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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



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.