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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

Witch’s On First

Me: Huh. I just got an achievement.
Graham: Which.
Me: Pharm-Assist. Oh shit, Witch!



Jonas: Ah the joys of homonyms.

Palms: I had to read that a couple of times to get it...Stupid me.

There's always an idiot who's completely oblivious of the Witch. 3 of the survivors edge around her carefully and the 4th just comes around the corner, takes one look at a crouching human form and just opens fire.

Or there's the people who think they can always take a witch on their own, only to creep up very slowly behind her, take one shot, miss or shoot her arm or something, turn to run only to get their back slashed. Such hubris.

Anonymous: Third Base?

J-Man: Huzzah for word puns!

ZomBuster: Nice one, Tank you for that.

David: Reminds me of ...ekLO8BwxwE

J-Man: @Zombuster:
I'm "booming" with laughter!

Roadrunner: Nothing beats the time I tried headshotting an easily avoidable witch at point blank range, forcing my whole team to ragequit.

Jazmeister: Aparently if you use something like the shotgun and aim at her body, you can kill her in one shot. There's a damage threshhold you have to cross in one hit, or in under a second, or something.

I want to buy l4d, but I'm being responsible and saving up for a subvolcanic lair. I remember the demo fondly.

Cartho: There's an achievement for that Jaz, it's called "cr0wned"
Basically you have to kill the witch with a headshot
The only thing which can do it is a shotgun (even the hunting rifle cant do it)

You have to quickly run up to her, and nail her in the head at point blank so every bit of shot hits her. When you run up to her fast she looks up at you and growls, you have like a second or two to nail her right in the eyes

I remember trying to do it with some mates, me saying "ok I am gonna try and one shot her for the achievement", the rest of my team saying "oh god"

Anonymous: You don't have go for a headshot, the achievement description is a bit misleading. Her skull is a bit too small to accept the entire spread of shot, at least with any reliablity. Hence why Jaz is correct when he says you have to aim at her body. It is best to walk up behind her and press your shotgun up against the small of her back; so she'll receive every last pellet of the leadshot and trigger the cronening.

The Hunting Rifle's headshots can't cr0wn her. Instead, if you hit her while she is still crying, they will stagger her. You then have a brief moment to line up another headshot and repeatedly pin her down until death. Though, ideally, you co-ordinate and take advantage of the stagger-time for everyone to freely pump as much lead in her as possible before she recovers and incaps someone.

Unfortunately, knowing this makes Witches not as terrific as they once were. Now the biggest threat comes from the S-Infected who arrive just in time to foil your master plan; pounce/bile/coiling you just before you pull the trigger with a now enraged witch in your face.

Alexander: @Anonymous
Well put.
I think there was a video about this on YouTube somewhere.

Thomas “Padre” Lawrence: Ooh, yay, you're still playing L4D.

Inferno: No roadrunner. Everything beats that time. I wasn't even there and I know.

Redhawk: @Anonymous: Witches are never really that bad as long as your team is semi-intelligent about them. I will take a Witch over the precisely positioned and timed Boomer any day of the week.

Chris R: I agree with Anonymous and Redhawk, the witch is a novelty now, since just about everyone knows the trick to "one shotting" her. Valve should do something new for her to make her unpredictable again.

Here's the youtube of killing the witch:

Jason L: I can't wait for Valve to release some L4D stats that say actually the Witch is still killing everybody in the world.

Qazi: The Witch still gets her fair share of incaps and kills, certainly. Not every Left 4 Dead player is connected to the hive mind collective which propagates these useful tricks amongst itself. Only 18.8% have ever Cr0wned after all. However I suppose only one in a group of four needs to know how do to it.

Thomas “Padre” Lawrence: These days the Witches I encounter are probably batting about 30% succesful incap rate in Versus and Advanced. When they do incap, they almost never get to kill the incapped person (unless the team is very distracted or very incompetent).

THe other 70% of the time is split up between, roughly:
25% snuck past
15% sucessfully one-shot killed
20% one shot kill fails but a few extra autoshotty blasts fell her anyway
10% shot from a distance and then had bullets poured into them as they charge at their intended, falling just short

(If you want to be scared of the witch again, try Expert. She's kills there with on shit, and I think it's actually impossible to one-shot kill her... although, would you risk even trying it knowin gher touch is instant death?)

Thomas “Padre” Lawrence: Um, that should read "She kills there with one hit."

Jazmeister: Chris R: "Valve should do something new for her to make her unpredictable again."


Also, I miss the hunting rifle. My poor limp TF2 sniper rifle does not compare.

Chris R: The witch is the most deadly on Expert, agreed. HOWEVER, she still only has 1,000 hitpoints, the same as the other difficulty levels. And a pointblank shot to the head/neck area on Expert will still drop her in one shot. See the videos on youtube for proof. I got my Cr0wned achievement on Dead Air in Expert diff, but I was using the auto-shotty, so that gave me confidence in my ability to shoot her dead.

On a side note, has anyone broken down how many people use the shotty? When L4D first came out, I used the hunting rifle exclusivly, but I found that the Auto-shotty is superior for a larger range of situations and positions. Does anyone else feel this way?

Thomas “Padre” Lawrence: Interesting to know it's still possible to one-shot the Witch in Expert, although I still won't be trying it in a hurry with that one hit kill as the penalty for failure...

I was a big autoshotgun fan from the start, and it's still my go-to weapon. It's rubbish at long ranges, and you have to remember to constantly reload, ideally after every shot. Recently I have been coming around to the idea that the assault rifle, so long as it's used in controlled bursts to conserve ammo, is often a superior choice as it gives you slightly more options.

The hunting rifle I pretty much only use on Expert, where it suits the more careful style I employ there.

Inferno: Autoshotty is pretty much better at everything but saving smokered allies but if you're playing in a tight group they'll be close enough anyway. I use the hunting rifle simply because it's a sniper rifle :D Also it's great for if special infecteed camp the witch so you can snipe them.

Played against a group of people who play versus mode properly competitively, they all used purely the machine gun. Think that it provides the best cover over each other as you're moving fast with damage, not really sure. We got raped :D

Alexander: Auto Shotgun will take the witch down if you're good enough, even if you miss the cr0wn. Just run behind her or next to her, fire as fast as possible, it ought to take her down before she one-hits you

Cartho: When it first came out I was always using the Uzi / M16
However I started using the auto shotty and have never looked back, and recently I stopped using the Uzi in favour of the normal shotty too
I find the autos run out of ammo far too quickly

Dante: The Uzi is probably a better gun than the regular shotgun, but once you've dedicated yourself to the autoshotgun it's too jarring to switch between the two, so you're best off sticking with the two shotguns, as the skills are more transferable.

Thomas “Padre” Lawrence: Left 4 Dead just got patched! Smoker is way easier to use, with the tongue going through rregular infected and having a much wider targeting cone! (Hooray!) Tanks more destructive, able to hit multiple survivors in a single swing, but no longer able to be "parked" (Hooray, except that parts of this don't work right yet!). The losing team gets to be infected first to help redress the balance! (Double hooray!) Hunters that are on fire do less damage (Ambivalence!) Other stuff I forget! Some stealthy changes to the maps that they didn't announce but definitely seem to be there!

Cartho: Yeah they have fixed some exploits where the survivors can get into tight spots that the tank cant reach....

They still exist though. The worst one is on No Mercy 4: The Hospital

Here an early tank can be slaughtered for little to no loss on the part of the survivors. All the survs have to do is run under the staircase, and hide in the corner right at the bottom (the section right at the start of the level, with the fire stairs)
The tank is unable to get them here, and so all they have to do is maul it with auto shotguns

Valve are gradually getting rid of spots like this but this one still exists. Hilariously for the survivors, annoyingly for the infected