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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



Really, really like the look of this. New York City is my favourite place on Earth so far, and this doesn’t just look like it, it feels like it. Of course, my favourite thing about NYC is that the people are a) diverse and b) frequently shockingly nice, and the defining feature of the 3D GTA games has been that the people in them are a) a handful of clones and b) incessently and predictably hateful. So that’s probably not going to work out.

But this is the first time since we were last in Liberty City that a GTA game hasn’t been garish. It looks serious, sombre. Try to picture a Vice City or San Andreas trailer with that music. This looks majestic. However amateurish the combat and missions have been in GTA games, the one thing they do with professional aplomb is storytelling. If they’re choosing to tell the story of a slave-trading (bride-selling?) Russian immigrant, they’ll tell it with the appropriate gravity.

They told Vice City’s Scarface tale with appropriate style, and San Andreas’s homecoming with appropriate attitude. But in Vice City I was a mealy-mouthed prick, and in San Andreas I was a sad, stupid little man. If I can’t be the mute blank slate in a leather jacket I was in GTA3, a depressed and amoral Eastern European is still a dramatic step up.


Dabs: I want to play this more than any other game I've ever wanted to play. This'll be the reaosn I finally pick up a 360 or PS3 and the decision which will be exclusively based upon which version is the stronger product. There's some discussion going on regarding the finer details of the trailer over on Preys-World, if you're at all interested:

http://forum.preys-w... ...;start=240

Dabs: I want to play this more than any other game I've ever wanted to play. This'll be the reason I finally pick up a 360 or PS3 and the decision which will be exclusively based upon which version is the stronger product. There's some discussion going on regarding the finer details of the trailer over on Preys-World, if you're at all interested:

Dabs: I want to play this more than any other game I've ever wanted to play. This'll be the reaosn I finally pick up a 360 or PS3 and the decision which will be exclusively based upon which version is the stronger product.

Tim E: I think Dabs really, really likes it.

Dabs: Just a tad. I would happily sacrifice Valve to play this right now.

Sorry for the triple post also - obviously feel free to delete the bottom two.

Tom Francis: But then Tim's joke wouldn't work. And if I deleted that, I'd have to delete your response to it, and this response to that. It would be a catastrophic deletion-cascade. Tell you what, I'll fix one of the 'reaosn's.

Why the delerium, anyway? Did you prefer the previous GTA games to the Half-Life games?

The_B: You know, I was pointing the exact same thing out to my flatmates today: this does appear to be the first GTA game that doesn't seem as "cartoonish" as the others. On one hand, it makes me slightly excited to see the series grow up.

On the other hand. Well, we already have the NYC politicians up in arms for no real reason already. I think that speaks for itself.

Dabs: Needless to say it's a difficult comparison. I've never made it a secret that I'm fanboy-mad about both, although if I was put back in time 8 years and someone told me you can either play no Half-Life games from now on or no more GTA games, I'd not hesitate to wave Gordon off. I love GTA's 'make your own fun' freedom, its sense of humour, its scope, the cars (their variety, how they handle ... as a car nut, I'm especially about the cars). There's so much about it that I love and so often I could keep returning to it, if only I had the ocean of available time required. As great as Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are, the things they're good at are far fewer in number and the amount of entertainment that you can reasonably draw from them is far less, in my own experience at least.

I feel pretty safe saying that when I play Episode Two, I'll love it for its 6-hour duration and will be satisfied when it's over but I know that when I play GTA IV, I will love it even more and for months.

Dabs: Also, speaking of IV specifically, it looks especially incredible. Liberty City, and by extension GTA 3 as a whole, was comfortably my favourite of the post-GTA 2 GTAs, and as you've explained well yourself, this looks, by quite a long way, even better - "majestic". Also, whilst I wasn't immediately sure what I made of the character, an Eastern European ex-human-trafficker is intriguing enough for me to have faith in Rockstar North that they'll be able to do his story justice.Basically, I just think this game has massive potential based on that teaser and what excites me is that it's RN who'll be exploring it.

Tom Francis: That quote was hilarious. "Crime? In New York City? Oh, you and your games!"

Dabs: It was the "selling pornography to children" to "advance in the game" one that got me. Someone remind me which mission that was because I'm a bit foggy.

Graham: Part of me is glad they're bringing the franchise back to grit, to its core legitimacy and the kind of charicatured reality we saw in GTA3, rather than Vice City or San Andreas.

Another part of me is hoping telephone boxes still vocally squiggle when you answer them, and that the Russian isn't as sulky as he appears in the video. Someone needs to tell him to cheer up.

All parts of me are hoping they fix the combat, make the missions more fun, and give you actual agency over the city.

Rob: I'm sure they'll fix the combat, it's been on the critical nag list since GTA III and if they don't get it right this time (despite the fact that similar games since like Saints Row and Crackdown have also got it wrong) then I don't see Rockstar's critical cadre remaining entirely positive.

I don't think the characters in previous games were clones - unless you're talking about the pedestrians, etc, which was surely only a technical neccesity. The speaking cast of all the GTAs have been witty and vibrant like no other series. Uniformly hateful, perhaps, but that's the particular slice of life it's trying to portray, and I'm sure that however amazing NYC is it has just the same amount of hate in it as anywhere else.

I think that the gaming public (and surely yourself) is easily able to distinguish between real life NYC and Rockstars own inflected Liberty City version. It has always been based on it, and bared a strong resemblence, and I think now that they have the hardware to do it justice, they're going for an even more accurate take on it because this can only allow them more accurate satire, which is ultimately their game.

It's the right time to get serious, and I'm pretty sure they'll do it without disrespecting anyone or thing that doesn't deserve it.