesting. Or is Gunpoint a game that requires a more sculpted experience.

This is all just speculative thought after remembering your Spelunky article in PCG and your love for it.

Tom Francis: It's mainly a puzzle game, so it'd be tough to randomly generate puzzles that are definitely possible but not trivially easy, without resorting to templates that'd get noticeably repetitive.

I've thought about it, though. I think it's probably a solvable challenge, but a hard one, and there's a risk they might not feel all that fresh anyway.

Rei Onryou: Better to design a game with random generation in mind (a roguelike) than to try and fit a game design around random generation.

Chris: That background complements the foreground so well. Have you got an animation for that heavy rain yet?

nowhere: Oh man, Escape Velocity by Ambrosia for Mac was one of my favorite games when I was growing up.
http://en.wikipedia.... ...ideo_game)

TooNu: "Gunpoint is a rip roaring spectacle of a game! 5/5 - PC Gamer"

TooNu: Actually you would use percentage wouldn't you....fuck I fail.

Jobizzie: For gunpoint, I think you really out to check out a producer called Burial, his music is really awesome and sets a great atmosphere for the sort of gritty/rainy urban environment. ...Ks0fL2PwWk for example.

dual_barrel: Looks breathtaking!

pireninjacolass: I Figured out how to do rain slightly differently in game make, there some good tutorials on youtube, if you want to see it in action play another rainy day, my ludum dare 20 entry (won buggiest game award) .

verendus: I see those vents and I need to crawl around in them. It's basic human instinct.

verendus: also, re: objects - it does look pretty busy, but it would be really, really, really cool if those props were all objects you could interact with, rather than scenery. Wire the water cooler up to the fan so, when a guard gets thirsty and tries to have a refreshing drink, HE ONLY MAKES HIMSELF HOTTER HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Nonomu198: Is there going to be lighting in Gunpoint? The guard outside, with no illumination what so ever, looks the same as the others. Maybe it's just because it's a mockup?

Gunpoint Art Progress, by Tom Francis: [...] done and the bare bones of the environment art for this setting in. It’s pretty far off the lovely mock-up right now, but already it feels awesome to be working with stuff that looks good. I’ve never [...]

Gunpoint Art Style Mockup, by Tom Francis: [...] This isn’t new, just separating it out from this so it can live on the new Gunpoint [...]