All posts


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.

  • Grant: Thanks to the start of this video, I’ve just now noticed that during the static flickers while staring...
  • Ben: Great analysis. During the lab sequence in the Prey intro, you were looking around for tells that Morgan is in a...
  • 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...
  • 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

    Risk Of Rain

    Risk of Rain is kind of an action Roguelike: no saving, death means starting from scratch, and it’s all about combat. You’ve got four skills in an RPG-like hotbar, with RPG-like cooldowns, but it feels more like a shooter. You pump out damage rapidly and accurately, and you’re physically dodging enemy attacks to survive.

    I really didn’t like it, and almost entirely because of a weird little message on the New Game screen.

    Risk of Rain shadow

    It warns you that your ‘progress is not saved’ on Easy mode. The main form of progress in the game is unlocking new characters to play as – there are 8 or so, and the starting one is very straightforward, so it’s a waste of time to play in a mode where you can’t unlock any new ones. So I tried Medium, and ended up not unlocking anything anyway because it’s so brutal. The game felt monotonous.

    In actual fact your progress is saved on Easy, only a few achievements can’t be earned, and the game is dramatically better this way for beginners. You can progress, unlock new characters, learn which enemy attacks are particularly vicious, which items are awesome, and what the best way to handle the time-based difficulty ramp is.

    From there it’s easy to graduate to Medium, fun to try out all the new characters you’re unlocking, and suddenly it gets really good.

    Risk of Rain drones

    Combat is extremely satisfying. It’s an efficiency game, all about getting huge mobs into the right formations to be hit by your area-of-effect attacks, stacking that with special items and the right combination of skills, and watching them all explode in a spectacular shower of money and experience.

    Each playthrough sees you evolving a different character build as you find a huge number of randomly placed passive-boost items. Sometimes you’ll get loads of health regen kit, other times you might find 6 drones to boost your firepower, or one of the crazy super items like the one that makes dead enemies come back as ghosts on your side. These mesh interestingly with your choice of character, and which ‘smart bomb’ type item you choose to keep.

    Risk of Rain grenade

    Once you’re good enough that they’re not unfeasible, the achievements needed to unlock other characters are a pretty good motivator to keep playing. All characters play very differently, and while there are a few duff ones (the Sniper in particular seems useless in a game where mobs are the primary threat), there are so many that I already have several favourites.

    It’s $10 on Steam. I recommend playing with a controller, and using the Wiki to learn how to unlock particular characters.


    Duncan Wintle: No to mention the insainly good soundtrack.

    Playing Risk Of Rain: The Engineer And The Shitty Lantern - a post on Tom Francis' blog: […] Here’s what Risk of Rain is like. It’s a randomised shooter thingy, and here I’m playing as one of the classes you unlock later on, the Engineer. More thoughts on why it’s good. […]

    Brandon: Pretty fair assessment of Risk of Rain. I saw TotalBiscuit play this and him basically jerk off about it but then when I played it, I didn't like it to that degree. I got my value for what it's worth but I find it odd that there's only one character to start. I get what they're doing with the long curve to unlock things but I don't have the patience to do so for this game.

    boogieman: I suggested you play this in one of your videos and you did more than that :]

    Tubers: Unlocking characters is definitely too hard, especially since its one of the main draws of the game.

    Jason L: TB's Risk of Rain video is also the first place I've seen him spell out his objections to Spelunky. It's a simple perception that I can't object to, but I do find it incomprehensible - that Spelunky, where you (for a long time) spend two minutes per level and die and learn immediately upon messing up, is wasting the player's time while Risk of Rain, where you spend about five minutes per level and can screw up your build long before being slowly whittled down, is the epitome of the roguelite.