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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

Team Fortress 2 Goes To The Rockies

And Valve Make A Game Mode Out Of The Worst Part Of TF2

So the new game mode is a sudden-death single-control point mini-match, suited to fewer players. More like suited to no players! Because of how it might suck! Lol!

Seriously, though, I’m guessing the presence of a single control point negates what does suck about Sudden Death: the tendency for both teams to hole up at their base and wait until stalemate is announced. If you turtle up at the point, you can cap it and win rather than waiting for the enemy to come to you. If you turtle up before the point, the enemy can cap it and win rather than coming to you. I’m optimistic.

But The Real News Is: Shit, Look At That!


A delicious new environment for the chaps and Pyro! It’s quite, quite lovely – in some ways, even more stylised than the canyon motif we’ve been stuck with until now. The backdrop in this shot is just a few colours:


I’m a big fan of game environments that can feel cold without just blanketing the whole place in unconvincing snow. This definitely qualifies – can’t you just smell how brisk and bracing that mountain air is?

That set of tips from the SomethingAwful testers has now been proven so right that it’s had to be deleted from the Steam forums. In Arena’s case, knowing the broad picture wasn’t very helpful: the details that there’s a single control point, and it can have any number of players, completely change the prospect to a rather exciting one.

But if you still doubt that the last Heavy unlock will be a health-restoring munchable named the Sandvich that replaces the Shotgun, you are now officially delusional.


Seniath: I love the look of the alpine environment; as much as I enjoy the stylised canyons and such, a change of scenery is never a bad thing. Just a shame I'm not sold on this game mode, though the prospect of bugger all water and health does excite my inner-Pyro. I guess we'll see some time later today*.


Seniath: Oh crap, I used &lt &gts there, it should've read:

*<Obligatory Valve-time comment>

Niteowl: Oh goodie! Sudden Death all the time! This won't lead to turtling at all.

Gaming communities always trend towards the most civil, all around fun way to play any game, if history is to be UTTERLY and COMPLETELY crammed down a small crevasse and expected to gnaw it's own wrist off to escape.

Tom Francis: Fixed your correction, Seniath, and deleted your correction to the correction. You were on the right track, but need a semicolon after the lt and gt. The zeroth rule of diagnosing coding errors: it's always a missing semi-colon.

Tom Francis: Niteowl - there's only one capture point, so where's anyone going to turtle?

Seniath: Cheers - as someone who programs in C# for a living, semi-colons are my arch nemesis. Give me Python or give me death!

Chijts: That first image is just awesome, I love the look of those rocks. Something that doesn't rock though will be my PC.. it tends to slow down when alot of chaos is on, despite having fiddled with the settings. This gametype is going to take me to new depths of FPS drops.

J-man: Looks good, but I'm worried about the fact you can't respawn. It's just gonna mean a helluvalot of snipers and spies.

Graham: Counter-Strike seems the best point of reference, not Sudden Death. In Counter-Strike, the round ends when an entire team is dead or upon the completion of the objective (planting/defusing a bomb or rescuing the hostages). In Arena mode, the round ends when an entire team is dead or upon the completion of the objective (capping the point).

People don't turtle that often in Counter-Strike, because rounds are long enough that it's boring to do so and short enough that death isn't a severe punishment. Unlike in Sudden Death, where death might mean losing the entire map and being yelled at by a stern British woman.

littleedge: I already love the new map just because of the new environment. And I always loved sudden death (liked the melee sudden death better, though) so I will probably like this one. Graham: Stern British woman are evil little things...>.>

DoctorDisaster: I do love the look of that environment. I am going to suck miserably at arena, though.

Slamhound: Quirky thought: I can't help but feel that Lumberyard looks like a TF2ised version of the area right at the start of Episode 2. Same shed, same train yard, even the stacks of planks stick in my memory. It's just like they took the textures from Episode 2, ran a smudge filter in Photoshop, and stuck them back in.

Wouldn't surprise me if there's a gnome tucked away under a bench somewhere. You'd like that, wouldn't you Tom?

Tom Francis: Heh. People do camp in Counter-Strike, which is as close to turtling as you get without being able to build stuff. But it's because one team is always on defense, so they don't have to go anywhere to win. In Arena, both teams need to get to the same point, or each other, to win. And yeah, being dead for the time it takes to cap one control point is not such a huge deal. A lot longer than regular TF2, but much less than most Counter-Strike rounds, I'm sure. Spectating should be more tense when death is permanent, too.

The more I think about it, the more excited I am. If there's a TF2 mode that's not entirely about Sentries, it could easily become my favourite.

Dante: I'm no doom and gloom merchant, but I'm not all that convinced by the Heavy update so far. Arena seems to be a move towards other, less inclusive, less outright fun online shooters. The Natasha was an idea I came up with myself and then hated and if the last unlock really is a sandwich? Well it's not only broken Valves own rules, but seems rather unspectacular, once the initial novelty has worn off.

Having said that I don't think it will be a sandwich, because Valve are surely too smart to give away their big secret so easily.

I'd also like to see new versions of the new maps with the old gamemodes (if that makes any sense to anyone) one day.

Jason L: Which of Valve's rules do you feel the Sandvich breaks? The stated goal from way back when was to make the big guy more viable without a competent Medic in some simple way - if anything, requiring an unlockable makes the change fall slightly short of its goal. Right?

Dante: They did say at one point that restoring hitpoints should be the medic's domain alone?

Shadowmancer: Meet the Sandvich is out ...y/sandvich

DoctorDisaster: All my qualms about the sandvich have been laid to rest. Why?

Because it is HILARIOUS.

"My BLOOD! He punched out ALL my BLOOD!"