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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

One Desperate Battle In FTL

The podcast I am party to, the Crate and Crowbar, now has a forum. On it, Gunpoint artist John Roberts has started a thread for tales of people’s in-game adventures, starting with a good one of his own about FTL. And someone else mentioned an old story of mine from that game. I don’t think I ever linked it here, so I will now:

It’s worse to lose your shields than almost any other system. But I bet the AI doesn’t know this. I bet the AI is aiming for something much less important, like our life support. I could actually take my shields offline and let this shot go through.

FTL diary: one desperate battle in a brilliant spaceship management game


Matthew: I've always wondered, Tom -- do you remember how that run ended? Because on the one hand, it would be epic to be so close to death, but claw your way back and defeat rebel flagship... but one the other hand, FTL is the sort of game where one disaster leaves you so short on resources, and so prone to another disaster, that the death spiral is inevitable. So I've always feared that after clawing your way back from the brink, the brink came back, clubbed you in the head, and pulled you straight back in.

Tom Francis: I don't remember how I died, but I certainly didn't win - I never have.

phuzz: I'm always a bit surprised when people mention that they've never completed FTL, because after 116 hours* I can now kill the boss ship about half the time.
Then I remember that I only ever play on Easy, never Normal, and realise that I'm just a scrub :(

I'd recommend getting some games in on easy though, because it gives you a good idea of new tactics to try. For ages I wouldn't use a teleporter, after my first try where I kept leaving my crew on the enemy ship, whilst warping off. Recently though, with the Crystal ship and it's quad teleporter I've got right into it.
Then I remember I've not flown a drone armed ship for ages so I'll 'have' to play a game like that.
It's fun how different your play style has to be to use each different strategy, eg missile heavy vs teleporting boarding crews vs the slug favourite of burning them all.
Man I love this game far too much.

* according to Steam. I almost wish it didn't tell me these things...

Peter: That was me! I love this article to death! Your writing style is perfect, seriously. Keep up the good work, cheers!

Jason L: Playing on Easy and graduating to Normal is a common piece of advice and maybe it's right - but I've never played on Easy and don't think it's advisable unless your goal is explicitly to see an end and move on. My view is that rogueishes/PPs are all about learning from mistakes as rapidly as possible, usually by dying from them. By putting too much lag between actual error and signs of failure, I think you can wind up reinforcing bad habits or chasing red herrings.