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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

Scenes From Last Night’s Apocalypse

Six of us piled into Killing Floor. There were no survivors.

Marsh Davies is in trouble
Martin is in trouble. This was our first game, before we’d actually found a stable server or invited anyone else to join. We survived the pistol round, albeit with no ammo, then met variously sticky ends out in the dark of the fields. Lesson learned: stay near the light.

The B is in trouble
The B is in trouble. He actually went on to survive this horror and complete the wave, which meant Martin and I – long since dead – were resurrected for the next.

The B is, once again, in trouble. Being the last man left alive is similar in pressure to Counter-Strike – you know your team are watching you in spectator mode – but more so, since their lives and the continuation of the game hinge on your survival.

Head shot
This is a type of zombie that seems to have ripped off one of its arms and stitched it to the other, creating a weird sort of double-hand, between which he’s wedged a large blade. Or, you could just hold it.

CloakRaider likes knives. I didn’t realise he, Hypnotoad and Macca had joined us and were watching in spectator mode, until the wave ended and they were able to spawn in the game. We suddenly started doing a lot better with six guns firing.

Dude, Wait Up
“Dude, dude, dude, wait up, I wanna show you something.” After most of us had died, Hypnotoad was chased by this thing all around the map, ammoless, about three times, trying to lead him to the other remaining survivor to help.

It doesn’t hold them forever. A lot of good hole-up spots, though, have two main entrances. Welding one shut to deal with the influx from the other works well. It also leads to a tense moment when the first stream is exhausted, and all the remaining specimens are banging against the door, and you have to just wait ten seconds or so for them to breach it before everyone opens fire.

Office corridor
I was dead by this stage, almost certainly from a Flesh Pound.

Far too early to use a grenade, but there were just so many of them, in so small a space.

Fleshpound in the church
Oh God Flesh Pound. Flesh Pounds get angry when you shoot them, which makes them ultra-fast. They’re already ultra-deadly and ultra-tough, so this can rapidly ruin your day. I think the idea is for everyone to hold their fire until they’ve all got their main weapons out and fully loaded, then unleash at once. It’s rarely played out that way for me, and most of the ways it has played out involve me getting my flesh pounded by an angry Flesh Pound.

Jazmeister: Looks crazy. I really didn't see anything about this game yet. Is that film grain, or shittiness?

Alex-chan!: I can't help but think killing floor is a rubbish version of l4d, if you just add new weapons and new zombies you'll either make the game repetetive or massively unbalanced

J-Man: So....

buy it?

Wait, I need a name for this? Drat….: @Jazmeister:
The film grain turns on when you're dead. The sharper images were ones he took when he was still alive and probably should have been shooting more firearms then photographs. Except at the Flesh Pound. That just makes him mad.

Killing Floor does end up becoming more repetitive then L4D, mainly due to the way hordes attack in known waves instead of Director controlled, but they both provide different 'feels'.

Killing Floor is more of a slower build up of knowing exactly how much is coming for you, and being stuck in a situation that you may not have the resources to repel the horde, before finally watching your teammates fall one by one to the masses.

L4D on the other hand is normally a higher action, faster paced adrenalin powered game. When things fail in L4D, they normally collapse in a glorious pile of flaming wreckage that normally feels like it's straight out of a movie.

Killing Floor is a user created mod that came from a group of people looking to challenge both their friends and themselves against stressing odds, while L4D is a Valve super-polished masterpiece. They both may be similar on paper, but they don't play the same. One lets you be a survivor clinging to hope, while the other has you as a faceless soldier against the rising tide.

For $20, Killing Floor is a decent game and a good co-op title, and I'd happily recommend it to those who play these types of games. It's not meant for everybody, and it's going to be rough around the edges, but if you have a group of friends and want to fight for your life in something new, you could do a lot worse.

On that note though, they REALLY need bullet penetration. Welding doors closed and not being able to shoot through them ends up being a bad idea 9 times out of 10.

CloakRaider: Apparently not shooting the Flesh Pounders doesn't work, and people are suggesting grenades from everyone. Otherwise he just mauls you.

ZomBuster: Real men only use Axes and chainsaws

*Patriach spawns*


*gets 6 chainsaws in face*

The_B: The most awesome part about the first screenshot of me was: I survived. HERO B!

I also agree: Fucking Flesh Pounds.

Andrew: Neat game, defiantly preferring the different classes, teamwork involved and lots of randomness - although dying does just feel like, usually, you've just been overwhelmed because of bad planning or poor teamwork, not anything too cheap.

Defeated a Patriach once, yes! :D

The film grain and rubbish lighting (it's so dark) when you die is sad though - should be made lighter.

Also, middle mouse button (or alt-fire) makes you go in free view for those that don't know, since I sure as didn't since the thing lacks a manual...actually, a manual to explain anything would be nice, not enough hints :)

Still well worth the cheap cost (pre-order cost anyway), as long as they fix a few things that are bizarre (like long names becoming unreadable over heads for instance, and I'd love an addition of a radar to see team-mate positions).

One thing on Left4Dead despite it's shortcomings in many areas: user-made maps will likely be much more common and easily made, since they only need to be one level with a few traders, and not complex affairs of balance that Left4Dead needs.

EGTF: Can someone explain what a flesh pound is other than a euphemism?

Hypocee: The thing in the screenshot labelled 'Oh God Flesh Pound' that looks like it pounds flesh, would be my guess. Sounds like a less deceptive, less emo Witch.

Smurfy: My friends say it's pretty bad.

Tom Francis: It's as tough as a Tank and as fatal as a Witch: if it gets to you, your life is over. It's not too fast until you start shooting it, at which point it gets angry and sprints at you. This leads to people saying "Don't shoot it!" and me wondering "How else are we going to do this exactly?"

Roadrunner: That photo of Hypnotoad dying made my day.

I've had a very bad day you see.

Sibilantjoe: Actually, Flesh Pounds can be a lot easier if you have (A) space, and (B) some long-range weapon. It goes like this:

1. Shoot flesh pound at range until he rages
2. Pull out knife and RUN!
3. Flesh pound will lose aggro if he doesn't get to you after a few seconds (really!) and slow down
4. Get more distance on him
5. repeat

Tom Francis: Updated the post with a bit more info on each, since it was put together in a bit of a rush and didn't really explain anything about the game.

The_B: Might be worth mentioning as well that last night's server had the perks disabled, which made our survival more impressive to be honest without the usual buffs. We'll definitely have to do it again with perks. It'll definitely help with the pounds - apparently they're easier to take out with the extra shotgun damage and knockback Support Level 2+ provides.

Hypocee: Wait, is that first screenshot saying 127 minutes? It doesn't look like anything's 127 meters away to me. Two hours??

Tom Francis: No, it's metres. It's the distance to the trader. On that map, sometimes she's in another goddamn country.

Rounds generally take about 30-40 minutes, less if you don't make it.

Inferno: I want this game so badly. Hypno, moogle and the others keep taunting me with it D:

Roadrunner: Is it only co-op or is there something similar to L4D's Versus also?

The_B: Just co-op really, although you can play with as many or as few teammates as you like (as opposed to L4D which will always make up the number with bots.)

Redhawk: *sigh* Looks like another game I need to try and fit on to my hard drive somewhere.


Comrade_Chimchar: Spamming grenades off Flesh Pounds like CloakRaider says does indeed work, it's how I always deal with them.

Rather too well on Normal in fact, 3 or 4 and they vanish in a cloud of gibs.

Caleb: I feel like this is a game I should check out.

Or I would, if I wasn't playing World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2, and Plants Vs. Zombies, and Rollercoaster Tycoon, and TIE Fighter, and Gizmos and Gadgets, and ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD