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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

Adventure Time Game Jam

I did Ludum Dare once, where you make a game in a weekend, and it taught me loads about how to be ruthlessly efficient and cut things before you waste time on them. I’ve skipped every game jam since then, and every event except the IGF, to focus on Gunpoint.

This weekend, though, I’m letting myself do one. Because a) I made loads of progress on Gunpoint last weekend, and am very close to being able to show you a new feature I haven’t announced yet, and b) this will probably be the only chance I ever get to legally make an Adventure Time game.

It’s the Fantastic Arcade Game Making Frenzy, and this year’s theme is Pendleton Ward’s amazing cartoon Adventure Time. Pendleton himself gives the bizarre opening talk, and the organisers say you’re allowed to use any Adventure Time assets in your games.

I want to make a game where you play as Jake, the magical stretchy dog, and have to co-operate with an AI-controlled Finn. It’s 11am on day one, and here’s what I have so far.

I’ll update this post as I go.

1pm. Goddamn it.

4.30pm. Got the main ability in there. I love Finn and Jake’s relationship on the show, so I want to make a game where you’re constantly helping each other out. This is how you help Finn:

How Finn helps you is what I’m working on next. Trying to figure out a way to represent it that doesn’t need too many frames of animation, because these sprites take a while to make.

9.15pm. Paint Shop Pro 9 – at this point in my life, it’s easier to learn a foreign language than a new image editor.

Most of the rest of the stuff I’ve done since 4 is making what I showed you at 4 actually work when you play around with it. In that build nothing was even solid to Jake. Now it’s got gravity, collision, and feels quite nice to mess around with.

Hoping to get some rudimentary combat in today – if I do, that leaves me with loads of time tomorrow for making levels, enemies and systems, which is where it might get really cool.

10.20pm. Yep! 

As you can see, it’s not particularly robust yet. But the main thing I needed to know was whether I can get away with just two frames of animation for Finn’s combat, and I reckon I can. For a while, it was looking like animating Finn was going to be game-scuttlingly difficult, so that’s a relief.

Day Two

Lost a lot of time to three brutally difficult bugs today, but it all finally clicked together a few hours ago. Here’s a vid of one short level:

The enemies are robots that have stolen some of Jake’s… junk, so Jake gets more junk when they’re killed, and can stretch further.

Just after making this I got a random level generator working, and I’ve just made it so that the random levels get harder (and taller) as you play. Next I want to get some text-dialogue in there, then sound effects.

1.55am. Done! It’s called Jake and the Infinite Jerkbots, and you can download it from that link and play it now.

The fewer updates on Day 2 was directly proportional to the rising desperation to get certain things working – in other words, no time to blog. I’ll make one last video at some point, but right now I’d really like to eat and then sleep, so I’ll just give you a screenshot:

More ,

Lack 26: You could make it a feature, detachable arms.

chequers: FINN HELP ME

chequers: HELP FINN


Jory: This is looking fantastic, Tom! Surely you are a candidate for the fruit club subscription.

JohnArr: Oh cool you do awesome sprites now as well?

Kelsoh: This is actually amazing work, keep it up!!
All I have at the moment is a simple platformer, with tonnes of bugs :/
Looking forward to playing your game thought! :)

Nico: I wonder if having Jake's legs stretch back down would look better than falling.

Tom: Fantastic. This is seriously one of my favourite TV shows at the moment. I am gutted that the upcoming official game is to be released only on DS. At least I might be able to play this one!

Sam Richards: Looks great, how did you do the limb stretching?

Bret: So, that was fun.

And the little dialog there was felt spot on.

Good times.

Adventure Time Game Post Mortem, by Tom Francis: [...] On the weekend of the 15th, Fantastic Arcade held an Adventure Time-themed Game Making Frenzy. It meant anyone could make a game with Adventure Time characters for the purposes of that compo, which is rare, so I did. [...]