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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

Steel Yourself

The grand Team Fortress 2 update goes live tomorrow night, and there’ll be more details on what it contains tonight and tomorrow. I doubt the new community map, cp_steel, will be top of your trying-out priority list, but I hope you’ll get to it eventually. It’s an intriguing, ever-changing map, in a player-driven way rather than a random way like Hydro. It’s no less puzzling than Hydro though (I’m hoping some extra signposts are added in the ‘official’ version), so this clear, simple diagram by Ankich should make everything apparent right away.

In theory:


In practise:

steel psst, ich bin's... coco is looking good!

Wait, wait, that diagram is actually helpful. Obviously you need to see it full size. An awesome Valve-style video explains the basics when you first play the map, but what you really need to know is how to play it well. How many of the map-changing points should you try for until you make a dash for the final, game-winning one?

steel psst, ich bin's... shaytan is looking good!

I’ve been playing it whenever I can, and I’m really enjoying it so far. At the moment it feels weighted towards the attackers: we had a perfect round on Blu this lunchtime, where it went into overtime as we were capping C, we got shot off C, all our progress towards capturing C was undone, and just as it hit zero a cheeky Scout lept on E: the only cap that matters. We couldn’t even hold that consistently, but I kept as many of them as I could busy at C and eventually our forces at E won out, and we won with zero seconds on the clock.

Then the teams switched and we got destroyed. So I think we were actually sucking on offense, it’s just an offense-friendly map. But blasting Scouts off that final cap in the middle of a chasm feels like what the Soldier was born to do, so defense is still fun.


Suraj: I have played this map quite a bit. One excellent strategy for BLU team is to set up a sentry at B at the very beginning. Most of the bog downs occur at point B as it is the easiest to defend. If you can secure it, rest of the game becomes easier.

roburky: I don't think I've been in a game of Steel that's gone beyond point B yet.

Sentry Gun: Anyone who thinks cp_steel is difficult to navigate is likely to be afflicted with downs syndrome. Granted, the map takes a bit of getting used to, but that's the same for all maps, and cp_steel is hardly more complex.

Also, the main reason the map seems offensive friendly is because tons of people don't know how to defend the map. The main thing people don't seem to get is that every area of the map is accessible to both teams at all times, only shortcuts and blockades appear.

Tom Francis: That's a little harsh. I don't find it as hard to navigate as some, but there are moments when, defending your last point E, there are no signs from your spawn indicating which way E is. TF2 is unusual in having no map, so its levels need to be extra careful to explain themselves well. You have to learn every map, sure, but that takes longer when the thing keeps changing up on you.

Like I say, it's no less confusing than Hydro, which is TF2's least intuitive map.

I'm not surprised to hear it's usually more defense-friendly than my experience: when my team lost, it was because they all defended E until the attackers were capping D, whereupon they rushed to D just in time to let E get capped. THANKS TEAM. I'll defend the control points they're actually going for alone, shall I?

Tux: The majority of TF2'ers play the official Valve maps, and Steel is a damn sight more complex in comparison to 2Fort, Well or Dustbowl which typically have clusters of complexity around points with multiple but strictly linear routes between them. As for game mechanics, what other popular map has the same cap order as Steel?

I would guess that most people (including me, and I don't have Down's) find Steel 'difficult' to navigate at first and that is where most impressions come from. It's not a question of being 1337 but of recognising the difficultly curve associated with breaking old norms and establishing new rules of play - something Valve has done only very carefully.

Tom Francis: Well put.

littleedge: Ever since I started reaidn 1Fort and saw the cp_steel review, and the interview with the maker, I started looking for servers with it playing. I've played it enough, and it's pretty even. E is the perfect size, so no one sentry reaches everywhere, and the other points are perfect, having good defense and offense positions. It may tend to go on BLU's side a bit, but it's nothing like Goldrush's RED/BLU win ratio. cp_steel is agreat map. I've played it 4 times, and I now know most of the routes, so playing it a coupe times lets you have fun.

Koslov: I run one of the 24/7 cp_steel servers and I find it to be a pretty even map. There have been times when one side will totally dominate the other but that comes down to either luck or superb teamwork.

I am actually extremly happy that its going to become a standard rotation map. Its too good not to give to the masses.

Shadowmancer: I still dont know why people are confused with this map there are big arrows pointing to where people have to go.

Mr. Brit: arena mode revealed on official heavy website!!!!!!11!!!!!