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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

The Completist: Far Cry

Feh, I had another This Month in Terrible written but I’m bored of Terrible now. Terrible is over-rated. As stupid as it sounds, I’ve actually been reluctant to post here because I didn’t want to interrupt the series with something else, but didn’t feel like checking over and finding images for the final post. So, new series!

Valve’s stats show that still less than half their players have made it through the four-hour first episode of their follow-up to Half-Life 2. Crytek reckoned around 20% of gamers would see the end of Far Cry, and on anecdotal evidence I’d put the actual figure at less than half that.

If I really like something, though, I play it to death, then start again and play it back to life, and then really just mess around with its limp and compliant body of work until I get bored. So I shall, from time to time, note my thoughts on how old stuff holds up as I replay it, what the ending’s like, and how cocking hard it was. First up, Far Cry:

What I thought at the time: Brilliant! I knew the Trigen and indoor bits would suck, but I was expecting the game to degenerate into them for the whole second half, when in fact they turned out to be sprinkled bearably throughout. I remember playing River, one of the last few missions, about twenty times over, screwing it up each time but enjoying myself far too much to try and do it sensibly. I crashed boats into buildings, jeeps into the sea, boats into other boats, jeeps into boats, boats into people’s faces, and at one point a jeep into a helicopter. Sorry Bruce, I did it first.

What the world thought at the time (paraphrased):
Brilliant! Unprecedented AI! Amazing graphicsability! Freeform gameplay! Ruined by Trigens!

What the world thinks now (paraphrased):
Less brilliant! Everyone still loves the freeformness, but love for the AI has faded somewhat and the horrible Trigens and horribler last two levels have stuck in everyone’s minds.

What I think now: More brilliant! I don’t know why, but the Trigens hardly bothered me this time through. I actually found them pretty scary – they pounce suddenly and unpredictably, and kill in one swipe, and take a lot of shooting, so you end up having a lot of moments where you only just kill them in time, causing them to fling their own limp, bullet-ridden bloody corpse into your face.

The two things that really stand up well today are the boats and the binoculars. Skimming that glossy rippled sea is pure joy, and crashing into a beach at a hundred and fifty miles per hour, flipping eighty foot into the air off a rock, is the only way to start a mission. At one point on Boat – a mission that has boats in it – I hit an enemy speedboat at full pelt, both of us firing, just as I took out their gunner. My boat hit the driver in the side of the head, threw me into the air, spun three times and landed the right way up in the water, just before I landed back in it and sped off. Bitches, I refer you to my wake.

The binoculars are The Thing I Wish Everyone Would Copy. In fact, new field:

The thing I wish everyone would copy: The binoculars. You scan an area with them and every enemy not behind anything very solid is highlighted, and their position is tracked on your radar from then on. It’s a level of intel most tactical shooters don’t dare give the player, for fear that he might be able to plan his attack, or enjoy himself. Situational awareness enables situational manipulation, and that’s where the fun always is.

Best bit: Oh, I wasn’t supposed to be talking about the best bits yet? Because that was the best bit.

How cocking hard is it? Not desperately, actually. Shameful admission: I actually played Far Cry on Easy mode the first time. I felt pretty smug about it, because everyone else was groaning about how hard it was even a third of the way through, and it gets a lot harder than that.

So I grit my teeth slightly when I committed to Medium this time through, but it was fine. I got through it without cheats and only mild frustration. I don’t think the end, which I’ll talk about in a minute, is as hard as people make out, it’s just frustrating. I died more times on the Boat level than on the last two missions put together, it’s just it wasn’t really my fault when I died on those, and I lost more progress.

How long is it? Fairly. You could cut out all the indoor sections – around 30% of the game – and it’d still be a good game-length. You should probably do that. They’re not terrible, they’re just no better than most shooters.

Jumps the shark: Not right until the end, actually – the mission where you start with an M4 and ten bullets, and there are a million Trigens. That was dumb. I didn’t cheat, but I did install the quicksave mod. I foxed that first Trigen by waiting for him to pass a boulder on his way to me, and passing it myself on the other side. PSYCH!

At that point I jumped off the waterfall, on a motorbike.

What’s the end like? After that you’ve got a drive through instakill magma rivers with five hundred Big Trigens – WEAK – an assault on a large complex full of well-armoured commandos without much health or ammo – WEAK – the fight with Dr Krieger, who is tough and irritating and surrounded by lots of guys and there’s nowhere to hide – WEAKNESS ITSELF – then the infamous dust bowl of four hundred Big Trigens – NOT AS WEAK AS PEOPLE MAKE OUT BUT STILL PRETTY GODDAMN WEAK GUYS.

What’s the ending like? Abysmal.
Doyle: You don’t understand, Jack, they sent me, you can’t change the future!
Jack: Probably not! But I can make sure you’re not a part of it! LOL! (shoots Doyle)
Jack, that is totally changing the future you dick. Also stop talking like a barbecue salesman.


Jason L: I'm on an island! Cool! I'm in the water! Cool! The guns feel good! Cool! I'm in a beached aircraft carrier! Cool! I walk through a door and get capped from above by a guy sited straight up in an armoured balcony, then spend thirty minutes of trial-and-reload until I happen to spin to his exact pixel quickly enough to only take some damage! Not so cool! Quit shortly after.

RogueSoul: I, along with a few other, did an endurance of this a few days ago. Stayed up till 5am, kicking Trigen arse, managing to get to Swamp. I particularly remember dying an insane number of times from a rocketeer on a huge white silo. Still, outdoor shenanigians FTW.

Davd H west: i do have to say the the farcry for the pc was the best version i did not mind trigens im waiting for far cry 2 but ill miss jack carver but he will live on :)

DemonDoll: I liked the understated ending of Far Cry. Sure Doyle was the douche orchestrating all this madness, but he's just a man. He's not a lunatic like Krieger, and obviously saw value in preserving his own humanity. I think the one single bullet that it takes to end the game really puts the rest of the awesome shit you do in perspective.
The first time I played was on Veteran and second was on Realistic (unmodded). The volcano is daunting because there is a serious risk of running out of ammo long before you run out of Big Daddies (since good aim doesn't mix with dodging rockets).
I love games that have bits where you get stripped of your equipment (many of them these days) because it lets you play with the underpowered and/or less popular weapons now that you have more skill than at the start of the game (when they were pushed on you). I think it's a huge error for a game to do this sort of mission and then just give you your stuff back 5 minutes later - that's such a wasted opportunity. Far Cry does it perfectly, giving you many different weapons on that level with very little ammo forcing you to use them all and use them well (or sneak around... WHICH I HATE!).
It is an amazing game because it allowed me to utilize the full range of my tactical skills without regret. In many games it feels like I'm depriving myself of fun when I snipe everyone in a mercenary camp or toss a grenade to wipe out a group of guys because I probably could have had more fun attacking them head-on. This is because it is just so trivial when the enemies respond to sniper fire by running at you without shooting, for example. While most games present the head-on approach as suicide, it is generally far from it; not so in the case of Far Cry. The necessity of using tactics which might be 'cheap' or 'unfair' (to the pathetic AI) in other games makes Far Cry a very rewarding experience.
As a side note, despite the many backwards steps that Far Cry 2 takes, sniping is still extremely rewarding. Sniping also continues to be unfun in most other games of this decade as enemies continue to think that their bullets are unable to travel more than 25 feet or so and choose hiding places where the tops of their heads are exposed.