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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

Half-Life 2

The Basics
Sci-fi FPS in which your character never speaks, we never leave his viewpoint, and no-one ever bothers to explain the plot to him. He wakes up in an Orwellian future, humanity oppressed by a collective of co-opted and modified alien species. He must help the pockets of resistance he finds to overthrow the jerks. Combat is half shooting and half physics-based, using a device that can drag objects to you and then fire them out at speed.

Smart Money's On The Antlion

The Appeal
The gasmask moment, the crowbar moment, the Manhacks moment, the chopper fight, the dam jump, the Gravity Gun moment, playing with Dog, the sawblade moment, the fast zombie moment, the black zombie moment, the Gregory moment, the jeep jump over a gunship, the guided rocket fights, the shotgun-battle stop-offs, the Antlion assault on Nova Prospekt at dawn, Dog versus the APC, the Strider fights, inside the Citadel, the Super Gravity Gun moment, The Explosion. I had higher expectations than anyone, and each of these astonished me. I have never been so impressed by anything in my life than by Half-Life 2. In another game, though, these would be reduced to good ideas, nice touches, memorable experiences. Here, they were mind-blowing. It wasn’t about the actual events, in the end, it was about how convinced I was that they were really happening to me.

They were so detemined that it should feel right, they recreated science itself for their world. For me the only reason to hold ‘linear’ against a game is if it controls where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing in order to avoid the hard work of genuinely crafting a world. No danger of that here – this is the most physically convincing, tangible world short of the real one. Everything you do sounds and feels right, and thanks to the ability to pick things up and throw them (with your hands or the Gravity Gun), you can do an awful lot.


This ‘feel’ I won’t shut up about is only half physics – most of the rest is the absolutely perfect sound. I go around throwing grenades at things just for the sound they make when they bounce off different surfaces. The fact that it is always, always the exact right sound for a small, heavy metal canister bouncing off whichever of the hundreds of surface types I’ve chosen to toss it against, is mind-boggling to me. This is a grenade. Its purpose is to explode. Who the hell cares what the bounce sounds like? It’s going to be muffled by gunfire anyway.

Valve are the only company in the world who know just how much it matters, and have the resources and time to get it exactly right every time. It is perfection, and games have never come close before. The result for the casual player is just better immersion, which is important and everything, but the result for people like me is more profound. We play games out of a sense of adventure, to travel to places more amazing than any on this Earth. But we never expected it to feel as much like a real place as Half-Life 2 does. That’s why I keep going back.


The Essential Experience
Barney throws you your crowbar – great moment. I think for a second, then reload the autosave and do it again. This time, I step back and let the crowbar hit the ground. It clangs against the concrete and clatters to a standstill. The sound, the bounce, the feel is perfect, and yet there is absolutely no reason to account for the possibility that some idiot might jump out of the way of the crowbar just to see what sound it makes when it hits the ground. And they didn’t have to. They just went to the Herculean effort of making a world in the first place, and now every eventuality works perfectly. It can seem a subtle and merely philosophical difference, but if a crowbar falls in the concrete jungle and no-one hears it, it makes a sound. It goes CLANG.

Am i first?: First!

Cheeetar: Congratulations, you have commented first on an old post and gained attention.

Jazmeister: First!

Am i first?: How would this get any attention?

Am i first?: *and at that moment i just saw the last comment piece, woops sorry

Jackrabbit: Yay? I'm glad I saw this review, it really made me want to go back to half life.

Until I can run Ep2 that is