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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 Order of the Phoenix

Right, that’s it. If Transformers isn’t any good on Sunday, I’m giving up on fun-but-dumb films altogether – I no longer enjoy them. I didn’t like the latest Pirates of the Carribean, I hated Die Hard 4, and last night even Harry Potter left me cold. My brain just doesn’t have enough to do during these, which is really saying something given that I enjoyed Gerry, a film where the memorable quotes page on IMDB constitutes the entire script, and the only two characters have the same name.


So I either think about other things entirely (is this seating arrangement socially optimal? Almost, I decided), or pick holes. That CGI object isn’t correctly synced with the actor’s hand. The next line is going to be “Something to fight for.” Emma Watson can only act during even-numbered minutes of the odd-numbered Harry Potter films.

When I read the same story in book form, I cared about everything. And really, it’s a story that suits cinema better than literature in a lot of ways – the fizz and crackle of wizardly battling comes across very poorly in text. But this director’s concept of being faithful to the book seems to be checking all the subplot boxes, which is impossible to do well in under six hours. So the three most affecting elements of Phoenix are all glossed over with almost comic brevity. Those being:

  • Delores Umbridge’s torture: I thought the actress here was great at portraying her syrupy strain of institutionalised evil, but the real potency of the character comes from the horror of what she makes Harry do. He has to claw her words in his own flesh over and over and over again every night, writing in blood over his scar tissue before it can heal. It’s the repetition that’s galling – that’s why it’s such a wonderfully fiendish play on the familiar punishment of ‘doing lines’ – but in the film we see him do it once. Misses the point, dissolves the horror, defangs Delores.

  • Neville Longbottom becoming more than comic relief: after mocking his idiocy for four whole books, Rowling adds a streak of genuine tragedy to Neville, and a sad little stirring of redemption. It’s an easy pluck of your heartstrings, but a resounding one. Here’s how this story is told in the film:

    (Neville Longbottom is standing in front a wall looking at a newspaper clipping that shows a photo of his parents. Harry joins him)
    Neville: Hi Harry my parents were killed by Bellatrix LeStrange after she tortured them for information I’m proud to be their son but worried that I won’t live up to their good name thanks bye.


  • Harry’s increasingly conflicted relationship with Snape: the entertaining thing about Snape as a villain is that he isn’t one, he’s just an extremely unpleasant good guy. Or so Dumbledore insists, and since he’s virtually God in the Harry Potter universe, we tend to trust his word over even Harry’s judgement.

    In Phoenix, Snape is the only one able to teach Harry to defend his mind from Voldemort’s invasive telepathy, an arrangement they both resent enormously. But also a great device not only to force Harry to see Snape as a good guy, but to let both of them find out the truth about each other.

    By repeatedly invading Harry’s thoughts, Snape quietly has to face that most of his conspiracy theories about Harry have been wrong. But when Harry inadvertantly gets into Snape’s mind, he has to face that more or less every disparaging thing Snape has said about Harry’s father is true, and a lot worse besides. This is a huge deal, a genuinely quite brave twist, and the most devastating thing that’s happened to Harry so far. His only reason for enduring the increasingly horrible things life puts him through is this dream of living up to the example of his parents, and avenging them.

    We do get the moment of discovery itself in the film, inside Snape’s mind, but it’s topped and tailed: it happens almost immediately after the lessons are started, so we get nothing of the way Harry and Snape’s relationship has changed, which is probably the most interesting thing in the book. And we get nothing of the aftermath, which is easily the most important thing in the book.

It feels like they think fans are more interested in seeing every subplot paid lip-service than in any of them being done justice. I could be entirely happy with a film of Phoenix that left out all three of my favourite things about the book, if it just did anything else well. If it just had some downtime, some of the day-to-day stuff that lets you get to like the characters before they get knocked around, I’d care.

The fun of Harry Potter is never the plots, it’s getting to live in their world for a bit. It’s enduring the Dursley’s long enough at the start of each book to be relieved and excited to get back to Hogwarts and his friends. It’s butter-beer in Hogsmeade, non-plot-critical Quidditch. This ruthless, workmanlike cramming the films are so hellbent on is wrecking the magic.

Visually it’s marvelous; another adoring tribute to the universe that matches my imagination beautifully. The effects guys really do care about doing everything justice, and they’ve got the creative juice to manage it all and more. That just makes it more irritating that they’re still using directors who waste it incompetently, when in Alfonso Cuaron they’ve already found the guy who can give the rest of film the character its effects already have.

Tom Camfield: I thought it was surprisingly good, given I've never read any book and only watched a bit of one previous film. I had a lot to do in understanding all the relationships, all the sub plots, and it wasn't dull because my brain was always making connections and seeing links. I thought it did a great job of hinting at the depth of the book, and creating a living breathing world that looked beyond the main characters and avoided stupid instances of elongated exposition. I think if it had just done the main story and missed the sub-plots I would have been bored senseless, because I hate most summer movies as they usually are so witlessly cut down so that no brain work is needed at all. Probably just a difference of knowing the source material or not.

Graham: I agree with Tom Camfield, and I've read the source material. There are some things I wish were there. I want Tonks to have had more time, and the revelation about Harry's father being a dick should have been a bigger deal. But I thought it worked well as a movie, if a little rushed.

Perhaps it helps that I've forgotten quite a lot of the specifics about the book.

Tom Francis: Huh. It can't have been as bad as I thought if it worked so well for you. Obviously my complaints relate to differences between book and film, but I'm not fussy about how closely the two match up, I just want both to be good in the same way. The books let you live a little there, I didn't feel like I got that here. Interesting that you did.

It didn't occur to me until after I posted this that it's obscenely against the James prime directive: no negativity. I'm tempted to delete it, but I really like that picture of Gerry.

The_B: A blog without negativity? That's unpossible!

Aura: Absolutely loved this book! This was the first Historical title that I had read, and has got me hooked ever since! I relaly got into the story, and felt that I was watching a film rather than reading a book! I loved the lead characters and the passion that was between them too! Would recommend this!!by: smlindas