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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


For a while there NaNoWriMo was consuming my spare writing time, starving this blog, but then I stopped doing that too, and now the less creative pass-times that I engage in to avoid Wri-ing my No-vel are replacing posting here. Shame, because I enjoy posting here, and I don’t enjoy writing my NaNoWriMo book. Curiosity: SATISFIED.

Meaning, I no longer have novelist ambitions. I fundamentally disagree with the format. I don’t read many books myself. The only thing that excites me about the form is that anyone can do it on their own, but now I realise I can’t. Most of all, I don’t like it. I feel like a fraud, covering for the fact I don’t have any real ideas, I don’t honestly care what this character looks like or how he phrases things, I’m just making stuff up to get the story over. I haven’t decided whether to give up entirely or just try truncating it dramatically – I still like the idea behind my novel, but it no longer seems novel-worthy. It could become a short story, though I’m too late for WriAShorStorWe.

Anyway, I am a bit late with this news, but I’m now officially a professional writer. The new disc ed, James commenter Graham, is settling in well, and I am making words from magical brain waves instead. It is very cool. More than the change in the type of work, what I’m looking forward to most is being able to pitch ideas for features and the like without the grim dread of involuntarily volunteering to write them, thereby neglecting the disc for just long enough to create a chronic crunch period out of thin air. One random idea I had this week – last weekend, actually, in preparation for my first day as a writer – just paid off dramatically today. I have fantastic new information on the next games of two of my favourite developers of all time that no-one else in the world has. I keep studying the screenshots of one of them, gleaning new joy out of tiny figures or details that hint at wonderful aspects of the game. The other, by N creators Metanet, is less specific and unillustrated, but will feature at its heart a mechanic I have loved since almost the start of my gaming life, and only ever seen attempted twice before – both with brilliant results. Metanet are more talented and intelligent than the developers of either of those games, so this is going to be something super-special.

I can say absolutely nothing revealing of either, so I apologise for teasing, but my excitement is desperately seeking an outlet here. The full skinny, also known as the straight dope, will be in our next-but-one issue (the next to hit the shelves has already gone to press).

BBC Six O'Clock News

Also in Awesome this month, I was visible on the BBC six o’clock news last night, in the background of an interview with the Deputy Editor of Edge magazine, for some reason conducted at a PC Gamer desk. Mr Walker theorises that this is because the story would otherwise be largely true, so some form of misleading element had to be manufactured. We propped up our latest issue and plastered stickers all over the desk beforehand, so we ‘pushed the brand’ appropriately. You can watch it here – I do have a link for a better quality video that doesn’t require the hateful RealPlayer, but it’s at work at the moment. If anyone has it, could they comment?

The BBC are bravely covering games more and more, but this report rather suggested that they should attempt to grasp the English language first. If Hugh Pym’s last few sentences made sense to anyone, could they draw me a diagram? And has anyone ever seen an ‘internet site’ that was made of cardboard bushes in a physical room? I know it’s easy to get your language in a twist when talking about the metaverse, but shouldn’t their reporters at least be told what a website is before they go on the air? Anyway, I’m not really complaining, except in the sense that I am. My forehead was on TV. Someone even recognised me and e-mailed us.

Tom Francis: I could address the question of why they were interviewing Margret, but I'm still not convinced I know myself. It was in 'relation' to the story I cover in my This Is Hardcore column in the mag next month, in which I also explain that it's a bit of a non-story. Eat it, BBC!

craigp: I feel linked to.

Rossignol: Greatest forehead on TV!

Jason L: This is probably too late to help people who've already read the post, but I can try! I don't have a link to your alternative media file, but I do have one to Real Alternative, which allows playing all RealMedia files without the stuffing-a-tapeworm-in-your-RJ45 bit. There also exists a "Quicktime Alternative". Though Quicktime is nowhere near as buffoonish and fascist as RealPlayer, it does like to grab some file extensions and QuickAlt allows no nags and full-screen playback. Both also include Media Player Classic - MPC is one of the top two or three video player programs available on Windows.

With a forehead like that, you should be on Star Trek.

Graham: I'm settling in well!

Sindre: Thank you for the Realplayer alternative. Finally!

I friggin loved the PC Gamer planting, man. That's deliciously cruel of you, but still very funny.

PS:If it's groovy with you, can I link to your blog from mine?

Richard: I slog on with NaNoWriMo, hopeful that the ultimate satisfaction of hitting 50,000 words will be enough to offset the pain and sacrifice it's taking to get there.

As for the BBC story, aren't you slightly miffed that while you got your forehead in shot, Graham managed to get his whole headphone crested noggin in there?

JohnMid: Tom, it's a shame you've hit a wall with NaNoWriMo (stupidest psuedoacronym ever), but I'll admit to being secretly relieved in a way that even professional writers (as you are now, officially, and gratz, wewt and all that to you) can stumble, if not fall, at the same hurdles that defeated me every time I tried to do something similar.

So I'd say. If you've got 20k-30k that would make a story you'd actually like to read youself, stuff the 50k target. Don't let the means become the end just for the sake of it.

Jason L: You've seen real info on Defcon. You bastard. :) I'm on the fence until I see it in action - Introversion has yet to put a foot wrong, but I've been burned by missile-trading games before...and their AI programming's not exactly famous.

Amirul B Ruslan: Heh. I finished NaNoWriMo, making it the youngest Malaysian ever to do so. It was a pain, yeah, but damn! the satisfaction.

I forced people to read my book. My godmother's doing it now, in its printed-binded glory.