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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

I Actually Can’t Stop The Music

I’m trying to talk to someone, I forget who, and the music is just so ridiculously loud that I can’t even hear my own voice. I indicate non-verbally that I’m going to turn off the MP3 player – which I think is theirs – but the thing won’t shut down. It’s a Sansa, like mine, and no matter how long I hold the ‘off’ button it just goes through different shutting down procedures without ever stopping. The music is pounding, unrelentingly repetitive – a few deafening bars and then the vocalist sings, “I’m tired of singing,” – repeated ad nauseam.

Eventually I just tug the wire from the player, and it still doesn’t stop. It’s so loud I feel like my head is bleeding – that the song itself is about the singer being tired of singing seems like a sick joke. “I’m tired of singing.”

I burst into the lounge, where my dad is explaining how a DivX player works to someone, and I ask if this is where the music is coming from. “I’m tired of singing.” My dad doesn’t know, so I borrow a likely-looking remote from him and try everything: volume down, mute, off. Nothing works. “I’m tired of singing.” By this stage the house is full of people, wearing chicken suits, walking slowly around its corridors and stopping every time the song gets to that unbearable “I’m tired of singing” line, whereupon their fake chicken heads flip back so they can sing it unmuffled. “I’m tired of singing.” I wish they wouldn’t. But most of all, I wish this fucking song would stop singing this fucking line again and again every five seconds for two fucking hours. “I’m tired of singing.” Shut up.

Finally I find the source. “I’m tired of singing.” I’m lying down, “I’m tired of singing,” I’m not sure where, “I’m tired of singing,” and there’s a single huge black speaker in front of me, “I’m tired of singing,” volume knob clearly visible. “I’m tired of singing.” I’m paralysed. “I’m tired of singing.” I know this knob will work, “I’m tired of singing,” that I can finally shut this unbearable “I’m tired of singing” twat up, “I’m tired of singing,” but I can’t move. “I’m tired of singing.”

“I’m tired of singing.”

“I’m tired of singing.”

“I’m tired of singing.”

“I’m tired of singing.” Finally I feel my arm start to shift, “I’m tired of singing.” I discover I’m naked, “I’m tired of singing,” but at this stage I don’t care – I can shut this thing up. “I’m tired of singing.” I manage to stagger to my feet and make it to the speaker, and twist the volume knob down for what feels like minutes.

It’s stopped. I see now that the speaker is beneath a monitor, behind a mouse and keyboard, and the track was playing through Winamp. I permanently delete it from the hard drive.

I look at the time – 8.30. I’ve slept through ninety minutes of music at this volume. It wasn’t all “I’m tired of singing” – a song called Running Out by Mates of State, not a single fucking bar of which I ever want to hear again as long as I live – that just happened to be the one that finally woke me up. I guess that means it was playing throughout the final couple of minutes of sleep where my dreams evidently take place.

There’s got to be a better way to wake up than this.

Alex Holland: I opt for the harsh, unrelenting bleep of an alarm clock, kept a distance from bed that makes it necessary to get up completely in order to turn it off. This tactic was adopted after one instance at Uni where I hit Snooze every seven minutes for roughly five hours.

Music just gives me odd dreams, although possibly not that odd.

Tom Francis: I really hate beeping. I know that's kind of the idea, but it just leaves me in a foul mood all morning. Obviously that's exactly what happened with my music solution in this case, but more often it's a pretty pleasant song I wake up on.

I actually make sure the first track it plays is always unabrasive, but there doesn't seem to be any way of guaranteeing it'll be this one that wakes me up, no matter how loud I make it.

Seniath: I'm a radio man myself; find it much easier to slowly wake to someone talking than either music or beeping. Beeping is, as you say, incredibly annoying, while music I will just drift through.

The one probably with waking up to talking is that sometimes my brain gets confused about what was being said on the radio and what was being said in my dreams...

Zeno Cosini: I had a CD player with an alarm clock when I was a teenager. "Friends" used to set it to wake me up with Refuse/Resist by Sepultura at 6am. Always that same tune. Always 6 am. Sometimes I caught it before I went to bed.

And sometimes I didn't.

Iain “DDude” Dawson: lol. A similar thing happened to me recently, but I was listening to early morening news on BBC 4. My dream incorporated the london marathon, china, protesters and the economic troubles. That was weird.

Jason L: What the hell. It's rare enough that I remember a dream, and this is also a waking/subconscious story.

I have idiosyncratic 'furnishings' - my main desk is set up Japanese style, and I use a small assortment of cushions and an exercise ball to lean, slouch, sit, balance or kneel as the mood takes me. One consequence is that if I push myself too hard I get in this hilarious stupid loop of slowly fading more and more of my body onto the floor, Anna and the King of Siam style, shortly before passing out. A few weeks ago I'd passed out on the floor in this manner.

I wake up, but I'm not sore (as I usually am after stupidlooping) and stuff isn't right. It isn't still night because there's light in the window, but the light isn't right, the smell of the air isn't right...

Like most people I've read a couple of lucid dreaming books somewhere along the way. Normally I remember only miniscule fragments of two or three dreams per year, so practicing recall would have been a long precursor to keeping a journal and instituting habitual reality checks - thus I never even got close to trying to implement anything. For whatever reason at this point, lying on the floor, I get suspicious and think 'let's do a reality check.' There are several tricks you can use to check your reality, but the best is time. Contrary to popular belief, reading (or at least every perception of reading) is possible in dreams. Numbers are screwy, though, and linear time may as well not exist. The gold standard of reality checks, then, is to check a digital clock, then check it again 'a few seconds' later.

I do so with my alarm clock. The first time it shows some unusual time, but I'm not even sure it's morning so that's no confirmation. A few seconds later, though, it's been found out and knows it; it doesn't even bother to display any digits.

'I'm lucid dreaming! Neat! Stay cool, exert will. Let's start this mofo off right, I wanna fly.' I stretch out my arms and come to attention in a supine Iron Cross position - look, Universe, no hands - and in under a second I effortlessly sweep through ninety degrees of arc to vertical, my heels six inches off the floor, ecstatically excited, my entire body thrumming with energy like an overloaded electric transformer.

One half second later, I'm back on the floor - eyes wide open, tired yet completely keyed up, aching everywhere, and furious at my own light-sleeping spoilsport brain.

Tom Francis: Yeah, you can't win with dreams. Bad ones suck, good ones make waking up suck. The only partially beneficial ones are when you dream you haven't done something you should have done, and then when you wake up it's like five days earlier and there's loads of time left to do it.

I time-travel a lot in my sleep.