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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

Diablo 2

The Basics
Absurdly slick isometric action-RPG with real-time combat (clicking) and a bewildering array of spells (right-clicking).

The Appeal
It’s clear that the guys designing Diablo 2 were world experts on how to make character progression exciting, satisfying and an inspiring driving force to a game rather than a miserable dragging one. It’s also clear that they left Blizzard before World Of Warcraft. In Diablo every level-up brings a paralysingly tricky decision – every new skill is carefully hand-crafted to sound wildly exciting in text and have real use in combat. And you only get one per level.

Having whittled down the nonsense trappings of the RPG – story, quests, NPCs and the like – to virtually nothing, it proved that ‘grind’ is only a problem when your levelling system sucks. You suddenly realise other games are just trying to distract you from their uninspired mechanics when they ply you with a rich plot and a fascinating world. If your game’s actually good, you don’t need any of that – no-one feels like they’re grinding because they’re actually looking forward to getting that next level, and they’ll get there, and when they get it they’ll get something they want, and when they try it out it’ll be fun. All of this is achieved with the simple combat system, brilliant sound-effects, and perfectly judged skills. Roll on Hellgate London.

The Essential Experience
Corpse Explosion chain-reaction. The central dynamic here is that blowing up a corpse usually kills people, since it’s an extraordinarily powerful spell (the blast is proportional to the creature’s hitpoints), and that means more corpses. It gets to the stage at which the first casualty triggers a staggered apocalypse of bloody showers that annihilates everything on-screen. I remember in the blurb for the Necromancer class used in the manual – which I read about six months before release on a website – it said “While many shun the Necromancer for his ghoulish appearence and strange ways, all fear his power – for it is the stuff of nightmares.” You never really believe sales blurb until you’re blowing up corpses three times a second.

My highest-level character in Diablo 2, and functionally my favourite character in any game, was Pentadact the Necromancer. I started him with Bitchard the Barbarian (flatmate) and we played through the whole game and expansion pack over the course of a weekend. By the time we were finished, Pentadact was genuinely the stuff of nightmares. Skip past the giant skull he wore over his face, he was accompanied at all times by a hulk of rotting flesh and exposed bones, and carried a long, undulating, bright orange dagger called Pentadact’s Screaming Cinquedeas Of Pestilence – a single stab from which would send huge enemies scrambling away in fear, but infected with a poison so virulent that even if they escaped the inevitable corpse explosions, Poison Novas and Bone Spears, they faced certain death. I lost him and my characters in all games beginning with letters earlier than ‘q’ in the great ChkDsk error of 2005, so if you ever read about Microsoft employees being stabbed to death with a knife matching the above description, by a man holding a mop adorned with butcher’s offcuts, remember that I was always a quiet boy who kept himself to himself.

DemonDoll: It astounds me how much of this fun they ruined with one of the later patches that added synergies. Now instead of a balanced and flexible character that has several clever solutions to immunities and bosses, the only route that makes sense is to get one skill and all its synergies which will obliterate any boss. It also means that your character is planned out, and by level 30 you will be using the one or two skills your character will ever care about and after that it does become a grind to boost synergies point by point because all they do is give a 5% or 10% or whatever damage boost and don't make it more fun in any way.