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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

The World Of Goo Soundtrack Is Out, Free, And Amazing

WorldOfGoo 2009-01-20 13-28-41-33

A few things to say about this:

  • As delightful as the game’s squishy look is, I’d still love it if the artwork was mediocre. But without the magnificent, booming, haunting, spacious music, this would have been a very different game, and a much less exciting one.
  • Free, downloadable, and with full versions of tracks you hear only parts of in-game – this is the way to do it. A commercial disc priced to squeeze a tiny trickle of money out of your most devoted customers, lacking the tracks people are likely to buy it for because of licensing restrictions – this is not. Soundtracks are promos. The people who already have the game can just rip the music from its files, even if you’ve tried to stop them.
  • There are lots of highlights, but my favourite track in the game is still the music to the Red Carpet level (pictured). I had the chance to ask Kyle about the music a few weeks back, and I said this one sounded like a bad dance track slowed down, which somehow made it majestic. He explained that it is a bad dance track slowed down, written as a joke on the awfulness of nineties music, and the full version on this soundtrack includes sections played at normal speed. Witness the shift from glorious to obnoxious and back again:

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    According to the liner notes, the vocalist is “an astrophysicist named Jessica. I gave a her a chainsaw for her wedding and we never spoke again. The end.” I thought she was a keyboard sample.

Imperial Creed: I do love the start of that track and when I heard the full thing I just burst out laughing when it decended into trashy euro dance.

For me though, Regurgitation Pumping Station is the best. Gotta love the funky guitar.

The Poisoned Sponge: Squeeee!

J-Man: That song is awesome. So this now raises the million quid question; what's the best videogame OST?

I'm gonna say first place Deus Ex, second place Mass Effect, third Oni.

skizelo: Man, the red carpet level still makes me cry. Oh, and MOM. And the match goos. And the two toads so far away.
I guess the lesson is not to play physics games while depressed.

Jason L: "The last of the Goos" brought that ending montage of the ones you left behind flooding back. Music doesn't usually do that to me. What a delightfully cruel little kick that was too, just like Darwinia's tour through the war graveyards. All games that involve helping things should leave you feeling like a barely-adequate wretch but proud anyway.

I was also shocked when "Jelly", the Blustery Day theme, stomped the clutch and dropped in that guitar. Wow! I'm hoping I haven't simply forgotten that segment being in the game.

Smurfy: lol guize barack obama is now president of teh usa xD

Roadrunner: The best video game soundtrack is quite clearly the Legend of Zelda series, or simply just Super Mario Galaxy.
There's something about when a soundtrack is orchestralized into a full, harmonious sound that makes it better.
Nintendo make good sountracks, I can't really think of a PC game with an outstanding soundtrack....not even Psychonauts.

Roadrunner: Oh, and although good, L4D's soundtrack wears thin quickly

Jamie: Fantastic!

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Am I a bad person for not hating the normal speed sections?

Then again, I did grow up in the '90s.

Ross: I was listening to the wonderful music a second and browsing the internet when something funky happened - an advert for Frost/Nixon started playing moments after the dancey bit kicked in and it just worked. I offer the fact that it took my a while to realise that the speaking hadn't happened the first time as proof that I was happily fooled.

Awcko: Aww man, the website seems to have gone down, and just when I was almost done downloading too!

Lack_26: Ha, British commentator on the inauguration just said 'they [Americans] like to celebrate their history... Perhaps because they have so little of it'.

Jason L: I think that's a quote.

CloakRaider: I shall certainly give this a listen.

ZomBuster: Yaay, I already ripped all the music from the game but they were all too short! Now I got long version

Tom Francis: It's a very different question to "Which game has the best theme song?" - where Deus Ex, Halo and Mirror's Edge would all be jostling for my top spot. For music throughout, it comes down to World of Goo, BioShock and EVE Online. Probably EVE.

craigp: No Battlefield love, Tom?

Eve Online, HL2 and World of Goo for me. And I have a soft spot for the rather embarassing Mjolnir Mix of the awesome Halo theme. It rocks. http://www.fileshack... ...x?fid=5662

Cartho: Ah the Battlefield 1942 theme tune was awesome

So annoyed they dropped it for BF2 and beyond, although in the little trailers for Battlefield 2142 they had a little sample of it, made me go all tingly when I heard it

Awesome stuff

Smee: @ Cartho: I agree, BF1942's intro was brilliant. I also enjoyed the Secret Weapons version. ...NNAixJErEU

x25killa: Time to audiosurf these awesome tracks...

ad_hominem: @ Roadrunner - I have two words for you. Grim Fandango.

I also have some extra words as a bonus. Grim Fandango was my only video game OST on my computer until this post - some of the music on that is terrific.

Jazmeister: I played Grim Fandango ages ago, and I remember it was fucking awesome! I remember the beatnik poem blag sequence inspired and equipped me to blag my way into a beatnik community on habbo hotel!

Oh, I did just say that, didn't I.

Oak: Clearly, the strangely out-of-place but still awesome ending theme to Half-Life is the greatest game song ever.

Bobsy: Eve's music is dirge. Bioshock was a good little melange but aside from the songs, largely unmemorable. Deus Ex? No, no a thousand times no. It has a catchy theme tune, sure. But not a good one. It's catchy like chlamydia is catchy.

Tomb Raider: Legend has utterly amazing music which took me by surprise and blew me away. I use it as the first indicator that Legend is something special rather than the then-traditional Lara-wank we'd expected.

Also special mention to Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magic Obscura for taking the ballsy desicion to score an epic big-RPG with little more than a string quartet. It's generally awesome, but the "actiony" bits don't really work. Likewise Grim Fandango was pretty damn awesome. I wish more games would go for small-ensemble soundtracks rather than reverting to big orchestras and tacky techno-rawk bullshit.

Half-Life 2 had a deeply appropriate soundtrack, not always musical but effortlessly creating a recognisable soundscape for a world dominated by a ruthless and oppressive government.

But right now I'd have to say my favourite gaming soundtrack of the past 12 months has been WoW: Wrath of the Lich King. The original WoW score was utter crap, entirely unworthy of the breadth of the game, but with WotLK Russell Brower and Derek Duke have created some astonishingly beautiful music. I've got a LOT to say about it, and hopefully I'll get that rare combo of time/energy to write it up.

J-Man: @Bobsy;

completely disagree with you on HL2 and Deus Ex. Half Life's was a completely average one, unmemorable. Deus Ex had a brilliant swelling dramatic/techno one, highly memorable.

Jazmeister: I never listen to music in most games; if there's a sound mixer I turn down the music and play podcasts. Listening to a radio play version of At the Mountains of Madness by the HPLHS while playing spore is... weird.

Dave: Best music in a game? Morrowind. By a landslide.

Star Wars Battlefronts would have won, but I think that counts as cheating, seeing as it uses the most glorious music known to mankind.

Fish #641: Audiosurf has the best soundtrack. Oh wait, is that cheating?

Roadrunner: Technically not because it's soundtrack counts as the audiosurf radio.
Therefore it sucks.
Except for those Jonathan coulton songs at xmas time-

But I disliked Podsafe Christmas Song, its equally bad as Alvin and the Chipmunks. They use that soundtrack at Guantanamo Bay.
While teabagging victims going "NOOB!"

Jason L: I love Podsafe Christmas Song - but then I like Alvin et alia, at least in small doses.

I think Best Theme would go to Darwinia's Visitors From Dreams for me. Love it, love the way it fits into the opening sequence. Best of Times beaten out by a nose, and I second that emotion on Battlefield 1942. I suppose it must be easier to do Williamsesque martial themes than other genres, but I don't hold that against it.

Best Soundtrack would be really tough; I'm not very aware of that stuff. Disqualifying, say, GTA IV's hundred-something tracks, World of Goo would probably come in second just for Best of Times and Jelly. I think the original GTA would win out - foreshadowing and one-upping the later series' fictional talk radio, it has a remarkably diverse group of original tracks that were apparently done by one of the devs and some buddies under fictional band names. (I actually tried to track some of the bands down, you see.) I especially like the driving speed rock song She Was Wild, the cheerful maybe-hip-hop Cess, and C&W satire The Ballad of the Golden Nugget ('The menfolk found their women scary / 'cuz they were so big and hairy / they thought of dynamite / to seal them in...')

If I shift it to Best Score - well, World of Goo would win, but it'd be facing stiff competition from Armageddon Empires' little ambient loop. It's just a muted light classics band with spikes from a breathy flute, but I never got tired of it and it feels so wasteland. Grim Fandango would go in this category too - the music's awesome, but I didn't like it as much in the foreground as I expected to.

Waste_Manager: Best music in a game ever goes to Skies of Arcadia as far as I'm concerned. For saying it was made with midi files, listening to it is so compelling.


Now I can't stop thinking about that bloody game. 'Moonstone cannon...Fire!'

Cpt.Muffin: I managed to recreate Mirror's Edge gameplay with music. I simply put on some of my favourite music and had a friend stand by. Then at random intervals he'd randomly stop it and slap me in the face before letting me enjoy the flow of the song once more.

WoG soundtrack = Beautiful however, the serenity and dark humour is encapsulated so well and justifies bumping the game up from goodness to greatness. I go jiggly at the knees for any game that can draw me in with well timed music that creates and works in tandem with ingame emotions.

Thomas “Padre” Lawrence: Man, this stuff is going to be awesome to Audiosurf, especially stuff like "Tumbler" which utterly changes tempo several times through.