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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.

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: The Movie Script

Muxed Feelings

Muxtape has provided my working soundtrack almost exclusively the last week or so. It’s a Super-Simple Service that lets you upload twelve songs, lets anyone listen to them, and ‘favourite’ them. I only just discovered the latter. I was highly enjoying this tape and thinking to myself “I love that this whole site is so laser-focused on what it does, but I do wish there was a way to bookmark the ones you like. Oh, there it is.”

After a long quest to get Seedling’s The Upshot in MP3 format (alas, no OGGs on Mux), mine is complete. Here’s what’s on it and why:


Cat Power – Willie
There’s a lot of classy, soulful, plonking ballads to pick from on The Greatest, but this one just seems to make everything okay. Something about its expansive confidence and nonchalant pace.

Mates of State – Goods (All In Your Head)
This was just written for late summer sunsets, turning from giddily exciting to wistful and almost sad with no audible seam.

Seedling – The Upshot
There’s something beautifully emphatic about the cut-down arrangement of this, the forcefully plucked strings behind her resigned voice. Disastrously, the band split years ago, and they’re obscure enough that they don’t even have a Wikipedia page. My only consolation is that I got to hug them all at their final gig.

New Pornographers – Chump Change
By rights I should have gone with The Laws Have Changed, but I think I over-listened to it. Skimming through my shortlist, the opening bars of Chump Change just elicit a smile like no other track.

Architecture In Helsinki – Debbie
Clever, rhythmic, curling and bizarre. It says something for the propulsive blithering of the chorus that I can tell you, without checking, that it goes, “Hey there, hey there, let me down down, Debbie down, Debbie Debbie Debbie down down Debbie down, Debbie down, Debbie Debbie down down down down.”

Decemberists – The Legionnaire’s Lament
This is the one track of theirs I can listen to endlessly without ever tiring of its neat lyricism and heartfelt botch of authenticity. Any song whose narrator’s camel is in disrepair gets extra credit.

Sparks – Dick Around
Manic, preposterous, majestic rock opera epic, without even the slightest wink or nod to the absurdity of penning such a thing with ‘dick’ in the title.

M̼m РGreen Grass of Tunnel
I don’t think there’s another track during which you could scientifically measure the increase in my body temperature as it starts. It’s warm and enveloping in a way a sound alone surely cannot be.

Low – Canada
The slowcore king and queen of sinister are actually at their most impressive when they veer into other moods and sounds. Canada isn’t exactly upbeat, but it rocks extraordinarily.

Delgados – Favours
Booming, crashing and beautiful. The churning chorus reaches such an exhaustingly elevated pitch and holds it for so long that you finish half-wanting to gasp for breath on Emma Pollock’s behalf.

Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs
Quite apart from being ridiculous fun, it’s time I acknowledged the genius who unwittingly wrote the ‘About’ section of James for me. As musically worthwhile satire goes, I don’t think any other song so utterly annihilates this many hateful songwriters with its first two lines.

M83 – Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun
You’ll know if you’re going to hate this in the first thirty seconds – and the chance that you will is the reason it’s at the end. But if you don’t, everything you do for the next nine minutes of your life will be unaccountably profound. This is normal.

There’s also MuxFind, which lets you search for Muxtapes featuring music ‘similar to’ a band or song you search for. Since there are a lot of Muxtapes, that tends to mean you find the song you’re looking for. And can play it free. Clearly there’s a legal explosive ticking away beneath this, but for now it remains an awesome way to find lovingly compiled collections of stuff you’ve never heard but which bears a spiritual connection to what you’ve searched for. It’s a much stronger and more effective form of recommendation than automated social aggregation like or comparitive content analysis like Pandora.

ImperialCreed: I have to say I owe you a debt of gratitude for turning me on to Architecture in Helsinki - every party I play them at people go a bit mad and say things like "Wow, great band". So cheers. Also, do you think that with "Hold Music" AoH are seriously channeling the B-52's?

Birdoman: Have you heard M83's first album? Great stuff, especially 'Slowly'...

Rob: Cheers for the link, you're right, it's better than Pandora - even when Pandora was awesome back at its beginning.

Personally I find another good way to find music is just to look up albums I like on allmusicguide and then browse around via the tags, like genre and tone and so on.

CannedLizard: "Canada isn’t exactly upbeat, but it rocks extraordinarily."

- Just like the nation itself!

Sideath: How on earth did you manage to hide who has favourited your Muxtape? I had a look in the settings but nothing's there.

Also - you and I have similar music tastes (ie - brilliant ones) :)

Tom Francis: By making a really unpopular one? I don't think it shows your own vote in that count, which from your perspective would bring it down to a fat zero. Whereupon it presumably displays no count at all. It's showing 1 for me (thanks).

Sideath: Ahahaha - oh yeah ;P

Jason L: Thanks yet again, 'At Random'. (What a neat feature that is!) In the time since this was new I've been able to listen to most or all of these. Songs whose narrator's camel is in disrepair may get extra credit, but songs which confidently rhyme 'fecundity', 'laudanum' and 'sun' simply pass the course then and there. I think it's the first song to top Paradise By The Dashboard Light's 'doubly blessed' in my Strolling Out Of The Vault With A Wink And A Whistle ranking.

Jason L: At Random has now improved my life twice on the same article. I had learned the relevant song three independent times as 'Lower Your Highlights to Die With the Sun' - thanks, Internet. Now one more thing makes a bit more sense.

Incidentally you can tell it's an awesome song because it single-handedly makes this video inspire thoughts of 'Kinda neat' instead of 'Those men are quite literally hitting themselves in the face with rocks and falling down'.