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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

Braid Is Out On Filthy Consoles

As Mike Gapper on Xbox World puts it: get it, get it, get it, get it, get it, GET IT!

Disclaimer: I haven’t got it, but I’ve played the PC version – which is coming later this year – at various stages of development. I’ll update this post once I’ve had a moment to try the finished thing on filthy Xbox.

James regular Jason L deserves profound thanks for putting me onto this, long, long before it was cool, and I hope he and anyone else who plays it will take a sec to weigh in on the end product here.

It’s a platform game in which you can rewind time as far as you like, and each chapter layers another mechanic on top of that. The best creates a shadow-you each time you stop rewinding, and the shadow-you runs off and does what you did the first time while you try to co-operate with him. You. Scle.

It’s been getting maximum scores (it got 9/10 in Edge, but Edge only give 10s when they’re wrong, so 9 is the maximum possible correct score), and will likely continue to do so. Those places will use words like “ingenious”, “astonishing”, “staggering”, “masterpiece”, so I don’t have to. Some will mention art, triggering a thousand irritated sighs. One of them insists it is just like The Watchmen, though in what sense is still unclear after a paragraph of strenuous explanation.

My thing is, this is unlike anything we’ve played before, it’s a constant delight, and the second best puzzle game I’ve ever played. It’s $15 or £10, and if you think this is too much you are a small and boring man or maness.

Update: I should say, though, that it has a some problematic bits. The full thing, now that I’ve played it, is effectively identical to the early PC version I’d had a go with, but this time through I’m not moving on from each world until I’ve got all the puzzle-pieces. Which means I’m solving a lot of puzzles I just skipped over last time – you don’t need to get any of them to actually progress, until the very end.

There’s one puzzle in World 2 that can’t be solved when you first reach the level it’s on. And it uses a counter-intuitive mechanic that’s never used before or since without explaining it.

There’s another in World 3 where a problem at the start of the level can’t be solved until you ignore it, leave the area, and then encounter another one-off unexplained mechanic that renders it irrelevant.

These two bits are problems because there are lots of seemingly impossible puzzles in Braid with brilliantly clever solutions. So having a couple that actually are impossible with the current apparatus betrays the player’s confidence that there is a solution to the harder puzzles, that he won’t be wasting his time if he sits there and really thinks about it. Because of these two, sometimes, he is.

World 4 is the only one where the new mechanic isn’t a bonus ability, but a restriction. At times it’s very clever, and it’s probably the most unusual of them all, but just as often the solution comes down to a very fiddly matter of whether you were facing left or right at the time you did something.

The last of these levels has some real inconsistencies in the way certain objects behave when you’re rewinding – the game has two concepts of what ‘six seconds ago’ means, and it shows one of them while rewinding, then switches to the other when you stop.

I still suggest avoiding walkthroughs – these are just three puzzles among seveal hundred – but if you’re really stuck on something, it’s worth moving on and coming back to it. Even if it’s not one of these, it’s funny how thinking in a completely new way for the next level will usefully reorient your brain to go back and tackle the last.

Update: And yes, my favourite puzzle game ever is Portal. Partly because it doesn’t make mistakes like this.

I will say, though, that Braid has two advantages over Portal: each of the five worlds (and I think there may be a sixth I haven’t found yet) is profoundly unlike all the others, each as inventive in itself as Portal’s one mechanic. Portal’s length isn’t a reason for me to rank it below bigger but messier games like Deus Ex, but its scope is.

And Braid is genuinely tough. Fast and intuitive puzzling is great for telling a story, as Portal does expertly, but I wanted more head-scratching from its Advanced maps. They weren’t actually any harder than the later levels of the main game, and there’s no good reason they shouldn’t be.

Update: Just finished it.


Jason L: Heh. You're welcome, but I'm sure you would have picked up on it by yourself in plenty of time to cover it.

Before snippy comments come in, yes, you can experience the mentioned one mechanic of one of the worlds in Braid by playing Cursor10 or Chronotron.

It's probably my fault, but it seems like this was released with very little warning or publicity. This has unfortunate consequences for me, as I'd expected it to be held back until September. Acting boldly upon that subconscious assumption I sent my working 360 to my brother across the country and haven't yet taken the time to repair my new one. Imagine my bile.

Neoviper: This game as you described it just like this one

http://www.nekogames... ...sor10.html

not sure how long the game been in development compared to how long this has been out, but the concept seems an exact replica of this little flash game.

Neoviper: :P didn't take the time to read the first comment, if this is only one of the mechanics present then that's different. anyway, it sounds like a cool game regardless, will definitely play it.

Jason L: Even comments about Braid follow a nonlinear curve through time.

Newt Pulsifer: Wow, nice! thanks for the tip ^^
By the way, i was wondering: "the second best puzzle game I’ve ever played", what is the first one?

Mr. Brit: you say consoleS, does that men ps3 as well?

Tom Francis: Actually no, it's just the Xbox, but "Filthy Console" sounds odd.

Ludo: It's well known that bile is more satisfying when pluralised.

This game looks beautiful, I can't believe that 1up guy is dissing it. Kudos to David Hellman for the artwork, I think it was just him wasn't it?

Also, favourite puzzle game - has to be Portal, doesn't it? Either that or Desktop Tower Defense is more addictive than we all previously realised...

Jason L: Originally Hellman was doing the level art and Edmund McMillen drew the sprites. Fairly late in development, they decided to have Hellman trace/reinterpret McMillen's sprites for a more consistent art style.

Snooglebum: I'm guessing the first best puzzle game you've ever played it Portal, am I right?

Snooglebum: Oops. Somebody already said that. That's what I get for not reading the comments properly. :(