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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

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

I saw Spiderman 3 yesterday, so here’s my review of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It – unlike Spiderman 3 – is fantastic.

It’s the 1978 remake I’m talking about, with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy and a very young and very excellent Jeff Goldblum. It is a strange concept to me that a movie released before I was born could be a modernisation of something even older (were eyes even invented before then? Mine weren’t), but from what little I know of the original, it doesn’t seem like a remake the way they do them today. It’s darker, truer to its premise and closer to the original novel than the first film version, almost a de-Hollywoodisation by comparison.

Oh, I should probably explain why I’m suddenly talking about an incredibly well-known 1978 classic sci-fi film. Er, it was on TV last night. And I hadn’t seen it before, and thought I should, even though I rarely like old films, and I even less often like old films that are considered classics. Classic seems to mean ‘no longer any good’. I have some classic cheese in my fridge.

But I was amazed by this, and more importantly horrified by it – I think more so than at the Ring films. The cultural touchstone it spawned was about this idea of everyone going about business as usual, but somehow not being themselves, lacking emotion. That’s not very scary. It doesn’t get scary until so many humans have been replaced by ‘pod people’ that the humans are trying to blend in with the pod people rather than vice versa.

People have to pretend to be people pretending to be people. The film is never explicit about how many have changed, partly because the ambiguity is part of the menace, but there is a distinct turning point. Because from that point on, whenever a pod person discovers a human in public, they point at them and scream.

It feeds on two potent psychological tricks that don’t get used enough: firstly, that there’s nothing more horrifying than something that’s absolutely horrified of you. And secondly, the scariest images are also the most absurd – and potentially comic.

I came across an incredibly spoilerific screenshot from the film while digging out the image above (which is not spoilerific – it never happens in the film), which captures the most brilliant, horrible and chilling moment, but just looks hilarious out of context. It’s hard to imagine a more modern film daring to do something so easy to mock, but Body Snatchers leads up to it gradually and creepily, so that when you’re actually watching it (alone, or with people who can shut the hell up), it’s terrifying.

There’s also an extraordinary scene where pod people hatch all around Donald Sutherland as he sleeps in a deckchair outside, all born adult but malformed, and they’re oddly convincing. They make odd noises as they hatch, but not the bland sci-fi squelching almost every other film involving aliens succumbs to. It’s remarkable what a difference that makes – these things were done with puppets thirty years ago, and they’re creepier than any CGI I’ve seen.

Then there’s the dog thing. I have no earthly idea what the dog thing is all about. The film is otherwise very consistent, and even corrects some nonsenses of the original. Then there’s a dog thing, and it’s sudden and unexplained and utterly horrible, but again, probably just funny out of context. I would think if you have seen the film, it would have been a long time ago, so I’d be intrigued to know if anyone remembers the dog thing.

Zeno Cosini: I remember the dog thing. The horror is deepened by the manic banjo music that plays, briefly, as it scampers past.

Timmargh: I remember the dog thing. Good film; fucking superb ending.

PiGFoetus: Don't sleep too close to your dog when bodysnatching aliens are about. Actually, do. That way they won't pass for regular people when they replace you and that will foil their plans. I wonder if a similar effect could be gained simply by keeping a hamster in one's pocket?

They don't actually snatch bodies anyway. "Invasion of the Body Replacers" would technically be more accurate.

Yootha: 1. Watch again - the dog thing IS explained - we are introduced to the tramp & his dog early in the film - then about halfway through we see them both asleep next to a pod. Bennell kicks the pod in disgust as he walks past - the pod oozes goo - it is damaged.

Later we see "the dog thing" - as a result of Bennell's kick, the pod malfunctioned & made an amalgum of the two nearest life forms to it. Hence the dog with a man's head. To other pod people, it was simply one of them. To a human, it was shocking (and therefore a giveaway when Elizabeth saw it & reacted with horror).

Fantastic film & the two subsequent remakes aren't a patch on it. 1978 all the way