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.
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Back from further secret adventures in the world of exciting things, spent thirty-eight hours on planes this month, tired in a way that sleep won’t fix. It’s breaking season again: came home to a soaking kitchen, TV blew up, network down, new bike tyre immediately flat, PC unupgradable, and laptop took two days to rescue from a series of disasters. The main reason I’ve done so much travelling is that the game broke during my first trip, and couldn’t be repaired for two weeks.
My favourite disaster was when finally managing to get an operating system on my laptop left it unable to recognise its own network card. I had the driver – a 612KB file – on my PC, having found and downloaded it with surprising ease. But I lost my wonderful 4GB USB drive on my way back from my last trip (whoever finds it will have the magnificent ending scene of Portal completely ruined for them by the movie found thereon). I’d used up all my blank CDs burning duff copies of various operating systems after each disc – legit and otherwise – seemed to have at least one essential file corrupt. I had blank DVDs, but the laptop only has a CD drive. I had a floppy disk, and the laptop even has a floppy drive, but nothing else I’ve owned in six years has. I had SD cards, but no card reader. I had a camera that takes them, and the USB cable to connect it, but Windows XP won’t let you write files to my camera because Windows Media Player doesn’t think of cameras that way.
I also had a SIX GIGABYTE MP3 player, but it’s long since stopped working in USB storage device mode. This leaves only Media Transfer Protocol mode, the same infernal madness that dictates that a camera is not a device to be written to. It admits that an MP3 player could conceivably need to receive files, but stops you if you attempt to transfer anything it wouldn’t know how to play through speakers. At this juncture, after curtly informing you that what you’re trying to do is idiotic, it presents you with three options: Skip, Skip All, or Cancel.
This is perhaps the single dumbest problem I have ever encountered. I could almost write out a file of that size in a hex editor if I had a few hours longer. So I used my usual method of getting to the heart of how stupid stuff works: if I was an utter idiot, how would I design this? Well, I certainly wouldn’t actually verify if anything was really a playable music file, I’d just see if the extension was .mp3 and throw a hissy fit if not. By the same logic, a clever man like Tom could easily bypass my angry stupidity by just renaming any old file to MP3, however unmusiclike, then naming it back when successfully transferred.
This is how I came to coin a catchy little ditty called R34071.mp3. It goes a little something like this – and please do sing along if you know the words:
Well, I’m sure you know the rest.