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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.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

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

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life


SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Supreme Commander

Another trailer of this has just been released, mixing some new game footage with an interview with Chris Taylor. Taylor’s one of those virtuoso game designers: all zeal and vision; and it’s always a pleasure to hear him talk. He has Quentin Tarrantino’s characteristic spluttering urgency in trying to describe all the cool things he wants to tell you about as quickly as he’s thinking of them. I got an absolutely wonderful but almost entirely useless interview with him at a party in Beverly Hills a few weeks before E3, in which he spent around half the time trying to explain the hydraulics of the system by which the leader of the Cybrans – a brain in a jar – could move around his tank of preservative by thought alone. I guess a brain in a jar does everything by thought alone. But it was as hard as ever not to share his enthusiasm.

The other reason you should watch this is that I’m still convinced it’s going to be the best thing ever. Chris says it’s hard to go back to limited-zoom RTS’s after being able to back all the way up to see the full map in SupCom – he’s putting it lightly. I’ve had a headache (manifested in my middle finger) from banging my cranium against that glass ceiling ever since first seeing the game. I’m a particular fan of the long-game, in general – I play out every important phase of DEFCON in real-time, much to the ennui of my opponents, and I’m always straining against the interface of a game to put my plans into action. That’s been most of the challenge of the RTS for a long time – synchronising assaults, tending to the progress of your base and telling it what to build next, exploring the map click-by-click with your forward groups. All three of those things can be defined from moment one here, which is a brave move. What if those were the fun? DEFCON succeeds by doing the opposite – automating less, forcing you be a frontline general by doing everything yourself. But SupCom’s usability enhancements are doing something equally appealing: promoting you. A Supreme Commander cares not for caretaking work. The interface between you and the game world is now a lieutenant in your army: you tell it what you need doing, and it takes care of the particulars. It flatters you somewhat by assuming you have higher things on your mind, grander schemes.

I came late to Total Annihilation, only playing it properly when it was already ancient. What’s almost as striking as its brilliance is how little it has influenced since – the RTS took nothing from its sublime formula, ignored every innovation except its least interesting one: 3D terrain. Playing it now is like uncovering an alien artifact that fell to Earth long ago – you can’t ignore how old it is, but that doesn’t explain how it can be so far in advance of everything we’ve done so far.


Jason L: Brother! Someone else whom I "know" gets TA!...though I bought it on release, got in embarrassing fourteen-year-old forum flamewars with Dark Reign 2 fans, and played it on my poor choking 16MB P90 :) It really is puzzling that people still haven't implemented so many of the innovations it left lying around, ten years later; I've barely been able to play an RTS since. Homeworld's story and reasonable attempt at command tools pulled me through, and if you haven't played Battlezone it's brilliant and has the same "useful assistant" feel to its interface and AI - albeit in a vastly different tactical setting.

I feel this is at least a bit related. Games as "lead users" for computer-human interface advancement: ...ution.html

Jason L: Er, just Dark Reign I guess. Of course, which one's remembered now? Ha-hah!

Jason L: I just ran across your comments on Quartertothree thanks to a Google gang slightly aglay. I'm sorry to hear that the game's still a Tier 3 race like TA's Bertha dynamic, but I think I still prefer that to the lack of power, size or subtlety in most games. For the experts the answer is that he should've been hurting too much to get the killer tech before you could react, and for cheerful incompetents like me, it simply doesn't matter.

Diane Quirk: Great