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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

A Weak Russian Sunset

It’s Sunday night, but I’m on holiday! I am spared that awful Sunday night feeling, somehow so much worse than Monday morning, when I realise that I actually like my job. I wasted the first two days of my holiday sleeping ten hours a night to recover from my three-week binge of sub-five-hour nights and an inescapable drowning feeling. The only upside of that sorry cycle is that I get the wholly wonderful song Feather By Feather stuck in my head, by the increasingly wonderful Smog, largely thanks to the gallingly wonderful opening verse:

You spend half of the morning
Just trying to wake up,
Half the evening
Just trying to calm down.

The reason I’m telling you of all people this is that losing an irreplacable chunk of the next day – particularly in winter – gives things a weird, sad atmosphere. I’m waking up to weak yellow sunsets, a beautiful but incredibly bleak light that seemed to last all day in Moscow. Hang in there a little longer, we’re approaching the point now. There’s a map in Battlefield 2142 set in Minsk, Belarus, and the sky texture captures this exact sight, light and feel magnificently. I find myself loading it up, alone, and flying a futuristic airlift craft to the top of a skyscraper to get out and admire the view. It’s built for forty-eight players, but the testers have stopped playing so there are no multiplayer games going on. Not that I’d want gunfire spoiling the mood.


By divine coincidence I only just this week realised how much I like Two Dots On A Map by the Russian Futurists, another gem from the Fluxblog mines. Not only does it have ‘Russian’ in the band name, but it’s also magnificent, majestic, sweeping and unbearably sad. I don’t know what the backing vocals are saying, but the last lines are:

If we knew we were dying,
Is this how we’d leave things?

I choose to hear “If we knew we were” as implying that we are, but aren’t facing it. Which is true, and awful.

I actually thought this mopey wistfulness might be a sign of age, but I just now found a text file on my hard drive describing exactly the same thing, written by me in 2002. So I’m just repeating myself, which is worse.

So… I think I was trying to lead in to the subject of game-music associations, which are brilliant. My favourites:

Half-Life 2 and The Great Destroyer, by Low: two of the best things about planet Earth released at the same time – it was a good November. To this day I’ve never actually listened to Low while playing Half-Life 2, because I like Half-Life 2’s in-game music, but I alternated between the two so reliably that the connection forged nonetheless, and now I can’t stop at those weathered, deserted seaside shacks overlooking the glassy sargasso without hearing the exultant Walk Into The Sea, nor whack that childless dangling tyre with a crowbar and not hum a few bars of California. This is another sad one, isn’t it?

System Shock 2 and Cobra And Phases Groop Play Voltage In The Milky Night, by Stereolab: ba-ba b’dow b’dah. Bubbly futuristic electro-pop played over paranoid dystopian futuristic action RPG. I subconsciously reconciled the two by identifying this album’s off-kilter jauntiness with the hollow optimisim of Xerxes’ pre-recorded broadcasts to the long-dead crew of the Von Braun. Good save, subconscious!

Deus Ex and Voodoo Wop, by Clinic: itchy stompy scary medical drone punk played over a nocturnal interactive conspiracy theory? Well, they’re both uneasy, inaccessible and dark.

Hitman: Blood Money and Deep Cuts, by The Knife: sheer coincidence, I assure you, that I got into these at the same time and that the last screenshot I posted of Hitman was of cutting someone deeply with a knife. There’s no connection between music and game beyond the violent overtones – The Knife aren’t even that sinister, a lot of the songs are upbeat or simmeringly sexy.

Yeah, so they’re a little sinister.

craigp: That would make an awesome halloween costume.

craigp: Actually, riffing on any of the costumes 47 wears in game would make awesome get-ups. Is anyone having a party this year?

The_B: The thought of you guys all wearing bald caps in the office is slightly disturbing. I approve.

Well, except Ross. Maybe he can be a victim or something...

Jason L: Feather by Feather, aside from its inherent excellence, is also eerily and consistently devastating for anyone who loves the anime Haibane Renmei. I assure you.

Jason L: ...except I now find out that the songwriter and I have vastly different opinions on what the song means. Drat. I shall have to forget with all speed.