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.

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

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection

My second piece of published fiction will be out in July this year, as part of This Is How You Die: the second collection of stories about a machine that can predict your death. (My first was a story in the original collection, and you can read it here).

But! Editor David Malki is also Kickstarting a card game based on the same concept, and since it’s blown its funding goal by over 1000%, they’re releasing a few stories from the anthology to say thanks.

One of them is mine! You can read it now! Here it is!

It’s about a supervillain’s henchman tasked with the job of having their enemies killed in a way that doesn’t contradict their predicted deaths. It is called: LAZARUS REACTOR FISSION SEQUENCE!

If you can’t read it, go here.

Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

I don’t argue on the internet anymore. The short version is: it usually gets hostile, and that drives everyone further away from changing their minds.

But I spend a lot of time thinking about whether there’s a way to contribute to a discussion without derailing it. Whether there’s some way of knowing, in advance, that what you’re about to say will make you look like an asshole, start a fight, or be outright wrong.

I think there is. Continued

Old Tweets

It hasn’t rolled out to everyone yet, but for some, if you go to Settings in Twitter, you’ll get the option to download an archive of all your tweets.

This is cool mainly because Twitter is so terrible at finding or letting you access old stuff: search only works for incredibly recent stuff, and I don’t know of any way to see the start of someone’s timeline, short of scrolling down and hoping the JavaScript doesn’t break any of the 6,000 times it needs to load the next set of tweets.

Anyway, I got mine, and I wondered if I could use it to make old stuff more accessible. Continued

Welcome To Site 7

Look, I changed everything! I usually redesign my blog a bit at the start of every year, but this one is the first time I’ve built a completely new one from scratch in more than eight years. As is now tradition, I’ll give you a song to listen to while you snoop around. Continued

What I Learned From Gunpoint, And How To Make A Game

I wrote a feature for PC Gamer in which I look at each of the easiest tools you can use to make a game, and interview indies who’ve made great things with them. It’s the Indies’ Guide To Game Making, and I’ve just updated it with some more detailed answers we didn’t have room for in the magazine.

Oi, aren’t you making a game?

I am, but I haven’t finished it yet. I’ve learnt a lot so far, though, and at Minecon in November, I gave a talk about what I’ve learned so far, and what I’d do differently if I was making my first game today. Here it is! Continued

Arguing On The Internet

I don’t argue on the internet anymore, but I have some ideas on how to do it without defeating yourself and also human decency.

Update: This post now has a sort of sequel, suggesting ways to contribute to an argument without being an asshole.


2000-2003: University of Southampton

Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, First Class

Doing maths and philosophy at the same time made sense to me, but then in a Relativity module I found out that simultaneity depends on your inertial frame, so now I’m not even sure I did.

My dissertation was on the ethics of teleportation by replication: scan, clone, destroy the original. Like in that movie I can’t mention, because it’s a spoiler for that movie.

2004-present: writer and editor at PC Gamer

Games Media Award for Best Specialist Games Writer in Print

I was assembling skateboards in a warehouse when a staff writer job opened up at PC Gamer. I didn’t get it. But later I got a job doing their coverdiscs, and successfully got myself demoted to writer a year or two in.

2012-present: director, Suspicious Developments

Finalist, Independent Games Festival Award for Excellence in Design

I entered Gunpoint into the IGF mainly to get feedback from the judges. Becoming a finalist was an extremely expensive accident: I tragically had to fly to San Francisco to attend the swanky awards ceremony and related parties.

The winner of the Excellence in Design category was Spelunky, the game that spurred me to make games in the first place. Even I would have voted for it.

Suspicious Developments announces existence

BATH, UNITED KINGDOM – January 24, 2012 – UK game developer Suspicious Developments today announced that it exists. The news marks a major upturn in the firm’s previously disappointing existence results, and a year-on-year existence increase of divide by zero error.

“No-one could have foreseen this,” said company director Tom Francis, shortly before the result. Francis controls 100% of the company’s shares, beating its second largest stakeholder Sylvester McCoy, who controls 0% and is not aware the company exists.

“I don’t know who you are,” McCoy said.

Suspicious Developments headquarters broken into

BATH, UNITED KINGDOM – January 21, 2012 – The headquarters of UK game developer Suspicious Developments were broken into last night by the company’s own director, Tom Francis.


Beheading Gmail’s New Look

Gmail’s new look is optional – FOR NOW – in the same way that Twitter’s was – FOR A WHILE THERE. And like Twitter’s, it’s sort of vaguely pretty but twice as awkward to use for all of my most common tasks.

I just found a script that lops off most of the wasted headspace that scrunches all the e-mails down, even in Compact mode, and it’s made a huge difference for me.

Works natively in Chrome, needs Greasemonkey in Firefox.

It’s weird how all the extra spacing made the default view look claustrophobic. To a certain mindset, white space isn’t open air, it’s the walls closing in.

Machine Of Death: Volume 2

I danced around the room like an imbecile when my story got into the original Machine of Death collection. I didn’t really know what it was doing there, next to all these awesome ideas, but I didn’t care.

Until it came out. Continued

Maybe Back Up Your Google Stuff?

This tale of abruptly losing a Google account without explanation, via roBurky, made me realise I should be backing this stuff up. Not so much because “It happened to him, therefore it will happen to me!” Just because the story makes you realise how boned you’d be if Google did shut you out, and how absurd it is to have total faith they never could. In all probability someone hacked this guy’s account and did something bad without his knowledge, in which case it has nothing to do with anything he did. Continued

Google+ Is The Exact Opposite Of The Social Network We Need

Or: I’m Completely Misunderstanding Google+

The main part of Google+ is a social updates feed like Facebook or Twitter. With Facebook, you have to confirm someone as your friend before they see your updates. With Twitter, anyone can see your updates without asking permission, unless you make a special ‘locked’ account. With Google+… Christ. Continued

Understanding Your Brain

My last post about happiness was about why success isn’t a good way to be happy, and three things that are.

In the comments, Johannes Spielmann said this:

Johannes: Great article!

For a more nuanced (and scientifically proven) view on the topic, have a look at this Google Tech Talk by David Rock.

The video he links, the one I’m about to embed, has changed the way I think. It’s like being given the owner’s manual to your brain after 29 years of muddling along with the default settings. It’s not only spectacularly improved my understanding of how people behave and why we feel what we feel, it’s actually made me more consistently happy. Continued

Post 500

Quickly, drink this. I just found a retroactive excuse for tonight’s pina coladas: I’ve posted 500 things on this site?

This 500th post calls for MINIMUM CONTENT and MAXIMUM STATS. They start from when the site moved to in February 2008, and the graph looks a bit like this (click for readable size): Continued