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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 Giant Issue Of PC Gamer

The latest PC Gamer UK is about 50% bigger than usual, has the coolest subscriber’s cover I think I’ve ever seen, and is probably the best issue we’ve done in years. Also you get a free Team Fortress 2 hat with it.

We finally got to the point where the perceived value of the coverdisc was less than the value of the extra pages we could make with the money it costs, and dropped it. As a former disc editor of PC Gamer, I will say this: thank fuck.

We’ve done lots of new stuff with the extra space, but I’m particularly happy that this issue is packed with diary-type stuff. It’s my favourite kind of writing both to read and write, and I got to do loads of it this issue, and read loads more by better people.

My main thing was a 10-page Skyrim diary – I got a nice long session with it, so I just wrote up the whole weird story of my experiences with it. It’s awesome. Properly fresh, huge and new. And like Oblivion, rough, crazy and over-ambitious. In the 2-page interview that follows, Todd Howard tells me what happened on his wedding night.

The other big diary feature is about Artemis, a multiplayer game where each person mans one station on a Star Trek style bridge. I was the engineer, O’Francis, and it was honestly the nerdiest thrill of my life. Tim asked me how long repairs would take, I estimated half an hour, then got it done in five minutes. It doesn’t get more authentic than that.

Then there are 8 Now Playing pieces, our shorter diary bits about whatever we’re up to. Great pieces from a few less common faces in there this issue, including Chris Impossibly Nice Donlan on Super Crate Box, Duncan I Also Work For Wired Geere on Universe Sandbox, and Phil Octaeder Savage on Frozen Synapse.

Normally I’d suggest you grab it from our online shop, but rather embarrassingly we’ve already run out of stock for individual issue sales. It was a bit of an experiment, and it went better than expected. You can still subscribe, though I don’t know which issue it’ll start with.

We’ve just launched with this issue on iTunes’ new Newsstand, and we’re already on Zinio. I’m not totally sure if and how the hat comes with the various digital options – in the physical mag, it’s a printed code. And in the UK at least, shops still exist.

Conner: Wow, I'm gullible. I read that first line and went reading through the issue again to try and find a code for a hat.

Tom Francis: Did you not get one? I'm not totally sure how it works with digital purchases, I'll add that to the post.

Conner: I have a paper copy I got through a subscription.

westyfield: @Conner
The code is on a sheet of card between pages 66 and 67.

Conner: My issue came without any plastic wrap on it and no sheets of card; not even the little advertisement for renewing your subscription. I think someone working for the post office might have stolen it, so I'm going to send an e-mail to customer support. Thanks.

The_B: Connor - just to check there's no plastic wrap on any of the mags in stores, and the card is a full A4 sized physically attached to the mag between pages 66 and 67

The_B: Also Tom, you've somehow linked to the Indian version of Zinio - it's easily changeable on the site but probably the more UK friendly (and indeed smaller URL version) is ...mer-single

Other than that though, I loved how the issue turned out, even knowing what I did with what I'd helped on already there was some really fascinating stuff - the Chickens of the Law thing in Skyrim a particular favourite - but I think my personal favourite stuff in the mag is the long form pieces, so to see so much more of them was awesome.

Tom Francis: Interesting choice, Google. Thanks, fixed that link.

Conner - are you in the US? The issue I'm talking about is of PC Gamer UK, probably could have made that clearer.

BigTomHatfield: If you don't get a code automagically emailed to you with a digital version, or your retail code doesn't work, email your receipt to and I'll replace it for you.

Martin: Well, now I have to (digitally) buy it. Thanks a lot, Francis. Goddommit.

Ed Fenning: Each time I see this cover I think the chap's just looked up and noticed a heavy object just about to land on him.

aldo: In the 2-page interview that follows, Todd Howard tells me what happened on his wedding night.

Does that mean the mag'll be on the top shelf, covered with brown paper?

Andytizer: I am loving the new change to PC Gamer with extra diary-type writing. The DVD used to just go straight in the bin anyway.

Rei Onryou: The Artemis read was fantastic fun. I'm not a Star Trek person, but even I can get behind the nerdy thrill of a bridge simulator. Are there more Team PCG diaries planned?

Kyle: Tom, can you tell PC Gamer US to do more stuff like this? I really like the diary type of stuff that you do.

Phydaux: Wow PC Gamer going without a coverdisc. I had been planning on cancelling my subscription, as the magazine was not what it used to be. But if you've got more time for more actual content then great.

I've been subscribing so long the magazine is still sent to my parents' house, and I've not bothered to change it. :P I can't wait to pick this new one up.

Well, I've had the floppy, CD, DVD and now nothing. Maybe with the extra time you guys have someone could put together another "Complete History of Games" so I can tack it below my old poster. :)

xplt: @Conner: You may buy PC Gamer Digital Ep.1 and receive your hat... :-/

Blackberries: I think this was a good move.. The coverdisk was becoming more and more obsolete, and the main reason I read PCG is for features such as game diaries - I get preview information and reviews from various Internet avenues (though of course pay special attention to the words of PCG).

Colthor: I really enjoyed the issue, and the subs cover is great. Words for coverdisk was a good trade.

The Artemis piece is one of the best, funniest things that's been in the magazine for a very long time.

Urthman: I absolutely understand why the cover disc is now obsolete, but it makes me sad and wistful. I still remember the thrill of a new COMPUTE! magazine that came with a 5.25" floppy disc FILLED with NEW EXCITING SOFTWARE AND GAMES!

medical coding: Hey there, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.

When I look at your blog in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it
has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
Other then that, awesome blog!