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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

Maths Cop!

Holy shit, they finally made a TV series about cops who solve crimes with maths! This is like all my dreams come true at once, except only one of them, and one I haven’t actually had yet, but totally would have if I’d thought to. It’s called Numbers (ignore unreliable sources such as the official site calling it ‘Numb3rs’ – that would mean it was stupid), and I’ve only seen five minutes of the first episode so far, but already there’s been an educational speech on the relevance of mathematics over the credit sequence, and straight off the bat some dude with odd eyebrows is correcting a woman on her use of the word ‘exponential’. Now he’s said “We can create a Bayesian filter!” and I am sold.

In other news, I have this week off, then next week I’m going to Moscow. Having masses of free time seemed like a good chance to try Black And White 2 (as did getting Black And White 2) and so far it is surprising me. I thought it would be pleasant but insubstantial, but in fact it’s got more substance than Colombia. But it’s extremely irritating. I thought it would again be an aimless playground from which no satisfying game could be sculpted, but in fact it’s alarmingly close to a truly brilliant RTS. It’s just definitely not one in its current state.

I have uncensorified my Serenity thoughts now that the film’s out. I may go and see it again in the middle of the day at some point this week – I used to love being able to do that at university; it’s just you and a few old ladies, and you emerge blinking to discover that the day is still in progress. But if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to CSI: Mathematics.

Tom Francis: Update - it's actually the woman he's talking to who has odd eyebrows. The man, like all mathematicians, is perfectly handsome.

Graham: I still frequently go to the cinema during the day. All the freaking time. In fact, last week I went to see Serenity just after midday, and it was awesome.

You should go see it again. If only in the hope that a strong UK showing somehow bolsters the mediocre box office in the states.

And maths is rubbish.

Rossignol: Maths is ULTIMATE.

Nothing beats it. In paper-scissor-stone-maths, it's the trump move.

Tom Francis: True. It even wins rock-paper-scissors-crime-maths. It doesn't always fare so well in RPS-25, though: ...rps25.htm

Jason L: Yeah, Numbers has been on for a while here of course, and it's pretty good. I wish there was talent besides the main guy (of whom I now must forever think as Mr. Universe), and that he wasn't forced to be so frenetic all the time. I would've liked to have seen a sort of Sherlock Holmes premise, instead of Tune In Next Week For More Hollywood Clock Is Ticking Drama. Ah well. B-grade TV with an A-grade premise.

Tom Francis: Ah! That's where I know him from! I say that as though he always seemed familiar, but in fact he didn't at all until you said that. I've seen the first three episodes now, and while I set out to enjoy it ironically, I now find myself badly wanting more. Maybe it's that the term 'geek love' has already come up, or that Mr Universe's frequently inaccurate metaphors sometimes stumble into genuinely interesting mathematical concepts - like the ineffible quality statistics sometimes grasp that humans can't. Regardless, I do not have to classify my interest as ironic or genuine, this is simply something I enjoy watching whose moronic moments do not at all detract from the fun.

Ah, wait, it's the second series I'm watching here.

Graham: Just got back from seeing Serenity for the second time and I really, really love Mr. Universe at this point, so I'll maybe check this Numbers thing out just for him. He was also in Ray, from what I remember. But he's better as Mr. Universe, a concept that is too briefly explored in Serenity.

If you like maths, you might enjoy Fleep: http://www.shigabook... ...fleep.html. Online graphic novel about a man trapped inside a phone booth. He doesn't know how he got there, but he tries to use maths to escape.

HItchhiker: I'm not sure I'm convinced by this. I think I've obviously missed the first couple, but I picked it up on ITV3 last night (it was bank robbery where things go wrong). I think the whole cop angle was reasonably well handled, although it seemed rushed and huge sections of the investigation missed out because they rely on the equations. But then, the equations and rationale behind things were so lightweight. As a viewer, I was just supposed to accept that he predicted this, that and the other.

I'll probably try to catch another couple, but the whole maths thing seemed like a small hook into the program, rather than the core of it. It was akin to CSI brushing over the forensic angle, and not having those wonderful demonstrations they have.

Jason L: Well, it's fictional math - the guy's supposed to be a super-talented cutting edge genius - so there's kind of no point in going too deep into imaginary "then you integrate the stepwise cosine of the reverse-polarity tachyon flux regulation duct spectrometer..." gobbledigook. That's just a defense of the decision, not the show as a whole; I'm glad it gets made, but I don't watch it because I find it pretty boring outside of the fun pedantic parts.

Tom Francis: "I find it pretty boring outside of the fun pedantic parts" - that's probably not something TV producers hear a lot from focus groups.

I wouldn't expect the normal TV connoisseur to enjoy it, but I already have a taste for trashy detective series, so mixing it with pseudo-maths is like a magic formula for me.

Jason L: Indeed it's not, but I am a pedant :)

HItchhiker: For me, the best bit in the one I watched was when a heist went all wrong, lots of elements he hadn't accounted for turning it into a chaotic result he hadn't spotted. He starts talking about some syndrome or something, where the mere act of observing something fundamentally changes it, thus making it far less predictable.

Of course, the cops then play a game of they know we know, but we know that they know we know, so can plan accordingly. The final masterstroke of the FBI - using the maths - being to take it into account. The only reason the twist is a twist to the viewer is because of misinformation in the way it's filmed, rather than an actual decent plan. Kind of like Oceans 11, then.

It was alright, mind, just a tad disappointing. But then, I'm really enjoying Vincent on ITV, so what do I know?