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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

I Am About To Play One Of These Games


Battlefield 2142 Demo: Yes, I have the full version, and yes, thank you for noticing, I am the very model of a futuristic Major General, with forty unlocks to his name and medals alphabetical (G&S FTW, S60 FTLOL). But they’ve shut down the review servers now, and so I must play with the great unwashed on the terribly unreliable demo servers. Often, the great unwashed shoot me repeatedly in the face, inexplicably disregarding my rank.

Still, I have been mostly holding my own. Battlefield is only fun when you have some success, and one morning this week I destroyed three Titans, got two gold and one silver medal and cut four soldiers’ dog-tags before breakfast. That is the start to a good day. 2142 is also a great way to stay up – win or lose, the sheer concentration of adrenaline in my system from this game makes fatigue seem a distant and absurd concept. Sometimes that adrenaline is causing me to break my mouse in frustration, or splutter in an unmanly high-pitched voice at the injustice of it all. Counter-intuitively this is not the sign of a bad game – it comes up a lot when I’m playing a bad game, but watch closely for the moment shortly after, when it happens again and I just sigh irritatedly. That’s the sign of a bad game. In Battlefield 2 and 2142, my searing, spastic, apoplectic rage never subsides. I always care because I always believe in it, and it’s always “FUCK!” instead of “Oh fuck it then.” That, as N fans will attest, is the sign of a good game.


DEFCON: It’s out! It’s selling! People love it! I cruelly ignore this when reviewing their games, but I have an enormous fondness for Introversion. It’s mainly because of Darwinia. People would sometimes ask me, of that, “Yeah, but is it really good, or do you just like it because it’s indie?” It is really good. It’s one of the ten best games ever made. It’s special in some ways that even Half-Life 2, Deus Ex, and Oblivion are not – it has a coherence of vision, a richness of imagination, a warmth of some kind it’s hard to articulate. Those aren’t the most important things about a game, or it would be better than The Big Three, but it has these things which they do not. More than anything, it couldn’t have been made by anyone else. So I am pleased that everyone is finding DEFCON as much fun as I did, and that they are obeying the Must Buy award I gave it. Even if I am sort of hoping they make something more like Darwinia next.

Until quite recently I was quite good at DEFCON. My first public game with five strangers went appallingly, and I’d just decided I’d been rubbish all along when I noticed that it was fifteen minutes past the end of my lunchbreak and I had won by a staggering margin. Then I tried Diplomacy. In Diplomacy, all the nations of the world start in the same alliance, and the action only starts when one betrays it, or the rest vote to kick him out. I am not good at Diplomacy. I should play the regular mode again now to see if coming dead-last as the strongest territory in the game has ruined my confidence to the extent that my early-game bravado will lack the conviction it needs to convince the other players that I’m an idiot and don’t need to be attacked because I’ve probably spent all my nukes anyway and surely won’t NUKE YOU HARD IN THE CAPITOL the second your silos hit launch mode.

Company Of Heroes: I know, rationally, that this will be very good. I have it right here. It got 94%. I love Relic, I think Dawn Of War is my favourite RTS. And yet that little silver quicklaunch icon never gets any more tempting. I’ve even played enough of Company – at a press event in Hollywood and on this very machine for a few minutes one morning (morning gaming is a habit) – to know that I love it. But oh God, do I really want to go back to World War II? I’ve fought every miserable minute of that wretched struggle from every conceivable angle, and I want to forget it almost as badly as the people who lived through it. This isn’t ennui, it’s shellshock. If I put Company off long enough, maybe they’ll make Dawn Of War 2 with all the stuff that makes it great? I’ve heard it’s similar to Dawn, but to me they couldn’t be more different: one is set in the most exciting universe the human mind has ever dreamed up, the other is set in the most miserable time and place in human history.

UT2004 2006-09-12 00-01-58-21

UT2004: I suddenly realised why Half-Life 2 Deathmatch was the only multiplayer game I did well in. I liked it. So I played it. You actually improve at something if you do it a lot. So I went back to the other one I liked, UT2004, and played that a lot. And lo! I could beat Adept bots. In fact, I started doing the thing you often see arch villains do: have my minions attack me in absurdly unfair fights, me outnumbered sixteen to one, and see if – okay, to show them – I could take them all on. If you add in the Bullet Time and Ninja Rope mutators, you can crank up the odds to even more absurd levels, and be even more awesome. I call this mode Arch-Villain Arena, and the ability to mess with UT to create things like this is one of the reasons I love it so much. There’s a common mathematical misconception that less is more – I’ve done two modules in advanced number theory, and I can tell you first hand that more is much more than less. In fact, if you research the etymology of the word to the extent that I have, you find that its roots are closely tied to those of ‘more’ itself.

HitmanBloodMoney 2006-09-24 09-55-42-27

Hitman: Blood Money: I almost feel I’ve talked enough about this, but I’ll just say that the scope for macabre finesse in this game is narcotic.

So: Which? I was hoping writing briefly about all the amazing games on offer right now would somehow clarify the most appealing option, but I still have no idea. Maybe I’ll just watch TV.

The_B: All the above. Then becoming a Futuristic Nuclear Head Shotting Hitman War Veteran. Or something.