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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

A Hollow Victory In MGS V

Just pulled off the most amazing performance in a timed destruction mission in Metal Gear Solid V, galloping from one tank convoy to the next, destroying them and calling in supply drops at my next position with perfect efficiency for 13 minutes straight.

2 minutes left, sprinted to put myself between two tanks and a guard-infested checkpoint they were trying to reach. De-roaded one, nearly killed by the other. Scrambled to cover, lay on my back headshotting 8 incoming dudes through choking smoke, then, close to death, pulse pounding and soaked in my own blood, crawled back out into the crashed tank’s line of fire to finish it off with the last of my rockets – and destroyed it with 15 seconds to spare.

Spent them lying in the grass, praying no-one else would find me, listening to my character gasp for air through her own blood.

Game’s grade for my performance: C
Video: came out with a black screen throughout

GRade C blood


Gustav: I don't really care how the game evaluates my performance (never cared about grades in MGS games). To me, my own personal goals are more important, whether it's a total stealth approach or a cool you-got-my-back-and-I-got-your-back with the sniper Quiet.

The Phantom Pain has so many awesome non-scriptes moments (similar to "Battlefield moments"). The open world structure works really well!

Tom Francis: Yeah, I would *like* to not care about the rating, but it turns out I do. I think what particularly stung was that I usually like to be stealthy, but this mission's parameters were specifically "Destroy as many tanks as possible in a time limit", so I compromised my preferred play style to maximise the thing it told me to (destructive output per minute) and then got severely penalised for it. I haven't retried, but I suspect I would have got a better rank if I'd just carefully taken out one tank with C4 then headshotted a bunch of guys who had nothing to do with the mission.

All that said, if I do retry, I think I would just try to replicate this amazing experience to get it on video, it really was a hell of a thing to see. So perhaps I don't care about rating *that* much.

Sean Payne: Some of the rating evaluations are pretty wacky in this game, I've just done a few missions where I've mowed through the enemy with a sniper rifle and came out with A or S ranks despite the mission area being filled with bodies by the end.

Gustav: BTW, Side Ops missions are not rated, so feel free to go bananas with all your gear and equipment :P

Marc Forrester: I love how the steady march of graphical fidelity makes things look weirder every year. Covered in a high definition sheen of fresh sprayed arterial blood, completely clean hair straight from the stylists.

Could be a still from a dystopian future L'Oreal ad?

Qazi: Go bananas anyway, Gustav.
Unlike previous MGS, you only lose out for your first kill - this switches off the No Kill and Perfect Stealth, No Kills bonuses.
Time is the huge score factor.

My version of Backup, Back Down only got a C because I took the entire fifteen minutes to complete it. It ran with perfect stealth, no kills with careful peaking from behind rocks with the GROM-11 at max range. Even with all the side bonuses, taking that much time really hit hard.

Being Someone Else In Metal Gear Solid V – a post on Tom Francis’ blog: […] sensible, very practical, mysterious woman who just showed up and killed it. It made stories like this one all the more exciting for me, because I wasn’t playing as some superhuman legend, I was just […]

Leilanz: Backup, Back Down is extremely easy to complete stealthily. All of the main objective tanks will follow in the end the same route and go through a bend in the road that screams 'AMBUSH WAITING!' to get out of the area and do so within the time limit. With enough resources prepared, such as mines and a truckload of ammo (and the FGM-50 launcher that they report is moving into the area from the 'exit' a few minutes after a jeep with a prisoner comes from the same direction), the main objective ends up being easy.

Now, if you want ALL objectives and rescue a female prisoner or two as well, stay after the main mission is over, then three tanks and a gunship will appear from each direction. One tank and the gunship from the exit and one tank from each entrance into the hot zone.

The first tank can be tricky because it drives through the terrain to the same ambush point I spoke about earlier and the gunship can be a bitch to down without ammo (though if you manage to clear enough of the fort, the AA turrets come in handy). The other two tanks, though, those are another thing. They seem to be driving towards the fort, but then they being running in circles, making you drive (or ride if you went with D-Horse) to them... and they use the terrain to their advantage (nothing like seeing your last missile, the one that was going to blast it to scrap, hitting a rock...).

As for the prisoner, Wahk Sind barracks lies within the hot zone and the prisoner is where the bionics engineer was and in all attempts, the prisoner was a woman. Also, inside the fort, there are another two prisoners, men I think (last attempt I managed almost a perfect score except for the fact that I pressed E instead of R when rescuing the first of those two prisoners... the chopper lifted off without waiting for me to get out to get the other >_<)

Anyway, as repetitive as the game is (and as cheating as it is whenever those damned skulls appear), I am enjoying it greatly, living stories with my FemSnake xD

Alex Straughan: After the fort, arround the bend. Ambush site.

The first run through i had dhorse. Park him in the street a bit ahead. And hid behind a rock. The stop to honk and you fulton them. Rinse and repeat.

When you get em mines. Well. Thats pretty self explanitory. It basically becomes tank shopping for you combat deployment team

I finished it perfect stealth no kills thanks to the em mines, but i didnt bother with the gunship or tanks that are hunting you.

Also, EM mines stun soldiers in the truck and jeep. So easy to fulton them and the prisoner as well.

AP: I had almost the exact same experience. A friend was watching me play, and when I finally finished, I threw my hands up in the air - "Yes!" And then that big C appeared on the screen . . .

Kaiei: At this point I only have two missions finished with a S-rank. The funny thing is that I did something I would count as stupid. I took my buddy D-D with me and took my sneaking gear but decided too take a rocketlauncher with me. After that I sneaked beside the mission points and scanned all people, ran away and took them out with explosives from afar. Then I just ran around the base and continued dooing this without getting detected, thus easily getting a S-rank at first try. And if someone wants to know: no I did not use the chicken head, at some range they dont really see where rockets come from.