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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

Let Them Eat Facts

It’s that bi-annual tradition of looking through the top twenty search results that lead people here, noticing that they’re all wildly misleading, and in the spirit of giving people what they want, or at least what other people once wanted, trying to address those curiosities. In descending order of wantedness!

wii controller
Yeah. I was pretty wild about the idea, but I was dreaming of something more precise and reliable than this. Without those qualities this can’t replace the mouse in the way I wanted it to, but it’s still vastly more pleasurable to use than any other console controller. That’ll prove its main contribution to games: making individual actions pleasurable, rather than more sophisticated or artful, and there’s masses of unexplored territory there for games about smashing things up, hitting stuff and chucking it around. In other words, exactly the kind of off-the-wall concept-driven stuff Nintendo can do well.

ah that wonderful ability sylar script heroes
You refer, I imagine, to Sylar’s line to Eden in episode 11:

“That wonderful ability – the power of persuasion – and all this time you were the girl next-door.”

There is no preceding “ah”, but you are spelling Sylar right so I’ll let you off. The line precedes an extraordinary moment in that episode, but… this is going to be another Can I Just Say? Can I just say that Sylar already has the power of persuasion: he was about to make an FBI agent shoot herself in the head in his first proper scene, until he was himself shot. It’s not inconceivable that someone with mind-control could still admire the functionally very similar ability of vocal persuasion, but his lust for it in that scene is hard to understand. Ditto for his obsession with obtaining Claire’s power, when he’s already demonstrated many times that he’s impervious to physical harm just like her.

extra life omlette aliens
Okay, I lost you at ‘omlette aliens’. Extra Life is a section of our magazine that I contribute to, but if you’re looking for omelette aliens you may have meant ‘extra-terrestrial life’. You’re mis-spelling omelette, too, so I’m not going to try very hard to find out what you were looking for, find it or bring it to you.

My unfaithful friend. This is the woman whose search-engine usage over the three months for which AOL decided to publish her and three-thousand other people’s personal data painted a picture of a sad, broken modern life, quite literally warts-and-all. She’s a loathesome, deceitful, callous woman, but reading those search queries gives you such a comprehensive understanding of her life, thoughts and motivations that it’s impossible not to understand her. And understanding, it turns out, really does lead to a strange kind of forgiveness, or perhaps just acceptance. If you knew with this level of certainty, this level of insight, why everyone did what they did, it’d be hard to ever truly hate again. She probably won’t go down as a victim of one of the most heinous breaches of privacy, but I think she warrants the title most complete, most merciless, most interesting.

“rhetorical bombast aside”
Okay, hands up who searched for this. I mentioned it as something I was particularly pleased to see written on this site, by commenter Jason L, and it looks from this search like there’s only one other site in Google’s brainbanks that’s ever used the phrase. I didn’t search for it, until just now. DID HE?
i donloaded a video file with bittorrent but it is a blank white page
Okay well your first mistake was to donload, rather than download, it. Your second was probably to open the .torrent file as it were the movie, or perhaps just open it with the wrong program. Your third was to confess to what was almost certainly a crime in a search string. Next time try “I hear movie pirates sometimes find that the video files they download with BitTorrent come up as blank white pages, and that there is a solution to this problem. I wonder what that solution is, so that I can undermine it, in order to scupper pirates, whom I hate.”

battlefield 2142 disc doesnt recognise
I know! It’s a complete dick. My Battlefield 2 disc was clasped so tightly in its case that it cracked before it would come out, and now my 2142 one goes completely unrecognised on about half the machines I’ve tried it on. I wouldn’t care if EA’s digital distribution system worked in any goddamn way whatsoever, but my legitimate copy on that has never once launched successfully, and their tech support guys have simply given up trying to help me. I was only trying them to see what they’d do – I’ve got access to a working disc that I can use to play anyway – and they failed utterly. I should expose them, if only that were the kind of thing anyone would care to read.

“zombie zombie zombie” virus virus flash
I can’t decide which is more intriguing, what this person was looking for or the fact that I must, once, have said “zombie zombie zombie”. Without that second ‘virus’ he could almost be searching for an infection his PC has suffered that involved printing the undead triplet somewhere, but as it is he seems to be penning a tribal chant for our times, to be sung around bonfires while stomping and bouncing in a slow-moving circle.

delicious pentadact
Aren’t I just, though?

getting windows to recognise a wiimote
I believe you need Glovepie. I have no idea what it is. Those are just words to me, and ones that need a space between them at the very least.

just cause where is the fighter jet
I actually can’t answer that one. I did find it, but I don’t recall where and our review code has now expired. Guides online are surprisingly rubbish, too. If it’s any consolation, the only time the jets are really fun are on the missions when you’re given them to begin with – the rest of the time there’s not much to chase. You could always get in a lot of trouble with the cops and grappling hook one.

primer movie wikipedia
I’m going to assume you found what you were looking for, and not mock you for using Google to find something when you already knew where it was. I use Firefox’s Google-powered address bar to virtually describe where I want to go and assume that it’ll jump me straight to the right page. Addresses are so passé.

replacement nintendo sensor bar
I hear a candle works. I hear it’s actually a bit of a misnomer – the bar isn’t sensing anything, it’s putting out IR for the Wiimote to detect, and it’s the controller itself that works out where it’s pointing and sends that info to the console via the same Bluetooth link the accelerometer uses.

incurably ill dvd
Get a new one?

last episode of dexter
Pretty good, wasn’t it? I loved the confetti bit right at the end, it needed to go back to how fucked up he was.

morrowind sexy armor for females mod
I could help you, since my staggering knowledge of the later Elder Scrolls series extends even to things I would rather not know, but I get the impression you’re not the kind of person I want to help.

Jason L: I must confess that I did search for it a couple of times, when I wanted to refer to that post and your navigation was broken; only a couple, though. I assumed when I used it that it was a standard rhetorical phrase; it's interesting to see it attract some statistically significant sample of surfers.

This seems an appropriate place to alert you that james1.htm is for some reason no longer crawled by Google. I'm sorry to say that this may cast doubt on the validity of your results.

Thomas Lawrence: "Can I just say that Sylar already has the power of persuasion: he was about to make an FBI agent shoot herself in the head in his first proper scene, until he was himself shot."

What we saw was that Sylar forced the FBI lady to put the gun to her head. How he did that - whether by simple telkenetic forcing of the gun to her head, much as one might grab someones arm to push something they were holding somewhere, or by mind control, is up for grabs. However, the implication from his interaction with Eden is that he merely telekinetically pressed the gun against her head, and he lacks any mind control ability.

"...his lust for it in that scene is hard to understand. Ditto for his obsession with obtaining Claire’s power, when he’s already demonstrated many times that he’s impervious to physical harm just like her."

He's demonstrated he's impervious to bullets, or at least only temporarily stalled by them. He's also demonstrated that a fall off a roof does injure him somewhat - he was limping when Eden and the Haitian first brought him in after his tussle (and fall off the roof) with Peter.

Hence, he clearly isn't utterly impervious to harm. My bet is he mostly just uses telekinesis to deflect harm from him, although he isn't so finessed at it that bullets miss him completely, or that a large fall won't involve some degree of pain.

It's also possible his resitance to harm is the result of some other power entirely which he has, in which case his interest in Claire is to extend, supplement or improve that.

Another possibility is it's just one of those writer errors/continuity inconsistencies/canonicity problems which inevitably plague any endeavour of this variety which goes on for any length of time. I get the feeling that episodes are not written very far in advance of their air dates, so stuff like ths may be prone to changes and rethinks mid-season. An unfortunate artefact of the way television is produced in America.

I remain hopeful that all continuity issues regarding Sylar's powers will somehow be resolved, though, perhaps in the manner I outline above. I'm pretty damn certain he's no powers of mind control whatever, though, and that we've never been led to draw that inference.

Tom Francis: Ah, good point! I hadn't thought of that. I'm so used to that "I'm being forced to do something against my will by a parasite/telepath/subspace anomaly expression that I just assumed mind-control. Telekinesis makes perfect sense, though, I'm sure you're right.

Not quite so sold on the telekinetic protection idea - it'd be odd that he always catches them just as they hit him, irrespective of range and impact type. I've been assuming he has a sort of stone-skin power, a bit different from Claire's rapid-heal. Perhaps, as you say, the two would combine favourably. He tells Eden that they both know the gun she has pointed at his head wouldn't hurt him.

I liked it when Sylar had a lot of powers no other hero we'd seen had possessed - even now we know that he started with no direct powers of his own, I like never quite knowing what he's capable of. He's still so much fun to watch even now the rest of the mystique is gone entirely. I keep changing my opinion on this, but after the last episode my new favourite power is firmly Telekinesis. The way he needs - or just likes - to perform a small physical gesture to create the force ironically makes it look even more effortless than if he didn't move at all.

Thomas Lawrence: Stone-skin would work, sure. Whatever it is, it's clearly not perfect (cf. the limping) and thus he still has something to gain from gaining Claire's power. Maybe the process he uses to attain new powers requires surgery (cf. anatomy books in his apartment, brain removal) that's painful to undergo/requires a long healing time? I've further been assuming that the need to "save the cheerleader" is to prevent Sylar getting her power, so it must be of some critical use to him.

I do love how he uses the telekinesis, and in general the way in which he wanders around as if quite unconcerned about what anyone (save HRG and the Haitian, it seems) might do to him. The way he put up a scarily convincing pretense of being a paper factory worker, but dropped it just as fast once he grew bored of it, totally screamed "I'm a mad serial killer". It was great.

His only other truly confirmed power, as I see it, is freezing people (cryokinesis, I guess), which we saw done to the corpse of one of the people at the scene where Matt "Psychic Cop" Parkman was introduced and found that girl Molly.

Graham: Telekinesis was what I thought it was too, by the way. I just want you to know that I'm really smart, and had that all figured out before reading the comments.

However, Eden shot herself to stop Sylar from getting her power. He didn't use any control over her to turn the gun towards her.

As for the bullets, I was kind of working under the assumption that Sylar could pass through things, at least in some limited capacity. We've seem him disappear from places almost in an instant, with no apparent exit, and the houses that Psychic Cop visited all had people fused into the walls, if I recall. The problem is, it doesn't explain why he didn't just walk out of his holding cell at first, before they started drugging him. Which means that my idea is totally meritless and stupid.

Good times.

Graham: None of my HTML tags worked. That's just mean.

Rob: I was under the impression that he could fly, after that chase with FBI Girl From Carnivale, until he fell off the roof with Peter.

More interestingly.. I'm convinced that Mr. Bennet (I loved that "Why do you guys always call him Mr. Bennet?" line in the last episode) has powers of his own. At first I thought it was X-ray vision, with the way he fiddles with his glasses. But then he would have dealt with Claire a lot easier.

Now I'm more sure he can clone himself or appear in more than one place, since he was clearly locked in a sealed room and then miraculously arrived in time to save the day.

So why didn't Sylar steal his power. He has the ability to see how people work internally, so he would know about it. Which must mean that Bennet doesn't have a power, or the writers are a little confused on the issue..

Thomas Lawrence: I think the Haitian just let him out of the sealed room, personally.

I'm pretty sure Mr. Bennett is sans superpower. Dramatic licence has him turning up on time, nothing more.

Amirul B Ruslan: Just out of pure wonderment, though, where is this search site?

Tom Francis: It's Google.

Who is John Galt?: Really Slyer should not be able to catch bullets.... it's not a problem with his telekinesis power, it is his reaction time.
Unless he has an unknown power that lets him slow down time or lets him move at a high rate of speeds like the flash. Then he should not be able to stop bullets or anything traveling faster than thae speed of sound. That always makes me wonder when he caght Dr.Sureshes bullet in one episode. maby he created a sheild with his telekinesis. A high rate of speed would explain his dissapearing ability. he moves fatser than the eye can follow.

fat tony: THis web site is shit and this is all bull shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wank job

Tom Francis: I'm guessing that's the 'extra life omlette aliens' guy.

Jazmeister: "[...]I remain hopeful that all continuity issues regarding Sylar's powers will somehow be resolved[...]"

This is a great idea for a post.

One of my search strings is "Mouth Shitting".

I want to play TF2. Why the hell don't I then? Right, bye then.