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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.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

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

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life


SWAT 4: The Movie Script



Genre: forget about it.

Stars: Nicholas Cage, Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper (the homophobic dad in American Beauty).

Plot: tempting to say ‘forget about it’ again, but I’ll give it a go: a woman writes an article about a guy who steals rare orchids from nature reserves. The article is very popular, and a publisher asks her to adapt it into a book. She does, and calls it, like the article, The Orchid Thief. The book is very popular, and a producer asks screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to adapt it into a film. He tries, but can’t capture what he likes about it, and obsesses over his failure, ultimately writing first the entire history of the Earth, then himself, into the plot. Meanwhile, his admiring, friendly brother Donald takes up screenwriting himself, after attending a quicky course on it, exasperating his brother by coming up with lower-brow ideas typical of modern cinema and seeking Charlie’s approval. It’d take me about another paragraph of that size to explain the rest of the plot, then two or three more to qualify how much of it is actually true, and that the film he’s writing is in fact the film he’s in, which evolves dynamically as he, the character in it, makes decisions about how to save the screenplay he’s writing from either pretentiousness or never being finished. Instead, I just told you the plot of the plot summary I’d write if I was going to write the rest of this plot summary, but I did it rather cleverly within the plot summary itself, so perhaps I should have included the plot of the above plot summary before the plot of the rest of the summary, which doesn’t exist. I think I’m sooo goddamn clever.

By the way, I wasn’t just mocking myself there to mirror the relentless self-deprecation that consumes Charlie Kaufman when he realises what he’s done, I really do think what I did there was pathetic. If I wanted to mimic his self-deprecation, I’d do something like… well, see the last section called ‘Something Like…’


Why It’s Great:

  • Well, check out the plot.
  • Nicholas Cage – I’m so confused about how I feel about Nicholas Cage now that I can’t even remember how I used to; was he the annoying guy who always seemed to choose great films, or was he the basically decent actor who always got stuck in awful ones? Now that he’s been in Bringing Out The Dead and this, and I realise I really do like Con Air, I think I just plain like him. He’s fantastic in this, as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, who spend a lot of time on screen together. You can’t make yourself believe for a second that they’re the same person, even though no attempt is made to distinguish them appearence-wise, beyond their wearing different clothes. The two roles would make a good litmus test for actors in general – can they make two identical-looking characters unassimilatably different? He can, and it’s a spectacular film, so he must be good.
  • It’s hilarious. Not just Charlie’s self-loathing and Donald’s awful ideas, but the insane turns it takes toward the end, and the whole absurdly self-referential interaction between plot and genre.


A Quote: “Oh my God, I’ve written myself into my screenplay.” “That’s kind of weird, huh?” “It’s self-absorbed, it’s narcissistic, it’s solipsistic, it’s pathetic! I’m pathetic! I’m fat and pathetic!”

Something Like… Oh my God, I’ve written myself into my plot summary. It’s smarmy, it’s arrogant, it’s demeaning to the film, it’s pathetic! I’m pathetic! I’m stupid and pathetic!


Jason L: I've owned Adaptation for a couple years - I'm still trying to decide whether it's genius or self-indulgent artistic masturbation. Given that reaction's part of its intended effect, I guess that makes it genius...or does it??? Hard to argue with the Nicholas Cage thing, though - yes, this film should be shown to every aspiring performer.