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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

Half-Life 3: Episode 1


We didn’t make hats this time, but I booked the office as late as it goes (22.00), we got some Chinese food in and hung around for the release time, Craig, Graham and I. The worldwide simultaneous online launch is one of my favourite things about the Half-Life experience now, I absolutely love the feeling of a global unwrapping of this insanely exciting present. My office PC hadn’t preloaded it, absurdly, impossibly, maddeningly, so I had to scramble round to Tim’s and try not to look at Craig’s screen as he was first in. I repeatedly shouted “Shut up!” at every gasp and expletive it inspired, and tried to ignore Graham’s reaction as he got to the same bits. After scrambling wildly to install my mouse on Tim’s machine (I wasn’t about to settle for a freaking Microsoft one for something as important as this), I finally got in about fifteen minutes late, and played until Security kicked us out, which was oh-so-perfectly just as I reached the end.

Oh yes, the title – it does say Half-Life 2: Episode One on the title screen, but Gabe Newell consistently refers to this as Half-Life 3: Episode One, and indeed this episodic trilogy as the entirety of Half-Life 3. And I think its important to acknowledge the momentousness of the event – this isn’t a stopgap, this is it.

That beginning: holy shit. I don’t understand the technical bits of how the Source engine has changed, but that sequence so massively exceeds your expectations of how good Half-Life 2 can look that it suddenly feels like something properly new, not just Half-Life 2 deleted scenes. Valve have always been the only people who can make game characters touch each other properly, and the interaction between the Vortigaunts and Alyx at the start is one of the most extraordinary bits of animation I’ve ever seen in a game. All the other most extraordinary bits of animation I’ve ever seen in a game happen in the next five minutes, and most of them are on Dog.

One, of course, is being hugged. I am being hugged, by a game character. This is… nice. Perhaps slightly nicer than it has any right to be, given what it actually is. It’s not the last time the force of Alyx’s emotion surprises you – she is utterly flabergasted by your performance at one point, and is genuinely traumatised at another. All three times it jars you out of the mindset in which she is a friendly combatant, rather than a character. The rest of the advances in AI companionship are fixes rather than features – it took Herculean effort to prevent her from being annoying or a liability, but the result is by definition something you don’t notice.

Episode One’s two potential shortcomings cancel each other out: one, it’s short. Two, it’s still in City 17. Three and a half hours every six months works out to a little over one minute of game per day. I actually found its length satisfying – I did masses in that time, so it felt substantial. But it was helped a lot by the fact that I have spent a lot of freaking time in City 17. It’s the defining feature of the Half-Life games that every section is just slightly longer than the human mind can comfortably endure – you’re always a little exhausted after any given section, and it’s designed that way because that’s the threshold past which your brain registers an experience as signifcant. So every Half-Life player remembers Surface Tension intimately, whereas I couldn’t name you or describe a single level of Quake. As ever, it’s just right because it’s just wrong – it’s slightly longer than it was possible for me to enjoy a single setting, so exhaustion set in shortly before it ended, leaving me relieved to be leaving without having suffered for more than a minute or two. More than any other Half-Life location, leaving City 17 is profoundly cathartic. We’ve done, seen and felt so much there that – however wonderful it was – we never want to go back.


Dabs: I've talked about Ep 1 to death, so I'll just plainly agree with what you said above now. But just felt compelled to say that that lower image, i.e. the sight of the resistance fighters at the station, peering longingly out of the window, represented a very profound moment for me. Freedom. Freedom from the hell of City 17 after 20+ hours of intense fighting and years of repression. Even though your train didn't make it, I still felt happy by the end that at least they finally made it out of there.

At least I think they did. :/

Bobsy: Dabs, I agree with you there. Have you played System Shock 2? There's an equally wonderful bit in that, where two other survivors escape in a pod just seconds before you catch up. I let out a cheer the first time I saw it, because it meant that whatever happened next, even if I entirely failed myself, someone had made it out alive.

The_B: As much I could elaborate on all the little touches, like setting Zombies alight with the power of flares, the dark sections where Alyx does her little moan - stop sniggering at the back - and THAT moment right at the end (to say any more would spoil it), instread I shall just say this about Episode 1:


Tom Francis: I loved the pose of the rebel man and woman at the train station, and took about twenty shots, but I must say I never quite felt for the rebels or citizens much. They're too interchangable, too few faces for me to believe their lives are unique things of value.

I was glad I got out, though. Even if not all the way.

craigp: We should have made hats.

The_B: OK, this has been bugging me since I saw this picture, so I'll have to do it: Comedy Caption Time!

Frank was a little worried that the urinals weren't quite as private as he first thought...

Dabs: Bobsy: I never got to the end of it sadly. My wussiness at the time got the better of me, and I just had to stop playing it for fear of my heart exploding. I can survial horror games for breakfast usually, but Shock 2 just does scariness too well. Should really return to it one day soon, presuming I now have the stones to pick up where I left off.

BABA-The Hacker: Frankly, with episodic content you should know where you're going to end up.

...but Episode Two was so damn good that I can't completely wave my finger at their creative process.

But i knw its a big project to start a long adventurous HL3... as HL2 took approximately 4 years.....