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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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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 ‘Tiny World’ Game I Didn’t Make At The Weekend

    Another Ludum Dare, the competition to make a game in a weekend! Another weekend I can’t really do so! Instead, I worked on Gunpoint. But as before, I’ll tell you what game I would have made. The theme was Tiny World, and my game idea is called… Launch Craft.

    Top-down, space. You control a vast mothership, bigger than any sun, drifting through a dense system of planets and stars. Hovering your cursor over tiny planets scans them, and after a short delay, reports whether any of your people are captive there or not.

    As you pass, the tiny planets launch even tinier capital ships at you, zapping at you with tiny weapons but doing no actual damage. You can destroy these with your giant main laser, but it’ll also obliterate any planet in its path, so you have to be a bit careful.

    Once you’ve found a planet with some captives on it, you’ve got to wipe out all the capital ships, then you can right click on it to “Launch Craft”.

    A tiny pixel of black leaves the body of your ship and flies towards the planet. When it gets there, cut to:

    Top down, globe view. You control a vast black disc of a ship as whole nations drift beneath you, their cities and roads sparkling orange at night. (It’s night because you attacked from the opposite side to the sun.)

    The cities launch squadrons of fighter jets against you, which do a little damage to your craft if not destroyed with your main laser. Holding the cursor over a city scans it for captives. When you find some, and you’ve cleared the skies, you can right click on that city to “Launch Craft”.

    A tiny pixel of black leaves the body of your ship and flies towards the city. When it gets there, cut to:

    Side-on, cityscape view. You control a large black dropship zooming above the rooftops. (The sunset’s orange because that’s the colour of the nearest star.)

    Soldiers shoot homing missiles at you from their rooftops, which do significant damage if they hit. You can fry them with your main laser, and burn missiles out of the air, but the beam soon destroys any buildings behind. Hovering the cursor over a building slows your ship for a moment to scan it for captives. If you find some, and the soldiers are all dead, you can right click on it to “Launch Craft”.

    A black missile shoots from your ship, slamming into the wall of the building. Cut to:

    Side-on, building cross-section. You control a small, flying, baby-squid-like alien, hovering through the building’s floors. (The building is purple. That is random.)

    Security personnel fire automatic weapons at you, which kill if they hit. You can fry them with your brain laser, and burn holes through the floors of the building.

    On one floor, you see the Captives: others of your species kept in glass jars for military experiments. Once you get to them, you have to destroy their tanks with your laser, then blast your way through the wall to get out.

    If you die at any point up to here, we cut back to the previous stage and another craft is launched. If you die after this point, we cut back to the mothership and the captives on this planet are lost.

    Assuming you get out, we cut to:

    Cityscape. The dropship picks you up from the building, but now the streets are crawling with soldiers. You have to shoot down incoming missiles from all directions while you lift off to the top of the screen. Cut to:

    Globe. Fighters have scrambled from all over the planet to intercept you, and their combined fire is lethal if you don’t cut their numbers down with your laser. As long as you survive, the disc of your ship grows larger and larger until it fills the screen and we cut to:

    Space. No sound but the quiet hum of the mothership. The planet launches more capital ships if you don’t destroy it, but they can’t scratch you. You drift on, scanning for more captives.

    A bunch of people asked if they or someone else could make this – yes! I hereby waive all rights to this thing and chuck it into the public domain, anyone can do anything with it.

    To the extent possible under law, Tom Francis has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Launch Craft. This work is published from: United Kingdom.


    Eagle0600: ...

    I like it. Thinking of making this another year when you're less busy?

    Alek: Mr. Francis, if you don't make this game, someone else (myself?) has to! It is wonderful.

    Simon: It actually sounds like a lot of fun to me!

    Tim: I now want to play this but cant

    Nonomu198: Sounds like something Spore would have been if it didn't suck.

    It's a neat concept, but after performing the feat of saving your buddies once, what's the incentive to do it again? More difficulty? Or maybe you didn't think it that far?

    Niteowl: I'm really tempted to have a go at this, but worried my graphics will be even dodgier than the concept art.

    The Cheshire Cat: Incentive for rescuing more buddies - each "rescue" could be a different level layout. So while the general stage progression is the same, the actual challenges involved could change/escalate as you clear more planets. It would probably work better if the stages were custom built instead of randomly generated, to provide a good progression, although if you got a good algorithm for it random generation could work too.

    Alek: Trying my own take at this in Flash using Flixel.... just like Gunpoint I'm kinda starting with minimal knowledge and going forward with it. Having an interesting time.

    Freelancer: Almost had a heart attack when I saw the first screen - thought someone was making my game before I could! Idea sounds great though, even if there wasn't that much longevity. Not all games need to be 50 hours long.

    lechip: What an awesome idea man, love the concept of changing the gameplay mechanics.