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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

Gamespot Finally Do The Logical Thing

And start marking games out of nineteen. Nineteen.

The scale still goes up to 10.0, the stupidest number in the world, but no game is permitted to score less than 1.0. Reviewers can still score to one decimal point, but only if they want to give it .5. And if they do, it can’t be a 0.5.

One of the many, many things I love about this announcement is editor Jeff’s thinly veiled astonishment and disgust at the surreal new system. “While I’ll personally miss the ability to give games a 6.8, I look forward to eliminating quibbles about the quality differences between games that are only a tenth of a point apart.”

I agree. I don’t know how we ever worked out which was better out of 7.9 and 8.0. It was baffling. And they were out of ten? What is this ‘ten’?

“You’re busy. You don’t have time to stare at one game that got a 5.2 and another that got a 5.3 and puzzle out what the big difference is.”

It was the ULTIMATE MYSTERY. There was no way of knowing. Nothing short of looking at the score could get you that information.

“We’ve been working on this update for quite some time now…” Here, this is your first tip-off that your planned scoring system is insane. If a way of rating something takes “some time” to work on, that is because it is not in fact mathematics but rather some sort of beat poetry with numbers.

In case I haven’t made this clear yet, I loathe everyone’s scoring system except ours and those identical to ours. This is because I am numerate.

7.5/10 is a decimal atop a fraction and never made a lick of sense, but this is a country mile further from Sanesville Tennessee. If Gamespot give something 7.5 now, that’s not 7.5 out of 10. It doesn’t translate to 75%. This, honest-to-god, is the equation you now have to put Gamespot scores through: (G – 1) * 10 / 9 = S, where G is the Gamespot score and S is any kind of rational system.

I once came across a website that marked out of twenty, but allowed quarter-points. They come close – close – to being as dumb as this, but it’s that fatal 1.0 minimum that just can’t be beat. This is, officially, the stupidest scoring system on the internet. And I say that as a man who gave a film “Bat out of bat.”

Oh wait, it’s cool. Now they’ve got a medal for “Xtreme Baditude.”

I leave you with a Daily Show-style moment of zen that is at once beyond, beneath and beside parody.

“With fewer scores to choose from, our review team will be able to speak more definitively about games. By eliminating scores like 7.9, we’re no longer able to say “this game is almost great, but not quite. Now our choices will be to say “yes, this is a great game” and give it an 8.0, or say “this game is good, but not great” and go with a 7.5.”

Score: (1.0 – 1) * 10 / 9

Rossignol: I've long contended that all games should be marked out of 12,000. More numbers means more journalism!

Also, what about this scoring system: http://www.spaaace.c... ...cope/?p=46

Iain: Skog and I came up with a hugely pretentious marking scheme for the (now sadly defunct) Truth Lasers blog.

It was based on the marking scheme Robin Williams calls "excrement" in Dead Poets Society, where you plot a graph of perfection versus importance and use the area to "greatness". We did it using arbitrarily large numbers, 300 for each axis (if I recall correctly) so that you had an "area" score out of 90,000. Clearly the way forward...

Tom Francis: Jim: the angels and devils thing is ace, we should totally go with that. Who is that guy?

Iain: I started to think I might be a geek when, while watching the Dead Poets Society, I found myself thinking "What an awesome rating system! That totally quantifies greatness in a really logical way."

I talk like that in my thoughts.

Tom Francis: In fact, if you drew the angel and devil faces inside the shaded block, you'd have more or less the perfect scoring system.

For me, though, the axes would have to be 0 to 1. That way the area would produce a result within the same range. You'd probably want to square-root it to be on the safe side, too. Well, I would.

James Wallis: "Who is that guy?"

I've been asking myself that for several decades and I've still not got a decent answer.

Iain: If you *really* wanted to screw people up, you should have a hexadecimal rating system, with a range of scores from 00 to FF...

Base 10 scoring systems are *so* last millennium.

The_B: Binary systems are clearly the way forward!

*(Note: this may be extreme sarcasam and not actually represent the true feelings of The_B or indeed anyone who knows him...)

Rob: Gamespot are on to something here. Why restrict ourselves to base ten? Decimal is the past; it's scratches on rock, it's Roman numerals. The future? The future is fractions of Pi, and all scores being expressed in the golden ratio. I see no other way forward for game journalism.

(Cynic Mode Engaged: Or, you could just view the removal of everything between 0.0 and 1.0 as simply a step towards honesty. Maybe soon GameSpot will get around to removing everything below 5.0, thus giving a true reflection of their scoring system? ;) )

icouldbeahero: Now we are going to be unable to accurate tell the difference between a 9 and a 9.5, so we will have to remove the decimal choices.

But then, what is there to distinguish between an 8 and a 9? Clearly the even numbers will have to be culled as well.

Oh, but I can decide between this game which got a 6 and this other one that got an 8...

Patrick Rose: Review scores annoy me and they should be culled and replaced with a word scale. Since you want the review to tell you whats good about the game, not the score.