All posts


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

Trash Television

Dealing with the categories for this mini-redesign, I realised I hadn’t mentioned television in ages. Here’s a quick round-up of things you’re mostly probably not watching and mostly probably shouldn’t be.

Lost: Season one: I like everything about this show except Jack.
Season two: I like everything about this show except Jack and Kate.
Season three: I like everything about this show except Jack, Kate and Sawyer.
Season four: I like everything about this show except Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Ben.
Season five: I like everything about this show except Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Ben, Locke, Sun, Juliet, Charlotte and the plot.

Damages: Something about the style, tone and performances is still gripping, but every part of the plot this season is inferior. The main one’s a really tired cliché, Timothy Olyphant’s feels arbitrary and improbable, and the callback to the last season hinges on someone we saw shot still being alive – don’t ever, ever do that.

24: These tropes are still fun no matter how many times they’re repeated. Jack having to achieve the impossible in service of the terrorists is a classic. I notice Fake Hillary Clinton is the first president of 24-land to act in any way presidential – the others seemed to think their advisors outranked them.

The Fringe: This ought to be trashy fun, but something about it really doesn’t work. I think it’s that it takes itself so goddamn seriously, and the lead actress, while talented, is so scowlingly concerned that she sucks the joy from the surrounding nonsense.


Lie To Me: Smug but entertaining. Tim Roth as a human lie-detector. The science is both more convincing and interesting than guff like CSI, and more relevant than the hilarious nonsense of Numbers, but of course still wildly exaggerated. The decision to back up some of their claims with quick flashes of famously ashamed, guilty or angry people showing shame, anger or guilt is a great trick.

Flight of the Conchords: Caught bits of this a few times when jetlagged in the States and it never clicked, but this new series has just been sublime. The Conchords are a real band and a fictional one, and this is a mockumentary made by the real one about the fictional one, with the story of their bad, meek indie performances sometimes told via the medium of their smart, genre-hopping real songs. This is their manly answer to the Black Eyed Peas’ famously dismal My Humps:

Gign: Lie to Me was a pleasant surprise last week, I grabbed it on a complete whim - so finding Tim Roth doing a Derren Brown was an amusing result.

Fringe is completely saved by the interaction between Walter and Peter, otherwise it truly would take itself far too seriously!

Ging: *sigh* I apparently can't type my own name, that's somewhat embarrassing... Teach me for not paying attention!

Chris: Also surprised by Lie to Me, watched it on Hulu. Nothing grand, but certainly kept my attention.

I can't give up 24, either, even when it's bad. Outside of Big Love, that's the only TV I watch anymore.

Punjab: I started watching The Wire last week and have since gorged myself on the first three series in quick succession. I know I'm about 8 years late to the party, but still. That show is gooood.

Rei Onryou: Flight of the Conchords looks good to me. I didn't know fat guys could dance so well.

Waste_Manager: Flight of the Conchords is one of the best things on TV. The series 1 episode with David Bowie is comedy gold.

Walternat0r: Lost for me was ruined by midway through season 3, and 24 by the end of the 2nd day.

Flight of the Conchords though is absolute genious. First few episodes of the 1st series weren't great. But it really picks up and as Waste_Manager says, the "freaky dream" with David Bowie is truly truly amazing.

Dante: Me and Ludo are plowing through season four of 24 now, they seem to be keeping to a ratio of one good series to one bat shit insane (but still pretty good) series, this is one of the latter.

Flight of the Concords is odd but funny, they have a very deadpan delivery for most of the gags, but the songs are terrific.

I saw the first episode of Fringe, it was very disappointing, like the X-Files with all the charisma and invention sucked out.

I miss the days when you introduced us to obscure American TV Tom.

Denton: I stopped watching Lost half way through season 2 - everyone says it's getting better now, but by the end of season 1 I already hated all the characters and the plot so maybe there's no hope for me liking that show.

Flight of the Conchords is definitely great, though, and this season is already far better than the first.

Joe Russell: I still watch lost, but pretty much only for the glimpses of Desmond I'm rewarded with - he's by far the best in the show now. The physicist on the island is pretty cool as well. Also, I've put too much time into watching it now to give up in what they're calling the penultimate series.

FotC I've watched since the beginning, and it only seems to be getting getter. Fantastic stuff.

Joe Russell: Also, just realised where the text from your post button comes from. Looks like some philosphy stuff is getting stuck in my brain after all, despite my lack of attention in lectures.

Lack_26: I like numbers (which somehow makes complete sense if you've watched the series in order) and CSI, there hilariously trashy but I think they know it. Plus, there is very little good TV at the moment for someone with Freeview.

I do like Flashpoint though, it's on tonight at 10.00pm on ITV 3. You'll probably love it or dislike it, but give it a go.

Justice: As a New Zealander, I'm a bit unsure where I stand on the Flight of the Conchords... still, many of their songs are worth a laugh.

As far as David Bowie is concerned, doing something outrageous? That ended well, didn't it...

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Hooray! A blog post on TV! Yaay!

Peter: Lost should have ended about 2 or 3 seasons ago, when it was still interesting. Now it's more of a boring soap opera.

Will: Does this mean you don't watch Battlestar Galactica, or that you don't consider it trash television? Because, man, that is a great show.

I don't watch Lost often, but when I do, Ben is always my favorite. It's just nice to have someone who's dynamic and informed instead of being a clueless lump.

Punjab: How did you watch three seasons of The Wire in a week and not kill yourself? Slow down on season 4, it's a killer, emotionally.

Ronin08: No Battlestar Galactica or Terminator, Sarah Connor Chronicles?

Roadrunner: I didn't know there was a new series of Flight of the Conchords?!
And the only other one of those I watch is 24, which is brilliant, because it never gets old with twists and turns I don't really get because I didn't watch Season 1-5.

Dave_C: I'm not sure what I'd call 24, but 'Brilliant' is not a word that springs to mind.
It's fun to watch and absolutely ridiculous, and Kiefer Sutherland is a good actor, but the whole thing feels made up as it goes along to me. It tries so hard to show something new, but it's as if they've used every plot device there is in the box of plot-devices, and are now desperately trying to shove new ones together to make something compelling.
Still... 'Dammit!', 'Sonofabitch!'

The Poisoned Sponge: More importantly, no Scrubs?

Jazmeister: Never seen 24. Dark City is a good film. I remember being a fan of old Flight of the Conchords vids on youtube, but I really don't watch tv. Sometimes, when I'm not at a computer and my mouth and hands are busy, we'll watch The Secret Millionaire and complain at how small the amounts of money are.

Something about comedy music makes me cringe; Conchords are on that edge there, along with Bill Bailey and Manowar.

All the good-tv-turns-crap that happens now is so depressing. Heroes was bad enough, but I'm also maturing as a viewer; what I enjoyed ten years ago is, well, Angel. Now, I want more than it seems anyone can provide.

Redhawk: At this point, the only reason to watch 24 is for Jack FUCKING Bauer.

Smurfy: I thought that the thumbnail for Flight of the Conchords showed a man with both legs amputated.

Dante: Since we're sharing what else we like:

House - The most cynical show on TV
Burn Notice - Funny but smart spy show with a terrible name
Mad Men - Awesomely fifties
Flashpoint - Surprisingly smart SWAT team drama
Chuck - Very, very silly.

The last bit of heroes I saw looked like it might be making a comeback after it's slow spiral downwards over the last too seasons, that remains to be proved though.

And back home in blighty, Hustle's back on and still good, despite losing Danny and Stacey. In fact the return of Mickey means it's an improvement on the last series.

Dave_C: Actually holy shit: episode 6 of 24 really surprised me by being totally fucking awesome! The shootings were surprisingly tense and realistic.

Roadrunner: My Name is Earl is overrated and crap.
Or perhaps us Brits don't get the trailertrash culture?

And House is always amusing. I watch it on the internet. I dunno how these sites are legal but they just are! :D

Dave_C: No, they're not. They link to streamed media located elsewhere on the internet, and do not actually host any of the videos you watch on the site directly.
Most current videos are taken down within a matter of days due to infringement.
Also, the quality on these sites is shite and the audio is often out of sync. I want my video full-screen and my audio loud, not in some boxed-in pinhole.

Dan: I like My Name is Earl.

House I cannot stand! I watched the beginning of one and it was in a kindergarten classroom. A girl peed in her pants and then when the teacher came over to console her, the teacher began coughing blood all over the student. And I said, "what the fuck!"

Ludo: Mad Men is fantastic!

Idlehands: I adore Flight of the Conchords songs, the rest of the show really is hit and miss with me. Thanks for reminding me, now to youtube to watch all their songs.

Haven't watched TV for awhile so don't know what's on lately, I only came out of my TVless cave to watch Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe. . a program about TV. . that I don't really watch . . go figure

Mr. Brit: House is fantastic, no arguments allowed. Hereos lookes set to repair itself with the new volume involving some sort of large scale team up that the show has needed for a while. Lost remains obscure and impossible to jump in too, but for those that have stuck with it, it is largely ok. Can I suggest something a hell of a lot more subtle, 'Outnumbered' starring Hugh Dennis is one of the best comedies the BBC is doing at the moment, that and 'The Lead Balloon'. And no mention of Skins??

Bret: House?

The most cynical show on TV?

The last episode ended almost heartwarming. I mean, House is a cynical bastard who hates everyone (which is fun) but the show isn't even up to Seinfeld levels of lack of faith in the human race.

Dante: It's very, very cynical, because House is the main character, the world often conforms to his faithless view just to make things right, just like the world of Numbers, for instance, conforms to it's characters view that everything can be predicted with equations. No matter how stupid that is.

It probably isn't the most cynical show on TV, Battlestar Galactica was so bloody depressingly cynical I couldn't bear to watch the damn thing.

Palmsy: It's a shame you aren't liking Lost anymore Sir Francis. I've found it's the only consistently good (apart from a couple of episodes in season 3) series on television. Certainly the only good American one, excluding Scrubs. On the whole though I agree with you. Fringe put me off because of it's over serious lack of fun nature too, and I've just got into Flight of the Conchords. Reminds me of Arrested Development, not because they resemble each other at all, but more because it's the characters that are so watchable and funny rather than the plot or even the songs.

Blackout62: Might I suggest Mad Men, it's a special kind of awesome.

Roadrunner: I've been compared to house numerous times actually, every time I mention house, someone goes "you remind me of him."

Weirdly enough I do want to be a doctor, so who knows O.o Anything political is good in my opinion, so long as John Prescott is kept well away.

And anyone who doesn't like QI needs to be slapped. Same with Have I Got News For You. Mock the week on the other hand is crap, because all the jokes are rehashed material and the comedians are shit.
Frankie Boyle- Overrated, all he does is make mildly amusing metaphors.
Russell Howard- He just laughs at himself before he tells a joke, with his stupid bloody buckteeth and expect the audience to laugh at a highly predictable crap joke.
Andy Parsons- Just talks very slowly, as if we don't speak english.

Just my opinion anyway. There are lots of people who disagree with my taste on comedians though, Jimmy Carr is another unfunny one. And Lee Evans is undoubtedly in my humble opinion, murdering comedy with his squeaky voice.

Lack_26: I pretty much agree with what Dante said, Flashpoint and Mad men are great. House is another one I love, and anyone who doesn't like QI should be sat down at a national archive and be made to read everything, then move through the Classics and History sections of every library this side of the Atlantic.

Dagda: Hilarity is scrolling up while that video's playing and seeing the Fringe lady's expression as though it were a part of the video.

Formerly Cpt.Muffin: Trash Television drinking games anyone? I've got a bottle of port and a bottle of jack ready and waiting.

And @Roadrunner, I feel like I should give you a massage or a footrub or something. I understand the hypocritical nihilism but seriously, you can admit to liking something without having to take a dig at something else. Liking things doesn't neccesarily make you seem naive.

Will: At the risk of fanboyism, I would disagree with Dante's assertion that Battlestar Galactica is a cynical show. It is an extreme show, certainly, focused as it is on the very edge of survival. And it is often a very dark show, for those same reasons. But it is also concerned with the things that allow people to be human, even in that extremity, and about finding nobility and purpose after your world has collapsed around you.

Ludo: All I’ve seen of Battlestar Galactica is the teaser for the first episode. A hot android meets a human ambassador in an abandoned space station, snogs him and then the space station blows up. That’s sex, death and explosions all in the first 30 seconds – all boxes ticked I’d say.

Dante: I just couldn't get on board with it Will. It may be too many years of Star Trek, but labeling a whole bunch of clearly sentient beings 'not people', and that being acceptable to everyone, put me right off.

Between that and the general unlikeable characters I ended up seeing no real reason to want humanity to survive.

Bravedave: @Dante The way I see it the fact that they are labled 'not people' is one of the many serious themes that are looked at by BG. Its as much an exploration of what makes 'us' human as how similar we are to 'them'.

Admittedly you have to get a ways through it to get to this (seasons 2, 3 and 4).

Bobsy: Thanks for not spoilering BSG for me, as I can't watch the new episodes at the moment and DVD releases are yonks away. And the internet is now a BSG spoiler minefield. Well, the BSG bits are anyway.

I've never watched Flight of the Conchords, but my brother got me the CD for my birthday last week and it's pretty splendid. It is now officially on my radar.

Bobsy: Oh, and Mock the Week is far, far funnier than Have I Got News For You. The latter is a tired old donkey that needs to be smacked with sticks to get it to bleat, the former is a sprightly little sprite that douses comedy magic sparkle dust over the nation while it sleeps at midnight...

I may have gone a little overboard on that. Anyway, QI's ace.

Dante: Your wrongness is remarkable Bobsy, Mock the Week is but a pale imitator kept alive primarilly by Frankie Boyle, HIGNFY is a national instution, and with good cause.

QI is brilliant though. Did you know Stephen Fry has a podcast and a twitter account?

Bobsy: The News Quiz is better than HIGNFY too.

And yes, I know about Sir Stephen of Fry. I get mildly rage-tastic that he doesn't podcast more often, but then feel all guilty because I know he's doing more important and more awesome things instead.

Roadrunner: Someone needs to start a petition to get Stephen Fry knighted :D
Not me though.

Aspro: Indeed Sir Fry has been busy, providing voiceovers for direct line sodding commercials... although he is easily redeemed for QI,The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the wonderful Little Big Planet.

Jazmeister: They should have a Dark OBE for Dark Knights. Dicks.

Also, House is sherlock holmes, right? He has a cane, a drug habit, always solving mysteries with full-force logic. I watch one or two on that black day that my brother bought the boxed set and watched it. I saw bits while bringing him food, emptying his bucket, etc. It's weird for Hugh Laurie to talk like that. He's weird. You're weird.

J-Man: Flight of the Conchords is hilarious, even better than Summer Heights High.

Dante: @ Jaz

He's deliberately based on Holmes, the patient in the first episode was named 'Irene Adler' after a character in the books.

Wilson is his Watson.

Iain “DDude” Dawson: Speaking of Lost, I just got your bloop reference. (See comment in Trust Me.)

Jason L: Oh, you Lost fans and your crazy, paranoid, accurate conspiracy theories.

Speaking of superannuated TV shows (c'mon segue, don't fail me now!), I've somehow been reminded by this of a story I like about The Drew Carey Show. Apparently, the final couple of years were spent in a contract vortex where the production company had to make the show, and ABC had to pay them for it, but there was no network oversight and no intention of sticking any of the episodes on air anytime soon.

The article (within an article) tells the depressing side of it - actors doing work that will basically be thrown away - but barely touches on what happens creatively on a sitcom that no longer needs to chase ratings. Apparently they did lots of musicals - a form that cast was nearly unique in sometimes pulling off - as well as...paedophile jokes? The writers at Dumbbaby say it's still basically TDCS, but I keep meaning to check out a few episodes of The Twilight Zone Drew Carey Show for myself.

Tom Francis: "Mad Men - Awesomely fifties" - isn't it set in the sixties?

I was really enjoying it for a time, but I got tired of Don being such a dick to the women. Connor from Angel was an inspired casting choice for the role he plays.

Flashpoint didn't grab me, but I'll give it another go since so many mentioned it.

I lasted nearly one season of Battlestar, it's not for me. I might be able to suffer the oh-so-serious military setting if I found the bad guys compelling or liked any of the characters. I will watch anything with Michelle Forbes, though, so her guest star as that Admiral was worth sticking around for.

My appetite for House is dwarfed by the amount of it they've produced. I think I would have liked it to be a film.

Don't watch either Mock vs Got News often enough to judge these days, but when David Mitchell hosts the latter I'm there. QI is king. Fry's Twitter is making me sick of him, however, so I must unfollow.

Dante: It's set in 1960, but it's got a real 'the fifties' vibe.

I just watched the first two episodes of 'Lie to Me' and it's surprisingly decent, despite clearly doing a bit of a 'follow the leader' in some respects. I like the 'radical honesty' guy though, isn't he the boyfreind from 'The Middleman'?

I really have to cut down on my apostrophe usage.

Jazmeister: The fifties refused to stop happening and forced the sixties to adolesce gradually into the seventies. It was crowded, I hear. Then, of course, the Glorious Dawn of Man. Then the Glorious fall. Then the noughties/naughties. Twelve years until the twenties are back, though, so that's good.

@ J-man

Ah. And I see wikipedia confirms. It was satsifying to stun my brother with my smug analysis, regardless. More characters should be based on Holmes. Less games should be made, in return.

@ Dante

I wa's reading 'some Terry Pratchett to my wife, and its' hard becau'se he doe's a lot of punctuation humour. I'ts' hard to convey verbally.

Mark: And you forgot the new series's of Pushing Dasies and Dexter!

Bret: Pushing Daisies makes every right thinking person sad. I mean, that such a great show is canceled...

Not thinking about it is the only way to stay sane.

Bobsy: Hm. I never found BSG particularly military-y, to be honest. And it softens up a bit towards the season 2/3 switch. One of the main themes that goes on throughout the series is the balance of power between the military command and the civilian government, what real role an elected body has over a population of <50,000, and all that jazz.

Incidentally, this week's News Quiz had David Mitchell debuting, and he was excellent.

DoctorDisaster: I love BSG, but if you couldn't make it through the first season, there's no way you'll enjoy the murkier bits in the middle. (The end fucking rocks so far, though.) It is an incredibly cynical show, though. If you disagree with me, name a truly good-hearted character -- one! -- that has been a major player in more than a handful of episodes.

(And whoever was complaining that the cylons are treated as inhuman -- well, suffice to say that issue has been addressed pretty thoroughly.)

Dexter season 3 was good, but any follow-up to season 2 was bound to be overshadowed. House I enjoy, but I don't follow it. Frankly, I don't understand how people 'follow' episodic series like that. Heroes is kind of acting like it wants to redeem itself -- they've excised all the most hideously unbearable material from season 2 -- but it's not there yet.

I'm also strangely compelled by United States of Tara. The central premise is utterly preposterous, but some of the characters are pretty interesting to watch. Not as constantly funny as Juno (same writer), but not as treacly either.

But if you really want to see some trash TV appreciation, sit me down in front of one of those awful ghost shows. I'm not even into ghost stuff, but for some reason I can sit there for hours watching guys who were picked on in high school point thermal cameras at creaky floorboards.

Jason L: I rarely watch TV that isn't on a Digital Versatile Disc. Last night I caught an entire episode of The Big Bang Theory from start to finish while fixing a computer. I liked it a lot! I should have known before the credits that it was from Chuck Lorre.

Tom Francis: Update! Dante's right, Burn Notice is good. He's also right that it has a terrible name.

Damages has got much better, and captivatingly dark.

The concept of Dollhouse continues to make no sense, but luckily the show itself is great. I like Dushku but hate Faith, so it's nice to see her snap out of it. It will be cancelled swiftly, of course.

Lie To Me: still fun.

Bret: You know, it's good Dollhouse isn't Firefly good, but merely really good.

I couldn't take that sort of pain a third time.

Palms: I just watched the first episode of Dollhouse and I enjoyed it way way more than I thought I would. The concept had no interest to me, but halfway through watching it I suddenly realized the possibilites it allows.

The first episode itself was only a 7/10 though. I hear Fox executives dipped their dirty fingers in it which explains alot. Probably the same fingers that strangled Firefly and Futurama.

DoctorDisaster: Jury's still out on Dollhouse. I think the silliness of the premise is still causing me trouble. Particularly because of the way the episode's climax (which on its own was pretty cool) kept getting interrupted by technobabble explanations of how her nearsightedness was caused by stitching a number of personalities together into blah blah blah. I would have accepted that the artificial personality came with its own memories with no explanation; why are you forcing this down my throat?

Also, spurred by this scout news, I have decided to start following you.


Palms: "kept getting interrupted by technobabble explanations of how her nearsightedness was caused by stitching a number of personalities together into blah blah blah."

Really? Is that what they were saying? I thought the personality of the person she was currently using was just near sighted, so then she became nearsighted as well. I actually liked that part. The guy saying they couldn't pick and choose which features of a personality they wanted.

Tom Francis: Undermined a bit by the part where he says they can pick and choose from various personalities. I think his lecture was to illustrate the point that the good qualities of that personality might be tied to the adversities it's had to endure, so if they didn't make her near-sighted she, like, wouldn't negotiate as hard.

Agreed, the amalgam personalities thing feels entirely unnecessary, and requires another huge leap of logic to accept. I'm guessing he has a really good scene in mind that hinges on it.

Dante: Glad you liked it Penty, the name is indeed terrible, and the Oirish lass can be pretty dodgy too, but Bruce Campbell and the brilliant narration make it worthwhile.

I've just watched the first two episodes of the second chapter of the third series (sigh) of Heroes, and you know what? It might actually be getting good again. Maybe Brian Fuller does more than he gets credit for.

Dollhouse seems to be getting very mixed responses, I'll have to take a look sometime soon.

DoctorDisaster: You're probably right about some later twist hinging on Personality Pudding, but couldn't they have just based that later twist on an initial experiment with Brain Blend? Or at the very least saved the nitpicky details for a later episode? I guess it is kind of a quibble, but it wrecked the pacing for me.

Dante, just last night I was trying to explain what season of Heroes they were on, and gave up. Thanks for clarifying. I agree that the bit they're doing now shows promise, if only because they're ditching all experimentation and lifting the entire premise directly from an X-men yarn. But while cutting down the number of characters who do incredibly stupid things to advance the plot is a step in the right direction, that number still isn't zero and it should be.

I think my friend (who no longer watches the show) described it best when he said Heroes is one of those serials that is always poised to get really interesting, but never quite manages to cross that threshold.

Palms: I have almost given up on heroes. The last two seasons I watched out of habit more than anything else. When the last episode was released (of the volume; fugitives...*sigh*) I felt like I really couldn't be bothered. The fact is I simply don't care about the characters anymore. They seem to have no motivations, constantly changing their minds and ideals. Simply; since season one, they *have* no character.

However, I watched it (the most recent episode) and it actually wasn't half bad. It wasn't amazing, but it is beginning to restore my faith in the series. Let's see what happens when Brian Fuller's influence begins to be implemented.

Dante: My thoughts exactly Palms, now Peter's powers have been toned down he doesn't have to act like a moron to keep the plot moving. And they seem to have finally gotten past playing Claire as a victim despite her near invulnerability.

DoctorDisaster: Yeah but that thing with the staged escape in the last episode was exactly the sort of nonsensical plot-driving character behavior we've come to know and loathe.

Palms: "Yeah but that thing with the staged escape in the last episode was exactly the sort of nonsensical plot-driving character behavior we've come to know and loathe."

hmm, I remember watching it and thinking "none of this makes any sense. Why would Tracy freeze her only bargaining chip in front of the only person who seems to care about her."

Also, Dante, while it's great that Claire isn't the damsel in distress any more, she's beginning to remind me of Scrappy doo now. The amount of times she's said lines like; "you're not going to get away with this," forcing me to snort the ricicles I'm eating out of my nose with laughter, indicates to me that maybe she was better as the cheerleader that needs saving. She seems to be punching above her (miniscule) height more often than not, with hilariously clichéd and cheesy consequences.

DoctorDisaster: I actually like the tension they're creating between Claire and HRG. That's definitely the direction they should embrace with those characters. But I agree that they need to emphasize Claire wrestling with a situation where invulnerability doesn't help. That's the situation she's in! All the cheesy bravado is hitting completely the wrong note, particularly when compared with the low-key efficiency she SHOULD have learned from her dad.

Palms: " I actually like the tension they're creating between Claire and HRG"

The thing is, they've done it all before, at the beginning of season 2 where Claire was supposed to just be a normal girl. We get it; she wants to be a hero, HRG wants her to act normal, this is just covered ground.

It's one of the main failings of the series; no consistency. The characters learn lessons, then forget them almost immediatly. It completely undermines the journey that those characters took in season 2 when they finally learnt to trust each other (or not, as the case turns out). I would love to see HRG get killed because of Claire's constant rebelling. It could be poignant and the event that kicks some fucking sense into the character.

However, Heroes isn't the sort of show that kills of it's main actors very easily (just ask Ali Larter...) and when it does it almost always makes a hash of it (Elle and Daphne for example).

Dante: Back in the first series it would kill them off, but they rapidly became so successful they were scared to repeat it.

Killing HRG in order to give Claire motivation? I bloody hope not, sacrificing one of, if not the best character in order to improve a weak one is not a good plan.

DoctorDisaster: I agree with Dante completely. If you must kill someone, kill a character that can't pull his or her weight in the story.

The difference between the tension now and the tension in season 2 is that the tension now is very well-motivated. HRG is doing extremely unethical things both to protect his daughter and because he genuinely believes that these people need to be controlled. Claire is justifiably appalled as she is brought face to face with her dad's dark side.

Whereas in 2 the 'tension' was between "We need to protect our family from a sinister corporation that wants to lock us all up" and "but I like this boooooooooooooy!"

Palms: "I agree with Dante completely. If you must kill someone, kill a character that can't pull his or her weight in the story."

...I'm hesitant in saying, every character on the show? =)

Dante: Personally I always thought HRG and Hiro were the ones still plugging away, no matter how bad the rest got.

I'm uncertain about his role in the new series, he's always done morally grey things, but their best ever episode was the one that humanised him and it's sad to see them repeatedly trying to take that back.

Palms: Just watched the new episode of Dollhouse and I'm very impressed. A lot better than the first episode. There are still quite a few clichés but I guess Whedon has always been a little cheesy. Just watching it makes me wish he had the time to expand on Firefly though. Damn that was a good series. Also, I never found Faith hot, but Echo really is.

Interested to know what Tom thinks about it. (The episode I mean, not my opinions on Eliza Dushku...)

Tom Francis: Liked it again, but still not in love. Disturbing and not entirely convincing to see the Middleman play that role. Still don't see why the handler took the job. And still don't see the mileage in such a fraught concept.

Like Walker, I had a very hard time not switching it off and never watching again at "cern the diff", but the absence of any esoteric lingo elsewhere doesn't bother me at all. A common thread among the negative reactions seems to be the ways in which it's not Buffy, or Whedonesque - I didn't expect or want it to be.

Mostly I'm just enjoying Dushku, who changes impressively, and the stark variety. Not having the faintest clue what might happen even fifteen minute into an episode is a rare thing. I think there are easier ways of achieving it, but whatever, it's working for me.

Doctor Disaster: finally watched the United States of Tara pilot on your recommendation. Holy shit.

Palms: You and Walker make a good point, Tom; the "Xanderish" archetypal Whedon "nerdy" character who is normally so endearing is, for some reason, annoying to the point that I want to rip his eyes out with a fork. I think it's his arrogance (from which the "cern the diff" line stems). It reminds me of the character in Serenity, I can't remember his name, the one who went on about a signal... The overall air of smugness that surrounded him just made me want to cheer in the cinema when he was (Spoiler) finally skewered (although his last recording was a little sad, in both senses of the word). I expect when we learn more about him he'll be a little more sympathetic. Also the intro music really is terrible, similar to the theme for Fringe (I'd expect more from the genius that is Giacchino). It just sounds so simple and inconsequential. I dunno.

Anyway, when we first find out the sinister intentions of the guy hiring Echo I was thinking it would really add a darker edge to the already morally grey (well, not *that* grey) ethics of Dollhouse: That they allowed Echo to be hired for the purpose of hunted game. It would take prostitution to a whole new level. I was actually a little disappointed when I realised that they were just hiring Echo out as an adventurous girlfriend, not as game.

(Also, listened to new PC gamer podcast last night, the reading out of the MSN email really cheered me up. Loved the sincere interpretation of idiocy.)

Dante: I wonder, is this a symptom of us getting older and less cool/stupid. Perhaps in the years since Buffy we've all come to look for our witty dialogue in classier places (ie: The West Wing) and going back is underwhelming.

Alternatively the whole witty teenager speak thing has started going so far up it's own arse it's now merely vaguely annoying and incomprehensible. I blame Juno for this.

Dante: Oh, and I'm really beginning to suspect Heroes really has turned a corner, last episode featured Mr Bennet in black and white flashbacks about his morally dubious affiliations and stuck to characters important to the story rather than roping in Syler's irrelevant family road trip. Not exactly original, but certainly a cut above some of their recent fare.

Meanwhile I've also been watching a lot of Deadwood, which must be going up against The Thick of It for the title of sweariest show on TV, especially Calamity Jane.

Palms: Dante, I agree. Last episode of Heroes, while still flawed, was a lot better than normal. Some of the "tension" between Matt and Mohinder for example was a little contrived, but overall I liked the insight we got into Bennet's mind (even if all his flashbacks told us stuff we already knew...)

DoctorDisaster: Whedon writes great snappy dialogue; Dollhouse really is way below par. Mind, this is coming from someone who has seen about three episodes of Buffy in his entire life. I'm basing my opinion on Firefly/Serenity and the more recent Doc Horrible and Astonishing X-men. I don't think my age and wisdom (?) have anything to do with it.

Jason L: Presumably everyone knows about Mr. Deity who wants to, but I had somehow overlooked Words and wonder whether others may have as well. ...RCw-Hfnpxo I'm putting it here because it's the closest to a commentable Seinfeld piece. A look into the 'real lives' of the Mr. Deity cast, it has the same terrible recognition of privilege that you pinned down in the Media page.