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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


When it looked like Valve’s next Team Fortress 2 update would be the Spy’s unlockable weapons back in September last year, I said the prospect filled me with dread. Now that they’ve ambushed us with info on two of his new tools, and the whole thing is much more imminent that anyone realised, I am filled with a dark and terrible glee.

hl2 2008-02-11 18-58-46-50

I’m not usually a fan of feigning death in multiplayer games, except as an entertaining way to fuck with ragdoll physics in Unreal Tournament 3. But the Dead Ringer dodges the two problems I usually have with fake-outs like this: 1) Trying to time your phony death to convincingly coincide with an enemy shot, which is fiddly at best and impossible with any degree of lag, and b) Having to shoot every damn corpse to make sure it’s not just pining for the fjords.

Here, the timing is automatic: when you’re holding it (presumably) the first hit you take appears to have killed you. And corpses are never going to get up: the uncertainty is just “Should he really have gone down that easily? Is he cloaked somewhere around here now?” It still might lead to a tedious amount of speculative firing, but we’ll see.

hl2 2008-01-08 16-47-55-53

The Cloak and Dagger is more exciting to me. Being able to remain invisible indefinitely, staying still to recharge, suits my style: I’ve tired of sprinting to the front line and sap-spamming sentries or hoping I slip through a crossfire by sheer luck. My most interesting lives as a Spy have involved taking impractically long routes around and stalking the enemy team from deep within their base, seeing how long I can prey on them uncaught rather than how rapidly I can score. Currently this is only viable on certain maps, like Well, that have high alternative routes and gloomy corners to recharge in. I’m hoping Cloak and Dagger will let me be this much of a dick in every match.

It’s safe to assume that a) the Sniper update is still coming at the same time, b) these two are mutually exclusive alternatives to the conventional Cloak, and c) the Dead Ringer provides some immunity to being revealed by stray shots, or it might not be terribly useful.


Smurfy: I'm going to enjoy seeing how the Cloak and Dagger will do with players; my theory is that it'll completely destroy regular cloak and everyone'll use it instead.

Smurfy: Kinda like how the Backburner killed the Flamethrower. Until they nerfed it.

Out Reach: I presume to make the Cloak and Dagger balanced against the origional, when you do move it will drain faster. But still a far superior choice on metal dry maps.

Phill Cameron: @Smurfy I think these are the alternative to the cloak AND the current cloak. The Cloak and Dagger seems to be a replacement for the original cloak, and the Dead Ringer is the new alternative. Like how they upgraded the old flamethrower with air compression and gave us the backburner.

Jason L: Also, the Cloak and Dagger can't recharge from ammo.

Jason L: Also also, another dream come true via Valve, eh? http://www.pentadact... ...ment-26993

Lack_26: I'm going to enjoy this, time to whip out the flamethrower.

Although part of me fears that everyone will go pyro and there will be no spies/snipers.

AlphaTM: I was thinking the Spy update would be after the Scout one, and looky here. I can't wait.

AlphaTM: Why do people think the Cloak and Dagger is a replacement? Comparing it to the CB is ridiculous, because the CB didn't CHANGE anything that was already there with the flamethrower. The CaD makes it so you can't recharge on the move, or by picking up ammo. That changes quite a bit.

Nonomu198: Flamethrower Lighter is a joke about how Valve are making unlockables that take on another class' role.

Christopher Livingston: I'm curious to see how they'll handle the fake deaths in the UI. Will it display a kill notification? Will you get a "fake" point for the kill? Will the corpse drop a fake weapon, or a real weapon, or nothing?

The_B: So if that leaves the Soldier, Engineer and Demoman to get upgrades, I wonder if they're just going to do all three at once next time - or just stretch it out a bit further. I mean in a lot of respects it's going to be like Doctor Who and his regenerations - are they going to stop when they've finished all the characters?

Jazmeister549803: I like that instead of just replacing each thing with a new thing, they're giving you three options where you just had one. The heavy needed different stuff for his main gun, I think, but they felt they needed to replace all the things he didn't use.

I can't remember if I said it here already, but the heavy should have got a bolas-firing shotgun and a pair of gloves that shield your team, in my opinion. Thems are useful crap.

More than any class, I wish there was a spy rush.

Jazmeister: Oh dear. That's better.

Mr. Brit: You're all missing the most important point. The spy orders his new stuff from a man named Saxton Hale. His name is an anagram of Hot Anal Sex. Meet the Pyro is coming soon!!

EGTF: Screw asking a pertinent question, will arrows be visible in a cloaked spy?

Velvet Fist, Iron Glove: Even if you do shoot the "corpse" from the Dead Ringer, the beauty of this over the typical "Feign Death" is that you aren't shooting the player anymore once he's gone down -- he's invisible and running around behind you. It looks like a great solution for spies, though I've no doubt it'll make my life as an engineer very painful!

DoctorDisaster: How does the Dead Ringer handle flame damage, I wonder? They could make you keep taking damage but not show the flames, I suppose. Or, if they prize the pyro's spychecking role above their new gadget, they could do the normal cloaked-but-on-fire thing.

Cptn.Average: @Jazmeister, here's a spy rush to maybe make you feel better: ...annel_page

nine: Theres all these random blogs like yours that have gone months without an update and are now writing paragraphs about the same page on the steam site we can all read anyway.

Crit Goes Where?!?: Meet the Spy has been leaked ...38BqYGPAZN

Jazmeister: I love that the spy is so awesome, he even has... relations with the scout's mom. Infact, I love the short glimpse of an alternate TF2 these videos provide - a TF2 with traditional story, dramatic intrigue, and... friendly fire turned on.

So the youtube channel is called "GoldenMachineGun". Like that golden gun the spy seemingly dropped on day 3. Also, does that knife look shiny on day 4? Also, also, also, guys! A spy update! :D

Nico: In the video the sniper is wearing a tooth hat

Jackrabbit: And I heard that it shows the pyro unmasked. I can't see it myself, but someone may have.

Ross: That's an excellent short! S'funny, I was reading Tom's script for Meet the Spy last night, so actually watching a longer Meet the... video feels odd. In a good way. Like your mother.

Lots of beautiful touches in there, too.

Alex: Just having the option to use the Dead Ringer, regardless of whether currently equipped, could have a huge impact on paranoia levels within the other team.

Any time a Red spy is killed (or 'killed') Blu will then spend the next 20 seconds shooting walls, inanimate objects, fellow teammates, and thin air to find the cloaked spy. If the Red spy was using the Dead Ringer they're already repositioning themselves for a follow up attack and if they weren't then they've successfully given the rest of their own team a 20 second advantage while Blu was busy wasting time (and ammo) hunting for something that wasn't there.

The Dead Ringer could also be used as a diversion tool, on 2Fort for example, the spy can run into the spawn area and purposely get himself 'killed' and use the time that gives him to instead head off down the straight staircase and be half way to the Intel room before the other team realises that they're no longer there.

MartinJ: Shit, does the Dead Ringer work against sentries? I suppose it does, and if it indeed does, then, that's just awesome.

Cartho: Am I the only one who thought that meet the spy video was utter genius? MUCH darker in tone than the other ones, yet utterly brilliant

J-Man: @Cartho

Agreed, the first time I laughed properly at a "meet the" video. Not chuckles, real laughs.

Nonomu198: I liked Meet the Sniper a lot better. It had a great flow to it. Also, showing the Scout's mother (and even giving her the Pyro's purse. This either means it's the Pyro or Scout's mom is a slut sleeping with Spy, Pyro, and possibly more people. His description does say he has 8 brothers...) dosen't really fit in the TF2 universe. I mean, all this time we were used to just the 9 merceneries (Announcer dosen't count, also apperantly it is a computer), and all of the sudden there is another person? And it's female?!

Phase: Well, we always knew that the Sniper had parents. What's so different about having the Scout's mom?

Jazmeister: Showed this to my wife and she lol'd. I liked seeing the scout's mom, she's like the scout with 60s ho-hair. Also, the spy doesn't take his mask off for sex. I'd like to just watch a shit ton of TF2 episodes, much like your tele-vision programmes. How long does it take to make these, you think? Most of their time is probably designing and balancing updates, fixing bugs, etc. Plus they share teams a lot.

Wouldn't fancy getting into a TV series released on Valve time, though.

Nonomu198: @Phase

We never see his parents. We don't hear them when the Sniper talks to them over the phone. That was the beauty, I think.

Preedy: @Nonomu198

When does the scouts mum have the pyro's handbag or "manbag"?

Redhawk: Oh God. I thought my love for Valve can't get any higher. Then they release yet another Meet The... video.

Mm. Petomaine: I love the scout's reaction when the soldier fires the shotgun... with the karate hands... really into character ;)

MrUnimport: @Nonomu198

The Announcer/Administrator/Boss isn't a computer. She's not in the base. Sitting around in a base that is regularly breached by men with guns and explosives, not to mention infiltrated by dashing secret agents, is suicide, especially when you're not hooked up to the immortality machines like all the mercenaries are.

I wouldn't be surprised if she'd recorded the intruder alerts, though, especially as late at night as the video seems to be set.

Baggie: I suspect that the next unlocks will be demo & engie, and THEN the soldier. 2 updates, 2 meet the's.
Hope the soldier gets his money's worth, poor bastard went from nearly most played to a rarity.

DoctorDisaster: When I clicked on it, I expected the leaked video to be a fan-made joke -- but it's obviously not. I'm still kind of surprised. Why would someone at Valve leak the video a couple of days early?

I think it's my third favorite "Meet the..." video, just behind Sniper and Soldier. Although that may be the novelty talking.

And I still want to know how the Dead Ringer handles fire!

Redhawk: The fifth day of the Spyiper Update gives us the Meet the Spy video, the Spy Achievement icons and self-deprecation like only Valve can do it. Man, I love them. Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much.

Dante: Is it me, or did all of Valve sit down for an evening with 'The Thing' before making this?

Mr Chug: I assumed the Dead Ringer needs activating in the same way, but doesn't cloak you/spit a corpse out until you get hit. My guess would be a kill notification shows up for the opposing team, so unless they check their points they won't notice. Based purely on day 3 of the update, the corpse will be holding the watch, so looking at the corpse will give the fact that the spy is still around away.

DrugCrazed: Protip: Nobody uses the DR. So when I do, I kick ass since I'm the only one who does.