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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

What I Like About Guild Wars 2

As I mentioned on the last PC Gamer podcast, I’m really getting into Guild Wars 2. It’s the first MMO to do anything for me since World of Warcraft, and the best since City of Heroes. And it’s mostly because of one attitude behind it:

“Yikes, that sounds like a lot of design work. Oh well, let’s do it.”

The craziest example is the weapons: every class has a completely different set of skills for every weapon they can use. So even if you stick with one class, you can change sub-class by finding a new weapon, thwacking a few things to learn all the skills for it, decide what other weapon to combine it with, and then pick your favourite two weapon sets and switch between them in combat.

With 8 classes and 18 weapon types, just the process of finding out what the combinations are has been more exciting than most RPG quests. And now that I have a handle on the basics of a few classes, it also gives me vastly more scope for personal choice.

I’ve ended up using a Ranger with a Longbow, Sword and Torch. She has an amazing hail-of-arrows skill with the bow that chews up whole crowds, and a rapid fire volley for softening up the strongest target.

Then she switches. She throws the torch at the nearest enemy, setting fire to them, then starts a bonfire around herself, burning everything that gets close. When something does, she waits for it to attack and then does Flanking Strike with the sword, which makes her zip around her opponent, dodging the attack and stabbing them in the back, making them bleed.

When they turn and fight, she uses another sword skill to backflip away, and can then decide: if they’re low on health, she’ll use the same skill again to jump back to them, to finish them off. Otherwise, she can switch back to the bow or throw another torch.

It also looks nice.


Winterwold: Love Guild Wars 2! Played tons of the first one too.
Another thing about rangers is that you can go around collecting all the different pets available.
Gotta catch'em all! :D

What server are you playing on?

Oramnis: The 'Special Branch' pun is just... just terrible. Looks like well worth purchasing however!

A J: That bloom!

screeg: I'm unsubscribing from your blog, since it's basically never about Gunpoint. I'm sure I'll hear when it's finished through RPS and then you can have my money (provided the game is available through some non-Steam venue).

Tom Francis: The Gunpoint blog is entirely about Gunpoint! You can subscribe to that here: http://www.pentadact... ...oint/feed/

You can also sign up to just get an e-mail when the game's out: http://gunpointgame.... ...54af0d32b7

screeg: Thanks for that. I think I'm already on your game release list.

Chris: I just hit lv 80 on my Warrior today, it's been a lot of fun. Probably my favourite thing in this game though is the dodge roll. The satisfaction of narrowly avoiding a crowd wiping attack and then helping up the downed is super.

That and the Engineer skill, Big Ol' Bomb.

The Sunday Papers | Rock, Paper, Shotgun: [...] Tom Francis’ posting about Guild Wars 2 has almost made me install it. But right now I am busy with Mechwarrior and Planetside… [...]

Tom Harvey: I thought 'Special Branch' was the best thing about this article, and for me this article was pretty great to begin with.

Tim: heh I'm really enjoying GW2, just got it this week. I played each class for an touch, then first hour of each race. I think Sylvari are the best - and my main so far has been a Sylvari Thief. It is remarkably fun to see all the skills, and swapping between sets.

I have an elementalist at low levels, and it looks almost daunting to play. 4 attunements and 2 weapon sets mean 45 skills to keep track of at once. :S

David: @ Tim: It's not quite as bad as that - Elementalists don't get a second weapon set, probably for that exact reason. 20 skills is still pretty insane though. :)

Harv: Have to say I pretty much love GW2. I got hooked when I first took my Norn through the meagre starting area and realised they'd kept up with the viking theme throughout. It's got some lovely touches, such as the level scaling down so you never get bored and can go explore new, undiscovered areas below your level. Which also makes partying with friends below your level so much simpler.

It's the first MMO that I've played since Ultima Online or the first Everquest where I genuinely love exploring and just standing around looking at "stuff".

Thomas: I know it's been a while since this post, but I'm wondering: I hear bad things about a "Lost Shores" patch introducing heavy stat and gear grind and making the game just like any other ol' MMORPG, anyone care to comment on this claim? Thanks.

Artwaltz: That whole Lost Shores thing was a complete potpourri of silly, thankfully the content team has taken that lesson onboard and the current Wintersday event is implemented much more competently. It even has a guitar heroe-sque activity with bells!

They also removed the gear grind by implementing a token system towards the items you specifically want.