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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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    SWAT 4: The Movie Script

    Introducing: Brain Storm

    Brain Storm

    She’s an Illusion/Storm Controller, meaning she gives people headaches then makes it rain. Actually her powers are bizarre and extraordinary, the kind of wonderful exuberance you’d never find in World Of Warcraft. Long before she was even in double-digits, level-wise, she could turn any enemy – even ones a level above her – against his friends, from a huge range, without aggro’ing him or the mob, even if it misses and even once it wears off. Before that she already had the Gale power, which sends a whole mob flying backwards to land on their respective asses. To this day it remains the perfect escape skill, and also the most impressive and quickest way to save a civilian from a gang of muggers too low level to be worth killing. Her main attack, though, is probably the most satisfying of all: Spectral Wounds. It makes the enemy think they’ve been seriously wounded, and for reasons the description never adequately addresses, if they believe they’ve been fatally wounded, they die. Since the damage is so high, to compensate for the fact that it eventually wears off, most enemies simply expire immediately – meaning the damage never wears off. Best of all, the animation for the power is a dismissive wave of the right hand. I simply gesture to a thug and he hits the ground dead, clutching at his chest. Magic.


    Oh yeah, I’ve started playing City Of Heroes again. It was partly the new Issue (whose effects I have yet to spot), partly the imminent Villains beta (not sure why that’s a reason – seems like I should hold off since I’m going to have to start again anyway), and partly Jim’s feature in the latest PC Gamer. Irregardless, it’s probably my favourite MMORPG. Eve dizzies me with its potential, but I still feel like I’m cut off from it, unable to get at the good stuff without phenomenal effort and organisation on my part – not things I enjoy. City Of Heroes is sometimes called unambitious, but I think people under-estimate the audacity of the ambition “Make a Massively Multiplayer game where you really feel like a hero and combat is incredibly fun.” A goal is only modest if someone else has actually achieved it before.


    So Brain Storm is a heroine, and fighting with her is incredibly good fun. Her bio, which I wrote while drunk, refers to a degree of ‘sass’ – it’s actually more like bravado. Most of her powers are long-range, and as a Controller she’s weak and ought to stay back. But over the last few levels I’ve given her powers from the Combat pool – basic melee abilities any hero can choose past level eight. Although the infighting ability doesn’t draw any aggro, it does mean I’m usually the furthest forward in my party when someone blows it and opens fire. However it happens, I end up scampering back down the tunnel we came through with a horde on my tail. I turn around and Gale them, of course, and then the other heroes sink their weapons in, freeze them in blocks of ice, smash them with fireballs. But there’s always one still on me, and as I cast my mind-altering hallucinogenics, I always needed just one more thing I could do to them while my main powers recharge, or one quick move to shave off that last sliver of health once I’ve Spectrally Wounded them. The answer: Kick. It’s called Kick. You kick them. Kick!


    It sounds feeble, but the simple addition of this ability to her powers changes the feel of the character completely – there’s suddenly attitude there. I intentionally designed her appearence to be just a woman – an especially fragile one, in fact. When she uses her extraordinary mental powers to decimate a horde of rock monsters and the survivors all come charging toward her, it’s absolutely brilliant that she can give the nearest one a good hard kick, usually knocking it back several meters. It says “Fuck you. I am not a wuss.”


    The combat was always brilliant, as was the powers system. I actually had trouble getting my head around the idiocy of World Of Warcraft’s after CoH – why doesn’t my level 3 Shadowbolt just replace my level 2 Shadowbolt? Why have the upgrades for the skills I actually liked suddenly dried up? What always sucked, unequivocally and indebatably, was the moronic concept of XP debt. It’s still there, but it’s halved. That makes a huge difference, it’s still reprehensible, appalling, pathetic that the system exists at all, but ‘huge’ doesn’t even cover it. It makes all the difference. If XP debt was still full, the fun I had tonight – during which I died three times – wouldn’t have brought me out of the red and I would be irritated by the game, the joy sapped out by the grind, and preparing to go back to my System Shock 2 replay tomorrow. Instead, I’m buzzing, bursting to tell you about it, and looking forward to getting lost in it all weekend.

    2005-09-07 23:16:40