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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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    SWAT 4: The Movie Script

    A Slice Of Fried Gold Rush


    Having played about ten rounds on TF2’s shiny new map today, it remains enormous fun. It’s mostly the game-mode rather than this specific map I love: that your progress is so plainly visible, and related to a physical object in the world, gives it a drama and immediacy that control points and capture tallies don’t come close to.

    Splitting it into sub-maps like Dustbowl is also very smart: the map is cleverly designed to make that very last stretch to the final checkpoint of each map mercilessly exposed and close to the defenders’ spawn, and fighting for that last stretch makes the match feel close, even when it’s really not. A few times as attackers it’s felt like we were inches from victory just because we had the cart so close to the final checkpoint on the first of the three map segments. In truth, even if we’d made it we’d have been utterly screwed on the next two much tougher legs without any spare time in the bank.

    goldrush crocket

    Which raises the other main point: we’re really not very good at attacking. The game mode sounds like it would be impossibly hard for the attackers, but our playtests at Valve showed almost the opposite: more often than not the cart tipped into the final cap and blew the shit out of the place. The game was harder for attackers back then, too – the cart gave neither ammo nor health to those near it.

    This leads me to the conclusion that it’s going to get progressively easier to attack and harder to defend, until it’s about even. I’ve learnt from experience – if I hadn’t already predicted it – that initial “omg so imbalanced” reactions to Valve stuff are generally disproved with time. I was dead wrong about the last cap on Badlands – now that players have learnt to defend it well, it’s a mercy that it’s so fast to capture if you do manage to break through. Hopefully once we all know the routes better, formulate counters to killer Sentry positions and learn to have fewer than nine medics per team, attackers are going to have a chance. For now, though, I’d just like to see that cinematic physics explosion once.

    goldrush backdrop

    Update: After some disastrous Demomanning this lunchtime, I gave up trying to be a team player and went back to Spy. When you’re a defender disguised as an attacker, the cart heals you, so you can actually survive as much spy-checking as the attackers are likely to be able to put on you with all the fire they’re taking elsewhere. Then if they reach it, you can reveal instantly to block the push.

    In my experience so far, they tend to be extremely surprised by this and take several revolver bullets to the eyes before they competently react to the situation. Since their life-span is usually limited at this point, what damage you take from the encounter is then regenerated by the cart when you re-don your disguise. At one point I stood on top of the cart, disguised as an enemy Heavy, yelling abuse at my ostensible team: “ENTIRE TEAM IS BABIES!”. It’s not really applicable versus concentrated attacks, but it lets one player completely halt the trickle of lucky breaks that can otherwise inch the thing forwards and prevent rollback.

    Once things heat up, of course, I go rogue and surgically remove the Medics from the team. More than most maps, Gold Rush has a very clear frontline, which lets Medics hang safely back round the corner from their patients. That’s a bitch for the damage-dealing classes to deal with.

    goldrush healfest

    roburky: I've been on the winning team as attackers several times now. You don't get to see the explosion. You die instantly, along with everyone else, and then the freezeframe goes to the bloody flying head of the person who last damaged you.

    FunkyLlama: No, you only die if you stand right next to the point. So I advise that you don't.

    Andrew: You die if you fall in the pit. I celebrate as red, when I am not dead, but jumping to my doom :D

    Great map, but can be frustrating since it is too slow for the thing to move with one person, leaving you stuck if your team decides 3 engineers and 5 medics with you as the only offensive class is a *good idea*.

    I've been victorious 50/50 so far, the boom at the end is sooo satisfying to see!

    Lack_26: I was on the PCG server, during the PCG steamgroup Goldrush 'event'. Amazing fun, unfortunately I wasn't doing to well at first, but after a couple of mass-connection-losses there was only about 8 of us. Did far better then, best/2nd best on server.

    Lack_26: Sorry to double post but, I've got screenies of earlier (they had partymode on)

    Pentadact 'pwning' my arse:
    http://www.vulomedia... ...nggood.jpg
    http://www.vulomedia... ...sh0005.jpg
    http://www.vulomedia... ...sh0009.jpg
    http://www.vulomedia... ...sh0010.jpg
    http://www.vulomedia... ...sh0011.jpg
    Me doing a bit better as a sniper:
    http://www.vulomedia... ...sh0012.jpg

    WeakLemonDrink: Gold Rush really is excellent. As much as the new mode is a great part of why this new map is so much fun, I think the actual map and its design is completely spot on - probably the best they've done. I've never been lost (I was hopelessly bad with Dustbowl at first) and all the buildings and various spots fit together so well. It all flows so well. It was a fantastic idea to split it up like Dustbowl, too.

    That explosion at the end is lovely, too. I didn't realise it was a physics explosion until I stood back and took a good look.

    Jay: I was a bit dubious about the unlockables - I was more excited about the map, and it is quite good. What I like most about it is that it increases the importance of different classes, meaning that if the game should stagnate, a switch to Goldrush is a good idea. Snipers for example, are actually a lot more useful for offense as there are A LOT of flanking opportunities (eg Area C, CP 3, right of Red Spawn). Heavies are also a lot more useful too, owing to the many chokepoints and flanking opportunities; same with spies. On the other hand, engineers are having a harder time on offence and defence - the only effective defensive Engineer place I can think of is, again Area C, CP3, Right of Red Spawn.

    Or course, all this'll change when the medic spam subsides and people learn the map better. A lot of Blu players still don't take the left gate in Area B CP 1, which is a lovely place to flank

    Punjabi Fury: Oh my God, you made a Spaced reference. I think I love you.

    Wossname: I have to chime in as well that this is an excellent map, and, like WeakLemonDrink, I've yet to get lost. A STARK comparison to Badlands, in which I find myself running around in circles quite often, or Hydro, where I keep missing the stairs in the radar dish area.

    Maybe it's the additional visual cue of the cart tracks that helps so much. Yet I've gone pyro quite a bit to take advantage of the back alleys and still seem to know exactly where I'll come out. It's great fun to double back on an entire enemy team and introduce them to the cleansing fire.

    Kudos to Valve on this map, whatever they did. And the bomb design itself is hilarious, especially with "cry some more" scrawled on the front -- a huge improvement from the portable fax machine thing that was in the originally distributed concept art.

    ZomBuster: I normally don't play the spy that much, but when I read that tip avout standing on the train I just needed to try it out.

    It was great, they didn't think of everything when I was sitting there as a pyro. After 2 minutes I jumped off and backstabbed 3 medics and a heavy.

    Alex Holland: By far my favourite map in my, ooh, roughly 20 hour career of playing TF2. The attacking team has one in all but one occasion, when the cart was 1 unit away from the drop point, but we were held off, which was probably more exciting and abstractly satisfying than if we'd won.

    It's the tracks that make this level work - they let you orientate yourself easily, and also ensure that there are some cracking pinch-points at which all fire will be concentrated. Great for Engineers/Demos to set up some monster fortifications, and good for Ubered-Heavies too. In the meantime, all the spies and scouts can hot-foot it down the other less regarded tunnels and attack from behind.

    Having a spy thin out the Medics is vital - every win I've seen has ended in an ubered Heavy rush. I find remote pipe-bombs scattered around the cart work nicely, though - cowardly medics sticking close to some health are quickly turned to lamb tikka.

    Tom Francis: Crazy, I've still only seen the attackers win twice, and both times I missed the kersplosion.

    It makes my geek heart (weak, fatty) swell with pride to hear you use the language of my people once again, though.

    I'm [PCG] Pentadct on Steam - add me but let me know your name if it's not something obvious. I have to do a mass decline-a-thon every now and then.

    The tracks are good, but I'd like to see them taken further - blue sparks on the track where the cart's already been. I sometimes find myself dropping stealthily down on to them with no idea whether it's ahead or behind. Also, we had a palm-face-interface moment earlier where my team successfully pushed the defenders miles back, were charging victoriously to the checkpoint, but forgot the cart. I had to run up to them and cough politely.

    High Mementic 80s Hero: I really enjoyed playing with you that lunch, i even dominated you at one point. :D