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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

Multiwinia Mathematics

Here’s an interesting stat: if you play the 49MB demo of Multiwinia, you’re more likely to buy the game than you are after any other Introversion demo.

Here’s a slightly sad one: you probably haven’t. The game’s gone weirdly unnoticed, despite being great. Alarmingly few people are trying the demo in the first place, according to Chris, so the fact that it’s brilliant isn’t counting for much.

good multiwinia 2008-10-01 20-17-19-66

It’s a simple strategy game that unfolds in five or ten minutes, depending on the map, and you play it against bots or other people. I’ve found that I like the bots: they fall for my ploys, they don’t gang up on me as much as humans, but they still have me worried throughout, and occasionally win the day.

good multiwinia 2008-10-01 20-17-15-54

The fundmantals are about groups of stick men being spewed out of capturable spawn points at regular intervals. But while there’s plenty of strategy in how many of those you direct where, most of the spectacular insanity that makes the game compelling comes from a completely different source.

good Multiwinia 2008-09-16 00-20-12-22

Crate drops are random in timing, placement and content, but contain powerful weirdness. You can summon the nuclear subs from DEFCON, the horrible digital ant hills from Darwinia, a flamethrower turret, or a Cannon Fodder deathsquad. You can also unwittingly unleash a race of Evilinians, a fractal forest, or a gigantic UFO from the future.

good multiwinia 2008-10-01 20-17-14-04

And it’s so pretty you’ll think it’s Christmas.

Here’s a nice stat: Google Analytics tells me that James readers are 800% cooler than the general internet populace. That means a good percentage of people reading this have tried the demo and bought the game. So I leave this as an exercise for the reader: if you’ve got it, played it and liked it, say so somewhere public.

Dave: Provide a link and make it one-click, dead-easy for us 800% cool James readers to get the demo!!

I'll Google it now, sounds great. Defcon was great fun.

Jason L: You're far too late - Collector's Edition across the Atlantic here, complete with foam Darwinians. I am fanboy, hear me squeak.

Rosti: Oh, all right; me and my Foamwinians will continue our reign of Introversion-fear-instilling terror. (Amusingly, when I recently tried to get a DEFCON LAN party game going - since Diplomacy is ace when you're all in the same room - 2 of my friends admitted to pirating the full game but actually had the demo. IV are good at thems DRM for sure.)

SenatorPalpatine: I don't have time to play any video games, much less new video games. But I'll add it to the list.

Dante: I have my own Foamwinians, from the PC Gamer showdown.

Missed a trick there, didn't you Tom?

Grill: (Quietly, trolling) I don't like it. It's rubbish!

Lack_26: I've been bugging my friends to try it for a few days now, I just got my brother hooked two days ago, I'm going to buy it soon, once I start to get tired of the brilliant demo.

Tom Francis: Dante: I have three, I even got Chris to sign one of them, much to his embarrassment. The PCG Showdown ones were probably the new generation, though, laser-cut from proper foam rubber rather than hacked out of old flip-flop soles.

Grill: says Mr Seventy-Six Percent. You can't trust anyone with a double-barreled first name.

ZomBuster: yeh its cool

and google knows how cool i am D:

Dante: I'm told the old ones are more aerodynamic though.

Ross got everyone to sing happy birthday for you Tom, I hope you appreciate it.

PFC Skinner: Of course, by 'Bots' Tom means 'The President and the Presidential Candidates'...

Ludo: At one point people were hoarding those foam Darwinians and placing them in formation near the entrance. It was genuinely quite menacing.

Lack_26: I wish I could have gone to the PC GAMER showdown, but I had an long, important test on the Saturday, so I wasn't really able to make it.

Devenger: Fine, I'll download the demo. Darn peer pressure. Will report back...

MrUnimport: I always thought their games were a tad expensive, so I haven't bought any of them so far. I will give the demo a shot later this week. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful, at least from your screenshots.

Spartacus Morbidia, Commenter of Fearsome Wrath: I...I downloaded the demo, OK? I was going to play it eventually, I just...I just haven't gotten around to it! I'll do it, I promise! Me and my Keychainwinian will play it right now, and play it with gusto.

Also, I now have statistical proof that I am awesome. I had suspected it, but I am now quite sure. So thank you for that.

Jason L: MrUnimport: I hate to say it in light of the subject of the post, but if you're going to play one game in the Darwinia engine I suggest you make it Darwinia. It's even more jaw-droppingly beautiful than Multiwinia, and has a terrific story and a broader mix of gameplay. No multiplayer though, obviously.

Devenger: Played it. Going to buy it on Steam tomorrow. In brief: Nuclear Strikes. And Crate Mania. Stuff like that instantly gets my purchase, I can't see why developers haven't worked out what I'm now going to call the 'RAGE MODE' formula.

Tom Francis: Hurrah!

Evan: I never bought Darwinia, though I heard great things. Defcon was my addiction for awhile. And if the demo is like you described (strategy with random craziness thrown in) I'll probably end up buying this.

The_B: I have my Multiwinians, but I'm a little disapointed. I got a red and a yellow one. But I wanted a green one. Sadface.

Not dissappointed with the game though. That's awesome. Well, except for the lack of being able to organise games with people because I don't have the Steam version, but hopefully the next patch should alliveate that somewhat.

Fat Zombie: Well, I tried the demo. The concept is simple enough to get my head round but, as always with this kind of thing, I found myself turning it off when, after teaching me the Advanced Concepts, the game then went, "Well, good luck!" and left me to fend for myself against two opponents.

I get this barrier in most RTSes; I realise that I'm going to have to start thinking of what I have to do; then I start to panic, and if the option presents itself, I quit.

I think I have a problem. The game is nice, but I can't play it; it might be that I just don't want to spend so much time on a game just to lose.

(It's the same with DEFCON: I love the IDEA of it, it looks starkly fantastic, and it feels good to incinerate the Eastern Seaboard with SLBMs. But I'm just no good at it, I always get trashed. So I don't play it.

Idlehands: Oh well done now I've got another game to play. I don't have the time, I no longer sleep! Please let me at least see my family, don't throw another great game my way.

Seriously though thank you for pointing this game out. I saw Darwinia but it didn't appeal to me that much, Defcon I loved the idea but barely played. This though I love the absolute randomness that can occur. The short game time means nice short frantic battles.

More people need it as there don't seem to be many online games, I would tell the public more but they don't seem to listen to me after that duck incident...

John Saflo: Steamed. This is ridiculously fun. The only downside so far was someone calling me a "noob" when I airstriked (airstruck?) him from beyond the grave.

Roadrunner: I don't have multiwinia or Darwinia, and i'm downloading the demo now, to play it for the first time, but which one would you people say is the best?

Devenger: Darwinia is a bit of an arthouse game - I'm sue it's great when you get into it, and it is a beautiful world, but personally the demo put me off. Sorry Introversion!

Multiwinia, on the other hand, is brilliant right from the get-go, and only gets the more fun once you realise all the features they forgot to mention in the tutorial. Stuff like Retribution Mode (torture those who defeated you!), Turret Control (right-click on a turret to jump in! personal recommendation: flameturret, that you've placed amidst a huge battle on top of one of your squads; just keep spinning and firing), and that special moment where your teammate in a 2v2 nukes your spawnpoint in an attempt to get rid of some pesky bees. Well, that's not a feature, but...

...aww, I did the long comment thing again. You know, you could just buy both and high-five independent developers.

Tom Francis: Darwinia is a story-driven single-player action-strategy, so you can take it at your own pace and you actually can't lose. Multiwinia is a very fast multiplayer real-time strategy, so you're managing large numbers of troops very quickly. Personally, I prefer Darwinia because I like exploring. But if you're more challenge-oriented or hardcore, you'll get more out of the competitive nature of Multiwinia.

DoctorDisaster: I have exactly the same problem as Fat Zombie. Not the overweight or undead part, of course. Just the bit about totally shying away from online RTS.

Then again, I felt exactly the same way about online FPS until I got into TF2. I owned the orange box for about three months before I even ran TF2, despite being head-over-heels in love with the screenshots that whole time.

Fat Zombie: @Doctor Disaster:

To be fair, I can enjoy online FPSes more because they're not as goal-centered.

...Well, okay, maybe they are a lot of the time. But the fact remains that I can enjoy myself a lot of the time even if I'm not contributing towards the goal. I do, of course, but it's not the be all and end all whether our team wins or loses. As long as I can shoot some dudes, I'm happy.

(Also, it helps when you have team-mates to fall back on/pick up your slack.)

Whereas in most RTS, you have to win in order to gain any enjoyment out of it. And since I suck at RTS, most of the games I lose; and losing takes so long, it becomes painful. (The fact is that I'm a bad loser, so spending ten minutes watching my forces being butchered isn't FUN, which is the main goal of playing)

Jason L: Right on. In a shooter, if you're not the last man standing at least you can get some points. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any strategy games that aren't effectively all-or-nothing. Maybe World in Conflict, I guess.

Devenger: I also shy from mainstream RTS for reasons aboue... Multiwinia does try a lot to make last stands fun. In all the games I've lost (most of them) the ending has been made more fun as the game practically throws crates next to my remaining spawnpoints to give me a decent chance. (Crate drop weighting to failing players is an option on by default.) Additionally, in a game with more than 2 players, if you lose all your spawnpoints you start geting random crate powerps to use wherever you wish - 'Retribution Mode'. All of this maks losing a less intimidating prospect, even though ultimately online classic-competitive games must have winners and losers. (Maybe we need a specifically co-op RTS?)

Unless, of course, the crate you open next to your spawnpoint happens to be a plague that wipes out your last hope for survival. But that's at least hilarious for everyone else.

Fat Zombie: @Jason L:

Yeah, World in Conflict. By some weird coincidence or something, it also happens to be one of my fave RTSes to play online.

(Hell, it's the ONLY RTS I play online. It's awesome)