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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

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

I feel terribly guilty about Gunpoint’s success, so I often wonder if there’s some way I can use what I’ve learned from it to help. The trouble is that offering any kind of advice seems to make people angry – people who aren’t in your exact situation feel like you’re ignoring their circumstances, criticising their methods or dismissing their struggles.

So maybe I can take some advice from myself and share my experiences instead of my opinions.

Lately I’ve got to talk to a lot of developers at conferences and festivals, particularly ones who are working on their first indie game and have lots of specific questions about what we did with Gunpoint. So probably the most helpful thing I can do is give a kind of structured breakdown of Gunpoint’s conception, development, recruitment and promotion, then let people delve into whatever they’re curious about.

It’s not a guide to what you should do, it’s just a guide to what I did and how it worked out. Click a topic to expand it.








Game Maker


Work ethic

Design doc



Processing feedback

Story development

Getting a team

The open submission process





Contacting press

Thanks for reading. Here’s even more reading!

ben: This is great! Thanks so much for sharing!

Beat: Don't feel guilty! I remember people here in the comments section of your blog *begging* you to take money for the game. Your discussed maybe giving it away.

Blame us!!! :-D

Diego: Thanks for sharing this :)
I'm having that problem with pixel art. It does simplify creation of art assets but on the other hand it creates resolution/size problems.

I look forward to the "getting a team" part!

Naveen: Great writeup. I read it whilst listening to the Gunpoint soundtrack. Brought back memories :). Also Gunpoint is probably the funniest game I've played. Moreso than the usual nominees on a funny list - Portal, Monkey Island, Borderlands 2.

Paul Kankiewicz: My brother linked me to this site about four hours ago, and I haven't been able to leave! Your stuff is brilliant! Thanks for all of the posts! I especially like the stuff on how to be happy and about Gunpoint. I guess I'm going to have to buy Gunpoint now :)

Nick Cummings: This is really useful stuff. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, process, candid opinions, and so on. As someone who's working at being a better independent game maker, this post has been really valuable to reference. Looking forward to seeing the rest!

Fjonan: Thank you, Tom, thank you so much. This inspires and motivates me quite a lot. Sometimes it needs to be written out plain and simple. I am using Redmine, a system that integrates version management, ticket system and a wiki into one system and it is extremely helpful for these kind of projects.

Antan: What's your work ethic now that you're your own boss?

Jon Drobny: You know, I've thought at times that if I hadn't just spent years and huge piles of money studying Physics, I'd be pulling a Tom and making an awesome game instead of pulling out my hair trying to get into grad school. Realistically though, I don't think I would have what it takes to take a leap and go through with something as huge as Gunpoint, not to mention my total lack of ability and experience when it comes to videogames. Everything aside, thanks for making Gunpoint and even more so for sharing your experience - it's been a blast just watching your success from the sidelines.

Colm: Lots of great info here, cheers for sharing. Found the Work Ethic & Testing sections particularly interesting!

Hello world! | Relevant Development: […] we’ve been working on a prototype game for a few months now and after reading the development breakdown of the lovely Tom Francis‘ game, Gunpoint, I thought maybe it’d be worth posting some […]

JimS: Thanks for this; your transparency and attitude should be nothing but an encouragement to people: I know it has been to me. Anything is possible with a bit of dedication!

Brandon Captain: Thanks for the insight. I'm working on my first serious non-mod title and I've definitely learned a few pointers here.

Andrew Osthoff: It's really encouraging to hear your thoughts on being a first time developer. The only part that wasn't a joy was when you talked about writing the story, because holy crap the writing in Gunpoint is great. So basically whenever you talk about the writing impairing game development instead of making it better, I put my fingers in my ears and hummed.
Thanks for sharing, thanks for the game!

simplex3: It's a great game! It's worth to pay for!
You really did a great job!
Thanks for the game and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

JP: It's really cool that you wrote all this up, I'm sure many others besides me appreciate you doing it.

Regarding promotion, I think it's worth stating clearly in those sections that you were a veteran game journalist and had spent years prior building up contacts and gaining peoples' respect before your Youtube video blew up and got the game noticed. Most of the people reading this won't have that network of (in some cases high profile) industry folks to help spread something cool early on; they're starting from nothing, trying to get anyone at all interested in their stuff. The barriers to entry are lowering all the time, but it's worth acknowledging the position one is starting from.

Again, thank you for writing this. Nice work on the game, I am so happy for your success and can't wait to see what you do next!

Laurent Moulet: Hi,
Can you tell us which sound library you used, and why did you go for this one in particular ? I guess it must have been free of most probably that it was owned by one of the composers of the game since you don't count it in the expenses you made for the game ?
Thx for all the useful info !

Vladimir Dreval: Hi, Tom!

Thanks for the great game and all the writing you do here and elsewhere.

I'd love to translate Gunpoint into Russian. Can we discuss this?



The 2013 Grimmys: Indie Developer of the Year | Horrible Night – Never enough time in the day for video games: […] Developments work on Gunpoint is – inspirational. Thankfully, he has even provided a breakdown of his development process for the game. Gunpoint is just about as tight as puzzle platformers come and the writing pulled us into the […]

How to get into the games industry – an insiders’ guide | Soviders Tech: […] my own horn and plug my own YouTube vid about making your first game. I’d read Tom Francis’ blog about making Gunpoint from start to finish and watched his talk from Minecon last year – he has some really interesting […]

Edubabble – How to get into the games industry – an insiders’ guide: […] horn and plug my own YouTube vid about making your first game. I’d read Tom Francis’ blog about making Gunpoint from start to finish and watched his talk from Minecon last year – he has some really […]

How to get into the games industry – an insiders' guide | Digital News Daily CA: […] my own horn and plug my own YouTube vid about making your first game. I’d read Tom Francis’ blog about making Gunpoint from start to finish and watched his talk from Minecon last year – he has some really interesting […]

What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done – a post on Tom Francis’ blog: […] Gunpoint Development Breakdown […]

Writing Things More Gud. | BONGOLUDO: […] Tom Francis also wrote what I thought was the best inadvertent game design CV cover letter I’ve ever seen: a suggested re-write of Bioshock’s ending. Notice how it only uses assets and gameplay mechanisms in the rest of the game. He also made the excellent Gunpoint, the development of which he blogged about with insight and wit here. […]

Things to Think About Before Becoming an Indie Dev: […] Francis’ Developer Blog, I found this Gunpoint Development Breakdown post particularly […]

Jordan: This is a very insightful post, thanks so much! Can you talk a bit about how you "split revenue according to the size of [everyone's] contributions?"

Was it something you agreed upon ahead of time? How did you assign an objective measurement like proportion of the whole to something subjective like artwork, or effort?