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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

SWAT 4: The Movie Script

OFFICER DOWN, OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN, OFFICER DIBBLE and HANK stand in a rain washed street, weapons at the ready. HANK plants a breaching charge on the back door to a building. OFFICER DOWN takes out a gun-shaped camera device.

I’ll use the Opti-Wand!

We don’t need to, there’s no-one behind this.

OFFICER DOWN holsters the OPTI-WAND with a silent sadness. HANK detonates the breaching charge.

Police! Everybody get down!

Get down and put your hands up!

Everybody freeze!

The smoke clears. The hallway beyond is empty. OFFICER DOWN and OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN progress down the hall and turn into a side room.

Police! Hands up!

Don’t shoot! I’m not one of them!

Get on your knees and put your hands behind your head!

OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN readies his zip-cuffs. The CIVILIAN continues to stand.

This is my shop! I’m not a criminal!

Shut the fuck up, sir.

I didn’t do anything wrong!

I’m going to shoot him.

Don’t shoot him! Sir, you have one more fucking chance to put your fucking hands up before we fucking kneecap you.

This is my shop! Why don’t you go after the shooters?

OFFICER DOWN shoots the CIVILIAN in the knee.

Aaaaaaarggh! Oh God!

The CIVILIAN tries to hobble out of the room.


The CIVILIAN cowers in the corner. OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN puts his zip cuffs away, draws his M1911 pistol and shoots him in the other knee.


We’re going to have to kill him.

OFFICER DIBBLE passes and stops in the doorway.

That looks really bad from out here.

OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN looks at the CIVILIAN with infinite sadness. OFFICER DOWN shoots the CIVLIAN in the leg again.


OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN shoots the CIVILIAN in the leg again. OFFICER DOWN shoots the CIVLIAN in the leg again. OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN shoots the CIVILIAN in the leg again. The CIVILIAN collapses. OFFICER ANDAGENTLEMAN shoots him three times in the face. Fade to black.

Graham: This made no sense to me until I read the title -- and then it was very, very funny. Just reminds me of how much potential there is in game-to-movie adaptations. I've often wondered why no one has ever written a film like this. Some sorry writer is commissioned to port some ridiculous game license to the silver screen, and rather than use it as an excuse to do something original, they always seem to try too hard to turn it into some wholly uninteresting action movie slog. I suppose it's clueless producers that are to blame, but given that they so often pick the most unlikely candidates to turn into films, one wonders why no one has gone at least a little Kaufman-esque.

The Culture Vulture: Too true. I continue to find it quite astonishing that professional screenwriters and production companies are unable to put together a single decent film of a game, particularly when fans have been generating interesting narrative for years, both through slash fiction and Machinima (good bit in the Guardian last week on this)

JohnMid: So I guess the civilian AI/scripted response isn't all its cracked up to be in SWAT4?

Oh, and did you mean M1911A1? I'll get me coat...

Tom Francis: Bah, yes, damn you.

Officer Down was played by Craig Pearson, Tom Francis was Officer Andagentleman, Officer Dibble was played by Steve Williams and Hank was Tim Edwards.

SWAT 4 2: Electric Boogaloo coming soon.

CannedLizard: You have to love those stubborn civilians. Since my usual weapon is a beanbag shotgun, I just peg them in the nuts a few times, then spray them with pepper spray. Kneecapping them never really seems to help.

Dabs: "I'm not a criminal!" "Shut the fuck up, sir." Heh. Hilarious because it's just so damn true.

Aubrey: Interesting, interesting.

To me, this makes a very good point about generative narrative. This piece reads more like an "account of events" than a story.

So, if you want to generate a good story, you leave out the insignificant actions. Like, can anyone tell me at what point Jack Bauer takes a shit in 24? You can never tell! Maybe he holds it in all day? Maybe we don't have to care about Jack's shit at all.

So they skip the shit because it's insignificant. That's not to say it can't *be* significant - if Jack's been holding it in for a month, his demeanor will probably change, post shit, so his shit is significant, and story-worthy. (If I had a shit after that length of time, I would probably WANT a film crew to film it, too.)

So, what I'm saying is, generative storytelling through gameplay should see the game trying to anticipate what actions are significant, and highlight and support them for the player. At the same time it should be taking the insignificant and make it significant so that there's no boring train of similar actions. If people are picking up and dropping items in the game world, creating boring pieces of story ("Player1 picked up the pen. Player1 then placed the pen down again. Player1 picked up the pen again. Thoughtfully, Player1 put it down once more"), couldn't an NPC become significantly annoyed at this that they provoke the player into doing something more interesting? (Enpeecee said to Player1 "Stop Messing around, f4g0t. Some nazi war criminals are walking past the window!".)

Gazzy: "You're in my way, sir."

DemonDoll: Not having played the game I still think this is very funny. Unfortunately, hilarious commentary on the actual state of video gaming is not viewed as something that can be made into a movie for lack of accessibility to the general audience. It's just stupid and sad that they continue to adapt games into movies by cutting out everything that makes it a game while STILL alienating the general audience because it's advertised as a video-game movie. Fortunately, there exist independent niche studios such as Rooster Teeth making brilliant movie-type-things like Red vs Blue that keep very close ties with the source material of Halo, in this case.

Paul: Haha! So, so, so true... I must say though, your lucky to have friends who are willing to play this game with you!