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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

The American Public Announce That Tom Francis Is Right

And Elect Yet Another White President

If we’re going to keep calling him the first black president, at least a few of us should be acknowledging that he’s exactly as white.

Update: found the Gore Vidal interview clip:

Original post:

So this guy is now the most powerful person in the world:


BBC Interviewer: Doesn’t he have a problem, though, in that expecations will be stratospheric, that people will expect him to walk on water, and no politician can do that?
Supporter: He’s black, he’s white, he’s old, he’s young… he can walk a little bit on something.

I said he’d win by at least 10%. There are still some big states to go, but at time of writing the very least he can possibly win by is 25%. It’s going to be a lot more than that.

The BBC coverage was a hilarious fiasco, riddled with awkward pauses, confusion, and an eternal quest for some footage of disappointed Republicans. It was capped off by an utterly extraordinary interview with Gore Vidal, whose answer at one point was simply, “I don’t know who you are.”

Anyway, for me the election was effectively over when this happened:

The Fate Of The Nation And, More Importantly, My £5


Apparently I can’t vote in your elections, America, so instead I have bet. I have five pounds, or ten of your ‘dollarbucks’, on Obama not just winning, but winning by at least 10%. I’ve been insisting this will happen since shortly before he started to trail Clinton. But I was pretty drunk when I put money on it recently, so I don’t think I specified whether I was referring to the electoral college or the popular vote. I meant the one that matters, obviously. I think that’s the first one.

Since the Middleman is over and Heroes has become unbearably bad, watching the keys to the most world’s most powerful military be tossed between the milquetoast and the psychopath has become my favourite show.

Update: Man, I just found out Jon Stewart stole this analogy from my drafts folder last night.


It’s a little tricky to get good reception: the zeitgeist on Digg is Obamanic to the point of delerium, so every anti-McCain or anti-Palin story not only tops the front page, but does so at least two more times under slightly different names over the next 48 hours. The BBC have less of an obvious party bias, but are weirdly kind to Palin, so they miss out on most of the fun.

The only place where I can get even a little of both sides from the same channel is the openly liberal Daily Show, where Joe Biden’s been made to look every bit as silly as Sarah Palin. It’s also one of the only places that seems more concerned about the presidential candidates than the vices, which seems to me to be the correct way around.


I’m happy that Obama’s going to win, of course, but it’s a shame he’s not the real thing. He was on the wrong side of that telecom bill, he’s on the wrong side of the bailout, and he wouldn’t even pick a side on offshore drilling. Watching him on Letterman, I had my first insight into that previously incomprehensible notion I’d heard: that Americans voted for Bush because they wanted to have a beer with him. I’m still not sure why nearly half the country would want to drink with what I’m fairly sure is provably an ape, but I did find that my willingness to split an arugula with the beguiling elitist put his political meekness from my mind.

The Vice Presidential debate tonight should be the highlight of the season. I have a feeling Biden is going to say something that will make everyone wince, but I think even the most diehard Republicans are starting to frown at the fascinatingly twisted tumors of grammatically fractured rhetoric that curl from Palin’s lips when pressed for specifics.

Relic Announce That Tom Francis Is Right

Tyranids Are In Dawn Of War II, And There Are Screenshots

It takes a lot to make me completely forget about TF2 at time like this, but this’ll do it:


The Tyranids are in, they’re beautiful and they’re huge:


As I said back when no-one believed me, the last trailer completely gave it away: the explanations for that descending cloud of spores the pessimists came up with were just hilarious. It’s a cloud of orks. It’s a warp storm, only lower, and brown, and made of spores. Gamers seem to have a limitless capacity to believe the worst.

The reason Tyranids are a big deal, at least the reason they were always my favourite Warhammer 40,000 race, is what they’re made of. They’re not glistening pus like other aliens, or tissue paper insects. They’re clean pale bone, hard and sharp as diamond, acting as one conscious many-bladed machine.

In other news, Valve Announce That Tom Francis Was Right To Say That The SomethingAwful Secrecy-Impaired Testers Were Right About The Sandvich, And That Tim Edwards Was Right About The New Video.

Blizzard Announce That Tom Francis Is Right

And, as a trivial side-effect, they had to make Diablo 3

diablo in diablo 3

I look forward to the people who said we were kidding ourselves calling this announcement ‘inevitable’ and then ‘obvious’. I say ‘we’, but actually even the most zealous posters at were crying into their forums on Thursday – Blizzard were called both ‘cockfags’ and ‘fucktards’ for so obviously gearing up to announce Lich King beta signups instead of Diablo 3. One Diablo fan pronounced that they would ‘not survive’, by which I’d love to – but cannot quite – believe he only meant their company would go bust.


The Evil Penguin and the Lost numbers were both kind of funny red herrings, but to be fair to the huge number of people who got it utterly wrong, Blizzard’s teasing of this announcement turned out to be pure nonsense. Those eyes meant nothing – they just changed them on the final day, then replaced them with something completely different. The Diablo face in the game’s logo doesn’t look anything like the illustration of Diablo on the official logo for the event, and it doesn’t even look like the eyes we saw on Thursday. They kept most people guessing by simply lying to them.

Luckily, since I am Sherlock freaking Holmes, I was able to piece together the fact that they bought, advertised for people who like Diablo 1 and 2 to work on an unannounced project, arranged their annual event for the day that the last two Diablo games were released, then put a huge picture of Diablo towering over the other characters in their logo for the event, then let slip that they’d be announcing a new game, and by an arcane leap of logic come to the conclusion that they would announce Diablo 3 there.

Diablo 3

Oh, right, the game. I was distracted for a moment by how right I was. Now I can move on to being seriously excited. There’s a full-res movie of the whole presentation they showed at the event on their site, but it insists you use the astonishingly shitty Blizzard downloader to get it, so try Softpedia.

Diablo 3

I initially had mixed feelings, watching the live stream of this: it really doesn’t lend itself to blurry, laggy, rubbish footage narrated by an insufferable twat and repeatedly disconnected by an unspeakably crap bespoke streaming protocol called Octoshape. That’s why it’s so essential you watch the high-res version: the insufferable twat* is still on there, but everything else is immeasurably improved.

* I think it might be Diablo 3 lead designer Jay Wilson, who before that was Dawn of War lead designer Jay Wilson, and before that worked at Monolith on Blood, where he had to suffer regular e-mail exchanges with me about stuff they should do in Blood 2 (and look how that worked out). If this is the case, then he’s an insufferable genius twat.

Diablo 3

You need to see it high-res because Diablo is all about crisp, satisfying interactions. The combat actually looks superb when you see it properly: not only are the blows connecting in hot spurts of blood, the camera rocks subtly to ram home the impact of the most forceful strikes. It also pans too far when the Barbarian uses his Charge ability, and has to nip back to center on him when its done: a classic cinematic trick to give the impression of extreme speed that turns out to work beautifully in an isometric game.

Diablo 3

I also couldn’t make out the new interface properly in the shit-stream, as I shall now call it – get over any WoWificiationophobia, it looks ace. You have a four-slot hotbar to instantly activate skills with the number keys, plus slots on 5 and 6 that look to be dedicated to scrolls (of Town Portal and, presumably Identify). Then next to that, as with Diablo, you can put whatever skills you like on your left and mouse buttons. There’s another, smaller slot next to those two, which I think corresponds to your middle button. Best, you scroll through your right-mouse skills with the mouse-wheel, so you don’t need to touch the keyboard to use everything at your disposal quickly.

Diablo 3

My main concern, and this will sound silly, is the noise when hitting a few of the enemy types. To be clear, the noises when you hit stuff in Diablo is the defining feature of the game: loot and skills pale in comparison to the importance of feeling like every blow really fucking smacked that thing. Against the fat things that blow up into Lampreys, and the ghost things that sap your whatever, the Barbarian’s axe makes a pathetically wimpy noise. Seeing a big burly man swing a huge axe with all his might to no audible effect is just disastrous for game feel, I hope they realise that before they’re done.

Diablo 3

The Witch Doctor excites and saddens me in almost equal measure: on the one hand, his abilities are fantastic, on the other, they clearly demonstrate that he’s intended to replace the Necromancer, my favourite class not just in Diablo, but in gaming. The Witch Doctor can do scary stuff, sure, but he doesn’t look scary: he’s a quivering little heap of fancy dress. My Necromancer was a walking nightmare, a vision in bone that ten-foot demons ran scampering from as he spread poison and blood raging across the room. Maybe I can sort that out with armour. I certainly want to strip people of their flesh, make zombie-fences and blow up my own pets.

Diablo 3

Oh yes, nerdy but really kind of cool news: gender choice! I actually think Diablo 2 was pretty good at avoiding the more offensive RPG gender conventions – it rejected the notion that healing is woman’s work – but a lot of players, particularly girls, don’t like to gender-bend, and that restricts the classes they can like. Personally, I only like to gender-bend, so it’s good for me too.


Once they get outdoors in that video, the art is magnificent. They’ve got for a subtle smoothing of the scenery that makes it look like watercolour concept art, and makes the characters stand out strikingly. I’m also appreciative of the fact that they’ve gone for exquisitely detailed, high poly-count monsters: WoW‘s artists worked wonders with that game’s simple, pointy models, but Diablo demands smooth curves and complex shapes.

My friends and I had a LAN party when Diablo 2 came out just to play it. Ross sounds quite excited about it, and Tim’s a big Blizzard fanboy, so we may be able to do the same thing in the office with this one. That’s the main reason to be excited, I think: just that there’s a new and shiny game of this type coming out. Of Blizzard’s three big series, Diablo was always my primary vice, the Greater Evil. It was by comparison to that game that WoW fell short of obsessing me.

So it’ll be nice to have it back.

Diablo 3