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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

On Bringing It


We were on Gulf Of Oman, a map with which I now have Demo Level Syndrome – it’s my favourite by a clear margin because I know it inside out. The coast is the hotspot, unless we (the MEC – they’re at a disadvantage on this map so they usually lose, and that means I get auto-assigned to them) are losing already. When it’s fought on the beaches, and this time it was, it’s raw chaos, constant death.

I was lucky enough to have an enemy run straight in front of the tiny side-window I was looking glumly out of as the driver of my APC executed an agonising three-point turn. I perked up and mowed him down. It was a good omen. We quickly capped an otherwise deserted flag, I jumped in a jeep and sped immediately to the next one, running straight over a sniper on the way and bailing out without breaking when I arrived, crushing another enemy between my abandoned car and their sandbags.

I managed to get out to the back of the base without dying, thanks to my medbag, and considered lying in the sweet spot – a little dark corner behind the flag, out of view from most of the base, but easily close enough to capture it when no enemies are. Then I realised that the two-story bunker I was hiding behind was the same type as one I played around with on another map. I discovered you can jump up onto one ledge, then jump and prone (dive) through the window on the second floor. Best of all, this one was close enough to the flag that, in the back right corner of the second floor, I was in a position to capture.

Except, of course, that it was swarming with enemies. The capture bar stayed firmly red, horribly outnumbered as I was, until someone came up the ladder. I was, of course, lying down with an automatic weapon pointed at exactly where his head appeared, looking through the scope even though the range was about thirty centimetres. As my bullets hammered him out into mid-air, his foot caught in a ladder rung and – while the rest of him disappeared below – stayed sticking up unpleasantly in front of me. I didn’t make much progress before reinforcements arrived, and the heat was off me enough to shoot people in the back of the head as they fought off the invaders. To the next flag!


I travelled by jeep again. This time I only got to run one guy down when I arrived, but an important guy since I hit him just as he was about to fire his SRAW rocket at me. I ducked round the back of the base and hit the deck as a bad guy came round the corner. I got a couple of hits in but the killing blow came from behind him – a friend had creeped in from the opposite side. As I whipped out my medbag to heal up from my new wounds, my friend was flung thirty feet into the air by a torrent of explosions. An attack chopper swooped in angrily, then stopped. I stared into the big glassy eyes of the beast as it hung there, wobbling, three feet from the ground and six feet from my face, apparently unsure of its next move. I guessed the pilot was worried his missiles would blow him up at this range, but what he tried instead was even more suicidal. You know that dumb thing they do in films where the chopper tilts and comes towards its victim, slowly, attempting to mince them with its blades? You know the three, maybe five reasons why it wouldn’t work in real life? Battlefield 2 models all the basic laws of physics those problems stem from.

I survived the blast – the medbag turns you into a kind of supersoldier – but naturally enough the pilot didn’t. I scrambled out from under the wreckage before it blew up again, and found myself in the middle of the base. The only cover was the sandbag bunker – identical to the one at the last base – but I only had time to make it to the front entrance. I brought my L8A5 to bear on one unsuspecting Assault troop before getting inside, and took few enough hits that I didn’t have to switch back to the medbag for long before I could be ready for the inevitable inrush of enemies looking for cover themselves.

After a minute of this not happening, I peered out and found one standing directly outside, facing away from me. Once his body toppled over the sandbags, his friend rushed over to investigate and went down just as easily – though I fancied there was a glimmer of recognition when his view passed me in a panicky search for his assailant before he died.

At that point, it was officially on as far as the US Marine Corps were concerned. They flooded in, even as I frantically reloaded and emptied clip after clip at marine after marine. It was miraculous – I barely took a scratch. By the time I ran out of ammo the entrance to my abattoir was strewn with the bodies of servicemen and I was crazy on adrenaline. I got one more in the face with my pistol, but didn’t have time to reload it before the next came in. He shot me three times before he succumbed to my blade, and as I clutched it menacingly at the door, crouching over his body, drenched in imaginary blood and willing, daring anyone else to try it, a little black object bounced up to me with a barely audible ‘chink’.

I took my hands off the controls and sat back. It was like that British guy in Event Horizon when he finds the bomb on the ship with three seconds left on the timer – there’s no way you can stop it, there’s no way you can escape it, and all that remains is to say “Fuck.”


I quit out after that – I couldn’t top that round even at my best, we’d lost anyway so my team essentially sucked, and I was utterly exhausted – shaking, even. When I quit out I discovered I’d only been playing for just over ten minutes. Battlefield 2 might be a shoddy program, and probably the most demanding game commercially available at the moment, but it’s what a PC is for. As with Half-Life 2, the astonishing fidelity of the world, the physics, the kinetics of it all plug your nerve endings straight into the world, hardwire you to it in a way that can shake you to the core of your being in ten minutes.

More impressively, I’m going to put it above N in the list on the left because frankly that’s pissing me off a little right now. It doesn’t handle curved surfaces well, and uses that as a challenge on a couple of levels. That’s a sin.

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